Inspired by childhood memories of pastieras and sfoglIatelle, three brothers add sweetness to prospect heights and bay ridge
by Amanda McCoy
Every day of the week, sugar craving patrons from all over the city flock to one of Little Cupcake Bakeshop’s three locations, in hopes of scoring a Brooklyn Blackout Cake before they sell out for the day. “Each is handmade in our bakery every day, and it’s for this reason we have to limit quantities. Once they’re spoken for, it’s done. I can tell you we sell out every single day,” said Luigi LoBuglio, co owner, along with his brothers Salvatore and Massimo, of the bakeshop.
Before the trio opened their first location in Bay Ridge in 2005, Salvatore, the head pastry chef, tasked himself with creating a chocolate cake so tasty that it would make believers out of even non cocoa lovers. Now a fan favorite, his ganache filled confection is made in the “Dutch process” (full fat content cocoa from Holland, semi sweet Belgian chocolate, Madagascar vanilla beans) and finished with two types of chocolate icing. A decade after the first Brooklyn Blackout was sold, Food & Wine deemed it among the best chocolate cakes in the nation.
“For our small, family run operation, this was and will always be an incredible honor,” said LoBuglio.
But the brothers don’t only do chocolate. Handmade ice cream, vanilla bean cakes soaked in espresso, dense buttermilk cakes topped with locally sourced blueberries and homemade cream cheese frosting also fill out the menu every item selected for seasonality (key lime in the summer…pumpkin spice in the fall) and made on site.
Born and raised in South Brooklyn, the brothers descended from Italian Americans, and remember growing up salivating over their mother’s and aunt’s classic pastries at parties and holiday feasts. As the kids got older, they requested that cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies be added to the family spread, and soon the American confections joined the pastiera and sfogliatelle, adding new staples to the family tradition. Although at the time LoBuglio admits he didn’t think he and his brothers would do anything else as adults but play hockey, these family made desserts wound up determining the course of their professional lives.
“We realized that our Brooklyn neighborhood was missing that one special bakery we had always wished existed when we were kids,” he said. “Our back in the day family feasts helped us dream up Little Cupcake Bakeshop.”
Early days weren’t free of obstacles, as the owners realized opening this kind of operation required more time and money than anticipated, but, with a mission to create a space that “worked for the people and the planet,” the brothers only salvaged materials and FSC certified wood, to name a few examples of sustainability, and the walls are adorned with reclaimed fixtures and scraps of denim jeans.
“We felt from the beginning that we’d be opening something special,” said the chef, “but it really hit us when we had to close our doors after only a few hours of opening on the second day of business…because we sold out of everything!”
During these early days, the new partners didn’t have a robust marketing budget to create buzz. “We did it the old fashioned way,” remembered LoBuglio, depending solely on foot traffic and word of mouth. The strategy worked, and it wasn’t long before they were opening another Brooklyn location and expanding to lower Manhattan. Celebrities began stopping in for a sugar fix, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Tyler, and during Super Bowl XLIX, the shop was featured on millions of TV screens as the location for a 60 second spot starring Liam Neeson.
The LoBuglios are considering expanding to other areas, receiving about a dozen requests each month from people interested in bringing the shop to their hometowns. But for now, they like where they are.
“Some of our best friends are people we met at the bakeshop,” added LoBuglio. “One even became my wife.”
Little Cupcake Bakeshop
9102 3rd Avenue / 718.680.4465
598 Vanderbilt Avenue / 718.783.0770 /littlecupcakebakeshop.com