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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sugar Mamma's at Briarcliff

Okay, so let me reiterate - I really don't give a crap about cupcakes. I'm freakin' sick of them. Wondery why? I've explained it all here(GO #TeamSavarin!!!). That being said, I actually like Sugar Mamma's bakery. I like them for various reasons, and also dislike them for a few, too. But I will go on to explain that later on.

First off, their location is nice - right in the hills of Briarcliff off of Mulberry Drive. This is a fun area because it's like Beverly Hills meets The Wild and Wonderful Whites of the Midwest - on the hill is Chanel, where down the hill is patchouli imitation. I love it, to be honest. I love the juxtaposition of Riverside with Red X and the classy Briarcliff Village. I'm probably going to get crap from my boyfriend about what a snob I am for saying such things, but I don't really care because he can be a butthead too. Anyway.

You walk in to the bakery and it's got a GORGEOUS robin's egg blue/black accented decor. Like the kind you'd find in a fancy jacquard fabric. It's like what you imagine a Cupcake Bar should be in a fancy area like that, and it always smells good. It somehow seems to me like it's a perfect setting for "The Real Housewives of Kansas City." Truth be told, there are lots of good cupcakeries in KC. (Is that a word?)

Stole this from their website
So the decor is great, and the staff - at least in my experience - have always been friendly. It's a family-run business, and the people there seem to take it seriously enough, but with that same fun tongue-in-cheek humor that cupcakes have to have. The one thing I love about them is that they have both the regular flavors and their fun off-the-cuff flavors that change. Today, they had a "Taste the Rainbow" cupcake which was vanilla with skittles mixed in. I didn't get that one, but it was extremely tempting. They have everything from a classic Red Velvet to a fun Raspberry Merlot, German Chocolate, or Vanilla Chai. Best part about their cupcake menu is that it is updated just about every day(at least that I've seen) on their website, Sugar Mamma's Bakery.com. Seems like Butterlicious is the favorite flavor of most reviewers I've seen so far on them! (Still haven't tried it yet, though.) In fact, a solid 90% of the people reviewing Sugar Mamma's (both on Urbanspoon and Yelp) seem to love them.

Another awesome thing I like about them is that they serve coffee from The Roasterie, which is a wonderful specialty coffee company that's based here in Kansas City. I love it when local things are supported, and you should, too! Read all about them on their website here. Oh, and another cool thing? They have really great ice cream! I even asked where they sourced it - it was a local-ish place, I remember - but I forgot. Either way, they have good selections, and are also open much later than other bakeries normally are.

I've been there twice, actually - once alone, once with my boyfriend - and haven't necessarily been disappointed, but not yet been wowed, if you know what I mean. And keep in mind, this is probably just because Culinary School has made me such a jaded bitch that only professionals like me would notice the tiny errors or little things they do that keep it from being that extra-wow-over-the-edge kind of thing. Even things like spelling errors or bad kerning or poor grammar on their website irks me. (Truth be told, though, I don't think I'm jaded or a "Grammar Nazi" because I'm bothered by that - I just think that language has rules for a reason, and "daily" is a word that most third-graders should be able to spell... Sadly, nobody noticed.)

For one, some of their decorating techniques are good, and some are kind of haphazardly done; it's usually a small thing that's easy to do, like an not-so-well-tempered chocolate ganache, or a not-so-great piping job on their frosting. Oh, and speaking of frosting? WAY sweet. I mean, diabetically sweet. But let me tell you why that's a good and bad thing:

When it comes to buttercreams, there are generally four types: American/Common, Italian, French, and Swiss. Swiss, Italian, and French buttercreams are very different from the American buttercream that we are all used to, which is that sickeningly-sweet stuff that we sometimes end up pushing off to the side.With our American buttercream, it's just a crapton of butter and sugar with a pinch of salt and a little flavoring in it. Sometimes you can add an egg yolk for color, or egg whites to 'soften' the buttercream's texture. Most people are super-freaked about the health risks of raw egg product with the FDA and othersuch health departments...but we in the Culinary Field know that things will be refrigerated or sugared and any bacteria will probably be killed in the process. So we're not freaked.

Swiss, French, and Italian buttercreams are essentially meringues with butter in it. They take a bit of skill to create properly, and are oftentimes not appreciated here in America, which is sad for many reasons:

Although American buttercreams are fine, they're usually HOLY CRAP sweet. Swiss, French, and Italian buttercreams are sweet but not in an overpowering way. They usually make a textural difference and flavor difference, versus another element of sweet-sweet-sweetie-times. They are buttercreams that are dimensional and interesting, but we Americans like our sweets, for better or worse, so many places just like to stick with the usual Common/American buttercream.

So. What does this mean? It means that the frosting is WAY freakin' sweet at Sugar Mamma's, and it's also a bit heavy and thick...but then again, it's an American buttercream. Kind of just the nature of the beast.

The flavors of the cupcakes themselves are kind of hit and miss. Sometimes they're really fantastic, and sometimes they're a bit subtle. The raspberry merlot cupcake I had was a bit tough and the ganache was average at best - and they did kind of a poor job coating it, to be honest. Their lemon cupcake with lemon curd was tasty, but the texture of the cake itself left a bit to be desired, as it was a bit inconsistent from top to bottom. The frosting was way too thick and sweet for me, and didn't really taste like lemon at all...just was colored bright yellow. The lemon curd they used was actually fairly good, but tasted kind of pre-made versus a fresh curd.
Cake balls and truffles are also on their menu

I have had their coffee in both House brew form and Iced Mocha form, and they were both good. The Mocha was like chocolate milk with coffee and chocolate syrup in it, and that was actually kind of cool...but it wasn't quite strong enough for my tastes. Their chocolate chip cookies are stupid good. Choc-full of good dark chocolate chunks and really chewy and tasty. Nice and tender, and big-sized. I will say, though, that their chocolates look gorgeous in the case - and I can't wait to go back to try them! That, and the lemon bars - which are apparently amazing. (They must be, since I've been in the store twice now and they're always out.)

Sugar Mamma's on UrbanspoonI wouldn't say I like or love Sugar Mamma's bakery, but I definitely don't dislike them.

I can tell you, though, that I like that they're a family business, and I like that they've got a nice big handful of imagination when it comes to their flavors. I mean, who knows? I could just be jaded because I've taken so many pastry classes and my grandfather was a professional baker for years and years and years. The little mistakes I've seen at the shop are probably only things that someone like me would notice. So what am I saying? I'm saying I'm indifferent towards it. I probably won't ever go out of my way for them, but I do like what they do and I like what they have to offer. Either way...

Go check it out for yourself! At very least, go for the coffee - because you know I love coffee.

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