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I confess. I love cupcakes. I especially love cupcakes from Magnolia in New York. I know what everyone says that the cake is dry and the frosting is too sweet. They make me happy. I've been trooping to the tiny Bleecker and West 11th location of Magnolia since it opened in 1996.

But it is a pain to get to, the hours are lousy and the staff isn't friendly on the best of days.

So I discovered Billy's Bakery in Chelsea. The cupcakes taste the same, it isn't nearly as crowded and the staff is slightly warmer.

And even in the midst of the DC Cupcake craze, I make a stop for cupcakes when I'm in NY. The DC cupcakes just don't make me happy in the same way the NY ones do.

Last visit, I brought a slice of cake from Billy's and let the 4 year old try it. After a few minutes his eyes grew wide and he asked if we could go to New York soon to get more cake.

So New Year's Day we took a detour from our usual route home from the in-laws in CT and stopped in New York City. Billy's was closed but the Columbus Avenue location of Magnolia was open. Street parking was available right out front. There were places to sit! And no crazy lines. It was nirvana. We ate cupcakes, bought many to bring home and the 4 year old is already asking when we can go back to New York. The staff seemed to be not on the ball, but I'll chalk that up to being up way to early on New Year's Day. If there had been an open pizza joint nearby, it would have been perfect.

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Magnolia now has multiple locations including one on Sixth Avenue just south of Radio City, another in Grand Central and one embedded within Bloomingdales on the side facing Third Avenue (which was way too close to my office - good thing we moved).

I wasn't initially a fan (at all) of Crumbs but certain cupcakes there are OK to good. I really like the one that's like a raspberry jelly doughnut in cupcake form. But the ones studded with candy, along with their enormous size, don't work for me.

I like Sprinkles a lot. The only NYC location I have visited is the one on Lexington and 59th (or 60th). Good flavors including seasonal changes and a much more reasonable size than Crumbs.

Butter Lane's cupcakes are, IMO, divine. The web site describes Butter Lane's offerings as cupcakes for grownups - I agree. The flavors aren't kooky although certain trends (e.g., salted chocolate frosting) are represented. Not sure why the web site is so lame.

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