About two weeks ago we randomly grabbed cupcakes for dessert at New York Muffin in Williamsburg (their Yelp review.) The girl helping us told me that their cupcakes come from Brooklyn Cupcake. Because I always try a chocolate cupcake (for the sake of science, of course) we tried the Oreo Cookie and the French Toast cupcakes. They both had a cream cheese buttercream frosting, which was more appropriate on the french toast, which had a cinnamon bun type flavor, rather than on the oreo, where it was a little jarring. Additionally, there was entirely too much frosting on the cupcake for my taste. The cake itself was okay – a little on the dry, crumbly side. Admittedly, I have very particular cupcake preferences. This sparked a discussion about how many cupcake bakers there are in Brooklyn, and how *amazingly* after 2 years, I still haven’t tried so many of them. Thus, the cupcake tour of Brooklyn was born.
Well okay, it’s actually a modification of a previous tour. My eating partner (whose pizza addiction rivals my cupcake addiction) previously took a pizza tour of Brooklyn (self-designed, though I understand there are now professional tours – I will have to save my personal pizza experiences for a separate post though.) Ultimately, we decided to set some criteria – they had to be highly rated and often reviewed on Yelp – and to begin tasting our way through the cupcakes of Brooklyn.
To begin with, we reviewed where we had already been:
1. The Treats Truck Stop: we tasted the chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream and the vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream. Much like when baking Kim’s recipes, her frosting is good. It’s a solid middle of the road frosting – not offensive, but not something I *MUST* have again immediately (like the frosting of Cinnamon and Spice Bakery upstate which I will seriously, embarrassingly, eat off of a spoon). Her chocolate cupcake is equally middle of the road. It will do to satisfy the need, but it is nothing a crave the way I crave my homemade chocolate cupcakes. Kim’s vanilla cupcakes just don’t work for me. They are dense and eggy, just like when I made her recipe from her cookbook. I feel terrible writing this because she is super-sweet (gotta love a sweet baker!) and I really want her to succeed. Some of her other treats are delightful, including her macaroons and lemon bars, so don’t count her out!
2. One Girl Cookies: Their spiky cupcakes are adorable! As usual, I tried the chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream. The cake is a little dry for me and the buttercream is much too sweet. I find it odd considering how much I enjoy their whoopie pies. I’m not sure what the differences are, but I plan to find out as I have enrolled in their upcoming whoppie pie class.
3. The Chocolate Room: Let me begin by saying we have a love/hate relationship with this place. We LOVE (and at $8 for a small serving, we have to REALLY LOVE) their black bottom butterscotch pudding. But we hate the experience of being there. The music is bad, as the service often is, the atmosphere is outdated and kind of douchey, and the people who go there are not pleasant (and usually not from the neighborhood). I guess this is what happens when Oprah tells the world about your cafe. But they are open late, and the chocolate treats are lovely, even if they are insanely overpriced. My companion enjoyed their chocolate layer cake very much. Again, I am not such a fan, although, in all fairness, I’m not such a fan of chocolate frosting on chocolate cake, nor of multiple layers of frosting on my cake. (I *told* you I was particular.)
4. Baked: I continue to be disappointed here. I want to love it; I really do. I’ve been in several times now and every time my experience is the same. The coffee is not good. The cupcakes are not good (dry, too much overly sweet frosting). The brownies are not good. The service is worse than not good. I know Brooklyn is home to the hipsters, and largely, that’s okay with me. I have no hatred for the hipsters. But the ones who work at Baked are the reason there are blogs dedicated to hipster hatred. They are curt and dismissive, and that’s when they pull themselves out of their zombie-like trance and actually respond. They never make eye contact and they always make me feel like I’m annoying them. Buying and eating a cupcake should be a joyful experience, but here, sadly, it is not.
That’s all we had accomplished in Brooklyn. Amazing, I know. Of course, as any NY cupcake fiend has, I have eaten Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, Billy’s, Crumbs, and Magnolia as well, but those were quite some time ago, so I’d prefer not to review them now as who knows what may have changed. I guess this is a good excuse to go back!
So I made a list of places to go. Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that I have gone off on yet another tangent, and after only getting to one bakery, my tour has been temporarily halted. Below is the list:
138 Willoughby Street (b/w Albee Sq and Prince St
155 Columbia St
(between Irving St & Sedgwick St)
Desserts by Michael Allen
88 Washington Ave
(between I-278 & Park Ave)
355 Franklin Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11226
Betty Bakery (Red Velvet)
448 Atlantic Ave
(between Bond St & Nevins St)
240 7th Ave
(between 3rd Ave & 4th St)
Two Little Red Hens
1652 2nd Ave
(between 85th St & 86th St) Manhattan
228 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
Yes, two Manhattan bakeries have made it on to the list. I just couldn’t resist after reading the reviews. But as I said, it may be a while until I get there. Robicelli’s has halted me in my tracks. Their brilliant marketing plan of releasing new flavors every couple of days has me hooked. I have to keep going back to try new ones. So far, we’ve had S’mores, Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, North Fork, and McFadden. We’ve tried them from the flagship (where they are $3.25) and from Tazza ($2.75). I’ll do a separate review of them in a future post.
Not only has the Robicelli’s flavor quest halted my progress, but also my own inspiration to bake at home. I decided to bake up my own chocolate cupcakes from some batter I had frozen a while back. That’s the easy part. Frosting is my nemesis. I’ve been on a futile quest for Westin Cake Shortening in order to make the only recipe I’ve ever loved, but simply cannot find it, even in the vast shopping mecca that is the internet. More upsetting is that in it’s absence, I haven’t been able to find another recipe that works for me. I’ve learned that I like lard better than butter, but still can’t seem to get it right. Thus, I decided to take a page from the books of healthier people and try using coconut oil as my base. It led to quite a kitchen calamity last night in my 90 degree kitchen when my oil kept liquifying from the heat. And in typical fashion, I went overboard and didn’t just make one batch, but had to try coconut flavored frosting since the oil definitely has a strong flavor, but then had to see if it was possible to disguise that to create just a vanilla or a chocolate frosting without having to cut in lard or butter. A post on that will follow…