Afternoon Delight photo by Jeanie Dizon Britton
This week I’m indulging my sweet tooth by taking you on a cupcake tour of America. Cupcakes have experienced a surge in popularity as of late – perhaps as a response to chi-chi, overpriced desserts and a desire to return to simpler, home-grown treats. As a recent bride, overwhelmed by the drama that is the wedding cake, I can appreciate the wholesome simplicity of a cupcake. Even “designer” cupcakes have an inherent hominess about them that’s irresistible (Atlanta’s Star Provisions S’mores Cupcake, for example… but more on that later).
Taste is of course subjective, but with a good one it’s love at first bite… whether you like mountains of icing or endless depths of cake. My personal criteria for a great cupcake is: a balanced icing-to-cake ratio (ie not too much of either); springy but not too fluffy nor unctuous sponge; and a size that requires neither a toothpick nor a bread knife. I also grant extra points if a cupcake is filled with either icing or better yet, ganache or cream that’s completely different texturally from the icing. Extra points, that is, if the extras don’t induce a sugar coma.
I’ll kick off the tour with one of my favourite Atlanta joints: The Highland Bakery. This Inman Park spot is adept not only at lovely breads and lunch bites but also cupcakes. With its exposed brick walls and open-plan, the atmosphere buzzes with activity whilst still being cozy.
Variety here starts with size. Cupcakes come in large, just-broke-up-with-my-boyfriend portions or bite-size, week-before-the-wedding rations. For sweet teeth with an edge, the Coconut Cupcake and the Carrot Cake Cupcake will take you from the House of Bamboo all the way to Paula Deen’s house. If the classics tickle your fancy, you can’t go wrong with Chocolate or Red Velvet. The frosting on these babies have just the right amount of heft, often with extra sprinkles of delights like nuts on top, while the cake is squish and delish.
If time and variety are an issue, choose an array of little cupcakes for an instant sugar smorgasbord. But if you’ve got all summer to stop in for brunch, try a different large cupcake every week and string out the love affair. This is the South after all…
Next stop: Sucre in New Orleans, LA!