Cupcakes. Yes, they’re popular. Yes, they’re everywhere. And yes, they’re adorable and delicious. From fancy flavors to simple childhood favorites, the tiny frosted cake is hard to escape, be it in a bakery, a coffee shop, a store or in your own oven.
For this week’s Foodie Files I spent some time walking around downtown Portland, amassing cupcakes from four bakeries. I had some help in eating and assessing them from Dylan Martin, the Brunswick and Harpswell reporter for our friends at The Forecaster and a former BDN intern, and Alex Steed, who writes a BDN blog about Portland titled “ Bourbon. Portland. Beer. Politics.”
This wasn’t a competition, we just wanted to try a variety and see how they differed. All these cupcakes are priced between $2 and $3 each. We’re aware that there are lots of other cupcakes out there in Portland, and beyond, but we decided to keep it strictly to Portland. Availability from small bakers can sometimes be limited, so we realize that our list is somewhat narrow. So, if you have suggestions that aren’t included here, please, send them along!
Here’s the list.
East End Cupcakes, 426 Fore St.
We tried a sea salt caramel chocolate cupcake. The frosting was wonderfully fluffy — a nice, slightly burned (in a good way) caramel taste, spiked with sea salt crystals. Cake was light and flavorful. East End makes a wide array of flavors, from chocolate and vanilla to espresso, pear and bacon cake and maple syrup or even avocado frosting.
Two Fat Cats Bakery, 47 India St.
These are like the cupcakes you remember from your childhood — dense, moist cake topped with rich frosting. These are like the ones your mom made you for your ninth birthday. They keep it simple at Two Fat Cats — chocolate, vanilla, or red velvet cake, with chocolate, vanilla or cream cheese frosting. If you go in, you can also be tempted by their gorgeous pies and cookies.
Bam Bam Bakery, 267 Commercial St.
Our vanilla cupcake with coconut frosting was different from the other two — a dense but crumbly cake with a big vanilla flavor, and a sweet and very coconut-y frosting. It was also different in that it was gluten-free, as are all of Bam Bam’s treats. People that say that gluten free baking is never as good as glutenous baking are wrong. Bam Bam’s got it down to a science.
Bakery on the Hill, 253 Congress St.
Full disclosure: I think this was my personal favorite, though I cannot speak for my cohorts. A fluffy but moist spice cake, topped with some of the fluffiest icing I’ve ever had, flavored with cinnamon. This cupcake defied gravity. Bakery on the Hill is a new addition to Portland — only open since June — but it’s clear they’re already a major contender.