Saturday, November 10, 2007

When Cupcakes Are Too Precious

On a recent weekend, I was wandering the Cow Hollow area in San Francisco and I already made a mental note to myself to stop by Kara’s Cupcakes for her deliciously moist and creative cupcakes. But as the bus I was on passed a new, cute cupcake shop on Union Street, I decided to get off and give it a try.

That Takes the Cake is a pretty small, narrow shop but I give it high marks for brand appeal. I mean, its décor caught my eye from the bus so it must be doing something right.

The store, open less than a month, is the brainchild of Saralynn Reece, who only sold her cupcakes through her catering company prior to opening the Cow Hollow location. Now you can just buy one cupcake from the store instead of the minimum order of a dozen online.

Walking into the store, you feel like you’re in one of those trendy candy stores with glass chandeliers and oh-so-cute knick knacks for sale. To get to the cupcakes, you stroll down a long walkway to the back counter where the cupcakes are displayed and where Saralynn apparently has her mini office to juggle her new store and growing online empire.

I’ve mentioned before that my regular day job (no, I don’t get to cook all day) that pays the bill involves brand marketing. So I’m always impressed when someone excels both in brand copy and design. That Takes the Cake does this well with its décor and cupcake names, giving off a sophisticated but down-home fun appeal. Saralynn uses traditional cake flavors like vanilla, chocolate devil’s food cake, banana or red velvet and dress them up with precious names like “Sleepless in San Francisco” (chocolate devil’s food cake with coffee buttercream), “funky monkey” (banana with chocolate and pecan pieces) or “Gentlemen Prefers Reds” ( the red velvet with cream cheese frosting).

The girls behind the counter were very friendly and helpful. On this day, I ended up trying one of the red velvet cupcakes ($2.75). The cake was very moist but lacked any distinctive taste. But then again, I think that’s the whole idea behind red velvet cakes—it’s just moist and red. The frosting should have made a difference, but I found it a bit too sweet and light. I wanted it to be creamier and rich, but it wasn’t.

Overall, I thought That Takes the Cake was OK and the location is convenient when you’re window-shopping on Union Street. But when heading to the Cow Hollow/Marina area next time, I think I’d make the extra effort to go to Kara’s because their flavors are more creative and I’m addicted to their cupcakes oozing with soft fillings.

That Takes the Cake, 2271 Union St., San Francisco. Open Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun., noon–6 p.m. PH: 415.567.8050. Web site.

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