Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cupcake Lipgloss

I gave this to my mom for her birthday, but I wish I'd gotten it. If you can't eat cupcakes 24 hours a day, then lipgloss in the super cute post is surely the next best thing?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cibo, Sausalito

I love Cibo, a cute cafe on Bridgeway Ave in Sausalito, CA. It's got a smoked salmon panini to die for--one so good that I'll even overlook the outrageously priced steel-cut oatmeal they offer for $7.95. (I mean, come on. $7.95? Really?)

Because Cibo, you see, is a cafe that does the one thing I like best: it offers an array of its own baked goods. So you can get a sandwich and a delicious afternoon sugar high, too.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Last week, I visited and ordered my salmon panini, and also purchased a cupcake. The cupcake, I was informed, was made by them on site, and was vanilla cake with cream-cheese vanilla frosting. I had reservations against the frosting being cream-cheese based because generally cream cheese is shite, but this was serious research. And the orange nonpariels distracted me.

But it was shite. The cake was great. But the frosting was like eating a wad of cream cheese, and that's just no good at all. Call me a buttercream snob, but I just really dislike that taste. (I do like cream cheese. Just not on my cupcakes.) I also feel that cream cheese frosting is a cop-out, not to mention that it is my understanding that it's loaded with way more fat and calories than buttercream is, and you don't even get the sweetness.

Well, to each their own, but now I know. Cibo's cakes are good, but the frosting is a miss.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sweet Sierra Cupcakes

This weekend I was in Grass Valley visiting my mother and we went into Nevada City for lunch. Nevada City is super cute and has a farmer's market on Saturday mornings until 12 or so. I had an appointment and so met my mom, husband, and whippersnapper afterward for lunch. As we sat down to lunch, my mother and husband looked decidedly squirrely.

"What?" I asked, surreptitiously wiping my nose for any offending debris.

"Should we tell her?" my mother asked my husband.

"Tell me what?" I asked.

"There was....well, we're sitting down to lunch. We'll tell you later," my husband said.

"Tell me," I said. I could sense something momentous. Possibly to do with cupcakes.

"There was a cupcake stand at the farmer's market," my mother said. "But there weren't many left."

Of course, I demanded answers. What time did the farmer's market close? How many cupcakes were left? Where was the stall? Didn't they know this was important research? Scientific research? Why hadn't they gotten any?

Waiting until after lunch wasn't on. After we ordered, I jetted down two blocks to the market and found the cupcake stand -- it is Sweet Sierra cupcakes, and there were two left. And one of them was a mini! And someone was in front of me! I pranced a bit, looking rather desperate, and the girl in front of me took pity and asked if I was going to buy one, because otherwise (I presume), she would buy both. I tell you, there was very nearly an unseemly struggle. I went for the mini, which was white cake with chocolate chips and vanilla buttercream frosting topped in chocolate chips. While I love mini cupcakes, I always prefer more, but the full size one was coconut and I'm just not partial to coconut.

Let me tell you, this mini was a winner. The buttercream frosting was superb, absolutely melted right in my mouth and I could tell (funny how you can tell after only a few) that the ingredients were high quality -- no substitutes. No imitation vanilla here. Absolutely gorgeous frosting, and then the cake itself was sublime. It was just the right moistness, without being raw or clumpy. My mother agreed it was one of the best cupcakes she's ever had.

Had I known when I approached the stand, I would have wrestled the other customer for the remaining cupcake. I'm sorry I didn't get more, because this was scrumptious.

Chef Lynn Kouba specializes in gluten-free, vegan, and organic ingredients. You can check out the Sweet Sierra Cupcakes web site for ordering info.

Well worth wrestling people to the floor for.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mission Minis

Let me tell you, the East Bay seems to have all the cupcake places. I work over in the Marin side of things, and finding a decent cupcake in that area should be a snap, right? After all, what do Marin moms have to do but eat sumptuous cupcakes all day? (Okay, I'm kidding.) (Not really.) (A little.) (Shhhh.)

So I've pretty much got my eyes wide open when it comes to cupcakes in Marin. I had lunch at the Askew Grill in Strawberry Village in Mill Valley today and they had a lovely little covered glass cake stand (always a nice thing to see) full of darling cupcake minis. They are Mission Minis from San Francisco.

I drooled a bit and made it quite clear to the lady at the counter that I would have two. I picked vanilla and Aztec Chocolate. I would have liked the pink lemonade but it didn't look like those were there.

I explained to my coworker that these darling minis were extremely scientific research, and offered her some with slightly bad grace. I wanted them for myself, you see, and they were so very small. Just right to pop in my mouth all at once, were I alone, but seeing as I didn't want to appear as a vulgar pig, I had to take ladylike bites that went entirely against my every urge. I wasn't able, I'm sorry to say, to refrain from waiting until a more opportune time to eat them and actually began eating them as we walked from Askew Grill to the car. Eating and walking is never that preferable, but it had to be done.

The first to be devoured was the Aztec chocolate. According to the Mission Minis web site, it's dark aztec chocolate cake with vanilla bean buttercream topped with black nonpariels. (As you can see in the picture there, the black nonpariels* appear to be entirely absent). The vanilla is classic vanilla bean cake with vanilla bean buttercream topped with colored organic nonpareils.

*I totally didn't even know what a nonpariel was until just now. They're those cut little round sprinkles.

Mes amies, I need to tell you, the frosting did not taste like buttercream at all. Now, it pains me to say this because I very much like Mission Minis name and logo, and I desperately want to try the pink lemonade cupcake. But the frosting tasted strongly of cream cheese, and I must say, it was rather a disappointment because it was slightly greasy. Not like the Dreaded Grocery Store greasy frosting, but nearly. Also, and it pains me to say this more, the cake was um...not as fresh as it could be. I detected just a bit of hardness to it. Now, normally this would be fine and I'm betting that when these little dreams are fresh, they're DEEELISH. But today, they were a bit old at the ol' Askew Grill, and the frosting a bit greasy.

I'd still stop by their store though, and give them a second chance. Their store front is at 3168 22nd Street, San Francisco.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Teacake Bakeshop

The Teacake Bakeshop is a chain, but a small Bay Area-based one. The location I visited was in the Bay Street Emeryville shopping center. Teacake had been one of the original shops that went into the center and I knew them for their very nice marketing and their delicious cookies. I'm not sure why I never tried their cupcakes before this quest, but I can only guess that it was out of some misguided effort to remain thin.

Teacake Bakeshop arranges their cupcakes in their store window in fetching little glass-domed cake stands. They also have certain cupcakes available each day of the week. In the store I found very inviting "Cupcake Guide" cards listing the cupcakes they make each day of the week. This was important because I saw these words: "Madagascar Bourbon vanilla." These words warrant their own post, but a quick Internet search revealed that this type of vanilla extract is supremely delicious and hearty, and imitation vanilla doesn't even rate as a comparison.

The cupcakes I tried this day (it was a Saturday) were:

  • Banana chocolate cake with Chocolate Buttercream
  • Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
  • Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
These were sublime. Like, 5 stars all the way. The cake itself was thick, like a poundcake, and just the right consistency. The buttercream frosting was really scrumptious. I am not normally a strawberry fan at all, but the strawberry frosting cupcake was tart enough to make me really appreciate the flavor. All in all, I have to say these might have been the most tasty cupcakes I've ever had.

Clearly, whatever Teacake Bakeshop is doing, they're doing it right. Also, their marketing and branding is extremely good, and they've tapped into the pink girl-ness of cupcakes.

I would have liked to taste Tuesday's delight: Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Cake with Honey Tangerine Buttercream. I've already started thinking of ways to find myself near a Teacake Bakeshop on Tuesdays.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The First Quest: Virginia Bakery

Thus begins the quest for the best cupcake in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The first bakery I visited was, naturally, the place where I got my wedding cake: Virginia Bakery on Shattuckand Virginia in North Berkeley. Virginia Bakery is a fantastic old bakery, with an array of tasty cakes, cookies, and pies. If you need a wedding cake sample, this is the place to go. They'll bake you a free (I know, right?!) cake with up to four different types of fillings and cake baked in. Deeeeelish. Their customer service is also great and as far as a wedding cake baker goes, Virginia is awesome.

However, not so much for the cupcakes. I found the cupcakes to be sort of like grocery store cupcake quality. I was a tad disappointed. Virginia's specialty is not in cupcakes, admittedly, but it did seem that they could extend their cake prowess to the little, but mighty, cupcake.

As a result, I was forced to comfort myself with a chocolate chip cookie, which was lovely.

Ze next stop vill be Teacake Bakeshop in Emerville....oh yes! Stay tuned.