Friday, June 15, 2012

New York & DC Cupcake/Bakery tour part 3...

Our final day of cupcake tours in New York took us to a couple of unexpected stops. First thing in the morning we planned to go to Cupcake Cafe, however met a couple of friends out front of Baked by Melissa. I didn't even see the store there, until my friend asked if it was on our tour.

 I noted in Baked by Melissa that all of the cakes were mini bite sized cakes, which was a welcomed change from a lot of the other stores we had been to in previous days. We found that we had started to struggle through the cupcake stores and bakeries as we couldn't finish our cakes. To have bite sized as an option was wonderful news for our hips and taste buds.

Inside Baked by Melissa
 We were only going to have one each, and Steve sent me in with the stipulation of "mint chocolate" which is not one of my favourite flavour combinations. However, when I went in I noticed that the best way to buy these bite sized beauties was in a box of 3. So that's what I did. I went with the Choc-mint, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate fudge cupcakes. They were all so delicious! The cakes were moist and full of flavour with just the right amount of frosting. They were decorated in a very cute and sweet manner. Our only criticism is that after devouring them, we wished we had more.
Chocolate fudge, cookies & cream and Choc-mint cupcakes from Baked by Melissa

Our next stop for the day was Cupcake Cafe. I had read (on another blog) that it was one of the must do's in any New York cupcake tour. Upon entering Cupcake Cafe we almost had to search for the cupcakes. We finally found them towards the back of the store, and the flavour combinations were nothing exciting at all - simple chocolates & vanilla.

Inside Cupcake Cafe

Our next stop for the day was Cupcake Cafe. I had read (on another blog) that it was one of the must do's in any New York cupcake tour. Upon entering Cupcake Cafe we almost had to search for the cupcakes. We finally found them towards the back of the store, and the flavour combinations were nothing exciting at all - simple chocolates & vanilla.

Chocolate cupcake with Chocolate frosting from Cupcake Cafe

They were all decorated beautifully, but they all looked identical. I have a feeling this is their trademark, their decorating technique. They had piped butter cream flowers on top of each cake which was really beautiful. However anyone that knows me, knows that as important as it is for a cake to look pretty, it needs to taste fantastic as well. Unfortunately the cake tasted days old, was very dry and heavy and was easily the worst cake on our whole tour. It was so disappointing.

 After a week in New York, we moved on to Washington DC. On our first day of arrival we made it our mission to go to Georgetown cupcakes. Now I've watched quite a few episodes of 'DC Cupcakes' and really like the show - but I've always been funny about the owners. When watching the show I watch how they do some things and think "There is an easier way to do that! Why are they doing it like that?!" I love TV shows about cakes and cupcakes, so watch it simply for that reason, but couldn't really stand watching the presenters... I'm certain its just me! So with an already established negative feeling towards the shop, I didn't have high expectations. However staying in DC for the week, I would've been crazy not to go and check it out.

When we got there, the line was all the way up the street but that didn't deter us from getting into "DC Cupcakes". They had a 'bouncer' on the door, and as people left he let more people in. It was a great way to do it - you didn't feel rushed whilst in the store and it gave us plenty of time to look around and take photos. Whilst in the line outside, one of the staff came out and handed us all menus for what was available. That way you could be prepared to place your order when you walked in. I have to say the selection was impressive. Some selections are always available, and some available on a roster system - changing by the day of the week. We decided on one each - Steve went with a simple vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, and I went with the lava fudge cupcake. Once we got inside though, we noticed there were a couple of added flavours that weren't listed on their menu. One looked too irresistible to leave behind, so we ordered an extra flavour - German Chocolate.

Inside Georgetown cupcakes
The beautiful display of cupcakes at Georgetown

They had a good concept for an ordering system: you placed your order, paid the money and waited for your order number to be called to receive your cakes. It worked a treat, and was very fast! We walked around the corner of the store and could see through the glass panels and into the kitchen. This allowed us to take photos and watch the bakers hard at work. They had an amazing production line, and definitely gave me a lot of ideas for how I would do it, if and when I open my own cupcake shop. It was so clean in the kitchen, considering how many cakes they were pumping out. And they were pumping them out! 
Behind the scenes at Georgetown cupcakes
 check out all those trays of cakes!!!

Behind the scenes, cupcake production line!
Georgetown cupcakes

The production line in action!
Georgetown cupcakes
 After Georgetown cupcakes, we went for a wonder through Georgetown and stumbled across another 'Sprinkles'. Yes we had already tried out the Sprinkles in NYC, but what harm would there be in trying the DC branch? Plus it's a good way to see if its just the individual stores that are producing amazing cakes, or if its the whole of Sprinkles.

Display cabinet in Sprinkles - the same as NYC!

We ordered a Red Velvet and a Chocolate Marshmallow cupcake. There were the same cakes we had seen the previous week in New York and I was so tempted to get the Salted Caramel again, but wanted to try a new flavour.

Inside Sprinkles - cupcake cabinet!!!

When we got back to our room, we opened up our goodies boxes, and first compared the German Chocolate from Georgetown cupcakes, to the Chocolate Marshmallow from Sprinkles. The cakes were both amazing - they were light and fluffy, yet moist and flavourful. The frosting on the German Chocolate was so fresh that it had already started to slide off the cake - it was fluffy and rich and not too much coconut, which I really loved. The Chocolate Marshmallow had a lovely surprise of a gooey vanilla marshmallow centre and a light coating of ganache frosting. They were delectable and I had started to realise that Georgetown cupcakes was more then I had originally given it credit for. Next we compared the Lava fudge cake with the Red Velvet cupcake, which pretty much sealed the deal for me. It was a close call, however I had made my final decision on which cupcake shop was my ultimate favourite in the whole trip.
Chocolate Marshmallow cupcake from Sprinkles
German Chocolate cupcake from Georgetown cupcakes
Red Velvet cupcake from Sprinkles

Lava Fudge cupcake from Georgetown cupcakes
Sprinkles cupcakes were amazing, and they were equally as good in DC as they were in NYC. They were full of flavour and soft and moist. Their cakes were just as good as their frosting's and were finished simply. Sprinkles became Steve's favourite. I however favoured Georgetown cupcakes far more! Their flavours were real, you could tell just from one bite that they used quality ingredients, and they advertised the fact they do too. I love this, I am all about good quality ingredients. Their frostings were fluffy and luscious and each cake was so fresh, it was just amazing. They finished each cake beautifully and they almost invited you to dive in and devour them. I am so looking forward to my visit to DC again next year, just to go to Georgetown cupcakes again!

Vanilla cupcake with Chocolate frosting from Georgetown Cupcakes

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New York & DC Cupcake/Bakery tour part 2....

Me out front of Carlo's Bake Shop
Our next cupcake adventure didn't actually involve cupcakes... It started with a very short but expensive drive out to Hoboken New Jersey to visit somewhere I've only dreamed about, Carlo's Bake Shop.
I think if you watch the show as religiously as I do, you will recognise a few of these cakes!

I very nearly purchased one of these!
I love a bake shop with an ATM machine in the middle of it! ;)

It was a very surreal feeling, the shop was not as big as I imagined inside and the line up was minimal. When it came time to order - there was a generous assortment of cupcakes on offer, however I thought "I'm at Carlo's Bake Shop. I can have a cupcake anywhere!" So I ordered cannolli, tiramisu, cream puffs and biscotti.  

Biscotti from Carlo's Bake Shop
Inside the cream puff

Tiramisu.... can you see why i was disappointed?

 The cannoli was nice, not what I expected but still very nice. The tiramisu disappointed me along with the cream puff and biscotti. Overall it definitely wasn't up to the hype I had put myself through. I still however loved going there and was worth every penny being there! We went for a wonder around the Hoboken streets afterwards doing a spot of shopping and found a lovely place for brunch. We loved Hoboken!!

Beautiful flowers in a Hoboken store. If I lived there, all of those flowers would have come home with me!

From Hoboken we got the subway to Manhattan and then a Ferry to Dumbo. We were over there to visit a few stores - but mainly one in particular, One Girl Cookies. We were referred by a couple of friends to go and visit One Girl Cookies and I'm so glad we did.

Inside the cabinet at One Girl Cookies
The famous "Brooklyn's Original Whoopie Pies" - you can see they are popular!

When we walked into the store it looked like a gutted warehouse with a couple of benches installed around the room and in the centre of the room was the counter. The place had a very rustic feel to it, a little too rustic for some things. Cakes sat on the bench with slices missing and no covers on them. This to me promotes the cakes to dry out and attract unwanted pests like flies. Their cupcakes looked beautiful, but again not in a closed cabinet - just sitting out along side the whoopie pies. I think the worst thing about it all up though, was the service. I knew immediately what I was purchasing, so walked straight in to order. I was ignored by a clerk standing right in front of me for a few minutes until finally she served me. Then I asked her for a business card and was flat out ignored. I had to ask someone else for a business card. I felt like I was an inconvenience in their store.This is definitely something they should work on.

Cupcakes in One Girl Cookies - I loved the finish on them! Cute.
After making these observations however, we had been recommended to try out the pumpkin whoopie pies. As they were labelled "Brooklyn's Original Whoopies" I had high expectations, and oh my were they met plus some more! It was so good that I wanted to go back and buy more! Lucky enough for me, I will be purchasing the book and will bake my own pumpkin whoopie pies! Do not in any means take my criticism as a warning not to visit. If I was in Brooklyn tomorrow, I wouldn't have a second thought about going back to One Girl Cookies. I can only assume they were having a bad day.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie - spicy, soft, moist, luscious, moreish!

Overall we loved both Hoboken & Dumbo equally for their bakeries and the uniqueness of the cities. Dumbo felt like we had gone back in time, to paved roads and carousels. Hoboken felt like the trendy streets of Melbourne, not as busy but a very welcoming and friendly city that made us feel like we were home.