Monday, March 23, 2009

Katie's Cupcakes : A Taste Test

Well folks, it finally happened. Little ol' Bellingham has received it's very own cupcake shop, and it's in my neighborhood. The stickers of two cupcakes holding hands has been pasted up on the windows for what seems like forever, and last week the pink paper hiding the work going on inside was taken down and the doors opened. I didn't rush down immediately, partially because I'm bitter (yes, in some wonderland world in my head I always hoped I would somehow accomplish the feat of opening Bhams first cupcakes store), but mostly because it was finals week and I had my first dentist appointment in years (I suspected overdosing on sugar before that was a really bad idea). So after a long, fabulous weekend in Victoria BC, I came home and headed down to the new shop; Katie's Cupcakes with the ever lovely Rachelle. I knew if I was being un-necessarily critical based on my own jealousies that she would bring me down to Earth. I want to assure you that I did go in there with a completely open mind and an open heart. I desperately wanted to hate Trophy as well, but Jennifer hooked me at my first chocolate-y bite. I don't think my tastebuds would allow me to lie to myself, no matter how much I might want them to.

So, how was it? Honestly?
It was okay. Just okay.

I really liked the mini-red velvet (pictured below). Good flavor, the chocolate really came through (although some people do prefer their velvet cakes to lack a prominent chocolate taste, I like it). Plus, if you can't make a decent cream cheese frosting, you really don't have any business opening up a cake shop. No complaints here about their cream cheese frosting.

The 'normal' sized vanilla on vanilla was not very memorable. Bases are key when it comes to cake. You must have your bases covered. In my three or four years of baking cake nearly every weekend I have yet to find a chocolate cake that makes my soul melt into a puddle at my feet. But vanilla, I got that down pat almost straight away. Maybe my cupcake was just the result of an off batch? Glitches in the first few days of business? The bottom had a large pocket of slightly gooey (uncooked) batter. Um, no thank you. Rachelle and I were both put off by the texture. It was dense, but not in a moist way. The crumb was really tight, almost as if the batter had been over-worked after the flour was added. I wouldn't label it light or moist. I liked the flavor alright I suppose. The other thing I really didn't like was the buttercream. It was a tad too sweet for me. The texture was slightly grainy, which I've experienced when I don't whip my frosting enough or I've added just a tad too much powdered sugar. Plus it was uber buttery. I liked the mini-chocolate, they picked a good chocolate base, it was moist, but was topped with the same buttercream. Overall, I prefer the cupcakes sold at the downtown market at "Icing on the Cake". The buttercream is light, white, tall and fluffy and the cakes are a bit more creative and moist.

One must keep in mind while reading this that I am in every sense of the phrase a (cup)cake connoisseur. Not only have I spent an unheard of (and likely quite ridiculous) amount of time baking in the kitchen over the last four or five years, I was raised around a baker. I don't have 'normal' standards when it comes to matters of cake. Things I might pick up on, most of the populace could care less about. I can be a bit of a snob. I admit this.

Beyond taste, Katie's is decorated for little girls. Light pink, green, polka dots, etc. It's a bit sparce in my opinion. I've gotten used to Trophy; shelves packed with shiny cake related baubles for adults and kids alike, a decor palate that is more gender and age friendly, just a tad more whimsical and sophisticated but not stuffy.

I will say that Katie's was nearly sold out of cupcakes and it was only 3 o' clock. But, they have been open less than a week and in order to succeed beyond the year mark I believe they will have to find a way to break out of being a fun commodity. I can rarely resist a trip to Trophy when in Seattle. It won't be too much of a challenge to resist Katie's for me and they are only a few blocks away from home. I might opt to stay in and bake my ricotta lemon cupcakes or a few chocolate matcha cupcakes. That's not to say they won't find wild success here in the ham, because as I said, I'm picky and not a child. Katie's will make their money catering to kids, and they are clearly already doing a decent job of marketing to that demographic.

So, I say welcome to the neighborhood Katie's. There's no doubt about it, a cupcake shop in Bellingham has been long overdue!

P.S. I really want to see this place have fun with frosting and decorating cupcakes too! Tall spirals of frosting, more than just store bought sprinkles. Cupcakes are so special because they can be so beautiful with a wide variety of accoutrements.


Anne-Marie said...

Funny, and here I thought I would be the first one to open a cupcake store in Bellingham (ha ha).

I have had Katie's and also was underwhelmed.

That said, if I were to pick one to get, it would be their Banana Creme one. It was delish!

I also wish their cupcakes were a little larger and not "normal" sized but eh, I'm picky.

And, me, I'm a Cupcake Royale gal - not a Trophy gal - though I do love the Trophy merchandising but Cupcake Royale had me with their Red Velvet and now Chocolate Salted Caramel. It is better than anything I've ever had in my entire life ....

KAMILLE said...

As the above comment said--I too thought of being the one to open a cupcake shop, but so goes like and I like that you didn't down the lady as a result of opening first. Plus, there's always room for more!!

I actually just found out about the shop and haven't tried yet, but will have to go soon.

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh! As if the cupcakes weren't delicious, now she has gone and created a "donut cupcake". It is to die for....actually to live for. Fantastic!

miss mallory opel said...

Clearly, Katie's garners mixed reviews. I've met people who really disliked the shop and the cake, and others that seemed to like it. I wouldn't say they're to die, or live for. I'd still rather make my own cupcakes at home, donut hole, chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, etc.