Cupcakes might be so last year (hell, five years ago), but you wouldn’t know it, at least judging by the proliferation of pastry that’s arrived in Nolita over the past few months. Indeed, two new bakeries — Billy’s Bakery (268 Elizabeth Street, 212-219-995) and Little Cupcake Bakeshop (30 Prince Street, 212-941-9100) — set up shop mere blocks from one another.
Although area newcomers, both are actually outposts of other shops. Having opened in the neighborhood just last month, Billy’s Bakery also operates locations in Chelsea and Tribeca, while Little Cupcake Bakeshop launched in Brooklyn before opening in Nolita in October.
Everyone loves a cupcake war, and what better way to judge a bakery than by its most classic offering: a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. It’s a white-on-white (OK, yellow or green on white) battle this week: Battle of the Nolita Classic Cupcake.
Priced at $2.50, the Yellow Daisy cupcake was beautifully frosted with a small circle of rainbow sprinkles in the center. The bakery itself doesn’t get any points for ambiance, though, as there’s hardly any seating and it smelled of paint fumes on our visit. But taking our cupcake to-go, we unwrapped the treat and confronted a healthy dose of frosting. Billy doesn’t joke around when it comes to topping his cakes! The pale-yellow-colored frosting was sweet, for sure, but with nice vanilla flavor, and it left that creamy, buttery feeling in your mouth. The cake was drier than we would have liked, but packed an old-school classic homemade cake taste and had a nice crumb to it. A solid effort, but are there better options out there?
We then popped into the airy and spacious Little Cupcake Bakeshop, which offered a huge assortment of brightly colored cupcakes. Their vanilla-on-vanilla version was hued mint green and topped with a splash of multicolored ball-shaped sprinkles — slightly more whimsical than Billy’s restrained sprinkle topping. At $3, it’s slightly more expensive than Billy’s, although it had noticeably less frosting. The frosting wasn’t as rich, but slightly grainier in texture. The cake part, like Billy’s, could have used more moisture, but wasn’t bad. But it did have a slightly more artificial, from-a-mix taste to it.
So who wins the cupcake conundrum?
Despite the Little Cupcake Bakeshop being an overall better bakery for dining, when it comes to cupcakes, Billy’s Bakery takes the cake (sorry, we couldn’t resist the pun)! All in all, the cake could have been slightly moister, but this is a good example of a classic food done right. Welcome to the ‘hood.