Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Cupcakeries

It was the best of cupcakes, it was the worst of cupcakes. Literally.

This is one post of two cupcakery reviews. I think it's important that we remember not all cupcakes are created equal. In an era where cupcake shops are as prevalent as Starbucks (ya know, one on every corner), it's no surprise everyone's become a critic. Everyone is either angry at cupcakes or an expert on cupcakes. Let this review serve as a reminder to all of you: I'M the expert.

It all started on a Monday morning. Work had me venture out to NYC for the day to meet with a prospective client. Normally, on a trip to NYC, I would have blocked out all cupcake shops in the area and planned to eat my way throughout the city. This, however, would not be one of those trips, as I would basically have about 30 minutes to myself between the two 3-hour train rides and the 2.5 hour meeting I went to the city for. But somehow, the cupcake gods smiled upon me that Monday morning, as I serendipitously stumbled upon one of the more elusive cupcakeries I'd yet to encounter: Crumbs on Broadway.

I'd seen Crumbs cupcakes in various online capacities for a couple of years now. All you need to do is check out the pics online and I promise your heart will skip a beat (as it braces itself for the impending sugar rush). I had a good 45 minutes to kill, so I knew this was MY moment.

Despite being one of the most popular cupcake
shops in the city, they do not have an hour-long line.

I didn't know what to be more horrified by: the price or the calories.

The bakery case was as gorgeous as I! It was filled to the brim with nearly 50 different flavors, all made fresh in house. There were small ones, big ones, ginormous ones--it was like a set of cupcake Russian nesting dolls. Since my neighborhood Crumbs wasn't likely to open until the end of the year (and still isn't open), I decided to splurge and get a half dozen so I could sample, well, six of them. At $3.75 a piece, they're not cheap, but even the regular cupcakes are quite large and more than sharable, not that I would do that.

Now is probably a good time to tell you why my pictures are so crappy. I mean, I know they're usually crappy, but these are especially so because I took them on my iPhone.

So anyway, I managed to narrow down the selection to these bad boys. Working clockwise from the upper left corner, that's Red Velvet, Artie Lange, Chocolate Good Guy, Squiggle, White Chocolate, and Pumpkin. I couldn't help myself and dug into the Artie Lange like some kind of savage on the train ride back to DC.

250 calories consumed at this point...

It was a vanilla cupcake filled with chocolate buttercream, topped with white chocolate and chocolate ganaches and edged in jimmies.

I loved everything about this cupcake. The cake was light and fluffy with a nice crumb; the buttercream was uber chocolatey and sweet--the way I like it. I also liked that even though the frosting on top was thin, the filling more than made up for it. 

Over the next week, I would proceed to make my way through the cupcakes. I probably liked the Artie Lange best, followed by the Chocolate Good Guy (I'm a sucker for sprinkles), then the red velvet. The others were good, too, but I don't really feel like ranking them right now.

So, in the end, I was happy to know that my expectations were right on target. I'm also happy and equally nervous that Crumbs is opening a shop a mere 3 minute-walk from my apartment. Thankfully, Virginia doesn't require posting the calorie count in restaurants.


Fresh off my high from Crumbs, I spent Thanksgiving in Houston, where Sprinkles opened a location in Highland Village earlier this year. I'd heard such great things about Sprinkles over the years from friends in L.A. and Chicago and even Houston, plus, according to their website they had a daily gluten free red velvet cupcake so my mom could enjoy a treat.

Cinnamon Sugar sounded good at the time...

The display case really is beautiful

Because I never can try just one, I got a few. I picked out a glistening cinnamon sugar cupcake (described as tasting like a donut), an orange cranberry cupcake because it was seasonal, and a strawberry cupcake since I don't see many of those. We were disappointed to learn that there were no gluten free cupcakes available that day. It was a Saturday, for what it's worth. Probably they're busiest day of the week...? Just sayin', better to be prepared. After all, it says on the website it's available EVERY day. Surely, Candace Nelson has higher expectations of her chains than this??

We also got a Vanilla and Pumpkin to round out the box

My dad and I were both intrigued by the cinnamon sugar, so we dove into those first.

There's a tumblr site called Pretty Girls With Cupcakes--this is my
attempt at getting posted there. Please submit.

What's missing here...??

No, your eyes do NOT deceive you. That is, in fact, an un-iced cupcake. In other words, a muffin. This was the worst first bite of cupcake I've ever had. 

Imagine the hottest day possible. You've been walking for miles and are drenched in boob sweat and almost dying of thirst. Now imagine you see a tall glass of something and you're pretty sure it's water. You run to it and pick up, waiting for the sweet, sweet hydration, but instead of water, it's sand. Dry, dry sand. And then you die because you just drank sand. THAT'S what eating this cupcake was like. Severely dissatisfying and practically near dying.

I decided to stop right there and move on to the Cranberry Orange cupcake with cream cheese frosting:

This was okay, but the cranberries reminded me of a muffin, again. The icing was achingly sweet--and this coming from someone who likes sweet. Had I not just had such a bad experience, I might not have given this one such bad marks, but alas, I cannot untaste a cupcake. 

I did try the vanilla cupcake later, which wasn't too bad, but there wasn't any vanilla bean in the cake, which frankly, I think is a must for any designer cupcake.

Juxtaposed against Crumbs, Sprinkles was a complete disappointment, but hey, at least they're not opening up 3 minutes from my apartment.

I suppose my feelings on the matter are best summed up by Dickens himself (edited for cupcake applicability): "It is a far, far better thing that I eat, than I have ever ate; it is a far, far better cupcake that I bake than I have ever known."

I'm not entirely sure what that means, but here's the point of the whole story: I look good.


Rene said...

I love that when I read your posts, I actually do laugh out loud! Thanks as always for your insight into the world of cupcakes - And yes, I agree - You do look good =)

Tes said...

I enjoy reading this post :) Cupcakes is like a girl's bestfriend :)

Coco Cake Land said...

500 CALORIES!! that is sheer insanity... !

also, i had the same experience with that horrible cinnamon muffin at sprinkles in LA! some creamcheese frosting on that would've at least elevated it to cupcake territory!

i've never tried crumbs, but with sprinkles, they were pretty good, i agree, disappointing, but it's their design/aesthetic that drives the business, not the cupcakes themselves!

PS drenched in boob sweat = FUNNEEEE!

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