Thursday, May 19, 2011


I had never tasted the famed Sprinkles cupcakes-- that storied Beverly Hills cupcakery to the stars -- and normally I would pooh-pooh anything too trendy. But that was before I tasted their cupcakes.

Like other cupcakeries reviewed here on the blog, especially Kara's and Crumbs, Sprinkles has an extremely good brand. It's clean, clear, and fun. They do things right, like providing a "flavor card" (itself a clever, fun name for the boring word "menu") in PDF on their web site (here's the link for your convenience), using iconic symbols where possible (like the dots used on the top of each cupcake), and keeping their packaging clean, clear, and attractive with darling little cupcake-sized boxes. Their website is excellent, filled with all the right kinds of cool-looking photos, and also taking the time to do what I haven't seen any other cupcakery do: provide a whole page of info about each flavor. Wonderful! So right off the bat I loved their marketing, but equally off the bat, I wondered if Sprinkles would be too big for its well-branded britches.

How the cupcakes fared
We tried the chocolate marshmallow and the lemon. The chocolate marshmallow was sumptous belgian dark cake filled with marshmallow cream, topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache. Delicious and rich. Not a single complaint, even about the marshmallow filling, which I find can be tricky-- you don't want to make it too sticky or too soft. The consistency of this was just right, though.

The lemon was lemon cake with lemon-vanilla frosting. It sounds much plainer than the chocolate marshmallow but this was hands-down the best cupcake I've ever had. It was so so so good. The frosting melted in my mouth. Just so wonderful. Not too tart and not too sweet. However, it was also incredibly rich. I had to down a glass of water afterwards. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except perhaps for Sprinkles, because I wouldn't want to buy a dozen of lemon cupcakes (although I'd be tempted to) unless for a party because they'd be too rich. On the other hand, having a dozen lemon cupcakes might mean that I could spend several days floating in a lemon-scented sugar bliss.

So, Sprinkles was a winner in my book.
Sprinkles website

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Cupcakes: Summer Thyme's Bakery and Deli

Well! I've been rather remiss in posting cupcake updates, haven't I? But this is not entirely my fault. I blame my unborn baby, who does not crave cupcakes the way he does cheese (preferably melted, on anything). So my consumption of cupcakes has gone rather down. However, I have rallied! With Valentine's Day upon us, what better way to celebrate than to indulge in pink buttercream dreams?


I'm not sure I've officially reviewed Summer Thyme's Bakery and Deli, based in Grass Valley, CA, before. Possibly because Summer Thyme's is less of a bakeshop and more of a deli. Also, I'd only been to one of their locations and the cupcakes hadn't been worth purchasing (that is, there was only one and it looked old). But recently I visited their historic downtown Grass Valley location, which is fantastic by dint of it being attached to a used bookstore. And I found these beauts:

Let me tell you: the buttercream frosting was as tasty as it looks here. I didn't actually eat the red one because that is red velvet, which I'm not a fan of, but the pink one went down my gullet faster than a fish before a seagull. If this is Summer Thyme's offering, then it's a damn good one, and they got high marks for the super pretty rose-like frosting swirl. The cake was quite decent as well: a solid entry in the vanilla cake field.

On the web: Summer Thyme's Bakery and Deli

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cupcake Craving in Sacramento

My in laws are hugely supportive of the Cupcake Quest. My brother in law had a Sacramento-based vendor who recently brought him some cupcakes from a bakery called Cupcake Craving. Naturally, one was saved for me so I could review it.

To my dismay, the one saved for me was coconut. I generally abhor coconut, but with this one, I was willing to change my mind.

The frosting
The frosting was delicious and creamy, and not overwhelming at all with coconut, but rather just right.

The cake
Very good, but in all fairness the cupcake did get to me after a few days so it might have been even better had it been fresh.

The verdict
Cupcake Craving is definitely worth a stop when visiting Sacramento. I only wish I could have tasted more variety to get a definite read. But as much as I dislike coconut, I definitely enjoyed this one.

Cupcake Craving
2100 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 923-5995

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes: Fat Apple's Restaurant & Bakery

The Fat Apples Restaurant and Bakery in El Cerrito, CA, is a staple for many area residents. They're known for both their fantastic breakfasts, and also their bakery. Two huge bakery cases line the entry way into the restaurant, so you're forced to drool over their signature olallieberry pies and gorgeous, mountain-high apple pie. They always have other treats too, like cookies, pastries, and cupcakes.

This day, the day before Halloween, they had a lovely assortment of Halloween-theme topped chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. My whippersnapper immediately wanted one and in the name of cupcakes in the world, I had to consent to try one. Fat Apples is, after all, a great bakery.
He chose a vanilla cupcake with a skull on top.

After a filling and delicious breakfast of pumpkin pancakes with a sunny side up egg and bacon, we procured the skull cupcake and took it home for proper documenting and tasting.

The frosting
The frosting was unlike any I'd tasted. That is, it was so light, and so whippy that my husband (who has immersed himself in the Cupcake Quest with gusto) thought it was buttercream. "It's like a wedding cake," he said. But in fact I tasted cream cheese. Only, it was the lightest, fluffiest cream cheese frosting ever. Five stars to Fat Apples for getting cream cheese frosting right.

The cake
Moist, like cake should be, and delicious. The cake was a fine accompaniment to the light frosting.

The verdict
Fat Apples makes a fine cupcake. It's light and it's sweet, but nothing too sweet as to gag you. Overall, a delicious cupcake as an afternoon snack.

And how was the skull treat? "Delicious and crunchy," the whippersnapper reported, in between mouthfuls.

Fat Apples Restaurant and Bakery
7525 Fairmount Ave
El Cerrito, CA 94530

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crumbs: How Chuck Norris Got Me Cupcakes

I recently won six cupcakes from Crumbs, a national cupcake store that has beautiful marketing and design, and a really awesome web site. How did I win these six cupcakes? You’ll have to go here to read the full story, but trust me when I say that it was all due to Chuck Norris.

Crumbs is definitely a gourmet, high-end cupcakery. The six pack I received came in an insulated cooler with dry ice, and the packaging was beautiful. I ordered the following:

  • Grasshopper
  • Pumpkin
  • Half-baked
  • S’mores
  • Apple Cobbler
  • Cookies and Cream
The only thing was that after unpacking the box from the shipping container and dry ice, I had to let them sit for four hours. This was a very painful time in life for me.

But finally there they were, all six in their glorious packaging, waiting to be eaten. I did my best to plow through them all weekend.

The Cake
The cake for each cupcake was good, very good, but not as soft and exceptional as other cupcakes like, say, Berkeley’s Love at First Bite, or even the Bay Area’s TeaCake Bakeshop. But there was nothing wrong with the cake either—just tasted like cake.

The pumpkin was great, as was the minty chocolate grasshopper. The s’mores was excellent, better than the cookies and cream. The best one by far was the apple cobbler, because it had a wonderful apple filling inside the cake, making it really fabulous to bite into. Also, because the cakes are so big, it’s not possible to gobble six of them in one sitting (I mean, it’s not like I didn’t want to). So the cake tends to dry a bit with each day that goes by, and the apple filling helps keep it moist, so that was the clear winner.

The Frosting
The real win of the Crumbs cupcakes was in their inventive and inspiring toppings. Each cupcake was absolutely ginormous and the toppings were huge to match. This meant that when you cut a slice of the cupcake (because you kind of had to), the experience was in fact like eating a slice of cake, complete with a pile of frosting on top. There is nothing wrong with this! I just happen to prefer a slightly smaller scale for my cupcakes. But Crumbs keeps with the tradition that cupcakes are just that—miniature cakes. So the toppings were so good that if the frosting was cream cheese based or otherwise, I didn’t even notice. That’s where Crumbs really scores.

Four stars for the overall presentation. You get a huge cake with fabulous, humongous topping, and you get really nice packaging with good marketing. I was so impressed by the experience of receiving six humongous cupcakes on my doorstep that I immediately sent six to my best friend for her birthday. They’re good that way—meant to be shared, meant to be presented to others.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer Kitchen Bakeshop, Berkeley

By the time I got to the Summer Kitchen Bakeshop on College Ave in Berkeley, they only had two cupcakes left. Naturally, being me, I bought them both.

Summer Kitchen makes all kinds of delicious things, and alas, cupcakes don't even appear on their menu. However, they seem to sell all different kinds and flavors, and I got the last two chocolate cream ones. I could hardly wait to spirit them home. The frosting tasted like a cream cheese based one, and as far as cream cheese frostings go, this one was light and delicious. And the cake was yummy, too, although to be honest I hardly noticed because I was too busy eating the cupcake as fast as I could.

I'm not a fan of cream cheese frostings, but I would eat another 10 of these, certainly.

I have not yet had the pleasure of trying other flavors from Summer Kitchen, although I will next time I go by. So far, I'm favorably impressed with their cupcakes. I'd like to try a buttercream frosting one. I was impressed with the size of the cupcake and the amount of frosting -- definitely no skimping there. Well done, Summer Kitchen! A worthy stop on a cupcake tour, certainly. The only drawback is that they sell out in the evenings (I visited at 7 pm). The positive to that is that they must make them fresh daily, then.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pear Fair Cupcake

Last weekend we went to the Pear Fair in Courtland, CA, near Sacramento. The fair is super cute and filled with all the lovely fair food delights you might hope for, like deep-fried artichokes and asparagus, and tritip.

What I was not expected was a pear cupcake, so imagine my surprise and delight when I found a booth selling them! The booth also sold pear scones and muffins but time was not to be wasted on such trivialities. No! I immediately secured two pear cupcakes, photographed them, and then commenced the tasting.

So how was it?
Freaking delicious. The frosting tasted exactly like you might imagine pear flavored frosting to taste. Not too overwhelming, not too faint-- just right. Plus the vanilla cake was gorgeous, really heavy. The whole package weas refreshing, and just the right amount of sweet.

Of course, I shoved mine in my mouth as quickly, and then went to a drink hut. When I came back, I found the second cupcake suspiciously missing. Turns out, my whippersnapper had turned around and eaten nearly the whole thing!

Pear cupcakes = delicious. I'm sorry that I don't know who ran the booth, but you can surely visit the Pear Fair every year and hunt this elusive treasure down.