Columbus Day Cupcakery

October 11, 2009

HONK! FESTIVAL AND OKTOBERFEST
KICKASS CUPCAKES, THE UPPER CRUST, SWEET CUPCAKES

Molasses Ginger and Chocolate Orange

Ah, Columbus Day weekend! It makes for a nice little rest stop after a month of school and makes the cold, inexorable trudge toward Thanksgiving a little more bearable. The various towns held festivals to celebrate the holiday. Davis Square played host to the Honk! Festival on Saturday night, while Harvard Square held Oktoberfest. Why am I writing about this? Because it proved to be a rather eventful culinary expedition! So read onward, brave reader, and see what’s in store for ye! (That was my generic pirate voice, just FYI).

How many times have you seen a random street performer and wondered, “Gee, that guitarist/trombonist/accordionist is mildly good.” Well, Davis Square’s Honk! Festival brings all of those lone performers together. Each parking lot and open plaza becomes a makeshift stage for these sketchy musicians and a dance floor for the even sketchier audience. Now, I use the term “musician” rather lightly, and I mean “music” in the loosest sense of the word. Honk! logo courtesy of http://honkfest.org/
Remember the end of “Easy Rider,” when Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda finally make it to Marti Gras but drop some really bad acid? That’s kind of like what it was like walking about the insanely crowded streets of Davis that night. We walked about, aurally and visually taking in the bizarre setting. The dissonance created by this amalgamation of eccentric street performers gave Davis Square a sort of symphonic schizophrenia.

Spongebob Oily-Pants

Spongebob Oily-Pants

A sense of claustrophobia began to overwhelm us, so my friends and I sought shelter in Kickass Cupcakes. My friend Rob and I both ordered deep fried cupcakes, but just like the acid in “Rider,” the cupcakes proved to be a frightening endeavor. The dish starts with a plain vanilla cupcake, dipped in batter and then deep-fried. It is served in a paper cup along with some chocolate syrup and some whipped cream. This sounds good on paper, but wasn’t. The cake was bland and the syrup tasted cheap and artifical, like Hershey’s. This was such a disappointment given the sophisticated flavors they normally offer. I mean, Kickass offers rum soaked cakes and raspberry champagne fillings! The worst part: the cupcake was fried poorly, so it was literally sopping with oil. I expected a little crispiness to the edges, but no. It was like eating a sponge. Moral to the story: never order a fried cupcake from Kickass. And, Kickass, do us all a favor and retire the fryer. Brattle Street minus cars + copious amount of tourists

Today was Oktoberfest in Harvard Square. I’ve never seen Harvard Square so crowded! It was super-intense. While some people go for the parade, I went for the food. I was craving one of those quintessential Italian sausages, but my cohorts and I ended up getting some pizza. The Upper Crust had pizza by the slice, so we stopped by their kiosk. They had set up two industrial-size ovens, which birthed pizzas of four different varieties—Cheese, Chicken Pesto, Peppers and Mushroom, and Pepperoni. I got a slice of the Pesto Chicken and left impressed. The thick sauce was chunky from all the tomatoes. Like any true St. Louisan, I firmly believe that the thinner the crust, the better the pizza. Crust’s crust delivered, serving a pizza with a crisp thin crust that allowed the sauce and toppings to shine. After checking out their website (which enumerates their toppings, from ricotta to scallops), I’m quite sure that my search for the perfect pizza is over.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie... Pesto Chicken from Upper Crust

The traumatizing experience I had at Kickass on Saturday left me determined to revitalize my love for cupcakes. So to Sweet we went! Alas, they were once again out of that ever-elusive red velvet cupcake. I settled for a Molasses Ginger and a Chocolate Orange. You already know how great the Molasses Ginger is, but the Orange was new. I made some Orangettes over the summer, so I’m pretty familiar with the chocolate/citrus combination. The cake was a nice dark chocolate. Whether intended or not, there were tiny bits of chocolate in the cake, almost like chocolate chips, that I really enjoyed. The vanilla bean buttercream infused with “fresh sweet citrus flavor” was tasty, but wasn’t citrusy enough for my liking. If I wanted a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, I’d have ordered that. But I wanted the Chocolate ORANGE cupcake! A Gran Marnier buttercream might’ve been nicer. The cake was topped with one of those candy orange slices. While it looked kind of nice, I thought it really cheapened the cupcake. I mean, I buy those fruit slices at Walgreens. It totally goes against the “Madagascan-Vanilla-Bean-Buttercream-infused-with-citrus” vibe that the rest of the cupcake gives off. I’m not a snoot, but if you’re going for sophistication, then please be consistent. Maybe some candied orange zest

Molasses Ginger and Chocolate Orange
On the whole, a pretty intense weekend. But I still have one day left! The blog has slowly veered into restaurant territory, but I promise to actually make something in the next post.

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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


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