Cupcake Cafe at Burning Man 2017

fruit-basket-2Imagine you are walking along one of the roads at Burning Man. While you may be heading toward a particular destination, you welcome distractions. As you pass The Cupcake Cafe, someone emerges with a tray. “Would you like a cupcake?” they say.

A handwritten label on the tray says “Cupcakes by Sarah.” The chocolate and strawberry-cream mini cupcakes look good, and you accept one. Sarah has a small shoulder bag with a slot for the cupcake’s paper liner, which you fold and insert. The cupcake is delicious. You ask whether this is Sarah’s camp, and she says no, she volunteered to decorate a batch. Then she asks whether you’d like to help make the next batch. It doesn’t take long, and you get to serve them afterward, just as she is doing. You are tempted, and so you enter the cafe.

Inside you discover a comfortable setting with metal cafe tables and chairs and music. A few people, seated, are eating cupcakes, drinking coffee, and chatting. You observe that the tables and chairs are not store bought but clearly have been created for the cafe, each one different. In the back there are sinks and work tables, and someone is decorating a tray of cupcakes. Oh! This theme camp is an actual bakery!

The Director of Bakers’ Confectionery approaches and asks whether you’d like to decorate a batch of cupcakes. You say that you don’t know how, but the Director says that they show you. So accompanying the Director, you approach the hand-wash station and wash your hands. Now you are ready to make cupcakes!

chocolate-almond-maple-2There is a tray of “naked cakes” waiting for you to decorate. You discover that using a “pastry bag” to ice cupcakes is easier than it looks. Before long you’re done, and the Director asks you to write your name on a cardboard tag that says, “Cupcakes by ______”. You write your name on the cardboard tag, and it is attached to the front of a tray. You are about to serve your cupcakes, just as Sarah did! You put a bag over your shoulder, for the cup liners, and you discover that someone has alerted passersby that cupcakes are ready. A crowd has gathered, and everyone is smiling at you! As you serve the cupcakes a few people ask if this is your camp, and you say no, you’re a volunteer. As you serve the last few cupcakes you ask who would like to decorate the next batch, and you introduce them to the Director of Bakers’ Confectionery.

blueberry-pancake-2You thank the Director and return the tray and the shoulder bag, but you pocket your cardboard tray tag because you know that you’ll be back tomorrow!

The Cupcake Cafe is more than a food camp. Although the camp makes free cupcakes, the cafe’s actual purpose is to help others receive gratitude. We do this by helping participants create desserts and then, most importantly, experience the act of serving their own creations. While later posts describe how we will make a functional bakery in the desert, remember that our overall purpose is providing the experience of receiving gratitude for gifting.