As a New Yorker, I find it equal parts utter insanity and totally logical that as soon as I moved to Paris last year—with visions of millefeuilles, pains au chocolat, artisan chocolates and good old Nutella street crepes dancing through my head—I wound up Velib’ing through the back streets of the eleventh arrondissement seeking the city’s then cupcakes-only bakery. It took a few wrong turns down some side streets, but I found Cupcakes & Co, with sunlight happily spilling across the sole café table—an auspicious signpost pointing to the delicious display case of American delights.
Rebecca and Maggie Bellity, the two sisters who opened Cupcakes & Co in 2008, pride themselves on using natural and organic baking ingredients for their petits gateaux. And even though the concept arose from their travels to the states, their recipes are all French. They’ve dreamed up combinations like jasmine and vanilla, lemon and coconut, coffee and hazelnut and over a dozen others that set my heart racing and ensured many weeks of repeat business.
That was well over a year ago. And as my American obsession has waned (grace à new obsessions with macarons, violet éclairs and salted caramels), the Parisians’ has exploded.
The latest proof is Laurence Kreitmann’s Miss Cupcake, tucked in a corner of Montmartre’s rue la Vieuville. As I was hiking up the stairs last month, I noticed a new pink window with a pink cake stand displaying raspberry-, sprinkle- and jelly bean-adorned cupcakes, many of them pink. Naturally, I had to go inside where I was cheerily greeted by Kreitmann and her crew (in pink aprons, to match the pink interior), frosting new batches of chocolate and pistachio cake. Miss Cupcake’s—er, Ms. Kreitmann’s—treats have a wonderful homemade quality to them: they’re professional, but imperfect, with some puffing out of their paper liners and others barely peeking above. They’re all light, fluffy and full of deliciously balanced flavor.
Was it a coincidence that Miss Cupcake debuted where she did, or did she mean to go head-to-head with the not-too-far-away second outpost of Berko? After inspiring many sugar frenzies on rue Rambuteau, this American-style French bakery opened a newer outlet on rue Lepic in December (just wait, it’ll inevitably become a mini empire the way Magnolia and Crumbs have in New York). With crazy colors of crimson red, hot pink and florescent green; flavors in banana and Nutella, apple tatin and Oreo; and adornments of gumdrops, chocolate swirls and nougatine, Berko cupcakes remind me of DQ blizzards: totally ridiculous and a wee bit too addictive.
With a name like Pop Cupcakes, you’d expect the same fantastical creations as those from Berko, but in fact they’re quite sophisticated—and vegan, to boot. Founder Celeste Rhoads doesn’t have a Parisian storefront but rather offers her cupcakes on order, like premier party supplier Little Miss Cupcake and Sweet Pea Bakers, both American bakers who have been supplying Parisians with custom orders for years. Why vegan? Why not. One bite of the Bohemian Roses cupcake, an omigod combination of raspberry and roses, topped with vanilla “cream” (she substitutes ingredients like coconut cream for milk), and you might give up dairy forever.
But wait, there’s more! For the past year, left bankers have been scooping up Synie’s Cupcakes, pretty-as-a-picture creations in irresistible flavors like chocolate ganache, lemon ginger and dulce de leche with sea salt. But, in a surprising twist, Synie’s offers savory cupcakes, too. Red pepper and pine nuts, polenta topped with tapenade, and sesame with herbs and fromage blanc being some of the flavors that go quite nicely with evening cocktails.
And so the cupcake brigade continues. As you read this, they’re infiltrating traditional boulangeries (the seventh arrondissement’s Moulin de la Vierge), gelaterias (Il Gelato in Saint-Germain), American-influenced restaurants (H.A.N.D.), and even your local Monoprix.
What is it about these fist-sized sweets that make the French flipper? The novelty? The fantasy? The incredible flavor combinations? My guess is that it’s all about the fun. Just like cheeseburgers, cocktails and “le brunch”, other American imports that have become standard culinary protocol for Parisians fond of ennui, there are just some things that are worth letting your chignon down for.
Cupcakes & Co: 25, rue de la Forge Royale, 11eme. Tel: 01 43 67 16 19.
Miss Cupcake: 22, rue la Vieuville, 18eme . Tel: 06 63 00 77 77.
In Paris? You might want to check out Speculos spread… David Lebovitz is a fan…
In Paris on July 4th? Check out Parisian Events Cup Cake Camp. Yumm. Proceeds go to rebuilding Haiti.
Note from the editor: It has come to our attention, as the comments below attest to, that Miss Cupcake, located on rue la Vieuville, and Little Miss Cupcake, are two separate entities. We apologize sincerely for any confusion this post generated. We wish all parties the best of luck in their baking endeavors, and are certain that Parisians’ love of cupcakes will keep everyone in business!