Mini cupcakes have been one of Sandy Resnick Kahn's signature dishes for many, many years now. It just took a while for the rest of us to realize how good they are.
Not that Kahn, 68, didn't try to help us along. The Ventnor woman's been bringing the cupcakes to parties, dinners and any other place where a good dessert is appreciated for as long as she's been preparing the recipe. At each one of those events mini black-bottom cupcakes have made believers out of those who tasted them.
At one point she even marketed her cupcakes commercially, selling them in the snack aisles of supermarkets nationwide.
This was before 100-calorie snack packs became all the rage, but now that they are, Kahn figures her little treats are perfect for waist-watchers who enjoy something sweet.
"When I did sell them commercially, the calorie count was only about 100 calories each - they are about two bites - so by today's diet and food standards they are perfect," she said.
Husband Bruce Kahn, 70, has eaten more than his share of the cupcakes over the years, yet he doesn't tire of them.
"They're delicious," he said. "She makes them every time there is a party. People really like them," he said.
And people who ask for the recipe never walk away disappointed.
"One of the touchstones for me has always been food," Sandy Kahn said. "Friends frequently call me and ask questions on how to cook this or bake that. Some people have asked for the black bottom cupcake recipe. I'm always generous with it."
That people question Kahn about cooking comes as no surprise, given her background. Growing up with two brothers and her parents in west Philadelphia, Kahn developed an early interest in food.
"I guess I always have been a foodie," she said. "I always helped around the house. I had to prepare dinner sometimes for mom."
That interest continued when her family moved to Atlantic County, where Kahn graduated from Atlantic City High School.
As a young adult she pursued this interest by reading cookbooks and magazines, taking classes and picking the brains of friends and relatives.
"I just picked up a lot of pointers from a lot of different people along the way," she said.
She eventually got so proficient she wound up teaching classes herself. She also did some catering work.
Among the pointers Kahn has picked up over the years was the cupcake recipe, which she acquired from a distant cousin during a trip to Baltimore and soon started bringing with her to catering jobs.
"I hadn't tried them. I just came home and started making them. I thought they were delicious - and so did everyone else. They were an immediate hit," she said.
Kahn attributes the cupcakes' popularity to their fudgeyness - bite into one and you're likely to encounter some chocolate chips - and the combination of tastes from the chocolate and cream cheese.
The treats proved so popular that when Kahn began casting around for something to do outside the house, one the career options she considered was selling the cakes commercially. Her husband at the time owned a snack foods company, so Kahn soon found herself in California working with people in the corporate bakery to get the recipe just right for mass production.
"It was really, really fun, working in the plant, testing the product. We finally developed the recipe commercially. It didn't really deviate too much from the original recipe," she said.
With the corporate bakery turning out her cupcakes, Kahn then set out to find stores that would sell her product.
"I learned some things about marketing and selling and I was the one who actually went out in the field and sold the product," she said. "It took me all over the country and I met with the food buyers."
"It was a lot of fun, it really was. I used to go to the stores and give out samples," she said. The product was called Sandy Cakes and the package featured a picture of 4-year-old Kahn and a fictionalized backstory about how Kahn had come to produce them.
At one point Sandy Cakes were carried by the Ralph's supermarket chain out west and at Sam's Clubs. Locally, her cakes were sold at B.F. Mazzeo Produce in Northfield.
She worked for about three years to market the cakes before eventually getting out of the business.
"I really enjoyed it," she said. "This was all back in the 1990s. Now, of course, cupcakes are the new item in baking. It was a little before their time."
She went back to school after this was done, and obtained an associate degree in liberal arts at Atlantic Cape Community College.
Even though she's no longer selling her cupcakes, Kahn still bakes them whenever she can. She still enjoys entertaining and is still looking around for new recipes.
She recently entertained more than 20 people Christmas night, serving her cupcakes and a strudel recipe from her bubbie (grandmother) that she also enjoys.
"My strudel is a little different. I use an old recipe that contains shredded coconut, nuts, jelly and maraschino cherries - it's good," she said.
"I always seem to find something a little different," she said. "I don't necessarily bake anything extremely fancy. I mainly stick to more staple kind of cakes, but every now and then I will try something new. I also like to try to add a twist to things."
Contact Steven V. Cronin:
Miniature Black Bottom Cupcakes
•1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
•1/3 cup sugar
•1/8 teaspoon salt
•1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate morsels
•1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
•1 cup sugar
•1/4 cup cocoa
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1 cup water
•1/2 cup oil
•1 tablespoon white vinegar
•1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in miniature muffin pans. In small bowl, beat cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in chocolate morsels. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly mixed.
Spoon 1 tablespoon cocoa batter into each muffin cup and top with 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture. Bake for 25 minutes (or less, depending on oven. You don't want the cream cheese to brown or burn.)
Makes: 48 cupcakes
•1 cup butter, unsalted (2 sticks)
•1 cup sour cream
•2 cups flour
•One large jar apricot preserves
•Approximately 1 cup shredded coconut
•1 cup white (golden) raisins
•1 cup chopped walnuts
•3/4 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
•3/4 cup sugar (or less to taste)
•1 tablespoon cinnamon
Put all dough dry ingredients in food processor. Use short pulses to incorporate ingredients, then turn processer on until a ball forms. Lift out of bowl and separate into two halves. Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
Mix all filling ingredients together.
Roll out dough on floured board, the thinner and smoother, the better. Make a rectangle shape. Spread filling along longer edge. Roll up, jelly-roll style. Seal end close with water and egg mixture or just water. Twist open ends. Place on greased cookie sheet. Optional: sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until dough is golden. Cool. Cut into 1-inch pieces.