2016-09-15 / Life in Leelanau

Meet Northport’s Cupcake Lady

Volunteer dessert distributor sweetens Music in the Park one cupcake at a time
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


EARLENE BARRY of Leelanau Township, aka the Cupcake Lady,’ has baked more than 4,500 cupcakes over the past several years and handed them out at Music in the Park in Northport. EARLENE BARRY of Leelanau Township, aka the Cupcake Lady,’ has baked more than 4,500 cupcakes over the past several years and handed them out at Music in the Park in Northport. Earlene Barry says she’s not much of a baker.

But don’t tell that to the people attending Music in the Park in Northport.

Barry is known as the “Cupcake Lady” and has mixed up and dished out upwards of 4,500 of the little cakes over the past three years — mostly for people attending Music in the Park.

“I started out making them for the kids at the sailing school,” said Barry, who retired to the Cherry Home Subdivision with husband, Ernie. “One time I had extras, so I brought them to Music in the Park.”

The Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce sponsors the event for at least 10 weeks each summer. People gather at the G. Marsten Dame Marina Park in Northport on Friday nights to listen to a variety of musical acts ranging from jazz to bluegrass and everything in between.

Some bring picnic lunches. Others order pizza. But most everyone gets a cupcake for dessert courtesy of the Cupcake Lady.

“People got such a big kick out of it and I’ve done it every summer since,” she said. “I think it’s been three years.”

The first year, Barry made full-size cupcakes. But as the crowds grew and word spread about her baked goods, so did demand. It was then that the baker said she got “smart “and the full-size cakes were reduced to mini-morsels.

“They are ‘one biters’ for most men; two for women and children,” Barry said.

Initially the cupcakes were made from cake mixes. But after reading the list of ingredients, which included a great number of unknown items, she opted to make them from scratch.


EARLENE BARRY, pictured at Music in the Park this summer, was kind enough to share a basic cupcake recipe with the Enterprise this week. EARLENE BARRY, pictured at Music in the Park this summer, was kind enough to share a basic cupcake recipe with the Enterprise this week. It’s a two-day process for Barry, who made between 100 and 200 cakes over the summer — and 240 for the Music in the Park finale Sept. 2.

She begins on Thursday baking the cakes and makes two different varieties split evenly between the two.

“I have a couple ‘go to’ recipes — one for vanilla and the other a chocolate marble,” Barry said. “But I like to switch it up once in a while and make Key lime or lemon.”

Friday, the designated day for icing, can get a little bit sticky. “Sometimes we’re squirting the frosting on as we walk out the door,” she said.

Barry and her husband eat their pizza and — to avoid disrupting the concert — she waits until intermission to pass out the ‘cakes.

Music in the Park “regulars” recognize the Cupcake Lady and start to wave their arms. Others, attending their first concert, don’t know how to react.

“I get a lot of questions. Some people think I’m opening a business or that it’s a promotional effort of some kind,” Barry said. “I’m retired. I’m not starting a cupcake business.”

At a recent program, she overheard two women seated behind her talking, one telling the other they thought she was the Cupcake Lady. And when she pulled out the goods one woman said “I told you that was her.”

Regular summer guests at the Barry house can expect to be enlisted to help. The Cupcake Lady also got a little help on the season finale earlier this month when made and handed out 20 dozen ‘cakes.

Seems a lot of work for Barry to do without expecting anything in return. But she said she gets something back that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

“I like to bring a smile to their faces,” the Cupcake Lady said. “It’s just one more special thing about Northport.”

BASIC CUPCAKE RECIPE

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 sticks butter (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk (whole or half & half)

 Preheat the oven to 350 F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

 Line two 12-cup standard muffin tins or one 24-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

 Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.

 In another medium bowl (or mixer bowl), beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. While beating, gradually pour in the melted butter and then the vanilla.

 While mixing slowly, add half the dry ingredients. Then all the milk and follow with the rest of the dry ingredients. Take care not to over mix the batter. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared tin or tins.

 Bake full sized cupcakes approximately 15-18 minutes, bake mini cupcakes approximately 10-10 1/2 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

—Recipe from Earlene Barry

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