The following is a post from my blog, which also includes photos. If you'd like to see it, it's here: http://professorsalt.com/2006/09/08/c...
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“That’ll be a hundred and twenty three dollars, please.” Someone ahead of us proudly receives three dozen cupcakes, and the queue lurches slowly forward.
Who drops $123 for cupcakes? Apparently, enough women to keep lines long at the recently opened Sprinkles Cupcakes in the upscale Orange County seaside burg of Corona del Mar. Fancified cupcake boutiques have grown in popularity in recent years, and why not? It’s America’s backlash against the low carb pogrom that purged sweet indulgences from our daily routine.
Still, foreknowledge of this devotion didn’t prepare me for the crush of cake junkies in line. Their cracked-out desperation is right out of New Jack City, except the fashionably dressed Newport Beach ladies are better behaved and more attractive. Every inch of this pale-wood-on-white space conveys urban chic, and the rigorously designed graphics, packaging and marketing materials go a long way in its upscale appeal to women. If Martha Stewart and West Elm decided to market cupcakes together, this is what their store might look like. In addition, the store sells doggie muffins for the canine devotee and logo wear for the human ones.
A cupcake minus frosting is just a muffin, and who’d wait in line for a muffin? These wee critters are positively overloaded with frosting, unbalanced and top heavy like a surgically augmented size 0 swimsuit model.
The chocolate frosting tastes like the fine Belgian Callebaut milk chocolate from which it’s made. A cream cheese tang shone in the frosting on the red velvet cake. Other quality ingredients like Nielsen-Massey vanilla demonstrate the store’s commitment to sophisticated palates.
I’m not a fan of oversweet desserts, and the heavy hand with sugar in all these frostings dulled my enthusiasm. I couldn’t taste the subtle floral vanilla notes because sugar dominated the flavor profile. Your mileage may vary, however.
The cakes themselves are well baked with a tender crumb, moist, and all mildly flavored. Of these, the banana cake’s rich aroma stood strongest, and this was my favorite of the bunch. Lemon cake is pleasant enough, but again overwhelmed by sugar. Red velvet cake, glistening with moisture (or more likely fat), also stood out thanks to its pairing with a tangy cream cheese frosting.
The cake flavors are muted. Not dull exactly - more fairly, simple. But cupcakes are suposed to be simple. They appeal to our inner child. These gussied-up kids’ treats shelter adults from a world of overwrought pastry towers plated with lilikoi curd. A cupcake transports us back to an embrace in mom’s kitchen apron, and memories of licking batter off the mixing bowl. Those wanting more dominant or exotic flavors in their desserts should look at an unabashedly grown-up patisserie like Let Them Eat Cake, or perhaps the powerfully flavored ice creams two doors down at Gelato Paradiso.
Though I admit passing judgment on someone who’d drop over a hundred dollars on cupcakes rather than bake her own, her recipients can rest assured that those cakes were baked with as much love and more skill than most moms and dads can manage at home. It’s a long way from Duncan Hines’ kitchen, but in many ways, exactly the same.
In the Corona del Mar Plaza
944 Avocado Ave
Newport Beach, CA
9635 Little Santa Monica
Beverly Hills, CA