Is Taste and See Gourmet Cupcakes in Milford worth a 30-minute drive from Westport? The answer is a resounding “yes”! Recently, I’ve diagnosed myself as cupcake obsessed. There are worse obsessions, right? Through mail order, vacation excursions, and day trips, I estimate I’ve tried more than 50 cupcake purveyors. With complete honesty, Taste and See is my winner.
Co-owned by Chelsea Davidson Duarte and her mom, Janis Davidson, the store is located across from Walnut Beach in Milford and has only been open since December 2011. Chelsea’s pre school aged daughter is always involved as well, making it a true family business, with 3 generations of females lending a hand. Chelsea likens her working relationship with her mom to the Lucy and Ethel TV duo. Like Lucy and Ethel, nothing is beyond their grasp and they have wacky fun along the way. Chelsea’s mom is the creator of all the unique flavors including the “Guinness” (stout cake with brown sugar buttercream and topped with pretzels), “Sunday Morning Special” (French toast cake with Saigon cinnamon swirl frosted with maple buttercream and topped with bacon crumbles), and the “Chocolate Chipotle” (chocolate chipotle cake topped with cinnamon/cocoa buttercream and a chocolate dipped jalapeno tortilla chip).
There are more than 35 flavors available, but Chelsea’s pick of flavors are a surprise each day, with some Facebook followers eagerly waiting for Chelsea to post the day’s assortment before heading over. Currently, the store is only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Taste and See’s creations are superior because they are not overly sweet. The flavors are able to shine through because the consumer is not overwhelmed by sugar. It is essential that each bite include some of the incredibly moist cake along with the creamy topping. It is this combination that produces such a satisfying treat. Taste and See’s attention to quality is evident. They shred their own carrots and squeeze their lemons by hand, lending depth to all their flavors.
While I have not tried all the varieties Taste and See offers, I’ve eagerly devoured more than to 20 flavors at this point, with that number increasing each weekend. My stand out favorites are as follows:
Any flavor with banana cake involved - that includes their “Banana and Vanilla” and “Banana and Nutella.” The fresh banana cake is exquisite, radiating with the purity of the bananas. The Nutella buttercream topping heightens the taste experience, with the unique hint of Hazelnut flavors partnering with the fruitiness. The vanilla bean buttercream is just as good though, with a subtle and creamy finish. A friend of mine commented on a photo that I took of these beautiful creations. He said that the cupcakes looked too frosting heavy for his tastes. Normally, I might agree, as I am not usually a frosting fan, but I could eat this frosting with a spoon. I won’t, but I could. It is that good.
The “Lotta Lemon” (intensely flavorful cake infused with fresh lemon juice, complimented by a sweet honey lemon buttercream) is truly delightful and refreshing. Even my husband, who isn’t a lemon fan, was impressed. The frosting is both tart and sweet, in a perfect ratio. Chelsea recalls a woman who once tasted this cupcake and began crying because the unique flavors reminded her of her mom who passed away. Chelsea and her mom, Janis, enjoy evoking such emotion from their creations. They don’t perceive baking as just a way to make a living. They want to encourage people to celebrate life.
Recently, I tried the “Salted Caramel” (chocolate cake with caramel buttercream, drizzled with caramel and a sprinkle of fleur de sel), and it blew me away with its salty and sweet blast of flavor. It quickly jumped onto my “best” list.
Rounding out my list of top favorites is the “Guinness”, which I mentioned earlier. It is not a kid’s cupcake, in that the cake is really infused with beer. Skeptical that this could taste good? Try it. It is exceptional.
There are a few more varieties worth praise. The first is “Peanut Butter Cup” (peanut butter filled chocolate cake topped with chocolate buttercream and garnished with a peanut butter cup). Like the vintage Reese’s commercial, I don’t think you can go wrong with the marriage of peanut butter and chocolate.
I am also a fan of the imaginative “Almond Joy” (chocolate cake filled with a coconut laced crème and topped with almonds covered in milk chocolate ganache). I think this creation would be more visually appealing, though, if it was garnished with some shredded coconut on top.
If your tastes steer you to the chocolate ganache topping instead of classic frosting, the “Hostess” (chocolate cake with crème filling, topped with a smooth layer of chocolate ganache, and finished with the traditional, classic white swirls) is perfect for adults and kids alike. The cupcake is a superior, artisanal version of the supermarket type “Hostess” cake. It’s both scrumptious and pleasing to the eye.
If I were planning a kid’s party, the “Hostess” and the “Cookies and Cream” would be my cupcakes of choice, along with simple flavors, like the “Chocolate and Vanilla” (a chocolate cake with a marvelous Madagascar vanilla bean butter cream). The vanilla bean specks in the buttercream bring back childhood memories of the classic vanilla bean Breyers ice cream I savored as a child. The “Cookies and Cream” has that same perfect chocolate cake with crème filling, sealed with just a touch of chocolate ganache and then topped with the irresistible Madagascar vanilla buttercream and crushed cookies. For kids of all ages, most varieties are available in an adorable push pop, with layers of mini cupcakes and frosting. Chelsea will often lend out her push pop stand for events so that the creations can be attractively presented.
For an adult event, Taste and See’s cupcake bouquets are stunning. Taste and See individually colors the buttercream in each rose, lending them a more realistic appearance. At one point, Chelsea put a bouquet in the window as a means to advertise them. When this produced no inquiries, she asked people why they weren’t interested. The response was that they thought the bouquets were real flowers, not cupcakes. They are that sensational. The bouquets are only available in vanilla bean cake with choice of coconut or vanilla buttercream. The small bouquet is $50.00 and the large is $60.00. They make for a unique, delicious, and beautiful centerpiece.
We live in a world increasingly peppered with strip malls and chain stores. It is our job, as consumers, to keep small, quality driven businesses alive. Make the trip on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday to visit Taste and See Gourmet Cupcakes in Milford. You can take a walk on the Walnut Beach Boardwalk, cupcake in hand, and enjoy the simple things in life.
Taste and See Gourmet Cupcakes: 17 Broadway, Milford, 203-878-3500
[Photography courtesy of Pam Zaremba]