Cupcake Craze

Wednesday 9.15.2010 @ 12:00am | ImagesAZ | Culinary

By Stephanie Maher Palenque



September 2010

Cupcakes have been a fixture on the American party scene for many years, but in recent years the art of the cupcake has been highlighted. Wrapped in fondant, speckled with luster dust, bedazzled with jewels ...there is a cupcake out there for everyone.


Cupcakes are fun, and they remind us of a simpler time. Is there anything more fun than choosing and enjoying your own personal cake, based on your preferences? Cupcakes are a portable piece of pleasure for your palate ...your own personal party.


Cupcakes have hit the big time in recent years. Celebrities and suburbanites alike have gotten the “fever.” There are numerous hit shows that focus solely on baking cupcakes, including WE TV channel’s “Cupcake Girls” and The Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Here in the Valley, we are lucky to have more than a few cupcakeries that have received national attention. Read on, and join the “cupcake craze!”




Simply named, “CupCakes” this Valley cupcakery is gaining national attention, and lots of it! Their cupcakes – each designed to be “chic and unique” have taken the food world by storm.


Stephanie and Lindsay Esparza, originally from Orange County, California, were looking for a business that they could be passionate about when they graduated from Arizona State University. Building on their love for baking cupcakes while in school, they decided to get serious about sweets. They have since watched this idea blossom into a full-fledged force of its own. The sweet sisters have recently appeared on “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network, had an episode of Maneater on the Lifetime Network filmed in their store, received kudos from customers across the country, including celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Pete Wentz, Sarah Chalke, Victoria Secret models, Warren Buffet, and Muhammad Ali, and have opened a second location in Tucson.


Nine varieties of their from-scratch cupcakes are offered daily, along with a weekly special. Favorites include “The Party Animal” (Vanilla confetti cake topped with lots of colored sprinkles and vanilla frosting), “Les Deux” (peanut butter and chocolate cupcake, sprinkled with Dutch process cocoa), and the “Hollywood” (red cocoa cake frosted with fluffy cream cheese frosting and brushed with gold luster dust). Their cupcakes are made from scratch daily starting at 4AM, using “the finest ingredients” and are void of Trans Fat. Isn’t life sweet?


Scottsdale: 6137 N. Scottsdale Rd. #B-105, Scottsdale, AZ 85250; 480.656.3816

Tucson: 4811 East Grant Rd. #127, Tucson AZ 85712; 520.795.1112




Tammie Coe Cakes have been a fixture on the Arizona landscape for more than ten years. She started in the late 90s at Michael’s at the Citadel, and then moved into a shared space in the Arcadia district, next to La Grade Orange (4410 North 40th). Tammie Coe and her fellow-baker husband, MJ, supplied the space with their signature cakes and breads, garnering much attention in the culinary world. They have since opened up a space in downtown Phoenix (610 E. Roosevelt) that is a small café, serving their famous cakes, pastries, and breads, as well as Eli Coffee and Espresso.



The thing about Tammie Coe cakes is that they are eye-catching – in fact, they are more than eye-catching ...they are visually arresting. The experience could easily stop there; however, it doesn’t. What is inside is nothing short of a little taste of heaven. According to manager, Toby Fatvinger, the most popular cupcake flavors are “Ooey Gooey Chocolate,” “Red Velvet,” and “Sour Cream Coconut.”


Tammie Coe’s cupcakes live up to her overall philosophy. Coe shares, “I believe in good ingredients and an understanding of how they fit and come together. You can’t just add things; you have to know how the ingredients mix in a bowl, how they respond to one another. That’s a big part of it.”


Arcadia: 4410 North 40th Street, Phoenix; 602.840.3644

Downtown Phoenix: 610 East Roosevelt #145, Phoenix; 602.253.0829




Sprinkles is the mother of all cupcake bakeries, known as “the world’s first cupcake bakery.” The growing craze was palpable when suburbanites began hearing reports of how they make Katie Holmes salivate, and how Barbra Streisand sent them to Oprah. What started in Beverly Hills, California has expanded to cities such as Newport Beach and Palo Alto, California; Dallas, Texas; and Scottsdale, Arizona. Sprinkles even has a traveling “Sprinklesmobile!”


However, the beginning of this sweet story wasn’t really in Beverly Hills, but in 1930s San Francisco where owner, Candace Nelson’s French-American great-grandmother was renowned for the distinctive desserts she made at her restaurant. Nelson followed in the footsteps of the ladies who went before her, including her mother who shared a similar passion for cooking. Nelson’s philosophy is really central to her mission: dessert should be a daily pleasure rather than an indulgence reserved for the occasional celebration.


The recipes for Sprinkles’ famous cupcakes were developed by Nelson, using the “best quality ingredients available: sweet cream butter, pure Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, and Callebaut chocolate. The results are powerful enough to set in motion a national ‘cupcake craze.’”


There are some wonderful benefits when you are on the leading edge of a national “craze.” Nelson has quickly established herself as the nation’s foremost cupcake maven, and as such, has been featured on The Food Network’s “Unwrapped,” “Good Morning America,” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She has been in countless publications, developed a line of Sprinkles cupcake mixes that were launched nationally through Williams Sonoma and Sprinkles stores, served has a guest judge on the Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” and is a judge on the new Food Network show, “Cupcake Wars.”

Info> 4501 North Scottsdale Road; 480.970.4321;




Stefani Pollack of St. Louis, Missouri started her cupcake blogging adventure simply as a way to track cupcake flavors as she worked through a number of trial recipes before baking for her friends’ wedding. She had no way of knowing that it would lead to national attention by some of the world’s leading culinary networks, gourmet publications, food critics, and a request from Paula Deen’s “people” to develop cupcake recipes on a regular basis for her website.


In the year leading up to her friends’ wedding she baked a wide variety of cupcake flavors, but also discovered many truths along the way, including how to properly crack an egg, how to color pink frosting without using dye or berries, and how to make her own cupcake wrappers – while taking devoted readers along for the ride! Crowd favorites include Better than Sex Chocolate Cupcakes, Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, and Black Forest Cupcakes. Some of the stranger cupcakes that she has developed include Bean and Tomato Cupcakes, Corned Beef and Cabbage Cupcakes, Fig, Onion, and Goat Cheese Cupcakes, and Beer and Cheese Cupcakes.


Oh, and what were the final flavors chosen by the bride and groom who inspired the blog? Stef revealed, “They chose three flavors: Soda Fountain Cupcakes, Margarita Cupcakes, and Gingerbread Latte cupcakes. Their final choices were surprising, especially the Margarita cupcake. I saw Margarita as a summer flavor, not ideal for a New Year’s Eve wedding. But, it was a crowd favorite!”




Kelly Garcia, owner of the Internet-based “Butter and Me” is an example of one business owner and cupcake baker who has found success using a website storefront rather than occupying the traditional brick-and-mortar storefront, and how sweet it is! Her cupcakes, made using delectable ingredients such as sweet cream butter, Callebaut, Valrhona and Scharffen Berger Chocolate, Dagoba Organic Cocoa and Droste Dutch Cocoa, Nielsen and Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, and Hickman’s Farm Fresh Eggs, are made from scratch with love, from Kelly. Her business model (and recipes) has paid off. Phoenix Magazine named her cupcakes “Best Cupcake in the Valley” this month, and business shows no sign of slowing down.


Her cupcakes are baked on demand in a commercial catering kitchen, and the minimum order is a dozen. However, once you’ve tasted her cupcakes, you wouldn’t consider ordering fewer than a dozen at a time.



Garcia started years ago when her children were young, by baking cakes for their parties. “Parents would ask me to bake their children’s cakes, and they would refer me to friends. Business steadily grew by word of mouth,” recalled Garcia.


Next month, on October 10th, Garcia will be co-hosting the Valley’s first “Cupcake Love-In,” as a fundraising event at the Valley Ho. The event will be family-friendly, and is meant to raise awareness and funds for two local organizations that benefit families and animals: Singleton MOMS and Safe Haven for Animals. Event attendees will be able to sample delicious cupcakes provided by local chefs, bakeries, and restaurants, and take part in a cupcake-eating competition, raffle, and a kids’ cupcake decorating table. Cupcake power!; 480.437.4401




Cupcakes are so named because in early times, the ingredients were measured in cups instead of weighed. The first cupcakes were not necessarily small in size.


What countries call cupcakes “fairycakes?” England and Ireland.


Did you know that just last month, the world’s record was broken for the world’s largest cupcake? It’s true. A 1,224-pound behemoth of a baked good grabbed the title. It was composed of triple vanilla cake topped with pink frosting, and stood 4 feet tall and spanned 11 feet around, created by Manchester, New Hampshire-based Supporting actors were 800 eggs, 200 pounds of sugar, 200 pounds of flour, and the monster took 12 hours of baking time. Isn’t that cute?


And how about the world’s most expensive cupcake? This spring, clever marketers Jon Mervis and his dad, Ronnie Mervis of Mervis Diamond Importers, created a cupcake full of diamonds to promote the launch of wedding season. The cupcake was stunning, topped with a 2-carat Asscher cut diamond in the center, and eight round brilliant half-carat diamonds encircling the cupcake. The flavor seems beside the point. How much? About $30,003 ($30,000 without the cupcake part).


Still not impressed? How about the world’s most expensive cupcake-shaped handbag? A bit player in last summer’s “Sex in the City” movie, Judith Leiber’s bag was festooned with chocolate-colored crystals and diamonds and could hold only the most diminutive of accessories—a lipstick, a key, maybe a few bills (but my guess is that the woman who carries this bag doesn’t pay her own way.) It retailed for $4,295.


Calendar Cupcakes


Are you tired of having to throw out your favorite calendar at the end of every year? Meet the “Happy Days Forever Calendar” which will allow you to record these dates for years to come. The icing on the cake? Five dollars of the $14.99 price tag goes to the customer’s favorite charity!


Non-profit founder Scott Foreman joined forces with business entrepreneur JoAnn Truax and produced a perpetual calendar that is creative, attractive, and can help organizations raise much-needed funds to operate. The result was the Happy Days Forever Calendar Company.


In addition to having a sweet way to remember all of the important days in your life: family members’ birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions that occur year after year, the premiere cupcake edition launched in March offers a new cupcake recipe each month that you can make for every occasion!


Order the calendar for your family and help generate revenue for your favorite charity or organization, while getting an entire year’s worth of delicious cupcake recipes! Another option is to register as an organization that will benefit from the sale of calendars, and then sell them to family and friends. Either way, the rewards are just as sweet!


A very special “thank you” to JoAnn who shares the recipes for two of our favorites from the Cupcake edition.




August: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcakes


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup creamy peanut butter

3 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons baking cocoa

1 ¼ cups 2% milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds while scraping bowl. Mix at high speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl every minute.

Spoon cupcake batter into liners until they are ½ to 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans then move to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate as desired.


September: Applesauce Cupcakes


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup finely chopped, peeled apple (Granny Smith preferred)

½ cup chopped walnuts

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups applesauce

½ cup melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, butter, and applesauce. Mix for 2 minutes at slow speed. Scrape bowl. Mix at medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape bowl and stir in chopped apples and walnuts.


Spoon cupcake batter into liners until they are ½ to 2/3 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans then move to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate as desired.