Saturday, November 10, 2007

So who takes the (cup)cake?

Pretty cupcakes are an easy find these days.

But pretty cupcakes that actually taste divine, now that's another story. Might be just me, but I think that the cake part is as equally important as the frosting. Imagine biting into a pretty cupcake only to find it so laden with sugar that you can't taste the cakey parts.

As a baker, I know that the secret lies in the flavour & technique. Some recipes just work better than the rest. One of my favourite recipes happens to be the one used by Magnolia Bakery, a famous cupcake bakery in NY.

Their cupcakes are oh-so-pretty that it makes you go weak in your knees and lips.

Unfortunately, I cannot say that I've eaten those lengendary cupcakes - those beautiful, fairy coloured cupcakes that makes my heart beat faster.

Those cupcakes are right now beyond my reach, across continents and oceans. So why am I even talking about them? Well the grass is always greener on the other side isn't it? That's why I'm always prowling the net, looking for yummy sweet things from all over the world and in my search, I found out about Sprinkles, another cupcake outfit in the States.

For now, all I can say is that those cupcakes look darn pretty but it stops there, because they're there and I'm here (in Singapore). So until I have enough dough to fly myself to the States, I'd have to make do with reviews from friends.

And today, I have Ronald Wan, my friend and fellow writer who's gonna size up the two biggest cupcake rivals in the States: Sprinkles in Beverly Hills and Magnolia in Manhattan. He was in the United States recently and tried cupcakes from both bakeries, much to my envy. So bring it on Ronald!

Yes, that's Ronald basking in the glorious skylight in Dallas. That lucky bastard!



Where's the darn place

401 Bleecker Street, corner of West 11th Street in the hip West Village of Manhattan, New York.

The people who walk in...

Since the West Village is home to celebrities like Ralph Lauren and Sarah Jessica Parker, you can expect someone famous walking in here anytime. And of course, those tourists and Sex and the City fans.

I walked in just like any other glamorous person living in the West Village and ordered in my perfect English. I presumed the bloke was half-expecting me to squeal like those annoying Japanese tourists. Well, I had to restrain myself considering those cupcakes really looked damn gorgeous.

What's on the menu...

The famous vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting ($2). Others include mini cheesecake, coconut cake and blueberry muffins. The cupcakes are sold in a plain white box, which makes everything just so homely about this bakery.

And so the taste...

I tried the vanilla cupcakes (seven of them with different icing colors to be precise) and the red velvet cupcake. The latter startled me when I first saw it sitting prettily on the tier atop the counter. I seriously asked myself, “Is there coloring in it?” because it looked so damn red! But when I sank my teeth into it, I nearly had an orgasm. Life is good. The cake was moist, tasty and extremely rich (My travel companion thought otherwise. She found it jelak). The same applied for the vanilla cupcakes but the only downside was that I found the buttercream frosting a little too much, which made the entire affair too sweet to be true. But hey, on a superficial level, the ample frosting really made the cupcakes appear so much prettier if you ask me.


Where's the darn place

3 outlets stateside, including the flagship in Beverly Hills. I went to the one in Dallas located on the Northwest Highway and Preston road.

The people who walk in...

Considering the Beverly Hills is home to producers, directors, actors and just about every other damn person working in Hollywood, you can imagine the type of crowd here.

Anyway, I went to the one in Dallas and my only chances of seeing a celebrity inside here would be Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys star quarterback) or a Texan country singer I wouldn’t be able to recognize.

The cute girl over the counter told me I couldn’t take any pictures inside the shop. I flirted with her and pleaded. She said no. And I still whipped out my camera and snapped. So sue me.

What's on the menu...

Strictly cupcakes with more than 20 flavors such as banana (fresh banana cake with creamy vanilla), chocolate coconut and even chai latte. They have different flavors available on each day. You have to refer to their flavor card. Print it at!

And so the taste...

I bought half a dozen for $19. Definitely more expensive than your typical cupcakes. So was it worth it? I had the black and white (Belgian dark chocolate with creamy vanilla frosting), dark chocolate (Belgian dark chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate frosting) and of course the red velvet (southern style light chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting), ginger lemon, strawberry and vanilla milk chocolate (Madagascar bourdon vanilla cake with fudgy milk chocolate cream cheese frosting). I really love the latter, which tastes heavenly!

Thumbs up to the cupcakes for the lighter texture. It’s as less sweet, thanks to lesser frosting. Evidently, lesser frosting also makes the taste of the cupcake itself more discernible. The downside? I found it dry but hey, I’m just being difficult here. I would give it 5 out of 5 stars if the girl allowed me to take pictures of the shop or gave me her number if you ask me.


So there you have it, Ronald's take on the two most famous cupcake places in the U.S.
To read more about his recent travels, check out his two travel blogs:

Ronald Hearts New York
Ronald Hearts Dallas

*Photos courtesy of Ronald Wan.


Anonymous said...

hey there.. i've been visiting your blog for quite a while, and love it... but my windows liveone care just detected a trojan upon entering your site today. thought i should let you know quick. other onecare users should be able to detect this too..

marias23 said...

Ooo! Magnolia has red velvet cupcake now? Interesting! Sprinkles looks so chic and pretty. Too chic and pretty for my taste ;)

mimosa.shy said...

Wow..the cupcakes look absolutely great !

Pastry Girl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
:: Pastry Girl :: said...

cool.. :)

Anonymous said...

Mmm. They do look good, and I love making cupcakes... but I can *never* manage to frost them prettily.

Katy said...

Ok, I have to chime in beacuse I lived 2 blocks away from Magnolia Bakery for two years during law school.

Their cupcakes are wonderful (and their cookies are too!), and it was one of those cute little west village novelty places that are fun to duck into for a quick snack. On the other hand, when I would be walking down the street and see people lined up around the block and waiting for 20-30 minutes? In my mind, not worth it. Plenty of other amazing bakeries nearby.

Their frosting was my favorite -- I always thought the cake part was too dry, and usually ended up throwing it away. The frosting, though, is for people who cannot get things sweet enough. It is SOOOOOO sweet. Which I love, but other people have been known to have one bite and not be able to take anymore. They're really sweet.

They do look beautiful, though. Another GREAT place in that neighborhood is Amy's Breads, which is on Bleeker Street about 10 blocks south/east of Magnolia. Their cupcakes taste about 10,000,000 times better, although they're not quite as pretty!


haras said...

k, when u fly over, we'll go to ny JUST to taste cupcakes HAHAHAHA.
-sarah if u didnt guess:P

the baker said...

dy: oops. erm then what do i do? i'm quite the tech idiot actually. haha.

marias23: i know! they look tooo chic eh? but i want one!!

mimosa.shy: couldn't agree more :)

lavender: haha yes waaaayy cool!

tanya: me too. i really wonder how they frost them that prettily!

katy: hey! ah lucky girl! but i really think that their cupcakes look so sweet.. love the colour of their frosting. it's so fairy like! it's time for me to seriously plan a trip down to NY JUST for cupcakes. hahaa

sarah: YES. WE SHALL. it's a deal. haha but you must wait, till i have money to fly over!

DONNA said...

should have gone here when i was in new york last june

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