GUEST POST! GUEST POST! GUEST POST!

Guest Post by Lynnee: Two Little Red Hens

While Maggie is away from New York City, I’ve been scouting out some cupcake places for her. I live on the Upper East Side, and I’ve found a bakery that will hopefully lure her to come visit me, her college friend. My roommate actually told me about it—whenever he passes by the shop, he tends to buy something. At first I thought it was because when he would tell me about it, I thought he was calling it “Two Little Redheads” (Who wouldn’t want to go somewhere so cute sounding?), but when he brought a cupcake home for my birthday, I realized it was because it has sublime cupcakes.

The cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens may be the best I’ve ever had. Cupcakes I’ve had before mostly have far too much frosting on them. I have trouble eating cupcakes because I either get a face-ful of frosting and no cake with it, or vice versa. And the frosting usually just tastes like artificial sugar, whereas the cake part is spongy and crumbly. But the peanut butter fudge swirl cupcake I had at Two Little Red Hens was nothing like this: the cake part was fudgy, moist, and chocolatey and it had a thick, almost crunchy, peanut butter filling (Reese’s Cup consistency) in it that didn’t skimp out or overwhelm the cake. The frosting wasn’t overwhelmingly tall but rather one thick swirl inside itself. It didn’t stick to my tongue but rather strangely made me think of liquid chocolate that melted in my mouth with a peanut butter aftertaste! Because the cupcake was so rich, it was easy to put away half for later and feel completely satisfied (not sugared out) with the half that I ate. Also, the peanut butter fudge swirl smells like a better quality Reese’s cup.

The shop is pretty small; small tables clutter one half of the bakery so that with a line of customers waiting for pickup, it’s hard to manoeuvre around the shop. But everyone seems happy: customers sharing their pies at a round table, picking up personalized cakes, and ordering Arnold Palmers. The employees were kind and efficient, too. The yellow lighting and checkered curtains also contributed to the coziness of the place. Tea boxes lined one wall, Two Little Red Hens t-shirts were available for sale, and hen figurines were tastefully all over. I also noticed the display counters were orderly and clean, and the cupcakes were well stocked. The line was quite long, but the wait wasn’t bad.

Two Little Red Hens sells cakes, scones, pies, and cupcakes. Something exciting to note is that in 2010, Series Eats rated it among its top 12 best cupcakes in New York City (http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/07/the-best-cupcake-in-new-york-city-cupcake-shops-bakeries-nyc.html?ref=thumb). Though the cakes looked pristine and delicately beautiful, I immediately zoned in on the cupcakes. Available on this visit were marble, yellow vanilla, red velvet, banana, carrot, peanut butter fudge swirl (has a filling), and Brooklyn blackout (has a filling). I believe there are also seasonal options sometimes, like Pumpkin Spice and Eggnog. Some have filling inside them, like the peanut butter fudge swirl and Brooklyn blackout. Each have a regular and a mini size option. The regular size is $4, the mini $1.75, though when you think of “mini,” think bigger than Baked By Melissa size (i.e., 2 bites rather than 1 bite, I’d say). I like the cake to frosting ratio: there’s no overwhelming pile of frosting, and what is there (buttercream frosting) looks smooth and pretty.

Summary:

Location: Upper East Side, Manhattan NYC

Flavors: ~10 flavors +/- seasonal flavors. Check them out online.

Size: huge muffin size (though smaller than Crumbs)

Price: $3 regular ($4 for regular with filling)/$1.75 mini

Atmosphere: Cozy, busy, and cheerful

Taste: Fudgy, moist, rich

Favorite: Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl

Ranking: 5/5

Better by Maggie to me is not only a hobby (though sometimes I may treat it as such) but it really is a lifestyle in which I travel and really try to experience local cupcake shops and venture and meet new people and try new things. So having friends and family following the blog and even bringing me cupcakes to try is really wonderful to have my dreams recognized and validated. Its almost like I know something about cupcakes.

A friend of mine went to a conference in Portland two months ago and during his time there, he found this cupcake shop and knew that I would absolutely love it. So, he bought a few cupcakes for me and his sister and brought them all the way back to VA for me to try. 

Now while I normally like to describe the shop and the atmosphere and the experience, I can’t say anything besides what I find online. Cupcake Jones is the only exclusively handcrafted cupcake shop in Portland, made with all natural and local ingredients. That’s some dedication. They have gluten free and vegan cupcakes too, which is always nice. They feature 11 daily flavors and 2 special flavors, all crafted beautifully. They also have the option of filled or not filled (too cool!)

Now, of course because my cupcakes were hand delivered by a cupcake unprofessional (meaning that he didn’t know how to deliver cupcakes, though there are companies that do deliver anywhere in country and they arrive perfectly!) the frosting on my cupcakes was a little deflated. But that didn’t stop me. 4 cupcakes were delivered to me, but I’m going to focus on the limoncello cupcake (one of my favorite flavors). So the cupcakes were each in these cute little delivery cups with lids, but it made the cupcake very difficult to get out, so I ended up just eating up cupcake with a fork out of the cup (which was still hard and messy with the wrapper). But yum! Even for a few days old and a little wilted, the lemon was strong and sweet, and even a little tart, very much a real lemon flavor. The icing was liquifying due to improper cooling, but I could tell it was made with just the right balance of sugar and lemon (though it seemed like granulated not confectioner’s sugar…) They even labeled the box with my name (which is NOT Megahan, but rather an inside joke) and the flavors so I knew what I was getting myself into. Thanks Cupcake Jones and thanks to my friend! I hope one day I can visit them myself!

Summary:

Location: Portland

Flavors: 11 daily and 2 special flavors

Size: average (on the smaller side)

Price: $3.75 for jumbo (filled), $1.50 mini (no filling); $4.25 jumbo Vegan or gluten free, $1.75 mini vegan or gfree

Atmosphere: n/a

Taste: sweet sweet sweet, lemony, real

Favorite: Limoncello

Ranking: 3.5/5

In April, I went to Charlotte, NC for the first time for my first ever professional conference (and I presented a paper)! So to reward myself, as well as to take my future roommate (who is also a baker and never been on a cupcake adventure), we wanted to get cupcakes in Charlotte. Only, in the South on a Sunday, few shops are open. But Gigi’s Cupcakes was (which is odd seeing that it is a very religiously founded shop, though it doesn’t have a menu for Sunday online).

A national chain, Gigi’s started in 2008 in Nashville admist the financial meltdown, Gigi’s took off and now has 84 shops in 23 states. Now, Gigi’s sells 10-11 flavors of cupcakes, including gluten free and filled, as well as other treats like cookies or cheesecakes.

So when we went, this was your typical small bakery franchise. The shop had no seats (maybe one or two, I don’t quite remember), and really just had the white counter with two glasses for cupcakes. The decor was simple, with pink and flowers, but nice black and framed focal points. We each got what feels like a million cupcakes, though it was really only 6, including a wedding cake, lemon, raspberry something, red velvet, banana cream pie, and cobbler. Overall, the cupcakes were okay, with some being better than others. The wedding cake was fake and bland, with almost no flavor, while the lemon was also fake and too sweet. But the raspberry was perfectly balanced, sweet and juicy. The red velvet was rich and chocolaty, though the icing was WAY too strong for me. Also, for all the cupcakes, the frosting to cupcake ratio was way off, almost double the frosting for the average size cupcake base. I mean, for a national chain in the South on the Sunday after a long conference, I was happy, but it’s not something I would put money towards and seek out again. Gigi’s is okay for what it is. Note: they do have a loyalty member club/card, so I do have that (why not?)…

Summary:

Location: Charlotte (and 37 other locations nationwide)

Flavors: 10-11 daily flavors

Size: Small base, but looks big with double amount frosting

Price: ~$3.00

Atmosphere: Small, girly, pink

Taste: fake and bland, sweet

Favorite: Raspberry

Ranking: 2.5/5

So, while I am a New Yorker at heart, DC is growing on me, and quite fast. I’m not a fan of the metro (because its not a subway and there aren’t enough lines that run frequently enough and you can’t have food in the metro and the stations are clean and air conditioned and wtf carpeting in the trains), but I do like the neighborhoods like Eastern Market and Georgetown. In Georgetown, there are quite a number of bakeries and cupcake shops (its very commercialized and ritzy there) including Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcakes (see previous posts), and one up and coming shop called Baked and Wired.

One of the top 10 bakeries in the US (via The Hopper), Baked and Wired is known for its quirky, geeky, hipster atmosphere. The shop is located on this side street (which is very cute) by a bunch of row townhouses and a stream and just all the wonderfulness of Georgetown. Through the door (once you get in, that is, there is typically a line), on the right you can go through another door into the “beverages” area with gourmet coffees and teas, or stay on the left for baked goodies including “Hippie Crack” aka homemade granola. In the back is a bunch of seating, though the whole shop is very narrow and small and quite loud. They also have lots of events like art installations and music performances. The decor of the place is very much hodge-podge thrown together, with odd paintings, leather seats, and chalkboard menus. Each of the “cakecups” (not cupcakes here), has a unique name like “Uniporns and Rainhoes” or “Unporked Elvis” or “Pretty Bitchin’” with colorfully drawn placards and apothecary jars (which I think is awesome). The cupcakes themselves are huge, with muffin paper liners, and are simply decorated (no sprinkles or fondant decor), while the frosting is not piled on, but simply spread on (so there is more cake than frosting).

I ended up getting the Uniporns cupcake (basically funfetti with cream chease frosting), which was quite dry and flaky. It is rare that I actually request more icing/frosting, but this time I do wish so to help balance the amount of cake that I was eating. The dryness/flakyness could have been a result of day two consumption, where I left the cupcake in the fridge overnight before I got around to eating it. But generally, the taste was strong and the frosting that I did have was rich and moist, cream cheesy but sweet. Very good. Overall, I’d go back, but have your cupcake/cakecup that day.

Summary:

Location: Georgetown (Washington DC)

Flavors: 19 flavors. Check them out online (so I don’t have to translate each one)

Size: huge muffin size (though smaller than Crumbs)

Price: $3.65 (a little pricy)

Atmosphere: Hodge-podge, busy and loud, hipster/alternative

Taste: Dry, crumbly, rich, sweet

Favorite: Uniporns and Rainhoes!

Ranking: 3.5/5

Note: I’ve decided I don’t like short form posts. Deal with it.

Onward with our saga of cupcake adventures. After our disappointing trip to Charm City Cupcakes (see previous post), Hanna, Kristen and I were left wanting more. I google mapped “cupcakes” and Midnite Confections Cupcakery was the first to come up, only a mile walk away. Down some cute little streets of downtown Baltimore, we came across this little shop that, besides the sign, you would have never noticed it was there. Apparently it has won lots of awards and is considered one of the best bakeries in Baltimore. Who would have known?

Inside, this little (and I mean little) thematic shop was cutely decorated, one that you would expect in a row of town houses in a downtown neighborhood of a larger city complete with brick walls and painted murals of the city skyline at night. There were only one or two seats, this didn’t seem like the place most people hang out at. We took a while to decide what to get (there were 3 specials of the day, but also a handful of daily treats), but the staff was wonderful and worked with us patiently. Once we ordered (one pistachio, one pumpkin, and a birthday cake), it took a while to get our cupcakes, which was weird. Only to find out, not only can you mix and match frostings and bases, but they frost your cupcake at the time you order it, so it is FRESH, but not necessarily the most well decorated. 

After we left and tried our cupcakes, I would have to say that the birthday cake was too simple and tasteless, but the pumpkin was full of flavory-goodness. Savory and salty, though it kind of looked more like a muffin than a cupcake. For a tucked away corner bakeshop, this is a nice surprise, though not one I would necessarily purposefully seek out. 

Summary:

Location: Baltimore, MD 

Flavors: 7 signature flavors- black velvet, playboy (carrot), eclipse (chocolate/vanilla), birthday cake, full moon (vanilla vanilla), midnite (choco choco), subliminal (lemon); 7 “after hours” flavors, and 7 seasonal flavors

Size: average

Price: $3.00

Atmosphere: dark, mysterious, night

Taste: moist, flavorful, savory

Favorite: Pumpkin

Ranking: 3/5

Charm City Cupcakes

Summary:

Location: Baltimore, MD

Flavors: Supposedly 65 available flavors including vegan, ice cream, and alcoholic, though the flavors are not listed online

Size: Smallish regular size

Price: $3.00, $3.25 for “gourmet”, $3.50 for “black tie”

Atmosphere: Tucked away, hidden, inconvenient

Taste: Bland

Favorite: None

Ranking: 1/5