Battle of the dishes: Cupcake a la Mode vs. Babycakes

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A chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla cupcake from BabyCakes.
  • A chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla cupcake from BabyCakes.

Buying cupcakes is like spending money to watch a heavyweight championship match on pay-per-view. You ponder your decision, feel a little remorse at forking over so much cash and then it's over before you know it. And like boxing, the rankings always seem to change depending on who's doing the talking.

With cupcake contenders proliferating here in town, Fat City decided to pit two heavyweights against each other -- BabyCakes in the River Market and Cupcakes A La Mode just west of the Plaza (a second Cupcakes A La Mode is slated to open in Leawood's Park Place in early February). I took the Neapolitan approach, selecting a chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cupcake from each store -- inadvertently discovering that my limit on cupcakes is somewhere between two and three.

A slight bobble on the way to the car left not all the icing intact on these Cupcake A La Mode cupcakes.
  • A slight bobble on the way to the car left not all the icing intact on these Cupcake A La Mode cupcakes.

Cupcakes A La Mode -- 3 cupcakes, $9.70 with tax.

These are big cupcakes, closer to cake than cup. These bakers only make two cake flavors -- chocolate and vanilla -- but that doesn't stop them from selling some wild varieties, including Raspberry Lemonade, PB&J and Marshmallow Fondue.

The French Vanilla Ooo Lah Lah (top left -- vanilla cake with french

vanilla buttercream icing) reminded me of angel food cake with a glaze

shower typically reserved for donuts. The Chocolate Obsession (chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream icing) was a moist, dense explosion of flavor with a sweet pop of icing. The Love Doctor (chocolate cake, chocolate chunky strawberry icing and a chocolate-dipped strawberry on top) called to mind the filling in Russell Stover's chocolate candy -- it was the baked-goods version of a strawberry-filled chocolate. 

The cupcakes side-by-side, the BabyCakes are on the left of each pair.
  • The cupcakes side-by-side, the BabyCakes are on the left of each pair.

BabyCakes --
3 cupcakes, $7.07 with tax.

The glass case at the front of the bakery dares you to step outside your comfort zone, with red velvet and banana and lemon options. The standard cupcake here feels more manageable in your hand, and Babycakes offers mini options at $10 per dozen. 

The Chocolate (chocolate cake with chocolate fluff icing) was a tiny package of hot cocoa, rich and smooth and warming even though it was served at room temperature. The Vanilla (vanilla cake with buttercream frosting) was creamy but tasted slightly of butter, although it was representative of Babycakes in that the sweetness was toned down. The Strawberry (strawberry with strawberry buttercream icing) was likely the most successful, calling to mind strawberry mousse. BabyCakes really shines with fruit flavors. On the day we were there, the store had set out samples of pumpkin and eggnog-flavored cupcakes, which captured the best elements of those flavors without being cloying. 

The Verdict

BabyCakes is how you might convince those who claim to be over the cupcake trend to give it another shot. The icing is not as sweet as with traditional cupcakes and the smaller size and lighter cake means they're not game-enders. Cupcakes A La Mode is when you need to be decadent.

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