Creamy, dreamy cupcakes

Here’s an article from AZCentral: Thanks Krista for sending me the link!

Jaimee Rose
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 14, 2007 12:00 AM

We’re at least 180 days from the Scottsdale opening of Sprinkles – the worshipped Los Angeles cupcakery – and already the Valley is crazed for cupcakes.

Local foodies are dishing about them on chowhound.com. They’re being served at weddings, dinner parties and posh society events.

Places to get a cupcake fix are popping up all over: Cupcakes Corner Cafe opened in Phoenix in February, and Cupcakes is coming to Scottsdale in April. (An event heralded in 944 magazine, of all places. See, even the hipsters love frosting.)

Nationally, this frosting frenzy has been mounting for ages. New York went cupcake crazy about four years ago after Carrie and Miranda gobbled Magnolia Bakery’s confections on Sex and the City. Sprinkles opened in Beverly Hills in 2005, and customers still wait in line for 30 minutes to buy a single red velvet cupcake heaped with cream cheese icing.

Oprah passed them out on her TV show. Tyra Banks confessed to being obsessed.

Now you can buy Sprinkles mixes at Williams-Sonoma, and the country has reached critical cupcake mass. There are a cupcake blog (cupcakestakethe cake.blogspot.com), a cutesy “cuppycake” song circulating on YouTube and even Starbucks offering two-packs to take home.

Come September, when Sprinkles opens at Scottsdale and Camelback roads, we’ll have our turn to wait in line for cake.

Meanwhile, we’re getting our sweet tooth on.

At La Grande Orange Grocery in Phoenix’s Arcadia section, customers are biting into 2,000 Tammie Coe cupcakes a month. (Perhaps this is because there are 2 1/8 inches of gooey cream cheese icing piled on Tammie Coe’s decadent coconut cupcakes – we measured.)

When the legendary Barefoot Contessa Coconut Cupcakes came out as a prepackaged, $10 mix last April, there was a run on them at AJ’s Fine Foods and the shelves were emptied for weeks. The trend has prompted a cookbook spree: think 34 cookbooks with cupcake in the name, from Crazy About Cupcakes to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, on amazon.com.

At Frances – a Phoenix boutique that has nothing to do with baking – there are cupcakes on note cards, and knitted cupcakes handmade by a local artist are selling so wildly that there’s a waiting list for new designs.

We’ve seen cupcakes on baby clothes and adult T’s alike. Gwen Stefani is putting them on handbags. Juicy Couture is printing them on $128 hoodies and calling it “cupcake couture.” Women’s tank tops strewn with cute cupcakes are selling for $49 at Electric Ladyland in Scottsdale.

The cupcake, it seems, has become a simple symbol of joy.

Slade Grove watches when customers bite into one of his cupcakes at Wicked Bakery, in north Phoenix. He adores absorbing “the facial expressions of it – they just melt into pure ecstasy,” he says.

Part of the cupcake’s charm lies in some strange illusion of virtuous control: This is your allotted portion. This is what you’re supposed to eat. It’s all contained in this neat little wrapper. How fattening can it be?

(If you don’t want to know the answer – and you probably do not – skip this bit: Cupcakes, with their heaps of icing, often have more calories than a slice of cake. Grove says they can range from 250 to 1,000 calories. Each.)

Cupcakes also carry the niceties of nostalgia: They are what moms used to bake and send to school for birthdays, before the era of prepackaged safety rules. You got to pass out your cupcakes to your classmates, who wished you a happy birthday, and everyone was nice to you all day.

“I love that they’re playful,” says Dena Patton, founder of Chat, Chew & Chocolate, a Valley events company. There’s a cupcake named for her group at the new Cupcakes Corner Cafe, which has been mobbed with hungry eyes since opening Feb. 27 in Phoenix. Eating a cupcake, Patton says, “reminds me of childhood. I love the fun of it. It’s messy. I love that I get to lick frosting off my fingers.”

But still, she says, she can’t quite believe such a melee over a $3 baked good.

“At Sprinkles, people’s eyes are like biiiiing! They just get addicted,” Patton says. “There’s like this craze around it. There are franchises. In cupcakes. That’s crazy to me.”