Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cupcakes in Ann Arbor

Yesterday after a quick trip to the T.J.Maxx right near my house, I discovered something wonderful. A new cupcake shop, named Just Baked. Apparently it opened before Valentines day, but just got around to putting up a sign this week (??), and before the sign it was nearly impossible to notice. Of course I had to try out their creations, and decided I'd compare them to my current favorite cupcake bakery in Ann Arbor-- Cupcake Station.

Cupcake Station:

At Cupcake Station, my reliable 'flavors' are chocolate cheesecake and chocolate lovers. Cupcake station describes chocolate cheese cake as "Our signature Dark Chocolate Cake with our unique White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, topped with Dark Chocolate Shavings." I describe it as: amazing. Their cream cheese frosting is really amazing. 

Another good choice at Cupcake Station is the mocha latte. The mocha latte is cupcake stations "signature" Dark Chocolate Cake with a rich Espresso Milk Chocolate Frosting, topped with Coffee Beans." Another yum from me. The Chocolate lovers is a very safe bet- chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. No explanation needed.

Just Baked:
The prices and menu sizes are comparable at the two shops. Just Baked happened to be out of most of their chocolate cupcakes when I was there, so I was forced to branch out a little. I bought two: a white chocolate raspberry, and a red velvet.
The white chocolate raspberry cupcake is described on Just Baked's website as "Shortbread bottom below our moist vanilla cake sprinkled with white chocolate then drizzled with a raspberry topping, white chocolate chips and a dollop of our delicious buttercream.." The cake was really moist, almost too moist, it just kind of fell apart. The raspberry topping was good, there just wasn't much of it to be had. Also, the buttercream frosting wasn't easy to bite into, I ended up taking it off the cupcake and not eating it. All and all, while the cake was good, the topping was just OK. I wasn't a fan of the buttercream.

The red velvet cupcake isn't as moist as the first, but this means its not going to crumble before I can eat it!. This was a good pick, because it has Just Baked's cream cheese frosting on it, so I can directly compare the two stores (there's the statistician coming out). The frosting on this cupcake is much lighter than Cupcake Station's frosting. While I can definitely taste the "cream cheese" flavoring, I think Cupcake Station wins in this battle.

Overall, I like Cupcake Station better at this point, but each bakery has distinct advantages. Cupcake Station is located in downtown Ann Arbor, so its unlikely to be a place you stumble upon while grocery shopping. But, it does have excellent cream cheese frosting. It's also right near the bus station, very convenient for those days when you miss the bus and have 30 minutes to kill before the next one comes. Also,Cupcake Station has three sizes- mini, normal, and large, to suit whatever appetite you have. The mini ones are excellent for just a taste, or trying a new flavor. Large ones are good for sharing. Also, many or most of the cupcakes here are baked on site, although once a flavor is gone, its gone for the day. Sometimes they close early because they are out of cupcakes!

What Just Baked has going for it is location. There is a lot of parking in that location, and it is near many other shops that people go to regularly-- grocery stores, office supply stores, the library, etc. Many people, like me, are going to pop in without planning. I don't love Just Baked's recipes as much, but there is potential. Finally, no cupcakes are baked on site. They are baked daily in another location and trucked in. Again, flavors will run out, like what I found yesterday.

(No, no, no one paid me to write this review. Although I'm open to the idea!)

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