This is something I’ve wanted to do since I first heard that there was a “Cupcake ATM” opening up in Lenox Square Mall. The whole concept of a Cupcake ATM is just the kind of whimsical silliness that totally appeals to me, although I do try to ignore the fact that “ATM” (automatic teller machine) doesn’t actually make sense because a teller, by definition, works at a bank. I looked it up. So aside from that whole meaning of words thing, I love the concept.
Concept is great and everything, but I’ve been wondering how well the Cupcake ATM works in real life. Is the whole experience really as exciting as it sounds? Is there actually a person sitting back there filling orders? Are the cupcakes even any good? Questions well worth answering, in my opinion, so I was pretty pumped when I found myself at Lenox Square Mall this weekend with my camera.
As it turns out, the Cupcake ATM is on the outside of the mall, rather than inside like I had imagined; it sits right by the exterior entrance to the actual Sprinkles shop.
** UPDATE** I heard from one reader that she was having trouble picturing where the Cupcake ATM is located. If you are facing Lenox with Peachtree at your back, the Sprinkles store is just to the right of the entrance, where Wolf Camera used to be and across from where Crate and Barrel used to be located. The Cupcake ATM is on the exterior wall, just to the right of the exterior entrance to the Sprinkles shop. **
I discovered that the Cupcake ATM is actually open 24/7, which indicates to me that it is actually fully automated. While you can’t really see this in person, in the photograph above, you can see the boxed cupcakes sitting behind the mesh wall.
When you go to order your cupcakes, the touchscreen lists the available options, including a cookie or two and a brownie. Since I was doing a review, I felt fully justified in getting three cupcakes: black and white, triple cinnamon and chocolate banana. Plus, let’s be honest. This was more about pressing buttons and getting cupcakes out of what is essentially a fancy vending machine for me than wanting to eat a bunch of cupcakes. It would appear that I haven’t entirely grown out of getting excited about pressing buttons and getting things in return.
After you submit your order and swipe your credit card for payment (no cash), the screen shows some pictures of conveyer belts and whatnot that bring your cupcakes to the little door next to the screen. It’s possible it was a video of my actual cupcakes, but it was very sunny and the screen was a little difficult to see. But then the door opens and viola! Cupcakes! It was pretty exciting, and not just for me. While there was no line to use the Cupcake ATM, people definitely stopped to see it in action.
So the whole experience of using the machine was really fun for me. I enjoyed the spectacle and whimsy of it and so did the people around me. But how was the actual product I acquired for $4.50 + tax a pop?
The first thing I noticed was that the packaging was very well done. Neat, cute and very sturdy. I acquired a bag from within the shop to stow the cupcakes and carried them around the mall for another two hours, put other treasures in the bag on top of them, threw them in my car and drove around for a while…and they held up pretty well. The boxed weren’t squished or smushed at all. At some point during the day, the cinnamon cupcake box fell on its side. I righted it, but didn’t open it to check on it. I opened all of the boxes once I got home and the cinnamon cupcake was a little flat on one side, but that was the extent of the damage. Packaging: very study.
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the taste test. I cut each cupcake in half, tasted the cake and the frosting separately and then tested them together.
Black & White Cupcake: The first thing I noted was that the cupcake broke when I cut it in half. Taste-wise, the cake was reminiscent of boxed cake mix. It was very light and fluffy and the chocolate flavor was fairly one note. It had that chalky note that you get when you only use cocoa powder instead of both cocoa powder and melted chocolate. It wasn’t bad, but, like I said, it tasted like boxed cake mix. The frosting was pretty good. From the look of it, I was expecting a heavy, super sugary sweet frosting. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the frosting was light and not overly sweet. Tasted together, the frosting hid some of the flaws in the cake. Overall? It was okay, but nothing to write home about.
Triple Cinnamon Cupcake: I love cinnamon. You can only imagine how excited I was when I saw that they had such a thing as a triple cinnamon cupcake, so I had high hopes for this one. It held together nicely when I cut it in half. Both the cake and the frosting were the densest of the three cupcakes. The cake by itself was pretty unremarkable: there was a mild cinnamon flavor, but it was a little bland overall. The frosting however, was super cinnamon-ey, to the point where I felt a little heat in my mouth from the spice. Awesome. The frosting was denser and seemed a little richer than the frosting on the black and white cupcake. Together, the frosting again seemed to carry the cake, although I felt that the density of the frosting and cake were better balanced. Overall? Better than the black and white. Tasty, but not excellent. However, I totally give them props for the liberal use of cinnamon.
Chocolate Banana Cupcake: This was the baby bear of the cupcakes. It was denser than the black and white cupcake, but not as dense as the triple cinnamon. The banana cake was moist, but avoided the oiliness that sometimes accompanies banana bread. It was tasty. It was the only one of the cupcakes that I would have eaten without the frosting. The frosting was interesting. The texture was nice and light, but it took a moment for the chocolate flavor to hit. Then I got the chocolate flavor, enjoyed it for a moment and then it was gone. I’m so used to super super chocolatey things that this took me by surprise, but when I thought about it I liked it. I liked it even more when I tasted the cake and frosting together. Since the chocolate was done with restraint, it didn’t overwhelm the banana cake. Plus, I didn’t get that heavy, so full I might die feeling I sometimes get after eating chocolate. The frosting and cake complemented each other and this was by far my favorite cupcake. Overall? Totally worth eating.
So. Here’s the $4.50+tax question – are the cupcakes worth the price? It’s a pretty hefty price for a standard-sized cupcake. To me, the black and white and cinnamon cupcakes were not worth the price. The chocolate banana was a very good cupcake, but the price still seems high. However, I think there’s the separate question of whether the price is worth the fun and novelty of buying a cupcake from a vending machine. Yep. Totally worth doing once. Okay, maybe twice.
Or when you’re really desperate for a cupcake at 2 am and you’re willing to brave a deserted, middle of the night Lenox parking lot, which probably also means that you’ve been out enjoying some fine adult beverages. In that situation, everything about this will be super fun and exciting.
All photographs and opinions contained in this review are my own. I purchased the cupcakes myself and Sprinkles had no knowledge that I was conducting a review of the Cupcake ATM. Also, this review was solely of the Cupcake ATM, not of the experience or products within the store.