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Best Cupcakes in Philadelphia?

Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 05:20 AM

When I lived (briefly) in New York, I did a mini self-guided cupcake tour of Manhattan. Cupcakes abound in that crazy place, and I was extremely excited to start a similar endeavor upon moving to Philadelphia. However, I haven't had much luck so far.

Brown Betty Dessert Boutique in Northern Liberties had a fairly yummy specimen, but I went to their shop near closing time and their bake case was nearly empty (even though it was 15 min til closing, the door was locked and I had to knock insistently until the lady on the phone finally let me in!), and I actually didn't even get to try the flavor I wanted because they had run out, which put a bit of a damper on the experience...

Naked Chocolate's cupcake was okay. A bit dry (both icing and cake) and pretty reminiscent of the cupcakes at NYC's Magnolia and Buttercup Bake Shops...good, but not WOW.

Have you found any great cupcakes in Philly?

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  1. bluehensfan RE: Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 11:10 AM

    I am sure you will get more recommendations, but Naked Chocolate Cafe's cupcakes are about as good as you will get in Philly, as there is nothing like Magnolia Bakery around here. Some people like the cupcakes at the Flying Monkey Patisserie are good but I think the icing tastes a little lardy, but you could still give them a try.

    BTW-I wonder how Magnolia and the rest will be handling the trans-fat ban...

    4 Replies
    1. re: bluehensfan
      GDSwamp RE: bluehensfan Dec 7, 2006 04:12 PM

      I am biased - I have a friend who works at Flying Monkey - but, that said, I think their cupcakes are excellent, and I can vouch for the fact that the frosting is buttery, not lardy. My one objection to their cupcake policy is that they keep them cool, which hardens the frosting (which may be the cause of bluehensfan's complaint - Magnolia lets their cakes return to room temp before they sell them, which makes the frosting creamier and consequently tastier). But Flying Monkey bakes cupcakes so frequently that they're super-fresh, so if you have a bit of patience and will-power and can hold off until your cupcake warms up to room temperature, I think you'll find they're pretty perfect.

      Btw - to the OP - Flying Monkey is in Reading Terminal Market.

      1. re: GDSwamp
        bluehensfan RE: GDSwamp Dec 7, 2006 04:30 PM

        I think cupcakes do have a lot to do with personal preference...that being said on our last viist to Magnolia I found that either the cupcakes were getting more sugary (which I am sure they are not) or my tolerance for sickeningly sweet foods is diminishing. They do have a wicked turnover at Magnolia...it's all they can do to keep up with the demand, and they do have pretty good banana pudding cups too!

        Maybe that is why I like the icing at Naked Chocolate because it seems to be infused with a marshmallowy substance that is less sweet (but not that crummy whipped cream that they use at the Acme.)

        As an aside, I think that Flying Monkey has some of the best brownies around, and they do have really good peanut butter and oatmeal sandwich cookies.

        1. re: bluehensfan
          GDSwamp RE: bluehensfan Dec 7, 2006 05:35 PM

          I used to work a few blocks from Magnolia and I think they're just inconsistent. I only really loved their yellow-cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting, but even sticking to that narrow band I found that they were only great about 70% of the time. Sometimes they sat too long and were dry, sometimes the frosting was too sweet or not chocolatey enough. Chowhound people make a big deal about consistency - the line being that a truly great venue will be great all the time - but I think it's a false idol. I've had blah meals at Le Bernardin, just-okay pizza at DiFara's and even a so-so pork sandich from DiNic's - I just don't think cookery is a sufficiently exact science to make for totally consistent results.

          My problem with Magnolia is that the rude staff think they're funny-quirky-rude, when really they're just annoying-rude. But not consistently so.

      2. re: bluehensfan
        lone369 RE: bluehensfan Jan 3, 2009 02:55 PM

        The best cupcakes I have found in the region is out in Frazer. They are amazing!!!

        Checkout their daily flavors


      3. j
        jessicheese RE: Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 12:52 PM

        You can call me "some people" =) I think the cupcakes at flying monkey are great!

        1. m
          misexec RE: Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 01:11 PM

          I love the cupcakes at Cake in Chestnut Hill. They are as pretty as they are super duper delicious. The cupcakes from Eislin's Bakery in Roxborough are delicious as well, but not dressed quite as fancy.

          1. n
            nns RE: Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 03:39 PM

            How about the cupcakes from Grocery, at Chestnut and 13th? They've got only about 5 flavors, as far as I can tell, but the flavors are creative (i., Lolita-esque flavorings) and I think they're pretty darn good.

            1. f
              FayeD RE: Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 03:46 PM

              It's a shame you had a bad experience at Brown Betty. I think the key is when you go and that it is probably best early afternoon on Friday or Saturday. I know when we went on a Sunday our selection was more limited. The Red Velvet cupcakes and the Almond cupcakes are great. I also really liked the Strawberry and Pineapple cupcakes although not as much as the Red Velvet. The coconut cake, which I recognize isn't a cupcake was also spectacular. Give them another shot earlier on the weekend. By the way, I wasn't crazy about the cupcakes at the Reading Terminal but I haven't tried the ones at Naked Chocolate.

              1. a
                Aloo0628 RE: Aloo0628 Dec 7, 2006 09:06 PM

                So many great responses! I have to say, I'm new to ChowHound, but I've already fallen in love with it.

                1. Flying Monkey - I had forgotten about them! The first time I went there I tried their chocolate cupcake w/ chocolate frosting, and to this day am mystified by my experience. The frosting was exactly how I like it (though I agree, this sort of thing is all about personal preference) - thick, creamy, and chocolaty. But the cake was AWFUL! It was dry, flavorless, did NOT taste like chocolate at all, and was peppered with some dry bits of something...my guess was bad cocoa nibs? I have no idea. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and went back for a yellow cupcake w/ choc frosting, which was much better. The cake was good, but a bit too dense for my taste. Obviously I wasn't overly wowed by it, else I wouldn't have forgetten it... anyone have any idea what was up with that first cupcake I had? Any Flying Monkey favorites that I should try?

                2. Magnolia - I agree, it's definitely a hit or miss situation, but I think part of that has to do with the fact that they leave their little cuppys out to dry on the countertop until someone comes by and snaps them along...Its little sibling, Buttercup Bake Shop on the east side, is also hit or miss, but not as much. I preferred Buttercup b/c they took some measures to prevent that sort of fallout - for instance, they keep their cuppys in a covered bake case which i think keeps them more moist than Mag's. And their red velvet tasted better, in my opinion. As far as the trans fats situation...I'm not too well versed in trans fats, but from what little I do know, I don't think they'll be too affected? Trans fats come from hydrogenated products like fatty shortenings, margarines, and other such processed fats, right? So assuming Magnolia really does use the basic ingredients that their cookbook claims they do, then they shouldn't have any problems, right? Even if they do use shortening in their frosting (which I suspect they do, as the only time I've ever gotten that sort of crunchy consistency out of a frosting was when I used Crisco to make it - butter just doesn't dry that way.) Crisco makes a veggie shortening w/ 0 trans fat in it, so that shouldn't be a problem, right? Perhaps a new thread should be started on this, to clarify these kinds of questions...

                3. Brown Betty - While I'm tempted to give them another try, I'm torn...my heart just isn't in supporting a local joint that doesn't seem overly concerned with their customers, you know? And I also feel that a good establishment shouldn't force their customers to race each other for the good flavors. I understand that it's difficult running that sort of fresh-made, from scratch business...but if you're consistently running out of your product before the day is done, perhaps your inventory is trying to send you a message?

                4. Naked Chocolate: I have a feeling that their cupcakes will always be hit or miss b/c their main business isn't baking. In fact, I harbor reservations about any place that tries to stretch itself too thin. Can you really be a top notch chocolatier AND baker all in one? I'd prefer to waste my calories on a place whose main focus is on baked goods :-)

                5. NNS: what's a Lolita-esque flavoring? I'll definitely give Grocery a try; it always looks so cute when I walk by!

                6. Has anyone tried the gigantic specimens at Winnie's Le Bus in Manayunk? I'm always tempted when I go there, but don't want to give in unless I know it's worth the indulgence...

                3 Replies
                1. re: Aloo0628
                  repoman RE: Aloo0628 Dec 8, 2006 07:22 PM

                  Try the peanut butter (butter cream) & jelly cupcake at Flying Monkey. RIDICULOUS. I originally thought it sounded weird, but after trying one I ordered a whole cake (you can get cakes of any cupcake flavor). Also try the mocha butter cream cupcake... delicious, and this is from someone who doesn't like mocha flavor.

                  1. re: Aloo0628
                    GDSwamp RE: Aloo0628 Dec 9, 2006 06:04 PM

                    I really feel there's a major storage/freshness issue with cupcakes. God did not, perhaps, intend that we shouldst bake cupcakes in advance and selleth them unto one another.

                    E.g., I've experienced too-hard cupcake-cake from Flying Monkey but feel this is largely a byproduct of keeping them in the cooler - their recipes are very solid, which I know because whenever I manage to get the timing right and buy one of their cupcakes right out of the oven, and/or get one that was recently baked and coolered and let it return to room temp, the results are just about perfect.

                    Then there are places like Magnolia, that get around the refrigeration issues by selling their cakes off of the counter - but there you have the problem that unrefrigerated cakes get stale incredibly quickly. So again, I've had brilliant cupcakes from Magnolia when I've gotten them relatively soon after they were baked, and some real dustballs when the cakes had apparently been sitting out for more than an hour or two.

                    I think the only surefire way around this is to bake your own cupcakes, which isn't something I'm equipped to do at this point in my life.

                    1. re: Aloo0628
                      rabidog RE: Aloo0628 Mar 9, 2008 07:46 PM

                      aloo- re: brown betty... are you on the northernliberties.org message board? this sounds right out of a thread going on over there presently. i go by my real name, brynn, on that board, and i'll repeat my stance here: i think their cupcakes are tasty and that alone's enough to keep me coming back; i don't necessarily need to receive a smile with my cupcake. :)

                    2. t
                      tilemaker RE: Aloo0628 Dec 9, 2006 09:51 PM

                      try the chocolate ganache cupcakes at Canvas in Fishtown, or try any of the baked items. Everythings baked there, super flavorful, fresh and cheap.

                      1. c
                        cb4 RE: Aloo0628 Mar 5, 2008 06:35 AM

                        I found a cool website for a company that says they will deliver fresh cupcakes in Philadelphia... what an interesting service... you can see their cupcakes online at http://wish-cake.com

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cb4
                          Displaced California Foodie RE: cb4 Mar 9, 2008 06:17 PM

                          Is wish-cake a bakery? Do they sell food from a residence?

                        2. r
                          rooy1960 RE: Aloo0628 Mar 11, 2008 07:47 AM

                          about thirty minutes outside of center city, in Jenkintown, is The Velvet Sky Bakery.
                          they specialize in cupcakes and they are divine. www.velvetskybakery.com. the quality of both cake and frosting is outstanding and lovely presentations.

                          1. s
                            spicemistress RE: Aloo0628 Jan 2, 2009 08:21 PM

                            I just love the chocolate mocha cupcakes from The Night Kitchen in Chestnut Hill!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: spicemistress
                              gardens4me RE: spicemistress Jul 28, 2010 05:52 PM

                              I agree...these are the best cupcakes in NW Philly and they have been making them for years....it's not a fad for Night Kitchen. Cake is moist, icing is butter-based but not cloying.

                            2. l
                              lone369 RE: Aloo0628 Jan 6, 2009 03:22 PM

                              I went to the Flying Monkey today at the suggestion of a few. My wife, daughter and I were all very disappointed. I will stick with the Cupcakes Gourmet in Frazer and Brown Betty's.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: lone369
                                rabidog RE: lone369 Jan 6, 2009 04:37 PM

                                blech! you must have read the wrong thread here. i think there's another one, titled something like cupcakes in 2008... anyway, a lot of people described their icing as lardy, but i had to try it anyway. not only do i 100% agree with that assessment, the cake was dry as well. it was definitely one of the worst cupcakes i've had.

                                1. re: rabidog
                                  bluehensfan RE: rabidog Jan 7, 2009 04:51 AM

                                  Flying Monkey's cupcakes are the worst. They are not fresh (that's why they are kept in the fridge) and have heavy, lardy icing.

                                  The only redeeming thing at the Monkey used to be their brownies. But I stopped getting them months ago after they were consistently burnt to a crisp (all they do is baking so you'd think they'd get it right) and were hard as a rock. I mentioned that to the owner who advised me to "fondle my brownie" before I buy it to make sure it's not brick-hard like the last one. No thanks...

                                  1. re: bluehensfan
                                    Bob Loblaw RE: bluehensfan Jan 7, 2009 05:38 AM

                                    Fondle? Is that a direct quote?

                                    1. re: Bob Loblaw
                                      bluehensfan RE: Bob Loblaw Jan 7, 2009 08:17 AM

                                      It is...and I have witnesses. It was so strange after she said it (and I am not one who is easily shocked)...I was not sure which was odder, the use of the word "fondle" or the fact that she, the owner of a bakery, was telling me that *I* needed to feel their brownies when I buy them to see if it they are fresh or not.

                                      1. re: bluehensfan
                                        rabidog RE: bluehensfan Jan 7, 2009 09:58 PM

                                        ...still giggling about fondling brownies... too much!! :)

                                    2. re: bluehensfan
                                      Buckethead RE: bluehensfan Jan 7, 2009 08:25 AM

                                      Nice to know that the brownies there have been pre-fondled by customers testing for freshness! Just in case I needed another reason not to buy them..

                                  2. re: lone369
                                    CindyJ RE: lone369 Jan 7, 2009 05:27 AM

                                    I'm no cupcake maven, but I tried a bunch of different mini-cupcakes at Cupcakes Gourmet and found that, although they looked very nice, the toppings, including the ganache, were overly sweet and heavy, and the cake part was fairly ordinary.

                                    1. re: CindyJ
                                      gardens4me RE: CindyJ Jul 28, 2010 05:53 PM

                                      And, they stopped making the Chocolate Chipotle...which was great, but that says more about the palates on the MainLine than anything else, I think.

                                  3. a
                                    amandaberry RE: Aloo0628 Jan 9, 2009 12:34 PM

                                    Carrot Cake Cupcakes at Pink Rose Pastry Shop (4th and Bainbridge) are the *best*.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: amandaberry
                                      michyphilly RE: amandaberry Jan 9, 2009 01:26 PM

                                      I love carrot cake , does Pink Rose have a variety of cupcakes and if so how are they?

                                      1. re: michyphilly
                                        Buckethead RE: michyphilly Jan 9, 2009 01:41 PM

                                        If you love carrot cake, the best I've had in the city can be found right across the street from the Pink Rose, at the Famous 4th St. Deli. They don't offer it in cupcake form though, just a humongous slice form that can feed four people.

                                        1. re: michyphilly
                                          gardens4me RE: michyphilly Jul 28, 2010 05:53 PM

                                          Pink Rose...RIP...

                                      2. AmblerGirl RE: Aloo0628 Aug 1, 2009 01:41 PM

                                        I just has some of the best cupcakes I ever had. My husband bought me a big box of red velvet cupcakes from Sweet Bytes Cafe on Main Street in Ambler. They are not pretty to look at, they look (and are) completely homemade. But the cupcakes had the softest texture, were delicate and not too sweet, and the icing was a sweet cream cheese that had a candy-like taste to it. Yum! They are not a bakery, per se, but are a little cafe that serves tons of homemade food and desserts, all made by the mother and daughter who own the cafe. They usually run out of their cupcakes so you need to order ahead. So good!!!!!

                                        I think that I have posted on these boards how Zake's has the best red velvet cupcakes in the area, well these put Zake's to shame, they are that good!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: AmblerGirl
                                          TwoBellies RE: AmblerGirl Sep 5, 2009 03:02 PM


                                          Just saw that place today passing through. Man, Ambler is really looking good!

                                          1. re: AmblerGirl
                                            gardens4me RE: AmblerGirl Jul 28, 2010 05:54 PM

                                            I always thought Zakes were very good, but now I'll have to try Sweet Bytes! Thanks for posting.

                                          2. missclaudy RE: gr8chefmrd Aug 25, 2009 06:54 PM

                                            Pa. pals, make your own ding dang cupcakes ! You can make whatever kind you love, it's fun (remember cooking can be fun) and easy and SO much cheaper, it's a blast to decorate them too. Kids and grown ups alike will love you. You can make not too sweet, non lardy tasting frosting too. C'mon people, get up on the good foot and bake and cook wonderful food in your own kitchens and share it with your friends and family !There are a zillion recipes on the internet, no excuses accepted !

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: missclaudy
                                              TeamPhilly RE: missclaudy Aug 26, 2009 08:24 AM

                                              Nice thought. I think we'll make some this weekend. We've been to some of the places on this board--Cupcakes Gourmet in Exton was overpriced and unimpressive, Naked Chocolate Cafe products tend to be dried out--and none of their icings are as good as my wife's true buttercream that she makes on her Buche de Noel (spelling?).

                                              1. re: TeamPhilly
                                                gardens4me RE: TeamPhilly Aug 26, 2009 06:01 PM

                                                Are you talking about Cupcakes Gourmet in Fraser??? I think that that is fairly decent, especially the Choc Chipotle Cupcake, which they don't have often enough to suit me.

                                            2. oliviasaru RE: Aloo0628 Aug 26, 2009 06:06 PM

                                              I had a great cupcake yesterday at Bredenbeck's Bakery in Chestnut Hill. Moist cake and a smooth chocolate icing (ganache?) rather than fluffy. It hit the spot.

                                              1. b
                                                barryg RE: Aloo0628 Aug 26, 2009 06:11 PM

                                                There's a new "cupcake truck" opening up on Friday at Love Park.


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: barryg
                                                  naneharvey RE: barryg Sep 4, 2009 07:14 PM

                                                  The cupcakes from the Buttercream cupcake truck were very nice ($2 for the smaller size). They are small, but have a nice light texture and the frosting was good. The white (buttercream?) was nice, but unremarkable, while the chocolate ganache was delicious. Tonight we strolled past Cupmakes, a tiny storefront on 2nd Street near South, and got two of their cupcakes. The place looks like nothing, so I was pretty taken aback when we got home and tasted one of the best cupcakes I've ever had in Philly. The Cupmakes name refers to the fact that you "create" your own cupcake. You choose your "base" and then select a frosting and one (or more) toppings. The cake was lovely and moist and the frostings were not overpowering. I've had Flying Monkey cupcakes and they are kind of dry with heavy frosting. Whole Foods vegan cupcakes weigh a ton -- heavy, slightly grainy cake with an enormous pile of frosting. Cupmakes gets a big thumbs up and they're open til 10:00 pm.

                                                2. l
                                                  LoisMorgan RE: Aloo0628 Sep 7, 2009 02:41 PM

                                                  Then there's Betty's Speakeasy cupcakes...I love the Black Velvet cupcakes.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: LoisMorgan
                                                    thehungrything RE: LoisMorgan Jul 27, 2010 07:21 PM

                                                    I think Betty's speakeasy makes the best cupcakes in Philadelphia and maybe the best period anywhere. I dream of their delicate squash blossom cupcakes. And alas they closed their retail location!!!

                                                    1. re: LoisMorgan
                                                      JanR RE: LoisMorgan Jul 28, 2010 04:15 PM


                                                    2. h
                                                      hullagrl4life RE: Aloo0628 Jul 27, 2010 03:23 PM

                                                      Philly Cupcake just opened on chestnut and I got a few cupcakes to try. A friend and I got six cupcakes of all different varieties, and they were all very dry, and bland. I could have made better cupcakes from a box.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: hullagrl4life
                                                        bluehensfan RE: hullagrl4life Jul 28, 2010 06:50 AM

                                                        I thought that Philly Cupcake was not so hot either. Except for the coffee cake one (which was essentially coffee cake and not a cupcake) the rest got a bite taken out of and were tossed. Looks like they spend too much time there trying to stick kit kats and perch peanut butter cups on their product than doing something that can stand alone.

                                                        My favorites are still the red velvet or the sour cream, neon-colored iced ones at Brown Betty. I did have a good strawberry one from Betty's Buttons a few weeks back though and I still like the vanilla ones at Naked. Still haven't developed the lard taste bud yet so the Flying Monkey is still out...

                                                        1. re: bluehensfan
                                                          Ali RE: bluehensfan Jul 28, 2010 07:57 AM

                                                          Flying Monkey may make good brownies, but the cupcakes ... much too reminiscent of Magnolia cupcakes for my taste.

                                                          I agree on Philly Cupcake. Overpriced for what you're getting - chiffon-style (I'd guess) cupcake with "stuff." The lemon one that I had a little while ago wasn't bad, but worth the $4, not really?

                                                          Brown Betty has a great sweet potato cupcake that I love, but I'm not sure that I've found another one that I really enjoy. I'll have to try that sour cream one!!

                                                          My current red velvet fav is from Call Me Cupcake. It strike the right note, somehow. Whether it's being helped by the fact that it's easily accessible twice a week, I don't know. :)

                                                          Best chocolate cupcake in Philly, though? Grocery. Possibly best chocolate cupcake I've ever had.

                                                          1. re: Ali
                                                            meldonj RE: Ali Jul 28, 2010 11:47 AM

                                                            Has anyone ever tried one from the Buttercream Cupcake Truck?? http://www.buttercreamphiladelphia.co...

                                                            I think they made it onto an episode of Cupcake Wars too ( I don't think it's aired yet).
                                                            They don't look like they have too many flavors, but they sell out everyday: I'll have to swing by (wherever they happen to be that day) and try one soon!

                                                            1. re: meldonj
                                                              Ali RE: meldonj Jul 28, 2010 12:40 PM

                                                              If they have it, the lemon cupcake with strawberry buttercream is truly great. Otherwise ... the peanut butter frosting is probably the best version I've had. I like Buttercream, but is it worth it to stand in that line? Nope. I no longer wait in that heinous line the way I wait for the falafel nazi.

                                                              I thought the Cupcake Wars thing wasn't final. Her tweet indicated that FN only called today and she didn't know if she wasn't on the show yet.

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