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All We Can Eat
Posted at 02:00 PM ET, 02/07/2012

All-American cupcakes, or how we got the shot

A man with a plan: Alexandria Cupcake owner Adnan Hamidi’s outline for the cupcake cover shot. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
Whether or not you care to think deeply about what cupcakes bring to the lives of Americans, we can vouch for the fact that they make for a spiffy visual.

That’s what we were after, for this week’s pre-Valentine’s Day Food cover.

A flag motif seemed appropriate. Art directors and a features photo editor agreed that real cupcakes would look better than an illustrator’s handiwork in Photoshop.

It took one phone call to Adnan Hamidi to make it happen.

With a background in art and graphic design, the owner of Alexandria Cupcake said the commission was right up his alley.

Alexandria Cupcake owner Adnan Hamidi and one of his bakers, Laura Miller, frosted cupcakes just before photos were taken at The Post. The field of blue mini-cupcakes carried the right amount of stars. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

“The main thing I wanted to do was to make sure everything was proportionate — the right amount of stripes and stars — in the space of a 3-by-5-foot flag,” he says.

Hamidi and his team measured regular-size and mini-cupcakes, then plugged their numbers into his mathematical formulas. They altered frosting recipes to achieve an even consistency for the photo. The white flag stripes were vanilla cupcakes with a tinted cream cheese frosting; red velvet cupcakes were topped with red frosting. He baked all the cupcakes:a few dozen more than the 355 that were used. Baker Laura
Art director Marty Barrick, top, and layout editor Alla Dreyvitser, right, do The Wave. ( Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post )
Miller whipped up most of the batches of frosting.

Tinting the mini-cupcakes was as easy as combining royal blue and sky blue colors, Hamidi says. He thinks he reached for the Wilton’s brands.

All told, it probably took five to six hours of baking, transporting and setup. Hamidi and Miller brought unfrosted cupcakes to The Post photo studio; watching them pipe and swirl evenly on the laid-out cupcakes was impressive.

After photographer Deb Lindsey was done with Round One, art director Marty Barrick and layout editor Alla Dreyvitser grabbed a few chopsticks and started The Wave, which you can see pictured below.

We almost went with The Wave. Do you like it better? (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
I’d like to say we donated all those cupcakes to charity. But Hamidi was adamant about their less-than-perfect quality and didn’t want his good business reputation associated with them. The treats were certainly good enough for our colleagues, whose excitement reached levels close to the time Brad Pitt visited The Post newsroom. The cupcakes disappeared, including extras, in 15 minutes.

By  |  02:00 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Categories:  Holiday, Comfort Food | Tags:  Bonnie S. Benwick

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