What started life on the left and right coasts as an inevitable outgrowth of cocktail-party kid-food has settled in our sweet city as anything but predictable. Birthdays, sticky fingers, buttercream comas, and, of course, Mom, are a few of the things that the people we asked reported as their first thought when they hear the word "cupcakes!" To pacify the craving for an authentic childhood experience, we hurry over to Hey Cupcake! – a shiny new Airstream on South Congress that reflects a Texas sky as enormous as it looked in childhood, gazing over the top of a little milk carton. When we require something more sophisticated, Quack's 43rd Street Bakery offers slightly larger cupcakes in our favorite flavors but also distinguishes itself with a wildly decadent lemon-meringue number, lemon-filled white cake complete with a browned top hat. If you can't dash out, dial up Babycakes online, and they will rush your cupcake "tree" over by car. On the west side of town, the Upper Crust Bakery is happy to transform the cake of your choice into single servings, Kneaded Pleasures makes the tangiest citrus-flavored and most properly Southern red velvet, and we like Russell's Bakery & Coffee Bar for traditional offerings and a fluffy crumb. Regardless of the usual clatter surrounding us on cupcake occasions, it remains a uniquely personal experience, like having your own miniature kingdom built of sugar and crumbs. And since purists insist they be consumed the very day of conception, we say, what the heck, any day can be a birthday. ¡Viva la cupcake!
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