They’ve ruined friendships and sparked legal brawls. But how do all these cupcakes taste? In a blind test, New York’s food editors, Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite, and Strategist editor Janet Ozzard sampled the wares from Magnolia, Buttercup, and Little Cupcake.
Patronite: Overall, barely a redeeming quality among the entire group. Every cupcake was too sweet and otherwise flavorless, and nearly all were stale to boot, with crusty, grainy, relentlessly sugary frosting and dry cake (though Little Cupcake’s were generally moister). This might have been the worst taste test ever devised by man.
The best-looking were what turned out to be Magnolia’s—the nicest shape and proportion, with the best job of swirling, and the best ratio of frosting to cake. The others were sloppy, lumpy, top-heavy, misshapen atrocities, with sprinkles sprinkled erratically or to one side of the cupcake as if a dull-witted child had cooked them in an Easy-Bake oven.
Ozzard: In each case, the frosting tastes like a generally flavorless paste of butter (good butter, but just butter) and about a half-pound of confectioner’s sugar. In appearance, Magnolia has it going on. But the globs of frosting on Buttercup didn’t bother me so much, because I think that part of this whole cupcake chic is the intentionally unpolished presentation: It’s supposed to look like the PTA bake sale, not François Payard. However, Little Cupcake’s cupcakes were just ugly—mingy frosting and an odd sprinkling of red powder on the red velvet cake. Sugar, probably, but it looked like paprika.
Raisfeld: The buttercream frosting is almost uniformly inedible—teeth-cloyingly sweet, tongue-coatingly unctuous—with a couple of minor exceptions: The chocolate frosting on Magnolia’s and Buttercup’s vanilla cupcakes, for some reason, tasted infinitesimally better than the same frosting on the chocolate cupcakes. The biggest distinction, though, came in the cake category: The Bay Ridge upstart bested the Manhattan bakeries (slightly) with an almost pleasant pound-cakey flavor. Bottom line: Nothing worth fighting over.