Monday, November 5, 2012

Gigi’s Cupcakes, America’s largest cupcake chain, opens in Little Rock

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 10:04 AM

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I’m sure you’ve probably wondered, at some point, when this whole cupcake fad was going to die out. The answer, apparently, is not anytime soon. While Little Rock has seen the passing of at least one dessert shop, Sweet Things Bakeshop on Bowman, within the last few months, newer establishments continue to spring up all over the city. This past weekend, Little Rock saw the opening of Gigi’s Cupcakes on S. University. Founded by Gina “Gigi” Butler in 2008, Gigi’s is based out of Nashville, TN and is America’s largest cupcake chain with over 65 locations in 22 states. After months of promoting their pending arrival via their Facebook page, Gigi’s finally opened their doors to the public. I stopped by this weekend to see what all the commotion was about and to determine how Gigi’s stacks up against some of our homegrown cupcake shops in central Arkansas.

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  • From gigiscupcakesusa.com
When I arrived, I was not entirely surprised to see a large crowd filling the bakeshop. Patrons paced back and forth in front of the long glass display case housing a fairly large supply of cupcakes. Many customers sat outside at patio tables, some sat inside, all digging into their cupcake selections piled high with frosting. It was clear that Gigi’s is already a well-oiled operation. An ample number of employees were available to answer questions and handle the crowds. Everything is clean and cute, from the displays to the to-go packaging, exactly as you’d expect from a product that relies almost as much on its visual appeal as it does on its taste.

One glance at a Gigi’s cupcake and it’s fairly clear what they’re modus operandi is: lots of frosting…a whole lot. If you have issues with the general overabundance of frosting found on most haute cupcakes today, this would definitely be a place you’ll want to avoid. I’ve never actually eaten a cupcake so heavy with frosting it was nearly too top heavy to stand on its own, but Gigi’s was just that. Careful cross-sectional analysis revealed that the frosting to cake height ratio was at least 1:1, and in some cases greater. Biting into this behemoth of sugar and flour without the aid of a plate and utensils would likely only end in a filthy, sticky disaster.

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I’m sure you’ve had the misfortune of eating one of those grocery store birthday cakes at least once in your life. Perhaps you’ve had the even greater misfortune of being served the slice that included the four-inch-high artificially colored frosting flower. Rather than do the reasonable thing and scrape some of it off before eating, perhaps you decided to go commando and bite through the entire thing. If so, you have some sense of what it’s like to eat a Gigi’s cupcake. The frosting is intensely sweet, thick, and ends with a slightly bitter aftertaste with each bite, again not so unlike some of the grocery store cakes you may have sampled in the past. I get the feeling that this excess of frosting is attempting to cover up a rather sub-standard, lackluster cake underneath. In general, I found the cake portion to be rather bland and dry. Without the excessively sweet crown of frosting, it was clear that these were not cakes that could carry Gigi’s products to greatness. While there are clearly a large variety of flavor combinations offered at Gigi’s, of the three I selected (white wedding cake, chocolate-chip cookie dough, and red velvet) none were so distinct as to make a lasting impression on my palate. I found each, despite their dramatically different appearances, to be fairly similar in flavor, all reeking of excess sugar.

Lastly, I sampled one of Gigi’s mini cheesecakes. Wrapped up and packaged like a standard cupcake, the cheesecakes come in a handful of flavors including chocolate, cookies and cream, raspberry and cherry. I chose the cherry-topped cheesecake and found this to be surprisingly pleasant. The cheesecake was light and creamy, and thankfully, not overwhelmingly sweet. The graham cracker crust was delicate and complimented the cheesecake and cherry well.

With the plethora of local bakeries we have here in Little Rock, it would be difficult for me to forsake them and overspend again on cupcakes at Gigi’s. However, I’m guessing they will do well…chain restaurants never seem to be hurting for patrons. For myself, I’d prefer the ingenuity and craftsmanship fueling local bakeries. That said, Gigi’s is by no means terrible, but there are many more bakeries in Little Rock that will be cleaning out my wallet before I let Gigi get her hands on it again.

Gigi’s Cupcakes
416 S. University, Ste 120
Little Rock
Mon-Thu: 9AM-8PM
Fri-Sat 9AM-9PM
Sun: 11AM-6PM
501-614-7012

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