Level 2 Dining Hall
Cnr La Trobe and Elizabeth Streets
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9077 4542
I’m probably not going to win any friends once I’ve finished writing this post, but those of you who are close to me know how much I detest cupcakes. To me, cupcakes are just plain, insipid cakes baked in a patty pan, then slathered with super-sweet frosting, covered with sprinkles and then given some capricious name such as ‘strawberry fields forever’ or ‘pop my cherry’ so that suckers will buy them by the dozen at $3-4 a pop. They do nothing for my tastebuds and have no nutritional value at all so it’s no wonder why I don’t bother with them (then again, I am someone who goes through a motherload of potato chips every week so I can’t really talk about nutritional value).
Two months ago, a media release advertising a new cupcake store, Cupcake Central Workshop, landed in my inbox. My initial thought was, ‘Not another farken cupcake store’ (cue eye-roll), followed by, ‘The cupcake fad was so five years ago. Get with the times, losers!’ (cue more eye-rolls). I was about to delete the e-mail when I saw, ‘Free cupcakes and free demonstrations!’ printed on the bottom of the media release. I may not have been able to attend the demonstrations due to work, but the Asian in me could never resist free giveaways so after work, I met up with Shirley before our dinner date to suss out this new cupcake store.
The story behind Cupcake Central makes for pretty inspiring stuff. Having lost her IT job in the GFC, Sheryl Thai decided to turn a negative into a positive by not letting her redundancy ruin her life. Instead, she decided to make her life-long dream of opening up a cupcake store a reality. After opening one in Hawthorn and seeing her cupcakes sell out like, well, hot cakes, she decided to open a second store in Melbourne Central’s new dining hall. I wish I took a photo of the store, for it was actually a pretty impressive set-up. On one side, you have the actual shopfront with rows of pretty little cupcakes begging to be bought and on the other side, you have a glass barrier which gives customers the opportunity to peep into Cupcake Central’s kitchen to see how their cupcakes are made. On any given morning, you can see Sheryl’s team weave their magic using only the finest ingredients which is the reason why their cupcakes are better than anyone else’s (not even kidding, and this is coming from a cupcake hater such as myself).
On the night we went, I picked up a box of babycakes (mini cupcakes, at $2 a pop; regular-sized cupcakes are $4 each). I love salted caramel more than I love life itself so I picked two of those as well as a passionfruit one and a peanut butter one. And what of the larger one in the front? A regular-sized red velvet cupcake that they were giving away for free. As expected, they were all as sweet and saccharine as my boyfriend’s text messages (that is, when he’s not making fun of my gummy smile or some other ridiculous thing…), even the salted caramel ones that promised to contained a ‘perfect blend of sweet and salty.’ That said, I will say that Cupcake Central’s salted caramel cupcakes are better than any I’ve tasted – the salted caramel butter cream frosting, the rich chocolate base and the gooey caramel sauce may have been sweet, but I loved the addition of the lovely pink salt flakes on top which diffused some of the sweetness. I also didn’t mind the passionfruit one which, amongst all the sweetness, had lashings of tanginess thanks to a lovely passionfruit cream cheese frosting. Meanwhile, I couldn’t feel anything for the peanut butter one – a packet of Reese’s Pieces peanut butter candy was more satisfying. As for the red velvet? Well, people claim that this is as good as it gets in Melbourne. I liked that the cake was not as sweet as other versions I’ve had and the luscious cream cheese frosting was actually quite pleasant. I think these people may be right.
I may still be a cupcake hater but as far as cupcakes go, Cupcake Central Workshop are excellent. The key behind their success has been using only the best ingredients as well as introducing new flavours as consumers’ tastes shift just like Melbourne’s weather (WTF is with this bullsh-t weather we’ve been getting?!). Hell, if Cupcake Central can make a hater like me WANT to go to Melbourne Central to pick up a jam donut and raspberry lemonade babycake as soon as I finish this blog, then they must be doing something right…