Just when you thought our city could not take another cupcake shop, along comes Butter Lane to prove us wrong. What this city lacks is not simply cupcakes, but rather quality cupcakes. There's no need to delve into the abundance of horrible cupcakes that flood Manhattan. If you've been wise enough to keep tabs, you'll know which to patronize and which to avoid.
Butter Lane thankfully falls into the "patronize" category.
This three-day old bakery in the East Village distinguishes itself from the likes of Billy's Bakery, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and Magnolia Bakery for these main factors:
1. Only cupcakes. Nothing else.
If a store can survive selling one type of product, that alone should speak volumes about the product. I'm not a big cupcake fan—sometimes I downright despise them—but Butter Lane is doing quality work for its first week of business. I happily ate my way through the vanilla, chocolate, and banana cupcakes. Unfortunately, by the time I visited they had run out of some of their special frosting flavors—key lime, coconut, and pumpkin—but the ones I got to try were great. Buttercream frostings finish cleanly on the tongue, and they deserve much credit for bringing a good name to fruit frostings; think along the lines of raspberry and blueberry. See below for more frosting details.
2. A focus on 'pure' ingredients, such as local dairy products and vanilla beans.
The use of quality ingredients is evident after taking your first bite. The vanilla cupcake won me over with a butter-rich, but not heavy crumb that was moist in all the right ways. The surface of the vanilla is slightly crunchy, which put a smile on my face—I love it when you get that crisp top, a welcome and unexpected textural contrast between the cupcake base and frosting. The chocolate bears a finer, delicate crumb, and while "light" and "feathery" are overused terms, they certainly apply in this instance. My friend Jessica was satisfied with her banana cupcake, which she remarked was intensely banana-y and true to flavor.
3. Two types of buttercreams: French and American.
Cupcakes from most American bakeries come with American frosting. The owners were kind enough to explain the difference between the two types of frosting and have us taste them side by side. The photo on the left is that of the French buttercream, which I personally enjoyed more than the American version. The American take is sweeter, a basic concoction of confectioner's sugar and butter, whereas the French is more smooth and light, a nearly silky meringue made from whipping egg whites with melted sugar. On this matter, I say, to each his or her own. It's worth getting two cupcakes—one of each version—to taste side by side. After all, eating should always be a learning experience.
These cupcakes are one step up the fancy scale from most American bakeries, but on a different plane from the dainty numbers à la ChikaLicious Dessert Club. It hits a solid in-between ground—that ground where you want full-on satisfaction of a classic cupcake, but without the cloying sweetness oft encounter at comparable cupcakeries.