I don’t know why but cupcakes have caught on nationally. There’s even a Food Network show, Cupcake Wars, dedicated to pitting these bakeries against one another. In and around the capital region of NY, the competition between bakeries escalates, and any time someone brings up the local competition, it turns into a flame war all over the internet.
I think it’s completely a vanity thing. I’ve never bit into a cupcake and said, “Man! This is amazing!”
I like cupcakes to the extent that I like all sweets, but I’d much rather have anything else; there’s just too much room for error with cupcakes.
Daniel B. of FUSSYlittleBLOG fame took the pressure the internet put on him to organize a competition between cupcakes. I paid my way and participated as a judge along with about 20 others. You can read all about Daniel’s views and the overall consensus on either his blog or All Over Albany, I’m sure, but I wanted to highlight my perspective, which, from the sound of it after talking to other judges, wasn’t far from the consensus.
The four bakeries competing were A. Fluffalicious, B. Sweet Temptations, C. Bettie’s Cakes, D. Coccadotts (letter designations as labeled on plates below). It was organized in three rounds: vanilla cake/vanilla frosting, chocolate cake/chocolate frosting, and a common specialty, peanut butter cup.
We had to judge frosting and cake separately, and then the overall taste, so three criteria. I did this by tasting the frosting and cake independently to first rate these parameters for all of the cakes, and then going back and taking a whole bite of each one to get the overall score.
Someone was awesome and picked up a crapload of milk from Battenkill Farms.
For me, in the first round, the clear winner was A, with D a close second, and C and B with a two way tie for last place.
In this round, the order panned out exactly the same for me. B and C had issues in rounds 1 and 2. The buttercream in B and even the cake had an off taste. People were calling it “peppery;” whatever it was, it shouldn’t be in a cupcake. C was a great deal dryer than the others, enough for me to question the freshness. They could have been overbaked, but it just seemed more likely that they were on their way to staleness; the cake was so dry.
Round 3 changed the game a little.
In this round, A showed a consistently good cake, with C a very close second; C seemed to have been less dry in this round, but they were still dry, and, had they not been so dry, this cupcake would have been the best cupcake sampled that day. B was consistent with the first two rounds, and D was right in the middle.
At the end of the day, the order of the favorites were A, D, C, B. Scroll up if you want to figure out which one is which.
I don’t remember anything about the pricing, but A cupcakes were all much larger than the competition, and, instead of just a blob of icing on top, they all had a hole at the top of the cake filled with icing. In the first two rounds, it was the same icing on top, and in the third round, it was a delicious and concentrated peanut butter icing that put that cupcake over the top in a good way.
It was a fun day. I got to meet a number of people whom I only knew as readers of the blog or from social media, so that was pretty cool. I didn’t overeat the cupcakes in front of me. I probably only ate a quarter of each, which I guess is still the equivalent of three cupcakes. I definitely overdrank the delicious chocolate milk, but that’s why you work out.
Of the four bakeries, I now know who consistently produces good cupcakes. But, no matter how you frost them, they’re just cupcakes.