Hey, where are all the cupcakes?
So thinking back, I guess it all started with Sprinkles. My best friend KT and I heard all this hype about Sprinkles – their cupcakes are the best, OMG gotta try Sprinkles! And so we did. Aaaaand….we were disappointed…no, more than that….we wondered if everyone who’d tried these mediocre cakes had been so charmed by the pretty storefront and the sight of shiny ganache that they just believed the cupcakes were awesome; or if everyone just had really bad taste. So, sitting outside of Sprinkles, on a hot summer day, we said “we can do better than these!” and we started planning our future bakery.
Now we knew that if we were to have a place of our own, we’d need to understand the market in our area. So we went in search of bakeries, cakeries, and other sweetery-eatieries in hopes of finding information: who had good stuff, what kind of demographic were they catering to, what areas were they in, was there a particular area that was more saturated than another with this particular business, etc. And what we found was, well, almost nothing. A handful of little shops that may or may not feature cupcakes based on what little information we could find on them. I must admit, we were a bit baffled, after all cupcakes were the new black and we figured we’d be up against some stiff competition. But after our initial search, and stopping into a few places, we realized it was not so.
We found bundt cake shops (I for one, had no idea bundt cakes were so popular…they seem so….old ladyish), we found plain old garden variety bakeries, and we even found bakeries whose names and / or logos featured cupcakes but their menus did not. And eventually we came up with a very small list of places to try.
Recently we were on vacation in California, and being that Cali is on the cutting edge of all that is trendy, we looked up cupcake shops there and found quite a few. We figured it couldn’t hurt to do some research away from home as well, maybe we’d learn something new (and we’d get to nom cupcakes, so win – win, right?)
So what have we learned so far from our great cupcake search, you ask? Well, two things – cupcakes are harder to find than we thought, and when you do find them they are not as good as you hope they’ll be. In Cali, we tried a charming little place called Yellow Vase in Redondo Beach.
They had a case full of pretty cupcakes in interesting flavors and found that while the cake itself was moist and flavorful, the frosting was atrocious. Mine (a black and white cupcake – chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting) didn’t taste like frosting at all, you could really only taste the butter but no sweetness.
And KT’s (mocha – chocolate cake with mocha frosting) was all but flavorless.
However both had a texture issue, the frosting was very greasy, like straight lard. Disappointing, to say the least. Another shop we stopped into had only two cupcakes left, but the clerk offered to thaw some out for us – ew!! At that point we politely stated that we were still full from lunch and exited the building; and all I could imagine was that freezer-y taste. Gross. The last shop we stopped in on our trip actually had the very same cupcakes as the first shop! Cheaters! So we figured that either both shops purchased those cakes from another purveyor or the bakeries were owned by the same folks. Either way, boo.
A late night viewing of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network gave us a new place to try upon our return home, The Coffee Shop, and we were hopeful that we’d be more satisfied with their offerings. Alas, the trend continued….while the cakes were beautiful, decorated with fluffy frosting dusted with iridescent glitter, they were also very very sweet.
Too sweet, in our opinion. The cake was beautifully moist, but full of sugary almond paste. And the frosting was just a diabetic coma waiting to happen. Needless to say, we were disappointed again – and the Food Network endorsed this shop!
So, we will continue our research and our tasting adventures, we have a few new places to try and we’re up to the challenge. But so far we’re back at the same conclusion we reached after our Sprinkles visit – we can do better than this.