There are worse ways to spend a Sunday than mowing your way through as many cupcake flavors as you can handle.
The CupcakeCamp Phoenix event at Co+Hoots on Sunday was an interesting concept: Invite dozens of amateur (and a few professional) bakers to hang out for a few hours and share their wares. You didn’t have to make cupcakes to attend, either—it was free to show up and sample, as well.
When my friends mentioned they were thinking about attending, but hadn’t decided on a cupcake to make, I knew exactly which ones they should tackle: the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes that my friend Jenny brings to work every year right around St. Patrick’s Day.
Making them isn’t a quick-and-dirty procedure—there’s the Guinness and chocolate cake, filled with an Irish whiskey and chocolate ganache, then covered with a Bailey’s and buttercream frosting. (The recipe is here.) The first year I tried them, I wolfed down four over the course of the day. This year, I exercised restraint and consumed “only” two.
After I planted that idea in their heads, I sat back and did absolutely nothing. David was in charge of baking the cupcakes, then Rob took care of the decorating (and presentation—check out those tulip baking cups!). The ornate, edible toppers were inspired by Irish lace; Rob sketched an intricate pattern freehand, then laid wax paper atop it and used it as a template to pipe two dozen or so copies using royal icing. I, meanwhile, contented myself with the title of “muse.” Because isn’t that what muses do—inspire you into greatness, without performing any of the actual work for you?
(Those designs turned out to be real Rorschach tests: I had thought they were crowns; other people at the event complimented the “cactuses,” “shamrocks” or “cobras.” My favorite, though, was the random guy who came right out and said, “I like your penises.”)
The organization was superb: For 15 minutes at a time, bakers would stand at one of three tables and distribute the cupcakes they had brought. When the event began, we were sampling quite a few flavors: lemon meringue, corn dog, short rib, prickly pear, maple bacon bourbon. But very soon, we realized that, even splitting a cupcake three ways, we were getting too full, too fast. “I need to take a knee,” I said after about an hour, and eventually we sat out one round completely. When we jumped back into the game, we were splitting halves of a cupcake three ways—just enough to sample, but not enough to split open our shorts.
Some people made adventurous choices: the savory corn dog cupcake had a cornbread base with slivers of hot dog and a creamy-mustard “frosting,” while the lasagna cupcake used wonton wrappers to envelop the tomato sauce, cheeses (and spinach instead of meat). Both were delicious. One woman made a trio of mini-cupcake offerings, each based on a different flavor of tea: lavender, chai and green. We each had different favorites for those.
Our team’s 15 minutes of cupcake fame was the final one for our station, and I consider it a testament to greatness that so many people were lined up, outside in 90-degree heat, to get a taste even after two straight hours of cupcaking. By this time, most people (like us) were requesting just half a cupcake by this point, but one woman requested a full-size one because it was her 66th birthday. Later, when I asked her how she had enjoyed it, she said, “The ganache on the inside was better than all of the sex I’m going to have today.”
Someone even tipped us $5—which we weren’t expecting at all, but thank you, kind sir—and we got lots of questions whether we were professional bakers, which is testament to Rob and David’s skills (and the recipe). When our serving stint was over we had just two cupcakes left over, and on our way out we handed one over to Terry Tang, who had organized the event and was running around so much that she hadn’t had a chance to sample many flavors.
One last cool thing about the day: David had mentioned that he was going to wear his Johnny Cupcakes T-shirt (see group photo above) to the event. I can’t think of a more appropriate time for it! I opted for my Kitchen Warfare T-shirt, in which what appears to be an assault rifle is actually a mosaic of utensils used in cooking and baking. A chef’s knife! A nutcracker! A grater, peeler, pepper mill, rolling pin! And more!
I think this design is clever—or should that be cleaver?— but the items are so well and tightly organized that I think most people see “assault rifle,” and aren’t keen to get staring-at-your-chest close to someone wearing such a shirt just in case there’s something else going on. I almost feel like the should be come with a small badge that says something like “Please do not be alarmed. This design is made of kitchen utensils.”
Overall, a delightful—and delicious—time. I topped off the afternoon with a stop at the Urban Pioneer Tea section of GreaterThan Coffee, which adjoins Co+Hoots. “What the most refreshing tea you’d have iced?” I asked what turned out to be the creator of the line, who steered me toward Concrete Jungle (which was indeed delightful).
I sampled a dozen and a half cupcakes, in total (including a full Irish Car Bomb). I’ve been sitting quietly at home ever since, feeling the sugar course through my bloodstream and all the cakery wend its own, slower path through my belly. I don’t think I’ll be having much dinner tonight.
|WHAT SAM WORE: 3/28/15|
|The shirt: Kitchen Warfare T-shirt from Woot.com.|
|The shorts: Reversible camo-print shorts by Howe, from Last Chance.|
|The shoes: Custom All-Star slip-ons, created at Converse.com.|