Is That a Cupcake or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

The rage in New York is currently the cupcake. The trend is huge heaps of frosting in bright colors and packaging with more material than you could possibly recycle in a week. We have visited the numerous cupcake hangouts and distilled the best places for a New York tourist to sample. First on our list, by amount of fame, was the Magnolia Bakery. We bought four trial cupcakes including a peanut butter one that Nora declared the best cup cake ever on the spot. I think at the time of this proclamation she was affected by the late hour and more importantly having spent the previous hours eating and drinking at The Spotted Pig.

Magnolia’s cupcakes are decent enough and they have the best packaging for giving them as a gift but they are not the most delicious. Their fame is more attributed to their baking book then to their actual baking. The frosting is too abundant and sweet, overpowering the actually perfectly baked cupcake batter. Billy’s Bakery also suffers from the same mountains of frosting and sweetness and the cupcakes themselves are not nearly as moist. In fact it takes a dedicated connoisseur to tell that Billy’s is not Magnolia, they even finish the frosting topping in the same swirly motion leaving a spatula hole in the middle. Both are a chain by now and have several locations but both can most easily be visited on foot in the West Village.

Some just want to know which is the best cupcake so let’s get to the point: the winner (so far) is a tie between The Little Cupcake Bakeshop and Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Sunshine Cupcakes has a varied selection of cupcakes and other deserts along with tasty coffee to make it a charming place to have a sit down and relax a bit with some sweets and an afternoon coffee. Their prices are also the cheapest by far. The Little Cupcake is a little more hectic due to bigger crowds but they have some edgier creations. Just the right level of traditional cooking mixed with crazy like a blue velvet cupcake that looks like it had an affair with some smurf ice cream. Should you be a caffeine maniac, their craziness extends to their coffee menu: they serve drip coffee with three extra shots of expresso dropped in, it’s called appropriately The Insomniac.

I have never met a cupcake I didn’t finish until my visit to Red Velvet on 72nd street. The regular vanilla/chocolate combination was dry with hard frosting. Their special combination, Devil Dog, which is a chocolate cupcake and marshmallow frosting was thick and gooey. The peanut butter one was sugary and old. All four cupcakes tasted like they’d been left behind the exhaust of a running car for 20 minutes to give them a slight gasoline-carbon taste.

All of the bakeries seem to have a fixation with red velvet cupcakes, from Red Velvet who use it in their actual store name to Billy’s who refuses to bake a red velvet cupcake but feels the need to announce this on their door to avoid questions by the red velvet fans. Billy declares that all red velvet is made with coloring and therefore they can’t bring themselves to sell it. It can also be made naturally with beet root but that of course is more trouble than it’s worth, so indeed most places probably use coloring. (It also comes out tasting a bit funny as Nora and Ido found out a few years ago in Miami.) The interesting thing about Billy’s and their all-natural approach is that their frostings are a vivid neon bright color.

Are you Jewish and in need of a kosher cupcake? Head down to the East Village for Baby Cakes. It’s a small quaint cafe and truly all natural with options for Vegan’s and options for those with celiac disease, who need to avoid gluten. Unfortunately their cupcakes are a bit dense and dry. They do have several interesting choices and it’s nice that they carter to people who can’t have a regular cupcake but unless you need to, this is not a cupcake to seek out.

Honorable mention must go to ButterLane cupcakes. We can’t honestly grade them as they were a bit dry and uninspired but we had just come out of visiting the new Big Gay Ice Cream Shop next door and we might have been a bit over-stuffed with sweet as well as presentation. ButterLane seems to do well from catering and larger groups that can rent a room to make cupcakes together. We might have to give them another shot.

3 Responses to “Is That a Cupcake or Are You Just Happy to See Me?”

  1. Vicky says:

    and now you are having the cupcake queen Julie staying with you and you can try her creations. promise we will make you some as well at xmas 🙂

  2. Curt says:

    Holy cupcake! Can we use you guys as stuffing for the Christmas goose? I strongly recommend the occasional Ratzeputz to wash down all that frosting. 🙂

  3. valentina enrico says:

    you’re always eating and thinking about it;)! maialini!!! today we were picking olives with a little herd of relatives from around Italy and than we had lunch all togheter.. with Vicky, Guido and the kids too. It would have been nice if you were here too… and maybe Curt’s Ratzeputz???????????????????? would have been usefull (what is it by the way??;))
    see you soon…
    big Hugs, V&E

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