Are all cupcake shops created equal?
Caryn Kindkeppel, Clarion Staff Writer
December 7, 2011
Filed under Arts & Culture
The cupcake craze isn’t dead. In fact, it’s downright trendy to pick up a personal-sized, miniature cake that one can eat on the go. Perhaps it’s because they’re perfect for large groups, since a variety of flavors are sure to make everyone happy. Or maybe it’s because they’re an indulgence small enough not to feel too guilty about eating – though if one isn’t enough, then another can be had in a different flavor!
Madison has four cupcakeries that are dedicated to the specialty confections, all within 10 miles of one another: Gigi’s Cupcakes at 554 N. Midvale Blvd. (next to Hilldale Mall), Cupcakes-A-Go-Go at 6642 Mineral Point Rd. (just east of S. Gammon road), Madison Sweets at 511 State St. (just west of W. Gilman street) and Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery at 2827 Atwood Ave. (just west of S. Fair Oaks avenue).
Are one shop’s cupcakes really better than another’s, and what are the differences between them? To compare them, the gold standard of cupcakes must be defined. The texture should be moist and tender, with enough structure to be eaten out-of-hand without disintegrating into crumbs when the wrapper is removed. However, it is not to be dense and leaden.
The flavor should be fresh and true to what it’s supposed to be. The chocolate cake should taste chocolately, and cream cheese frosting should taste cream-cheesy. The cake shouldn’t be too oily, and the frosting shouldn’t be sickeningly sweet. Eating one cupcake should leave a person satisfied, not wanting for more nor invoking a feeling of illness.
When eaten on their own, all cupcakes generally taste good. However, when taste-testing them all side- by-side on a given day, one can see that the differences are striking.
Gigi’s Cupcakes is a chain, with 36 store locations across the United States. Inside, there are a vast array of cupcakes in dozens of varieties. The cakes them- selves are huge, topped with towering cones of frosting decorated to the nines.
However, the cake has a “box-cake” quality, an arti- ficial flavor undertone and a too-perfect velvety texture. The abundance of frosting is so sweet, it makes one’s teeth ache, and candies and embellishments seem to be an attempt to compensate for the lack of honest-to- goodness flavor.
Cupcakes-A-Go-Go opened in early November on the West side, although the owners have been making cupcakes for weddings and other events for the past two years. Their cupcakes are the polar opposite of Gigi’s, somewhat small, with understated aesthetics.
Yet what they lack in stature is clearly made up for in the bold, delicious fresh taste and texture. The shop doesn’t sell much else (coffee, tea, and a few other baked goods,) but they obviously have a focus on their scrumptious cupcakes. Madison Sweets on State street will provide the fix for those with a sweet craving when downtown.
The price of these sweets is somewhat lower, $2 versus the usual $3 per cupcake at the other shops. The cupcake varieties are a bit more limited and the cake texture is a bit dry, but overall the flavors are quite good. The store itself doesn’t have any seating, and has nothing fancy to invite customers to make themselves feel at home. However, it’s the perfect place to pop in for dessert after a meal on State street.
Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery is a cute little restaurant establishment on Atwood avenue, and despite limited parking is worth a trip to enjoy the cozy atmosphere. The cupcakes themselves are a delight, with various fun creations to tempt everyone. There is also plenty of seating to enjoy both the cupcakes and possibly something else off the cafe menu. The freshness of the cupcakes and simple-yet-appetizing decorations are just right. This is where one can imagine oneself relax- ing with friends over a cup of coffee and a cupcake (or two.)
Overall, it’s possible that the differences may not be noticeable to a non-epicurean, but for a true cupcake lover, the differences are worth giving due notice. For intense flavor, Cupcakes-A-Go-Go is worth a shot. For a longer cupcake adventure paired with a meal and socializing, Daisy Cafe is the pick. For those on the go on State Street, Madison Sweets is worth a stop. For people who want to leave with a big impression, Gigi’s is the place to be.
Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun: Noon-5 p.m.
Mon-Fri: 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat: 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Mon-Thurs: Noon-8 p.m., Fri: Noon-10 p.m., Sat: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun: 11 a.m.-8 a.m.
DAISY CAFE & CUPCAKERY
Breakfast & Lunch: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily;
Dinner: 5-9 p.m. Tues-Sat;
Cupcakes and Espresso: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily