February 14, 2017

Mini Melanie: The Darling Of Truffles




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Who remembers See’s Candies?

This west coast-based candy shop ruled my childhood once I realized I could grab as many free samples as I could from the women behind the counter (p.s. why were they all dressed up like nurses?). They were normally handing out my least favorite flavors like walnut or marzipan but I didn’t care – I’d eat around it and get my sugar high. My mom could definitely relate to my sweet tooth and continually bought both of us Bordeaux Bars (rather than a single chocolate truffle like most kids ate) and it would be gone by the time we reached the car.

Basically what I’m saying is…

I haven’t loved another chocolate truffle as much as See’s until I discovered Mini Melanie. This adorable online-only bakery is busy creating stunningly beautiful truffles filled with everything from cookies & cream fudge to confetti cake. Chef and owner, Melanie Moss, started marketing these mini confections a little over two years ago and not only are they a social media darling (thanks to their incredible jewel-like outer shell), but they’re seriously some of the best chocolates I’ve ever devoured (and I mean devoured. I ate an entire box in the span of two hours once).

Melanie was kind enough to take a break from unpacking her brand spankin’ new commercial kitchen in Brooklyn to talk about her budding company. From decadent truffles to towering cakes (and even mini cakes) for brides and corporations, this little company is plenty busy making each delectable bite by hand. And it shows – each box is beautifully crafted and almost too pretty to eat! Melanie is well on her way to creating the next See’s Candies thanks to her insatiable appetite to create compelling chocolates and cakes for her customers. My one tip? Just don’t start dressing up like nurses.

How did You come up with Mini Melanie?

I started Mini Melannie after leaving my stint at two fine dining restaurants. I wanted to do something where we bring really different kinds of desserts to the market in New York. I wanted to start my own business. I was sure of that after working for challenging chefs. I started doing recipe testing and actually it took a second iteration for Mini Melanie and for our product. Once we found these, we had a really great product market fit and now we could go full steam ahead. I’ve had no funding, it’s all been organic. It’s been a crazy journey!

When did you launch Mini Melanie?

Mini Melanie started 2 years ago (November 2014) out of my apt. Then we moved to Hot Bread Kitchen. They were amazing. I didn’t look at any other incubators. I applied because of their rep and their amazing work outside of the incubator with training cooks. So we were there for 11 months. We moved on to Hill & Dale once we were getting over capacity there. H&D has been an interesting ride since April. It would have totally been fine if we weren’t growing and growing. We are excited about this next step [the new space in Brooklyn] with brand new equipment. The space is ours. We are really going to utilize it – we are going to start baking classes. It’s not a retail space. The building does have retail plans which is exciting. It’s actually near the L that’s shutting down so there’s going to be a lot of foot traffic.

Do you have plans to open a physical store?

No retail plans but we’re running the business as an online bakery so an assortment of truffles can be delivered and shipped.

How does your business work?

The cakes portion of the business streams into e-commerce and the other side is events. Because our products are so luxurious and fancy, we do a lot of weddings. But it runs the gamut from non profits, corporate events, and weddings. We enjoy it all. We get to go to a wedding every weekend!

Yes, tell me more about your cakes?

The mini cake idea is getting really popular. It’s such a beautiful effect with the flowers and everything. We also do more traditional wedding cakes as well – up to 5 tiers. They’re nothing elaborate, more toward the Momofuku style with our special touch and attention to detail.

Any favorites over the years?

I love our black and white cake. It’s the best of both worlds. I love swirl – it looks really cool – it has dense dark browning showing through with a naked finish as well as vanilla cake with vanilla and chocolate frosting. It’s pretty nice to get a brownie in the middle of your cake. For the holidays I’ve always been a huge gingerbread fan. Alex [my co-worker] came up with peppermint cookies for the holidays that were awesome. I’m not even a chocolate mint person but something about these were really nice.

Have you ever had any flavors that didn’t work?

Oh yeah, sure. We’ve definitely gone off the deep end many times. We get weird requests. Some things aren’t meant to be in chocolate. We lean toward classic things like PB & J, cookies and cream. But we’ve tried a coconut berry bundt that didn’t work. It just wasn’t right. For a while there I thought it would work but I came to my senses.

What’s been your craziest order?

People definitely get really creative with the cakes. The truffles we have a lot of assortment so they pretty much find what they’re looking for there. People play around with the designs of the truffles but for the most part, I think it’s a good sign that people are ordering what they see. I’ll go with that.

You name all of your desserts after friends and family, right?

We don’t have a Carly yet! If you come up with a cool flavor we are willing to entertain it. 🙂

[For the record, my nickname is Carly Cakes. Maybe we can have a homesick flavor? Like a Mom flavor!]

Any cool collabs?

We’ve been fortunate to attract some awesome brands. We recently teamed up with the luxury goods store Shinola, based in Detroit. I drool over their watches. We did some really cool stuff for a women’s market event in store. A jeweler named Eddie Bordeaux had a new line and we matched up rose gold, silver, and gold truffles for his jewelry pieces. We did an amazing collaboration with Estee Lauder – definitely one of the coolest things yet. We created a holiday truffle based on their really nice lipsticks.

tell me about your jeweled truffles!

The process is pretty much all based on the mold. A lot of chocolate companies use those plastic molds, but we like the silicon mold because we are a small team and we can go faster with it. Also because it’s larger than most truffle molds and because we’re packing a mini dessert inside we want it to be a balance of chocolate and filling. We put a decent amount of filling inside. The shape of the mold is key and also these edible luster dusts that we design the molds with.

What are some of your favorite sweet places in NYC?

Well, I’m a wanna be Italian. I love Rocco’s in the city. I love just classic Italian desserts. That brings me to my first restaurant job at Babbo. Sitting for dessert at the bar is the best. They have great seasonal desserts and their sorbeti gelati plate is so well presented with such unusual flavors. I’m also obsessed with Dominque Ansel. I told him he’s Brad Pit to me. Anything he does is amazing.

 (credit: Instagram/minimelanienyc) (credit: Instagram/minimelanienyc)

Where do you get your inspiration?

I’m definitely seasonally focused. The holiday box is snickerdoodle, gingerbread, red velvet, and peppermint chocolate cookie. We try to plan our calendar according to what’s going on, what to roll out. Our big holiday is Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.

what countries do you want to visit for culinary reasons?

I’m a huge Francophile. I studied abroad and I speak French. I’m going to Paris right after our holiday push (as well as Amsterdam). So that’s an really exciting trip. Amsterdam makes these dutch baby pancakes that are awesome. I’d love to go to Japan one day. That would be great. Their packaging is extraordinary. Everything they do is perfect. I love mochi too.

Any good subway stories?

I have 5,000 pet peeves when it comes to the subway. One time, someone was eating pancakes and dipping maple syrup with their hands during rush hour. That was very sticky situation.

Favorite Beauty product?

Under eye concealer! It’s Bobbi Brown because when I turned 30 recently my sister told me to start wearing Bobbi Brown to fix everything. It’s like serious makeup.

What do you see for Mini Melanie moving forward?

We’ve made some really good choices growing organically and taking these slow, getting a handle on our customers and learning mistakes. 2017 will be a huge year for us. Our next goal is to get settled and work on a retail component. We do pop ups at stores and at companies, which has been awesome to meet so many customers in one day and see first hand what they’re saying. We’d love to speed up taking on not too large retail space or a more permanent pop up at a holiday market. We’ll be researching because what we do is so different. Stay tuned for a Valentine’s Day pop up.

Still Need A Valentine’s Day Gift?

Mini Melanie’s “This One’s For Lovers” box ($36)

Includes a dozen colorful truffles:

  • 4 Mia (chocolate cake)
  • 4 Zoe (rainbow cake)
  • 4 Pearl (red velvet)

Follow Mini Melanie’s sweet adventures at @minimelanienyc

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