Only three days back at Yale, driving up Hillhouse Avenue headed towards Ikea, I spotted The Cupcake Truck. On a whim, I parked my car and frantically ran across the street and up to the window, where I breathlessly announced to the woman in the truck that she’d made me the happiest girl in New Haven.
“I hear that a lot,” she answered. “That’s why I love this job.”
In her past life, Marsha Rowe went to Harvard and worked in corporate finance. Then, she and her husband Todd realized there was more to life (i.e. cupcakes) and that it was time for a change. Now, the duo wakes up each morning at 3:30 a.m. to bake hundreds of cupcakes from scratch and sell them from their truck. They even have a blog — fooddriven.blogspot.com — with information on where the truck is parked, lest you worry about being able to track down a bakery that’s mobile (NB: for those in the humanities, the truck makes its way down to Temple Street at around 3 p.m. each afternoon).
For all of this, New Haven is thankful.
The only other decent cupcake competition in the city, it seems, is Claire’s. Yalies have fetishized and obsessed over their cakes, and deservedly so. Like Rowe’s cupcakes, Claire’s cupcakes are dense, moist, undercooked, indulgent little confections, similar in flavor to “The Lith” and piled high with signature frosting.
Claire’s cupcakes, though, require commitment, in the form of $3.69 and a sugar-crash nap. I crave them after a bad evening section and I buy them for friends who’ve had their hearts broken. There’s a time and a place for Claire’s, and that time, quite simply, is when things have gotten serious.
Marsha’s Cupcake Truck, though, is pure innocence. These are the cupcakes that mom made for first grade homeroom in an array of flavors, icings and toppings. There are tiny cups of frosting for sale. The cakes are kid-sized. They’re $2. You can even top the icing with actual flakes of gold.
I’ll admit that the red velvet is a little disappointing, and that the chocolate frosting tends to get runny very quickly. But the sweet potato cupcake is moist and flavorful, the cream cheese frosting perfectly sour, the lemon flavor delicate and subtle. And — my God! — did I mention they are $2 and they are parked right outside my thrice-weekly bio class?
Having been a heavy consumer of probiotic froyo this summer, I can understand the hype over the new SketchBerry on High Street. There is an undeniable draw to low-calorie “ice cream” after an hour or two at Payne Whitney Gymnasium and the dessert is well-marketed for the demographic at this school that seems to diet perpetually.
But at this point in my life — with so few months left in the cocoon of college, facing the stresses of recruitment sessions, senior essays, life talks, dumb boys and demanding friends — cold yogurt and chopped mango just seems very … adult.
So instead, I’m sticking to the cupcake truck, the sanctuary of my childhood, sitting on Sachem Street amidst School of Management students, science PhDs and construction workers. I will stand on the dozens-long line and daydream about the sky, the clouds, chocolate icing, fleur de sel and lemon-ginger snap cookies.
Because whether it’s a great day or a bad day, I want a treat that is just as wonderful, sweet, simple and pure as life before hitting double-digits: a cupcake.