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You can make a cupcake do a lot of things.
It can imitate a drink. All three of the bakers in this week's edition of Cupcake Quest serve drink-based cupcakes.
Ÿ Sweeties Baked Goods, one of this week's contestants in Cupcake Quest, makes a lime margarita cupcake with tequila icing.
Ÿ Rhonda's Cake Cottage at Concord Mall makes a root beer float cupcake.
Ÿ Cupcake Queen makes a pina colada cupcake.
But I'm finding that cupcakes can also offer tastes of strawberry shortcake (Rhonda's) and Mexican desserts such as dulce de leche (Sweeties) and tres leches cake (Cupcake Queen).
The reality is that these little packages of crumb and icing can carry weight and take the place of something much larger.
Cupcakes also give home bakers a way to create a business and sell their wares. State and local laws allow them to make cupcakes at home and sell them on a limited basis.
Jenna Handow and Jessica Gowdy started Sweeties Baked Goods in one of their Elkhart homes about 1 ½ years ago. Jenna found out she didn't want to become a surgical tech and started taking baking classes at Ivy Tech State College instead.
Jessica decorates and handles the business side, including coming up with a business plan. Jenna does most of the baking. They've been doing a lot of baking for graduations.
Their cupcakes weren't large, but only cost $1.25 each. They have interesting combinations of cake and icing, but don't have fillings. Jessica said they make a chocolate mousse as a cake filling sometimes. I'd suggest they put that in the chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream icing.
My wife and I liked how they used flavor combinations. Without fillings, the cupcakes were good, but not great. The cake was moist enough, without being remarkably moist. (three out of five stars)
At Rhonda's Cake Cottage, Rhonda Potucek has had a commercial kitchen for four months after being a home baker for about 20 years.
She's making a variety of baked goods and offers about eight varieties of cupcakes, including a couple interesting flavor combinations.
The strawberry shortcake has a good fruit flavor. The chocolate peanut butter marries a chocolate cupcake with good peanut butter buttercream. The bananas foster has a nice banana flavor in the cake and a bit of chocolate and caramel on top.
The root beer and orange creamsicle flavors were interesting and had the right notes for those novelty cupcakes. The decorations with little straws and a popsicle stick out the top were nice touches.
I wasn't a fan of the white icing. I think it had a little too much fat and not enough flavor.
Potucek is playing with flavors - “whatever I have a hankering to make an throw out there,” she said. They cost $1.50 to $2.50.
Some are better than others. But Concord Mall is better with a baker in it and I hope she makes it work on a professional level. (three out of five)
Crystal Gruber is as passionate as anyone I've talked to about cupcakes. She sees it as a calling, saying she was born to make cupcakes like this.
She's been making cakes for about three decades, but she most enjoys the creativity she can express in her cupcakes, which cost $1.50 each.
The pictures of her work show an artistic spark.
Gruber said she doesn't use a lot of scratch cake recipes and often tweaks box mixes. That flavor comes through in the cupcake. It was evident in a few of her cupcakes. A box mix isn't bad, but it's different than a scratch cupcake that depends on technique.
The tres leches cupcake was decent, approximate the Mexican cake made with three forms of milk. The cupcakes weren't as flavorful as some we've tried, but showed a lot of willingness to try different things.
Like Sweetie's, she's willing to experiment and make whatever the customer wants. That has a lot of value. (two out of five)
The search for the best cupcake in Elkhart County isn't done yet, but it's getting close. Dutch Maid Bakery and Sweet Em's in Goshen, as well as Mini Delights in Elkhart, are still awaiting judging.
After that, the finalists, which so far include SugaRush in Elkhart and Happy Dance in Goshen, will square off, though none of the cupcakes are square.
I'm hungry. Let's eat.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via www.facebook.com/diningalaking.
Sweeties Baked Goods
home-based in Elkhart
email@example.com, 574-206-5166 or 574-612-2397
3 out of 5
Rhonda's Cake Cottage
Concord Mall, Elkhart
3 1/2 out of 5
home-based in Elkhart
2 out of 5