Friday, May 29, 2009

The Great Cupcake Adventure Part 1

The rules:

1) Chocolate cupcakes only
2) Cupcakes made with real wholesome ingredients (no vegan, gluten free, low fat, etc.)

Here is my research thus far:

North Hill Bakery - The Fudgy Pudgy $2.00
This is the cupcake that will satiate any chocolate craving, no matter how severe. This may be the only cupcake I've ever had trouble finishing because it was so intense.. I kid you not, this is an incredible cupcake; incredibly moist, dense, and with a mesmerizing even crumb. The dark chocolate flavor is obviously one of high quality chocolate. The chocolate frosting is merely icing on the cake and adds an extra level of ridiculous chocolate intensity, although it could not compare in moisture content to the cake part. Visually, this cupcake was not particularly stunning; nearly black in color (always a good sign), with neat yet casually spread chocolate frosting - about the same color as the cake and sprinkled with a few circular multicolored sprinkles to add a bit of color to this delicious black hole.

Trophy Cupcakes - Chocolate Chip Mint $1.99
This cupcakerie wins for presentation and fanciness (The framed picture of the owner with Martha Stewart says it all). They have a wide selection of creative cupcake flavors like Chai Cardamom and Margaritta. Some even show-off a bit of piping technique, sugar modeling, and candying. The sugar "mint leaf" on top of my cupcake surprisingly held its form as I dipped it into the frosting, and then promptly melted on my tongue with the frosting. This frosting blows my mind. It had a perfect wintermint flavor and was so moist and delectable in my mouth, I was amazed it held it's shape on the cupcake. I also appreciated the large quantity of icing that was just enough so that every single bite could include both icing and cake. Their website says that they use buttercream icing, I had no idea, this is by far the best buttercream I've ever had. The cake was nothing spectacular, not as dark as the Fudgy Pudgy, but still made with good chocolate (their website says Valrhona, quite posh). It was a wee bit on the dry side, but when paired with the icing, it was perfect. Lastly the mini chocolate chips, both in the cake and sprinkled on top, were a cute garnish and added yet another level of delicious complexity.

Cupcake Royale - Orange U Glad $2.75
So this is the cupcakerie that every Seattlite knows - their persistent marketing has obviously paid off, but how about their cupcakes? All their cupcakes look relatively the same with their signature method of spreading frosting. Their selection is expansive, but the most creative cakes I saw were red velvet or spicy mexican-style chocolate - not too impressive. I had a chocolate cake with orange flavored frosting. The frosting had a brittle crust and a moist fine-grainy texture that I believe was a buttercream. The orange flavor was precisely that of orange soda, not exactly my favorite type of orange flavor and I personally thought it was too overpoweringly sweet. The cake had an interesting texture, it wasn't dry, although I wouldn't call it moist either. It had an extremely fine crumb and tended to stick to my teeth. Also, the cake didn't hold it's shape very well, the top entirely separated from the bottom at first bite, not to mention it was a task to get it into my mouth before it completely crumbled under it's own weight - perhaps they should serve their cupcakes with a fork...

Sugar Bakery & Cafe - Cookies and Cream $3.00
Like North Hill Bakery, Sugar Bakery does much more than just cupcakes. They only had three flavors on display and there was nothing high-class about any of them. Sugar has nothing to hide with all the charm of a quality down-home bakery in small-town-nowhere-USA. Their cookies and cream cupcake had vanilla frosting that could almost be mistaken for an incredible pudding - can you say addicting! A liberal packing of Oreo cookie bits added some crunch and the chocolate cake I felt could have been more chocolatey, although it was tasty. The cake was not dry , but could have been moister. And I appreciated the fork that accompanied the cupcake, a wonderful touch of hospitality.

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