The (Too) Sweet Truth

With Harvard Square buzzing again after the summer lull, I popped into Sweet, one of the square’s newest tenants, to check out its highly-acclaimed cupcakes.

This is the second store from the famous Back Bay bakery. Greeted warmly by the staff, I was eager to sample some of its fourteen-plus offerings. Presented in a white display case, in crisp translucent wrappers, the little cakes looked more like Louboutins at Neiman Marcus than the staple food of children’s birthday parties. In lieu of a nutritional dinner I opted for the four cupcake combo ($12.50), and ordered a mixture of its year-round staples- red velvet, cappuccino, organic karat, and dark chocolate. Unfortunately, I thought these diamond-rated desserts were much more like cubic zirconias. They looked pretty good, but weren’t quite the real deal. At $3.25 a pop (when purchased individually) Sweet doesn’t exactly offer cheap thrills, but I guess these cakes must be among those “affordable luxuries” people treat themselves to during down economic times. A misguided Marie Antoinette reference could be inserted here, but I’ll refrain.

The shop itself is quite charming, with dark wood floors, white tables, chairs, and counters, and pale pink accents dotting the boutique. Jars of old-school candy also fill the wall space, making the place an idyllic backdrop to a post-dinner (or movie) date stop. To actually grab one of its three small tables requires a combination of fortuitous timing and sharp elbows. If you do land a seat you could be entertained for hours by the people watching on Brattle Street. But at a one-product store, I really should get to the cupcakes.

As a girl with an almost insatiable sweet tooth (I constantly crave Oreos and Diet Coke), I couldn’t wait to dig in. Each cupcake was gorgeous; the highly-stylized confections complemented the equally beautiful setting in which they were served. I sampled Sweet’s best-seller, red velvet, first. Topped with what was basically a two-inch frosting snowman, eating the cupcake daintily became difficult. Maybe avoid this pick on a first date. But, as is the case with many pretty things, the substance was rather disappointing. As I bit into the cupcake, I could feel the granules of sugar in the frosting scrape against my teeth. I finally got to the perfectly-colored red cake; I was hoping that it would be better than it was. The cake was soft, but definitely not moist enough. The taste was vaguely above-average. Also, everything was way, way too sweet. The popularity of this red velvet cupcake is lost on me.

The cappuccino cupcake had amazingly savory frosting, but cake that was so thick CSI could have pulled detailed fingerprints off it. One bite was enough. It was dry, too. I think I spit it out. The karat cupcake had a zazzle of (edible) gold leaf perched atop its cream cheese frosting. The cake portion was good, but not mind-blowing. I did get warm fuzzies from the fact that it was organic. Plus, there’s something quite comforting about carrot cake. The dark chocolate cupcake was almost more frosting than cake, but it was the only confection I actually ate the entirety of. I immediately regretted the decision. Even still, it was rather tasty-if you don’t mind luscious chocolate cake with chunks of more chocolate mixed in. I suggest getting it with the vanilla (instead of chocolate) buttercream frosting to cut the choco-orgy. This cupcake is not for amateurs. While again, a bit heavy on the sweetness, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was one portion of a Trick Daddy song that kept looping in my mind during the whole taste test: “after this one, you gon need a root canal.”

In the end I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by my experience. Perhaps it was because I had heard such good things about Sweet cupcakes. Perhaps the fancy packaging and intoxicating smell led me to believe what I was about to experience would be the dessert equivalent of an Opus One. In any event, I still think Sweet is worth checking out. The cupcakes are made from scratch and baked daily. The shop offers seasonal specialty flavors, pupcakes (for your four-legged friend), limited-edition cupcakes, and cold beverages in addition to its lineup of seven mainstay flavors. And the shop is adorable. I’d suggest stopping in to try the mini-versions of its originals ($1.95 each) to decide for yourself. But don’t say I didn’t warn you that the name should probably be changed from Sweet to Saccharine.

Sweet Cupcakes (Harvard Square)
Zero Brattle Street (Between
Tealuxe and Curious George Books; across from The Coop.)
Monday & Tuesday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Wednesday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday: noon – 7 p.m.

Jenna Bernhardson is from Minnesota, and is in her second year as a Research Associate at HBS.ÿ When not working diligently in the basement of Morris, she seeks out adventure and danger in Cambridge and the surrounding area.ÿShe has quixotic desires to write a column in The Harbus.