Yes, I know cupcakes are so 2008, but you would never know it by the lines I saw. And for some reason other than my tight-fitting jeans, I never tire of them. Just the perfect size- you can polish that baby off in one sitting. Three to four lovely bites and you are out of there.
Now it seems that there are all these crazy flavors. I roll old school, so bacon, basil, or peas just aren’t in my cupcake genre. This weekend for no other reason than I could, a self-imposed cupcake tour was put in place. Each store is reviewed on presentation, taste, customer service, and price. Everyone’s taste buds are different, so this is just one gal’s weekend of indulgence. Take it for what it’s worth.
First up is Bleeding Heart Bakery. I actually have talks with myself as I drive by; just repeating. “Stay in your car, keep driving, there is nothing to see here.”
One of the best things about this place is the owner Michelle Garcia uses local, sustainable and only organic ingredients. Plus, she sells t-shirts that say “There’s no crying in pastry.” Bleeding Heart has two locations; one in Oak Park and one in Roscoe Village. Michelle has a Charity Cupcake of the Month and donates a portion of the sales. This month the cupcake is Veruca Salt with money going to Friends of Prentice. I usually go with the red velvet cupcake and have never been disappointed. Last month I did go in and they were out of them. However, I was kindly directed to the other case where they are now making red velvet whoopie pies. Okay, that is just wrong. On average they have around 12 different flavors a day to pick from.
Taste: Very dense, cream cheese icing tastes like real cream cheese!
Customer Service: On the ball, never had to wait.
Price: Average cupcake flavor like Red Velvet is $2.75, Fancy flavored ones are $3.25
Next, up is Sprinkles Cupcakes. Candace Nelson opened her first store in Beverly Hills in 2005 and has been setting the standards for what cupcake stores should strive for. They have been voted the “best” cupcake, while Russell Crow to Oprah nosh on them. There are currently 10 locations throughout the U.S. with the Chicago location just opening a few weeks ago in the downtown area. The store uses recycled materials for packaging and donates any leftover cupcakes here in Chi-town to La Salle Senior Center and St. Matthew’s Child Advocate. Their ingredients are not considered organic, but what I would call “real.” Fresh fruit, the best type of chocolate, Madagascar vanilla, etc. A typical day averages 25 different flavors.
The taste immediately reminded me of a hostess cupcake. Remember those back in the day? They were my all time favorite. I’m not sure what Sprinkles does, but they have improved that same similar taste ten fold. When I say this is the best cupcake I have every had, I really mean it. Hands down, I now see why everyone is talking about them and the line is out the door.
Presentation: Large menu on the wall describing the flavors; huge tiered racks behind plexiglass showcasing the little darlings. Ate it while I was there- served on a recyclable plate.
Taste: #1 Cake part was light and extremely moist. The whole thing was perfect!!
Customer Service: You order, than wait to pay. I think it backs the line up; but space is small and the whole process moves fairly quickly.
Price: $3.25 per cupcake.
The final stop was More. This cupcake shop is a few blocks over from Sprinkles and opened up in 2008. It is run by Patty Rothman. She had Gale Gand, who is a James Beard winner help in the design of the menu. The flavors out of all the stores I went to seemed to really push the flavor profiles. BLT, Blue Cheese walnut, and Tiramusu to name just a few. Average is 15 flavors a day.
Presentation: Store had a lot of back lighting – gave everything a dark glow. Great tiered shelves displayed very pretty cupcakes. Cupcake was put in a “Chinese take-out-like box.” Ingenious hole for your finger to go in to remove the cupcake and not mess up the frosting.
Taste: I really don’t like writing stuff like this, but I feel obligated too. The More website says that they do not use hydrogenated oils. Esthetically, the S’more cupcake I had ordered was beautiful. From the first bite, the frosting tasting like a vat of processed whipped oil. I tried to get through it, but sadly, after three small painful bites, it went in the garbage. The cake part was bland as well. There were such high hopes for this store, but unfortunately I won’t be returning.
Customer Service: Three girls working behind the counter, three of us in line and nothing flowed correctly.
Price: $3.50 – the highest priced