Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cupcake Comparison

In these tough, economic times, it's important to remember to have snacks. A good cookie may not fix your tanking stock portfolio, or compensate you for being laid off of work, but it's better than nothing.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that there is usually some sort of ubiquitous chain business selling the latest "trendy" snack. This first got my attention when Mrs. Fields Cookies started, but I kept a watchful eye on the Cinnabon craze, the meteoric rise and fall of Krispy Kreme, and the recent newcomer, Beard Papas. I've also noticed a number of gourmet cupcake stores popping up, fighting for the right to become the next big snack thing. A Sprinkles Cupcakes store recently opened up near me that seems to have a never-ending line of people. Passing by it on several occasions, I have witnessed a full squad of high-school cheerleaders, in uniform, standing in line, as well as a line forty people deep at 7PM on a Friday night.

They sell individual gourmet cupcakes for about $4 a pop, which seems ridiculously expensive to me. Interestingly, another gourmet cupcake place, Kara's Cupcakes, opened a store across the street from Sprinkles, selling their cupcakes at a mere $3.75 or so. Having nothing better to do one Sunday, I decided to brave the lines at both places (thankfully short that day), and do a head-to-head cupcake comparison:

(left to right: Sprinkles Red Velvet, Sprinkles Black and White, Kara's Chocolate Velvet, and Kara's Lemony Lemon)

I sorta screwed up, however, since I didn't get exact equivalents from both stores. Nonetheless, here are my findings on each individual cupcake:

Sprinkles, "Red Velvet" : Red Velvet is apparently some sort of standard of gourmet cupcakes. I'm not sure why, since the name makes me think of curtains or something. Anyway, this one was slightly disappointing -- the "cream cheese" frosting was too sweet and too solid. The "southern style chocolate" cake was a bit on the dry, not so tasty side. Finally, it was topped with a strange red and blue candy circle, which tasted like, and may have been, decorative wax. Rating: Meh

Sprinkles, "Black and White" : Not to be confused with the New York cookie of the same name, this cupcake was slightly better than the Red Velvet, in my opinion. The vanilla frosting again was too solid, and not so creamy. The "belgian dark chocolate" cake was sufficiently chocolate-y, but again a bit on the dry side. Maybe I just got a bad batch. Rating: Ok

Kara's, "Chocolate Velvet" : This is basically Kara's take on a Red Velvet, I think. The cake portion is superior to Sprinkle's Red Velvet in taste and moistness. The frosting was good, but nothing to write sonnets about. Rating: Ok

Kara's, "Lemony Lemon" : The frosting was a little on the sweet side (it's frosting, on a cupcake. I'm not sure what I was expecting), but the actual cake portion was tasty and moist. This was aided by the addition of a creamy Meyer lemon curd filling inside the actual cake. I learned my lesson and skipped the blue disc thing. Rating: Tasty

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