Can anyone escape the clutches of cupcake stores in Cairo? It seems few upscale neighbourhoods are safe from the onslaught of Cairo’s newest fad. From Nola and Crumbs, to online independent (read: hipster) bakers, to supermarkets and waffle shops that offer a variant on the popular product, cupcakes are lurking everywhere. We wanted to explore this recent phenomenon, whose appeal clearly goes beyond the simple taste in mouth.
We bought three batches of ten cupcakes each and conducted an experiment on 14 unsuspecting colleagues who were forced to sample all three batches without knowing which places they were from.
The first batch was from Nola, the second from Crumbs, and the third from a Metro supermarket, all freshly baked and bought first thing in the morning. An interesting tidbit: for the same number of cupcakes, Crumbs charges EGP 105, Nola wanted a whopping EGP 121, while Metro wanted an affordable EGP 30, (however their cupcakes sadly lacked frosting).
Because Metro had the obvious disadvantage of being frostingless, we had our subjects (yes, subjects, this may be fake science but that does not mean we did not take the experiment seriously) judge our cupcakes on both the lower cake part and the creamy, colourful frosting separately.
Once the initial thrill of yumminess faded, we had to administer stern admonitions and once even threats to make sure everyone ate pieces from each sample.
Then it was time to vote. Slight nausea and sugar highs notwithstanding, Daily News Egypt staff proved to be troopers as they carefully and thoughtfully made their decisions.
The aggregated votes for frosting and cake were as follows : 8.5 for Nola, 6.5 for Crumbs, and 4 for Metro. Interestingly, the Metro cupcake was only one vote short and several testers commented that the consistency was, “just right,” whereas the other brands cakey-parts were deemed too rich.
Crumbs cupcakes seemed to have the better texture and consistency; the cupcakes survived the trip to the office much better than Nola’s (which almost completely fell apart on the way due to the elaborate but surprisingly substandard packaging). Crumbs frosting had a distinctly more sugary taste, while Nola’s creations had richer and creamier frosting which clearly won many people over. Nola’s new flavour, Pina Colada, was one of the favourites. For EGP 30, Metro came in way too close to its fancy competitors with four people convinced their cupcakes took the, well, yes, the cake.
Though Nola’s and Crumbs both offer premium cupcakes, with colourful, swirling frosting, for the price these things sell at, it is hard to believe the matter can only be attributed to taste.
First of course it is fashionable, and like anywhere else, those in the know follow every latest fad. The stores and the image they espouse also likely play a large role in the buying process, and the fact that both stores can only be found in locations like Maadi and Zamalek doesn’t hurt either (Along with other specialty stores that sell everyday items but with, wait for it, “unique designs”. Also, an Arabic name spelt only in English never hurts). Both cupcake havens go to extra lengths to provide an elaborate and immaculate image, from their logo to the chairs at the store to the packaging. Exclusivity rules.
In the end, most test subjects said they would not mind ‘indulging’ with an EGP 10-12 cupcake every once in a while and we are pleased to announce that the force feeding our colleagues during the cupcake trial did not result in ruining these little bombs of deliciousness for them forever. Perhaps no more today though. But soon. As one friend put it, “they are so pretty!”