Cupcakes with Copy: A guide to St. Louis cupcakeries

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Cupcakes from La Bonne Bouchee on Olive Street. Genevieve Hay | Student Life

Cupcakes from La Bonne Bouchee on Olive Street.

If we know one thing, it’s cupcakes. On any given day, there is a 30 percent chance that we are driving to pick up a few of the perfect-for-one treats or a 100 percent chance that we are dreaming about doing so. After all, what could be more fun and delicious, or bring you more joy, than a cupcake? Not much.

That’s why, this week, we decided to take a break from the Copy Kitchen and to instead bring you our reviews of St. Louis’ various cupcake offerings. We visited three of the closest establishments to try and suss out the very best of our favorite sweet treat. We tried cupcakes from La Bonne Bouchée in Creve Coeur, Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Café in University City, and The Cup (formerly known as The Cupcakery) in the Central West End.

For the greatest degree of fairness we did our best to compare the same four flavors of cake at each establishment. We sampled vanilla/yellow, chocolate, carrot, and red velvet cake varieties at each bakery. Each shop had its own signature cupcake size. La Bon Bouchée makes its cupcakes about the size of a standard grocery store version. Ideal for a post-meal treat, if a bit on the small side. The Cup offers a slightly larger cupcake—these are our personal favorites, size-wise. They are big enough to satisfy and reasonable enough for individual consumption. As for the size of Jilly’s cupcakes, let’s just say we dare you to try and finish one on your own. Actually, we don’t. It’s probably not safe. In terms of decoration, we agreed that La Bon Bouchée’s cupcakes were the most amusing. Topped with swirls of a bakery-type meringue frosting and very random sugar decorations—including ducks, Easter eggs, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and rainbows—these looked irresistible. The Cup’s decorations were as simple as their signature application of buttercream frosting topped with an accent hinting at the cupcake’s flavor. Jilly’s cupcakes were by and large the most garish, featuring sprinkles, multiple frosting layers, and even edible gold leaf.

Now, without further ado, here are our opinions:

Cupcakes from Jilly’s on Delmar.Genevieve Hay | Student Life

Cupcakes from Jilly’s on Delmar.

Vanilla/Yellow

La Bon Bouchée: Given how adorable this cupcake was, we had high hopes for its taste-test performance. Unfortunately, this was the worst beginning to a cupcake-tasting feast we could have imagined. We deemed this the driest cupcake we had ever eaten, even before we knew what awaited us with La Bonne Bouchée’s other flavors. The frosting was equally unimpressive, offering little more than the taste of sugar.

Jilly’s: We were delighted, after La Bon Bouchée’s failure, to discover how delicious Jilly’s vanilla cake was. The moist cake had the ultimate combination of rich, almost-buttery flavor and fluffy texture guaranteed to make you crave bite after bite. Unfortunately, the chocolate frosting alone featured a diabetes-inducing level of sweetness and almost no discernible chocolate flavor. No, thank you.

The Cup: One of our first impressions was that The Cup featured the perfect frosting-to-cake ratio. Much to our continued delight, the cake and the frosting were scrumptious, either individually or in one bite. The yellow cake is moist and just dense enough, and the frosting combines a lovely texture with a strong but not overwhelming cocoa flavor.

Winner: The Cup. We love that we can eat and enjoy the entire cupcake, indulging without slipping into a sugar coma.

An assortment of cupcakes from The Cup in the Central West End.Caro Peguero | Student Life

An assortment of cupcakes from The Cup in the Central West End.

Chocolate

La Bon Bouchée: There’s not much to say here that we didn’t already say. It was possibly drier than the vanilla cake and topped with the same flavor-free frosting.

Jilly’s: The chocolate cake here was extremely moist—more so than practically any cake we’ve had before. The cocoa flavor is pleasantly intense. Sadly, upon trying the frosting, we looked at each other and spoke, in unison: “Ugh, that is actually offensive.” The vanilla extract flavor was so strong as to be almost alcoholic. We like the cake, hate the frosting.

The Cup: Both the chocolate cake and the standard white buttercream here were good, though not outstanding. For people who enjoy the chocolate cake/vanilla frosting combo, this is a solid choice.

Lauren’s winner: The Cup—it offers the best total package, but not my favorite flavor.

Caro’s winner: Jilly’s. I would forever forgo frosting on cupcakes if I could eat this cake every day. I think it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. I could not stop eating it.

Carrot

La Bon Bouchée: While this had just a hint more moisture than the other cake flavors from here, it was still a mere sponge. A spicy sponge at that—the cake was overloaded with cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. It was also strangely chunky. No surprises with the same dull frosting.

Jilly’s: This cake was both tasty and moist, albeit just a little too spicy. It was injected (for no reason) with whipped cream; topped with an insanely rich but seriously yummy cream cheese frosting, shredded coconut and white chocolate shavings; and literally gilded with gold dust and sprinkles.

The Cup: This was carrot cake at its best. The cake was moist while not overly so, and the frosting represented the achievement of the elusive perfect cream-cheese-to-powdered-sugar ratio. Additionally, the amount of frosting was just right.

Winner: The Cup. This one was flavorful enough for the carrot-cake-loving Lauren and subtle enough for the carrot-cake-indifferent Caro. We both agreed we would come back for this one.

Red velvet

La Bon Bouchée: At this point, we were actually dreading trying another cupcake from here. We had to force each other to suffer through just one bite…“For StudLife!” we said. We were punished with the driest cake of the entire test. After pressing our fingers against the cake and observing no movement, we decided that we could remove the flavorless frosting and use this cake to scrub our pots and pans. We’re not sure if the cupcake was old, overcooked, both or other, but we will pass.

Jilly’s: The cupcake here was actually pink velvet, as they call it, and it was quite good. The texture of the cake was spot on, and the flavor provided an ideally subtle hint of cocoa. The cream cheese frosting was the same rich one found on Jilly’s carrot cake. The cupcake was filled with smooth and not-too-sticky caramel, which was a nice touch, but the cream cheese frosting layer was topped with a layer of cut-with-a-knife-thick caramel buttercream, which we could have done without.

The Cup: The red velvet cupcake seems to be our friends’ top choice from The Cup, and we can see why. From the moist, flavorful and cocoa-spiked cake to the delicious but not-too-rich cream cheese frosting, this cupcake hits all the right notes.

Lauren’s winner: The Cup. I’m obsessed with this cupcake. I have tried the flavor at bakeries near and far and have never before discovered one that actually delivered the cocoa flavor supposedly characteristic of red velvet. The frosting is the best part and complements the delightful cake in all the right ways.

Caro’s winner: Jilly’s. I can’t get over the moist and light-yet-substantial textural perfection Jilly’s has achieved in its cupcakes, and I loved the extra sweetness from the caramel.

  • Arnold Cohn

    I think of them as little pieces of cake.

    AKC- Illinois