Satisfy your sweet tooth with some of the finest cupcakes in town, including the Blueberry cupcake at Royal Cupcake.
/ Korea Times Photos
by Shim Hyun-chul
By Han Sang-hee
Cupcakes have become a trend here, with shops springing up like mushrooms all over Seoul. But for a unique experience, pay a visit to some of the most famous ones that boast not only taste, but also their own distinctive style.
Just Like Home
As one of the first cupcake shops in Seoul, ``Life is Just a Cup of Cake'' has lived up to its reputation quite well: Easy, simple and comfortable.
Although the shop is not spacious, it's cozy and perfect for a comfortable evening with a cupcake, coffee and a chat with friends.
``I went for the `Tom Sawyer' or even the `Anne of Green Gables' concept, which I always liked. I loved the images where there is a friendly aunt, making delicious cake, offering a big piece on a colorful plate with the children gobbling them down instantly with a large glass of milk,'' Lee Saem, the owner of the shop told The Korea Times.
Having worked in an advertising company, Lee discovered that she didn't have much time to fulfill her needs ― not as an employee of a company ― but as a person.
``There came a point when I felt I needed to create something on my own. I wanted to express my own voice,'' she explained when asked how she came up with the idea of opening a cupcake shop.
She looked back and discovered she had always been fond of cupcakes, and decided to make the small, simple and tasty treats along with coffee.
While other cupcake places boast fancy and somewhat heavy decorations on the cakes, Lee's recipe is more modest ― a touch of frosting and small decorations are enough to bring out the taste, she says.
``For me, it's more about the shape of the cake itself. Some people think the frosting and decorations are what make a good cupcake, but the foremost importance, and challenge, for me is the cake and its shape,'' Lee said.
Just as her words indicate, the cupcakes made by the owner are slightly different from other places.
Instead of the frosting covering the whole cupcake, Lee makes sure the customer can find the cake beneath the colorful decoration.
The positive energy Lee aims for is also one of the main reasons visitors come back, also evident in the name of the shop.
``I always liked the song `Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,' and so I changed the lyrics and came up with `Cup of Cake.' Like the song, I do hope people can relax and forget about their worries in life while enjoying cupcakes.''
``Life is Just a Cup of Cake'' is located near Itaewon Station. Get off at exit 2 and walk straight until you find Korean restaurant ``Sigol Babsang.'' Turn left at the corner and the shop is on your right. Visit www.cupcake.co.kr or call (02) 794-2908.
Modern and Artful
Finding Goodovening Cupcake may be tricky, as it is located far from the busy and stylish streets of Apgujeong-dong or Cheongdam-dong. It is even harder to find as it's located in the basement, with no windows to show off the cupcakes, but just a simple black and white sign that bears the shop's interesting name.
``Me and my husband were thinking about a name, and he came up with the word `goodovening,' only because I use good ingredients and my good friend, the oven,'' Kim Shin-ae, the president of the now successful business told The Korea Times.
Kim, who studied painting and photography, and her graphic designer husband didn't plan to open a cupcake place at all since they first bought the space for their artwork.
``I discovered cupcakes while I was living in the United States. There was a cupcake place right next to where I lived, and I worked as a cashier and they would give me the leftovers every night. When I moved back to Korea, I wanted to have some, so I started baking,'' she said.
Discovering a talent for baking, the young couple decided to sell them online, just for fun, and when they actually had orders the next day they posted the news, she was surprised and thrilled.
``It was exciting. We got orders and so I made them and actually went up to the customers' doorsteps myself to deliver them. Then the news spread and the business got bigger than I could handle,'' Kim added.
The shop in Sinsa-dong is far from fancy, compared to other colorful and well-decorated cupcake places. Instead of heavy decorations, the shop has a more modern touch, with simple white walls, artwork by her and her husband and stacks of fashion and photography magazines on the tables.
Now, Goodovening Cupcake has 10 branches across Seoul and also in Bundang and Ilsan. Kim also signed a contract with Hyundai Department Store.
``Cupcakes may have come from the U.S., but the news has spread and many people from the U.S. have come to try out our new recipes. We are also looking into branching out to the U.S., so hopefully, you will be able to taste our cupcakes in America too,'' Kim added.
From Cine City near Dosan Park, walk toward Sinsa Station until you find the Dosan crossroads. Turn right and walk straight to Daelim Culture Center and cross the street. Walk straight until you find the black and white sign. Visit www.goodovening.com or call (070) 8118-9524.
Royal and Fabulous
Royal Cupcake may be the perfect place for those who are looking for fancy decorations and colorful frostings: the completion of a fabulous cupcake.
``The main reason why cupcakes are popular is because they are cute, easy to eat and most of all, pretty!'' Kum Ki-young, the owner of Royal Cupcake, told The Korea Times.
The exterior of the shop stands out with its pink and white walls, yet the inside shows a more modern touch with black and white chairs and tables.
However the ``royalness'' is projected with the fancy cupcakes lined up inside the glass container. From bunny ears to flower petals, Royal Cupcake offers not only delicious cakes, but decorates them so they look like they have just jumped out of a fairy tale book.
``To be honest, it would be hard to say that our cupcakes are healthy, but consider them as a treat. Sometimes, people need something sweet, and our cupcakes are the perfect choice, especially for young, curious and stylish women,'' Kum said.
Fancy and sweet they may be, but the owner emphasized that she uses the best ingredients, from fresh fruit, chocolate from France and butter.
When it comes to the costs ― each cupcake costs 5,000 won ― Kum admitted it could be a burden for some.
``Many people compare cupcakes to the small slices of cake sold at local bakeries. But we use different, and better, ingredients, take time to decorate them and create something prettier than the plain sliced cakes offered everywhere else,'' she said.
``Cupcakes are small, various in flavors and visually very charming. Perfect for special occasions or even any ordinary day,'' Kum added.
Royal Cupcake is located behind the Gucci store in Cheongdam-dong. Visit www.royalcupcake.co.kr or call (02) 540-8918.