If only they were half as good as they look. This has been the sad truth that we've faced as we've gone about tasting cupcakes from venue to venue, all over New York. Perhaps it's not as difficult to find good cupcakes for a nuptial cupcake tower for our May 12th family party as it is to find an affordable and yet delicious and pretty wedding cake, but still. It's been a bit of a trial, and not nearly as much fun as you might imagine.
Not fun because when the cupcakes aren't anything like as good as you imagine, you're stuck with a box of partially-eaten or even barely tasted cupcakes which neither of you feel the inclination to finish. And as dreadful as it is to throw away food, we've been throwing them out rather than "throwing them in", as the old dieter's dictum advises. I got to the point where I was practically ready to toss in the towel and decide to bake a hundred or so cupcakes myself. However, I was gently dissuaded from this particular act of insanity, among others (I was going to cook my own wedding supper for our private ceremony in a couple of weeks at my Dad's apartment; instead my in-laws are generously hosting a supper at a beautiful French restaurant. Then I was going to bake my own wedding cake and bring it to the restaurant; again, it was suggested to me that I might want to relax and get my nails done rather than work myself into a baking frenzy on my wedding day. But I still have a trick up my sleeve for our May 12th party. Despite the fact that one or the other of us may have to sell a crucial internal organ to pay for our catering bill, I still can't have our families come from Boston and Chicago and Denver and Baltimore and Tennesee and England, for crying out loud, and not cook anything for them).
Judging New York City's cupcakes: I know I'm stepping into treacherous waters here. All over the city, various cupcake shops have their devotees. Magnolia's habitués are legion; Sugar Sweet Sunshine has almost as many fans. The beautifully decorated floral gems from Cupcake Cafe are highly touted by many as well. Perhaps it's because I bake my own more often than not, and because I've spoiled G with a fair amount of home baking, but none of those mentioned seem to ring our cupcake chimes at all.
Worst of all were the cupcakes pictured above. They come from a relatively new shop in Chelsea called "Burgers and Cupcakes". I was under the impression that this was a branch of the Hell's Kitchen "Burgers and Cupcakes" shop owned by Mitchell London, whose velvety golden-vanilla cupcakes with deep dark fudgy chocolate icing I have often purchased from Fairway and eaten with great happiness. So I bought a box from this 23rd St. store that included chocolate peanut-butter, chocolate-raspberry, vanilla with vanilla icing, vanilla with chocolate icing, cream-filled chocolate, and lemon meringue. Sadly, each one was worse than the next. The cake was tough and flavorless; the icings were gritty and insipidly sweet. Then I found out that not only was this shop NOT owned by Mitchell London -- it was opened by his former business partner after a rift. Always a bad sign. The partner used the name of the shop and even the signature brown and pink awning and storefront coloring -- but obviously didn't get the recipes. Or else s/he just doesn't have the touch.
So for our May 12th "family party", the cakes for our cupcake tower will come from Mitchell London's original Burgers and Cupcakes shop on Ninth Ave. near 36th St., not to be confused with the copycat shop on 23rd St. Our caterer will then arrange them on tiered trays and decorate them. We can choose from strawberry shortcake, raspberry bavarian, cream-filled chocolate, chocolate peanut-butter, carrot, red velvet, blueberry-vanilla, and the usual suspects of vanilla with chocolate, vanilla with vanilla, chocolate with vanilla, chocolate with chocolate. I'm thinking about an assorted bouquet, since I imagine all the kids (both little and adult-sized) will probably want to taste a few different kinds. But I'd love to hear from readers: what do you think we should get by way of cupcakes? and should we go for more of the small size, or fewer of the big ones? Help us out here.