Like any day in a quintessential first-grade classroom, Molly's Cupcakes begins with a story. "Molly was my teacher from first to third grade," writes owner and "chief egg cracker" John Nicolades on a prettily-designed postcard advertising his Lincoln Park bakery. "Whenever one of her students had a birthday, she would bake us cupcakes. Molly was nice enough to pass down the recipe to me."
These days, Miss Molly's recipe is beaten, stirred and frosted to life at her namesake bakery. Pretty little cakes run the gamut from red velvet topped with cream cheese frosting to "center-filled" selections bursting with lemon custard or cinnamon-spiced apples. Creative cupcake pupils can opt to make their own, mixing and matching cake, frosting and topping flavors at will (rumor has it that the brown butter frosting is in a class of its own). Bake-sale staples like Rice Krispy treats, lemon bars and oatmeal raisin cookies round out the menu.
Miss Molly's classroom is channeled in the bakery's schoolhouse-inspired design. Doors to the restroom had former lives as classroom doors; artwork from local students lines the walls and round tables are dressed in rainbow-bright hues of lime green and robin's egg blue. The best part: a row of "swing set" seats dangling in front of the counter.
John scores extra brownie points by donating a portion of his profits to local schools.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg