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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Attack of the Cupcakes

They appear at weddings as a stylish substitute for mighty-and-once-mandatory $2,000 confections. They have folks flocking to them at farmers markets. One mobile cupcake trailer I spotted at this year's South by Southwest in Austin had a line that stretched a Texas block. They have their own TV show. Their flavors are multiplying like Crayola colors. In most municipalities they outnumber humans.



In other words, get used to it. Cupcakes own you. What appeared to be a trend is a full blown revolution. Cupcake Wars is more than a program on Food Network. It's how the world will solve conflict in the future.

And, as of this weekend, after conquering the local farmers market scene, Mrs. Delish's Cupcakes (612-1884) will be ready for battle. Its own brandnew storefront, a "boutique" in fact, opens Saturday, July 3, at 800 Lighthouse Ave. near Amir's Kabob House in Monterey.

~~~

Pacific Grove's Mary Font served in the Army under civil affairs, where she specialized in humanitarian assistance and nation building in places like Afghanistan. When she and her husband moved to Monterey County several years ago with their toddler, though, she had since retired and was looking for civilian work.

"I looked all over for jobs when we moved here," she says, "and didn't find anything I really loved enough that it was worth sending my daughter to daycare for. So I became a stay-at-home mom…

"I'd say, 'If you have a great day potty training, we'll make cupcakes.' We ended up making a lot of cupcakes, and I thought, 'I can do this, and no one else is doing this.'"

Font claims she enjoyed the traditional baker backstory of hours spent in the kitchen with grandma, mom, aunts and others, but none of their skills. But she bought a Culinary Institute of America cookbook on baking and pored over the Internet endlessly: "I looked at the science behind baking," she says. "I read anything I could find."

Soon she opened a stall at Pacific Grove Farmers Market to rave reviews.

"We had such overwhelming support," she says, "we expanded to Monterey's farmers market."

~~~

An informal poll of the newsroom—and the front desk team at Garden Health and Fitness, including one Alia Machiwalla, one of a growing legion of semipro cupcake craftsmen and women herself—unearths several theories why cupcakes are so popular these days. Cuteness and taste without the commitment of a cake were reiterated themes.

"They are cute and cute is in right now."

"Because they are so less intimidating than a cake."

"It's like having a cake in your hand."

"You can do more with a cupcake."

"It's a cuter shape than a slice of cake."

"It's like a little bunch of goodness. You can get whatever you want...flavorwise, sizewise, frosting/no frosting. They're so doable."

There's another reason why Mrs. Delish's baby cakes are killing it: They are screamingly good. Good enough that people are queueing to cough up $3 per.

Not to underestimate cuteness, which played a part in the birth of the boutique. "We looked around for a storefront, but not very seriously," Font says, "but it was so cute we jumped in.

"I'm excited and freaked."

People freak for her Red Velvet, excite for her cocoa, and her "over the top" Oreo cutie sells out cheetah fast at the farmers market. The chocolate peanut butter is another big seller.

This summer she's planning on both s'mores and lime margarita editions and a strawberry-strawberry number built from P.G. farmers market fruit.

The boutique will sell 15 flavors a day from 11am-10am—a single is $3, a box of 6 is $15 and a dozen is $30—and though she isn't zoned to brew coffee on site, she will have chilled drinks and joe dripped off site. And Mrs. Delish has already signed on for the Harvest Farm to Table Festival at Quail Lodge.

Last year she did a pumpkin cream cheese, a standard chocolate and apple with homemade salty caramel cream. This year's she's thinking strawberry balsamic.

People are already walking into the store to place wedding orders and such, but Font is training her first hires, two pastry chefs, for the official opening this weekend. Saturday, Sunday and Monday there will be free samples (while supplies last), drawings for prizes like a cupcake a day for a year and pedicures, facepainting noon-3pm Saturday and, well, cupcakes.

Learn more at the Mrs. Delish's website.

And surrender to cupcake.