Shanghai cupcake death match

Shanghai cupcake death match

Shanghai's newest and only organic cupcakery, oh my goodness, takes on seasoned champ Sweet Ever After for the ultimate cupcake bragging rights
The cupcake has been inducing sugar-highs for the past 200 years around the world. However, only in 2008 did they make their way to Shanghai’s shores, when Chinese-American Song Wong decided it was time Shanghai had a gourmet cupcakery to call its own. Thus Sweet Ever After was born.

Charming lovers of baked goods with its toothsome confections, Sweet Ever After enjoyed an uncontested reign over Shanghai’s cupcake fiefdom, but it was not to last. In 2009 a challenger entered the arena. Oh my goodness (OMG) combines the rampant cupcake trend with the Big O (that’s “organic”) to create the most zeitgeisty desserts since single-malt whiskey mooncakes.

This has thrown the city's sweet-toothed into a state of confused turmoil. Where do we go now for our weekly (okay, occasionally daily) fix of sugar-coated deliciousness? Do we stay with the the original Sweet Ever After, or does the challenger OMG bring something extra-special to the table? There's only one way to settle it -- a cake-off for the title of Cupcake Champion.

Round 1: The velvet (cupcake) revolution

Sweet Ever After Sweet Ever After: Southern Red Velvet
4.2 cm
Appearance: Small and understated, this dignified dessert is topped with cream-cheese frosting and chopped pecans. The moist-looking cake is deep brown with beet-colored undertones.
First Blow: Doughy, sticky and succulent, the cake aspect of this cupcake is spot on. While red velvets typically contain a mix of chocolate and vanilla, Sweet Ever After’s Song tells us she opts for a “light cocoa-flavored” batter. It works.
Knockout Punch: The pecans add that extra oomph, a nice crunchy counterpoint to the light and luscious cake.
Price: RMB 80 (for 6 cupcakes)

oh my goodnessOMG: Red Velvet
Height: 4.6 cm
Appearance: Scoring points for adorability with its red candy heart, OMG’s Red Velvet towers over Sweet Ever After’s with an ultra-liberal application of frosting, which is not so much spread on the cake as it is piled high in a spirally pyramid.
First Blow: OMG founder Jenna Suharto tells us that red velvet cake “should be like vanilla cake with just a hint of chocolate, almost like a black and white milkshake.” Though the flavor is there, the cake is quite dry and flaky, and we begin to worry that this is an unavoidable consequence of going organic.
Knockout Punch: Holy cupcakes! The frosting is so damn good. Sweet Ever After’s frosting tastes store-bought by comparison. More than makes up for the flaky dough.
Price: RMB 200 (for 12 cupcakes)

The Winner: If we could combine Sweet Ever After’s cake with OMG’s frosting, we’d have the ultimate cupcake. But as the two are in fact competitors, we’ll go with OMG based on the transcendental properties of its frosting.

Round 2: We pretend to be healthy by incorporating veggies

Sweet Ever After Sweet Ever After: Peter Rabbit Carrot
4.3 cm
Appearance: Peter Rabbit looks a bit mushier than the other Sweet Ever After treats, but that only makes our mouths water more. Points for the cutesy pair of frosting-carrots.
First Blow: Song tells us that her carrot cake batter contains cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Those three, plus the grated carrot, create an awesome intermingling of subtle flavors. The texture is a bit dry, but nothing a glass of milk won’t take care of.
Knockout Punch: Wait a sec, is that salt we’re tasting? The saltiness isn’t a bad thing, per se, but not what we were expecting. If you’re into more unconventional desserts (like green tea ice cream, chocolate-covered pretzels), then you’ll probably get down with this cupcake. But if unadulterated sweetness is your thing, look elsewhere.
Price: RMB 80 (for 6 cupcakes)

oh my goodnessOMG: Carrot Cake
4.7 cm
Appearance: Like a Hollywood starlet walking the red carpet, this young ingénue is busting out, barely contained by its wrapper.
First Blow: “Just the smell gets my mouth watering” Jenna tells us of her favorite recipe in her organic arsenal. This is a messy operation, requiring two hands and an ample supply of moist towelettes. Though the cupcake is too sticky to crumble, its molecules still manage to dissociate rapidly, so you’ll need to work quickly to cram it into your mouth before it implodes.
Knockout Punch: It had been about 10 minutes since our first hit of OMG’s frosting, and we were beginning to tweak out. We may have licked our plate in a fit of cream-cheese-induced euphoria.
Price: RMB 200 (for 12 cupcakes)

The Winner: Sweet Ever After gets points for originality with its somewhat-savory offering, but OMG’s gooey cake and voluminous frosting combine to create a formidable chokehold. Round 2 goes to OMG.

Round 3: Wild Card

Sweet Ever After Sweet Ever After: Triple Chocolate
4.3 cm
Appearance: According to Song, this little devil is Sweet Ever After’s top seller, and it’s not hard to see why. Topped with dark chocolate shavings and buttercream frosting, it looks like the Platonic ideal of a cupcake.
First Blow: As the name suggests, this one is a near-lethal combo of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Insanely rich and decadent, Triple Chocolate elicited involuntary pleasure noises from our panel of tasters.
Knockout Punch: Hands-down the best cupcake of the night. If this cupcake were to suddenly come to life a la Kim Catrall in Mannequin, we would propose marriage.
Price: RMB 80 (for 6 cupcakes)

oh my goodnessOMG: Cookies & Cream
4.8cm, 1.9 of which are frosting.
Appearance: Essentially a vanilla cupcake with some cookie crumbs mixed in, topped with healthy dollops of vanilla buttercream frosting. “Having cookies and cake is always like a score for my inner child,” says Jenna.
First Blow: Tastes kind of like cake-batter ice cream. Go figure.
Knockout Punch: None to speak of. This one may dwarf all the other cupcakes size-wise, but in terms of flavor it’s the puniest of them all. It’s tasty enough, but there’s nothing particularly creamy or cookie-ish about it.
Price: RMB 200 (for 12 cupcakes)

The Winner: This one’s a no-brainer. Triple Chocolate all the way.

Overall result:

Shanghai cupcake heavyweight champion: Oh my goodness.

Given Sweet Ever After’s solid showing throughout, and delicious Round 3 sucker punch, this was a tough one to call. But all’s fair in carbs and war.

getting there

oh my goodness
Delivery and cash only
+86 139 1876 6874

Sweet Ever After
Available at all Gloria Jean’s coffee shops or order online
+86 21 6255 5512

Gloria Jeans
1/F, Hong Kong New World Tower, 300 Huaihai Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu 淮海中路300号香港新世界大厦1楼, 近黄陂南路

Abby hails from Washington D.C. and bounced around Hong Kong, Singapore, Massachusetts and Egypt before arriving in Shanghai in 2007.

Read more about Abby Lavin