Around SOMA this summer, amid discussions of brown water and middle-school de-leveling, the topic of conversation often turned to one burning question: When is the cupcake guy opening his store? I’m happy to report that the wait is (almost) over.
The Cupcake Corral bakery and café, brainchild of Maplewood dad and self-taught baker Joe Ramaikas, is finally opening its doors. Since 2008, Ramaikas has developed a devoted following for his cupcakes, which include such standouts as red velvet, carrot with cream cheese frosting, banana with peanut butter, and buttermilk with lemon buttercream. His use of fresh ingredients and spot-on flavor combos quickly distinguished him in the increasingly crowded local cupcake field. Cupcake Corral boxes became a familiar sight at birthday parties around town.
So when word started to spread last winter that Ramaikas would morph his home-based business into a storefront bakery/café in Maplewood, SOMA’s foodie crowd launched a cupcake countdown. Originally scheduled for the beginning of summer, the grand opening is now set for September 18th (check the website www.thecupcakecorral.com for details).
Recently, Ramaikas invited me in for a sneak peek at the new place. In the site of a former pizza joint, The Cupcake Corral is nestled amidst a low-key strip of mom-and-pop businesses on Ridgewood Road, just shy of the South Orange border.
The space is warm and inviting, with deep, yellow walls (“Semolina,” Ramaikas tells me, “and the trim is ‘Cupcake’ – seriously.”) and a gleaming bamboo floor. “I refinished that myself,” he notes. The ceiling is the original tin and the funky light fixtures are made with antique Ball jars. Two communal tables will fill the space, and he plans outdoor seating in warm weather.
A country music fan, Ramaikas pays homage to his favorite artists through such cupcakes as the King, the Tammy and the Johnny. The café walls are lined with colorful portraits of some of the namesakes, courtesy of Brooklyn artist Steven Keene.
The huge, gleaming kitchen looks as though it could handle some serious cooking. Initially, the menu will feature breakfast items like mini frittatas along with scones, cookies, pound cake, banana bread and mandelbrot (courtesy of his mother-in-law). Eventually, he envisions offering brunch options.
Cupcakes will be available individually and by the dozen (that includes regular sized and the popular minis). Ramaikas is always dreaming up new flavors. “Right now, I’m working on a chocolate chip one,” he says. On the savory side, he’s experimenting with meat loaf cupcakes with mashed potato “frosting.”
In a town not exactly blessed with an abundance of excellent coffee options, Ramaikas is betting that his – sourced from acclaimed NYC-based Irving Farm Coffee Company – will stand out. “I’m going out on a limb here – it’s gonna be the best in Maplewood,” he says.
Ramaikas acknowledges the huge expectations that come with his opening. “I’m not going to look at Maplewood Online for a while,” he notes.
His retail neighbors include Milk Money, the Framing Mill, a couple of antique shops and GAS Gallery and Studio. “I want to be part of the community,” says Ramaikas, who lives just blocks away. “This is something people want here. I know I won’t always please everyone,” he says. “But I’m just going to do the best I can.”
The Cupcake Corral, 410 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood.