17 June 2009
Cupcation: San Francisco
On my recent voyage to San Francisco (thank you, Southwest for free tickets!), I had a mission to experience the city in the best, most revealing way: cupcaking. A city just isn't a city worth visiting if it doesn't have a good cupcakery. It doesn't matter that the Bay area has found its way on the map with bridges, prisons and Castro queens; a true test of a city's charm is in the frosting.
So prior to my arrival, I did a bit of online research and found a few cupcakery must-sees. Our first stop was in the Cow Hollow area on Union at That Takes the Cake. Now, there are several cute shops in this darling area of San Francisco, but the chocolate and powder blue awning of That Takes the Cake beckons, "Pick me! Choose me! Love me!" I had my eye on it from a block away.
The shop is tiny and delicious—even before you taste the goods. Everything is endearing—the cute little tables outside the store, the cupcake tea sets that greet you at the door, and the lovely catch phrase beneath their logo that says "hand frosted memories." I could not wait to taste these memories.
There were only a couple of people waiting for cupcakes in front of us, which I thought might be a sign of cupcake disaster. I can hardly think of a time of day in NYC when shiny happy people aren't wrapped around the corner waiting to get into Magnolia or when it isn't so packed at Billy's Bakery that it's nearly impossible to see the cupcake offerings. But the short line was also refreshing. We were at the counter in no time, facing Cupcake Salesman's friendly smile and rows upon rows of delectable delights in the display case, each with their own special name.
Our choices of the day included the blonde bombshell (a vanilla on vanilla cake), prom queen (strawberry on strawberry), gentlemen prefer reds (cream cheese on traditional red velvet), key lime-o-licious (delicious-looking with cream cheese frosting), chocolate raspberry (raspberry buttercream on buttermilk chocolate cake), elvis is in the building (peanut butter buttercream on banana cake filled with caramel) and samoa (yes, like the Girl Scout cookie--cream cheese frosting on chocolate devils food cake with chocolate chips and caramel topped with toasted coconut and caramel). They also offered miniature cupcakes of their red velvet, vanilla and chocolate cakes (which made the little girl in front of us very happy) and half-dozen boxes of day-old cupcakes (they sell them fresh daily).
Decisions, decisions! Our miniature cupcake choice was simple. I'm a firm believer that a cupcake shop without red velvet isn't worth it's weight in butter, so we decided it would be our main comparison cake at each shop, so we each ordered a mini red velvet.
Beth is a strawberry kind of girl, so she went straight for the prom queen. Pink debated her options before choosing the chocolate raspberry.
And anyone who knows me well can guess that I headed straight for the Girl Scout gold. Cupcake Salesman, whose sister owns the shop, gave us the mini cakes on the house. Score extra for That Takes the Cake!
At this point, any sensible conversation ended, and moaning and smiling and a few deep gruntings began. These cakes are all moist and committed to their flavors. The proportion of cake to frosting is ideal (not at all like Gigi's here in Nashville, whose cupcakes must be scraped before consuming). The strawberry cake was probably the best as far as moistness. It's strawberry buttercream frosting was just sweet enough for me and not too sweet for Beth. Perfect choice for her! The chocolate raspberry was also a homerun. Their chocolate cake is superb--with chocolate chips inside to add to the richness. The raspberry frosting didn't take over the cake and added just the right amount of raspberry accent to the chocolate. I was extremely pleased with the samoa cake. It was so rich with the caramel and chocolate. I recommend slicing this one in half and sharing it. Every bite, divine. They were all well presented and cute, which is essential to cupcakes. If you weren't attracted to cuteness, you would eat a regular ol' cake slice, right?
And their red velvet was so smooth and rich. It was almost like eating fudge. The cake is a fabulously beautiful red—not so bright that the cake thinks it's a Jolly Rancher but just red enough for the cake to know that it's not chocolate. Score again!
So day one of our cupcation was a success! We could not have been more pleased with our choice. Now that this review is insanely longer than I planned, I'll have to write about our other cupcakeries later. Until then, happy cupcaking!