The Sugar Cube to go Brick-and-Mortar

SE Hawthorne’s iconic bakery-on-wheels sells to Hungry Heart Desserts, as baker talent Kir Jensen hones a Sugar Cube concept to open later this year.

By Karen Brooks April 24, 2013

In 2008, the Sugar Cube’s conceptual Betty Crocker cupcakes and “triple chocolate threat” cookies sent early smoke signals from Portland’s budding food-cart blocks downtown. The Amy Winehouse Cupcakes said it all, chocolate frosting as elegant as Audrey Hepburn garnished with a brazen “coke” straw and a pile of powered sugar. A new day in baking, indeed.

Five years later, with a wall of accolades and The Sugar Cube cookbook under her belt, ambitious baking talent Kir Jensen has sold her celebrated Southeast Portland trailer cart to pursue a longtime brick-and-mortar dream. Negotiations are under way for a Sugar Cube concept that will involve “all things sweet and delicious,” according to Jensen.

Three-year-old mobile truck Hungry Heart Cupcakes is wheeling into the tented outdoor lot alongside sandwich phenom Lardo at 1212 SE Hawthorne Boulevard. Owner Jax Button, 28, plans to stash her road-ready purple truck on the lot for on-call events. But the larger goal is to repaint and rebrand the former Sugar Cube cart as Hungry Heart Desserts, opening May 4. The new cart will showcase Hungry Heart’s creative mini-cupcakes plus a new line of desserts.   

Early on, expect a handful of rotating cupcakes like HH’s popular “Dark & Dusty”—a salted caramel spin with chocolate cake, cocoa nibs, dulce de leche frosting, and maldon salt. And always, says Button, watch for one specialty flavor from the HH lab. Bacon, booze, cocoa nibs, and seasonal fruit factor into her formula. Button gets giddy talking about her weekend-only “Bourbon Breakfast pancake cupcake,” chunked with bourbon apples and maple frosting, with bacon shards on top. 

Cupcakes will sell for a very wallet-friendly $1.50—or $5.50 for a mix-and-match “four pack.” The cart is equipped with a convection oven, butcher block counter tops, and baking racks—Button plans to take advantage with experimental panna cottas and others sweets. She plans to dispense calories day and night, Wednesday through Saturday. Meanwhile, good neighbor Lardo will serve a few Hungry Heart treats, even when the cart is closed.

Jensen is overdue for the next step. She overgrew confines of the cart over a year ago, as national press mounted. Even from a cart window, she offered an original lineup, always changing, and rarely less than outstanding. “The cart proved what I can do in a meager space,” she says. “I can only imagine what my full capabilities will be. I’m excited to have a home front, permanent, to create the world I always intended for the cart.” The Sugar Cube kickstarter video is coming. And if all goes well, so is good news. Stay tuned.

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