Published December 9th, 2009
Republic of Cake Arrives in City of Orinda
By Lee Borrowman
Sophia Hubbell (left) and Ava Tajbakhsh enjoy a variety of cupcakes at Republic of Cake
Move over, Cake Boss. Orinda now has bragging rights to its very own cupcake bakery. All cupcakes, all the time. Republic of Cake (ROC) opened at Theater Square last weekend, and will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, December 12, at 2:00 p.m.
Why cupcakes? Because, according to baker Chih-Chung Fang, "they offer such perfect little bites in endless combinations, and I don't have to share." Peter McNiff, ROC's business manager, believes there's a market for really good cupcakes sold at very reasonable prices. "There are currently two kinds of cupcakes out there," he says, "the Safeway kind, and the $5 kind." ROC cupcakes range from .85 for a mini cupcake to $2.75 for a savory cupcake or a very messy chocolate cupcake.
And why now? Long-time friends turned business partners, Fang and McNiff are hoping that cupcakes will be just the ticket to satisfy your sweet tooth in good times and bad. The current economic climate, rather than discouraging them from setting up shop, was actually a motivator. "We watched our property values fall and our investments tank, and we decided to put all of our resources into something we manage ourselves. If we fail, we know who to blame," said McNiff, who spent twenty years in the telecommunications industry. Fang is a reformed molecular biologist who happily moved from the laboratory to the kitchen.
There are several things that may set Republic of Cake apart from the typical gourmet cupcake shop. Its owners say that ROC is striving for a small carbon footprint; McNiff and Fang use local providers for their ingredients, and will put your cupcakes in a bag rather than a box (although boxes are available for purchase). Fang says that instead of curlicues and artificial additives, he uses natural ingredients. "That doesn't mean we won't have pink frosting," he explains, "but it will be colored and flavored naturally with food instead of chemicals."
ROC also offers an unusual Sweet and Salty line of cupcakes, featuring savory items such as the Mushroom Cheddar Cheese cupcake, and the Sage & Onion Cranberry cupcake. Savory cupcakes were McNIff's idea; Fang made it happen. "There are other savory cupcakes out there; chocolate cupcakes with peanut frosting and bacon sprinkled on top. That's not savory to me. Savory is onions, mushrooms, cheese, sage and thyme; flavors that are intrinsically sweet themselves," explains Fang. McNiff says the savory cupcakes have just as much sugar as a regular cupcake, and they can take people by surprise. "I have to tell you what it is," he says, "If I put a savory cupcake in front of you without telling you, you'll think 'vanilla or chocolate'; you'll take a bite and spit it out." But keep an open mind, and a whole new cupcake experience awaits you.
ROC will also offer daily specials. Fridays, for example, will feature Happy Hour cupcakes (think Tequila Sunrise, with frosting). "Everything will be as fresh as possible; we'll never sell day-old products," states McNiff. Fang adds, "We'll do two bakes each day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon." Bargains can be had at the end of each day, providing there are cupcakes left to sell.
Republic of Cake is located at 2 Theater Square, across from Shelby's; 925-254-3900,
Sam's Very Messy Chocolate Cupcake Photo provided

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