Saturday, July 24, 2010

Auckland needs some cupcake shops

Serious Eats ran a review on the best cupcakes in New York City. Sex and the City has been credited as the show that ignited society's love affair with all things cupcake (cupcake shops, cupcake blogs, cupcake-printed objects, etc). Cupcakes have become so prolific that reports even claim that cupcakes are bringing the world out of the recession.

Whether that is true or not, it is evident that cupcakes are more than just a fad. Which is why I find it surprising that Auckland doesn't have any cupcake shops. You can find local bakeries selling cupcakes, but I haven't come across any shops dedicated to selling just cupcakes, like Melbourne's Little Cupcakes, New York's Magnolia and Los Angeles' Crumbs. 

The rest of this post are excerpts from the Serious Eats article. Reading it makes you wonder who will step up and bring Auckland its first cupcake shop?

12. Buttercup Bake Shop : The chocolate from this long-time New York favorite got decent marks, with tasters commenting on a "very chocolatey" flavor. But the vanilla was ill-received, with notes of "crumbly cake" and "overly-sweet frosting." The red velvet had "good cake flavor" but still, the frosting was too sweet. The cupcakes were of a decent size and cake:frosting ratio, but some of the flavors let us down.

11. Sweet Revenge: Sweet Revenge, you had class. You were a strong contender, but unfortunately the vastly unbalanced cake:frosting ratio (too much cake) on these giant cupcakes was only underlined by the dry texture of both cake and frosting. The Pure (Mexican vanilla) had "grainy frosting," "dense cake," and was "too sweet." The Dirty (chocolate) was something of a "brownie in disguise," but the cake was still dry; the Sweet Revenge (peanut butter chocolate) had a "big peanut hit," but the cake was "fell apart." And the Crimson & Cream (raspberry cake, cream cheese frosting) had an "odd spice hint in cake," prompting one taster to say, "I just don't know what this tastes like."

10. Robicelli's : This Brooklyn-based cupcakery presents its goods at several cafes across the borough. There was some delicious potential here, but the dryness of the cake and overwhelmingly buttery frosting let us down. The almond with vanilla buttercream had "great almond flavor" in the frosting, but dry cake; thepeanut butter had a "hard," "spongey" cake and the peanut butter flavor wasn't particularly discernible. Nor was the blackberry. Higher marks for flavor ideas than execution.

9. Sugar Sweet Sunshine: While we were hoping for more from one of the classic cupcakeries of NYC, the overall opinion was that these cupcakes were too darn sweet. The vanilla was "very sugary," although one taster noted that "the cake still comes through." The chocolate was "nice, a little almond-y," but some picked up on a "fake chocolate flavor." The pistachio was "mild, but yummy" for some, while others said there "wasn't much flavor." And thestrawberry cheesecake (which, we should note, melted a little in the 95 degree heat) led testers to say that though it "looked sad," it "tasted yummy."

8. Tribeca Treats : These cupcakes got pretty average marks amongst our finalists. The vanilla had "creamy frosting, but too sweet." Chocolate had a "sweet cake" that was "a little dry," but "intense." The red velvet had frosting that had a "nice cream cheesiness," a rare characteristic among the red velvets we tried. And the vanilla with strawberry frosting had "good flavor" but grainy frosting, with a base that reminded us too much of cornbread.

7. Tonnie's Minis : This Harlem bakery has a major following, especially for their red velvet cake, which we found had "delicious cake" that actually tasted like chocolate, but were saddened that "icing doesn't really taste like cream cheese." The vanilla coconut had "good textures" and "great cake," but some mentioned "overly sugary frosting." The chocolate was flavorful but a bit dry in the cake, and one taster noted that the frosting "tasted like it came out of a can." The lemon had some fans, though, with "strong lemony flavor" and a "sweet frosting that doesn't overwhelm."

6. Amy's Bread : These cupcakes remind us of our childhood. They had a classic frosting swirl presentation, and solid, unassuming flavors. The vanilla frosting was a little "too sugary and sweet," but the cake was "moist" and "good." The Devil's Food had a "super fudge-y," "intense" frosting that was a tad heavy for the "dense, chocolatey" cake. The red velvet had "fluffy," "cloudlike" frosting and a good cake. And the black and white had a "good cake," but frosting that tended towards "gritty" and "too sweet" for most tasters.

5. Kumquat Cupcakery : If you've never seen Kumquat cupcakes before, it's because this mini-cupcake business currently only sells at the Brooklyn Flea or through mail order. The vanilla prompted tasters to comments of "dry cake" and "[frosting is] a little too sweet." The dark chocolate was "very chocolatey," but still a little on the dry side. However, Kumquat won us over with banana, which was "sweet and banana-y" but not overkill. And the real winner of the bunch was thepeanut butter banana honey, which was "so flavorful" and "not too sweet." Overall, we would have liked more frosting, but these two-bite cuties are a show-stopper for presentation and adorable-ness factor.

4. Spot: Pichet Ong's St. Marks location has a variety of intriguing desserts on offer, and their cupcakes are certainly for those who are interested in more adventurous flavors. For instance, we didn't get just plain vanilla—we got vanilla yuzu lemon, which had "creamy, smooth frosting" and "complex flavor" that screamed yuzu. Theberry berry chocolate "tastes more like raspberry than a raspberry," and kept up the "moist cake" standard. The chocolate green tea was definitely polarizing, but if you are a fan of matcha you will agree that this is a "perfect balance of flavor," with "moist and chocolatey" cake. The mocha caramel was probably our least favorite, with "grainier frosting" and "little coffee flavor." 

3. Dessert Club Chickalicious: This bakery toes the line between regular and mini cupcakes, and the cake:frosting ratio tends to slant in the cake direction. But the flavors made tasters pretty happy across the board, and all the cakes had an extremely fluffy, spongey texture. Thevanilla had "good vanilla flavor in the frosting," and was refreshingly "not a sugar bomb." The chocolate had "smooooth frosting," and a chocolate hit that wasn't overwhelming. The mocha had a "slightly dry cake," and frosting whose sweet creaminess reminded one taster (that'd be me) of coffeemilk. And the banana was the favorite of the bunch, with "intense banana flavor" but a "slight aftertaste."

2. Two Little Red Hens : We were very pleased with the consistent, tasty offerings from this wonderful Upper East Side bakery. The cupcakes were all very generously sized, with a good cake:frosting ratio. The vanilla had "very buttery frosting" that was "not too sweet," and well-flavored cake. The Brooklyn Blackout chocolate cake is "for chocolate lovers," with a "very fudge-y" texture and a serious explosion of chocolate flavor. The red velvet had "delish" frosting that was appropriately "tangy and smooth," but less flavor in the cake. And the marble had a "nice presentation" with the chocolate/vanilla swirl, but underwhelmed on flavor despite a "very moist, fluffy cake".

1. Baked: If you're even remotely familiar with the baked goods scene, then the fact that Baked produces some excellent cupcakes won't come as a surprise. This Red Hook bakery makes some of the best goodies around, and their cupcakes delivered. The lemon drop was one of the overall favorites of the tasting, with bright flavors that reminded us of summer citrus and not jarred lemon curd. The vanilla was a big pick for best of its category, in that it really "tasted like vanilla" and had a light, fluffy texture. The chocolate got solid marks for "excellent flavor," despite being more cake-y than fudge-y. And the sweet and salty, a truly brilliant creation of a chocolate cupcake generously sprinkled with sea salt, made our tasters scream "wonderful"; "fluffy cake and frosting!"; and "wooooo, salty!" What more can you ask for?

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