As I mentioned in my last post, I was one of the fortunate few chosen to be a guest muncher on The Newark Star-Ledger’s Munchmobile! Recap: The Munchmobile is a weekly feature story that has been going on for the last 12 years. Pete Genovese, a food writer for the paper, takes a group of people, aka Munchers, on the BIG DOG – a vehicle with a hot dog on top. They go in search of the “Best Of” whatever in NJ, based on readers submitted answers.
All of the Munchers for this year (feature runs from May to September) were given a list of foods we would be trying out this season and you had to submit your top four choices. Well…if anyone knows me, they KNOW that I am a cupcake snob. I make, what I consider, freakin awesome cupcakes from scratch. I consider cupcakes one of my five major food groups (along with peanut butter, chocolate, salmon, and avocados). I dream of owning my own cupcakery. I know cupcakes.
I arrived at The Star-Ledger at 7:30 am this past Saturday morning and got all giddy when I saw the Big Dog! There were four readers, Pete, his camera guy Tim (one of the funniest dudes I may have ever met), and a feature writer from the paper. We had to sign some release forms, which I didn’t read, but maybe said something along the lines of they weren’t responsible if I became diabetic after today’s trip. Then we listened to the Munchmobile rules, such as NO eating the cupcakes until pics have been taken! Hmmm…I have that rule myself when eating out (my poor family and friends…). Then we were off! Where to? Well, we had no idea until we pretty much pulled into each destination!
First stop, C’mere Cupcake in Hackettstown. So is 9am too early for a cupcake? Oh HELL no. Cute little bakeshop in a strip mall. Has a great turquoise velour couch with a zebra striped pillow. I ordered the Red Velvet and Peanut Butter. The goal was to pace myself, just taste slivers and pass them around. So I had a system I was going to instill. Take pic, cut in half, check out the innards, take pic of the innards, taste cake, taste icing, taste icing/cake together. JUDGE. OK, first up, the peanut butter one. Cake (chocolate flavor) was airy and spongy, but a little dry. Icing definitely tasted like peanut butter but it was too peanut buttery for me. How could that be considering it’s one of my food groups? I want buttercream icing on my cupcake damnit! It was dense, it was more like just peanut butter on top of the cupcake, but hell it tasted good. The Red Velvet didn’t fare as well. As soon as I cut into it, I noticed the difference from the chocolate cake. It was too dense, not light and airy, and the chocolate flavor was too subtle for me, it was nice and red though. The icing was yummy too. C’mere Cupcake had a perfect icing to cake ratio as well. Nice atmosphere too. I tasted a few others, no standouts, but the rest of the Munchers really enjoyed the mint cupcake (dani doesn’t do mint cupcakes. or coconut. or lemon.).
Next stop – Clinton! River’s Edge Bakery. Ummm…have you ever been here?! This town is too freakin cute! And lots of antique stores. Oh you better believe I’m going back here. This place was super cute. They had a separate upstairs seating area overlooking the river. First up, Red Velvet. Again, red, but chocolate flavor? Hello? Where are you? Icing – yum. Also tried the Cookies and Cream. Now. I make awesome C&C cupcakes. I do a chocolate cake, this was vanilla. It was overall ok, but I needed more C&C flavor. Also tried the Espresso one (another one I make pretty damn delicious). This was just okay for me. The real winner here was the smaller chocolate ganache cupcake. Ding! This was fabulous. I wasn’t a fan of the icing design here. It was swirly as you can see from pics. It didn’t cover the entire cupcake. Slather that stuff on baby!
Now we start heading South. I see signs for Trenton. My heart starts to pitter patter. Could we possibly be going to my favorite cupcake place in NJ? The place I frequented weekly when I worked five minutes away? Oh yes. As we got closer, Pete says “Dani, I think you know where we are going!” SCORE! That’s right. We hit up Sugar & Sunshine Bakery in Plainsboro. Heaven on Earth. Pete was also familiar and a fan of this place. I tell the rest of the Munchers – trust me on this one. Here’s where my tummy ache came. At the other two places I was able to pace myself. Not here. I was borderline out of control. Stop! I’m turning into a cupcake. First of all, they win for presentation. They ice their cupcakes so beautifully and with such care. And then create this little indentation swirl on top and sprinkle in either crumbs or colored sugar. This place also had the best icing to cake ratio. Standouts here were everything. My favorite of the day here – strawberry. Strawberry cake with strawberry icing. FRESH strawberries in here. As one of the other munchers said – it tasted like Summer. Red Velvet here was the best of all the stops – despite it not really having the red color. ALL the cupcakes were light, airy, spongy, moist, and flavorful. This place is worth the drive for me. I heart you Sunshine and Sugar. And it seemed overall, the whole crew thought this place had set the bar. High. Real high.
Last stop of the day for half of us was Brownie Points in Summit. Super cute, but no seating, but there is a park across the street. We had your basic choc and vanilla ones here but another Red Velvet, a Banana Caramel, a Mint, and some other pastries in there for variety. Red Velvet fell into the mediocre category as the first two places. Everyone liked the mint one better in Hackettstown. The Banana Caramel had some pretty yummy icing on it and everyone enjoyed it. The standout here wasn’t cupcakes but the Duffin! A donut in the shape of a muffin. Damn that was fine.
After half of us departed, the remained three hit up two more places. You can read the teaser at the link in the first paragraph. The full article will be in the paper and online on May 29. It was such an awesome experience. I thought I could never eat cupcakes again after that, but I’d love one right about now. Furthermore, this convinced me that I could totally open up my own rockin cupcake place. Thanks to Pete and his Munchmobile for this unique experience!