Between the hit series “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network, and the multitude of cupcake joints popping up around the country, these compact cakes are hard to avoid. But whether it’s just a fad, or cupcakes are here to stay, it’s important to sort out the cupcake stars from those that fall flat.
My sugary quest took me to “Flirty Cupcakes,” a bakery that combines the mobility of a food truck with the quality of a storefront bakery. The owner came up with the cupcake truck idea after a nostalgic run-in with a beat-up ice cream truck, and thought wouldn’t it be neat to have a portable cupcake bakery? Everyone else seemed to agree, because soon Flirty Cupcakes had to open a full on bakery to expand their cupcakes on wheels business.
Now, you can pick up a flirty cupcake from the traveling truck, or at their Dessert Garage on 1030 W. Taylor Street. Their truck stop schedule is conveniently located online in advance, so you always know where you can find them.
I first discovered Flirty Cupcakes after work when I found the truck sitting outside my building. You can imagine my excitement when I saw my two favorite things — food carts and cupcakes — combined in one and waiting on my building’s doorstep. I was in cupcake heaven, and I hoped they would not disappoint.
I ordered my typical red velvet cupcake called “Devil in Disguise” — because to me it is one of the most challenging classics to get right — and a coconut rum cupcake called “Beached Cocoanut” to add a little flavor and variety to my happy hour. Now, whenever I review a cupcake joint there are three things I look for:
1) The Consistency: The cupcake has to have a good consistency. If it has what I call the “cardboard effect,” and has a gritty texture the cupcake is a no go. However, if it is moist and fluffy, you’ve got cupcake perfection.
2) The Frosting: If the frosting has a bad texture or doesn’t have strong flavors, no matter how good the base is, the cupcake is ruined.
3) The Balance: Cupcake balance is very important and really is what differentiates an outstanding cupcake from just a blah cupcake. To have balance, the frosting and the base of the cupcake must work together. If the cupcake is overpowered by the frosting you lose the flavors in the base, if the frosting is bland and the cupcake base is flavorful, you have an unnecessary topping that takes away from the richness of the cupcake. The cupcakes that have a base and frosting the compliment each other are the real stars.
Luckily the Cupcakes from “Flirty Cupcakes” passed every single one of these requirements. The consistency was perfect — they were moist and fluffy but not crumbling apart. I expected the coconut rum cupcake to be moist because the website says they infuse it with the rum. By infusing the cupcake, the base can soaks in the flavor and is extra moist. I wasn’t sure if the red velvet would be up to par, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even without infusing extra moisture, their red velvet was the perfect consistency, not too dense and cake-like, just that perfect middle ground that really makes a cupcake a cupcake.
As far as frosting goes, the cream cheese on the red velvet was phenomenal. I’m very particular about my cream cheese frosting, because often times people make them too buttery, but this one had a very strong cream cheese flavor, and just enough confectioners sugar to add a slightly sweet taste to the mixture. The cocoanut butter cream on the “Beached Cocoanut” cupcake was good, but not my favorite. I personally am not a huge butter cream fan, especially when they have a whipped cream taste to them. But it wasn’t bad and if you like whipped cream frosting, then you’ll love this version.
The balance was excellent, the frosting did not overpower the cupcake, and both really complimented the flavors in the base. I especially loved the balance in the “Devil in Disguise” cupcake because since the frosting wasn’t too sweet, the chocolate and vanilla flavors were really enhanced. There also was a good amount of frosting on each of the cupcakes. They didn’t leave me wondering whether there was a base with the frosting, and they didn’t leave me frustrated with a pointless dollop of frosting.
Flirty Cupcakes is definitely high up on my list for best cupcakes in Chicago and I look forward to trying the rest of the flavors they feature. See you Tuesday Flirty Cupcakes.