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Reopening the Cupcake Discussion

So, I was looking over the cupcake discussions I could find, and all seemed to be about a year old. I was hoping to get people's updated picks for the best cupcakes in LA.

For my part:

DOTS cupcakes on Arroyo Blvd. in Pasadena has yet to be beat, in my mind. I live right down the street from Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock - walking distance, even - and I'll still hop in my car and drive out to Dots for a great cupcake, no questions asked. The price is right, the cupcakes are consistently fresh and amazing (you can even watch them come out of the oven some days), and they've done a great job with the special orders I've sent their way. The bakery itself is cute, but not so great to eat at (you either sit at a counter inside or outside on the very public sidewalk where, more than once, I've met some interesting characters).

Don't get me wrong - Auntie Em's is fine, but it's a little hit-or-miss. Some days, you find delicious, fresh cupcakes with gooey icing and perfect, moist cake. Other days (in fact, today is one of those days) you buy six mini cupcakes for a somewhat high price and find 2 delicious wonderful cupcakes and 4 dry, crumbly little cake-like lumps sporting crystally icing headgear with all the delicious flavor of frosting, but twice the crunch. I don't know what came over me to go to Em's at lunch today (oh wait - yes I do, it was the amazing B.L.A.S.T. sandwich they serve), but I cannot put into words how devistating it is to eat dry, sad looking, expensive little cupcakes (or, worse than actually eating them myself, agonizing about throwing away or the moral ups and downs of trying to force them on my coworkers) .

Sprinkles, on that note, makes me cry. After reading last year's reviews on the place and even dragging myself 3 hours back and forth across town mid-afternoon one hot day last month to "give it a fair chance", I got park half a mile away to wait in line half an hour for overpriced, dry, "fresh" cupcakes, I will not make the mistake of going there twice. Especially not with DOTS just a few offramps away!

Where else should I try?

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  1. Personally I think Violet's cupcakes in Pasadena are much better than Dots - have you tried those?

    1. I had Dots for the first time this past weekend and thought they were much better than Sprinkles. The frosting and cupcake was fresh and tasty. Sprinkles is TOO sweet and not worth the long wait and price. Aunie Em's food is ho-hum too say the least and is probably why I have nver returned after trying them out last year.

      1. I'm not a fan of Dots - gave it three shots and three times was disappointed (I think I have lousy timing), except for their mini chocolate cupcakes, which I was very pleased with.

        I'm a fan of Yummy Cupcakes in Burbank, though some of the flavors are too sweet (at least the frostings are) to my taste. That being said, I really like the peanut butter & chocolate chip, the brown sugar cinnamon, and the lemon cream pie.


        2 Replies
        1. re: ElsieDee

          Definitely understand lousy timing with Dots, I live almost across the street and on the two occasions I've made it there, have been disappointed because most of the selection is gone- or sold out completely. Yummy Cupcakes was better- moister than Dot's... unfortunately, I haven't been able to compare Violet's, since I can never seem to get there when it's open...

          1. re: ElsieDee

            I second the vote for Yummy Cupcakes! I haven't been to many of the places listed, but as a frame of reference I tend to like the homemade style cupcakes as opposed to the fancy ones. The only thing I'm not a fan of at Yummy C. is their chocolate frosting. It seemed a little dry to me. I'm not a huge chocolate fan though, so not a big deal to me. It could have been an off day, too. My favorites are their Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Happy Day, Yummy Cupcake and Strawberry Cream. They don't have all of the flavors all the time, but there's a calendar of flavors on their website and you can make special orders for any flavor.

          2. last week, it was one of my long overdue one-day foodfests - after one solid week of two-a-days at the gym or running, low carb, low everything eating , i started with cupcakes at dot's and violet's - bought 3 cupcakes at each store...only took one bite of each...dot's much more expensive, both very, very sweet frosting..cake...okay...nothing to brag about, for the most part, i think auntie em's is better but the damn cupcakes are too big !!! i went from cupcakes to mozza for a pizza ( ate 1/2 ) then i went to farmers market for gumbo ( okay...i recall it being much better last time i was there ) the cornbread...very, dry, i crumbled some of it up into the gumbo...better, the sweet potato chips...stale...tasted okay....tried the english toffee ( johns ? ) overrated ! expensive !! i wanted loteria and a donut from bob's but i couldn't do it !! i had a seminar to attend at table 8 where there were appetizers oh plenty...the best munchie....a grilled short rib and cheese sandwich....wow....my buddies and i tried to tackle the server to steal the whole tray !!! did not care for the "dark" look of the restaurant...didn't get to see the menu....whew !!!

            anyways.....back to cupcakes...dots is a cute little store, the employees were nice and yes, the cupcakes looked good...but i thought they were trying to look too much like sprinkles and a price to match !! violet's was a cute little store too...not as sleek, the employees were also nice , the cupcakes not as "artistic" - i can't really give either the thumbs up but i hope they both succeed...my next visit to the westside will entail a visit to dainties...i'm looking forward to that.....back to tthe gym !!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: kjs

              Your capitulation to the Gods of Eating after being so good sounds very, very familiar!!!!

            2. Try Buttercake Bakery! Their cupcakes are divine, in my opinion...and very much like "homemade," but in a good way. :) Check out their website: www.buttercakebakery.com

              5 Replies
              1. re: foodieqt

                I think Ledas in Sherman Oaks surpasses all of the above (at least to adult tastes.)
                Small cupcakes w/ real buttercream frosting in amazing flavors. Lovely presentation. Moist cake - just right frosting - not that overly sweet stuff that kids crave. You know, that box of confectioners sugar mixed w/ shortening of some sort. (On the other hand, my kid won't touch real buttercream.)

                1. re: mrpullings

                  earlier when i posted my dots, violet and auntie em's comments, i should have mentioned that i've tried leda's...also, when i try these places, i try to pick-up c-cakes for a few other friends that have a sweet tooth similar to mine ...i also did this with sprinkles...so far, the consensus has been leda's ....

                2. re: foodieqt

                  Just went to Buttercake today for the first time. Tiny store front but the goods are first rate. The cupcakes are like homemade in a good way as you said, and they have those little 75-cent cupcake cuties with the frosting and coconut shreds sprinkled on top. I also took a box of various yum-yums to go like their espresso cookies, Passover brownie, lemon bar, raspberry bar, and a couple of Easter petit fours that even a guy like me thought they were too cute to pass up... my family of four divvied up everything except the raspberry bar and truly enjoyed them all.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    A third vote for Buttercake. I was standing in line at Sprinkles telling people to go there instead next time to avoid the crowds, and once I tasted Sprinkles goods I regretted having given them a chance myself.

                    Buttercake tastes and looks homemade in all the right ways. If I had more time, a little more experience, and a lot more people to share with, Buttercake is what i would want my baked treats to look like.

                    Sprinkles may be more polished looking but tastes just plain bad.

                    1. re: Pei

                      A fourth vote! I got cupcakes there about a year ago for a friend's birthday and they were excellent.

                      Although I have to say that if I have the time and inclination, I much prefer my own homemade to any storebought, no matter how good.

                3. Dainties in West LA - seems you'll get two reactions in general - you'll either love them like no other, or think, "ehh..."


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    I agree about Danties. The first time I went there I thought it was good but didn't think the cupcakes had enough cream in the center (they pipe flavored whipped cream into the cake, ding dong style). Maybe they saw my post on here, the 2nd one had more and I liked it a lot better. I've tried the nutella and the stupid chocolate. Their a lot lighter than Sprinkles. Very friendly service, you order from the owner when you go in (at least I have when I came during the day on weekdays). The cupcake boxes are really cute too. A nice little cupcake holder inside so the cupcake doesn't fall over.

                    1. re: jenjunum

                      I mentioned to the owner Bill that I think their Stupid Chocolate was the smartest of the bunch - it's my favorite. Also, be sure to check out the cold case next to where the cupcakes are kept - they often have other goodies for sale - I think they're overruns from their catering business, and are just as worthy of a taste.

                    2. re: bulavinaka

                      Tried Danties today, and came away entirely unimpressed. I'd rather have a fresh cupcake than a refrigerated one, especially if I'm paying three bucks for one cupcake.

                      1. re: BearCity

                        Sorry to hear that... they're fresh - the refrigeration is to keep the whipped cream frosting from going south... I offer their cupcakes to friends all the time - not a person left standing - ever. Stay on the hunt - let us know what does impress you...

                    3. Leda's in the Valley. On Ventura near Max, I think. They are the small ones and a little pricey. But seriously, my favorite in town. She puts a little dollop of "filling" on the top, then the icing, so you're always getting three flavors in one. The cake is always very good. I like the carrot with blood orange, but I just had a chocolate one the other day, and damn if that wasn't good.

                      Another I just stumbled upon is a little cafe in So Pasadena, but the name is completely escaping me right now. It's right around the Gold Stop, not on Mission but the other street, on the first floor of those townhouses. Full-size cupcakes. The carrot was a rich cake with a nice sweet icing, then there was this raspberry one. Vanilla cake, i swear it was more like a pound cake (which I liked) and a lovely, not too sweet pink icing that had a wonderful raspberry flavor. I was really surprised at how good, and now I kind of want one.

                      I also just had some minis from Aunti Em's. The red velvet and carrot were OK, the choc a little too dry. I wanted to like them, but they were all just OK. The meatloaf sammie we got, though, was killer.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: diningdivala

                        I really like the Leda's cupcakes, but their hours drive me crazy. They are only open from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm. I keep promising to bring in some cupcakes to my office, but they are never open before I have to come in and I can't make it there after work (plus, I hate the idea of buying cupcakes a day before they will be eaten). A few weeks ago, I had a Sunday team meeting, so I thought I would order some Leda's and pick them up during the 10 am-11 am custom pick up time that is listed on the website. No dice. That Sunday, they were not doing pick-ups because of a special order. I wish they would try to have some hours that were more user friendly.

                        1. re: Jwsel

                          Ledette told me they are going to do mornings earlier now. You should check again!

                      2. I usually don't get cupcakes, but I couldn't resist this weekend when we popped over to Pacific Whey after lunch at Bluefin to get the usual cinnamon custard danish and walked out with a chocolate cupcake with white frosting as well.

                        The cupcake wasn't the pretty too dainty eat type, but looked like a homemade version. The favour is just fantastic. Chocolatey, moist, and soft, but with a slight resilency/bounciness to the bite. The frosting wasn't too sweet, and tasted faintly of cream cheese. Unbeatable combo. Prices are a tad high at this bakery/restaurant, and the service is not the greatest, but the bakery items are really good.

                        They have several locations, one at South Coast Plaza (the home side), and one next to Bluefin by Abe at Newport Beach.


                        1. I still maintain that the cupcakes at Clementine are superior, specially the chocolate, with cream filling and chocolate ganache, and the coconut. Not terribly sweet. Very good flavor and texture.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: JudiAU

                            I forgot about Clementine's cupcakes - although it's not because they aren't great as well - it's just that there are so many places within a 5-mile radius that one can get so many choices of great cupcakes... it's as tough life...

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              The thing with Clementine is they often run out, so you have to plan ahead.

                              Today they had adorable Easter cupcakes. Chocolate with white frosting and tiny pastel dots.

                              1. re: Pei

                                Okay, Pei - you're really scaring me now - you were on a rip today - Nirvana at Susina, bliss at Milk, and warm-fuzzies at Clementine... As your site states, you really do eat to make me jealous! Clementine is truly first class in their approach...

                          2. If we're talking about nothing-to-write-home-about cupcakes, then what about Joans on 3rd? Or toast? They don't even have nice boxes.

                            Believe it or not, Sweet Lady Jane's makes beautiful cupcakes.

                            (I thought I posted this yesterday)

                            1. The best one I've had recently was from Susie Cakes. Very moist, flavorful and not too sweet...


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dommy

                                I agree about Susie Cakes. Their cupcakes are amazing and so-o fresh. Was at a birthday party recently, where the SusieCakes cupcakes were arranged in a way to spell out "happy birthday." (In all different flavors). This was a great hit!! Everyone loved the cupcakes and the presentation.

                              2. I have to say I have never had a dry cupcake at Auntie Em's. We get them for parties quite often, and they really are the best I have eaten. Sprinkles is too sweet. Ledas are too small and too expensive, but they look really cute. (I too love the BLAST at Auntie Em's!)

                                1. Wow!

                                  I now have a spectacular list of cupcake places to try out. I'm so ashamed - I'd never even heard of the majority of these (and I dare call myself a cupcake fan!). Lucky me - now that my senior thesis is finished (or rather, it's due tomorrow... which isn't exactly the same thing as finished buuut...), I can go to three a week before I graduate :)

                                  Thanks for your help, Chowhounds :)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: GrillersKid

                                    After going on your cupcake spree, I hope your graduation gown will still fit you - congratulations - pat yourself on the back!

                                  2. I finally went for it and tried DAINTIES...on Santa Monica and Sepulveda, behind Winchells....OMG, so moist, so flavorful, so tasty. I tried the Banana. It reminded me of these chocolate banana cookies with cream cheese frosting that my Grandma use to make. I think I'll have to send my Auntie some of these.! Then I tired Supid Chocolate, also delicious. I ordered a bunch for Sister's birthday part and can't wait to see and hear reaction of everyone. Pllus, the owners were SOOOOO nice.

                                    1. OK...so I read this thread at lunchtime while my daughter was taking a nap and decided to go out to Yummy Cupcakes in Burbank when she woke up. My daughter (3-years-old) LOVED her cupcake, but I thought they were a little dry and had way too much frosting. She got a basic vanilla with rainbow sprinkles and I got the chocolate with pink and chocolate frosting. I wanted to try the peanut butter, but they didn't have them that day.

                                      We live in Pasadena, so our next stop is Dots...I have had Violet's before and was not super impressed, but I think they were a day old (I got them from a friend) so maybe that was the problem...so maybe I'll give Violets another try...

                                      1. I love cupcakes! I think Dots is great! What about chunkomunko cheesecakes? Ok, so they're not cupcakes - they're cup-cake size cheesecakes. Lots of flavors to choose from and they're very tasty - great price too! ($5.50 for a 4-piece assortment!) I love their ooey gooey ubi and caramel pecan crunch - yum! You can order online and right now, they're at different farmer's markets - I get mine at the Westwood farmer's market (at Vets Garden on Constitution and Davis in Los Angeles). They're also in a few others around LA county. Definitely worth checking out.


                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: cheesecustard

                                          Has anyone tried the Bluebird Bakery, on National Blvd. in Culver City? Yummy cupcakes in a bakery that also has a restaurant with a little patio.

                                          1. re: handlertaper

                                            I have heard about Bluebird and how wonderful of a place it is. The only problem for me is they have hours that suit the business crowd there. The last time I checked, they close early on weekdays and are closed on weekends. I'm waiting for a shot though...

                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                              So true re the Bluebird's hours...but the cupcakes are really good!

                                        2. COOKIE CASA cupcakes are the best for me. Taste homemade but better. So moist. Our office discovered them last year and we order them for every office party. My favorite is the chocolate chocolate chip cupcakes with vanilla frosting. I know she is doing more than our on her website. Last week someone ordered chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. It was a winner too. www.cookiecasa.com

                                          1. OK...so today I tried Dots...I never had noticed it before and it is right by my house!

                                            In my opinion, I liked it much better than Yummy's. Moister and less frosting. I think I need to continue my cupcake quest...I can just blame it on my daughter :)