Monday, April 19, 2010

FoodTrek: CupcakeCamp is Better Than Summer Camp

This one time, at CupcakeCamp Seattle… I had enough sugar to start levitating after sampling all the sweet offerings of the Seattle area cupcakeries. On April 10th, Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood became sprinkled in sugar, frosting and even a bit of bacon at the first CupcakeCamp Seattle event, held at the new 415 Westlake event hall. Over a dozen boutique cupcake shops, along with cupcake-baking enthusiasts, came together to donate their talents and sugar-whipped sweets for a fundraiser to benefit the Hope Heart Institute, a local foundation committed towards furthering research and treatment of heart disease. Apologies for not posting this sooner, but I feel like I only recently awoke from the Rip Van Winkle sugar coma that it left me stuck in for over a week.

It's like Best in Show, but with cupcakes - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The original CupcakeCamp was started in San Francisco in 2009, a grassroots effort to promote the benefits of free community events with the added plus of eating cupcakes. Set up like a giant potluck, the original idea was to have all attendees bring cupcakes of their own and share them all at the event. I imagine it to be like a holiday cookie exchange, but multiplied several times over and spared the indignity of an ugly sweater party. These CupcakeCamp events are worldwide, ranging from New Zealand to Amsterdam, and the events themselves range from small get-togethers, to functions as large as the Seattle CupcakeCamp, which had the additional benefit of it being a fundraiser. The expectation of a neighborhood potluck of baked goods turned into a packed event space, with a line forming out the door to get in. Hundreds of people arrived to sample flavors from Bella Cupcake Couture (also the event organizers) and favorites like Trophy Cupcakes, Wink Cupcakes, Cupcake Royale, Bella Bella, and New York Cupcakes, along with new bakers on the block like Pinka Bella Cupcakes and the allergy-friendly Radical Cupcake. After a while, it starts to sound a bit like when the Smurfs used to talk, except that very other word is “cupcake.”

There was a contest open for bakers to submit their offerings into categories like Best Seattle Decorated, Most Unique Ingredients, and Healthiest Cupcake. The judging table near the entrance was filled with elegant and uniquely-decorated works of edible art, but of course the crowds were making a steady beeline towards the Epic Buffet of Cupcakery in the main reception area. The mass of sugar fiends were split into two lines by the center table that was literally blanketed with every possible combination of sweet indulgence. I think if they do this again, maybe lining the outer walls with the cupcakes instead of a single, focused table will help with the crowd traffic. Seriously, the line was cupcake-cah-razy at this thing. We only stayed for a short time because it was so packed with people.

A "Killer' cupcake, confectionary fashion, and the sugar-buzzed masses - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The best way to describe it was like the scenes in the Harry Potter movies, in the Hogwarts great hall where an abundance of food is mystically laid out before the young wizards. In this case, it really did feel like magic, as new platters and boxes of cupcakes would literally appear on the table whenever a space became available. Marshmallow whip-topped s’mores cupcakes sprinkled with graham crackers, berry-filled cupcakes with icing piped on like a flower, salted caramel with chocolate, and yes indeed, several bacon-topped cupcake offerings that ranged from maple-sweet to chipotle-spicy. For as many tentative looks the cakes blessed with what Homer Simpson calls The Magical Animal got, the attendees were willing to give bacon cupcakes a try. There was even a cupcake “dress,” worn by a girl from the Trophy Cupcakes team, with a skirt made of cupcake-filled tiers stacked like a wedding cake.

The irony wasn’t lost on the fact that an all-you-can-eat cupcake buffet was waving the banner for heart healthiness. “Sweet treats should be enjoyed in moderation,” was the event’s advice towards this somewhat satirical pairing. I can attest from my own confection-laden plate that if sugar and I don’t hang out together for a few days, I’ll be fine with that. Irony aside, it was just plain smart, because a sweet treat can go a long way for raising money for good causes. The rumor of the cupcake’s death seems greatly exaggerated, judging from the near-claustrophobic turnout of sweet-toothed enthusiasts. People were more than happy to hand over a ten dollar suggested donation amount in return for having their cake and eating it by the plateful. The cachet of the cupcake craze may be starting to plateau, but it doesn’t change people’s affection for childhood indulgences and getting a wicked sugar rush.

My tummy hurts. But it hurts so good. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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  1. Wow, what a feast of sugar rush. I always want to visit the set of Harry Potters. It must be really fun to be there and tasting it all. Hard to enjoy them in moderation when they're in front of you and when they look that gorgeous. :)

  2. They're beautiful. How lucky you were to be surrounded by such sweet flavor. Looks like heaven to me :>)

  3. These are awesome!! Love her dress!

  4. What an amazing display of cupcake treats. That cupcake dress takes the cake (sorry)!

  5. I likey the cupcake dress. Methinks if I had to do-over my wedding I might go with a crazy concoction such as this. Your pictures so pretty, your words even better, I likey Ms. Wasabi...

  6. Those photos are excellent. Surprised you could take them in the middle of the cupcake carnage.

  7. Sounds fun, fabulous, and over the top! I love it. How did I miss the first one in my hometown? More importantly, how can I get myself a cupcake dress?

  8. A cupcake camp? How nice! I so wish we had something like that around here. Now I'm thinking of getting together my friends and starting out small in out neighbourhood!

  9. those fish and whale cupcakes are great. I'd love to serve those to my kids as a treat after some sushi!


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