And by “break out the dictionary”, I mean break out the online dictionary (watch out, we can get brainy up in here). The reasoning behind my dictionary search – to examine the meaning of “factory”. You see, when I first heard the name “Atlanta Cupcake Factory”, I envisioned this massively old brick building. That carried a rich and quirky history, like the largest paper clip manufacturer this side of the Atlantic or something. And now the industrial, architectural beast of a building was re-purposed to the sweet tune of mass cupcake production. Can you picture it? I imagined buying a ticket that got you a tour of the facility. We’d wear hairnets and white lab coats as we strolled the factory floors and watch freshly baked cupcakes stream down a conveyer belt. Puffs of colorful frosting would magically drop from some mechanical arm as the cupcakes merrily rolled on by. We’d get high on the scent of sugar, sample dollops of frosting, then conclude our tour with the all-you-can-eat-cupcake-buffet in the building’s cafeteria. I see myself emerging the factory at sunset with crumbs in my hair and bellybutton, wearing a gift shop t-shirt proclaiming “Cupcakes Are The New Paperclips!”.
So, you can understand my surprise when my friend Beatrix first pointed out the Atlanta Cupcake Factory tucked into a small strip of shops called Highland Row.
It’s really charming, but factory it is not. At least not the factory-type I pictured. Hence, the need for an official “factory” definition. Here we go – according to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, a factory =
1. a station where factors reside and trade
2. a building or set of buildings with facilities for manufacturing
3. the seat of some kind of production
So even though their website states that they are “dedicated to handcrafted, small-batch wholesome baking”, Atlanta Cupcake Factory is still the seat of some kind of (–>cupcake) production. So I guess it’s legit. I’m just gonna chalk up this whole tangent to my wild imagination, and not a fail in elementary education. (But now that it’s out there, don’t you think this country needs my visionary cupcake factory! Surely there’s a sleepy old plant out there some where, just prime for the picking, that we can bestow this sweet endeavor upon. Let’s make it happen America!)
In terms of the actual Atlanta Cupcake Factory – it’s a bigwig in the Atlanta cupcake arena and is certainly worth a go-see. It’s been recommended by Southern Living, has won Creative Loafing’s “Best of” award in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and made National Geographic Traveler’s “25 Cupcakeries We Love” list (um, how have I not seen this list until now?! I’m so ashamed, I only have like 9 of the cupcakeries from this list on my radar. This is not a good day for Cupcake Crusader.).
Stepping into the 5-year old, family-owned and operated Atlanta Cupcake Factory is like slipping into a little cupcake-feathered nest with tons of homespun appeal. At first, you might be caught off guard by the tight quarters but you’ll soon be enveloped by the cozy and intimate vibe to even notice. There were about 12 flavors to choose from during my Friday afternoon visit with Beatrix (but their online menu sets the mouth-a-watering with lots of flavors like Banana Brown Sugar, Sugar Cookie Vanilla Peach, Strawberry Lemonade, and Chocolate Dolce de Leche.) Beatrix had her heart set on a Vanilla Salted Caramel (an ACF top-seller) and I went with the Fresh Strawberry…and the Chocolate Almond Raspberry for good measure! We sat outside with Beatrix’s loveable pup, Schmoo, and enjoyed our sugary sweets!
Since I admire and respect Beatrix’s opinion greatly, I asked her to type up her critique (like we had done here after our visit to Belly General Store). So without further ado, please join me in welcoming back the words of Beatrix!
“The thing I like best about the ACF is that their cupcakes actually taste like their name – i.e. strawberry truly tastes like strawberry, etc. Some cupcakes really just taste like straight sugar, regardless of what flavoring they profess. But ACF seems quite genuine. Another funny anecdote to relate is how much joy they brought my 89 year old grandmother when I took them down for an Easter celebration. She took that double chocolate cupcake from the box and proceeded to get chocolate frosting all over her from head to tow. She looked a lot like a kid eating their first birthday cake when all was done. And Schmoo (the loveable pup I mentioned earlier) dutifully sat under her wheelchair in expectation of the cake crumbs from heaven.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Beatrix in that the cupcake flavors are not misleading, but immediately identifiable and rich. Both Beatrix and I delighted in the bursting freshness of the raspberry puree atop the Chocolate Almond Raspberry. I instantly detected the warm caramel flavor faintly contrasted by a pinch of salt in my bite of Beatrix’s Salted Caramel cupcake. And the Fresh Strawberry, oh now that was a darling of a cupcake. One of those make-you-feel-like-a-(very lucky!)-kid-again kind of cupcakes. Maybe a Top 10 contender, I told Beatrix (still deliberating in that department). Overall – fresh cakes all around (ACF uses no oil and bakes on-site everyday) and standard cake/frosting ratio.
Phew, apologies for my chattiness today (or is it always?)! But at least it was educational, no? Let me get to a brief break down and get you on your way!
Atlanta Cupcake Factory / 624 N. Highlands Ave. Atlanta, GA / www.theatlantacupcakefactory.com
1. Price: $2.50 each
2. Room temperature: Yes!
3. Size: Standard
4. Vegan or gluten-free options: No
5. To-go packaging: Plastic clamshell. Ours came in a six-seater. It’s effective, but I’m not a huge fan of plastic.
6. Milk for sale?: Yes, along with Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, H2O, coffee, and cinnamon coffee.
7. Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: Homemade rice crispy bars (including fruity pebble and chocolate salted caramel varieties) and chocolate espresso brownies. Oh yeah, you can also buy cute handmade aprons for $30.
8. Ambiance: It’s a small space with a vintage feel, fun art, and nostalgic flair. Plus it had two of my favorite elements in a cupcakery – hardwood floors and lots of natural lighting. No where to sit inside though. Two patio tables and bench available outside (which is dog friendly!).
9. Service: Welcoming and down-to-earth.
10. Three words to describe the Atlanta Cupcake Factory experience (once I got over my reality check):
1) Flavorful 2) Cozy 3) Artsy
Just for fun, here’s a shot of Beatrix’s Pekingese either 1) eagerly anticipating Beatrix’s exit from ACF or 2) longing for her very own cupcake. I tell ya, that dog has a special place in my heart (and just happens to be my god-dog :))! Thank you Beatrix and Schmoo for being such trusty crusade companions!