1. Cupcakes #83 
    Rose & Raspberry

    Amos made these as farewell cupcakes using this recipe for rose and raspberry.  It was kind of a perfect combination.  You know.

     
  2. Cupcake #82
    Urban Angel (121 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 1DJ)
    Carrot Cake

    I have been staking out the elusive cupcakes of Urban Angel for a while now - they have a tendency to only appear after I have breakfasted enormously.  Happily my recent errand run to New Town occurred on an empty stomach, and fortuitously there were cupcakes sitting in the glass display when I arrived at Hanover Street.

    I do love Urban Angel, but there is a monumental problem with this cupcake: to wit, the icing.  While it has not quite defied the icing-to-cake ratio, I definitely found it to be in surplus when consumed against the cake (very wholesome, if not quite skin-crawlingly delicious).  I would not say this icing was saccharine, but it was sweet enough to make me quite despair of finishing the little icing mountain once I had run out of cake.  I should police that icing.  

    Also, it was not cream cheese! Has nobody in Scotland got the memo about carrot cake and cream cheese? I have been here a year and never, never.

    So: not quite the heavenly experience at Urban Angel this time.  (Still, I swear by the breakfasts there).

    Looks: 4/5
    Taste: 3/5
    Total: 7/10

     
  3. Cupcake #81
    Copper Bird Café (129 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8AJ)
    Lemon & Poppyseed

    One is having to go farther and farther afield to suss out those untouched cupcake corners of Edinburgh.  Today’s adventure took me to the unassuming Copper Bird in the West End, of the charming name and vintage tearoom vibes.

    The variety of flavours on offer was not as wide as I had hoped, although they all looked palatable.  I oscillated between the Malteser and the Oreo, before settling on the Lemon & Poppyseed because of its charming sour candy ribbon.  The ribbon, it turns out, was really what held the cupcake together (forgive the pun); the icing was just a fraction on the sweet side (though no sugar burn), but if taken in the same bite as a piece of sour ribbon, it achieved a most stunning balance of flavours.  

    It was a perfectly delectable cupcake, though not quite spectacular enough to guarantee a return visit from where I live in the East.  Absolutely precious crockery, though.

    Looks: 4/5
    Taste: 4/5
    Total: 8/10

     
  4. Cupcake #80
    Baklava

    Amos has come through on one of his longstanding promises and baked me baklava cupcakes.  Whether this counts as a cupcake is questionable because an important criterion is icing, but it’s definitely not a muffin and also it was delicious so screw definitions, it’s a cupcake.

    While this did not, on a whole, resemble baklava - not being crispy or powerfully sweet (although it was similarly sticky) - the fragrance of spiced cake, studded with pistachios and infused with rose-water, put me in mind of my brief but happy time combing the spice bazaars and pastanesis of Istanbul.  Also it made me really want actual quality baklava, which is sadly difficult to find in Scotland.

     
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  6. Cupcakes #78 and #79
    Mimi’s Bakehouse (63 Shore, Edinburgh EH6 6RA)
    Raspberry Mojito and Chocolate Orange

    In their love letter to Edinburgh, the Proclaimers compare the ideal love affair to sunshine on Leith, because it’s phenomenal and it happens, like, almost never.  This Wednesday, however, it got hotter in Edinburgh than it’s ever been, and we walked forty minutes to the Shore because I wanted to see sunshine on Leith.  Round here, that’s like a solar eclipse.

    While at the Shore, we naturally visited Mimi’s Bakehouse.  Earlier I had thought such a trip unnecessary, because I live near Mimi’s Picnic Parlour in Old Town.  WRONG.  Mimi’s Picnic Parlour is but a frail offshoot of the pure source that is the Bakehouse, and that source is worth a forty minute walk, I’m telling you.

    The Bakehouse is a beautiful specimen of deco kitsch, with its pink armchairs and blue-and-white walls, but we opted to sit outside along the Shore.  The Chocolate Orange was bountifully rich and possessed the perfect degree of bittersweet - although I would dock marks on presentation, since the orange curls make it look like the first thing I ever knitted, which was so riddled with dropped stitches that I could only use it as a test-tube wrapper until it caught fire one day in the chemistry lab.  

    Now the Raspberry Mojito.  This…I have never quite had anything like this.  It’s a genius concoction.  The cake, flecked with mint and spiced with a sly hint of rum.  The icing, light and creamy and with a trove of raspberry puree buried beneath it, waiting and juicy.  The monster blackberry basking on top beneath the little paper umbrella.  And the balance, oh gods, the balance, it is so rare to find a cupcake that balances every flavour in it perfectly and this was the epitome of balance.  I understand that this is a novelty flavour and as such you will probably never see its like again on the counter of Mimi’s, or anywhere else in the world.  But I am honoured to have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Just like sunshine on Leith.

    Chocolate Orange

    Looks: 4/5
    Taste: 4/5
    Total: 8/10

    Raspberry Mojito

    Looks: 5/5
    Taste: 5/5
    Total: 10/10

     
  7. Cupcakes #76 and #77
    Dough-Re-Mi (127 Gilmore Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9PP)
    Apple Cinnamon and Carrot Cake

    Every city I go, there will be always be that one cupcake shop whose name is on everyone’s lips and every stockists’ list, but which I never get round to going to because it’s bloody far out, damnit.  In Edinburgh, this is Dough-Re-Mi.  But on Tuesday, it was twenty degrees out, I had finished my fourth chapter draft for the dissertation, I dragged Amos out of the house and we went for a nice, long walk.

    Was it worth it?  For these exquisite cupcakes, absolutely.  The Carrot was a well-turned piece of baking, with some tasty burnt prune bits that reminded me of those happy Home Economics classes when I was fourteen.  Also, bonus points for remembering the cream cheese! (even if it was not that creamy).  The Apple Cinnamon though was the real gem - mouthfuls of summery spice topped with the softest of icings.  

    The one flaw in both of these was the marzipan flowers.  They’re outrageously beautiful, but also so ridiculously saccharine that they throw those delicate flavours in the icing right off.

    It’s a bit of a trek for pretty things, but if the weather’s nice and the Union Canal’s looking chirpy - why not?

    Carrot

    Looks: 5/5
    Taste: 3/5
    Total: 8/10

    Apple Cinnamon

    Looks: 5/5
    Taste: 4/5
    Total: 9/10

     
  8. Cupcake #75
    Banco (32 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9PR)
    Vanilla Strawberry

    After nearly a week of torrential downpour, the gods of Scotland have seen fit to grant us a single day of uninterrupted sunlight.  Amos and I rewarded ourselves for having submitted first chapter drafts by sitting in the Meadows and doing nothing.  Whereupon a man approached us and gave us free coffee vouchers.  THERE IS NOTHING I DIG BETTER THAN FREE COFFEE VOUCHERS.  (Well, maybe sunlight.)  

    It turns out Banco, newly in Newington, is not only generous with their coffee but also a dab hand at decorating cupcakes.  As ever, I was easily seduced by beauty.

    I really wanted to be impressed by this cupcake, because, well, free coffee. But I cannot tell a lie.  It was beautiful, but structurally unsound.  An hour after I had purchased it, the mountainous icing had produced a pink, perilous overhang over one side of the case.  Now there are many schools of thought as to the proper ratio of icing to cake, but I am firmly a believer in 2:3.  This quite inverted that.  

    The cake was…all right, I guess, when it wasn’t being dwarfed by crunchy, over-sweetened icing.  Fire up that sugar burn, baby.  The only strawberry to be found anywhere in the cupcake was the meagre dollop of jam in its centre.  There is more jam to be found in a Jammie Dodger.  Also, there will come a day when I will eat a fondant rose and it will not taste like the inside of a rubber poncho.  But today is not that day.

    To give Banco their due, the free coffee was decent.

    Looks: 4/5
    Taste: 2/5
    Total: 6/10

     
  9. Cupcakes #73 and #74
    Cuckoo’s Bakery (150 Dundas St, Edinburgh EH3 5DQ)
    White Chocolate Raspberry; Strawberries & Cream

    My little sister was in Edinburgh to visit recently, and because I spoil that child I took her to Cuckoo’s to sample what was recently crowned The Best Cake In Scotland (so says STV).

    I wouldn’t say it was the best cake in Scotland, exactly, although it was pretty damn good to begin with.  The famed white chocolate icing was just a tad too sweet, leaving a trace of what I like to call sugar burn (you know, that weird aftertaste you get in your mouth when something has too much sugar.  I don’t mean the type of injury caused by exploding sugar.)  This was only just about saved by a demure raspberry centre and a richly distracting butteriness of cake.  For the Best Cake in Scotland, though, I would expect better.

    Far less restrained, alas, was the Strawberries & Cream.  The sugar burn in this one’s icing was on full blast, and the tangy jam filling did not quite manage to save the day.  I had to finish it for my sister, whose sugar tolerance is extremely low.

    So - not quite soaring above the Aonian Mount, as so trumpeted by STV.  Still, we remain great fans of the Cuckoo.

    White Chocolate Raspberry

    Looks: 4/5
    Taste: 4/5
    Total: 8/10

    Strawberries & Cream

    Looks: 4/5
    Taste: 3/5
    Total: 7/10

     

  10. THE TOP 10 BEST CUPCAKE SPOTS IN LONDON

    This post is in celebration of two momentous occasions.  First, the Great Cupcake Hunt album on my Facebook has hit a hundred likes.  Second, it’s my birthday.  Anyway, this is something I’ve been promising to do for a long time, and seeing as how I now have a breath of time between course essays and dissertation, I present:

    1. THE HUMMINGBIRD BAKERY

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    Where: They have branches in Notting Hill, South Kensington, Spitalfields, Islington and Richmond. However, the one I’ve always been to is the Soho store (155a Wardour Street, Soho, London W1F 8WG)
    Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road for the Soho store
    Info: https://hummingbirdbakery.com/

    Any cupcake connoisseur trawling the streets of London will know the name of Hummingbird. It has been four years since I licked the casing of my first red velvet cupcake clean, and there has been much hype (and price hikes) since, but even so Hummingbird remains to this day at the top of the game. Its cream cheese icing is simply untouchable.

    Try: the Red Velvet. Always. The Hummingbird Red Velvet is legendary and for good reason. The Carrot Cake, which uses the same icing, is a reliable second, and the Black Bottom is decent if a little heavy. The novelty flavours tend to be hit-and-miss - I remember a particularly dreadful Pineapple - so I would stick to the menu staples.

    2. BUTTERCUP

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    Where: 16 St. Albans Grove, Kensington, London W8 5BP. They also have stalls in both the Westfield Malls.
    Nearest tube: South Kensington
    Info: http://www.buttercupcakeshop.co.uk/

    One of the more out-of-the-way cupcake joints, Buttercup nevertheless manages to make each lengthy detour worthwhile. Slightly more expensive at 3 quid, they make up for this by turning out some of the largest cupcakes around. Their cake is rich without being overbearing, and they are generous with the icing.

    Try: all the chocolate, especially the Chocolate Zucchini, which pops up rarely in the display but should be instantly pounced on when it does. Buttercup also handles sweet flavours like Banoffee, Maple Walnut and Rose with more flair than the average cupcakery.

    3. KOOKYBAKES

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    Where: The Sunday UpMarket, The Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL. They are also on the rota at the KERB market behind King’s Cross St. Pancras Station.
    Nearest tube: Aldgate East, Aldgate
    Info: http://kookybakes.com/

    Kookybakes furnished my first and last cupcakes during my undergraduate years in London, and the depth of nostalgia I feel for this name cannot be underestimated. A staple of the Brick Lane Sunday Upmarket, it has recently joined the traders of the KERB pop-up market at King’s Cross and, once a month, in UCL. Kookybakes puts the ‘kooky’ in baking, and unlike most cupcake makers, it rewards risk-takers by churning out experimental one-off cupcakes that more often than not hit the nail on the head. Also, if you show up at their Brick Lane stall in the hour before closing time, you might be lucky enough to pick up some of their leftover stock for a pound.

    Try: oh god, where to start? While their staple cupcakes, like the Chocotecture or the Key Lime Pie, make for fine and reliable choices, the real gems are the wild card specials like the Hot Cross Bun or the Orange Explosion. In short, when trying to choose from the staggering assortment of flavours on display, always hit the wackiest. You never know when you might see it again.

    4. BEA’S

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    Where: 44 Theobalds Road, Bloomsbury, London WC1X 8NW | One New Change, 83 Watling Street, St. Paul’s, London EC4M 9BX | 43 Cowcross Street, Farringdon, London EC1M 6BY
    Nearest tube: Russell Square | St. Paul’s | Farringdon
    Info: http://www.beasofbloomsbury.com/

    Bea’s cupcakes are unique in their icing, which possesses a particular marshmallow-y quality that I have only ever tasted in one other cupcake, Peyton and Byrne’s. Unlike P&B, however, they combine that blissful mallow texture with unerringly beautiful cake. The one problem I have with Bea’s is their unrelenting price hikes from when I was a first-year - their afternoon tea set, which was a steal at 9 pounds four years ago, has now inflated to nearly twice that price - but their cupcakes rarely stray from the path of quality.

    Try: while Bea’s has a vast range of cupcake flavours, you will find that fundamentally they all taste quite similar, if delightfully so. This does mean, however, that you are unlikely to go wrong. There are, however, stand-outs like the Pistachio, which I have previously described as ‘wiping the floor with all the other flavours. And then it took them to the laundry and tumble-dried them’.

    5. PRIMROSE

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    Where: Primrose Hill, 69 Gloucester Avenue, London NW1 8LD | 42 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7PB
    Nearest tube: Camden Town, Chalk Farm | Covent Garden
    Info: http://www.primrose-bakery.co.uk/

    Primrose, as the name suggests, offers one of those extremely English cupcake experiences, what with the cosy tearoom set-up, flowers on tables and lace doilies and so on. What I appreciate most about Primrose’s cupcakes are their great subtlety, which in a world of heavily rich flavouring and cloyingly sweet icing is a rare gift. Brevity is the soul of wit, and understatement is the pinnacle of cupcakery.

    Try: anything tea-flavoured, especially their excellent Earl Grey (if you’ll overlook the dubious colouring).

    6. CRUMBS & DOILIES

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    Where: Thursdays at the Covent Garden Market, East Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E | Saturdays at the Partridges Fine Foods Market, Duke of York Square, Kings Road, London SW3
    Nearest tube: Covent Garden | Sloane Square
    Info: https://www.crumbsanddoilies.co.uk/

    Another market staple, Crumbs & Doilies makes up for having no permanent address by appearing just about everywhere. I first met them at the posh Saturday market in Sloane Square, and then again at the annual chocolate festival on the South Bank. While I like to invest in large cupcakes, the more fickle-minded will enjoy their offering of tiny, cheaper versions, all the better to sample more flavours with the same money.

    Try: the Salted Caramel, one of the most buttery I have ever experienced. Their chocolate varieties are also splendid - I recall particularly the Mexican Chili Chocolate and the White Chocolate Chai.

    7. VIOLET

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    Where: 47 Wilton Way, Hackney, London E8 3ED
    Nearest tube: Hackney Central. Loosely speaking.
    Info: https://www.facebook.com/claireptakviolet/


    I’m not actually that great a fan of Violet, but that’s more down to my aversion to heavy cake and the distance between my residence and Hackney. In a rundown of London cupcakes, Violet simply cannot be ignored: it promises good solid baking with a lovely aesthetic, and the vegan and gluten-free options are some of the best in the market. For those willing to chance an expedition to Hackney, I would recommend going later in the morning, or the early afternoon, to make your trip really worthwhile - that’s when they start putting the good stuff out. It’s also a beautiful little cafe, particularly when the sun’s out.

    Try: the eponymous Violet, of course. If you like your chocolate rich, dark and handsome, then this one is for you - as are most of their chocolate-based cakes.

    8. SWEET TOOTH FACTORY

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    Where: No fixed location; they have been known to sell at the nomadic night market Street Feast.
    Nearest tube: -
    Info: https://www.facebook.com/mysweettoothfactory/

    I’ve only encountered Sweet Tooth in markets; I had heard little of them before being unexpectedly entranced by their stunning showcase in the South Bank Chocolate Festival. These are cupcakes that taste exactly like they look, which is to say magnificent.

    Try: the Honeycomb Caramel Drizzle and the Chocolate Ganache; it is very rare when I pick up two cupcakes from the same stall and remain undecided as to which is superior.

    9. PEGGY PORSCHEN

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    Where: Peggy Porschen Parlour, 116 Ebury Street, Belgravia
    London SW1W 9QQ
    Nearest tube: Sloane Square, Victoria
    Info: http://www.peggyporschen.com/

    Pretty, perfectly-formed and so very, very pink, Peggy Porschen is the latest London name in my cupcake circuit, but damn if it isn’t a forerunner. Their creations are exquisite in look and taste; they also carry the hefty price tag that is the curse of the Belgravia postcode, but it’s worth it. Occasionally. If you exercise restraint.

    Try: the Strawberry Champagne - trust me, they ain’t lying about that champagne.


    10. OTTOLENGHI

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    Where: 287 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2TZ | 63 Ledbury Road
    Notting Hill, London W11 2AD | 13 Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 8LB
    Nearest tube: Angel | Notting Hill | Knightsbridge
    Info: http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/

    I hesitated to put Ottolenghi on this list, largely because it does not deal purely in cupcakes. (Although cupcakes are a regular fixture in its windows, and for that matter all the other things it deals in are equally, if not more, as divine as the cupcakes.) However, I cannot overlook the fact that Ottolenghi has given me one of the best cupcakes I have ever had in London, if not my whole life - had I had the rating system back in those days I would have given it ten upon ten in a heartbeat.

    Try: the Rose and Vanilla, for which you can find my original ecstatic review here. Alternately, try whatever is on display because if it’s in the Ottolenghi window, it is inevitably going to be the best thing ever.

    Disclaimer: this list is not in order of merit, nor is it exhaustive (although I would say it is pretty close, at least at the time of posting).

    It’ll be a while yet - and a lot more cupcakes - before I get anywhere close to making up an Edinburgh Top 10, so sit tight!