It's hard to miss the Baltimore Cupcake Company on the south side of Baltimore's waterfront: It's the building that's the color of pink cotton candy, a few blocks from the Fort McHenry National Monument and in the shadow of the Domino Sugar sign.

The company was conceived after co-owners Tracy Rice and Shannon Mitchell stopped by New York's Magnolia Bakery and thought, "This would be so cool in Baltimore," says Rice, a District of Columbia transplant.

Their bake shop is Willy Wonka-meets French patisserie-meets-Tiffany's sweet shop: white-and-black tiled floor, white wainscoating, crystal chandeliers, chalkboard menu, the original tin ceiling (painted white) and pink walls.

They're not called the Baltimore Cupcake Company for nothing. The grand cupcakes -- let's just say they can substitute for lunch -- come in flavors including Vanilla Woo (secret family recipe), noix de coco, island citrus and chocolate frambois topped with a generous dollop of vanilla or chocolate buttercream, chocolate or white chocolate ganache or coconut creme. Eat in or take home in the bubble-gum pink cardboard boxes or white sacks.

If you can still see straight after ingesting a cupcake or two, have a go at the chocolate chip cookies, fudge-like brownies or chocolate- covered Oreos -- washed down with fresh farm milk from Maryland's South Mountain Creamery. Other sugary accouterments include sweet gifts (retro aprons, stationery, gift baskets) and a wall of confections: jawbreakers, Bazooka, tangerine jelly beans and gum balls.

Though the two usually arrive around 4 a.m. to start baking, they stay open late for customers on their way home from work lest they have a sudden sugar rush.

Says Rice, "We're open till the cupcakes are gone."

Baltimore Cupcake Company, 1433 E. Fort Ave., Baltimore; call 410-783-1600. Open Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cupcakes are about $2 each with each joie de vivre priced separately.

-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond

Tracy Rice, co-owner of the Baltimore Cupcake Company, thinks pink.