Written by Anita
April 25, 2010
Photos courtesy of District Design GroupWhen you first meet the sisters behind Capital City Cheesecake, you’re struck by the yin and yang of their personalities. Caitlin, the cheesecake chef, is the quieter, free spirit—a talented artist who doesn’t like to be pigeonholed in a particular role. (She was formerly an art teacher and insists that she still considers herself to be more of an educator than a chef.) Her younger sister Meaghan is the business school grad who talks about test markets and branding. As you get to know them better, similarities emerge. Both say (separately) that they have drawn inspiration from The Alchemist—an allegorical novel about how the universe conspires to help a boy to realize his dream. They also say that opening a cheesecake café was the last thing they ever thought they’d do. But when a debilitating illness kept Caitlin confined to her home, she started baking cheesecakes to pass the time. Meaghan soon realized that starting a business would be a great way to lift her sister’s spirits and give her a sense of purpose. Together, the sisters took a leap of faith and, next weekend, they’ll open their new café in downtown Takoma Park. Caitlin’s heavenly cheesecakes will be the main attraction. Originally made entirely by hand (“I even crushed the graham crackers myself,” she laughs), she now yields to technology for some aspects, but still gives some hands-on attention to each cake she makes. The original recipe includes a secret ingredient (if we told you, it wouldn’t be a secret!) and a pattern of measurements (1-3-1-3-1-3) that Caitlin found appealing. “Three is a holy number, and one is in everything,” she notes. We loved the rich, fudge-y German Chocolate cheesecake, topped with crunchy coconut and baked into an Oreo cookie crust. Other flavors include Original, Strawberry, Chocolate Red Velvet, and Key Lime. Look for new flavors too, including Coconut Cream and Crème Brûlée. Cheesecakes can be topped with fresh fruit sauces, made daily.* Two-inch mini cheesecakes can be purchased individually, in pairs, by the half box, or by the dozen ($30). Larger sizes (4.5-inch petite cheesecakes and 9-inch large cheesecakes) also are available. Capital City Cheesecake also will be offering more than just cheesecake. They recently hired an in-house chef, Annette Ryan, who will be making fresh bagels, salads, and yogurt parfaits. Other offerings include homemade muffins in three flavors—banana bread (their grandmother’s recipe), chocolate chip, and blueberry. Saturday mornings will feature homemade sticky buns with a variety of toppings and Sunday mornings will mean waffles (starting on Mothers’ Day). The sisters are taking steps to fit Takoma Park’s earthy aesthetic. The café will be a peanut-free establishment, serving fair trade PT's Coffee and handcrafted Mighty Leaf Tea. Vegan and gluten-free cheesecakes and café items also will be available. A statuette of Roscoe the Rooster presides over the wi-fi enabled lounge, and dog bowls outside welcome thirty canines. But this is no act. The sisters grew up learning about community activism firsthand from their parents (the store’s primary investors), who nearly 30 years ago founded Mary House, a community based organization that provides transitional housing, shelter, and support programs to homeless and struggling families. The organization has several properties in the Takoma Park area and provides housing to almost 50 families—many of whom are recent immigrants or refugees. Indeed, the sisters are following in their parents’ footsteps by offering café jobs to several former Mary House clients. Meaghan and Caitlin have big plans for the future, including the introduction of filled desserts, cooking classes, a barista, and maybe even a flea market out back. “We commit before we know what we can do,” says Meaghan. Want to join the sisterhood? Then check out Capital City Cheesecake’s grand opening (featured on gregslistdc!) on May 1. Until then, the sisters will be offering free delivery for cheesecake orders (minimum order of $25) inside the beltway.
*Want to make their fruit sauces at home? Here’s the recipe! Strawberry or Blueberry Sauce Ingredients: • 1 lb of strawberries/blueberries • 1/4 cup of sugar • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract Directions: • Preheat oven to 425 F • Chop up strawberries (leave blueberries whole) and mix them with the sugar and the vanilla extract • Place in the pan (we recommend a narrow pan, like a bread pan, to prevent burning) • Place in oven uncovered for about 10 minutes (Check after about 5 minutes and give it a stir)