Valentine’s Day. It’s the Black Friday for bakeries and sweet eateries.
But choose wisely. Because the right cupcake tastes like love.
This week marks 10 years of Babycakes in the River Market. I remember walking in the cupcakery on Valentine’s Day 2006 with two friends. It was a Tuesday and strangely warm outside. I didn’t have a crush. My only plan for the holiday was taking Charli Brown to puppy obedience class, where she would act like being told to lie down was torture.
But that cupcake — strawberry cake with strawberry icing — took the bitter out of my sweet. All I could do was smile. This wasn’t a trendy artisan cupcake. It wasn’t the size of my face, either. This was a down-home cupcake like my mama might bake. A culinary hug otherwise known as comfort food.
From then on, I would drop by Babycakes this sweet time of year, where owners Laura Caron and Paul Bickimer would always greet me with a festive surprise. The couple always had something special for Valentine’s Day.
And Paul could have been Cupid’s ambassador. He always had a treat for me. One year it was these chocolates Laura had made that weren’t even for sale. Another time, it was an itty-bitty heart-shaped cake, the Babycakes Crush Cake ($4.95). Paul loved to see people smile.
It has been four years since he died, but his memory lives on in the bakery. This year, Laura has baked up the Pookie Cookie ($5.95) in his honor: a butter shortbread crust, dark chocolate ganache sauce topped with crushed toffee bits, milk and dark chocolate hearts and pixie dust. It’s a six-inch jumbo cookie, big like his heart.
Laura says despite how busy the bakery is when Cupid reigns, she loves meeting new people. As downtown becomes more populated and residents fill up the lofts and apartments in the River Market, first-time customers continue to walk in.
“Cupcakes are a small, intimate treat,” she says. “It’s fun to watch people share the sweet indulgence.”
Other decadent deliciousness to share this holiday:
A Little Cake for Two
Little Freshie is known for its delicious snow cones and fancy macarons a la Au Bon Macaron, but for Valentine’s Day the soda shop makes a special-order little cake ($20). Four inches tall, it’s a dark chocolate, double-layer cake with a layer of raspberry jam, cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries on top. It even comes in a box with a bow. It must be ordered by Friday.
If you don’t make the deadline, I suggest some macarons ($1.95 each) and a Raspberry Rose soda ($3). If you don’t get roses, you can at least drink them. There’s also a cool heart display in the window by Chloe Cox, perfect for Instagram photo ops with your loved ones. Hashtag: #fromfreshiewithlove.
Little Freshie, 811 W. 17th St., is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For a menu, visit littlefreshie.com.
The Upper Crust in downtown Overland Park serves up all kinds of pies and baked goods (coconut macaroons, yum), but I like the Cutie Pies ($7 to $8). They’re just big enough for two, but I can eat one alone. Because that buttery, flaky crust is mine. I don’t like to cut off a slice. I like to break it in half and eat it in my hands like a pizza. Don’t judge me.
There are lots of flavors to choose from, from pecan to chocolate meringue to apple, but I like the lemon curd. Sweet and sour, just like Valentine’s Day.
The Upper Crust, 7943 Santa Fe Drive in Overland Park, is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Visit uppercrustpiebakery.com for more information.
Insomnia Cookies is Westport’s new cookie shop that delivers, and let me tell you, the s’mores cookie makes you want to sing a love song, honey. I’m not lying. I almost dusted off an old Luther Vandross album for that chocolate, gooey marshmallow yum-yum.
Chocolate chunk, oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia, snickerdoodle, sugar — Insomnia has it all. But if you want to live a little, order a deluxe Cookiewich ($7.50): two cookies of your choice with ice cream in the middle. I ordered the s’mores with vanilla ice cream. But you can crush however you like.
Insomnia Cookies, 505 Westport Road, is open 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily. For a complete menu and delivery options, visit insomniacookies.com.
The Valentine’s Day dinner at Doughnut Lounge is all booked up on Saturday and Sunday, because who doesn’t want a doughnut-inspired meal? Never fret. You can still buy a pink, heart-shaped doughnut for two ($5) or try a Neapolitan Valentine doughnut. ($5).
The specials sound awesome, but I’m a fan of the signature Strawberry Mascarpone with the strawberry creamy, cheesy filling ($3). It’s light yet filling, sweet but a little savory. I think Cupid stuck his arrow into the making of this doughnut.
Doughnut Lounge, 4117 Pennsylvania Ave., is open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. For more information: doughnutlounge.com.
Like I said, cupcakes are a tradition for me. If you’re ordering for a large group, the sweetheart box is for you. You get three dozen mini cupcakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries for $29.95. But you must order it in advance. Otherwise, try your luck with what’s available.
Babycakes, 108 E. Missouri Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. To order online, visit babycakeskc.com.