It looks like December doesn’t fail to pull out all the sweet stops! We’ve already had holiday behemoths like National Pie Day, National Cookie Day, and National Pastry Day this year, and here comes another hum-dinger: National Cupcake Day! It’s tough to resist the cupcake: a single-serving cake, with flavored cake and frosting combinations made especially for you. It’s also tough to resist them because you can’t swing a piping bag in New York City without hitting a specialized cupcake bakery! We’ve definitely hit critical mass on the cupcake craze, with brick and mortar storefronts and food trucks popping up all the time, sporting the newest and wildest combinations for cupcake flavors you will ever see. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty ready to jump onto the next pastry fad…just as soon as National Cupcake Day is over! 😛
If you’ve been paying attention to the blog throughout the year, you’ve noticed that there have been quite a few cupcakes highlighted for national food holidays, both by the nature of the day (like National Chocolate Cupcake Day…can’t much escape that) and my own suggestions for a different spin on another day (peanut butter and jelly cupcakes? yes please!) And in doing so, I’ve spotlighted quite a few of the best and most popular cupcake bakeries in New York City. Here’s a quick list in case you missed them:
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery’s pistachio cupcake
Butter Lane’s Elvis cupcake
Little Cupcake Bakeshop’s peanut butter and jelly cupcake
Molly’s Cupcake’s blueberry cheesecake cupcake
Little Cupcake Bakeshop’s rocky road cupcake
Sweet Revenge’s Crimson and Cream cupcake
Tu-Lu’s gluten-free vanilla cupcake
Spot Dessert Bar’s green tea chocolate cupcake
Georgetown Cupcake’s PB Fudge cupcake
Yura on Madison’s angel food cupcake
That’s a lot of cupcakes! But this list doesn’t even start to list all of the cupcake bakeries that have thrived in New York in the past few years; that’s how crazy over cupcakes we’ve become, lol. Sure, you can wrestle your way through the tourist crowds at Magnolia Bakery or Crumbs and get a decent red velvet with cream cheese frosting. But with so many other diamonds in the rough scattered all over the city, it behooves you to bring your appetite to someplace new, local, and unique. (And when one of your out-of-town friends has a cupcake craving, you can take them here and say it’s “your place!”) So, let’s check out some of the coolest and most unique cupcake stops in the city!
Robicelli’s is a literal mom-and-pop business in the 21st century: husband and wife team Allison and Matt Robicelli started up Robicelli’s Cupcakes after their gourmet shop in Bay Ridge closed in the recession. Both pastry chefs with a knack for unique flavors and an urge to raise the cupcake bar, the Robicellis bake hundreds of cupcakes a week for their devoted fans–all without a brick and mortar store. They bake in friends’ industrial kitchens and sell in markets like The Brooklyneer and Battery Place Market. And boy, do they sell: with their low overhead, Robicelli’s makes a ton of delicious, cakey profit on selling their cupcakes wholesale. Even without a store, this place has all the food blogs buzzing, and they’ve seen mainstream attention with pieces in The New York Times, on The Today Show, and a cookbook coming out in 2013. And there’s no mystery to their popularity: Robicelli’s has a constant rotating stock of cupcake flavors, with over 200 to choose from. Some of the most popular selections include the Car Bomb–Guinness stout cake, Jameson whiskey ganache, and Bailey’s buttercream frosting–and the Abuelita–cinnamon cake, cajeta buttercream frosting, and ground Mexican chocolate. The Robicellis insist on seasonality and freshness, as well as (obviously) originality. You can’t call yourself a cupcake connoisseur in New York without trying at least a week’s worth of Robicelli flavors. Track down an Egg Nog or a Candy Cane cupcake today!
“In part it is about cupcakes. That’s what Allison Robicelli and her husband, Matt, create for a living, as the owners of Robicelli’s Cupcakes, where the flavors change daily and this morning include Pecan French Toast (maple custard soaked cinnamon cake, maple cinnamon buttercream, candied pecans, cinnamon sugar), Rue McClanahan (peach cake, cheesecake buttercream, peach compote), S’mores (chocolate cake, spekuloos pudding, toasted marshmallow buttercream, chocolate ganache, graham crackers) and Hazelnut Kiss (chocolate hazelnut cake, Nutella buttercream, roasted hazelnuts.)”–The New York Times
“Allison Robicelli is, together with her husband, the founder of Robicelli’s, a much-lauded Brooklyn-based cupcake business. (Fanciful flavors have included “The Bellini,” “Creamsicle,” and “Lemon Blueberry Ricotta.”) Robicelli also recently signed a book deal with Penguin imprint Viking Studio for a baking book that will include a comic book portion, among other things. The Robicelli’s real innovation, however, is the almost paradoxical feat of having created a mom-and-pop business without actually owning a traditional physical store of their own. Instead, as wholesalers, they distribute to bakeries throughout New York, and make deliveries for private orders of over two dozen cupcakes. Nor do they own their own kitchen, instead renting one from a baker whose own business faltered in the economic downturn.”–Fast Company
“”I never really bought into the cupcake craze,” says Allison, who created the line with husband Matt. “So we never really approach them like a cupcake.” Take the Iona, a pear-and-olive-oil cake topped with blue-cheese frosting, port reduction and candied walnuts: It was inspired by composed cheese plates at the fine-dining restaurants where the couple learned their trade. The Robicellis are constantly developing more flavors from their bucket list of 350 ideas (click here to see their latest offerings), but Allison is sure of one thing: “I will never make a damn red velvet cupcake.””–Tasting Table
“Brooklyn Cupcake maker (and market favorite) Robicelli’s seems to change up the flavors of cupcakes they put out every five minutes. We’ve enjoyed all of their treats from the past, but we’ll stick to our new favorite flavor since it’ll (hopefully) be the easiest to find. The Car Bomb features chocolate Guinness stout cake, with Jameson whiskey ganache and Baileys Irish Cream buttercream. It’s not as boozy as you’d think, but you still get all the flavors and a nice chocolate undertone.”–The Village Voice
“Flavors change frequently (check Robicelli’s tumblr for updates), but expect to find all the current cupcake flavors; look for them in the glass case near the registers. I stopped in last week to try the glorious Horchata cupcake with cinnamon-y pudding and buttercream. You’ll recognize them by the finish of cinnamon rice crispies. But I found myself torn between that light summery creation and the dark siren call of Abuelita (pictured above) featuring a moist Mexican chocolate cake and buttercream made with cajeta—a goat’s milk caramel and a dusting of ground Abuelita chocolate. The buttercream is melt-in-your mouth full; and these cupcakes are some of the few around that don’t seem dominated by frosting.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The more I experience cupcakes like these, the more I really start to realize how overrated Crumbs really is. Just the perfect size, not too ridiculously huge like Crumbs, but not too mind numbingly small like Baked by Melissa. The cake itself is amazingly soft and moist, while the buttercream frosting is on-point orgasmic. Just the right amount of sugary sweetness without the diabetic shock syndrome. We picked up a few of their cupcakes at Robicelli’s at Union Square Holiday Market this past week. Sweet Potato Casserole – Sweet potato cake, toasted marshmallow buttercream, turbinado sugar was terrific. I can’t remember the name of the other but it was a chocolate cake filled with raspberry type jam with a vanilla buttercream topping that was also terrific. You can tell these cupcakes are made from scratch with top notch ingredients. Definitely a must to try out if you get a chance.”–Phil H.
“Pssst, listen, I have a secret. Robicelli’s cupcakes are made of magic. And by magic, I mostly mean butter. Yes, butter. If you don’t like buttercream that actually tastes like butter and not thickened sugar, don’t bother. But if you don’t like that, why are you even looking here? Or why do you exist? The buttercream is smooth and not overwhelmingly sweet at all while the cake is always moist. Anyways, Robicelli cupcakes are amazing. They don’t have a store, so you have to find out where the cupcakes are delivered on a given day. The flavors also rotate, with about four or five each week. The best bet is to follow them on Twitter for updates about what flavors, what places and when they are delivered. You then RUN to that place to pick up your piece of heaven.”–Alysse J.
You don’t always have to be in the Village to get great, gourmet, incredibly unique food–or, for that matter, great cupcakes. Step out of your comfort zone and onto an uptown 3 train to get to Tonnie’s Minis in Harlem. This place bakes some of the best cupcakes in town, and it’s the neighborhood’s best-kept secret–you won’t be finding Magnolia Bakery-level lines outside of this bakery. Baker and owner Tonnie Rozier makes excellent versions of all the cupcake classics, like red velvet and “Death By Chocolate.” You’ll want to try out the carrot cake cupcake, with tangy cream cheese frosting: it’s rumored to be the favorite of superstar Sean “Diddy” Combs. And the best part of Tonnie’s Minis is just that…these cupcakes are tiny! They’re perfectly sized and priced for just a little nosh and a taste of all the flavors they have to offer. You can even buy bite-sized “Cake Shots” by the dozen, which are perfect for holiday parties. Tonnie’s Minis is quickly becoming a big contender in the war of the cupcakes raging on in New York, and you get to benefit from it–with delicious tasting cupcakes!
264 Lenox Ave (between 123rd St & 124th St)
“Tonnie is on hand to serve and recommend his favorite varieties from the Lilliputian display case and coffee counter. Layers of Red Velvet and yellow cake form a decadent creation called Golden Heart; Chocolate Kiss is made up of luscious chocolate cake hidden inside a yellow Mini and topped with chocolate buttercream icing—any guilt is assuaged by their diminutive size. An even smaller, thimble-sized version named The Cake Shot can be ordered by the dozen.”–New York Magazine
“Tonnie’s Minis serves up some of Manhattan’s best cupcakes and friendliest smiles without any of the fuss and long waits other popular bakeries endure. Tonnie Rozier and his crew make scrumptious, moist, just-sweet-enough cupcakes in a variety of flavors, like red velvet, death by chocolate and the famous carrot cake, which now comes in a non-miniature version.”–NYC Go
“These aren’t your kiddie party garden variety cupcakes either. Tonnie offers specialty cupcakes like Death by Chocolate and Carrot Dream (popular with Harlem native Sean “P-Diddy” Combs.) The most popular flavor is the Red Velvet, sure to be a hit in Harlem, along with a signature Harlem cupcake.”–Uptown Flavor
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“They have a number of different cake flavors (Red Velvet, Golden Sponge, Lemon, Strawberry, Golden Heart, Chocolate, Carrot, Chocolate Kiss, Very Berry and Sweet Potato), which you can mix and match however you want with a number of different frostings (Cream Cheese, Butter Cream, Lemon, Chocolate, Strawberry and Pistachio). We got some of the standards (Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting, Chocolate, etc.) and some other combinations (Golden Sponge with Pistachio), which were all amazingly delicious. The frosting was nice and dense, but not too heavy, and the cakes were all very moist.”–Mike C.
“If you like an ultra moist, home style cake, Tonnie’s is your place! I walked over today and picked up a sampler of minis. Everything was good, but the Red Velvet and Carrot Cake were the best of the bunch! Those happen to be two of my favorite cake varieties, and they make a wonderful version of both. The staff were so sweet and very helpful. I like that they give you so many choices and the fact that you can basically create your own cupcake. They even have different cupcake sizes, allowing them to cater to all different tastes and preferences. “–Christina G.
And we can’t talk about some of the newest and most innovative cupcake shops around town without mentioning the one that really gets around town–the Cupcake Crew! A food truck that popped up during the height of the phenomenon in 2010, the Cupcake Crew, unmistakable in their pink and black food truck, hits all the best spots in town selling uniquely named and flavored cupcakes. Brooklynites will love the My Cousin Vinny cupcake, which uses cannoli filling as the frosting–how good does that sound?? They made waves in the food truck community right away in 2011 with a win at the annual Vendy Awards. They’ve even got their own celebrity fans, too: Gayle King, known best as Oprah’s BFF, swears by their maple bacon cupcake, and showcased it on the O Network and in O Magazine. The maple and bacon combination blends all throughout the cupcake, with bits of bacon baked right into the maple-flavored cake, and a strip of bacon lying atop the maple frosting. And Girl Scout Cookie fiends be aware: it may not be cookie season yet, but you can get your fix with their Samoa-flavored cupcake (my favorite of all the GS cookies!) You absolutely have to track down this truck to really see what the future of cupcakes in New York tastes like. You won’t be disappointed!
“Best thing I ate while judging the Vidy Awards–a cook-off among New York’s incredible street food vendors–this fall: the Cupcake Crew’s maple bacon cupcake. I knew I liked maple and that I also like bacon, but who knew how much I’d like them together?”–Gayle King, O Magazine
“Finally, the My Cousin Vinny cupcake sat halfway between a cupcake and cannoli, just as the cheesecake cupcake was halfway between a cheesecake and a cupcake. With cannoli filling as the icing, cannoli dough sprinkled on top, and a dense, incredibly moist, no-frills cake to anchor it all, this cupcake was as delicious as it was unusual.”–Serious Eats
“The frosting was maple flavored with a small strip of bacon on top. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I bit into the cake. Not only was it maple flavored, but there were small pieces of bacon mixed into the batter. Yum!”–New York Street Food
“The Cousin Vinny involves a moist vanilla cake filled and topped with chocolate chip cannolli filling-yes, cannolli filling, not regular frosting! And then sprinkled with cannoli shell pieces. This totally played to the wanna-be Italian in my heart, the one who still has a crush on Ralph Macchio. The cake part was light and fluffy, but what won me over was the creamy, sweet ricotta filling and crunchy shell bits. It’s everything the treats at San Gennaro wish they could be, and more.”–Midtown Lunch
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“What really impressed me about this cupcake truck, besides the prices of course, is the guy who works on the truck. He’s amazingly friendly and warm, eager to offer me and a few of my coworkers free mini cupcakes seeing as it was our first time at the truck. And as for the cupcakes themselves, they are actually pretty good – not just for desserts sold off a mobile truck but even compared to some bakeries in the city. The salted caramel cupcake base was moist, accented by a gooey caramel in the center. I did have to scrape much of the buttercream frosting off (as I do with most cupcakes) just because I can’t handle too much sweetness at once. All in all though, I think their cupcakes are worth checking out if you ever spot the truck in your hood.”–Cecilia Z.
“I found the Cupcake Crew truck at the South Street Seaport food truck festival over the summer and I was so pleased! Crumbs in NYC was making me get sick and tired of cupcakes, I wanted variety! This cupcake truck gave variety and they were delicious! I had the mini cannoli cupcake and the rainbow cookie cupcake (both exactly tasted like what they said they were!) Also, the cupcakes were fresh and easy to savor.”–Shaina B.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!