Cupcake Showdown: Babycakes NYC vs. Starring Rolls.

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Cupcake Showdown: Babycakes NYC vs. Starring Rolls.

Just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to try Babycakes NYC, a new bakery in Downtown Disney on the site of the former McDonalds. Babycakes, which has locations in New York City and Los Angeles, is different: All their baked goods are vegan and gluten-free. For the uninitiated, vegan means that no animal products are used, so replacements have to be found for eggs, cream and butter.  Gluten-free means that no wheat flour is used; exotic flours like teff and rice flour are used instead.  These flours can be tricky to work with, so baking this way requires a lot of skill.  Finally, some Babycakes items are sweetened with agave nectar rather than regular sugar.

Babycakes sells cupcakes, brownies, cream filled sandwich cookies, and donuts.  I had the good fortune of meeting the manager of  Babycakes, a Disney fan who relocated from New York to Orlando to set up the shop.  She explained how everything was made and was a good sport about being a vegan baker located right across from a restaurant selling chicken . . . lots and lots of chicken.  The counter itself is simple in white and pink.  It’s cute and a bit retro-looking, as are the sweets which look very homemade.  I was impressed that their take-away boxes were not styrofoam, but sturdy white cardboard. 

Cupcake Showdown: Babycakes NYC vs. Starring Rolls.

My son and I tried the red velvet cupcake and the chocolate frosted donut. The cupcake was tender and sweet and tasted just like a regular red velvet cupcake. The frosting wasn’t as smooth and stiff as regular frosting, but it was excellent and you could taste the vanilla.  What really got me though, was the donut.    Babycakes’ donuts aren’t fried; that probably shouldn’t surprise you.  Instead, they’re baked cake donuts and the texture, which was excellent, is more like a coffee cake. It didn’t taste like a regular friend donut, in that it wasn’t crispy on the outside, but it also wasn’t greasy. What you tasted were the good ingredients that the bakers used, including a bit of citrus that really added something to the flavor.  The glaze was really amazing. One thing I really dislike is when you can’t taste the actual ingredients in a dessert, but only sugar. Here, I tasted the chocolate.  You could tell they weren’t skimping on the quality of the chocolate like some places do.  Most importantly, I could not tell that these were vegan or gluten-free desserts.

Cupcake Showdown: Babycakes NYC vs. Starring Rolls.

The next day we tried the Butterfinger cupcake in Starring Rolls, located in Hollywood Studios.  We needed a basis for comparison, right?  I’m usually a big fan of this place. I think the pastries and sandwiches are pretty good, but I’d never tried any of the much-lauded cupcakes.  The Butterfinger cupcake is huge, and for the price of a snack credit, it’s a good deal, at least as far as volume goes.  The outside has a hard chocolate shell covered in that familiar orange Butterfinger crumb and the inside is a chocolate cupcake with a bit of caramel in the middle, topped with a huge glob of vanilla frosting.  It certainly looked impressive.

Cupcake Showdown: Babycakes NYC vs. Starring Rolls.

Now here’s the shocker:  Even though it looked great, it was just okay. In fact, it really was only borderline okay.  I thought the Babycakes cupcake was much better.  Now, I will say that I love to bake and because I’ve been doing it for years, I tend to notice when someone uses cheap ingredients or uses a lot of shortcuts, so I’m to please when it comes to desserts.  Have you ever had a dessert that doesn’t really taste like what it’s supposed to be, it just tastes like sugar?  Well that’s how this cupcake tastes.  I didn’t taste the chocolate or any of the other ingredients, just the overwhelming taste of sugar.   That, to me, is a cheap, mass-produced dessert, dumbed down for the least-discerning customer.  While I’m generally impressed with the quality of Disney desserts, especially at their table service locations, this was a disappointment.  In contrast, the smaller, less pretty Babycakes cupcake actually tasted like a real dessert.  I found myself thinking about that amazing donut while I was eating this cupcake, wondering why the chocolate glaze at a vegan bakery tasted so much better.

In fairness, Starring Rolls sells far more cupcakes than Babycakes and when you’re baking at that kind of volume, you’re not going to use the most expensive ingredients, but it should at least taste like what it’s supposed to be, right?  What  Babycakes is doing is turning out smaller batches and using better ingredients.  The skill required in baking vegan and gluten-free treats can’t be understated–it takes a lot of talent to turn unfamiliar ingredients into a familiar treat.  Price wise, both cupcakes cost around the same amount, but the Starring Rolls cupcake is easily twice the size.  What the Babycakes cupcake has going for it is taste, which in my opinion was far suprerior.  Next time I buy a cupcake at Disney World, it will be a delicious little Babycakes cupcake.  And maybe one of those donuts too.

Chris writes here and at Everything Walt Disney World.  She’s also a member of the Mouse Chat Podcast team. If you’d like to here another review of Babycakes from a bunch of cupcake crazy Disney fans, you can listen here.


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One thought on “Cupcake Showdown: Babycakes NYC vs. Starring Rolls.

  1. Thank you so much for posting this review! We are so delighted to hear how much you enjoyed your visit to the bakery, and the doughnut! We look forward to seeing you again soon!

    BabyCakes NYC

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