The strawberry cupcake served at Le Cupcake in Graham showcased the seasonality of the cupcakes.
A blueberry cupcake with a hidden center of caramelized blueberries and homemade caramel. A coconut-marshmallow-chocolate cupcake that’s a kitschy spin on a Hostess SnoBall. A peanut butter-fudge cupcake that made me a little weak, it was so rich and chewy. A strawberry cupcake with a base of buttery pound cake. There’s a revolving daily cupcake menu at the new bakery-cafe Le Cupcake, which opened five weeks ago in Graham. You never know what will be in the display case. I like the element of cupcake surprise.
Owner Faith Guptill’s grandmother won awards for her cakes and desserts at the Puyallup Fair decades ago. Today, some of those recipes appear in the dessert case at Le Cupcake.
Guptill’s family has lived in Pierce County since her grandmother migrated to Tacoma from Sweden.
Guptill grew up in Puyallup, then raised her children – two daughters and a son, ages 22-24 – in Graham. Guptill is a teacher at Frontier Junior High. This is the first restaurant and bakery for Guptill and her family. And every member of the family contributes. Although they’re a family of bakers with a penchant for dessert – dating all the way back to grandma’s award-winning desserts at the Puyallup Fair – daughter Lehte Allen, 23, is the trained gourmand. She graduated from the California Culinary Academy and worked as a pastry chef at Taste Restaurant in Plymouth, Calif.
As Guptill phrases it, daughter Lehte is a hard worker and she fully expects Le Cupcake to be the first in a series of businesses for her pastry chef daughter. "She’s so aggressive as a worker, it makes sense to help her get into a business, so she can go out and move to start her own business. She’s a hard working woman."
Guptill’s two other children help at the bakery, too. Emmalina Allen, 24, is a student at University of Washington Tacoma studying public relations and literature. Her drawings and photographs decorate the small, but beautifully comfortable, dining room at the bakery. Son Pax Allen, 22, does some of the baking and cooking.
The menu is mostly desserts offered all day until 9 p.m. (finally, a bakery that’s open late) – but Le Cupcake also serves lunch. The menu – and dessert case – has an interesting blend of international flavors. Bocconcini chicken, pulled pork sandwiches and grilled cheese sandwiches; quiche, sesame chicken, a few salads and a soup of the day comprise the non-dessert menu. For desserts, there are choices of a six or eight or more kinds of cupcakes daily and as many desserts, things like hand-rolled truffles with nuts, Key lime cheesecake, apple strudel, chocolate bread pudding and orange cinnamon cake.
Their focus is fresh and seasonal. The family uses raspberries picked at Guptill’s mother’s home and marionberries straight from Guptill’s yard. (Their freezers are stocked with the berries now.) They buy peaches from Orting’s Scholz Farms (Scholz Farms operates a farm in Eastern Washington, too) and produce from Orting’s Tahoma Farms and Tacoma Boys. A local beekeeper soon will sell his honey at the store. They emphasize the "buy local, use local" philosophy, and their baking is seasonal. Right now, blueberries and peaches are on the menu. They featured strawberry cupcakes and desserts when those were in season, until last month. Next up are apples, pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes as summer moves to fall.
The cupcakes come in a wide range of flavors and textures. Some are fluffy spongy; others are creamy dense. Frostings range from ganache to buttercream, from white chocolate to a creamy peanut butter and a whipped marshmallow. Texture and flavor seem important to the bakers at Le Cupcake – they don’t disappoint like some dry, flavorless cupcakes can. I like that cupcakes at Le Cupcake include buried surprises. Like biting into a blueberry cupcake and finding a mound of blueberry caramel under the frosting, and a hidden pocket of marionberry curd in the peanut butter and jelly cupcake.
The peanut butter-chocolate and chocolate-chocolate cupcakes at Le Cupcake in Graham.
The peanut butter chocolate cupcake ($2.50) blew away my palate with how rich, creamy, dense it was. It’s a fudge-peanut butter cupcake, made with eggs and sugar and chocolate. It’s so incredibly rich and dense, it wouldn’t work as a cake, Guptill says, but it’s perfect as a small cupcake treat. Like the peanut-butter chocolate cupcake, peanut-butter jelly cupcakes are equally as rich and dense. The jelly part of the cupcake are marionberries picked at the Guptill home that are baked down and made into a curd. A pocket of sweet marionberries oozed as I bit into the center of the cupcake. The frosting is cream cheese whipped with peanut butter, a little whipped cream and a touch of sugar. It’s jammy and luscious, a perfectly grownup version of a peanut-butter jelly sandwich.
The snowball cupcake ($2.50) was a little less moist than its peanut butter siblings. It’s what Guptill describes as a black velvet cupcake and filled with a ball of gooey, marshmallow cream. Coconut is blended into the marshmallow cream frosting; and toasted coconut sprinkled on top. The cupcake is an intentional spin on a Hostess SnoBall cupcake, but this one is oh so much better.
The blueberry cupcake ($2.50) is a basic white cupcake with a blueberry sauce incorporated into the batter. It’s frosted with a white chocolate frosting, with a hidden pocket of blueberry caramel in the center. The blueberry caramel is made with caramelized blueberries and the house-made caramel.
The signature cupcake ($2.75) is the cupcake that’s a favorite with customers – a fudgy brownie base topped with a modestly sweet, dense cheesecake finished with a swirl of chocolate ganache.
Look for seasonal changes soon. A peach cupcake with a champagne frosting is in the works. So is an apple pie cupcake.
Where: 9915 224th St. E., Graham
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Prices: A single cupcake is $2.50; $18 for a dozen. Signature cupcakes are $2.75. Other desserts range from $1.95-$4.50.