Crazy for Cupcakes

Alyssa Warner serves lunch from her Fresco food truck Mondays and Fridays at the Medford Armory. photo Bob Pennell

By Anita Burke |

Alyssa Warner serves lunch from her Fresco food truck Mondays and Fridays at the Medford Armory. photo Bob Pennell

In recent months, cupcake bakeries have popped up around the Rogue Valley like spring flowers.

The Cupcake Company opened in the Larson Creek Shopping Center on North Phoenix Road in February. Cupcake Creations set up shop at 1739 E. McAndrews Road the next month. The Candy Shoppe, 235 E. California St., Jacksonville, added cupcakes to its repertoire of sweets in March, too.

The Cupcake Daily plans to open in mid-June at 102 Talent Ave., Talent, and is already building buzz with a social-media campaign. And other eateries have proudly pushed cupcakes front and center to capitalize on the craze that finally made its way to Medford.

Google reminds me that it’s been a decade since the gals from “Sex in the City” bit into big cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, thrusting the all-American treat into the spotlight and sparking a wave of gourmet “cupcakeries.” Since then, trendwatchers have debated whether the cupcake bubble has burst or whether this sweet snack is an icon, not just a fad.

Whatever those experts decide about cupcakes’ place in the pantheon of desserts, the jolt of sugar these cute cakes provide cannot be denied.

The local cupcake shops deliver a taste, not of the aspirational sophistication of Carrie and company, but of birthday parties and your favorite room mother from grade school.

Parry Morris, who owns Cupcake Creations with husband Jeremy, said it was her experience as a mother of four that gave her the baking skills to launch her own cupcake shop after she saw them proliferating in Portland.

“Buying cakes for every birthday was getting spendy, so I started doing a lot of baking,” she explained.

Cupcake Creations offers roughly two-dozen flavor concoctions ranging from classics, such as strawberry shortcake and German chocolate, to candy-topped sweeties covered in bits of Butterfinger or Heath bars or a crumbled peanut-butter cup. All cupcakes cost $1.50 each, $8 for a half-dozen and $15 for a dozen.

Frosted to order, the compact cupcakes are piled with a delicate whipped frosting that is light and creamy, not greasy. Morris said the frosting is nondairy and suitable for lactose-intolerant people. A serious chocoholic, I wished the frosting on my triple-chocolate cupcake packed more cocoa flavor, as it was barely distinguishable from that on my husband’s Gimme S’more version, which promised marshmallow cream and white icing under a sprinkle of graham-cracker crumbs and chocolate chips.

Cupcakes are only part of the sweet fun at The Candy Shoppe, 235 E. California St., Jacksonville. Melanie Scofield bought the business last year and moved it down the street into a larger location, where she has expanded offerings from nostalgic candy and chocolates

Simple cupcakes, costing $1.75 each, were her first addition, but I’m even more excited about the soda fountain she has since added for sundaes, sodas and even phosphates.

Both The Candy Shoppe and Cupcake Creations offer cupcake parties that enable party-goers to frost their own cupcakes. At Cupcake Creations, such events cost $4 per person. The Candy Shoppe charges $25 to rent its party room for one and a half hours and $8 per “cupcake kit” — a pair of cakes and the associated frosting and accessories for each decorator. Parties-to-go cost just $8 per decorator.

With a pleasant coffee-shop atmosphere, The Cupcake Company charges $2.95 each for its large cupcakes or $1.25 for minis. Owner Susan Krebs describes her cupcakes as an “affordable luxury.”

“It’s amazing how willing people are to drive across town for an individual cupcake or a box of them for their families,” said her daughter Taylor Krebs, who works the register at the shop.

Every day the shop has more than a dozen flavors. Eight basics including chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, lemon drop, peanut-butter cup and a decadent chocolate with cheesecake filling are available daily, but you have to be there on the right day to catch other specialties. I’d recommend Tuesday and Friday so you can get the peanut butter and jelly and the carrot cake, two classics. But the midweek menu with sweet strawberry, raspberry surprise, rocky road and Black Forest makes me think I should stop by on a Wednesday.

As cupcakes have stormed onto the scene, some of the best I’ve had locally came not from bakeries specializing in the treats, but from other kitchens jumping onto the trend.

Fresco, Alyssa Warner’s mobile kitchen that can be found at the Medford Armory Mondays and Fridays, had chocolate and mocha cupcakes for $2 each on one early visit. My chocolate one was exceptionally fresh. The tender and moist cake was topped with a swirl — not a mound — of rich chocolate buttercream accented with a single chocolate chip.

Downtown Market Co. regularly offers a row of supersized cupcakes such as carrot cake crowned with cream-cheese frosting and chopped pecans or a dreamy-looking snowball of a cupcake coated with coconut. For a special treat showcasing favorite flavors of childhood, I had to try a peanut butter-and-jelly concoction actually made from a sheet cake cut into cupcake-sized rounds. The finely textured cake was layered with strawberry jam, then topped with an unctuous peanut-butter frosting. At $4, this one is big enough to share, but it’s so delicious you might not want to.

Wherever you get your cupcake fix, remember — life is better with sprinkles.