While I was in New York visiting my brother, he took me to a bakery which he claimed had the best cupcakes in the city. No, it was not Magnolia's, which he thinks is wildly overrated (can't comment on that myself, as I've never tried one). It was Billy's Bakery in Chelsea, and he was right; they were to die for.
Perhaps it was this amazing experience that got cupcakes onto my radar, because ever since then I can't stop thinking about them... And since being back I've tried two of the "top" cupcake contenders in Boston: Lulu's Bake Shoppe on Hanover Street in the North End, and Rosie's Bakery (multiple locations, but I stopped at the one in Chestnut Hill).
You may be skeptical, or even morally opposed, to a bakery on Hanover that isn't Italian, and isn't Mike's Pastry. However, Lulu's is a delightful little 50s inspired shop and is exactly what you would hope for in a bakery-- bright, cheerful, and filled with whimsical treats as far as the eye can see. We got just a simple vanilla w/ vanilla frosting cupcake, but it was far from ordinary. The cake part was moist and fluffy, and the frosting was buttery and creamy without being overly sugary. It had a lot to live up to from Billy's, but it not only held its own, it gave them a run for their money.
A few weeks later, I treated myself to a cupcake at Rosie's Bakery. I was craving that buttery frosting and that soft cushiony cake that I had enjoyed at Lulu's and Billy's. However, I was not as happy with this one. This time I opted for the yellow cake with chocolate frosting, but it was too rich for my taste. The chocolate was overwhelming and was a dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate which I had been expecting. The cake was soft but not nearly as fluffy as Lulu's. And while atmosphere should not be a part of my decision for cupcakes, Lulu's adorable interior I think actually did add to the enjoyment of a nostalgic treat like a cupcake.
The winner of this battle? Lulu's Bake Shoppe.
PS Part II of the Battle of the Cupcakes will be Party Favors vs. Kick-ass Cupcakes. . . stay tuned.