Is it me or this summer vacation is WAY too long? haha I say that every year. The truth is, I love to spend time with my kids! But I also need to work (I can't complaint because I work from home and having flexible hours are a lifesaver - but I still need to work). We are literally running out of ideas on things to do - that take some time, don't break the bank and are fun.
So I had this "crazy" idea of going in search of the best cupcake in or around Ballantyne. We always see people recommending places here ant there, and we are never sure of which ones are really worth the calories.
Plus, I'm a travel agent and I was thinking how sometimes we wait to be traveling to discover new places, and new flavors. Since we were not traveling for the rest of the summer, why not experience these things right here? I wanted to keep the exploration trait alive, even if we are not going anywhere new.
So off we went, searching for cupcakes. Let me tell you - what a tough job!
Monday: WHOLE FOODS
(sorry this is the only photo I took, I will get better over time)
Presentation: We did't like much. Just a bunch of frosting on top and too much food coloring. Size: waaay too big (I let them eat half and we put the rest in the freezer). Price: waaaay too expensive. $4.50 each!! 😬 Taste: cake was dry and frosting tasted like chemical. Overall rating (from 1 to 10): 6.5
Final observations: what a letdown. Son 1 thought it was ok. Son 2 thought it was good (wait, he will change his mind later on, it was the first cupcake an at that point, a cardboard with frosting in top would be delicious! hahaha).
Tuesday: SAS CUPCAKES
Today is the day to visit SAS. Mainly because I know they have $2 Tuesday, and I think that's a good deal!
Presentation: super nice and each one has its own "decor". Size: regular size. Pretty good. Price: $2 on Tuesdays, which is a good opportunity. Taste: Way better than Whole Foods. Frosting taste like the real thing (butter!). Some flavors have fillings. Only down would be that they are too sweet (after I posted this reviews on FB some people complained of SAS cakes being too dry. I didn't not experienced that but I do remember eating a Vanilla one a while ago that it was dryer. So I'm thinking the chocolate ones don't have this problem. They weren't very moist but they were not dry either). Overall rating: 8.5 (grade reviewed after trying Cupcake Delirium)
Final observations: Cupcakes were overall pretty good. The triple chocolate one has a very nice dark chocolate filling that breaks the sweet. If we could change something, it would be making the frosting less sweet. Son 1 liked his Oreo cupcake very much. Son 2 destroyed his triple chocolate one in no time. Again, I allowed them to eat half of it - we still have most of the week ahead of us!
When I first post these reviews on a Ballantyne Facebook group (Ballantyne Connections) I started to receive so many great recommendations for the next cupcake shops to go. It was only Wednesday and I didn't know how many cupcakes we could still eat 😂 but I loved the community involvement. Many people suggested other great shops but I decided to make a rule that the shop can't be more than 20 minutes away, since this was Cupcake Wars Ballantyne edition :-)
I wanted to have at least one grocery store reviewed because many times we need to buy cupcakes in a hurry and they are very convenient and price is better for large quantities. I decided to go with Publix because they have a great bakery.
Presentation: Simple but nice. Size: regular size. Price: $3 each if you buy more than 2. Taste: We got red velvet, Boston cream and key lime. All the frostings were delicious, not too sweet at all. But the cake was somehow dry, didn't seem to be made from scratch by the consistency. They were all filled (the key lime filling was very yummy!). Overall rating: 7.5
Final observations: Cupcakes were good. Nothing special or wow but good options. Key lime pie was my favorite, it had that lemony taste that also break the sweet a little. Son 1 liked his Red velvet but wasn't impressed. Son 2 is starting to be more careful with his reviews. He loved the chocolate frosting but wasn't crazy about the cake.
Thursday: CUPCAKE DELIRIUM
After so many recommendations, I had to visit Cupcake Delirium in Pineville. Oh the things we must do for the community! 😁
Presentation: pretty and they are all very different Size: the best one yet. I would say a little smaller than regular, perfect size. Price: $2.50 if you buy a box of 4. If you bring the box back and buy four more, you get one free. They also send "a day old" cupcakes for $1.50 which I think it's pretty good and I don't mind it at all! Taste: Delicious!! Cake taste fresh and not too sweet. Super moist! Frosting was ok for me, not my favorite, but still pretty good. And again, taste fresh. Overall rating: 9.5
Final observations: We loved it, really tasty and the cake was the best (my favorite yet for sure). We initially rated SAS a 9.0 but after Cupcake Delirium we downgraded them to 8.5 😬
Tomorrow we will hit another one. Stay tuned! 😊 (I'm here debating how many more hours I need to workout this week 😂
Friday: SOUTHERN OLIVE
And we continue our journey to find the best cupcake in or around Ballantyne!! So far we tasted Whole Foods, SAS, Publix, Cupcake Delirium and today we tried Southern Olive in Indian Land. I didn't know I was in for a surprise!
This is quickly getting out of control 😳 I not only bought the cupcakes (again, tough job) but I also bought a lemon bar and a cherry bar because they looked delicious. And a seasoning jar from Italy because Italy is just amazing and it would be an offense not to buy it 😆 (side note: I did worked out today so I guess that makes things a little better).
Presentation: nothing wow but pretty! Size: on the big side - I think it's too big to eat it at once. Price: $3.50 each. More to the "expensive" side, but wait. There is a reason. Taste: Very tasty!! The surprise is that the cupcakes are all gluten free. Some are vegan but all of them are made with organic and all natural ingredients, even the food coloring is natural. How cool is that? The cake was moist but it does have a different consistency for being gluten free. But delicious anyway. Frosting was really really good, our favorites so far.
Overall rating: 9.0 compared to others, but for being gluten free, it's a 10. It was the best gluten free desert I have ever tasted, for sure!
Final observations: The shop is cute, they sell olive oil and flavored balsamic vinegar. They also have coffee, teas and smoothies. The ladies are super nice. First place that didn't use anything plastic - plates where recyclable paper and forks were wood. Definitely recommend the shop - and because we were there tasting the cupcakes, why not bring home a cherry bar, a lemon bar, and seasoning from Italy 😬 (seriously, the lemon bar was one of the most delicious things I've ever ate in my life and I'm not exaggerating). I may or may not have gotten too excited about this "touring your own city" idea.
One of the coolest things is that the owner of the show actually saw our review on Ballantyne Connections and explained how they are super careful with the ingredients and what they are offering the community. She also explained the benefits of balsamic vinegar and how you can introduce that even to kids since they have flavors like chocolate balsamic vinegar (I need to go back to the shop to try that). Also, I was happy that the review motivated many people to go to the shop to taste for themselves - I love the idea of supporting local business that are doing something great.
And we made it to the last shop in our list for the Cupcake war Ballantyne edition (for now, I need a break from cupcakes 😂)
Today was Cupcrazed, in Baxter village.
Presentation: very pretty, many flavors available at a good quantity (definitely not a "small" shop). Size: regular to larger size. Some had a lot of toppings which made them bigger. Price: $3 each. Box of 6 is $15. We chose this option since we had our friends' company today! Taste: My very honest review: they were good, nothing more 😬 cake tasted good and not too sweet. But they were very similar to SAS in texture (dryness). Frosting was very very sweet, even the chocolate one. Neither I or my husband could eat more than half of the cupcake and we didn't feel like bringing the other half home (we tried 4 flavors as we had friends with us), my sons for the first time asked for water in the middle of it. Don't get me wrong, the cupcake is good but I personally wouldn't drive all the way there for it and at this point, we had better ones.
Overall rating: 8.0 or 8.5
Final observations: They have gluten free options on Mon and Fri. They don't run a promotion on a day old cupcake. Discount goes by quantity and they offer $2 cupcakes on Tuesday. Ok cupcake overall, frosting too sweet for us. The shop is nice, full of character. So maybe good if you are strolling around Baxter Village but it won't be on my top cupcake places (yes, I know they won the Cupcake Wars twice and I think that's why I was maybe expecting more). Again, good cupcake, but not the best in my humble opinion. Also, they seemed more "commercial" than for example, Delirium and Southern Olive. This shop offers more flavors than any of the others and many with a lot of food coloring. I think I'm more of a "artisan" cupcake kind of person :)
So, who is the winner?
After having to taste all these cupcakes, I will be visiting these two places on a regular basis: Cupcake Delirium, for offering a tasty cupcake that wasn't too sweet, clearly had good quality ingredients, was super moist, and overall delivered the best and fresh flavor. Southern Olive came in a close second which was a surprise, learning that they are gluten free (they do not taste like cardboard, who knew??). Since I really like the whole idea of eating healthier and helping the planet, they just got a new client.
We all had a serious (as serious as a cupcake can be haha) talk and we came with this final ranking:
1. Cupcake Delirium (Pineville).
2. Southern Olive (Indian Land).
3. SAS (Blakeney).
4. Cupcrazed (Braxter Village).
5. Publix (Johnson Rd).
6. Whole Foods (Providence Rd). Way behind the 5th place.
So there you go, our fun week of cupcake reviews for you to enjoy. THANK YOU so much for all the recommendations and the incredible participation on the Facebook group - I loved seeing all the interactions and I think things like this really brings the community together. I'm very proud to be part of it!
Yours in travel (and now in cupcakes),
Happy Hour Travel
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