Afternoons at the LEO headquarters are sometimes lethargic and listless. Lunch is over, and 5 p.m. feels like weeks away. To help pass the time, we strike up debates on anything from Superman vs. Batman, Abramson vs. Fischer or Taio Cruz vs. Tom Cruise. We often butt heads when it comes to “the best” local restaurants, bars and neighborhoods, and I often call people buttheads when they don’t agree with my obviously correct opinion. We decided one happy hour ago that we needed to conduct taste tests to determine The Best goods Louisville has to offer. The first and most important item to scrutinize? Cupcakes, of course.
Cupcakes are king
Cupcakes are the new pizza. A cupcake storefront opens every two minutes in this country … or at least it seems that way. I eat cupcakes, I don’t research them. So we scoured the city and picked up five of the freshest cakes to judge: Cake Flour (909 E. Market St., www.cakeflouronmarket.com); Sweet Surrender (1804 Frankfort Ave., www.sweetsurrenderdessertcafe.com); The Cupcake Shoppe (3701 Lexington Road, www.louisvillecupcakes.com); Jamie’s 14K Cupcakes (938 Baxter Ave.); and Carmen’s Cupcakes (1401 Bardstown Road, www.carmenscupcakes.net).
It was a tough assignment indeed — nosh through five sweet, succulent, decadent cupcakes and determine a winner. It was at the height of that mid-afternoon slump, and we needed sugar like Louisville needs a bridge. So it began …
First up was Carmen’s Snickerdoodle Cupcake, which looked soft and spongy and had whipped frosting towering a good inch or so off the top, sprinkled with cinnamon, of course. The five of us licensed tasters dove in and left no crumb uneaten. “This is so good, I want to do bad things to it,” I exclaimed after the sugar shock kicked in. Realizing that I crossed the line a bit too soon during a work function, I simply jotted down the others’ comments: “It’s so moist and luscious.” “The pile of frosting looks delightful!” “Heavenly. More, more!” “Makes me want to risk diabetes.”
Next up was Sweet Surrender’s Chocolate Cupcake with Green Tea Icing, which looked like it should have been a mint chocolate affair, but unfortunately wasn’t. The subtle, light green, whipped frosting went well with the dark chocolate spongy cake. Unable to get the thought of a York Peppermint Pattie out of my head, I remarked, “Green tea? That’s too healthy for a cupcake.” It was tasty and equally moist, but many of us were still longing for another ’Doodle. Comments ranged from: “Good enough to eat another” to “A bit bland.”
The Cupcake Shoppe’s Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Icing was up next, and we were giddy. Lethargy had left the building. The red, soft cake was piled high with rich, white, creamy icing. We barely surfaced for air after the first bite. And while the top of the cake was slightly overcooked, we were able to overlook that minor flaw due mainly in part to the angelic icing. Comments: “Delectable icing and super rich! I need a glass of milk, stat.” “I want this in my life — forever.” “Give me a tub of that frosting, please.”
Next to be tasted was Cake Flour’s Chocolate Ganache Cupcake. It didn’t quite have the tall frosting flair as the other three, and perhaps that affected our preconceived notions. “This tastes healthy,” I said like a child who got Bran Flakes instead of Fruity Pebbles for breakfast. The others had similar reactions. And while healthy is good, when you’re eating a cupcake, you don’t exactly have marathons on your mind. Comments: “More like a chocolate muffin than a cupcake.” “Needs milk for dunking.” “Where’s the frosting?”
Finally, we were ready for the finale, as we were jittery and unable to form sentences from all the sugar surging through our systems. It was time for Jamie’s Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcake, which resembled a sundae right down to the whipped cream-like frosting topped with nuts, fudge drizzles and a cherry on top. Definitely the tallest of the bunch, it did not disappoint. I am of the ilk who prefer fluffy frosting as opposed to creamy, rich icing, so I loved it. The others, however, missed the thicker frosting from some of the cakes before. Comments: “Tastes sort of like a fancy Hostess Cupcake — in a good, ‘Extreme Makeover’ kind of way.” “Fun! Fun! Fun! And a cherry on top!” “It was chocolaty and delish, but I wasn’t a fan of the whipped-cream icing.” “I feel like I’m at a kid’s birthday party.”
After our forms were collected and the votes tallied, a clear winner emerged from the bunch — Carmen’s Snickerdoodle. It was by far the moistest of the bunch, and the frosting perfectly landed between fluffy, rich and tasty. Our work was done here. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.