Hungry Bear and I love cupcakes, but I think our friend, Aimee, is a bigger cupcake fanatic. Last month while visiting Jeff and Aimee in NYC, Aimee organized a cupcake tasting tour around five popular cupcake shops in the city. We even had a scorecard, created by Jeff, to rate the shops and keep our tasting notes.
Since we all love chocolate, and to fairly rate the cupcake shops, we agreed to taste the chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting at each store. It was acceptable, and our duty, to sample the other cupcake flavors, but the chocolate chocolate cupcake was a mandatory tasting. We also decided to prevent over eating by sharing cupcakes.
We started the cupcake tour at 4:00 PM on a warm Friday afternoon at Harlem's Make My Cake, excited and full of energy. The plan was to head south and end the tour at Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. After splitting a few large cupcakes at Make My Cake, we were all on a sugar high and headed to Crumbs Bake Shop.
After only two stops on the tour, we all hit the sugar wall and started to feel sluggish. Aimee had skipped lunch and wanted some real food. Hungry Bear and I needed something savory to settle our stomachs. Conveniently for us, we passed Gray's Papaya on our way to Buttercup. To re-energize for the second half the tour, we proceeded to each eat a hot dog at Gray's Papaya. It wasn't the healthiest thing, but we were on a cupcake tasting tour, so healthy food choices were not on the agenda.
Buttercup Bake Shop was the next destination. It was a highly anticipated spot based on its history and high rankings on all NYC cupcakery lists. At this point, there were concerns by some participants whether we would be able to complete all five tour stops that day.
We were at 72nd street and the next stop on the tour was Cupcake Cafe on 40th street. We literally stumbled the thirty two blocks down to Cupcake Cafe and barely beat the 7:00 PM closing time. After sharing a few more cupcakes, we had to call it a night. We were all tired and incoherent from all of our cupcake eating. Jeff said he felt like he had been drinking all day.
On our way back to Columbus Circle, we grabbed a Philly cheese steak and half a pizza for dinner... yes, dinner. Even though we were full of sugary cupcakes, we were still a little hungry. And believe it or not, we all felt better after ingesting some protein. Feeling better was short lived, as we all passed out by 9:00 PM while watching the Dog Whisperer on TV. The night ended with Aimee declaring that she would not eat cupcakes again for a long time.
A long time in Aimee's world must mean a couple of days, because only two days later with her relentless pressure, we completed the tour by queuing up at Magnolia Bakery. It was a strange experience at Magnolia's. First we had to wait in line before the cupcake shop bouncer let us in. Next, everyone in the shop grabs their own cupcakes in the window display and then lines up to pay. It appears to be a very inefficient process, but who's to argue with the mother of all cupcake shops.
After reviewing the tasting notes and with careful consideration, I present to you our 2007 NYC Cupcake Tasting Tour rankings. The ratings are only from the participants who tasted cupcakes at all five bakeries.
Cupcake Tour Rankings (1 = Best, 5 = Worst)
|Cupcake Shop||Aimee||Jeff||Hungry Bear||Chuck|
|Make My Cake||2||2||2||2|
|Crumbs Bake Shop||3||4||1||1|
|Buttercup Bake Shop||5||5||5||5|
There was no clear winner on this tour. Cupcake tasting and judging is very subjective and comes down to your preferences between the cake part and the frosting. Hungry Bear and I use the cake as the main rating criteria. We believe the frosting is there to compliment and enhance the cake, but not to over power it. With that in mind, we both chose Crumbs Bake Shop as the best cupcake shop on our tour. We thought that Crumbs had the best cake in terms of texture, moisture and chocolate taste.
Jeff favors the frosting flavor and the moistness of the cake. He is also values aesthetically pleasing cupcakes. Aimee considers the cake and the frosting equally important. However, she doesn't like cupcakes that are overloaded with frosting. Another key factor for Aimee is the coldness of the cupcake. She prefers cold, refrigerated cupcakes for some strange reason. Interestingly, both Jeff and Aimee chose Cupcake Cafe as their favorite bakery. They serve cold cupcakes.
The clear loser in this cupcake tour was Buttercup Bake Shop. It was the lowest ranked bakery across the board. Maybe it's just the 72nd street location, but the cake was dry and lacked any flavor. The killer was the overload of frosting, which was too sweet. The shop was a big disappointment given all of its hype.
We all agreed that Cupcake Cafe had the prettiest looking cupcakes and that Buttercup Bake Shop should not be on the list of on any future cupcake tasting tours. I find it interesting that given our different judging criteria and tastes, we all ranked Make My Cake as our number two shop. I'm concluding that this shop has the best combination of good cake and frosting.
The cupcake tour was very fun and the highlight of our visit to NYC. It's a great activity for people of all ages. I highly recommend conducting your own cupcake eating tour in NYC or your favorite city. Here are some tips if you plan on going on a cupcake tasting tour.
- Map out the shops and route in advance. If you are walking, the last stop should be the cupcake shop closest to your home. Walking long distances with a cupcake buzz is not fun.
- Keep a scorecard and notes. After a few cupcakes and the sugar high and crash, you'll forget everything if you don't take notes.
- No matter how hungry you are, make sure you share cupcakes, especially the large ones. I would recommend splitting large cupcakes into six portions. You'll pay the price if you don't limit your cupcake intake.
- Start early and plan the day around the cupcake tour. Visit other attractions on the route to pace your cupcake eating. Also, sprinkle in a few savory food stops between the cupcake shops. Your stomach will thank you for the salty snacks and protein.
- Don't start the day by eating baked French toast casserole, followed by a three-course lunch at Le Cirque, before your cupcake tour!
Tour Participants: Aimee, Jeff, Ava, Hungry Bear, Chuck, Kurt, Craig, Nicole
[tags]new york city, tour, cupcakery, cupcakes, chocolate, frosting, ratings[/tags]