Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oh, Babycakes. Why.

I had the opportunity to spend this past weekend in New York City, and I had a wonderful time.

I stayed with an old friend from Ohio who lives in the city, who also eats gluten-free, so we had a lot to talk about and compare notes on.

We tried to go to as many places with gluten free offerings as possible, however we weren't able to get everywhere.  On my next trip, I really look forward to finding some Everybody Eats products to try, because I was disappointed to have missed them on this trip, having heard so many good things about them.

One of the places I was able to go to was Babycakes Bakery.  We arrived later in the day, and I was a little surprised that it is such a small storefront, but of course that doesn't matter.  Great things can come from small places!

Anyway, the location was extremely small, I would guess the storefront was about 12 feet wide, with the main counter just a few feet away from the door.  It was quite cramped, with a couple stools against the wall on the right, and two or three stools in front of the counter in the few feet between the counter and the front window.

When we arrived, there were two people sitting and talking on the stools to the right, which were directly in front of the main cooler with the baked goods.  About two or three people were ahead of us and so we were not able to look at the selections until after they had all checked out with their orders, due to the space.

When it was our turn to step up to the glass, I began to look at the selections when a young lady carrying two large trash bags (I mean large, they were about 5 feet tall each) came out of the kitchen area and asked us to move so she could take the trash out of the front door.  We walked all the way up to the front of the store and got out of the way.

After she had passed by, we returned to the counter, and because the written item descriptions were not all matched up with the trays of cupcakes, etc., I asked the man behind the counter which gluten-free (non-spelt) selections were still available.  He looked at me like I was stupid and said, "what it says on the glass."  Then he seemed to be obviously annoyed that I was not selecting a baked good soon enough for his taste, because he said, "Can I help anybody who knows what they want?"

That comment, I felt, was pretty rude.  I really didn't appreciate someone talking to me like that, someone who is asking for my business and my money.

So anyway, I went ahead asked if I could please have a red velvet cupcake.  He said Ok, I also selected a vanilla, chocolate and carrot.  Then my friend ordered a "Healthy-Ho" which is something like a sandwich of two brownies with cream filling inside.  He brought the order to the front, with a total of only three cupcakes and the fake Ho-Ho.  I said, "that's only three cupcakes," to which he replied, "Oh, did you want the carrot?"

To which I replied, "Um, no."  Which was my best decision all day.  The total price for these items was 16.60.

We took our selections to go, which he packed in boxes and put into an "I heart NY" plastic bag.

We then walked briefly around the Chinatown and Little Italy neighborhood, returned to the car, and drove up to Lincoln Center and sat down to enjoy them while watching the fountain.

The man at the counter had packed the three cupcakes in a box with a plastic window that was not glued to the top of the box, so the piece of cellophane had fallen onto the cupcakes under the weight of the box containing the Healthy Ho.  So when I opened the box, it looked like this:

But it's not what it looks like, it's how it tastes, right?

So I picked up the red velvet to taste what I expected to be a great cupcake.  But it was heavy.

So I pulled back the paper and took a bite.  I'm sorry to say, it was quite dry, and rather dense.  And the icing was very oily.  The texture was kind of inconsistent, with a moist spot here or there, a harder spot here or there, and the rest just, well, um...dry.

And the taste?  Well, I must admit I grew up in the midwest at a time when most every woman baked and many were masters.  So for better or for worse, my background dictates certain expectations for baked goods, and I am sorry to say that the taste fell far below my expectations.  It had more of a taste of fruit ingredients than that famous taste of red velvet cocoa with creamy frosting.

And so I did what my grandmother, who taught me how to bake, would probably have done.  I put it back in the box.

But I don't think it's fair to judge an entire bakery based on two bites of one cupcake.  Fortunately, I had two more chances to be delighted.

I moved to the vanilla cupcake with the green frosting.  Again, as I picked it up, it felt a little heavy.  I took one bite--and how was it, you ask?  Dry, yet again.  And it tasted more like orange or citrus than vanilla.  I commented to my friend that I must have been given the wrong flavor, and she thought it might have been "flavored" with lemon extract, or there may be lemon juice in the icing.

Well, the last time I baked anything "vanilla" flavored, I used vanilla.  And the last time I baked anything "lemon" flavored, I used lemon juice.  And so on.

So to me, this was not a pleasing flavor when I expected "vanilla."

After my first bite, I also returned it to its box.

When we made it back home, this is how the box looked (Uh, yum?):

I would just say, that in terms of an overall experience, I am going to have to give Babycakes a thumbs down.  

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, I'd give them a 1 for customer service, a 1 for price/value, and a minus 2 for taste.  (Maybe that's a little harsh.  How about just a minus 1.)

When we got home, my friend made a batch of homemade gluten free chocolate donuts, which were awesome.  That cheered me up!  But the ironic thing, is that when I was leaving Raleigh to come to NYC, I stopped by our awesome local dedicated gluten free specialty store, Rosie's Plate, to pick up some pita bread, they asked if I wanted to buy some cupcakes to also take to my gluten free friend.  I declined.  But next time, that is exactly what I am going to do.

(Also a shout out to other triangle bakeries like Moonlight Bakery, The Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakehouse, and Meepcakes in Winston-Salem.)


  1. You went to NYC and didn't visit the Risotteria? Shame on you!!

  2. Bummer. too often the sexy places with all the hype turn out to be not so good and the little local places(w/o the books and PR) near home are the real deal.

  3. I second Wendy's comment. That stinks...such a let down. Now I'm not so sure I'd want to try Babycakes next time I'm in NYC.

    If you're ever in Chicago, you must hit up Swirlz Cupcakes...their gluten free cupcakes are to die for!! Seriously....

  4. What a disappointing experience for you! It's always a little extra painful when it's expensive *and* gross tasting.

    I bought their cookbook, but doubt I'll be making any of their recipes, as they all rely heavily on coconut oil and I have no need to be vegan.

    Thanks for the meepcakes recognition!

  5. Oh wow. I can't believe that guy said that to you. I would've walked out right then and there.

  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Surely it's part of my Midwestern upbringing, high expectations for quality and service.

    Anyway, thanks for the recommendation for Swirlz, Betsy, I'll definitely look for it next time I get up to Chicago. I love Chicago.

    Wendy's right, we have to keep supporting our local (and terrific) little gf bakeries! They are really there for us.

    I am so proud of all our local bakeries that are not selling me overpriced, grody baked goods! Yay!