Your NYC Alternatives to Hostess

cupcake cafe

cupcake cafe

In the wake of Hostess’ plight, it’s important that we come together and rally around confections–in particular, the kind that can’t be bought at 7-11. Now, I know, it’s convenient to just pick up a package of Twinkies and scarf ’em down, but better sweets await you.

Located in the deep west side, there are a number of bakeries (three, to my count) that can satisfy your sweet tooth. Though they aren’t nearly as convenient as 7-11–and my walking shoes can attest to that–they are each worth the walk it takes to find them.

Cupcake Cafe is one of those places that you’ve heard of and probably have never seen. A hole in the wall found on Ninth Avenue in the low 40s, Cupcake Cafe serves up ornately frosted buttercream cupcakes. The cupcakes are on the small side, but are beautiful. If you’re looking to impress a date or your coworkers, you should definitely buy cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe. Now, as for the taste, well, not so impressive. I ordered a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting cupcake. The cake itself is on the dry side and borderlines flavorless. And the frosting tastes a lot like butter–I suppose it puts the butter in buttercream, as it were. One of the places I interned for while I was in college used to order cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe, and I think everyone wondered why the cognitive dissonance–something that looks so beautiful yet tastes so … average. How could this be? Well, it was and it is, and I would only recommend Cupcake Cafe if you’re going to the hellhole that is Port Authority anyway. (Although, I’ve heard that Buddy Valastro is setting up a cafe in Port Authority soon–so maybe Cupcake Cafe will fall into further obscurity.)

empire cake snack cake and lemon bar

empire cake

Now, on the other hand, Empire Cake is worth going to. Found on Eighth Avenue down by Google’s sprawling office compound (you can tell it’s Google’s office building because the name “Google” is emblazoned across the fifth floor windows–because we were all wondering where the great and mighty search engine’s office was …. but I digress), Empire Cake is a very beautiful bakery. With just enough seating to satisfy their hungry customers, Empire Cake sells an array of cupcakes, snack cakes, bars, black-and-white cookies and a number of other comestibles. MDP and I ordered the Brooklyn Blackout snack cake which is a chocolate cake with chocolate pudding filling, dipped in chocolate. For the chocolate lover, this is heaven. Previously, we had tried the Chocolate-Covered snack cake and Lemon snack cake, both of which were outstanding. We also opted for the much-celebrated lemon bar, which I found to be just okay and nothing to write home about (yet here I am, penning a post about it). I didn’t try the cupcakes at Empire Cake because they looked like cupcakes I might not like–too much frosting and not enough cake. That cake/frosting balance is a tricky one, but well worth striving for.

billy's bakery

billy’s bakery

Last, but certainly not least, we went to Billy’s Bakery found on Ninth Avenue in the low 20s. I had been to Billy’s before to purchase some cupcakes for coworkers. When I was thinking about writing this post, I decided to go to Billy’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Bad idea. The line was out the door! But, I persisted and returned to Billy’s a few days later to pick up some cupcakes. Not only does Billy’s sell cupcakes, they also have cake, cookies, pies and other confections. I opted for the vanilla-vanilla cupcake and the banana cupcake, which has a cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes were fantastic, and when MDP asked me which I liked better, I struggled to choose, but ultimately decided upon the banana cupcake as the winner in this taste test. It looks like there’s a lot of frosting on these cupcakes–something I just lamented in the previous cupcake entry–but the frosting is high quality and not too sweet. The cake was moist and delicious. These cupcakes are irresistible! As an aside, but as something you might value, I found the service at Billy’s to be way below par. When I walked into Billy’s, I was the only patron around, yet waited five minutes to be served. Four workers ambled behind the counter, talking amongst themselves before waiting on me. Strange and annoying, and has made me think twice about returning to Billy’s.

So, who won this taste test? Well, I think Billy’s earned the highest marks, but, as I said, their service is nogu.

If you have any tips on good bakeries, let me know about them in the comments section!