We’ve all been there… You’re hungry. You’re craving something sweet. And there, sitting in front of you, is a cupcake. It’s really not a great looking cupcake. You know you’ll probably be disappointed. But it is a cupcake nonetheless. And you’re hungry. So you give in and buy the sketchy looking cupcake.
This has happened to me on multiple occasions. If it hasn’t happened to you, then well done. You have way more self control than I do.
Recently, after a crazy couple of days, I found myself starring at these jumbo sized cupcakes at my local Safeway:
Not only was I curious about how these new gigantic cupcakes tasted, but I was in desperate need of a cupcake (don’t judge… I know you’ve been there too…) I was torn between a couple flavors, but went with my go-to comfort flavor, the Chocolate Raspberry.
This cupcake was easily the size of two or three cupcakes combined, and a total steal at $2.99. Of course, since it was a grocery store cupcake, I proceeded with caution. While the cake had a subtle hint of raspberry flavor, the frosting completely tasted like cotton candy. There wasn’t an ounce of raspberry flavor present! I tasted it over and over again, to see if my tastes buds were off, but couldn’t get past the artificial cotton candy sweetness. For as much as I love real cotton candy, I don’t like anything that is trying to taste like it (or, in this cupcake’s case, that isn’t supposed to taste like it but still does). The cake was a little dry on the outside, but fairly moist on the inside, and after the day I had, I wasn’t going to be too picky. I finished the cake and trashed the frosting.
As I mentioned above, I have often purchased questionable cupcakes in the past, each producing mixed results. There are two times in particular that are especially memorable for me: first, an awful cupcake from Au Bon Pain in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and second, a sketchy looking cupcake from Target in White Marsh, MD, which ended up being okay.
I had heard bad things about the cupcakes from Au Bon Pain, but I wanted some coffee so decided to stop in one afternoon. Of course, I couldn’t resist browsing the desserts while I was there and left with more than just an iced coffee (ignoring all advice to avoid the cupcakes). I really should have taken a closer look at the Vanilla cupcakes before spending $3 on it. The frosting looked like half melted wax, and it certainly didn’t taste any better. Even though you can see the vanilla bean specks, there wasn’t any vanilla flavor and it had a weird texture. While the cake had a decent flavor, it was completely void of any moisture, like a dried out sponge. I decided to try and microwave the cupcake to see if I could salvage the cake (the frosting was a lost cause), but that didn’t do anything to help, so into the trash it went. At least I had a tasty iced coffee to comfort me and my cupcake sadness.
With a handful of “What was I thinking” cupcake moments under my belt, you would think that I would learn when NOT to buy a cupcake, but we’ve vowed to try them all, and it’s something we take VERY seriously (well, as serious as cupcake eating can be). And, for as many bad experiences as I’ve had, there are also some not-so-bad ones too, like this Ticklebelly White Out cupcake from Target.
I really wasn’t expecting much from this cupcake, but it came in a cute little to-go container, and since Crusader Jenn has had such great experiences with Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe (found at her local Walmart), I figured I’d give it a try. Plus, it was only $1.29.
The cake was a little spongy and commercial tasting, but it was also more moist than a typical grocery store cake. The frosting was a little greasy (I think they used some kind of shortening as the base), but not overly sweet, with a nice flavor. The biggest surprise was the filling (I didn’t even know it had a filling!). It was a pastry cream that was actually pretty good. Overall, this cupcake was totally worth its low price—especially since I knew I could reuse the to-go container.
Ticklebelly also makes cake pops, molten cakes, dessert shots, and sheet cakes. I’m curious to see if Target carries any of their other products because I’ve only ever noticed the White Out cupcake and Red Velvet. They also offer Chocolate, Key Lime, PB&J, Pumpkin (seasonal), and Snickerdoodle filled cupcakes. According to their website, you can find their products at Kroger, Ralphs, Raley’s, Fred Meyer, and King Soopers, in addition to Target.
I think the most important things to remember when buying cupcakes are to keep an open mind, don’t expect too much, and always have a back up plan if you really need to feed your sweet tooth. In the world of cupcakes, whether you are at a high-end pastry shop or the local grocer, some are great and some are not, so why not give them all a try?
– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)