October 15, 2007
New Rider on the Cupcake Carousel

It's official: Cupcakes are trendy in the Sacramento area. This conclusion is based on the old journalistic principle that whenever three thematically related businesses spring up within a relatively short time you have a trend on your hands and headline writers are alerted.

While strolling about midtown and downtown Sacramento during Second Saturday we stopped by Old Soul Co., the coffee roaster and bakery in the alley connecting 17th and 18th streets between Capitol Avenue and L Street. A new baker has joined the Old Soul team, Shellie Nast, and her specialty is cupcakes, made entirely with organically produced ingredients.

Unfortunately, we arrived too late either to meet Ms. Nast or to sample any of her cupcakes. She'd put out some 300, but they were gone long before we arrived. A few of her business cards remained, however.

I later caught up with her by phone to try to pin down why cupcakes suddenly are so popular in and about Sacramento. Her brand, Capital Cupcakes, is the third specialty line to come to my attention lately. The two others, Babycakes Bakery in East Sacramento, and Icing on the Cupcake in Rocklin, hope to open sometime this month.

At any rate, Nast, who described herself as a hobbyist baker when she wasn't working professionally in such fields as healthcare financing and downtown development, said she decided to take up cupcake baking for several reasons, ranging from the creative diversity they offer to the instant joy that cupcakes seem to bring people.

"Cupcakes tend to make people very happy as soon as they see them and eat them. They transform them back to their childhood," says Nast. "Also, you can have all these individual cakes to please everyone's palate rather than one big cake with just one flavor if you are having a party."

She names each cupcake after a family member or friend who is especially keen on a particular flavor. Her cupcakes include the Stella (carrot cake with toasted walnuts and crushed pineapple with a cream-cheese frosting), the Sofia (vanilla cupcake with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting), and the Lucy (lemon cupcake filled with lemon curd and topped with a toasted meringue frosting). Her signature cupcake is the Capital, an orange cupcake with an icing based on an old family recipe.

She sells the cupcakes direct for $24 a dozen. They sell individually for $3 at Old Soul Co., $2.50 at Beantree Coffee Cafe, 925 L St. At any one time, six or so varieties will be available at each location.

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