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Cupcake Quest

Posted by Lori in New York + Places on 18/Nov/2006
The ridiculous lines at Magnolia
The ridiculous lines at Magnolia...
Thanks to Sex in the City, Magnolia Bakery in the West Village has a permanent line around the block. I'm not joking. The first time I attempted to go there, I assumed because of the line they had table service. Nope. Just a line to get cupcakes! $3.50 cupcakes. Beautiful, big, amazing cupcakes!

But seriously, what local would wait in an hour line for a sugar fix? OK, probably me, until I decided to seek out other sources to satisfy my sweet tooth in this town....

My first stop was Babycakes at 248 Broome Street. I'm not a vegan, but I eat vegan baked goods all the time. This bakery has gotten a lot of press, so I was really excited to try the cupcakes. The bakery itself was adorable, with the two hot blond owners baking on site in cute aprons and pearls. (no pics allowed) For $3.25 each, I got one wheat and gluten free chocolate and one wheat and gluten free vanilla cupcake. Although the vanilla frosting was grey, I was excited! It started to rain, so I parked myself in a bus shelter and devoured the cupcakes. The dry, tasteless, almost gross cupcakes. I wish I'd had my $6.50 back. I had supreme buyer's remorse. Then, the thirst hit. I felt like the cupcakes were sugar sandpaper in my throat. Vegan bakeries may be sparse in other parts of the country, but in a city where virtually anything is available, these just don't make the cut.

Gray-by Cakes!
One of the original owners of Magnolia, Jennifer Appel, broke away and opened her own bakery, The Buttercup Bake Shop. With an Upper East and Upper West side locations, I had to try the Magnolia rival. Firstly, the cupcakes are cheap! $1.85. Secondly, I learned that Appel franchised the business. This kind of annoys me. Then, the cupcakes themselves. They're okay. I tried a Red Velvet with Chocolate Buttercream and a Sour Cream Spice with Vanilla Buttercream. They were good, but not great, but definitely worth $1.85. But the franchising thing scares me away.

I found the crowning glory, the replacement to Magnolia, on the Lower East Side. Across from a dirty cheap bar I frequent on Rivington and Essex is Sugar Sweet Sunshine, aka heaven. The decor is retro and kitschy, like a 1970s sitting room. The staff is friendly, the banana pudding is good, and there's plenty of sitting room. The cupcakes! Only $1.50. My favorite is pistachio, with "The moose", a light meringuey frosting. I also love pumpkin with cream cheese frosting and "Bob", yellow cake with chocolate almond buttercream, although its a bit too sweet for me. It can get busy on the weekends, but the line moves quickly and most people seem to get their sweets to go. I've become extremely loyal to Sugar Sweet Sunshine after this little quest. I think I'm addicted, I'm really sorry I'm writing this at midnight when no cupcakes are available!

Magnolia Bakery
401 Bleecker St

248 Broome Street

Buttercup Bake Shop

Sugar Sweet Sunshine
126 Rivington St

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