Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Bakers Dozen: Cupcake Review

While traveling, I made it a point to try as many cupcake places as possible and in 10 months, I visited 13 different bakeries & some were repeat offenders! ;) I even obtained the "Bakers Dozen" badge on Foursquare...times 5, which means I've checked in to TWENTY different bakeries, so I say I've done my research!!

We started off the year in New York City which is where I experienced my first and fourth bakeries, Crumbs and Magnolia Bakery! Crumbs has a fun atmosphere with oversized cupcakes & I enjoyed a "Super Bowl special" for my chosen treat. It was a good cupcake overall, large & a bit more of a novelty item than a flavor-rich cupcake, but it was definitely good! At Magnolia bakery I found that the cupcake was the perfect size and it had the perfect amount of frosting as well! While I wasn't that impressed with the cake (it was just a little too crumbly for my liking), the cream cheese frosting was SUPERB!

The next cupcake shop was my least favorite of them all and as I was really excited because of the hype by locals, I was let down completely by the actual cupcakes. I had a Guinness cupcake and a s'more cupcake at The Flying Cupcake in Indianapolis, IN, and had high expectations for two flavors that I LOVE...and no only were the flavors lacking, but the cake was not good at all. The positives were, this bakery goes "outside the box" with their flavors & had a good cake to frosting ratio, but honestly...that was about it. Another one of my least favorites was Just Cupcakes in Virginia Beach, really was just not good. The cake was very dry and the flavor of the buttercream frosting was too rich, not a good combo. Maybe I just got a bad batch...

Next up was Sprinkles, "The Original Cupcake Bakery". While I give major props to Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles, because without her...I probably wouldn't have been able to write this post, I have to say that while her cupcakes are good, very good...they weren't my favorite. The cupcakes had great cake to frosting ratio and good flavor, the cake was barely moist enough, because I really love a moist cake and the frosting was good but I felt as though it was too creamy of frosting, I like mine a little lighter. Overall, it was a good cupcake, just not my personal favorite.

Moving onto one of the most famous cupcake shops, Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, DC...more widely known from their television show, DC Cupcakes! And again, while these cupcakes were good, they were not a favorite of mine. I found the cake to be very dense and the frosting to be very thick and too sweet. When I choose a cupcake, I do so because I want a light, yet flavorful treat in a small portion, and this was just far too much for my palate. I do have to compliment them on their 'hibiscus mango' cupcake (a seasonal option), even though it was still too dense for me, the flavors were so original! However, my co-worker who enjoys a more strong flavor found this bakery to be one of his favorites. Just personal preference!

Sugar Mountain Bake Shoppe in Rochester, NY, was our next stop and I have to say, I'm not sure I can fairly judge this when I arrived I was forced to choose a flavor I wouldn't normally choose due to the fact that they are a bakery that, once a flavor is's gone for the day. I chose the tiramisu cupcake because while I prefer a simple chocolate with vanilla frosting, I do love me some coffee & chocolate! Again, this cupcake was too dense & rich for me and I was unimpressed with the texture of the cake, it seemed a bit overdone...and I'm not a huge fan of filled cupcakes in general. The atmosphere is really unique here, as the bakery is placed in a house with a small cafe & the employees were super friendly and upbeat!

Going with the theme of "too rich" I'll add another to the list, *ndulge cupcake boutique in State College, PA. Again, these cupcakes were filled, therefore making them a bit too sweet for me, flavors were good but this was the first time I couldn't even finish one cupcake! I had the peanut butter cup, by recommendation of the employee in the bakery and it was good, I do like peanut butter, but my goodness...just too much.

A last minute stop at Gigi's Cupcakes in Lexington, KY, made me a believer in mass chain cupcake shops! The cake was good, the frosting was good...although a bit over the top, they'd be better with less frosting! However, overall the cupcake was pretty tasty! I do have to say, the girl that was currently working at the one I went to seemed very uninterested in being there & tried shoving several small samples at me to "get rid of them," makes the experience just a little less special.

After doing some research and finding the website listing "Best Cupcake Bakeries" by National Geographic, I sought out a couple bakeries on the list! First up was Molly's Cupcakes in Chicago, IL! I tried the infamous cake batter cupcake (which I ate, knowing it was filled) and I have to honestly say I was a bit grossed out! I understand the concept of them putting the "cake batter" flavor filling in the center, but it straight up tasted like runny, raw, cake batter in the center of my beautiful, bright blue cupcake! It totally ruined the cupcake for me & had I not been so turned off I may have tried a different one...but I just couldn't after that. The next bakery I tried on the list was The Atlanta Cupcake Factory in Atlanta, GA. I tried this one right around Halloween, so they had a lot of unique "scary" flavors to their treats which was kind of cool. They didn't have many "normal" flavors at the time I visited (I'm a sucker for classic chocolate/vanilla frosting!) so I resorted to the sweet potato/bourbon cupcake & I wasn't much of a fan. The cupcake/frosting ratio was spot on, but the cake was a little dry and I wasn't crazy about the flavors. I just don't think I'm a huge fan of "crazy" flavors...again, personal preference. I was impressed with all the different unique flavors they had, I just wouldn't be the right person to try them all!

Now, I've saved my two favorite places for last! One of them is in my very backyard, which is both a good and bad thing (only bad for my waistline)! I had tried this place, as suggested by my sister & have visited it many times, before AND after sampling all these other great shops! It is called, Nona's Sweets and is located in Charlotte, NC! I have to admit, I think I like this and my favorite (coming up next) bakeries because their cupcakes taste the most like mine! Nona's cakes are a perfect texture and their frosting is light & delicious! I also like that they have a "cupcake bar," meaning you can mix & match cakes, frostings & toppings to whatever you feel like that day! My favorite is their classic chocolate cupcake with either their vanilla or almond frosting & I love adding sprinkles!

And to end this post is my very favorite cupcake bakery, it's a cupcakery! Smallcakes Cupcakery has locations in Kansas City, MO, and Atlanta, GA and I've been to both states to test out their DELICIOUS cupcakes!!! I have to say, every single time I've been to their bakery I've had a delicious cupcake! My first one was on St. Patrick's day & it was FREE because they often do sweet deals on Foursquare and Facebook!! If I lived in one of these areas, I would be in BIG TROUBLE because they have the MOST delicious cupcakes of any I've ever tasted...they might even be better than mine! ;) I've been back several times, mostly for my favorite chocolate! Combining my favorite flavors with one of my favorite colors...PINK & little pink sprinkles! I also tried their vanilla pink, birthday cupcake & key lime cupcake!

So, there it "Bakers Dozen" review of 13 different cupcake bakeries! I hope I didn't make anyone upset by my opinion, I tried to be very honest & tactful! Personally, I'm a fan of a classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting...moist cake and creamy, yet light frosting, which is what I found in my two favorite shops! I hope y'all can check out some of these places and let me know what you think of them as well! ...until next time, MUAH!