By Sara Liss
Miami is on its way to becoming a cupcake town. The proliferation of these pastel-colored baked goods has been well-documented, but a quick perusal of cupcake postings on this site and food-obsessed chowhound.com attest that people have a lot to say about cupcakes. It was with this passion for the iconic mini-dessert that Jean Marc De Silva, self-professed foodie and owner of design website coolcosas.com, organized an intimate cupcake tasting at his Miami Beach home. A dozen cupcake enthusiasts gathered to taste, comment and pontificate on what exactly constitutes a good cupcake.
Nine cupcake bakers were invited to present basic chocolate or vanilla cupcakes and examples of what they consider their "signature cupcake." The tasters then paired the cupcakes with different "vintages" of milk including soy, skim, 2 percent and whole. With palates primed and amid tangential topics like "what is the optimal icing?" (answer: light!) and the importance of using salt in cake batter, the intrepid tasters set about devouring the frosted bounty. The criteria for the tasting included evaluating overall flavor, texture of the cake (moistness preferred), frosting texture and overall appearance.
List of cupcakers:
Takeout Cupcakes (deliver/pick up orders only)
Sugar Girl Bake Shop
Stella’s Sweet Shop
Little Miss Cupcake Bake Shop
Two Girls and a Cupcake
Cupcakes Nouveau: These flower-petal decorated cakes impressed the crowd with their beautiful presentation and were deemed perfect for weddings and upscale occasions. The vanilla bean cake was praised for its strong flavor ("you can see the vanilla bean flecks in the cake") and the chocolate was pronounced "divine." One of the most consistent cakes throughout, including a red velvet with cream cheese-frosted contender.
Misha’s Cupcakes: One of Miami’s cupcake queens, Misha’s treats are sold at Books & Books Café, Town Kitchen and Bar and the Van Dyke News Store, and she’s got her own Dadeland Mall kiosk. Coconut was the fave of this batch of mini-cupcakes, which also included a "perfectly moist" chocolate.
Little Miss Cupcake Bake Shop: This brand was praised for using organic eggs and unbleached flour, a welcome health-conscious approach. The frosting sparked debate among tasters; some appreciated its airy whipped-cream like texture while others preferred a thicker, creamier frosting.
Dots Treats: The swirly chocolate frosting design elicited nods of approval ("it looks like a sundae"), but some felt that the chocolate flavor overpowered the vanilla cake. However, the chocolate frosting was the clear favorite in terms of texture, rich chocolate flavor and presentation. The S’mores cupcakes festooned with mini-marshmallows were deemed a bit busy with their dark chocolate ganache, marshmallow filling and graham cracker base.
Sugar Girl: The chocolate and vanilla varieties did not garner as much attention as the "Havana Nights" cupcake with guava filling topped with cream cheese frosting and the "Pina Colada" cupcake, a vanilla cake filled with pineapple chunks and coconut topped with buttercream frosting and toasted coconut flakes.
Buttercream: A simple, unfussy contender and one of the major standouts. The vanilla bean frosting got thumbs up for its "very true vanilla flavor" and the cake’s crusty top was a nice textural surprise. The cake’s texture was described as custardy and moist. The favorite of several tasters.
Two Girls and a Cupcake: The "Chick Flick" cupcake with its vanilla cake and frosting seemed the most akin to a slice of wedding cake while the "Oye Como Va" was lauded for its vanilla cake with guava filling and cream cheese frosting that pleasantly countered the sweetness. The wafer cookie topping was deemed an extraneous and unnecessary garnish by most.
Stella’s Sweet Shoppe: The one company whose packaging and branding seemed to really capture the 1950’s nostalgia associated with cupcakes. The cake had great texture but some felt that the icing was too thick and overpowered the cake.
Sweetcakes: The vanilla cake had a tanginess that one taster described as "similar to pixie sticks" while others commended the fluffiness of the cake.
Who makes your favorite cupcakes? Leave a review!