Sugar Cookie Wars: Sweet Cakes vs. Cake Cafe
Last week, I had a craving for one of my favorite childhood snacks: sugar cookies. While I could've gone to the grocery store for some take-and-bake dough, let's face it, only 50% of the dough would've ended up in the oven. The other half would've been hoovered straight out of the package (raw egg warning be damned!) and been packed onto my thighs.
Instead I did the smart thing and sampled the sugar cookies at two local bakeries known for their sweet treats. Which cookie crumbled under the pressure and which one took home the Battle of the Dishes gold? Read on and find out.
In One Corner: Sweet Cakes Cafe
19 E. Main St. in Mesa
Recently featured on TLC's Best Food Ever: Bodacious Bakeries, Sweet Cakes was definitely the heavyweight in this challenge. Owner Kellie Huntington bought the shop from its previous owners in 2004 and expanded the offerings to include frozen yogurt and their signature cookie, a sugar circle topped with a half-inch of frosting.
The cafe is adorable, with a friendly staff, kitschy country decor with humorous plaques that say things like "Life's Short, Eat Cookies" and a mass of small bistro tables usually occupied by local regulars. Brownies, toffee bars and cookies are their forte, but you'll also find salads, soups and sandwiches on the menu here (Tip: Skip the egg salad sandwich, which was so finely ground and so relish-y that I gave mine away to a homeless man.)
I ordered up one of their signature sugar circles -- annoyingly, 25 cents more expensive than their other cookies. Itwas pale and soft, about three-and-a-half inches in diameter with a thick layer of white frosting sprinkled with colored sugar.
"Now this is what I think of when I picture a sugar cookie," said my dining companion. "Mmm...the frosting isn't what I expected. It's not typical bakery frosting."
There are two types of frostings commonly found in professional bakeries: a hard, sugar-based version and a softer buttercream made with real butter or shortening. I'm not a fan of either. No one wants hard frosting when you can get a whole tub of Duncan Hines on the cheap at your local Fry's. And buttercream made with shortening tastes like vanilla-flavored Crisco. Ugh. Not only will it surely dimple your thighs, the lard taste makes this real-butter-only-please gal want to heave. But I digress.
The frosting on this baby was soft and sweet, with a buttery taste that left both my friend and I licking leftovers from our fingers. The cookie was also soft, with a slightly powdery texture and a flavor reminiscent of that take-and-bake cookie dough I adore. The pastel sugar sprinkles added a subtle crunch. Overall, an excellent homestyle cookie.
In the Other Corner: Cake Cafe
4910 E. Ray Rd. in SE Phoenix