Officially I’ve been searching for the perfect cupcake for six months now. I’ve taken this job seriously and the search has continued throughout Brisbane, Sunshine and Gold Coasts, Melbourne, Thailand and Bali.
Reviewing my finds for 2009, I’m surprised where I haven’t been and these will go to the top of my 2010 list. Can’t quite believe I haven’t actually blogged Poppy Cakes. I will be looking forward to that visit as these are amongst the best I have eaten – however since they have not been blogged they can’t be in this year’s list. I also must sample cupcakes from The Shingle Inn, The Welsh Lady and The Cupcake Parlour.
Like most things, the quality of the cupcakes around varies greatly and price is not always an indicator. I’ve paid $2.90 for a cupcake (Duke’s Deli, Sunshine Beach)and been pleased by the value. Equally I’ve paid $4.50 and been very disappointed.
I’d advise anyone against buying a cupcake on the weekend unless you ask when it was baked. I’ve found too many places keep their cupcakes in refrigerated cabinets which suck the moisture out of them very quickly. Stale cupcakes are not very noice! My alternative is a friand which can be quickly zapped to room temp so lasts much better in a cabinet. (Thanks to @dessertboy Martin Duncan for that tip!)
My perfect cupcake has a well flavoured cake with good texture which is matched or complimented by its icing. The icing should not be sickly sweet and have a flavour of its own. It should also be smooth, not gritty.
A well decorated cupcake is attractive but a plainer cupcake with better flavour will win me every time. And it should be fresh.
There are a few cupcake styles around
* The oh-so-pretty cupcake with huge amounts of icing on top. Sometimes it’s all about the icing and nothing about the cake which is a shame. Sometimes the icing isn’t even that good.
* The New York style cupcake which has a dense cake and a thick cheese cake style frosting.
* Traditional sponge cupcakes with butter or hard icing.
* Cupcakes with a hidden treat inside – big gob of caramel is my fave.
Top 5 in 2009 – in no particular order
St Lukes Anglican Church cake stall on Ekibin Road East every second Sunday from 8:30am to 9am
Well before the cupcake phenomenon started to take over morning and afternoon tea and just about any time in between, there was a time honoured tradition of baking patty cakes. Somewhat smaller that the average cupcake, patty cakes have been delighting Australian households with their delicate sweetness for generations. I remember standing at the kitchen table in my grandmother's kitchen while she showed me the finer points of baking. Always keep the spoons level, make sure the eggs are room temperature and grease the pan well were some of her tips to an eager ten-year-old. If you hanker for the real thing head to and buy some of Desley Clarke's patty cakes. The church charges $3 per half dozen cakes, but you have to ask for Desley Clarke’s cakes by name and they go in minutes! The proceeds go to supporting ‘The Bush Mission’ for families in need in country areas (Tara and Leichhardt in Western Queensland). Or make them yourself More…
Shop 3/68 Racecourse Road, Ascot. ph 3268 7774.
Run by sisters Vanessa and Carlie Oram, Nourish is a place for cupcake lovers to visit and enjoy. They are using their grandmother's recipes and boy, she must have been one heck of a cook. These are cupcakes like no other. The exceptional flavour comes from plain good cooking with a lot of love according to Vanessa who says she truly loves her job. Nourish has a minimum of seven varieties every day. On Thursday and Saturday look for Nanna's Orange Cake as well which is made with real orange juice and zest - none of that essence stuff.
Shop 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove. p 3366 9111
A visit to JudyC's Ashgrove shop is not recommended for those on a diet - there are just too many good things to resist. Judy says the secret behind her cupcakes is good butter and vanilla. And that oh so smooth icing? Judy whips it steadily for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the mix so that the butter lightens in colour and the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
Born into a family of cake makers, JudyC has been decorating cakes for 18 years and it is her passion. Judy's cakes not only look amazing but they are delicious on the inside as well. The cakes are baked on premises daily by small team of pastry chefs and quality decorators.
Available - Togninis at Spring Hill and Milton, Vinnies at Newmarket, Mary Ryan at Milton and Rosalie Gourmet Market.
If you are a fan of the old fashioned type of cupcakes, these treats from Sweet Kiss will really hit your buttons. They are the perfect combination of luscious icing and well flavoured cake. So perfect that regular customers tell owner and cook Aleta Skordou that they are better than cupcakes from the famed New York bakery, Magnolias!
Aleta is a perfectionist who still believes in the only way to make cupcakes is with real eggs and carefully sifted flour, love and care. It's the ooh and aaahs from her customers as they open the cupcake boxes that make her day and also get her up at midnight to bake for six hours so every cupcake has that 'just baked' taste.
Shop 8 Centro on James, James Street, Fortitude Valley. p 3852 3799
Located in James Street which is something of a mecca for foodies. All made with real ingredients - unsalted butter, fresh cream, eggs, couverture chocolate and local produce – these are products to be savoured and enjoyed. I purchased three cupcakes, priced at a very reasonable $4 each, which I shared with my number two cupcake taster who was wowed by them. Her words were 'these are an eight, or maybe even a nine!' Very high praise from Miss Fussy.
Special mention -Milk Bar
16 Ashgrove Avenue, Windsor. p 3366 2007
If you are looking for a one-stop shop to try a variety of cupcake styles, my best suggestion is Milkbar, a newish addition to the dining scene at Ashgrove in Brisbane's inner west. Amanda Scott (ex Continental Cafe at New Farm) has gathered a team of cupcake makers so the cupcake styles are quite varied. They are all the usual cupcake size and range in price from $3.50 to $4.50. On Fridays there are some mini cupcakes as well.
These are individual cupcakes that I still think about – nuff said.
Judy C’s Christmas Cupcakes
Shop 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove.p 3366 9111
Remember standing beside your mother as she made the Christmas cake or pudding and waiting to lick the spoon or better still - the bowl? These cupcakes capture that and more. They are the essence and flavour of Christmas wrapped up in one little package with the twist of chai latte icing. The moist cake is spiced with cardamon and mixed spice and dotted with currants. The icing is very buttery and has the crunch of silver cornicons on top. Find them at JudyC's Ashgrove shop at 1/227 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove +61 7 3366 9111.
Raspberry Macadamia Cupcake Friand
Netanya, 75 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads. p 5447 2328
This shop is better known for its distinctive men's wear - think Hawaiian shirts with a twist - but they have a coffee shop hidden away in the corner. My eagle eye spied pretty pink cupcakes - they looked delicious and the name 'Raspberry Macadamia Cupcake Friand' pushed all my buttons. The cake had a subtle almond flavour with plenty of macadamia crunchy bits. The surprise was the deep well of raspberry butter icing which was a wonderful foil to the cake - rich and creamy.
Milkbar, 16 Ashgrove Avenue, Windsor. p 3366 2007
Although it looks like a cupcake, the gingerbread with honeycomb on top does not really fit the description. However certainly don't let that put you off. It's light, like a sticky date pud without the dates, with real cream piled in the middle and shards of choc honey comb on top. Very sweet and very delicious but you would have to be brave to do more than one. Please someone remind me of that next time I am tempted!
Coconut lemon meringue filled with lemon curd
Tabitha's Place, Boutique Markets, Portside Wharf Hamilton on the second Sunday of each month 8am- 1pm p 3630 0097.
Wow a cupcake that tastes just like a lemon meringue pie with a delicious centre of curd and a soft but crispy meringue piled on top. Hard to beat.
Made and decorated by my beautiful daughter.
She got the idea of Annie's Eats a website that has lots of great recipes. Each cupcake took quite a while to make and she ran out of energy after making four! But they sure tasted good and it was only a packet cake mix.