Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's the final crapcake(s)


You may have noticed that posts on this blog have slowed down a little. This is mainly due to me working odd hours at the bakery (4am starts!!!), but also because I really am TIRED of eating crap cupcakes. They are expensive and they sadden me - my heart breaks a little more each time I spend £2 on a cake that if you threw it as someone could lead to an attempted murder charge. Also, I'm tired of the hate mail I receive from bakers when they read my reviews, accusing me of trying to hate on them or lying etc - rather than question why their cakes are, quite frankly, so f**king awful. 

Anyhow I have made the decision to only eat cakes I bake myself or from bakeries I know and trust for the time being. Don't worry I'll still review places when I travel but I am just tired of some of the awful cupcakes in London at the moment and shall be giving them a miss for a while. 

However I couldn't leave without mentioning two truly awful recent(ish) cupcake exploits. 

First up we travel to Birmingham and back in time to March. I know - it's taken me a while to get round to writing this up, for that I apologise. 

As soon as I'm travelling anywhere I check out what cupcakes there are on offer - Birmingham seemed to be quite a cupcake-free zone so I was happy when I chanced upon the 90 Day Cafe in a review about great cupcakes. Whoever wrote that review I'm imagining their pants are on fire as I type. 

The cafe itself was quite cute but when we were told to "pick whatever cake you like" from a cake stand in the window I sensed this wasn't going to be a success. Manny put down the first one he picked up as he said it was rock solid. 

I opted for...


Which swiftly became...


after my one and only bite. Completely tasteless - devoid of ANY flavour but rancid butter. And hard. Joy. 

Manny opted for what we think was....


but we can't be 100% sure - it's the flavour Manny wanted, but Andy Pipkin behind the counter couldn't come out to show us which was which and instead opted for the old point and mutter 'that one' routine. I would like to point out we were the only customers in the place but he still couldn't be bothered to properly explain which cakes were which.  

Again this cake was hard, tasteless and just unpleasant. Both cakes were about £2.50 and both were left when we decided to leave. 

I have a feeling this sign...


goes some way to explaining why the cakes were so incredibly dry - they must just bake in bulk (or buy in?) and keep them hanging round till they sell. Cupcakes in an hour will not be fresh people! Not sure why they were so tasteless though - I'd imagine a Fruit Pigeons fart would contain more vanilla than my cupcake did. 

My review in one sentence - only visit the 90 Day Cafe if you like eating cakes that appear to have hung around the shop for 90 days. Blurgh. 

no she wouldn't, my mum has great taste in cakes 

While in Birmingham we also tried a couple of cakes from Cupcake Delights in Selfridges - while they weren't the best cupcakes I've had they were edible - but a little sweet for me and the vanilla one was on the dry side, but Manny enjoyed the chocolate one. 

Next up a bakery we first visited in February 2010, Chewies.  I remember the date as we also visited Bake a Boo that day. 

I didn't blog it at the time as my photos were awful, as were the cakes. I was in the area, Chalk Farm, today and needed lunch and coffee and decided to give them another go. Sometimes I want to slap myself for my stupidity. 


There were three flavours of cake to choose from; vanilla, chocolate and red velvet. The red velvet looked frankly sweaty so I opted for the lurid blue vanilla. I should've just walked out but to be honest I felt rather conspicuous - I was the only person in the cafe - which btw is really rather cute. 



Yes, that layer you see on top was rock hard. So hard when I tried a bit, for research purposes I nearly broke a tooth. HOW OLD are these cakes!!!? I jokingly tweeted that perhaps this cake had been sitting here since my last visit - I'm not so sure it was a joke now.  Their website boasts that everything is freshly baked but I am hard pressed to believe this cake wasn't at least a week old - it was that hard.

And the frosting - I had one bite of it and it was so sweet I had toothache for about an hour - it was grainy and thoroughly unpleasant. How any baker can get frosting so wrong is beyond me. 


The photo above shows how little I ate of the cake - two members of staff were watching me the whole time (no one came in in the 30mins I was there) yet they didn't ask me if I enjoyed the cake or what was wrong - they just stood there. If it was my business and someone didn't eat my cake I'd want to know why. I can say this is one of the worst cakes I've had - no redeeming features at all.  Another £2 + down the drain. 

Now - can anyone recommend some good cupcakes, I'm sick of crapcakes. 

27 comments:

Belle said...

I've stopped buying cupcakes because I'm genuinely scared I'll forget what good cupcakes taste like!

I know times are tough out there in the catering industry but there is seriously no excuse for serving up stale cake. I couldn't live with myself if I served someone a cake that was even the slighted bit hard, and I'm not asking anyone to pay.

As much as you must hate it I'm sorry to say I'm glad you're my guinea pig for most of these places as it saves the money in cake and petrol and the energy from ranting for ages about bad cake!

Sarah @Scrumptious Sally said...

Haha Andy Pipkin; your descriptions always make me laugh!

As for how old those cakes must have been. Cupcakes I baked late Saturday PM are still edible now (Tuesday night) but are starting to harden, so lord only knows how long rock hard cakes have been sitting out.

I'm completely with you on the bad cupcakes thing. The only way I'm buying a commercial cupcake is if Robert Downey Jr. comes with it, in nothing but a pinny. As Belle as said, thanks for testing the crapcakes for all of us.

msloz said...

I've said it before on your blog, but I feel I need to say it again, looking at these pics, reading your reviews, it makes me think that me and my entirely amateur offerings could make me absolute mega bucks! Because I am never dumb enough to want to colour my icing that hideous blue colour and my cakes, although perhaps not the prettiest, are always soft and fresh tasting. They also go down pretty well with my staff when I take them to our weekly meetings, etc. I am clearly in the wrong business! Im glad I never forced myself to spend too much money on cupcakes in shops before. Clearly its just bad, bad, bad!

Kate@katescakesandbakes said...

What has happened to light-as-air cupcakes, that aren't overtly sweet or garishly iced or covered in gritty mounds of decorations?! A campaign- ' Bring back the Decent Cupcake!' - needs to be launched!

Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

Yeughhh.
I never buy commercial cupcakes as they all generally look like an afterthought and pile with hideous mounds of sickly buttercream.
However, I would have thought that London would have some good ones.
I completely understand your decision.

Made With Pink said...

Love this post! Bad cupcakes really do make me sad, and it's a shame that there are so many in the UK. Sure, we have the occasisonal bad cupcake in North America, but I swear no one can ruin the image of a cupcake more than the Brits (no offense). It seems that once cupcakes made their way across the pond people jumped on the band wagon (even more so since the recession) and began baking "crapcakes", piling them high with buttercream and calling them cupcakes. People in the UK who were not yet educated in the art of the cupcake seemed to just accept them because they were called cupcakes. I rarely purchase cupcakes in London if they're not from one of the few reputable cupcake bakeries that I've given my stamp of approval to. I learned this very early on when I first moved here 3 years ago and had the most horrific cupcakes from Candy Cakes (how do they manage to have so many locations?) as well as Buttercup Bake Shop in Kensington. Those 2 experiences really put a damper on my UK cupcake experience. It seems that since the recessiOn hit everyone thinks they're automatically a baker and decide to start their own cupcake business, so the Market is now saturated with "crapcakes". This makes me so sad as I love baking, and have done numerous weddings, parties & other events and have ppl asking me when I'm opening my own shop because my cupcakes are the best they've ever had - and at a reasonable price. I commend you on your honest reviews of these "crapcakes" places and I base a lot of my purchases on your recommendations. You've tasted enough crappy cakes that you've perfected your recipes and baking methods. I really wish you success in the world of baking because you deserve it and it's your job to educate people in the UK as to what a good cupcake really is. You've saved me a ton of money that would have otherwise been wasted on dry stale cake. Nothing is worse than dry stale cake! Sorry - rant over...

Daisy said...

Another in agreement! I'm constantly horrifed by the the quality and disgusting prices of cupcakes. I saw a recent concession stand in a large retailer: one cupcake was £3 to eat in. I wanted to slap the queuing people over the head and question their sanity! I don't waste my money anymore and just eat my own.

talesofpiglingbland said...

I like the chalk board fun :) It'll be ok when we can buy your cakes. More markets please!

Anonymous said...

As the owner of a cupcake bakery, the problem is really obvious. 1. You need to have cakes on the shelves first thing in the morning (esp if you serve large dept stores). The only way to achieve this is to employ bakers to work overnight and for that you pay significantly more. 2. You need to have cakes on the shelves at the end of the day, customers expect a full range of flavours when they visit at 7pm. This either means wasting a lot of cupcakes (profit) or keeping them until the next day. 3. The only way to make money is in volume, and quality becomes very hard to monitor when you're baking 1000's by hand. Its a REALLY hard business to make money in, margins are so tight even at £2.50. I dont know why so many people think its a great business to start! My business is big enough that we bake fresh every single day - 7 days a week, 24 hours a day but most aren't as cupcakes cant be fresh to achieve the kind of baking volumes you need in order to make any money. I fight with our finance dept daily as I refuse point blank to keep cupcakes beyond the day they are baked. They cant imagine that we give away cupcakes (profit) at the end of the day! My view is that there is just no point in making cupcakes that you'll sell stale - no one will come back! Just my two cents worth!

Denise said...

As Ive said before everyone and their dog think they can bake cupcakes...the rise is mainly cupcake only bakeries/shops is massive, so you will ineveitably get those where the standard is low. I make cupcakes, but I also make large cakes, loaf cakes etc

The Caked Crusader said...

I never buy cupcakes out as they're always disappointing. Cupcakes made at home and kept in an airtight tin last for several days with little deterioration in quality, so why do shop cupcakes turn into boulders in a matter of minutes?

As for bakers objecting to your honest review - tough! If you're taking money from people and they're not happy, you should listen to the criticism like an adult rather than dismiss it. The other comments here prove it's not a one-off event, or someone with an axe to grind.

kerrycooks said...

:( I can empathise with your frustration, its so rubbish when you get bad cakes! I had never had a Peyton and Byrne cupcake before and I had one not long ago and it was just awful. I can never understand HOW they manage it because as Sarah rightly points out, homemade cupcakes stay fresh and lovely for at least 2-3 days and often longer.

I'm coming down to London for a cupcake crawl in august and we're planning to hit up hummingbird, ella's bakehouse, Ottolenghis, bea's of bloomsbury, buttercup bake shop and primrose bakery. Let me know if anyone thinks I should steer clear of any of those or has any other recommendations!

Manny said...

Reading this made me laugh :) I remember the 90 day cafe looked so promising until I picked up a cake and it felt like a cricket ball! Thankfully I seem to have blocked Chewies out of my memory altogether.

I'm more than happy to stick to eating your cakes, they are always lovely and they taste fresh even 3 or 4 days after you've made them, I don't even want to think about how old some of the cakes we've eaten out must have been! It just seems odd how some people go to great effort and expense to make their cafes look lovely, then ruin it by serving rubbish cakes - what's the point?

Cupcakes To Your Door said...

I agree, I am always buying cupcakes or ordering them online as part of our own quality control and have had some truly awful ones, worst of all some really do taste as if they have been made from a cake mix despite being labelled as home baked! I have developed my own recipe using natural ingredients to make a cake that stays lovely to eat for 4 or 5 days but I always supply on the day I bake. Some customers have said the cakes taste even better on the second day. If I as a little home baker can do this, why can't the larger companies who have so many more resources than I do. Also, if I started selling them at £2.50-£3 each I am sure no-one would buy them so why do they buy at these prices from large bakeries/shops?

Made With Pink said...

Someone on here mentioned that "You need to have cakes on the shelves at the end of the day, customers expect a full range of flavours when they visit at 7pm. This either means wasting a lot of cupcakes (profit) or keeping them until the next day"

I can tell you from personal experience that when I lived in one of Canada's largest cities the most successful cupcake bakery didn't stick to this rule. They had an opening time displayed on their door, but no closing time. Why? Because they only baked a certain number of cupakes per day - if you missed out then tough luck! Obviously there was a bit of an art to forecasting the number of cakes that they needed to bake on each particular day of the week and time of year, but the cakes were always baked fresh in the morning and throughout the day in small batches. Sometimes you could walk in at 5:00pm and they'd still have cakes left, but other days they'd be sold out by 3:00pm and you'd be out of luck. That's just the way it was and people accepted it because they knew they were getting a fabulous product. This business plan allowed the store to grow into 6 locations. There's always line ups outside the door, and for special occassions like Valentines day you'd need to wait in line for at least 30 mins during the lunch time period. Ok, now I really miss those cupcakes!

Cupcakes To Your Door said...

I agree completely with the last comment especially when she says "Because they only baked a certain number of cupakes per day - if you missed out then tough luck!" I always work on this principle, if you have a quality product and people know that to get that quality product they have to act fast, they ALWAYS will. If I am doing a sale I always ask about projected attendance figures then bake just below, that way I always sell out plus I have the added bonus that people who arrive too late take my details and order from the website, all good for ranking in searches! And if I had a shop the same would apply - if you want good quality cake then you get there in time or order specifically. It's a niche product and if the quality of what you do is good enough people will find a way to buy/order it! It's a quality thing which is exactly why the "crapcakes" blogged about don't work because they have just become a commercial money-making exercise!

Cupcakes To Your Door said...

I agree completely with the last comment especially when she says "Because they only baked a certain number of cupakes per day - if you missed out then tough luck!" I always work on this principle, if you have a quality product and people know that to get that quality product they have to act fast, they ALWAYS will. If I am doing a sale I always ask about projected attendance figures then bake just below, that way I always sell out plus I have the added bonus that people who arrive too late take my details and order from the website, all good for ranking in searches! And if I had a shop the same would apply - if you want good quality cake then you get there in time or order specifically. It's a niche product and if the quality of what you do is good enough people will find a way to buy/order it! Its a quality thing which is exactly why the "crapcakes" blogged about don't work because they have just become a commercial money-making exercise!

Jellytotsdolly said...

Why did you bother with Birmingham?? You should have carried on up north to me!!! Awwww nooo this bit of your blog is fantastic. I love your reviews..but yeah I wouldn't expect you to eat any more awful cakes just for us lol! You have covered more than anyone should have to in their lifetime!! Maybe I should give it a try from a Manchester perspective! I have to do regular checks from a business point of view anyway :o) and in the past 2 years..I've only found one semi decent cupcake up here! You've pretty much covered London, I'll get up here..with Cupcake Kelly and various others we could get a fairly comprehensive map of where to go and where to avoid across the UK lol!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Made with Pink, couldn't agree more - the ideal is to run out and close shop. Unfortunately customers dont seem to think like that - they get SO angry and abusive with us if we have run out (especially of red velvet). The larger dept stores expect a full shelf at closing too, their view is why should someone who visits the store at 9pm miss out. Illogical I know! We take the hit and give away waste at the end of the day, but most smaller suppliers dont.

Cupcake Kelly said...

I think that a lot of shops are selling stale cakes 1)Space in London is at a premium and not all shops can bake on premises and they seem to not bother bring them in throughout the day 2)They are displayed in the open air which will guarantee stale cakes by the end of the same day.

The logic of economics would be that the crapcakes would lose out to their competitiors but the problem being people in the UK don't know what a real cupcake should taste like. Which is why these places are still open.

I am waiting for the day that a bakery (possibly that could be one from the US) gives these places a run for their money and they are forced to up their game to compete. Or that this will happen naturally when the market becomes over saturated.

Free market competition is what makes products in general better. These places should be making better cakes to want our business and the good places will stay in business and the people that jumped on the bandwagon will go out of business.

That's my two cents anyway :-p

Lisa said...

A cupcake that looks so pretty and then is just icing on a stale, hard base is one of the worst disppointments for me, foodwise. I don't often allow myself cake, and when I do I want it to be special. I find myself probably disproportionately fedup when it isn't. The cake has to be good, else the even prettiest icing cannot make up for that.

Fiona said...

I've been meaning to pop on here to ask for a cupcake recommendation in London as I'm up there this coming Friday!! Probably not the best time to ask you :)

On a positive note though, you must be excited that Manowar are touring the UK!!

mobile said...

Oh my God this looks so good and i`m sure that it is delicious too. I think it is not a very difficult recipe so i will give it a try, thanks a lot for sharing.

edith said...

Kerrycooks,
Don't go to buttercup bakery, really not worth it.
Ottolenghis and Bea's are fantastic, Ella's and Hummingbird are not my favorite but people seem to like it. Bea's is a great bakery, if I were you I would try something else not the cupcakes, though.

I heart cupcakes said...

Thank you all for your comments - sorry I've not had a chance to reply to them all but I think we all agree crapcakes are not good!

Kerrycooks - can you email me and I'll send you some suggestions if you like. I'd personally avoid a few you've mentioned!

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said...

I had some lovely lovely cupcakes at Lola's. Have you been there lately?

I heart cupcakes said...

Hi Helen
I went to Lola's a couple of weeks ago and had a lovely salted caramel one - they are usually good for freshness I find.