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The Icing on the Cupcake; Jennifer (Buckley) O’Connell ’87
Jennifer (Buckley) O’Connell ’87 loves cupcakes.
From the traditional – vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter – to the unusual – S’mores, mint Oreo and chocolate banana – making cupcakes and other edible treats at O’Connell’s Cupcake Kitchen and Luncheonette in the small town of Irvington, N.Y., fits right into her artistic sensibilities. And getting to design sugary creations in the shape of dogs, cats, flowers or even turkeys for Thanksgiving is “the icing on the cake.”
It’s hard to say which of the five senses are tantalized most when one walks into O’Connell’s store. It could be the sense of smell as you inhale the warm, chocolatey goodness of freshly baked cupcakes or your sight as you take in the light, comfortable interior, with its pastel blue and white retro chairs and tables. Maybe it’s the sense of hearing as you listen to the laughter and chit-chat that fills the quaint luncheonette. Or, could it be the sense of touch as your fingers grasp the soft, still-warm-from-the-oven cupcake before taking a bite. Most likely it’s the sense of taste, as you bite down into the luscious butter cream icing to the moist and delicious chocolate, vanilla or even peach flavored cake below.
Cupcakes are happy and can be the ultimate comfort food, says O’Connell. “It’s the kind of food our moms used to make us,” she adds. “You know, you have a birthday party at school and she bakes cupcakes for you to take in and share with everyone.” It’s even more comforting to know that these delectable goodies are made without additives and by using high quality natural ingredients and local butter. By using natural ingredients, O’Connell says she feels she is preserving the American comfort-food experience.
O’Connell also tries to offer that feeling of security and comfort in her décor. The Cupcake Kitchen’s long counters with stools fastened to the floor remind customers of a 1950s soda counter. “That time was very comforting to people,” she says. “Even if they have no memories from that decade—whether they were too young or not even born yet—everyone seems to understand the simplicity of life then.”
Although The Cupcake Kitchen just opened in May 2009, O’Connell has been planning the restaurant for the last four years. An art and design major, O’Connell worked for 14 years following graduation in the fashion industry. She created the lingerie line, French Jenny, with classmate, R. Scott French ’87 and served as the company’s executive vice president. But she wanted a change of pace; a chance to savor the sweet things in life. “I was ready to do something new in my life. I had small children and did a lot of traveling. I didn’t have the time to spend with my kids or in my community.”
O’Connell always loved food. In fact she began her college career at Albright as a dietetics major, but switched to art and design sophomore year in order to satisfy her creative urges. Baking, she says, allows her a chance to express her creativity and make people happy.
But freshly baked cupcakes aren’t the only mouth-watering treat served at The Cupcake Kitchen and Luncheonette. One can also sample from a menu featuring breakfast and light lunch salads, and though O’Connell is a strict vegetarian, she serves everything from hamburgers and hotdogs to arugula salad and veggie burgers.
But the cupcakes are what she loves most.
– Lacey Winters ‘10