Jennifer “Cupcake” Page pulls a batch of made-from-scratch carrot cupcakes out of the oven. Her kitschy kitchen, already filled with the comforting smell of baking, fills with warmth as she removes the pan and sets the cakes on the counter to cool. She closes the oven door, leans against the counter and waits to swirl cream cheese frosting on her tasty treats.
In her kitchen, she resembles a ’50s housewife with long, blonde hair, cropped bangs and rosey pink apron. However, she has an edgy, rockabilly twist with arms decorated with their own colorful tattoos of whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” characters and a large cupcake with pink frosting, sprinkles and a cherry near her shoulder. She’s a cross between June Cleaver and glam gal Marilyn Monroe, whose black and white photos are framed throughout Page’s vintage and shabby-chic-inspired dining room and living room.
Earlier this year, Page dove into the cupcake trend that has, in recent years, become popular in cities between San Francisco and New York, but had yet to be taken on in Lodi. Cupcake’s Cuisine is her home-based business that revolves completely around the ultra cute, individual-sized dessert, the cupcake.
The lure of the trendy cupcake
When it comes to cupcakes, the popularity stems from a little bit of childhood nostalgia, a little bit of a retro vibe and, well, because they look cool.
“They’re just so cute,” Page said.
Aside from being dainty and colorful, Page says people are realizing that cupcakes are more convenient.
“You don’t necessarily have to have plates ... you don’t have to have somebody to cut the cake,” she said, adding that, with cupcakes, you don’t even need forks or knives.
Most people grew up with cupcakes as something mom would make at home and smother frosting on top messily with a knife. It wasn’t until a few years ago that cupcakes began to warrant their own shops, or cupcakeries, that sell gourmet cupcakes in unique, artistic flavors. Kara’s Cupcakes in San Francisco offers Figgy Banana and Key Lime Pie, Sweet S’Mores and Raspberry Dazzle. The Sacramento cupcake dealer, www.cupcakecraving.com, which sells at four locations in Sacramento, has flavors like “Koo-Koo for Macaroons,” “Mint Meltdown” and “PB and Joy.”
Some credit HBO’s “Sex and the City” with making the cupcake a stylish dessert because Carrie Bradshaw frequented Mongolia Bakery that is a real-life West Village favorite that sometimes has lines of cupcake fans lining around the block. Then there is the Los Angeles-based Sprinkles, which calls itself the first cupcake bakery. There are now 12 Sprinkles locations throughout the country, from Palo Alto to Georgetown.
Online, there are no longer just baking and cooking blogs, but entire blogs with catchy names dedicated to the cupcake: Cupcakes Take The Cake, Cupcake Project and Crumbs and Doilies. Even TV has caught on with shows like “Cupcake Wars” and “D.C. Cupcakes,” each reality shows about the art of the cupcake.
Page discovers her own cupcake style
While Lodi’s Page is a big fan of “Cupcake Wars,” she became a fan of baking and cake decorating when she was a teenager working at TCBY yogurt shop in San Jose. It was her first job, and when the shop owner went out of town and left Page in charge, she taught herself how to decorate ice cream cakes. In a number of weeks, word got out about her decorations and customers were visiting her hoping to get one of her store’s cakes.
Since Page moved to Lodi with her family — husband Vincent Page and sons Vincent and Donovan — she has been working behind the scenes at Safeway in the receiving department. One day, she caught an episode of “Oprah” that featured the story of the owner of Sprinkles. Page was inspired by the woman who quit her job to do cupcakes full-time.
Page still works full-time, but Cupcake’s Cuisine is gaining a lot of momentum, and there are 24-hour periods where her oven is constantly on as she bakes to fulfill orders. She recently completed an order of seven dozen cupcakes for a barbecue and a large order of intricately decorated “Alice in Wonderland” cupcakes for a child’s party.
“I was up frosting cupcakes at 3 in the morning,” said Page, who is still getting used to being known in the community.
With Cupcake’s Cuisine in business for six months, Page’s husband is beginning to realize the demand for cupcakes. During the first few months, he says he’d constantly ask, “Are you done baking yet? Let’s go out.” Now, he’s learning to help her in the kitchen and making cupcake deliveries throughout Lodi.
“She’s been doing this ever since I’ve known her. Every time she makes (a cake), it’s like, ‘Oh my God, it’s amazing.’”
The Pages think they have a perfect product for Lodi, where there is no other company specializing in making cupcakes. Jennifer Page plans to eventually open a boutique cupcakery in Lodi that will be cute and similarly decorated to their home, which their family refers to as the dollhouse.
Butter is better than oil
As the mini carrot cupcakes reach room temperature, Page stands over the counter filling a pastry bag with cool homemade cream cheese frosting. She scoops into the bag, and works it between her hands until it becomes the consistency she’s learned works so well. She leans over the cooling rack, and with the No. 21 tip, she makes a swirl of frosting on the cupcake.
The cupcakes are flavorful, dense and substantial. The flavor of the warm, sweetened, hand-grated carrot is balanced with spices and cake. Page, who creates her own cupcake recipes, has it down to a science. She uses better sugar cane over standard beet sugar. She believes butter is better than oil. She thinks pastel colors and sprinkles are extra adorable. Her French buttercream is an artform involving egg yolks, butter and sugar. But the most important part is what it’s like when you bite into it.
“Moistness is the most important,” she said. “I don’t like an air cupcake.”
AT A GLANCE
What: Cupcake’s Cuisine: Cupcakes made from scratch and delivered to you.
Owner and cupcake stylist: Jennifer “Cupcake” Page.
Flavors: Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. More flavors will be available soon, including banana split and banana chocolate swirl.
Make an order: 642-9166.
Website: (not yet active) www.cupcakescuisine.com.
Facebook: search Cupcake’s Cuisine or go to http://tinyurl.com/2bkyv98
Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CUPCAKE NATION: Where else you can find cupcakes in Lodi and beyond
Something Sweet Bakery
Flavors: Red velvet, cheesecake and more.
411 C St. in Galt.
The Dancing Fox Winery & Bakery
203 S. School St. in Lodi.
Flavors: White, chocolate fudge, yellow and lemon.
171 S. Guild Ave., Suite 102, in Lodi.
Flavors: White, red velvet and more.
2230 Pacific Ave. in Stockton.
out of the area
Flavors: Triple chocolate, Butterscotch praline, bumble bee and more.
3675 J St. in Sacramnento.
American Cupcake: Wine and cupcake pairing
Flavors: Mad Tea Party, Cupcake Split, bubblegum, mocha and more.
1919 Union St. in San Francisco.
That Takes the Cake
Flavors: Blonde Bombshell, Gentlemen Prefer Reds, Hella Nutella.
2271 Union St. in San Francisco.
Crumbs Bake Shop
Flavors: Chocolate Sundae, cookie dough, caramel apple and more.
Los Angeles, with locations across the country.
Red Velvet Cupcakery
Flavors: Maple bacon, honey fig, black velvet.
675 E St. in Washington, D.C.