Cupcake Camp Grows Up

The featured offering at the Armory bar. (Abby Conway/WBUR)

The featured offering at the Armory bar for Cupcake Camp (Abby Conway/WBUR)

Whoever said the cupcake fad was dead (or dying) has never been to Cupcake Camp. (Could pies, macaroons or whoopee pies really ever replace the cupcake?)

For the second year in a row Cupcake Camp Boston, described as an “ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment,” brought together dozens of bakers and cupcake lovers in one place.

Not only did people wait up to 45 minutes in the cold rain to get in the door, but numerous amateur bakers and food bloggers had spent hours toiling away in their home kitchens measuring, sifting, mixing, baking, frosting and decorating cupcakes to be eaten by strangers. For free.

There is no doubt the event grew up in the year since its first incarnation at P.A.’s Lounge last spring. This year, the (much larger) Armory for the Arts on Highland Avenue allowed more people not only to bring cupcakes, but also to enjoy them. The bi-level set up featured cupcakes on the main level, with tables and chairs on the balcony upstairs. There you had a bird’s eye view of the excitement and a bit of elbow room to enjoy your treats.

While the event was free, Anita Patel, one of its organizers, reported that campers donated over $2,300 for Loving Spoonfuls, a local non-profit that recovers and distributes perishable, un-served foods that would otherwise be thrown away.

I would’ve liked to have seen more creative options from the established bakeries. Why not test some interesting new recipes and use Cupcake Camp as an over-sized focus group?

The bakers in attendance were as diverse as their offerings. Names ranged from well known Sweet and Whole Foods to (my favorite) 12-year-old Anthony Tata of Tata Treats, who bakes in his parents’ kitchen in Stow. (Noticeably absent — to me, anyway — was Kickass Cupcakes.)

There was no shortage of creative combinations  offered up. Some of the most unique that I saw included a Frito cupcake (chocolate cake with a peanut butter and Frito filling and peanut butter frosting); a few bacon interpretations paired with maple; vegan (spicy) Aztec chocolate; Irish coffee (chocolate and coffee cupcake with Bailey’s cream filling and chocolate glaze); and Earl Gray tea.

If customization is your thing, Treat Cupcake Bar was in attendance, allowing you to be the creative force behind your personal cupcake. I like to think of them of them as the Coldstone Creamery of cupcakes.

There was a lot of buzz around JannaBee’s banana nut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and honey brittle dust. Cupcake Mojo was another popular choice. They rolled out their summer cupcakes, such as strawberry margarita, a few weeks early just for the event. Both ran out of cupcakes within the first hour.

That said, I would’ve liked to have seen more creative options from the established bakeries. Why not test some interesting new recipes and use Cupcake Camp as an over-sized focus group?

A far as the logistics of eating were concerned, no plates or napkins were provided (though some bakers brought them), making handling tricky. Rachel Perry, who attended last year’s Camp, came prepared with a tray to collect cupcakes. She and her friend Victoria Gillet, an amateur camper, were able to enjoy their cupcakes from the less cramped balcony.

Cupcake Camp is pretty much a free-for-all. But, there is one golden rule: cupcakes are to be enjoyed AT the event, not taken to go. Some campers weren’t happy to hear this, and their cupcakes were confiscated at the door. (I even saw some people bagging their cupcakes and shoving them in their purses to smuggle out.) The cupcake contraband that didn’t make it was not wasted, though: volunteers handed them out to those still waiting in line.

I only had about three or four (mini) cupcakes before feeling a little overwhelmed. I’d say I have a pretty respectable sweet tooth, but Cupcake Camp could challenge even the most seasoned cupcake connoisseurs. I’m an amateur cupcake baker myself and hope to participate next year. The truth is, baking cupcakes is time consuming and can get expensive, which is why I am so impressed by those amateur bakers who show up, some for the second year in a row, to spread the cupcake love.

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