|Icing on the Cupcake|
As I said in the Esther's review, it's a little late in the game or food trend curve to be doing cupcakes. It's not even 2009, it's more like 2007-8. For how far Sacramento has come on the dining scene, are we so behind on the dessert and food trend scene? The answer is YES!!! If you regularly read my blog you know of my bitching on the lack of dessert places and our stupid city ordinances that are deterring the great prospects of gourmet food trucks. SIGH! But if we must suffer with the lack of dessert eateries, at least a tiny portion of that is being taken care of with cupcakes. The only thing is, they aren't the late night, dessert date spot that I keep praying for.
I must make do.
But today we are talking about Icing on the Cupcake. The reason I even heard of it was through people comparing Esther's to IotC on Yelp. Although I see Yelp's place in the internet world, I generally steer clear of it as being just TOO open for just anyone to comment. You know how it is on any open commenting site, you get haters out there that just slam things mean spiritedly and that just annoys me. (And before you go comparing me to them, this is MY blog and I can say what I want on my own pages.)
Since I was heading out to Placer County for a Tweetup event, I figured I might as well stop in and pick up some cupcakes from this latest contender. I found the shop in old Rocklin on Pacific Street. You can't miss the store with it's large cupcake logo sign and the candy striping of their pink and brown colors. This was the largest store of the ones I've visited, with seating both inside and in a nice covered patio outside. Inside the store were two display cases and a small counter.
IotC changes their flavors by a weekly schedule. I had looked up Tuesday on their website and knew I was going to get the pistachio and the June special of raspberry lemonade. Because I wanted the special flavors, I called ahead and left a message asking them to save them for me. I didn't want them to run out and I'd be left with boring chocolate and red velvet. They were very good in calling me back to let me know they did and they looked forward to my visit. Once I got there I also added an orange cupcake to my order. I liked that the packaging here was in the nice cardboard cupcake boxes similar to Esther's. Note that if you come back with the box (recycling effort) you will get a free cupcake. That's a great deal. Don't you wish more bakeries offered that!?
I went home and split all of them in half so I could share them with my friend (and justify getting three!).
The cakes themselves were nice, moist, and had a good crumb. I was also happy to see them rising high out of the cupcake paper so that I wasn't being cheated of cake. Two of the three had good flavor too. After all, there should be flavor in both the cake and the icing. The pistachio and the orange did taste like their namesakes.
I was disappointed in the lemon cake of the raspberry lemonade cupcake. Perhaps it lacked flavor in the cake because you were getting an extra sugar punch with the embedded bit of raspberry filling. I'm finding that I'm not a big fan of injected fillings in my cupcakes. It could be because I'm an icing scraper. I go for center cut pieces of cake and even scrape the icing off those. So having an extra sugar shot in the cupcake and then the mound of icing on top is just too much for me. (Exception to this - melty chocolate or cream cheese in black bottom cupcakes.) Anyway, the lemon wasn't too strong in this cake, it all came in the icing.
Let's talk about icing. Buttercream, to be specific. Buttercream in basic form is butter creamed with powdered sugar, although other fats can be used. This seems like cheating to me because buttercream ought to have BUTTER only. Unfortunately, many buttercreams are made with margarine or even Crisco. Yuck! I'm a purist. Give me butter. And there is the number one reason Esther's is still winning my heart - their buttercream is buttery!
IotC's buttercream is supposedly made with butter as well, but it is nowhere near as buttery. I think the difference is what kind of buttercream they are doing. Esther's, I believe, is doing a French cooked buttercream which is considerably richer due to the eggs. IotC's icings were flavorful in terms of orange, pistachio, and lemon. And they were full of sugar - definitely sweet, but still a grainier, less rich, less soft buttercream. Then again, Cakegrrl (who obviously works a lot with cakes) made a valid point that in terms of catering, buttercreams are just going to melt and lose shape. So you need to have an icing that will stand up to time and temperatures if you are going to have them out for a while, like at a wedding or a party. Touché.
At this point I can say that all three cupcake stores have great products and are WAY better than Cupcake Craving, which I refuse to even comment more on except to say that they use MIXES, and some others. It's been a while since I've been to Babycakes, so I guess I'll just have to re-taste them (haha). Luckily there is no real competition between the three because they are so far from each other: Davis, Rocklin, Sacramento. Esther's is still my fave, but I would certainly be happy to check in to the others when in the vicinity to see what cool flavor combos they have that day.