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rocky road cupcake

I feel like I deserve a majority of the credit (or blame…depending on how you look at it) for the cupcake craze. I was eating them decades ago, when no one gave them a second thought. And now, as someone who teaches baking told me, making and selling cupcakes in America is like printing money.

I’m not much for trendy foods, but for some reason, mid-day yesterday, right in the middle of my Japanese bento box lunch of chicken katsu and seaweed salad, I was seized with the overwhelming desire for a cupcake.

I had no idea where it came from, or why I did.

rocky road cupcake

The night before I’d visited Orson, Elizabeth Falkner’s new restaurant, which is enormous, and where all the baking is done for the restaurant and her stellar bakery in Hayes Valley, Citizen Cake.

(Disclosure: I think Elizabeth is totally one of the cutest people in the world.)

When I walked though the kitchen, perhaps the boxed of iced cupcakes, all in perfectly-neat rows, had become embedded in my brain. Because the next day, I just had to have one.

It didn’t take much coercion for Elise from Simply Recipes to get into the car with me and make a mad dash over there, where we ordered two of the chocolatiest examples of cupcakes in the display case.

I’d every intention of cutting them both in half, and sharing, but the road to h-e-double-toothpicks is paved with good intentions, and once I got a taste of the chocolate marshmallow filling and toasted walnuts buried under the shiny, bittersweet chocolate glaze atop my Rocky Road Cupcake, all graciousness was swept aside and I ate the whole darn thing by myself. And I’d like to say that I’m sorry, but my mother always told me not to lie. So I’ll just say that I regret my actions very much, and leave it at that.

cupcake cutter

I’m sure Elise was horrified, but you can’t be a real Parisian if you’re not completely selfish. Of course, being a Californian, she kept quiet. Although I notice she didn’t offer up half of hers either, but I’m going to give her a pass because deep-down, I’m sure she meant to. Really.

no more cupcakes

The chocolate cake was unusually moist, exceptionally so, and frankly, anything made with marshmallows automatically shoots up to the top of my favorites list and stays put. My cupcake was “the bomb” as they say—and what good is half-a-bomb?

See how good I am at justifying my boorish behavior? But I made up for it the next day at another cupcake shop, where the cupcakes were another kind of “bomb”—more like “butter bombs”, and I happily gave up my cupcake as this trip is beginning to give new meaning to the word belt-tightening.

But the Rocky Road Cupcake? That was worth losing another notch.

Citizen Cake
2125 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 861-2228

Orson and Citizen Cake Kiosk
504-508 4th Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 777-1508

UPDATE: As for December, 2011, Citizen Cake bakeries, and Orson, have closed their doors.



    • chanelle

    holy h-e-double-toothpicks, david, those pictures!!!!! that is one amazing looking cupcake. glad you enjoyed it so much. :)

    • Martha

    When I saw that first photo of the cupcake appear on my screen I nearly burst out in tears… O, the things too much stress can do to a person…

    • roopa

    Oh, how I love Elizabeth’s desserts. They’re always the highlight of my trips to SF.

    • leigh

    That cupcake looks amazing and might truly be worth a trip to the west coast…but a quick Q? What time are you going to be at the City Bakery on Sunday?

    • Elise

    Busted! I must be secretly a Parisian. The thought of sharing my cupcake (luscious chocolate) never even for a moment crossed my mind.

    Not for one eensy teensy tiny moment.

    Was it because I was so smitten with my company? Your sparkling presence overwhelmed my otherwise aware and naturally generous nature?

    Nah. I mean all those sparkling presence things are true, but heck, you had your cupcake, I had mine. We were both well ensconced in our respective cupcake territories.

    But thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. It just goes to show what a gentleman you truly are.


    • Juliana

    Hi David,

    Just wanted to drop a note to say how very much I enjoy your blog. I am probably the boring-est cook on the planet but at least I can fantasize about good food when I read here! And I suddenly have a craving for another trip to San Fran…. I feel it calling me…

    Thanks for the great blog!

    • Jeremy

    That is not going to look good around my waist, I will leave on yours! Though I was considering licking the screen a couple times!
    Hope to catch you in NYC, you were so elusive and mobbed by the crowd last time.


    • Lisa Campbell

    That cupcake makes me want to find an excuse to go to San Francisco again. I, too, love anything with marshmallow, chocolate, and nuts.

    I’m going to Paris for the first time at the end of the month for the Salon du Chocolat and some general gustatory indulgence…there will definitely be belt-tightening.

    • David

    leigh: I’m planning on being there from 3-4. You can always check my Schedule page for details, too. : )

    Jeremy: Elusive? I’m just bashful!

    Elise: You’re too kind. It was surely I, who was the selfish oaf. But still, I did get to eat that entire cupcake by myself. So who can blame me? xx

    Juliana: Thanks, and glad you’re enjoying the blog. I’m beginning to think it’s just another excuse to eat more chocolate (and marshmallows)…gulp!

    • Aaron

    David, I hope you haven’t left town yet, get over to Kara’s…
    the filled cupcakes are marvelous, esp these 2:
    ” ‘Fleur De Sel’ chocolate cupcake w/ caramel filling, ganache frosting & fleur
    de sel”
    ” ‘Banana Caramel’ banana cupcake with caramel filling and silky cream cheese frosting”


    • Janet

    I was very sad that Citizen Cupcake recently closed. I hope it re-opens somehwere nearby, it was such a convenient stop when shopping in SF.

    • Soup of The Day

    DL, how are you not 250 pounds? All these goodies!

    All things in moderation, right?

    • Dana Mccauley

    That is a whole lotta frosting! I love cupcakes and don’t mind being trendy if it leads to frosted cake in my belly.

    • Eileen

    I’m not very good at sharing desserts. It’s embarrassing if one dessert is ordered at a restaurant to share with everyone at the table. I feel that I’m noticeably aggressive.

    • Caitlin

    Disclosure: I think Elizabeth is one of the cutest people too. And, from what we hear from a young friend who works at Citizen Cake, she’s also one of the nicest.

    Won’t go near the Citizen Cake waistland for awhile, but it’s on my to-do list for the holiday season—-I’m going to ask my C.Cake friend if she can do anything wheat-free. Probably not, but worth asking. If not, since I’m not a full-blown Celiac, I may risk the indulgence.

    • amy

    Without the frosting the cupcake alone would kill me.

    I think I’ll take the cupcake and a latte please…..

    I just died and went to heaven. : P


    • Lynn

    I’ve never said this to a man before…

    but I want your cupcake.

    • Mark

    Ah Citizen Cake. Mmmmm. A definite stop whenever I’m in the city, but I must try Orson next time I’m in town.

    As for the cupcake craze? I’m sorry, but I don’t get it, because most of the ones I’ve tried are pitiful: dry, dry, dry with too much frosting IMO. (Did I mention dry?). I live in Los Angeles where there’s 3 or 4 bakeries competing for the cupcake title, including a very annoying one in Beverly Hills that has been litigating over their name and supposedly original design motif. Puh-leez.

    I’m told Magnolia Bakery in NYC started the cupcake craze. I’m sorry, but their cupcakes are dry and downright plain, which makes the endless line out the door something of a mystery. However, if you do go there, try some of their other desserts, which can be quite tasty (like their chocolate cream and peanut butter pie — now that’s a dessert worth standing in line for).


    • Kristin

    In Canada we say H-E-double hockey sticks….
    That cupcake looked amazing!
    David, I have to tell you, yesterday was a gloomy day here, and I was inspired by your post from last winter on a particularly gloomy day in Paris when you made that chocolate almond buttercrunch toffee. I gave it a try yesterday and took it to a friends house last night where it was gone in a matter of minutes. All I have to say is WOW! It was one of the tastier things I have ever put in my mouth, I hid a stash in my freezer and found myself sneaking a piece before breakfast this morning! Dangerous!

    • Steve

    Hm. I think you have more to write about in San Francisco than you do in Paris!

    • Cathy at Wives with Knives

    What a cupcake! That’s the ratio of frosting to cake that I go for.

    • Susan

    Cuppycakes…I’m still not over the attack of the cupcake from when my kids were little. Those awful, piled high with shortening/sugar swirled, stomach bombs bought from the local grocery store that appeared in batches of 36..for every holiday and birthday in the average 3rd grade classroom. Good grief..that’s at least 45 times a year!~ Gaaack!. I still can’t even contemplate eating one! I think it’s this generation of cupcake munchers that are lapping up the adult version. Lucky you…feed’em right! I just might have to revisit the cuppycake.

    • Abra

    I love rocky road in every incarnation! When you get home, can you give us a recipe for rocky road cupcakes or cake that resemble these dreamy ones? A recipe that will work in France? Pretty please with a guimauve on top?

    • saucymomma

    Next time you make it to Austin, you’ll have to try Hey Cupcake on South Congress. They are just sick and wrong….in the best possible way.

    • Joan Pan

    I LOVE cupcakes…. ever since 1981 !

    But surprisingly I haven’t bought one yet from all these cupcakes stores popping up.

    Oh and I received info from Illy on coffee school. I really want to go !

    • Dawn in CA

    Paris to S.F. to N.Y. to Italy and back… and now cupcakes! I probably don’t need to remind you that you lead a very charmed life. BTW, I was reading another lovely food blog this morning – yeah, I’m addicted to food blogs – and the author mentioned she was on her way to Paris after a friend offered to swap apartments with her (in N.Y.). Aha! Methinks you are the Paris friend. According to your schedule page, the timing is perfect. If only I could find a way to use this power of deductive reasoning for good… even better, if only I could find a Paris friend to loan me his/her apartment! ;)

    • mike

    Hi David:
    you do have a great blog….I strongly suggest you pay a visit to Dynamo doughnut on 24th and York for absolutely incredible doughnuts and coffee…try the Chocolate spice or the Lemon Pistachio! Dynamo is the kind of place San Francisco does best…small, unpretentious and f**king great!

    • arissa

    Don’t forget to stop by in the Ferry Bldg and try some Miete cupcakes :-)

    • bingsy

    I moved out of Austin in August, and since I moved at least 2 or 3 more cupcake/dessert restaurants opened – not including HeyCupcake! and Dhaba Joy, a vegan bakery specializing in cupcakes. That’s fast.

    I also have been thinking of cupcakes for decades. We had cupcake sales every year in elementary school, always around President’s Day. I will always associate cupcakes with George Washington, cherry frosting, and quarters.

    To this day I am always on the lookout for cherry cupcakes. At some point, I blame the 90s they gave way to strawberry as if there could be only one pink flavor in the cake world.

    • donelda m osmond

    hi david that cupcake is driving me mad do you have a recipe i so need one thanks


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