I think you may have had to been living under a rock for the past five years if you haven’t noticed that cupcakes have become a thing. At first, traditional bakeries and pastry shops started catering to the fast-paced New York customer by making more cupcakes, which conveyed all the deliciousness of a cake in a handy, portable package. But then bakeries that exclusively sold cupcakes–and in interesting flavor and frosting combinations–started popping up, in a big way. Now you can’t throw a Manolo Blahnik in Manhattan without hitting a cupcake bakery! Not that I mind: there are some amazing cupcake combos that just make my mouth water. It’s just more difficult separating the cups from the cakes and finding the best bakeries in New York City. But that also means there’s more variety to go around–and that you need to eat a lot of cupcakes to find the right one!
Here at National Food Days in New York City we’ve highlighted quite a few cupcakes in our day–both for national cupcake holidays and for cupcake flavors that are just out of this world. There’s been National Chocolate Cupcake Day, the companion to today’s National Vanilla Cupcake Day. And in addition, I’ve recommended such outrageous (and outrageously yummy) cupcake flavors as angel food cake, raspberries and cream, pistachio, sticky toffee, blueberry cheesecake, and a favorite childhood combination, peanut butter and jelly. So many great cupcakes to choose from!
But today, we’re focusing on the purest, cleanest flavor of them all: vanilla. You may think vanilla means bland, but it really doesn’t! Vanilla gets a bad reputation, yo. I love the sugary-sweetness of vanilla cupcakes with frosting, the lightness of the fluffy cake and the feeling that you can almost taste the sugar crystals in each bite. And a real vanilla bean cupcake tastes so much better than anything with just vanilla extract or artificial flavoring: the fresh bite a ground vanilla bean can add to a cupcake’s frosting is something a million pounds of dark chocolate can’t replicate. You can find all that in Sweet Revenge’s vanilla cupcake. Although Sweet Revenge is known for their sinfully rich cupcake combinations (and being the only cupcake-and-wine bakery in the city!), there is really something to be said of someone’s expertise in the kitchen when their vanilla cupcake is so outstanding. Called “Pure” on the menu, it’s a moist yet fluffy vanilla cupcake with sculpted vanilla buttercream frosting, sprinkled with sugar crystals and packed with flavor. Have it with their recommended wine pairing, a Principato Pinot Noir from Italy. Nothing complements a vanilla white cupcake like a good white wine
62 Carmine St (between Bedford St & Bleecker St)
“Now, you may be wondering why Sweet Revenge’s vanilla cupcakes beat out all of the other great contenders…according to our judges, the cupcake was VERY moist (4.5/5) and was also bursting with great vanilla flavor (another 4.5/5). Also, the judges believed that that Sweet Revenge had “very cool sculpted frosting, nice butcher paper type wrapping and crystal sugar on top of frosting = yum.” There was also a good amount of sweetness (it wasn’t too sweet for any of the judges).”–Grace Notes NYC
“The icing is ultra sweet, super sugary, but very vanilla flavored, which I like. The cake is not too sweet, it’s rather bland. The frosting and cake together are very sweet. The frosting is very thick, and the granulated sugar crystals add a little crunch. The cake is very dense, but also moist. Overall, this is a very heavy cupcake– this is definitely something that will fill you up quickly.”–Cupcake Rankings
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The place was quaint and the ladies behind the counter seemed like a good time and were very helpful. We were kinda boring and only had a vanilla cupcake but it was super moist! (yes the cupcake…not me…okay maybe me too a little… he’s hot! Nothing more that I love than a man who likes his sweets.) where was I? oh.. The cupcake was great! We shared it, it was awesome and my first impression of Sweet Revenge albeit short was very delightful!”–Michael M.
“Best concept in the world! I’m am TRUELY A FAN!! I had a Quak beer? paired with a Mexican vanilla cupcake. OMG….HOLY ISH…..DIOS MIO……HAY CARAMBA….How did they come up with this?!!! It’s addictive, it’s amazing, it’s God’s forbidden food (cupcake) served with a side of his divine urine(beer) or blood(wine). They pairings are amazing.”–Iz V.
One of the most consistently voted best cupcakes in New York City also happens to be one of the quirkiest. Would you ever imagine that one of the best cupcakes would also be gluten free? Believe it! Everyone’s heard of Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery in New York, even if you haven’t sworn off the gluten. Tu-Lu’s baked goods, especially their cupcakes, never leave you wishing for the “regular” stuff–they’re light and fluffy, not dense, and most of all they taste nothing like the cardboard you expect from dietary foods. The best bet for cupcakes here is their gluten-free vanilla cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting. Tu-Lu’s also offers vegan gluten-free products, but they don’t score nearly as high on the critics’ lists as their dairy-full counterparts. Because really, how can you pass up rich vanilla cream cheese frosting?
Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery
338 E 11th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
“Have the gluten-free blues? No worries – gone are the days of dealing with too-dense cakes for want of a wheat-free treat. Tu-Lu’s got the goods. Go for the classic here – vanilla cake and vanilla icing. You won’t be sorry.”–CBS New York
“The winner of the TuLu’s cupcake challenge was the classic vanilla with vanilla cream-cheese frosting (with dairy, obviously). Because of the eggs, the structure was solid and it didn’t crumble as the vegan options had. While the amount of vanilla in the cake was questioned (some wanted a stronger flavor), the moistness of the cake balanced with a rich but light frosting forgave the tiny bit of graininess that was only noticeable because the group knew of the gluten-free contents.”–The Dusty Baker
“Time for dessert. Tu-Lu’s made our Best Cupcake list on the quality of its wares alone. It’s a bonus that they’re gluten-free. Tully Lewis attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas, before making her way up to NYC to continue her studies at NYU. Good thing for us it’s not all academic for her. Her chocolate chip cookies get rave reviews, and of course, we love the vanilla/vanilla cupcake.”–CBS New York
“Holy cow. This cupcake was dense and delicious. It reminded me of banana bread with vanilla frosting that complemented the cake so perfectly it made me never want to see the other end of the wrapper. Each bite just got better and better until it was gone.”–Asian In New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Bought the mini-cupcake sampler here before going to Babycakes, which might explain why Babycakes seemed utterly disappointing. The gluten-free cupcakes here actually taste the way that cupcakes are supposed to taste – light and fluffy, not like muffins! My favorite was the vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting but they were all pretty decent.”–Janna S.
“I went on a Saturday afternoon and it wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be. I went absolutely hog wild and ordered several items for myself– the jalapeno white cheddar corn muffin, german chocolate cupcake, vanilla cupcake, gingersnap cookie, dark chocolate brownie, and a chocolate chip cookie. I would’ve ordered a few more things but I stopped myself when I realized how many items I already got, lol. Always next time, right? My boyfriend got the rocky road bar which tasted like a snickers bar.. yum!”–Marielle M.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!