By Vickie Lewis
Happy New Year to all our readers! We hope that you’ve enjoyed a restful and enjoyable holiday season and are ready to tackle 2019 with all it promises to bring!
A new year typically means that most of us make a list of New Year’s resolutions. One of my resolutions this year (and every year!) is to do a better job of remembering and celebrating birthdays of family and friends. If this is also one of your resolutions, this month’s featured business can help sweeten birthday celebrations, and add creativity and deliciousness to other special occasions on your list, including holidays. The Crowned Cupcake, located in Pinole, is your one stop shop for not only unique, beautifully decorated and scrumptious cupcakes, but also for custom cakes, pies, cupcake bouquets, and a variety of other sweet treats sure to make any occasion memorable and festive!
As a child, business owner and cake artist Claudia Anderson, was inspired to become the talented baker and cake decorator that she is today by working alongside her mother in the kitchen when she was a young girl. Her mother was a wonderful cook and baker, and always baked and beautifully decorated beautiful cakes to celebrate the birthdays of family members. Claudia initially learned the art of baking and decorating cakes from her mother; then later, she eventually took classes to enhance her skills. As a teenager, one of her first jobs was decorating ice cream cakes at Baskin Robbins, and later she worked as a cake decorator for Lucky’s Supermarket bakery. Over the next 20+ years, she developed a passion for making her own sweet confections and expressed artistic talents through the creation of unique and beautifully decorated cakes and cupcakes. Not surprisingly, Claudia dreamed of one day opening her own cupcake shop. Although she has a full time “day job”, her dream came true when she opened The Crowned Cupcake, the grand opening for which was on October 2, 2016. Since that time, Claudia and her staff have built a thriving business, striving always to provide high quality customer service and achieve customer satisfaction with every order they fulfill.
The Crowned Cupcake is located somewhat “off the beaten path” in a small strip mall on Belmont Avenue in Pinole. Although their signage is visible from San Pablo Avenue, the shop itself does not face the street so it can be easy to miss. As reference points, the business is located almost directly across the street from The Embers Restaurant and next to the Pinole Big O Tires business. Many of you have likely driven by the location many times but didn’t realize that the Crowned Cupcake was there. It will be well worth your time to seek out this delightful hidden gem the next time you are seeking to appease your sweet tooth or seeking cupcakes or cakes for birthdays or other special occasions.
The Crowned Cupcake shop exudes a very comfortable and family-like atmosphere. The customer area of the shop is arranged into three distinct areas—a seating area for those who opt to sit and enjoy their purchases in-house; a play area for children, filled with toys and even a child’s kitchen set to keep the little ones occupied while parents place their orders; and finally, a large table and multi-purpose area near the back of the shop which is often used to host parties, meetings, and other casual gatherings. Large glass windows create the front wall of the business and afford plenty of natural lighting, which is supplemented by suspended lamps hanging over the customer service and display areas. The pink, yellow and blue pastel walls and the cupcake etchings in the concrete floor add to the cheeriness and themed décor. Cupcake-themed wall hangings and decorations are displayed throughout the shop. Perhaps the most heartwarming of the wall décor are several beautifully stenciled bible verses on the walls that depict Claudia’s faith in God and are a testament to her thankfulness for the talents and opportunities that she has been given. Large glass display cases tempt customers with the “cupcakes of the day” and other special treats currently being offered. There is also a reach-in freezer stocked with miscellaneous ice cream bars for those who are looking for a frozen grab-n-go treat, and another display case that houses six different flavors of authentic Italian gelato—YUM!
The Crowned Cupcake’s everyday menu includes six different varieties of cupcakes:
•Chocolate with ganache fudge frosting
•Vanilla with vanilla or chocolate buttercream frosting
•Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting
•Lemon with lemon filling and lemon buttercream frosting
•Strawberry with strawberry filling and strawberry whipped frosting
•The shop’s signature cupcake, the Crownie, a yellow (vanilla) cake, baked with a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie in the center, topped with chocolate whipped frosting, and adorned with a gold (paper) crown atop the frosting
The Crownie is a Claudia’s unique recipe created to be the featured cupcake for her business and is another testament to her religious beliefs. When asked how she came up with the idea for the Crownie, Claudia shared:
“I thought how perfect it would be to have a cupcake that represents the holy trinity—Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit! It’s a 3 in 1. The father is the vanilla cupcake that envelops us in his love; the cookie is the Son because he’s in between, and the brownie is the Holy Spirit which is within all the layers. The Crown topper represents the one who awaits us when we get to heaven.”
In addition to the everyday assortment of cupcakes, resident baker, Gaby Loaiza (Claudia’s sister) bakes one or more daily cupcake specials. When I visited, the featured specials were Churro, which included an actual piece of churro on top, and Cookies with Cream. The previous day’s specials had been Tres Leches cupcakes and Marbled (vanilla & chocolate) cupcakes. Gaby graciously prepared take-home samples for me which included one of each of the featured specials and one each of the everyday cupcakes, which my family and I thoroughly enjoyed over the next several days! Gaby shared that she enjoys creating new recipes to introduce as daily specials, and gauges the popularity of each new flavor to determine whether it should be included on the everyday menu and/or the frequency of offering it as a daily special. Some of the other special cupcake flavors recently offered include Cookie Dough, Apple Pie, Banana Cream, Key Lime, Buttered Pecan, Circus Animal Cookie, Carmel Apple, Maple & Bacon, and Peanut Butter and Jelly. The special flavors of the day are posted daily on The Crowned Cupcake’s Facebook page and on Instagram so that you never have to miss out on your favorite flavors. Sometimes even the everyday flavors sell out early, though, so if you want to purchase specific cupcake flavors and want to ensure that your order can be fulfilled, the staff accepts phone order requests and will happily set your selections aside.
The sample cupcakes that Gaby sent home with me were amazingly good! Each-and-every cupcake was extremely moist and had its own unique flavor. In my experience with other bakeries, sometimes the flavor of the cake is not discernable because it is overpowered by the frosting; but this was not the case with our samples. Admittedly, the cupcake frosting is generally very sweet (especially the Ganache Chocolate Fudge); however, the unique, blended flavor of the cake and the frosting make every cupcake a delight in which to indulge. My favorite of all the samples was the Lemon cupcake. The delicious lemon cake was filled with a generous amount of a lemon “gel” which intensified the lemony taste. The whipped lemon buttercream frosting was light and not-too-sweet, and a small (edible) sugared lemon slice garnished the top of the cupcake. The lemon cupcake is also the favorite of The Crowned Cupcake customer service representative, Vicki Shotwell (Claudia’s aunt), who is one of the small team that runs the amazing business every day. Of the other cupcakes that we received, I also indulged in the Tres Leches cupcake, which was creamy and rich, and was served in a shallow plastic cup, seeming more like a parfait than a cupcake. I also claimed for myself the signature Crownie cupcake, as I was eager to experience the 3-in-1 creation. The cookie and brownie pieces baked into the cupcake were smaller than I expected; none-the-less, the combination of flavors in this signature cupcake was very appealing. As I indulged in the Crownie, I couldn’t help but reflect on Claudia’s explanation of how she derived the recipe for this special cupcake.
The Crowned Cupcake also specializes in custom cakes and is eager to work with customers to design just the right creation for their special occasion, including cake flavor, icing, theme and decoration. They also offer “edible creations” which means you can bring in your own photograph and have the image transferred onto the cake. The shop has previously delighted customers with many varieties and styles of birthday cakes, as well as cakes for baby showers, bridal showers, retirements, and even wedding cakes (without fondant.) They offer traditional sheet cakes, round cakes, cakes shaped like dolls or special characters, tiered cakes, as well as “Cupcake Cakes” --many individual cupcakes arranged in a specific design with frosting covering the top of all of them to make it look like a single cake. When I visited, Claudia had just that morning finished decorating a beautiful, large, peacock-shaped cupcake-cake for a 50th birthday celebration. The colors of the frosting used in the design were breathtaking and the creation indeed looked exactly like a peacock! The customer was beyond thrilled when she saw what an awesome job that Claudia and her staff had done on her order! If you’re interested in viewing some of the other magical cake and cupcake creations baked by Gaby and decorated by Claudia, feel free to peruse their Facebook page where they post pictures of nearly all their custom orders. The staff is dedicated to working with customers to create a delicious cake with a quality custom design that meets their exact expectations.
As if cupcake and cake baking and decorating weren’t enough, this small team also offers other goodies at the Crowned Cupcake. Examples of items available on a regular basis include mini-cupcakes, Cannoli, and mini cheesecakes. The cheesecakes come in five different flavors and are procured from an outside vendor. They are a very popular option with customers who may like an alternative to cupcake desserts. As previously mentioned, the shop also offers authentic Italian gelato in three individual serving sizes. There are usually six flavors available which may vary from time to time. On the day of my visit, some of the flavors offered included Lemon Sorbet, Mango Sorbet, Butter Pecan, Coffee Chocolate Chip, and Tiramisu.
Available for special occasions are other decadent treats such as chocolate covered strawberries and seasonal pies. There seems to be no limit to what this team of dessert specialists can do! And if you’re hungry for something more savory, the team also offers turkey, roast beef, and chicken pesto pannini sandwiches as well as grilled cheese sandwiches. You will also find an assortment of bottled waters, juices, sodas, and energy drinks, as well as chips to accompany your sandwiches.
Any and all baked goods and special creations are available by pre-order and/or special order. Your favorite cupcake flavors can be pre-ordered in minimum quantities of one dozen at any time. Custom cakes require advance notification, so contact Gaby or Vicki for more information about lead time for placing a cake order for your upcoming special occasion.
The Crowned Cupcake also offers cupcake birthday parties for children, where attendees get an opportunity to decorate their own cupcakes with choices of frostings and toppings as part of the experience. The shop will also host baby or bridal showers, small group meetings, or even just a cake-decorating night out with the girls! Contact the shop to discuss the possibility of having your next special gathering or celebration at The Crowned Cupcake—you won’t be disappointed!
The shop is closed on Sundays and Mondays; however, occasionally on Sundays, The Crowned Cupcake hosts events in the strip mall parking lot to promote and bring visibility to their business, and to offer fun activities for local families as a give back to the community. The most recent of these was held in October with a special “Trunk or Treat” day featuring plenty of activities and treats for children as well as adults. Make sure to follow The Crowned Cupcake on social media (Facebook, Instagram) to stay apprised of upcoming events and specials. In the spring through early fall, The Crowned Cupcake brings dessert options to the Food Truck events held at the Four Fools Winery in Rodeo. These occur on the third Thursday of the month from 5:30 – 8:00. If you can’t make it to the shop during regular business hours, this is another opportunity to meet the staff and try out their wonderful cupcakes.
The Crowned Cupcake is a young, thriving, but somewhat undiscovered, business in the West Contra Costa community. If you’re a regular customer, the staff thanks you for your patronage! But if you haven’t tried them out, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit and see all that they have to offer. Claudia, Gaby, and Vicki are passionate about their work, and eagerly invite you to give them a try. And, as you’re making your list of birthdays to commemorate in 2019, make plans to purchase a special birthday cupcake from The Crowned Cupcake for each celebrant as a sweet way to extend your birthday wishes.
701 Belmont Avenue, Suite C, Pinole | (510) 964-5265 | thecrownedcupcake.com
Tuesdays through Saturdays 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM | Closed Sundays & Mondays