Sunday, February 03, 2008

Denver Cupcakes

As much as I love Denver, when it comes to the cupcake revolution, we are a bit behind. Institutions such as the Magnolia Bakery in New York City have been around since the mid-90's. I hadn't given much thought to it until I took a trip to Seattle last year. While waiting for a table at the amazing Mashiko Sushi Bar, we wandered the neighborhood and ran across Cupcake Royale. All of their little cakes looked like works of art. We agreed to stop by after eating and get some to go. Unfortunately, dinner took longer than expected and Cupcake Royale was closed when we left. We never made it back, but the cupcakes came up again and again.

Why didn't we have anything like this in Colorado? Sure, there are bakeries that sell cupcakes, but I wanted a pure cupcake bakery. I decided that for my boyfriend's birthday this year, I was going on a mission. A mission to find some delicious cupcakes. Something not made as an afterthought, but as the main purpose of the bakery. I began asking around in October, and nobody could give me much information. Just as I was starting to give up, I browsed the latest edition of the Urban Eye email that had popped up in my inbox. Standing out amongst the ads for lofts and art shows was a Grand Opening announcement for Yum Yums Delights. Somebody heard my cries.

Yum Yums Delights is an adorable little shop in the Denver Pavilions. Owners Tara and Heather were incredibly helpful and friendly from my initial phone inquiry to when I picked up the drool-inducing Chocolate Dutchess dozen I had ordered. The chocolate-on-chocolate cakes were perfect. They stayed moist during their 3-day life span, and the frosting was light, fluffy and not too overwhelming. I give this place thumbs up for their convenient downtown location, being open until 8 pm on weeknighs, superb customer service and of course, wonderful cupcakes in many different flavors. Cupcakes run about $2.50 each.

The next cupcake shop to open was Happy Cakes, in the Highlands neighborhood. I drove by a few times to find them closed. The hours seemed erratic, so I gave up for awhile. Eventually, we were driving by on a Sunday and noticed they were open. Parking was convenient, with a small lot next door. The building is cute and the location is, of course, uber-trendy. We walked in to be greeted not by a "hello" but by a bit of a scowl on the face of the woman behind the counter. I almost expected to be told they weren't really open and just forgot to lock the door. But, no, we just got a quick hi finally in return to our own. The cupcakes looked jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Their decorations are really top-notch. I would have loved to have perused them longer, but the stare-down from the afore-mentioned woman began to make us nervous. I ordered a peppermint chocolate and a gingerbread. To go, as you can imagine. The gingerbread was tasty, but I found the cake too dense and the frosting completely overwhelming. It was so sweet I scraped some off, and I LOVE frosting. The peppermint chocolate was better, and I would have that one again. Happy Cakes is for the Highlands crowd. The same snotty service you get in every business in the neighborhood, with mediocre returns on your money. I would only go back in a pinch. Cupcakes were also about $2.50.

This weekend, a third cupcake bakery was bestowed upon Denver. The Shoppe is a far cry from both Yum Yums and Happy Cakes. First of all, this is not just a cupcake shop, but also a cereal bar. Which is awesome. Yes, you can order a big bowl of cereal here, with all sorts of toppings, if cupcakes aren't your thing. If you get tired of eating, browse the graphic design books and cute gifts. Or maybe show up on a Saturday night for some DIY crafting using the provided button maker. Located on East Colfax near the Bluebird Theater, these are cupcakes for the hipster-artist in you. The bright white room is reminiscent of a studio more than a restaurant or bakery. One of their specialty cupcakes is the Munny surprise, complete with a Munny zipper pull baked inside. I opted for a simple chocolate with cream cheese frosting. It was moist and the frosting was wonderful. A big mug of cold milk was the perfect side. Service was very friendly and it's a good place to people watch. You might feel a little out of place here if you're over 30, but it wouldn't stop me from getting my hands on the tasty vittles. Best thing about the shop is that it's open until 2:30 am on the weekends. Cupcake prices run from $1.25 to $3.50.

I want to thank the Cupcakes Take the Cake blog for being so awesome and up-to-date about all things cupcake, and Brandon for the pictures (top- cupcake from the Shoppe, middle- me enjoying said cupcake).