I can’t think of anything that combines my love of food and fashion better than cupcakes. (Maybe aprons, I suppose. But aprons are not little edible presents–cupcakes are.)
Cupcakes are a true “food fashion” trend. Dressed up, dressed down, they are one of the most versatile desserts. Perfect for a mid-morning coffee break or afternoon tea, now they are beginning to replace the traditional three-tier cake at wedding receptions. All across the country, specialty cupcake bakeries are popping up everywhere. What’s behind the spread of cupcake mania? My guess is that it’s because cupcakes are fun. You can indulge, satisfy your sweet tooth, and not feel guilty. When it comes to ingredients, cupcakes are a great way to experiment with gourmet flavor combinations. And decoration-wise they can go fancy, casual, or whimsical. Really, the creative possibilities are endless, making cupcakes suitable for so many occasions.
Let’s be honest though, no occasion was necessary this afternoon to try Cocoa and Fig, the new cupcake-dedicated bakery in downtown Minneapolis.
In one word: Indulgent
Location: 651 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (Gaviidae Common, Skyway Level–Saks Wing)
Food: Cocoa and Fig has lots of delicious cupcake varieties, plus other fun confection offerings like tartlets, French macarons, sugar cookies, and my favorite–cake lollipops–an adorable, teeny-meeny cupcake on a stick.
Like most cupcake bakeries, Cocoa and Fig has many unusual, mouth-watering flavors. Some offerings the day I visited included Irish Car Bomb, Black Velvet (with black sprinkles), Banana with Cream Cheese frosting, Carrot Cake, Pumpkin spice cupcake with cinnamon frosting, Salted Caramel and more.
I tried a Peanut Butter Parfait cupcake–a chocolate cake with a big dollop of peanut butter frosting underneath a shell of hardened chocolate syrup and salted peanuts. (I’m such a sucker for salty/sweet combinations).
The effect of the frosting underneath the chocolate shell was like eating a chocolate dipped cone at Dairy Queen with peanuts sprinkled on top. The frosting is truly heavenly–silky and creamy, light as whipped butter. According to an interview with City Pages, Cocoa and Fig’s frosting is top-notch because they use an Italian meringue buttercream, rather than the American-style buttercream that most cupcakes are frosted with, meaning that in Cocoa and Fig’s kitchen the sugar for the cupcake frosting is cooked so it fully dissolves and then is added to whipped egg whites and butter. I think I prefer this method. The frosting is absolutely mouth-watering, with a lovely whipped feeling on your tongue. And speaking of which, because the sugar is dissolved you don’t get that gritty, sugary feeling on your tongue and teeth.
Underneath the frosting is an extremely moist chocolate cake with an oozy, gooey injection of peanut butter at its center. Yes please. It’s a bit on the small side for gourmet cupcakes (I’d say maybe half the size of Magnolia’s, if you’re familiar)–but the upside is that you actually have a chance to fit a bite of frosting and cake in your mouth at once–if you really open up your jaw.
Some may feel that $2.75 for a cupcake is a little steep, but I’d argue that if you’re looking for an indulgent treat, it’s hard to match this kind of taste for your buck.
Drink: Cocoa and Fig offers plain black coffee and various bottled drinks, including a fridge full of Naked Juice. If you’re looking for something else (latte, teas, etc.) there’s a Caribou Coffee conveniently located kitty-corner in the Gaviidae mall.
Service: The counter staff is very friendly and answered all my questions. Not much else to report.
Scene: For a new retail space, the Cocoa and Fig location is well branded and very cute–there are Cocoa and Fig products lined up on shelves against the wall, and the counter space feels vaguely Martha Stewart-y and is clean and bright. There’s no where to sit, which is unfortunate. You have to shove your cupcake in your mouth, or plan to take it to go. If you decide to do the latter, it might be a good excuse to take home multiple cupcakes. If you decide to do the former, I will definitely not judge.
Dress: No dress code really to speak of–the store is more or less a to-go counter, so there’s not really a crowd to impress. I mostly saw business casual or business professional dressed folks coming from and going to work.
Cost: $2.75/cupcake is pretty good in my book. But I tend to look at the glass as half full, especially when I have a scrumptious cupcake in my stomach, half eaten.
If you like, try: Magnolia in NYC, Sugar Bliss in Chicago, Crumbs (across the country), Sweets Bakeshop in St. Paul, MN