There are few things I love more than cupcakes. Or rather, I love frosting, and cupcakes are merely an excuse for eating frosting, even the kind that comes from a can (which I would never buy, but one of my roomates used to make cupcakes from a mix, slathered with frosting from a can, stiff with chemicals and sugar). Somehow I never make them at home, because I would find myself eating all the cupcakes straight from the pan and all the frosting straight from the bowl, without bothering with spatulas and piping bags.
Once a former co-worker brought pink-frosted vanilla cupcakes to a party, one perfect flower traced on each pink dome in white icing. It looked like a giant bouquet of pink-and-white. But then she was the kind of woman who made egg-salad sandwiches with freshly chopped dill, sliced neatly in triangles and arranged beautifully on a platter, the kind of woman who would mix up pink frosting for the top of the cupcake and white frosting with which to decorate it. I buy my cupcakes, and usually I go to my favorite bakery, the Columbia City Bakery. But they're closed, and Cupcake Royale is open, so I go there.
There are a number of cafés around the city, fighting the good fight against the corporate evil of Starbucks, with dark wood floors and tables and a giant bank of espresso-making equipment and extremely attractive baristas (of both sexes). And free WiFi. Vérité Coffee is one of them (with three locations), and it is home to Cupcake Royale. The one I go to is in a quiet, leafy neighborhood (this is Seattle, all neighborhoods are leafy) with lots of young children out with their parents (again, there are lots of neighborhoods like this in Seattle; there must be some population boom going on that I am fortunately not yet part of).
It is dim inside the café, with lots of people hunched over their laptops (enjoying the free WiFi, I suppose) and drinking coffee and reading their newspapers, but I make a beeline for the glass counter filled with different kinds of cupcakes. They are piled onto stands, chocolate-frosted cupcakes (everything comes in either a chocolate cupcake or a vanilla one), pink-frosted cupcakes, green-frosted cupcakes, purple-frosted cupcakes. There are miniature cupcakes, smaller than a baby's tightly-curled fist. And I am dizzy with indecision and anticipation.
I choose a chocolate cupcake with lavender frosting, and another chocolate one with peppermint frosting. They look beautiful nestled in their pink box, the green-frosted one topped with a red-and-white peppermint candy, and the purple-frosted one decorated with a candied violet. Candied violets make me think of L., whom I have not thought of for a while. In high school we once planned to write a Moliére-inspired play, an intrigue about forbidden lovers who sent messages coded in candied violets, which would adorn the little pastries from the patisserie where one worked. (I think there was something about how the lover who worked in the patisserie was too low in station for the object of his affection, or something). The play never came to pass, but when I look at the candied violets glowing deep purple against the dark frosting I think of the stories we bandied about in those afternoons in the painting studio or in the library.
The peppermint cupcake is lovely, the cool, minty frosting against the chocolate cake. But the lavender one is incredible, the sweet frosting tasting faintly of lavender blossoms; their musty fragrance gives a depth and mystery to the taste. Some people might contend that they taste the way your grandmother's closet smells, and I concede the point, but I love lavender so I love how this tastes. I contemplate returning for another one, but it is too late. Another day.