By Annemarie Mannion
A new spot in downtown Naperville is guaranteed to tempt your sweet tooth with its tasty array of center-filled cupcakes and other sweet treats. Standing in line at lunchtime recently, Gretchen Frantz, a student at North Central College, called Molly’s Cupcakes her new favorite place. The store at 30 West Jefferson Street offers many varieties of fresh cupcakes that are baked daily.
Besides classic flavors, Molly’s bakes center-filled cupcakes in tantalizing tastes such as peach cobbler, salted caramel butterscotch, chocolate mouse, cake batter, cookie monster, and blueberry cheesecake. One cupcake, dubbed the Ron Bennington, features chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling topped with ganache and crushed butterscotch. There are always 14 center-filled cupcakes on the menu and two seasonal flavors.
“I love the cookie monster and the cake batter,” says Frantz, who hails from New Town, New Jersey. “It tastes just like the cake batter you make at home.”
The Naperville franchise is owned by wife-husband duo Stephanie and James Jacobson. They first discovered the shop when they were living in Lincoln Park, the site of the first Molly’s.
“We used to go to Molly’s once a week,” says Stephanie. “Since tasting a Molly’s center-filled cupcake, we fell in love with the product and the brand.”
Molly’s is the brainchild of founder John Nicolaides who named the business in honor of his third-grade teacher, Miss Molly, who brought cupcakes to school for kids’ birthdays. Molly’s gained notoriety when it won top honors in “Cupcake Wars,” sponsored by the Food Network.
“The peach cobbler cupcake won season 1,” says James, who notes that item is made with a vanilla streusel cake, cinnamon peach purée filling, and whipped-cream frosting topped with a peach slice. “It’s just a unique combination of flavors that comes together really well,” he says.
The Jacobsons decided to invest in Molly’s because they wanted to move closer to where they grew up. Stephanie went to Neuqua Valley High School, and James went to Bolingbrook High School.
“Molly’s was a way for us to come home and really dive back into the community,” says James.
The Naperville store has a pastel-hued, whimsical decor that features echoes of childhood. A massive blackboard with a periodic table—including abbreviations for dry ingredients, like vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon—covers one wall. A long bar, where patrons can choose from shakers filled with sprinkles and other toppings, features gigantic swings for seating. And an open kitchen lets people see bakers at work making the cupcakes.
“We loved the feeling of the store
and the set-up,” says Stephanie. “It feels very nostalgic, and takes you back to grade school.”
The cupcakes at Molly’s are made in small batches daily.
“Everything is fresh,” Stephanie says. “We don’t use any premade batters or mixes. The ingredients are fresh and pure and the cupcakes are baked daily.”
For anyone who wants to be a cupcake renegade, the store will accommodate. Customers are invited to create their own favorites by choosing cake and frosting flavors, plus a variety of tasty toppings for decoration.
“It’s a fun concept and the cupcakes are made right in front of you,” says James. “It’s very popular among children who want to make their own.”
A center-filled cupcake is $3.75, and customers get the 12th free when ordering a dozen. The minis with frosting and no filling are $1.60, and the create-your-own cupcakes are $2.75. Molly’s also has a gluten-free chocolate cupcake, as well as two vegan offerings plus a variety of other sweets, including homemade ice cream, cookies, brownies, bars, and mini pies.
As more people are choosing cupcake displays over large cakes for weddings, corporate parties, and other gatherings, Molly’s stands ready to answer that need. Couples planning their weddings are invited to schedule a time for a tasting.
“We can show them how to showcase the cupcakes,” says James.
The Naperville Molly’s Cupcakes is really a passion project for the couple. “This is our baby,” says James. “It’s a 24-hour-a-day job and something we’re always thinking about.”
As for which flavor is her favorite, Stephanie says it’s hard to decide. “I try a new cupcake every day,” she says.
Photograph by John Jennings