Halloween is upon us, and as an American I am conditioned to crave candy and all things sweet this time of year. Even my conditioning has been conditioned, because I also always crave little Butterfingers and other brand name store-bought candies. No longer welcome in my neighborhood clad in Spider-Man leotards and knocking on doors, I find myself at the supermarket emptying my wallet for some mass-produced junk food I end up getting sick of anyway by about November 2nd. But this Halloween, breaking free from the mainstream, I am heading to my local cupcake shop to stuff my face full of cupcakes--and to contribute to the recent cupcake boom.
I refer to the cupcake boom casually, as if I were really aware that there has been a nationwide surge in cupcake production. I actually got that idea from a story I heard on NPR (where a good amount of the smart-sounding stuff I say originates). In it they layed out the economic theory of cupcake production and explained the dangers of the dreaded yet inevitable burst of the cupcake bubble. And apparently, despite the ominous and inevitable fall of the cupcake, new shops are springing up all over the country with the sole purpose of slinging cupcakes. Denver certainly has been keeping up with the trend, and while I get suspicious of trends (actually I just never know what they are) and popularity (I hate that), having an abundance of cupcakes can't really be that bad for anyone, and I'm glad to ride out this bubble to the bitter
sweet end (and refrain from any cupcake puns while I do it). Of the cupcakes I have tried, The Shoppe on East Colfax and Denver is my favorite. St. Paul
The Shoppe is much more than cupcakes, I suppose. It has a cereal bar and a giant TV locked on the Cartoon Network that together evoke serious childhood nostalgia for care-free Saturday mornings (minus the plasma screen) stretched out on the couch, slurping Fruity Pebbles and happily zoning out with the Smurfs, Super Friends, Pee-Wee's Playhouse and the rest. The Shoppe also has pretty good coffee and has all the coffee shop board games. It sells random hipster-friendly goods and has fun, rotating local art for sale on the walls. I like the the Shoppe for many reasons, and it is a great place to hang out for a bit and read, relax or stare out onto Colfax, but let's be real, none of that would matter much if they didn't make some mean-ass cupcakes.
I've had a lot of cupcakes at the Shoppe. My wife and I have been regulars since they opened the doors. Here are some cupcake highlights I can remember, and what I have to say about them:
Death by Chocolate- Likely my favorite. Chocolate mousse-type icing with chocolate chips, chocolate ganache filling.
Tres Leches - A incredibly worthy re-creation of the most delectable of Mexican cakes in a tote-friendly size; the milk literally seeps out once unwrapped.
S'mores - It took me a while to try this one, but it's fantastic: little, crisp graham cracker pieces lovingly yet violently shoved into the chocolate icing. It's like boy scouts all over again.
Red Velvet - The classic cupcake. Done to perfection.
Peanut Butter Chocolate - Also my favorite. Also they have this peanut butter cookie and chocolate icing sandwich thing. Fuck yeah.
Carrot Cake - Another favorite, though be ready, the icing is so wondrously thick and rich you might not be able to handle it.
Coconut - The favorite of the wife. She gets really happy when eating this. And now, instead of flowers, I get her cupcakes when I mess up.
Nutella - OK, this is another favorite as well.
Oreo - Forget dunking in milk. The Oreo is meant to be crushed and sprinkled on a cupcakes.
Pumpkin - I imagine this is here for the Halloween season, and it is amazing. Rich and creamy like the carrot cake one, get to it while you can.
You get the idea. There are a lot of cupcakes and they are pretty much universally great. If you haven't been, you must be at this moment planning a trip in your head. And a great thing is that if you are reading this at 1 AM on a weekend night (you are lonely and The Shoppe can help) they are still open for another hour, so get going. In fact, for being primarily a bakery, The Shoppe keeps some great hours. I see they are open early now, but any bakery-type joint that stays open until 11pm on weekdays and 2am on weekends is right up my alley.
Another good thing is that they besides the normal-sized cupcakes they have mini-cupcakes. Mini-cupcakes are good for those indecisive moments when you are stuck staring at the cupcake display, unable to make up your mind on just one flavor, and there are like 12 people in line behind you. And this is often the case in the Shoppe. This place can get pretty busy and for a good reason. I think that when the cupcake bubble bursts, and it will--because NPR never lies-- The Shoppe will remain standing. And if it doesn't, it won't be my fault, because I sure as hell have done my part, and will keep on doing it as long as the cupcakes stay this good.
See you at The Shoppe. 3103 East Colfax at
. St. Paul