I read the Yelp reviews and decided after the fourth 5 star rating to pick up my mat and go, find, seize the Salted Cupcake.
I had some unclaimed time at the conference, and who knew when I would make it back to these parts. With the brazen confidence that Siri inspires, I set out with a heavy bag on my journey. The spring sunshine of western Michigan beat down on me as I traversed subdivision after 1960s-era subdivision. This was not quite the Grand Rapids I had expected. Did an indie cupcake shop not imply that this was to be the cool hipster zone of commerce? Where were the bike couriers with ill-fitting pants? Where was the independent coffee house? Where were the artisanal everythings?
I finally came to the main drag which was like one of those repeating cartoon backgrounds where the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote keep passing the same set of cacti and canyons. Only instead of cacti and canyons, this backdrop was a neverending concourse of plazas. Generic, segmented plazas full of big box chains where you have to drive and park and drive and park and consume. Everything wrong with America.
I walked past an Infiniti dealership for crying out loud. When does one ever walk past an Infiniti dealership?
I was into the second hour of my journey, feeling all kinds of guilt that a pastry had derailed me this far. I came upon the street where I was to find the oft-desired cupcake of all of my sugar-coated dreams, except something was awry. This street was decidedly residential. I neared the location that GPS had confirmed. This was the house that would have made Hansel and Gretel stumble and fall hard.
A sign outside of a little white boutique in the midst of a line of bungalows read:
I went in, expecting a cozy cottage with some tables and chairs where a grandmother in a gingham apron would pour me some milk with the famed Salted Cupcake upon which her Midwestern fame rested.
Instead, there was no bakery case. There was a chalkboard wall with displays of individual cupcakes. There was a table but it was covered in the accoutrements of a cupcake caterer working on a huge order on a frantic deadline. There was a cashier who did not know of my unlikely pedestrian-hood and how far I had come for my Salted Cupcake.
“That’ll be $3.50,” she said, boxing up my cupcake.
I waited for my Uber which would take me to the decidedly more hipster den of Grand Rapids where I would sit in a public space with homeless people and tourists and happy corporate lunch-eaters and I would devour my cupcake sans fork or napkin. And I would do so with relish. It was easily one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten in my entire life: cake was moist, icing was thick, fluffy, flavorful. Nearly divine.
There is no grand metaphor at work here. Maybe Antoine de Saint Exupery would say that it was the time I had wasted for my cupcake that made my cupcake so important. Maybe Bob Goff would say that I should have shared the cupcake with the homeless, maybe Anne Lamott would say that the cupcake was like my spiritual WD-40, loosening up some of the stiffness about schedules and gotta-dos in order to enjoy the serendipity of a sweet confection.
But they didn’t taste this cupcake. Nor did they walk the hour and a half (I hope they didn’t) through suburban wasteland to the cupcake cottage. There was not much joy in my journey nor in the sunburn I earned en route. The destination wasn’t what I expected, but the cupcake exceeded all of them.
Sometimes it’s just about the cupcake, the reward, the trophy, the oversized teddy bear at the fair. Sometimes you just have to carpe the cupcake and have no regrets.