I know that we’re slightly on the down-slope of the crazy cupcake craze that spurred on dozens of boutique cupcake shops in New York City and around the country, never mind TV shows, competitions, endless cupcake cookbooks…but maybe we should still hold onto that trend a little longer 😉 At least for today, National Chocolate Cupcake Day! Who can resist a chocolate cupcake? The little, single-serving cakes became hugely popular in the past decade, thanks to such bakery pioneers as Magnolia Bakery (which became a tourist must-see thanks to Sex and the City), but cupcakes have been around since at least 1796, when the first recorded recipe for cakes baked to be the size of small cups was published. They’ve since been children’s party favorites, the small size and the ability to personalize each cake’s decoration going over well for the younger set. But these days, everyone loves getting in on their own personal combination of cake and frosting: gourmet shops pride themselves on making unique flavors of both cake and frosting, and mixing flavor combinations that go over famously in other culinary fields. If peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are so popular, then why not a peanut butter-based cupcake with blackberry frosting? The possibilities are endless!
And when it comes to chocolate combinations for National Chocolate Cupcake Day, they’re even better than endless: they’re wacky and weird and still amazingly delicious. If your chocolate cupcake is rich and less sweetened, like a bitter dark chocolate brownie, adding sweeter ingredients highlights the depth of flavor and brings a sweet nostalgia to the cupcake: marshmallows, peanut butter, or hell, even more chocolate all blend perfectly to give you a nice sweet flavor without going overboard on the sugar rush. But a sweeter, milkier chocolate cupcake means you can play with other, tarter flavors to create a complex flavor profile throughout the cupcake experience. Tart fruits and berries, salty caramel, even coffee and tea infusions can make for a much more interesting cupcake than plain old chocolate.
Which is exactly what the Spot Dessert Bar on St. Mark’s Place is doing with their fabulous cupcakes. Using international-inspired flavor combinations, they have some unique cupcake combos like “Berry Berry Chocolate,” which mixes chocolate with raspberry; and smoked coconut cheesecake, which includes white chocolate shavings atop a cheesecake-y cupcake filled with young coconut shavings. But the most popular chocolate cupcake concoction at Spot is the green tea chocolate lava cake, made with chocolate ganache and green tea ice cream. It’s the perfect mix of the mellow green tea flavor with super-rich chocolate ganache. And while it doesn’t look like a typical chocolate cupcake, the single-serving lava cake says it all–because you definitely won’t be sharing this with anybody else! The flavors typically vary by season at Spot, but the green tea lava cake is always available on the menu–order it with their homemade berry berry soda. Delish!
Spot Dessert Bar
13 St Marks Pl (between 3rd Ave & Astor Pl)
“The berry berry chocolate “tastes more like raspberry than a raspberry,” and kept up the “moist cake” standard. The chocolate green tea was definitely polarizing, but if you are a fan of matcha you will agree that this is a “perfect balance of flavor,” with “moist and chocolatey” cake.”–Serious Eats
“Chocolate Green Tea Truffle Cake: If you go to Spot NYC, be sure to try the Chocolate Green Tea Truffle Cake. This delectable treat features condensed milk, chantilly, blackberry, and green tea ice cream.”–NYC Tourist
“Similarly, the Chocolate green tea lava is a chocolate ganach cake served with green tea ice cream. Other items include the Kabacha Brulee Cake with oranges, ice cream, and jasmine flower wafers; or the smoked Oreo cheesecake with coconut oil, Oreo crumbs, and white chocolate shavings. Simpler, but just as tasty, treats include cupcakes, cookies, and macarons. Cupcakes are available in Berry Berry, Green Tea, Vietnamese Coffee, Tahitian Coconut, Apple Crumble, and Banana & White Chocolate flavors.”–Examiner
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Chocolate Green Tea Lava- One of their really famous desserts and I finally known why. It was so delicious, that probably why we ordered two. It was too bad it came last and we were so full we didnt finish it. It is so cool how the “lava” which is green tea comes out of the brownie. The chocolate brownie mixed with the green tea tava and a little bit of green tea ice cream is like heaven! I couldnt stop eating it, until I was really done because I was just too stuffed.”–Leila Y.
“Berry Berry Chocolate? Berry Berry Yes! I LOVED this cupcake. I was a little apprehensive at first – I didn’t check the Yelp reviews beforehand. But I was brave: I dipped my finger into the frosting, “hmmm, not that much sugar, light and fluffy but still creamy, real berries in the frosting too” (quotes indicate thought bubble). I went for another dip and another. Then I braced myself and went straight for the cake, a tear streamed down my chocolate-covered face – sweet, moist cake covered a gooey, berry center. Could life get better? Decidingly not.”–Stacy T.
But if you’re a foodie purist who loves their chocolate cupcakes to taste like chocolate and nothing else, Spot Dessert Bar won’t be the place to get you out of your seat. Instead, make your way to Red Hook for Baked, the new bakery darling of such culinary heavyweights as The Food Network, Martha Stewart Living, America’s Test Kitchen, and Food & Wine Magazine. Focusing on a mission to make the best American-style baked goods and sweets, Baked’s specialty is brownies, which they definitely carry over into their rich, moist dark chocolate cupcakes. Their most popular chocolate cupcake is called “Sweet and Salty,” and the cake is topped with sea salt, giving that extra oomph to the sweetness of the chocolate that you won’t find in many traditional bakeries. If you want to go fully into chocolate mode, their spicy hot chocolate drink can’t be beat. Get some today!
359 Van Brunt St (between Dikeman St & Sullivan St), Red Hook
“If you’re willing to make the trek to Red Hook, this Food Network-featured bakery will make sure that you’ll get your just desserts: try the sweet’n’salty cupcake to see what we mean. Homemade caramel and dark chocolate can’t be beat. Try out their seasonal specials too.”–CBS New York
“This Red Hook bakery makes some of the best goodies around, and their cupcakes delivered. The lemon drop 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 was a big pick for best of its category, in that it really “tasted like vanilla” and had a light, fluffy texture. The chocolate got solid marks for “excellent flavor,” despite being more cake-y than fudge-y. And the sweet and salty, a truly brilliant creation of a chocolate cupcake generously sprinkled with sea salt, made our tasters scream “wonderful”; “fluffy cake and frosting!”; and “wooooo, salty!” What more can you ask for?”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Today I sampled their red velvet cupcake (loved the cinnamon in the frosting topped with a red hot candy), their chocolate cloud cookie (a whole lotta chocolate in one bite – chocoholics, attack!) and their salty & sweet cupcake. It was the S&S cupcake that put Baked on the map for me. I’ve had a thing for sea salted caramel lately and this definately fulfills the craving. Between the rich salt, chocolate whipped cream, oozzy caramel-o filling and light spongy chocolate cake – it is a complex treat for the tastebuds. One I would highly recommend.”–Kate L.
“Their Sweet n Salty cupcake is the best. Their icing is great – yes you can find salted chocolate icing at other places – but you’re forgetting the most important part. THE CAKE! Their cake is actually delicious! So many cupcake places focus on crazy flavors or piles of icing but neglect the actual cake. I have had so many dry cupcakes, or kinda-dry, or just-a-little-bit-dry cupcakes, where that oversight actually ruins the cupcake. Not here. If a cupcake would be worth getting even sans icing, then it’s a good cupcake. I still love SSS and Butter Lane but if I lived closer to Baked, I wouldn’t need other cupcakes.”–Sarah K.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!