10 Reasons You Shouldn't Write Off Cupcakes
These 10 bakeries from around the country prove that from-scratch cupcakes are far from passé.
For some jaded dessert aficionados, the very mention of the word "cupcake" induces eye rolls. Yes, Sex and the City and those absurdly long queues it spawned outside of New York's Magnolia Bakery helped push the spherical concoction into decline, but many a hard-to-resist version still exists. Whether they are churning out a bright strawberry rendition or a hedonistic one shellacked in hot fudge, these 10 bakeries around the country prove that from-scratch cupcakes can still be worth lining up for.
Atlanta: The Atlanta Cupcake Factory
Every week the flavors evolve at Jamie Fahey's tiny Poncey-Highland bakery. This means one day can bring tangy Key Lime, another Sugar Cookie-Almond Peach. What is consistent, however, is Fahey’s promise to never swap butter for shortening. If the cupcakes sell out, as they often do, Fruity Pebbles Krispy Treats make for a stellar consolation prize.
Boston: Flour Bakery + Cafe
Pastry chef and proprietor Joanne Chang's institution, which flaunts outposts in Fort Point, the South End, Central Square and Back Bay, lures in locals for everything from creamy peanut butter cookies to toasted lemon meringue pies, but the cupcake options are few. In addition to one roving flavor of the month, there is just a chocolate one ringed in vanilla "crispy magic frosting," yet it's a nostalgic marvel of utterly satisfying simplicity.
Columbus, Ohio: Fate Cakes
Although there is no public storefront in which to gape at her array of creative cakes, Marie O'Stroske bakes each one to order. For the Grasshopper, she tops a chocolate base with a decidedly retro sea-foam green mint buttercream; for the Drumstick, she reimagines that classic ice cream cone of the same name in the form of a dark chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting drenched in chopped nuts and a combination of milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate.
Houston: Crave Cupcakes
Crave's spare white interior, with touches of stainless steel and wood, belies the homey confections turned out by Brad Dorsey, Elizabeth Harrison and Peter Cooper. Flavors like German Chocolate and Dulce de Leche rotate daily at the Uptown Park, Kirby and Woodlands locations — although Old-Fashioned Birthday Cake is a staple — but all weave in top-notch ingredients, including Madagascar bourbon vanilla and dairy from Texas farms.
Los Angeles: Vanilla Bake Shop
With locations in Santa Monica, Century City and even LAX to indulge pre-flight cravings, Amy Berman’s quaint bakery is known for gourmet flavors that shift daily, including the heady Fleur de Sel with a gooey caramel center and the Spicy Carrot strewn with toffee-pecan crumbles.
Miami: Sweetness Bake Shop & Cafe
It's out of the way, in Kendall, but the cupcakes at the Diaz family's bakery will reward you for making the schlep. Among the myriad cupcake selections are the unusual Guayabera, a cream cheese-frosted guava cupcake bursting with guava marmalade, and the Dunkaroo, in which cinnamon cake is encrusted in crunchy graham crackers and topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles.
New York: Baked NYC
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito opened their Brooklyn bakery over 10 years ago in the ever-burgeoning Red Hook neighborhood and have since ushered in a second location — at a onetime burlesque club — in Tribeca. While savory items are available at this branch, sweet treats remain their stock in trade. Offered along with the whoopie pies and the chocolate chunk cookie-meets-brownie Brooksters, Baked’s cupcakes are pretty little things. The ever-changing roster spans such flavors as the ethereal, curd-filled Lemon Drop and the fluffy Pistachio filled with vanilla honey buttercream.
Philadelphia: Brown Betty Boutique
Elizabeth "Betty" Hinton is the muse behind this Northern Liberties and Center City bakery, run by her daughter and granddaughter. The cupcakes, all based on a vintage pound cake recipe from Betty’s own grandmother, are playfully named after personalities plucked from colorful family stories. Order the Aunt Eva Says and you’ll be rewarded with pineapple pound cake crowned in cream cheese buttercream, while the Only for Eliza elicits autumnal bliss with sweet potato pound cake and spiced vanilla buttercream.
Portland, Ore.: Saint Cupcake
Locals were crestfallen when Saint Cupcake was shuttered, but luckily, new owners Alex and Julie Bond stepped in to resurrect the beloved downtown and Belmont locations before announcing an anticipated third outpost. Melty Good ice cream sandwiches and Nutella-banana brioche buns are also part of the lineup here, but the namesake baked goods include such cupcake varieties as the Chocolate with Hot Fudge and the ambitious Toasted Coconut Cream — vanilla cake studded with toffee bits, topped with vanilla cream cheese and rolled in toasted coconut flakes.
San Francisco: Kara's Cupcakes
There are now eight bakeries in Kara Haspel Lind's Bay Area cupcake empire. The ad director-turned-entrepreneur has racked up quite the cult following for her creations, including a chocolate one frosted with heady peanut butter and milk chocolate ganache, and a delicate vanilla alternative oozing strawberries and cream, all of which are amplified by a bounty of local and organic ingredients.