They are part of a collective American childhood populated with other iconic foods, but even among the TV dinners, baloney sandwiches, tootsie pops and Wonder Bread of our nations early childhood Jungian hunger, the cupcake is a standout. Produced for the masses but proportioned for a unique individual, the cupcake celebrates sharing without compromise and indulgence without guilt.
At Buzz Bakery on Slaters Lane in North Old Town, the clientele look like the types who knew the joys of cupcakes in childhood. Lean and uniformly hip, they subtly look over the tops of their laptops (Buzz has free wi-fi, and the steady tapping of keyboards is like a modern eating metronome- I discovered I eat pastry to a Sousa beat) to catch the new arrivals. Buzz is a neighborhood place- all ages and types are represented here, but I cant quite shake the feeling that every single one of them has a cool bike with handlebar streamers parked at home.
There is a feeling that everyone here is somehow in the know. The modern whimsy of the dcor, the old cook stove and other antiques mixed with the very clean, very graphic interior, the chocolate browns and soft pinks, the glass of the cases, lends a feeling of carefully constructed attitude, and the attitude is at once strong and welcoming, like that of a mother who tells the best bed-time stories and also wears red shoes and lipstick.
The bakery, like its cupcakes, is at once nostalgic and forward thinking. If one who orders a Buzz cupcake does so because she remembers what it was like to stand at the front of the class on a birthday, Tupperware in hand, ready to pass out cupcakes to the eager rows and is keen to relive that sensation of nave self-celebration when another year was a great and mysterious thing, she has come to the right place. Buzz cupcakes look like a cool, tasty childhood.
The Bumble Bee Cupcakes with their giant petals of buttercream are multicolored beauties. Fuzzy Bees hover over them, and inside the vanilla cake is a heart of chocolate. Gorgeous too, are the Red Velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. This was a childhood favorite of mine, and of the very rich cupcakes offered at Buzz, this one is surprisingly light and has the perfect tanginess in the frosting to accent the mellow coco of the cake.
Childhood is not the way it once was; gone are the days of cupcake birthdays.
Statistics show that Americans dont eat more of the tiny cakes (which are named for the teacups or ramekins used for baking the treats in hearth ovens) we eat them differently. Cupcakes have grown-up, they have become wedding cakes and sophisticated partners to dinner parties and high-end barrista-made coffees (Buzz serves illy.)
Buzz offers gluten-free cupcakes made with rice and almond flour. They make a Buzz cupcake with a lovely coffee flavor whose burnt-note underpinnings melt with the butter in the cake and the frosting. Buzz offers a carrot cupcake that tastes of browned butter and whose dense and moist cake is reminiscent of praline.
These are not the cupcakes of my childhood birthdays; they are better. Pastry Chef Josh Short garnered a Rammy nomination this year for Buzz Bakery, and his attention to detail shows in the way flavors are executed and how the small cakes deliver something substantive and unique despite how known and ubiquitous cupcakes are. Buzz cupcakes are not cheap, and one of the pleasures of eating them is knowing that one can afford to be sentimental, sophisticated in our childlike tastes.