Allison Robicelli on Humor, Writing, and French Buttercream

October 15, 2013

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: We get to peer inside Allison Robicelli's brain. It is full of cupcakes and four-letter words.

Allison and Matt Robicelli on Food52 Robicelli's on Food52  

Shop the Story

Funny people and cupcakes often experience the same disadvantage: The general public tends not to take them seriously. They must take strides to prove their intelligence, or their deliciousness, or both.

Robicellis: A Love Story, With Cupcakes is a win for both parties. Cupcakes get the respect they deserve, with 50 quirky recipes (Chicken 'n' Waffles, the Rue McClanahan) developed by a couple who (by the way) used to be pastry chefs at some of New York's finest. Said couple also gets to tell the story of how their family came to be, how their business almost wasn't, and why classic French buttercream is worth your time. Essential baking techniques are explained with clarity and ease; it also happens to be the funniest book you'll read this year. Just as good food requires good company, Allison and Matt quickly become your cohorts as you embark on a journey towards cupcake mastery.

More: Peanut Butter, chocolate, and pretzels, all wrapped up in one litte cupcake.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Cupcakes on Food52

This week's guest editorship was essentially a ploy to get Allison to write hilarious things and share delicious cupcakes on our website. For the latter, stay tuned all week. For the former, read on. 

Editor's note: All instances of the "f word" and its derivatives have been replaced by the word "spaghetti."

Why did you and Matt decide to start making cupcakes in the first place?
We wanted to make good cake, but people don’t really buy full-sized cakes very often. So we talked about making them smaller, and realized -- duh -- that meant cupcakes. It’s awesome cake you can eat any damn time you please. Not your birthday but want cake anyway? Buy a cupcake! Want to surprise a friend who’s having a bad day? Buy a cupcake! On your lady business and have to choose between eating something sweet or stabbing someone in the thigh? Buy a cupcake!

I am broke and my kitchen is tiny. Do I need a stand mixer to make your delicious cupcakes?
If you’re making French Buttercream, yes. If you’re an amateur, and ever doing anything that involves incorporating molten sugar into another substance while beating, a stand mixer is pretty much non-negotiable to prevent serious injury. This is why hardcore cupcakin’ is best left to the professionals. 

However, we’ve provided a frosting recipe for those out there who only have a handheld model, and all our cake recipes can be made without the use of any sort of mixer. Plus, if you read between the lines, this book is also full of recipes for cookies, compotes, homemade candies, sauces, and tons of other things. We even give you instructions on how to use these things on their own if you feel like skipping the whole baking thing, and getting straight to the eating a bowl of speculoos pudding with a giant spoon thing.

Your Best Icing Recipe Contest on Food52

More: Got a killer frosting recipe of your own? Submit it to our latest contest.

Is Matt as hilarious as you are?
Absolutely. The reason I fell in love with him is his sense of humor -- we’re always writing jokes and riffing off of each other. Even though I wrote the text of the book, any time I’d get stuck, I’d tell Matt what I was writing about and we’d just bat quips back and forth until it got to a point where we were both hysterical. And with all the jokes I came up with, I still think Matt has the funniest line in the entire book. 

What flavors of cupcakes do your kids like best? What do you serve for their birthday?
They like the Brooklyn Blackout, which is chocolate/chocolate/chocolate/chocolate. The only thing they show any sort of interest in is chocolate. We thought we’d try and trick them into eating healthy by buying one of those huge bags of chocolate covered pomegranate seeds at Costco, but they just sucked the coating off and left the remains in their lunchbox, presumably to send us a message that they wouldn’t stand for such spaghetti nonsense.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake on Food52

Can you please write a haiku about cupcakes
I’ll write three!

Little bitty cake
Get inside my tummy I’ll
Turn you into poop

It’s a cake sized for
one person to eat. Simple.
Not the debt ceiling

Was I the only
Chick who completely despised
Sex in the City?

If you could serve your cupcakes to one 80s sitcom character, who would it be?
Balki Bartokomous. Like I even had to think about that one for a minute. If it wasn’t for Balki Bartokomous’ Bibby Babka recipe, my beloved baker boyfriend might have barely braved betrothal to his buxom baking bubbe. Bibby babkas bloated with better butter bequeath a benevolent bond, a bountiful business, and, but of course, beautiful babies.

Cannoli Cupcakes on Food52

More: Of course there's a Dom DeLuise cupcake in this book. Here's the recipe.

Have you always loved writing?
I’ve always loved storytelling -- making people laugh, really. My writing is really just a more polished version of the way I talk, and anyone who has ever met me can attest, I’m really good at talking. I wrote a lot of sketch comedy in my bedroom as a teenager that I never showed to anyone, then in my early twenties wrote a webzine called “Barefoot and Pregnant” that was like a funny version of Martha Stewart Living for barely competent women just out of college. But I’m not one of those people who’s a daily writer -- I pretty much have a certain zone I’ll get into, then I’m unstoppable for a few weeks, and then I’m creatively spent for a bit. I’m constantly funny in real life, though, because if I slip Matt will divorce me.  

Do you and Matt still make all of the cupcakes you sell? How do you divide your time these days?
I took considerable time away from the kitchen to write the book, but will be heading back there soon with the new shop opening this year. During all that time, Matt’s been the guy in the kitchen, along with our amazing head chef Rachel Anderson. She’s Matt’s other wife, and I’m fine sharing him with her -- she’s incredible. We’ve also had various bakers and interns over the years as we’ve grown, but we’re still a very small company. We’re all close enough that I consider these people more like relatives than I do employees.

Ultimately, what message did you want to communicate by writing this cookbook?
I don’t think I set out with a concrete “message” or “artistic statement.” I just wanted to be as honest and genuine as I could. This book is Matt and me. We don’t sugar-coat the industry, or our lives. We’re not pretending to be fancy television chefs who are always photographed sipping mimosas in the Hamptons, nor am I pretending I’m able to juggle being a wife and mother and a career and I'm perfect (or even good) at it. There’s no dog and pony show, no personal assistants, no trust funds. While we take our food super seriously, we ourselves are a different story. I think recipes aside, I wanted to show people that actual chefs are a little more like them, and a little less than the polished things they see in the media.

And I wanted to say the word spaghetti a lot in a cupcake cookbook. Because, c’mon, that shit’s hilarious.

Frosting and cake photos by James Ransom. All other photos by Eric Isaac.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • viblanco
  • Susana Margarida Coelho
    Susana Margarida Coelho
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  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
  • Gabriella Paiella
    Gabriella Paiella
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



viblanco October 18, 2013
Little bitty cake
Get inside my tummy I’ll
Turn you into poop

Ahhahah!!! Ok, I'm immature.
Susana M. October 16, 2013
Simplesmente magníficos!
Kiss, Susana
Nota: Ver o passatempo a decorrer no meu blog:
mrslarkin October 15, 2013
I think I have a girl crush on Allison Robicelli.
Marian B. October 16, 2013
Right? You can join my club.
Kenzi W. October 15, 2013
I think this is my favorite 5 (or more) Questions of all time.
Gabriella P. October 15, 2013
It’s a cake sized for
one person to eat. Simple.
Not the debt ceiling