Noe Valley Voice July-August 2006

They're Selling Like Cupcakes

By Heidi Anderson

Saturday, June 24, 8 a.m. I wake up to an e-mail from my editor: The rumor is, cupcakes are springing up everywhere. Can I sniff out the facts? I grab my kids to make a quick tour of the local bakeries and coffeehouses. Oddly, no complaints from the kids.

First stop: Noe Valley Bakery on 24th near Castro. This place sells five big and beautiful cupcakes: Fudge, Most-est (like the brand name Hostess), Rocky Road, Zingered (also like the Hostess brand), and a plain yellow one without a cute name. According to bakery counterperson Alex, Most-est is the biggest seller. Each cupcake is $1.95. My children purchase and inhale a Fudge and a Most-est. Thumbs up!

Up the street at Kookez Café, manager Deano Lovecchio is watching over the cupcake display at the front of the restaurant. The little fluffs are gorgeous, and a bargain: $1.50 apiece; three for $3.50; a dozen for $12. Deano says on a recent evening he sold three cupcakes to a customer who was waiting to be seated for dinner. "More adults than kids come in and buy them," he says. You too can ruin your dinner--with three types of cake: chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, iced with swirls of vanilla, chocolate, coconut, blue sprinkles....need I go on?

Deano says strawberry is the top seller. I snag myself a strawberry. Light with crunchy sugar crystals. Refreshing.

Further up into the Noe Valley fogline is Café Ponte (formerly Diamond Corner), where owner Bruce Ponte proudly shows off his 'cake fare, created by new pastry chef (I kid you not) Lori Baker. The café's got carrot, coconut, cream-filled chocolate, and vegan!--made sans animal products. The vegans come in chocolate with raspberry, maple, or chocolate frosting.

Most popular at Café Ponte is the carrot cupcake, which Ponte says is the same recipe as his former non-selling Carrot Cake. Bruce adds, "Last week I sold 25 chocolate cupcakes for a birthday party." The vegan cupcake sells for $3 and the others are $2.

I hang a quick right on Diamond (kids still not tired!), and we find the tiniest of the cupcake trend, perched atop the deli case at PastaGina. These mini-cupcakes are vanilla cake with strawberry topping. Manager Steven says the store rotates the flavors. The cupcakes sell for 95 cents each, and according to Steve, customers usually try to buy just one, but....

Energized by our success (can't possibly be the sugar), my kids and I swing back down through Tully's, Martha's, and Starbucks. Alas, the chain coffeehouses have not been informed of the cupcake revolution. The chocolate muffins, about $1.75 at each store, are a tempting substitute....

Hmmm, wonder if my editor needs a survey of chocolate.... "Stop! Kids, no!"