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Cupcake Outrage in Back Bay

tamerlanenj May 19, 2008 10:54 AM

I peeked in the window of Sweet, the new cupcake shop on Mass Ave, today, and almost blew a gasket when I saw that individual cupcakes are $3.25. What the heck? Is this in line with other chic cupcake places like Magnolia? I'll stick to Lyndell's.

  1. gini Aug 15, 2008 10:19 AM

    Stopped in for a mini 4 pack today - I've only tried the dark chocolate so far, but it sure was tasty. I like the frosting a heck of a lot more than Lyndell's and the cake was moist and flavorful. Amusingly, 4 mini cupcakes set me back the same amount as the Speed's dog I had for lunch.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gini
      Bob Dobalina Aug 15, 2008 11:16 AM

      Gini, your cardiologist thanks you.

    2. c
      Chicky May 26, 2008 04:19 PM

      The cupcakes are delicious so I didnt mind paying $3.25. Even the larger size cupcakes were small and, frankly, I could have eaten another. The frosting is out of this world. Sweet appears to be a savvy operation and not some fly-by-night cupcake house so I'm sure much research went into the pricing strategy. If you're upset about cupcake prices, check out the menu at Finale and you'll be dead on the floor.

      1. voodoocheese May 22, 2008 09:20 PM

        I would just like to report that I stopped at Sweet today, and I was pretty impressed. I've been to most of the cupcake spots in town- Lyndell's is pretty good- but the cake is very airy, and the frosting can sometimes be weirdly salty. Kickass is alright- I like the variety of flavors, but as others have posted- they can be on the dry side.. Crema's lemon curd cupcake is nice, if a little too spongey. South End Buttery's cakes are just so heavy that I can hardly handle them- but they are yummy in small quantities. Party Favors are definitely good, but not incredible- it seems like something I could make at home, or get at a grocery store.
        Finally- at Sweet, I will be back for the vanilla bean cupcake and the cappuccino cupcake, the cakes were soft and tender, and there was just enough frosting. The signs say that there will be some more interesting offerings come June- I'll be there!
        And regarding prices, upscale cupcake places are all pretty similar in price, but I think the reason that Lyndell's and Party Favors are cheaper are simply because they use less expensive materials. Sweet uses things like Madagascar vanilla beans, Callebaut cocoa, and gold leaf- and Kickass uses candied ginger, white chocolate and homemade marshmallows for example..

        5 Replies
        1. re: voodoocheese
          RichardA May 25, 2008 11:32 AM

          I just got back from Sweet and had one of the Sweet Cake & Dark Chocolate cupcakes ($3.25 each!). They were good cupcakes but not excellent. A bit dry, though the frosting helped with that. Frosting was tasty and not overly sweet. But they also seemed small. For the price, I could not recommend them.

          1. re: RichardA
            BostonZest May 25, 2008 01:10 PM

            I ran into a Back Bay neighbor last night who was raving about the Sweet cupcakes. I trust her taste and judgement.

            She is a "cake person," and she loves them. She also mentioned that the health department is making them refrigerate the cupcakes. That made a bell go off in my head. The two we tried this week were dry while many others have been raving about moist.

            Will those reporting to tell us whether they bought them late in the day? My purchase was about 5 pm, but my neighbor had them immediately after they opened, fresh from the bakery.

            Any refrigerated cake will suffer. I don't know why they would have to refrigerate a cupcake, but maybe it is the buttercream. If that's the case, I suggest they keep the cakes at room temp and decorate on site.

            I agree with those who pointed out that the buttercream is excellent. But, also have to say that I'm not the best judge because cupcakes are not high on my interest scale.

            I was also hoping for a local place to grab a latte but Sweet only has coffee, no espresso drinks.

            1. re: BostonZest
              kweesee May 25, 2008 06:27 PM

              i agree. refridgerating cupcakes are a badddd idea. exactly why i dont like party favor cupcakes. actually there are many reasons why i dont like party favor's dry, thick, cake + grocery store quality hard icing.

              1. re: BostonZest
                Chicky May 28, 2008 05:13 AM

                I purchased my cupcakes at 11:45 am and they were a little dry now that you mention it. Not really dry but not moist like from a box.

            2. re: voodoocheese
              purslane May 28, 2008 07:14 AM

              Actually, it is the fancy packaging that drives up the price in a lot of these bakeries. All the cute boxes, bags, ribbons and dividers are built into the price of the cupcake. You are paying for the paper goods which I wouldn't mind if they are trying to be green in any way.Eco friendly packaging is more expensive. I'd rather have great food packaged in something made from recycled material myself than a pretty box that jacks up the price.

            3. m
              mcb70 May 22, 2008 04:52 AM

              We picked up a few to try at the office yesterday.... none of us liked them. I tried a white cupcake with chocolate frosting. The white cake was nearly flavorless, almost as if it was missing an ingredient. It also didn't taste moist or fresh. The chocolate frosting was better but had more of a whipped consistency than Party Favors frosting, which is more grainy (I am not a professional baker so these are unprofessional terms). I prefer the grainy. The frosting would have benefitted from more pronounced chocolate flavor. All in all, we were disappointed and will continue to purchase from Party Favors when we need cupcakes for office events.

              1. g
                gramercyfoodie May 21, 2008 01:32 PM

                There are not many things I don't ask or know the price of...I don't have a clue how much my favorite cupcakes cost...Magnolia and Billy's in NYC, I get my craving walk in the store, get glassy eyed, pick my cupcake, pay, eat. If they are good I think I'll pay almost anything (of course I only get about 6 a year)...maybe I'm like the rest of the yuppie cupcake eaters...

                3 Replies
                1. re: gramercyfoodie
                  Blumie May 21, 2008 01:47 PM

                  I'm with you. It's hard to walk by Billy's without walking in. And if they told me $1.50 or $3.50, it wouldn't register either way. Maybe it's different in Boston (although I don't think it really is), but there's a fair bit of price elasticity in NYC.

                  1. re: Blumie
                    billyboy May 22, 2008 03:31 AM

                    Okay, I just have to chime in! there is a Barbecue restaurant in NYC called Hill Country and they charge $6 per for their peanut butter & jelly cupcakes. To paraphrase Vincent Vega: "That's a pretty good f--kin' cupcake! Don't know if it's worth $6, but it's pretty f--kin' good!"

                    1. re: billyboy
                      troygirl89 May 22, 2008 04:28 AM

                      Cupcake at $3 or so?!?!@@ that is nut!

                2. t
                  tamerlanenj May 21, 2008 07:04 AM

                  Anyhow,. I picked up a Sweet cupcake for my wife today and she declared it excellent, particularly the rich buttercream icing.

                  1. c
                    catsmeow May 19, 2008 08:08 PM

                    I like the cupcakes at Sugar in West Roxbury. I don't remember how much they are but don't remember them as being unreasonable. This past weekend, I went to a cupcake bakery on Federal Hill in Providence. I didn't think to ask for a price before I asked for a vanilla cake/choc frosting one. IT WAS $5.00!!!!!! I thought I had heard wrong. The frosting was good but the cake was similar to angel food.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: catsmeow
                      heathbar May 20, 2008 11:19 AM

                      I just had a Lemon Curd cupcake from that new place Crema in Harvard Square and not only was it about $2 but it was also divine.

                      1. re: heathbar
                        Chipper May 21, 2008 07:01 AM

                        Oh boy. I picked up a couple of those last night. Do you think it's okay if I have one every day? ;)

                    2. k
                      kweesee May 19, 2008 04:54 PM

                      ive done a lot of research on cupcake places in boston, SF as well as nationall recently. most cupcakes from places like this range from $2.50 - $3.25. what makes it worth it for me is the cake, frosting, and design. I recently ordered cupcakes from an SF cupcakery for my best friend. they were $3.25, with delivery charges, it was about $5.30 per cupcake. What made it really worth the high price was that they specialize in customizing. most cupcake places DO NOT do that. they did a really good job with the designs (i sent them pictures of the red socks logo) and my friends said that it was the best cupcake they had in SF. i believe SWEETS also customizes. if their cake tastes really good, and they do a really good job with the customizing, then its worth it.

                      re to hyde's comment, one cupcake or one gallon of gas - id pick gas.

                      1. h
                        hyde May 19, 2008 03:39 PM

                        chowhounders might actually be damaged. when your paying the same for a CUPCAKE as you do for a gallon of gas this country is doomed

                        1. BarmyFotheringayPhipps May 19, 2008 02:39 PM

                          Meh. If they're good enough for the price, they'll prosper, if they're not, they won't. Given the dearth of decent cupcakes in this city -- the grande vanilla at Party Favors is the only cupcake I've found that's worth eating -- they'll make money hand over fist if they're worthwhile. If they're the tasteless golfballs coated in Crisco that Lulu's is selling, they'll be gone soon enough. I just don't see the point in being outraged over it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                            Blumie May 19, 2008 05:30 PM

                            How come Lulu's isn't gone yet? For that matter, why do so many restaurants that serve putrid food survive for years and years?

                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                              autopi May 19, 2008 05:40 PM

                              yeah, i agree with BFP. i also don't see what's so outrageous about $3-4 for a cupcake, when you consider the extraordinary rents in the city. when you compare e.g. to what a small cone at j.p. licks costs, or the mark up at high end restaurants, wine, etc., a couple bucks for a cupcake is really trivial.

                            2. a
                              avial May 19, 2008 01:54 PM

                              What's sad is that even if flour prices drop, the prices are likely to stay because people will have gotten 'used' to them and shops will find other lame excuses to keep prices inflated.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: avial
                                StriperGuy May 19, 2008 02:21 PM

                                This "whole price of flour" excuse is absurd in your average cupcake, even at new prices for all commodities, contains maybe 30 cents worth of ingredients. My local bakery Ohlin's did not quadruple the price of baked goods.

                                I don't have a problem on principle with a fancier place charging more, but when you are paying nearly $4 for a cupcake it better blow the doors off!

                                1. re: StriperGuy
                                  winedude May 19, 2008 02:36 PM

                                  Just for reference, Magnolia's are $1.75 (or may have recently gone up to $2.00). There's more competion in NYC on the cupcake front, however.

                                  1. re: winedude
                                    annlaw Jul 18, 2008 08:05 PM

                                    I was in NY last weekend and paid $2.50 each for Magnolia cupcakes. Still worth every penny...

                                  2. re: StriperGuy
                                    FastTalkingHighTrousers May 19, 2008 06:16 PM

                                    Flour is upwards of $30 for a 50# bag. That's up from just over $10 last year.
                                    That seems like hardly an absurd excuse to me.
                                    Ohlin's might not have raised their prices but pretty much every bakery in the rest of the country has.

                                    1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers
                                      ScubaSteve May 22, 2008 06:49 AM

                                      do you realize how many cupcakes can be made from 50 pounds of flour?
                                      when you divide that over the $20 increase it's only pennies per cupcake.

                                      i just think the current high prices are what the market will support.

                                      1. re: ScubaSteve
                                        Blumie May 22, 2008 06:55 AM

                                        I don't know if we have any economists in this discussion, but I think they would tell us that supply and demand and price elasticity are much more significant factors in the pricing of cupcakes than the cost of flour.

                                        1. re: Blumie
                                          ScubaSteve May 22, 2008 06:59 AM

                                          but people will more readily believe that the material costs are the cause rather than:

                                          "4 bucks for a CupCake?? why?"
                                          "well, honestly, because we can people to pay that much."

                                2. c
                                  Chipper May 19, 2008 12:39 PM

                                  I think some of the places selling pricier cupcakes are trying to go for a different crowd - I'm willing to pay more for a cupcake that isn't as sweet as the ones made by Lyndell's and Ohlin's, and I know some other folks are also willing to do that. That said, I think the ones at Kickass are awfully small and sort of dry, especially for the price, so I'm happy to hear about new options to try!

                                  1. yumyum May 19, 2008 12:37 PM

                                    The cupcakes at Party Favors are 1.25 for a regular, 1.75 for a decorated and 2.75 for a grande. And from what I hear, they are the best around.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: yumyum
                                      heypielady May 19, 2008 02:26 PM

                                      Oh yeah, I like Party Favors if you want to wow someone with a cute frosting job. My husband loves them because they are equal parts frosting and cake. I usually can't eat all the frosting. But I still like them because they don't use that slick buttercream frosting so popular with most bakeries. There frosting is more sugary and granular. I must admit my favorite kind of frosting is the kind on the back of the domino's confection sugar box (which I guess is also called buttercream sometimes but is not slick).

                                      1. re: heypielady
                                        kweesee May 19, 2008 04:56 PM

                                        party favors has really good reviews all over for their cupcakes, but honestly i have never ever liked them. their frosting is just plain old white frosting thats kinda hardened in the fridge. also, cupcakes should not be put in the fridge because it dries it out. finally, everytime i had one, the cake was hard, not moist and soft.

                                        1. re: heypielady
                                          annlaw May 20, 2008 07:22 PM

                                          I like the same kind of frosting but have struggled to describe it as well as you! It reminds me of the frosting my mom made when I was a kid, and she only made it for our birthday cakes. It's the primary reason I love Magnolia cupcakes in NY, but I haven't been able to find cupcakes (or any cake, for that matter) with similar frosting in the Boston area. Besides homemade, do you have any recommendations?

                                          1. re: annlaw
                                            heypielady May 22, 2008 08:32 AM

                                            I was already to post about the great cupcake place I found with "normal" frosting and then I realized I must have been thinking about your request as I fell asleep last night as alas, it was only a dream.

                                            If I ever do find this mythical place I'll be sure to post!

                                        2. re: yumyum
                                          rebs May 19, 2008 05:39 PM

                                          i just bought 3 grand cupcakes from party favors on friday and the total was $12 and change. they were very very good though.

                                        3. b
                                          Blumie May 19, 2008 12:30 PM

                                          Are cupcakes that much of a commodity that you're willing to cross town for a cheaper one? Seems to me that with prices generally within fifty cents of each other, I'd just stick with the ones I like best.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Blumie
                                            heypielady May 19, 2008 02:22 PM

                                            It does seem expensive especially since think how cheap it is to make your own cupcakes! Although if I wanted one cupcake while walking around that area AND they turn out to be really delicious, I guess I wouldn't mind paying $3.25. (As you suggest Blumie, I would travel someplace else in that situation) That's how much ice cream places charge for a small cone and I see one cupcake as a comparable dessert.

                                            That said if I need cupcakes for a crowd I would either make them myself or go someplace cheaper.

                                          2. FastTalkingHighTrousers May 19, 2008 12:27 PM

                                            With flour prices the way they are right now, $3.25 is pretty standard for a good cupcake.

                                            1. kobuta May 19, 2008 11:23 AM

                                              It's been a few months since my visit to Babycakes, but their cupcakes range from 1.25 - 2.75 (with 2.75 being a huge french toast cupcake that is a meal in itself). I would say most of their specialty cupcakes are around 2.25.

                                              I would've guessed that Mass Ave, near Newbury, would mean pricier cupcakes. Are they at least decent sized?

                                              1. macca May 19, 2008 11:13 AM

                                                I know the price of flour has gone up-but.... I was at Whole Foods over the weekend, and the cupcakes were $3.99 each!

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: macca
                                                  poptart May 19, 2008 03:15 PM

                                                  wow, really? I bought one at Whole Foods a couple days ago and it was the usual $1.29. Maybe the $3.99 was an error??

                                                  1. re: poptart
                                                    macca May 19, 2008 04:33 PM

                                                    Nope- Have been there for the past three weeks- 3.99 each week- I know, because I bought two for my young neice and nephew. THis was in the bakery case, and they were beautiful, but still- 3.99 was steep.

                                                    1. re: macca
                                                      poptart May 20, 2008 10:00 AM

                                                      hmmm...maybe they price (and decorate) them differently in the bakery case. The ones I get are at the Fresh Pond location, in the refrigerated area next to the baked items like bagels, muffins etc. These cupcakes only come in chocolate or vanilla, a few different buttercream frosting colors but no fancy decorations and are $1.29. I'll check out the bakery case next time I go...

                                                      1. re: poptart
                                                        macca May 20, 2008 10:07 AM

                                                        They were really pretty- the cupcake for my nephew looked like a baseball, and the one for my neice looked like a purple flower- and the frosting was piled high! They also pack them in a two pack container so the cupcake doesn't get messed up in transit- but will have to check out the one near the muffins- much more to my liking for every day eating. These were "special occasion" cupcakes- and the fruit tarts, BTW, were so beautiful- and the individual chocolate mousse cakes were wonderful- I bought a few for Mothers Day dessert- pricey at 4.99, but my mom loved it ( as she did the seared scallops and roasted loin lamb chops from WF)

                                                        1. re: macca
                                                          poptart May 20, 2008 01:37 PM

                                                          Sounds like a good choice for special occasions...I will remember that next time I have an excuse to bring my nephews a treat! :-)

                                                          I once bought a regular layer/birthday cake from WF and was pleasantly surprised that it cost the same as the equivalent at Shaw's or Stop and Shop, BUT...the WF cake tasted a lot better and the ingredients were not full of chemicals!
                                                          The fruit tarts do look wonderful. I have been tempted many times but have yet to buy one.

                                                          1. re: poptart
                                                            macca May 20, 2008 04:01 PM

                                                            Hope the cupcakes were good- I gave them to the kids to take home. Will have to remember about the layer bd cakes.Thanks for the tip!

                                                2. StriperGuy May 19, 2008 11:07 AM

                                                  Heck, at Boyajian's new place in Belmont I gacked at a $3.50 cupcake.

                                                  Just crossed the street and went to Ohlin's where they were something like $1.50.

                                                  1. a
                                                    afty698 May 19, 2008 10:59 AM

                                                    They are $2.75 apiece at Kickass Cupcakes, so I guess ~$3 is the pricepoint for upscale cupcakes here. I will stick to Lyndell's as well.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: afty698
                                                      tamerlanenj May 19, 2008 11:07 AM

                                                      For some reason $3.25 causes me significantly more anger in me than $2.75

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