Just Dessert: These decadent, frosting-heaped cupcakes harbor a surprise

  • A peanut butter cupcake from the Evolution Café in Florence. LISA SPEAR

  • Clockwise from left, pistachio, carrot, chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes from the Evolution Café in Florence. LISA SPEAR

For the Gazette
Published: 7/22/2016 3:49:23 PM

Editor’s note: In this column writer Lisa Spear indulges her sweet tooth by sampling desserts made at area restaurants.

If you get the right batch, eating cupcakes can be a sensual experience — they are moist, decadent and could put you in a sugar coma.

Even at Evolution Café on Chestnut Street in Florence, home of all things vegan, these desserts are a mountain of bliss in the form of cake and frosting. These cupcakes transcend all stereotypes about vegan baking. Eggs and milk are not on the ingredients list, but these treats can’t, by any means, be considered health food.

The café’s baker, Brianna McInerney, has taken them to a higher level. For one thing, they are the size of muffins, stacked high with a thick layer of icing.

There is no granola here. You won’t find bits of kale hidden in the center of the chocolate cupcake.

The frosting is simple: depending on the cupcake, it’s made with a mixture of either Earth Balance or vegan cream cheese and evaporated cane sugar. All of the cupcakes are made with organic flour.

The cake manages to retain moisture remarkably well, thanks to either canola or coconut oil, depending on the flavor.

The Evolution Café also sells its cupcakes to other cafés and bakeries. After I first bit into one — its Boston cream filled cupcake — at the Montague Bookmill a few days ago, I was shocked to learn it was vegan.

McInerney, does a fabulous job at mimicking traditional baking and that’s the goal, said Evolution owner, Star Drooker. He has been serving cupcakes at his café for about 10 years, and their popularity has grown.

“The thing about a cupcake is that it makes everyone smile and it makes everyone feel like a kid at a birthday party,” Drooker said.

The cupcakes here are like art. Experimentation is part of McInerney’s process. There are nearly two dozen flavors, which constantly rotate.

At any given time the café has four flavors for sale.

There is one with a peanut butter base and a jelly filling, and a French toast-flavored cupcake. The rosewater cupcake with the Indian cardamom spice is one of the most popular.

And, of course, there is the chocolate cupcake with a towering swirl of chocolate frosting.

It tastes exactly how dark chocolate should taste, creamy and rich, but not too sweet.

Vegans travel from all over to try the cupcakes, says Drooker, some of which are garnished with herbs straight from Drooker’s garden. The mint cupcakes have a cutting of mint from just outside the restaurant. Sometimes they are sprinkled with edible flowers.

Originally from New York City, Drooker discovered baking bread as a camp counselor in Vermont. Decades later, he is now a cupcake pusher and a restaurateur.

“I’m much more of an artist that has a food place, than a food person. I never had any dreams of owning a bakery,” Drooker said. His photography hangs on the walls of the café.

Drooker says his favorite cupcake is the peanut butter flavor, which is also one of my favorites, but I truly can’t pick one that rises above all the others, so I recommend sampling them all. Each one deserves your full attention.

Have you discovered a confection at a local eatery that makes you want to skip the main course?

Email Lisa Spear at Lspear@gazettenet.com.

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