Monday, September 29, 2008

Jumping on the Bandwagon

I got a tip from my sister that Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory was selling cupcakes. Rocky Mountain is one of my favorite places for an indulgent dessert (try the Avalanche Bar!). I was not too surprised to hear this, as cupcakes are definitely the hot trend right now. Stores are adding them to the menu without a second thought. That might actually be a bad move. How great are these cupcakes going to be? Well, the other night I was near the store she visited so I stopped to check them out.Well, they definitely were not gourmet nor were they presented very nicely. But I guess that is why the $1.50 price tag accompanied these cupcakes. My sister said when she stopped in the other night she saw the cupcakes sitting on a counter, directly next to a jar of Pillsbury Chocolate frosting. You would think that a chocolate store would use something special for "their" cupcakes, but it looks like they just wanted to fit in with everyone else.

I didn't buy a cupcake because of my triathlon diet (thank goodness it's over!), but I will try one the next time I am there. I am also curious to see if cupcakes are being sold in all of their stores or just this specific one.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Want S'mores Cupcakes

I decided that I wanted to try a new cupcake recipe. My niece had a birthday coming up so I figured that would be the best excuse to try something out. After researching a couple of recipes I have saved, I decided on S'mores Cupcakes. I found the recipe on one of my favorite cupcake blogs.

Normally the easiest way for me to bake cupcakes is to use a box mix. It has been a while since I have made cupcakes from scratch but I was excited to drag my huge KitchenAid mixer out of the cupboard. The recipe only uses a small amount of flour because it substitutes it with crushed graham crackers. I pulsed chocolate chips to add to the mix, but found that even though the chocolate pieces were small, they still liked to congregate at the bottom of the cupcake. TIP: I recently read that when adding chocolate chips to batter, in order to get them to not sink to the bottom of the batter you should coat them in flour. I am going to give that a try next time.

I made 3/4 of the frosting because I was one egg short. Surprisingly I still had plenty of frosting. I also just used normal sugar, not vanilla sugar. Instead of sprinkling grated chocolate on top of the finished cupcakes I sprinkled more crushed graham crackers and then added a square of Hershey's chocolate.My S'more Cupcakes were a hit! Everyone loved them! The cake had a good graham cracker flavor with just enough chocolate. The "frosting" tasted exactly how a roasted marshmallow would taste (it was actually meringue).

I can't believe that I made these cupcakes on a weekend of a triathlon! I could not fully enjoy one of these lovely cupcakes until I finished my last triathlon of the season, which was the following day (I cut out sugar the week before a race).

Next time
: I am going to try baking one or two cupcakes without a wrapper so that they will look prettier for pictures. Presentation is everything!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Does Orange County Know Its Cupcakes?

Each year the Orange County Register puts out a survey to find the Best (blank) of Orange County. On Friday the 2008 edition of Best of Orange County was published. Surprisingly, there was a section called Best Cupcakes. So where do Orange County residents think the best cupcakes are? I was amazed at the answer!

First Place: Sprinkles Cupcakes
I can agree with this one! Sprinkles puts out some amazing cupcakes! I have expressed my love for their Red Velvet many times. Along with their great tasting cupcakes, Sprinkles gives you the experience of a gourmet cupcake. They make their cupcakes feel special and worth the price tag of $3.25. See my latest review of them here.

Second Place: Wonderland Bakery
I was not expecting to see this bakery on the list. My friend brought me a cupcake from here a few months ago and it was just ok. Nothing great and definitely not worth the most expensive price tag of $3.75. Their store feels like you are in a fairytale with toys and glitter everywhere. The cupcakes almost seem like a side note in the store.

Third Place: Beverly's Best Bakery
Funny thing is that I bought my wedding cake from this bakery three years ago, but I never noticed that they had cupcakes. My mom must have known that I hadn't tried a cupcake from here before because when I stopped by her house on Friday night, I found these two treats waiting for me!
I was thrilled to be trying something new! After taking my first bite I realized that these cupcakes were not quite what I expected. The frosting was decent, a light buttercream frosting, and the cake was good, but just average. Then my sister informed me that these cupcakes were only $1.25. Value menu cupcakes!...just like the ones from Poul's Bakery in Orange. Price has a lot to do with the quality of cupcakes. If you want an outstanding cupcake, you will have to pay the price for one. But if a cupcake craving has sprung up on you and you need something to satisfy that urge, a value-priced cupcake will do the trick. Beverly's Best is smart to sell cupcakes, but they aren't ones I will be craving. (My nephew Diego will take any cupcake he can get his hands on!)

That's how I feel about the Best of Orange County's survey of cupcakes. I can list a handful of cupcakeries and bakeries that have better cupcakes than the second and third place winners. Looks like I need to do my job better and let Orange County know where to find the best cupcakes!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Overheard: "These cupcakes aren't very good, are they vegan or something?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Just a Vanilla Bake Shop

Second Stop: Vanilla Bake Shop
Location: 512 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA

My cupcake-filled day continued with a stroll two blocks away from Yummy Cupcakes to Vanilla Bake Shop. The first thing I noticed was the cake display in the window. If only I had known about this place three years ago...

Over the past few months I have noticed that there are two ways to sell cupcakes--by taste and by looks. I have found cupcakes that look pretty but taste bad and vice versa. Vanilla Bake Shop captures both, as all of their treats looked so yummy and perfect and were followed by deliciousness.

In their main display were their "cupcake babies." These mini cupcakes sell 3 for $5. This is the best way for me to try so many different flavors without feeling sick or broke.

I picked six different flavors and could barley contain myself to take pictures before I consumed them all! Don't they look so pretty?

The first cupcake I devoured was the Black & White. It had a dark chocolate cake with a chocolate/vanilla mousse-like frosting. The cake was moist and dense and made me wish I had a glass of milk.

This next one was a familiar taste to me. It is called Mom's Birthday Cake and is exactly what my mom made for my me on my last birthday. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is one of my favorite combinations of cake. I liked that the frosting was a milk chocolate frosting, but it was a little thin.

Chocolate Vanilla Bean was next. This cupcake was another dark chocolate cake, but it had vanilla bean frosting. This is one of two cupcakes that had little sugar crystals on top. The sugar crystals add an expensive-looking touch. I really liked the look of it. The frosting was, again, a little thin. I really enjoy thick, creamy, butter-cream frosting, something that all of these cupcakes lacked.

Yummy! I loved the Lemon Raspberry cupcake. This is the other cupcake that had sugar crystals. Along with the pretty crystals, this cupcake was a yellow butter cake with vanilla bean frosting, a raspberry on top, and **surprise** lemon curd center. The lemon filling tasted like it came from a lemon meringue pie. So delicious! I loved this cupcake!

The two other flavors that I tried were Red Velvet and Banana Chocolate Chip. The red velvet was just as good as a Sprinkles red velvet. Everything about it was great. Milk was needed, but only because it was so good! The Banana Chocolate Chip tasted like a banana muffin with cream cheese frosting. It also had mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top. This was also a favorite as it was different and deliciously made!We were able to secure these pictures before the salesman politely told us that we were not allowed to take pictures. What was I supposed to do then?...delete them? Vanilla Bake Shop has nothing to hide! This cupcake shop was good and will do well because of how pretty their cupcakes look along with how tasty they are! Good job! I look forward to returning on a different day so I can try some other flavors!

Yummy or Not?

Santa Monica is the Costa Mesa of Los Angeles. Costa Mesa is crawling with cupcake stores and bakeries. Santa Monica seems to be no different. Saturday my husband and I happened to be near Santa Monica so I jumped at the chance to review a few cupcakeries outside of Orange County.

First stop: Yummy Cupcakes
Location: 313 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA

It was very bizarre...the second we walked into the shop a putrid smell hit our noses! The smell was horrible! So weird. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, but we seemed to be the only people who were affected. After putting the smell away (at least in my mind) I noticed that everyone in the shop seemed to be a return customer. They all knew exactly what flavors to buy. I knew this was the place to be!

I loved that there were so many flavors to choose from! I felt a slight pressure to choose quickly, as the store was starting to fill up and I didn't want to lose my place in line.

In the end, I only took two cupcakes home--Red Velvet Cocoa Cream Cheese and Old School. I am a big red velvet fan and was intrigued by the cocoa cream cheese frosting. The cake was moist, but the frosting was only ok. I don't think it had enough tangy cream cheese flavor. My husband said the frosting was too sweet for him. I couldn't tell too much of a difference between a regular cream cheese and this cocoa cream cheese. This cupcake was decent, but it didn't WOW me like I hoped.

My husband's pick was Old School. It looked like a Hostess Cupcake, which is probably where it got it's name (since it's a childhood treat). This cupcake had chocolate cake, which was good and moist. There was an injection of whipped cream in the middle of the cupcake and it was topped with chocolate ganache. Like I mentioned in a recent post, ganache is great just not as a topping on a cupcake. I had the same feelings about it. Again, cupcake was just ok.

The prices of Yummy Cupcakes ranged from $2.75 to $3.25. I would like to go back and review some additional flavors since I feel that there is so much more to try. These cupcakes were pretty good, so I would definitely recommend this cupcakery to anyone who is looking for a good cupcake in Santa Monica.

NOTE (8/1/10): I met the owner of Yummy Cupcakes tonight and she told me that she has 203 types of cupcakes at her store! I also learned that she uses my favorite type of buttercream frosting on her cupcakes (American buttercream with butter). Since I only got to taste two cupcakes on my visit, I feel that I have so much more to try. I think I need to re-visit Yummy Cupcakes real soon!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stayed Tuned...

...the Cupcake Activist goes to Santa Monica! Saturday I visited two different cupcakeries, surprisingly only two blocks apart! Cupcakes are definitely more popular in LA! Check back to see my reviews...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sprinkles - Living Up to Its Hype?

The other day I was thinking about what started my cupcake obsession. I have always loved cupcakes, but I think what began my so-called "obsession" was Sprinkles Cupcakes. The first time I tried one of their cupcakes was heavenly. So it is a huge surprise to me that I hadn't officially reviewed Sprinkles.

I have mentioned before that my trophy for completing a triathlon is a trip to a cupcakery. This weekend was no different. Since our race was in Newport Beach, it only made sense that we went to Sprinkles. I invited my triathlon friends to come along. My friend Donny is seeing what all the hype is about.

I love that anxious feeling I get when I am trying to see what flavors they are offering for the day. I am rarely disappointed (unless it is the end of the day and there are slim pickings).

Sprinkles weren't the only cupcakes that I tried that day. I also visited Bristol Farms, which is in the same shopping center as Sprinkles. I went home with five cupcakes. I would have to do an entire Ironman to burn off all of those calories!

Since I am critiquing cupcakes, it seemed only fair that I try cupcakes that I hadn't eaten before. I chose Key Lime (the flavor of the month), Red Velvet (I had to get my favorite all-round cupcake), and Chocolate Marshmallow.

Key Lime
: I was expecting something along the lines of Key Lime pie, but I was surprised at how tame the key lime taste was. The cupcake was a key lime cake with key lime-vanilla frosting. The cake didn't need to have more key lime flavor, but the frosting definitely did. My mom, who is a big key lime fan, was also slightly disappointed, but that didn't stop her from eating the cupcake. Besides my suggestion of a more flavorful frosting, the cake was moist, the frosting was sweet, overall making it a good cupcake.

Chocolate Marshmallow: I went out on a limb with this one because I would never normally buy this kind of cupcake. I like thick, creamy frosting, something that this cupcake lacked. The cake was a dark Belgian chocolate and the frosting was marshmallow cream covered with bittersweet chocolate ganache. Although each part of the cupcake was good by itself, this was not a good combination for the typical cupcake. I like ganache...I had it on my wedding cake, but it was a filler, not a frosting. The marshmallow cream reminded me of the cream in the center of a Ding Dong, not my thing. I had three other people taste this cupcake and they all agreed that it was nothing special.

Last, but certainly not least, the famous Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake. This is one of my favorites cupcakes ever! Sometimes I forget how great it is until that first bite. I am then reminded that I should have only bought red velvet cupcakes. The cake has great moistness, the frosting is the perfect amount of creamy cream cheese, and the satisfaction is divine.
So thank you Sprinkles for helping me swim, bike, and run faster! You never disappoint!

Bristol Farms Review

When the OC Register had their Cupcake Challenge a few months ago I noticed that Bristol Farms won for Best Overall and Best Frosting. I knew I would be needing to give them a try in the near future. I was a little hesitant at first because Bristol Farms is a grocery store. I would expect a cupcakery to have the best cupcakes, not a grocery store. So what did I find?

When I arrived in the bakery section of their store I saw that there was a whole row dedicated to just cupcakes. Wow, they looked amazing! How was I going to decide which ones to try?

Somehow I was able to narrow down my choice to just two cupcakes. I surprised myself by picking the White Chocolate Cupcake and one of my new favorite flavors, Chocolate Coconut.

The White Chocolate Cupcake is a white chocolate fan's dream come true. It is white cake with white chocolate frosting and white chocolate curly-cues on top. I am not a huge white chocolate fan, but my husband is and he said that this cupcake was superb. I agree...I could tell this was a good cupcake despite my weird taste in food. The cake had the right amount of moistness and the frosting was very tasty.

Chocolate Coconut is one of my new favorite cupcakes. I didn't expect that coconut would be a fav, but I am really starting to enjoy it a lot. Bristol Farms did not disappoint! This cupcake had a great flavor combination...chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, coconut on top. The only downer was the amount of frosting. As you can see by the picture below, there was more frosting than cake. Don't get me wrong, I love frosting, but it has to be the right amount. I would probably cut the amount of frosting in half. Besides that, I really enjoyed this cupcake!
Bristol Farms may get overlooked as a cupcake choice because it shares a shopping center with Sprinkles Cupcakes in Newport Beach, but it is definitely worth the trip. These cupcakes were $3.00 each and I felt that I got my money's worth. Another positive note, it is open until 10:00pm, which is way past's Sprinkles curfew. Try it out and see if the OC Register is right about Bristol Farms having the Best Overall cupcake.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sprinkles Has an Ego!

Yesterday I came across this story from the LA Times. Sprinkles has recently taken legal action against a few cupcakeries that have used a similar name and decoration similar to their trademarked dot. They don't want people to confuse their store with another cupcakery.

Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture
John Dickson /
An opening party in July at Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture in Montecito, Calif. The shop has received a letter from Sprinkles of Beverly Hills insisting that it change its name.

Here are a couple of excepts that I found interesting:

Three-year-old Sprinkles most recently set its sugary sights on Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture in Montecito. Last week, just one day after Wendy Jones opened her shop, she received a letter from Sprinkles demanding that she change the name of her bakery, which she registered when she got her business license in 2003.

"They're going too far," said Jones, who hasn't decided how to respond to the letter. "I'm sure they're protecting themselves, but there's a whole big United States out there. There's room for other cupcake shops. They shouldn't be bullying around or picking on little people like us. . . . I really honestly don't think they invented the cupcake."

All told, lawyers for Sprinkles said, they have sent about a dozen similar letters to shops around the country and filed three lawsuits, including one last month against Famous Cupcakes in North Hollywood for using dots in its packaging and throughout the store.

"If anyone had ever been to Sprinkles, they would never mistake my store or my cupcakes," Jones said.

That's what the owners of Famous Cupcakes in North Hollywood said, too, after Sprinkles sued them last month for using dots in their packaging and decor.

Sprinkles is being way over protective of themselves. Sure, they want to preserve their image, but come on....most cupcakes look very similar. It is actually the taste that will set them apart!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cupcakes For a Cure

My name is the Cupcake Activist. I fight for the cause of cupcakes. But this time the cupcakes are the ones fighting for a cause! My husband's co-worker, Cassidy made these little cupcake pops to raise money for Race for the Cure. She suggested donating your Diet Coke allowance for the day or donating online. It's a great cause and they could really use your help. If you are interested in donating, click here.

Surprisingly, two of her cupcake pops made it home for me to try. My husband said that Cassidy doesn't like store-bought cream cheese frosting so she made her own. Her cupcake pops came from the same recipe as my Cupcake Bites, but she put her own spin on them. They were a tasty little treat that spoiled my dinner. I am an adult and I can eat dessert first if I want to!

Wearing My Love

My mom recently returned from a trip to Utah. While visiting Salt Lake City, she and my aunt stopped by Mini's. Mini's is a cupcakery that specializes in mini gourmet cupcakes. They bought a few cupcakes and picked up a menu and t-shirt for me. Pictures of their adventure will be coming soon, due to the fact that they used a disposable camera to take pictures.
The shirt they got me says "Cupcakes Make You Happy." Cupcakes sure make me happy! Thanks Mom!


Related Posts with Thumbnails