Downtown Iowa City Just Got Sweeter!

The “Ron Bennington” Cupcake. Photo courtesy of Jazz F.

Downtown Iowa City became a little sweeter. The Chicago-based cupcake shop Molly’s Cupcakes made its debut in Iowa City this summer. Jamie Smith is the Owner of the Iowa City franchise and an Iowa native; Smith says she had always planned on returning to her home state. What she didn’t always know is that Molly’s Cupcakes would come back with her.

“When I lived in Chicago I knew all along that I would eventually move back to Iowa and the whole cupcake thing just happened by chance,” Smith said.

Smith worked in real estate while living in Chicago, but eventually decided the career path was not for her. She became involved with Molly’s Cupcakes as a cashier. Smith said it wasn’t long before a business background sparked thoughts of franchise opportunities. At this time, there were just two Molly’s Cupcakes locations: the original Molly’s in Chicago along with a second location in New York City.

Swings at the Cupcake Bar.

After gaining approval from Molly’s Cupcakes founder John Nicolades, Smith began planning the opening of an Iowa based shop. Smith was between two cities for Iowa’s first Molly’s: Des Moines and Iowa City.

“Iowa City really reminds me of a small, small Chicago. You have all of the foot traffic, you have the downtown feel, it’s very neighborhood-y,” Smith said. “I knew it would do well here. The college is close by, and that’s kind of criteria for any Molly Cupcakes. The one in Chicago and the one in New York are both close to college students so this just seemed perfect.”

Education is a large part of Molly’s: Molly is so named for Nicolades’ 3rd grade teacher Miss Molly, who frequently brought delicious cupcakes for her class. Molly’s Cupcakes proudly donates a portion of its profits to schools.

“We are really good about giving back,” Smith said.

Smith hopes the cupcakes shop will provide offer downtown Iowa City a new space to socialize.

“Yotopia has really confirmed my beliefs that people really just want somewhere to socialize

Molly’s Cupcakes Chalkboard Menu.

and hang out that doesn’t necessarily mean a bar,” Smith said. “I think that the addition of Molly’s Cupcakes will create a better nightlife in Iowa City. I think it will be great.”

Smith hopes customers will truly enjoy their time inside of the shop.

“It’s equally as much the experience of Molly’s as it is the cupcakes. The cupcakes are delicious but more importantly it’s how you feel when you are in here,” Smith said.

Customers will experience the life of a school-aged kid as they walk through the doors. The shop plays on its connection to education by decorating the interior to look like an elementary classroom. Lunch boxes adorn the walls, while swings are found next to the cupcake bar. The menu is written on chalkboards, guests sit at school desks, and there are board games to play.

Owner Jamie Smith speaks with a customer on opening week at Molly’s Cupcakes.

“We really want people to stay awhile and hang out. The whole point is no matter how old you are, you walk in here and feel like a kid again,” Smith said.



Quantity: You can get any amount of cupcakes you want—seriously.  Get them single, get 2, 7, 8, 14, whatever. If you like to buy in bulk, you’ll be happy to know there is a discount when you buy a dozen.




Mixed Berry Cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Eva Z.

Flavors: There are 12 center-filled cupcakes available any time. Flavors include Chocolate Mousse, Boston Cream, Cake Batter, Peach Cobbler, and Salted Caramel Butterscotch. Vanilla, Chocolate, Red Velvet, and Carrot Cake are dubbed “The Molly’s”, and are favorites that are always available. Molly’s also has flavors that rotate seasonally, stop by the store to see what’s new!


Jamie’s Favorite: “It depends. I do love the lemon meringue, I can’t get enough of it and the red velvet it’s just awesome. Everybody is proud of their red velvet where ever you go, but ours is awesome.”

Customer Favorites:

  • The Ron Bennington (Top Seller): chocolate cake filled with peanut butter, chocolate ganache and topped with crushed butterscotch pieces.
  • Cookie Monster: Vanilla chocolate chip cake filled with raw cookie dough and topped with buttercream and a homemade cookie.


The Sprinkle Bar at Molly’s Cupcakes.

Sprinkle Station: Yeah, you read that right. Sprinkle Station. There are plenty of cupcakes that are pre decorated, filled, ready to eat as soon as you walk through the doors. The other option is the “build-your-own.” Customers select the cake and frosting they want to try. After a Molly’s employee expertly frosts the cup cake, the customer takes it to the sprinkle station where they top their cupcake off to their heart’s content. Smith notes the sprinkle station is a favorite for kids. If that’s the case, you can consider me a kid!

Molly’s Cupcakes
14 South Clinton Street
Iowa City, IA 52240
(319) 333-1297
Mon-Thurs, 8am-10pm; Fri, 8am-12am; Sat, 10am-12am; Sun, 10am-10pm

About: Caitlin Scott

My name is Caitlin Scott and I am currently a junior studying journalism and French at the University of Iowa. I fell in love with Iowa City after my first visit to the home of the Hawkeyes. In addition to the Hawks, I love writing, hiking, concerts and magazines. I also love to travel and hope to visit more of The Big Ten in the future!