Sometimes–in the world of restaurants–a lone “vegan option” beats an “all-vegan” menu. But would this be true of bakeries too? On a bright Saturday afternoon, a friend and I accumulated research on this query, visiting 6 omnivorous bakeries in the isle of Manhattan in the name of deliciousness and gluttony.
Our first stop was thee best stop: Sprinkles. Sprinkles’ claim to fame is being the first cupcake bakery ever. Now they are a franchise with 15 shops in 7 states (and 1 District o’ Columbia), including seven in their native California. The founder is also the judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, or was at least. So Manhattan has a Sprinkles on Lexington ave with a well-publicized Cupcake ATM that’s open 24 hours. And on a spring Saturday, the shop and ATM was swarmed with tourists. Maybe when they open their ice cream and cookie shop, crowds can divvy up to less annoying levels.
What’s fantastic about Sprinkles is that they offer a lone vegan option that is up to their high standard, and adorned with an adorable scarlet letter: V. V for, well, you know. The vegan option is a moist and balanced red velvet that is… ahem… likely the best vegan cupcake I’ve ever eaten. (And I’ve eaten a ton..) A well-deserved and bold statement… a challenge almost. The cake was perfect. The frosting was perfect. Not cheap-tasting, not overly sweet. Just go and try it in a city near you.
Stop 2 was a little bit of a stray on the cupcake theme: Baked by Butterfield. Baked is an off-shoot of high-end specialty food institution Butterfield Market, a New York City grocer since 1915. Baked’s specialty is doughnuts and they make a regular vegan option–the apple cider doughnut. But coming from Sprinkles, I couldn’t bring myself to buy the bare bones doughnut. I opted instead for another vegan offering–a banana chocolate chip muffin, by-passing their Brooklyn-born delivered treats from Clementine Bakery. This is, after-all, a Manhattan vegan option crawl. It was dense, like the muffin it was, and needed a bit more banana.
Option 3 brought us to the East Village. Tu-Lu’s Gluten-free Bakery has a daily vegan option. Today it was blonde on blonde, a light gluten-free golden cake with great flavor topped with a whipped vanilla cream. Tu-Lu’s cupcakes are always so delicate and beautiful. It is a great vegan option that allows you to daintily demonstrate restraint. Which I wasn’t exhibiting this particular day since it was a part of a procession of cupcakes.
Option 4 was Jennifer’s Way, another safe haven in the East Village for food allergy sufferers. Jennifer’s vegan and non-vegan offerings are made from quality ingredients, as evident by the darling vanilla beans on top their devil’s food cake. The cake was yummy and moist, but that frosting is the real star. Jennifer’s treats are the basics done right. I’d love to see more decadent offerings at Jennifer’s Way. (And a lower minimum on credit cards [$25?!] and a less snarly counter person…)
Option 5 was another tourist spot: Molly’s Cupcakes. Sure they have swings at the counters for lucky patrons who manage to nab them… and a ton of creative, decadent and deliciously decorated cupcake options… as well as basic vegan options–chocolate or vanilla cake with chocolate or vanilla frosting. I opted for my favorite combo: vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. I was delighted that the frosting was thick and fudgey, like the nostalgic kind, and not a light chocolate buttercream. The cake was really good, too. Just a bit soft. But I surely appreciate the option!
Option 6, Georgetown Cupcake, was a bust as no vegan options remained after a busy day of foot traffic in SoHo. But my friend got herself a Key Lime cupcake. And I went to try their vegan option a few weeks ago, which is pictured again below. The cake, an apple cinnamon, was very impressive and worth another mention. I guess the bakeries with multiple locations are doing something right, even in their vegan options. Maybe they’re increase their daily vegan options if vegan cupcakers like me continue to ask for them.
Options I missed: