a little cupcake chat with charise mericle harper

Are you in the mood for a deliciously plain vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting right about now?

Certainly hope so, because Charise Mericle Harper has stopped by to chat about Cupcake: A Journey to Special (Disney-Hyperion, 2010)! Seems everyone is crazy about this scrumptious, sparkly story that attempts to answer the question: Can a plain vanilla cupcake find happiness in a razzle dazzle world?

When Cupcake was born, he “felt special to be part of such a large and colorful family,” which included the likes of Stripy Cupcake, Fancy Flower-Top Cupcake, and Polka-Dot Cupcake. But after all his brothers and sisters get picked, leaving him alone on the plate, Cupcake doesn’t feel special any more; he’s simply “too creamy white and plain.” Luckily, he’s befriended by a plain green candle who has a bright idea: all Cupcake needs is a special topping! Will it be pickles, pancakes, spaghetti, an egg, smelly cheese or peas? It’s definitely not what you might think!

I was curious to find out more about how Charise cooked up this fun, quirky story, because even though not all cupcakes are created equal, the “journey to special” can be very sweet for some.

Jama: Why a cupcake book?

Charise: Well, the credit for the inspiration of this book definitely has to go to my kids. They love cupcakes! My daughter especially loves plain vanilla cupcakes. It’s a good thing I didn’t put her in the story or she would have eaten the main character. Before I had kids I had only a passing interest in cupcakes; now, I own a cupcake carrier. Need twenty-four cupcakes safely delivered to a party? I’m your gal!

One of Charise’s “cupcake topping experiments.”

Jama: I love the surprise ending. Did it come easily to you?

Charise: I usually struggle with the ending of books, but this time I had the joke ending figured out before I had written the body of the story. I did make one small change to the ending though, just before the book went to print. In my original version, on the very last page, the candle used to say, “Tomorrow let’s try celery.” I had my daughter, who is eight, read an advance proof of the book. She suggested that kids might be confused because the candle is green and he looks a little like a stalk of celery. This seemed like a good editorial suggestion, so at the last minute we swapped potato for celery. I’m glad we did because potato is much funnier.

I think I’ll stick to cream cheese.

Jama: Was eating a fair number of cupcakes and/or testing different varieties part of your process? What’s your favorite kind? 

Charise: I have to admit, that while I love the look and totally love the idea of cupcakes, I’m not naturally drawn to them. I didn’t eat very many cupcakes while I was working on this book. I’m more of a pie person. I can say, “no thank you,” to a cupcake, but a piece of pie always has me saying, “Why yes, I’d love a piece.”

The best cupcake I have ever had was a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting. It was fabulous! I don’t get to have these very often because carrot cake always has walnuts in it, and I’m allergic to walnuts. Maybe that’s why when I come across them they seem so special. It’s quite perfect really, because a cupcake should be special.

Jama: Why do you think people are so crazy for cupcakes these days?

Charise: I think cupcakes are popular because they are symbols of small personal celebration.

It’s the treat that accompanies the little “Ta Da” moments that we want to acknowledge.

Cupcakes are also one of the few small food items that, for the most part, are not often consumed on the run.

We stop.

We sit.

We celebrate.

That is unusual in these times. And special.

           Sweet or dill?

Jama: Were cupcakes a big part of your childhood? If so, please share a favorite memory. 

Charise: I cannot really remember cupcakes being part of my childhood, but we were a big dessert family. My mom made a homemade dessert for every meal. I was spoiled that way. Thanks to my mom I have a very well developed sweet tooth!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I don’t know about you, but now I simply must have a vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting. I’m thinking that in my quest for the perfect chocolate cupcake or my eagerness to try the new fancy flavors, I may have forgotten about the sublime in the simple. Lucky for us, Charise has included a recipe for Deliciously Plain Vanilla Cupcakes and Deliciously Plain Buttercream Frosting in the book. Yum! But first, I must locate a potato.

Now hear this: Cupcake has been selected for the Spring 2010 Indie Next Kids’ List! Reach for it when your littlest munchkins ask for a treat! ☺

Thanks for visiting, Charise!

Everyone, a few moments of silence, please, to honor the vanilla cupcake (sans topping), right before you gobble it up!

photo by lemonholistic.

CUPCAKE by Charise Mericle Harper
published by Disney-Hyperion, January 2010
Picture book for ages 2-6, 32 pp.
Review copy provided by publisher.

♥ Special thanks to Jules of 7-Imp for her help with the spreads!

♥ Delicious review of Cupcake by Fuse #8 here.

♥ Check out Charise Mericle Harper’s cool website. Lots of fun!


*Spreads posted by permission, copyright © 2010 Charise Mericle Harper, published by Disney-Hyperion. All rights reserved.

**Cupcake topping photos copyright © 2010 Charise Mericle Harper. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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