Cupcakes are everywhere. Cupcake stores are popping up all over the country, including in Tampa. And, Martha Stewart recently devoted a whole week of her television show to the little cakes.
I would fly to New York for a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery, the Cupcake Cafe or the Buttercup Bake Shop.
But when it comes to pleasing my children or their friends, a simple grocery store version is their favorite.
Taster's Choice judges tried five vanilla-flavored, store-bought cupcakes with white frosting. They decided a couple were pretty satisfying — and much cheaper than a plane ticket.
The Publix store-baked cupcakes ($1.09 each) ranked the highest with 72 out of 100 possible points from our panelists. Four of the five judges said they have bought the Publix cupcakes in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
The cake was moist, the frosting creamy but firm, and the flavor was very sweet.
"This is the best icing of all time," said one judge. He also liked the robust size of the cupcake.
Another panelist said the Publix cupcakes tasted the most homemade.
"They are very rich with lots of vanilla flavor," she said. It didn't hurt that the Publix cupcakes were iced with a swirl of vanilla frosting and a pink flower.
The cupcakes from Super Target ($3.29 for a six-pack) were also a hit. Judges awarded the cakes 71 points and, again, four of them said they would buy them.
The cake was very moist with soft crumbs.
"This tastes just like Duncan Hines made at home," said one judge. "The frosting is very sweet and the kids would like this one the best."
Another said, "It tastes like mom used to make."
Judges also liked the cupcakes from Sweetbay ($3.99 for six). They gave the store-baked cupcakes 64 points and three of the panelists said they would buy the treats.
The Sweetbay cupcakes were decorated with smiley faces. One judge described the sweet frosting as "happy" and said the cake was as moist as any of the competition.
Another panelist especially liked the hint of lemon she detected in the cake flavor as well as the golden brown top of the cupcake.
The icing, she said, was light and fluffy.
Also sampled were store-baked cupcakes from Wal-Mart ($2.50 for a 12-pack of mini-cupcakes) and Albertsons ($2.50 for a six-pack).
Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; Times food critic Laura Reiley; and consumer/foodie John Hehn, owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tastings to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.