Cupcake Jones has now closed (2019)
It’s not like me to be so Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to the new stuff in town. For example, I got to Clyde Common for the first time just last week (and really liked it, by the way. And the fact that we scored an extra dessert due to a mistake by the kitchen didn’t make me cry, either.)
But in an uncharacteristic surge of initiative and motivation, I made it over to Cupcake Jones last Wednesday, just a couple hours after their doors opened for the first time. I think the 100 degree heat affected me in the opposite way it does most people…it really lit a fire under my behind. Perhaps I should summer in Phoenix – then I’d really start to get some shit done in my life.
Cupcake Jones, by the way, was originally to be called “Babycakes”, but made an eleventh-hour name switch in order to avoid confusion with a New York City bakery of the same name. Babycakes NYC specializes in gluten and sugar-free pastries, and when customers began stopping by the not-yet-opened store in Portland to let the owners know how happy they were to no longer be forced to order on-line, they decided to nip it in the bud. Hence: Cupcake Jones: “We Have What You Crave.”
On my first visit, I tasted just one flavor (The Mimosa – see below for description), but in browsing the display case, I could see that Cupcake Jones had taken a decidedly different pass at the typical cupcake. Each full-size unit (as opposed to mini) is injected with a filling, in addition to being finished off with a variety of frosting’s or toppings. A cross-section of each cupcake is displayed, in order to provide a proper visual representation of what you are about to cram into your cake hole.
Full-size cupcakes are $3.25. Minis (which contain no fillings) are $1.50.
There are five different flavors from which to choose. “Daily selections” from the July Menu include:
The Pearl: White velvet cake filled with vanilla pastry cream, topped with vanilla bean buttercream icing and a single handmade white chocolate pearl.
Downtown Cupcake Brown: Delicious devil’s food cake filled with sour cream chocolate ganache, topped with rich fudge icing and hand-shaved chocolate.
Baker’s Choice: Daily Surprise
Belmont Berry: White chocolate cake filled with marionberry infused pastry cream, topped with marionberry butter-cream.
Concordia Coconut and Lemon: Lemon yogurt cake filled with coconut pastry cream, topped with vanilla bean butter-cream icing and fresh toasted coconut.
Several daily-rotating flavors are also listed, including, but not limited to: the “What’s Up Doc”: a carrot cranberry cake with vanilla bean pastry cream and cream cheese icing; “The Monkey”, a banana cake filled with banana-vanilla pastry cream, topped with peanut butter butter-cream; the “S’mores Please”, which is adorned with homemade toasted marshmallows in lieu of icing; and the “Rose City”, a strawberry velvet cake with rosewater-laced pastry cream, topped with a hand-candied rose petal.
As I mentioned, I chose The Mimosa as my first sampling: Orange yogurt cake filled with orange champagne pastry cream, iced with champagne buttercream, and a strawberry “floating” on top. The icing was indeed made of butter, and quite stiff when chilled. When brought to room temperature, however, the butter was much more… buttery, but would have been improved with the addition of salt. More would make the icing taste buttery (i.e; better).
The cake was very moist and much denser and hearty (think spongy pudding cake) than most cupcakes that cross my path. For me, density in cake is a good thing. (When seeking light and airy, I’ll eat a meringue or a 3 Musketeers Bar, thank you.) The flavor was subtle but good and being someone who typically doesn’t go too far out of her way for a cupcake, I was eager to taste some of the other unusual and inspired offerings from their menu.
So I did.
In fact, I’ve visited CJ twice this week. Both times, the shop has put out various samples (sans frosting), so I was able to try the chocolate, which was crumbly and not as dense as I like, but probably what you would expect of a standard chocolate cupcake. I also sampled the banana cake featured in “The Monkey”, as described above. This time, I bought a mini cupcake: the “Choco Mint”, a chocolate mint cake topped with a mint chocolate fudge icing that I enjoyed much more than the bland butter-cream. My companion had the Belmont Berry, whose cake was fine and raspberry filling both pleasantly hued and flavored. Our enjoyment, however, ended where the butter-cream frosting began. Too much but not enough…
(Warning: lengthy rant on butter-cream frosting ahead.)
Which brings me back to the issue of butter-cream. Due to the proportion of cake to frosting, the success of a cupcake is largely dependent on its frosting – more, even, than in the case of a regular-sized cake. I’ve always thought I preferred butter-cream frosting (over cream cheese, for example), but as I think about it, many butter-cream-topped items that enter my mouth are promptly rejected into a nearby cup or napkin. It’s just too much like… butter. Okay, no duh. It’s Butter-cream. I get it. But apparently, I needed to educate myself. So, after doing only a cursory amount of research (Baking with Julia, Joy of Cooking, The Dessert Bible), I found that “true buttercream” is made by adding butter to a mixture of cooked sugar and eggs. The frosting that I love and have always called “butter-cream” is not, as it turns out, really buttercream. Nor is it held in high regard by professional and accomplished pastry chefs. Referred to in cookbooks as “quick icing”, it involves blending copious amounts of powdered sugar with softened butter and milk/cream. In true butter-cream, the ratio of butter to sugar is 1 pound of butter to 1 cup of sugar. With quick butter-cream, the ratio is 1/8 cup butter to a cup of (powdered) sugar. In other words, if you like sugar with your butter, go for the classic. If you prefer a little butter on your sugar, quick icing is the one for you. For those who know my (ahem) fondness of sugar, my preference for this “mock” version of the classic frosting should come as no great surprise.
While it is true that Cupcake Jones is making a true butter-cream, all I can tell you is what tastes best in my mouth is the untrue butter-cream of a slightly different school of classic baking tomes. Perhaps someday I will grow up and develop frosting tastes that extend beyond that of my eight-year-old self. Until then, I’ll stick with their fudge frosting and anything topped with ganache. Or whipped cream, homemade marshmallows or meringue.
On Tuesday of this week, I was able to do just this. My friend and I split the daily special: “What A Meringue”, a lemon yogurt cake made with fresh lemon zest, filled with lemon-infused pastry cream. While the cake was pleasantly moist and I appreciated the (not nearly enough) meringue in lieu of the butter-cream, the whole affair seemed a missed opportunity for the powerful punch of lemon curd. Sadly, it was not so very lemony.
In the name of objectiveness and thoroughness, I dispatched the palates of both Food Dude and highly regarded pastry chef, Shuna of Eggbeater.com for their deep thoughts on Cupcake Jones. Food Dude, who tasted The Pearl as well as a blueberry variety, thought that the fillings seem gimmicky, their flavors unable to assert themselves in the shadow of the icing. He also pointed out that the tiny entry area of the shop prevented a warm and inviting welcome. Indeed, when joining only three other patrons in the shop today, we were virtually on top of one another. I understand that real estate is at a premium in The Pearl. But shoot, can’t they cough up few feet of bakery space for an ample customer area? It is way too small.
Shuna was similarly underwhelmed, sighting a general coldness from the joint:
“Bakeries are supposed to be warm, cupcakes are supposed to recall porch sits and rose-colored childhood memories, not warehouses with speed racks and industrial ovens. it felt like a chain inside.”
Unlike me, they both found the cake to be a bit dry.
Another note: For those with a severe Jones for buttercream or fudge frosting, they sell “icing shots” in small plastic ramekins – in the fashion of my (until now) secretly-adored Jell-O shots of Scooter McQuades fame. Nice touch, Mr. Jones.
(Paraphrased from the back of their menu)
- We are a locally owned family business
- We bake from scratch daily, never using shortening.
- We make fresh marshmallows from scratch, as well as candy our own locally grown roses as well as lemon and orange peel.
- We use pure bourbon Madagascar vanilla and Amarena cherries imported from Italy.
- Cupcake Jones
- Phone: 503 222-4404
- Address: 307 NW 10th Avenue, Portland OR. 97209
Doctor Stu says
Fancy versions of Hostess cupcakes at $3.50 each don’t appeal to me. I wonder how long a place like this can survive.
Blooming Branches says
Stu, the idea is to savor something truly delicious. I have never seen anything like Hostess cupcakes in France or Belguim. Even lower cost food tends to taste better as a larger group of people are interested in making and eating quality foods.
Unfortunately, in the U.S. you do tend to pay for quality. As a grad student on a tight budget, Cupcake Jones is a bargain. I highly recommend the frosting shots. They are really more like dollops of fudge than frosting. The banana cake is especially good.
Oh, and if voting with your wallet is important to you, the owner is supportive of local nonprofits as well.
I’m off for a carrot cake cupcake now.
Have you eaten there?
Go ask St. Cupcake Stu, they’ll tell you in between the lines at their counter. And making a comparison between these and Hostess is like comparing a grilled halibut dish and Mrs. Pauls.
sounds like another bitter rant starting from dr. stu, st. cupcake is a busy place, never mind that it obviously fills a niche. it sounds like hostess is the one for dr. stu! wonder if he goes for the deep fried twinkies!
Pork Cop says
The good M.D. reminds me of my old roomate who would only buy these weird generic boxes of mac n cheese and scalloped potatoes etc they had no brand name at all. Not even Fred Meyer brand..no brand.. Just…generic.. He’d laugh at me when I brought home anything with a brand name on it. He’s a waiter at a very nice place in PDX.
Food Dude says
Enough Stu bashing. Back to the cupcake shop please.
Hunter: In Dr. Stu’s defense, the full size is only $2.25 at St. Cupcake.
Pork Cop: Uhh.. what?
So, has anyone actually eaten one? Please share your thoughts – I want to know what you think!
Doctor Stu says
Yes, I have tried Cupcake Jones and St.Cupcake (the one on Belmont). I thought St.Cupcake was better. No, I don’t eat Hostess filled cupcakes, twinkies or Ding Dongs or any similar product made by other commercial bakeries. Dry cake with waxy frosting and marshmallow fluff is not my thing. Cupcakes aren’t something that appeals to me, but I’ll try something just because it is there. I much rather have a good almond croissant, a chocolate moosey kind of thing or a lemon meringue tart. I’m not knocking Cupcake Jones or St.Cupcake. I just find it difficult to believe there is enough interest in place that sells $3.50 cupcakes to keep them going. Than again, 95% of the time I’ve been in Zupans on Belmont or Pastaworks on Hawthorne, you could shoot a cannon off and not hit a soul.
salty ham says
i’d like to cram one into my cake hole
come on portland.
you’ll spend 3.50 on a latte but complain about a cupcake price.
but the icing shots?
do they come with booze?
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
I gotta say, after working in offices for the past 12 years, I hate cake in all its forms. Did y’all ever see that episode of Seinfield where Elaine basically loses it over the amount of cake served in her office – going away parties, b-day parties, retirement, “good work team” – all seem to be an excuse to eat cake. Enough!
Cupcakes are just a cuter than cute version of this. It just seems really infantile and boring to me. (sorry)
Call me a “hater” but I just don’t get the whole cupcake phenom here in Portland and elsewhere. It’s cake. With frosting. In minature. whoopie.
Joanna, I love how detailed you are though. Have to respect your passion for the sugar….and your extensive research.
the Cupcake Kitten says
Their popularity is to do with nostalgia and their connection to childhood when all was fun and good in the world. I just love them. I make them and for me they are like and art. They are just so satisfying to make and they bring so much joy to people. You are basically making something amazing out of nothing. Baking is creating.
Lisa K says
It is easy to see how others can not enjoy cupcakes, but I absolutely love them. Not out of nostalgia, but the soft, tender, sweet, creamy goodness and pretty package. For years I was the odd one at potlucks excited to see someone arrive with a platter of individually frosted little cakes. Now thanks to local specialty shops like St. Cupcake and Cupcake Jones, my interest is validated and my appetite served. Cupcake Jones is my favorite. Having had a dry cupcake one time which sent me running for the phone to call the owner, I know it is possible. However, this has only happened once in over two years of visits and friends of mine actually like that dry, fudgy style.
Powell’s sells a gorgeous book of cupcake photos and recipes that I am hoping Santa brings this year. Welcome to Portland from all of those who obssess over your creations.
I’ve not yet tried Cupcake Jones. And I probably won’t. I’m not a major cake fan myself, but I have a loyalty to the hilt to Saint Cupcake. Those peeps, especially the genius Jami and her husband Matthew, have hit on something marvelous. The stores and packaging are divine, the authenticity of the Patron Saint of Sweet is heart breakingly adorable and if you’ve not tried the coconut cupcake, well, you might as well just cash in your chips right now and call it good. Nothing more divine than this morsel has ever passed my lips…and I order this blasted things for every baby shower, wedding shower, birthday party and whatever-party that I can think of because they are THAT GOOD. Authentic. Moist. Okay, I’ll say it…orgasmic. Again, I’m an ice cream girl, but these cupcakes have rung my bell time and time again and all I can say is Cupcake Jones better not be getting too comfy there in its tight, swank spot in the Pearl. By the way, I’ve tried other cupcake outlets heralded throughout the northwest, namely Cupcake Royale in Seattle. Does not even hold a candle to our precious Saint Cupcake. In fact, I was so disappointed, I almost asked for my money back. Alas, I’m a polite girl and decided that I was, indeed, smiling because of the cupcake’s cuteness, so I need not start a fistfight.
Saint Cupcake, I bow to you. Cupcake Jones, sounds like you better keep up with the other Joneses and head on out o’ town.
You do realize you are talking about a small business don’t you? And one that gives back to the community. Your post is not in keeping with what I consider a supportive community.
Cupcake Jones is a locally owned business, run by its female owner who gives free cupcakes and gift certificates to nonprofit organizations. Would we really want to see them run out of town?
I’ll be in for a few cupcakes soon.
Cuisine Bonne Femme: Infantile and boring, huh? Well, I suppose the same could be said of so many things. Bagels, for starters.
Cupcake phenom? Or phenomenon?
I didn’t say anywhere in the article that I think cupcakes are amazing. Like you, I think they are a trendy and over-hyped baked good, in general. Most cake in the world is, sadly, mediocre at best. I, too have worked in cake-abusing offices, and the noteworthy cakes were far and few between. One particular standout was the banana cake from Beaverton Bakery, by the by. I still remember that cake. It was bought for my birthday over 10 years ago by a boss who really understood cake. She was a good boss.
But honestly, most office cake IS purely obligitory (and bad), not going to much more effort than Costco or maybe Helen Bernhards, if you’re really lucky. But really good cake is, well, really good. And when a new cake joint opens, I greet it optimistically and with an open mind. Even though, more often than not, I walk away sad and unsatisfied. Still, I gotta keep the cake faith.
Jeez, how can you say that you hate ALL cake? That’s like saying you hate fruit. Cake is such a varied and vast category.
In any case, I’ll make sure to send you pie on your next birthday.
Saint Cupcakes ARE amazing. Fresh, perfectly balanced (moisturewise) cake, fresh buttery frosting or cream on top. A cupcake redefined (I never used to like them until I tried Saint’s)
The cakes one gets in offices from the local Albertson’s at the strip mall have nothing to do with what a cake can be. A good cake is hard to find but it does exist!
Haven’t tried Jones yet, but if you are there check the TearDrop Lounge around the corner, you’ll be amazed at the taste of the cocktails (elderberry flower syrup in “the little cloud” cocktail which is perfect for a summer evening)
amy k. says
joanna, great write up!
I am with you on so many things-especially buttercream frosting. I will have to try this place, for research, of course, although I do think the best cake is made here, at my house, because I make what I like-no frosting, or a light dusting of powdered sugar-and fruit in the cake. my obsession is fruit buckles.
but, I am so interested in a dessert being “injected” with anything-I need to check it out. surely this cupcake fad is the akin to the 1980s muffin/1990s scone trend, but I’m not complaining. what’s next? I can only hope cannoli.
Beth S says
Icing shots? Do they at least come with graham crackers?
Great write up Jo.
You freak me out. Are you in PR? Marketing? Or just a fan of a business composing sentences in a certain way in their honor?
CBF – yes.
I do so hate 99% of what passes for cake. Notable exception: cheesecake. But that isn’t even cake, it’s pie. Even the most mediocre pie is better than most “cake”. I don’t pay much attention to what a cake “can” be, as that phenomenon is so rare as to not be worth the effort.
Amy K: Thank you. Yes, a simple sugar-dusting is quite lovely, as is sweetened whipped cream with vanilla (chantilly cream). Less is more.
The injections, however, are worth checking out. Maybe we can arrange a trade: I’ll provide an unfrosted (bundt?) cake and you kick in the buckle. Is a buckle the same as a “grunt?”
Beth: Thanks! You should totally put the graham cracker idea in their suggestion box. Good one. Enchanted Brocolli Forest or Moosewood (I can’t remember which) has a gc recipe, which I made once, circa 1989. They were good, in a hippy cookie way. And you know how I like my hippy cookies.
Nikos: Good tip on the TearDrop. I didn’t know.
Pdxyogi: I’d say that mediocre pie (which most pie seems to be) is pretty grim, too. Especially since it will invariably involve Crisco – yech. But you’re right about cheesecake: it ain’t cake.
Are pancakes “cake?” I love pancakes.
I stopped by opening day on a whim. Not impressed. Tried a variety, nothing out of the ordinary. I cerntainly wouldn’t go to the extreme of calling them Hostess.
Who makes the monster cupcakes at Crema, with frosting jobs that look like gobs of Hersey Kisses? And the blackberry frosting….
thanks for the cupcake tip. i like to buy cupcakes for my clients. personally, i don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
does anyone know where to get princess cake near/in portland?
Someone please- what is a princess cake I must know!
Food Dude says
Kolibri: Please, have someone introduce you to the concept of Google! It’s really handy once you get the hang of it. And maybe they can even tell you about punctuation, too, while they’re at it.
No, I’m sorry. I realize my comment came across much harsher in print than it did in my own head as I was typing it.
So, princess cake…pretty cute, right? I’ve heard they sell them (pre-made and frozen) at Ikea, but I can’t confirm this.
Oh, that’s ok. I have been meaning to go to Ikea, so I will let you know if I find out.
You’ll be able to get frozen princess cake at IKEA probably.
The appeal of cupcakes primarily is cuteness and portion control. You can have a lucious cupcake and when it’s gone, it’s gone unlike a whole cake which tempts you with additional slices (just a sliver more, just another sliver, ooh, another sliver, oh crap, I’ve just eaten an entire cake!) Also, their more portable than a slice of cake.
I haven’t had cupcake jones (i’m not a fan of filling or frosting in general), but I went to a wedding with St. Cupcake cupcakes and they were totally f-ing delicious.
reflexblue: According to one of the comments for Jim and Patty’s Coffeeshop on Fremont posted on Citysearch.com, they have princess cake. Check into it!
The fact that several of you are impressed and delighted by St. Cupcake demonstrates that cake beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. I don’t share the love, but I certainly do not begrudge you it. I’m happy you have found one another.
Patrick: you still there? Those Crema jobs certainly are visually impressive – sounds like you enjoy the taste, too. I’ll check ’em out. I suppose a phone call to them could answer your question as to who makes them.
Oh yeah, I meant to add this earlier – check out these beuts (link below). Anyone heading to Pittsburgh anytime soon?
I am a vanilla vanilla buttercream person, and by that I mean “quick” buttercream. The real stuff just doesn’t do anything for me. For me cupcakes are comfort food, and needn’t be fancy or even correct. I also agree that a bakery atmosphere should be warm. I am a huge fan of Saint Cupcake, but wanted to try these guys out. I have seen the photos of Saint Cupcake’s wedding towers, and I think if it is possible to have Cupcake Jones cater your wedding, they’d be your guys. But for a cupcake and coffee on a rainy portland afternoon, Saint Cupcake is the way to go.
Some of these comments remind me of the people that just won’t realize or are too cheap to realize that their Windows computers are weak and so since they won’t go and actually buy a Mac. they would rather sit and complain / criticize the people who had the nad to buy an iPhone and tell us how silly we are. IT”S A CUPCAKE take the remote and change the channel from the food channel and mellow out. where have you been….cupcake places are the rage and no one seems to have a problem with the price. NONE of them house more than a few people at a time. the famous one in Beverly Hills has them lined up in the streets. (sometimes we Portlanders make the claims from LA and Seattle look good that we are a bunch of tree hugging birkenstock wearing freaks. Go there and have a cupcake….seems pretty simple….eat the cupcake….lick the frosting off your fingers and then go about your business….it was a just a cupcake after all. and a dang good one i might add…
Your iPhone, which is a piece of exceptional design, was rendered a joke by the decision to offer it only with AT T service, which is TOO SLOW. Who connets to the internet with dial up speeds in 2007? Sounds to me it is the details that make the difference and that goes for cupcakes too. Now, I agree, the small space at a cuocake shop shouldd not be a problem, I don’t mind their prices and the couple of cupcakes I tasted from Jones were good. But the Saint Cupcakes still have the edge. Get me an iPhone with broadband speeds (so I don’t need to find a WiFi spot) and a 5 MP camera and then we’ll talk. How many cupcakes do you need to eat before you download them maps on your slowpoke?
Food Dude says
Let’s keep this on cupcakes, not Iphones.
Frosting, plus phone, equals fortune!
Sidemeats cupcake phone is going to be the next big thing!
Disposable is sooo last week.
Eatable is trending upward.
And you laughed when I proposed a whole wheat battery.
This is so eco friendly,
Al Gore’s gonna want a bakers dozen.
Frosting stays fresher than technology,
Tired of your old, 5mp camera phone with the mp3 ringtone?
Pop that frosted anachronism into your pastry hole
and upgrade today!
To the patent office!
Elaine: Shall we stage a city-wide buttercream intervention?
Monyplay: Yes, cupcake “are” the rage, and have been for several years longer than Saint Cupcake showed up in town, incidentally. The famous one in Beverly Hills you mention is, I’m assuming, Sprinkles Cupcakes. They do charge $3.25 per cupcake, but they’re in Beverly Hills. Stuff costs more there.
And speaking of places where stuff costs more:
Magnolia and Billy’s Bakery in NYC, arguably the genesis of the cupcake renaissance, charge between $1.75-$2.25. Buttercup Bakeshop, also in NYC, $1.85.
Seattle’s Cupcake Royale go for $2 a pop.
So, yeah, $3.25 is a little high, especially for Portland. They are free to charge what they like…this was simply an observation made by one consumer of cupcakes to others .
I’m not sure we’re the ones who need to mellow out. Just talkin’ ’bout cupcakes on a summer day. What could be more mellow than that?
Kickin’ it in my Birkenstocks under the shade of my cherry tree, which I will promptly hug upon closing my iBook, from which I type this comment,
(Exclusive Mac user since 1984)
But, other sites?
Not in this meat’s (recent) lifetime….
Dude, pick one, delete the other
Funny is subjective.
But you are the objective…
oddly, Jim and Patty’s seems to keep selling out of the princess cake before I get there… thanks though Joanna, someday soon I shall prevail and the princess cake will be mine!
pastry gladiator says
The last time I checked, pie is pie and cake is cake. . .cheeseCAKE. Not pie. In all my baking books, not one considered a cheesecake a pie. (Sad, no one in Ptown has had a good pie; especially if you make a pie crust with Spectrum’s organic shortening AND good butter AND use seasonal farmer’s market fruit)
And yes, pancakes are actually considered “cakes” because their leavenings are similar. I suggest looking at the cake books of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, Nick Malgeri’s, and Carole Walter’s for great descriptions and recipes of cakes (not to mention The Art of the Cake by Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat). There are too many variety of cakes to even mention!
Cakes are the first “baked good” beginning with the honey cakes of the Pharoahs. And undoubtedly, every country and culture around the world has some type of “cake” which stands out in their cuisine. Pick one country and do some research; you’ll find cakes are part of a history of celebration, tradition, and community. Cupcakes represent a part of our American cuisine.
Since most cakes in many bakeries do suck (I always account for mediocre ingredients, poor baking technique, and three days old in a refrigerated case), maybe everyone should be GLAD that there’s a bakery who appeals to a particular clientele, (namely, people who like to enjoy life and have a cupcake now and then), bake from scratch, and obviously use great ingredients to make tastful, flavorful cupcakes.
Being one who has (and still does) baked cakes with all the trimmings professionally, it’s not easy. In fact, although I think I’m successful at baking them, if I don’t have to bake them, I won’t. I’m actually looking forward to trying St. Cupcake for that very reason. If they can make great cupcakes and can create a successful pastry shop which centers around them, I applaud the owners even before I’ve stuffed one of their treats in my mouth.
Also, if you’re complaining about the price you must think about the labor that’s involved with each individual cupcake. Actually, it’s much more expensive and time-consuming to put together 24 expertly decorated cupcakes instead of a 9″- 2-layer, slap-some-frosting-in-the-middle-around-and-on-top-and-pipe-a-border cake. I did 300 small cupcakes for a wedding by myself and charged a base price $1.50 per cupcake which accounted for the best ingredients and even farmer’s market berry surprises in each of them, and they were a big hit.
The great thing about desserts and baked goods is that everyone has their own palate and everyone has their own favorites. There’s certainly something for everyone.
Lighten up, Portland cupcake-loathers!
We were pretty excited about this place today because we went to Saint Cupcake to get a box of treats for the office but they’re not open on Mondays. But, after having these cupcakes, the consensus from everyone in the office is that in the future we’ll just wait until Tuesdays for cupcakes if ever feel like them again on a Monday.
It’s not that they’re more expensive, because we’re very willing to shell out the cash for things that are really good, it’s just that they’re not very good. The little gems we got today from Cupcake Jones were honestly only marginally better than Fred Meyers, and we got two of everything so we could try out their full selection. The one that was almost good was the Belmont Berry, though only the cake and filling were good, the frosting was really bland and just tasted like Crisco. And the wrapping around each cupcake looks cool but is pretty annoying to unwrap without smooshing the “goods” inside – it’s not an improvement over the classic peel-down things you normally see.
I wish them all the best, but they probably won’t be visited by us again anytime soon.
I tend to agree with most of these comments – after two trips to this new spot I probably won’t go back. The cake was dry and flavorless, the icing average, the filling unnecessary, and the ambience unwelcoming, mostly due to the small size and not the fault of the sweet, helpful staff. The only more disappointing cupcake I’ve had was a massive Whole Foods vegan cupcake that looked like a lovely diabetic coma but tasted like dirt. I used to nitpick Saint Cupcake for not being more “Magnolia-like”, but they’re much more on the right track in terms of taste, texture and decor.
I checked out Cupcake Jones hoping that there could be cupcake comradery between the new guys and the old champs at St. Cupcake, but the high prices and the flavorless taste of the dry cupcakes and airy frosting changed my mind. Cupcake Jones just doesn’t do it right. Plus, their store is small, sterile and uncomfortable. Saint Cupcake didn’t start out trying to be a cupcake store either, which is something people tend to forget. They never wanted to be a trend. The place opened up as a more traditional bakery and then focused on cupcakes because people just like YOU wanted cupcakes specifically. Not that I’m complaining that much, because I freaking love their cupcakes…but could it hurt them to bring back those amazing cookies and pies? Please? Anyway. Saint cupcake has heart and soul. The owners are amazing and the workers love what they do. cupcake jones is just capitalizing on a sucky trend thats already on it’s demise.
Louise: I agree with you that Jones seems to be an attempt to ride an already passing wave. And NO, it would not hurt SC to bring back the non-cupcake items. Their mini scones were excellent.
But I do find it hard to believe that they didn’t “start out trying to be a cupcake store”, which, of course, is no crime. I mean, they call themselve Saint Cupcake. Not Saint Pie or Saint Cookie. I’m pretty sure they meant to be a cupcake store.
I tried their “downtown” cupcake (chocolate with chocolate frosting) and it was delicious. I don’t think Cupcake Jones is the disaster you are describing Louise..So about Cupcake Jones: It’s my opinion that its cupcakes are not all that bad. (Note the apostrophe is lacking in the posessive “its”)
actually, i know saint cupcake well. the owner jami loved the idea of the story behind a mythical saint…the cupcake moniker was cute and kitchy, no doubt. but jami doesn’t even like cake that much. the place was an all-around bakery that happened to make outstanding cupcakes and couldn’t keep up with the demand for them if they were also making other desserts. the space is small and instead of upgrading to a larger bakery it makes sense to utilize the space and just make cupcakes because it’s wildly successful and profitable to do so, even 2 years later, but i can assure you it was not their original intent.
Saint Cupcake should stick with making cupcakes, because (I think) they make the best cupcakes in the world! There is something to be said for perfecting one thing rather than trying to do everything and please everyone.
Hey, look, some people who actually tried the cupcakes are posting! What an idea!
Yeah, I also gave them two tries, and it’ll be a long time before I give them any more money. If they’re still in business next summer, maybe. Dry and uninteresting, I’ve had better cake from a box.
Cupcake Jones ROCKS…….I just took 20 frosting shots with me to Burning Man and they were a fantastic, yummy, and original hit! The service is spectacular, they are beautiful, delicious, and trump that “other” place. Their incredients are super fresh and yummy with new and creative specials. I have started buying JONES cakes for all my corporate meetings!!! They are the BEST!
We went to Cupcake Jones once (3pm on a Tuesday). Got an assortment of cakes (3 different kinds) and each and every one of them was dry–tasted like they had been made the day before.
I’m all for a “premium” cupcake experience (well, my wife is, I’m actually not much of a sweet eater), and I don’t much care what the price of the cakes is. I may only have a bite or two, but, the cakes better be moist and flavorful–I mean, all they do is cupcakes, right?
These were not (either moist or flavorful).
Amelia: I’m happy you enjoy C.J. so much. We all need cake love in our lives. But jeez, you could have made a big ol’ batch of frosting yourself pretty easily for much less than $20. I’m just sayin’…
Embien: I wonder if they really are day-old, or if that’s just the style of cake that they’re making. I’d be curious to know. The ones I tasted didn’t seem particularly dry, just more dense as opposed to spongey, which I didn’t mind so much. I just thought the fillings were underflavored and, not to repeat myself, that the frosting wasn’t…to my liking
I’m not the cake expert in our house; my wife is the aficionado of things sweet and cakey. She said the cupcakes (all three we sampled) were “dry and tasteless” and her pet peeve is stale cake. That’s what she said they were (stale) and I’ll accede to her taste in such matters. For all I know they were made earlier that day and sat out too long (way too long), we didn’t buy them until 3pm (and ate them in the car on the drive home).
I tasted one of the three cupcakes we bought, and also found it dry, but what do I know? I’ll have to ask wifie which cupcakes she likes–last I heard it was the Dessert Tray in Beaverton.
The worst thing about Cupcake Jones is the frosting… tasteless overly-fluffy and greasy. The cakes themselves were on the dry crumbly side. I liked the idea of a cupcake with filling but was disappointed by the texture and flavor.
I’ve only tried St. Cupcake once, but the pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting was perfect in flavors and textures.
These were the most disgusting cupcake I have ever had. I was so disappointed. The cupcake was tasteless and dry (we tried the pearl and the downtown cupcake brown), the frosting was oily and the filling had a weird crunchy texture to it. I’m sure there are hostess cakes that have been sitting in some weird 7-11 for 6 years that taste better. Saint Cupcake and for our vegan friends Sweet Pea are the way to go.
I really really really wanted to love Cupcake Jones. It’s an easy walk from our digs and I have a passion for great cake.
As the principal instructor for the Northwest Culinary Academy in Belleve, Washington (which I owned for a number of years), I taught hundreds of students how to make great cake. In order to do this, I spent countless hours researching and drafting baseline formulas and then countless more hours in the test kitchen. One memorable afternoon, I stood looking at 8 French Butter Cakes that I had spent all day making, each progresively better than the one before. Making great cake is not an easy task! But once you taste the real thing, just a hour or two out of the oven, it is hard to settle for anything less.
I concur with the folks on this thread who surmise that the cake at Cupcake Jones is very very stale. I recently purchased three cupcakes, took a small bite from each and threw the remainder in the corner garbage receptacle. My companion made it through one bite only and asked if he could spit it out. Completely and irredeemably inedible!
The interesting thing is that there are a number of cake formulas whose baked textures actually improve over a day or two (even longer). A Chocolate Buttermilk Cake that I created some time ago comes to mind. Also a luscious Bannana Cake. The point I’m trying to make here is that if your business depends on cake that tastes wonderful 1-2 days after you bake it, then conduct a taste test every two hours after baking your sample to know what customers are actually experiencing. And then, if necessary, restructure your formula to match your business model.
Of course they are better than Hostess, but at $3.50 for a cupcake they are overpriced, IMO. Yes, I have tried one, and was not impressed. If I want a good desert, I go to Pix or Petite Provence.
Lisa K says
Not only are the cupcakes amazing, but the neighborly feeling of the boutique and friendly staff adds much value. Let’s not become a society of people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Save me a chocolate one, I’ve got $3.50 burning a hole in my pocket!
Lisa K: Sounds like you’ve found a cupcake that makes you happy. Excellent. Let’s not become a society of people that gets defensive when others express their opinion (on an opinion-based food website, btw) when they meet a cake and/or frosting that doesn’t suit their fancies.
Lisa K says
I once owned a small, eco-friendly gift shop. My location, whimsical atmosphere, and quality service (like free gift wrap) meant that my prices were higher than some of my competitors. Luckily, my customers recognized the value my product/service. We benefit when we see the value of things and not merely the cost.
So what you are saying is, if I don’t value the product as highly as you do, that I am somehow deficient? Sounds like a flowery way of implying so.
Lisa K says
Hardly. I am suggesting that the discussion about the cost of quality food from businesses in high rent neighborhoods lacks context. This is not about you.
My lack of enthusiasm for this place has not to do with the cost of the product; Cupcake Jones is certainly not unique with their pricing – most boutique cupcakes are similarly priced. The issue for me is that I didn’t think it tasted so awesome and I’m not a fan of the sort of frosting that they use, which I realize is simply a matter of taste. I don’t think they’re HORRIBLE – but I just wasn’t screaming about them. I would have offered the same feedback had I paid $1 for one instead of $3.75.
I think it’s real neat that the owners and staff are friendly and that it has a nice “neighborly feeling”; unfortunately, neither of those qualities add up to remarkable cupcakes. I went there simply for a cupcake, not to find new friends.
I paid $3.25 for a cupcake in LA a couple of weeks ago – at a place called Sprinkles (Oprah’s favorite, apparently). This cupcake brought me to my knees in a way that no cupcake ever has – dense, moist, packed with flavor and topped (appropriately and not at all superfluously) with the most perfect (in my book) frosting I’ve ever come across on a bakery-bought cake. The staff, incidentally but also inconsequentially, was very pleasant and patient.
jo ann timbanard says
I guess many of the review echo my opinion. The cakes look good (but I have seen much more ornate ones, even prettier) but the heart of the matter…the cake itself, lacks flavor, and to me, they are just plain dry, not what I like. I also was not excited about the icing. No, I definitely would not go back. I even have two coupons from the Street of Dreams and I may go for my grandkids, because they won’t know the difference between good and average.
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
I miss the Sugar Cube’s cupcakes. Yes, this, coming from someone who has publicly stated she doesn’t “get” the whole cupcake fad.
Ditto! I too never got on board with cupcakes, and my only exception was the late lamented Sugar Cube’s creations.
CBF: I very much respect your exclusivity when it comes to which cake is worthy of putting in your mouth. So much cake (yes, those cloying office birthday cakes from Costco) just aren’t worth the time.
I’m with you on not understanding the cupcake fad – like I said, they usually are just so ho-hu. Here is a cupcake, however, that I think you WOULD “get” – check these babies out (scrolling past the superflously-frosted ones down to Colleen’s Caramel Cake. The Old Fashioned Ice Box one, tooo. Makes me want to weep just lookin’ at ’em):