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Old 05-16-2012, 06:58 AM
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Laura Laura is offline
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Default Cupcakes take the Cake meetup at Empire Cakes, Chelsea, NY last Sunday

The main draw of this was food, fun, and socialization. As I was not sure how to get to Empire Cakes, I googled it, and discovered that in the past, it had been a bakery west of the Union Square area called Lulu's, which I had once visited some years ago and from which I was pleasantly surprised to find Russian Teacakes for sale. They've still got 'em, as well as several other nice but very expensive cookie varieties (I enjoyed the pistachio-almond shortbread dipped in white chocolate). In fact, very little about the clean & spacious venue has changed besides the name.
They provided a tasting platter with some of their cupcake varieties for meetup participants to sample.
Their cupcakes, though passable, were not remarkable. They seem to have a formula for cupcake construction: plain vanilla or chocolate cake base, with mildly-flavored frosting on top. For instance: chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, red velvet with white frosting, vanilla cupcake with ecru dulce de leche frosting and sliced almonds, vanilla cupcake with ecru icing and ground hazelnuts. One exception which was a bit more elaborate was the "raspberry cupcake": though the cupcake base itself was plain vanilla, and the frosting on top pink, and not distinctly flavored, there was a streak of strong strawberry sauce swirled into the frosting topping, and a middle chamber with filling of lemon curd. The menu online promises a few slightly exciting cupcake varieties of this kind in the rotation. Prices are high: bringing home a few cupcakes (4) and a selection of cookies ended up costing in the ball park of $30.00.
The meetup group continued on to visit the Chelsea market (another place I hadn't been in years) and some notable shops within: Amy's Bread and Eleni's Cookies were among the stalls where we sat & sampled. Eleni's known for their colorfully custom-decorated cookies, also has a selection of cupcakes. Prominently on display were Sesame Street character cupcakes, with the television favorites made of less-than-toothsome piled-on frosting and fondant. The non-character cupcakes seemed to hold little appeal beyond their top frosting with dramatic waves and flamboyant flowers. However, icing appliqued cupcake-shaped cookies were an interesting novelty, as were (most likely) custom-made high-quality cupcake-shaped lollipops on long, thin sticks.
The participants having had an opportunity to sit and talk, were led to the High Line, where they enjoyed the fortuitously warm sun in the newest and trendiest NYC park, as the meetup drew to a conclusion, and everyone parted ways.
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