I think cupcake bakeries may have jumped the shark with the last season of What About Brian, but I'm just coming to know them. And to know them is to love them.
Two, in particular, The Cake Shop in Tallahassee and Sweet Tempered in Austin. So now, I can eat fantastic terrible for me sweet food on most any day.
The Cake Shop, off John Knox a few blocks off of Monroe, is frilly and lush. The place is stuffed with antique furniture, displays of jams and cakes and a few small tables scattered around. It's unabashedly girly; something I didn't notice when a handful of us from work first went in, but which made me feel a bit out of my element when I went in today. It wasn't much of a deterrent: I was there for the cupcakes. Up until this place, I haven't had great luck with Tallahassee baked goods. Really, no luck at all. So, time was, I wanted decent bread, made it myself, and I wanted a decent cupcake, I got out the mixer. The bread issue still holds, but this The Cake Shop is solid alternative to staying up too late to make them myself. I've tried a few different varieties - each shine in the cake, but are a little weak on the frosting, which has that sort of birthday cake airy empty sweetness.
[edit - as of a sad, sad day in October, 2009, Sweet Tempered is no more]
Sweet Tempered, in the Arbor Trails shopping center off William Cannon and Mopac in Austin, is sort of the reverse. It's a sparse place, without a lot of complicated distractions, but the cupcakes, oh good lord, the cupcakes in this place are to die for. Austin is a bakery town: We've got Sweetish Hill, Upper Crust, Lucy's Cakes, and unexpectedly impressive stuff coming out of the bakery at the mongo Whole Foods downtown. So when I'm saying this place is good it's in that context. Sweet Tempered is better than Sweetish Hill. The frosting is rich and substantial, sweet, but not so sweet that it loses it's appeal halfway through. It's pure and clean - American Buttercream - nothing to detract from the simplicity of butter and sugar. I've had yellow cake and red velvet, both blissful, though the red velvet is really where the action is. It turns out, until Sweet Tempered, I've only ever had bad red velvet cake, chocolate cake with a gimmick. I like the idea, but it had always been disappointing. This stuff is the real deal and just about perfectly balanced - just a trace of cocoa without being deeply chocolate, light but substantial, sweet but uncloying. They pull a decent espresso and have free Wifi. When I work remotely, this is where I work.