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A smiling cherry atop a smiling cupcake on a wooden swing beckons on the sign above Random Acts of Sweetness bakery on State Street, and when you enter you can’t help smiling yourself. You’re greeted by cantaloupe walls complemented by exposed brick, a polished wood floor,  and a display case filled with gorgeous cupcakes, all with whimsical names. Owners Tiana Conlon and Jessica Antequera, both wearing colorful vintage-style aprons, welcome customers enthusiastically.

A pair of 50-something women deliberate – Berry Busy in the Dark (chocolate cake, raspberry filling, white chocolate buttercream), S’more Please (vanilla cake, marshmallow filling, marshmallow buttercream, crumbled graham cracker-chocolate garnish), or Hazed and Confused (chocolate cake, hazelnut buttercream)? Decisions, decisions. “We’ll be back soon,” says one of the women, as they carry out their tasty purchases. Other customers enter, three teenagers, a mother with two elementary school kids… all leave grinning.

After a lengthy prep time (renovating the space took more than a year, thanks to the lack of a kitchen and challenges of an old building) Conlon and Antequera, friends since childhood, are riding the cupcake wave full speed ahead, most deliciously. The names are fun, and the cupcakes are tempting to behold, oversized, topped with generous swirls of buttery frosting. But they are more than just a pretty face – these cupcakes are absolutely delicious. The cake is moist and flavorful, deeply chocolate or golden vanilla; other flavors include blueberry banana, carrot pecan, coconut, apple spice, and buttermilk.

While cupcakes are the star attraction at Random Acts, not to miss are the James Bon Bons, the shop’s take on cake pops: leftover cake is mixed with frosting for a dense cakey truffle-like texture that’s formed into a ball and set in a dark chocolate cup, then topped with elderflower buttercream, garnished with a sprinkling of sea salt and sliced almonds. These are very rich – a little goes a long way. The shop also has tasty bite-size cookies (all gluten-free): try the Coconut Macaroons and the Chocolate Oats, crispy oatmeal wafers sandwiching a chocolate filling.

Cupcake flavors rotate, and Conlon and Antequera enjoy creating new combinations – and the names to go with them. Whether you choose Sweet Assault (chocolate cake, salted caramel buttercream), Blue My Mind (blueberry banana cake, coconut buttercream), or Peanut Butter Jelly Time (vanilla cake, strawberry filling, peanut butter buttercream), you will leave the bakery with a smile.

112 State Street
Portsmouth, N.H.
603-319-8612
 
Photographs by Lisë Stern