All posts by Alison Simons

Tiny Temptations: Baked by Melissa

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, I decided to go with my friend, Victoria, to find and devour some delicious cupcakes. We took the 1 train down to 86th Street and walked to By the Way Bakery, a gluten and dairy free bakery with excellent Yelp reviews. Unfortunately, they did not have any cupcakes, even though there were photos of cupcakes on their Yelp page. So I decided to go to a nearby bakery famous for its delectable mini cupcakes: Baked by Melissa.

When I walked into the store (after longingly examining the Christmas trees for sale right outside the door), I noticed that the inside was very plain and modern. There were no tables or chairs, and the room itself was completely undecorated. It was like the Apple store of cupcake shops. But while the store itself was lacking in color, the cupcakes were certainly bright and fun to look at. Having had Baked by Melissa once before in my life, I knew the cupcakes would be little, but I forgot just how tiny they are. Each cupcake couldn’t have been more than an inch and a half in diameter. Furthermore, one cupcake costs $1, which is definitely not a bargain. I decided to buy six cupcakes for Victoria and me. The flavors we chose were cookie dough, chocolate chip pancake, cinnamon bun, mint cookie, sugar cookie cheesecake, and triple chocolate fudge.

The display case.
The display case.

The cookie dough cupcake is a yellow cake with cookie dough in the middle, chocolate frosting, and even more cookie dough on top. This cupcake had a wonderful texture; the cake and the cookie dough were very moist, and the chocolate chips added nice variation to the softness of the cupcake. In addition to having excellent texture, the cupcake had an intense and delicious cookie dough flavor, especially for such a tiny cupcake. Overall, they nailed this cupcake!

The cookie dough cupcake.
The cookie dough cupcake.

The chocolate chip pancake cupcake is a yellow pancake cake with chocolate chips throughout, topped with maple syrup frosting and even more chocolate chips. As a pancake aficionado, I was really intrigued by the idea of turning a pancake into a cupcake. I found that the cupcake did resemble a pancake, but it definitely didn’t taste identical to one, which was a slight disappointment (to be fair, it was an ambitious goal). The cupcake itself was quite sweet, perhaps even too sweet, but it still tasted good.

The chocolate chip pancake cupcake.
The chocolate chip pancake cupcake.

The cinnamon bun cupcake (part of their winter collection) is a cinnamon bun cake filled with vanilla glaze, topped with cinnamon frosting and a white chocolate drizzle. Unlike the pancake cupcake, this cupcake tasted exactly like the breakfast food it was trying to emulate. The soft cake, delicious glaze, and cinnamon frosting combined perfectly to mimic the experience of eating a cinnamon roll. My only wish is that the cupcake had a bit more cinnamon in it, as I love a strong cinnamon punch, but otherwise this beautiful cupcake was excellent.

The cinnamon bun cupcake.
The cinnamon bun cupcake.

The mint cookie cupcake is a mint cake with a fudge filling, mint cookies and cream frosting, mint cookie butter, and green drizzle on top. The first thing I observed about this cupcake is that it is a bold green color, which I thought was playful. Victoria and I thought the flavor of the cupcake was lacking in mint, but the cupcake was still satisfying and had a nice crunchy element.

The mint cookie cupcake.
The mint cookie cupcake.

The sugar cookie cheesecake cupcake (part of their winter collection) is a vanilla cake with a cheesecake filling, topped with sugar cookie frosting, and red and green nonpareil brittle. This cupcake certainly looked festive, with the red and green decorations on top. The flavor itself was a bit strange: we came to the conclusion that it tasted like a sugar cookie, vanilla cupcake, and bread combined. But the texture of the cupcake was wonderfully creamy. Overall, it was a solid cupcake, albeit a little unusual.

The sugar cookie cheesecake cupcake.
The sugar cookie cheesecake cupcake.

Of course, I saved the chocolate cupcake for last. The triple chocolate fudge cupcake is a chocolate cake with a fudge filling, topped with chocolate frosting, and a chocolate cookie crumble. The moment I bit into this cupcake, I knew that I made the right decision to eat this one last. It was without a doubt one of the best bites of a cupcake I’ve ever had. It was rich, bitter, and decadent – everything a chocolate lover wants in a cupcake. In a small dose, it was absolutely incredible, though perhaps it would be too much if it were a normal sized cupcakes. This cupcake was the perfect finale to my cupcake-eating adventure.

The triple chocolate fudge cupcake.
The triple chocolate fudge cupcake.

Baked by Melissa has their baking down to a science. Each cupcake was moist and complex. My only complaint is that a few of their cupcakes – mainly the cinnamon bun cupcake and the mint cookie cupcake – could have used a bit more flavor, as a mini cupcake should be packed with flavor to make up for its diminutive size. Baked by Melissa is certainly one of the most expensive cupcake places I’ve been to, so don’t go there expecting to leave with a full stomach unless you have $20 to spend. But on those days where you need to treat yourself, you can’t go wrong with Baked by Melissa.

Nearest Location: 2325 Broadway, New York, NY

Hours: Monday through Thursday – 9am to 10pm, Friday – 9am to 11pm, Saturday – 10am to 11pm, Sunday – 10am to 10pm

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Not-So-Crumby Crumbs

I was walking through Central Park on a beautiful Friday morning when I started craving cupcakes. I opened my beloved Yelp app and searched for cupcake shops near me. The nearest shop was called Crumbs Bake Shop, located on the Upper East Side. It didn’t have spectacular reviews on Yelp, but I decided to give it a shot, so I headed over to Lexington Avenue to try some cupcakes.

The exterior of Crumbs Bake Shop.
The exterior of Crumbs Bake Shop.

When I arrived at the store, I was a bit disheartened. After going to Molly’s Cupcakes a few weeks before, I was expecting a warm, inviting environment. Crumbs Bake Shop had a couple tables set up, but it wasn’t the kind of place where you want to sit down and enjoy your cupcake. Nonetheless, they had a very impressive selection of cupcakes and baked goods in general. It was quite difficult for me to pick only two cupcakes from the vast array of culinary creations in the display case. In the end, I settled on two very different flavors: chocolate salted caramel and lemon lemon. I paid for my cupcakes and took them to go, deciding to eat them in my cozy dorm room.

Crumbs' display case full of cupcakes and more.
Crumbs’ display case full of cupcakes and more

The chocolate salted caramel cupcake looked pretty appealing. It was a chocolate cake with a caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with chocolate chips, a caramel drizzle, and a bit of sea salt. Sounds amazing, right? In truth, it just tasted okay. The chocolate cake wasn’t moist and decadent like I had hoped, and the frosting was quite dense. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t anything special either. Much like the store itself, it lacked that homey and comforting feel. Overall, the cupcake was solid, but not exceptional in any way.

The chocolate salted caramel cupcake.
The chocolate salted caramel cupcake

The lemon lemon cupcake was a cheerful yellow cupcake. There was no description of it at the store, but it appeared to be a lemon cake topped with a lemon frosting with yellow and white sprinkles and a little dollop of lemon jelly on the top. Personally, I found this one more enjoyable than the chocolate one, though it’s probably because I have very high chocolate standards. The lemon cupcake was pleasant to eat. It was a wonderful balance of sweetness and tartness, and although it tasted somewhat artificial, the cake itself was a nice consistency. I’ve certainly had better lemon cupcakes, but it was still a pretty good cupcake.

The lemon lemon cupcake.
The lemon lemon cupcake

All in all, Crumbs Bake Shop was a bit of a let down, but it was not awful either. The cupcakes were not very expensive (cupcakes ranged from $2 to $3.50), and they were quite large considering the price. Additionally, Crumbs is a chain bakery, so there are many locations conveniently situated around the city (unfortunately, the one near Columbia is permanently closed). If you want a decent and fairly cheap cupcake, go ahead and give Crumbs a try!

Molly’s Takes the (Cup)cake

I’m a sucker for a good cupcake because it has all the wonderful aspects of a normal cake (the moist, fluffy cake and the smooth, creamy frosting) compacted into an adorable little pastry, which sometimes even has a bonus filling. There are so many varieties of cupcakes just in New York City, and I want to try as many of them as possible.

I started with Molly’s Cupcakes, located downtown near New York University. I learned about Molly’s from “Cupcake Wars,” a cupcake-baking competition that airs on Food Network. In one episode, Eileen Kerbel, a pastry chef at Molly’s Cupcakes in Chicago, won with her scrumptious cupcakes. After watching this episode, I knew that I had to see what made Molly’s Cupcakes so good. I took the 1 train down to Christopher Street and walked down Bleecker for about five minutes, at which point I was standing in front of a bright yellow storefront labeled “Molly’s Cupcakes.” I walked into a relatively spacious room, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the fun swing-like stools at the counter. The atmosphere was cheery and playful; there were even board games on the shelves, along with educational books.

I walked over to the display of the cupcakes and was immediately overwhelmed. Every flavor looked good to me, making my decision extremely difficult. After much deliberation, I decided to try three cupcakes: pumpkin spice, cake batter, and chocolate decadence. I chose these three because they all seemed different, so I knew I would get a better idea of the range of flavors.

The first cupcake I tried was the pumpkin spice, with a creamy pumpkin mascarpone center and a sweet cream cheese frosting. I chose this cupcake because I love everything pumpkin (basic, I know) and I wanted to try it while it was in season. I had high expectations for this cupcake, and it did not disappoint; it was everything a pumpkin spice cupcake should be. It had a strong pumpkin taste that went well with the sweet frosting. It was quite large, but that just meant more pumpkin-y goodness. The only critique I have is that there was too much frosting for my taste. Overall, this cupcake was wonderful for this time of the year.

The pumpkin spice cupcake.
The pumpkin spice cupcake

Next up was the cake batter. This cupcake had a vanilla confetti cake with a raw cake batter center, topped with vanilla buttercream and birthday sprinkles. Just looking at this cupcake made me happy; the frosting was an adorable light blue color, and the rainbow sprinkles were lovely in a childish way. Biting into this cupcake made me even happier. The gooey batter in the center was absolutely delicious, and it paired nicely with the light vanilla cake. It was fun, tasty, and nostalgic all at the same time.

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The cake batter cupcake

Last but not least was the chocolate decadence. This cupcake was a chocolate cake with a chocolate mousse filling, topped with chocolate ganache and dark chocolate curls. I saved this cupcake for last because I expected it to be my favorite, given my love for chocolate. This was easily one of the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever had. It was moist, rich, and certainly decadent. The cupcake looked sophisticated and tasted even better. However, this cupcake is not for everyone. Only true chocolate lovers could handle this cupcake and its intense chocolate flavor.

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The chocolate decadence cupcake

I was very pleased with Molly’s cupcakes. The fun atmosphere combined with delicious cupcakes made for a really great experience. It’s not the place to go when you want a cheap cupcake in a convenient location. But if you’ve got some money to spend and want an outstanding cupcake adventure, Molly’s Cupcakes is worth the trip!

Location: 228 Bleecker Street, New York, NY

Hours: Monday – 12pm to 10pm, Tuesday through Thursday – 8am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday – 8am to 12am, Sunday – 9am to 10pm