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Vanilla Bake Shop... a small protest for a small cupcake

c
cvc Jul 27, 2007 02:56 PM

This might seem small of me but small is the theme of this post. Last week my friend, the pastry chef, and I could not wait to run over and sample Vanilla Bake Shop’s take on the ever increasingly popular cupcake. It was their first day and we weren’t disappointed. Luxurious butter creams atop mini mounds of well-moistened cake had us giddy with delight. Not revelatory, mind you, which is why I am quite content when I have the same from Sprinkles, Susiecakes, Hotcakes, Dainties, Dots and Leda’s (the other mini cupcake place in Sherman Oaks), to name but a few. We ordered three minis between us that day and I took nine more back to the office. So after a late lunch today where dessert wasn’t an option I thought I’d drop by and plop one of those little gems in my mouth and finish it off with some old coffee at the office. It was not to be.

I was sweetly but firmly told that I could buy three little ones for $5 or one big one for $3.25. Sadly, I left. It truly wasn’t the money but more the waistline, which is a myth at this point anyway, but sometimes I become a prisoner of my own logic. It really was that they were just sitting there beautifully, and individually, staring up at me. I mean you can buy one mini cupcake at Leda’s, one macaroon at Boule, one tiny Florentine cookie at Viktor Bene’s and one little chocolate butter cream at See’s. I’m particularly enjoying the one chocolate chip cookie I just picked up at Amandine for a buck.

  1. aching Sep 24, 2007 06:47 PM

    I just tried Vanilla Bake Shop on Saturday and thought it was great! I am not the cupcake afficionado that others on CH are, but I do know my way around baked goods, and the three "babies" I had (spicy carrot, toasted coconut, and bittersweet chocolate) were all delectable! The coffee was pretty good too. An excellent afternoon snack! And with regard to CVC's small protest - I kinda like being "forced" to buy three. =)

    1. g
      Got Cake Aug 8, 2007 09:40 AM

      We went to both Vanilla Bakeshop and the new SM branch of Yummy Cupcakes this weekend.

      Vanilla was beautiful, clean, and very busy. The owner was very nice, the cashier also thanked us for coming in and dealing with the wait. There was a cupcake meetup group there. I am not sure if it is always that busy.

      We got one regular sized and a trio of little ones. Each was good, moist, flavorful. My hubby did't think they were all that special but he is pretty spoiled and picky when it comes to cupcakes. I liked the place and would certainly return. Their wedding cakes on their site look very modern and fun. Three minis for $5. is a bit steep but I understand that it does not make good business sense to let someone leave having satisfied their sugar fix for $1.50 instead of $3.25. or $5.

      Yummy cupcakes is four times the size and it was a mess. They have a decorating area up front and it looked like little kids had gone crazy and just left the frostings and pastry bags all over the place. We did not want anything after seeing that and there was just a lack of passion about the whole place. The decor was lacking inspiration as well. There were only two other people there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Got Cake
        l
        lindsaytaylor Aug 15, 2007 10:21 AM

        This is my first chowhound post and I just had to share my experience at Vanilla Bakeshop. I have only been to Yummy in Burbank and Sprinkles before. I really enjoyed Vanilla. I bought a regular size Key Lime and it was very good. I bought six of the small ones: Pumpkin, Meyers Lemon Rasberry, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Mom's Birthday, and Red Velvet. They were all very good. I ate the chocolate Peanut Butter (my favorite flavor usually) right when I got in the car. It was delicious, although I think I like Sprinkles Chocolate Peanut Butter better because they put chocolate chips in the peanut butter cake. The Vanilla Bean icing was very buttery but in a good way. While I know many on here have different opinions, I love my cupcakes very sweet. I hate when the icing just tastes like whipped cream. These hit the spot and I highly recommend it! Luckily I live in Orange County or I'd be there way to often!

      2. d
        Diana Jul 31, 2007 07:58 AM

        I just go to Leda's where I can have one at a time. Of course, I usually end up tating a lot of the samples.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Diana
          h
          HitTheBall Aug 1, 2007 09:32 AM

          Just tried Vanilla Bake Shop yesterday for the first time. I though they did a good job. The Pumpkin and Meyer Lemon cupcakes were great. The Key Lime, a little disappointing, although I thought coating it with gram cracker crumbs was clever. For me the shot glasses were also a fun idea but the banana pudding I tried was lacking and $2 for one bite is not exactly a bargain. If I go back I'll stick to the cupcakes but Dainties is still my favorite.

          Dainties Cupcakes *
          11058 Santa Monica Blvd.
          West L.A., CA
          Tel – (310) 312-3656
          www.daintiescupcakes.com

          Vanilla Bake Shop
          512 Wilshire Blvd.
          Santa Monica, CA 90401
          Tel – (310) 458-6644
          www.vanillabakeshop.com

        2. f
          Frank_Santa_Monica Jul 27, 2007 09:42 PM

          I hate that 3 teeny tiny cupcakes are like $5.41 or whatever it is. That's just absurd. That's when you have to nab 3 or 4 of those cake samples to make it feel like you weren't just ripped off. What happened to a good bargain? Ah, the price of Wilshire Blvd.

          Here's a good story about good ol Vanilla. I ordered a dozen of the normal sized cupcakes in one of thse gift boxes that you have to pay for. I screwed something up with someone, which called for a good dozen cupcakes. No one is actually going to go to town and eat a gosh darn dozen of these precious cupcakes, so they better be nice to look at while they take up space in your fridge for the next two weeks. I specifically asked the counter person (nice gal indeed) if a dozen cupcakes would make a 15 minute drive and look pretty still. And, with all her might as if reading from her Bible, she assured me they would all stay in place.

          As soon as I hit Wilshire and Beverly Glen, all the cupcakes had fallen out of the cupcake holders! I was so angry. The cupcakes were COMPLETELY on their side. There was no point of the stupid holders.

          Of couse I called to give them a piece of my mind. At least if they were on Montana, then I could expect them to rip me off!! I spoke to a young man who told me they would replace my box with either one dozen of the regular cupcakes or 2 dozen of the minis. Now isn't that nice?

          9 Replies
          1. re: Frank_Santa_Monica
            c
            cupcake Jul 29, 2007 04:52 PM

            I went to Vanilla a week ago and shared 6 mini cupcakes with friends. I am still dreaming about their deliciousness, and can't wait to go back. Meyer Lemon was the best. Sigh.

            1. re: cupcake
              c
              cvc Jul 30, 2007 05:17 PM

              I must say that I agree. I had to return Saturday with my friend the educator after having an absolutely lovely lunch at Chez Mimi. (I mean how else do you finish a meal that begins with a half pint of heavy cream a la vichysoisse?.) We shared three of the minis: red velvet, keylime and, our favorite, the Meyer Lemon with raspberry. All were moist. Interestingly, we also tried the two macaroons and both had excellent flavor but while the mocha was fresh and brittle, the white chocolate was dry and too long on the shelf. Otherwise, everything tasted fresh.

              1. re: cvc
                s
                Shadow Jul 30, 2007 06:17 PM

                Please, what is the address of Vanilla? Is this a new place?
                Thank you,
                Shadow

                1. re: Shadow
                  y
                  yogachik Jul 31, 2007 03:24 PM

                  Wilshire at 5th, next to Wild Oats.

                  I don't think it's worth the trip - I wrote in the other Vanilla thread that we couldn't give our last cupcake away, and none of us finished the one we each had. They were so dry we couldn't swallow it down - but the frosting was good.

                2. re: cvc
                  b
                  bulavinaka Jul 30, 2007 07:11 PM

                  Macaroons = shredded coconut + egg whites + vanilla + powdered sugar

                  Macarons = egg whites + almond powder + powdered sugar + sugar +flavorings + colorings

                  I think you might have meant macarOns, but might it be macarOOns?

                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    c
                    cvc Jul 31, 2007 06:46 PM

                    Yikes. Thank you for that much needed distinction. (I did recently have an excellent macaroon from Susiecakes.)

                    1. re: bulavinaka
                      r
                      running pig Jul 31, 2007 09:27 PM

                      Thank you so much- I had been VERY confused about the apparent transformation of my favorite childhood treat!

                      1. re: running pig
                        b
                        bulavinaka Jul 31, 2007 09:48 PM

                        Hey Piggie! Hope you're well. I enjoy both, but being that the spelling and ingredient lists are similar but the results are wildly different, I was just wondering...

                        A little off subject but that banana caramel pie at Amandine is killer...

                        1. re: bulavinaka
                          r
                          running pig Jul 31, 2007 10:23 PM

                          HAHA- you've told me about a million times...like I wasn't hungry enough :-) Gotta go, for sure! Had carrot cake from Portos and lemon meringue from Al Gelato last weekend, both were very good as well! Big party hits!

              2. PlatypusJ Jul 27, 2007 04:32 PM

                It's not your grandmother's kitchen, cvc, it's a business! Selling single minis would cannabalize their sales of larger cupcakes, so it's no surprise that their 3-pack is more expensive than a "big one." A good idea would be to just get one large cupcake and throw part of it away in advance of eating.

                As an aside, what cupcake did you get that was "well-moistened?" All the ones I've tried have been dry.

                29 Replies
                1. re: PlatypusJ
                  g
                  greengelato Jul 27, 2007 04:58 PM

                  i don't know what up with all the overly dry cupcakes all over LA. doesn't anyone know that the secret to moistness is to underbake it a tad? hehe.

                  1. re: greengelato
                    Pei Jul 27, 2007 06:30 PM

                    Thank you! I don't know why people keep buying dried out cupcakes either. They've either been overbaked or sat out too long--possibly both. Protest!

                    Buttercake on Pico almost always has moist cupcakes. $1.75.

                    1. re: Pei
                      h
                      highforpie Jul 27, 2007 08:00 PM

                      I agree! Buttercakes is way better than Vanilla Bake shop...and cheaper1

                      1. re: highforpie
                        Pei Jul 27, 2007 09:25 PM

                        But I love Vanilla Bake Shop's mud pie!

                        http://www.chezpei.com/2007/07/vanill...

                        It's so good I think I'm going to try all their ice box cakes and just never get around to the cupcakes.

                        1. re: Pei
                          b
                          bulavinaka Jul 28, 2007 01:24 PM

                          I have you to thank as well for posting Buttercake as a rec a few monthes back and agree as well that they have some of the best Fill-in-the-blank - cakes in the Westside.

                          I think they can narrow their hours because they are small (less overhead?) and they probably sell most if not all that they bake/make within their defined hours.

                          1. re: bulavinaka
                            k
                            kevin Jul 29, 2007 11:17 PM

                            i keep forgetting is buttercake the joint right onext to the subway on pico near overland.

                            if it is, it's all right. and you don't have to worrry about lines, and at 2 bucks per, which is still expensive mind you, it's considerably cheaper than the 3.79 you'd pay at springkle's or somewhere else.

                            1. re: kevin
                              b
                              bulavinaka Jul 30, 2007 07:16 PM

                              Considering the selection, taste and moistness of Buttercake's cupcakes, $2 is a steal compared to alot of the other places.

                              Buttercake Bakery
                              10595 W. Pico Blvd - corner of Pico and Parnell (just west of Prosser)
                              LA, CA 90064
                              310-470-6770
                              Tues-Fri 10AM-5PM
                              Sat 10AM-4PM

                          2. re: Pei
                            h
                            highforpie Jul 29, 2007 10:55 PM

                            Yeah, I would stick with the cakes. The cupcakes are very dry and the icing is gross.

                            1. re: Pei
                              PlatypusJ Jul 30, 2007 11:34 AM

                              Well whatever you do, don't expect to get to try all of the ice box cakes by ordering the "ice box minis" assortment. I did, and got only two varieties even though I specifically asked for an "assortment." Their excuse was that they're "new, and this is all we baked today."

                              I ordered 2 days in advance!

                              1. re: Pei
                                s
                                slacker Jul 31, 2007 11:15 AM

                                Pei, I also have you to thank for Buttercake. In fact, I read a lot of your sweet tooth posts, and have you to thank for being 2 pounds heavier than I've ever been in life. lol!
                                As I posted on another thread, I love the beautiful moistness of the cakes at Buttercake, but some of their frostings are a bit too sweet for me. And aren't their mini cupcakes something like 75 cents each? Their prices are good and their cakes oh so good.
                                Haven't tried Vanilla yet, but I'm sure I'll make my way over there soon.

                                1. re: slacker
                                  Pei Jul 31, 2007 11:28 AM

                                  LOL. Join the club. My friend calls me her enabler. It's not my fault she doesn't exercise!

                                  Yes, Buttercake minis are 75 cents. I make up for it by jogging there. Their chocolate/espresso cookies are incredible as well. The perfect cross between a cookie and brownie.

                              2. re: highforpie
                                s
                                sherpa50 Jul 28, 2007 01:16 PM

                                Buttercake is far, far, far better. If they were open earlier in the morning (the orange currant scones!) or later in the evening (everything else), I would live there (actually, I used to live there - right at the alley & Parnell - but there was a travel agency there at the time).

                                If she ever again has the lemon cupcakes with cream cheese icing (made one lucky day when she had leftover batter from a cake order), grab them - you'll swoon.

                              3. re: Pei
                                m
                                mlgb Jul 31, 2007 03:24 PM

                                I don't understand the cupcake mania at all. Aren't there better desserts on which to waste one's calories?

                                1. re: mlgb
                                  c
                                  carter Jul 31, 2007 08:59 PM

                                  Boy, am I with you on this thought. Leda's is one block from my residence, yet I have eaten there once, and cannot imagine what drags me in yet again. Nothing special, yet also nothing bad, just nothing special!
                                  All it is is sugar and flour folks with food coloring and minimal anything else.

                                  1. re: carter
                                    d
                                    Diana Aug 1, 2007 06:19 AM

                                    True, but then again, foie gras (sp?) is just diseased liver.

                                    Caviar is just sturgeon eggs.

                                    Natto is just fermented beans.

                                    Pizza is flour, water, salt, oil, tomatoes, cheese and toppings.

                                    it's the chef's mastery of the basic ingredients combined with the eater's tastes that make a good food.

                                    1. re: Diana
                                      m
                                      mlgb Aug 1, 2007 08:48 AM

                                      If I'm going to eat sugar butter and flour it better be more interesting than something they serve at kindergarden parties. Like a fruit tart.

                                      Pizza at least has cheese, tomatoes, oil and toppings.

                                      1. re: mlgb
                                        d
                                        Diana Aug 1, 2007 09:03 AM

                                        I've actually served a fruit tart at a kid's party.

                                        sugar, butter, and flour can be made into some amazing things, especially if one adds chocolate!

                                        Think about it, beer is water, grain, hops and yeast-it definitely is not for kids!

                                        Wine is water, grapes and yeast.

                                        1. re: Diana
                                          m
                                          mlgb Aug 1, 2007 10:27 AM

                                          But a cupcake is just a cupcake!

                                          1. re: mlgb
                                            d
                                            Diana Aug 1, 2007 10:47 AM

                                            I dunno, is it? I guess it epends upon your personal tastes, who made the cupcake, and what's in it.

                            2. re: PlatypusJ
                              b
                              Bite Me Jul 27, 2007 09:51 PM

                              On my first and only time there I thought the minis in the case looked very dry and unappealing. They were picked over too. I purchased five of the regular sized based on the dry look of the minis

                              1. re: PlatypusJ
                                c
                                cvc Jul 28, 2007 07:19 AM

                                Wow. Great thoughts from everyone. Of course, I get that it's a business but so is Beard Papa which are made to order and you can get just one for a $1.50. Sometimes it's better business to be flexible. Sell the minis for $1.75 - $2. I buy a dozen donuts every Friday morning at Primo's to bring to the office (Now you know why I couldn't show up after lunch yesterday with cupcakes!) but once in awhile I'll stop by during the week and just get one. Same thing here. By the way, I, too, had the misfortune with that first order I took back to the office with them spilling out of their holder and flipping over. I believe what a lot of the shops do is use a tiny dollop of icing to secure the cupcake in the box. But we did like them, the buttercream in particular. And I seem to be lucky with the dryness issue which I see a lot here. Except for Joan's on Third which I like overall but in five years have not been able to get a moist cupcake to save my life. Now, you must realize that you're dealing with someone who in their youth consumed enough Hostess twinkies to support a healthy Hannibal Lecter defense. But we liked the red velvet, the carrot cake (often hard to find moist), the double chocolate and, of course, the vanilla. I was probably just feeling guilty after having that maple cake donut in the morning. Shades of sugar shock!

                                1. re: PlatypusJ
                                  r
                                  running pig Jul 30, 2007 08:14 PM

                                  But why should we encourage either waste or gluttony? As a health professioanl who believes in small indulgances, I totally agree with CVC. We should be able to buy one small cupcake.

                                  1. re: running pig
                                    w
                                    writergirl Jul 30, 2007 08:54 PM

                                    I'll join you in the minority. I would be able to go into a bake shop and have enough will power to order only a mini (or even to walk out if I couldn't get one) but I'd be hard press to eat 1/2 cupcake once I got started! Or even to throw 1/2 of one away. Guess we'll have to get our minis elsewhere! ;-)

                                    1. re: running pig
                                      PlatypusJ Jul 31, 2007 11:01 AM

                                      "We" shouldn't encourage waste or gluttony. However, Vanilla bakeshop should encourage whatever pricing scheme will maximize the amount in their cash register. Why give the option to buy only one mini when most people will buy three? It's not a charity.

                                      If we don't like it, we can go to a different cupcake shop until it becomes profitable for Vanilla to start offering single minis.

                                      1. re: PlatypusJ
                                        mollyomormon Jul 31, 2007 11:06 AM

                                        The thing about a small bakery like Vanilla is that it's not like they did tons of market testing or anything like that before they opened. They're dependent on the feedback of their customers if they want to stay open and threads like this might bring the issue to their attention. Plenty of restaurant owners in LA pay close attention to this board.

                                        1. re: mollyomormon
                                          PlatypusJ Jul 31, 2007 12:52 PM

                                          That's a great point molly!

                                      2. re: running pig
                                        s
                                        slacker Jul 31, 2007 11:20 AM

                                        Hear hear!

                                      3. re: PlatypusJ
                                        r
                                        running pig Jul 31, 2007 07:23 AM

                                        You know, I am not sure that it would hurt their business....we are generally a "bigger is better" society and I don't think most people would limit themselves to 1 mini. When I go to Starbucks, I rarely see people ordering the smallest size frapucchino. Half of the customers seem to go right for venti. I almost feel goofy if I order a tall. Not that I go to Starbucks... (ooh, busted for the sake of my argument)

                                        1. re: running pig
                                          Pei Jul 31, 2007 07:46 AM

                                          Don't worry. I get black coffee at SB's when there's nothing around and I really need a jolt. Boy do I get a funny look for ordering a short. "How do you know about the secret size that no one orders" is the look they give me. I don't apologize. I only need a few sips to ward off those incessant withdrawal headaches. :)

                                          Buttercake has minis, and I've never ever seen someone order just one. Not even me.

                                      4. g
                                        greengelato Jul 27, 2007 03:37 PM

                                        you...left? but...but... ok.

                                        i was there yesterday with two girlfriends...we split it and ordered a mini banana pudding. why are desserts more enjoyable when in mini form? next time, try a mini dessert in one of those cup things.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: greengelato
                                          barcelona Jul 27, 2007 03:49 PM

                                          mini form just make you think it is Calorie free...

                                          1. re: barcelona
                                            aching Jul 27, 2007 04:02 PM

                                            And to make you think that it's okay to have two...or three...

                                        2. b
                                          bulavinaka Jul 27, 2007 03:17 PM

                                          Oh come on, cvc, you know what to do with the two other minis that you would have been forced to buy - make friends with them! I rarely eat more than half of what I pick up on my buying binges at bake shops and the like. I almost always pick up extras and spread them around as "thank yous" and "just thinking about yous" to family, friends or neighbors.

                                          I just went to Amandine and picked up six slices of pies/tartes and six pastries. I have eaten or plan on eating half of this at the most through the weekend, but at least the other half is going either to my parents or my neighbors. It just seems the nice thing to do with morsels that are so ephemeral and indulgent as alot of baked goods are.

                                          I do admire you not knuckling under and grabbing three though - I would have eaten all three as mini-anything just gives me an excuse to rationalize how many I eat!

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