Food, Travel, USA & Canada

The Search for the Best Cupcake in America!

What a task I had… to try every cupcake shop I stumbled upon in America (and there are LOTS of them) on my quest to find the best cupcake in America for Love Swah. How I must suffer for my “art”.

The quality of American cupcakes overall, particularly chain cupcakes, was high and much better than the cupcake chains in Australia (you know who you are, you dry and overly sweet places). There were a few major fails (see Magnolia Bakery below), but on the whole this was a very delicious and satisfying search! Now, to the gym.

Starting from #8 – my least favourite, all the way to #1 which I am awarding America’s Best Cupcake!

#8 Magnolia Bakery – Locations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. See here for details.

Magnolia Bakery is one of New York’s most well-known cupcake shops, made famous by Sex and the City. Does it live up to the hype? Certainly not. Which is why I am awarding it last place in my cupcake search.

Honestly I was quite surprised and disappointed. I have their cookbook and frequently bake their cupcake recipes with great success. The red velvet cake was dry and flavourless, and the icing was overly sweet and I couldn’t taste the cream cheese. I ate barely half before throwing it in the bin. My friend had a similar experience with her chocolate cupcake.

#7 Kara’s Cupcakes – 3249 Scott Street, San Francisco

I couldn’t work out why my vanilla cupcake with passion fruit filling tasted overwhelmingly of marzipan. I later found out they top their cupcakes with marzipan (which I am allergic to as it contains almonds) instead of fondant. This annoyed me and they need to make this clearer. Apart from the “marzipan incident” it was a pretty ordinary cupcake. The base was dry and bland, and the icing a little too sweet. The passion fruit filling was delicious though.

#6 Babycakes – Locations in New York, Orlando and Los Angeles. See here for details

Could cupcakes that are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free taste any good? Well, no. These didn’t. And they were expensive (US$4.75 each)! The flavours were good (lemon and carrot) but the cake was dry and the icing a weird chewy texture (almost like modelling clay… weird).

#5 Crumbs – Across the country. Locations here

I was very excited when I walked into Crumbs. So many giant cupcakes in unique flavours such as Cookie Dough and Stuffed Pecan Pie! I decided to sway from my usual preference of lemon/vanilla/red velvet and get a White Hot Chocolate cupcake. This was a vanilla cake filled with white chocolate mousse topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting edged with mini white chocolate chips and topped with marshmallows and white chocolate drizzle. WHOA.

It was sweet. Very sweet. But given the above description you would assume that. It took me several attempts to eat it over a few hours. I late found out Crumbs uses high fructose corn syrup which I found really disappointing (and explained the sickly sweetness). Overall it was a good cupcake but I don’t think my blood sugar levels could handle another.

#4 Miette – Locations around San Francisco

Miette is so cute and I am sure I will talk about it again in future Sweet USA-related posts. Their chocolate cupcake was rich and moist and the vanilla icing was delicious and creamy but not too sweet (finally!) This cupcake was a strong contender but not the best one I found in my search. Miette does, however, win the award for best confectionary – their Fleur de Sel Caramels were out of this world. Why didn’t I buy 50?!

#3 Eleni’s New York – Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue @ 15th Street, New York

Eleni’s is a nut-free bakery filled with an amazing array of cookies and cupcakes. I will definitely be talking about it more on future Sweet USA posts. I tossed up between the lemon and red velvet cake before finally settling on the former. I can never go past a lemon cupcake. The cupcake was moist and icing was lemony and delicious. I also heard their chocolate cupcakes are amazing after I left, so please try one for me!

#2 Sprinkles – Several locations around the country. See here

Sprinkles claims the title of the world’s first cupcake bakery and the progenitor of the gourmet cupcake craze. That’s quite a big claim! I joined the long queue of cupcake-fans and finally got my hands on a lemon cupcake. The lemon cupcake was moist and bursting with flavour. The lemon-vanilla frosting was heavenly, it was the perfect texture and had the right amount of lemon zest. I was a very happy Swah.

And the number 1 cupcake in America? Drum roll please….

#1 The Little Cupcake Bakeshop – 30 Prince Street, New York and 9102 Third Avenue, Brooklyn

The red velvet cupcake was so so moist (I hate that word, but it needs to be used several times in this post) and the cream cheese icing actually tasted like cream cheese. Unlike whatever the hell Magnolia used. In fact this red velvet cupcake was almost as good as mine! Haha. The coconut cloud cupcake was light and flavoursome with a strong coconut taste and hit the spot. These cupcakes won for overall flavour, texture and taste. Yum!

*Notable mentions – Billy’s Cupcakes, Georgetown Cupcakes and Sugar Sweet Sunshine are other great cupcake stores that were not visited on this particular trip.

What do you think of my list – have you tried any of these cupcakes on your travels and do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your opinions!

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  • Reply Miss Piggy November 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    The first time I went to Magnolia back in 2005 it was GREAT, blew my mind. I couldn’t WAIT to go back in 2011 and take my friend along. What a disappointment. RUDE RUDE staff, they didn’t even have a RED Velvet Cupcake in store (like WTF) and the cupcake we did get was so…wet…it literally fell apart under the weight of the sickly icing. I feel like they are riding on all the SATC hype and they don’t care about their product or their customers. Miss Piggy NOT happy Jan.

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      I totally agree Mel, they seem to be riding on the success of SATC and just won’t care about their standards anymore. And what kind of place doesn’t have a red velvet? Outrageous!

  • Reply Tina @ bitemeshowme November 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    cupcake overload. I hate paying for a cupcake that just ends up tasting so sad and therefore making me sad. That explains why a certain chain here in australia went bust – i say no more!

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Ooooh I have no idea which chain you’re talking about, but now I am going to Google it ;D

      I have pretty much given up buying a cupcake in store in Australia, fortunately we are both great at baking them!

  • Reply Nadia November 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Love this! Nice review honey x

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks lovely xx

  • Reply chocolatesuze November 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    epic roundup! i wish i had made time to visit more cupcake stores in america!

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      I think you were busy eating donuts ;D (something I wish I did more of!)

  • Reply Christine @ Cooking Crusade November 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    WOW that is soooo disappointing to hear about the Magnolia Bakery! I love seeing all your cupcake adventures and I definitely need to give The little Cupcake Bake Shop and Sprinkles a visit whenever I visit the States again!

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      You will be in cupcake heaven Christine!

  • Reply JJ @ 84thand3rd November 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Yay for Little Cupcake Bakeshop!!! We had a slice of the most unbelievable Coconut Cake ever when we were there :) Can’t believe you didn’t get a cupcake from Cake Cafe in NOLA (would have been only $1 with your meal!), the chocolate one was fantastic.

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Oh god, now I need to go back to try the Coconut Cake! (is that a valid excuse to return to NY immediately?) I am sad I missed out on trying the cupcakes at Cake Cafe, I think I had naughty food fatigue.

  • Reply milkteaxx November 27, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    my what a tough job you had! sad to hear some dissapointments especially with mangolia!

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      It’s tough being me! But yeah, really disappointed with Magnolia booo :(

  • Reply Helen (Grab Your Fork) November 28, 2013 at 12:54 am

    We thank you for your selfless and tireless research efforts. lol. I wasn’t impressed by Magnolia Bakery either tbh. I really want a red velvet cupcake now!

    • Reply Swah December 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      You are welcome, it is my duty! Hehe. I could kill for a (good) red velvet cupcake right now too…

  • Reply Meera December 2, 2013 at 5:20 am

    Awesomeness!!!!!!Super nice review:):)


  • Reply Kat Oxley December 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Your first choice is spot on!
    But crumbs higher than magnolia? That I don’t know about…


    • Reply Swah December 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      And thanks to YOU for taking me to #1 Kat! Haha it seems this list is a bit controversial ;D

  • Reply LA Eats – Swah’s Best Places to Eat in Los Angeles « Love Swah – A Sydney food, travel and design blog May 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    […] came 2nd place in my Best Cupcakes in America List! And for very good reason. Their cupcakes are moist and flavourful and come in a huge array of […]

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