Sunday, May 23, 2010
There was a bit of a line, not unexpected on a Saturday evening, but we all managed to fit a windy queue inside the store, and we didn't have long to wait. And while we waited, we got to enjoy the smell of fresh-baked goodness. The store itself is exceedingly adorable, done up all in pastels like their cakes. I, naturally, got the Yellow Daisy cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting and enjoyed it walking the streets of Chelsea with my friend. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed, especially considering all of the excellent reviews I've read of Billy's.
The Cake. Disappointingly dry and grainy. Not the driest cake I've ever had, but definitely not an enjoyable experience. C
The Frosting. Passed the nose test easily, but had a grainy quality that made me feel like the sugar wasn't melted properly during the cooking. I think this might be a conscious choice for some bakers, but I'm not a fan—I like my frosting smooth. Also rather too sweet with a bit too much vanilla, it seemed to my taste buds. Passed the Nose Test easily, but there still managed to be an excess of frosting by the end of the cupcake. Strange. C+
Final grade: C+
Friday, May 21, 2010
It's not to say that the cupcake I had was terrible. More that it was no more than serviceable, and, cupcake specializer or not, it shouldn't be the product of a professional bakery.
The Cake. Moist enough, but a little oversweet and tasting rather processed. Also suffered from being entirely overpowered by the frosting. C
The Frosting. This cupcake inspired me to make up a test. It is called "the Nose Test." The Nose Test is as follows: if I cannot bite into my cupcake without getting frosting on my nose, we have a problem. No cupcake should have frosting as tall as the cupcake itself, and no cupcake should have so much frosting that I get it on my nose every single bite. And the frosting itself tasted almost exactly like the frosting you buy at the grocery store. Oversweet, processed, preserved. (And trust me: I have eaten a lot of frosting straight from those containers over the years. I know whereof I speak.) C-
Final grade: C
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Last night I intended to visit the Buttercup Bake Shop on the Upper West Side after a journey to discover whether the UWS could manage a decent bowl of pho. (The answer is: half-decent, at least.) Unfortunately, by the time I finished my meal and walked down to the Buttercup Bake Shop, it was a minute from closing. Not wanting to be that person, I decided to leave it for another day and make an official visit to Crumbs a few blocks away.
I have good memories of visiting the Crumbs location in the Village early in my days of living in New York. The UWS Crumbs has a cute, quirky appearance—though "quirky" also involves some chairs that feel a little less than stable. The girl at the counter was particularly pleasant and ready with warm smiles to answer any of my questions. Since I knew coming in that I wanted a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, I didn't have any. (I'm such an easy sell.) But onto the good part.
The Cake. Crumbs makes excellent cake. Both times I've had it, it's been moist and light with just a touch of sweetness. Frosting is always the focus of sweetness in a cupcake, so you have to be careful that the cake itself isn't too sweet, or your palate is just going to be overwhelmed with sugar. (And, despite reports to the contrary, even I have limits on sugar.) Crumbs cake is happily balanced: not too bland, not too sweet. A-
The Frosting. Crumbs uses cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream, and they tend to pile it fairly high. It's a very rich, dense frosting and has that particular hint of flavor common to cream cheese based desserts. I'll admit that it's not a hint I'm always fond of—I'm not a fan of cheesecake for that very reason. It's light enough that I still enjoyed it, with the hint staying in the background of the flavoring. The sweetness of the frosting is maybe just a touch overwhelming, but not enough that I was put off. I do think it's rich enough that they don't have to pile quite so much on top, though. B-
Final grade: B
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
As one might infer from my choice of blog titles, I'll be using vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing as a constant. Every bakery has them, and I'm such a fiend for vanilla that vanilla cupcakes are usually my go-to choice at a new bakery, anyways. (I do the same thing with ice cream. I'm terribly boring, I know.)
So there's the project. Start hitting cupcake bakeries. Start eating vanilla cupcakes. Write about my exploits.
I'm mostly looking forward to the cupcakes.
So let's set up some ground rules. What is a great cupcake? A great cupcake is composed of two things: great cake and great icing. Obviously what makes these two elements great is an opinion that will vary from person to person. In my world, the ideal cupcake has cake that is moist, fluffy, and just the slightest bit sweet. The icing can be either light or dense, depending on the type of icing used, and should be a bit sweeter than the cake, but not sweet enough or plenteous enough to overwhelm it. They should work in harmony to create one single serving of dessert bliss. They should complement, not dominate. And thus goes an ideal cupcake.