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Taste Test Extravaganza!

15 Jun

The other weekend, Steve and I hit the road!  We didn’t cross any borders this time around…unless county borders count.   Our destination – Augusta, GA!  Yup, hometown of Woodrow Wilson, James Brown, this little ol’ golf tournament called the Masters, and last but not least my aunt, uncle and cousins.  Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering,  Hulk Hogan was indeed born here.

I’ve always loved visiting Augusta.  Right along the Savannah River, it’s really rich with history dating back to the early 1700s.  With 9 neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s always something to catch your eye if you’re a preservation geek like me.  And if you also happen to be a cupcake geek like me, do not fear – Augusta has plenty to offer in that department, too!

On my last visit to Augusta (some time this past winter), I noticed a cupcakery on the verge of opening, so Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe went on my radar.   When making plans this time around, my aunt mentioned that she spotted another cupcake shop in town, Sweet Cups!, and a cupcake taste test a la Augusta-style was born!  But it didn’t stop there, oh no!  My aunt then heard from my cousin that a local Mennonite bakery makes amazing cupcakes, so the Lil’ Dutch Bakery was added to the ballot too.  And that’s how the cupcake taste-test-extravaganza came into being.

In the interest of time, my aunt and uncle picked up four cupcakes from the Lil’ Dutch Bakery while Steve and I were en route.  Then after our arrival (and some fortifying lunch), we all headed to Sweet Cups! to select another four cupcakes.  It’s a little, unfussy shop tucked off of Washington Road in an assuming shopping center.  Once inside, we were greeted so warmly by the darling baker herself.  She gave us a run-down of the daily offerings, which included minis (cue the cheering) in almost all of the same flavors as the “big kids”.  After our deliberation, we selected the following four (regular-sized) cupcakes: strawberry, key lime, red velvet, and sweet potato.  Mmmm…that’s some sweet, Southern goodness right there!

Sweet Cups! Cupcakes, Confections & Catering

Next stop – Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe in the Le Pavilion shopping plaza.  The scene inside is quite a change from Sweet Cups! where cupcakes were basically the main attraction.  But at Neapolitan, with both cupcakes and gifts on the agenda, there’s lots to see.  There was also a flat screen TV complete with leather couch seating area, pink & white striped walls, and a drink dispenser dispensing FREE pink lemonade.  Woo hoo, free stuff!  Double bonus points to Neapolitan for 1) giving free stuff and 2) serving a color coordinated beverage (I don’t know why, but that does something for me)!  I also got to chat with the owner, Molly, whose super sweet personality matched the pretty cupcakes on-hand.

All four of us put our heads together again, and selected the following four cupcakes: lemon, peanut butter, salted caramel, and cookies & cream.  And then we left…without our cupcakes.  I guess I was in sensory overload and just spaced out or something.  Luckily, we didn’t get far and the kind woman who rang us up was standing outside with our box o’cupcakes anticipating our return.  That should teach me a lesson for next time…don’t drink the free lemonade 🙂 just kidding, I have no one to blame but myself.

Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe

All loaded back into the sugar-scented vehicle, we headed for home (well, my aunt & uncle’s home).  It was a few hours before dinner and the subsequent cupcake taste test, so my aunt and I had a fun time “photo styling” our cupcake spread.  Check it out!

We made sure the packaging was included in each photo. I'll discuss this element in more detail in "The Breakdown"...

Ok, so fast forward through the arrival of my cousin and his sweet family, playing with my cousin’s cute kids, and a yum yummy family dinner, and you have me frantically (and messily, sorry Uncle L!) cutting up 12 cupcakes into fours and trying to create some sort of system out of it all for a seamless taste test spectacle.   We eventually got all the sweets “plated”, fashioned a blindfold out of my aunt’s pretty blue scarf, and the taste test was underway! (I wish I had photographed the whole scene, especially when the blindfolded taste tester was waiting for me, mouth wide open, to feed them their forkful of cupcake.  The mental pictures I have though make me smile.)

So after five volunteers were subjected to the blind taste test in a controlled environment under scientific eye, we were able to crown the following winners:

Once we concluded the experiment, I jotted down some feedback and then chowed down myself.  I can honestly say there wasn’t a bad cupcake in this bunch.  And something about Sweet Cups! strawberry confection really wooed me – the delicate pink frosting with bits of strawberry, the wonderfully comforting blend of strawberry and vanilla…it’s a darling of a cupcake.  And Sweet Cups! sweet potato cupcake is not to be overlooked. This was one of Steve’s favorites, along with Neapolitan’s peanut butter and salted caramel.

Here are some other comments the gang had to say:

-The cake at Neapolitan was a tad bit on the dry side.

-The Lil’ Dutch Bakery strawberry cupcake tasted like a pop-tart.

-The contest between Lil’ Dutch Bakery’s strawberry cupcake and Sweet Cups’ was neck and neck – it was a close race for those two.

-The Lil’ Dutch Bakery key lime cupcake tasted like lime jello.

-The appearance of the Lil’ Dutch Bakery cupcakes wasn’t much to write home about (along with the packaging), but their deliciousness (and 3 crowned victories) reinforced that whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” philosophy.

*and my little note to self: 12 pieces of 1/4 a cupcake = bad idea.  A cupcake hangover ensued.

Ok, let’s see if I can handle the breakdown x 3

Lil’ Dutch Bakery  / 3830 Washington Road, Augusta, GA /( no website) 706.228.5336

Sweet Cups! Cupcakes, Confections & Catering / 604 Shartom Drive, Augusta, GA / (no website) 706.922.1300

Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe  / 106 Pleasant Home Road 2A, Augusta, GA /

1. Price:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – $1.59 each (that’s a deal right there, folks!)

Sweet Cups! – $2.50 each /$25 dozen/ minis! – $1.50 each, 3 for $3.75

Neapolitan – $2.75 each / $30 dozen / minis! – $0.75 each, $10 dozen

2. Room temperature:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Yes

Sweet Cups! – Yes

Neapolitan: – Nope, they’re kept cold here

3.  Size:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Cake size = grande (or venti, if we’re talking Starbucks lingo) / Frosting size = poquito

Sweet Cups! – Standard

Neapolitan –  Cake size = standard / Frosting size = piled high

4. Vegan or gluten-free options:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – No, sorry

Sweet Cups! – No dice

Neapolitan – Gluten-free (in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet) is made on an order by order basis – $18 half dozen, $36 dozen

5. To-go packaging:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – All four cupcakes were set on top of a styrofoam plate/tray of sorts and covered with plastic wrap

Sweet Cups! – Pink cardboard box with interior dividers and logo sticker on top

Neapolitan – Brown cardboard box with interior dividers and logo sticker on top

6. Milk for sale?:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Ummm, I’m not sure.  Aunt T, what say you?

Sweet Cups! – Not that I spotted.  They did have bottled beverages on hand like Snapple, Gatorade, sodas, water, and Starbucks frappuccinos

Neapolitan – Couldn’t find here either, but don’t forget there’s free pink lemonade!  Also available – Cokes, water, and Jittery Joe’s coffee (I’m a fan of this coffee since it started in Athens, GA.  plus it’s yummy!)

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – I think lots of baked good abound here, but Aunt T will have to fill in the details…

Sweet Cups! – Cinnamon rolls and slices of red velvet cake

Neapolitan – Cookies, cake pops, plus t-shirts, onesie, bath bombs, and other gifts galore

8.  Ambiance: 

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Not sure, Aunt T & Uncle L picked up our goods.

Sweet Cups! – Unassuming yet welcoming.  Pale green walls, minimal decor, no seating area so plan on cupcake “take-out”

Neapolitan – Vibrant and full of pink!  Like I mention above, there’s a lot to look at – gift items and such.  And plenty of seating (3 tables, 2 sofas) so you could sit and stay awhile (and watch SpongeBob on their tv)

9. Service:  

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Oh no, can’t answer this one either.  Aunt T, you’re gonna have to be my guest blogger here!

Sweet Cups! – The woman helping us the day of our visit was actually the baker, and she was very kind and fun to talk to.  She seemed to love baking, and I think that shines through in the cupcakes.

Neapolitan – Friendly and especially helpful service (thank you, thank you for coming out to look for us and not throwing out our cupcakes when we accidentally left without them!)

So, I’m sort of skipping #10 here – please don’t shun me!  I’ve just up and run out of steam.  Maybe I need a cupcake

Thanks so much B. Family (Aunt T, Uncle L, P, J, AK, C, and L) for such a fun time, making this happen,  and all your help!

Lil’ Dutch Bakery
Lil' Dutch Bakery on Urbanspoon

Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe on Urbanspoon