Friday, April 10, 2009 at 9:40 a.m.
Clockwise from top: Creamsicle, Coconut, Heath Bar, Vanilla Buttercream
Photo by Aubrey Shoe
Starting a cupcake shop in Denver raises some obvious concerns: Will an already cupcake-crazed city welcome yet another baker of tiny cakes? And if so, how do you distinguish yourself from the others? Kathleen Nevin, owner of Big Fat Cupcake, had a clear vision of creating big cupcakes with superior ingredients, and making the bakery that sold them not just about sweet treats.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, Nevin discovered that baking was one of the best activities to help her pass the time as she underwent treatments. She struggled as medical bills took a tremendous toll, causing foreclosures on her two properties. Now cancer-free, she wants to give back. So at Big Fat Cupcake, she plans to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to people who have been diagnosed with cancer and can no longer afford to pay their mortgage or rent.
The Candy Girls always laud a good cause, but we also have sweet teeth to satisfy. Luckily, Big Fat Cupcake anticipates this and loads us right up with samples when we come for a visit. With twenty varieties of cupcakes made daily, there's a lot to choose from.
"How do you like the buttercream?" The baker, owner and staff of Big Fat Cupcake await the Candy Girls' verdict as we cram yet another bite of one of the big cupcakes in our mouths.
It is good. Perhaps not as sweet as we prefer, but the buttercream -- a recipe they've been tinkering with since the bakery opened in December 2008 -- is incredibly light and airy, with almost a whipped cream consistency, but with the added richness of butter.
But while the plain buttercream is delicious, even better is the thicker cream cheese frosting, which is a perfect balance of sweet cut with a slight sour bite, and the other flavored frostings that adorn the specialty cupcakes. We're apparently not alone in this assessment, as Big Fat Cupcake took the award for Best Icing in last weekend's Colorado Cupcake Challenge (tying with The Shoppe for Best Overall).
Still, the cakes are the big draw here ("big" being the operative word -- these things are massive!). Instead of using a base batter, baker Kristin Snow worked out individual batters for each of the shop's flavored cupcakes. Attention to detail comes through in the cake: You get strong vanilla bean flavor from the vanilla, the banana cake is dense with real bananas, and the coconut cake is made with coconut milk and fresh flaked coconut.
A couple of our favorites:
Creamsicle: The orange cupcake is delectable, light without floating away. There's a surprise cream filling that, when combined with the slightly tart orange buttercream frosting, makes the whole confection taste very much like its frozen namesake. An unexpected combo in cake form, this one's a keeper.
Heath Bar: This one starts simple with an airy chocolate cupcake topped with the signature vanilla buttercream. But then it gets a little crazy after it's dipped in chopped-up Heath Bar pieces. No mere sprinkling, the candy coating is thick and adds a nice crunch and salty toffee contrast.
Lemon Cream: Lemon is one of our favorite flavors for cupcakes, so it's interesting to see how different bakers pull it off. Big Fat Cupcake starts with a lemon cake flavored with real lemon juice and zest, then adds a lemon cream cheese filling that gets baked along with the cupcake. They top it with cream cheese frosting -- a brilliant choice.
We are also big fans of the Monkey Love (banana cake with cream cheese frosting) and Coconut, but missed out on a Strawberry that had already sold out. Red Velvet is their "show stopper," the staff reportes, but is only available Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Would we finish it? Yes! Provided we weren't trying to finish seven cupcakes all at once. Oof!
Would we buy again? Cupcakeries of Denver had better watch out.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5