In my very casual, not-really-believing way, I do try to pay attention to what the universe seems to be telling me, even if it seems to be one of the most unlikely, unimportant things. Sometimes there can be no mistaking what the message is, but other times it sneaks up on me, like the current universal murmuring -- which appears to be about cupcakes.
I’ll eat cake, but ask anyone who has known me for a while and you’ll hear that I really prefer other desserts (pie ranks number one). True, I have my favorite (dense white cake with strawberry 7-minute icing) and will eat the occasional piece of carrot cake. Talk to my mom and she’ll tell you about how, as a kid, I didn’t eat a birthday cake because the frosting was too sweet. Talk to my kids and you’ll hear how I always tried to convince them to bring muffins instead of the "standard" cupcake into school to celebrate their birthdays with their classmates, mostly so I wouldn’t have to mess around with frosting.
In fact, I have viewed cupcakes as almost worse than regular cake -- the super sweet frosting-to-cake ratio is too high, the cake is often dry and fiddling with those little paper cups drives me nuts. So I try to avoid making them and haven’t bought them. And then Š
About two years ago, my brother and sister-in-law bought cupcakes from an exclusive cupcake shop in the Burlington area for my niece’s birthday party. Not only were they absolutely adorable, they were also pretty good -- i.e. frosting not too sweet and cake not too dry. My daughters wanted to visit the shop "just to see" and we were all intrigued. There is something rather enticing about rows of prettily decorated cupcakes in all different flavors lined up waiting to be chosen. Of course we had to buy a couple to sample.
We left Burlington and I didn’t hear much from the universal cupcakes. Then, one day not too terribly long ago, my dental hygienist mentioned that there was a great new bakery specializing in cakes and cupcakes, right up the street from where we live. I remembered having seen a sandwich board out while taking the dog for a walk, but somehow I never managed to be going by during the shop’s hours. I tried not to think about it.
Shortly thereafter, my oldest daughter asked to take her little sister up the street to the cupcake shop. It was a moment of sisterly love and I figured that it was a good thing for the two of them to do together as a treat. Margot came back transformed. She raved about the cupcakes and couldn’t wait to go back. Both girls would occasionally find people to take them there for a treat and I would hear about the latest flavor combination or surprise filling. Hmmm.
While in New York City for Margot’s 9th birthday, our family who lives there threw her a wonderful little party to celebrate. Along with the crème brulee that the birthday girl had requested, there was a box of cupcakes from Sprinkles, a chain of high-end cupcake shops. It was a birthday party, vacation to boot and I had done lots of walking so why not try one? I cut a promising-looking white cupcake with chocolate frosting in half and carefully took a bite. It was delicious. Moist, dense cake with a swirl of well-balanced chocolate frosting on top. The carrot cake cupcake was just as good. When we heard about Sprinkles’ cupcake ATM we knew we would have to try it out and that is just what Marielle and I attempted to do on our way to the Statue of Liberty at 10:15 the next morning. The ATM was not open, but the Sprinkles shop next door was. We waited in line and I bought a lovely, billowy coconut cupcake that was promptly eaten, even at that early hour. We found out later that my husband and Margot had also stopped by the cupcake ATM and were very pleased to find it operational and dispensing cupcakes. We struggled to stay away from the E 59th and 3rd Ave. location for the rest of vacation.
I thought we were safe leaving Sprinkles and their cupcakes in New York when we returned home. But, 2 days later when driving with Margot while doing errands to prepare for our family Easter celebration, I suddenly found myself veering into a parking space in front of Top Tier Baking, that little shop just up the street from our house. Margot’s jaw dropped, as I heard myself say, "Let’s go in and pick out some cupcakes for tomorrow." I didn’t have to say it twice -- she was out of the car and in the shop door in a flash.
A cozy, quaint space, Top Tier Baking Co. has a fully stocked display case, a lovely consultation couch for discussing your options, cookies in glass jars and many sweet incidentals for gifts or baking at home. Britni, the owner, couldn’t have been nicer and we left with a box of 10 different cupcakes. We could hardly wait for the next day when we could finally eat them Š I mean Š share them with our guests. They were, of course, a hit and I have to say, I didn’t mind not having to fuss over making dessert.
I ran into Britni again at the Windham County United Way’s Handbags for Hope fundraiser that I attended with my older daughter. A great event, it was made even more fun as we got to sample miniature versions of Top Tier’s cupcakes. The fresh fruit filling and attention to detail makes them particularly divine and I began to realize that there really was a potential problem with this great little shop being just up the street from our house.
Even now, while I am consciously making an effort to switch my eating habits and tastes over to lighter, "springier" foods, cupcakes, a dessert that I never thought I would have a soft spot for, seem to be calling to me. I can resist, and resist I shall, but I certainly have felt this shift that the universe has been calling for. And if, by chance, I’m not the only one hearing this universal call for cupcakes, or if you are just looking for some great baked goods for a special occasion, don’t forget that we now have a local option for all our cupcake needs. Yum.
Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.