Our New Miami Vice: Miami Cupcake

Christina Michelena of Miami Cupcake

Cupcake shops in Miami have become as prolific as the bikini & t-shirt stores lining the streets in South Beach.  Unlike the crude, albeit hilarious, shirt depots, it remains easier to differentiate the good cupcakes from the bad ones.  I detest those mini, two-bite cupcakes that leave you asking “what’s for dessert?”.  The cake itself is usually refrigerated (a no-no) and way too dense, while the frosting always tastes like the cloyingly sweet lovechild of confectioners sugar and neon food coloring.  Miami Cupcake, however, is a whole different ballgame.  The cupcakes were full-size (thank you, from fat kids everywhere), and the frosting reminded me of the lightest, just-sweet-enough marshmallow I’ve ever had.  Christina told me she takes her frosting very seriously.

This picture is actually what the cupcakes look like when they arrive in the chic black and teal boxes, tied up with black and white ribbon.  You can see the airiness of the frosting, sans food dye, and determine the flavor by the tiny pieces of key lime zest, fresh cinnamon, or coffee beans.  I tasted the apple pie (new flavor), red velvet (best seller), and chocolate ganache.  The apple pie was fluffy, although slightly muffin-y, with real pieces of cinnamon apples inside.  The frosting, specked with little black vanilla beans for the ice cream/apple pie a la mode effect, was drizzled with caramel.  Christina somehow managed to transform my favorite dessert into a perfect cupcake replica.  Thankfully, nobody else was around when I downed that bad boy in 30 seconds. And then licked the leftover caramel off the box. Don’t judge me.

Red Velvet

The cream cheese frosting on the red velvet had the same gravity-defying marshmallow texture, but with cream cheese undertones.  The cupcake was moist and with a hint of red coloring masking the cocoa-based cake.  I loved the apple pie cupcake, but red velvet was definitely my favorite.  Last but not least, the chocolate ganache.  Christina impressed me on this one.  With no formal training, her ganache was shiny enough to make Jacques Torres proud.   With Miami Cupcake entering the market, there’s no longer an excuse to display tiny, overly sweet cupcakes at trunk sales, store openings, or birthday parties.  Get yourself a signature black & teal box and thank me later. And grab me a red velvet, please.

To place an order, contact Miami Cupcake at (305) 982-7557, or send an email to orders@miami-cupcake.com. Online orders available next week on www.miami-cupcake.com 

An interview with Christina Michelena, the girl behind Miami Cupcake:

Q: What influenced you to start the cupcake company?

A: Owning a cupcake company is something I’ve wanted for a long time. Baking has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, and over the last couple years, I started spending more of my free time in the kitchen perfecting my cupcake recipes – to the point where it was becoming more than just a hobby. [T]he courage to finally leave my job and start the business came from two things: living in New York City, and the start of the New Year. In New York, I was surrounded by some of the best bakeries in the country, all of which share a similar success story – the owner/baker left their job to do what they really wanted to do, and that was my biggest inspiration. As for the New Year, I decided 2012 would be the year I stepped out of my comfort zone. On January 12, 2012 (12 is my lucky number) I turned 25. Most people probably view that as just another birthday, but to me, 25 meant something big had to happen. So here I am.

Q: What sets your cupcakes apart?

A: Presentation. I wanted my brand to be non-traditional – I’ve always loved the bold, edgy look of black and white, so instead of the typical white box, or pink, blue and yellow logos that are associated with a bakery, I decided to put my cupcakes in a black box with a white ribbon. And not just any cupcake goes in the box, only the perfectly frosted ones. The texture of my cupcake is also different than all the others in Miami – I always preferred something lighter and fluffier, not overly sweet, not too filling, and not saturated with oil. That pretty much sums up my cupcake.

Q: How do you come up with your flavors?

A: The first four flavors were easy – I took my favorite desserts (chocolate cake, key lime pie, cookies and cream ice cream, and carrot cake) and turned them into a cupcake. Now, I have an ongoing list of my friends’ and family’s favorite flavors and I’m slowly turning them into cupcake recipes. Today, I have 24 complete recipes and about 10 in progress.

Q: Which of your cupcakes is your favorite?

A: It’s a close tie between chocolate and red velvet.

Q: What one kitchen utensil could you not live without?

A: My Kitchen Aid mixer, without a doubt.

Q: What is the best thing about running an at-home bake shop? What is the most challenging?

A: The best thing – no overhead costs. I wanted to start with a home bakery to build my brand before opening a store. The most challenging part is doing the job of 4 people – I do all the baking, cleaning, marketing and accounting. Thankfully I have wonderful friends and family that are always willing to help – but at the end of the day it’s my business, and it will only succeed with the passion and work I put into it.

Q: What is something “off the wall” that you would love to put on your menu, but aren’t sure people would go for?

A: My boss at Citibank kept telling me that if I was going to start a cupcake business, I had to have a ‘lunch cupcake’. Initially, I thought it was a crazy idea, but the more I think about it, the more intrigued I am by a ‘ham and cheese cupcake’. I’ll give him full credit the day that becomes my best selling cupcake!

Q: What is your favorite part about baking?

A: Escaping reality – when I’m in the kitchen baking, I forget I have a cell phone, I forget [F]acebook and [T]witter exist, I stop thinking about what I have left on my to do list, it really is magic. I can’t think of any other activity that has that effect on me, and I love it.

Q: Do you have any plans to expand to offer whoopee pies, cakes, cake pops, etc?

A: No – I only do standard and mini cupcakes.

Q: What do you say to people who view cupcakes as a fad or novelty?

A: Can you think of a dessert that went ‘out of style’ or stopped being served because it was just a fad? I can’t.

-Shari

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