Friday, June 20, 2008

Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Café

1114 W Belmont, Chicago

Yellow cupcake with hazelnut buttercream frosting and milk chocolate filling
Price: $3.55
Weight: 3 1/8 oz (89g)
Value: $1.136/oz

Frosting Smooth, light and creamy; no graininess. Just the right amount of flavor. Rating 9.0/10

Cake Moist and rich, with a flavorful filling. Rating 9.5/10

Overall This cupcake has an excellent combination of flavors. Normally I try to get a chocolate cupcake with plain vanilla frosting so that my comparisons are meaningful. However, Bittersweet did not have any chocolate cupcakes this day, but when it comes to cupcakes, I happily take what I can get.

When the clerk at the shop told me it was hazelnut with milk chocolate buttercream, I assumed that the cake was hazelnut flavored and the frosting was milk chocolate (though I thought the color was a little light even for milk chocolate). So when I bit into the frosting and tasted hazelnut, I was a little puzzled. It wasn't until I bit into the cake that I discovered the (surprise!) milk chocolate buttercream filling.

I'm usually skeptical of pricey cupcakes. I have a rule of thumb that says the most expensive and/or the best-looking cupcakes are usually the most disappointing in terms of taste (see Sarah's and Café Bombon). However, this cupcake was, as the saying goes, the exception that proves the rule. I was thoroughly pleased and impressed, and it got extra credit for cleverly hiding the chocolate buttercream . Overall Rating 9.25/10.0

Friday, June 13, 2008


705 W Belden, Chicago

Chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache and vanilla buttercream
Price: $3.31
Weight: 3 1/4 oz (93g)
Value: $1.018

Frosting Smooth and light like whipped cream; slightly greasy and no graininess. The buttercream sits atop a bed of bittersweet chocolate ganache. Rating 8.0/10

Cake Very moist and chocolatey. The cake has good weight and substance you can sink your teeth into. Rating 9.0/10

Overall This cupcake has a unique blend of textures, owing to the ganache sandwiched between the buttercream frosting and the cake. But not only is the texture interesting, the combination of the rich chocolate cake, the bittersweet ganache and the buttercream makes for a flavor that is more complex than a typical cupcake. The only thing about this cupcake that held me back in my rating was the buttercream - it's no secret that I prefer a little graininess in a frosting, but the flavor here was just a little on the bland side. Overall rating 8.5/10

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sweet Occasions and More

5306 N Clark, Chicago
4639 N Damen, Chicago

UPDATE: As of the end of August 2008, Sweet Occasions and More is no more.

Chocolate cupcake with plain frosting
Price: $2.75
Weight: 3 3/4 oz (107g)
Value: $0.733/oz

Frosting The frosting was very light and grainy, and it had a slightly chalky texture Rating 9.0

Cake Slightly chewy but soft. Chocolatey and moist Rating 8.5

Overall Sweet Occasions started with a small shop near Lincoln Square, and a couple of years later opened a second, much larger store in Andersonville, and soon it will be opening a third in Edgewater. The cupcake here was quite pleasing. However, having eaten probably a dozen cupcakes from Sweet Occasions, I feel I should mention that they haven’t all been as good as this; I’ve also had a couple that were really disappointing. Nonetheless, Sweet Occasions is one of my favorite shops because it offers a good variety for anyone with a sweet tooth: cake slices, pie slices, brownies, tarts, ice cream, candy, imported chocolates, and probably other things that I haven’t noticed because I was in too much of a hurry to stuff a slice of cake in my mouth. The ice cream is excellent and rich, and the cake slices are HUGE (though now also a bit pricey). There’s a lot to like about this place, not just the cupcakes. Overall Rating 8.75/10