A post about chocolate tours in Philadelphia briefly mentioned Philly Cupcake. I haven't seen anything else about this "cupcakery boutique" here (there are some reviews on Yelp) so I thought I'd start a post. For those who don't know, it is located at 1132 Chestnut Street. There is a website, but last time I checked it basically had no information. www.phillycupcake.com
Anyway, I purchased six cupcakes from there last Saturday evening and thought I'd share my opinion. First thing to keep in mind, this is a cash-only establishment. I knew this going on, and figured that there was no way I'd spend more than the $21 in cash I had on the cupcakes I would be buying, but unfortunately my total was actually $22 for the 6 cupcakes. I give credit to the owner who waited on me as I said I would have to put a cupcake back because I was a dollar short, and he said not to worry about it. So, I do thank him kindly for the $1 off, but I'm still left to wonder whether it was worth spending an average of $3.67 per cupcake (some cupcakes are $3 and some are $4). The cupcakes are very nicely decorated but they aren't particularly large, and I think at some level one must accept that one can only charge so much for a cupcake. I wonder whether these prices have crossed that acceptable threshold.
Moving on to particulars, they were sold out of basic flavors like vanilla/vanilla and chocolate/chocolate (I arrived at about 6:00pm and their hours are 10:00am-10:00pm, so I can understand why they would have sold out) so I purchased a Red Velvet with cream cheese icing, a Banana with peanut butter icing, a Kit-Kat that was a chocolate cake with what was I think had a caramel buttercream, an Oreo cupcake which was a chocolate cake with a Cookies and cream buttercream, a Cinnamon swirl coffee cupcake, and a Peanut Butter Cup which was a chocolate cake with peanut butter cupcake). As previously mentioned, all were decorated very nicely, with a half of a snack-size Kit-Kat on top of the Kit- Kat cupcake, etc. There was a pretty large amount of icing as compared with the cake which wasn't a problem for me since I like icing but which could be off putting to other people. The cupcake itself was quite small...it was the size of a "traditional" cupcake which is probably what most of us should be eating but is something that seems little when compared with the huge cupcakes we get elsewhere.
Regarding taste, everything was okay. The coffee cake cupcake which as eaten the next day was horribly dry until warmed up (something they recommended at the shop), at which point it tasted pretty good though not necessarily much better than what Entenmanns or Tasty Kake offers. The peanut buttercream seemed great at first bite, but then I felt like I kept tasting the slickness of shortening which was sort of off-putting (note, I bake myself and usually ask about what kind of buttercream a place is using, i.e. meringue-based versus butter/powdered sugar versus a butter/shortening/powdered sugar mix, but I didn't ask here). The cake In the Kit-Kat and Peanut Butter cup cupcakes was very reminiscent of boxed cake in that it had a lot of air bubbles, not much crumb, and not much taste. However, the cake on the Oreo cupcake was quite different--it was a chocolate cake with a tight crumb that was still moist and had a lot of flavor to it. I'm not sure whether this cake was supposed to be a different chocolate cake than the other two but it definitely was as they didn't even look the same. This cake was much, much better than the other one. The Red Velvet cake was okay, though I felt like the cream cheese icing was lacking something, and the cake flavor was fairly vague. The Banana cake was good though it tasted more like a banana muffin than a banana cupcake. And, I didn't care for the caramel buttercream on the Kit-Kat cupcake though that was probably just a personal preference issue.
Overall, I could see returning here to taste one of their basic flavors...I'd love to get a feel for what their vanilla buttercream tastes like. I do think they are simply too expensive for what they offer. Regardless of how high quality their ingredients might be, they don't seem to be competitively priced with other bakeries in the city given size...and I think size is important to a lot of people even if it shouldn't be. Finally, one issue I had which I didn't mention above was their layout. It is a very small space and when you walk in the cupcakes are displayed in unconventional cases to your left. There are small post-it notes inside each case which note the flavors, but you can't see that unless you are right up against the case. Since the servers need to come out from behind the counter to get the cupcakes for you, they are basically waiting for you as you try and make your decision. They didn't do anything to make me feel rushed (in fact, the service in general was excellent), but I still felt a little flustered because I really couldn't tell what was available until I was ordering. I completely accept that this is likely a problem only I have, as I have the same issue at Tartes in Old City...even though they have a small menu posted you can't see what you are going to order until it is time to order. Hopefully no one else has this problem.
Well, you know what I think so now I'd love to hear what you think about this place. I'm always on the hunt for a good bakery (not necessarily a cupcake bakery) and get excited to try new places regardless of whether they live up to their hype. Thanks!