Thursday, August 27, 2009

2009 Bite Me Summer Road Trip *Austin*

Austin Clash of the Cupcakes

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? When they are made right they are sure to be messy. In Austin and almost everywhere it seems like cupcakes are the newest craze. Big or small cupcakes are to be moist and rich with a creamy sweet heap of frosting. Austin is a very independent city and with that you find many independent businesses and bakeries are no difference. Coming into Austin I wanted to see who was baking the best cupcake in town. Just like everything else I hit the web and started to do my research. I came up with thee of the most recommended bakeries to devour. I was feeling a little anxious about this challenge. I didn’t know if I could handle all this sweetness. There was no turning back now it was do or die. Who would stand victorious in the Austin Clash of the Cupcakes?
Every time I visit Austin I like to take a stroll down South Congress. It brings a sense of nostalgia. From the antique shops to the trendy boutiques there is something for everyone. For me there is a shiny classic Airstream trailer calling my name. Located centrally on South Congress between all the shops Hey Cupcake! stands among other trailer vendors. There is always a line here so I tell myself this must be a great place to start the battle. While talking with Austenites, Hey Cupcake! seemed to be the underdog. This little trailer seemed to draw me in with its cute little pink frosted cupcake on top. We happened to stop by on the day Michael Jackson passed away and it only seemed fitting to get the cupcake named after him along with the southern traditional Red Velvet. The Red Velvet cupcake was good but it was your usual suspect. It was something that you will find through and through in the south. The cake was moist but it seemed to be a little sparing in the coca department. It turned out to be more red then velvet. The frosting on the other hand was delicious. It was very sweet and rich cream cheese frosting with a creamy and smooth texture. At Hey Cupcake! They like the top their cupcakes high with frosting but in the case of the Red Velvet, it seemed to be better than the cake itself. The Michael Jackson is a chocolate cake topped with white cream cheese frosting. In honor of the one gloved king of pop I felt this would be a great cupcake to try. At first bite it was almost everything you would want in a cupcake. The cake was very moist and had chocolate morsels in the batter to melt in your mouth after each bite. The creamy and smooth semi sweet cream cheese frosting just might have made this the king of cupcakes in Austin. This was a true chocolate cake that was both robust and mellow in flavor. It was very moist and crumbly and the melted chocolate chunks seemed to hold this big cupcake together. A shot of whipped cream to the center of this wonderful cupcake and it just seems to melt in the summer heat. Don’t worry once you take your first bite you seem to inhale the rest of the cupcake before the frosting gets runny.
Next on our stop into a diabetic coma I took a drive to the south side of Austin. I kept hearing so much this bakery that it almost seemed like a sin not to stop in. So I picked Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop. This is a small little bakery with very little parking and if you aren’t looking out for it you just might pass it by. I talked with their employee and former Houstonian Nick to find out what made Sugar Mama’s so popular. Just looking at the glass display counter he said, “The cupcakes speak for themselves”. This wasn’t a lie. The look of these sweet little cakes made you want to slam your face in the glass just to take a whiff. Usually I only try or two to judge a place but by the look of these cupcakes I had to try as many as I could. I went with a quadruple bypass box. Ok so it’s not really called that but after all this great food I was indulging in Austin I felt like I might be in the need of one. So here I was trying to find the four cupcakes that will tell me if Sugar Mama’s has what it takes to be the cupcake champion of Austin. I decide upon the Vegan Margarita, Black & Tan, Hula and The Odd Couple. As Nick packed my four pack of fun I say goodbye to the other cupcakes as if they were puppies in the window. I rushed off as fast as I could because I couldn’t wait to taste these little cakes. As I opened the box of cupcakes it was as if a blinding light shined upon these cakes. I reached in and grabbed for the first one. The Vegan Margarita was first victim I chose. The Vegan Margarita is a vegan lime and tequila cake with a lime butter cream frosting. The cake itself was a little too firm and dry. While the frosting was nice and semisweet, it seemed to lack any resemblance to a margarita. Not exactly what I was first expecting. Maybe it was too healthy for this challenge but I still had three more to try. The Black & Tan had man written all over it. It was a chocolaty Guinness stout cake layered with an Irish cream cheese frosting. Usually beer and chocolate don’t make a great combination but this was something to behold. This Guinness inspired cupcake seemed to draw by boozy side. The stout chocolate cake was nice and firm and the texture of the cake was almost perfect as was the frosting but they didn’t seem to complement each other. These were two great things but I personally they would do better with other partners. The Irish cream cheese frosting was delicious but I didn’t taste anything that reminded me of Irish cream. Next up was the Hula. This coconut cake topped with coconut cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with toasted coconut almost made me go coo coo for coconut! This beautiful looking concoction seemed to be the perfect cake. Upon unwrapping this beauty I noticed right away it was very firm. At first bite the strong aroma of almond extract seemed to overpower any sense of coconut. While the frosting and coconut topping was creamy and delicious but the almond extract became a little too much. The cake itself was a little bit of a downer. It almost seemed like a sweet cornbread topped with coconut. I am a big fan of coconut but this kind of let me down.
I was starting to doubt Sugar Mama’s and I only had one cupcake left to try. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough to pull this place through. Could it be too late? The lone cupcake sitting in the box was the Odd Couple. A chocolate cake topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting. Sometimes opposites attract. Like this cupcake that is a blend of sweet and salty goodness. As you unwrap this bond of love you notice the chocolate cake is soft, moist and ready to be devoured. They top this sweet little odd mixture with a chocolate dipped pretzel to add that extra hint of sweet and salty. At first bite I knew I was in love. The sweet decadent chocolate mixed perfectly with the gooey and salty caramel. Everything about this cupcake was perfect. From the texture of the cake to the sweet creamy frosting. I couldn’t ask more from a cupcake. This finally marked high in my books but would this be enough to win?
Lastly I decided to follow the world wide web and its many recommendation. I was on the hunt for Polkadots. By the pictures and descriptions I long awaited to try their cupcakes but when we finally found them I was let down to find them closed on Sundays. Luckily there was a building right across the street calling out for attention. I would rather leave them unnamed since they weren’t even considered as a backup location. I will say though that we found without a doubt the worst cupcakes in town. I had a coconut cupcake but tasted very similar to cardboard and even had the same texture. I remember the cupcake being so dry and flavorless that I couldn’t even finish it. I felt like I had let you all down by only making it to only two locations. They were both very good and I had to still come up with a winner. One the drive back to Houston I let my mind and stomach wondering. Would it be the trailer kings Hey Cupcake! Or would Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop batter the competition. It was going to be a very close call.
When looking for a cupcake people look for different things. Some like a mellow frosting, some like a firm cake, others like a big size and some just like the presentation. As for the price both bakeries were about the same. I can say that the cupcakes at Hey Cupcake! are a lot larger. Both places had their own version of perfect but I had to come to a conclusion on who would win the Austin Clash of the Cupcakes. The decision was a lot harder than I first thought but after thinking it over I had to give it up to Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop in south Austin. I felt that though they might have been a lot smaller than the cupcakes of Hey Cupcake! I felt that they had a better selection. While I still love Hey Cupcake! I think that hands down Sugar Mama’s takes the cake! I was very drawn by their unique selections and the overall textures and flavors from their cupcakes. I wouldn’t call this the best test of Austin cupcakes since we were short one location but I felt that between the two that I had come to a decision I felt comfortable with. Hey Cupcake! was great but they were very traditional in my eyes. The cake was great but it felt a little mediocre. While the frosting was a delicious creamy dream it just wasn’t enough to win me over for this competition. I think this will have to be a rematch and next time I will make sure to have a third location in the battle. I suggest that the next time you are in Austin you take the test for yourself and see what you find. Either way there are no real losers here except maybe for the location the remains nameless. I still have a lot of love for the fine folks of Hey Cupcake! but my sycophant little heart lays with Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop.

Hey Cupcake!
5530 Burnet Rd
Austin, TX 78756-1604
(512) 476-2253
Sugar Mama's Bakeshop
1905 S 1st St
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 448-3727

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