Swirls Bake Shop has humble beginnings and sudden fame. A husband-and-wife team went on an American road trip, driving for thousands of miles and trying every cupcake shop along the way, from chain stores to independent artisan shops. “What is the difference between this cupcake and that? Which do we prefer? How do we achieve this taste?” were questions they asked themselves.
At their own parties, friends asked who baked these wonderful cupcakes and, on knowing that they bake their own cupcakes, orders started to pouring in. Before they knew what was happening, TEDx put in a large order and they baked in their apartment kitchen for an entire night. The rest is history.
Alia quit her job as a fashion stylist and spent the next six months perfecting 102 flavors of cupcakes. In a recent issue, Time Out Singapore named Swirls as “probably the best cupcakes we have ever tasted.” The shop has also been featured in Female magazine, Cosmopolitan Singapore, Expat Living and Straits Times.
Gone were the days they baked in their apartment kitchen with a tiny hand-held blender. By no means a big space, the long and narrow shop is halved into an open-concept baking area and a display counter with limited seats. The neon-colored cabinets are as cheery as the service. More seats are available outside the shop, along the pavement.
The winning factor is that they use fresh ingredients and extract essence–such as vanilla essence–themselves. The American-styled cupcakes cost either $3.95 or $4.10 for large OR $2.50/$2.80 for bite-size. You can customize your cupcakes at an additional 40-80 cents. They also bake giant cupcake at 3.5kg.
It should come as no surprise that the red velvet ($2.50/$3.95), Singaporeans’ favorite flavor, is the bestseller of the shop. Unlike most cupcake shops in Singapore, Swirls doesn’t use beetroot for the vivid color and so the cupcake doesn’t have an earthy taste and is lighter. You’d also notice in the photo below that there is more cake with just a thin layer of cream cheese frosting. Less sweet than elsewhere. It tastes decent but compared to other cupcakes in the shop, this is our least favorite because it’s not as moist and, frankly, it’s hard to beat Magnolia Bakery in New York and Hummingbird Bakery in London.
Another fastselling cupcake is the Strawberry Burst (shown below; $2.80/$4.10), a strawberry and white chocolate cake with strawberry frosting and cute fondant hearts. The style of all the cupcakes in the shop is rustic with chunky of ingredients so each cupcake is as unique as a snow flake. What works is the bits of strawberries counter the intense sweetness of the frosting and moisten the cake. For people with sweet tooth.
For our favorites, it’s a tough fight between What’s Up Doc (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting; $2.50/$3.95) and Nutella (pictured below; $2.80/$3.95), a chocolate cake with a hazelnut filling and nutella frosting. The shreds of carrot and lumps of pineapple add texture and fun to What’s Up Doc but everyone loves oozing hazelnut chocolate and nutella. How to pick a favorite?!
We also tried the daily special, brownie cupcake, which is very good brownie with frosting.
We haven’t eaten enough cupcakes in Singapore to call it the “best cupcakes in Singapore” but the cupcakes are in general rather sweet–may be too sweet for some–sincere and homely and the best thing is they deliver island-wide twice a day at a flat rate of $19.95. Minimum order: 1 box of 6 big ones or 12 bite-size.
Swirls Bake Shop
Rating: 3.363/5 fondant stars
ps: Thanks, Danish and Alia, for the invited tasting.