Small-batch bakery tastes big-time success

by Alex Ashe

I’ve never met a cupcake I didn’t want to eat. Until now, that is.

When it’s time for me to dig into one of the signature cupcakes at Greenbsoro’s Easy Peasy Decadent Desserts, I’m overcome by a state I seldom experience with food in front of me. I’m hesitant, and the longer I stare at this thing, the less I want to actually eat it. It’s not aesthetically lacking though. It’s completely tantalizing, and therein lies the problem. When a piece of food is this elegantly presented, eating it feels like an act of desecration.

The quick success of Easy Peasy and its owners Traci and Erik Rankins is both encouraging and understandable.

Last year, Traci, a former private chef, began selling homemade cupcakes at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. They were a hit from day one, and their demand only grew. Soon enough, Traci was accepting custom orders and baking sweets en masse out of her home kitchen until it became too small to house the demands.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t really move in my kitchen,” she said. “I needed something bigger.”

In June, Easy Peasy opened its current storefront across from Ghassan’s on Battleground Avenue. Its business structure is simple: Traci runs the kitchen, leaving Erik in charge of everything from clerical and logistical tasks to social media — responsibilities that have expanded with the business.

“He’s a screenwriter for a living, but he’s sort of put that on hold to help me live out my dream,” she said. “I couldn’t do this without him.”

Easy Peasy offers six unique flavors of cupcakes each week — unique being the operative word. Among the possibilities: mimosa—a champagne-infused white cake topped with orange butter cream, pistachio raspberry — a pistachio cake topped with raspberry butter cream and crushed pistachios, and chunky monkey — a yellow cake filled with banana slices and chocolate chunks and topped with chocolate cream and a banana chip.

Intricate and perfectly symmetrical, they’re fully emblematic of the notion of desserts as a form of high art. The cream that garnishes each one has been applied flawlessly. They’re each supported by a piece of colored wax paper folded in a flower-like shape. Perhaps it’s this touch that elicits my sudden sense of reverence. Eating the cupcake requires peeling back the paper, making the experience feel more like Christmas morning than dessert.

I’ve stared at this cupcake long enough, though. At this rate, I’m one step away from to assigning it a name and feelings.

My qualms are put to rest once the flavors hit me. In the case of the Drunken Pumpkin, that occurs immediately. A dark rum-infused pumpkin cake topped with cinnamon butter cream and chocolate chips, it’s practically a microcosm of a pumpkin pie with the added hints of rum and chocolate.

Another offering, Mayan Chocolate, isn’t as straightforward. If I were to merely look at it, or even bite into it and wait three seconds, it would seem to be a standard chocolate cupcake. But I eventually encounter a delayed wave of mild zest, a back-of-your-throat spiciness somewhat akin to a candy fireballs. Made with Mexican chocolate Abuelita and chili peppers, Mayan Chocolate is one of Easy Peasy’s most popular cupcakes, Rankins says. It’s easy to see why. A delightful amalgam of sugar and spice, the cupcake lingers with me long after I finish it. It’s a flavor so unique my taste buds have committed it to memory, and I can vaguely taste it just by thinking about it. It’s not easy to leave that kind of impact with a cupcake.

There’s more to Easy Peasy than just cupcakes, though. On top of a selection of irresistible staples that includes cheesecakes, lemon squares and scones, Traci keeps the menu dynamic by offering themed daily specials. For instance, she baked a batch of small apple pies on Wednesday, gorgeous double chocolate French macaroons on Thursday and an array of gluten-free items on Friday. She steps outside the realm of sweets on Saturdays, offering a brunch menu headlined by a vegetarian quiche before cupcakes exit the oven around noon.

The gourmet cupcake craze of recent years has been somewhat of an easy target of ridicule among foodies, who tend to assert that it’s more of a water-treading fad than a culinary movement. There’s some validity to that, too. Because of a cupcake’s strict template, there’s a perceived ceiling as to how a cupcake can be prepared and how enjoyable one can be. I’m not the snobbish sort who believes a cupcake needs to justify its existence, but in order to stand out, one must up the ante.

By crafting cupcakes imaginative in both their taste and presentation, Easy Peasy has done just that.

Providing the Gate City with a bevy of baked goods that stray from the norm would seemingly garner the Rankins plenty of goodwill, but they don’t stop there. At the end of each day, Easy Peasy donates its leftovers to Greensboro Urban Ministries, ensuring a chance for everyone, from the wealthy to the less fortunate, to taste its sweet success.