Best Denver Cupcakes: Church of Cupcakes
What: Church of Cupcakes
Where: 1489 Steele St (Until February 15th, when the shop will move to a new, yet-unknown location.)
Pros: Organic, locally-sourced cupcakes are moist and delicious with deep, balanced flavors. The devil’s food cupcake is ridiculously, over-the-top chocolatey, and the pillar of salt-ed caramel is a must-have.
Cons: No vegan cakes at the moment, and to those more accustomed to light, sugary cakes, the intensity of the flavors might overwhelm.
Ah, the cupcake. The darling of the early two thousands, when hip proponents of the little beauties were lining up outside of bakeries like Magnolia and Sprinkles in New York City. When I set out to find the best cupcake around, it was clear from the sheer amount of cupcake-based establishments in the area that the trend isn’t fading. As Porche Lovely, owner of Church of Cupcakes pointed out, even the haters keep the interest in cupcakes going. With its constant speculation on current trends, “the media industry continues to stoke interest in cupcakes with publicity both good and bad,” says Lovely. And really, when it comes down to it, nobody can hate a cupcake. Well, at least not a well-made cupcake, like the ones Lovely churns out at her adorable shop. Church of Cupcakes is one church I will happily go to (albeit not on Sundays, as the shop is closed), and not just for the cute and cheery décor. Seeing cupcakes begin to rise to popularity after they were featured on Sex and the City, Lovely left a career at a tech company to open up her own shop. I’m glad she did—all of the cupcakes I tried were well-excecuted and completely addicting, something I could eat again and again. Typically I stop after a couple bites of cupcake, but I left here with a full stomach as I hadn’t been able to restrain myself from inhaling everything placed in front of me. I knew I’d found my cupcake nirvana after one bite of the devil’s food cupcake. The chocolate frosting is easily the best I’ve had, with a deep chocolate flavor and richness reminiscent of ganache, but still light and fluffy like buttercream. She does offer some creative and original flavors like samoa (a riff on the girl scout cookie, with chocolate cake, toasted coconut, and a hearty drizzle of salted caramel) and a lavender cake with honey-lemon icing. Despite some of the crazy flavors, the focus at CC is on doing the classics really well. That means the salted caramel in the frosting on the pillar of salt-ed caramel is homemade, and you can taste the real butter against the crunch of the flaky Maldon sea salt. I never imagined I would enjoy strawberry frosting, but Lovely’s delicious version on the strawberry solstice cupcake bursts with fresh fruit flavor and flecks of strawberry seeds. All of the cakes I tried were an exercise in balance—not too sweet, and possessing a pleasing frosting-to-cake ratio. As a bonus, you can actually sit at one of the tables and enjoy your cupcake here, as opposed to trying to stuff it in your face while driving home (not like I’ve ever done that…). And let’s talk about the sprinkles. Normally, I avoid this kitschy rainbow-explosion of artificial color and unnecessary sweetness, but here the sprinkles are a sacred part of the experience, and most importantly, they actually taste good. The chocolate sprinkles on her devil’s food cake are 42% cacao—more than a Hershey’s bar. And even the brightly hued sprinkles are completely free of artificial, petroleum-based colors. The icing on the cake (both literally and figuratively) is that this shop is one hundred percent soy free. While that does mean at this time there are no vegan offerings, it also means you don’t have to worry about terrible-for-you hydrogenated shortening trying to replace butter in your dessert. Lovely and I agreed that while the farm-to-table movement is well established in many restaurants, consumers aren’t quite demanding the same caliber of quality out of their desserts yet. While awareness of what we put into our bodies is still growing, she aims to keep her scratch-made indulges as sin-free as possible. While many of us grew up eating cupcakes that came from a box, Lovely is making cakes out of whole ingredients just like our grandparents would have, and her passion for quality comes through in every bite. So, no, you won’t see neon-tinted frostings here, or elaborate and misguided flavor options. But if you’re looking for a transcendent, sublime little slice of heaven, head over to Church of Cupcakes. Cupcake lovers take note: Church of Cupcakes will be moving after the 15th of February to a new location.
What: Happy Cakes Where: 3434 W. 32nd Avenue, and now also 449 Main Street in Longmont
Pros: Tons of awesome flavor options like mexican chocolate and bananas foster, and a constantly rotating cast of flavors throughout the week and the year.
Cons: Not any seating room inside the Denver shop.
If you find yourself needing a happy little dose of sugar in the Highlands, head over to Happy Cakes Bakeshop. Walking in to the shop, the butter-sugar aroma is mouthwatering. These cupcakes are gorgeously displayed on stands and creatively frosted and garnished with nostalgic little touches. The snickerdoodle cupcake was like a better version of the cookie, with a fluffy icing and cinnamon-sugar dipped cake. Their menu rotates constantly with creative flavors, and they also change up their vegan and gluten free cupcakes every day so those with dietary restrictions aren’t stuck with vanilla every time. Every Friday, the shop features special boozy cupcakes like Jack and Coke or Cosmo, so you can have your cake and… drink it too? Oh, and don’t miss the Valentines Day menu here, with a whole slew of champagne-themed cakes to give to your special sweetie.
What: Kim and Jake’s Cakes
Where: 641 S. Broadway St, Boulder
Pros: Super creative flavors combine savory with sweet, like the salted thai curry caramel icing topping the gingery vindalicious cupcake. Plenty of attention here is given to vegan and gluten free options.
Cons: Shop is quite small with not much seating room.
Apparently cupcakes and booze go together well, because liquored-up cupcakes abound at Kim and Jakes Cakes in South Boulder. One of the most surprising cakes I tasted had to be the mezcal margarita; a lightly smoky mezcal-orange cake, filled with a spicy lemon curd and topped with a creamy orange-Ancho buttercream. Jake does a great job of combining savory elements like curry powder and manchego cheese and working them into unexpected and creative desserts. A huge bonus here is the attention to gluten free and vegan offerings. Jake actually has Celiac disease, so gluten-free cupcakes are not an afterthought. You can also find Kim and Jake’s cakes in local Whole Foods.