Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trying to find the best cupcake in Durham (Not related to pathology at all!)

Some classmates, the kids and I headed out to a food truck rodeo in downtown Durham. We tried some delicious hotdogs (mine was topped with lobster salad and shrimp, sooooo good), some Monuts Donuts, Italian Ice from some very dapper gentlemen, and I continued on in my quest to find the best cupcake in Durham. After one of my classmates texted me to see what the consensus was on the various ones we sampled today, I decided to go ahead and write it up with the disclaimer that it is just my opinion and yours may vary.

For brick and mortar stores we have: Daisy Cakes, Hummingbird Bakery, and The Cupcake Bar. The food trucks have been: Blue Ribbon Delights, Sweet Stacey Cakes, and Sweet Traditions by Leane. They are presented in the order in which I tried them and I usually didn't eat an entire cupcake for each flavor, most of the time it was a bite of someone else's or multiple flavors were purchased and split between people.

Hummingbird Bakery: (Pumpkin, red velvet, chocolate, malt chocolate, and their pride cupcake which was rainbow colored vanilla cake with vanilla icing) The flavors are good but nothing too exciting. The cake is good all by itself--dense and moist. The frosting is also dense but unpleasantly so, it is a solid block of buttercream about the same thickness as the cupcake itself. If the cupcake comes straight from the cool display case it is almost impossible to eat since it comes off the cake. The frosting doesn't form that sugar crust that I like, it stays solid and almost oily. For the most part I've discarded the frosting and eaten the cupcake plain. The one exception is their cream cheese frosting, which wasn't overwhelmingly cream cheese-y and a lot lighter in texture than their buttercream. They do always have a couple vegan options on hand, and having tried one it wasn't bad--it was a little drier than a normal cupcake but it tasted fine. They have other sweet treat options at the bakery that are much better than their cupcakes. 2/5 stars

Daisy Cakes: (Black and White, Red Velvet, and Chocolate Fix). At room temperature they are good, but it can suffer from the same problem as Hummingbird if it isn't warmish. But since they don't pile up three inches of icing like Hummingbird does, it isn't as much of a problem. It does tend to leave a slight oily feeling in your mouth after eating a cupcake from there though. None of the flavors stood out particularly well, the red velvet cake had cream cheese frosting but it wasn't as good as Hummingbird's. However, I will say that one of their non-cupcake options, their bread pudding, is phenomenal and eating it actually made me sad that I will leave Durham at some point in my life. It is a middle of the road cupcake experience but pretty easily accessible (they have both a brick and mortar store as well as their really cute Airstream food truck named Sugar). 3/5 stars for cupcakes, 5/5 for the bread pudding

The Cupcake Bar: (Apple Cider, Double Chocolate, Lemon, Mint Chocolate, some flavor I can't remember, and Margarita). It should also be noted that they sell shots of frosting individually, which is a wise business decision. Their frosting is fantastic, light and fluffy and it forms a slight crisp sugary crust. Soooo good. The cake is nicely fluffy; however, the cake in the chocolate cupcakes does not taste good at all. There was an almost chemical flavor that neither myself or my classmate could place in both the mint chocolate and the double chocolate. The mint chocolate one was especially unpleasant and I found the cake a little dry overall (for all flavors). That said, their Margarita cupcake (orange cake with lime frosting) tastes like Fruit Loops cereal, or at least my 20 year old memory of what Fruit Loops tastes like. It was really good, and I say that having been originally leery of a lime flavored icing. And they do make an effort to decorate each cupcake with some sort of additional candy garnish. 0/5 stars for any chocolate cake, 2.5/5 stars overall, 5/5 icing.

Sweet Stacey Cakes: (Plain Jane Chocolate, Coconut, and Working Man's Lunch, which involves a beer from Fullsteam Brewery, a local Durham establishment). Oh my goodness, sweet is the right word to have in the name of the bakery. I only had a taste of the Working Man's Lunch but the raspberry reduction paired well with the chocolate cake, and the icing was a great texture (I really am a sucker for a fluffy buttercream) but just so sugary sweet. The Plain Jane Chocolate was my absolute favorite from them, it was a good chocolate cupcake. The frosting was a strange green color but that might have been for Halloween? It was still really sweet though, good but after eating it I felt like I needed to brush my teeth. The Crazy for Coconut delivers on the coconut flavor, but... I didn't feel like finishing it. The cake part was nothing too exciting sort of a Duncan Hines yellow cake mix flavor with some shredded coconut thrown in, it tasted like something I could have made myself. I would like to try some of their other flavors though. 3/5 stars

Blue Ribbon Delights: (Strawberry Fudge, Strawberry Ciroc, Ultimate Candy Bar, and Fudge Sundae) They get bonus points for having more flavor options than anyone else (about a dozen overall, which is about twice what most folks have including the brick and mortar stores) but I was universally underwhelmed. I didn't try the Fudge Sundae one since my youngest son had picked that one out and he eats quickly, he seemed to enjoy it though. For me? There was an artificial taste I noticed in every single cupcake. The texture was okay but the flavor wasn't at all. 1/5 stars

Sweet Traditions by LeAne: (Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough). These were hands down my absolute favorite. I had the peanut butter chocolate and my oldest child had the chocolate chip cookie dough. The peanut butter icing was delicious and light with good but not overwhelming flavor on a moist fluffy chocolate cake. They paired really well together, it was nicely balanced. The icing was on par with The Cupcake Bar's, formed that delicate crust that I love and was sweet without being excessively so. I only had a bite of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough but it was good with a core of cookie dough that my oldest son (age 8) thoroughly enjoyed. It was their first foray with their new truck, but I hope to see them again at future events since they have so many other flavors to try. It was the one cupcake truck that we saw today where after I left the rodeo I wished that I had picked up a few more to take home with us. They are dangerously good. 5/5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, this is Rowland with Sweet Traditions, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We had a good time yesterday, there were some cool vendors, and great food. This was our first event on wheels, we hope to see you again soon at these events.