The Icing on the Cupcake


Complete Summer Reading

The Icing on the Cupcake: A Novel

by Jennifer Ross
Ballantine Books, 336 pp., $15 (paper)

I may be the last (wo)man standing against the national love affair with cupcakes. But I admit, after reading and baking from Austinite Jennifer Ross' The Icing on the Cupcake, I could be close to conversion. The author, along with her heroine Ansley Waller, is a cupcake aficionada, and she'd like you to be one, too.

When not busy licking the spatula, Ross' tongue is planted firmly in her cheek as she spins a slyly hilarious yarn about a privileged Texas sorority chica's journey to self-awareness, with cupcakes as both means and metaphor. Ansley, endearing only in her cluelessness, is a mean girl – selfish, superficial, unkind, and blinded by bling. When her perfect fiancé dumps her, torpedoing her perfect plan for a perfect life in the Dallas 'burbs, she decamps in despair to her worldly Manhattan­ite grandmother. In the Big Apple, Ansley discovers that graduating Hockaday and a debutante "Texas dip" don't cut much ice, but (surprise!) she finds some gumption, a métier, and the ability to stand on her own two stilettos. This tale is as fluffy and improbable as a seven-minute frosting, but Ross, formerly a journalist for The Dallas Morning News and The Wall Street Journal, exhibits style and an ear for cultural nuance.

This is a classic beach read with recipes; it's certainly possible to simply devour Icing as the chick-lite novel that it is. Even better, though, is to hop to the kitchen and try some of the 23 cupcake concoctions with names like The Devil Made Me Do It and I Liked It, a feather-light mocha with peanut-buttercream filling. Although there's an occasional recipe disconnect between numbers of cupcakes and amounts of icing, each recipe I made was interesting and tasty. And, as Ansley learns, passing out cupcakes is a great way to endear yourself to the neighbors.

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