Posted by: adventuressetravels | July 26, 2011

The Cupcake Craze

Cupcakes are a long-time favorite.  And why not?  The delicious decadence of cake in a personal portion, and best of all … frosting.

Mini-Cupcakes from Baked by Melissa

In recent years however, it seems the cupcake craze has snowballed.  Gotten out of hand, some would say.  Three or four years ago there were a handful of bakeries in New York specializing in cupcakes.  Of course the famous (and vastly overrated) Magnolia Bakery, Buttercup, Crumbs… but today the number of these bakeries is mindboggling.  Of course many of them make cakes too, but cupcakes are their specialty.  Each one has its own spin on the cupcakes, their persona cupcake hook.

When I embarked on my cupcake tasting mission this year, I had no idea the breadth of challenge that lay before me.  In one way I failed.  I did not even scratch the surface of the cupcake bakeries, but there’s always next time.

Baked by Melissa  www.bakedbymelissa.com (various locations)

Baked By Melissa

After work there is always a line at the Grand Central location for these scrumptious bite-sized cupcake morsels.  For people who want to try several flavors 3 silver-dollar sized cupcakes is just $3 and the selection is wonderful.  Of course there is the traditional vanilla, though it is tie-dyed here, and what cupcake shop would be complete without red velvet, but the other flavors are great.  I got mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cup, and chocolate chip pancake, which the salesperson highly recommended, a chocolate chip cupcake with maple frosting.

The mini cupcakes are very tasty.  The perfect size for someone on the go just wanting to ease their sweet tooth cravings.  They are also ideal for an office or home delivery, which they do offer.  However, they are far from fine cake.  Their frosting is smooth, creamy, and widely varied, with mint, maple, and a rich dark chocolate.   However, the actual cake part of the creations lacks the richness of some cakes.  They are extremely moist but I would go so far as to describe more as frosted mini-muffins rather than cupcakes.  Baked by Melissa is a wonderful place to pick up a small dessert.

Pros: bite-size cupcakes, exciting varieties

Cons:  Unexceptional cake: more like a hybrid between muffins and cakes than cake

 

Buttercup Bake Shop  www.buttercupbakeshop.com 973 Second Ave (between 51st and 52nd)

Buttercup Bake Shop

The light whipped vanilla icing sprinkled with red sugar crystals atop the red velvet cupcakes is the perfect mix of butter, sugar, and care.  Not too sweet or overpoweringly buttery, the frosting is wonderful on its own and even better with the accompanying cake.  The red

Buttercup’s golden vanilla cupcakes are decadence itself.  Practically a pound cake their moist, dense richness is glorious.  The multi-colored vanilla icing is delicious, dissolving in your mouth instantaneously; it is definitely royalty among frosting.  My only complaint is that it is sweeter than I generally like and too much becomes overwhelming.  Perhaps that is a good thing though; the perfect cupcake could be dangerous…

Pros: Perfectly-sized cupcakes, delicious rich moist cake

Cons:  Overly sweet frosting

 

Little Cupcake Bakeshop www.littlecupcakebakeshop.com 30 Prince Street, 9102 3rd Ave Brooklyn

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

The Little Cupcake Bakeshop is one of the most environmentally conscious bakeries I have been to.  They pride themselves on being a carbon neutral and the quality of their ingredients.  Though the Little Cupcake Bakeshop claims to be “Traditional American Desserts,” their cupcakes seem to be more unique.

The Dreaming Princess, one of their signature cupcakes is divine.  With almond-based cake topped with vanilla butter-cream frosting, raspberry preserves, meringue, and toasted almonds it is a truly noteworthy dessert.  The dreaming princess is delicious.

However, though they have delightfully playful flavors, the actual cake base is exceptional as well.  Baked fresh daily, the cake is rich, moist, and delicious with the perfect balance of ingredients and a wonderful flavor.

Pros: Rich delicious cake base, creative as well as traditional options, environmentally friendly

Cons:  Not enough locations

 

Cupcake Café http://www.cupcakecafe-nyc.com/ 18 W 18th, 545 9th Ave

Cupcake Cafe

This little hole-in-the-wall is slightly off the beaten track at 545 9th Ave between 40th and 41st is one of the oldest cupcake bakeries in town.  Around since 1988 it has been around since long before the current cupcake craze.  Aside from beautiful flowers adorning each cake, these cupcakes are about as basic as you can get:  vanilla, chocolate.  Sure the prices are reasonable:  $2.50 for a small cake and $3 for a large.

The cake is good; moist, flavorful and a good solid cake but as basic as their flavors.  What then, makes this little place worth the trek? Though many shops claim their frosting to be outstanding, this shop truly comes through.  The cupcake café has unquestionably the best butter-cream frosting I have ever had.  The vanilla is light, whipped, almost airy consistency.  The chocolate has a rich delectable perfectly blended flavor and smooth and creamy texture.

Pros: Reasonable prices, rich delicious cake base, outstanding butter cream frosting, beautiful frosting decoration

Cons:  Not a wide variety of flavors

 

Crumbs http://www.crumbs.com/ (multiple locations)

One of the larger cupcake “chain” bakeries in New York, Crumbs has numerous locations.  Unfortunately, I am not quite sure how this shop gained its popularity.  Though the cupcakes are enormous and moist, there is something reminiscent of cupcakes that can be bought at any grocery store.  The cake and frosting are large, filling and but unexceptional.   The cakes lack the rich cakey quality of many of the other cupcake bakeries and the frosting for my taste overly sweet.

Clearly many others do not share this opinion, but I would personally rather have a smaller, richer cake than a huge one that is merely mediocre.

Pros: Large portions, multiple locations

Cons: Unexceptional cake and frosting

 

Butter Lane www.butterlane.com 123 E. 7th Street

At Butter Lane it’s all about the frosting and they pride themselves on it.  This unassuming little bakery is tucked away in Manhattan’s East Village at 123 East Seventh Street.  It features 18 frostings 15 of which are always available, and three of which change seasonally.

 

Butter Lane is a lot of fun because it’s a mix and match bakery experience.  Customers choose a frosting from their long list, and then choose a cake. (vanilla, chocolate, or lemon)  If there isn’t already one assembled then the cupcake artist pairs cake and frosting.  Frosting samples are available and quite delicious.

I had the pleasure of trying the Tiramisu cupcake.  The mascarpone frosting, so light it is almost whipped cream, tops a rich vanilla cupcake with coffee poured over it.  These are specialty cakes made fresh every morning and I was informed that they almost invariably disappear by afternoon.

Of the frostings I sampled my favorite was, without a doubt the sea salt chocolate, a rich chocolate with just enough sea salt to make it interesting.  Over the moist, cakelike cupcake it is delightful.

Pros: unusual frosting flavors (sea salt chocolate, grapefruit ginger, and chocolate raspberry to name a few), fantastic service, great location

Cons: Good but unexceptional cake.  The cakes are little more than vehicles for the frosting.

 

If I didn’t make it there, I’d love to hear about your favorite cupcake bakery too.

 

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Responses

  1. “Cupcake,” I have heard, is a New Yorker’s term of endearment.

  2. Billy’s Bakery is one of my fav’s. Although there are the same general flavors as places like Buttercup, Billy’s never let’s me down for an exceptionally delicious cake & frosting. Check it out if you can!

  3. Robicelli’s. Available at several locations (check robicellis.tumblr.com for the list and flavors).

  4. Also a big fan of Sugar Sweet Sunshine (on Rivington). Outstanding cupcake, and more of a bargain than most.


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