The Best Cupcakes in New York City

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: The Best Cupcakes in New York City

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

We know, we know—it's been years since cupcakes first hit New York. And Serious Eats hasn't been the sort of blog to breathlessly cover every new cupcakery in the city. But at some point we realized that when asked where to find the best cupcakes in New York City, we didn't have an answer. And that just wouldn't do.

So I took the initiative to track down New York's best. But to be honest, I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into. And I soon found myself in charge of arguably the most epic cupcake taste test ever attempted.

The Criteria

So what were we looking for, exactly? Well, a good cupcake, in our minds, has to first and foremost have a great texture—this means a moist cake base with a tender crumb that doesn't get too sticky in the mouth. And the frosting must be smooth and fluffy, but not overly buttery, grainy, or airy. As for the flavor, neither base nor frosting should be too sweet, lest they earn the unfortunate designation of "Sugar Bomb." And the cupcake needs to taste like it reads—if a cupcake's called Devil's Food, then it better be mighty chocolatey. These, and other factors, were at the forefront of our mind during the final tasting.

Almost fifty bakeries, after the jump.

The First Round

Of course, if we were going to do this thing, we were going to do it right. And that meant tasting at least one cupcake from every reputable producer we could find. For our first cupcake go-through, we asked trusted sources, scoured Talk threads, did ample Googling, and even picked up a few cupcakes that we just happened to run into in our daily routines. Overall, we tried 60 cupcakes from 47 bakeries over the course of a few weeks. Here's the full list of bakeries we tried, in no particular order*:

Crumbs
Magnolia Café
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Buttercup Bake Shop
Billy's Bakery
Babycakes (vegan)
Tonnie's Minis
Butter Lane Cupcakes
Cupcake Café
Sweet Revenge
Baked NYC
Two Little Red Hens
One Girl Cookies
Dessert Club, Chikalicious
Baked by Melissa
Burgers & Cupcakes
Tribeca Treats
Cocoa V (vegan)
Tully's Gluten-Free Bakery
Kyotofu
Amy's Bread
Spot
Trois Pommes
Village Tart
Duane Park Patisserie
Sarabeth's
Oro Bakery
Citarella
Cupcake Stop
Street Sweets
Kumquat Cupcakery
Robecelli's
Pinisi
Once Upon a Tart
Eleni's
Ruthy's Bakery
Alice's Tea Cup
Soutine
Whole Foods
B Café
Sweet Melissa
Make My Cake
Big Booty Bread Co.
Ciao for Now
Blue Dog Café
tbsp

*In case you were wondering, I kept a pretty sweet Excel spreadsheet of all the bakeries, flavors tried, cost per cupcake, and tasting notes. Nerdy? Perhaps. Deliciously informative? Certainly.

From this daunting number of snack-sized cakes, we had to narrow down the options. So we chose our top 12 bakeries, whose cupcakes best represented the high quality we were looking for. Here's the list:

Buttercup Bake Shop
Sweet Revenge
Robicelli's
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Tribeca Treats
Tonnie's Minis
Amy's Bread
Kumquat Cupcakery
Spot
Chickalicious Dessert Bar
Two Little Red Hens
Baked

Check out our thoughts on the Top 12 »

The Categories

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For our final taste test, we chose four flavors from each of the top 12 bakeries—one vanilla with vanilla frosting and one chocolate with chocolate frosting (if available), and then two recommended or particularly interesting specialty flavors from the rest of the bakery's selection. Then, six or seven "lucky" tasters gathered around the conference table, before a seemingly vast ocean of sugar and negative health consequences, to determine the best of these 48 cupcakes.

For every bakery, the tasters rated each cupcake on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being repulsive; 10 being revelatory); at the end, we all selected our favorite chocolate cupcake, vanilla cupcake, red velvet cupcake, individual cupcake, and overall bakery. While there was some serious debate in the office post-tasting, inflamed by intense sugar highs, we did come to something of a consensus.

Best Cupcake Shop

This category was a seriously close call. Our top three bakeries received high praise for all their cupcake offerings, leaving the final decision almost a toss-up. But Baked stood out among all the contenders for their consistently moist cake, good cake-to-frosting ratio, and interesting flavors that highlighted the title ingredient.

The lemon drop cupcake was one of the overall favorites of the tasting, with bright flavors that reminded us of summer citrus and not jarred lemon curd. The vanilla cupcake was a big pick for best of its category; it "tasted like vanilla," rather than just a neutral flavor, and had a light, fluffy texture. Though its somewhat inconvenient location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, makes these cupcakes tough to reach for some, the tasty treats at the end of your long trek will be well worth the effort. I promise.

Check out the bakery-by-bakery breakdown, our favorite chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet cupcakes, and our favorite cupcakes in New York City »

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The end.

More "Best Of"-s!

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