“F” is for Food is a regular series about my second favourite topic. I am an unapologetic lover of food and I’ve never tried a cuisine that I don’t like. Get ready for gratuitous, stylized, full-frontal shots of yummy cupcakes and my thoughts about them. After all, food is a thing of beauty.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a cupcake review. That’s because I’m trying not to get fat. It’s no secret that these little bundles of delight–although undoubtedly delicious–are not the best friend of a waistline firmly over the age of 30. Not if you have one or two, you say? What kind of reviewer would I be if I only judged a company based on one or two flavours? So, basically, I’m getting fat for you guys :). On with the show! Today’s review is for BAKE Shop in Mosely, Birmingham.
BAKE Shop, despite the name, currently has no physical shop to dash into if you just want to pick up a few goodies. But kind-natured owner, Steven Taylor, assures me that this will change soon. Not having a shop for passing trade has not stopped BAKE from having a presence all over the city. Steve frequently sells his baked goods at farmers markets and fairs in and around town. And of course you can call or order through the interwebs. BAKE was actually recommended to me by commenter Brett Parker after my first cupcake review on Kiss Me Cupcakes. I had forgotten about it. Well, BAKE found me through Twitter and the rest is the stuff of this review. Read on and drool.
BAKE Shop sells a cornucopia of confectionery that ranges from full size cakes and whoopie pies to stuffed cookies and American-style scones. For the consistency of the “F” reviews, I will focus only on the cupcakes. This review is based on six of the many different flavours of cupcakes from BAKE. Steve’s cupcake style has been very much influenced by family recipes and his travels to the US. There he sampled cupcakes from such well known cupcake outfits as Magnolia and Crumbs in NYC. While I think the latter bakery’s ginormous, over-the-top, cupcakes are overrated, I’ve got a lot of love for the way Magnolia does things. It is in this vein that I most liken BAKE’s cupcakes. There is definite attention to style as well as substance. Steve goes beyond merely changing the colour of the frosting to visually differentiate between flavours. Instead of just yellow frosting on the lemon-meringue cupcake, there’s an actual meringue; and the pink frosting on the vanilla rose cupcake is delicately piped to resemble a blossoming bud. The size of their cupcakes are fairly in line with those of Kiss Me Cupcakes. In my last review, I praised The Happy Cupcake Company for their excellent frosting-to-sponge ratio. BAKE matches that ratio really well. One can retain one’s daintiness in public while eating these cuppies.
Most of the cupcakes have my preferred style of piped frosting, with the exception of the Lemon Meringue, which had a flat top frosting to accommodate a mini meringue on top. Some flavours feature added decorative accents in the form of sugar pastry cut-outs, springles, fresh fruit or chocolate-covered coffee beans. All tastefully done and appropriate to the flavour of the cupcake they adorn.
Steve says that he uses organic or fair trade ingredients that are sourced locally whenever possible. I sampled the following six flavours: Vanilla, Vanilla Rose, Strawberries and Cream, Lemon Meringue, Mocha and Banoffee (new flavour). Vanilla cupcakes are usually not that exciting, but they can reveal the soul of a cupcake company. And a simple chocolate cupcake lets you know how deft a baker is at adjusting moisture levels in his or her cupcakes to compensate for different ingredients (chocolate tends to offset the usual moisture in cake if adjustments aren’t made). I don’t care if a bakery has the most amazing tequila lime cupcake (actually, can somebody make that a summer offering, please?) or other fancy flavour, the simple flavours need to shine just as brightly. I was forced to divvy up the BAKE cupcakes to share with G and my step-son (weird to say because he is a grown @$$ man). What is true about each cupcake that I tried is the consistency in the size and moisture of the sponge, lightness and depth of flavour (nothing cloyingly sweet or flat) in both the frosting and the sponge, and freshness of ingredients. Below I have shared feedback for individual cupcakes:
Vanilla: Always my benchmark for a cupcake company. If you only bought this flavour from BAKE, you would be happy. I also enjoyed that the frosting was lavender coloured to add a bit of pep.
Vanilla Rose: Definitely a unique flavour and potentially an acquired taste. Those who are from a Persian, Arabic or Indian background (or just enjoy cuisine from those cultures), will be familiar with the taste of rose water-laced desserts. I enjoyed this exotic spin on the typical vanilla cupcake. It’s like a gulab jamun in cupcake form, minus the syrup. Give it a try…unless you are deathly afraid of roses.
Strawberries and Cream: At first I thought the “strawberry” part of this cupcake was limited to the fresh fruit on top. How wrong I was. There is an amazing jammy surprise once you reach the middle of the sponge. See pictures below.
Lemon Meringue: I love that an actual meringue is included on top of this cupcake–a generously sized one at that! It adds a nice textural contrast. The lemon flavour has just enough zest to be recognizable as lemon, but not artificial or overwhelming. Quite delightful, actually.
Mocha: Chocolate territory–my favourite. I could have eaten several of these. The espresso flavour is very present, but not bitter or overwhelming. For my chocolate and coffee lovers, this will surely delight your tongue.
Banoffee: This new flavour is a true star! Sure, banoffee as a flavour is not new. What makes this cupcake unique is the sponge. It tastes like banana cake. I don’t know if this is mainly an American concept, but it you’ve never had banana cake (BAKE makes these too), your life is incomplete. Really. BAKE’s Banoffee cupcake even made G (a notorious banana-flavour hater) sit up and take notice. The flavour of the frosting is a perfect match for the sponge and adds more of the toffee flavour. The only criticism that I would offer is that the frosting needs a bit of firming up. It was in danger of running off the top of the cupcake. Steve assures me that he is still perfecting the firmness of the Banoffee’s frosting.
BAKE’s website only lists a fraction of the flavours that they offer, and they are constantly adding more. I was saddened to hear that Red Velvet (surprisingly unpopular in Birmingham) may be phased out. Maybe English palates don’t have much love for the American South’s star cupcake? If BAKE doesn’t make your favourite flavour, why not shoot some suggestions to BAKE on Twitter or Facebook?! No promises.
BAKE offers amazing value for its cupcakes. Each cupcake is priced between £1.50 – £1.75, depending on the flavour. Those prices are in line with those of The Happy Cupcake Company; slightly lower than those of Kiss Me Cupcakes; and a whopping £ 0.90 – £1.15 lower than those at Manton’s Finest. Each of those companies has different strengths and weaknesses, but the point is that there’s plenty of value variety for cupcakes in Birmingham.
If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this part, you have obviously only looked at the photos :). It’s a resounding YES! in the morish category. I don’t know if BAKE has its baked goods in shops and restaurants around Birmingham the way KMC does. If not, I want to see that stat! And oh how I can’t wait for Steve to open a physical shop. It’s not just their cupcakes that are morish. Be sure to check out the salted chocolate peanut butter cookie, Black Forest whoopie pie, and orange and cranberry breakfast scone (American-style, no clotted cream required). If you are jonesing to pick up a variety of sweet goodies from BAKE, you can satisfy your curiosity at the Bournville Village Festival on the 25th of June…but only if you won’t be at the Birmingham Vintage Fair that same day! Contact BAKE on Twitter, Facebook or via email@example.com for more dates or to make an order.
Stay tuned for more reviews on cupcakes from Birmingham and beyond. If you are a cupcake company who would like me to do an honest, free review of your cupcakes, get in touch with me here.
*I do not accept money for reviews. Each review is based on my own honest opinion and preferences. Cupcakes received for consideration are not guaranteed to be reviewed on the blog.