The Sweetest Holiday

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SusieCakes menu
Some of the Valentine's treats available at SusieCakes.

Now I don't know about you, but I think the negative vibes towards Valentine's Day are kind of laughable. We've all heard it before. Perhaps some of you are guilty of shouting it out on a yearly basis: "Urgh, I can't wait for the day to be over--it's not like I have anyone to spend it with." That sort of thing. But what could be better than a day during the dead of winter where pinks and reds abound in all the shops and where chocolate is pushed, pedaled, and procured? I mean, c'mon. Who needs a sweetie to enjoy a jaunt through See's or Recchiuti? Or, as I learned earlier this week: SusieCakes.

SusieCakes exterior
SusieCakes welcoming storefront

Los Angeles-based SusieCakes has been open about a month in the Bon Air Shopping Center in Marin, and I've been meaning to visit with each passing day. I was doing errands in the area the other day and decided to stop in and see what all the fuss was about. I'd heard about their "frosting-filled cupcakes" and I thought it was a genius idea for all of us who use the cupcake as a socially acceptable excuse to eat frosting. And lots of it. What I didn't expect to find was the huge celebration of Valentine's Day in full effect--from sweet little cookies to festive whoopie pies. I took some photos (for you), I chatted with the gals to see what was good and what was flying out the door, and then--of course--I took some things home.

Valentines Gingerbread House and Conversation Heart Cookies
The "Love Shack," a special Valentine's Gingerbread House, and the adorable Conversation Heart Cookies


So let's talk about those frosting-filled cupcakes. Now I'm not sure how they do it. There's literally a dip or a groove in the top of the cupcake where a nice little shot of extra frosting lays. It's pure magic. I love their almost haphazard way of frosting each cupcake as well. It's not perfectly even and looks rather homemade, but in a generous, abundant sort-of way.

Frosting filled cupcakes
The genius that is SusieCakes' signature frosting-filled cupcakes

I tried the Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Red Velvet and the Sugar and Spice (February Special) cupcakes. You'll notice there aren't any photos of the Peanut Butter. That's because, like an eager and grubby-handed child, I ate it in the car. I just couldn't wait. Each flavor I tried was unbelievably soft and moist although I must say that I’m a bit of a Red Velvet snob, and I couldn't taste the cocoa in theirs. But the chocolate was rich in cocoa, and the Sugar & Spice cupcake had a lovely, light vanilla-sugar flavor. I made a big batch of snickerdoodles recently and the Sugar and Space tastes a lot like the classic cookie. You just look at these cupcakes and want to bring them to someone you love, or like, or appreciate, or want to make smile. They're happiness in a box, really.

I didn't try some of the other treats, although I'll be back in town this week and plan on swinging by for a whoopie pie (or a "Makin' Whoopie Pie," their current take on the old-school dessert). And while there's certainly a glut of cupcake spots in the Bay Area and while some people I know are excusing cupcakes altogether as a retired trend, there’s something special about SusieCakes. It's evident in the regulars who were strolling in before 11 a.m. on a weekday to pick up a few treats. And it's evident in their attention to homemade, old-fashioned desserts (think along the lines of Magnolia Bakery in New York but before the Sex in the City madness) with banana and butterscotch puddings, classic pies and stacked cakes. They're not trying to be anything they’re not with wacky and original flavors, but they're doing the classics incredibly well.

eat cake
A good motto to live by, and a great daily selection of cupcakes

So for a little shop with a big sign deeming "Eat Cake," I don't think it much matters if you have a sweetheart or not this year. Those are words we can all take to heart.

310 Bon Air Center
Bon Air Shopping Center
Greenbrae, CA 94904
(415) 461-2253

Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10am-7pm; Closed Sunday (although they will be open Sunday February 14th for Valentines Day).

Twitter: @Susiecakes