Rao's Coffee, Amherst, MA

To all 98% of my non-Massachusetts readers, (see, I do check up on my Google Analytics!)

I'm terribly sorry for doing all of these local restaurant reviews, but I keep eating out, and the food is so good, and it seems a shame to not review them for others! I have two more of these, and then it's back to the regular stuff for a while- new and exciting developments in the snacky world.

In the meantime, it's rainy and disgusting, which makes me want to go home all the more. Instead, I sucked it up because I have a day and a half left, and went to Rao's coffee after getting my overdraft fees together. (This is why there's a donation button! Hint hint!)

I saw these cupcakes, giant strawberry and vanilla babies, about two weeks ago and decided that at some point, I just had to have one. It was a beautiful and large, glistening treat, and for $2.71, it was a good deal, too.

The cake is massive. It's more of a small cake. It was tall enough to prevent closing the little container it came in and hefty enough to throw at a robber to fend them off. I've eaten 1/4 of it so far and might chip away at it before relinquishing it to Roomba. It's a dense vanilla pound cake with pretty piped strawberry buttercream on top. The buttercream is pink with little bits of real strawberries in it.

Now, buttercream is a fickle beast. The best buttercream is fresh and airy, a fluffy cream that you can bite into without getting a waxy taste over your mouth, which makes it greasy and disgusting. It's flavorful and delicious and provides the right moisture for a cupcake. It's like fondant- very easy to mess up, but utterly addictive if you get it right.

This is not the best buttercream I've ever had, far from it, in fact. The mouthfeel tastes as though the cupcake was frozen and then just thawed, and the strawberry flavor is overshadowed, aside from a small hint, by an overwhelming coffee flavor that comes from the shelves being too close to the grinder, and the frosting absorbing the taste. The aftertaste is not greasy, thank goodness, but delicate. The texture may throw people off, though.

The cake itself is more of a crumbly muffin than a cupcake. It's a little too dense, like a pound cake, but doesn't hold together quite as nicely. (My prerequisite for a pound cake is from my grandmother's close friends in Georgia- one cake has twelve eggs and six sticks of butter. How's that for comparison?) It, too, carried that slight hint of coffee flavor, but overall, had a really nice, rounded, buttery taste.

Together, they are decent. I cut my pieces into individual bites and respread the buttercream. It was okay, not my favorite. Hopefully there will be some Four and Twenty Blackbirds desserts to review for my Connecticut crew! That's a place that makes good sweets.


4/10- ALL RIGHT

With this, I had a chocolate Chai iced tea to drink. I don't have any photos of that, so I've decided to overcompensate by taking more cupcake photos. The CCIT was really tasty, but came in a cup that was at least 50% ice, and that's not fair at all. I paid $4.49 for a small drink in a 12 oz. cup and it was probably about 5% chocolate syrup, 25% water, 15% milk, and 5% Chai tea. It was delicious, don't get me wrong. The flavors mingled really well and it was cool and creamy and very evenly distributed with the chocolate, but for the price, I feel like I ought to be getting a little more drink and a little less filler. Even Starbucks doesn't have the audacity to price that high.

6/10- GOOD

Rao's Coffee
17 Kellogg Ave.
Amherst, MA, 01003

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