As Oliver’s first birthday approached, John and I knew we didn’t want to go overboard on our plans for celebrating. Sure, it’s a huge milestone, but the idea of hunting down coordinated cake toppers, themed decorations, and party favors sounded like my idea of a nightmare. I had visions of myself hunched over our kitchen table the night before a huge birthday extravaganza creating perfect little goody bags in the middle of hot glue hell. No, thank you. Besides, let’s face it, this lovely little creature of mine has no tolerance or patience for drawn-out affairs that require him to sit still, eat when we want him to, or interact with a bunch of people at the same time. There will, in my estimation, be plenty of time for that for future birthdays.
We did, however, want a cake or some sort of decadent sweet treat for him. We have been so careful with his diet over the past year, particularly when we started with real food (partly because of his galactosemia but more so because I’m so obsessed with making sure he is getting the proper nutrition any infant/toddler needs) that I wanted to give him a chance to go absolutely bananas on a cake for the big day.
Because we would be traveling to visit our families in the Richmond, Virginia area over Thanksgiving, we thought it would be a nice opportunity to have Ollie try his first cake. Also, because we were traveling, I really didn’t want to have to take over someone else’s kitchen to bake him a cake. So, a few months beforehand, I contacted Carytown Cupcakes to see if they would be able to fill a special order right around the holiday. Carytown Cupcakes was a favorite of John & I before we went dairy-free and, as luck would have it, they carry vegan cupcakes regularly in their store at 3111 W. Cary Street so we knew they were more than capable.
Better still, they don’t just carry an obligatory plain vanilla or chocolate flavor vegan cupcake just so they can say they cater to vegans like some other bakeries we’ve seen. They create fun, delicious vegan flavors (typically two varieties). Flavors like Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Maple Pecan Flapjack, and Speculous Cookie Butter, to name a few. Whatever the theme is for the store that week, the vegan and dairy-free set are not excluded. Hooray!
I contacted the store through email and Facebook and they were responsive and helpful in guiding me through the order process. I feared since my order was on the small-side (a 6-inch tasting cake and one dozen cupcakes) that I might not be made a priority during what is likely a busier time of year for the bakery. However, Jessica and Kevin quickly assuaged my fears. They assured me we could work around the holiday to make sure the cakes were ready for us when we needed them and offered use several options regarding flavors, decorations, and colors.
Our vegan flavor options for both the “smash” cake and cupcakes were either or both of the vegan flavors scheduled for that week, a vegan vanilla, or a vegan chocolate. We selected vegan vanilla cake with vegan vanilla buttercream for the 6-inch cake as well as half of the cupcakes and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip for the remaining cupcakes. And I have to say, if you think exceedingly dense, gritty, or flavorless when you think vegan cakes, you are sorely mistaken when it comes to Carytown Cupcakes. Their cake and cupcakes are substantial, but flavorful and as close to “regular” cupcakes as any I’ve ever had. The vanilla buttercream was smooth and had a true vanilla flavor rather than just tasting like a sweet dollop of icing. The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip tasted just like the holidays should without being too overpoweringly sweet. Also, none of them had that overly greasy feeling that you find sometimes in products where true butter has been substituted with either dairy-free butter or vegetable shortening.
Because we were going to have Oliver smash into the cake, we went with a traditional iced cake with a fondant number but we did have the option of fondant covering the entire cake. I sent Jessica a few inspirational photos for the decorations and left the rest to her very capable hands. I should mention, too, that she was happy to share the ingredients she was going to be using in the cakes in advance so that I could go over them and be sure there wouldn’t be any other ingredients I should be concerned with. For that, I am eternally grateful.
We were scheduled to pick up our order on a Wednesday after 12:00pm, and it was ready and waiting when we got there just after noon. They included instructions for serving the cakes and cupcakes, and the cupcakes were packaged in freezable containers in case we were not going to serve them within the first day or so after picking them up.
In the end, I cannot praise Carytown Cupcakes enough. Their customer service and products were stellar. We will continue to visit them every time we visit the Richmond area.