Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cupcake Couture at Sprinkles

The original cupcake bakery, Sprinkles, which hails from Beverly Hills, opened its bakery doors in Chicago this week. The Gold Coast location is attracting long queues of eager patrons, ranging from texting tweens, to tots, moms and office professionals.

Situated at 50 E. Walton, sandwiched in between Rush and Michigan, with high-priced fashion in all directions, Sprinkles churns out chic and modern cupcakes, priced at $3.25 for a single and $36 for a dozen. On the exterior, brightly-colored stripes and giant replicas of Sprinkles cupcakes convey ultra hipness, whilst the wide glass windows are no less glamour-struck than the neighborhood.

Is it worth the wait? Part of the fun is people-watching and anticipating the final result. I watched kids peer in the windows and listened to adults debating over flavors and quantities. Finally, I got swept up in cupcake fever, feeling like Charlie waiting to get his hands on the chocolate bar.

Gaining entry into the fragrant-smelling bakery takes about thirty minutes, followed by another mini-queue involving selection and purchase. The artful cupcakes displayed in neat rows inside glass cases could turn a cupcake-hater into a lover. I decide on red velvet as my litmus test. After a bit more ado, my package is delivered in a little bag. I ask the woman who rings me up what separates Sprinkles from the rest of the herd. “We use the same ingredients you use at home, but of the highest quality: the best butter, milk, eggs, chocolate, etc,” she explains.

My little treasure of deep red-colored chocolate cake slathered in a thick slab of cream cheese frosting, topped with a happy little Sprinkles candy dot, is devoured within seconds. The frosting outdoes the cake. Sweet (but just sweet enough), soft and fresh, it tastes like a smiling 1950s housewife has prepared it--incredibly lick-friendly. The cake reflects the same quality, but I find it a bit too light and airy for my taste. I missed the dense, plush velvety texture I've sampled in Memphis. But on the whole, the cupcake does the trick of instantly creating a craving for more.

Sprinkles cupcakes come in over 26 flavors and the coolest thing is the seasonal aspect, just like fashion. Summer cherry (July 16-August 1) is a pure morello cherry cake topped with sweet cherry frosting. Black and white tempts in the form of a Belgian dark chocolate cake with creamy vanilla frosting, and banana allures through a fresh banana cake topped with creamy vanilla or bittersweet chocolate frosting.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m certain return visits are in my future. Sprinkles cupcakes make for perfect date or kid-friendly-activity material. This is couture for all kinds of folk.

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