Thursday, August 6, 2009
Battle of the Tallahassee Cupcakes
So I've made the big move to Nashville! Packing was a mess, but it had some perks. My mother was able to take some time and come help me pack and brought along some treats to test for my blogging research. Recently in my hometown of Tallahassee, the first cupcake specialty shop opened, Lucy & Leo's. Before this, the local places in town pick up a good cupcake were Tasty Pastry Bakery, The Cake Shop and Heidi's Bakery. Although Heidi's was not open, I was able to get samplings from the other 3 current competitors to test and determine who has the best cupcake in Tallahassee.
Let's begin with prices and sizes. Both Tasty Pastry and The Cake Shop offer 2 options: large or small cupcakes. At Tasty Pastry, the large runs $2.99 and the small $1.39. At The Cake Shop, the large runs $2.50 and the small $1.00. The two have comparable prices and sizes, and both places definitely give you your money's worth. At Lucy & Leo's there is only one size (the same size as the small cupcakes from the 2 competitors) and it is priced at $2.39 - not the best value in town. In this department, The Cake Shop takes the lead, with Tasty Pastry in a close second.
The next, and most important, test was the taste test. I had a sample of 3-4 cupcakes from each store and tasted them blindly. While I could go on for quite some time describing each, I'm going to stick to some high and low points and share my general observations. Overall, my two favorite cupcakes were the caramel drizzle cupcake from The Cake Shop and the hummingbird cupcake from Tasty Pastry. My least favorite cupcake was the chocolate with cream cheese frosting from Lucy & Leo's. This is consistent with my general store observations.
The Cake Shop has plain flavors (white and chocolate cake) and rich butter cream icing mastered. The icing is so delicious that often times they "stuff" their large cupcakes with even more icing. However, paired with specialty cakes (such as the red velvet and Italian cream I sampled) it is a little too strong.
Tasty Pastry, however, has specialty cakes down to a "t" and an icing that is subtle enough not to overpower the flavors.
Lucy & Leo's was a big disappointment to me. Not only were the cupcakes overpriced, but the cakes themselves (with one exception) were not very good. Both the chocolate and the Lemon Blue Sky cupcakes I tried were very dry - not because they were stale tasting, but because they just didn't taste like good, moist cakes. The icing was too mild, as well, and flavor was lacking in general. The exception was the Monkey Biz: although I don't care for peanut butter frosting and am picky about peanut butter with dessert, the banana cake was tasty and I could imagine peanut butter fans raving.
So the verdict and winners for Tallahassee...
Best plain cupcake: The Cake Shop
Best specialty cake: Tasty Pastry Bakery
Best price: The Cake Shop