Crazy ’bout cupcakes in Eagle County |

Crazy ’bout cupcakes in Eagle County

Caramie SchnellVail CO, Colorado
HL Cupcakes 01 TS 02-23-08

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado Cupcakes are the quickest way to feel 7-years-old again. Theres something about the mini frosting-slathered desserts that provoke visions of birthdays celebrated in second-grade classrooms. Mom would walk in holding a tinfoil topped tray. Below, a treasure chest of sprinkle-covered cupcakes awaited, ready to be devoured. Everyone knew you were loved.

The warm and fuzzy feeling hasnt changed much over the years, but a few of the recipes have. Cupcake-only bakeries are hip and can be found in most major cities and some smaller towns. The sweet shops names vary Citizen Cupcake in San Francisco, Haute Cakes in Boulder and Debbie Does Cakes in Oakland, Calif. but the idea is the same, a mini-cake for one with some pretty sophisticated flavor combinations. No longer is the little cake relegated to chocolate or vanilla, plain or sprinkles. Now its indulgent Belgian dark chocolate cake topped with Baileys Irish cream cheese frosting or buttercream sponge cake with creamy pineapple cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut. Apparently the cupcake is even controversial. When Gourmet magazine featured the innocent cupcake on their cover a few years back the letters piled up. Some people cheered and shared pictures of their own creations while others chastised the publication for declaring the humble cupcake gourmet.

While the Vail Valley doesnt have a bakery devoted to cupcakes, Eagle-Vail resident Liz Rackoff spent plenty of nights last summer baking for the handful of Vail and Edwards Farmers Markets where she sold cupcakes at her booth, called Batter. From her booth-side vantage point, Rackoff discovered a few trends the first being she sold more cupcakes to adults than children. Maybe because everyone, no matter the age, deserves a small delight every once and awhile. Its funny, little kids at the market, especially girls, would lick all the frosting off the cupcake, then eat the cake. I never saw an adult do that, but I think why we enjoy cupcakes at age 5 and at age 45 is the same theyre so much fun to eat.During the winter Rackoff takes custom orders. On Saturday she baked 36 cakes in her three signature flavors vanilla with whipped cream filling and raspberry buttercream frosting; chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese and chocolate chip filling; and vanilla with chocolate buttercream filling for a baby shower in Eagle. Rackoff, a sales and marketing associate at Plum TV, can remember first baking at age 4. She has a picture of her at work in the kitchen.I had to stand on a stool to reach the counter. Thats when cupcakes started childhood. Its such a fun variation on something sweet.

Sara Bencomo, co-owner of Happy Cakes Bakeshop in Denver (3815 W. 32nd Avenue, 303-477-3556) agrees that the recent success of the cupcake is at least partly due to nostalgia. People remember cupcakes from school. Theyre fun for parties because you can pick a variety of flavors and people get excited about the fun flavors we have, she said.Happy Cakes is one of a handful of cupcake-only bakeries to open in Denver in the past year or two. The cozy bakery, located in the hopping Highlands Square neighborhood in Denver, sells dozens of flavors, including French Toast, Chai, Red Velvet and even Jack & Coke a Coca-Cola cupcake with bourbon buttercream frosting. Retirees, moms with their kids and even single adult males stop in to buy the cupcakes, Bencomo said.Bencomo and her partners, Laura Reynolds and Lisa Herman, expanded from catering birthday parties and baby showers to the bakery in December. They sell about 700 of the $2.50 cupcakes a day, she said. We thought wed be busy but were busier than we ever thought we would be, Bencomo said.Now instead of the tinfoil-topped tray of cakes, some moms walk in the classroom with the signature Happy Cakes box of goodies.High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or

IngredientsCupcakes1 cup sugar1/2 cup vegetable oil2 large eggs1 cup all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained1 cup grated peeled carrots3/4 cup (lightly packed) sweetened flaked coconut1/4 cup chopped pecansFrosting1 1/2 ounces imported white chocolate, chopped (about 1/4 cup)1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature1 teaspoon grated lemon peel1 cup powdered sugarPreparationFor cupcakes:Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers. Whisk sugar, oil and eggs in large bowl to blend. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in medium bowl to blend. Stir pineapple, carrots, coconut and pecans in another medium bowl to blend. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture until just blended. Fold in carrot mixture. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing equally. Bake cupcakes until tops are golden brown and tester inserted into centers comes out clean usually takes about 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack.For frosting:Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Using on/off turns, blend cream cheese, butter, lemon peel and melted white chocolate in processor until smooth. Add powdered sugar; process until smooth. Spread frosting on cupcakes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Servings: Makes one dozen. Source: Bon Appetit magazine

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