Both were good, in their own way, but I'm still on the bandwagon that Sprinkles in LA is the one to beat (Yes, believe the hype).
Our first stop was The Cupcake Shoppe:
We got four cupcakes:
Black and White - Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
Pretty In Pink - Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
Peanut Butter Cup - Moist Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream
Banana Cream Pie - Banana Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing rolled in crushed up vanilla wafers
Then, while driving around, we stumbled upon a second cupcake shop, Gigi's. My husband was the one who spotted it, actually ;)
We got four cupcakes here, too:
Raspberry Champagne - Champagne-vanilla cake with Raspberry champagne icing
Wedding Cake - White cake topped with a vanilla buttercream frosting & sprinkled with white nonpareils
Scarlett's Velvet - Red velvet cake with a vanilla filling topped with cream cheese frosting, a white chocolate heart and red sugar crystals
White Midnight Magic - Dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate chips, topped with a white cream cheese frosting & chocolate chips
We drove straight home to conduct the cupcake review:
Raleigh Cupcake Shoppe:
Texture & Appearance: We found that overall, the cupcakes from the Raleigh Cupcake Shoppe were really dry. The cake was dry and the icing had that "crust" on it that let you know it had been exposed to air for too long. The banana cake, which is hard to do I realize, was exceptionally dry and more like a muffin. The one exception was the chocolate cake in the black and white. It was moist and tasted fresher than the others. They looked simple and elegant... nothing too big or dramatic about them. I was hoping the flavor would blow me out of the water to make up for that.
Taste: The cupcakes tasted pretty good, but a tad bland. The chocolate cake was excellent, the icing on this cake was not too sweet and you could tell there was real butter in there. I thought that overall, these had a light taste, nothing overwhelming or overpowering... but not too exciting, either. You could taste the flour, the understated use of sugar (not too sweet, which was a plus)... it tasted fresh-ish (minus the banana cupcake for sure), although you could tell these cupcakes had been exposed to too much air, making them drier than they should have been. I wonder if I got a fresh one if I'd be raving? :) If I get a fresh batch, I'll re-do my grading ;)
Atmosphere: It's a cute little shop that looks like it used to be an older building. You can peek around to the back and see their baking area. Parking is a nightmare, so maybe you want to drive with someone who can keep the car running, or get ready to walk.
In a nutshell: Taste homemade, with good ingredients... but not a lot of punch or pizazz. Cake is dry, icing is a little blah... but it still tasted pretty "natural" and "simple". If I could get a batch of fresh ones, I feel like I could really give them a proper rating.
Overall grade: C+
Texture & Appearance: The texture on these were perfect. Soft, creamy icing, moist fresh and soft cake. The cupcakes were much larger than the cupcake shoppe. I loved the various toppings on the icing, too. Coarse sugar (gave a fun crunch), chocolate chips, little white sprinkles and the white-chocolate heart. All fabulous. These just looked impressive and creative when you walked in the door, like being in the Wonka Factory... it's cupcakes you've seen in other places, but on steroids.
Taste: SWEET! 2 of the 4 of these cupcakes were overly sweet. Be prepared. The icing was gorgeous, and if you are an icing fan you might be thrilled because there's more icing than cake, but the icing mostly tasted like whipped Betty Crocker tub frosting, minus that tub frosting after-taste :( (I'm so sad to say that). It just didn't taste "home made" or light and buttery. It was more crisco-like, but really whipped. The raspberry icing on the raspberry/champagne was the least like tub icing, although this one is not a regular menu item (and alas, it was my favorite). The cake tasted like box mix cake, but with a kick... like they added a few ingredients or sifted it nicely because the cake was perfect, texture-wise. The red velvet cake was even moister because of a gooey pudding blob in the middle... not bad, but... it wasn't adding anything to the flavor other than keeping that hard-to-keep-moist red velvet cake... moist. So... gosh... these are BETTER than grocery store cupcakes, taste just like "homemade" box/tub cupcakes, but they tasted just a bit better than the box/tub. But sweeter. And SO much prettier and you will impress your guests (as they scrape 80% of the icing off to the side of their plates).
Atmosphere: Strip mall. Lots of sun (blinding in the afternoons). Very simple cases and some logo retail items. The cupcakes are gorgeous and are the stars of the show. It's a franchise, they are well-organized with lots of fun colors, fliers and menus. Easy and ample parking.
In a nutshell: Gorgeous to look at, lots of great creative names and flavors, well thought out as a business, but dang it... these cupcakes have the sweetest icing I've ever encountered. Perfect texture, but the flavor is a bit over-the-top and unnatural. I still would be happy to serve them (with a warning) to my guests, though... especially because they would look great in pictures.
Overall grade: B
Other cupcake places I've tried... Sugarland (which I gave an A-) , Sprinkles (which I give an A+, although it's not indicated on my blog post, but you can see pictures!), Yummy Cupcakes (I didn't blog about it, but they were pretty awful... SO dry, maybe I went too late in the middle of the week? C-) .
Again, Sprinkles is by far, the best... fresh, pretty and taste great! :)
Wouldn't it be fun to travel the world and rate cupcakes? ;)
We're going to NYC in May... might have to check out a few places and report back!