The U.S. Embassy in Paris holds a Fourth of July garden party every year but most of those on the guest list are French. I was relieved to learn that last week while on a private tour of the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence—relieved because I no longer feel snubbed for not being invited; I simply feel American. So when someone asked me this morning if I was going to the embassy event I proudly replied, “No, I’m American!”
There were various other Fourth of July parties in Paris, of course, but I didn’t get invited to any of them either. I could have gone to the Franco-American Fourth of July ceremony at Lafayette’s tomb, but I’d been there last year.
Still, I was feeling a bit red-white-and-bluish (not to be confused with the colors of the French flag which is blue, white, and red) today, so I accepted an invitation to Cupcake Camp.
Cupcake Camp was organized in Bistrot Vivienne, an otherwise pleasant bistro in the 2nd arrondissement that had been cleared of its pleasantness for the occasion, by Cat Beurnier, a cupcake baker who operates Sugar Daze, and Bryan Pirolli, a master’s student and part-time cook (photo left).
I’d hoped to learn more about Cat and Bryan during Cupcake Camp but they were quite the busy camp leaders since the bistro was a-swarm with people trying to make the best out of the 10-euro entrance fee which allowed for all the cupcakes you can eat plus one drink.
From the looks of things this afternoon it appears that if you give a couple hundred Americans (and assorted French friends) a choice of any beverage with their cupcake the majority will pick Diet Coke—or Coke Light as it’s called in France where no one will ever admit that she’s on a diet but where everyone wants to feel light.
“Proceeds from the event,” to quote Cat and Bryan’s press release, “will support a group spearheaded by friends of Cupcake Camp Paris, Rebuilding Haiti Now.” I’m not sure what the group actually does but I must say that only Americans are capable of using cupcakes to raise funds for earthquake victims, just one more thing we can be proud of.
The press release also states that “Cupcake Camp is a tradition that hails from California, created by Ariel Waldman” and that “the cupcake can be considered the US’ defining culinary contribution to the world.”
I know nothing about Ariel Waldman and won’t bother Googling the name because as far as I could tell Cupcake Camp Paris was simply an occasion to bake and eat cupcakes with proceeds going to charity. It didn’t feel like something that would “hail” from anywhere, let alone California, or need to be “created,” let alone by someone named Ariel Waldman!
Nevertheless, today’s Cupcake Camp was a rousing success to judge by the donations/entrance fees, the crowds, the general good cheer, and the quantity of cupcakes and Coke Light consumed.
Still, I’m a bit concerned about that “defining culinary contribution to the world” line. I only tried three cupcakes of the 30 or so varieties that I saw in the boxes, and there may have been many more that I didn’t see, so I can’t judge overall quality from my small sampling; I nevertheless came away with a vision of a dozen young women baking through the night while getting slaphappy on sugar and going heavy on the icing. Some things just weren’t meant to define us abroad.
Even as out-of-the-loop as I am regarding American baking trends, I have naturally been aware for a number of years now of the cupcake fad back home. When in the U.S. I can’t visit anyone with children under 25 without being offered a cupcake. At one party in New Jersey last year, ostensibly a Thanksgiving gathering, the oohs and ahs came not with the presentation of the turkey but with that of the cupcakes. A half-dozen tweens and teens stood around the dessert table waiting to see whose creations the guests would choose, each one smudging the icing of the competition so that hers would stand out as the prettiest. They were so disappointed when I didn’t pick one that I nearly felt unpatriotic for going for the pumpkin pie.
Oddly enough, going to Cupcake Camp on the Fourth of July didn’t make me feel any more patriotic. In fact, I was surprised to see how little effort was made to make the connection between our “defining culinary contribution” and Independence Day.
Entries to the “Most Patriotic Cupcake” competition (above) were so scant that I wondered if Cupcake Camp founder Ariel Waldman might have disallowed the combination of red, white, and blue icing in the camp rules. Either that or blue icing is hard to come by in Paris and no one realized that blueberry season has just begun.
Anyway, as you can see from the photos above, the entries to the various competitions did look quite good, and I’m sure there were some true winners among them.
The judges also looked quite good, as you can see below.
On the right is travel writer Heather Stimmler-Hall. Click here to read an interview with her on France Revisited following the release of her book “Naughty Paris: A Ladies Guide to a Sexy City.”
In the middle is Synie Georgulas, a professional baker, owner of the bakery-tea room Synie’s Cupcakes, whom I’ll be interviewing later this month in further explorations into cupcakes.
On the left is Lindsey Tramuta, whose cupcake credentials include her musings on the blog Lost In Cheeseland.
I should note that the photo above was taking prior to the start of their judging duties, which may explain why they look so happy to be there.
Just kidding, Cat. It was a great event, just lacked a bit of Fourth of July spirit.