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Saturday
Jun202009

Cakewalk: A Guest Blog Guide to Cupcakes in Denver, CO

Denver Cupcake Tasting!
CakeSpy Note: Curious about cupcakes in Denver, CO? Happily, CakeSpy buddy Laurel (who is not only a cupcake aficionado but an exceedingly talented handbag designer) was kind enough to do a cupcake run with some friends on a recent visit. Here's a roundup of the adventure:

Despite being located so close to cupcake-infused L.A., San Diego suffers from a disappointing lack of cupcake shops - only two! Depressing. On a recent trip to Denver, my awesome sister-in-law Miranda (of Three Things) and her awesome friend Rachel (of Rainy Morning) took me on a Denver cupcake tour to help me get my fix. Our plan was to visit five shops in one afternoon and pick out one cupcake from each shop to take back to Miranda's place so we could compare the cupcakes side-by-side. Not surprisingly, we deviated from the whole "one cupcake from each shop" plan by the second shop, buying at least two from the last four shops we visited. We had such a good time, we thought we'd invite you all to join us so next time you're in Denver you can complete the cupcake circuit yourself!

Big Fat Cupcake, Denver CO
Shop 1: Big Fat Cupcake

Impressions of shop: Big Fat Cupcakes is very cute. They had two big display cases (probably because their cupcakes are indeed big and fat!) and lots of adorable cupcake art on the walls. There wasn't a whole lot of seating, so it might be more of a take-it-to-go sort of place.
Big Fat Cupcake, Denver CO
Two adorable little girls in aprons were wiping down the front of the pastry case, and the guy behind the counter was very helpful (and patient!) while we decided which cupcake we wanted.

Cupcakes Tasted: Orange Creamsicle filled w/pastry cream

Reviews:

Miranda: They weren’t lying when they called their shop Big Fat Cupcakes. Of course this makes them a bit more expensive than the average cupcake which would foil my typical plans to buy several cupcakes so I can sample more flavors. Anyway, the cake flavor and consistency was great but I was not a fan of the frosting. I’m a thick buttercream lover and the frosting at Big Fat wasn’t tough enough to make an impact to me. I was also a little let down by the flavors. Instead of infusing the flavors into the cake or frosting, I felt like they just crumbled up different kinds of candy and put it on top of the frosting. HOWEVER, they did have a lot of options for cupcakes with filling…which I love. If you are very hungry and want a cream filled cupcake, you will want to check Big Fat’s out.

Laurel: Holy crap, this was a big cupcake. The flavors were good - the orange frosting went well with the vanilla cake and pastry cream. The pastry cream was very tasty and just the right consistency, and I liked the lightness of the cake, but the frosting was just too thin for my preferences. I like heavier buttercream and this was too light and airy. The flavors were really fantastic though. I think this was my 11 month old's favorite. If you like a more whipped consistency to your frosting, this is the place for you.

Rachel: Hmm, probably my least favorite. Not much flavor to the cake, and the frosting was too oily, like others have said. At least they have a cute seating area where you could enjoy your cupcake!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lovely Confections, Denver CO
Shop 2: Lovely Confections

Impressions of shop: Lovely Confections looks like a swanky little coffee shop. It would be a nice, relaxing place to hang out and do your Sunday crossword puzzle. We were all totally smitten with the huge jars of sprinkles displayed off to the side of the register.
Lovely Confections, Denver CO
The owner was really friendly and talked with us about her flavors and a recent cupcake tour she did in New York.

Cupcakes Tasted: Strawberries & Cream (eaten in store), Raspberry Lemonade, Chocolate/Chocolate

Reviews:

Miranda: These were some fantastic cupcakes. While eating the cupcake, I got the impression that the baker knew what she was doing by making a solid cake and equally solid frosting. The strawberries and cream cupcake had frosting full of flavor and cake that could stand up to the fork. I would have liked the raspberry lemonade frosting to have more flavor, and I was disappointed in the chocolate cake. I feel like I should explain that I have a nearly insatiable sweet tooth, and I’ve rarely had a dessert that is too rich. Therefore, while the chocolate cupcake was really good, the cake wasn’t as rich as I wanted it to be. The frosting was spot on and thick like I like it to be. I’m reading Laurel’s review as I write this and I see that the chocolate cupcake was too rich for her…I guess you can’t please everybody. Lovely confections is a definite hit with their fruit flavored cupcakes and perfect if you enjoy dense frosting.

Laurel: The vanilla cake here is amazing. It's light and had a strong vanilla flavor. I'm a huge frosting fiend, but I'd happily eat this cake by itself. Of course, that would be a sin, since the the fruit-flavored frostings we tried were fantastic too. As I said earlier, I like thicker frosting, and the frosting here is thick, generously applied, and delicious. The raspberry lemonade cupcake was yummy as well, with the raspberry frosting standing out to me over the lemon cake, but both complimented each other well. I think if you're a chocolate lover you'd really like the chocolate cupcake, but alas, I'm only a chocolate liker, so it was a little overwhelming. The frosting was thick and almost fudgy, and the cake a little denser than the non-chocolate cakes we had. I appreciated that neither were super sweet so the darker chocolate flavors shined through, but it was just too rich for me.

Rachel: Oh no! I just realized that I’m not eating one of these right now, and that made me sad. I completely agree with Laurel and Miranda here, hands down the best cake. Moist, with substance, and solid flavor. Good frosting too – nice and creamy and piled high. I loved their sprinkles, each had a mix of colors and shapes, some with glittery bits. A very girly experience. Although they had ample seating for eating, I didn’t want to stay very long. It felt like I should be showing the proprietor my wedding portfolio while we discuss guest numbers. Formal, is the word.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Shoppe, c/o Laurel
Shop 3: The Shoppe

Impressions of shop: The Shoppe is the place we'd most like to hang out. We loved the variety of fun cupcake flavors, we loved the decor (the art in particular), we loved that they're open super late on the weekends. It's also a cereal bar! It's just a fun, happy place to be. If we hadn't been in a hurry to hit all the cupcake bakeries before they closed, we would have spent more time here. The staff was super friendly too, which is always a plus. Also, they had a cupcake with a toy surprise in the middle. How awesome would that be for a little kid?
The Shoppe, c/o LaurelThe Shoppe, c/o Laurel

Cupcakes Tasted: Nutella, Lemon Blueberry, S'mores (mini)(eaten in store), Death By Chocolate

Reviews:

Miranda: I was beside myself trying to pick which cupcake to get from The Shoppe. They have so many fun combinations and they’re all so beautiful it’s hard to not try to stick your finger into all of them. The Nutella cupcake that we bought ended up being my favorite cupcake of the entire trip. I’ve been trying to find a great dessert that includes Nutella (after a boiling over disaster at a friend’s house that you’re not going to ask me about) and this was just what I was looking for. The frosting was a great consistency, I LOVE the hazelnuts sprinkled on top, and the cake was nice and rich. The blueberry lemonade cupcakes were tasty, but they were more like muffins than cupcakes to me. The Death by Chocolate cupcake (while fantastic) was probably my least favorite from The Shoppe. It came close to finding the ceiling of my sweet tooth (though don’t worry, it didn’t) but I think if you’re not a fan of frosting, wouldn’t be able to handle their Death By Chocolate cupcake. Maybe you would realize that just by looking at it and not choose that particular one (I don’t know, I’m not you). Overall, the cake was a little less dense but still delicious with a healthy dose of yummy frosting.

Laurel: After missing the s'mores cupcake from Trophy the last couple times I've been in Seattle, I was SO excited to find a s'mores cupcake here. I ate it on our way out of the store, but I was pretty let down. There were some crumbled graham crackers on top and a couple mini marshmallows in the frosting, but they got lost in all the chocolate. It tasted like a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. I mean, I like chocolate cupcakes, but I wanted a strong marshmallow flavor to go with the chocolate and it was not there at all. The other two cupcakes were great though. I think the Nutella cupcake might be my favorite from all the ones we tried; the hazelnut flavor was strong in the cake and the frosting was a good consistency - not as thick as at Lovely Confections, but thicker than Big Fat Cupcakes. The hazelnuts provided a nice crunch too! The blueberry lemonade was tasty as well, but the cake tasted a little more muffiny to me than cakey. The cream cheese frosting was great too, nice and tangy. Excellent frosting-to-cupcake ratio if you're a frosting lover!

Rachel: My favorite of the bunch. Fun fun fun place. A huge variety of interesting flavors with piles of frosting like you would make as a kid. But the décor is what gets my vote, not just the cakes. It’s the kind of place where you want to allot at least an hour for conversation and eating. Inspiring books and artwork surround you. Very relaxed and hip.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Yum Yums in Denver, c/o Laurel
Shop 4: Yum Yums

Impressions of shop: Yum Yums is very bright, clean, and modern. They had some cake and cupcake displays set up near the door that were gorgeous. They had some other desserts in their display case that looked awesome, like this double-decker chocolate & vanilla rice krispie treat, but since we were on a cupcake tour we refrained from buying anything else.

Cupcakes Tasted: Chocolate Mint, Boston Cream (I think?)

Reviews:

Miranda: I only got to try the Boston Cream cupcake from Yum Yums. I don’t know how the chocolate mint got away from me but I have no recollection of it. The frosting was disappointing to me which took away from the deliciousness of anything having to do with Boston Cream. As I said before, I’m a thick frosting girl. I like to take the bottom off of my cupcake and make a frosting sandwich. This frosting couldn’t stand up to such behavior. The cake was a nice consistency though and there was a good amount of filling for a small cupcake.

Laurel: The flavor of the chocolate mint was great - the chocolate and the mint complimented each other nicely, neither overpowering the other. I wasn't crazy about the frosting though, and I really wanted to be since there was a lot of it. I think it's an Italian buttercream, so it's lighter than the frostings used by most shops, but it left my mouth feeling greasy - almost like a grocery store frosting (though it tasted much, much better than grocery store frosting does). Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to taste the Boston Cream cupcake. I wish I had, it sounds good.

Rachel: This place felt kind of old school. Unoriginal designs, mediocre tastes. Nothing particularly bad about them, but I can't say there’s any reason I would ever want to come back.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Happy Cakes in Denver, C/O Laurel
Shop 5: Happy Cakes

Impressions of the shop: Happy Cakes is super cute. We loved looking at the wall decor and the gorgeous aprons for sale. Unfortunately, there's nowhere to sit! Our husbands met up with us and we wanted to have a cupcake or two before going back to Miranda's, but the nearest seating belongs to another little shop. It's really too bad; they've made such a warm and homey atmosphere in the shop that you want to sit down and spend awhile there.
Happy Cakes in Denver, C/O Laurel

Cupcakes Tasted: : S'mores, Coconut, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Pom Pom (vanilla frosting, chocolate cake, Trix topping)

Reviews:

Miranda: Happy Cakes has a special place in my heart (there’s a picture of my baby-cakes on the wall for cryin’ out loud) so I’ll try to keep that bias out of my review. I had a S’mores cupcake and was satisfied with the consistency of the frosting and cake, but not so much with the flavor. Where was the marshmallow taste? I know that during previous visits, the marshmallow buttercream had more flavor than it did on the day we visited. Could there be a difference in the quality from day to day? I love Happy Cakes’ sturdy buttercream frosting, and the cupcake as a whole is perfect for turning into a frosting sandwich. Like The Shoppe, the frosting to cupcake ratio is perfect for me although their flavors may not be as intense.

Laurel: Another s'mores cupcake! This looked like it had marshmallow buttercream, so I had higher hopes, but again, they were dashed. The frosting tasted like a basic vanilla buttercream. I liked it fine as chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, but I wanted to taste the marshmallow and it was completely missing. Sadness. The chocolate cake was also a little dense for my tastes. The coconut cupcake was good - I liked the cake, and the frosting was great - not too sweet, lots of coconut. I liked the frosting to cake ratio on that one as well (though as I mentioned earlier, I'm kind of a frosting fiend).

Rachel: A cute little shop in a swank neighborhood. Too bad there’s no seating to enjoy their tasty cakes! They have the best frosting. I’ve been a bit disappointed in the options when I go there. Maybe I’m too late in the day or go on the wrong day, but I feel like I’m always peaking at their weekly calendar, wishing they had something that isn’t available just now. Too much space dedicated to plain old chocolate and vanilla. The decorations on the frosting are both creative and classy, from simple dragee pearls to Trix cereal orbs on their PomPom cupcake. There’s room for improvement with these ladies, but I’m happy to go to a place out West by me instead of driving out to East Colfax for Lovely Confections or The Shoppe.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Conclusions: Our overall favorites were the Strawberries & Cream from Lovely Confections and the Nutella cupcake from The Shoppe. Those two shops along with Happy Cakes are the places to go for a thick buttercream and a variety of rich flavors. If you like a lighter frosting, Big Fat Cupcakes and Yum Yums are the places for you. No matter where you are in Denver though, you're not far from a delicious cupcake or two! Or 16...the final number of cupcakes we bought. (Also, if you are in fact interested in going on a cupcake tour of Denver, you should get in touch with Rachel and Miranda since…you know…they live there and they’ve already mapped out the route. Just sayin’.)

Be sure to stay updated on Laurel's adventures via her blog, and you'll definitely want to check out her wonderful shop online!

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