After reading The Daily Meal’s take on the 50 best cupcakes in the country, I knew I would need to check out some of these for myself. There weren’t many on the list in New Jersey, but I did notice one bakery that isn’t too far from Ray’s hometown in the north. Since we’d be up there for Christmas, I tempted him with the thought of swinging by Ava’s Cupcakes in Rockaway, NJ for some tasty treats. And to up the curioisty factor, Ava’s Cupcakes was the winner of Cupcake Wars in season 4, episode 8!
The shop is quaint with a lived-in feel to it … very different from a lot of the minimalist-chic bakeries I’ve been to in larger metro areas. There were at least 15-20 different flavors to chose from that day, which made things difficult because they all looked fantastic. We settled on a 4-pack, paid, and were on our way to Ray’s family Christmas.
When we began our tasting, we started with the banana guava (a winning Cupcake Wars flavor), which had a very simple look, but packed quite the flavor punch! The cake was intensely moist and reminded me of my mom’s banana bread, flavorwise. I could tell that a lot of bananas went into making this cake … no artificial extracts here! The guava filling added to the moisture of the cupcake and went well with the banana. I appreciated the balanced cake to frosting ratio, and found the frosting to be creamy, though I couldn’t quite place the flavor. Was it vanilla? Was it banana? I’m not sure, but it was good.
Then we moved on to the lemon cupcake, which was one of Ray’s picks. The lemon aroma was wonderful … I think cupcakes should always be aromatic; it really enhances the experience. The cake was a smidge drier than the banana guava, but not in a bad way. It was finished with a lemon pie filling and lemon frosting. This wasn’t our favorite cupcake, but it was definitely on par with a typical lemon cupcake. We just thought it could burst more with flavor.
Next up was the chocolate hazelnut truffle, which I selected because of Ray’s love of hazelnuts (I’m so thoughtful!). This cupcake was also very fragrant and moist, with a good chocolate cake as the base. It was filled with nutella, which we thought was pretty basic, and was topped with a heavenly chocolate hazelnut frosting, hazelnuts, and a chocolate drizzle. If the filling had been a little more creative, then I think this cupcake could have been a contender for our favorite.
We finished with another chocolate cupcake, this time the chocolate pomegranate. The cake and frosting were rich, but not too sweet, which I appreciated. The pomegranate filling, however, wreaked havoc on the cupcake, making it fall apart. That was a little disappointing (I’m not a fan of self-destructing cupcakes), but it was a very flavorful cupcake, and flavor always wins in my book.
Overall, Ava’s Cupcakes is a solid bakery with a wide variety of creative cupcake flavors to choose from. The menu is updated daily, and the bakery also offers savory cupcakes as well as hand pies. Definitely stop in if you’re near Rockaway, and don’t skip the banana guava cupcake!