545 Nineth Avenue
$3 per cupcake
The cupcake boom has come and gone, leaving Crumbs bankrupt and many of the boutique bakeries around town broadening their menus to include cakes and other desserts. But through it all, we’ve had Cupcake Cafe.
They used to be housed in a now-defunct bookstore in Flatiron, where my college roommates and I first discovered them so many years ago. Now you can find them hidden below a Port Authority ramp on 9th Avenue, across the street from Frames bowling alley.
Unlike its bright and shiny decor as a bookshop cafe, the standalone shop has the aura of the rabbit hole that Alice fell through on her way to Wonderland. There’s a dark, disheveled charm about it.
You’ll enter to its coffee counter first and a hodge podge of tables and chairs to the side. Twisting through the dissary will lead you to a semi-open kitchen in the back and a dim display of what they’re known for — the floral cupcakes. They’re still some of the prettiest cupcakes you’ll find in Manhattan, almost like small oil paintings you won’t want to touch.
While the designs are wide ranging and beautiful, the cake can be a little inconsistent, mostly in terms of how dry some of them can get. Chocolate, vanilla and walnut cakes are usually the flavor options available walking in. But the size of their smaller cupcakes, coming in a bit smaller than your palm, is much more ideal than the gigantic cupcakes at Crumbs or even Magnolia. Same with their buttery buttercream toppling, which is a lovely contrast to the headpoundingly sweet frosting and the aforementioned shops.
It’s easy to head to Magnolias when you think cupcakes, but this mom and pop cafe and its handiwork is one you’ll want to keep around.