02 September 2009
Hot Child (& Cupcakes) in the City
Just back in from the US and trying to cope with the jet lag that had us all up at 1 AM this morning! Boy, did the summer go fast or what? Our trip to New York passed by in a New York minute and I was very sorry to leave. Despite my best intentions, I didn't get to even a fraction of the stuff I had planned so hopefully I'll have another good excuse to get back to my hometown sometime soon.
As those of you who follow my blog know, I was in Manhattan to see my best friend get married and what a wedding it was! Between the bachelorette's at Lips, a drag revue in the West Village (here's a pic of the fabulous "Joan Rivers"); the rehearsal dinner at an old-school Italian in midtown East; and the wedding itself at the Harvard Club, I spent the better part of my free time wining and dining my way across the city.
I did manage to get a little shopping in at NY Cake & Baking Supplies in Chelsea, and visit a handful of the local cupcakeries I have been reading about for the past few years on my favorite blog: Cupcakes Take the Cake.
Of the 5 cupcakeries I personally sampled (4 in NYC, and 1 in NJ that was too horrific to even name here), hands-down Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side was my favorite. The best cupcake? The Brooklyn Blackout which is a moist Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Pudding at its center and a rich fudgy frosting. (IMHO, any of their cupcakes which has this fudge frosting is spot-on). I also tried their Red Velvet (which was my second favorite NY cupcake) - the cream cheese frosting was dense yet light and tasted like cheesecake. The cake itself was moist and a vibrant red but not nuclear red and complemented the cupcake unlike so many other RVs that just serve as a vehicle for the frosting.
I also sampled their Marble cupcake (marble Chocolate/Vanilla cupcake with Chocolate/Vanilla twist icing) and two of their American Classics: Vanilla cake with Vanilla Buttercream and Chocolate cake with Vanilla Buttercream. All were very, very good and I ended up buying cupcakes from them 3 times! The boutique itself is charming in a rustic decor and inviting. While the wait was a bit long each time we were there, there are lots of beautiful cakes and decorating supplies to look at. Two Little Red Hens is definitely the cupcakery I'll be stopping in the next time I'm in town.
Next on my list was the CupcakeStop Truck which I happily stumbled upon one day while down in the Flatiron District (truck pic courtesy of www.examiner.com). There was no line to get a cupcake though I hear that they do a pretty brisk business. Just after I ordered my Red Velvet and Carrot Cake cupcakes, a woman wandered over, said something very discreetly to the counterperson and walked away with a mini cupcake. I, of course, chased her down the street to find out that by mentioning "joonbug" the first 500 customers were entitled to a free mini of their choosing. I ran back and went with a Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl mini. I liked the cake of this one very much - it was rich and chocolatey, but the frosting was a tad overly sweet and peanut buttery for my tastes.
The Carrot Cake was moist and packed with shredded carrots. I didn't care for the Red Velvet at all, and there was so much red food coloring in it that when my daughter took a bite of it, the crumbs that fell on the floor stained the rug!
Crumbs Bake Shop has locations all over the city and unfortunately the day I went in, I was feeling a little too ill (read: hungover) to order anything. But their display cases were impressive with at least 25 different flavors on offer.
Their cupcakes are big and beautifully decorated. I would have liked to take a picture but they wouldn't let me; this one comes courtesy of www.daemonsfood.com. Several friends tell me that Crumbs is their favorite cupcakery in Manhattan and I'll be sure to sample them on my next trip.
On our last full day in Manhattan, my husband and I packed up the kids and made our way downtown to the High Line which is a newly opened above-ground park in the West Village. It's built on the abandoned old elevated train track and is a wonderful place to spend a sunny day. We meandered around our old neighborhood which has very few holdouts still in place from the original Meatpacking days. It's now mostly upscale shops and chi chi restaurants and clubs; things sure have changed a lot since our days there.
After a quick stop in the Ink Pad and a look-see at our old neighborhood standby, Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker, where you can see their twin mixers beating up some buttercream in the window, we headed over to the East Village to visit Butter Lane and Chikalicious Dessert Club.
Of the two, Butter Lane was my preferred cupcakery. Not only is it a really cute little shop with super friendly staff, but I liked their build-a-cupcake concept. The idea is so basic - you choose one of their about a dozen frosting flavors in either American or French versions (the American is standard confectioners' sugar and butter whereas the French contains eggs) to go on one of the several cake choices. I had read some customer reviews on Yelp before stopping down and so decided to go with a Vanilla cupcake with American Vanilla Buttercream and a Banana Cupcake with American Chocolate Buttercream.
I really liked the flavor combo of the banana and chocolate, and the vanilla/vanilla was simply delicious -- the vanilla buttercream was good and rich without being too sweet. My one complaint was that the cake of each was a little too dry and dense for my taste but it was Sunday and quiet in their shop, and maybe the cupcakes had been hanging out for a while.
I had read a lot about Chikalicous before my trip and had very high hopes for them. Sadly, they fell a bit short. While the store itself is quite drab and dingy, their cupcakes are beautiful to look at.
The frosting which has a somewhat mousse-y consistency tops each in a flawless shiny dome. Since they didn't have descriptions of each cupcake, I ended up ordering 3 filled varieties (which they call Premium) and I really would have liked to try one of their basic flavors; I didn't realize this mistake until I was back uptown and it was too late to get more. My problem with Chikalicious was that while various components of the cupcakes were delicious - the salted Caramel center of the Caramel cupcake, the chocolate mousse topping on the Triple Chocolate Cupcake, the Marshmallow Frosting on the S'more cupcake - and their cakes were moist and airy like I like them, the cupcakes in entirety didn't work for me.
The chocolate center of the Triple Chocolate was too dark and bitter and totally overwhelmed the cupcake. The cake of the S'mores cupcake was overly spicy and cinnamony - I think they were going for a Graham Cracker flavored cake and ended up with something more akin to a Carrot Cake spice profile which didn't work at all with the rest of the cupcake. And as for the Caramel, it was very sweet and too flavorful - I could barely get through my third of the cupcake. I'm not counting Chikalicious out as I really will go back and try a simpler variety the next time I'm in the Big Apple but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this round.
Lastly, I wanted to share a picture of some cupcakes I spied at E.A.T on Madison Avenue which were by far the most beautiful cupcakes I saw during my visit. I didn't try these but was told they are vanilla and chocolate with poured vanilla and chocolate glaze. Pretty, no?
And the fun ceramic cupcakes you decorate yourself at FAO Schwarz.
Well, that pretty much sums up my trip to some of New York's infamous cupcakeries. If you are in the NY area or have visited NY recently and want to share some thoughts on your favorite cupcakeries and/or places I should visit on my next trip to the Big Apple, do leave me a comment below. In the meantime, I'll be fooling around in my kitchen trying to come up with a home-made version of TLRH's Brooklyn Blackout cupcakes that are worthy of their namesake. Man, just thinking about them has me drooling!
Yours in Cupcake Love,
Little Miss Cupcake xx
Two Little Red Hens, 1652 2nd Avenue (between 85th and 86th Streets)
Butter Lane, 123 East 7th Street (between 1st and Avenue A)
Chikalicious, 204 East 10th Street (between 2nd and 1st Avenues)
CupcakeStop Truck, various; follow them on twitter for locations @cupcakestop
Crumbs Bake Shop, various; I stopped in at 1371 Third Avenue (between 79th and 78th Streets)
E.A.T, 1064 Madison Avenue (between 80th and 79th Streets)
Magnolia Bakery, various; the original is at 401 Bleecker Street (on the corner of West 11th Street)