Here Comes the Cupcake Truck

The gourmet cupcake thing has fascinated me since I first heard of it about a year ago. Who doesn't like cupcakes, especially when they come in flavors like Birthday Cake and Chocolate Volcano? Baltimore has what I consider to be the perfect execution of this bakery trend - the cupcake truck, properly known as Iced Gems.

With headquarters in Reisterstown, the owner of Iced Gems drives to key intersections in the Baltimore metro area where she sells her cupcakes for a few hours at a time before moving on. She uses Facebook to alert her customers of her travels throughout the city. She is usually in the Harbor East district on Friday afternoons and has a loyal following among my coworkers. Today I finally caught up with her during my lunch break and found out what the fuss is all about.

The concept of driving around with a van full of cupcakes is genius. The whole experience has the childhood nostalgia of the ice cream truck. The van is a similar size with a side window for service. The flavors are posted outside next to the window and vary from the classic vanilla to the more exotic English Rose. People waiting in line are almost giddy with anticipation. And, for $2.50, they get a modestly sized cupcake with a generous topping of icing.

The cake-to-icing ratio appear to be about 6:1, which is not bad and certainly better than the grocery store, your neighborhood Starbucks, or the recently-departed Cake Love. I peeked into the interior of the van and saw neat rows of cupcakes on bakery racks, each uniform in this ratio with some flavors (like Peanut Butter Cup and Oreo Cookies) having an additional garnish. The overall appearance was quite appealing.

Carrot Cake was not on the menu today, so I went with my close second - Red Velvet. The single cupcake was carefully placed in a small bag for me. I handled my cake with the utmost care and got it back to my desk unscathed.  I noticed that orders of multiple cupcakes are placed in a box with dividers to keep the cakes separate. Individual boxes might also be a good idea. The bakery in Chicago's renown Bakin' &  Eggs served me a carrot cake cupcake to go in a box that survived 10 hours on the Turnpike before I finally ate it somewhere near Pennsylvania.

Around mid-afternoon, the sweet tooth bit. As I sized up my cupcake, I was glad that it was not too big and looked to be a normal serving size rather than the gargantuan portions that are becoming part of the American way of life. It is always a shame to have more than you can finish as the left overs so often go to waste.

The icing was creamy and substantial but not quite as tangy as I like my cream cheese icing. The sweetness of the icing was complemented by the well-flavored cake that had a genuine cocoa taste with a light hand on the sugar bowl. The cake tasted made-from-scratch without the tell-tale super-moistness of mixes that always strikes me as somewhat unnatural. This is not to say that it was dry. On the contrary, the texture of the cake was just about perfect. It held up as I ate it with a plastic fork. I am pleased to say that most of it ended up in my mouth rather than my desk.

I was also impressed with the cocoa that came through in Iced Gem's Red Velvet cake. I have had many red velvet cakes that made me forget that it is actually a variety of Devils' Food with cocoa as its foundation. This flavor, along with the sticky sweet icing made for the ultimate afternoon snack. Now I, too, am hooked.


I was grocery shopping at Wal-Mart last week when my sweet tooth bit, and I decided to check out the bakery section for carrot cake. While I did not find any actual cake, I did find carrot cake whoopee pies. At first, I thought this was just another example of how I can always find almost what I want at Wal-Mart but never what I'm really looking for, but after an additional moment of consideration, I tossed some in the cart.

I was not entirely disappointed. The carrot cake was typical grocery store delivered-frozen-and-then-baked-fresh cake with a pleasantly spicy flavor and just a hint of nuttiness. The cream cheese icing was also standard, but it's hard to mess up this icing. The real selling point of the carrot cake whoopee pie, though, is the cake-to-icing ratio - a full 2:1, meaning that 30% of each bite is all sugary icing goodness. A few hours in the fridge sets the icing firm so is doesn't ooze out the sides - better ensuring maximum icing distribution.

Overall, for a grocery store carrot cake, this was good. As a concept for serving carrot cake, the whoopee pie is superior and just the right size to satisfy.