Friday, May 30, 2008

Café Bombon

1000 N Clark, Chicago

Yellow cupcake with plain frosting
Price: $3.00
Weight: 2 7/8 oz (81g)
Value: $1.043/oz

Frosting When I ate this cupcake, the frosting had warmed nearly to room temperature, so it was like whipped cream - extremely light and it melted in my mouth like cotton candy. It was buttery and smooth, without any graininess. However, the taste was a little off. The only way I can describe it was maybe being a little sour and having like a freezer-burned taste. It was very noticeable and a big drawback in this case. Rating 6.0

Cake I normally get a chocolate cupcake, but this day they didn’t have any so I got a plain yellow cake. Nevertheless, the cake was spongy and rich. Supermoist and chewy, with a texture similar to a carrot cake. In fact, it had such a rich flavor you might even be convinced it was a carrot cake. The texture of this cake is not what you would traditionally expect from a cupcake, but it was so good that it doesn’t matter. Rating 8.0

Overall A fellow cupcake lover called my attention to this bakery so I was eager to check it out. It’s fair to say, then, that I went in with certain expectations. After being initially disappointed by the taste of the buttercream, I thought perhaps I was being a little unfair, so I went back a couple of weeks after the first tasting and had another. The second time, I didn’t wait before eating it, thinking that perhaps I had ruined the experience earlier by letting it warm up. However, the frosting still had that freezer-burned taste, and it was a big distraction. I really wanted to like the cupcake more, but I couldn’t say that the second one was better than the first. In fact, the cake -- chocolate this time -- was a little dry. If I were rating this cupcake, I’d give the frosting a 6.0 again and the chocolate cake a 6.0 as well. For one of the most expensive cupcakes, I have to say it really wasn’t worth the price. If you do get a cupcake here, I recommend trying a yellow cake, perhaps with a flavored frosting. Overall rating 6.0/10

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sensational Bites

3751 N Southport, Chicago
Chocolate cupcake with plain buttercream frosting
Price: $1.68
Weight: 3 3/8 oz (97g)
Value: $0.498/oz

Frosting Too buttery and too sweet - it kind of stings your throat when you swallow. Moderately dense, with a slight crusty film on the outside. Rating 5.5

Cake Chocolaty, sufficiently moist. Rating 7.0

Overall I always try to choose a chocolate cupcake with plain vanilla frosting whenever possible so that my comparisons aren’t influenced by other factors. In this case, I also had a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting (yes I ate two cupcakes, so sue me) and the chocolate frosting was much, much better than the plain. I would rate the chocolate frosting as a 7.5. This particular cupcake above would have rated similarly if not for the frosting.
The problem of rating based on a single cupcake is that cupcakes aren’t always going to be consistent from day to day. That said, however, consistency is important, and it is one of the reasons that I like Dinkel’s so much and is why I like to consider it the standard - they are consistent and reliable. Overall Rating 6.25/10

Friday, May 16, 2008

Alliance Bakery & Café

1736 W Division, Chicago

Yellow cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $2.37
Weight: 3 1/2 oz (100g)
Value: $0.677/oz

Frosting This buttercream has a slightly dry, chalky feel at first, but it gives way to a nice creaminess as it melts in your mouth. Slightly grainy, light and buttery flavor, and while I wouldn’t say it’s greasy, it has a somewhat slippery mouth feel. Rating 8.0/10

(Speaking of greasy, I should say that I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. I prefer a texture that is slightly grainy, but naturally a buttercream is going to have a buttery texture, which is going to feel a little greasy. However, too greasy just makes me think that there’s shortening in it, and you don't want your mouth to feel as though you just took a swig of vegetable oil. So, slightly greasy is okay, but greasy greasy is not so good. )

Cake Moist and spongy. The cake as some substance to it, meaning it’s a little heaver than a Sweet Honeybee cupcake, for example, but has a slightly chewy quality you can sink your teeth into. Rating 8.0/10

Overall I generally try to review chocolate cupcakes with plain buttercream so that comparisons between cupcakes are meaningful. However, according to the woman at the counter, Alliance doesn’t make chocolate cupcakes as part of their daily offering (though they can be special-ordered). So, I was left with a standard yellow cupcake. Overall, this was a nice cupcake – the sponginess of the cake was a pleasing texture, and it was a good balance with the light buttercream frosting. Overall rating 8.0/10

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sweet Signature Bakery

1956 W Montrose, Chicago
MOVED! 5708 W Fullerton, Chicago
Chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $1.00
Weight: 3 5/8 oz (102g)
Value: $0.276/oz

Frosting Slightly grainy texture. Fluffy and light, soft and whipped butter texture. Rating 9.0/10

Cake A very moist, soft, pillowy crumb that dissolves in your mouth. Rating 9.0/10

Overall Another small bakery that opened in mid-late 2007, just a couple of blocks down the street from Sweet Honeybee. Actually, this cupcake reminded me so much of the one from Sweet Honeybee that I wondered if I had wandered into the wrong bakery; in terms of taste, texture and quality, the cupcakes are nearly indistinguishable. When the clerk rang it up for just $1.00, the first thing I said to him was that he was not charging enough – before I had even tasted it! The only drawback I would say is that of the four times I’ve been here in the past 2 months, they were sold out twice. I don’t get the impression that it’s because the sales volume is very high, I just think that it’s because it’s such a small bakery. If people only knew, though.... Overall rating 9.0/10

Friday, May 2, 2008

Swedish Bakery

5348 N Clark St, ChicagoChocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting
Price: $1.02
Weight: 2 1/4 oz (65g)
Value: $0.453/oz

Frosting Light and fluffy, slightly grainy and just a little greasy. Rating 9.0/10

Cake Moist, with a delicate chocolate flavor. Rating 9.0/10

Overall This cupcake is right up there with Sweet Honeybee. It’s a little smaller, but the taste and texture are near perfect. It’s also pretty good value at just over $1 – and that’s after Swedish had to raise prices on some of its goods. Just as we’ve been hearing about the dramatic rise in commodity prices around the world, prices of raw ingredients such as flour, eggs and shortening across the country have increased anywhere between 50-400% in the last year due to a number of factors including fuel costs, the weak dollar, drought and the resulting increased demand for US wheat exports. Perhaps other bakeries will have to begin raising prices, if they haven’t already. Even so, I have a feeling that Swedish Bakery and Sweet Honey Bee will still be worth the price – they’re that good. Overall rating 9.0/10