>> New York's Buttercup Bake Shop, Crumbs Bake Shop, and the Cupcake Cafe are popular cupcake stops, but their products are not remotely similar.
Of the three, the Cupcake Cafe (see previous articles written on August 2007 and April 2002) serves the most artistically complex products. Its trays full of brightly-colored, flower-trimmed cupcakes look like gardens, making it a definite "must see" New York destination.
The mind-boggling variety of Buttercup Bake Shop's pastel, home-style cupcakes, however, make you want to gobble one of everything, and Crumbs' fresh, giant-sized cupcakes, served in a coffee-shop atmosphere, make an eat-it-immediately special treat.
The Buttercup Bake Shop
The Buttercup Bake Shop (2nd Avenue, between 51st and 52nd Streets, NYC) is a high-production operation. While it sells one or two cupcakes to walk-in customers like yourself, it excels at supplying thousands of cupcakes for parties of all types.
Although it does have small tables, plus a foot-wide dining shelf, the Buttercup Bake Shop is not designed for lingerers. Fully two-thirds of its floor space is occupied by a glass case. Displayed in that case are at least 20 varieties of cupcakes, plus 12 or more different types of layer cakes, and a smattering of other treats. In all, a mesmerizing abundance!
You can watch operations from a large window in back of the shop; a real treat for The Food Channel fans. Otherwise, if the shop isn't crowded, take a sufficient amount of time to consider everything they produce. I, for example, am enchanted by their homebody cakes (cakes like I should be able to make, but never can).
The Buttercup Bake Shop cupcakes are packed in attractive, tissue-lined pastry boxes. In the summer heat, unfortunately, soft frosting almost immediately sticks to the tissue, so carry them very carefully. No matter how packed, however, at $1.75 apiece, these cupcakes make a beautiful, reasonably-priced snack (and most people don't mind licking the packing tissue). Littleviews' favorite? Carrot cake (pictured on the far right, below).
Crumbs Bake Shop
I was introduced to Crumbs Bake Shop at their Upper West Side location (near Lincoln Center) in New York City. This large, old-fashioned coffee shop is located in the delightful Amsterdam Avenue shopping district, making it a cozy place to meet friends before shopping, or to relax afterwards. They serve excellent coffee, huge, freshly-baked cupcakes, plus other giant-sized bakery.
Their Upper East Side shop (pictured below at 3rd Avenue at 78th Street, NYC), however, is smaller and not as cozy as the original. While it does have six small cafe tables in the front of the store (plus summer outdoor seating), the bakery case itself is hard to access, especially if there are more than four customers. Still, this location serves the same type of fresh products, so buying there is worth the squeeze.
Their newest 42nd Street location is tiny and appears to be carry-out only. With a large university next door, however, I'm sure they do a thriving business! If you do want to sit down, however, it's very near beautiful Bryant Park.
The emphasis of Crumbs' cupcakes is on size. In addition to thick frosting, some cupcakes are loaded with snacks, like Snickers slices, Oreo cookie shards, M&Ms, and ginger snaps. Littleviews, however, adores their simple, imitation Hostess cream-filled cupcake (last photo). Why? Because it is three-times the size of the original and is covered with yummy, gourmet chocolate frosting.
Cupcakes range from $2.50 to $4.00 each and you do, indeed, get what you pay for. A single cupcake easily feeds two, with as little as one-quarter of a cupcake being a satisfactory treat. As shown in the photo above, frosting can be over a half inch thick, topping a cupcake of about 3.5 inches wide!
Crumbs Bake Shop packs its carryout cupcakes in clear, plastic boxes that snuggly fit each cupcake into a protective indent. Unfortunately, many of the cupcakes are too tall for these containers. If delivered appearance is important, don't use the lid for protection. That said, slightly flattened frosting never stopped hungry folk, and if looks truly count, you can always eat your cupcakes in the store.
Manhattan definitely deserves the name "Cupcake City," with most of its popular cupcake shops opening additional venues. Visit several (including bakeshops not yet reviewed by Littleviews) to see how NYC competition breeds innovation.
In all probability, you'll buy more than you can possibly consume. If this happens, consider developing a taste for stale cake. I rank stale cake right up there with toast-and-jelly, and find it makes a good bagel-substitute every now and then. (OK, so I also like cold pizza. And I admit that I drink wine icy-cold from the frig, too.)
Locations in New York City
Article and photos by Karen Little. First published on 2/4/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.
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