Cupcakes: the perfect dessert solution

January 30, 2009 (CHICAGO) Enter cupcakes. Many new shops are offering mini-versions as well Which give you that cake-and-frosting combo, without the extra fat.

Neda Darwish quit her job as a nurse recently to pursue her real passion: cupcakes. Her shoebox-sized store in downtown Naperville - Sugar Monkey Cupcakes - is busy getting those orders together for Super Bowl parties this weekend.

"We bake them fresh everyday, we only use pure ingredients- and the taste is definitely something that makes them very unique," said Neda Darwish, owner of Sugar Monkey Cupcakes.

Chocolate and vanilla are expected, but Darwish prides herself on her unique flavors, such as Kahlua chocolate, cookies and cream and red velvet.

"We do things like pistachio cardamom, banana Nutella, cherry cheesecake, white chocolate raspberry; so we have a wide variety on our menu," said Darwish.

In the Gold Coast, More has been offering both sweet and savory cupcakes the past few months and nearly every flavor - whether it's the coconut-mango, or house special chocolate filled with marshmallow and topped with chocolate icing - also comes in a mini, or "morsel" version - a perfect size for a light bite during a Super Bowl party.

And the mini concept is also a hit at the brand new Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique in the Loop.

"You know I wanted to be in the retail or the downtown loop area because there's no place to get a cake. There's corporate, there's hotels, there's tourists around and you know everyone's always looking for cupcakes," said Teresa Ging, owner of Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique.

A former financial industry worker, Ging now hovers over pastry bags and freshly-baked cupcakes, instead of spreadsheets. Her creative flavors include chocolate with peanut butter frosting, Texas red velvet and some other fruity inspirations.

"We have strawberry dream, which we use real strawberries. Lemon drop where we grate our own lemon zest and use our own lemon juice," said Ging.

They also offer pure frosting "shots" for a buck, a jolt of sugar akin to the mini versions, which offer just the right amount of rich cake and intense frosting.

"Some people like to try a couple different flavors. Of the minis you can eat three to four flavors and you still have only eaten one regular sized cupcake," said Ging.

A couple of other good bets for standard-sized cupcakes include Swirlz in Lincoln Park, Southport grocery in lake view and the goddess and grocer in Bucktown.

Sugar Monkey Cupcakes
28 W. Chicago Ave., Naperville

1 E. Delaware Pl.

Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique
115 N. Wabash

also mentioned:
705 W. Belden

Southport Grocery
3552 N. Southport

Goddess & Grocer
1646 N. Damen

25 E. Delaware

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