Hey cupcake

Cupcakes are the happiest food on earth. I dare you to defy me on that. Wrapped in crinkly paper collars and capped with a pastel poof of buttercream, they’re unabashedly adorable. They come in dozens. And no one can pull off sprinkles and candy glitter with the same panache.

But when it comes to taste, well, that’s where things sometimes go horribly wrong. Dry, crumbly cake. Greasy, fake frosting that leaves behind a room full of purple fingerprints and blue teeth. Exactly the sort of thing that keeps cupcake baker Andrea Ballus awake at night. Or rather up at 4am each morning.

As owner of Sift, the Sonoma County’s first official cupcakery, Ballus is dedicated to the art of killer cupcakes. With a baker’s dozen (or so) flavors fresh made each day, she and her staff (of one) are barely keeping up with demand. Not exactly surprising when at least half the menu reads like a high-end cocktail list–Pink Champagne, Miami Vice, Limonata, the Irish Car Bomb and the Ooh La La. Cute, but just a little dangerous.

Using non-traditional ingredients like Guiness Stout, champagne, green tea and key lime pie filling, Ballus is elevating the cupcake to more than a mere snack. It’s a little bit of pastry heaven.

The long-time Bay Area resident recently returned from a stint in Las Vegas, where cupcake shops have become all the rage with sweet-teethed grown-ups. Inspired by the baking bug, she opened her Cotati shop in mid-April. She shop has been reduced to crumbs nearly every day since.

Cupcakes run $2.75 a piece, which may sound a bit shocking at first. But consider the cost of morning croissant. Or a Starbuck’s latte. Cupcakes are way better and they won’t make you nearly as jittery. Unless of course, you eat twelve–which is exactly what BiteClub did (with a few friends) after grabbing a dirty dozen from Sift ($30).

With a hearty shout of “Cupcake Tasting!”, we decimated a box in just under 15 minutes. Results as follows:

Handsdown Winner
Key Lime Bliss: Vanilla cake with key lime pie filling and key lime frosting

Car Casualty (meaning it never even made it back to the office, it was so dang good)
Miami Vice: Pina Colada cake with fresh strawberry frosting.

Most Surprising
The 50/50: Orange cake with cream cheese frosting (think Creamsicle)

Most fascinating to the guys
Ooh La La: Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I won’t even try to figure that one out.

Most radically delish

Irish Car Bomb: Chocolate Guiness cake with Irish cream frosting.

Best for Last
With its unassuming white frosting, this little sneaker got left for last. But oh, how good it was.
Pink Champagne: Fresh raspberry cake with champagne frosting.

And the rest
Pinking of You: Vanilla cake with pink buttercream frosting
Bugsy: Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Limonata: Lemon cake with strawberry frosting
Showball: Coconut cake with cream cheese frosting
Chocolatease: Vanilla cake with chocolate frosting
Over the Moon: Chocolate cake with pink buttercream frosting

Sift Cupcakery: 7582 Commerce Blvd., Cotati, 792.1681. Open Tuesday through Friday from 7am to 6pm, Saturday 10am toi 5pm and Sunday noon to 5pm. Closed Monday.