For most Arkansans, the fall season brings a much-needed relief from the sweltering summer heat. It's finally possible to be outdoors from more than five minutes without feeling like your face is about to melt off. Additionally, for food truck followers, there is no finer time to get outside and experience the cultural phenomenon that continues to blossom in Arkansas. I've spent a good number of summer afternoons eating the offerings of local food trucks on sidewalks, car hoods, and picnic tables, whilst enduring the soul-crushing heat of the summer sun. No matter how wonderful the food in this situation, the settings are often far from ideal and it is sometimes difficult not to yearn for the luxury of the air-conditioning inside a restaurant. We, here at Eat Arkansas, anxiously look forward to the many opportunities in the coming months to comfortably revisit some of Arkansas' leading food trucks as well as sample the craft of some of the newest trucks to hit the asphalt.
This coming Saturday, Sept 22, Hillcrest is hosting their annual HarvestFest celebration. This is a wonderful opportunity to drag your friends and family out of the house and experience the handiwork of some of Little Rock ’s most creative artists and craftsmen. Vendor booths, live music, fashion shows, and children's activities are all on the schedule for this year’s event, and you definitely won't want to miss the cheese dip contest as we reported here previously. A handful of mobile food vendors will be positioned at various locations around the festival grounds as well, and this year's HarvestFest will also see the debut of Little Rock 's first dedicated dessert truck, Sugar Shack Sweets. I was fortunate enough to meet up with the two ladies running this oven on wheels, and I was able to sample a handful of the tantalizing treats this crew will be offering.
Sugar Shack Sweets is the brainchild of co-owners and long-time friends, Cheryl Hicks and Sheryl Harrison. These two women, who affectionately refer to themselves as "the two S/Cheryls," had dreamed of owning a bakery for a number of years. Once, they imagined opening a sweets shop in Little Rock, but after the cupcake boom that hit the country like a ton of radioactive plutonium, they worried they had missed their golden opportunity. Then in late 2011, determined to make their dream become a reality, and following in the steps of many burgeoning food truck operations, they decided to take their baking to the streets and bring Little Rock its first dessert truck. In the spring of this year, they began honing their business model and spreading samples of their baked goods through a successful delivery operation until their truck became fully operational. Finally, their eye-catching truck is ready to roll, and will be making its first pit stop at this years HarvestFest. One of the impressive aspects of The Sugar Shack truck is the fact that they are baking and preparing everything within the truck. I've sampled a number of dessert trucks in other cities, but most use an offsite kitchen to bake their wares, and simply use their truck as a mobile vending outlet. The Sugar Shack folks are baking everything onsite, ensuring that everything they put out is at its freshest.
These ladies are not simply stopping at cupcakes, although the ones they are offering will surely win some fans. Their menu will include decorated cookies, mini bundt cakes, cake pops and cake balls, whoopie pies, brownies, and fruit tarts. If you don't find something you like at The Sugar Shack you are doomed to a miserable existence. I will tell you honestly, these are destined to be known as some of the best baked goods in the city.
- Truck design courtesy of Target Wraps
I started with the "caramel apple doodle cookie," a snickerdoodle cookie topped with a sweet, molasses-flavored, brown sugar cream cheese frosting. Additionally, it’s topped with sweetened chunks of cinnamon-spiced apple, chopped pecans, and a warm caramel drizzle. Initially, this may seem to be a bit much for a single cookie, but I was surprised how incredibly balanced and light the finished product was. The frosting was not so intensely sweet as to make the entire thing inedible, and the chopped nuts made for a nice crunchy finish. They were vaguely reminiscent of a hand-held apple pie, with cookie crust and whipped cream topping. I could have eaten a half dozen of these things without breaking a sweat.
Next was a moist peach bundt cake filled with specks of fresh chopped peach, walnuts, cinnamon, and a ginger cream cheese icing. The exterior gets a sweet caramelized crust as it bakes in the bundt pan, making for a flavor and texture that would rival any of Grandma's dishes on her best day.
Another wonderful creation offered by the truck is their "piggy pops." These are cakeballs which come in a variety of flavors, stuck on the end of a stick, and decorated in the stylings of everyone's favorite razorback red pig. The strawberry flavor, particularly, is not to be missed, made with local Arkansas strawberries and dense yellow cake, blended with thick, strawberry frosting.
I was also quite happy to see them offer whoopie pies. Theirs was a double layer of rich, dark chocolate cake with a creamy, whipped peanut butter filling, all rolled in peanut butter chips. It's intensely chocolately and packed with peanut butter flavor, only made more enjoyable when you've got a glass of milk at hand for dunking.
At the HarvestFest, the girls plan on rolling out apple and peach bundt cakes, pumpkin whoopie pies, caramel apples, and a few more specialty items incorporating the flavors of the fall. This duo of energetic and dedicated bakers should not to be missed as they get The Sugar Shack up and running this weekend. With their infectious smiles and glowing personalities, they are every bit as sweet as their frosting. Follow them on Facebook
to keep tabs on all their future whereabouts.