Compact yet fluffy. Decadent but dainty. Self-contained and yet utterly, maddeningly un-portable. I think it’s cupcakes’ inherent contradictions that make them so irresisti-licious. For years now, chic towns across the nation have been worshipping cupcakes; Santa Barbara alone claims several gourmet boutiques devoted to the frosted confections.
And I whole-mouthedly approve. If you ignore the fact that they’re pricey and fattening — and let’s do — cupcakes are the perfect food. “Miniature” equals “adorable” and cake is no different. I like the integrity of a cupcake, each an original and self-contained work of art rather than a crumby fragment of a larger whole, a sloppy slab o’ Bundt, if you will.
I appreciate that cupcakes — whether petite or the size of my head — have a guess-free serving size, and that their frosting-to-cake ratio is considerably higher, and thus more mathematically yumptious, than regular cake.
I like their symmetry and the bling you often find on top: jelly bean, coffee bean, sugared berry. I relish that they’re fork-resistant and, being too tall for a mouth and too precarious to turn sideways, leave frosting on your chin and nostrils, making you look and feel like you’re four years old.
I actually find cupcakes inexplicably sexy, but I don’t wish to explore the reasons further in print, so let’s just agree that I love the things.
Santa Ynez teen Blake Colvin loves them, too. She draws them. She wears cupcake-emblazoned pajamas. She has a pet poodle named Cupcake.
“They’re so cute!” says Colvin, 16, of her favorite baked good. “You have the little wrappers, and you can make them any color.”
But while the very word “cupcake” has become synonymous with insignificant fluff, Colvin has found a way to turn the diminutive dessert into a weighty wad of cash — which she has then heaved at some seriously substantive problems.
As a young girl, Colvin endured chemotherapy for an autoimmune disorder. When a boy at her school was later diagnosed with leukemia, she wanted to help. So she baked and sold cupcakes at school, ultimately raising $5,000 for his medical expenses.
Riding the sweet sugar high, she founded her own nonprofit, Cupcakes for Cancer, to keep raising money for families coping with the disease.
She and her mother, Stephanie, a self-described “cupcake slave,” have baked and frosted more than 4,000 cupcakes to date (their record is more than 300 in one day) and raised $45,000 for pediatric cancer research and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Here’s how this all affects you and your lips: On Sunday, July 25, the Colvins will host a sort of baking-binge-and-frosting-fest for cupcake lovers throughout the Central Coast. Cupcake Camp takes place at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, where amateur, professional, and youth bakers will offer samples of their treats for a single $10 admission.
“It’s like a wine-tasting,” says Stephanie, “but instead, it’s all cupcakes with a variety of flavors.”
The Colvins took their cue from a spate of other cupcake camps taking place around the world, from Boise to Belfast. The last one, in Paris last week, featured exotic Banana Peanut Butter cupcakes, as well as Pistachio Rose, Rum-Cofffee-Coconut, and (okay, even I’m not down with this one) Watermelon Wasabi.
The Santa Barbara event will benefit the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation and feature baking contests, a cake auction, a frosting bar, and a Betsey Johnson fashion show, plus a retail area for cupcakey merchandise. Whole Foods will provide free organic milk for all attendees.
Learn more about the event at CupcakeCampSantaBarbara.com