Cupcake Counter Culture

March 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, this weekend involved a bit of aimless city wandering. I ended up in Chelsea, where I stumbled upon Billy’s Bakery. Actually truth be told “stumbled upon” is not entirely accurate. In reality, a friend and I passed a cupcake-toting pedestrian and then made a point to keep our eyes peeled for the source. The line out the door made it clear a stop was in order. While waiting, I peered through the window at a guy who was icing and sprinkling a sheet tray’s worth of freshly baked chocolate cupcakes.

In a time when no one knows when or where the next round of layoffs may strike, I imagine I am not alone in pondering of how I would fill my days were it not with my current job in publishing. At that moment, I realized cupcake-decorator would not be a bad way to go. I have rarely encounter a member of the cupcake workforce who is not pleasantly cheery and enthusiastic about their wares. Moreover, how often do you see anyone leave a cupcake store without a smile (assuming they are not already mid-bite and thus incapable of smiling).

In light of this cupcake-happiness correlation, I, for one, am glad I live in a city overrun by cupcake entrepreneurs. Instead of weighing in on the age-old best cupcake debate, I’d prefer to simply highlight my two most recent encounters:

Billy’s Bakery

The banana cupcake with cream cheese frosting will not be forgotten anytime soon. Be sure to check out the arts-and-crafts-y wall paper adorning one wall. Even with cupcake in hand, however, I found myself ogling to the cakes, pies and cookies in the next case over. I predict a return trip in the not-so-distant future.

(184 9th Ave btw. 21st and 22nd St., 212-647-9956)

Butter Lane

For thorough cupcake research, it is best to travel in packs. When I stumbled upon Butter Lane, I was with no fewer than half a dozen friends making it easy to purchase every flavor available on that given day and sample away. I would steer folks towards the specialty icings such as coconut, raspberry and grapefruit ginger, which really stood out among the rest. Best of all, Butter Lane allows customers to sample icings and then custom order the cake/icing combo that suits you best. Brilliant.

(123 East 7th St. btw. 1st Ave and Ave. A, 212-677-2880, Closed Mondays.)

I find cupcakes are enjoyed most under impromptu circumstances, so there is no telling when or where I will have my next one. A long standing spot on my to-try list, however, is Babycakes in the Lower East Side. Babycakes boasts sugar-free, vegan cupcakes which in theory, I confess, sound rather dismal. But based on the raves I’ve heard from many a dessert connoisseur, I remain open-minded and intrigued.

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