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When you look at a cupcake, you’ve got to smile.

-Anne Byrn

cupcake_royalei’m not sure what it is that makes cupcakes so much more fun than cake cakes. as a child i was fairly certain that it was the plastic toy topper that made cupcakes superior to normal cakes. but now, i’m not so sure. is it just the presentation? they are cute? they are individually sized? frankly, i love to look at cupcakes, and buy cupcakes, and go to cupcake shops, but i don’t really favor eating them over, say, fruit tarts or pie, or even normal cakes. but there is something super compelling about cupcakes that simply draws me in.

like everything else in life, i see no reason to waste calories eating from the cupcakes-by-the-dozen at your local grocery store. they taste like paste and powdered sugar. if i am going to treat myself to something decadent, i am going to go all out, and get the most fantastic one i can.

when i go out for a cupcake, i want an experience, not just a sweet snack, so i enjoy going to cupcake bakeries that are pleasant to be at, because i will probably eat my cupcake at the cafe. i also like to have my cupcake with a cup of tea, or a glass of very cold milk, depending on the flavor. and i prefer frosting that is flavored and not made with shortening, and cake that is moist and flavored, not just white or chocolate. most of all, i would like for the cupcakes to be fantastically cute! and uniquely flavored, and hopefully created from local ingredients. if i can eat my cupcake off of a cute, turquoise, fiesta ware plate, all the better.

one of my favorite cupcake bakers is hello cupcake, about thirty miles south of my city, but near my office.

hello_cupcake_logo

i have to note that having my office is within walking distance of a cupcake bakery has been a constant struggle for me.   i walk past it at lunch time and gaze into the windows at the display of adorably frosted cupcakes topped with sugar carrots, flowers, lemon drops, or delicate chocolate swirls. outside of the shop, there is an old fashioned one speed pink bike with a flower basket, and the inside is filled with art from a local artist, light fixtures made from chandelier crystals, and old fashioned seating fixtures. in short, if i go in, i come out with a cupcake. the street in front of the store alone is enough temptation with the sweet smells of baking treats infusing the air and perfuming the street.

all of hello cupcake’s cupcakes are divine, but my favorite is the carrot cake cupcake. the cake is moist and deliciously spicy, and the frosting…the frosting is fantastic! sweet cream cheese, but not too sweet, but rich and slightly deliciously tangy. i usually have to take about half the frosting off the cupcake, as it is piled so high! but it is one of the best cupcakes i have ever had. they also produce seasonal cupcakes, like pumpkin spice in the fall, and lemon in the summer. they have traditional flavors like vanilla and chocolate available all year long, as well as some decadent treats like red velvet with   frosting, or the mocha cupcake which will give you a little afternoon caffeine buzz.

hellocupcake

closer to my home, and my husband’s favorite cupcake shop, is trophy cupcakes. my favorite part about trophy is their little shop in a renovated school house. they stick to their color theme, and serve using white and turquoise fiesta ware  dishes and cups. the setting and shop feels vintage, and it is a great place to stop for an afternoon treat!

trophy logo

trophy has an amazing array of flavors, and change up their menu daily. along with the more standard flavors, they offer a chai cardamom cupcake, blueberry, a tropical fruit cupcake known as a “hummingbird” (which is my husband’s all time favorite), an overwhelming triple chocolate, fantastic snickerdoodle, and their famous chocolate graham cracker, which was featured by martha stewart, and is topped with roasted marshmallow frosting.

by way of being kind of boring, my favorite trophy cupcake is the red velvet. i find most of their frosting a little intense, and actually a little too sugary to set well with me. trophy tops their red velvet with a little candy heart, and the frosting is slightly pink, which makes it just too cute.

trophy 2

not to far from my home, and the first cupcake shop i visited is cupcake royale, which makes my all time favorite cupcake.

royale logo

cupcake royale focuses on making delicious standard cakes, and tasty frostings to balance each other out. while i usually like my cake to be uniquely flavored, cupcake royale makes a very good white cake base for their cupcakes. also, the tops are really big, and, as we all know, the cupcake top is the best part of the cupcake. i prefer cupcake royale for a specific reason: the lavender cupcake.

not only is the lavender cupcake adorable, purple with a tiny sugar african violet on top, it is simply delicious. the frosting is flavored exactly right, with the right balance of lavender without being soapy or overwhelming. all cupcakes are decorated with their signature “swirl” and look sweet sitting together in the display. cupcake royale is a neighborhood fixture and has somewhat a cult following in my city.

cupcake royale

probably more than anything, cupcakes are cute. they’re individual, easy to serve, easy to eat, and look appealing en masse! i really wanted to have cupcakes instead of a wedding cake, but my husband, who has a bit of east coast tradition in him, vetoed the idea immediately. too bad! i am headed to a wedding this summer of a bride who knows the owners of trophy and will be serving beautiful little cupcakes in lieu of cake.

but i have to say, my all time favorite cupcakes are baked for my by my good friend. she makes cupcakes in her own kitchen, with fresh ingredients, in fantastic flavors: lemon, german chocolate, coconut, chocolate… delicious, beautiful, and home made by a dear friend! i look forward to eating these cupcakes any time she’s willing to make them!

cupcakes are a luxury, individually crafted, and most of all, fun. everyone gets exactly what they like, and cupcakes are characterized by the little bells and whistles that other forms of dessert, no matter how delicious, may not have. sprinkles. toppers. sugar flowers. piles of frosting. mostly, they remind me of being a kid again, licking the frosting off the plastic ballerina topping my cupcake. my favorite cupcake bakers make tiny windows into my childhood, but with a flavor that impresses my grown-up tastes. it’s a winning combination!

what is your favorite baked treat, and where do you go to get it?

while my very favorite cupcakes are not available to the public, you can check out my other favorite cupcake bakers, and even friend them on facebook:

http://www.trophycupcakes.com/

http://www.hello-cupcake.com/

http://www.cupcakeroyale.com/

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