Monday, April 21, 2008

Cupcakes Squared: Dessert Gets Personal in Pt. Loma


For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been more or less flat on my back, thanks to an inflamed sciatic nerve. So, it had to take something special to get me up and moving last week. It came in the form of an email announcing the opening of a new bakery in Point Loma making, of all things, square cupcakes.

As soon as I could, I headed over to Cupcakes Squared, an 800-square-foot shop on Voltaire, next door to Stumps market. I got there when the bakery opened at 11 a.m. and for the next hour there was a steady flow of people stopping in to buy treats for themselves.

Cupcakes Squared is owned and run by Robin Wisotsky, a graphic designer of 25 years who catered her way through her training at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She spent years as a personal chef, learning her skills from a friend who was an L.A. restaurateur and with whom she partnered. “I’m really more of a chef than a baker,” she says, “but that background has given me the confidence to try new ingredients.”

Wisotsky is by no means the first to come up with the idea of a cupcake bakery, but she may just be the first to have created square ones, a strategy to set her pastries apart without getting goofy about colors and toppings. But it required her to find molds that would suit the purpose. Ultimately she had to have them custom fabricated, along with custom papers that she designed. The cupcakes, at just over two square inches, are elegant and have the advantage that they travel without toppling over and can be set together to create the illusion of a sheet cake.

Chocolate2

Currently, there are about 20 flavors in rotation with up to eight being offered daily. When I was there, she was setting out her three regulars—Chocolate2, a French chocolate with chocolate buttercream frosting laced with a hint of orange oil, Vanilla2, Hawaiian vanilla with vanilla buttercream frosting and Red Velvet, a cocoa and vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting—as well as Coconut Lime, Lilikoi, Mocha and Lemon White Chocolate. Astonishingly, she’s baking 600 a day and selling out by evening.

Coconut Lime

The cakes are moist and sing with flavor from impeccable ingredients, like rich Vermont butter, Cacao Barry chocolate (which just merged with Callebaut) and astoundingly fragrant Hawaiian vanilla beans, which she buys from a farm on the Big Island of Hawaii. After six months of recipe development and testing, she also decided to cut back on the amount of sugar she uses to further emphasize the flavors. Toppings are kept to a minimum. An espresso bean for the Mocha cupcakes, freshly toasted flakes of coconut and a sprinkling of lime zest for the Coconut Lime cupcake and a light finish of tiny walnut pieces for the Red Velvet.

Mocha

Perhaps the most decadent cupcake I sampled that morning was a surprise Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake she brought out, still warm from the oven.

Chocolate Peanut Butter

The chocolate cake was sumptuous but the frosting was even more extraordinary, molten peanut butter-flavored buttercream of such a richly sensuous texture and flavor that it seemed unrelated to any peanut butter of childhood.

If I have one complaint, it’s that the Lilikoi is not a great success. This is a vanilla cupcake with passion fruit buttercream frosting. I struggled but couldn’t tease out any passion fruit flavor, which should be pretty distinctive. The cupcake tasted perfectly good, but wasn’t the flavor advertised. So, before you order it, see if you can get a taste to make sure that particular flavor sparkles.

The bakery is just that, not a cafĂ©, although Wisotsky does have coffee, tea, water, milk and soy milk for sale. And, if you’re craving only the gooey stuff, you can buy “icing shots.”

Cupcakes Squared is located at 3772 Voltaire St. in Point Loma.

Have some thoughts about Cupcakes Squared or other bakeries in San Diego? Do you have a favorite neighborhood market or shop that carries unique or unusual foodstuff? Let me know or add to the conversation by clicking on comments below:



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