Cupcake Wars

Who doesn’t love cake? But sometimes the best things come in smaller packages – and Seattle cupcake entrepreneurs couldn’t agree more. The recent blooming of cupcake boutiques in the Emerald City offer a bouquet of inexpensive and funky creations that reawaken the kid in all of us, but the question must be raised – who does it best?

We’ve visited five of the top cupcakeries in the city, sampling the execution of both staple flavors – vanilla on vanilla and vanilla on chocolate – and signature inventions. Let the cupcake war begin.

Cupcake Royale

Opening in 2003, Royale enjoys the title of Seattle’s first cupcake bakery and the first U.S. cupcakery outside New York City. They delight in local ingredients, including sweet local butter and flours from Eastern Washington granaries, and also feature house-branded Verite Coffee. Closest location in Ballard.

The Kate – chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting, $3.50. This dense chocolate cake is a reliable classic, topped with a moderate crown of creamy vanilla frosting and, of course, sprinkles. It’s also substantive enough for a small meal.

Velvet Elvis, $3.75. Think breakfast in a cupcake: banana bread cake spread with bittersweet chocolate and peanut butter frosting and sprinkled with bacon bits. Creatively wild and a little edgy, this cupcake’s fit for a king.

Cake Envy

Located in Green Lake, this bakery is committed to all-natural and sustainable ingredients and turns out cupcakes as well as specialty cakes and lunch items. A crisply vogue and modern storefront makes this hidden gem funky and worth the visit.

Vanilla Cupcake with Buttercream Vanilla Frosting, $3.50. Distinctive for its simplicity, this cake is dense but fairly mild. Soufflé-like buttercream frosting is spun delicately on top and rounds off this bit of sweet elegance.

Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Cupcake, $3.50. A simple chocolate cake lays the foundation for the decadent main attraction – a vibrant raspberry cream cheese frosting wreathed in golden graham cracker crumbs. Two desserts in one? Call me spoiled.

The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company

Home of the reputed Italian Buttercream Frosting, this Belltown bakery is confident is enough to give out the recipe and offer such flavors as Tomato Soup and Wasabi. Prime visiting times: cupcake happy hour every day from 5-6pm.

Simply Vanilla with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, $3.25. A solid and well-executed cake retains both moisture and flavor. But the real deal here is the frosting, whipped to a buttery froth and almost ethereal in its lightness.

Pancakes n’ Bacon, $3.75. This pancake-batter cake harbors a surprise of real sweet hickory bacon hidden within. It’s crested by sweet maple buttercream frosting and more candied bacon, fit for breakfast or anytime.

Pinkabella Cupcakes

Started three years ago by SPU’s 2013 Alumna of the Year Margo Engberg, Pinkabella has been voted the Best Cupcake in Western Washington two years running. Regular donations of aid and treats to local charities, as well as 100% of tip money to Children of the Nations International, make this sugary business heart-warming as well. Closest location in Bell Square.

Vanilla Cupcake with Pink Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, $3. Light and airy cake texture means this cupcake practically floats to your tastebuds. A generous swirl of soft buttercream frosting lends subtle spring-time sweetness.

Sin Mint Cupcake, $4. A moist dark chocolate cake lays the foundation for this masterpiece topped with a mound of creamy peppermint-patty frosting and dipped in chocolate ganache. Refreshment so crisp you don’t even need a toothbrush.

Trophy Cupcakes

Opening in 2007, Trophy crafts cupcakes from a variety of local and exotic ingredients – pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla and Callebaut chocolate, to name a few. Their darling and whimsical shop atmosphere (Wallingford, U-Village) is merely icing on the cake.

Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, $3.50. The moistest cake we’ve found, this chocolate hits the sweet spot without being overwhelming. Softly rich cream cheese frosting achieves the ideal balance of texture and flavor.

Red Velvet, $3.50. We’ve saved the best for last. This traditional southern buttermilk cake is tinged with cocoa and garlanded by a silky smooth cream cheese frosting. And like any true southern belle, it’s simply irresistible. 

All featured cupcakeries bake their creations daily and offer a selection of gluten-free flavors. The accessibility of these shops and the economy of their products mean you don’t have to take our word for it, and these are just the highlights. Go be your own judge!

Published 30 January 2013 in The Falcon as “Seattle cupcake bakeries go to war”

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