Cupcake Showdown!

As we start ramping up towards Christmas, it seems inevitable that our sweet tooths start begging for attention, too. As you may know by now, my sugary treat of choice is a cupcake. Big, little, lashed with icing, dusted with sugar — I love them all. In Melbourne, it seems as if there are charming little cupcake bakeries opening up all over the place. It’s like a plague of loveliness. I’m not complaining!

From what I’ve seen, there are three major contenders on the Melbourne cupcake scene, though I know there are a multitude of options for the really cupcake-obsessed. The first is the long-standing, original trail-blazer, Crabapple Cupcake Bakery. The second is Little Cupcakes, which opened a couple of months ago in the city. & last but not least is Sugadeaux, another newcomer with great promise.

But all this choice does, of course, leave you with a few questions. Those questions are: Which outlet should you patronise? What flavour is the tastiest? Where do you get the most bang for your buck? Who does the chocolatiest smack in the kisser? Where are the best exotic flavours? & how many should you order for Christmas?

Crabapple CupcakesPictured: “Willy Wonka”, vanilla cream, cappucino cream, “girlish”, strawberry mudcake, peppermint chocolate-chip.

Crabapple Cupcake Bakery

Location: Shop 6, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, Prahran. Also available at Switchboard, Shop 11-12 Manchester Unity Arcade, 220 Collins St.

Flavours: White chocolate mud; jaffa; strawberry mudcake; hummingbird; orange & almond; orange blossom; lavender blossom; passionfruit; chocolate fudge; cappuccino; carrot & cream cheese (& the list goes on…).

Price: From $4 depending on flavour. (Discounts available for bulk orders.)

Review: Crabapple Cupcakes are the original monolithic cupcake in Melbourne. They are big & sweet & beautiful. Opening in 2001, its founder Jennifer Graham actually started off selling cake stands at markets. She would bake cupcakes just to fill up the stands as a demonstration, but soon she realised that cupcakes were what people really wanted. Her whole family got involved — her husband quit his job & her three daughters started experimenting with different decoration styles. Years later, in Melbourne, the word “Crabapple” is synonymous with cupcakes.

I have eaten more Crabapple Cupcakes than I would like to keep count of. 20 is probably a conservative estimate. (Eep!) Some of my favourites are lavender blossom, carrot & cream cheese, peppermint chocolate-chip & strawberry mudcake. The flavours are rich & tantalising, the size is perfectly satisfying & the icing… Oh, the icing. It is pure magnificence. It is so thick & generous that you can skim some off the top with your fingers & have plenty left to spare. It is light & fluffy & drool-inducing. It swirls around the top of the cupcake like a crown & melts on your tongue. It is sticky & fabulous.

I think Crabapple have the sweetest cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. This is marvellous if you are a raging sugar-fiend, but I know that not everyone is! I also believe that they have the monopoly on most incredible flavours — I think that the fact that they’ve been doing this for 6 years probably helps them out there. Crabapple make the best-looking cupcakes, too. They use a lot of food colouring, as well as decorating with sugar flowers & other accents. Crabapple Cupcake Bakery is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a pretty little cake.

Little CupcakesPictured: creamcheese chocolate.

Little Cupcakes

Location: #7, 250 Flinders Street, Melbourne. (That’s their official address but they’re actually in Degraves Street.)

Flavours: Red velvet; banana; mint; creamy coconut; dark chocolate; creamcheese chocolate; strawberry; white chocolate.

Price: $3.70 standard, $2.50 miniature. (Discounts available for bulk orders.)

Review: Little Cupcakes’ offerings are on the expensive end of the scale, so you would expect a really supreme flavour sensation. Unfortunately, you are left with very little bang for your buck. Of course, Little Cupcakes are situated in the city & therefore subject to premium rental, but you just don’t get what you pay for. On the plus side, the shop is very cute, with a high table in the middle, & they have a range of tea which is presented in good-lookin’ teapots on wooden trays. It would be a nice place to stop in at the end of a day’s shopping.

I have tried their creamy coconut, creamcheese chocolate & strawberry flavours, all with varying degrees of success. Any of the chocolate-flavoured cakes are just that — flavoured. From the taste, I don’t think they use real chocolate in their mix. It’s more like cocoa, very rich & not very sweet.

However, the icing on their creamcheese chocolate cupcake is totally yummy — vanilla-flavoured & very sweet & thick, sprinkled with chocolate hail. If the actual cake was of a better calibre, this would be a great cupcake. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I make better cake than this. The strawberry cupcake is pretty good, it tastes quite genuine (rather than that insanely overly-sweet faux-strawberry flavour that you sometimes get), but doesn’t turn my crank too much. I actually got bored halfway through my creamy coconut cupcake (sacrilege!), & didn’t finish it.

Little Cupcakes gives you the least icing of any of the three bakeries, which is sad. The icing is the best bit! I really get the impression that the founder of Little Cupcakes is just trying to capitalise on the cupcake trend, as opposed to doing it based on passion or excitement. That’s just the feeling I get from walking into their shop, though I could be mistaken. Usually, when someone does something because they love it, you can feel that radiating from every corner. That’s not the case here. Everything about it is just okay — there is nothing groundbreaking about their business. Boo!

SugadeauxPictured: mocha (back) & peanut butter choc (front).


Location: Retail location TBA; pick-up from South Yarra or available by delivery.

Flavours: Cinnamon sugar; passionfruit; chocolate; key lime pie; coconut; chai latte; sweet vanilla; caramel toffee; orange poppy; baci; mint slice; peanut butter choc; cookies & creme; cherry vanilla; white choc pistachio; raspberry white choc; mocha; cosmopolitan. (Other flavours available by special request.)

Price: $3.00 standard, $1.70 miniature. (Minimum order of 12 regular or 24 miniature.)

Review: Sugadeaux is owned by a woman called Jess whose acquaintance I made recently. She is a super-cool & vivacious girl whose passion for cupcakes has lead her to start her own bakery. She is constantly thinking up new flavours & trying different things, which is fantastic & really proves her enthusiasm.

I have personally sampled the mocha & peanut butter choc flavours, as well as a Turkish delight cupcake prototype! When I spoke to Jess, she warned me that her chocolate flavours were intense. “I’m throwing down the chocolatey creamy goodness gauntlet!”, she said. I was happy to take on the challenge, but she wasn’t kidding. The mocha & peanut butter choc cupcakes are a chocolate lover’s dream. They are both rich, moist, dense & fabulous — not to mention incredibly filling. The peanut butter choc cupcakes are my favourite, with a big gooey whorl of sweet peanut butter in the centre. So tasty. Painfully tasty!

Some cupcakes are like an aperitif, while Sugadeaux’s offerings are like a main course. If you can eat more than one in a single sitting, I will shake your hand. You will need to use a plate — they are quite crumbly but it all adds to the experience, you know?! The Turkish delight cupcakes are smaller & hold themselves together better than the others. They are delightfully (ha!) rose-flavoured, the cake is marbled pink & white, & they are sprinkled with edible pink glitter. Swoon!

Sugadeaux’s cupcakes get my strong seal of approval. I love them. When it comes to appearance, they are more modern-looking & less frilly than Crabapple’s offerings, but when it comes down to taste, they are both really excellent & it’s hard to say one is better than the other. You can actually taste the quality of Sugadeaux’s ingredients, while I think Crabapple tends to use so much sugar that you can’t as much. Sugadeaux cupcakes also last for an exceptionally long time. They probably shouldn’t be kept for as long as we had them — which ended up being about a week — but, incredibly, after all this time, they were still deliciously moist & soft. I don’t know how she does it, but wow!