The other day, I made my way to the new NYC location of Sprinkles to check out the competition. I'd actually had a Sprinkles cupcake once before, flown across country by a coworker who had visited LA. It was a red velvet, and it was okay, but granted it was a few days old at that point.
This time, I would have a fresh-as-a-daisy specimen and see what all the fuss was truly about. The Sprinkles store itself is bright, clean, airy, and sort of disorganized. Sure, the cupcakes are all orderly and very attractively presented, but there's no real line-- just some people milling about at the counter. Then you place your order, the person writes it along with your name on a pad and rips off a little slip, then someone takes the slip, fills the order, and puts the order and the slip on a back counter. Then the cashier picks up the bag and the slip, calls your name, and summons you to the register to pay. It's one of those systems that probably works really well when it's absurdly busy, but given that I was the only one ordering at the time and was standing at the counter the whole time, it was about 10 steps too many and sort of silly. Also worth noting is that the cash register is hidden in a tall podium, so to pay you sort of slip around the side where the employees enter and exit; there's a trash can there but no counter or place to set a bag or wallet while you're paying. That seems like a bizarre oversight to me.
All right, enough. You want to know about the cupcake, right? Right. I chose a black and white cupcake, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and tiny square chocolate sprinkles decorating the top. And, much as I'd love to slam Sprinkles as terrible and overrated and all that, it was pretty darn delicious. The cake was strikingly chocolatey as well as notably moist, with a springy crumb that held moisture well. The frosting-- and there was quite a bit of it-- was the perfect mixture of buttery and sweet (erring on the sugary side, as you know I like), and the little chocolate sprinkles added some textural contrast as well as more chocolate flavor.
So, sadly, this was one of the better cupcakes I've ever had. And while it's not cheap--$3.50 a pop!-- it's pretty big as well. Sprinkles, you win this round...
780 Lexington Avenue, between 60th and 61st Streets