Monday, March 30, 2009

Cupcake City

I find the line at Magnolia Bakery extremely annoying. I biked by the place a few weeks ago, and I felt the urge to stop to tell the people they were throwing away precious minutes of their lives waiting for mediocrity. I wanted to be their Moses, free them from the shackles of hype and lead them to the promised land of sweet, moist and delicious cupcakes.

This inspired me to create my Google map: NYC Cupcakes. (View the larger map to actually see the list of places.)

View Larger Map

I listed 17 spots for cupcakes, and you can read my reviews for each by clicking on the links. My recommendations are color-coded:
  • Green - The cream of the crop. These are the best cupcakes in the city.
  • Yellow - Cupcakes in this group range from mediocre to very good.
  • Red - Stay away.
Here are my thoughts on the Top 3:

1) Sweet Revenge

Cupcakes Sampled:
Sweet Revenge - peanut butter cake, ganache filling with peanut butter buttercream
Pure - Mexican vanilla cake with Mexican vanilla frosting
Crimson and Cream - raspberry red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting

I love everything about this place -- the cupcakes, the atmosphere and the staff were all top notch. I randomly found this place last Tuesday on a lunch excursion with The Rainmaker, and we were both completely wowed by the Sweet Revenge cupcake. The cake was so moist, and the level of peanut butter flavor was just right; it wasn't overpowering. The chocolate ganache center was a very welcome surprise.

I immediately knew it was worthy of a number one ranking, but just to be sure we returned on Friday to try the Pure and the Crimson and Cream. The Pure was phenomenal. It certainly is the best vanilla cupcake I've tasted. Though the Crimson and Cream was great, it wasn't as good as the other two flavors. Also, I've tried better red velvet cupcakes elsewhere.

Overall, I loved the experience. I look forward to tasting the rest of their flavors and coming back for the wine and beer pairings.

2) Butter Lane
Cupcakes Sampled:
Banana cake with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting
The Elvis - banana cake with peanut butter frosting topped with two mini marshmallows
Banana cake with French vanilla buttercream

Butter Lane was an extremely close second to Sweet Revenge. After eating the banana cake with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, I thought it was the best cupcake I had ever tasted...until I tried the Sweet Revenge.

The staff is very friendly and accommodating. I took Brando and The Rainmaker here on a recent Sunday afternoon, and since it wasn't too busy they frosted a cupcake half-blueberry and half-vanilla for us.

They also offer two choices of buttercream -- American and French. The difference, as explained by the owners to Serious Eats New York: "The American take is sweeter, a basic concoction of confectioner's sugar and butter, whereas the French is more smooth and light, a nearly silky meringue made from whipping egg whites with melted sugar."

You can't go wrong with either selection.

3) Dessert Club, ChikaLicious
Cupcakes Sampled:
Banana cake with caramel cream cheese frosting
Coconut cake with vanilla frosting topped with shredded toasted coconut
S'mores - vanilla cake, chocolate bar center with toasted marshmallow topping

The banana cupcake was superb. I knew it was going to be quite tasty once the staff member uttered "caramel cream cheese." It was an awesomely unique flavor. And though it lived up to its name with strong hints of coconut flavor, the coconut cupcake was not at the same level as the banana cupcake.

Roommate #2 joined me on this trip, and he sampled the S'mores cupcake. I could tell by his reaction that he was very impressed. He was suprised to find the chocolate-bar center and that the topping was actually a toasted marshmallow.

Overall, I really enjoyed my cupcake tour of the city. It was an enlightening and delicious experience.

Thanks to all the people who accompanied me on the tastings.

I am not a food critic; I write a blog about random subjects. Please don't expect literary genius when reading my reviews. I just wanted to give my honest thoughts and opinions.

Rankings were not at all scientific. You may notice a lack of chocolate in my samplings, which is strange because I love chocolate. This is because I gave it up for Lent. The chocolate in the Sweet Revenge was an exception because I ordered it not realizing it had a ganache center. I did my best to stay with a certain type of cupcake -- banana or vanilla cake with cream cheese, vanilla or peanut butter frosting -- to maintain some semblance of consistency.

The map is for cupcake spots in Manhattan only, particularly lower Manhattan. I realize there are great places above 34th Street and in the other boroughs
(shoutout to Martha's Country Bakery in Astoria), but I simply don't have the time to visit them.


  1. Love the new layout and clearly I love cupcakes! yay =)

  2. Thank you Carlo!

    This blog makes NYC a better place... this is not a guide to cup cakes, this is a guide to life!

    Cup Cakes FOREVER...

    Yum, yum, yum, yummmmmmmmmmmmmy!!!