During last month’s hands-on artist interview, I got hot and sweaty with John Boyett at Canton Glass Works. This month I wanted to do something even more off-the-wall. Our community is ripe with visual artists (painters, sculptors and the like), performance artists, musicians and their ilk, and those of you who know me know how much stock I put in the literary arts. But what of the culinary arts? Is it an art form? Can artists wear aprons? I’m going out on a limb this month. I’m introducing you to the art of cupcakes. Okay, whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down. I can hear some of you now: “But Jess, with all of the traditional artists, do CUPCAKES really merit a hands-on art feature?” Sure, I was a bit skeptical, but ask yourself this: What is an artist, really? I believe an artist is someone whose cup runneth so far over with passion and talent that they burst with creative output. If that definition sounds right, then I think it’s only fair to hear me out on the cupcake front. If you hang out in the Canton arts district, you’ve probably run across Kristina Belliveau of Kristina’s Kreations. Not only is she a big supporter of the arts, she often donates her delectable cupcakes to exhibit openings and other arts-related soirees. Belliveau invited me into her kitchen this month to make a batch of one of her signature cakes. But first, here’s something to know about me: I don’t bake. I have a KitchenAid mixer, but it’s only for show. For me, cupcakes are good for two things: eating, of course, and also buying at the store, rewrapping on a decorative platter and passing off as my own to impress family and friends. I won’t say that after my afternoon with Kristina’s Kreations that I’ve seen the (oven) light, so to speak, but I will say that I’ve learned a great deal about an artist’s passion. Belliveau is a full-time CPA who works for a local accounting firm, and Kristina’s Kreations is a labor of love. In her spare hours she bakes as many as 1,500 cupcakes each month, pulling from more than a hundred of her own recipes. These original concoctions aren’t something you’ll find in “The Joy of Cooking.” Belliveau comes up with her own recipes by experimenting (and taste-testing, usually via her husband Matt). One undeniable trend is replacing traditional layer cakes with cupcakes at weddings, and Belliveau does quite a bit of wedding work. “It sounds silly, but when I do cupcakes for weddings, I want the bride and groom to have an almost surreal experience,” said Belliveau. “I do consultations to find favorite memories, inside jokes or other elements to drive the flavor.” When the happy couple bites into their custom cupcake, she wants them to feel like it was created for them alone. (She recently designed a peanut-butter-and-jelly recipe for a couple because the bride made her fiancée a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for work.) So what kind of exotic cupcake suits me? We settled on a dark-chocolate Guinness potato-chip cupcake. Best. Cupcake. Ever. I’m not kidding. From simple ingredients comes sinful indulgence. Belliveau doesn’t cut culinary corners: Aside from a bag of Lays, everything was mixed and measured, whipped and wielded by hand. Every bite gives you a strong dose of rich chocolate, followed by hints of my all-time favorite stout and a wisp of salty crunch. Think that sounds good? This month she’s baking up rainbow-colored Fruity Pebble cupcakes (cereal included!) and Irish car bomb cakes. What’s most interesting about watching Belliveau work is that although she develops the elaborate recipes, she seldom follows them. She’s got what I can only describe as an artistic eye. She can tell when the frosting’s done, no matter how much cream she’s added. She’s at times disciplined, at others, ad hoc. It’s what makes her cakes unique and her work that of an artisan. “It’s not that I’m doing something you couldn’t do. Anyone can bake cupcakes. What makes mine different is that I take the time to make them, to perfect them and to come up with the most unique recipes,” said Belliveau. She’s right: Anyone can bake a cupcake. But nobody can bake them quite like these, and few are willing. Let’s review our “Is This Actually ‘Art’?” checklist, shall we? Doing it for passion? Check. Artistic eye? Check. Spending every spare hour creating? Check. Experimenting? Check. Elaborate commissions? Check. Delicious Incredible, unique results? Check. So don’t worry, Kristina: Even though I know the super-sneaky secret hiding spot of your recipes, and have that aforementioned mixer taking up space on the counter, I won’t be opening up Jessica’s Creations anytime soon. I’ll leave the artistry of cupcaking to you.