Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cupcake vs. Cupcake

I just saw my co-worker's flat stomach and guiltily looked down at my threatening-to-burst waistline while sinking my teeth into the gooey deliciousness of a Candy Cake Toffee and Banana cupcake. 

In NYC, tourists go ga-ga for Magnolia Bakery of Sex and the City fame.  But over here, there are two (in my mind) cupcake institutions to duke it out in the Battle of the Cupcakes.  First, on our right, we have a creation from the highly successful Notting Hill-originated chain, Hummingbird Bakery, whose website boasts that it's "the home of high quality American home-baking in London."  Sounds impressive, no?  I visited the Portobello Road branch (they also have locations in South Kensington and Soho) last year and the queue was out the door (although this isn't difficult since the place is the size of a shoebox).  People were literally elbowing and shoving each other to get in, including the girl behind me, who snapped at me to "hurry up" and move along (I snapped right back at her, much to the delight of the customers in front of me who lauded my comeback).  When it was finally my turn to be served, I opted for a simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing with silver and pearl-like decorations (£1.75).  It was, indeed, delicious and delectable - very true to the American cupcake, especially (and most importantly) the icing.  It was worth the wait.  And for those who can't be bothered to visit the shop and are of the DIY-mind, the Hummingbird Bakery has a cookbook available as well. 

Duking it out in the left side are the "cupcakes" from Candy Cakes in Covent Garden.  I use the term "cupcakes" loosely because to me, these are more like glorified muffins than cupcakes and one might argue that they aren't true to the "American cupcakes", which are quite accurately replicated by the Hummingbird Bakery.  And yet, these are so very American - for the simple reasons that they contain about ten times as much sugar as necessary, are insanely colorful (and thus, very attractive) and are topped with various types of candy.  If this combination doesn't give you a toothache and bellyache together, I don't know what will.  It's completely OTT, but totally divine and totally delicious.  My personal favorite is the Toffee and Banana flavor, which I have already mentioned above, but there is also a Lemon and White Chocolate I'm dying to try (all sell for £3.50).  Last year, we had a month of "buy one get one free" privileges at work for Candy Cakes cupcakes because of some publicity/promotional offer tied into a new Puffin paperback we were publishing.  Needless to say, I had to take a break from Candy Cakes for about six months afterwards.   

Final verdict?  Both deserve your patronage.

1 comment

  1. Having tried both in the last two days (hey, I'm on holiday!!), I think they're both fab. I did, however, have to give half of my lemon and white chocolate candy cake cupcake to Pete as it was enormous! The red velvet hummingbird cupcakes are to die for.. they may be my next attempt at baking form the cookbook! C xx


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