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best cupcakes in Manhattan?

Hi all. I need to buy an assortment of cupcakes for an upcoming birthday celebration...any recommendations? I've heard mixed things about so many of the bakeries (Magnolia, Sweet Sunshine, etc.) I'm not sure what to think....I can be flexible on price, location.

(I did not find a specific thread on cupcakes in my search here, so apologies if I missed one.)


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  1. I really love the pistachio at Sugar Sweet Sunshine, the namesake "sweet revenge" as well as the "crimson & cream" at Sweet Revenge, and the "smore" at Chikalicious-Dessert-Pudding-whatever-its-called.

    That would be a fantastic medley of cupcakes. Pretty much everything else in town is mediocre, in my opinion.

    2 Replies
    1. re: billyeats

      SSS or Chikalicious are good choices. Often SSS wins out for big group events because they are priced much more gently.

      I would see this thread for comparisons between MANY cupcake places:

    2. Two Little Red Hens would be a candidate, albeit on the pricey side. The standouts are the rich buttercream or jam filled cupcakes. They're delicious but close to $5 each IIRC. The less expensive standard cupcakes (about $3 each) are good too, and the red velvet cupcake is excellent and one of the best of its type in the city. Chocoholics seem to love the Brooklyn Blackout cupcake (also about $5) as it's a rather huge, dense, and moist chocolate cupcake with a center full of chocolate pudding. Not typical perhaps, but who can complain?

      However, if you need a LOT of cupcakes, the buttercream/jam filled cupcakes may be too pricey. Also, I'm not sure how many of them are made on any given day (I do recall them running out of buttercream filled cupcakes pretty early) so you might have to place an order in advance.

      5 Replies
      1. re: hcbk0702

        The mere description of the Brooklyn Blackout cupcake is enough to inspire Homer-like drooling...thanks for the rec.

        1. re: hcbk0702

          I ordered cupcakes for a birthday party this past spring from Two Little Red Hens, speaking with the store twice to order and confirm. When I went to pick up my order -- there was no trace of it. They assembled what they could from the cupcakes in their case, but, it was a ragtag looking assortment. Their cupcakes are terrific -- but the customer service was so lacking and the experience so disappointing that I'd steer clear of them for an order for a special event.

          1. re: amyleechen

            I ordered a birthday cake for my sister's birthday (two years ago), and had no problem with the order (prepared correctly and ready on time).

          2. re: hcbk0702

            I second Two Little Red Hens...best i've had so far.

            1. re: petuniafromhell

              I got two of their cupcakes, along with pecan-fudge and lime-coconut squares, the other day. The Brooklyn Blackout cupcake was made with good cake and outstanding, rather bitter dark chocolate. The vanilla cupcake was solid, though less interesting to me. Of course the squares were great, but I thought that blackout cupcake was quite excellent and stood up to the quality of the squares, and arguably was even better than that.

          3. Run, don't walk, RUN in any direction away from Magnolia.

            Personally, I LOVED Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and highly second it (especially if for a larger order). Two Little Red Hens is good but expensive, as others have noted. Pinisi is also really good, I'd avoid Crumbs, Sweet Revenge has some good ones (recommended on this thread), I had a Butter Lane one the other day that was surprisingly good ... that's to get you started. Check out the linked thread too.

            3 Replies
            1. re: a213b

              Ha! I wasn't seriously considering Magnolia as a possibility...I don't think I've heard anything remotely positive about their baked goods in general for a number of years now.

              1. re: a213b

                Any cupcakes you like at Pinisi other than red velvet (which I avoid because I don't like eating large amounts of red dye)? Butter Lane is OK but - as one would expect - very (possibly too) buttery.

                1. re: Pan

                  I've enjoyed their Pistachio several times. I've yet to stumble on the mythical Peanut Butter I've heard great things about.

              2. My preferences in order:

                1) Sugar Sweet Sunshine
                2) Cupcake Stop (yes, the truck; I think their mini cupcakes -- never had a full sized one -- are excellent and underrated)
                3) Buttercup
                4) Two Little Red Hens

                4 Replies
                1. re: therenowtoo

                  I feel obliged to edit my reply, since by some convergence of circumstances, I had cupcakes from three different places this week. (What can I say, I love cupcakes.)

                  I had two Cupcake Stop cupcakes on two separate occasions and both were decidedly mediocre -- dry, dense, tasteless cake. The icing (peanut butter) was good, but to me dry tasteless cake is unforgivable. It's why I can't stand Magnolia. Anyway, both times I was eating these in the evening, and all my previous experiences (all of which had been terrific) had been around noon, so maybe freshness is an issue. Either way, Cupcake Stop now drops to #5 for inconsistency.

                  I also tried a mini cupcake from Eleni's in Chelsea market this weekend and it was very, very good. Moist, chocolately cake with sugary, creamy-not-grainy buttercream. It shoots to the upper tier of the list.

                  I also tried bites of six different cupcakes from BIlly's, and sadly, it doesn't crack the top 5. Although the carrot cake and banana cake ones were very good (moist and flavorful), my go-to comparator cupcake (chocolate with vanilla buttercream) was dry, dry dry and the icing was hard and overly sugary. The same could be said for the yellow with vanilla buttercream. Very disappointing.

                  My new list:
                  1) SSS
                  2) Eleni (based only on the mini)
                  3) Buttercup
                  4) Red Hens
                  5) Cupcake Stop (on probation; will get dumped if inconsistency keeps up)

                  1. re: therenowtoo

                    A few weeks ago I tried several cupcakes from Big Booty Bread Co. on 23rd and 8th. I hadn't heard anything about this place, but pass it on my way home from the gym every night (I know, I know). Friends and I had the Cookies and Cream, Dulche de Leche and a Red Velvet. These were EXCELLENT. And I was eating them a day old! Moist, flavorful, sweet but not too sweet, creamy icing... Dulce de leche had this fantastic surprise caramel center.... mmmm

                    Friends and I have been on a cupcake-a-thon for several months now, searching for the favorite in the city, and we declared it hands down the winner -- the Dulce De Leche one in particular. They were up against Magnolia, Crumbs, Buttercup and a truly awful batch from Jersey. A week after BBB we tried SSS and everyone agreed they were a close second, but BBB still won. I'm not going to bother with a ranking anymore, partly because it's been so long since I had Eleni or Red Hens or Cupcake Stop... suffice to say, I think people should give Big Booty a try.

                    1. re: therenowtoo

                      Forgot to mention, I also tried Baked by Melissa last weekend and enjoyed them very much. I had 6 of the 10 (maybe?) flavors and thought each was unique. In terms of portion control, the size is awesome. In terms of bang for your buck, not so much. $5 for 6 cupcakes the size of three stacked poker chips is just insane. They were good though. The cookie dough, cinnamon roll and PB and chocolate were the stand outs, for me.

                      1. re: therenowtoo

                        Yay! I've been naming Big Booty Bakery on "best cupcakes" threads for months. I'm so glad to see it mentioned by someone else other than me (and Miss Needle, I think.) I honestly think their red velvet cupcakes are way up there with Two Little Red Hens. I also like their dulce de leche cupcakes, but sometimes they can be dry.

                        Kyotofu also has great cupcakes although not very sweet. Butter Lane is good, especially with French buttercream frosting. Tonnie's Mini's is also good. I'm sure I'm missing a couple places.

                        Hated Buttercup, Pinisi, Crumbs, and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, though I know it's not a popular opinion. I've never had a cupcake that wasn't dry at Sugar Sweet Sunshine except strawberry creamcheese, and their chocolate frosting is horrendous. Their recipe is really not that different from Magnolia's (also mediocre) and we all know why. Buttercup had the worst cupcakes though. Dry as desert and grainy frosting.

                  2. Today I picked up an assortment of the Chickalicious premium cupcakes (creme filled); verdict: very yummy (especially the caramel and mocha).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ellenost

                      Just finished the S'mores cupcake (marshmallow topping and chocolate creme filling) from Chickalicious--another winner!

                      1. re: ellenost

                        I wish I liked the Chikalicious cupcakes, but they are somewhat too sweet for me. I can't even finish one!

                        for my money, I like Tonnie's minis or the Blackout at Two Little Red Hens.

                      2. magnolia IS crap....i cant even believe they call that a cupcake.

                        1. The lemon meringue cupcake from Bouchon is wonderful - not too sweet, lemon filling inside and yummy "swoosh" of meringue on top. I tried it for the first time yesterday; it's the only Bouchon cupcake I've tried, so far.

                          1. Billy's Bakery is fantastic. They use a really classic buttercream frosting recipe and the cake is nice and fluffy, not too dense.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: kendrakicks

                              I write this as I finish off a chocolate cupcake from Billy's. I don't understand how they are fantastic. The cake was dry and the buttercream just OK.

                              Now I'm a baker... which means I know how to make a cupcake. Sorry, but this place doesn't do it right.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  I think it was the one in Chelsea... my co-worker bought them this morning. They were so dry and tasteless. I've had the red velvet from there before too, again very dry cake with so-so frosting.

                                  1. re: iluvcookies

                                    I think the Tribeca location makes superior cupcakes to the flagship store, which has been accused of freezing their cupcakes. Also, if they sat out in the box a while, they might not have retained freshness. It's just a basic cupcake, but they turn out some inoffensive ones.

                            2. Anytime I need to order cupcakes, I order from www.ninecakes.com. They have unique flavors! Recently, I attended a small dinner party where some of the guests were from Sweden. These cupcakes were a big hit!

                              1. Damn uhockey for his compelling Sweet Revenge review! Their cupcakes are definitely a step above most places (including Magnolia, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Billy's). So far I've tried the salted caramel, red velvet and chocolate. My favorite was the salted caramel, but red velvet and chocolate were delicious too.

                                Also a fan of Mitchel London's yellow cake with chocolate ganache and red velvet. And Two Little Red Hens blackout is always a fave of mine as well.

                                1. Two Little Red Hens & Billy's are favorites. Agree that Magnolia is not worth a try. Either is Crumbs.

                                  1. I've never been into the whole cupcake craze. I just didn't understand paying $5 for a single cupcake, when I could make a dozen at home for the same price. Magnolia bakery and all those others just didn't seem that special to me; not to mention the lines! But, I did recently come across a new bakery/pastry shop in Chinatown that definitely has a twist on the cupcake. It's called Everything Frosted, located off Mott St., on a little alley called Mosco St (across from my favorite dumpling lady -- dude, 5 dumplings for a buck; and she's fast. But I digress.). They're soooo good! I ate 2 yesterday, and 1 today (I live right around the corner; my stomach is very happy about that), and just bought a dozen for Easter. They keep things relatively simple with the cupcakes in terms of the "anatomy" (i.e., there's a cupcake, and there's frosting. No filling, or crazy toppings -- at least not that I know of.). But the flavors are really varied -- they have green tea, red velvet, pink champagne, Boston creme (that was good! just like the donut!), etc.. and the frosting is butter cream (also in lots of flavors), but not that thick, pasty, uber-sweet stuff like in your standard bakery. It almost was like a cross between butter cream and fresh whipped cream. Not sure how they make it.

                                    They do other stuff to: like cheesecakes, mousses, looks like they do catering and stuff too. Haven't had a chance to try the mousse yet, but they looked good.

                                    Anyhow, if you're in the cupcake scene, definitely check them out! maybe go to the dumpling lady first, then cupcakes for dessert.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: tinekerocks

                                      Green tea cupcakes in Chinatown - you have my attention. I'll look for this place. Is it closer to Chatham Square and the Post Office or to the intersection with Pell St.?

                                        1. re: tinekerocks

                                          " I just didn't understand paying $5 for a single cupcake, when I could make a dozen at home for the same price."

                                          this argues against going out to any restaurant for anything, no?

                                          1. re: thew

                                            If the $5.00 cupcake was truly delicious and a testament to the skill of the baker, I'd pay it. Just like I'd pay $20 for a plate of pasta done in a way I can't do it at home, or $75 for the $25 bottle of wine for the experience of having it with a good meal.

                                            But when that $5.00 cupcake tastes like it came from a box mix, what's the point?

                                        2. I have enjoyed Two Little Red Hens and Pinisi's also. Another one that I stumbled upon that nobody talks about is Make my Cake in Harlem. They do a mean red velvet with pecans on it.

                                          Two Little Red Hens
                                          1652 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

                                          128 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003

                                          1. I certainly ain't no cupcake genius but I really liked the ones in gourmet garage.

                                            1. Billy's on Franklin St. is pretty good..banana one is great!

                                              1. I think it's impossible to recommend cupcakes right now, if only because the consistency is horrible. I've had some of the best, and worst cupcakes at Sugar Sweet. Cupcake Stop truck started off dry and boring then they started improving, and improving, to the point where I thought they might be my favorite in the city...and now they're back to dry and boring. A friend brought a box of Magnolias to a bar and I was grumbling my polite displeasures before smashing on in my mouth only to find it really, really, really good, to my shock. There is no consistency! I mean, you can count on Crumbs staying disgusting, but aside from that....

                                                47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011

                                                1. BabyCakes is amazing! The cupcakes are vegan and you can even get gluten free! But that's just an added bonus! The cupcakes are actually the best I've ever had!

                                                  1. I have led many cupcake crawls in all parts of the city, and one of my favorites is the classic chocolate cupcake from Balthalzar, very delicious and a thing of beauty.