The other day I had a diner date with two of my good friends. We decided on a chain restaurant in a fairly new outdoor shopping mall because we also had theater tickets that night and it was sort of a middle meeting ground for all of us. As usual, I wasn’t really expecting anything interesting or remarkable about dinner. And, as usual, I was right. However, before we even got inside the joint to order, our eyes were assualted by a vintage airstream camper with a giant cupcake sitting on top. To say it was out of place is the understatement of the decade. For a moment, I thought someone from a carnival had parked it there while running into one of the upscale shops it was blocking. I realized that this was ridiculous as the rather large, plastic cupcake, which had a huge dollup of pink frosting and a ton of sprinkles on top, was obviously a business of sorts. Being a lover of just about everything sweet, I knew I had to learn more.
I was good, I made it through dinner with only a few casual mentions about the potential of cupcakes for dessert. When the waitress asked if we wanted cheesecake or ice cream to finish off our meal, I smiled and politely declined. Afterall, I had my sights on something chocolatier.
Instead we braved the cold drizzle to peruse the hand-written menu on the white board posted in front of a little glass window with a small counter. It was set up like a food booth at a local carnival, but it had a certain charm that let me know it was a bit classier than the fried cheese on a stick vendor I drool over each summer. Maybe it was the bright pink Cupcake Camper logo on the front, or the small decorative curtains inside that gave it a little more kitch and charm and a little less backwoods fun fair flair.
There were five cupcakes to choose from and the menu promised that flavors changed daily. There was the jumbo cupcake (a 6 oz. treat that did seem to live up to its name), three classic cupcakes and a special for the day: The Rogue Cupcake, named in honor of Sarah Palin who was stopping at a local bookstore on her book tour.
Now, I’m not a supporter of Palin, but seeing as she got none of the profits from the cupcake and TACA, an autism charity did, I said what the heck and went rogue. It might have been a mistake!
First, it was a HUGE cupcake. Obviously it qualified as a jumbo selection. Since it was accompanied by a charitable donation, it was $4 instead of the usual $3.75 for the jumbo. It was also more cupcake than I should have eaten in one sitting. Not that I let that stop me.
I feel I need to start with the frosting which might have actually been bigger than the cake itself. It was a mountain of pink buttercream icing swirled to a peak and dusted with tiny chocolate shavings. The picture at the top of the page does not do the frosting height justice as I’d already eaten quite a bit of it before I remembered to take the picture. In fact, I had to start just eating the frosting because there was so much of it. I took my fork to it and dug in.
The frosting was very sugary, which came through in the texture. It had a slight crunch to it as many heavily sugared frostings do. I don’t think it was a true buttercream (ie one that used butter in the recipe), but more of a decorator’s buttercream (which usually relies on shortening). The difference in sugar consistancy between the two types of buttercream usually isn’t that significant, but the film the frosting left on the roof of my mouth screamed shortening and not butter. Now, that doesn’t mean it didn’t taste good. In fact, most professional cake makers do use a decorator’s buttercream since it is a stiffer frosting which is easier to design with and holds its form well. The frosting on these cakes held its shape, even after falling over in the box.
I actually thought the frosting was decent. The slight sugar crisp didn’t bother me. The chocolate flecks on the top didn’t really contribute anything to the taste as the sugar from the frosting overpowered them. I do, wish there had been less frosting on the cake. I thought it looked good, but the taste got old. My two friends agreed. One, who generally doesn’t eat frosting at all, pulled all but a bite or two off of hers. The other really didn’t care for the frosting. She was hoping for the taste and texture of a canned frosting, which is usually the butter based buttercream. She was non-plussed by the taste.
I’ve taken several cake decorating classes and am used to this type of buttercream. I find it very edible and even tasty, however, I would have enjoyed a slightly creamier frosting, and less of it.
As for the cake itself, it was a chocolate cake. The cake was moist and a little creamy, but not overly chocolatey. I’m a little spoiled. When I cook any sort of chocolate cake from scratch, I use a Dutch process cocoa which gives my cakes a rich, velvety chocolate taste. This cake tasted like it was made with regular cocoa, which didn’t add as much of a chocolate taste as I like. It did taste like a homemade cake. It had none of that artificial chocolate taste that many boxed cake mixes have. The cake was also very well cooked as it practically melted in my mouth. The last two bites I had of the cake, after I got most of the frosting off, were actually the best. They were top bites and they were very flavorful. I not only got more of a chocolate kick, but I also got a creamy, buttery texture I appreciate in a cake.
I did have to eat the cupcake with a fork because it was so large. And if I had not been worried about it going bad, I probably would have prefered to eat it in more than one sitting. I felt a little sick after I finished it. It was too much of a sugar rush for me. My two friends, who were smart and split the other cake were mixed. One loved it (sans the frosting). The other was rather indifferent about it. Her exact words were, “Muh, it tastes like a cupcake I could have made.”
Overall, I think the Cupcake Camper went in a bit more for presentation than for tate. They were very pretty to look at, but could have been tastier.
For appearance, I’d give them a 9.5/10