When we were in Vancouver, I just had to scout out the cupcake scene. Veto indulged me... who can resist baking review? In the name of good cupcake blogging, he agreed to come along and do some undercover shopping and sampling. What follows is my honest, unbiased review of two cupcake shops.
Our first stop was at the new store in town: Big City Cupcakes. As chance would have it, we visited them during their first week of business. Things were brand-spanking new and all sparkly and shiny. Here I am, outside the Howe Street location... check out the eye-catching billboard-style window art. This place has a cool, modern, hip vibe.
Big City Cupcakes is taking on the original cupcakery in Vancouver: Cupcakes by Heather and Lori. We visited the Thurlow Street location, closer to the heart of shopping and tourist stuff near Robson Street. This bakery is old-school cute and funky.
The Big City Cupcake displays are sleek, with stainless steel counters and plexiglass barriers.
Although they were quite uniform, I thought the amount of frosting on the Big City Cupcakes was a little weak. I like lots of frosting, as you know. I prefer my little cake to be almost tipped over under the weight of icing. I think they're going for a unique look but it fell a little flat for me. If you're not a fan of frosting, you can always take it off. Not having enough frosting is a sin, do you agree?
The display vibe at Cupcakes is retro-charming. Brown and pink polka dot walls and cafe-style display towers add to the appeal of these cupcakes, available in three sizes, all with ample frosting.
Oh, and I also liked the little extras and displays scattered around the store. Cupcakes also sells souvenier hats, tees, totes and gift cards. Bottled water with the store logo on it? Cute, cute, cute. I love gimmicks like that. I admit it.
Check out the amount of frosting on those babies! Ample. It was really delicious frosting, it had a very creamy texture.
Veto and I agreed, after extensive "taste testing" that the original Cupcakes by Heather and Lori were superior in presentation, texture and taste. The Big City Cupcakes tasted like they were from a mix, were dry and crumbly (not good in the rental car) and the frosting, although it had a nice flavour, was really dense and not fluffy at all.
In the presentation category, although Big City Cupcakes had a hip new vibe I preferred the quaint eatery-style of Cupcakes. They were both well executed and Big City gets marks for being original... Cupcakes, although the decor is cute, isn't very creative... just traditional.
In the customer service category, Big City Cupcakes kicked butt! The girls were so very friendly and talkative, offering suggestions and visiting with all of the customers. I lurrved those gals.
Unfortunately, the two girls at Cupcakes were grumpy and impatient. Yes, it was hot in there. There was nobody behind me so I was taking a little time picking out my cupcakes, but they were really unhelpful. Also, I have to tell you this: the girl who rang in our order overcharged us by about eight dollars and when we corrected her, she was very cranky about it. She checked her adding, claimed she was right and when I explained my calculation to her, she rolled her eyes and re-rang the entire order in again... and we were right. With no apology, she gave us our change and barely said goodbye and sent us packing without a receipt. Gah.
The Big City Cupcakes were packaged well and looked just like their billboard style window display when we left the store!
The Cupcakes by Heather and Lori products were shoved into a box without an insert to keep them apart... gah! Even I have cardboard inserts for my cupcakes here at home! They didn't travel to the car especially well and I would have been terribly disappointed if I were taking them to a shower or party, they didn't look nice once we left the store.
Overall, taste and store appearance: Heather and Lori WIN. Customer service and packaging: Big City Cupcakes WIN.
Reader, does taste and appearance trump customer service and packaging?