Before I moved from Astoria I had to take an inventory of cupcakes shops. Or just places that sold cupcakes. And I found that there are so many more than I’d anticipated. Like Leli’s, Il Fornaio has a variety of Greek and Italian pastries and a small section of cupcakes. I’m partial to places that feature a small array of classic cupcakes — hello, vanilla and chocolate — so I gravitated towards this one. Even though the flavors might be classic these are anything but. I mean, look at that!
This piping job is awesomesauce. The buttercream looks fluffy. But upon first bite I was let down. The cake is dry but the frosting is incredible. So there’s that. But first you taste the dryness of the cake and then follow it up with a shot of awesome frosting. Like a frosting chaser. Um, OK. Works for me. So the cake was very dry and didn’t have much of a vanilla flavor. It tasted more like corn bread. The frosting is creamy and fluffy, doesn’t appear grainy, but it was slightly heavy on the sugar, so more butter would have been perfect. The cake:frosting ratio was on point — not on fleek, because that word is stupid and I’m an adult — the amount was perfect and even though the cake was dry, I had an enjoyable experience as I dove into this cupcake. I kind of want to return and try the chocolate, and I just want more of that frosting. Doesn’t anybody understand he importance of frosting shots?
Il Fornaio Bakery
29-14 30th Ave
Astoria, NY 11102
Vanilla cupcake with Vanilla Frosting
First Bite: 2.5/5
Cake:Frosting Ratio: 4/5
Times Square has a plethora of things to do and see. If you are not a year round New Yorker. Theater is world class. And that’s about it. It’s probably the place I avoid going on the entire island of Manhattan. Stupid people who don’t know how sidewalk traffic works coupled with stupid chain stores and overpriced everything. It’s basically my idea of a nightmare. And very few cupcakes. For shame. That’s probably something that could make Times Square slightly bearable. But nope. So I ventured out to the Hells Kitchen neighborhood to try some cupcakes.
Cupcake Cafe is known for their intricately designed cupcakes that come in chocolate and vanilla. One look at these cupcakes in the pastry case and I could confirm this reputation. Each one is decorated in such a unique way that’s it’s like you are getting a completely different cupcake. I chose one with an unreal yellow flower, complete with green petals. What is this madness? I don’t even know how to eat it. But I think I can manage.
Once I got over the sheer wonder of such a gorgeous cupcake I let my taste buds take over. The all-important first bite was mediocre at best and uninspiring. Immediately I had a good chocolate flavor, although the cupcake was slightly cold. Although they did offer to warm it up for me, so props for understanding the plight of refrigerated cases. Upon further evaluation of the cake, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of that initial good flavor was due to the cake. Lets be clear: it was all because of the cake. This chocolate cake was moist, not overly sweet, and had a rich chocolate flavor. My love for the frosting didn’t last. The flower, still beautiful, but bland. This vanilla frosting tasted like nothing but butter. Now, I’m a huge fan of butter. It’s definitely my favorite ingredient in all things. But we should not be eating butter when eating a cupcake. There was no balance of creamy butter and sweetness from sugar. Just butter. I just wanted more cake. Without frosting. God!? Who am I? The cake:frosting ratio was seriously lacking; the frosting was not balanced at all, and while the flower is beautiful, it merely added height. And then it easily slid off. Not impressed. The cake was my favorite part of this whole cupcake adventure making it not the cupcake for me. Chocolate cake is a tricky one and the fact that this one is not overly dry and had a good flavor is impressive. But it lacked the balance that is key for an amazeballs cupcake.
545 9th Avenue ( between 40th & 41st Sts)
New York, NY
Chocolate cake with Vanilla frosting
Cake:Frosting Ratio: 2/5
First Bite: 2.5/5
Since moving to New York my baked good repertoire has really expanded. I’m seriously into a variety of ethnic desserts. Greek, Italian, Spanish – I’m into it all. How did I never experience the holiness that is rainbow cookies? It’s tragic. But as delicious as these new foodsperences are, I’m still a total white girl and cupcakes rein supreme in my book. And that’s one thing the bakeries of Astoria haven’t seemed to master. Case in point, Leli’s Bakery on 30th Ave. While the entire shop is full of heavenly pastries, cupcakes are near the back, and even though there are several varieties, you can tell they just aren’t given the same amount of love as everyone else. Actually, I wanted to break the mold and eat every single thing inside, except not the cupcakes. But we’re on a mission and I’m not a quitter. Especially not a cupcake quitter.
I went with a Caramel Apple cupcake, because why not? It had a uniform dome with a perfect hashtag of caramel. But upon first bite I was not impressed. The cake was cold (thanks to my nemesis, refrigerated cases), and there definitely wasn’t enough frosting. I couldn’t get a good handle on the flavor because the cake was so cold, but after breaking it down it was discovered that this cake had a subtle vanilla flavor, moist crumb, and an apple compote filling, which added depth of flavors. In contrast, the frosting had no flavor, it just tasted like thick white stuff. I don’t know what that flavor is but I wasn’t a fan. The cake:frosting ratio is where this cupcake really dropped the ball. While there definitely wasn’t enough frosting, the moist cake and bland frosting didn’t pair well together at all, and after a couple bites the cake is dry because of the lack of frosting flavor. Which is really unfortunate, because the cake on it’s own could really shine. Overall, this wasn’t even on the middle of the road in terms of cupcake assessments go. I’m probably still daydreaming about the amazing cupcake from Amy’s Bread, or wishing I was eating rainbow cookies, or anything else at Leli’s. But this cupcake is definitely not my favorite.
35-14 30th Ave
First Bite: 2.5/5
Cake:Frosting Ratio: 1/5
Whoa, guys. It’s been a long, looooooong time. I’ve been eating cupcakes, now I just have to write about them. Summer got away from me and now I’m all-in with pumpkin everything. Seriously it’s definitely my favorite time of year. And pumpkin is amazing. But good thing cupcakes are a year round treat so that works out perfectly. And thats amazing because I think I may have found a nearly perfect cupcake for my NYC fix. I definitely have many more to go, and another round, but I’m pretty confident in my decision.
My favorite cupcake shops are usually the ones that don’t go crazy with flavors but can create a stellar chocolate and vanilla cupcake. My favorite shop ever does that and I’m liking that model. Here in New York, Red Velvet is a mainstay, probably even more than a perfect chocolate cupcake. I know, New York is weird. Amy’s Bread is really known for, well, bread. And it’s good. Their desserts are reminiscent of the cakes and cookies my mom would make for my birthday every year; simple and classic. Their cupcake offerings include chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, and black and white, which is what I went for this time.
This cupcake looked great, like someone actually cared about this cupcake. The piping job wasn’t rushed, and it was full and covered the entire cupcake. It definitely made me excited to take the first bite. And holy wow. What a bite that was. As I sat at the counter letting a mini foodgasm take over it didn’t really occur to me that I might look like a crazy person who was falling hard for a cupcake. But who cares? This is my own cupcake journey.