UPDATE – The official scores and winners/losers are now live over at All Over Albany.
I was literally sick after sampling a dozen cupcakes on Saturday, as part of the Great Albany Cupcake Tasting. Some of them really were sickening, as it turns out.
Daniel B. planned this tasting event, as a way of finally deciding once and for all which cupcakery can claim dominance over the others in the Albany market. The bakeries selected to be part of the tasting were selected from the four most recognizable names in the Albany cupcake scene – the ones with the cupcake trucks. The bakeries: Bettie’s Cakes, Sweet Temptations, Coccadotts, and Fluffalicious.
I’m not going to bore you with all of the details of the tasting, but I’ll give you a rundown, and then share with you a gallery of the competition cupcakes.
- This was a blind tasting; none of us knew which cupcakes belonged to which bakeries (though some of us had out suspicions)
- The bakeries had no idea they were going to be part of the tasting; orders were placed earlier in the week, and picked up on Saturday morning. Everyone invited to the tasting was sworn to secrecy so that none of the bakeries would be tipped off.
- We all paid for the cupcakes we ate and the milk we drank; nothing was given to us for free.
- We tasted cupcakes from the four bakeries in three categories – Round 1 was vanilla cake/vanilla buttercream; Round 2 was chocolate cake; chocolate buttercream; Round 3 was Specialty Cupcake: Peanut Butter Cup. We judged on cake, topping/frosting, and overall appeal.
- The flavors were chosen as a way to see if the bakery can handle the basics (Rounds 1 and 2), and also to see how they do with a fancier local favorite (Round 3).
- Each Round had a winner, and then gave each bakery a ranking (1-4) in cake, topping, and overall.
- There was a very clear winner (Bakery A), and 2 very clear losers (Bakeries B and C). The losers were both pretty bad, and seemed to be only marginally separated score-wise. The fourth (Bakery D) was not very good, but better than the bottom 2, and not nearly as good as the winner. I’ll let Daniel reveal the names of the winners and losers.
- It’s pretty safe to say that I am done – DONE – with cupcakes (and cake) for a good long while. I was sooooo sick on Saturday afternoon from all the sugar.
It was brilliant of Daniel to keep this tasting a secret; we panelists were able to sample the cupcakes that they were offering for sale to average customers. I know bakeries are capable of putting out high-quality products, if they know they’ll be judged. We got to see some of the normal products that anyone walking in off the street could buy on a typical Saturday morning. And it was not pretty.
I was actually quite appalled at what a couple of the bakeries let out the doors. Really, they should be ashamed to give them away, let alone charge $3 or $4 per cupcake. I ate vanilla buttercream that tasted like black pepper, buttercream that tasted like it had gone bad, and buttercream that was crusty and hard. I ate cake that had obviously been sitting out for days. Cake that was obviously stale. Cake that was overcooked and tough. There is NO EXCUSE for this. None. Except laziness and complacency, and those are terrible excuses. You bakery owners better stop resting on your laurels and start making some quality products, if you plan on staying in business much longer. Cupcakes will always have a place in bakeries, but I can assure you that the cupcake trend will go away someday (soon, I hope), and you won’t be able to get away with peddling inferior products just because they’re trendy.
The best part of the day? Getting to meet and taste with such notable folks as DerryX, Val & Drew, and others. I’m sorry I didn’t get to mingle around more; though I did get to chat with AOA Greg, too, which was great.
You can get the full tabulation of scores and the winners over at All Over Albany when it’s posted; I’ll link over there as soon as I get word that the scores are up.
The official tally is live, but I’ll give you the short story, for the record:
- Bakery A – Fluffalicious (WINNER)
- Bakery B – Sweet Temptations (LOSER)
- Bakery C – Bettie’s Cakes (3rd Place)
- Bakery D – Coccadotts (2nd Place)