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The winner of Cupcake Quest has been in business since September and only sells at a few locations.
But the best cupcakes you can buy in Elkhart County come from Happy Dance Cupcakes in Goshen.
After tasting dozens of cupcakes from the bakers of Elkhart County, Margaret Potuck is the winner of Cupcake Quest.
She bakes out of a commercial kitchen in her house on Douglas Street. She sells at the Goshen Farmers Market and via Constant Spring, as well as directly to customers.
Here’s why she beat out SugaRush Desserts, Mini Delights Bake Shoppe and Dutch Maid Bakery:
Ÿ Her cupcakes are consistent. They all look alike. The icing rises in a high swirl from the cake. The fillings stay inside the cake. The flavors don’t vary.
Ÿ The cupcakes are inventive without being gimmicky. They combine sweet and tart (raspberry limeade and strawberry lemonade) or chocolate and flavorings (peanut butter or alcohol). But they don’t try to turn a food group into a cupcake.
Ÿ The cupcakes are the complete package of moistness, flavor and appearance. They’re balanced. They have more icing than some need, but aren’t messy and you can always remove some icing.
They’re the best you can find in Elkhart County, based on tasting cupcakes from 15 places with my wife, Bethany.
We tried a lot of cupcakes — roughly 55 to 60 different cupcakes in 2 1/2 months. I let bakers give us their best, along with a chocolate cupcake. I learned that it’s really hard to balance chocolate and moistness in a cupcake.
Last week, we tasted two flavors of cupcakes again from the finalists. And we picked a winner. It happened to be a 26-year-old Goshen woman who started making cupcakes with fresh ingredients after moving here with her husband. She may have a shop someday, but for now she’ll make them at home and sell them where she can.
SugaRush makes great cupcakes. The lemon raspberry cupcake we ordered again for the final tasting is a great blend of flavors. The cupcakes just weren’t quite as glorious or delicious as Happy Dance’s. The bakery is more focused on cakes than cupcakes, but Megan Williams and others there are turning out some great stuff.
Mini Delights delights a lot of people with its cupcakes. Kelly Bowdoin and Ashley Krieg helped make cupcakes popular in Elkhart County and sell an astounding number each week. The strawberry is very good and other flavors, particularly some of the experiments like maple bacon, are interesting. No one locally is making better mini cupcakes. But at times, you get a dry cupcake from Mini Delights. It’s not common, but it’s happening sometimes.
Dutch Maid made the prettiest cupcakes in the contest. The flowers on top created by the decorators are wonderful. The cupcakes are reasonably priced and pretty good, but they aren’t as creative or flavorful as the other finalists. Marilee Nixon’s historic bakery makes a broad range of baked sweets and does them well. Any community is fortunate to have a bakery like this.
Those are my opinions. Others may not necessarily agree.
What the readers say
We did eight days of online voting on eTruth.com. In that time, readers cast a total of 5,428 votes. People could vote more than once and I don’t know how many times someone may have voted. The totals were:
Ÿ Mini Delights, 2,714
Ÿ SugaRush, 1,504
Ÿ Happy Dance, 826
Ÿ Dutch Maid, 384
What other tasters say
Nine Truth employees agreed to taste all eight cupcakes I ordered from the four bakers for a final tasting. There wasn’t a lot of agreement about which cupcake was best and they didn’t know which baker had prepared which cupcake. The nine picked six different cupcakes as their favorites. Three of them favored the Mini Delights strawberry cupcake and two favored SugaRush’s raspberry lemon. Happy Dance’s strawberry lemonade or Irish car bomb cupcakes were in most taster’s top three.
Cupcake craze to continue?
The reality is that we have great cupcakes here. They’re a quick and easy treat to obtain and eat. They’re becoming more popular as a replacement for cakes.
As I’ve written before, I didn’t know there were so many people making and selling cupcakes locally. I’m glad for that. I’m also glad to be done eating cupcakes for a while.
I don’t know how long the cupcake craze will last. It may stick around a while in Elkhart County. But even if it doesn’t, the bakers will show their skills in another way.
I need a break from eating the sugar that judging cupcakes required. I need to focus on health and being active.
As usual, the column will focus on local food, but even more so this summer. Amid writing about new restaurants, I’ll write about local farmers, what they produce and how they fill Community Supported Agriculture boxes for subscribers each week. I’ll write about how to prepare the produce that Rise Up Farms in Elkhart provides me on a weekly basis. It’ll be another quest, of sorts, but one that involves a lot of fresh, local produce.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
The ratings of Cupcake Quest
5 stars Happy Dance Cupcakes, Goshen (winner). Available at Goshen Farmers Market on Tuesday and Saturday, at Constant Spring or by calling 812-360-0570 or emailing email@example.com. You can also find her on Facebook. She won’t be at the market this weekend.
SugaRush Desserts, 5150 Verdant Drive, Elkhart
Mini Delights Bake Shoppe, 217 S. Main St., Elkhart
Dutch Maid Bakery, Linway Plaza, Goshen
South Side Soda Shop, Goshen
Sweet-Em’s Cake Shoppe, Goshen
Sweet Babycakes Desserts, Elkhart
3 1/2 stars
Adam’s Cake Shop, Elkhart
Rhonda’s Cake Cottage, Elkhart
Baker’s Nook, Elkhart and Goshen
b on the river, Elkhart
2 1/2 stars
Maple City Market, Goshen
Cupcake Queen, Elkhart
1 1/2 stars
Martin’s Super Markets
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via www.facebook.com/diningalaking.