Next up in novelty food crazes in New York City: the Cupcake ATM. Sprinkles Cupcakes, a gourmet cupcake shop that began in Beverly Hills, recently opened a Cupcake ATM at its Midtown East outpost on Lexington Ave. between 60th and 61st streets. The machine, which is open 24 hours and is the first of its kind in the city, can hold up to 760 cupcakes and dispenses each for $4.25.
When we went to check out the ATM a few days after its opening, the line stretched down the block and passersby stopped to catch a glimpse of this mysterious machine. The wait was prolonged by customers stopping to take photos with the machine before and after getting their cupcakes.
At one point during our 40-minute wait, the machine stopped working and and the message on the touch screen alerted customers that it was out of cupcakes and to try placing an order in 30 minutes, which seemed outrageous but nobody standing close enough to the screen to read this seemed to mind. A Sprinkles employee emerged from the paper-covered Sprinkles Ice Cream storefront next door (Sprinkles is expanding and plans to open their ice cream shop in April) and reassured customers that they’d get the machine fixed immediately. She was right.
Customers can choose from a limited amount of flavors like chocolate coconut, Cuban coffee, black & white, red velvet and lemon meringue (or mini cupcakes for your dog). Once you’ve swiped your credit card (the machine doesn’t accept cash), a video feed from inside the machine shows a robotic arm collecting your cupcake and placing it in the pickup window. After about 10 seconds, a door opens and reveals the cupcake, packaged neatly in a brown cardboard Sprinkles box.
The cupcakes were better than one might expect, considering they come from a machine. This could be because the machine is restocked every few hours, which almost guarantees all customers a fresh cupcake. The cake itself has a great crumb and moisture level, while the frosting, although a bit greasy, doesn’t overwhelm the cupcake.
The ATM may be convenient in the wee hours of the morning when you’re craving a gourmet cupcake, but during the day, it’s probably quicker to buy a cupcake inside the store. It’s also cheaper to get a cupcake inside, where they charge $3.75 each. For students, the Midtown East location isn’t very convenient for an inebriated late-night snack. Perhaps Sprinkles should consider opening an ATM in the East Village?