Few inanimate objects are as happy as a cupcake. These delightful “cups of cake” (as B. calls them) provide the exactly right proportion of downright joy per square bite. Because each cupcake is its own universe of pure indulgence, each is another chance to explore something new. Unlike a slice from a full-on cake (and I love cake, believe me) there’s something about a cupcake’s personality that makes it a frivolous choice. And besides, there’s the cuteness factor of getting icing on your nose.
My history with cupcakes began with Drake’s Yankee Doodles. When and where I grew up, your family was either a Drake’s or a Hostess family, and we were the former. Yankee Doodles came in packages of three and were dense little chocolate cupcakes filled with white creme. I thought they were the best (that is, until I visited a friend’s house after school and tasted Hostess cupcakes – those had chocolate icing with that famous white squiggle on top plus the white creme center). Yankee Doodles got me through years of after-school homework; sometimes, if I was very lucky, they found their way into my brown-bag lunch.
Later on, Yankee Doodles were replaced in my heart (and tummy) with what remain to this day my favorite-ever supermarket-sold cupcakes, these from that bastion of New York-bakery goodies – Entenmann’s. In those days, Entenmann’s cupcakes came six to a box. They were all chocolate and all filled with white creme. But three were frosted in chocolate and the other three in bright-white vanilla. And that frosting! It was creamy but just hard enough so that when you peeled the cupcake wrapper away chewy bits of the frosting remained on the paper, too delicious to pass up. I loved the times when that box showed up on our kitchen counter.
But then. Magnolia Bakery opened shortly before I moved from NY to the West Coast and, while I didn’t get a chance to try its famous cupcakes, they were something I heard and read about a lot (thank you, Carrie Bradshaw). These boutique-bakery cupcakes promised a next level of pleasure (plus they were so beautiful to contemplate). Sigh. Had I missed my chance at cupcake nirvana?
Nope. Because in a stroke of luck brought about by the cupcake gods, Sprinkles Cupcakes opened here in LA and I fell in love. Deeply. Madly. Truly. All it took was for a box of these cupcakes to show up at work one day and I was smitten. The vanilla cupcake I chose was an “aha!” moment in and of itself (and so good that I had to sneak a second one to take home). The marriage of fluffy cake and decadently outrageous frosting was enough for me to say “I do!” any time someone brought in another box. And that adorable little candy-circle dot on top? Pure love.
These days, I write from home and we don’t live near a Sprinkles. And yes, I know that it (and Magnolia Bakery) deliver, but that just doesn’t feel right. I want to walk into a charming little bakery, peer at all the cupcake choices in the glass case at the counter, and pick out my treat in person. One day recently while wishing for cupcakes (I keep my wishes small and achievable), a postcard arrived announcing a new cupcake bakery opening not too far away (in LA, anything less than a half-hour’s drive is considered not too far). Thank you, genie.
Trays and trays of choices, changing each day, with at least one or two (or three or six) kinds that I covet with each visit. B.’s current favorite is a birthday-cake cupcake (yellow cake, milk-chocolate icing, colorful sprinkles). Mine is a coconut cupcake with at least an inch of cream-cheese-buttercream frosting smothered in a blizzard of coconut. Just describing it makes my heart beat faster (the way it does when I eat too much of the frosting).
Let’s face it. The world is a scary place these days. And if an excellent cupcake once in a while helps center me, helps make me smile, and helps me believe that there is still some sweetness left out there, so be it.
©2022 Claudia Grossman