Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Casey's Cupcakes: Gingerbread & Dark Chocolate

A very long time ago (about three and a half years ago, that is), I visited Casey's Cupcakes at their original location at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa for the first time. I put my review of the place and one of their Milk Chocolate cupcakes onto Chocablog; click here to read it. Since then, the Mission Inn has become a bit of a California destination. It's a beautiful feat of architecture and design, with endless bits and pieces to look at and admire. Sunday Brunch at the main hotel restaurant or pasta at the Italian restaurant are fantastic (I've never been to the steakhouse), but it's easiest to sneak into Casey's for a cupcake or two on your way through town. 

I usually try different flavors. The Milk Chocolate is good, as are the Cinnamon and Peanut Butter and Strawberry; I think I've also tried the Red Velvet. This time I finally picked up the Dark Chocolate, as well as the flavor of the month, Gingerbread. In the top row, you can see two Dark Chocolates on the ends and the Gingerbread in the middle. The bottom row has German Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet, and Lemon. (I don't believe I'm giving all the exact names, just the flavors). But only the two I mentioned were mine. 

The thing about Casey's, from the store to the product, is that looks matter. I don't get that with all cupcake companies (like Sprinkles . . . which always strike me as plain and frankly don't taste nearly as special). The pink and white stripes on the boxes and bags speak for an occasion, whether it's a birthday or simply a special spark on a regular day. The cupcakes are decked out with their thick frosting, chocolate shavings, sprinkles, circles of chocolate with the Casey's logo, and all that makes them stand out. The designs are always simple, but the individual pieces are all pretty. The chocolate shavings, I've noticed, change from time to time. This time, I was admiring their shape: they're pointed into a triangle on one end, but the other flat end curls upward. How do you even get a shape like that? 

If you looked at my other review, you'll hear of my admiration for the frosting. Because, you see, my confession is this: I don't like most frosting. I know I'm not the only one. But it just seems sad and wasteful when you find yourself scraping the frosting off a cake, or looking down on a cupcake layered high with cheap frosting. And if it's supposedly nicer frosting because it has cream cheese, I'm still not always won over: I only like cream cheese occasionally, in small amounts. Whereas some handmade (is that even the right word?) frostings will be butter-based, Casey's must, I think, add more sugar than that. Their frosting isn't quite like other frosting. It's light and airy, but its stiff enough to stand on its own (as evidenced by the three light-colored cupcakes in the picture). It tastes sweet like sugar, not like artificial whatnot. In other words, I never want to scrape off this frosting. 

But alas, all praise must be tempered with criticism. This pretty Gingerbread cupcake with its peppermint coloring didn't delight me entirely. The color of the cake was light brown, an instant foreshadowing of my displeasure. I was just talking about this when I reviewed the Theo Gingerbread bar. Gingerbread needs the flavor of molasses, otherwise it's just Spiced Ginger. If there is any molasses in this mix, it isn't enough to darken the color and therefore also not enough to affect the flavor. I taste ginger, perhaps accented by other gingerbread spices. But without molasses, the flavor just isn't right; I also thought the cake was drier than usual on this one. 

The Dark Chocolate, on the other hand, was better. A cupcake, by nature, shouldn't really be decadently rich. This one isn't, but it is still enough in that direction to provide contrast to the Milk Chocolate cupcake. The Milk Chocolate is lighter; the Dark Chocolate is more layered and chocolate-flavored. This particular one was also, I might add, moister than this particular Gingerbread cupcake. So, yes, I will be back at Casey's Cupcakes time and time again--and you should stop there, too, next time you find yourself nearby. 

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