New York Cupcakes: a descent into madness.

Posted on
Jun 20, 2011


I might have overdone it on cupcakes when I was last in New York. I know: those words sound blasphemous, don’t they? Even as I try to type them, my fingers burn a little. If I attempt to utter the phrase, “I’ve had too many cupcakes” out loud, it sears my throat. Clearly, my body does not want me to admit to it, but admit to it I must: there is such a thing as too many cupcakes. Very simply, if you eat more cakes than you spend days in a city, you will get yourself into trouble.

And that is precisely what I did.

Of course, I regret nothing. After all, I had to fulfill my journalistic obligations, which were, to the best of my understanding, to eat every single cupcake I came across.

Yup. Every single one. If I saw a cupcake, I bought it. In New York City, where the homeless population has largely been replaced with bakery trucks (seriously? Movable cupcake repositories? I think I dreamt that idea up once in fifth grade. I never thought it would actually happen), such an endeavor is dangerous one. Even if you try to set up strict guidelines to avoid consuming enough sugar to take down an elephant (like, say, only eating cupcakes that directly cross your path), it’s still a risky game. After just a few blocks, you may find yourself in the throes of a diabetic coma, nonsensical babble pouring forth from your frosting smeared lips.


I was more animal than human.

But I pressed on, in the name of … I don’t know, science? Yes (that sounds far better than “gluttony”). Here are my findings:

Cupcakes by Melissa:

I stumbled across this small cupcake stand while walking around SoHo with Rand.

“Do you want to try those?” he turned to ask me, but I was already navigating the line, trying to cut in front of a little girl and her grandmother (I am a monster). The premise behind Melissa’s shop is a fascinating one: she crafts teeny tiny stuffed cupcakes so that you can sample a half dozen or so without 1.) dying or 2.) inflating your fundament to a size that cannot be contained in your skinny jeans. They’re inexpensive, and you can experience slightly less shame than you normally would when confessing that you devoured six cakes by yourself.

Friend: “You ate HOW MANY of them? They mini-cupcakes, right?”

Me: “Um … sure.”

We got two red velvets, and one each tie-dye, mint-chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter, and chocolate-chip pancake (of which I was wary, but the girl behind the counter declared it her favorite).

Rand's hand might have been bitten in the tasting process.

The cupcakes were moist (even, perhaps, a bit oily) but according a lot of Yelp reviewers, the small size means that a lot of batches risk being too dry (there’s a joke here … give me a minute). I enjoyed the red velvet and tie-dye, even though the the latter was merely a vanilla cake that had been soaked in a spectrum of artificial colors. The rest weren’t bad, but they almost ventured a bit too far into candy territory with their flavors and fillings. As a child of the 80s and 90s, who grew up eating Gushers instead of fruit, this wasn’t entirely a problem for me. More sophisticated palettes would no doubt be horrified.

What? Don't judge me.

Verdict: They’re kind of like that guy you slept with junior year of college. They fulfilled a specific need at the time, but unless you are feeling truly desperate or drunk, you are unlikely to ever go back.


The Sweetery, NYC

I’m slightly wary of eating food from trucks. It just seems like a bad idea to trust a chef who has his own getaway vehicle. I’m convinced I’ll open a pastry box and it will be filled with an apple and a note that reads, “Sucker!” and before I can complain, they’ll have disappeared down 5th avenue in a puff of exhaust. And I am so not chasing after them.


While the Sweetery didn’t insult me by giving me fruit or something else equally reprehensible, I was utterly disappointed in their cupcakes. I tried both the chocolate and the red velvet. The cakes of both were middling – not bad, and fairly moist. The chocolate was covered with runny, flavorless frosting that was like lukewarm butter. The cream cheese frosting tasted way too tart (like they had just dolloped a bit of Philadelphia spread straight from the tub and called it good).

Hated it!


But the real indication of my disappointment? I finished neither. I took a bite of each, and deposited what remained neatly a top a trash can, should someone else less fortunate in life and less picky in cupcakes wish to try them.

Verdict: If they improved their frosting, they might stand a chance. As is? No way.


Cupcake Stop Truck

After the utter disappointment of Sweetery NYC, you’d think that perhaps I’d have learned my lesson about food trucks, or at the very least, that I’d begun to question the idea of eatin my way through the hand-held gateaus of New York.

And I can resolutely answer: Not at all. I was still as dedicated to the cause as I had ever been.

It might have even been that my husband was telling me about some exciting developments in his own career when we had this exchange:

Rand: “And … you aren’t even listening to me, are you?”

Me: “Hmmm …?”

Rand: “You’re just staring at that cupcake truck. You don’t even care that I’m here.”

Me: “Babe, that’s not true. I care about your success a lot.”

Rand: “Because it enables you to buy more cupcakes.”

Me: “Well, yeah … I thought that was obvious.”

I still do love you, guy who brings me cupcakes and sleeps in my bed.

Granted, Cupcake Stop was the most specious-looking shop that I had yet encountered: the 70s-era truck with an anthropomorphic cupcake on the side of it was in no way instilling me with confidence. But, as science was at stake, I pressed on, and found a cupcake almost as kitchy in appearance as the truck it rode in on.

Ignore the Anthropologie bag in the background. I am a creature of many vices.

Having so adored pre-packaged Hostess cupcakes in my youth, there was no way I could resist this homemade riff on the original. It even had the cream filling.

Verdict: Fantastic. I didn’t try their other flavors (and the reviews I read were middling at best), but this one was clearly proof that you can’t judge a cake by its truck.


Billy’s Bakery Cupcakes

A while back, when I went to Billy’s for the first time, I found it was barely a whisper on the lips of most New Yorkers. They seemed afraid to utter its named aloud, fearful that their secret neighborhood bakeshop would be overrun with tourists. The quality would suffer, and Billy’s would go the way of Magnolia Bakery and so many others before it. I tried their cupcakes and was fairly pleased – though I found the frosting lacked a bit of height (seriously, folks, if Ashley Rodriguez has taught me nothing else, it’s this: dessert is nothing without salt. Also, marry a dark-haired man and you will be happy.) The cake, though, was moist and perfect.

This time around, when some friends insisted we visit Billy’s after dinner (and maybe, just maybe, they insisted because I had been whining about cupcakes throughout dinner), I found that the frosting had improved. But the cake had gotten worse.

Pretty, yes? But not all lovely things have substance.

They were so dry, they crumbled into dust upon each bite. It was tragic, really. Not to say that I didn’t eat most of them that night, in desperate bites consumed in the privacy of our hotel room (What? A good cupcake gone stale is better than a fresh mediocre one. It’s SCIENCE). And it was only as I  scraped the smudged frosting from the lid of the box that I thought, maybe, maybe, I had had enough of New York Cupcakes. Four shops in two days was plenty, wasn’t it? Besides, Boston was on the horizon, and its eponymous cream pie wasn’t going to eat itself.

Verdict: Does it matter what I think of Billy’s? I’m clearly mad. Just scrape off the frosting, smear it on your naked torso, and dance through Chelsea. If you give me enough notice, I may even join you.

Leave a Comment

  • My similar affinity to cupcakes has been over-indulged lately in this cupcake storm fad/trend. Thanks for the reviews – all noted and frankly – I’m considering a cupcake for lunch.

  • Verdict on Cupcakes by Melissa was hilarious (and true!). My fav is one you missed – Crumbs Bakery. Check it out next time you’re there.

  • If you ever hit Chicago, be sure to go to Molly’s Cupcakes. Get the Ron Bennington!

    • Everywhereist

      I like it, because it sounds like the name that an accountant would have. This brings me joy.

  • I actually thought quite a few of these were good, but according to Geraldine, that’s just because my palette is totally unsophisticated. I will say that the Billy bakery ones were probably my favorite – I think the cake itself was only dry because we came at the end of the night and/or picked a less-fresh flavor. To me, the Melissa ones were also pretty decent.

    BTW – When are you gonna write about Eataly? I can’t wait to see that one… 🙂

    • Everywhereist

      If you stopped dragging me around the country with you, I would be able to stay home and write about Eataly.

  • Nice use of “fundament.” You are my new literary hero.

  • Stacey

    If you ever find yourself in Chicago, I would recommend a stop at Molly’s Cupcakes in Lincoln Park.

  • I’m so glad you’re doing the important work of reviewing cupcakes. I mean that in all seriousness. This post makes me miss the U.S. Germans are great, but they are not known for their cupcakes.

    • Everywhereist

      Bwah ha ha ha – I love that you had to clarify that you weren’t being sarcastic. 🙂

  • Kristy

    Must have cupcake…now.
    This should be a new challenge – forget trying random foods & wine on your travels, I expect a full cupcake report after every adventure.

  • I’ve not been to the Magnolia’s in NYC, but the one in Dxb roccccccks! Cakes so good that it makes you stop talking for about 10 seconds after you bite into it, you just want to savour the taste so much! Their red velvet is TO DIEEEE for!


    I wanna go to the u.s and have cupcakes from the real Magnolia’s! If only the commute wasn’t so damn long! 😛

  • Sarah

    Sugar Sweet Sunshine has the best cupcakes in NYC (and great banana pudding, if you’re into that). Their pistashio cupcakes and pumpkin pie cupcakes are my favorite.

  • Kristen Boston

    I have never before wanted a cupcake as bad as I do right now…

  • lisa

    The cutest little gourmet cupcake shop opened in town. Six months AFTER I was diagnosed diabetic.

    I’m in hell.

  • lulu

    Every since Time magazine recommended your blog, I have to admit I’m addicted to it like you are addicted to cupcakes. I have to tell you I really enjoy your jokes and humor. Your are so much fun to read!! greetings from mexico and congratulations on your blog!!

    • Everywhereist

      Lulu – Wow. That is quite an addiction.

  • JoeyinItaly

    If you are ever tempted to make cupcakes, use the recipe by Amy Sedaris. Well, maybe you’ll never be tempted, so just read the recipe for grins.

  • Stephanie

    Try Pinisi Bakery on the Lower East Side/East Village- it’s a small hole-in-the-wall that actually looks positively abandoned. Yet, they have the most delicious red velvet cupcakes and I don’t even like cupcakes or red velvet anything. 🙂

  • I so want a cupcake right now – unfortunately my work canteen is only selling breakfast, bacon sarnies just don’t have the same sugar rush!
    Hoping someone has a birthday

  • My wife and I once (about a year ago) “sat down on” a box of 1 dozen Magnolia Bakery cupcakes in NYC. I don’t think I ever tried a single cupcake since then…the experience shocked my system 🙂

    • Everywhereist

      “Sat down on”?

      Please … please tell me what that means.

  • A-Person-Who-Has-Also-Eaten-Too-Many-Cupcakes-And-Has-Lived-Too-Eat-Another-Day

    I really recommend (if you’re ever in NYC again of course) that you try a very small cupcake bakery called “Kumquat Cupcakery” they specialize in miniature gourmet cupcakes, in very unusual flavors (think maple bacon, or blueberry lavender). They have not only excellent cupcakes, but also delicious cream-cheese frosting. They don’t have a store front (small, very small business) but they do have a couple of stands in the flea markets in Brooklyn… just an idea if you ever wanted to taste cupcakes for “science” for fun again.

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  • two words, one domain: Saint Cupcake!! // // Portland Oregon 🙂

  • Michele

    Ahhh thanks…reading the post made me consume an entire bar of dark chocolate in one sitting because the pictures of food porn gave me an almost insatiable desire for sugar and there are no cupcakes at work. I’d read it again though! Would you do the same experiment for doughnuts please?

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  • Sinister

    I’m sure you saw this but I thought of you (and your love of cupcakes) as soon as I read about it (in a newspaper here in London, England which is why it’s slightly old news)

    • Everywhereist

      It’s pretty much the biggest violation of rights inflicted on us by the TSA yet.

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