x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The best cupcake in Abu Dhabi

The National taste-tested cupcakes from seven shops to find the best cupcake in Abu Dhabi. Who won? Read on to find out!

Abu Dhabi's best cupcake. Christopher Pike / The National
Abu Dhabi's best cupcake. Christopher Pike / The National

If you’re going to indulge in cupcakes, you might as well have the best. After extensively scouring Abu Dhabi’s shops and a cupcake-tasting judged by The National, the verdict is in.

Our three judges – Arts&Life editor Ann Marie McQueen, news features editor James Langton and features production editor Kevin McCardle – sampled signature cupcakes from seven shops, all either home-grown or small chains that started in the Middle East, and judged them on the sweetness of the icing, cake density, flavour, icing-to-cake ratio, application and presentation. The judges also tested a mini vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing from each shop as a benchmark. After tasting 14 cupcakes each (yes, each!), the judges were unanimous in their decision.

The winner, with five out of five stars, is...

Mama’s Cupcakes

Five stars

What the judges said

The tiramisu cupcake from Mama’s Cupcakes was a hit with the judges – and it showed on their faces as they ate them. McCardle liked the flavour and thought the cupcake was “very attractive”. McQueen said: “It really tastes like tiramisu. It’s got a little chocolate centre. I love the icing.” Langton thought the icing was well-executed: “It’s not too sweet. The icing and the cake go well together.”

Earning high marks in every category, the tiramisu cupcake from Mama’s Cupcakes was the clear winner in our contest. Despite having to taste several cupcakes in one sitting, each judge said this was the one they wanted to finish.

The story behind the shop

Mama’s Cupcakes, located next to Vision Hotel Apartments off Muroor Road, is one of Abu Dhabi’s best-kept secrets.

“Mama” turns out to be Faiza Taha, a mother of five and grandmother of seven. She moved to Abu Dhabi from Lebanon in 1985 and set up Mama’s Cupcakes nearly two years ago. She says she decided on the name because “when my daughters invite someone over, they ask me to make a cake for them. When their friends taste the cake, I hear my daughters tell them: ‘This is my mama’s cake.’”

Taha’s pride comes through in her cupcakes, and she’s trained her head chef, Laxman Gavade, well. Taha also loves to experiment in the kitchen and her cupcakes – both the sponge and the icing – come in every flavour imaginable: tiramisu, lemon, mocha, pumpkin, pistachio, sweet potato and even beetroot. The icing has a simple, fresh-cream base made without butter or powdered sugar.

“It is light and not very sweet. You feel like you can eat more than one,” says Taha.

Taha says she feels humbled but is proud of winning The National’s Best Cupcake in Abu Dhabi contest: “If you are doing it from your heart, then it’s baked with love. When it’s baked with love, it tastes better.”

• Al Nahyan Camp, Muroor Road. Cupcakes cost Dh12 to Dh14; call 02 445 2244 or visit www.mamascupcakery.com

Kitsch Cupcakes

Four stars

We chose Turkish Delight – Kitsch is the only shop that offered the flavour. The judges concurred that the cupcake was moist with good density and had a good icing-to-cake ratio. Kitsch won second place in our competition. Kitsch offers eggless, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat and low-sugar options as well. Their best-selling cupcakes are red velvet and triple chocolate.

• Souk at Central Market. Cupcakes cost Dh14; call 02 639 8100 or visit www.kitschconcept.com

Jewelz Cupcakes & More

Four stars

This hard-to-find cake shop came in a respectable third. The judges liked the texture of the red velvet cupcake and gave extra points for presentation and icing flavour. Jewelz also does made-to-order cakes and other desserts (the chocolate-chip cookies are excellent).

• Take the second right on Muroor Road after Rabdan St. Jewelz, next to the Fresh and More Supermarket. Cupcakes cost Dh14; call 02 447 1471

Blossom Sweets

Three stars

Two Emirati sisters run this home-grown shop, which has just one outlet in Abu Dhabi that also offers Middle Eastern pastries and bespoke cakes. The judges voted their kunafa cupcake – which is also their bestseller – “most interesting”: the icing is topped with crunchy, roasted vermicelli. McQueen said: “It’s so different. I like having crunchiness in my cupcake. I never knew that’s what I wanted.”

• Al Mamoura, between Delma St. and Mohammed Bin Khalifa St. Cupcakes cost Dh14; call 02 441 2999

Bloomsbury’s

Three stars

Bloomsbury’s started as a lone cupcake shop in Al Wahda Mall and now has five outlets across the UAE. This shop won big points for presentation with our judges. We tried the “Go Nuts for Adil” peanut-butter cupcake. It delivered on flavour but lost points for the icing – it was attractive but there was too much of it.

• Al Wahda Mall, 02 643 8610; Mushrif Mall, 02 491 4537; Y Tower Building, Al Mamoura. Cupcakes cost Dh12-Dh16; call 02 445 4156 or visit www.ilovebloomsburys.com

Hey Sugar

Three stars

We chose the Cookies N’ Scream cupcake made with Oreo cookies. McCardle said: “There’s an insane amount of icing” (which is likely what makes these cupcakes popular with kids). The judges all agreed that the cake had good density with the right amount of sweetness. In fact, they all wanted more cake and less icing. Hey Sugar offers eggless, gluten-free, low-sugar and other light options. There are 39 flavours on the menu so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one you like.

• First floor, Khalidiyah Mall, 056 767 9357; Corniche, kiosk 1. Cupcakes cost Dh14-Dh16; call 050 182 9075 or visit heysugarbakeshop.com

Maison Sucre

Two stars

Cost Dh16 each

We opted for the popular carrot cupcake but it lacked on presentation, didn’t have cream-cheese icing and the cake was too dry, although the judges said they liked the icing-to-cake ratio. Skinny and sugar-free options are available. The red velvet cupcake is their bestseller.

• Al Manara Jewelry Building, Khalidiyah. Cupcakes cost Dh16; call 02 639 6622 or visit www.maisonsucreuae.com

artslife@thenational.ae