Friday, April 25, 2008

Letizia’s All Natural

2144 W Division, ChicagoChocolate-banana cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $3.00
Weight: 6 3/4 oz (191g)
Value: $0.444/oz

Frosting The frosting is wet and smooth and a little on the heavy side. No graininess. Rating 6.0/10

Cake The cake was heavy and had a somewhat dry, course texture. As you might expect with using natural ingredients, the banana flavor was present without being too intense (as it might be if using an extract). So the cake had a nice, balanced flavor, but the texture was a drawback. Rating 6.0/10

Overall As the name states, Letizia’s goods are made with all natural ingredients. I think the biggest impact this might have on a cupcake is the use of unbleached flour. First, let me state that I’m far from being any kind of expert on the science of baking, but from what I’ve read on the subject, bleaching softens the gluten in the flour and helps produce a lighter texture; this might account for the denseness of the cake, but I don’t know if that also is the reason for the dryness. It seems a lot of people have strong opinions against the use of bleached flours because of the chemical process it goes through. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, and if bleached flour happens to give the cake a texture that I like better, then bleach away. I really wanted to rate this cupcake higher, but it just didn’t do it for me. Overall rating 6.0/10

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

70 E Oak, Chicago (also with a boutique in Macy’s State Street store)
Chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $3.27
Weight: 3 5/8 oz (103g)
Value: $0.902/oz

Shiny, smooth and somewhat greasy. The frosting is remarkably tasteless and bland at first, almost like it was pure lard. However, after the initial impression it developed a strangely sweet and almost tangy aftertaste; after you’ve savored it for a bit on your tongue, a rich and creamy flavor comes through. I'd have to say it's one of the most interesting frostings I've had, but the initial taste is a big, big turnoff. It does get points for the finish, but unfortunately only enough to make it slightly better than mediocre. Rating 5.5/10

Cake The top of the cake was hard and the cake itself was dry and coarse. Not enough sweetness in the cake to bring out a true chocolaty flavor, and tasted a little “off”. The quality is mediocre and below what I would consider an average cupcake should be. Rating 4.5/10

Overall This was a rather disappointing cupcake in terms of flavor and texture. This is the kind of cupcake that reinforces my theory that the sweets that look the best are not usually the ones that taste the best. As the most expensive cupcake (so far), the price is reflective more of the Gold Coast location than it is of taste and quality. Overall rating 5.0/10

Friday, April 11, 2008

Angel Food Bakery

1636 W Montrose, ChicagoChocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $2.82
Weight: 5 oz (142g)
Value: $0.564/oz

Slightly grainy and somewhat dense (which is partly evidenced by the overall weight of the cupcake). However, the flavor was a little off; perhaps the frosting had been frozen at one point, or perhaps the food coloring is lending a hint of unusual flavor, I don't know. I would characterize the frosting as decent, even with the slightly off-taste. Would have rated a 7.5 otherwise. Rating 6.5/10

Cake A slightly chewy cake with plenty of substance. A noticeable chocolate flavor without being either too weak or overbearing. Rating 7.5/10

Overall This was still a better than average cupcake, though the off flavor of the buttercream was a bit of a hindrance. For the price, however, I think it's a pretty good value. Overall Rating 7.0/10

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sweet Honeybee Bakery

1918 W Montrose, ChicagoChocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $2.00
Weight: 2 5/8 oz (73g)
Value: $0.762/oz

Frosting Real Italian buttercream, with a slightly granular texture, light buttery taste and whipped into a fluffy cloud of a frosting. Possibly the best buttercream I’ve had. Rating 9.0/10

Cake This cake has a pudding-like moistness and a soft, velvety texture. The chocolate flavor is noticeable but not overbearing. Rating 9.0/10

Overall This small bakery opened up in the late summer of 2007, and the cupcakes here quickly became my new favorite – if I didn't have the goal of trying to eat cupcakes from as many different bakeries as possible, I'd be here almost every weekend. With almost perfect flavor, moistness and texture, it’s an outstanding cupcake and one of the best I’ve had. Though it's a bit pricey relative to other cupcakes in terms of price per ounce, in terms of taste and quality, it is worth every penny. Everyone should try this cupcake. Overall rating 9.0/10