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Guest Post by Lynnee: Two Little Red Hens

While Maggie is away from New York City, I’ve been scouting out some cupcake places for her. I live on the Upper East Side, and I’ve found a bakery that will hopefully lure her to come visit me, her college friend. My roommate actually told me about it—whenever he passes by the shop, he tends to buy something. At first I thought it was because when he would tell me about it, I thought he was calling it “Two Little Redheads” (Who wouldn’t want to go somewhere so cute sounding?), but when he brought a cupcake home for my birthday, I realized it was because it has sublime cupcakes.

The cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens may be the best I’ve ever had. Cupcakes I’ve had before mostly have far too much frosting on them. I have trouble eating cupcakes because I either get a face-ful of frosting and no cake with it, or vice versa. And the frosting usually just tastes like artificial sugar, whereas the cake part is spongy and crumbly. But the peanut butter fudge swirl cupcake I had at Two Little Red Hens was nothing like this: the cake part was fudgy, moist, and chocolatey and it had a thick, almost crunchy, peanut butter filling (Reese’s Cup consistency) in it that didn’t skimp out or overwhelm the cake. The frosting wasn’t overwhelmingly tall but rather one thick swirl inside itself. It didn’t stick to my tongue but rather strangely made me think of liquid chocolate that melted in my mouth with a peanut butter aftertaste! Because the cupcake was so rich, it was easy to put away half for later and feel completely satisfied (not sugared out) with the half that I ate. Also, the peanut butter fudge swirl smells like a better quality Reese’s cup.

The shop is pretty small; small tables clutter one half of the bakery so that with a line of customers waiting for pickup, it’s hard to manoeuvre around the shop. But everyone seems happy: customers sharing their pies at a round table, picking up personalized cakes, and ordering Arnold Palmers. The employees were kind and efficient, too. The yellow lighting and checkered curtains also contributed to the coziness of the place. Tea boxes lined one wall, Two Little Red Hens t-shirts were available for sale, and hen figurines were tastefully all over. I also noticed the display counters were orderly and clean, and the cupcakes were well stocked. The line was quite long, but the wait wasn’t bad.

Two Little Red Hens sells cakes, scones, pies, and cupcakes. Something exciting to note is that in 2010, Series Eats rated it among its top 12 best cupcakes in New York City (http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/07/the-best-cupcake-in-new-york-city-cupcake-shops-bakeries-nyc.html?ref=thumb). Though the cakes looked pristine and delicately beautiful, I immediately zoned in on the cupcakes. Available on this visit were marble, yellow vanilla, red velvet, banana, carrot, peanut butter fudge swirl (has a filling), and Brooklyn blackout (has a filling). I believe there are also seasonal options sometimes, like Pumpkin Spice and Eggnog. Some have filling inside them, like the peanut butter fudge swirl and Brooklyn blackout. Each have a regular and a mini size option. The regular size is $4, the mini $1.75, though when you think of “mini,” think bigger than Baked By Melissa size (i.e., 2 bites rather than 1 bite, I’d say). I like the cake to frosting ratio: there’s no overwhelming pile of frosting, and what is there (buttercream frosting) looks smooth and pretty.

Summary:

Location: Upper East Side, Manhattan NYC

Flavors: ~10 flavors +/- seasonal flavors. Check them out online.

Size: huge muffin size (though smaller than Crumbs)

Price: $3 regular ($4 for regular with filling)/$1.75 mini

Atmosphere: Cozy, busy, and cheerful

Taste: Fudgy, moist, rich

Favorite: Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl

Ranking: 5/5

Recipe Friday: Creme Brulee Cupcakes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 3/4 c flour
  • 1 1/3 c whole milk
  • 2 3.7 oz boxes of Creme Brulee Mix (I used Dr. Oetker’s)
  • 2 c. cold whole milk
  • 2 c cold whipping cream

Recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cream the butter and sugar until well combined.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and salt.
  • With mixer on low speed, add the flour and milk, alternating between the two with 1/2 cup increments at a time. Beat until just smooth.
  • Pour cupcake mixture into paper-lined cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake for about 22-25 minutes until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack. Allow to cool for additional 30 minutes. Core the cupcakes.
  • Coring a cupcake: using a small round cookie cutter, melon baller, spoon, cupcake corer, or similar object, scoop out center of each cupcake, leaving about an inch border around the rim of the cupcake and 3/4 in at the bottom. Either save/ use/ or more realistically eat the crumbs.
  • While baking/cooling, make the creme brulee filling. In a small/medium saucepan on medium low heat, add the mix, whole milk, and whipping cream, stirring constantly. When the creme brulee is finished cooking (it will be creamy and thick (but not too thick)) quickly pour the mixture into the cupcakes, until they’re full (but not overflowing). 
  • Allow the cupcakes to sit at room temperature for an hour and then refrigerate for another hour (or ready to serve).
  • Just before serving, sprinkle caramelizing sugar (I use Sugar in the Raw) over the cupcakes and use a culinary torch or stick cupcake under oven’s broiler for 3 minutes until the sugar has caramelized. Enjoy!

*Note: these cupcakes only keep for about 5 days before the creme brulee dissipates. Keep in fridge!

Recipe adapted from: Bake it in a Cake

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So, while I am a New Yorker at heart, DC is growing on me, and quite fast. I’m not a fan of the metro (because its not a subway and there aren’t enough lines that run frequently enough and you can’t have food in the metro and the stations are clean and air conditioned and wtf carpeting in the trains), but I do like the neighborhoods like Eastern Market and Georgetown. In Georgetown, there are quite a number of bakeries and cupcake shops (its very commercialized and ritzy there) including Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcakes (see previous posts), and one up and coming shop called Baked and Wired.

One of the top 10 bakeries in the US (via The Hopper), Baked and Wired is known for its quirky, geeky, hipster atmosphere. The shop is located on this side street (which is very cute) by a bunch of row townhouses and a stream and just all the wonderfulness of Georgetown. Through the door (once you get in, that is, there is typically a line), on the right you can go through another door into the “beverages” area with gourmet coffees and teas, or stay on the left for baked goodies including “Hippie Crack” aka homemade granola. In the back is a bunch of seating, though the whole shop is very narrow and small and quite loud. They also have lots of events like art installations and music performances. The decor of the place is very much hodge-podge thrown together, with odd paintings, leather seats, and chalkboard menus. Each of the “cakecups” (not cupcakes here), has a unique name like “Uniporns and Rainhoes” or “Unporked Elvis” or “Pretty Bitchin’” with colorfully drawn placards and apothecary jars (which I think is awesome). The cupcakes themselves are huge, with muffin paper liners, and are simply decorated (no sprinkles or fondant decor), while the frosting is not piled on, but simply spread on (so there is more cake than frosting).

I ended up getting the Uniporns cupcake (basically funfetti with cream chease frosting), which was quite dry and flaky. It is rare that I actually request more icing/frosting, but this time I do wish so to help balance the amount of cake that I was eating. The dryness/flakyness could have been a result of day two consumption, where I left the cupcake in the fridge overnight before I got around to eating it. But generally, the taste was strong and the frosting that I did have was rich and moist, cream cheesy but sweet. Very good. Overall, I’d go back, but have your cupcake/cakecup that day.

Summary:

Location: Georgetown (Washington DC)

Flavors: 19 flavors. Check them out online (so I don’t have to translate each one)

Size: huge muffin size (though smaller than Crumbs)

Price: $3.65 (a little pricy)

Atmosphere: Hodge-podge, busy and loud, hipster/alternative

Taste: Dry, crumbly, rich, sweet

Favorite: Uniporns and Rainhoes!

Ranking: 3.5/5

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So a while back, around the time that I made this blog a real thing, complete with an instagram and twitter, both of which I don’t use very often (mainly because I’m busy interacting and taking in the bakeries I visit, rather than staring at a screen the whole time), one of the places that I actually tried to “check in” at was Charm City Cupcakes.

You may have heard of Charm City Cakes through a popular TV show Ace of Cakes starring one Duff Goldman and his crazy cake decorating abilities. Charm City is his cupcake franchise, led by Sandra Long, and the shop borrows a similar mission and goal as his (beyond) successful cake business: Baked Fresh Everyday, only the best ingredients and no preservatives. They offer nearly 65 different flavors and varieties of cupcakes, and have 2 locations in Baltimore.

So, how does this award winning shop measure up? Well, Hanna came to visit Kristen and me in Baltimore (see a pattern with these cupcake adventures?) and so we went to the inner harbor area, which is a wonderful little area in Baltimore that is on the waterfront, with music, shopping, the aquarium, restaurants, and generally a lot of life. We knew that (at the time, it since has closed) Charm City had a little shop set up there. However, this was beyond the most rude and horrible service I’ve ever experienced. The shop was tucked away in the corner of the plaza, so it was hard to find. Then only one person was “working,” if you can call it that. She was literally playing on her cell phone for 10 minutes (i kept track) before she even asked if we would like anything. There were no placards saying what kind of cupcake was available and once I figured out what they were (thanks to so many cupcakes being eaten before) the selection options (out of 65) were minimal. I ended up getting a lemon cupcake, pictured above. It was simply decorated (if that), with a light whipped frosting and some yellow sprinkles. Honestly, I can’t really remember much of a taste, or anything that would make me want to go back there. Safe to say that the cupcake was unimpressionable. Plain. Simple. Bland. The counter shop stop (hehe) has since closed, but two locations for Charm City remain open, so maybe a full-service store would be better?

Summary:

Location: Baltimore, MD

Flavors: Supposedly 65 available flavors including vegan, ice cream, and alcoholic, though the flavors are not listed online

Size: Smallish regular size

Price: $3.00, $3.25 for “gourmet”, $3.50 for “black tie”

Atmosphere: Tucked away, hidden, inconvenient

Taste: Bland

Favorite: None

Ranking: 1/5

Recipe Friday: Lemon blueberry cupcakes with white chocolate filling and blueberry glaze


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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest (about 1-2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsbp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 oz white chocolate (I used chips)
  • 2 tbsp plus 1/2 cup whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line cupcake liner.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In large bowl with electric mixer, blend together butter, oil and sugar.
  4. Stir in egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. Blend in sour cream.
  5. Add flour mixture alternating with buttermilk in alternating batches. Fold in blueberries.
  6. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.
  7. Lemon buttercream frosting: combine butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest in large mixing bowl. Blend together until smooth and fluffy. Set aside.
  8. Blueberry sauce: in medium sauce pan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Mix in blueberries and water. Bring mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once at a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour warm mixture into blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Cool sauce in fridge. 
  9. White chocolate whipped cream: in small *metal* mixing bowl, combine white chocolate and 2 tbsp of whipping cream. Place over a small saucepan of simmering water and stir chocolate until melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Beat, using whisk attachment, remaining 1/2 cup cream in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add white chocolate mixture, whisk until thoroughly combined and soft peaks form.
  10. Once cupcakes are cooled, hollow out the middle and place a spoonful of the whipped cream filling inside. Ice the cupcakes with the lemon icing and drizzle blueberry sauce on top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy and Epicurious 

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Better by Maggie to me is not only a hobby (though sometimes I may treat it as such) but it really is a lifestyle in which I travel and really try to experience local cupcake shops and venture and meet new people and try new things. So having friends and family following the blog and even bringing me cupcakes to try is really wonderful to have my dreams recognized and validated. Its almost like I know something about cupcakes.

A friend of mine went to a conference in Portland two months ago and during his time there, he found this cupcake shop and knew that I would absolutely love it. So, he bought a few cupcakes for me and his sister and brought them all the way back to VA for me to try. 

Now while I normally like to describe the shop and the atmosphere and the experience, I can’t say anything besides what I find online. Cupcake Jones is the only exclusively handcrafted cupcake shop in Portland, made with all natural and local ingredients. That’s some dedication. They have gluten free and vegan cupcakes too, which is always nice. They feature 11 daily flavors and 2 special flavors, all crafted beautifully. They also have the option of filled or not filled (too cool!)

Now, of course because my cupcakes were hand delivered by a cupcake unprofessional (meaning that he didn’t know how to deliver cupcakes, though there are companies that do deliver anywhere in country and they arrive perfectly!) the frosting on my cupcakes was a little deflated. But that didn’t stop me. 4 cupcakes were delivered to me, but I’m going to focus on the limoncello cupcake (one of my favorite flavors). So the cupcakes were each in these cute little delivery cups with lids, but it made the cupcake very difficult to get out, so I ended up just eating up cupcake with a fork out of the cup (which was still hard and messy with the wrapper). But yum! Even for a few days old and a little wilted, the lemon was strong and sweet, and even a little tart, very much a real lemon flavor. The icing was liquifying due to improper cooling, but I could tell it was made with just the right balance of sugar and lemon (though it seemed like granulated not confectioner’s sugar…) They even labeled the box with my name (which is NOT Megahan, but rather an inside joke) and the flavors so I knew what I was getting myself into. Thanks Cupcake Jones and thanks to my friend! I hope one day I can visit them myself!

Summary:

Location: Portland

Flavors: 11 daily and 2 special flavors

Size: average (on the smaller side)

Price: $3.75 for jumbo (filled), $1.50 mini (no filling); $4.25 jumbo Vegan or gluten free, $1.75 mini vegan or gfree

Atmosphere: n/a

Taste: sweet sweet sweet, lemony, real

Favorite: Limoncello

Ranking: 3.5/5

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Located adjacent to Virginia Tech’s campus and across the street from the student center, Gobble Cake ”cupcake boutique” brings a “slice” of the northern delicacy of cupcakes to the South. There isn’t any information about the boutique’s founding or its owners, but what I can offer is what I do know and what I have observed.

Downtown Blacksburg is a hodge podge of cute little shops and restaurants, catering to a large university campus (hence the name, Gobble Cakes, named for the turkey “hokie” mascot for VT). Most of the restaurants are open late and serve food relatively cheaply for students, and many also serve alcohol. Gobble Cake, in a way, stands out with its pink walls and limited menu compared to the endless bars downtown. You first walk in and you immediately notice the simple decorations, pink and a few pictures, and simple wooden accents like a barrel and wooden bar stools along the window. Behind one of the window seats, there is a window into the kitchen, and occasionally you can see bakers working on cupcakes or a special order, including gum paste or fondant cut outs sitting on a tray or people frosting cupcakes. The display case is prominent, with about 15 cupcakes of the day placed on cupcake stands. The place itself is simple, rarely busy, and fairly quiet. I enjoy taking time and having meetings with people there because I never have to worry about noise or finding a place to sit, plus I get to eat a cupcake.

I first heard about Gobble Cake during orientation for graduate school. VT was giving out door prizes for no reason, and they asked who in the group liked cupcakes. My hand shot up faster than a person could blink. But they gave the gift certificate to a guy in the back, because “it looked like he likes to eat.” I was upset, but oh well. I had planned on going anyways. Then, at the end, the orientation leader realized that they had another gift certificate and asked if anyone else wanted one and again, hand up faster than a speeding bullet. So the leader gave it to me. A couple days later, the omnibus person saw me and asked if I used me cupcake certificate. She recognized me and said that I looked like I was desperate, and I explained to her about my blog, this blog, which I had just recently started at this point. She thought it was interesting, but that’s besides the point. I was told off hand by her that the bakery was a recent addition to downtown and that the owner used to be a graduate student who quit to fulfill her dream of owning a baker. AKA my dream. AKA the life I will not have. AKA can I work there this summer?

So my first Saturday in town, I went to Gobble Cake. I got a dozen cupcakes, two of each, and shared with my new housemates. I’ve been back several times, but from what I remember, I’ve had these flavors: margarita, lemon blueberry, vanilla vanilla, champagne and strawberries, pretzel and beer, red velvet and creme brûlée. I know I’m missing a few. But anyways. The major problem with these cupcakes is that they are impossible to eat. Seriously. The frosting is mounted so high and so thickly, it overpowers the cupcake. Then the consistency of the cupcake is off. I think it is a little oily on top and then dry in the middle, somehow, but I’ve never quite put my finger on it. But then, ugh. The thing that gets me most is the salt. There is way way way too much salt in the frosting. I’ve never even put salt in frosting before. And for there to be too much? Like the frosting isn’t sweet. Just salty. Which can be good for, say, a margarita cupcake. But salt isn’t good in a champagne and strawberry or a creme brûlée frosting. At least not to me. 

It’s nice to be able to grab a cupcake while at school, especially at weird, late hours during the week when I’m working in my office on a paper. And, for such a small town in the South, its nice to have a little piece of the North with me. These cupcakes do the trick, but I otherwise don’t go of my way for them.

Summary:

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Flavors: rotation of about 30 flavors and 10 flavors of the month

Size: Larger than average

Price: $3 for “signature” cupcakes, $2 for standard size (which I have never seen), and $1 for miniature

Atmosphere: girly, simple

Taste: salty

Favorite: Margarita

Ranking: 2.5/5

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Note: I’ve decided I don’t like short form posts. Deal with it.

Onward with our saga of cupcake adventures. After our disappointing trip to Charm City Cupcakes (see previous post), Hanna, Kristen and I were left wanting more. I google mapped “cupcakes” and Midnite Confections Cupcakery was the first to come up, only a mile walk away. Down some cute little streets of downtown Baltimore, we came across this little shop that, besides the sign, you would have never noticed it was there. Apparently it has won lots of awards and is considered one of the best bakeries in Baltimore. Who would have known?

Inside, this little (and I mean little) thematic shop was cutely decorated, one that you would expect in a row of town houses in a downtown neighborhood of a larger city complete with brick walls and painted murals of the city skyline at night. There were only one or two seats, this didn’t seem like the place most people hang out at. We took a while to decide what to get (there were 3 specials of the day, but also a handful of daily treats), but the staff was wonderful and worked with us patiently. Once we ordered (one pistachio, one pumpkin, and a birthday cake), it took a while to get our cupcakes, which was weird. Only to find out, not only can you mix and match frostings and bases, but they frost your cupcake at the time you order it, so it is FRESH, but not necessarily the most well decorated. 

After we left and tried our cupcakes, I would have to say that the birthday cake was too simple and tasteless, but the pumpkin was full of flavory-goodness. Savory and salty, though it kind of looked more like a muffin than a cupcake. For a tucked away corner bakeshop, this is a nice surprise, though not one I would necessarily purposefully seek out. 

Summary:

Location: Baltimore, MD 

Flavors: 7 signature flavors- black velvet, playboy (carrot), eclipse (chocolate/vanilla), birthday cake, full moon (vanilla vanilla), midnite (choco choco), subliminal (lemon); 7 “after hours” flavors, and 7 seasonal flavors

Size: average

Price: $3.00

Atmosphere: dark, mysterious, night

Taste: moist, flavorful, savory

Favorite: Pumpkin

Ranking: 3/5

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One thing I like most about cupcakes is that they are individual, personal. Unique. Just like people. And despite whatever some people may say about not liking cupcakes, everyone has a favorite kind of cake. A particular flavor, icing, way of eating the cupcake. The people who consume cupcakes are as unique as the cupcakes themselves. Or maybe it should be the other way around, cupcakes are almost as unique and the people that eat them. At Molly’s Cupcakes, you as the consumer have the option to create your own cupcake, with (not quite) endless possible combinations of cupcake, icing, center filling, and sprinkles. 

Molly’s is named after Johnny’s (founder and self titled “Chief Egg Cracker”) third grade teacher, Miss Molly, who always brought homemade cupcakes to class for student’s birthdays. Beyond that, there isn’t much information about Molly’s online, except that a portion of their proceeds go towards local schools. So, I guess education has something to do with it.

When Kristen and I were going to visit NYC this past summer, I posted on Facebook about all the plans we had made and all the cupcakes we were going to eat. A friend told me in a comment that we should add Molly’s to the list. I originally didn’t, but when Kristen and I found ourselves in the West Village outside of the door, it must have been fate. We went inside, and immediately we felt very welcomed and at home. The shop was larger than a lot of the cupcake shops I’ve been to, with a large bar along the entire left side of the shop, window seats with bar stools, and booths for people to sit in on the right. Kind of like an ice cream shop. The workers wore retro/vintage clothing, maybe that was their personal style or maybe it was a uniform because it matched the feeling of the whole bakery, but I loved it. One of the workers gave us the “low down” about how we can mix and match cupcake bases and icing or we can purchase one of the premade kinds. We went for the later because we were so overwhelmed. I went with a creme brulee and honestly, I couldn’t tell you what Kristen had, I was so consumed in the wonderfulness of the cupcake. We didn’t eat them until we were home in MA, but I now crave this cupcake more than any other. The cupcake was the perfect consistency, and the caramelized sugar on top crunchy but not overly sweet. It was topped with a few fresh berries, giving it a little bit extra flavoring. Moist, but not too moist. Sweet but not too sweet. Yum.

**Update: I took my mom to NYC right after Christmas and we stopped at Molly’s again. I got a peach cobbler and my mom got something super chocolate-y. My cupcake, once again, was beyond any other. It was moist with a sweet but not overpowering peach filling, a crunchy top like a cobbler complete with whole grains and a whipped frosting and a peach slice. Nice and fresh and juicy and sweet and crunchy and soft. YUM. My mom’s conclusion was that it was not her favorite, but it was good. She liked the ganache topping, but she preferred a dark chocolate frosting on another cupcake. 

Summary:

Location: West Village NYC, Chicago

Flavors: 24+

Size: Mini and “Molly” sized

Price: $2.25 for “Molly Sized” (regular), $3.75 for filled, special deals for cakes, larger orders (1-2 doz) and mini sized cupcakes

Atmosphere: Clean, Retro, Professional

Taste: Classic perfection

Favorite: peach cobbler, creme brulee

Ranking: 5/5

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NEW YORK CITY CUPCAKE TOUR SUMMARY


So for the past couple weeks, I’ve been reviewing bakeries all in Manhattan. This is not to say that these are all or even the best bakeries in the city, but these 10 bakeries are the ones that first inspired my love for cupcakes and this blog.

In August of 2012, my best friend Hanna came to visit me in New York, where I was living for the duration of my internship with the Human Rights Watch, and we spent a glorious week discovering the city of my dreams. One event that we did together was a massive cupcake tour of the city, consisting of originally 12 planned cupcake bakeries in Manhattan. We started bright and early at 9:00 am leaving Brooklyn, where my apartment was, and went over to the upper east side to begin our journey. We had a print out list of bakeries and their locations and trusted my city intuition, google maps, and pure luck how we would get there. While we did not end up going to all original 12, we did find a few different locations in the city, summing our bakery count to 10, and our cupcake count to 20. It took all day, but was well worth it. The summary below is where we went, what we got, and the top three bakeries. Be on the lookout for Hanna’s guest post about her favorites, and for more bakeries in NYC and others that I’ve visited since.

Summary:

Bakeries: Georgetown Cupcakes, Crumbs, Magnolia Bakery, Dylan’s Candy Bar, BabyCakes NYC, Butter Lane, Buttercup Bake Shop, Burger and Cupcakes, American Girl, Sprinkles

Maggie’s Cupcake Flavors: (Following same bakery order as above) Blueberry cheesecake, Raspberry, Vanilla, Cotton Candy, Brownie, Peanut Butter Banana, Lemon, NOTHING, Vanilla, Chai

Maggie’s Favorites: Georgetown, Sprinkles, Crumbs (with Butter Lane and Babycakes following)

The last stop of the epic New York City Cupcakery Tour of 2012 places us in the Lower East Side. Butter Lane Bakery, according to their Facebook Page, is devoted to making you the perfect cupcake, or the “cupcake for grownups”. With a focus on high quality ingredients like real vanilla beans, pure cocoa and dark chocolate, they are making the promise to give food lovers something to “sink their teeth into besides straight sugar.” If you ask my opinion, that is a tall order to promise. 

Butter Lane is located on a little street next door to one of my favorite ice cream shops, The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. The first time I went to the lower east side with my friend Lynnee, I was torn on which shop to go to, but ultimately chose ice cream, but promised to return for a cupcake. I think it was worth a second visit, despite my utter distaste for the lower east side. When I did make it back there with Hanna, one, our feet were killing us and two, I was upset because I had just found out my identity was stolen. So my initial impression wasn’t the best, but upon reflection, a year later, I crave this cupcake sometimes. Like I was saying, the shop is little and overshadowed by Big Gay, but the inside is simple and clean. I like to think of “rustic perfection” when I think of Butter Lane. The person at the shop noticed our two huge bags of cupcakes from other shops and asked what in the world we were doing, and we explained to him about the tour and he told me to blog about Butter Lane, so here it is, a year later. I really like the butter lane website, cupcake boxes and atmosphere, compared to most bakeries. The box, for example, has handstamped (or so it looked) “Butter Lane” in small, typography, and that’s it. No glitz or glamour. In a way, it lets the cupcakes speak for themselves.

As for variety, Butter Lane offers both French and American buttercream icing. What’s the difference? French buttercream is made with egg whites, butter and granulated sugar, while American buttercream is made with confectioners sugar and butter. The French is more like a meringue while the American is like the familiar icing we all know. They offer three cupcake bases: vanilla, chocolate, and banana. Frostings, they have the combinations with most of (or all of?) the three bases: peach, blueberry, apple spice, chocolate with caramel, chocolate, maple pecan, cream cheese, espresso, raspberry, strawberry, peanut butter, pistachio, caramel, coconut.

I got the Peanut Butter and banana (called the Elvis) and Hanna got strawberry on vanilla. I brought mine the next day when Hanna and I went on a bus tour of TV sites of the city, and it was warm out. So the frosting began to melt a bit, which could have affected its taste. I wish that the peanut butter and banana individually were a bit stronger, but the texture and amount of frosting was perfect. Even the decor of the cupcake and the way it is frosted is simply perfect. They offer classes at their shop, I might just have to sign up for one.

Summary:

Location: Lower East Side NYC, Park Slope Brooklyn

Flavors: 3 bases and combination of 14 frostings

Size: “Regular” 

Price: $3.25, $36 dozen

Atmosphere: Simplicity, clean, perfect

Taste: a little bland, but perfect proportions

Favorite: Peanut Butter Banana

Ranking: 4/5

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Last semester, Kristen and I visited my friend Hanna, who lives in DC. Of course, Hanna knew that a priority was cupcakes in DC, so we went on a mini tour of the area (primarily in Georgetown). Now, I’ve never been the biggest fan of DC for multiple reasons, mainly because it is no New York, but the cupcakes did give New York a run for its money.

One place we stopped by was called Red Velvet Cupcakery, which has been named one of the top cupcake shops in DC, located in the Penn Quarter (near Penn station and right in the heart of downtown). The small shop is located on the corner of some street (I honestly have no idea where we were) and has an old timely dark wood trim and simple red cursive sign luring you in with the promise of a good cupcake (red velvet of course…)

The inside of the shop has much work to be done, however. You enter and make a right to face the counter which displays about 10-12 cupcake flavors, with the cupcakes being pretty average and plain. There are no chairs, no wall art, really not much of anything. Decor is simple red to go with the theme, but really it has the feeling of wanting to serve you and have you get out. But the company itself is pretty cool. From their website: 

Our staff consists of trained pastry chefs who infuse their artistry to each cupcake. We believe in raising the standard by which people judge the quality of their food, in particular, cupcakes. Because of this conviction, we use only the highest quality ingredients available on the world stage and believe in supporting the community that has supported us. We use local dairy and other ingredients that are harvested from local area farms as much as possible. We also minimize waste by donating our leftover cupcakes to area shelters and nonprofit organizations.

We of course ordered a couple cupcakes, red velvet and a chocolate one and a white velvet, but like their decoration, much was missing. The cream cheese frosting that you would expect was bland, as if there was no cream cheese at all. The red velvet cake was dry and tasteless. I mean, it is a hard balance to get the cake just right: moist but not too moist, chocolate-y but not overdone. Cream cheese yet sweet. Red but not fake red. So I get it. It’s hard, but if you are going to call yourself Red Velvet, one of the most classic flavors (and elegant of them too), I would hope that at least the namesake cupcake would be worth it.

Summary:

Location: Penn Quarter, Washington DC

Flavors: 12 flavors 

Size: average

Price: $3.25

Atmosphere: Red, empty

Taste: Bland

Favorite: white velvet (if I had to choose)

Ranking: 1/5

5

I can’t speak for every girl, mainly because I know that this isn’t true for every girl, but the American Girl Doll is and was one of my (and most girls’) prized dolls growing up. I had the Molly doll. She was alive during WWII and her dad was at war while her mom worked for the Red Cross. I really liked (and still do like) American Girl because they say it is okay to be you, it is okay to be a girl. In fact, it is great to be a girl. Look at all the different types of girls and lives and dreams and goals you can have. You can be anything you want to be. And, as a sociologist, I like how the girls have different socio-political and economic backgrounds. When I was in fourth grade, I went to the Chicago American Girl Doll place, and I remember getting my picture taken, and I remember growing up playing with my Molly doll- she was a Christmas present (I believe) and was really expensive, so I had to treat her nicely. I also remember taking her braids out, though my mom didn’t want me to, and then her hair got really tangled. I remember using Molly in Girl Scouts for first aid training. I also had an itty-bitty as well as one of those look-alike dolls. My friend Hanna’s mom would make me custom doll clothes for birthdays and holidays. American Girl doll was my childhood.

Walking in the streets of New York City, Hanna and I happened upon the American Girl Doll Place. We HAD to go in. The store was pink and like heaven, even for us, twenty-one at the time. Floor after floor of books, games, dolls, accessories. We were happy to see the historical dolls we had growing up still displayed, and upset that a few had been retired. The new dolls brought us interest- they are making “doll friends” now. In the shop, they also had a doll salon, where dolls could go and get their hair done (dream job), a doll hospital for broken or “sick” dolls, and a bakery! The bakery didn’t sell much, mainly juice, water, coffee (for the tired parents) and low and behold, cupcakes. These cupcakes were perfect. Vanilla vanilla, simple. Pink sprinkles and two fondant stars, which is the American Girl doll “logo”. The cupcakes weren’t over cooked or under cooked, they were just right. Simple and sweet. Just as the dream “girlhood” should be (minus every sociological issue associated with that sentence).

Summary:

Location: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, LA, Miami, Minneapolis, NY, Seattle, St Louis, DC

Flavors: vanilla vanilla

Size: “Regular” 

Price: $3.50 each

Atmosphere: GIRL DREAMHOOD

Taste: simple

Favorite: vanilla

Ranking: 4/5

Recipe Friday: Cookie Doughn't You Remember Cupcakes

Hey all-

I know its been a while since my last post. Grad school has been kicking my butt. But I have some time today, so you are getting a super special Recipe Friday, a review, and an introduction about a special cupcake trip today! YAY! Also, if I have time, I plan on writing more and at least queue-ing it so there are more regular posts. But more posts means I need more cupcake places to visit! If there is a place you know of that I should visit (ie East Coast only- traveling is expensive!) I’ll do my best to visit soon and give you my feedback. But for now, here is a special cupcake recipe for you.

<3

Maggie

Have you had better?

PS Pass this blog on! More followers!

Cookie Doughn’t You Remember Cupcakes

So the story of the name of these cupcakes is basically, I tried baking in front a camera, inspired by Hannah Hart's cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tin. (This is pretty standard, I wish I didn’t have to always type this step)
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment. Which is contradictory. Whisk with paddle. So no, mix with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add butter, sour cream, egg and yolks and vanilla, beat at medium speed until smooth.
  4. Divide batter evenly and bake until gold, about 20-24 minutes. Allow to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, make cookie dough and try your best not to eat. In small bowl, add flour (the second flour amount), baking soda, and salt.
  6. In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. This is called creaming. Hannah Hart calls it cramming. I made sure to correct her, no worries.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, into “wet” mixture, or the butter/sugar combo. If hungry, stop and make scrambled eggs.
  8. Gradually beat in flour mixture, and add chocolate chips.
  9. Once cupcakes are cooled, hollow out the middles and drop a “cookie amount” of dough into the middle of the cupcake. Once filled, eat the remaining dough or bake into cookies, just don’t forget that they are in the oven.
  10. Make the buttercream: add butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla into bowl of electric mixer. Cream/whisk using whisk attachment. Frost cupcakes. Enjoy. 

Recipe adapted from Alli and Sons, Nestle Toll House, and Brown Eyed Baker

2

Inspired by their grandmother, in 2008, Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontagne traded careers in fashion and venture capital to follow their passion for baking and opened Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, DC. Since 2008, Katherine and Sophie have expanded Georgetown Cupcake with locations in Bethesda, MD, New York City/SoHo, Boston/Newbury St, and Los Angeles. Georgetown Cupcake ships its cupcakes nationwide and offers over 100 flavors. Georgetown Cupcake is featured on the TLC show DC Cupcakes.

According to their website, they offer 19 flavors everyday, 7 daily flavors, and anywhere between 2-14 monthly/seasonal flavors. It’s a long list, so I recommend reading it on their website, but for those who don’t want to open a new tab, I’ve listed the daily and monthly flavors after the summary. I do have to say, though, looking through their menu, while I was prepared to give Georgetown Cupcake a higher ranking, I am disappointed in their dietary cupcake options. While I appreciate the fact that they try to give gluten free and vegan options (as well as Kosher options during Jewish holidays), as a person who is often restricted to one of those diets and have many friends who are strictly on those diets (& as one who doesn’t like chocolate), there aren’t many options. All the gluten free options are chocolate, which is often a tactic used to add more flavor (which is hard to do, but do-able without chocolate) and there are only 3 vegan flavors (all of which are on the “healthy” side… vegans want a sugary treat too!) So that needs some work. More variety please! But I also do like that there is always (minus the diet cupcakes) a vanilla option to the chocolate option (ie chocolate and vanilla or vanilla and chocolate OR Thanksgiving Chocolate or Thanksgiving Vanilla) The everyday flavors include:

  • Chocolate-valrhona chocolate cupcake with whipped callebaut chocolate frosting
  • Chocolate-same as above but with callebaut chocolate ganache icing with chocolate sprinkles
  • Chocolate Birthday-traditional sweet vanilla buttercream frosting
  • Chocolate Ganache
  • Chocolate and Vanilla-vanilla cream cheese frosting
  • Double Milk Chocolate Birthday- milk chocolate buttercream frosting
  • Milk Chocolate Birthday -madagascar bourbon vanilla cake and milk chocolate buttercream frosting
  • Baby Pink Chocolate-pink tinted vanilla buttercream frosting
  • Baby Blue Chocolate-blue tinted vanilla buttercream frosting
  • Sunshine Chocolate- yellow tinted vanilla buttercream frosting
  • Bubblegum Pink Chocolate- bright pink tinted vanilla buttercream frosting
  • Vanilla
  • Vanilla Birthday
  • Vanilla and Chocolate- whipped callebaut chocolate frosting
  • Baby Pink Vanilla
  • Baby Blue Vanilla
  • Bubblegum Pink Vanilla
  • Sunshine Vanilla
  • Red Velvet- Their signature red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting

I visited the SoHo shop in the summer of 2012, as part of a day-long cupcake tour. I had not seen the show, but my friend Hanna insisted that we visit the bakery for a little treat.  Just around the corner from the shop is DASH, the store run by the Kardashian sisters, and LM, a store that I got my first-day outfit for 8th grade. So I had a good feeling about the place. Much to my surprise, this shop was clean, girly, and very tasty. The shop just buzzed with a sense of girly fun, which was a nice break from the loud, dirty streets of NYC. The first sight I had inside the shop was a pink sequined kitchenaid mixer- a femme baker’s dream. The cupcakes were each decorated with a sugar flower candy and simple yet clean frosting. The workers were friendly, and while we had a hard time deciding on the cupcake we were going to purchase, we had a great time and felt very much at home in the store. Hanna ordered the seasonal Olympic Gold cupcake (the summer Olympics in London were happening during the time) which was a Chocolate and Vanilla cupcake and I had a seasonal Blueberry Cheesecake. WOW! I was so glad to have had this cupcake, and it really changed my perspective on what a cupcake is. I had expected a basic vanilla cupcake with maybe some cream cheese filling, but this cake was actually a mini cheesecake with real blueberries. Very tasty. And now that I’m thinking about it, I wish I could have one now. 

Summary:

Location: Georgetown, Bethesda, NYC Soho, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, NYC Times Square Cafe

Flavors: 19 everyday flavors (a mix of vanilla + chocolate), 7 daily flavors, 2-14 seasonal flavors

Size: “Regular”

Price: $2.75 each, $15 half dozen, $29 dozen 

Atmosphere: Girly

Taste: WOW!

Favorite: Blueberry cheesecake (avail. only in July)

Ranking: 4.25/5

Flavors:


Daily Specials:

  • Monday- chocolate coconut, chocolate mint, cinnamon, honey banana, toffee crunch, gluten-free chocolate toffee crunch, vegan apple cinnamon
  • Tuesday- coconut, lemon blossom, maple, mocha, salted caramel, g-free chocolate salted caramel, vegan cranberry spice
  • Wednesday- carrot, chocolate coconut, chocolate hazelnut, cookies & creme, lemon berry, g-free chocolate coconut, vegan carrot
  • Thursday- chocolate hazelnut, chocolate PB chip, coconut, lava fudge, lemon blossom, g-free lava fudge, vegan cranberry spice
  • Saturday- coconut, key lime, mint cookies & creme, pb fudge, salted caramel, g-free pb fudge, vegan apple cinnamon
  • Sunday- carrot, chocolate coconut, lava fudge, pb fudge, strawberry, g-free strawberry lava fudge, vegan carrot

Seasonal:

  • January: Cookies and creme cheesecake, caramel praline crunch
  • February: strawberry lava fudge, strawberry, strawberry champagne, valentine’s chocolate, valentine’s vanilla
  • March: Irish cream, boston cream, chocolate mint crunch, cherry blossom, st. patrick’s day chocolate, st. patrick’s day vanilla, passover macaroon, easter bunny chocolate, easter bunny vanilla, easter egg chocolate, easter egg vanilla
  • April: cherry blossom, mocha fudge, passover macaroon
  • May: hummingbird, white chocolate raspberry, lavender earl grey teacake, mother’s day chocolate, mother’s day vanilla, memorial day
  • June: coffee cookies and creme, chocolate butterscotch chip, orange blossom, father’s day chocolate, father’s day vanilla
  • July: blueberry cheesecake, strawberry, chocolate sunday, 4th of july
  • August: banana split, peaches and cream, neapolitan
  • September: double butterscotch chip, caramel apple, cinnamon coffee crumb, labor day
  • October: pumpkin spice, pumpkin cheesecake, maple blueberry, halloween ghost, halloween bat, chocolate goo-nache, chocolate spider web, chocolate spider
  • November: pumpkin spice, caramel apple, maple chocolate chip, election democrat red velvet, election republican red velvet, thanksgiving chocolate, thanksgiving vanilla
  • December: chocolate egg nog, white chocolate peppermint, chocolate peppermint, gingerbread, snowball coconut, rudolph red velvet, red bow vanilla buttercream, christmas caramel, holiday lava fudge, english christmas, santa’s chocolate chip, sticky toffee pudding, hanukkah, New Year’s eve
3

After my summer living there, she’s always been saying how much she wants to “see the ‘real’ New York” and eat all the cupcakes and experience the wonderful place that I fell in love with. So this past Christmas I surprised my mom and took her to NYC. 

One evening, as we were trekking our way back to Inwood from Brooklyn (that’s like an 1.5 hour train ride…) we took a break and stopped in the West Village, my favorite place in the city, as I’ve said multiple times (also, mission accomplished, the West Village became my mom’s favorite place too). So we walked up and down some of the streets, I showed her Stonewall and the super cute puppy store by Stonewall, Big Gay Ice Cream, Maya’s, the Potato restaurant, and then we stopped by Molly’s. Afterwards, I wanted to try out one more place. So after getting a little turned around (thanks Google Maps), tucked away in a side street/almost back allyway, we found Sweet Revenge.

According to their website, Sweet Revenge is the only restaurant in the whole nation that has a cupcake, wine, and beer bar. What does that mean, exactly? Wines and beers are paired via flavor of the cupcake. Sounds like a great deal to me. I couldn’t find out much more about the place, besides the founder’s story (she worked for media conglomerates and baked in her spare time, was laid off and founded Sweet Revenge). So all I have to offer is my actual experience.

So we find the place, tucked away in some little corner of these back streets. And mind you, its night so its dark. We go inside (one downfall to NYC is that a majority of it is not handicap accessible, Sweet Revenge included) and it is small. Maybe 6 2-person tables at best, and as you walk in you feel like you are walking on top of them. The bar area, while nice, takes up over half of the space. The restaurant was also on the darker side, so you couldn’t see everything, but it had a bunch of hanging Christmas lights (seasonal? I don’t know) which gave it a nice ambiance. The menu was posted on hanging chalk boards (which I love). There weren’t any customers at the time, so we walked straight over to the cupcake display place. For a cupcake bar, they only had maybe 5-6 flavors, though they all seemed decadent, and they had lots of chocolate options. Now, because I was with my mom, and though I love her, she isn’t made for New York, she was talking to the guy about how I blog about “cupcake tours” (wrong) and she was asking about credit card info and blah blah blah. The guy was very friendly to her, but otherwise he probably would have ignored us as customers. It took a while at first for them to ask what we wanted/needed. So we order, my mom got a dark chocolate cake and I got raspberry red velvet to go. So no wine pairing for me.  

So, in my opinion, my cupcake was dry as all get out. Crumbly even. The raspberry cream was nice, but you couldn’t really taste it in the red velvet (the red velvet tasted just like chocolate). The cream cheese was too sweet and sugary for me, and you really needed a glass of milk. On the positive note, however, the frosting to cupcake ratio was very good, maybe even lacking a little bit because of the dryness of the cupcake. My mom’s take: she liked it much better than Molly’s. She is a dark chocolate fan, so anything dark chocolate she loves. She did comment on the dryness, so that is one thing to consider.

All in all, with some booze, I think these cupcake are a decent choice. The alcohol may balance the dryness of the cupcake. I just wish there were some more flavors. Maybe next time I’m in the city I’ll try the whole experience. Sweet Revenge needs to revenge (or avenge) its name.

Summary:

Location: West Village, NYC

Flavors: 4 signiture flavors (Sweet Revenge, Pure, Dirty, Crimson and Creme) and 21 rotating artisian flavors

Size: Medium to large

Price: $3.50

Atmosphere: Dark, mysterious, artsy

Taste: Dry and oversweet

Favorite: (mom’s choice) “Dirty” (my choice) “Crimson and Creme)

Ranking: 2.25/5

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