Claudia of cook eat Fret hosted a cupcake challenge at her home and I was lucky enough to score an invitation. Four area bakeries plus a mystery entrant that turned out to be homemade cupcakes made from The Cake Mix Doctor recipes. Other bloggers who may report in soon include Fluffernutter from Tupperware Avalanche, Joy who Cooks (and knows a thing or two about dessert, for sure), and Diana from Tempus Est Nunc. Amybakes, a commenter over at Bites was there, too as well as some of Claudia's fans plus the special bonus of local chefs from Ombi and 360 Bistro. This was definitely a crowd that would put the great cupcake debate to rest.
Or so I thought. We had some disagreements and I believe Claudia will be posting results soon, but here's my take.
First up is Gigi's Cupcakes over on Broadway, not far from Music Row. I picked up the cupcakes from Gigi's and paid special attention given that I'd read that the service was less than great. But despite having a brisk business for 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, I thought that the service was fast and friendly. The display and selection of cupcakes was reminiscent of a Baskin-Robbins, too. Lots of flavors, beautiful cupcakes, great display. So how's the taste? Well, the chocolate with chocolate frosting was one of my favorites. The cake was moist and very chocolatey and the frosting was light and fluffy and not overpowering or overly sweet. But the lemon cupcake with lemon frosting was near the bottom of my list. The flavor tasted unnatural and it was overall too sweet and sugary for my taste. At $3 per cupcake, Gigi's is rather expensive, but I may go back to try the Red Velvet and some of the other intriguing flavors. I think the lemon cupcake may be an anomaly.
Next up is Dulce Desserts on Villa Place at Edgehill, also very near Music Row. They also had a decent walk-in business and friendly and efficient service. Their cupcakes are beautiful and I was very much looking forward to the dulce de leche and Italian almond, but I was very disappointed. The frostings from Dulce Desserts were very oily--like that whipped frosting on cheap bakery cakes. It left a film inside my mouth that took several swigs of soy milk to remove. I will say that the cake part of the Italian almond was very good. And the cherries in the frosting were a good addition, but I just didn't like that frosting at all.
The third bakery was Sweet 16th in East Nashville. I don't have a lot to say about these cupcakes other than they were good. Not great, but good. Bakery standard--definitely good enough for serve at a party, but not as a special treat, necessarily (though I think that's fairly typical and is by no means meant to be an insult). The carrot cake version was very good as was the banana cupcake, but they tasted like mini cakes rather than a special cupcake. They did, however, include a bonus cupcake: a Little Elvis. I didn't try it, though because I don't like peanut butter flavored desserts.
The final bakery was Cuppycakes in Spring Hill. I have now tasted heaven and it is the Sweet Lemon Drop cupcake from Cuppycakes. Wow. Just wow. I'm not a fan of mocha flavoring, but the SO is and he said that their Mocha cupcake was also very delicious. I also tasted the black raspberry (good considering I don't care for raspberry flavor generally) and the chocolate/chocolate (which was good, though the cake was a tad try). Regardless, let's just say that if I ever need cupcakes or a cake for any event, Cuppycakes will be the baker I use. Their cakes were (mostly) moist and the frosting was rich without being oily or too sweet. Great all around. Check out their Cuppy Cast. I'd kill for a Snickerdoodle cupcake right about now.
Last up were the homemade cakes made from Cake Mix Doctor. The first was a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache frosting. The cake did taste like it was from a mix but the frosting made up for it--it was very creamy and rich and chocolatey. The other was a vanilla cake (I think) with lemon cream cheese frosting. Many of the taste testers picked it as their favorite cupcake overall. It was definitely very good, but I preferred the delicate flavor of the Cuppycakes version. So if you don't have $2.50-3.00 to spare for a single cupcake, it might be worth checking out some of the Cake Mix Doctor's recipes. But get a pastry bag for the frosting. A beautiful swirl of frosting can make a good cupcake great.