HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >


Cupcakes in Philadelphia: '08 Edition

  • t

I know this subject has been posted a couple times but seeing as I just moved here, I thought I would start a thread to get the most updated input and suggestions.

Where do people suggest I go for a good cucpake?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have not had them, but I hear that Frangelli's (9th and Ritner) has good ones.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      Some of the best are the red velvet ones at Brown Betty Desserts in Northern Liberites and the ones at the Naked Chocolate Cafe. Rumor has it that the red velvet ones at Tartes in Old City are pretty good too.

      1. re: bluehensfan

        what's your fave brown betty cupcake? i think i'm having cupcakes for lunch tomorrow, IF i get snowed in and can't go to work!

        down the street... i love the pumpkin/cream cheese cupcake at higher grounds. i don't know if they're made in house or brought in, but i'll have to ask next time. they have high-quality snackin food there!

        1. re: rabidog

          I have not had them since the summer but remember trying the pound cake one and thought it was good but thought the icing tasted a little sour-creamy. The foodie-in-training enjoyed a chocolate one with chocolate icing immensely and the red velvet one was fabulous. But that's all we've tried.

          1. re: rabidog

            Hi Rabidog...I've had almost all of the Brown Betty cupcakes (chocolate/chocolate, buttermilk pound/lemon, red velvet/cream cheese, sour cream pound/vanilla, almond/almond, almond/chocolate, strawberry/strawberry, and strawberry/chocolate). All are fantastic, though I would definitely recommend the red velvet since it sells out frequently. The chocolate/chocolate is great is you love chocolate (the icing is more fantastic than the cake) and the almond varieties are amazing if you are like me and love the flavor of almond extract. Basically, I've never had a bad cupcake there. As an aside, if you have a fondness for coconut I'd definitely get a slice of the coconut cake...it isn't frequently available and is supposedly amazing (I personally am not a coconut fan so I've never actually tasted it). Enjoy!

            1. re: rabidog

              I definitely recommend the red velvet, pineapple (super moist) and the carrot cake if you don't mind raisins. I think their chocolate cupcake is pretty dry, but the frosting is very good.

              Not cupcakes, but their sweet potato pot is excellent, warm it up in the oven and scoop some vanilla next to, yum!

              The cookies are pretty good also.

              1. re: rabidog

                okay, so i made it over to brown betty's - i really need to remember about this place more often... this was only my third visit in the nearly two years i've lived here. shame on me!

                i am often sqeamish about red velvet; i'm always scared it's going to be too sweet. so i'll try that next time.

                i was torn between the buttermilk pound and the sour cream pound. the girl behind the counter asked if i would favor lemon or vanilla, and i was in a vanilla mood, so she handed me a sour cream. man that was a great cupcake!! the icing was super-sweet, but not a massive amount so it was not overwhelming. cake was light and fluffy. i almost had a second one. i will have to go back soon to try out the red velvet.

                i should clarify from my previous post about the pumpkin/cream cheese cupcake from higher grounds... i'm actually not sure if it's a cupcake or a muffin! what differentiates the two? is it icing? if so i guess it would technically be a muffin, because the cream cheese icing is in the center. hmmm... cupcake vs muffin... any thoughts?

                1. re: rabidog

                  If you had the strawberry shortcake cupcake and didn't think it was all that to rave about, where do you suggest you get a good strawberry shortcake cupcake? I will be visiting the area soon and would love to pick one up as a small gift. Thanks!

            2. Flying Monkey in Reading Terminal has terrific cupcakes.

              7 Replies
              1. re: macdonwald

                I like the Flying Monkey's double chocolate brownies a lot but find their cupcake icing to be to lardy tasting...but maybe that's just me.

                1. re: bluehensfan

                  I went to the Reading Terminal market this past weekend, mostly to try out Flying Monkey, and see what all the hype is about. They had maybe 3 choices of cupcakes - they did not look great. I opted for the double chocolate brownie - and thought it was kinda stale tasting. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. - Can't wait to try Naked Chocolate cafe!

                  1. re: laziedazie570

                    Uh oh, should've warned you... For the past few months the brownies at the Flying Monkey have been rock hard and for lack of a better word "prehistoric looking" since they have turned hard and white around the edges. What you have to do is to come back later in the day after they have cut and put out the new batch, since they are generally moist and not at all stale. Sometimes I will ask for a fresh one in the back and the reply I always get is that new ones are going to be put out later.

                    I do think that the Monkey's keeping out stale (and for that matter burned too!) items is pretty poor business. Their product line only encompasses a very few items and if their quality is so inconsistent, who is going to want to rush back? Granted the brownies are good when they are "on" but it's a lot of effort for the customer. Not to mention that some of the employees seem annoyed when they have to stop icing cupcakes or whatever to assist customers.

                    On a much happier, note, the cupcakes at Naked Chocolate have been consistently good every time, and the only thing that varies with them is the color of the vanilla icing they use (they add coloring to it). The service is great there too. While you're at it, be sure to try the Aztec hot chocolate (European style!)

                    1. re: bluehensfan

                      seems like a lot to do for a brownie.

                      1. re: Bob Loblaw

                        I agree...makes me wonder if it's worth all the trouble. Better off going to Naked Chocolate more.

                      2. re: bluehensfan

                        Thank you for this post! I couldn't agree more. The first few times I went to flying monkey I found their cupcakes heavenly. Then I got a stale batch. So after that, I was really specific about finding out which ones were fresh before I made a choice. The ladies behind the counter (or should I say womyn?) were pretty cagy about telling me which ones had just come out, like I was just supposed to take whatever rock hard nastiness they happened to be selling. What is their deal? I am not much for grumpy customer service. I have not really been back for that reason. They have no reason to be reluctant to provide customer service. And they are fooling no one by trying to sell off stale merchandise.
                        That said, I am sure that the tourists and conventioneers who are one and done at the market will buy the cupcakes, take what they get, and will never know the difference. Rather cynical, in the end.

                        1. re: Suefoo

                          I entirely agree with your perceptiions of the Monkey. Lately on Saturday mornings, the two employees there have been too busy to wait on customers because they are too busy baking. So even when I can eyeball the brownies to see which ones are fresh, nobody can get them for me. I have seen customers walk away in disgust because they cannot get anyone to wait on them. Combine this with extremely inconsistent products (who's burning the cookies and brownies...and it's not like they sell 100 items to keep track of...) and I see disaster brewing. Oh that's right, they can keep peddling to the conventioneers at the local customer's expense. Oh well...at least there's Brown Betty!

                2. I like Velvet Sky in Jenkintown, especially their red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes. Of course, I AM a sucker for cream cheese icing.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: malkazanie

                    I just tried Velvet Sky yesterday...I bought six cupcakes and had chunks of three of them. The flavors I tried were chocolate with mint oreo buttercream, vanilla with vanilla buttercream, and chocolate with chocolate peanut butter twist buttercream (two seperate icings, chocolate and peanut butter, piped out together). The cakes in general weren't great...the chocolate cake was okay but fairly boring. It was reminiscent of boxed cake mix. The vanilla cake pretty much had no flavor and could have used a good dose of salt and vanilla extract. The buttercreams were good, in particular the mint oreo and peanut butter buttercreams. The vanilla was pretty good--kind of basic and tasted more like a shortening base than butter base (which can be good or bad depending on your preferences). The little bit of chocolate I tasted was a bit too mellow for my flavors. According to their website they have some sort of dark chocolate buttercream option, so I'm guessing whatever I got was the other chocolate option (perhaps milk). It wasn't bad but, just like the vanilla cake, it lacked flavor. The frostings were a nice and fluffy consistency, though.

                    Overall, I'd go again for the mint oreo buttercream and the peanut butter buttercream, as well as to try new flavors, but Velvet Sky didn't knock my socks off by any means. However, it was very reasonable at $9.54 (including tax) for six cupcakes!

                    1. re: Laura D.

                      I was really excited to try Velvet Sky Bakery a few weeks ago. I have not found a great bakery in the Ambler area. I ordered a cake for my daughter's birthday and got a red velvet cupcake when I was picking up the cake. I was VERY disappointed with the icing on both the cupcake and the cake. It was way too sweet. I agree that it doesn't taste like it is butter based, as a true butter cream icing should be AND as they claim to use on their website. My guests agreed that the cake and icing, while beautifully decorated, was just okay. I will not go back again.

                      1. re: monkeyseekers

                        Not sure why I am bothering to respond, but those reading should note that except for the above from Monkeyseekers, these posts are from two years ago. I think we had a thread that was more recent.

                    2. It depends on how far you want to travel and your definition of a good cupcake.
                      Give us some help!

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Max Buten

                        i am currently out in the burbs until further notice...so i am willing to travel. and as far as a good cupcake, i like different cupcakes for different reasons. i was hoping to get suggestions of various places and then grab a friend or two and do a cupcake tour. it is something i have done with most places i have lived (like london and nyc). so any and all suggestions are good as long as you consider it good.

                        1. re: ttocs

                          Philly's cupcakes are good and all but if you're looking for something like Magnolia Bakery in NYC, you may be a little disappointed.

                          1. re: ttocs

                            for burb cupcakes, i love clay's bakery on rte 30 in berwyn. the cake is always moist and the icing sweet and good. when i bring these in to work for birthdays, (we're a big company = LOT of birthday celebrations) they're always a hit and people ask me where i get them!

                            /as an aside, for my boss' 50th last year they made me a brilliant morbid cake (two cakes actually) in the shape of '50'!

                            i love your idea of a cupcake tour! i'm always looking for innovative crawls... as opposed to bar crawls every time... we once did a 'coffee crawl' of northern liberties which left me a little wonky from caffiene overload!

                            1. re: rabidog

                              I second the rec for Clay's--I've been getting cakes there since my sweet 16 over a decade ago, and they have never disappointed. Not only do they put out really creative cakes, but they sell some monster-sized cupcakes.

                              I'd be in for a cupcake crawl, too. Mmm, cupcakes...

                              1. re: briteyes

                                Me want cupcakes! [Yepper, since reading these posts I've been to the Naked Chocolate Cafe, Flying Monkey, and Di Bruno's (although I couldn't bring myself to buy a cupcake with a 1:1 ratio of cake to icing!)] I will crawl, jump, or ride a pogo stick for more such culinary fun!

                                1. re: Seeker19104

                                  whoa. i'll save the story of what happened the time i insisted on the all-icing cake for my 5th birthday party and my folks (sweet people, but clueless parents) complied... yeah, i'll just say, my stomach gets unsettled at just your mention of 1:1 cake/icing ratios...

                                  darnit, naked chocolate keeps eluding me... i keep forgetting about them when i am walking around that area! i am DYing for a hot chocolate. are they open late, does anyone know?

                                    1. re: rabidog

                                      Get the Aztec hot chocolate in European style!

                                    2. re: Seeker19104

                                      Are the ones at DiBruno's any good? They seem to look like big, rather generic ones like you'd see in just about any bakery.

                                      On an unrelated note, I know it's kind of sick but I miss those rainbow cookies that DiBruno's used to sell a few years back along with those supersweet chocolate brownies that they carried before they switched suppliers.

                                      1. re: bluehensfan

                                        Stopped by Swiss Pastry Shop on 19th Street yesterday, and picked up some vanilla/vanilla and chocolate/chocolate (only ones on display). The price was right - half a dozen for $6.30 including tax. They were definitely fresh and attractive. Surprisingly, I liked the chocolate better as the cake seemed more dense. The chocolate jimmies on top nicely complimented the buttercream icing. The vanilla, which is usually my preference, had excellent buttercream; however, the cake was too tender for my taste, and the rainbow-colored sprinkles added nothing but more sugar.

                            2. just wanted to say thanks for the suggestions...a little tour is planned for this weekend.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: ttocs

                                Maybe we'll see you if you go to Naked Chocolate! Watch out for the Reading Terminal Market though....Flower Show Crowds! And be sure to report back on your findings!

                                1. re: bluehensfan

                                  Here's the results of someone else who did some investigating on cupcakes in Philly: http://girlaboutphilly.blogspot.com/s...

                                  1. re: bluehensfan

                                    i tried a naked choc cupcake last weekend, albeit not a chocolate one (had strawberry shortcake). i wasn't blown away in the least.

                                    also tried the aztec euro style and my SO had the bittersweet euro style, as well as a few morsels of chocolate... i think it's just time for us both to admit we're just not chocolate lovers. or maybe we would have preferred the watered-(milked?)down american style. has anyone else found the euro style to be just too much?

                                    1. re: rabidog

                                      My wife thinks it's too sweet/intense but I think I am building up a tolerance for it...

                                      1. re: rabidog

                                        The darker and richer (less sweet) the better for me, but only in small amounts.

                                        1. re: rabidog

                                          I also was not blown away by the one Naked cupcake I've had (chocolate). The one thing I liked about it was that the chocolate was not overly sweetened, that way you can taste the cocoa flavor. But the icing was too sweet (at least it wasn't lardy like Flying Monkey's).

                                          1. re: Dib

                                            Neither Naked Chocolate or Flying Monkey cupcakes did it for me either. Although I did really enjoy the Peanut Butter triangle brownie thing from Naked Chocolate (I forget what they call them).

                                            I still enjoy Clay's cupcakes the best. However if in the mood, I've often opted for a slice of cake instead, as I love the cake texture/flavor (different than the cupcake) & same great icing!

                                    2. The Velvet Sky Bakery in Jenkintown. the best i've ever had.

                                      1. had a good and leisurely stroll around the reading terminal market today and decided to try one of the flying monkey cupcakes, pistachio. the cupcake looked fresh but you all are right - i thought they were totally lardy! cake was dry, icing was too much. not a fan!

                                        1. Velvet Sky in Jenkintown has the best cupcakes. They are always fresh. My husband and I drop in once a month to try a new flavor. My favorites are red velvet and carrot cake.

                                          1. My recent Philadelphia cupcake tour found the Flying Monkey (Reading Terminal) upcakes to be dry and their icing lacking in flavor. I've purchased here twice and have been disappointed both times. Brown Betty Desserts is WONDERFUL - the Red Velvet are moist and flavorful . . . so is the buttermilk poundcake - great texture, moisture and beautiful icing. If you are ever in the Princeton area - try the Bent Spoon in Palmer Square - the icing is great - cake is moist and tasty.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: galparone

                                              Brown Betty is opening a cupcake-only store on 20th near Spruce, in September. This street is going to be foodie heaven now: Mama's falafel at the top, Darling's cheesecake at the bottom, cupcakes in the middle! Thank you.

                                            2. Try the Night Kitchen Bakery in Chestnut Hill. They have very nice chocolate, lemon, and carrot cake cupcakes.

                                              1. Brown Betty Desserts definitely. Also, Canvas Cafe on Girard Ave and Columbia Ave. (Fishtown). Has a nice variety of cupcakes (vegan selection as well) cookies, and pasteries. Canvas Cafe has a great red velvet cupcake (vegan).

                                                1. Check out the new Cupcakes Gourmet in Frazer! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/507656

                                                  1. I just had a truly sublime cupcake from, believe it or not, the Metropolitan Bakery in the Reading Terminal Market a week or two ago. Unfortunately, I seldom see them there. It was good enough, though, that if I needed a bunch of them, I would try to special order them.

                                                    I also endorse the many suggestions of Brown Betty cupcakes. Yum.

                                                    1. got a cupcake to go from le bus (manyunk) last night. waaaay too much icing, although the icing is quite good. i would never recommend eating the thing as is, but we enjoyed the cupcake w/around 1/3 of the icing last night, and today i've been using the leftover icing on various other foods around the house (granola bars, cookies).

                                                      1. Got cupcakes from Naked Chocolate Cafe today. The amount of icing has gone way, way down and, in our opinion, so has the cupcake. They used to have a great icing-to-cake ratio; apparently that is no more.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ladydisdain

                                                          Hmm, will have to try Naked Chocolate's cupcakes soon. I did notice their hot chocolate has been less-than-stellar lately, as I had a large glop of something that solidified that was not so tasty in mine the last time.

                                                          Also, for those of you who go to the Flying Monkey, we got a brownie from there last week to go that was so hard, it could easily hammer a nail (or break a tooth!) with it. Why a bakery would ever sell anything so outdated like that I will never know, but it's being returned.

                                                          On a happier note, we did get red velvet cupcakes from Brown Betty Desserts in Northern Liberites last week too. Perfectly rich (but not overly sweet or lardy tasting) icing and moist cake. Makes up for the other recent food fiascos elsewhere...

                                                        2. As I live in the 19104 zip code, I was able to try Cupmakes several times before they went on hiatus for the summer. As they were a startup operation run by Penn students, I felt it was fair to give them a while to smooth out the kinks in the operation before posting. The cupcakes are big. You design your own or select a special one on the Web site for delivery between 10:00P and 1:30A.

                                                          For my taste, I liked the vanilla cupcake with the chocolate fudge/buttercream icing. I tend to like my desserts to be not overly sweet. They also had an unusual and tasty green tea cupcake with green tea/avocado icing as a special one week.

                                                          The week they closed for the summer they previewed some new cupcakes which will be available in the fall. I tried the red velvet which was rich and satisfying although it came with cream cheese icing rather than the traditional icing. I've forwarded the recipe for traditional red velvet cake icing to them in the hope that they have it available in the fall.

                                                          1. You have to try the ones at Carlino's in Ardmore on County Line Rd and in West Chester on Market St. I'm a plain jane so I just go for the vanilla ones but they have lots of other flavors and they're HUGE!

                                                            1. You can find some really good cupcakes at a little Farmer's Market in Jenkintown at the Whole Foods Market. It is only held the first Sunday of the month, but there is a girl there that sells homemade cupcakes that are sooo good. The lemon are the best-- they have lemon curd inside and a delicious cream cheese frosting. I have also had the chocolate and german chocolate- really good.

                                                              1. Fork makes a decent cupcake. Their carrot cake cupcakes with buttercream frosting are excellent, as are the peach cupcakes with lemon buttercream.

                                                                I also love Flying Monkey chocolate cupcakes with lavender icing. Granted, I haven't had them in a while - from the sounds of things they may have changed their recipe.

                                                                1. Heard that Brown Betty's is opening an all-cupcake outlet on South 20th Street. Is there any truth to this rumor?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. I had a REALLY good cupcake at Weinrich's Bakery/Kaffeehaus in Willow Grove last week. The icing was true buttercream, tasty but not too heavy like the lard-based ones. I also live around the corner from Velvet Sky bakery in Jenkintown but counted them out a couple of years ago (dry cake, so-so icing). I'm going to have to try them again!

                                                                    1. Has anyone been to the Brown Betty's on S. 20th Street?

                                                                      How does it compare the original?

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Seeker19104

                                                                        Did this open yet? I haven't been able to find any information about it on their website.

                                                                        1. re: Laura D.

                                                                          It opened a few weeks back. The cupcakes are all trucked in from their other store in No Libs. So the good news is that they taste the same. The bad news is that they ran out of the red velvet ones the last time we were there...so get there early if possible.

                                                                          1. re: bluehensfan

                                                                            Thanks for the update. I was hoping the new location would have different things than the Northern Liberties location but it sounds like they have the same (though delicious) stuff. One tip I've found in Northern Liberties...the stuff they have at opening is only a fraction of what they'll put out throughout the day. This is one of the few bakeries I've been to where it almost helps to get there a bit later in the day. That being said, there are plenty of days where they don't make a certain flavor at all, or when what they have out at opening is all they'll be having of a particular flavor. I'm still trying to strategize on how best to get what I want there!

                                                                            1. re: Laura D.

                                                                              I've been in the 20th St store - cupcakes only. They had a handy (take away) guide for which days they are making certain cupcakes.

                                                                              1. re: lbmsw

                                                                                Thanks for the tip about the guide...I'd be particularly interested in what cupcakes they have on Saturdays. BTW-This location is only cupcakes...no coconut cake or the like. I do kinda wish both locations opened earlier than noon.

                                                                                1. re: bluehensfan

                                                                                  Actually, I do know that (at least in all the press materials I've seen) there will be (maybe already have) cupcake versions of the usual cakes - coconut and the like. In fact, I'm almost certain I saw a coconut something or other when I was there last week (but they finally had the red velvet so I went for that instead).