Cupcakes are dead. At least, that is what The Wall Street Journal reported on August 17th, 2013. The gourmet dessert phenomenon economically exploded in 2011 when Crumb’s Bake Shop entered the stock market under the ticker CRMB. Crumb’s confections were sold for $.50 at the time, and their stock was worth more than $13 a share. Since then, Crumb’s Bake Shop stock has plummeted to $0.45 today and some say that this is due to the novelty of cupcakes wearing off. There was no long term future in cupcakes, as people don’t regularly visit a cupcakery on a daily basis.
Perhaps this is true. Crumb’s Bake Shops are going dark across the country and in fact, they’ve been predicting the crash since its overall boom in the early 2000s. To pinpoint where it began is rough. Could it have been the drooling the Sex and the City girls did over Magnolia Cupcakes in New York? Was it the celebration of cupcake design by Food Network shows like Cupcake Wars? Or maybe it was just an obvious trend that finally got noticed for its economic potential by both consumers and purveyors. Or maybe, just maybe, it is far simpler than all of that. Maybe cupcakes just make people happy.
Really, have you ever bit into a cupcake and had anything less than joy rocket through your brain? Heck, have you ever even looked at a cupcake photo or ingredient list and had any hostile thoughts?
When done right, they are an art form. Cupcakeries that know what they are doing somehow provide perfectly moist, bite-sized cakes topped with just sweet enough frosting. And when they are just right, they are usually coming from a place of pure passion. Just read the backstory behind almost any cupcakery and the story will be similar. The current owner was stuck in a job they loathed and found true happiness when pouring batter into a lined cupcake tin. The joy it brings the bakers translates into each fold of batter. Cupcakes are simply love in a liner.
But determining who makes the best cupcake is a tough thing to do when so many of them have such impressive amounts of passion poured into them. In our last round, we rated and ranked 50 of America’s Best Cupcakes on a looser methodology. Frosting, presentation, and menu were the main criteria for our last round up. But expanding the list meant we had to crack down on the specifics to nail down what makes the truly best cupcake in America.
Using last year’s list as our basis, we re-entered all 50 into a network of over 100 other cupcakeries vetted from every state’s best-of lists. We then ranked them according to five different categories, assigning them a value of one thru 20 (20 being the highest) and tabulating the highest ranking cupcakes.
Menu variety was the first set of criteria we looked at. Exactly how many cupcake options were there? Did they have a wide range of flavors and was the menu accessible to the masses? Presentation rankings were determined based upon consistency and artistic creativity. Were the cupcakes pretty on their webpage but a mess on Facebook? Was the design reflective of the overall style of the cupcake or even visually appealing? Speaking of Facebook, we turned to social media for our next set of criteria, tabulating the numbers of followers they had as an indication of how interactive they were with their community and vice versa. We then turned to online review sites to help us determine just how satisfied their customers were with their cupcake experience according to the star ratings and taking special note of the commentary. And the last portion was editorial discretion, which took the preceding criteria into consideration and as well as culinary value and variety.
101. Cupcake Heaven, Wilmington, Del.
Yes, it is official. You have died and gone to Cupcake Heaven. This low-key Kosher bakery has roughly 25 to 30 cupcake flavors available at any given time, but has curated over 100 flavors in its time. In the mood for a minty cupcake? Try the “peppermint patty cupcake” that is topped with mint buttercream and chocolate ganache. Want some zesty chocolate? Sink your teeth into the “chocolate chip orange,” a chocolate chip cake topped with orange buttercream. Another cool feature they offer is a “cupcake in a jar” where these sweet treats become functional, tasty gifts!
100. Magpies Bakery, Knoxville, Tenn.
Magpies Cakes offers over 20 classic, deluxe, and super deluxe flavors on a daily basis in a variety of sizes. Where it is “all butter, all the time,” these decadent cupcakes will satisfy the craziest of cravings. The “lemon raspberry” offers cupcake cravers a refreshing spring time treat while the tamer (but utterly sinful) German chocolate cupcake appeals to a cupcake lover who likes a touch of flair to their classic sweet treat.
And without further ado, we present The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Cupcakes in America.
This article was originally published April 16, 2014.
Additional reporting and some original captions written by Marilyn He.