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By Edwin Goei
This being the hottest summer of our lifetimes (certainly my lifetime, at least), you would think that there couldn't be a more inopportune time to open a specialty cupcake shop. After all, cupcakes are baked, which implies heat, and what's more heat on an already hot day? Hell. Not to mention that the essential ingredient in any cupcake is cake, which doesn't really go well with anything other than milk—and who in these parts thinks, "Man, this heat has me beat! I could really go for a tall glass of milk!" (Don't believe me? Think about it: milk breath. On a hot day. Hi, gross.)
Still, for Stacia Samartan, who opened Belmont Shore's Frosted Cupcakery in April with her mother, Nancy Hanley, there's never a wrong time—or reason—to eat a cupcake. "It is actually refreshing," she vows, pointing specifically to the store's lighter-flavored lemon cupcakes and also their current seasonal flavor, a strawberry cake. And as for business? Well, Samartan notes, the store does have an advantage: "Everyone enjoys coming into an air-conditioned spot." Good point.
Now, in case you are a complete dolt (don't worry, I used to be one too) and are scoffing at the idea of a specialty cupcake shop, know this: cupcakes are totally hot right now. And, evidently, they have been for a few years. "About three years ago, I first saw a cupcake store in Vancouver," Samartan remembers, "and it was so cute—I just loved the way I felt there." When she and her mother began noticing stores like New York-based cupcake powerhouse Magnolia popping up everywhere—in movies, in magazines, in Los Angeles—Samartan says, "We realized that there was an acceptance of a specialty store specific to cupcakes."
Considering this and also Samartan's work history (five years in the creative department at Paul Frank, the kingdom of cute) plus Hanley's previous experience owning her own dance store, opening Frosted Cupcakery seemed logical. And the result? An adorable, meticulously well-designed and decorated cupcake boutique just off Second Street, already a mecca for meticulously well-designed and decorated boutiques. It's a perfect fit.
As for the reasons people now look to cupcakes—something once reserved for children's birthday parties and church bake sales—for everything from bridal showers to adult birthday parties to, yes, even weddings, Samartan points to the size. "With a [sheet] cake, you are giving someone a portion of a bigger product," she says. "But with cupcakes, you're not limited to just one flavor—each person can try something different. Plus, it's a single serving—no fork, no knife," and, it seems, no reason to pass on dessert.
Currently, the store maintains a weekly menu of around seven flavors (such as royal white cake with vanilla buttercream—Samartan's favorite—red velvet cake with cream cheese topped with a cherry, carrot cake with cream cheese topped with chopped walnuts, and a lemon and cream cheese cupcake) and then offers daily specials, like Thursday's spice cake with cinnamon cream cheese, Friday's chocolate cake with peanut butter or Saturday's chocolate cake with chocolate gummy worms.
And if you, like me, prefer to stick to fruit smoothies and ice cream—you know, things that are served cold—as your summer treats, don't worry: fall is just around the corner. The store is currently looking into a pumpkin spice cake for Thanksgiving and, better yet, a gingerbread spice cake for Christmas. There's not a finer nightcap for a frosty night—except, well, can I have some milk too?
Frosted Cupcakery, 195 Claremont Ave., Long Beach, (562) 987-1080; www.frostedcupcakery.com. Open Wed.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. All cupcakes, $2.75 each or $28 per dozen.