big city cupcakes vs. original cupcakes

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?

28 comments:

karen said...

The cupcakes you gifted me from Cupcakes by Heather and Laurie were delicious - thanks again. You know they were really good for breakfast. Yhe icing did get a little smooshed on the edge but Pat thought that was a bonus - he licked off the extra icing in the box and when I went to suggest that was not polite he very seriously told me it was just like cleaning out the mixing bowl and the icing was too good to waste. The cupcake Pat had was stuffed with icing inside too. He was in heaven.

Jerri-Lea said...

Mmmmm,cupcakes! So does Veto run block while you shoot photos of everything or do you just shoot away until someone asks you what you are doing or asks you to stop? Thanks for the virtual trip to the bakery!

KAGS Herself said...

So when do you open a Saucy Sprinkles cupcake store in our town? Would you trust me with the frosting bag? Then we would be a win win team!

alittlebitofscrap said...

I think taste is 70% of my vote. Customer Service rates at 20% and Presentation about 10%. However that being said.. I'm probably not going to buy it, if it doesn't look good.. the above equation only works, when I'm an established customer and I need quite a large hook :)

Cheryl said...

Boy, that is a hard question. I guess it would depend on a few things. I suppose if I knew that they wouldn't package it properly so that it would get to the social scene looking nice, I could always take my own container for them. Taste and texture is probably more important. After all, you do want people to eat whatever you bring and like it!

J.G. said...

It's all about taste, but how disappointing to have smudgy cupcakes from surly people, even if they are delicious. Keep searching for all those good qualities in one location!

Oh, wait, that's at your house.

Chris said...

I like lots of frositng too , no skimping please , our peanut free cupcake shoppe here in Toronto uses plastic containers that keep the cupcakes FAR away from each other , you would love them , I keep them for my own use after, I also have tins that have lids from the Superstore , you can bake them in the tins and store them too , I use them when I sell the cupcakes as well.

Taiya said...

That's a hard one. I'd say taste wins out, normally. Some exceptions would be if the customer service was so bad that I was offended by it. Or if I were going to a party and wanted a box of cupcakes with great presentation...

Then again, we don't have any cupcake shops around here. Just bakeries that have cupcakes, so I generally just make my own...

TidyMom said...

ok, I have a question about taking pictures too - do you ask them, or do you just shoot away? if you ask them, do you tell them you're putting them on your blog?

I'm supposed to check out a GREAT little Cupcake bar here on friday (but I may have a scheduling conflict) but I'd LOVE to get some pictures of this place too! I'm so excited to go!

I would say, taste would have to win out - but geeze, that customer service would REALLY put a damper on that! and presentation always makes things more fun!!

~TidyMom

the treat girl said...

Taste! Frosting!!!!....and a pile of it!!!! I'm with you...you can always take it off if you don't want that much. But I am a push over for souvenirs.....totebags, keychains etc.....thanks for the pictures!!!

bluemuf said...

This is a hard one Saucy, I think i would go for the taste. If I lived nearby, I would take in my own container and maybe they would get the hint. :)

Hugs karen

jkddz said...

when we were in Vancouver we drove right by!Glad after your comments on taste and lack of icing! Think that your cupcake hints and how-to's... I can now make a darn yummy cupcake treat... with LOADS of creamy fluffy icing =P

MJ said...

Taste wins the day with me. If the cake tastes like something that is brown but not chocolate, pass on it! I need good icing, not too sweet either! Plus, if it is a day-old, it is day-old. I'm not interested, thank you, and certainly not for full-price as freshly baked goods! I know, I'm a difficult bakery customer!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man, I'm a sucker for customer service and it totally bums me out that the mom & pop shop didn't come through.
I wish we had a cupcake store in my neck of the woods.

Solanaceae said...

IMHO it's all important! We have a fish shop here where the food is beyond awesome. That being said, they are also pricey! On more than one occasion they have messed up our take-out order and have never apologized let alone offered to correct the order, refund our money or offer us a discount or coupon for future orders (when I called the owner atually said "what do you expect me to do about it you already have the food?" and when I said I would bring it back for them to remake he laughed at me and said no) and/or the counter staff has been rude, as a result we no longer go there. My take is they are in business to serve people, if they can't do that well it doesn't matter how good the food is. I refuse to pay someone for the privilege of being treated badly.

roostreehouse said...

....bad service leaves a bad taste in your mouth, no matter how exquisitiely delicious the dinner/cake/food/coat/purse/ring may be...

in my humble opinion. :-)

Sara's Sweet Surprise said...

Miss Saucy~I had to take a break from my break and come by for a visit. I lurrved the Hello Kit-tah jewels you repurposed.

I must be too picky...I want both good tasting cupcakes with good customer service. I guess you might say... "I want my cupcake and eat it too."

Sweet wishes,
Sara

Jenn @ youknow... that blog? said...

I think taste has to win out, but the owners of Cupcakes need to be given the scoop on those girls! Their behaviour was totally unacceptable...

Saucy... guess what? It's Silly Haiku Wednesday... and the theme is CUPCAKES!!! Can I lure you into participating again?! How about your other cupcake loving buddies here?

Yin said...

Oh Saucy, I've missed your blog! Thanks for saying hi to me way back when, when I first went MIA (I got a crazy job and got engaged!!).

I can't wait to enjoy my martini and catch up on all your posts!

JadeLD said...

Your post if making me so hungry! Looking forward to your Haiku, looks like you have a lot of cupcake experience - lucky you.

I have to admit that I like to taste the cake as well and that too much frosting does spoil a cake for me a bit. Taste is really important, it is a food product at the end of the day but having such bad customer service would really put me off a place, I think you should write and complain to the owner.

Junie Moon said...

Customer service can make or break an establishment. Hopefully the owner will see your post and improve this particular store's service in future.

I so agree about the frosting and thought it looked half-hearted in some of your example photos. I don't really like seeing naked cupcakes and if they're showing a bit of "skin" I want to turn my head to avoid the sight.

Jerri-Lea said...

Just saw this and thought of you and all your potential customers...

http://sprinkles.com/party/sprinklesmobile.html

Jenn said...

Hmmm, that is a tough one there, but since it is a cupcake I'm going to have to go with taste and frosting!

I am a sucker for Customer Service though. I am one of those people that is the first person to write on the comment card and demand to see the manager when I have BAD or GOOD customer service.

Miss Quoted said...

Hmmm, I'm picturing myself on a perfect day having a good time with a friend and going to Bee Sweet Cupcakes.Cupcakes are always yummy, (I agree on the icing thing... more please?)and even a slightly crumbly cupcake makes me happy. Snotty McCupcake Seller with bad customer service skills will always bring me down. I vote customer service. Plus, I worked for an airline and it's bred into me.

Kate said...

Call me a cupcake snob but I need it ALL. It must look amazing, taste better then anything I've ever tasted, have the perfect little box that holds it like it's on a cloud and the people must be friendly and super excited to be selling me their cupcakes. Otherwise it's not worth it, right? I can make pretty spectacular cupcake goodness at home.

Rosa said...

K, this is just too much for a cupcake junky to handle. I'm in heaven!

Saucy said...

Readers,

Big City Cupcakes contacted me by email recently regarding my review. They wanted to clarify that if their frosting seemed dense, it is because it is real buttercream and has no fillers like shortening or lard.

Also they wanted to offer me free cupcakes next time I'm in town so I can try them again. That was really very nice of them, and again, I cannot rave enough about their very friendly customer service.

Regardless, I like a light and fluffy frosting and that can be achieved with the use of cream with the butter in the buttercream. As regular readers of this blog know, I use shortening in my buttercream, but I really like the texture of my finished recipe, (I also use butter and heavy cream in it) so if a little shortening makes a better end product, so be it.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Big City Cupcakes opened their first store in Kelowna, BC. Although i'm pretty sure they bake them from scatch, I know that the independant franchise stores are NOT allowed to bake and/or decorate them - they get shipped from their local Baking Centre!

They didn't taste good when it was one store, and they don't taste good now. The decorating has improved over the last two years for sure but they just seem so...manufactured?

I heard that Big City Cupcakes is making the move to Alberta, they are apparently going to try taking over Edmonton first with two stores opening within a week. Apparently Calgary's Crave cupcakes is also making the move to Edmonton. That makes what? Five cupcakes stores in Edmonton? It's getting a little out of hand.