Faux Frosting

Photo courtesy of Sweet Arleen's - Banana Caramel

My friends, I am fired up! I have been deceived. As I type this post, I hope I can find a balance between honesty and decorum. Allow me to start at the beginning.

I set out for a reconnaissance of Sweet Arleen’s, Cupcake Wars 3-Peat Champions. Their shop is located in Westlake Village, California, a considerable distance from my home. Thus, when I heard they were participating at a Food Truck event in a closer city, I seized the opportunity.

I endured evening rush hour to make the event. Residents of Southern California understand my pain. By the time I arrived, I was drained from the drive.

The associate at Sweet Arleen’s truck was very helpful and walked me through their flavors. She advised their cupcakes were $4 each.

“What does it do?!” I thought to myself.

Nevertheless, I didn’t come this far to walk away empty-handed. I made my purchase and started my drive home. In retrospect, perhaps the challenging commute and the higher than average price were foreshadowing of what was to come.

I started with their Banana Caramel. It’s a banana cupcake with a caramel center, topped with caramel buttercream frosting. The Sweet Arleen’s associate had raved about this cupcake, calling it one of their best sellers.

Photo courtesy of Sweet Arleen's - Mobile Truck

I eagerly took a bite. The cake was incredible. It tasted like banana bread and had a similar density. Rich caramel flowed smoothly out of the center.

But wait. What did I taste or should I say, not taste in the frosting? Where was the flavor?

I took another bite. Why was it so light?

No, it can’t be.

I muted my TV so I could dedicate all of my senses to the cupcake and took a taste of frosting only…

This was not buttercream, at least not what I’m accustomed to.

The next day, I did some research. I learned that Sweet Arleen’s likes to use French buttercream. Contrary to American buttercream, it’s made by heating a sugar syrup until it reaches soft ball stage and then whipping it into beaten egg yolks and soft butter. It’s lighter in texture and sweetness.

A light bulb went on. Hadn’t the associate said something about French buttercream at the truck?

At the time, I just focused on the word, buttercream.

I gave the issue more thought.

Hadn’t their baker said French buttercream on that episode of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars?

Damn it!

Knowledge is power. Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can say with certainty, I am not a fan. Give me American buttercream.

Photo courtesy of Sweet Arleen's - Assorted Cupcakes

I approached their Strawberry Cheesecake with trepidation. It’s a vanilla cupcake, filled with cream cheese icing, then topped with a swirl of fresh-strawberry “buttercream”.

As my fork descended upon the cupcake, I saw the tell-tale shine on the frosting. Still, I pushed on.

The cake was delicious, one of the best vanilla cakes I’ve had. The cream cheese icing in the center enhanced its flavor and gave me hope that Sweet Arleen’s was capable of real frosting.

I gave an honest effort to enjoy their French strawberry buttercream. It did have more flavor than the caramel. I tried it with the cake and cream cheese icing. I tried it alone. However, it was pointless. Halfway through the cupcake, I gave up and scraped it off. It wasn’t worth the fat and calories.

I give Sweet Arleen’s 3.5 out of 5 stars. Just as I allowed frosting to help compensate another bakery’s shortcomings, I’m allowing cake to do the same for this one.

Moreover, I acknowledge that I’m fanatical when it comes to frosting. Some of you may be more lenient. As a result, you may enjoy this bakery more.

If you’re not familiar with the variants of buttercream frosting, I encourage awareness. I would not wish anyone to be caught off guard.

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