Cake Eater, Sweet Retreat, and Cocoa & Fig bakeries furthering the cupcake craze

Minneapolis has a sweet tooth of late

Kids will surely be pleased by Johnson's forthcoming line of candy-filled cupcakes (M&M's, Butterfingers, etc.), and parents will appreciate that Sweet Retreat will deliver any order of a dozen cupcakes or more for a $12 fee. "I wanted to do something that makes people smile and brings a minute of happiness to everyone's lives," Johnson says.

THOUGH CAKE EATER would be a more appropriate name for an Edina bakery, the new Seward shop is still a great fit for the beloved Clicquot Club building. While the shop is more than welcoming to families—there's a kids' happy hour every weekday from 3 to 5 p.m.—compared to Cocoa & Fig and Sweet Retreat it has an edgier vibe, in spite of its cheery wares and Day-Glo paint.

Cake Eater is co-owned by Sheela Namakkal, the baker behind the Miel y Leche cupcakes famously sold at Mitrebox stationery shop. Her business partner is Emily Moore Harris, who ironically grew up without eating much sugar as a child. When I inquired about the Faux-Stess cupcake, a vegan version of the Hostess classic, Harris admitted she hasn't ever eaten a real one. "I've never had a Twinkie," she added. "I don't even know what one is supposed to taste like." (For the record, the Hostess ones aren't great, but the Faux-Stess could use a boost in chocolate flavor to live up to its archetype.)

Cocoa & Fig's mini cakes are like edible works of art
Jana Freiband
Cocoa & Fig's mini cakes are like edible works of art

Location Info


Cocoa & Fig

651 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)


cocoa & Fig
Gaviidae Common, Skyway Level, 651 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

Sweet Retreat
5013 France Ave. S., Minneapolis

Cake Eater Bakery
2929 E. 25th St., Minneapolis

Cake Eater's strength is in its bold, experimental style. The bakers rotate their selection of flavors from a list of more than 150(!) options. Since Harris and Namakkal both come from savory cooking backgrounds, they favor cupcakes in which sweetness is cut by a hint of acid or spice. That means you'll find Elvis cupcakes made with banana cake, peanut butter-marshmallow mousse, and a bite of bacon on top. Or an ever-changing White Mystery cupcake, filled with, when I had it, fresh strawberry and a hit of balsamic vinegar.

Some combinations didn't fare as well as I'd hoped, such as the Mango Chili Lime, which is better in theory than practice, unless the idea of washing down a slice of cake with a spicy margarita appeals to you. Among the other sweets, including scones and brownies, I really liked the Salty Oatmeal cookie, but I couldn't get past one with a chocolate chip/raisin mix. To me, those two things never match, like wearing black and navy, but this is from a person who eats gorp by picking out only bites of peanuts with either raisins or M&Ms, and never the two together.

Namakkal's baking is a boon for vegans, as she often has several selections for those on animal-free diets, including white cake studded with fresh blueberries and another with strawberry and coconut. I wouldn't recommend them over their egg-and-dairy-based counterparts, but their texture—a constant challenge for vegan baking—is respectably light and springy.

However, a few basic things at Cake Eater bombed, including the Chocolate Bomb. How can I not like a chocolate cupcake? When its chocolate cake and chocolate frosting aren't very chocolaty. And also when the frosting, an American-style buttercream, is gritty. I found this to be the case with most of the Cake Eater cupcakes I tried. Not only did the frosting have a crust, but the layer beneath reminded me of dental office toothpaste.

Criticizing someone's cupcakes seems on par with telling someone you think their baby is ugly, but as much as I like Cake Eater's style, the gritty frosting really spoiled my experience. (This may not bother everyone, like the Peep lovers who puncture the animals' plastic package and let the marshmallows "air toast" before eating them.) But I did find one creamy-frosting exception among those I tried—an outstanding chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting—which is certainly worth seeking out. 

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