Elaine Li is probably the only gal this side of the East River who can make you a wedding cake, blow you a glass chandelier for your reception hall, and even toss in some high end jewelry for the bridesmaids.
Oh and she also makes Bushwick’s favorite cupcakes at her acclaimed little café on Knickerbocker Ave, Sweet and Shiny.
Walking along Knickerbocker on a cold winter’s morning, the prospect of coffee and a dulce de leche cupcake beckoned me from the café’s gilded façade. Inside, a scattering of natives and hipsters – including one dude who looked suspiciously like he might be from Manhattan – sat enjoying Sweet and Shiny’s laid-back atmosphere. A French mother treated her small daughter to a cupcake. A man wearing long johns with bright red socks (who also appeared to not have lenses in his glasses) watched a sports game while munching on a breakfast sandwich (croissant with ham, egg, and cheese.). Across the room the suspected Manhattanite stared at the long johns while slowly sipping coffee.
The café also doubles as a gallery with brightly colored local art decorating the walls (although you are equally as likely to find photography or collage depending on the week). The dual purpose is appropriate given Li’s skills as a jewelry maker and glass blower as well as being a restaurateur. One or two glass pieces (no, not bongs) adorn the tables, and the full catalogue is available on the Sweet and Shiny website. Look at the otherworldly terrariums if you need a last minute Christmas gift (can also be used for Kwanzaa).
Li began making wedding cakes at 15 years old. However, as is wont to happen with young folk, her interests were soon captured by glass blowing. She spent several years working for lighting designers before her love of baking brought her to a cozy storefront on Knickerbocker Ave. If you’ll permit me a metaphor, when Li opened Sweet and Shiny, she was able to bring all her talents under one roof.
Now she works placidly making her pastries as the radio deftly sways between dub (not dubstep) and trip hop. Speaking of music, Sweet and Shiny is a great reading spot. The music is tends be atmospheric and quiet. None of the Williamsburg “are you leaving yet?” coffee shop crap. And the prices are so reasonable that munching for several hours while enjoying a good book is totally possible.
Recommendations for munching: dulce de leche cupcakes, breakfast sandwiches, strawberry shortcake cupcakes (SUMMERTIME), organic chocolate (best hot chocolate you’ve had in a long while).
If you’re around at lunch don’t hesitate to get one or several of their hand-dipped corn dogs.
Check out the MENU here
Check out the GLASSWARE here
Sweet and Shiny
Mon-Sun, 8am to 6pm
214 Knickerbocker Ave (@ Troutman)
Morgan L train
Image Credit: Sweet and Shiny