I'm back! After three weeks out of town (the first at a conference and the next two on vacation in the UK), I'm back and I'm ready to blog again. The suitcases have been unpacked, mountains of laundry have been done, and, most importantly, my camera's memory card has been cleared of vacation pictures. Now I can get back to blogging.
So today Jeff and I decided to head over to Red Bank for Riverfest, a food and music festival that I'd seen advertised in a number of places over the past few months. Since they emphasize food in their marketing, I expected to get good stuff from local restaurants. I was sorely disappointed - there were some creative offerings, but most were mediocre festival food, and at very inflated prices. And we weren't too keen on the band (Latin jazz anyone?). So we ended up spending our afternoon wandering around the town, where we were lured in by a variety of cupcake shops.
I love layer cakes and cupcakes, but more often than not they're poorly done. I do not like dry, dense cake with a sugar-bomb of icing on top. I like moist cake with a light, creamy icing. I have been disappointed many times by pretty cupcakes with exotic flavors that turn out to be as dry and sugary as the rest, so I more often than not pass these places by. This time, though, we wandered into Ricky's Candy, Cones and Chaos, looking for some soft-serve, when we were lured over to the cupcake counter by the presence of generous samples (about a quarter of a cupcake each). Inside Ricky's is a small satellite location (which apparently opened yesterday) of Mr. Cupcakes, the winner of New Jersey Monthly's best cupcake in New Jersey in 2011 (it has locations in Clifton, Hackensack and Oradell as well). The samples were as good as advertised, so we each chose a flavor to take home. But in continuing our walk, we stumbled on the month-old Cupcake Magician. We had to look inside (for comparative purposes, of course). We decided to buy another cupcake each and do a taste test. For the benefit of posterity, of course.
Back home, we tried the cupcakes from the Cupcake Magician first.The Boston Cream (pictured on the left) was delicious - it did have the exact flavor of a Boston Cream doughnut. It was yellow cake filled with pastry cream (I'd have preferred a little more filling) and chocolate icing on top. The icing was what you would find on a doughnut, rather than a cupcake, so it fit the flavor perfectly. The cake was deliciously moist and soft. Jeff and I both agreed it was excellent. The second cupcake was the Devil Dog - chocolate cake filled with cream, topped with a white buttercream and some chocolate syrup. This was even better than the first - the chocolate cake was nicely moist, the cream filling was light and fluffy (Jeff said it was far better than any Devil Dog he'd ever had). The chocolate syrup on top was much more than a garnish - it had a really rich chocolate flavor that you tasted with every bite, and it really made the cupcake work. Final evaluation? We hope this family-run business stays around, because they're definitely doing it right. If you're passing through Red Bank, definitely hit them up.
After dinner, we broke into the rest of our cupcake stash: those from Mr. Cupcakes. The first (pictured on the left) was Oreo Cheesecake. It was chocolate cake with Oreo pieces baked in topped with a chocolate cream cheese icing. The icing really made me feel like eating cheesecake - it had a nice bite to it. The cake, though, was only ok. It was a drier and denser than the others we'd eaten, and definitely a letdown on that account. The Oreo pieces lent the cupcake an Oreo flavor, but that flavor and the cheesecake flavor didn't meld very well - they remained two distinct entities. The second cupcake (pictured on the right) was Chocolate Chip Smoothie. This was the one I'd tasted in the store, and I had high hopes. It was chocolate cake with plenty of chocolate chips mixed in, topped with vanilla icing and a sprinkle of more chocolate chips. Adding the chips to the cake batter made it very moist, and the chips melted in your mouth to give the cake an almost liquid feel. The icing was a bit sweet, although there wasn't too much of it, so this was not overwhelming. Overall, I have to say I was disappointed. We loved the samples in-store, but after eating the cakes from the Cupcake Magician, we were no longer as impressed. We would visit this chain again, certainly, but if we find ourselves in Red Bank, the Cupcake Magician will get our business.