Baking Research · Cupcakes

The Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge, Part 2

Flag of Arizona

Last time on the Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge we awarded the prizes for storefront, decoration, most random location and range of flavours (for the full details see here). Today however we bring out the big guns, the OSCARS of this cupcake tasting championships. Today we will discuss the results for the best individual cupcakes and crown our overall champion, the queen of Phoenix’s cupcake shops.

In no particular order then, our top three cupcakes:

The Sweet Tooth Fairy – Strawberry Shortcake

I have a confession, whilst I love fresh strawberries, I almost never buy strawberry-flavoured products because they almost never taste like strawberries. Instead what you tend to get is a taste reminiscent of shampoo, bearing very little relation to the delicious fruit from which it supposedly comes. However, this cupcake make me eat my words. Delicious cake with a lovely vanilla flavour, and the frosting! Oh my. Absolutely delicious, wonderfully fruity and not at all too sweet, a common complaint amongst ones we did not like so much. Whilst all the cupcakes from this lovely shop were completely delicious (we did not have a complaint about any one cupcake!), this one stood out particularly.

Strawberry Shortcake

21 Cupcakes – Bacon Maple Vanilla Cupcake

Putting bacon in a cupcake can be a little controversial amongst tasters – you seem to either love the idea or hate it! However, this cupcake defied the expectations of several doubters, and emerged clearly as one of our favourites. The vanilla cake was beautifully fragrant and soft, whilst the maple and bacon combination came through clearly but managing not to overpower the whole cupcake. Possibly my favourite cupcake that we tasted, this cake recipe should be the standard text on how to use bacon in a cupcake.

Sprinkles Cupcakes – Chai Latte Cupcake

Sprinkles Cupcakes have the plainest presentation of any of the shops, but often this plain presentation hides a wonderful interior, and this particular cupcake shows the duckling becoming the swan. A non-descript brown exterior, with perfectly smooth icing provides a wonderful hit of coffee and associated spices, recalling perfectly its namesake drink. A more unusual flavour, but a delicious end result, and one I would happily eat again.

(Image taken from here)

And now, the final award, this time for best in show goes to…

The Sweet Tooth Fairy!

Really from the first bit of delicious cupcake there was no way that The Sweet Tooth Fairy could not have won this contest. Scoring top marks on all categories from storefront to taste, this shop was a pleasure to visit, and it will definitely be one to visit next time I am in the USA.

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Baking Research · Cupcakes

The Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge, Part 1

During our visit to the states this summer, Max’s aunt (who knows my obsession for all things baking) had put together a list of recommended cupcake shops to visit. This soon developed into a full-scale cupcake competition, pitting shops and bakeries against each other in a ‘battle for cupcake domination!’ (Sorry…)

Disclaimer: All of these opinions are my own, and those of Max and his family. There were other shops we didn’t visit, so just because something is not listed here does not make it bad!

In order to fairly compare the cupcakes, we scored them out of 10 on the following categories:

  • Storefront
  • Packaging
  • Range of cupcakes
  • Decoration
  • Flavour/quantity of frosting
  • Flavour/texture of cake

We also then awarded a holistic mark and came up with some overall winners based on their marks in all categories. I won’t bore you with all the data (we had tables, statistics and  collaborative comments), but here are some of the highlights.

Best Storefront and Packaging – The Sweet Tooth Fairy

 

It seems right to start with one of our favourite contestants from the tasting, and this shop hit pretty much all the marks. We loved the pastel colours and English-tea-party decor, and the monogrammed furniture inside. Whilst still rather plain, the pretty stickers on the boxes pushed The Sweet Tooth Fairy’s packaging above the very plain packaging of most of the others, and we also liked the small display of baking decorations and other cake-based goodies as you walked in. The cafe area did not feel to crowded and we fitted six people around one table quite happily.

(Image taken from here)

If we were to be really picky, we felt that it would have been nice to have a better selection of drinks to eat with the delicious cupcakes, however, that would just be the cherry on top of a really delicious cake.

Biggest Cupcake/Most Random Location – Tom’s Thumb Fresh Market

An honourable mention for this diner, which presented us with the largest cupcake we had ever seen – it looked like it had eaten two of the other cakes. At $2.95 it was great value for money, and good quality food considering this was the one entry not from a dedicated cupcake business. And all for a restaurant in a gas station. Much respect.

(Image taken from here)

Best decoration – The Victorian Cake Company and Candyland Cupcakes

This bakery has already been mentioned with regard to their completely delicious cronuts, but also deserve a mention for the pretty delicate decoration featured on their cupcakes. This was one feature we felt disappointed with overall, that decoration was very plain, and often non-existent. The flowers and toppings on these cakes made them an easy winner of the decoration award, really making them stand out from the crowd.

(Image taken from here)

Best Range of Interesting Flavours – Sprinkles Cupcakes

Going around a lot of cupcake shops, you soon find that a lot of flavours are baked wherever you go, meaning that when you find new flavours, it becomes quite exciting. The range of flavours on display at Sprinkles really impressed me, and small menus on display showed many other flavours if we were to come back on a different day. We sampled the Chai Latte and Pumpkin flavours, but was also very excited about the ginger lemon and mocha. I could have happily eaten any of their flavours, but more importantly was intrigued by some of the combinations – a success.

(Image taken from here)

That’s the first part of the contest then! Tune in later to find out our favourite individual cupcakes and our favourite overall shop!