With all the craze over cronuts people have momentarily lost track of the other food phenom that burst onto the scene a few years ago. While not as popular anymore, cupcakes are still hanging around as are several shops that sell them as their specialty. One such place is American Cupcake.
Originally a place to get cupcakes and alcoholic drinks, since the place opened a few years ago, they've expanded their offerings to things like brunch with fried chicken, ribs, cotton candy and other assorted treats. But since cupcake is in the name, I wondered if they have managed to continue to turn out tasty cupcakes to the masses in the same fanfare as when they first opened.
So it was on a random Saturday that I ventured down to the Marina/Cow Hollow neighborhood to check them out. Walking into the space which is completely white, it still somehow felt dark. I tried not to think about it too much and just concentrated on the cupcake choices which they do have up front and center. Choices are pretty standard and while I wanted something with cream cheese icing only two offered that, the rest had buttercream icing. I wasn't in the mood for red velvet (again) so I got the hummingbird cupcake.
based around the Southern cake specialty of the same name it's a pineapple, banana and pecan spice cake with cream cheese frosting. Sort of a banana bread with pineapple kind of thing. Presentation was spot on with the light dusting of cinnamon and crushed pecans on top. The frosting was light, like a whipped cream cheese with hints of citrus and vanilla--very tasty. Plus there was plenty of it to go around the cupcake, not just a dollop some places give. I liked it, so far so good. Cutting into the cake with my fork I found it both crumbly on the outside and a bit sticky on the inside. Sadly there are signs of over baking and too much butter/shortening in the mix. The cake was not moist but as stated sticky. Pineapple and banana should have added some moisture to this but over baking seems to have dried them out. I could taste the flavor of banana, but while I chewed on what was obviously pineapple the sweet flavor of it was not there. The whole cupcake came across as like that last banana muffin that's been sitting out since breakfast and here it is late afternoon and you are hungry so you take it from the office break room even though you know its been out too long and will be dry and stale-ish. Not even the frosting could save this cupcake. With a sigh I moved on to my other choice, peanut butter chocolate.
Again, good presentation. The frosting was a buttercream with peanut butter mixed in, sadly, while the texture was good there was barely a breath of peanut butter in the mix. I tasted it more as a hint than a full flavor profile. They should have ramped up the peanut butter A LOT, as it is, it does not add much beyond being plain frosting. The chocolate cake was no better. It was way overcooked, dry, crumbly and hard around some edges. I would have sighed again, but I might have choked on the cake clogging my throat.
Of course now it begins to slowly dawn on me as I look around the restaurant and see the fully stocked bar. It's like those places that put salty peanuts and pretzels out for folks to munch on to create dry mouth so you'll order more drinks. Seems they've done the same with the cupcakes, keep 'em dry so you'll need to drink more to get them down. Or get too drunk on liquor to realize the cupcakes just aren't that good.
Who knows, maybe at one time they did cupcakes moist and delicious, but now they seem to have branched out to so many other things they've forgotten where it all started. Or maybe they never did cupcakes all that well to begin with, either way, in the current moment there enough other places around town I can go to get a cupcake where they haven't forgotten how to make them.