Monday, November 16, 2009

Quest for the Best: Cupcake Stop Review

Location: Varies. Follow them on Twitter for updates on their location.

Website: Official Cupcake Stop site

Price: $1 for mini cupcakes, $2.50 for regulars

Atmosphere: It’s a truck on the street, so don’t go for the ambiance.

My Review: New Yorkers love mobile food and cupcakes. So when the two are put together, it’s pretty much a guaranteed success. And with a rabid following on Twitter, a wide variety of flavors (both classics and new creations), and frequent contests and giveaways, Cupcake Stop has quickly become one of the “it” places for a quick sugar fix.

They only sell five of their flavors each day, but when they list their location on Twitter, they also list that day’s menu. On the d

ay I went I figured I may as well sample all of the day’s choices (oh the sacrifices I make), and got carrot cake, cinnamon bun, red velvet, chocolate vanilla, and vanilla chocolate. And just like the flavors themselves, the results were a mixed bag.

First, the worst part of it all: Raisins! Raisins are foul, loathsome, and disgusting things and have no business being in anything that is meant to be delicious. So I was already dismayed when I saw that both the carrot cake and cinnamon bun cupcakes contained raisins. The only good thing about raisins? They’re solid enough to easily pick them out of whatever you’re eating, which is exactly what I did.

The best of the bunch was the carrot cake (once the vile raisins had been removed). The cake was moist and flavorful, and the cream cheese frosting was sweetly tart and creamy. It was even topped with an icing carrot, just like all carrot cake should be. On the other end of the spectrum, the cinnamon bun was the worst, mainly because it wasn’t really a cupcake; it’s essentially a mini cinnamon bun baked inside a cupcake wrapper. Which I guess would be OK (though a bit misleading) if it wasn’t a crappy cinnamon bun; it was dry and practically flavorless, and the sugar icing drizzled on the top was way too scant. Cinnamon buns should be soft, doughy, gooey, and turn your hands into a sticky mess while you eat them, so Cupcake Stop’s version failed on all counts.

The rest of the flavors fell in the comfortable “pretty good” middle ground. The chocolate vanilla (which is just chocolate cake with vanilla frosting) was tasty; the cake was moist and chocolatey, the frosting creamy and sugary. The red velvet was also good, though not remarkable. The vanilla chocolate (vanilla cake with chocolate frosting) was kind of bland, and the frosting tasted like the canned kind you get at the supermarket, making it very reminiscent of having cupcakes at an elementary school birthday party. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I expect a bit more when shelling out $2.50.

Bottom Line: On the whole, Cupcake Stop’s cupcakes are good, but not overwhelmingly so. I also found them to be overpriced for what you get. Every bakery in the city jacks up the prices on their cupcakes, but most will counter balance that by making them a bit larger, using superior ingredients, or piling on mounds of frosting. The ones at Cupcake Stop are obviously made in standard sized muffin tins, some of the cakes don’t taste any different than a box mix, and the amount of frosting is normal, so they’re basically the same cupcakes you could make yourself at home or find at a school bake sale. They do have some unique flavors—I’ll most likely go back once the seasonal gingerbread spice is available—and obviously the convenience factor of being a mobile operation plays in their favor, but unless they start parking right outside my door or lower their prices, I’ll continue to spend my overpriced cupcake money elsewhere.

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