cupcake taste test: magnolia v. crumbs

I don’t visit the city without consuming at least one of its famous cupcakes. My habit started off with Crumbs, a cupcake chain that has a variety of convenient locations sprinkled throughout Manhattan. But then I bit into a Magnolia Bakery classic yellow cupcake with vanilla frosting and I was torn. Which one was better? I didn’t really know until this week.

On a jaunt into New York to see my friend who recently abandoned the northeast for her hometown of Houston (just in time to avoid this snow-covered winter, I might add), we decided to figure out which cupcake we like best. So with cupcakes and coffee in hand, we headed to the hotel to have a serious sit-down tasting session.

On the menu were one Crumbs classic yellow cake with vanilla frosting and three flavors from Magnolia, including red velvet, yellow cake with chocolate frosting and the hummingbird, which had banana and pecans.

Although we only had one cupcake from Crumbs, its size was equal to two of Magnolia’s. We tried to get the classic chocolate at Crumbs to go head-to-head with the chocolate we’d already purchased at Magnolia, but the shop was out of those.

So armed with some plastic forks and my cell phone camera, we commenced eating.

And eating…

Until we finally agreed on a verdict.

Although we all still like Crumbs and would never pass the shop by without going in, we determined that Magnolia’s cupcakes, especially, the chocolate frosting, had more flavor. The big vanilla cupcake was good but the frosting was too sweet and merely tasted like sugar, whereas the smaller cupcakes from Magnolia had good cake flavor and delightfully flavored frosting that was not overly sweet.

So that’s our completely unscientific study on cupcakes. It brought out some good conversation between bites. Such as meals we remember and why some meals can be incredible, then when you return it’s not so good. We acknowledged that so many factors determine whether you enjoy a meal, or a treat in this case, such as with whom you are sharing it, where you are, if you’re tired or stressed, and whether or not you’re really hungry.

And as you can see, those cupcakes were thoroughly enjoyed and buoyed our night o’ fun on the almost-balmy streets of New York this week.

If you’d like to try to replicate Magnolia’s yellow cupcake, try this recipe. We’ve used it several times and never have a crumb left over.

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