THE NYC CUPCAKE TOUR RIDES AGAIN!!!!!!!
It's been a spell, but I finally managed to hit 5 more cupcake shops and I instituted a new rule: I only eat half of each cupcake and the logic is two-fold, 1.) By the time I've eaten half, I've already made up my mind about the cupcake and 2.) I really don't need to eat the whole thing if I'm going to finish this tour and I found some former co-workers who are happy to get the cast-offs! Unless of course, the cupcake is really freakin' good, to which I say, "Cupcake, what cupcake? I didn't eat any cupcake, let alone TWO! That's just crazy-talk!"
Outside Kitchenette in the Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal Street) neighborhood of Manhattan.
Old wooden doors are a recurring theme as part of the decor.
My yellow cake cupcake with vanilla frosting & cream filling and my devil's food cupcake with chocolate frosting and peanut butter cream filling.
The cross section.
And another cross shot.
The BREAKDOWN: I wasn't terribly impressed with these cupcakes. The frosting on both was a bit too sugary sweet for my taste, however, the cream filling and peanut butter cream filling were right on. Sadly, the texture of the cakes wasn't moist and fluffy, but rather firm, bordering on hard. When I cut the chocolate one in half, there was no "give" when I sank the knife into it. The cake fully retained its shape. I'd return as they have other goods such as puddings, cakes, pies, cobblers, etc that I'd like to give a fair shake but I'm not sure if I'd try the cupcakes again. Price: $2.75 each.
Stop #7-CRUMBS BAKERY
Outside CRUMBS Bakery on East 8th Street in Greenwich Village.
My yellow cake cupcake with white frosting and sprinkles.
The cross section.
The "Artie Lange" cupcake (as described online): vanilla sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream, covered in vanilla cream cheese frosting and topped with chocolate fondant icing with white and chocolate sprinkles on the sides.
And the cross section.
Just part of the CRUMBS selection.
The BREAKDOWN-I really wanted to like this place, really I did. Especially after Roadfooder "Slim Strummer" asked me to try the Artie Lange cupcake. Both of these cupcakes fell way short for me in most respects. The textures were both moist and spongy, a good thing, but the flavor of the cake kept reminding me of all the boxed (Betty Crocker/Duncan Hines) cake mixes that I ate as a kid when my mom would bake a cake for my class in the rectangular metal pan. It was good enough, but it just doesn't stand out. As far as the frostings go, if Jerry Lee Lewis owned this place, he'd rename it "Whole Lotta Sugar Goin' On". The vanilla frosting tasted only of sugar. I'm not sure what else they could have done, but it was way too sweet.
After reading the description of the Artie Lange, I was hoping for layers of flavor, but that just didn't happen. The chocolate buttercream filling tasted like frosting out of the can and I didn't know there was supposed to be vanilla cream cheese frosting until I read it later. The flavors just didn't come through and once again, all I really got was the dominating effect of too much sugar. Their cupcakes sure do look pretty and they are really big, but this was my third time at this location and I just don't get the appeal. Now, there are about as many CRUMBS Bakeries popping up in NYC as there are Osmond children. I'm not so sure that's a good thing. How many cupcakes can they move in a day? Baked goods don't age well. Sorry Slim, but I can't recommend this place at all. Perhaps one of the other locations has better product, but I imagine it's a franchise thing where they all have to conform to making them the "CRUMBS" way. The "Artie Lange" was $3.75 per cupcake and I think the vanilla was $2.75 (honestly I can't remember that one!).
Outside of BATCH on West 10th Street in the West Village.
Inside. I really like the decor in this place. Very homey and welcoming.
The seating. Just a small area by the window with a coffee table. Perfect for watching people go by and browsing a few magazines whilst indulging in a cupcake (or two!).
Pumpkin Maple Rum cupcakes.
Chocolate Dragon Devil's Food cupcakes with glitter on top and a caramel filling.
Carrot Salted Caramel cupcakes with a Key Lime Cream Cheese filling.
A close-up of the Dragon.
From the top.
And the cross section.
Pumpkin Maple Rum.
Inside the PMR.
Carrot Salted Caramel (sorry, this is the only shot that was close to any good).
My Chocolate cupcake with a Bacon-Caramel frosting and filled with pumpkin cream (mousse?) spiked with bacon fat.
And a close-up.
The BREAKDOWN-Honestly, I'm not sure where to start with this place. It really worked for me on so many levels! Okay, first, the West Village is such a beautiful neighborhood, tree lined and very residential, which makes it a great place to stroll about on a lazy day and a perfect setting for relaxing with some cupcakes. The decor inside is very welcoming and charming. I guess I'd describe it as looking and feeling like an old-fashioned home from the wallpaper to the chandeliers and the hardwood floor. The staff and owner (and his mom) were very welcoming and happy to answer any questions I had. And most importantly, they had the goods! These are some seriously delicious cupcakes!
To explain a little, I went in and asked the girl at the counter what she recommended. She made some suggestions and I struck up a conversation with the owner's mom, who frosts the cupcakes. She told me that she had had a stroke about a year ago and as a result has lost some of her ability to taste foods. She said she wanted to watch me try the cupcakes to see what I thought of them and live somewhat vicariously through me. I thought that was really sweet and I was happy to oblige. We talked for a while about the different cupcakes, the ingredients they use and the flavors they come up with. I first tried the Chocolate Dragon Devil's Food and it was incredible! Very moist from the buttermilk with a deep, rich chocolate flavor and the Valrhona frosting was intensely chocolatey too. The Valrhona chocolate pearls on top were a nice touch too. As wonderful as this was, the caramel filling is what really closed the deal for me. It was, as the Sterns might say, "teetering on edge of burnt". This intensely flavored filling really won me over with each bite.
I had mixed feelings about the Pumpkin Maple Rum. I loved the frosting as it had notes of the maple and rum mixed together. Hmmm, I wonder if they would do a butter-rum frosting? The cake was okay, but I thought it was a bit too moist (dare I say, wet) for me. Moist is good, but this was a bit sticky-moist. Just not my thing. I also wished that the pumpkin had a more assertive presence. Perhaps some pie spices (allspce, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc...) to draw it out. The golden raisins (sultanas?) were a nice touch. I initially thought about getting the carrot instead of the pumpkin, but they brought me out a piece to try on the house. This I was loving from the get go, moist with good carrot cake flavor and the key lime cream cheese filling was tart and worked well with the rest of the cupcake without being overpowering. And the Salted Caramel frosting wasn't of the burnt caramel variety, but still had a nice toasty presence and the salt balanced out the sweetness while at the same time drawing out their flavors. Very inspired.
I came back again recently with my cousin who was visiting from Florida (she and her husband loved the cupcakes!) and the counter girl made up a Devil's Food cupcake for me (still slightly warm) with a Bacon-Caramel frosting. I think it almost sighed when I picked it up, it was so fragile. The smoky, salty bacon bits really made sense with the caramel and chocolate. The filling was a pumpkin cream spiked with bacon fat. Unfortunately, this element didn't work for me at all. I couldn't really pick up the pumpkin flavor and the fat tasted, well, like fat. That aside, it was a pretty amazing cupcake. Pichet Ong, the baker/chef, loves to experiment with unusual flavor combinations and I'd definitely recommend a special trip here. He also makes tarts, cakes and a banana-Ovaltine pudding that I've got my eye on. The Pumpkin Maple Rum was $3.25, Chocolate Dragon Devil's Food $2.95 and the Carrot Salted Caramel was $2.95. Money well spent!
Stop #9-TRIBECA TREATS
Outside the shop on Warren Street in Tribeca.
Front of the shop.
The cupcake menu.
More of the menu (sorry about the flash on this one!).
A place to sit and relax.
Peach Melba with Cream cheese frosting and a Devil's Food with buttercream frosting.
Close-up of the Melba.
Close-up of the Devil's Food.
Devil's Food, unwrapped.
Cut in half.
The BREAKDOWN-Tribeca Treats is a fairly new shop and I had found out about it through a cupcake blog I discovered online. I went in one day to scope it out and they had cinnamon cupcakes, so I vowed to return with camera in hand. It's a neat shop and seems to be very kid friendly. They didn't have the cinnamon cupcake on the day I went, but the Peach Melba caught my eye. This had tons of great flavor! As I write this, I realize that I don't recall what the crumbs are on top of this one. Possibly graham cracker or gingersnaps. Moist cake, raspberry jam on top, a nice big piece of peach inside and some fluffy cream cheese frosting. I was really wowed by this one. The Devil's Food was pretty good too. The cake was moist as well with good chocolate flavor and a decent buttercream frosting. The only downside for me is that these cupcakes are pretty small in size. They are only $2.00 each which is pretty standard here in the city, but they are small. Like "I could hold them with two fingers and not get any frosting on them small". I don't think I'd make a special trip here, but I'd go back as the flavors and textures were right on and I'm hoping to get a shot at that cinnamon cupcake.
Stop #10-BUTTERCUP BAKE SHOP
Outside Buttercup Bake Shop on 2nd Avenue between 52nd and 51st Streets.
The Lady Baltimore cupcake and the chocolate buttercream frosted chocolate cupcake.
A close-up of the chocolate cupcake.
The cross section.
Close-up of the Lady Baltimore.
And the cross section.
The BREAKDOWN-Sadly, the chocolate cupcake was on the dry side and the frosting had some chocolate flavor, but was too sugary sweet for my taste. When I spied the Lady Baltimore and the counter girl told me its make-up, I had to try it. It's an almond cake with a meringue icing, coconut, crushed gingersnaps and a cherry on top. This one had some hits and misses for me, but overall, I liked it. The cake was moist (but it did fall short in the sponginess department). I loved the meringue and the outer crust on it. The cherry was a nice touch that provided some sweetness. I wasn't crazy about the coconut, but then I don't really care for it unless it's toasted. I was really looking forward to the gingersnaps, but I couldn't taste them. I was hoping for a sweet, slightly spicy kick. I'm not sure if I would return. They seem to have dozens of cupcakes on hand and I wonder how fast they are able to move them. In my travels, I've found that places making smaller batches tend to have a better focus on quality vs. quantity (not always the case). I asked if I could take some pictures of the inside, but they declined and were very nice about it.
156 Chambers Street
Phone # 212-267-6740
Roadfood review: http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.aspx?RefID=4236
7.) Crumbs Bake Shop
37 East 8th Street
New York, NY
Phone # 212-673-1500
150B West 10th Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone # 212-929-0250
9.) Tribeca Treats
94 Reade Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone # 212-571-0500
10.) Buttercup Bake Shop
973 2nd Avenue (between 51st & 52nd Streets-East Side)
New York, NY 10022
Phone # 212-350-4144
Well, it's been a tough job so far. Only about 20-30 more to go. I'll see y'all around the bend after 5 more!! Til then...