Behind the Scenes: Sarasota's Best Cupcake

By Megan McDonald October 4, 2011

Bob Plunket ponders a cupcake.

The scene: Sarasota Magazine’s conference room—the “test kitchen.”

The cast of characters: Michael’s On East co-proprietor and catering royalty Phil Mancini; chef and hospitality consultant and former dessert company owner Judi Gallagher; senior editor and sweet tooth extraordinaire Robert Plunket (a.k.a. Mr. Chatterbox); associate editor and foodie Hannah Wallace; me, web editor and baking enthusiast Megan McDonald—and 16 (yes, 16!) cupcakes from local bakeries.

The opening line: “We can literally smell the sugar coming out of that room!” –associate art director Lauren Pritchard, whose desk is conference-room/test kitchen adjacent.

Please note the pen and notepaper behind these cupcakes. We take our jobs seriously.

Really, we probably don’t need to say much more—at this point, you might be able to imagine the sugar highs and raucous laughter that ensued as a result of our quest to find the best cupcakes in Sarasota (which you can read more about online right here or in print on page 142 of our October issue). It’s the kickoff to our new monthly series on the best bites in town, from cupcakes to French fries and beyond.

We started by asking our Facebook fans and readers to nominate their favorite cupcakes. We got more responses than we could have ever hoped for, and from them, we narrowed down our list to Cupcakes-a-Go-Go, Heavenly Cupcakes, the Sarasota Cupcake Company and The Lollicake Queen (whose confections, admittedly, aren’t cupcakes but are creative and buzzworthy).

Cupcakes galore.

From each location, we picked up a chocolate, vanilla and “special” flavor—one that best represented each particular bakery. At Cupcakes-a-Go-Go, that was a vanilla cake with fluffy lemon frosting. Heavenly Cupcakes handed us a chocolate cupcake with decadent peanut butter frosting. The Sarasota Cupcake Company gave us a massive Boston Crème Pie cupcake, and The Lollicake Queen recommended banana bread.

Beautiful AND tasty.

Once we got the boxes of cakes back to the office—and as the resident cupcake picker-upper, let me tell you that I had to be very careful transporting them from store to car to office—we set about testing each one. In some cases, we were united—like in our love for the Boston Crème Pie cupcake. In some, the competition was fierce (turns out everyone has different opinions about frosting).  Sometimes we went off on tangents—there was a rousing discussion about Phil and Judi’s mutual fondness for open-all-night diners in Rhode Island. Sometimes we felt like we might bounce off the walls from all the sugar. But we managed to get the job done and make some tough decisions—and again, you can read about our winners in the October issue.

You can also spot us all at the Sarasota YMCA trying to work off all that butter, sugar and flour. And be sure to check our November issue for next month’s installment of our Sarasota Best: French fries.

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