Planet Cake: Cupcakes

Miniature world of creativity ... cupcakes by Planet Cake.

Whether we are entranced by the design or the taste, cupcakes have become an obsession for some.

Driven by our obsession with these sweet treats, Paris Cutler's new book takes cupcake decorating to new levels of sophistication.

Starting out with the firm belief that cupcakes were just not as appealing as "proper" cakes, Cutler happily ignored the craze that was showing its first signs of life in 2003 when she purchased Planet Cake, a bakery well-known in Sydney and beyond for its high-end and couture cake designs.

"The thing that has interested me the most about cupcakes is the level of fanaticism that surrounds them."  With her cupcake decorating classes booked out months in advance and the realisation that the cupcake craze was not a passing fad, Cutler eventually began tracking blogs, forums and Flickr albums devoted to cupcakes, discovering a virtual rabbit hole of passionate and talented home cooks and cupcake devotees.

Impressed by this sub-culture of amateur decorators, Cutler found herself asking how she could add to people's ability to create beautiful cupcakes at home. When she was approached to do a book devoted entirely to cupcakes she saw her opportunity to really break cupcake decorating down for the average person.

"I was inspired more by people's reaction to cupcakes, rather than cupcakes themselves." Indeed, Cutler's practical approach is evident in Planet Cake: Cupcakes in which she has tried to push emotional fanaticism aside and help people to create something beautiful that can be prepared at home for a special occasion or given to loved ones.

Each of the 20 designs in the book is a miniature world of creativity, pushing the boundaries of cupcake decorating but at the same time remaining accessible by providing detailed step-by-step instructions, explaining techniques such as piping, stencilling, sculpting and airbrushing, and even giving trouble-shooting tips.

Design versus taste

On the other side of the spectrum, which is polarised by the decorative vs taste movements, sits Sparkle Cupcakery.

Sparkle has taken cupcake innovation to new levels by introducing flavours such as lavender and honey, pistachio and cardamon or green tea with tapioca pearls to our thankful appetites. It also leads the pack when it comes to our obsession with sweet, butter icing cupcakes that can be taken along to dinner parties or just indulged in at home as a more adult luxury.

"Our flavours reflect Sydneysiders' palates. Chocolate and vanilla just don't do it for people anymore," remarks Kathryn Sutton, founder of Sparkle.

Sparkle was not the first shop devoted entirely to buttery cupcakes (in fact, it opened rather late in the game in August 2008) but it has definitely carved a different path for itself stylistically. Whereas every other cupcake shop is marked by the thick swirls of icing, harlequin sprinkles and shaves of chocolate that form the climax of their cupcakes, Sparkle has opted for no nonsense adornments. In fact, each flavour variation at Sparkle is iced identically - off-white icing spread flatly to form a decidedly uninteresting surface on each cupcake. A coloured dot stamps the top of each cupcake, acting as the only marker of the intense and diverse flavours within.

By placing themselves on a trajectory of growth and innovation, and setting the bar sky-high when it comes to sophistication, both Sparkle and Planet Cake are creating a new, more contemporary place for cupcakes.

Are you crazy for cupcakes? Do you have a favourite design or retailer? Tell us below.

Paris Cutler's new book Planet Cake: Cupcakes (Murdoch Books) is now available at all major booksellers, RRP $45.

Sparkle Cupcakery is located at 132 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills or you can order online at


To all things cupcakes!