I bought my first cookbook when I was in Elementary School at a book fair. I still have it and it still has the best recipe for sugar cookies that I have ever tasted. My mother was a great cook when I was growing up, even though I didn’t always appreciate her menu choices (No Mom, salmon should never come out of a can). Whenever she made biscuits or cornbread, I was always watching and waiting for a mixing beater or left over dough. I thought I was just waiting for a treat but it was in my mother's kitchen that I learned the basics of baking.
When our neighbors, the Opitz’s, moved in, they would invite me over to make Christmas cookies - from recipes that had been handed down from their roots in Germany. Mrs. Opitz had a large kitchen and it was in full production mode during the holidays. She made hundreds upon hundreds of amazing cookies and they were the highlight of Christmas every year. From her cookies, I came to understand the link between great food and our memories. I haven’t had those cookies in 25 years but I know exactly how each one smells, feels, and tastes. I still miss those cookies every holiday season!
Fast forward a million years to when I met Cathy Arevian. Cathy is a dear friend who knows no fear when it comes to, well, anything really. It is not unusual to be invited to dine with Cathy and Lee at their home only to have Cathy announce that she is “trying a new recipe” for making macarons, baumkuchen, croquembouche, or baklava. My favorite baking memory is the night she made hazelnut and chocolate soufflés for the first time. An ordinary person would never attempt such a challenging culinary feat for a dinner party. Cathy is not an ordinary person. She embraces every aspect of her life like a Jack Russell Terrier with a rope toy. She is passionate, strong, demanding, loyal, intelligent, kind, generous, and brave. It is that passion for life that she includes in every recipe she whips up. From Cathy, I learned bravery, at least in the kitchen. I still won’t “try a new recipe” to sell that day but it is Cathy’s example that led me to believe that Extraordinary Cupcakes was possible.
I fell in love with the restaurant business at age 12, when I first saw Casablanca. And, while there aren’t any scenes of Rick and Ilsa sharing cupcakes in the movie, it’s not hard to imagine that taking place at a Parisian café! Casablanca aside, as a kid, I loved helping in the kitchen and took my mom's recipes away with me to school (ham and potato casserole to die for). The sights and smells in my grandmother’s kitchen (scrapple and shoofly pie!) and even our next door neighbor’s kitchen (homemade fudge every weekend!) were great times for me. It took me years to realize that what I really loved was providing people with moments of camaraderie and joy that only arise around a table.
Fast forward through more than thirty years in the restaurant business. The lessons I learned from the people I worked with were priceless – principal among them was that the quality of your customer’s experience was paramount. If you wanted to make people truly happy, you had to work really hard and never cut corners. I experienced that dedication to quality across so many different venues – everything from soft serve ice cream and pulled pork barbeque to dry aged prime steaks and tiny perfect spheres of Osetra caviar. I learned that it was all about passion and commitment, no matter what something costs.
I have no idea how many cupcakes we (Dyana) made over the two or three years that preceded our opening, but it was hundreds. Thousands. All the time, we just kept looking for that moment, when you close your eyes and say “Wow.” All this time later, we hope we can provide some of those moments for you. As the fantastic Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetit!”
We traveled all over the place - trying cupcakes from everywhere - as we thought about creating our own cupcakery. We had some great cupcakes and some not so great cupcakes. Sometimes, there was so much icing we felt like scooping it off to get to the cake!
We came away from those experiences committed to offering our customers the best cupcake they had ever had in an environment that made them smile. When you bite into an Extraordinary Cupcake, the first thing you will notice is the richness of the cake. It has an impressive depth of flavor and smooth icing. Because we don’t load the top of our cupcakes with icing, and because our icings are not too sweet, you’ll never want to scoop the icing off.
It takes extraordinary ingredients to produce our extraordinary cupcakes, like King Arthur flour, chocolate from France and pure Madagascar vanilla. The result is a perfect marriage of moist delicious cake with creamy frosting that leaves you feeling not just happy, but also wicked, sinful, uncommon, remarkable, breath-taking, over-the-top, curious, inconceivable, fantastic, marvelous, and of course, extraordinary!
We call them Emerson Blue & Emerson Green. Inspiration came from a room in our house years ago with that shade of blue - you smiled every time you walked in! Bringing that smile to our bakery has been a wonderful thing!
Extraordinary Art - Happy the Artist
In life - if we are fortunate - we meet people who touch our lives in a way that enriches them and makes them better than before. Happy has enriched our lives with his kindness, friendship, and his unique perspective on life. We have known Happy for many years so when we needed someone to give life to our logo, we immediately contacted Happy. He not only brought Emerson to life but Happy also provided him with all of the personality one peacock could possibly have. He’s extraordinarily adorable. If peacocks could sit down at a table and eat a cupcake, I would want to share a cupcake and some good conversation with ours. Happy is responsible for all the artwork in our space, the unusual wave paint line, the cloud covers that provide a sense of extra depth, and the glitter in the wall paint that make it twinkle like the night sky. To contact Happy, or to see his other extraordinary work, visit his website.
The music was the final piece of the design. We were sitting at home one night watching Chitty Chitty Bang Band with our daughter, Connor, and singing along. That’s when we decided to use the classic music from some of our favorite musicals. Not only will you leave our shop with some delicious cupcakes but you’ll also get a song you won’t be able to get out of your head for the rest of the day.