Imagine my excitement when I read that a new cupcake shop would be opening in Reading and I would now have the perfect place to go and buy a cupcake (or two) on my lunch break.
Dream Cupcakes started with their first branch in Southampton, shortly followed by a shop in Bristol. On April 11 2013 the Reading franchise opened in what I think is an ideal location – right outside The Oracle entrance. The shop itself is very small, but I have since learnt that all the cupcakes are baked in Southampton and transported to the Reading branch freshly, hence the need for less space. One thing I did think was quite cute was how they name their cupcakes with real names – Heidi-liscious, Mary-Mint, Ben-noffee, Urika-lemon – you get the idea!
So a couple of days after opening I popped round to the shop. At first glance its actually quite hard to spot. Even though I knew the exact location, there are no signs outside, no signs in the window and it’s quite plain looking. I figured that as it has just opened they are maybe still working on these things. The prices are cheap! Far cheaper than any other cupcake shop I have visited and I was quite surprised by this considering the prime location they have. For one cupcake it is £1.50, but for a box of 12 it is only £13.95.
I was the only customer in the shop so I got to ask a few questions. I asked if the cupcakes were vegetarian (he didn’t know), I asked if the topping was real buttercream (he said yes). The cupcakes were all brightly coloured in a glass cabinet, but there were no flavour signs so the assistant had to tell me what each one was. I chose to have a ‘Charlie Cherry’ cupcake. It is described on their website as ‘a moist chocolate sponge with a luxuriously soft white vanilla frosting’. Infused with a soft cherry filling, and finished with milk chocolate curls and a glace cherry on top.’
Now I’ve eaten a lot of cupcakes and you will see from my blogs so far I love them! I bake them regularly enough to spot certain ingredients too. Whilst the sponge on my cupcake was nice and moist, it did leave a slight greasy effect in my mouth. The part I didn’t like was the frosting. This definitely was not buttercream as the assistant had told me, and I could most certainly detect some kind of fat replacement ingredient. It tasted bland, had a strange texture and ruined the whole cupcake for me. As for a an infusion of soft cherry filling, it was more like a tiny little spread – you can see from my photo below.
I very rarely dislike a cupcake, so before I wrote this blog I decided to check my facts on the ingredients. I also asked for a second opinion fromcake baker friends and some family members. I emailed Dream Cupcakes head office and the Director Ivan replied to me and confirmed my suspicions that it is Trex that is used in the frosting. If you are not familiar with Trex it is a type of vegetable fat. Each to their own, but personally for me I don’t like. I just think of lard! Another cake baker friend told me this:
“Here’s something to put you off using Trex – keep it out, in a sealed container for a few days. Then sniff it – smells like Vaseline. I don’t mind the smell of Vaseline, but I wouldn’t want to eat it.”
I had to give this new shop a fair chance so I went back again on 30 April to try another cupcake. This time I had the chocolate strawberry flavour. Again, the sponge was nice but I just couldn’t get past the fake frosting! The strawberry flavour also tasted quite synthetic. On this occasion I also got to see the giant cupcakes they offer. There was one ready to go on the top counter. I felt a little bit awkward taking a picture so the snap below isn’t too great. On a closer look it was quite shoddy, uneven and quite messy looking! Certainly not good enough, in my opinion, to sell in a shop.
Reviews from my friends and family on the cupcakes they tried are below. I haven’t included any identification details, but these customers are all local to Reading.
Oscar Oreo Cupcake
“Meh… it’s quite bland and a bit muffiny 🙁 My husband is unimpressed. The cake looked quite moist, but the tiny bit I tried has left my mouth feeling greasy. It reminded me of Betty Crocker devils food mix cake.”
Trudy Scrumptious Cupcake
Not enough cake! It was pretty much all icing, and have to say I didn’t like it 🙁 hubby tried some and said it was really icky. I tried some cake without the horrible top and it was actually ok, but it was like a tiny fairy cake. Had to ask what the flavours were in shop, no window signage so at first thought I’d got the place wrong. The lady served me seemed OK but couldn’t remember flavours, the guy was on break and tried to push past me to get to the counter – I hold customer service high in my choice selection and probably wouldn’t go back. Seems lots of people were interested though and the lady said they were awaiting a delivery as they were low on stock!
“Sponge seems a bit gummy if you get what I mean and there was so little filling it wasn’t worth mentioning it being there. The icing was artificial tasting and looked curdled?? They were just not very professional looking either……….ouch”
“Whilst I was in the shop the first thing I noticed was that the cakes were not labelled, so I had to ask the girl behind the counter what flavours the cupcakes were. I’m a fool for cream cheese frosting so went for the carrot cake (surprised the red velvet didn’t have it on!) first off it seems smaller than I imagine a cupcake to be, and the decoration a little amateur, so tasting, the sponge was dry and it was spot the carrot, and I really couldn’t taste the cream cheese in the frosting, it was more a tangy vanilla and has left a funny greasy coating in my throat. I bought the banoffee for my husband to try later, he better watch what he says!”
Conclusion of my Review
So, overall, my review of Dream Cupcakes is good but not great. I do think it could be though! A little more attention to detail is required in specifically the shop presentation and signage, the standard of decoration could be improved and finally, in my opinion the frosting needs to be changed!
Have you eaten a cupcake or any other item from Dream Cupcakes? What did you think? Feel free to share your opinions in the comment box below.