City Mouse (Dots Cupcakes) vs. Country Mouse (Violet's Cakes)
This past Saturday, I went cupcake sampling in Pasadena, first at Dots Cupcakes followed by Violet's Cakes. After experiencing both within an hour of each other, the best analogy I could come up with to describe the whole experience was that of the City Mouse vs. the Country Mouse.
In one corner, you have Dots Cupcakes, which to me was the City Mouse. The storefront looks pretty sophisticated. The building is pink with a brown awning and that same color scheme is utilized for their company logo. Inside, the cupcakes are presented through these white cut-outs, which strangely enough reminded of the cells within a beehive where the honey is deposited. Perhaps something subliminal is happening? As for the interior of the cup cake shop, it was orderly. Everything was in its place.
As for the cupcakes themselves, they were quite pretty looking and when put into the box with the brown and pink polka dotted tissue paper, they made a nice presentation. I took home some for a chocolate potluck I was having that evening, but before I left, I went ahead and tried two cupcakes at the shop, or at least half of each one.
First up was the Pina Colada Cupcake. They definitely did not skimp on the coconut portion of this cupcake and that coconut was quite good, moist and with just the right amount of chewiness. According to the website, the coconut was supposed to be toasted, but that didn't seem to be the case. As for the "Pina" in this cupcake, it went AWOL, unless the pineapple flavor is supposed to be really subtle. I think that calling this a Pina Colada Cupcake was quite a misnomer and calling it a simple Coconut Cupcake would have been more accurate. Based on it being called a Pina Colada Cupcake, I was disappointed, but thinking of it as just as a Coconut Cupcake, I was able to like it better.
Following this so-called Pina Colada Cupcake, came the Red Velvet Cupcake. I was definitely more pleased with this second offering although not necessarily wowed. While I liked this cupcake better than the first, I think the cake part should have been a little sweeter, but perhaps that was done on purpose because of the cream cheese frosting. When tasting that cream cheese frosting by itself, I found that it was actually pretty sweet, but when eaten with the cupcake, everything came together fairly well.
I found that the actual cake part of both cupcakes were a little dryer than I would have liked, but at that time, it was fine. What I found interesting is that when I had the other halves of these cupcakes much later on in the evening, both of them were even drier than when I first got them. I just took a couple of small bites of each and threw them out.
From Dots Cupcakes, I made a trip down the road to Violet's Cakes and by just looking at the entrance, you already got that "Country Mouse" feeling. When entering the shop, you'll see a lot of hustle and bustle in the open kitchen behind the counter and on either side of of the shop, one table had some crafty stuff that the owner apparently was using to make something crafty and the other table had flyers and business cards on top of it.
When looking at the case, it was even more obvious that the Dots Cupcakes and Violet's Cupcakes were night and day. Violet's cupcakes were a little smaller and had that homey, just baked in the kitchen with grandma look whereas Dots Cupcakes looked like they could have been made by a Pastry Chef.
I was quite disappointed with Dots, so I wasn't sure what to expect with Violet's, but let me tell you, Violet's did not disappoint and in fact, surpassed expectations. The two that I decided to sample were the banana cupcake with dark chocolate frosting and their French Toast cupcake.
The banana cupcake had great flavor. It actually reminded me of good banana bread. Unlike Dots' Pina Colada Cupcake which seemed to be missing the "Pina", I could taste the banana in Violet's banana cupcake. Isn't that as it should be? Also, that dark chocolate frosting was so creamy, so filled with chocolate goodness, that I could have had it by itself without the cupcake.
As for the French Toast cupcake, wow, I loved it. I can't tell you that it tasted exactly like French Toast because it didn't have that eggy flavor/texture you'd might associate with this particular breakfast treat. However, you could really taste the spicing in this cupcake that could be associated with French Toast like cinnamon, allspice and/or nutmeg and when you top it off with a creamy, maple frosting, I was in cupcake heaven.
Unlike the Dots Cupcakes, I finished up both Violet's cupcakes without even a thought. Not only did both have great flavor, I also found both cupcakes to be moist unlike their drier counterparts at Dots. I also brought home cupcakes from Violet's for my chocolate potluck and actuallly had one left over. When I had that leftover cupcake the next day, it still tasted just as good and the cake was just as moist.
While Violet's may not have the City Sophistication of Dots, what they do have is dreamingly delicious cupcakes. In the end, pretty presentation will only go so far if the flavor isn't there and Violet's cupcakes definitely have that flavor.
400 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, CA 91105
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21 E Holly St
Pasadena, CA 91103
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I have been to both a couple of times - completely accurate description of style/designs/concepts of stores. However, in terms of taste of cupcakes I found them sadly about the same. They both use that cloyingly sweet frosting - you know- the kind that makes your teeth ache. That IMHO really detracts from the flavor of the cake - you can't taste anything else. Maybe I've past that time in my life where I find that kind of stuff delicious. Someone needs to do a real buttercream frosting (I hear they do at Dainty's - haven't been yet) for their cupcakes.
I tried Violet's for the first time, based on the raves I've seen here. I had a chocolate with vanilla frosting, and a reverse, vanilla with chocolate frosting. And I thought they were just ok. Seems like all that moistness comes from using a lot of oil--those cupcakes were pritty oily, I think that's why they need the additional foil "cup" in addition to the paper one it's baked in. The flavors of the cakes could use a boost, they both tasted a little bland. The frostings weren't that great either, I thought the sweetness was just about right, but tasted like lower quality ingredients.
I agree. I've been to both places as well. I remembered the first time I was in Dots with my daughter whose crazy about cupcakes and we were thrill to see one in Pasadena. The place was cute but the staff were not very hospital especially the Asian Gal that was there. She has no personality whatsoever abd with a BIG BAD ATTITUDE. No hellos No nothing, not a smile on her face and we felt like we were intruding. Even my teenage daughter made a comment as to "what is wrong with her". I went back the second time (not knowing about Violet yet) to pick up an order for a birthday party. I again encounter the "Asian" Gal (mind you I'm Asian as well and have nothing against Asian). Someone was ahead of me and had stepped aside, so I approach the counter thinking that he had been helped already. To my dismay, she attacked me like a mad dog saying "HE WAS HERE FIRST!" with a mean look like a rottweiler. I felt like slapping her. There were another customer waiting by the door as well at that time, I told her I thought he had been helped already, that's why I approach the counter, and that she did not have to give me attitude since he had stepped aside. If I were not to pick up my order, I would have given it to her. The other 2 customers that were in the store were as stun as I was. God help her if she was the owner. I promise I was not going to go back and will definitely spread the word. Too bad I don't have a picture to prove it. Should have taken one with my cell phone. I then went to the web site to see if there were another cupcake place, I then found Violet in old town Pasadena. What a BIG difference. The staff were all so so friendly, with big smiles on their faces, and YES, the cupcakes are FAR MORE tastier than DOTS. With that kind of attitude, good luck with DOTS. I only wish I have a picture of that bad attitude gal and wish someone at DOTS is reading this.
I agree that Violets is much better than Dots both with taste and service. Dots has been ok or on the dry side. Violets may have more oil, but it has always been moist. They have a lot more choices also. I've never been disappointed with what I've gotten at Violets, and I've gone several times to both. My only complaint are their hours. Dots is open in he evening and Violets is not.
I had gone to Dots a while ago, when they were on Arroyo Parkway next to Chandra. (I'm not sure if they are still there, but I know they are in Old Town now). The first time I went there, I thought the store was so cute! I had considered opening a cupcake place and wanted to try different cupcakes and talk to different store owners. I think that the gal that Susieyan was talking about was there, she might have been the owner's daughter? Anyways- not very friendly at all when I asked if biz was good and if they found owning a shop fun, etc., etc... So I didn't ask any other questions.
As far as the cupcakes went, I've gone there about 3 times just to see if they picked up their act- but each time, they were dry. The first time though, the chocolate/chocolate was pretty good- that is why i went back the 2nd and 3rd times. They were just dry and pretty blah. I had found Violet's in the meantime and LOVE Violet's! Never been unhappy with the flavor or moistness of their cakes, they will frost them there too if they have them straight out of the oven. Yes, the only problem lately with Violet's is that they are never open when I'm there, or when my husband is nearby to make a stop. He's gone by 2 times and each time, they are closed, it was 4:45 once and 4:30 another time.