Though the peak of the cupcake craze has since been overtaken by macaron madness, Cream & Flutter has got you covered on both fronts. This charming sweet shop and bakery reminds you why some treats are modern classics.
Cream & Flutter has graced downtown Champaign for less than a decade, but in that time has become an institution catering to all ages and occasions. Specializing in cupcakes, but also selling British candies, cookies, brownies, ice cream, dog treats, and some home goods, its shabby chic, cottage-antique whimsy transports you to a blithely romantic atmosphere perfect for casual dates, celebrations, and family outings. And it goes without saying that its products are heavenly.
I love Cream & Flutter’s cupcakes because each of the components is carefully designed and perfectly constructed. The cake’s crumb is very light, but retains its moisture. And the star of the show, the characteristic spiral of frosting, is feather-light and satiny. I also love the way the frosting has the slightest crust, so that you get several contrasting textures in the dessert.
The seasonal specialty ($3.79), dark chocolate salted caramel cupcake, is outstanding. I love chocolate, but am so often disappointed by chocolate cakes or ice creams that don’t taste of it. But this cupcake sings of dark chocolate through and through. The cupcake and frosting balance bitter and sweet perfectly, and are punctuated by the sea salt and crunchy, buttery, and nutty caramel studding the frosting. The exceptional quality of the dark chocolate in both the fudgy frosting and cupcake are starkly evident.
Among the signature cupcakes ($3.19), I tried the vanilla cupcake. I love vanilla, and rue those who associate this flavor with blandness. With vanilla, one cannot hide behind tricks or gimmicks — quality alone can stand. Cream & Flutter’s vanilla cupcake is fantastic. Rather than the dark musk of vanilla pods, Cream & Flutter’s vanilla cupcake captures the lively headiness of vanilla’s tannic sharpness, but in a gentle, ethereal, and delicate concoction. The cupcake is sweet, but restrained, as it proffers up the buttercream frosting as a paradoxical joy. The frosting hits a high sweet note, but is not cloying. Its flavor seems simple, but it is not just one note. I also love the almost invisible sprinkles that adds some humor to the cupcake’s monochromatic elegance.
Another favorite is the macaron. I usually get the pistachio pinwheel ($5 or $5.50), but there were small macarons (5 for $10) when I visited. Both the pinwheel and macaron have incredibly delicate and airy upper crusts that shatter when you take a bite. The crust gives way to a delightfully chewy, nougat-like texture.
Cream & Flutter also offers coffee and tea. I ordered the chai latte which is made with Kilogram Tea concentrate ($3). The primary flavors are clove, cinnamon, and ginger, so much so that towards the end of the drink, it tasted almost like Big Red. Its provided a welcome contrast to the cupcakes and macaron.
During the day, Cream & Flutter offers a quiet and airy brightness perfect for studying or a chat with friends. But at night, its strings of lights and decorations glow to create a cozy ambiance. It’s a place that offers an array of gourmet delights and specialty products that add a bit of magic and care to our lives.
Cream & Flutter is located on 114 North Walnut Street, Champaign, and is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 8 p.m.
All photos by Jean Lee.