It’s all about pies and macaroons if the fashionable foodie hype is to be believed. Cupcakery is passé, claim the fashionistas—never mind Vogue magazine’s declaration that “owning a cupcake bakery is the career fantasy of our times.” And yet Santa Fe is happily drowning in cupcakes.

We may or may not be predictably or not-so-predictably behind the times in terms of food trends, but few people who have eaten at Santa Fe’s relatively new specialty cupcake houses would argue in favor of moving on to the next big thing. Who cares what’s happening in the rest of the world when Santa Fe is in the midst of a cupcake renaissance, right?

Cupcakes made celebrity food stardom after those depressingly predictable chicks from Sex in the City started regularly horking at New York’s Magnolia Bakery. The result, at least in Santa Fe, is a minimum of two full-time, dedicated cupcake-only retail outlets…but which one is best?

As you can see, it’s a close call. Dream Cakes earns points for the chutzpah of a downtown location (conveniently close to the SFR offices) while the Little Cupcake Shop has to be commended for locating in DeVargas Center equidistant from a gelateria and a gun store.

My advice to both shops is to calm down on the freaky flavor profiles. It’s great to be able to buy a double blueberry almond macchiato cumin cupcake with a strawberry peanut glaze and an orange coffee gelée schmear, but not at the expense of offering a plain old, really damned good cupcake.

Dream Cakes’ cupcakes are better looking and the offerings are more compelling. Little Cupcake Shop has better chocolates and better flavor differentiation between the cake and frosting. Non-specialty shops, however, consistently take the cake. If you want to blow your mind with the queen of cupcakes—a red velvet cake—Dulce wins out in terms of texture, flavor and indelible cake love. If you want to know that every cupcake you buy is going to be dead-on delicious, the Tree House never disappoints.

But cupcake specialty houses are doing some daring experimentation in Santa Fe. When the cakes are on, they are so on and, when the cakes are off, they seem like cheap, overdecorated prostitutes. But they’re still a welcome addition to Santa Fe’s culinary landscape and will hopefully be with us for many years to come, regardless of fashion and fads.

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