Plain Vanilla Bakery Cupcakes: Overhyped

In Singapore, when one thinks of a good bakery to obtain cupcakes, one’s thoughts will be Plain Vanilla Bakery. Am I wrong? PVB offers some seriously chic packaging with the ultra-neat and uniform cupcake frostings across the myraid of interesting flavours. The linkage between good cupcakes and PVB will inevitably happen. Except just this past weekend, my experience with PVB rendered me unable to understand this linkage.

Some of you may know recently, my cupcake obssession was reignited. After consuming copious amount of another bakery, PVB seemed like the next natural step to measure up the bakery against one of Singapore’s finest. I made cupcakes from PVB happen by suggesting my family’s Sunday lunch take place in the rarely-ventured area of Tiong Bahru. We went to Big Mama Korean Restaurant. Big Mama was amazing (a post on it coming up!) and after lunch, I braved the hot weather and walked over to PVB. Excited, I purchased 24 cupcakes in one shot. While paying for the first two dozen, I decided to purchase another dozen. So in 15 minutes, I purchased 36 cupcakes. I must have made some kind of impact to their sales for that hour. Although there were hiccups with the purchase, for the sake of one of Singapore’s best ahead of me, I beared up with the service.    

But after six cupcakes (Red Velvet, S’more, Pineapple Meringue, Carrot, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla), I was full of regret with having plonked down good money on them. I will no longer understand the linkage between good cupcakes and PVB. In fact, I am still peeved about the expenditure.

My main gripe was the quality of the bakes. After trying six including filled ones, I found all the cupcake bases to be dry and crumbly. After every bite, I reached for water. Hey, aren’t cupcakes supposed to be mini cakes, not scones? Even if I wanted a scone, I would have gone to Cedele for one. At the same time, the flavours were forgettable. I don’t remember any exceptional ones to be honest.

Another problem was the gritty frostings from underwhipping. However that flaw did not extend to the meringue-topped ones like the June specials: S’mores and Pineapple Meringue. Quite frankly, if you have gritty meringues, you shouldn’t even open a bakery. Another annoying quality of the buttercream: the crustiness that forms on the surface areas exposed to air. Forget about fluffiness, I was lucky to chew a smooth bit. 

Side note about the service: Usually I would ignore the service standards in Singapore as I have very very low expectations. However yesterday afternoon I was surprised to learn how much can happen in a span of 10-15 minutes. After purchasing the first 24 cupcakes for $88 and payment made with a credit card, I decided to get a dozen more. To save time (string-tying takes a while), I paid for the dozen before choosing the flavours. Then as I was happily picking the flavours, the girl behind the counter suddenly said the “special” cupcakes were $0.50 more. So she would also have to charge me extra including the first batch ordered. My patience was thinning at that point. But that was still fine as it was just $5.50 and I had a $10 note. As I handed over the note to her, she says THEY DON’T HAVE SMALL CHANGE in their till. And so was my $4.50 change in coins alright? I nearly fainted. My choices then and there were: 1) accept $4.50 in coins; 2) charge $5.50 to my credit card; or 3) give $10 and not expect change. Quite frankly, I was just desperate to leave so I chose option 1. After payment, I learnt THEY DONT DO PLASTIC BAGS. By then my 36 cupcakes were packed in boxes of 2x12s, 2s, 4s, and 6s, as I was bringing them to different parties and locations. The most “convenient” option for me was for the two 12s to be tied up together, and the others in one stack. It was ridiculous and punishing for those purchasing in big batches! Ask my family how terrible I looked with my hands holding two stacks of boxes, and no free hand to hold an umbrella. They will also tell you about my make-up-soaked-perspiration dribbling down my neck. I will never forget the shocked look on their faces when I arrived back in Big Mama where they were waiting. 

I am so unimpressed with PVB. But even more disappointingly, it seems these days a good cupcakes in Singapore are few and far between.

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