Velvety Goodness: Yummy Cupcakes

I feel truly blessed that cupcake shops are everywhere in the Los Angeles area. From Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills to Dots in Pasadena, and even Baby Cakes in Downtown, Angelenos can find wonderful cupcakes virtually anywhere in town. I am even more blessed because Yummy Cupcakes, the shop I feel makes one of the best cupcakes in town, is a mere mile from where I live. Not that I would, of course, but if I wanted to walk, I can certainly do it in less than 30 minutes. It’s really amusing that this place is located on Magnolia Blvd. Maybe this place should be called Magnolia Bakery instead (which, by the way, is opening in LA soon).

I find it interesting that we all have our own favorite shops and how different our taste preferences / opinions are — even for a little dessert as innocent as a cupcake. I was talking to someone the other day who is absolutely head-over-heal in love with Violets Cupcakes in Pasadena but I find cupcakes there to be pretty yucky. I gave the place several tries, only to be disappointed time after time. She swears by it but I just don’t get it. Everything there is way too sweet and greasy for my taste. Some of my friends think Dots is blah, although I think its Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing and Pumpkin Pie Cupcake (with the same amazing frosting) are one of the best in the world.

Many of us, however, seem to agree that Yummy Cupcakes is pretty darn good. Maybe it’s because this shop hasn’t received the kind of rave other places have gotten and is still managing to keep its existence pretty low-key … but whatever the reason, this place is mighty divine.

Yummy Cupcakes doesn’t have fancy flowers made out of fondant resting atop a luscious frosting and most of the items on the menu are pretty straightforward, yet a Red Velvet Cupcake (my ultimate favorite and a barometer that measures how good the place really is) tastes like what a red velvet should taste (light but moist, and never too dry), and the frosting is fluffy and satisfying without being too rich and sweet. This is actually the only place that makes me want to try something other than a Red Velvet and that’s saying a lot!

I hosted a lunch party this afternoon and bought a few cupcakes from there. Out of these selections, I found the Chocolate Mint Chip (chocolate cupcake with peppermint buttercream, pictured on upper right-hand corner) and its signature Yummy Cupcake (chocolate cupcake with pink vanilla buttercream, pictured on upper left-hand corner) to be my favorites (after the Red Velvet, of course).

If you’re in the Burbank area, or in Santa Monica, check this place out. You won’t be disappointed.

Yummy Cupcakes
2918 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505
There is another store in Santa Monica, on 313 Wilshire.
★★★★★

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Lower East Side Sweethearts

I must not have a very sophisticated palate when it comes to donuts because despite the many, many rave reviews this place has received, I found the donuts from Doughnut Plant to be … blah. Actually, I thought it was a little less than ordinary. Unlike the Krispy Kreme donuts where you bite into a soft, airy deliciousness, or the dense, satisfying cake-like texture of Spudnuts donuts, (my personal favorite), the fried dough from Doughnut Plant was tough and chewy, and really hard to bite into.

Could this lack of enthusiasm be because I arrived at this Lower East Side darling in the late afternoon where donuts weren’t perhaps at their freshest? It certainly could be. Or was it because all the better selections, like Tres Leches, Blackout, or pretty much all cake doughnuts, were all sold out? Maybe. But whatever the reason, I can say that the donuts here certainly weren’t worth waiting in line for! I’m sorry, Mr. Mark Isreal, you may have thrown down Bobby Flay, but you couldn’t capture my heart. But will I give this place another shot next time I’m in Manhattan since the 2,105,391,093,295 positive feedback can’t all be wrong? I’m pretty sure.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
★★★☆☆

Babycakes, a bakery that is famous for its wide offerings of sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan sweets located a mere blocks from Doughnut Plant on Broome Street, however, was DA BOMB! I own the baking book written by the owner Erin McKenna, but I’ve been a little intimidated to bake cupcakes made out of spelt flour and other not-so-familiar ingredients. But after tasting the gluten-free red velvet cupcake with vegan cream cheese icing, I am confident that I will crack open the pages of the book and try to replicate these lovely sweets at home. The cupcake was so fluffy and moist that I couldn’t believe there were no butter or eggs (or even sugar) in it.  I know how difficult it is to make red velvet cake moist even with regular ingredients so this really shows that Babycakes knows what it is doing! Job well done!  I can’t wait to visit the Los Angeles location soon!

Babycakes NYC

248 Broome Street, New York, NY 10002
★★★★☆
The LA store is located in Downtown, on 130 East 6th Street, between S. Main Street and S. Los Angeles.

Trick or Treat? Sprinkles Cupcakes

The recent food trend that settles well with my stomach is frozen yogurt. I’m a self-proclaimed fro-yo addict so the fact that shops are popping up right and left is nothing short of pure delight (competition only helps consumers!). My date night with my boyfriend is not complete until we take a trip to a nearby frozen yogurt shop that we feel, believe it or not, may offer better yogurt than Pinkberry (if that were possible). I somehow always find ways to squeeze in a spoonful (or a bowlful) of ice-y swirl even on a full stomach.

Well, another trend I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is over cupcakes (even a magazine like InStyle dedicated a section on celebrities and their favorite shops). This, unlike the frozen yogurt fascination that is completely justifiable in my book, is still a bizarre concept for me. Although I like eating cupcakes, it’s difficult for me to tell the difference between the gourmet kind and the one you pick up at a local bake sale. Afterall, isn’t a cupcake just a miniature sponge cake smothered in sugary frosting? Really, how do you make a cupcake outrageously better than a bakery next door, and moreover, how can each cost as much as a meal?

a-strawberrySo I turned to the trendy and popular Sprinkles Cupcakes for answers. But after sampling a few of its offerings, I became further confused.

Let me preface this by stating the obvious: the cupcakes from Sprinkles are good. The place have great selections, from the basic vanilla and chocolate, to more exotic flavors like Chai Latte and Red Velvet, and the entire experience of visiting the most talked-out place is truly titillating. But if I ignore all the fluff and focused solely on the product, I’m afraid I’m not able to justify the whopping $3.25 each cupcake costs.

I know that cupcakes have great possibilities. Just take a look at this amazing blog, Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit which features colorful and unorthodox recipes like Green Tea, Lavender and Honey Cupcake Bombe (ooooh). Or a mouth-watering recipe like Pomatcha Cupcakes found on Raspberry Eggplant (aaaaah).  Now, for a bite of something like that, I’ll be happy to dish out my hard earned money. But nothing at Sprinkles stood out as extraordinary, and they were just … well, good, at best.

I’m not dismissing Sprinkles altogether though. I will probably pick some up for special occasions as the decoration/packaging alone makes it a lovely gift. I hope someone will bring me some soon so I can enjoy the sweet cake without burning a hole on my wallet.

I went to the Sprinkles in Newport Beach (in the same shopping center as Tommy Bahama) but there’s a more popular one in Beverly Hills.

Sprinkles Cupcakes: 944 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660

★★★☆☆

I met this sweet pup, Hug, dressed up as a lion for Halloween while waiting in line at Sprinkles. He was so charming that I could not resist taking a picture!  Happy Halloween, everyone!

a-hug