Everything’s Coming Up Roses


Exquisite desserts
on display at Citizen Cake.

​Everything is indeed coming up roses for Chef Elizabeth Falkner of San Francisco’s Citizen Cake. A clever name for a restaurant located in the City by the Bay, n’est-ce pas? (Citizen Kane is the classic film based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, the Napoleon of the publishing industry. His first acquisition was theSan Francisco Examiner.) Like the striking drama-filled scenes in Orson Welles’ movie, each divine dessert in Chef Elizabeth’s restaurant evokes emotions ranging from gratitude to guilt.

Citizen Kane paints a picture of a successful man who at the end of his life obsesses about Rosebud - his boyhood sled. In other words, despite the piles of money in his coffers, the publishing giant’s heart aches for simpler times. While Citizen Cake’s imaginative desserts are far from simple, Chef Elizabeth captures the essence of childhood pleasures. For instance, her Love Letter cupcake is infused with rose essence. Every layer of the delicacy is a shade of raspberry. And the tiny marzipan or fondant rose on top brought this Ninja Baker back to childhood. A time of princesses and fairies. (Remember Princess Aurora aka Briar Rose who lived in the forest with her fairy godmothers?) 

Delighting in her Love Letter is UK chum, Maria.

Easy to leave your heart in San Francisco when eyes linger
on charming Victorians. (Photo courtesy of David Cassidy.)


Citizen Cake on Fillmore Street in
San Francisco.

Sweet busy-ness inside Chef Elizabeth's
Citizen Cake.

While tipping her toque to a movie featuring a version of Hearst’s castle, Chef Elizabeth’s establishment is not palatial. Like many of the Victorian buildings in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, space is constricted. As a result, Citizen Cake seats 30 customers; 36 if you count the six soda counter stools. Reservations are highly recommended if visiting the mecca of deliciousness on a Saturday. (Especially if you have a large Ninja Baker party of pals and relatives.) 

However, close quarters allows for easy access to all the treats on the table. Although my English chum, Maria and I were over the moon about the Love Letter, Chef Elizabeth’s Mocha Mi-Su was irresistible, too. Components of the dish include cocoa genoise (which is similar to sponge cake), mocha mousse and coffee buttercream!


David and Maria - true friends - ready and willing to share their divine desserts.

Maria’s husband, David offered tastes of his After Midnight cake. Every bite brought a blissful marriage of dark and milk chocolates. (Good thing Citizen Cake is in San Francisco and not Santa Monica!)

 Maria, Karen and our angel server, Alyssa who is
studying psychology at SF State.  Aunty K. holds
Ethan who is ready to enjoy his cupcake.

To cleanse our palates, instead of the traditional lemon sorbet, sister, Karen and I ordered French macarons. (Meringue-style cookies.) The Cassis-Violet and Raspberry Rose colors, textures and tastes were intriguing. I kept munching to discover the most stellar component. It’s still a mystery. 

My husband, also named David, ordered the Salted Caramel dessert, which boasted gooey injections on top of a chocolate sable. (A shortbread cookie.)  Sea salt complimented the inherent sweetness. My niece, Jasmine particularly enjoyed the sable.


Ethan,  Jasmine and the Ninja Baker.
(My sweet niece emanates heavenly light!)

Jasmine’s son, Ethan allowed his Auntie K. to taste his Chocolate Chip cupcake. Think the boy may be spoiled for life. Best chocolate chip cupcake I’ve ever tasted. Perhaps the magical key is the brown sugar buttermilk cake. 

Great-nephew, Ethan advertises Aunty K's  blog.










To glean the secrets of Chef Elizabeth, I purchased her cookbook, Demolition Desserts. (Available in My Favorites under this site's Shop tab.)  More than a 1-2-3-recipe book, the publication is filled with fab photos, personal stories and manga (animation) drawn by her brother. Before rifling through the recipes, insights in the introduction caught my eye. At a young age, her father exposed her to modern art maestros such as Rothko and Lichtenstein. She also trained as a visual artist at the San Francisco Art Institute. On the food side, Chef Elizabeth has rubbed shoulders with giants of the culinary/pastry world: François Payard (Daniel, NYC), Sherry Yard (Spago, LA) and Traci Des Jardins (Jardinière, San Francisco.) 

Chef Elizabeth Falkner and her fan, the Ninja Baker.

Fame and TV spotlights have also shone brightly on Citizen Cake’s owner as of late. Chef Elizabeth has served as a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, Just Desserts as well as Top Chef Masters (where she was also a competitor one season.) She’s also made numerous appearances on television with other food celebs such as Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray.Besides her classy comfort food and her artistic savoir-faire, the Chef Elizabeth you see on TV is no different from the real-life version: humble, caring and compassionate. During the Ninja Baker visit to Citizen Cake, she even helped to serve the desserts!

The Ninja Baker's take on rose custard mini tarts
from Chef Elizabeth Falkner's Demolition Desserts.

Suppose it should be no surprise then that Chef Elizabeth’s Demolition Desserts is thoughtfully executed. Confess I was disappointed not to find the recipe for the Love Letter dessert. (The dish Maria and I were delighted to behold and consume.) However, page 161revealed a Rose Custard recipe. “A bouquet of roses in edible form (she created) to pay homage to the beautiful cuisine of Chef Traci Des Jardins.”


Large and mini chocolate chip tarts filled
with rose custard.

With husband, David - the man who brings gifts of
sugar and spice every day.







Chef Elizabeth recommends serving the Rose Custard with her Saffron Pistachio Cookies and Carmel Crisps. Keeping it simple the first time out, I chose to make chocolate chip tarts to hold the custard. Also, as my stockpot was simmering – awaiting the arrival of the bowl with tempered egg yolks and heavy cream – I realized the recipe called for vanilla bean pods. My sin of substituting extract for the real thing was forgiven. (Yes, the Ninja Baker’s taste buds said, “Yummy!” But the real test is always the hubby. And neighbors - who loved the concoction.)  

In addition to wafting rose (water) scents, buttercream and fondant of the Rosaceae family have blossomed in the Ninja Baker kitchen. 


Buttercream rose on top of a strawberry cupcake.

Another medley of buttercream roses.


Strawberry cupcakes with vanilla icing and
fondant decorations.


English rose, Maria swings with gusto in Santa Monica.

Two talented chocolate chip loving boys.



Swing by or say hello
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Wishing you weeks of carefree joy in which everything is coming up roses!

The Ninja Baker 


 ©Watkinson 2012





I Love the expression "everything is coming u...

I Love the expression "everything is coming up roses!" What a perfect title for this blog! Thank you for explaining Rosebud! I watched this movie in a film class, but I don't think I was paying attention because I never knew what it meant! I think your elegant descriptives of the desserts go perfectly with how they all tasted! BTW- sleeping beauty is my favorite Disney movie!I am impressed with all the details you picked up on at the restaurant (e.g. seating, our waitresses area of study!) I love the photo of you and Ethan, so sweet! It was enjoyable also read about Elizabeth's history!Wow, your rose custard mini tarts looks scrumptious!!! I would say they came out stunning! All of the pink cupcakes look gorgeous!I love seeing you on the swing and the pic of Uncle David and Ethan is just precious!