You might remember when, in the early 2000s, cupcakes took pop culture by storm, spawning cupcake-only bakeries and even a reality TV show, Cupcake Wars. Well, things have cooled down significantly for the baked good since then, but the cupcake craze isn't dead. At least not according to a group of Valley diners who took their passion for cupcakes to the next level. Tracy Ann Karas, Angy Beran, Kim Christiansen, and Ariel Matsuno started a blog in 2013 devoted to tasting and rating cupcakes from all over the state. The self-proclaimed cupcake tasters go by the name AZ Cupcake Girls and describe their blog as a source for all things cupcakes in the Phoenix and surrounding areas.
To date the group has rated more than 50 different cupcake businesses, and they say they won't stop until they try every bakery in the state — then, they'll start taking on the nation.
As objective tasters, the group uses a five-point scale based on overall appearance, taste of the frosting, moistness, and flavor of the cake. They also take into consideration the overall bakery experience — think, customer service, variety of flavors, creativity, and if the cupcake lives up to its fancy name. Their blog posts also include a history of each shop and give a summary with all the positive and negatives of the experience.
We recently chatted with the AZ Cupcake Girls to find out more about their experience as cupcake bloggers.
Why did you decide to start this cupcake blog?
Originally, it started as a way to make sure we all got together at least once a month. With life being so crazy, it wasn’t always guaranteed when we would get to see each other. But, if we had to meet to rate cupcakes, then we would definitely be getting together!
Why are you so passionate about eating cupcakes?
Well, for starters, who doesn’t love dessert? Or even cake? We eat dessert daily (if not multiple times a day), so it’s not just passion, it’s a lifestyle. We love seeing what is out there, finding new venues, and getting ready to be wowed because we know what awesome tastes like.
What is the hardest thing about being a cupcake taster?
Honestly, aside from when we try cupcakes that are just bad (disappointing!), the hardest part is writing those negative reviews. We know someone poured their heart and soul into that cupcake and no one wants to be the person who says that it sucks (especially publicly). But, we do feel like the dessert-eating public should know. This is why we always try to find the bright spot and highlight what each place does well, even if it wasn’t our best experience. And we try to be as fair as possible with each tasting.
What skills are the most important in a cupcake taster?
One, you have to be able to handle your sugar. Two, you have to be objective, even if you don’t like a flavor. Some of us hate mint, some hate peanut butter, some hate fruit flavors, but we all have to get past that and be as objective as possible with each cupcake we try. Three, you have to pace yourself! We treat it almost like a wine tasting. We learned early that you have to just try your cupcake portion and move on. Some of us tried to eat all of the leftovers because they felt bad wasting food, but then they would tap out before we were halfway through a tasting day. And sometimes you have to take a “real food” break or you will go into a sugar coma!
What’s the most original cupcake you’ve ever eaten?
Sweet Potato Mango Ginger – Gluten Free, Not Stuffed. This was a GIGANTIC cupcake that we found at Whyld Ass Bakery in Flagstaff. Definitely original and a little polarizing among the girls on our opinion of it. We also tried one with rose petal frosting that was pretty original and was gluten free and vegan, also in Flagstaff, by Free As A Bird Bakery.
What’s next on your blog?
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We just hosted our First Annual “Cupcake Off” where we invited guest tasters to compare and rate our top eight bakeries. It was an interesting experience to see what other people thought (and to realize how much we had become of a team we had become over the years!). It was also interesting to see how the bakeries were still doing, even a few years after we had tried them. This event allowed us to profile another local business (Salut Kitchen) who helped us host it, and to raise money for the charity organization No Kid Hungry. So, in addition to continuing our statewide search of all things cupcake, we would like to expand into more events, raising money for charity, highlighting and promoting local business, and in general bring dessert to all people everywhere!