james debate
james debate

Monday 2 April 2012

Everyone enjoys a good cupcake, on this we can agree. If you don't, then clearly you just haven't found the right cupcake. That's where we come in; this is the Ephemeric's ultimate guide to cupcakes in London, running the rule over the most notable luminaries of confectionaries that this great city has to offer. For those of you with a sweet-toothed disposition, consider this the I Ching of frosted treats.

London town is no stranger to this distinctly American creation, but as with many transatlantic imports few establishments manage to really nail the subtleties of what makes a good product into a great one. Cake that is dense and moist, soft but not crumbly; icing that is neither rock hard nor pure liquid but rather strikes a suitably pudding-like consistency that melts in the mouth; and above all a flavour that is not too sweet, a tragic yet common mistake.

This guide has been a while in the making, and a lot of good cupcakes have been eaten in the name of science. So read on and enjoy as we cover the key dispensaries of which any cupcake aficionado should be aware.

6. Peyton & Byrne
Where: 196 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7LQ
Price: From £3.00

peyton and byrne cupcake The self proclaimed rose of British baking, P&B somewhat off-puttingly labels their cupcakes by the British moniker of "fairy cakes". Nevertheless their reputation is such that it warranted a visit. At first I was somewhat worried about the variety of flavours here, eschewing the basic standards in favour of more exotic ideas such as "frou-frou" and lemon meringue which don't always work. Fortunately the cupcake itself is solid, with the icing in particular quite artistically crafted. However if P&B has one major flaw, it's that the cakes err much too far on the sweet end of the spectrum, another very British trait.

Rating on Cupcake-O-Meter:

5. Buttercup Cake Shop

Where: 16 St. Albans Grove, W8 5BP
Price: From £2.50

buttercup cupcake londonSadly not the same Buttercup as the excellent cupcake chain from New York, but clearly finds its inspiration in the American ethos of caked treats. The buttery, creamy icing is everything it should be in terms of texture and flavour, but the cake batter itself is a bit on the dry and crumbly side. More impressive is the periodically changing variety of flavours on offer which always ensures something fresh and new for returning patrons.

Rating on Cupcake-O-Meter:

4. Primrose Bakery

Where: 69 Gloucester Avenue, NW1 8LD
Price: From £2.00

primrose bakery cupcakeThe Primrose Bakery is something of a local favourite for those of us from north London, and gains points for being one of the more reasonably priced entries on the list. Cute, colourful and with near perfect icing, the cupcakes nevertheless lose standing with the rather more dry cake batter. Still, the variety of flavours and general yumminess ensures this will be a fixture for years to come.

Rating on Cupcake-O-Meter:

3. Peggy Porschen Parlour

Where: 116 Ebury Street, SW1W 9QQ
Price: From £3.50

peggy porschen parlour cupcakeFormerly a designer of bespoke cakes for weddings and events, Peggy Porschen opened her delightfully pink and chocolate parlour in Belgravia a little over a year ago. This dispensary is as expensive as one might expect, but warranted by the quality of product. The cake is light, but moist, with the icing delicious but a little bit on the thick side. The menu serves as a great example of how to non-standard flavours correctly, with the likes of strawberry champagne and vanilla chiffon displaying a fine balance of creativity and tastefulness. PPP also receives the highest commendation here for presentation and decoration; artistic without taking away from enjoyment of the cupcake.

Rating on Cupcake-O-Meter:

2. Bea's of Bloomsbury

Where: 44 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8NW
Price: From £2.50

bea's of bloomsbury cupcakeBea's is famous as one of London's favourite tea shops, and also widely known as a purveyor of wonderful cakes of varying descriptions. Buy your cupcake individually, or alternatively wander in and sit yourself down for one of their afternoon teas, which comes with a cupcake of your choice. The cupcake itself is very tasty, with a rich darkness to the icing that resists the urge to go too sweet. But the lack of sugar means the cake batter is perhaps not quite as moist as it should be, though by no means too dry. Bea's is another establishment which excels in the aesthetic side of cupcakery, and the range of flavours will keep you coming back to try something new. Keep an eye out for their cookies and cream cupcake.

Rating on Cupcake-O-Meter:

1. Hummingbird Bakery

Where: 133 Port0bello Road, W11 2DY
Price: From £2.00

hummingbird bakery cupcakeThe undisputed daddy of London cupcakes, and comparable to the very finest anywhere in America, Hummingbird is required eating for anyone in this town. The cake is delicious and moist, the icing of perfect texture and sweetness. The sprinkles are delicious but non-intrusive, and the presentation as a whole is top rate without going over the top, as one might argue is the case with Peggy Porschen. Their selection of cupcakes may not be the biggest, but the quality can't be beat. As a bonus note, most of their products can be bought gluten-free if necessary.

Rating on Cupcake-O-Meter:

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