Every day in Boston, streets bustle with the constant traffic of the very rich, the “I feel rich” poor, and the “I feel poor but I’m still going to spend money” poor (this is me). In this environment, businesses that cater to small splurges flourish, and thus the cupcakery becomes a common sight amidst the skyscrapers and historic landmarks that define the lovely Boston.
For a student on a budget, cupcakes are a nice splurge that can be rather economical; they won’t break the bank and are sometimes (if you know what you’re doing) free! My lovely roommate, Jennie, and I decided to taste every cupcake shop in Boston–just for you. I judged based on overall experience (taste, vibe, enjoyment), while she ranked them based on flavor/taste/texture (she knows like everything about food, which you can read about here). So if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth and feel like hitting the town, here is a guide to the most well-known cupcake shops in the city.
In Alphabetical Order:
I have to say that taste-wise, this place is my favorite. Never before have I experienced such delicate flavors in a cupcake, such perfection in their whipped frosting and fluffy cakes. Well, at least in their “Earl Gray and Honey” cupcake–that one was delicious. The “Peanut Butter and Jelly” was actually like the cupcake reincarnation of the sandwich, with an amazing PB flavor and a nice grape or strawberry (I can’t remember but it was good) jelly filling. Their “Vanilla Vanilla” had cool white chocolate shavings on top and a good flavor, with Tahitian vanilla frosting (though the cake was just a tad dry). While their Triple Chocolate was slightly disappointing, the others were so good– and with the perfect amount of sweetness–that I have to rank it as my favorite. Vibe-wise, a little dead (though that could be due in part to it being dinner time on a weeknight), and organization-wise, there was no indication that their location had changed from one down the street; we found out by knocking on their kitchen’s door to be told where to walk by a somewhat brusque baker. But their panda was adorable. So go to Cakeology for sophisticated flavoring, $3.25 for a regular sized cupcake and $1.75 for a mini (we got minis and they were small but satisfying). Worth it.
This was the first cupcake place we tried, and one that we returned to several times throughout the #CrazyCupcakeComparison. The first time we went, Jennie and I were set on trying one vanilla and one chocolate/other flavor from every place. The chocolate we decided on was a recommendation by the salesperson (who was super nice) but sadly did not have frosting and was (in my opinion) a slight disappointment. Their vanilla was wonderful, but I was left not really sure how I felt about their products. I returned once alone for a Chocolate Milkshake cupcake, which was disappointing due to its lack of flavor, and then again with Jennie to split a Pumpkin cupcake, which turned out to be spectacular. Overall, their location (in the recesses of the Prudential Center) is dreary, though there is a nice courtyard to sit in when the weather is warm, and if you’re already there for the shopping, it’s a quality place for a snack. I’d say $4.00 (average) is pricey but good for a large cupcake, and $2.50 is reasonable for the medium. They also have minis (sold in packs), cupcake push pops (an awesome idea that I have yet to try) and Starbucks. Solid.
I have been a loyal customer of GT Cupcakes since October of 2012, when my friend told me about their free morning giveaways. Georgetown, originally a DC company (which has now expanded partially due to their success on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars) tweets and posts on Facebook a “secret flavor” EVERY MORNING which, if you order as one of the first 100 customers of the day, is free. Cupcake lovers on a budget, this is your key to the freshman fifteen. Now, flavor-wise, this place is good, Not the best I’ve ever had, but very respectable. Their butter cream frosting is a tad too sweet for me, but their cake is moist and tasty and their flavor selection is spectacular. I’m partial to their “Chocolate Vanilla”–chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and chocolate squares on top–but everything I’ve tried has been good (the list includes Keylime, Chocolate Sunday, Caramel Apple, Chocolate Caramel, Red Velvet… yeah I have a problem). At $2.75 a cupcake–there’s only one size–I’d recommend heading to Newbury St for a Georgetown cupcake if you have the free flavor on hand (and can make it there by 11:30am) and feel like enjoying a day on an affluent, aesthetically pleasing shopping hub.
Food truck! Cupcake food truck! I love food on wheels! The idea is great, but when you try to find them three times and they aren’t where they’re supposed to be, it gets frustrating (especially when we walk through Boston wind tunnels to get there and my hair gets messed up and my nose runs… no. Just no.) Anyways, $3/$5 (depending on size, though they’re all substantial) for a cupcake, with a good selection that changes for some nice variety and cool location changes if you’re not going straight to their store in Davis Square, which I ended up doing anyways. The store is less vibrant than their truck, and has an old-school feel to it, with metallic finishes, red bar stools, and framed newspaper clippings decorating the walls. The cupcakes themselves? Good, not great. They were reminiscent of my own baking freshman year, a time when cupcakes stuck to the paper and flavor lacked finesse (though getting hit with a wall of chocolate can be good sometimes). These cakes were a little burnt around the edges–which I actually found enjoyable–with fudgey frosting, quite the kick-ass variety. I’d recommend if you want a blast of flavor and an interesting selection (Mojito? Yes).
Now, Party Favors isn’t in the center of Boston and is a little out of the way (all the way in Brookline) but it’s reachable via green line and is definitely worth checking out. They have an awesome selection and some very fancy cupcakes. While the vibe is more business than cute (it’s a store, not a shop), the quality is excellent. We got a cupcake (the “Chocolate Box”) that had actual chocolates (raspberry, caramel, and mystery truffles) on top–that’s just awesome! Their large cupcakes are huge and should definitely be split, and their minis are quite small but are satisfying if you don’t need a whole lot of pure sugar. Their “Vanilla” was pretty perfect, with a spongey, moist cake and good frosting that wasn’t too sweet (my favorite vanilla of all the places we tried). The “Chai” came with a candied orange on top and very light flavoring overall, which was actually ideal. The “Chocolate Box” had a chocolate mousse frosting and a well-flavored chocolate cake, as well as a pastry cream filling. I’d say worth the $4.25 for a large or $1.50 for a mini. Plain Chocolate and Vanillas were $0.90 for each for minis. And if you want to buy balloons, more power to you.
This is going to sound harsh, but Sweet is probably my least favorite cupcakery in Boston. And they’re everywhere, which I find strange. But the cakes tend to be dry and the flavors overly… present. There’s a lack of finesse that just takes them out of the competition a little bit–but not completely. A wide selection, cool seasonal flavors, and a great vibe do all contribute to general enjoyment and I have to say it’s one (or seven or so) of the cutest shops in the city. Like super pink and frilly cute (if you’re into that). They offer regular sized and mini cupcakes, as well as frosting shots, which I love the concept of, at semi-reasonable prices ($3.25, $1.95, and $0.50 respectively). Jennie and I tried Pink Lemonade (way too sweet) and Honey Blackberry (actually very good, with a milder flavor) and found that the cakes were moist; this is not always the case (you all know I’m a cupcake regular, I’ve been to this place too many times). I’d recommend not going at the end of the day, and only go if you’ve got cash to burn or really need a dose of pink decorative flair with your sugar.
One of the newest cupcakeries in Boston, this is where you go for cupcakes on the go–or more specifically, in a jar. It’s a cool concept, which I love, but a tad pricey (I’m sorry but $7/jar of “two cupcakes” is not okay). Wicked Good Cupcakes appeared on ABC’s Sharktank, and has since opened shop in Fanueil Hall (where everything is overpriced anyways, I mean let’s be honest) in addition to their store in Cohasset, MA. It’s a fun area, full of action and tourists, but let’s get to the cupcakes. I’ve tried their “S’mores”, “Chocolate Lab”, “Vanilla Birthday”, and “Wicked Good”, all in jars. The “Wicked Good”, which is actually their signature, is a peanut butter cupcake with the consistency of a cookie and chocolate sauce that is delicious but rather elusive. Though their S’mores and Chocolate Lab both made my “favorite desserts of right now” list, I wasn’t overly impressed with Wicked Good. Vanilla Birthday was disappointing–overly sweet, overpriced, with a very strong vanilla flavor (I mean, if you’re into that, go for it. Sugar rush.) It’s definitely worth a taste, though, so if you’ve got a friend to split with, check them out! Also keep in mind that they do charity stuff, information on which can be found at their website.
I hope you enjoy all that Boston has to offer in terms of cupcakes! I definitely had a good time tasting them all. Feel free to vote for your favorite cupcakery, leave your own thoughts in the comments, or tweet me your favorite cupcakes! There are yet so many to try.
Also, don’t forget to check out Jennie’s blog!