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A Cupcake Tour of New York City

Posted Aug 28 2010 8:07pm


When my parents told me they were coming to NYC for their first visit in over 10 years, I was beyond excited. They would finally see our home, the city from my vantage point, and taste the delicious flavors we’ve discovered. But, I didn’t know what we’d do all day. They’ve been to the museums, tourist hot spots, and multiple shows.


Therefore, I was elated when my dad gave me a challenge. “I want to taste the best cupcake in NYC!


Over the past 24 hours we have walked from one end of the city to another in search of the tastiest crumb. So far, we’ve visited the following:


Our winning cupcake based on taste, texture, and bakery ambience is a tie between Magnolia Bakery and Buttercup Bakery !

Magnolia Bakery was our first stop on the tour! After a two hour walk through Central Park, our legs were happy for the extra seating area and our stomachs were thrilled with the wide selection. Their cupcakes are  traditional cupcake size, but their icing is more bountiful than most. The cake is moist and fragrant. Their butter cream icing tastes as good as it looks. It is soft, rich, and the warm vanilla flavor permeates both the air in the shop and your lips as you lick them in glee. My mom and I shared the Hummingbird Cupcake which is adorned with toasted walnuts. The moist cake is filled with sweet pineapple shreds while the vanilla icing balances the sweetness. My dad devoured Magnolia Bakery ’s classic favorite, vanilla vanilla. In one word, he describes it as “WOW.” The simplest of their cupcakes, sometimes simple is best. The swirled thick frosting and moist cake delivers the perfect cupcake experience.


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Buttercup Bakery , our other favorite, doesn’t have the same ambience but that shouldn’t be held against it. Smaller and off the beaten path, near the edge of Murray Hill and Midtown East, Buttercup Bakery is a hidden gem. The staff is friendly and humored my dad in his long conversations and inquisitive manner. He chatted about Southern food and the secrets to Buttercup Bakery ’s success while my mom and I perused their cookbooks. We finally decided that we’d sample one cupcake and one Southern staple. Their red velvet cupcake is smaller than Magnolia’s but doubles over in cream cheese frosting. Unlike Magnolia, Buttercup understands that the only way to make traditional red velvet cake is when it’s paired with cream cheese icing. The cake is moist and barely crumbles when held to your mouth. The Southern staple we shared was a warm, delicious pecan bar. The bar’s buttery crust was made from shortbread while the filling was a strong brown sugar, Karo, and pecan creation. Hopefully this decadent treat will greet Bo and I when we are home for Thanksgiving since my mom purchased their cookbook after one bite of this bar.

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The worst of the bunch was unfortunately our last taste of the evening, Billy’s Bakery . While the bakery had the atmosphere and aroma one would expect, the service was not enthusiastic, passionate, or engaging. When I asked how long Billy’s had been in existence, the girl laughed at me and asked why I cared.

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In addition, 75% of the cupcakes we sampled were stale. Their carrot cupcake was the only redeeming factor, filled with moist raisins, carrot slices and topped with cream cheese frosting. But, their Red Velvet and Vanilla Buttercream were not worth the twelve block walk we took after dinner in search of a delicious final bite.

As my dad said, he can go home to Savannah and describe New York City in one word, “delicious.” Actually, his best quote of the day was, “Walking through NYC by myself was like having unprotected sex!” (To add some context to this comment, my dad navigated his way to the Barbour store while my mom and I had a girls afternoon of shopping and laughter.)

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