Cupcakes Guide 

Cupcakes on Kavanaugh Can a cupcake taste wholesome? Because this one did, but in a great way. Everything about this strawberry cupcake, with mostly chocolate and a dollop of strawberry buttercream frosting, smacked of just-milked, just-gathered, just-baked freshness. The cake was moist, moist, moist, in addition to being light, fluffy and barely sweet, and it completely allowed the icing to carry the sugar-ride. And what a ride! This was some uniquely excellent icing — thinner and creamier than most buttercreams, it spawned spontaneous images of happy cows in sunny pastures. Kavanaugh uses organic milk and local eggs — does that really make all the difference? This is one cupcake that doesn't permanently lodge in your stomach post-consumption, making you regret your sugar-cave for the rest of the day. Extra points for being open on Mondays. Price: $2.95. 5625 Kavanaugh Blvd., 664-2253. Cupcakes on the Ridge, 11525 Cantrell Road, 224-2253. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.,10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Brown Sugar This River Market-area bakeshop offers a daily repertoire of red velvet, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cupcakes, along with two specialty surprises — anything from blueberry citrus to caramel pecan. (There are also interesting to-order flavors, such as maple bacon or Moscato. There's something very Stepford Wives about an alcoholic cupcake!) We chose Cherry Cheesecake a bit skeptically, but (and we're sure your mom would agree), usually everything turns out OK in the end. The cake was adequately moist and not too heavy, the icing was a smooth, thick buttercream with a sharp cheesecake flavor, and the whole thing was sweet-sweet, but it went down easily. Price: $2.50. 419 E. Third St., 372-4009, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Sweet Love Whether it's a blueberry with cream cheese icing or an elaborate Black and White with chocolate and vanilla candy topping, Sweet Love does a good cupcake. We couldn't choose, so we tried both. We were surprised at how well the blueberry flavor muscles through the eggs and milk and all, but the icing is thinner and less fluffy — a little less rich — than the cream cheese varieties we are familiar with. (Have you ever tried a yogurt-based icing? That's what it reminded us of.) Because it's more traditional, we think the Black and White is probably a bigger crowd pleaser. What you get: both chocolate and vanilla swirled cake and icing, but the cake is stronger on the chocolate, and the icing, the vanilla. Moist cake with loose whirls of stiff buttercream and an all-around solid cupcake experience. There was also a Pancake Breakfast cupcake with maple cake and icing and a bacon bits topper. Sounded pretty interesting ... maybe next time? Price: $2.75. 8210 Cantrell Road. 613-7780. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

The Root The downtown cafe has (usually vegan) cupcakes only on Fridays and Saturdays. We had a vegan something of a spiced, nutty persuasion, with cream-cheese(ish) icing and crushed candied ginger on top. It tasted like winter holidays and spring picnics — both of which we love — but it was more of a heavily iced muffin than an honest-to-goodness cupcake. The texture was dense and a little crumbly, with bits of real nut and a nutmeg bite. The icing was more granulated than buttercream or real cream cheese, but yummy all the same. Big plus: nothing about this cupcake was too sweet or too filling. Price: $2.50. 1500 Main St., 414-0423. 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 8 a.m-3:30 p.m. Sat.

Tracy Cakes A filled lemon cupcake that we can actually get behind! Tracy Cakes's Lemondrop looks pretty basic, but our specimen was fresh, with tangy buttercream icing and a spot of lemon curd. Something about the hearty texture of the curd made it more palatable than a jelly or custard, and it always helps when a filling is used sparingly. This filling blended well with the cake, making a few choice bites seem extra moist and delicious. Overall, there was a strong but happy lemon flavor, and we're eager to try other Tracy Cakes varieties. Price: $2.25. 10301 North Rodney Parham Road, 227-4243.


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