Amy, my freshman dorm-mate, made a bold status statement on Facebook yesterday. "Amy believes Crumbs cupcakes are the best. Magnolia has nothing on them!"
I had a couple of hours to kill in NYC today before heading back to SFO. I was feeling cranky that I was "off-island" (Martha's Vineyard lingo for not being there -- where I'd just spent a terrific few days on family vaca). So there was only one thing to do: console myself with cupcakes and see if I agree with Amy.
The Retail Experience
Crumbs Bake Shop
Decor: kids' fun house
Cupcakes: They've got the regular kind, but your eyes will gloss right over those to the oversized, "gourmet showstoppers" like devil dog, apple caramel and fudge chocolate chip. Click here for the Crumbs Bake Shop cupcake menu.
Prices: $2.95 - $3.50
The buying experience: There was a group of three women getting a large supply, so they told me to go ahead. Problem was, I couldn't decide among all of the amazing-looking offerings. The leader of the pack was obviously a regular so I asked her which one she recommends. I didn't ask her friend, who was berating herself for eating an entire cookie while waiting for her friends to order cupcakes. This is obviously not someone I can trust at all. The regular gave kudos to both the Oreo and Blackout varieties so I got both (natch).
Decor: ladies' tea party
Cupcakes: Only the classics. Yellow or chocolate cake, vanilla (in a variety of pastel colors) or chocolate icing. Plus red velvet. Period. Click here for the Magnolia Bakery menu.
Prices: $2.50 - $3.00
The buying experience: DIY. There's a shelf full of boxes and a box of bakery paper. Help yourself! Due to the limited number of options, it took no time at all to box up a chocolate/chocolate and a red velvet. With the extra time left over I was able to order a small container of their famous banana pudding (luscious layers of banana pudding, banana slices and vanilla wafers).
The Tasting Experience
Upon returning home, Mom eagerly accepted my invitation to help judge this cupcake chowdown.
Crumbs Blackout: Fudgy icing inside, not too thick a layer on top, just the right consistency of icing and richness of cake. Mom called it "densely delicious."
Magnolia Chocolate / Chocolate: Lighter cake, thicker layer of frosting that was a lighter consistency and more like milk chocolate. Right up Mom's alley, but not for me. Messy. Moving on.
Magnolia Red Velvet: Certainly looked the prettiest on the plate. Again, the frosting was melty and not particularly thick, but the cake itself was excellent.
Crumbs Oreo: Had a feeling I'd like this one the best, so I saved it for last. The cake was very good - not as rich as the Blackout - and the icing was Outstanding. If you're an Oreo fan, this is the real double stuff.
Magnolia's Banana Pudding...just FYI...
Well, it looks like we have a tie. Mom preferred Magnolia, while I'm partial to Crumbs (thanks for the tip, Amy!) While I'm tempted to give it to Magnolia on account of the banana pudding extra point, that wouldn't be quite fair since this is a cupcake contest. You'll just have to go and judge for yourselves!
Crumbs Bake Shop has six New York and two L.A. locations. Details at crumbsbakeshop.com.
Magnolia has two New York locations, one uptown, one downtown. Details at magnoliacupcakes.com.