I love cupcakes. I’ve been making them since middle school and at this point I consider myself an expert. So I can hardly believe it’s taken me this long to write an article for The Post about cupcakes! I believe that these four traits make a perfect cupcake: good flavor, moist cake, not too sweet, and beautiful. I focused on chocolate flavored cupcakes so I could easily compare, and, as my friend said, “What good is a bakery if they can’t make a good chocolate cupcake?”
Saint Cupcake is located in downtown Portland. It’s my favorite cupcake place, and has been since I was a little kid, so I might be biased towards it! I bought their chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream for $3.50. This was the first cupcake I tasted and it was delicious. It had a solid chocolate flavor, was moist, and wasn’t too sweet. It was the prettiest cupcake of the ones I bought, with a swirl of chocolate frosting and a dash of rainbow sprinkles on top. This was a very high quality cupcake, though a bit more chocolate flavor would have been nice. These are the cupcakes you should take to your cool coworker you want to impress. I gave this cupcake a rating of 8.5 out of 10.
FAT Cupcake is located on 6011 SE 72nd Avenue. I got their Black Velvet cupcake for $3.75. The appearance was very mediocre. Instead of a typical swirl of frosting, there was a zigzag of frosting. I appreciate their willingness to go outside of the box, but it didn’t quite work for me. The inside was somewhat better than the outside. The cake had a nice chocolate flavor and was enjoyable even though it was a bit dry. The frosting was too sweet for my taste, but it wasn’t unpleasant. I liked this cupcake but I didn’t love it. I gave it a rating of 6.5 out of 10.
My prior experience with FAT Cupcake has been much more positive. I chose their chocolate cake called The Breakup for my birthday this summer, and it was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. The addition of chocolate mousse and ganache made it more chocolaty and decadent, and it was perfectly moist. In the future, I will be sticking with their cakes.
Jaciva’s Bakery and Chocolatier is located on Hawthorne and was the closest to home of the bakeries I went to. I got their double fudge cupcake. It was visually appealing, with a pretty swirl of chocolate frosting and some chocolate sprinkles on top. This was the second prettiest cupcake, behind only Saint Cupcake.
Unfortunately, the chocolate cake was nothing special. It was sort of dry and I was hoping for more chocolate flavor. The frosting was light and creamy, but like FAT Cupcake’s, I would have prefered more chocolate flavor and less sugar in it. When cutting in, I was pleasantly surprised to find a chocolate filling, but it had the same problem as the frosting.
Overall, I liked this cupcake fairly well. If I was given this at a friend’s birthday party I’d be satisfied, but I would choose a different cupcake to serve at my own party. I gave it a rating of 7 out of 10.
I’ve been a loyal patron of Jaciva’s for years, and have been more impressed by other items on their menu. My personal favorites are their seventh heaven cake and their butter spritz cookies. The next time you go to Jaciva’s, I recommend you get one of those, and not their double fudge cake, in order to get your money’s worth. *
*Speaking of money, I was anxious while ordering this cupcake on the phone, so I forgot to write down the price. Oops.
Sugar Street Bakery & Bistro
This bakery, located in Southeast Portland, names its cupcakes after streets in Portland. On the day I went they didn’t have their normal chocolate cupcake so I bought their Belmont cupcake: a chocolate coffee cupcake with coffee buttercream. It cost $4.00. In terms of appearances, it honestly hurt to look at. The swirl of frosting was uneven and the color was an unappetising brown. Upon closer inspection, some places were more red and others more green. This was probably a result of it not being mixed all the way, an innocent mistake, but it honestly looked gross.
The cake itself was perfectly moist and had a great chocolate flavor. The hint of coffee in the cake was *chef’s kiss*. This was my ideal chocolate cake. However, the frosting was a disappointment. I could barely taste the coffee, which was surprising, because I’m really sensitive to coffee flavor and can’t handle much. For reference, Starbucks frappuccinos are too bitter for me. The swirl of bland frosting was monstrous, which dampened my overall experience. I sort of enjoyed this cupcake. After much deliberation, I gave this cupcake a rating of 7 out of 10.
Located on 35th and Hawthorne, the cupcake from Toadstool was the last one I tried. They serve nontraditional cupcakes, made up of cake and creamy topping that isn’t quite frosting, and are finished off by being dipped in chocolate ganache.
I ate their fudgy pudge cupcake. The look of the cupcake was very mediocre. There wasn’t much contrast between the chocolate ganache dip and the 3 light brown mushroom dots.
This cupcake cost $3.00. I thought this was on the pricier side for such a small cupcake—this was the smallest of the cupcakes I ate. However, when I bit in, I knew it was more than worth the extra cost. The cake was great. The chocolate flavor was right there; I didn’t have to look for it like in the FAT Cupcake and Jaciva’s cupcakes. But what really blew me away was the cream. It was nice and chocolaty; I got some bitterness from the cocoa that I didn’t get from any of the other cupcakes. It wasn’t overwhelmingly chocolaty, or even intensely chocolaty exactly, but the chocolate flavor was definitely represented best in this cupcake. The cream also reminded me of ice cream. It was thick, and there was actually more cream than cake, but somehow it worked!
I didn’t expect to like this cupcake as much as I did. It ended up being my very favorite. In my notes, I wrote, ‘magical,’ I gave this cupcake a rating of 9 out of 10.
Cupcakes are cute, portable, and most of all, have a novelty to them that I love. Next time you’re in the market for cupcakes, I recommend that you head in the direction of Toadstool Cupcakes or Saint Cupcake. All of the bakeries I went to are open for takeout. As we hit the one year anniversary of society shutting down from COVID-19, any money you spend at local businesses like the five bakeries above will surely be greatly appreciated.