By Samantha Navarro
"When I started baking cupcakes I soon decided that I needed to do something new and different," says Karina Jimenez of Los Angeles-based Viva Los Cupcakes. "I asked myself, 'What do I know?' And that was Mexican food and desserts."
Jimenez was raised in Tijuana and migrated to the U.S. nearly 20 years ago. That binational upbringing gave her the perspective to combine Mexican flavors with the cupcake craze that has spread across the United States for the past decade--and she's done a great job of pleasing the palates of Mexicans and gabachos alike.
Some of the featured flavors of Viva los Cupcakes are Concha, topped with shell-shaped sugar crumbs; Champurrado, derived from the hot chocolate-based drink; Horchata and Jamaica, drawn from flavors of these aguas frescas; and Margarita, with a hint of tequila baked into the cake. But the flavor that gets the most responses is a savory surprise: Tamal con Mole, corn cake with mole frosting and garnished with a tamal corn shell. "It is the cupcake that gets the best reactions out of people," Jimenez says. "People are surprised, dumbfounded, curious, and blown away by it."
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Jimenez grows some of the ingredients she uses in her garden, such as Persian lemons for the Lima cupcake, and pomegranates to garnish the Chile en Nogada cupcake, a poblano pepper-infused cake filled with fruits, nuts, and topped with walnut frosting. Soon she will try to grow strawberries for the Fresas con Crema cupcake. She hopes to open up her own store soon, but for now, Jimenez bakes inside her own home, offers catering services, and sells at events. "I love the creative process in the kitchen as much as I love interacting with people and watching them be surprised and enjoy something I have made."
Four years ago, Jimenez had a desk job. "Reviewing reports was boring and mind numbing," she explains. "Baking cupcakes was born out of the need to be creative." She saw the opportunity to pursue her baking professionally after getting laid off. For three years she sold only to family and friends, but through word of mouth, her business began expanding. She appeared on Spanish-language television and recently had an article featured in the KIIS-FM website.
Jimenez will be selling Tamal con Mole, Jamaica, Concha, and Margarita in Orange County for the first time this Saturday October 12 during the Annual Mariachi Festival at Pearson Park in Anaheim. See you there!