Cupcake interview with Nicki Richesin and Kim Askew of The May Queen

The May Queen

Name: Nicki Richesin
Age: 34
Location: San Rafael, California
Occupation: Mother and editor

Name: Kim Askew
Age: 35
Location: San Francisco, California
Occupation: Writer

Can you tell me more about your anthology, The May Queen, and how it came about?

Nicki: The May Queen is a pipe dream come true. I read a book called On Women Turning 30 by Cathleen Rountree and thought it was so engrossing, but it could be better. My original idea was to do a book of confessional essays with black and white portraits of the contributors by Debra McClinton. We did a shoot with Julianna Baggott while she was on tour in San Francisco, but the publisher didn’t go for the portrait idea. The idea finally morphed into a book of essays Jennifer Carlson (my agent at Dunow, Carlson and Lerner) sold to Sara Carder (my editor at Tarcher) who coincidentally lived two doors down from Sara Woster (a contributor) in Brooklyn.

Kim: I remember that after Nicki came up with the idea, whether we were standing in line to get into a concert or meeting up for lunch, we spent a lot of time racking our brains trying to come up with potential contributors for her to approach. From Winona Ryder to Liz Phair, I think we pretty much considered everyone who was of the right age for the book. I think Nicki even tried various ways to contact most of them, with varying degrees of success.

How do food, hunger and desserts (and cupcakes, if at all) play into the themes of the book?

Nicki: There are loads of references to food and hunger in the titles alone: “A Hungry Balance” by Julianna Baggott, “Bedsores and Cocktails” by Heather Juergensen, and “Milk Dress: A Nursing Song” by Erin Cressida Wilson. Perhaps the best allusion to sugar lust is in Michelle Richmond's piece “Getting Ready” wherein she shares her memories of growing up on the gulf coast of Alabama and compares her crazy obsession with Krispy Kreme donuts to Proust's love of madelines.

Kim: My essay mentions that my dad always decorated my birthday cake, so there’s um . . . cake. I love Michelle’s Krispy Kreme obsession, too. Yum.

Do you feel women gain a greater appreciation for desserts and indulging ourselves with food as we get older?

Nicki: Kim and I definitely indulge our inner sweet tooth together by sharing one decadent dessert like crème brule or chocolate mousse after dinner at a restaurant. Unfortunately, I think as most women hit their thirties, too many deny their right to a little midnight chocolate indulgence. I had a colleague who would allow herself an afternoon dip into a peanut butter jar for just a spoonful. I always thought this was tragic.

Kim: I think I appreciate the aphrodisiac properties of chocolate more now than ever and I know what I like. M&Ms just won’t do it any longer—it’s got to be a Recchiuti truffle or a Lindt bar with raspberry filling.

And now for some personal questions:

How often do you eat cupcakes?

Nicki: Not often enough, but now that I have a two-year-old, I have ample opportunity at birthday parties and play group dates.

Kim: My office is right across the street from Citizen Cupcake. I keep it down to once a week.

What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?

Nicki: The combination of soft, moist cake with sweet, creamy frosting. Delish! I also think the miniature perfection of the cake and the tempting bite-size portion make it irresistible.

Kim: Definitely the combination. The cake wouldn’t be as decadent without the frosting and vice versa.

What's your favorite type of cupcake?

Nicki: I’m very fond of the cupcakes at Citizen Cupcake (Rocky Road, Persian Love), but I also adore the orange creamsicle cupcakes at the San Rafael Farmer’s Market.

Kim: Homemade chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?

Nicki: I am a patisserie devotee and a cobbler connoisseur. So my heart belongs to a well-made almond croissant or a warm, homemade blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, but I still long for the perfect cupcake.

Kim: Interesting question. There’s a time and a place for every baked good.

Is there any innovation you'd like to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?

Nicki: A zero calorie cupcake would be a taste sensation innovation. Kim: Cupcake vending machines.

Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?

Nicki: I went through a bit of an obsessive period when I baked strawberry rainbow chip cupcakes for all of my daughter’s friends and our neighbors. I wasn’t as bad as Amy Sedaris, but I was borderline psychotic delivering cupcakes with melting frosting at 9:00 at night to my bewildered, octogenarian neighbors. I had to stop the madness.

Kim: I own a muffin pan, but I think about making cupcakes more than I actually make them.

What's your first cupcake-related memory?

Nicki: I grew up in the south so many of my early memories revolve around food. My grandmother made the most incredible, mouth-watering red velvet cake, but I recall a particular fondness for my mother’s vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting.

Kim: My mom didn’t really make cupcakes. Now that I’m older I realize why she spent so much time trying to keep me away from sugar (hyper). So when I did have them it was a big deal. I can’t think of an early cupcake memory. Maybe a hypnotist can help.

What's the most fun you've ever had with a cupcake?

Nicki: In preschool, I once kicked a mean, munchkin boy in the shins after he looked up my skirt and tried to steal a bite of my cupcake. Not the best example for my daughter who is now enrolled in preschool.

Kim: Think 9 1/2 Weeks but with a cupcake.

Do you have anything else to add?

Nicki: I would never dress up as a cupcake.

Kim: Vote for cupcakes and we all win.