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Feast: SB’s Cupcake Awards

October 17, 2010

Every six months I think the cupcake fad must be dying out, but it still appears to be thriving. More cupcake-only bakeries are popping up, cafes and sandwich shops are adding the little treats to their offerings, and you can even buy special cupcake holders on Amazon. I can understand why the trend has taken hold; aside from being a fun sugary dessert, cupcakes make you feel like a kid again. A big fluffy cupcake with a sugary rose on top just begs to have its icing licked, a finger poked into the white frosting and then smeared across your friend’s face in jest.

There are definitely winners in the many different categories of cupcakes, thus the following set of awards for the Boston Metro area. Note: I am including sweet muffins in these awards as, while I appreciate those establishments that refer to them as muffins and thus enable me to eat them in the morning, I don’t really need an excuse. A mini cake-like pastry that is either stuffed with goodies or topped with frosting is not a muffin. It is a cupcake.

1. Best Classic: Party Favors
Sometimes you just want chocolate, or you just want vanilla. You want the cake to be moist and the icing to be sugary sweet and in the perfect ratio to the amount of cake. And that’s when you go to Party Favors in Brookline. I’ve mentioned them before as a fail-safe for last summer’s great cupcake baking experiment, and I still think they are the best you can get. They aren’t trying to be gourmet, they are just trying to be the best basic, classic example out there. Bite into one of their vanilla cakes and you are right back at your best friend’s 12th birthday party (or her wedding, as in the above picture).

2. Best Filled: Gingerbread Construction Company
Gingerbread Construction is one of those places that refers to their cupcakes as muffins, even though they are filled with ingredients like whipped cream, lemon curd, chocolate sauce, fresh peaches, etc. Each “muffin” is like an individual cake, and my favorite is the Strawberry Shortcake, which is exactly what it sounds like.

3. Best Gourmet: Sweet
I love anything that involves the combination of sweet and savory, and the Salted Chocolate cupcake at Sweet fits that bill. Unfrosted, it avoids being sickly sweet so you can focus on the flavors instead of the icing. This fall’s Chocolate Orange and Molasses Ginger are also refined enough to make you feel a bit like you are at high tea, but still fun (and small) enough to be eaten with abandon.

4. Best Themed: South End Buttery
The Buttery has specialty cupcakes- lemon raspberry, chocolate pistachio, the ubiquitous Boston Cream, and they are all good. But what makes it special are its classic cupcakes, all named for the owner’s dogs.  The Madison, The Harriet, and The Simon make you wish you were having your coffee and cupcake with a big dog staring at you adoringly and shedding all over your lap.

5. Best Makes You Feel Like a Baker: Treat Cupcake Bar
At Treat you can really fool yourself into thinking that you know how to make a good cupcake. You pick the cake flavor, the frosting, and the “extras” – snickers, gummy worms, coconut, chocolate chips. I think the concept is a lot of fun for groups or kids, and the cupcakes are great, which is why I’m giving it an award. However, like many things in life, there is danger in having too many options. I can put gummy worms and nerds on my cupcake, but should I? Sometimes it’s better to pick one of Treat’s sensible, pre-made cupcakes instead of cruising for one that’s all tarted up at the bar. You might have fun with it that night, but you’re just going wake up with heartburn, wishing you’d been nicer to that sweet, sane cupcake who used to make you coffee in the morning.

6. Of course, Best Vegan: Flour Bakery
I’ve said so much about these in previous posts that I’ll try not to blather here. Suffice it to say, one more time, that I can’t live without these in my life.

Sometimes the best part about cupcakes is that they can give you comfort and courage. And, they are a much better (and wiser) choice than wine to boost you up for say, a wedding toast.


toast fueled by cupcakes, not wine.



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