Sunday, September 20, 2009

Le Cupcake

I have a complex about fitting in when I travel. Fortunately, not to the point that you'll find me sporting these pants currently fashionable in Europe for some ungodly reason. But I have been known to get horribly, horribly lost before I will sink to pulling out a map and labeling myself as a tourist. On my recent trip to NYC I even made a big deal of slinking surreptitiously behind the statue of Atlas under the guise of art admiration only for the chance to peek at my map where no one could see. This may stem from from my experience living in Washington, DC and having seen groups of tourists that will stop in the middle of the sidewalk or actual road during rush hour just to snap a photo, interrupt locals mid-conversation to ask directions to the nearest McDonald's, and even hold the doors of a Metro train to keep it from leaving just so that Grandma and Tater Tot can make it down the escalator. When I travel, I'm there to experience the city, not to inhibit its inhabitants from going about their daily lives.

That being said, when I'm in a place for any length of time, I do begin to long for the comforts of home just like anyone else. Whether it's ordering Cokes at the local cafe, reading The Economist in the park or catching the non-dubbed English version of a movie from back home, it's these little perks that can make travel a little less lonely. So, not surprisingly, on my recent trip abroad I set out to see just how global the cupcake phenomenon has become. And, believe it or not Parisians, the cupcake has landed. With help from the global cupcakery listing at Cupcakes Take The Cake, I selected two shops in Paris that I just had to try.
The first was Berko in the Marais, amazingly only a couple of blocks from where I was staying (fate!) In addition to cupcakes, Berko also offers a few other pastries as well as salads, I guess in case you want to round off your meal with a little something healthy instead of just straight sugar :) You can eat sur place but there are only a couple of stools at the counter, so you may be better off to take your cakes to go in their cute little box and find a sunny spot in the park. I mean, hey, you're in Paris after all. I tried to choose flavor combos that I hadn't had in the U.S. and went with a lemon meringue and a white chocolate raspberry. The lemon meringue had a layer of lemon curd inside and was topped with a crunchy layer of toasted meringue (almost too crunchy, it was a little hard to eat). The second cupcake was a white cake filled with fresh raspberries and topped with white chocolate ganache--it was delish. Unfortunately, both of the cakes were much drier than the American style of cake, but the tasty fillings more than made up for it. If you're not in the mood for cupcakes, Berko also offers several flavors of cheesecake that will make you feel right at home. At Berko a cupcake will run about €2.80.

The second shop I visited was Cupcakes & Co in the 11th arrondissement. Although Cupcakes & Co claims to be open everyday except Mondays at 10:00am, I made the mistake of showing up on a Sunday when they didn't open until 11:30 because, well, it's France on a Sunday and who was I to think they'd open on time? Sheesh. Anyways, the shopkeeper was incredibly nice and even entertained my questions in pathetic French after politely asking me to repeat myself several times. I chose a caramel cupcake that came with a dollop of salted caramel on top as well as a cupcake that needs no translation, Red Velvet. Unfortunately, the caramel cake suffered from the same dryness as Berko's cakes but the buttercream was delicious. The Red Velvet cake was softer and the flavor of the cream cheese frosting was spot-on, though I wish it hadn't been served cold. The cupcakes here were a little pricier, at €3.40.
One difference I noticed right away with the French cupcakeries is that they don't have placards denoting the flavor choices. Some will have a menu on the wall but you may be out of luck when it comes to flavor descriptions if your French vocabulary doesn't include words like "peanut butter" or "chocolate with lavender ganache." Fortunately, "cupcake," "carrot cake," and "red velvet" are the same in any language.

If you go
23 Rue Rambuteau
Paris, 75004
Metro: Rambuteau
Tues-Sun 11:30-8pm (7:30pm on Sundays)

Cupcakes & Co
25 Rue de la Forge Royale
Paris, 75011
Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny
Tues-Sun 10am-7pm

1 comment:

  1. Good to know. Those are actually both within walking distance of my parents'.