Old-style pastry shop becomes new favorite

One of the treats at the Velvet Cupcake. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandonakes

One of the treats at the Velvet Cupcake. Photo by Maria Kalaitzandonakes

Maria Kalaitzandonakes

  A cold Columbia wind swirls the scents of black coffee and sweet frosting around Eighth Street, home to this town’s newest business: Velvet Cupcake.
Nestled next to the Tiger Hotel is this small shop with gleaming wood walls and just-for-two tables that give off a charming nostalgia. The floor, a mosaic of small white tiles that reflect the colors of the cupcakes decorating the bakery, echoes a tapping noise each time the little barista walks. Her vintage hat and white waist apron fit in perfectly with the almost Parisian manner of the place.
The cupcakes, themselves, are art.  Each type is stacked behind glass and looks up temptingly — tiramisu, s’more, Nutella and hazelnut, triple chocolate and its namesake red velvet. The icing wraps its way up the cupcakes, spinning up to the top where a small treat tops it off.
The cupcakes sit delicately on a white plate and a fork lays at its side. Two businessmen sit at the corner, one with his purple tie thrown carelessly over his shoulder as he digs into his sweet feast. The other sips milky coffee from an oversized, Friends-like Central Perk mug. They share a private conversation, with the soft music of the place adding to the ambiance.
Pastry chef Cale Ivy, dressed in the uniform black and white checked pants, shows the lemon raspberry cupcake model off to the customers. He and the other chefs taste the cupcakes, plan their flavors and spend much time on their designs. When decorating a wedding cake or a cupcake, Ivy draws it out to size, noting the colors and ingredients to use.
“We make all the parts of the cupcake from scratch,” Ivy said. “I’m a big foodie, so my vision is to use only fresh ingredients. Like, come spring we’ll have a strawberry shortcake cupcake.”
The business is just getting started, with the chefs creating and testing menu items, but it is already expanding. Ivy said he hopes to change the opening time from the current 10 a.m. to earlier in the morning to catch the breakfast crowd and expand the collection of morning pastries. Most of their current costumers are walk-ins, but many have already requested large orders.
“I went in the other day with some girlfriends. The atmosphere and cupcakes made for a great visit,” biology teacher April Sulze said. “The best part was the frosting: sweet and creamy. Delicious.”
From the careful red script spelling out “Velvet Cupcake” on the window to the cake pops covered in crinkly orange paper, the place is enchanting. And with one hefty bite of all the layers, costumers taste the newest flavor of Columbia. Because of the the store’s dream of becoming a new date-night spot, Ivy said they are pulling out all the stops for Valentine’s Day.
“Chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered cherries,” Ivy said, “the whole place is going to be decorated.”
The romantic feel of the small tables and the soft light, solidified by the display of towering wedding cakes in the window, are part of the store’s niche. Mostly, though, Ivy said, the chefs’ focus on making things the three of them would enjoy to eat, too.
“The vision is flavor,” Ivy said. “It’s really about the taste, and the freshness. … That’s what will bring people back.”
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes