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Citizen Cupcake

Sweet and Petite Treats

Think back to the cupcakes of childhood days. The delight you'd get out of those little mounds of cake smothered over with thick chocolate frosting, usually topped with sprinkles or multi-colored dots, and individually wrapped with creased, colorful wax paper. But really, let's admit it, that cake was just a vessel for the frosting. Fast forward to the newly opened Citizen Cupcake Café and Bar, attesting that these treats aren't just for kids, and that they can be a very sophisticated, adult dessert with depth.

Citizen Cupcake, which spawned from Citizen Cake in Hayes Valley, Elizabeth Falkner's den of decadent desserts, offers a sampling of savories and sweets from the mother patisserie and restaurant. The stop-and-treat café and bar is located in the heart of downtown, at the tiptop corner of Virgin Megastore. It's a great casual place to breakfast, lunch, do dessert, or regain your energy post-media splurge downstairs.

Citizen savories include sandwiches, grilled panini, soups and cheese plates. Each dish is prepared thoughtfully -- for example, the panini filled with roasted mushroom and artichoke heart tapenade with notes of truffle, and dressed with arugula and Fontina. The grilled cheese sandwich is boastfully described on the menu as "the best grilled cheese on earth," and rightfully so. Cheese fans will go overboard for the cheddar and gruyere blend melted between sliced, housemade jack cheese bread. The dainty sandwich stands boldly without distraction of added ham or tomato. It may sound a bit cheesy, but the mild to medium-bodied flavor of the cheeses and bread are a perfect match.

The main attraction here is of course the cupcake in its many renditions, followed by the assortment of delectable candies. The thing with cupcakes is you usually get a semi-dry cake underneath that gooey, sweet frosting. Citizen's cupcakes are made with chiffon cake or buttermilk cake, making what's underneath stand up to the delicious surface. And then, there's the filling…Falkner ensures that all her creations are made with the very best of ingredients. Her chocolates of choice for cooking: Sharffenberger, and Venezuelan El Rey.

For simple tastes, there are the basic vanilla, chocolate ($2.50, $3.50 for all others), or carrot cupcake. But why deprive yourself? The Rocky Road consists of chocolate chiffon cake, blanketed with a mix of chocolate, chunks of Citizen Cake marshmallow and walnut frosting. The cake is then dipped in chocolate. Ultra indulgence. We were intimidated by this one! The Lem-ania is crafted with lemon buttermilk cake and injected with key lime curd. The lemon zest frosting on top is decorated with vanilla bean meringue sticks.

As much as we would have loved to have tried every single kind, we settled with two. The first was the Persian Love cupcake. Just the racy name sparks the curiosity. This sweet thing is a chiffon cake filled with rose buttercream with an essence of saffron for that extra zing. A rose confectioner's glaze, a dusting of pistachios and candied rose petals complete this subtly sweet yet indulgent dessert, taking cupcakes to a whole new level.

Our second choice was the Moka Choka. Any caffeine addict should try this one! The chocolate chiffon cake is injected with coffee buttercream. The espresso frosting will give the extra-added jolt.

If that's not enough sweets for you, check out the overwhelming array of handpicked chocolates and candies from around the world. Manager Andrea Sarnataro delighted us in a chocolate tasting of New Tree's organic, silky version of a Nestle crunch bar, and an interesting chocolate dusted corn nut by Spanish chocolatier Enrie Rovira. The Perigord walnut with chocolate is an elegant mix of tender, crumbly walnuts from France's famous walnut-growing region, glazed in sugar, coated with bitter chocolate and dusted with cocoa. This morsel left a sublime taste in the mouth.

The overwhelming array of candies includes Falkner's favorite childhood candy, Richardson's Candy House Amazing Caramel Licorice. Get a nostalgic rush with John Farrah's Original Old Fashioned Toffee in retro tins and old-fashioned taffy from McCraw Candies and Gilliam Candy Co. International treats include wacky Japanese sours that make our American lemon sours taste wimpy.

A small, concise sampling of wines, dessert wines, and sakes are fitting accompaniments to your dessert of choice. And Mimosas are offered to start the weekend on the right note.

A visit to Citizen Cupcake Café and Bar will satisfy the sweet tooth craving, whether it's with a nostalgic cupcake (the grown up version) or candy shop treats. The only question is which one to choose…

Citizen Cupcake Café and Bar
Union Square/Downtown