keeping up(chuck) with the Joneses

Few things are more unpleasant to throw up than a combination of mostly-digested hamburger and just-eaten cupcake. I speak as a (semi) expert, seeing as I had ample opportunity to compare the relative merits of regurgitated foods during my excruciating stint of morning sickness when I was gestating Happy Fun Baby. (The winner? Cheerios. They taste pretty much the same coming up as they do going down.)

I definitely would have eschewed the hamburger in favor of Cheerios had I known that my dessert was made of poison. We stopped at Cupcake Jones last night, since I have a love thing for cupcake bakeries. This place just opened up in the Pearl, and it is ever-so-slightly more conveniently located than Saint Cupcake, which makes absolutely divine cupcakes.

Cupcake Jones seemed like a great choice – open late, cute logo, etc. We popped in around 8pm and each ordered a Downtown Cupcake Brown and The Pearl, opting for a Pearl Mini for the baby. They only had one Pearl frosted, so they frosted the other one while we waited. (This might prove to be an important detail.) We brought our haul home (+/- 5 minutes; gotta love living downtown). Not So and I both decided to eat the Pearl first, and the first thing we noticed was that there was WAY too much frosting. The frosting-to-cupcake ratio was almost equal. Also, the frosting was squishy and warm – on both cupcakes (including the one that was more recently frosted). Still, it tasted good, and we ate our cupcakes (which were just okay, not toe-curlingly fantastic like the ones from Saint Cupcake). As we ate we decided not to give the Mini to the baby, since there was so much frosting on it. Instead I gave Happy Fun Baby a couple of bites of mine – bites that had no frosting but did include cake and custard.

Immediately after finishing our treat, Not So and I felt really unwell. We thought it was the sugar giving us a headache and making us feel queasy. An hour later I came in and said “My god, I feel sick.” Not So: “I do too! I wasn’t going to say anything, but I feel seriously bad.” The baby (who, yes, was still awake…bedtimes have not been working for us, again) seemed fine. An hour after that I was experiencing the joys of regurgitated hamburger and cupcake, and we both decided that the frosting must have turned because my god, we were sick.

I’m all about supporting local businesses (especially bakeries!) but food poisoning on our first visit? Not really a good motivator to come back. And, seriously, if you’re a bakery and you can’t figure out the proper temperature for buttercream that doesn’t poison your customers? You should really consider a new outlet for your creativity.

Today Not So has a migraine, and he never gets migraines. Related? Unrelated? Who knows. All I know is I won’t be visiting Cupcake Jones again.

Tags: , portland, cupcake bakery, food poisoning

14 thoughts on “keeping up(chuck) with the Joneses”

  1. y’know, i think it speaks volumes that the owner of cupcake jones felt it necessary to come here and post her letter, then to say ‘hey, sorry you’re sick, but if i actually thought we caused your vomiting episode, i’d be sincere about my apologies.’

    you run a business. learn to deal with criticisms. the customer is always right. even when they aren’t. didn’t you learn that in business school?

    you can bet your sweet ass that if the health inspector had came in there and ate your cupcakes then proceeded to spew everywhere, you would have never questioned him as to what could possibly have made him sick.

    it’s all in how you deal with people.

    oh, ps: hope you’re feeling better, crankymama! i happen to love your sarcastic wit and have the ability to comprehend a hyperbole when i see one! =p


  2. Oy. I wasn’t being insincere when I responded to Lisa – I do wish her luck, I do hope her business does well and I do hope ours was an unrelated incident. But the fact remains: we got sick after we ate there. The possibility that my husband and I both happened to come down with a flu within minutes of eating those cupcakes? Not likely.

    I can’t help it if people are offended by that. I find it a little baffling, but I’m not going to apologize (for, what, puking up cupcake? I mean, dude, I didn’t get any on your shoes, did I?).

    I really appreciate the information about the pastry cream…definitely sounds like we could have had Staph, although as Cupcake Sara points out we didn’t go to the doctor and have any tests done so there’s no way to be sure.

    I did use some incendiary wording in my original post and maybe that’s why people are up in arms. I tend to exaggerate for comic effect when I write. For the record, I do not actually believe that Cupcake Jones served us anything “made of poison.” I think we got sick from their cupcakes. End of story.


  3. Dear Cupcake Sara,

    You are giving Cranky Mama a hard time because she made a valid “assumption” that a warm, unrefrigerated, pastry cream filled cupcake from Cupcake Jones made her sick. So why are you then making an “assumption” that Saint Cupcake uses fake flavors in their cupcakes. You would have to work at Saint Cupcake to know what they use in their cupcakes. You don’t have to work at Cupcake Jones to know that they don’t have a refrigerated case and that pastry cream filled cupcakes are sitting out at improper temperatures. You also don’t have to work there to know that when something is filled with pastry cream it should be held at temperatures 40 degrees, or below at ALL times. Even if it is “freezing” in there it is not 40 degrees, or below. So lets stop making “assumptions” and just eat the cupcakes we like best and feel the safest eating.
    Just my thoughts.


  4. I have a cupcake obsession. From New Yorks Magnolia, to Beverly Hills Sprinkles I have tasted them all. Some I have loved, others not so much.
    Because I love all things baked, I like to spark conversation with the employees. Everyone there was not only super sweet, but also very knowledgeable about the product. I spoke with Elizabeth, I assumed the head baker, and she oozed love, and pride for these sweet little treats. I stayed for about 25 minutes and witnessed a tight little group of smart women creating amazing and safe products. These are not the type of people that would allow unacceptable product to cross that clean counter. The customer flow was very steady, people buying dozens left and right. I find it hard to believe those cupcakes sit there for very long,and my only complaint was the fact it was freezing in there, and I can guess thats a temperature control set for the cupcakes.
    I dont prefer to mix my cupcake writings with fecal matter and vomit, but I felt the need to stick up for the new kids in town. I am sorry angry mama that your family fell ill. But you have to understand the anatomy of FBI (food borne illness) before you make accusations that could hurt the reputation of a new business. I found your wishes to Lisa empty, and a bit mean spirited.

    Heres the low down on food poisoning from this nurse of 32 years:
    Food poisoning comes from a bacteria, virus or parasite. Because pastry cream is a dairy product, it is a high risk for bacterial growth and should be kept refrigerated.
    After you eat contaminated food, there can be a 6 hour to 3 day delay before symptoms are noticed. The contaminating organism passes through the stomach into the intestine, attaches to the intestinal walls, and begins to multiply. Some organisms stay in the intestine, some produce a toxin that is absorbed into the bloodstream, and others directly invade body tissues. Your stomach is not built to identify “bad food” its simply there to break everything down. Your intestines are the brains of your guts, and will begin to move all things bad out of the body. Via: vomit, or rushed through your bowels. Your symptoms depend greatly on the type of organism that has infected you. Its expected to schedule a doctors visit after experiencing food poisoning. A stool or blood sample it taken to determine the type and severity. Used not only as a safe measure for you, but it is also documented to watch for more like illnesses.

    Bottom line:
    There will be natural competition between cupcake palaces. My best friend of 20 years prefers Saint Cupcake, and I am a Jones. Let there be tasty debates as to who has the better cupcake. Because it all come down to personal preference. She admits to loving the fake flavoring they use. Her favorite candy is dipsticks. Fake flavor! I grew up on more subtle flavors. If it was an orange cake, it was flavored with orange zest.
    I love a good healthy debate, but when the integrity of a business is compromised on an “assumption” the line has been crossed.
    Just my thoughts.


  5. Most likely it was the pastry cream that made you sick and not the buttercream. Buttercream contains a lot of sugar and butter which both help to preserve it. Buttercream can actually be left unrefrigerated for a couple days. Pastry cream however must ALWAYS be refigerated. Pastry cream that hasn’t been properly cooled has made many people sick. After pastry cream is made it must be cooled quickly in an ice bath and then refrigerated. If it is not cooled quickly, and then kept cool, bacteria can start to multiply. It is possible that Cupcake Jones didn’t cool their pastry cream properly. I’ve noticed that they don’t have a refrigerated pastry case, which means the pastry cream filled cupcakes are sitting at room temperature all day! Definetly not up to health code! Also, the type of food poisoning that people get from cream-filled pastries that aren’t kept cool is called Staph food poisoning. Staph food poisoning comes on very quickly, usually within 30 minutes. Sounds exactly like what happened to you. Anyways, we are all probably safer eating at Saint Cupcake where they don’t use pastry cream. Hope you are feeling better.


  6. Lisa, I appreciate your response. It seems unlikely that my husband and I both suddenly came down with a flu after eating your cupcakes, but it certainly is possible. I do wish you success with your business and I really hope ours was an unrelated experience.


  7. I am the owner of Cupcake Jones and this is the email that I immediately sent to Jessica after I heard from her.

    “Hello Jessica,

    Thank you for writing to us.

    I am very sorry to hear that you and your husband weren’t feeling well last night.

    Our buttercream is made fresh everyday and it was made fresh late in the afternoon yesterday. With the volume we go through we have to make it at least once, if not twice daily.

    It is very unlikely that our buttercream could have caused food poisoning. That is our second highest selling cupcake, we ice and decorate it fresh all day everyday and I personally was icing them last night and know that they didn’t sit out. I ate “The Pearl” myself late last night and had no problems. Also, you are the only person who has contacted us about this. We sold over 175 cupcakes yesterday with that icing on it and if it were bad, there is a good chance we would have heard from someone else.

    Is it possible you ate anything else last night that might not have agreed with you? Is it possible you both caught a flu?

    Again, I am so sorry that you and your husband weren’t feeling well. If I felt our buttercream was the reason, I would certainly take responsibility but in this case, I just don’t see how it could be.

    Thank you,


    I love the freedom that comes with the internet so I feel comfortable defending the quality, freshness, and wholesomeness of our cupcakes in the same way that Jessica felt comfortable writing about her experience.

    By the way, thanks for the compliment about the logo and about being open late. My husband and I spend every evening here chatting with our customers seven days a week. It makes for a VERY long day but we do it because we love it.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond.



  8. Hey! Maybe I should! And thanks for the advice; it certainly makes more sense to ignore the fact that my family got sick instantly after eating those cupcakes and instead try and find some other, unrelated incident that might have made us ill.


  9. How do you know it was the frosting? I would think all of that sugar would serve as a preservative, but then again what do I know? Also, keep in mind that burgers are pretty easy to get sick off of, what with the whole raw-meat thing (and that food poisoning can take a full 48 hours to kick in). I eat cupcake jones like a fiend and have not yet had any problems. I say until I start feeling nasty side effects (other than tight jeans) the frosting is fine. Maybe you should sit online and complain some more. Of course it couldn’t be anything else that made you sick.


  10. Poor Baby! I feel your pain on the throw-up scale, and can so totally relate to the feeling of hanging over the bowl evaluating the stuff on a scale of “not as bad as X, but definately worse than Y”. Yes, I can even top the icky-factor in hamburger and bad cupcake. And yes, I have enough willpower to keep it to myself. If you really REALLY need to know, you can always pm me for a detailed comparison.


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