Best Cupcake in Harvard Square?

October 3, 2009

Molasses cake w/ginger buttercream

I was sauntering about Harvard Square last night when I encountered a tiny little shop with a rather peculiar address, Zero Brattle Street. How odd! I peered inside the shop, and suddenly my heart skipped a beat while my stomach simultaneously pirouetted. The shop, Sweet, is Harvard Square’s premier cupcakery. Well, seeing as I had just published a post on Kickass, it seemed prudent to try out Sweet’s cupcakes. I sacrifice so much for this flog!

Since they were thirty minutes from closing, many flavors were depleted. Their Red Velvet cupcake sold out four hours before my arrival, making it the most coveted cake on their menu. All the flavors appealed to me in some way. Some basic flavors included Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Carrot (spelled Karat), and Boston Crème Pie. They also have a fall selection, which just this week replaced the summer offerings. These fall flavors seemed a bit more exciting, at least to me. Apple Pie, Chocolate Orange, Molasses Ginger, S’Mores, Pumpkin Pie, and Salted Chocolate to name a few. After much deliberation, I decided to get the Molasses Ginger, which consisted of a molasses cake and a fresh ginger buttercream, sprinkled with what looked like raw sugar.
Perfect amount of frosting
The cost for one cupcake totaled to $3.25. Now, this is a little high. After all, they were average-sized cupcakes, not Crumbs-sized monstrosities. Was I paying for ambiance? The pink and fancy décor was more saccharine than sweet, and the large LCD TV on the wall clashed spectacularly with it all. I did greatly appreciate the spacious seating provided, a rarity at places like this. And given the location, all that space is certainly coming at a cost.

Frosting applied "DQ Style"

Frosting applied "DQ Style"

The molasses cake was quite dense; I thought that it could’ve been just a little lighter and moister. The strong molasses flavor stood out well. So often we limit molasses to cookies, so it was refreshing to get that flavor in something else. The ginger buttercream wasn’t particularly fluffy, but the flavor was fantastic. The ginger went well with the molasses, and the ratio of frosting to cake was perfect. I hate having to ration frosting as I eat a cupcake. This isn’t WWII, rationing is a thing of the past.

Cupcakes, like steaks, should be eaten with utensils

Cupcakes, like steaks, should be eaten with utensils

Now the question you’re all wondering: How did it compare to Kickass? Well, the 50 cent differential is worth acknowledging. After all, if you go with a couple other people, that amount starts to add up. Granted, Sweet has a better seating area and a bigger selection. I dunno how consistent their flavors are, I need to conduct some more “research.” If I find myself craving a cupcake, I’ll end up going to Kickass, since it’s closer. If I’m in Harvard, I’ll get one at Sweet.

mmmm... mmm... closer

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Kickass Cupcakes: Happy Hour

October 2, 2009

Cupcakes

Virtually every situation in life can be described in culinary terms. Some of these have become famous, such as “easy as pie,” “life is your oyster,” “I’m in a real pickle,” or “icing on the cake.” I try to sprinkle food-references into my day-to-day life whenever possible.

For example, my visit to Lyndell’s Bakery on Sunday reminds me of the sharp contrast between the two halves of the black and white cookies they serve. I’m split in my assessment of Lyndell’s baked goods. On the one hand, they have what I think to be the most amazing Black and White cookie with the fresh, fluffy cake topped with a generous layer of creamy buttercream frosting. On the other hand, I had a comparatively uninspired cupcake—dry cake with a ho-hum chocolate flavor. Yes, my cupcake was dirt cheap ($1.25), but the cupcake itself just didn’t do it for me.

It was inexpensive and decent in taste, but I needed something a little more.

It was inexpensive and decent in taste, but I needed something a little more.

Just a tad on the dry side

Just a tad on the dry side

Well, my need for a great cupcake led me once again to Kickass Cupcakes. At $2.75 a pop, the cupcakes are more than twice the cost of Lyndell’s; however, the unique flavorings at Kickass really kick Lyndell’s “vanilla-or-chocolate” ass. Sorry, that was pretty lame. I’ll keep the puns to a minimum. My two favorite flavors: The Mojito, a rum-soaked cake with lime mint frosting, and the Green Monster, a Chocolate cupcake with a chocolate beer ganache center and a stout frosting. I don’t often go due to the prices, but it’s a great little treat.
Kind of picked over by 6:45
Kickass Cupcakes holds a cupcake “Happy Hour” from 5-7pm on the last Monday of every month. These two hours of pure happiness consist of free cocktail-inspired mini-cupcakes. This month, the three freebies Kickass gave away were Chocolate Brandy, Banana Daiquiri, and a Caramel Appletini. You were allowed one of each flavor.
P8010690
My favorite was without a doubt the Chocolate Brandy. This had a chocolate cream filling that was just delicious. I’d like to take this time to just say how nice fillings are. Don’t get me wrong—I love regular cakes, but biting into that buried treasure really does it for me.
Banana Daiquiri
If you’ve had banana bread or banana muffin, you’ve tasted the Banana daiquiri cake. The frosting was some kind of cream cheese frosting. It would make a great breakfast cupcake, if there is such a thing.
Too sugary
The Caramel Appletini was too sugary for my liking. The apple flavor was artificial, which was a real turnoff. They garnished the cupcake with bits of green apple jolly rancher, which no doubt contributed to this saccharine artificiality. The banana one tasted like banana baked goods should, which made this even more of a disappointment.

I think I’m gonna go give Lyndell’s cupcakes another chance. Perhaps this Saturday. Until then, I’ve got these photos to keep me going…

So good, so chocolately


Upside Down Cake

August 26, 2009

Cake

When you go to the grocery store, you should never, I repeat NEVER, buy fruit unless you know exactly what you’re going to do with them. If you plan on eating fruit raw, it’s better to err on the side of caution, purchasing the bare minimum. For instance, my mom purchased some pears on a whim. Bad decision. They sat untouched in the fruit bowl for three or four days, before being evicted to the fruit compartment of the refrigerator to retard the ripening process.

I felt guilty neglecting these perfectly acceptable Bartlett pears, but the honest-to-blog truth of it is that I’m just not really a pear guy. I suppose it’s a decent enough fruit, but I’d much rather be biting into a crisp apple (ideally schmeered with a little bit of peanut butter or honey). Granted, my mom never really buys anything other than the basic Bartlett. Word on the street is that some of the other varieties, such as Bosc and Comice, are more flavorful.

Anyhoo, I had three ripening pears, and no real desire to eat them. So I decided I would use them in one of the world’s most adaptable fruit desserts—Upside down Cake! This cake is one of the best ways to use up fruit. While I personally enjoy it best with blueberries (in all honesty—I hadn’t made the cake with anything else until this point), I was ready to give the pears a shot.

This upside down cake is a pretty easy recipe, creating a wonderfully fluffy cake. I enjoy serving it with a nice Crème Anglaise or ice cream, but it could easily stand on its own. A lot of cakes (or at least their frostings) are far too sugary, but this one could easily be served at a breakfast or brunch.

Paint This, Cezzane!

Paint This, Cezzane!

Since I was dealing with pears, I decided to alter the recipe just a hair. Instead of granulated sugar, I coated the pears with brown sugar (light or dark) and a sprinkle of cinnamon (maybe a quarter teaspoon). This little change helped boost the fruit in the flavor department. In the end, the cake turned out alright. The pears were good, but next time I’ll probably try sautéing the pear slices to intensify their flavor. But on the whole, I’d say that these pears went down with some real style.

Cake
RECIPE FOR UPSIDE DOWN CAKE (serves eight)
Ingredients
1 Cup of granulated sugar
½ cup of butter
2 eggs
½ lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
Salt to taste
1 cup of Milk (2% used)
Fruit of your choice (if larger fruit, cut into small slices)

Making the Cake

-Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (5 minutes)"You spin me right round"
-Add zest, vanilla, and eggs. Mix for approx. 5 minutes

-Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl until blended, then add them to the batter, alternating with the cup of milk (finishing with flour mixture)

Putting it together
-Preheat oven to 350
-Melt down ½ stick of butter to liquid and place it in a 9-inch pan, using your finger to spread it over the bottom and the along the sides
-densely pack bottom with fruit of your choice, then drizzle sugar on top of the layer of fruit
-Fill pan with batter
-Sprinkle top of cake with granulated sugar and the smallest pinch of lemon zest
-Bake in oven until the toothpick comes out clean (approximately 35 minutes)