The Best Cupcake in All 50 States

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We’re going to sugarcoat it. Twelve years after the advent of the cupcake-only bakery (the California-launched chain Sprinkles is credited with opening the first in 2005), there are a lot of options. We rounded up 50 of the best decadent desserts across the country. So go out, have your (cup)cake—and eat it, too.

1. ALABAMA // WEDDING CAKE, DREAMCAKES BAKERY

Location: Homewood, Alabama

State newspaper Al.com found this shop, well, quite dreamy—giving them top honors in a 2012 hunt. Co-owner Jan Potter, a former food stylist, said she focuses on both taste and Instagram-ibility of the treats, telling the paper, “I believe you eat with your eyes first.” Of the 80 flavors on offer—between 18 to 20 are available each day—the paper was most impressed by best seller Wedding Cake, a white velvet confection with almond buttercream.

2. ALASKA // LEMON ROSEMARY SMOKED SALMON, KASTLE'S KREATIONS

Eagle River Alaska
Eagle River, Alaska
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Location: Eagle River, Alaska

A perennial best of winner—most recently named Alaska’s top food truck—the mobile bakery offers flavors ranging from churro to strawberry lemonade. And for the truly brave, there’s the lemon rosemary smoked salmon deity that landed owner Kastle Sorensen and assistant Amy Gruce a victory on a 2013 episode of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

3. ARIZONA // FRENCH TOAST, TREEHOUSE BAKERY

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Who needs buttercream? This dairy-free shop was named best in the state by culinary website The Daily Meal, who declared, “A vegan bakery that makes you forget about the fact that it is vegan is a winner in our book.” And for the truly healthy conscious, many of their rotating 30 flavors—including standout French Toast—are available in gluten-free varieties.

4. ARKANSAS // RED VELVET, PATTICAKES BAKERY

Location: Conway, Arkansas

With a five-star rating on The Knot, brides will want the pros at this Conway shop to bake them a cake (or cupcake tower!) as fast as they can. A self-proclaimed “scratch bakery," the spot’s website says they’re “dedicated to serving desserts reminiscent of a visit to Grandma’s.” A highlight: their traditional red velvet—also available in doughnut form!

5. CALIFORNIA // PUMPKIN MAPLE, SUSIE CAKES

Location: Statewide

Started by Chicago native Susie Sarich—and a stack of 4x6 cards bearing her grandmothers’ recipes—this chain with 17 locations in Northern and Southern California and four in Texas prides itself on using the finest ingredients (think: European-style butter and Ghirardelli chocolate) in treats such as coconut and lemon as well as seasonal standouts such as the pumpkin maple. As the site proclaims, “If you can’t spell it, we don’t bake with it.”

6. COLORADO // CARROT CAKE, GOLD MINE CUPCAKES

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Location: Golden, Colorado

Four years after the mother-and-daughters trio started whipping up recipes for pina colada and macadamia nut cookie in the lone oven in their mom’s kitchen, they’re nabbing honors for their 40-plus flavors. But Yelp reviewers agree the carrot cake is one of their best. The key, says owner and baker Sara Rutter, is their carefully developed buttercream. “Our cake and the frosting are the perfect complement for each other, never having one overpower the other,” she explained to The Denver Post. “Our buttercream frosting was very important to us as we developed the perfect recipe because we didn’t want it to be too sweet and we loved having a soft creamy texture.”

7. CONNECTICUT // BOOZY BREAKFAST, NORA CUPCAKE COMPANY

Connecticut Welcome Sign
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Location: Middleton, West Hartford, and Canton, Connecticut

“Like most good stories, it all started in a bar,” the website for this spot reads, detailing owner Carrie Carella’s journey from bartender to owner of three locations, a mobile food truck, and more than 300 flavors. That list includes cocktail-infused confections such as the blackberry margarita and the Boozy Breakfast, made with maple cake and Jameson chocolate ganache filling, but also more PG varieties such as Lucky Charms and Candy Explosion from the “kiddie gangsters” section of the menu.

8. DELAWARE // CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE WITH OREO COOKIE MOUSSE, SWEET SOMETHINGS

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Location: Wilmington, Delaware

Recently named the best bakery in the state by Yelp reviewers, this shop dishes out nostalgic treats. “There are plenty of places that do ‘cutting edge’ desserts, but for me, it’s about making products you remember as a kid, with grandma,” owner Lee Slaninko told Delaware’s Out & About magazine. “We try and marry that with good service, creative design, and great taste.” Among the appetizing throwback flavors: a chocolate cupcake with Oreo Cookie Mousse.

9. FLORIDA // GUAYABERA, SWEETNESS BAKESHOP

Location: Miami

Just seven years old, the family-owned business has already been recognized by Zagat, Food and Wine Magazine, and the Miami New Times, which named them the best in the city. Though their 275-plus flavor list—the guava-and-cream cheese blend Guayabera is a signature—is impressive, it was their vanilla bean-embedded Thrilla-in-Vanilla that impressed Miami New Times writers, who raved, “They have the perfect density, consistency, moisture, flavor and icing-to-cupcake ratio.”

10. GEORGIA // SWEET POTATO & BOURBON, THE ATLANTA CUPCAKE FACTORY

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory

Location: Atlanta

Shortening is a dirty word at this artisan bakery, whose site proclaims they’re “dedicated to small batch baking and to feeding our customers with integrity.” Standouts such as the Sweet Potato and Bourbon blend (with Kentucky Bourbon cream cheese frosting) on the weekly rotating menu earned the boutique shop the distinction of being named The Today Show’s best cupcake in the country.

11. HAWAII // SHAVE ICE, HOKULANI BAKESHOP

Location: Honolulu

This island shop—another Cupcake Wars winner—prides itself on using quality ingredients (pure Grade A sweet cream butter, cane sugar, and fresh eggs) in unique creations such as the Liliko (baked with passion-fruit puree and topped with lemon-zested cream cheese icing) and Shave Ice, a local favorite made with Adzuki beans and drizzled with condensed milk.

12. IDAHO // TOMATO SOUP, SUGAR RUSH CUPCAKERY

Location: Boise, Idaho

A decade of baking wedding cakes—and listening to requests from clients—inspired parent company Family Ties to create a spinoff store offering mini versions of their fun flavors. Among the bakery’s more inventive creations: a tomato soup-flavored option with a cream cheese buttercream.

13. ILLINOIS // MANGO PASSIONFRUIT, SWIRLZ CUPCAKES

Mango Passionfruit Swirlz Cupcake Shop
Swirlz Cupcake Shop

Location: Chicago

Swirlz Cupcakes, the oldest all-cupcake shop in Chicago, layers each buttermilk-made cake with two dollops of frosting. As of their 10-year anniversary in 2016, the shop had dreamed up more than 1700 freshly-made flavors for their rotating list but Food & Wine editors were most impressed with the Mango Passion: a raspberry-and-vanilla cake base topped with mango white chocolate ganache, passion fruit buttercream, white chocolate, and a passion fruit flower.

14. INDIANA // RED VELVET ELVIS, THE FLYING CUPCAKE

Location: Indianapolis

The state’s first cupcake shop when it opened in 2007, the bakery has now expanded to six locations and racked up honors from Buzzfeed, MSN, Paula Deen Magazine, and TheIndyChannel.com for its creatively named treats. One reader dubs the Red Velvet Elvis (with chocolate chunks and cream cheese icing) “unbeatable.”

15. IOWA // BAILEY'S & GUINNESS, CRÉME CUPCAKE

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Few things pair better with cupcakes than cocktails. After 5 p.m., this Midwest spot turns into a dessert lounge, featuring suggested drink and dessert pairings (including wines from the aptly named Cupcake Vineyard). Or get your sweets and spirits in one fell swoop with this seasonal pick: a chocolate cake with Guinness mousse filling topped with a Bailey’s buttercream.

16. KANSAS // CHOCOLATE TORTE, GIGI'S CUPCAKES

Location: Overland Park, Kansas

Inspired to open up shop in 2008 when her brother said her red velvet treats were better than those at the famed Magnolia Bakery in New York City, Gigi Butler has expanded to 100-plus independently owned locations. But at this spot, the triple-chocolate gluten-friendly torte reigns supreme with the owners vowing it’s the most delicious thing you’ll ever taste.

17. KENTUCKY // UPSIDE-DOWN DIPPED CUPCAKE, HOMEMADE ICE CREAM & PIE KITCHEN

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

Though not touted in its name, the former lunch counter is famed for their upside-down dipped cupcake created when a still-hot vanilla cupcake is thrust bottom-side-up in chocolate or vanilla icing. The result, raves Louisville.com, is a “sugary wonder.”

18. LOUISIANA // RED VELVET, BUTTERCUPS CUPCAKES

Location: Shreveport, Louisiana

Recipes for the banana pudding (topped with crushed vanilla wafers) and their standout red velvet were developed in Kim Hand’s home kitchen. Each treat incorporates what the brand calls "high quality pure ingredients," including real fruit and "rich chocolate."

19. MAINE// MAINE BLUEBERRY, LET THEM EAT CAKE

Maine map
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Location: Kennebunk, Maine

Named one of the top pastry pros by Martha Stewart Weddings, this New England company also earns raves for its artfully decorated cupcakes. Their treats—one satisfied bride dubs their Maine Blueberry with Stonewall Kitchen wild Maine blueberry jam delicious—can be topped with anything from intricately crafted flowers to a fondant lobster.

20. MARYLAND // CARROT, CHARM CITY CUPCAKES

Charm City Cupcakes
Nathalie Cone, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Baltimore

At Food Network star Duff Goldman’s original bakery even the cupcakes—available in such flavors as amaretto cream, chocolate espresso, and staff favorite carrot—are topped with a thick layer of egg white, butter, and sugar-based buttercream and turned into works of art.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // BITE ME, WHIPPED URBAN CUPCAKE CO.

Location: Boston

Though the cakes at this delivery-only brand (a pop-up shop is slated to open soon) stand only at a inch without frosting, they “pack such intense flavor, it’s almost surprising,” raved one Mass Live tester. (The local site named the company tops in the state in 2016.) Another raved that the apple-and-molasses filled Bite Me “packed unreal apple pie flavor into a tiny package” while the java-infused Get Hyped “had some of the purest coffee flavor that I’ve ever encountered in a baked food.”

22. MICHIGAN // DELISH, UNION GENERAL STORE

Michigan sign
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Location: Clarkston, Michigan

Housed in an 1850 parsonage, this outlet is part all-purpose shop (pick up anything from bubble bath to a harmonica), part cupcakery. All the treats, piled high with a generous dollop of frosting and topped with treats such as malted milk eggs and fresh fruit, are worth the calories, but customers especially crave this blend of chocolate truffle and salted caramel.

23. MINNESOTA // HANDLE WITH CARAMEL, CUPCAKE

Minneapolis skyline
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Location: Minneapolis

Of the 70-plus flavors owner and Cupcake Wars grand champion Kevin VanDeraa has created—including those named for celebrities, such as the Taylor Swift, a vanilla cake with sweet frosting and sprinkles—his favorite is the Handle with Caramel, he told Food & Wine. The chocolate cake “delivers caramel in three ways,” he explained, “liquid caramel sauce, whipped caramel and caramel filling.” The topper: chocolate ganache, chocolate drizzle, and a caramel candy.

24. MISSISSIPPI // COCONUT, SUGAREE'S BAKERY

Mississippi sign
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Location: New Albany, Mississippi

As their website declares, this small batch bakery is “dedicated to the preservation of our culinary heritage in the Deep South.” As such, the pastry chefs whip up caramel by browning granulated sugar, and for the classic coconut flavor, they pour a hot butter glaze over freshly baked cakes. Their aim, they explain, “is to make the richest, moistest homemade cakes available.”

25. MISSOURI // 24 KARAT CARROT CAKE, JILLY'S CUPCAKE BAR

Jilly's Cupcake Bar 24 Karot Cake
Paul Sableman, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: St. Louis

Bring a friend when you visit this St. Louis shop. Chefs Casey Shiller and Dana Holland—two-time winners on Cupcake Wars—churn out gourmet cupcakes that, when stuffed and iced, weigh in at roughly a half pound. One luxe option: the 24 Karat Carrot Cake, filled with vanilla whipped cream and topped with cream cheese frosting, toasted coconut, white chocolate shavings, and gold dust. Or sample from the seasonal menu—caramel apple, banana pudding, and pumpkin cheesecake are on tap for fall!

26. MONTANA // LAVENDER CUPCAKE, BERNICE'S BAKERY

Location: Missoula, Montana

Around since 1978, this landmark insists they never cut corners to make their chocolate, wine, cream, and poppy seed cakes. On their site, the company vows, “All of our fillings, frostings, and toppings are made fresh, from scratch. Actual Lemons are juiced to make the Lemon Curd. Real Raspberries are cooked down and squeezed out by hand to make the Raspberry Puree.” For a special treat, request the shop's signature lavender cupcake, available in wine and chocolate varieties.

27. NEBRASKA // SWEET AND SALTY, JONES BROS. CUPCAKES

A Jones Bros Sweet and Salty cupcake next to a box.
Zane Mulligan, Flickr // CC BY ND 2.0

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Plans for the family-run business were first discussed around the Joneses’ kitchen table. Today, it’s expanded into a full café that sells tart yogurt, espresso, wine, and homemade small-batch ice cream, but the top seller is still their Sweet and Salty cupcake: chocolate laced with caramel and sea salt, then topped with chocolate buttercream and caramel drizzle.

28. NEVADA // CHOCOLATE-DIPPED CHERRY, FREED'S BAKERY

Location: Las Vegas

A frequent winner in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Best of Las Vegas book, the wedding cake specialists also whip up tasty cupcakes using signature ingredients like European butter cream and Bavarian crème filling. One to try: the chocolate dipped cherry with a literal cherry on top.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // CANNOLI, QUEEN CITY CUPCAKES

Queen City Cupcakes
Queen City Cupcakes

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire

A popular choice in New Hampshire Magazine’s best of list, the store specializes in flavors that entice both kids (the chocolate-and-marshmallow Hot Cocoa or the Chocolate Chip Cookie with a brown sugar base and cookie crumbles on top) and adults, such as the Guinness cupcake with beer baked right in. But the Cannoli—an almond cupcake with almond buttercream topped with dessert pieces, chocolate chips, and pistachios—receives extra raves.

30. NEW JERSEY // CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TRUFFLE, CUPCAKE MAGICIAN

Location: Red Bank, New Jersey

No wizardry is used in making 600 daily cupcakes at this mom-and-pop shop—just plenty of fresh buttercream and chocolate ganache. The result, gushes a blogger at Flavor Chronicles of the stuffed Chocolate Raspberry Truffle variety, is “heaven.”

31. NEW MEXICO // RED VELVET, SMALLCAKES

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

"Maybe a cupcake will help?" is the slogan of this sugary franchise, named one of USA Today’s top ten spots. But if their 18 signature cake flavors—including birthday cake, peanut butter cup, caramel crunch, and their “famous” red velvet—aren’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, add a scoop of their homemade small batch ice cream.

32. NEW YORK // BLACK & WHITE, LITTLE CUPCAKE BAKESHOP

Location: New York City In the land of Magnolia (the brand Carrie Bradshaw preferred on Sex and the City) and Billy’s Bakery, this Brooklyn-launched family-owned company stands out for its take on classic New York City treats. One Food & Wine writer lauds their snack-size version of the Brooklyn Blackout cake (a blend of chocolate cake and rich pudding) as “tastier than 99 percent” of the other ones he’s had. Even better: the Black & White, a cupcake adaption of the vanilla-and-chocolate cookie.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // ASSORTED PEPPERED CUPCAKE FLAVORS, THE PEPPERED CUPCAKE

Mango & Pineapple Pepper Jelly
Mango & Pineapple Pepper Jelly Cupcake

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Though sweets such as salted caramel and crème brulee are among the roughly 100 options on the menu, as the name suggests, this spot is known for its savory cakes baked with jalapenos, habaneros, and fresh cracked pepper and topped with one of 15 preserves such as mango and habanero or pear, mint, and wasabi.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // VANILLA, SWEET TREATS CUPCAKE BAR & BAKERY

Bismark, North Dakota
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Location: Bismarck, North Dakota

If you prefer to DIY your desserts, this Midwest eatery is your spot. Sugar seekers choose from classic cake bases—vanilla, chocolate, marble, red velvet, and seasonal varieties—then add frosting and toppings to suit their fancy.

35. OHIO // BUCKEYE, FATE CAKES

Location: Columbus, Ohio

The Buckeye—based off the state nickname and the most requested dessert—is a peanut butter-and-chocolate combo that has this shop's customers raving. “The first bite I had was fabulous!” wrote one fan. “The icing was to die for!”

36. OKLAHOMA // NEOPOLITAN, PINKITZEL

Location: Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma

Resplendent in black-and-white checked floors and chandeliers, this cafe describes itself as part Willy Wonka, part Alice in Wonderland and part Marie Antoinette. Their treats are just as fanciful. Candy-inspired cakes are topped with buttercream or cream cheese icing then wrapped in signature damask paper. One favorite: the Neopolitan, with strawberry and vanilla buttercream and a cherry sour.

37. OREGON // SESAME CARAMEL BOMB, KYRA'S BAKE SHOP

Location: Lake Oswego

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder at age 20, founder Kyra Bussanich went gluten-free and found herself disappointed with the dessert options on the market. Experimenting with millet, tapioca, potato, and cornstarch, the Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef (a four-time Cupcake Wars winner) developed a slate [PDF] of tasty creations, including this mix of coconut, salted caramel, and toasted sesame that the Cooking Channel has dubbed “heaven.”

38. PENNSYLVANIA // APPLE CRISP, SWEET FREEDOM

Location: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia

The gluten-free trend is taken one step further at Sweet Freedom, where the chocolate, vanilla, banana, and apple crisp—a must-try, per Food Network—cupcakes are both vegan and devoid of any corn, wheat, peanuts, and soy. Highly processed sugars are always nix, according to their site, which swears, “The only sweeteners we will ever use are the most natural and unrefined of sugars that are gentler on your body.”

39. RHODE ISLAND // ZEPPOLE, SWEET INDULGENCE

Sweet Indulgence Zeppole Cupcake
Heidi Hope Photography for Sweet Indulgence

Location: Cranston, Rhode Island

Decorated with anything from intricate flowers to unicorn horns, these sweets—ranging from apple pie down to the seasonal Zeppole, topped with a fried Italian pastry—look as good as they taste, earning them the honor of best cupcake in the state by Rhode Island Monthly readers.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // LEMON CURD, SUGAR BAKESHOP

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

In their renovated four-seat shop, New York City transplants and architects-turned-bakers Bill Bowick and David Bouffard showcase their homemade creations inspired by the treats of their youth. Indulgences such as the by-order-only Lady Baltimore (almond cake with sherry-soaked raisins and a meringue topper) have earned raves from the likes of Southern Living, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. But it’s their “sweet and tart” Lemon Curd cupcakes that the editors of Travel + Leisure swear are a “must-try.”

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // CHOCOLATE PB ATTACK, OH MY CUPCAKES!

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Among the customer-beloved signature treats at this people-pleasing bakery (their mission, they declare, is to make people smile with cupcakes): the chocolate PB attack cupcake, a gluten-free palate-pleaser infused with creamy peanut butter and topped with a whipped peanut butter buttercream.

42. TENNESSEE // PROZAC, MUDDY'S BAKE SHOP

Muddy's Bakeshop Prozac cupcake
Justin McGregor, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Location: Memphis, Tennessee

The family-owned business’s mission is to make people happier—a goal they achieve with their smartly named customer favorite, a chocolate cake topped with their “famously delicious” chocolate buttercream.

43. TEXAS // BASILBERRY CUPCAKE // SKULL & CAKEBONES

Location: Austin

Cooking Channel praises the “herbacious-ness” of this vegan cake (the shop specializes in all-natural, vegan, non-GMO delicacies made with locally sourced foods) packed with basil and topped with a strawberry buttercream.

44. UTAH // CARAMEL POPCORN, ALISHA'S CUPCAKES

Location: Pleasant Grove, Utah

Every month, this twin sister duo offers a new crop of sweets from their list of 100-plus, but one treat takes the cake. This sweet-and-salty combo, topped with their made-from-scratch caramel popcorn, was featured on Cupcake Wars.

45. VERMONT // VERMONT MAPLE BACON, MY LITTLE CUPCAKE

Location: Burlington, Vermont

As the name suggests, all the treats at this bakery are miniature-sized, but packed with local and premium ingredients. Take the Vermont Maple Bacon topped with Vermont maple buttercream and, naturally, a slice of bacon.

46. VIRGINIA // 9:30 CUPCAKE, BUZZ BAKERY

Location: Alexandria, Virginia

The bestseller at this brunch place is this rich devil’s food cake filled with vanilla buttercream, coated with chocolate frosting, then dipped in chocolate glaze. Comparing it to “a giant Hostess cupcake,” pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac told Food & Wine it’s “for people who love chocolate, and they’re superhappy with it."

47. WASHINGTON // SALTED CARAMEL, CUPCAKE ROYAL

Location: Seattle, Washington

While seasonal favorites like the Pumpkin Cardamom delight at this Northwest favorite, the Salted Caramel, finished off with house-made caramel buttercream, Fleur de Sel, and dark chocolate curls is “hands-down” the most popular declares Food & Wine.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // OREO AND CREAM, LIL' BIT OF HEAVEN CUPCAKES

Location: St. Albans, West Virgina

Yelp reviewers rated this chocolatey treat—from the husband-and-wife-run bakery—tops in the state. A fudge cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and a white chocolate Oreo butter cream, topped with more of that buttercream and a chocolate-dipped Oreo, their site declares it’s “a chocoholic’s dream!”

49. WISCONSIN // CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER, CAKE GURU

Location: Appleton and Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Named the 2017 Sweetest Bakery in Wisconsin, this company is known for its oversized Fabu “Lux” Cupcakes. Among the most exorbitant: this chocolate peanut butter blend filled with peanut butter whip and chocolate, then topped with peanut butter frosting and puppy chow.

50. WYOMING // DONKEY TOWN NUTS, ALLA LALA CUPCAKES

Location: Gillette, Wyoming

At Gillette, Wyoming’s first and only cupcake boutique, the treats are sweet and available in jumbo varieties, four times the size of a standard dessert. Bite into the quirkily named Donkey Town Nuts, a mix of chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, and caramel soaked honey-roasted peanuts.

fun

Wrap Yourself in the Sweet Smell of Bacon (or Coffee or Pine) With These Scented T-Shirts

adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images
adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images

At one point or another, you’ve probably used perfume, cologne, body spray, or another product meant to make you smell like a flower, food, or something else. But what if you could cut out the middleman and just purchase scented clothing?

Candy Couture California’s (CCC) answer to that is “You can!” The lifestyle brand offers a collection of graphic T-shirts featuring scents like bacon, coffee, pine tree, strawberry, and motor oil. If you have more traditional olfactory predilections, there are several options for you, too, including rose, lavender, and lemongrass. There’s even a signature Candy Couture California scent, which is an intoxicating blend of coconut, strawberry, and vanilla.

candy couture california bacon shirt
Candy Couture California

According to the website, CCC founder Sara Kissing came up with the idea in 2011 while working in the e-commerce fashion industry, and her personal experience with aromatherapy led her to investigate developing clothing that harnessed some of those same benefits. The T-shirts are created with scent-infused gel, which “gives off a delicate, mild smell—just enough to boost your mood.”

So you don’t have to worry about your bacon shirt making the whole office smell like a breakfast sandwich, but you yourself will definitely be able to enjoy its subtle, meaty aroma whenever you wear it. The shirts are also designed to match their scents—the chocolate shirt, for example, features chocolatey baked goods, while the coffee shirt displays steaming mugs of coffee.

candy couture california chocolate shirt
Candy Couture California

The fragrances don’t last forever, but they’ll stay strong through 15 to 20 washes before they start to fade. CCC recommends using unscented detergent so as not to conflict with the shirt’s aroma, and you can further prolong its life if you’re willing to wash it by hand.

Prices start at $79, and you can shop the full collection here.

The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas

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iStock

For Jewish New Yorkers, scoring a seat at one of veteran restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld’s Chinese eateries on Christmas Day could be compared to a holiday miracle. “I think on that day we do more business than many restaurants do in three months,” Schoenfeld tells Mental Floss. “We serve all day long, we stay open all day long.”

Schoenfeld is the Jewish owner-operator of RedFarm, an Asian-fusion dim sum restaurant with two locations in New York (plus one in London), and Decoy, a West Village shrine to traditional Peking duck. While his expertise lies in Far Eastern cuisine, Schoenfeld grew up in Brooklyn and learned to cook from his Eastern European grandmother. And just like his customers, Schoenfeld and his family sometimes craved Chinese food on Christmas, eschewing homemade fare for heaping plates of chow mein and egg foo yung. The future restaurateur's grandmother kept a kosher kitchen, but outside the home all dietary laws flew out the window with the single spin of a Lazy Susan. Suddenly, egg rolls with pork were fair game, transfigured into permissible delicacies through hunger and willful ignorance.

As Gentiles feast on turkey and roast beef during the Yuletide season, why do many Jews opt for chop suey? For starters, it's convenient: Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But as historians and culinary experts tell Mental Floss, other ingredients play a part in this delicious story.

Jews developed their love for all things steamed, stir-fried, and soy-sauced after leaving the Old Country. Between the mid-1800s and the 1930s, waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Germany, and Greece began settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gritty, inexpensive neighborhood teeming with tenements, docks, and factories—and filled with synagogues and kosher butcher shops. “You started here, and then moved on," Sarah Lohman, author of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, says.

While Jewish immigrants found community on the Lower East Side, "there was a lot of discrimination against Jews at the turn of the century,” Lohman adds. "They were often criticized not only for not dressing like Americans and not speaking the language, but also for not converting to an 'American' religion."

Right next door to the burgeoning Jewish community on the Lower East Side was the city's nascent Chinatown. Many Chinese immigrants had initially come to the U.S. to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. After its completion in 1869, these laborers faced violence and discrimination in the western states. They came to New York City seeking new business opportunities, and some opened restaurants.

By and large, Chinese restaurateurs didn’t discriminate against Jewish customers. Joshua Eli Plaut writes in his book A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish that the Chinese, as non-Christians, didn't perceive any difference between Anglo-Saxon New Yorkers and Jewish immigrants; they accepted all non-Chinese customers with open arms.

Jewish customers embraced Chinese food in return. The restaurants were conveniently located and inexpensive, yet were also urbane in their eyes. Jews saw dining out as an American custom that they wanted to try, largely because they sought upward mobility among other Americans. According to Yong Chen, a history professor and author of Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, "[Diners] were attracted to Chinese food because, in their mind, it represented American cosmopolitanism and middle class status." And they weren't deterred by the fact that food in Chinese restaurants wasn't kosher. But they could easily pretend it was.

Dairy wasn’t a big part of Chinese meals, so Jewish diners didn’t have to worry about mixing meat and milk (a no-no in kosher diets). And non-kosher ingredients like pork or seafood were often finely chopped, drowned in sauces, or mixed with other ingredients, like rice. These elements were well disguised enough that they could pass for more permissible forms of meat. “You could kind of willfully ignore that there might be pork in there," Lohman says. "It’s like a vegetarian eating a soup that has chicken stock. If you’re a little flexible about your Judaism, you would just ‘not notice’ the pork in your fried rice.”

Chinese food was exotic and new, filled with surprising flavors, ingredients, and textures [PDF]. But for some Eastern European Jews, it also had familiar elements. Both Eastern European and Chinese cuisines shared an affinity for sweet and sour flavors and egg-based dishes. "[Chinese restaurants] had these pancakes, which were like blintzes,” says Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, and the wontons resembled kreplach (both are meat-filled soup dumplings).

The fact that the Chinese and Jews were America’s two largest non-Christian immigrant populations brought them together, Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, tells Mental Floss. Unlike, say, Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants were open on Sundays and on Christian holidays. They also lacked religious imagery, which may have made them appear more welcoming for Jews.

Combined, these factors caused the number of Chinese restaurants in urban East Coast cities to skyrocket during the early 20th century. Jews soon accounted for 60 percent of the white clientele in New York City's and Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants, Chen writes, and Chinese restaurants would often go out of their way to cater to these clients. The eateries delivered their food to Jewish neighborhoods and to individual customers.

Yet an unwavering affection for Chinese food wasn't shared by all Jews. In an example cited by Chen and Lee, a reporter for Der Tog (The Day), a Yiddish daily newspaper in New York City, noted in 1928 that Jewish diners were in danger of drowning their culinary roots in soy sauce. To take back their taste buds, Jewish-Americans should hoist protest signs reading “Down with chop suey! Long live gefilte fish!” the journalist joked.

But Jewish cookbooks had already begun including Americanized dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung, which Chinese chefs had specially created to appeal to homegrown appetites. And as Lower East Side Jews moved to different neighborhoods, boroughs, and suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed them.

By the mid-20th century, Nathan says, Chinese restaurants had become de facto social clubs in Jewish communities. Familiar faces were always present, children were always welcome, and eating with your hands wasn’t just encouraged—it was required. Everyone left filled with food and gossip, whether it was Christmas or an ordinary Sunday evening.

Thanks to immigration patterns, nostalgia, and convenient hours of operation, this culinary custom has stuck around. “Jewish guests want to go out and eat Chinese food on Christmas,” Schoenfeld, the Manhattan restaurateur, says. “It’s become a tradition, and it’s extraordinary how it’s really grown.”

This story originally ran in 2017.

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