Trophy Cupcakes: How You Know You've Made It Big

Late last week, while still trying to get my bearings and desperately in need of a sugar fix, I sent my wife, Laura, out to Trophy Cupcakes in Bellevue to score us some of the good stuff.

Now honestly, I'm generally not much of a cupcake guy. My tastes run more towards weird Japanese candies with strange, hallucinatory Day-Glo spokes-critters, simple American classics like Junior Mints or Dexedrine rolled in powdered sugar, or intricate French pastries that can be worn as hats. But we'd been hearing about Trophy Cupcakes (which has been talked about everywhere from Yelp to Martha Stewart's show) since about five minutes after my taking this job, so I figured it was worth a look.

First things first: It is. Mostly because owner/baker Jennifer Shea has recently hit on a devilish plan for cupcake domination by making cupcakes (already pretty popular) inspired by different varieties of Girl Scout Cookies (a Schedule 1 narcotic for a good portion of the population). The Samoa cupcake she offers? A killer, made with soft chocolate cake, filled with caramel cream, topped with coconut buttercream and drizzled with more caramel. I would've unhinged my jaw to eat the thing faster if I could. And even though I consider the Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie to be just one step shy of an abomination (the things taste like sawdust, soaked down with peppermint oil, kiln-dried and coated in latex paint), Trophy's cupcake version was at least...edible. A massive improvement over the original.

But what got me was that between the front door of the Bellevue shop and where she'd parked the car, virtually every single person that Laura passed while carrying the unmarked white box from Trophy knew exactly where she was coming from. And most of them even commented on it.

"Cupcakes, huh?"

"Just back from the cupcake shop?"

"Ooh... Must've stopped for cupcakes!"

Even the parking garage attendant made a comment as she was leaving, recognizing instantly where she'd been and what she'd been doing.

Granted, Laura was out and about in her usual housewife mufti (knee-high motorcycle boots, blue jeans, Fishbone tee-shirt, natch) so she didn't exactly look like any of the other office-working show ponies prancing around the neighborhood. And yeah, she did probably have something of a glaze-eyed look about her--which would be common to anyone carrying around what amounted to a box full of butter and sugar. But still, the fact that everyone in the city of Bellevue is apparently capable of spotting an unbranded Trophy Cupcakes box at twenty paces on a busy street really says something about the kind of market penetration and recognition Trophy has managed. It was really quite remarkable, and I'm actually a little bit surprised that one of those carb-starved Alpha Mommies on the street didn't just lose control completely and make a lunge for the one of the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes Laura had set aside for herself.

I would've paid good money to watch that fight. Would've clapped my hands and cheered like it was the Superbowl. And I have no doubt that Laura would've come out at the other end of it, unmussed and with all her cupcakes intact.

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