It’s a fact: America loves cupcakes.
These cute little confections first stole our hearts on a national level in the early 2000s thanks to a famous reference from Sex and the City. Soon, bakeries dedicated just to cupcakes — or cupcakeries, as they prefer to be called — popped up around the country, and people saw potential for greatness. Later on, when the cupcake craze exploded into a full-blown industry, there was talk of a "cupcake bubble" and everyone speculated as to when it would pop.
Clearly, they were wrong. Today, cupcakes have grown into much more than bake sale fodder. From gowns literally made of cupcake tiers to $55,000 red velvet cupcakes used to pop the question, cupcakes have become a food trend that just won’t die.
In fact, they’re kind of everywhere.
To help you tell the good from the bad (and the ugly), The Daily Meal has come up with a list of the 50 best cupcake shops in America — and the must-try flavor at each. Classics like Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles are no surprise, but you might find that the small mom-and-pop shop just around the corner is holding its own, too.
So, how’d we do it?
The Daily Meal started with a pool of nearly 100 bakeries and cupcakeries across the country. Each seller of sweets was judged on presentation, menu, and cake-to-frosting ratio. Some bakeries received additional points for extra special features — things that made us sit up a little straighter in our chairs (or closer to our screens). After all the points were tallied, the place with the most was crowned the home of The Daily Meal’s number one cupcake in America!
First, let’s be honest, no one wants to eat something that isn’t pretty, which is why in our ranking system, presentation is worth 10 points. We are looking for polished products across the board, so attention to detail and consistently photo-ready cupcakes take the cake — er, cupcake.
Next, the menu should strike a balance for any prospective cupcake customer. Are the options overwhelming? Underwhelming? It’s important to suit a wide variety of tastes, so all-chocolate menus aren’t ideal (no matter how much any one individual appreciates it). And, while creative flavors weren’t necessary for a high score, they were certainly appreciated.
Finally, the ever-important cake-to-frosting ratio makes up the last third of the overall score. The Daily Meal conducted a taste test amongst dozens of (incredibly reluctant) volunteers and determined the optimal ratio from their input. The closer a cupcake’s actual ratio was to our ideal result, the more points awarded.
The scores from these three categories were added together for a score of up to 30. The Daily Meal pulled cupcake contenders from every state in the country, from Alaska to Wyoming, and gave even the newest start-up the same undivided attention as the giants of the industry.
It wasn’t easy, but spending hour after hour drooling over cupcakes was a sacrifice this writer was willing to make.
You can check out the full list of contenders and their scores on the next page.
Marilyn He is a Junior Writer for the Eat/Dine section of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_He.