My apologies go to Adam Richman, the host of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. He travels about participating in eating challenges—like eating ten-pound burritos or 20 dozen volcano-hot wings or whatever. I apologize, because I have wondered how he can down like 75 percent of a dish and then quit when he’s so close to accomplishing the goal. I always want him to press on and get it done.
Now I know how daunting those last bites can be.
You see, niece Isabelle and I ventured to Chicago in honor of her 16th birthday to tackle The Cupcake Crawl of 2013. Our challenge? Visit five Chicago bakeries and sample five cupcakes. In seven hours.
Yes, that’s a lot of sugar, but I’ve got a massive sweet tooth, so I was confident I was up for it; Isabelle is young, so I figured she could handle it. We were all about it in the planning stages. All I could think of was the frosting and the flavors and tasty little cakes! Certainly I could sample five tiny cakes over the course of a day. I may have been a tad bit over-confident . . . I should have taken Adam Richman‘s losses to heart. Some lessons you just have to learn firsthand, right?
Here’s how The Cupcake Crawl went down:
Cupcake #1: Magnolia Bakery
This bakery wins for best décor and atmosphere, as well as having plenty of other sweets that almost tempted me to give up stomach space to try them. We sampled the Blonde Marble cupcake; it had very buttery frosting on top of a marble cake. This first cake was just so-so—tasty, for sure, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. This would not prevent me from stopping there in the future (I would love to try those other sweets); I would still recommend it. And really, who doesn’t love a cupcake at 10:30 in the morning?! At this point, I was still quite confident in our ability to finish the Cupcake Crawl with ease. I liked the first choice, but was excited to press on . . .
Cupcake #2: Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique
I love the super cute storefront with funky stools at a window counter. Isabelle had Texas Red Velvet—red velvet cake topped with cream cheese frosting. I chose the Chocolate Toffee—chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting dipped in crushed toffee. We both enjoyed this stop immensely. Isabelle loved her choice; the frosting became the measuring stick for all others, so it must have been good! My choice was rich, moist, flavorful—although I would have liked more toffee, because that’s the kind of gal I am.
Sadly, it only took two cupcakes for me to question my ability to finish the challenge. I was already feeling full and sugared up, so I was glad we were heading to lunch at Meli’s Café. Some non-sweet food was in order! And it revived us so we could head over to stop #3 . . .
Cupcake #3: More
This is the only bakery I had been to prior to The Crawl. I’m a fan. Every time I’ve stopped, I’ve loved my choice. The flavors are very rich and powerful, which I typically love. However, I have not typically eaten two other cupcakes already. Isabelle had the Salted Caramel—white cake topped with caramel frosting and sea salt. I chose the Key Lime Pie—a graham cracker based white cake with key lime custard middle topped with meringue. Oh, and I also had the free mini sample, an Amaretto Coconut. Oddly, I had a hard time finishing my cake. I’m sure the mini sample didn’t help. I loved both of them, but the richness made my stomach not-so-happy. This was when I grew a bit scared that I couldn’t go on. But we decided to wander into a few shops to give our stomachs a break. I gathered up my fortitude and reminded myself that I was no quitter. We were past the halfway mark, on the downhill; surely we could pound down two more cakes . . .
Cupcake #4: Molly’s Cupcakes
This bakery reminded me of something I’d find in Boulder, Colorado. It was funky, with swings at the counter. The variety here was exceptional, but there was no other option for me except the PB Nutella. NUTELLA, people!! It’s like they knew I was coming. It was a peanut butter cake with a Nutella middle topped with a creamy peanut butter frosting. Isabelle had the Cookies and Cream—chocolate fudgy cake with crushed cookies topped with vanilla cream frosting. We had a great time on the swings, enjoying our cakes, and feeling pretty good about our progress. And then we were off for the final stop . . .
Cupcake #5: Sweet Mandy B’s
The long walk between #4 and #5 helped, but seriously, at this point, I really did not want to eat another cupcake. It’s almost blasphemy coming from a sweets lover like me, but it’s true. The vibrant colors here made for a super fun décor. Isabelle had a Confetti Cake—a white confetti cake topped with vanilla cream frosting. I had the Snickerdoodle—a spice cake topped with a cinnamon-sugar frosting. The Snickerdoodle was the perfect final cake for me because it was rather light. Even so, Isabelle had to cheer me on to eat the last three bites. I now know how Adam feels on Man v. Food. I think I had the Sugar Sweats.
All in all, this was a great time. I loved spending time with Isabelle, hanging around Chicago on the loveliest June day every. And what a memorable experience! I’m so glad to have built a memory like this with Isabelle. I don’t see another Cupcake Crawl in my future. It wouldn’t be the same the second time around—and now I know what I’m in for! Honestly, I don’t know how Adam Richman braves his job.
So that wraps The Cupcake Crawl of 2013. A very happy (belated) birthday to Miss Isabelle!
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