At Cup­cakeCamp, fans of the frosted treats find com­fort in food and num­bers

Cape Breton Post - - ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AP) — There’s no hik­ing, ca­noe­ing or singing by a fire. But there might be marsh­mal­lows.

At Cup­cakeCamp, the fo­cus is on sweet eats.

Devo­tees of the clas­sic — and oh-so-hip — dessert have found a new way to con­gre­gate and con­sume dozens of cup­cakes. The gist? Get lots of peo­ple and cup­cakes to­gether in one spot. Do a bit of swap­ping and a lot of eat­ing. That’s as com­pli­cated as it gets.

Ariel Wald­man, a San Fran­cisco dig­i­tal an­thro­pol­o­gist, first tossed around the idea as a joke. She and her friends love cup­cakes and love en­joy­ing them to­gether. So, why not get organized about it?

That was in 2008, when Wald­man and a few friends launched the first Cup­cakeCamp in rented of­fice space. The only rules — bring cup­cakes, share cup­cakes, eat cup­cakes. All for free. They ex­pected about 40 peo­ple. About 300 showed up. A camp they held six months later was even more packed.

“Every­one reached in and grabbed them be­fore they touched the ta­ble,” said Mia Armas, who was at­tend­ing her sec­ond camp in San Fran­cisco. “We pic­tured it as the Black Fri­day of cup­cakes. We were kind of scared.”

Since then, Cup­cakeCamp has taken on a life of its own. Last year, there were 15 camps held ev­ery­where from Philadel­phia and Seat­tle to Syd­ney and Manila. Cana­dian lo­ca­tions in­cluded Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Van­cou­ver, Leth­bridge, Alta., Hamil­ton, Ont., and Kitch­ener, Ont. Fu­ture events are planned for Seat­tle and Lon­don.

“I think it’s a very San Fran­cisco-Sil­i­conVal­ley thing to con­stantly be com­ing up with crazy, ran­dom ideas,” Wald­man said.

Wald­man and her friends quickly learned that the events are only as good as the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind them. Now, par­tic­i­pants must de­tail in ad­vance the quan­tity and flavour of cup­cakes they will bring, as well as whether they will be home­made or store-bought.

This way, or­ga­niz­ers can come up with a sched­ule and bring out a batch at a time. They’ve also added a bake-off el­e­ment, with best in show type con­tests.

When peo­ple started ask­ing Wald­man how to or­ga­nize their own camp, she and her friends launched a how-to web­site at cup­cakecamp.org. Group mem­bers, all of whom have other jobs, hope to keep Cup­cakeCamp go­ing as long there’s de­mand.

“I love go­ing through pho­tos of Cup­cakeCamps around the world and see­ing every­one smile and en­joy them­selves,” Wald­man said.

Wald­man’s last camp was in Oc­to­ber along San Fran­cisco’s Em­bar­cadero water­front. The gath­er­ing hit an all-time high with 730 peo­ple de­vour­ing 3,000 cup­cakes in three hours.

To con­trol the swarm­ing crowds, Wald­man and other or­ga­niz­ers set up six sta­tions and handed out tick­ets worth five cup­cakes each.

The huge at­ten­dance also brought out the ex­per­i­men­tal side of am­a­teur bak­ers. S’mores, mole poblano and co­conut with laven­der were among the flavours that had cup­cake con­nois­seurs torn about where to stand in line.

David Ra­jan, a soft­ware en­gi­neer, and his friend, Jen­nifer Ng, a web de­signer, held taste tests for friends be­fore set­tling on mo­jito cup­cakes. Her sec­ond time at­tend­ing, Ng de­cided she’d feel bet­ter con­tribut­ing some­thing.

“Last time I think we ate a lot of cup­cakes. So, we wanted to kind of off-load that guilt,” said Ng, while set­ting up her cup­cakes.

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