313 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
If there is one word that deserves to be completely obliterated from the Foodish language, it is “yum-o” for quite obvious reasons.
However, since “yum-o” is not a real word in existence, and therefore is precluded from eradication because that would be like using white out on a blank sheet of paper, let’s just settle for “yummy.”
I hate the word “yummy.”
It’s quite a shame really, because if not for my utter hatred of the word “yummy,” I could have at least said that I like Yummy Cupcakes for its cute name. Unfortunately, having “Yummy” as its name leaves it with but one redeeming factor: proximity. Yummy Cupcakes is the closest cupcakery to my office, which is proof positive that the Hotelling Phenomenon is not just an economic model named after Mr. Hotelling, but a reality in Santa Monica where there are no less than three cupcake-only stores within a half-mile distance of one another. Unfortunately, Yummy’s advantage within this phenomenon that has nothing to do with hotels will be rendered irrelevant at the end of the month when my office moves from a loft space on 3rd Street Promenade to my living room. Yummy will be relegated to the rank of “yet another cupcakery to which I shan’t go again because it makes me recoil with tooth decayed disgust.”
Perhaps “recoil with tooth decayed disgust” is a bit of an exaggeration. However, disgusted exaggeration is what spews forth when you look back six months later, the silken blindfold of saccharin lust in a loose tangle around your ankles, and you finally, shamefully, have to ask yourself, “What the hell was I thinking? How could I have been so stupid?!?!”
When Yummy first opened, we were all a’twitter in our office, and by a’twitter, I mean that had I been the heavy user back then that I am now, I would have twittered. The cupcakery opened last Spring, but it took us several months before we finally crossed that great divide known as Arizona and made a hurried, though long, trek up to Wilshire. When we stepped inside Yummy, we were suprised by the rather plain interior, a slightly refreshing contrast to the precious pink polka dot retro-cutesy décor of every other cupcake retail store in LA. The space is narrow and deep, extending back to the partially exposed kitchen. A long counter behind glass lines one wall and a few flimsy tables and chairs are tossed up against the opposite wall for impatient customers who have to eat a cupcake before they leave the store. Yummy doesn’t hide the fact that it is, at its core, a bakery. Rolling racks with stacks of metal trays are right there in the front along with plastic-wrapped mixing bowls and gnarled pastry bags on the counter, abandoned when the baker has to tend to customers.
Like their somewhat simple surroundings, the cupcakes are not overstyled. Other than size that indicates that they were made for sale at a price that matches, Yummy’s cupcakes look quite lovable in their homemade-ness. There are no dainty sculpted sugar decorations, just sprinkles, light dustings of cocoa or cinnamon, and the occasional candy, all to suggest the cupcake’s flavor. Lopsided muffin-tops are allowed to bulge out from beneath layers of frosting. Some cupcakes stand taller with frosting-dos that are teased higher than the others. Others spread wider.
What Yummy Cupcakes lacks in fashion both in its decor and its offering, it makes up in flavors. That’s not “flavor” as in “taste,” but the plural “flavors,” the sheer number and kinds of flavors they offer. They have classic cake flavors like chocolate, vanilla and red velvet with matching frosting permutations, but they also have more unusual flavors inspired by cocktails and other drinks, desserts, ice creams, and pies. Pink Lemonade, Fluffernutter, Creamsicle and the peanut butter cupcake with banana buttercream frosting called The Elvis aren’t necessarily exotic, but they are creative.
My first taste of a Yummy cupcake, red velvet, wasn’t bad. It wasn’t remarkably good either. The red velvet cupcake was bright, screaming red as it should be. It was denser and much drier than I would ever like in a cake, but in a disgraceful turn toward hypocrisy, I forgave all the cupcake’s shortcoming for the cream cheese frosting. Never do I come across a cream cheese frosting that I won’t enjoy to some degree, but rarely do I taste a cream cheese frosting that makes me, you know. It’s kind of like how I am about, you know, pizza. Yummy’s cream cheese frosting was, you know.
My second taste of Yummy Cupcakes was a mini cupcake at my sister’s baby shower. At one time, I would have taken punishment like
a saint and actually baked a bazillion dozen itty bitty teeny tiny omg-they’re-so-cute-I-might-throw-up-cakes for my sister’s baby shower, but I can hardly cook a bowl of canned soup in the microwave oven for dinner, let alone bake cupcakes. Having been blinded by sweetened cream cheese lust (and suffering a severe case of utter laziness), I ordered mini cupcakes for my sister’s baby shower from Yummy.
The cupcakes were a-dooooooor-able. The shower guests cooed. I wanted to throw up.
I ate a mini chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting instead.
Yummy Cupcakes had made me a baby shower dessert superheroine. I began to think perhaps Yummy could be the one to turn my closed-minded cupcake bitterness around and started rationalizing. “The cream cheese frosting on that first red velvet wasn’t bad. Hm, maybe it was actually good. Maybe the whole cupcake, not just the frosting, was good. Yes, I’m quite sure the red velvet cupcake was good!” Maybe this whole time I wasn’t being fair to cupcakes because my opinion was weighted by leaden sawdust lumps spread with sandy sugar.
Convinced that Yummy Cupcakes was – oh God, I have to say it – yummy, I went back to the store with a mind to try Yummy Cupcakes’ creative flavors, the quality that makes the cupcakerie unique, but something I wouldn’t normally try. In most things related to food, I am a traditionalist. I’m not saying innovation and creativity are bad (though Asian fusion is), but I tend to favor tastes, textures and presentations that are more classic. I like Caesar and Cobb salads, a simple sliver of ruby red tuna on rice for sushi, steak done medium rare with no defiling sauce, burritos made with flour tortillas, beans and cheese. When it comes to cake I like the basics like chocolate, vanilla, and only when it’s really special, red velvet. When it’s really really special, carrot.
There is a reason I have stuck to the classic cake flavors all this time. Some time before I ever tried the Fluffernutter cupcake at Yummy, I must have had an experience with a “flavored” cupcake that was so traumatic that I deleted the entire combination of neural transmissions out of my memory except for one tiny subconscious flash that would, in some sort of Darwinian survival of the tastest, instinctively keep me from touching a flavored cupcake. For some reason, that basic instinct was temporarily dormant when I decided to try the gleefully pink-frosted Happy Day, but came screaming back in a viciously primal way when I tasted the Bananas Foster.
Fluffernutter was too messy. Happy Day was unexpectedly depressing in a CareBears-on-Prozac way. Bananas Foster cupcake, which I excitedly bought as an introductory tribute to my trip to New Orleans, was dreadful. Vanilla rum buttercream was piped into an inviting swirl and softly dusted with cinnamon, but the sheer volume of frosting was far too much. A lighter hand on the pastry bag may have prevented the overpowering taste of alcohol and saccharin. Alcohol is not a bad thing when it tastes like a fruity tropical cocktail. Alcohol is not a good thing when it tastes like you could disinfect Hello Kitty’s operating room with it. The cake was so dry and heavy that it had the texture of week-old bread, but at the same time, it was crumbly rather than hard and chewy. The flavored cupcakes at Yummy, especially the Bananas Foster, were enough of a disappointment to color my opinion of Yummy overall.
I think I’ll just stick with enjoying Bananas Foster in New Orleans.
What the Others Say:
~ Death by Frosting for Caroline on Crack (Mar 2007)
~ la.foodblogging thought Yummy was, well, yummy (May 2007)
~ Consumer Machine thinks Yummy is yummy, too (Jun 2007)
~ Yummy lives up to its name according to Tara (Sep 2007)