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Cupcakes :: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly...

Okay... so i've tried: dots in pasadena, sprinkles in beverly hills, & vanilla bakeshop in Santa Monica.

I know there is another bakeshop across from vanilla bakeshop and one more in the santa monica mall. plus, i've heard of the one in long beach. But is it worth spending the money to try crappy cupcakes?

In all honesty, dots sucked. We ordered half a dozen different flavors and all the bottoms of the cupcakes were EXTREMELY dry and had no flavor. it's not like the frosting saved the cupcake either. i would say it was a complete waste of money.

Next on the list was Sprinkles. They were good but not OOOOOHHHH. Cupcake bottoms were good, frosting was good (slightly sweeter than what i would like). Definitely more worth the money than dots but not good enough for me to stand in line for 30 mins.

So what started this rant today is my visit to vanilla bakeshop. i ordered 6 minis for $10: peanut butter chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, black and white, vanilla bean, meyer lemon raspberry, and red velvet. In this order, pbc was dry and pretty much crap; bittersweet was too sweet; black and white was nothing special; vanilla bean had the funky texture of sanding sugar crystals which reminded me of sand; meyer lemon was doable and probably the best out of all of them; and red velvet that was moist but bland.

Tell me... what makes a good cupcake in your opinion and where can i get a decent one?

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  1. i can't vouch for them personally, but supposedly auntie em's in silverlake has great cupcakes.

    you also might want to try doing a search of the boards...this topic/debate has been covered before.

    9 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I am not a huge fan of cupcakes. That said, I was at a wedding this weekend that served Auntie Em's cupcakes in lieu of cake. They were AWESOME. Hands down the best cupcake I have ever eaten, and I am now a believer.

      1. re: schmamo

        Just tried a cupcake from Auntie Em's on Sunday...it did NOTHING for me.
        It was cute though. Flavor...boring. Texture....eek. Frosting...pastey.
        I prefer mine way better.
        I went to LARK on Sunset recently...such a pretty shop with beautiful cupcakes.
        Again, most better to look at then to eat but one really blew me away.
        The Salted Caramel Cupcake was AMAZING.
        The Carrot Cake one was good.
        The service was WONDERFUL.
        I'd go back if I don't feel like baking.
        Now, gotta get to baking some brownies for my mechanic.

        1. re: tatertotsrock

          tatertotsrock! Salted Caramel Cupcake!!! oh my, what a fantastic combo! where is LARK? must know immediately.

          1. re: cecibean

            HI cecibean!
            MMmmm, yes, it was super-good!
            Here's the info:
            Lark Silve Lake Cake Shop
            3337 W. Sunset Blvd
            LA, CA 90026

            To make the trip to get that cupcake a super -sweet treat, go around the corner to Pull My Daisy and buy something cute and frilly and some flowers...that's what I did one Sat afternoon. The undie/flower store is a KCRW members so there's a great discount....if only Lark was a KCRW member.
            I forgot, I even got a huge Mexican Wedding Cookie...Oh My Golly, it was beautifully light and tastey and yummy and good and I want one now with a salted caramel cupcake chaser!

            1. re: tatertotsrock

              you're awesome. thank you! hope you are enjoying all the good eats in Culver City.

              1. re: tatertotsrock

                It's not Pull My Daisy -- thats further down the boulevard. Your thinking of the lingerie ( utterflies and lace or something) place around the corner, but I've heard from the ladies that place rocks.

                1. re: Hershey Bomar

                  Ah ha, Hershey Bomar,
                  You are correct...I think it's bittersweet butterfly or something...it hard to keep all my panty places in a row expecially while I'm in cup cake-sugar-coma-bliss.

            2. re: tatertotsrock

              You are correct on Lark in Silverlake, they do have great service and good pastries!

            3. re: schmamo

              My friend was raving about auntie em's and when I finally tried it I was not only unimpressed, but quite disappointed. They sure looked good, but the 2 that I had, one was totally dry, and the other was fall apart crumbly. And the frosting was horrible. The only cupcake I would recommend is sprinkles red velvet, and dots apple pie cupcake. I haven't tried vanilla in SM.

          2. GoodHealth is right - cupcakes in LA have been covered ad nauseum - c'mon, Mermy! But here's my two favorites :}


            6 Replies
            1. re: bulavinaka

              Bluebird Cafe and Bakery on National in Culver City has fantastic homemade tasting cupcakes. First of all they are huge! A person could easily split one with someone else or just induldge in the moist and creamy goodness. red velvet is my favorite. I brought them to a birthday party and people were freaking out! The cupcakes were a big hit. They thought I made them because they have that slightly unpolished look. Definitely worth the trip to Culver City. Here is the website with all the cupcake info...

              1. re: cecibean

                The very fine cupcakes from Bluebird are also very elusive - call ahead before going. The last time I checked, their hours were geared toward the neighborhood's business folks during the week.

                1. re: cecibean

                  I love Bluebird's cupcakes and cakes. Especially the red velvet. But their cupcakes are not "huge," they're regular size, thank goodness.
                  They do run out of certain cupcakes, so good to check first.

                2. re: bulavinaka

                  sorry! :P but i'll have to try these out

                  1. re: mermy

                    :) Pulling your leg... some have tired of cupcakes... I rarely tire of anything that is done well...

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      :) totally agree.. if done well... you can eat it forever!

                3. Auntie Em's has amazing coconut cupcakes....try Leda's in Sherman Oaks. Their cupcakes are wonderful and come in two sizes (mini's and regular, so you can test a few flavors)...I also like Big Sugar...their cupcakes are moist and the icing isn't too cloying...They also have really good bar cookies...There's also a cupcake bakery in Studio City that has cupcake in their name that I haven't tried but have heard has very good cupcakes...Sorry I can't think of the name!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: CynGriff

                    I second Leda's. They are my fvorites. The bite size cupcakes are perfect for a treat. Her cookies, bars, muffins, cakes and scones are great, too.

                    The Studio City place is called Big Sugar, and it is just worhtlees. They don't concentrate enough on baking, too many cute tchockes and other stuff. The baked goods there are dry and have little flavor.

                    To me, a good cupcake is moist, flavorful, not tooth achingly sweet but sweet enough. The frosting should be buttercreme! I like Leda's bacause of the custard and gel "surprises" under the frosting.

                    1. re: Diana

                      Yeah, the bite sized ones are a nice treat... but they are SO tiny in cake and so LOADED in frosting that that they all end up tasting the same! :P


                  2. Lark Cake shop in Silverlake at Sunset in micheltorena is great. They specialize in cakes but they have cupcakes so you can try smaller sizes first. Maybe not a traditional cupcake but their carrot cake cupcakes are great. They often have what look like interesting experiments, too like once I saw a nutmeg cupcake.

                    1. Another place to add to Ugly list - Crumbs cupcakes from NYC - just opened up down the street from Sprinkles in Beverly Hills. My loving husband brought home three for us to sample earlier this week and overall impression is too much of everything. The red velvet was too sweet frosting and the cake was dry. The cupcake is also the size of two cupcakes (that is why I love Vanilla bake shop for their minis - just enough). The others we tried were carrot cake and carmel apple.


                      Would like to hear what other people think of Crumbs.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: catcaper

                        I brought 8 Crumbs cupcakes to work yesterday for a friend's birthday (and also because it gave me an excuse to sample). My overall impression is also that these are enormous and messy and about as opposite of many of the dainty cupcakes you find around town that you can get. They're basically the size of Costco muffins and totally covered with toppings. But I thought they were good and certaily better than Sprinkles, though I don't know if that's saying much.

                        We tried: the chocolate and vanilla with cream cheese frosting (good, classic white cake, moist, overly sweet frosting), the Reese's (meh...the frosting tasted overwhelmingly of shortening to me on this one), the carrot cake (really liked the cake part, wished the frosting tasted less sugary and more cream cheesy), the caramel apple (this was my favorite, had an apple filling in a tasty spice cake). People also liked the Hostess one and the fudge chocolate chip one. If I do go back to Crumbs though, I'll just get the 18 pack of minis. They had sample out of these and one equals about two bites. I tried a snickers mini when I was in yesterday morning and it was very moist and the perfect size.

                          1. re: miffy

                            Looking at thepicture reminded me of something. I actually really like how they're packaged vs. some of the other cupcake stores in town. Having them in a holder like that makes it so they don't topple (Vanilla Bake Shop, I'm talking to you).

                            1. re: mollyomormon

                              YES! They are pretty and innovative variations!

                        1. re: catcaper

                          I was at Crumbs this morning and got an Artie Lange "on the house" and 3 mini's (choc, vanilla, raspberry) for my twins and my husband. I asked what their best cupcake was and Artie Lange was the answer. I thought it was fine but I had a slice and didn't feel like I needed to eat more. The cream cheese frosting tasted fine. The cake was pretty moist. I am a huge dark chocolate fan and the chocolate in the filling didn't seem chocolatey to me. I am curious to read what others thought.

                          I prefer Dainties and Sprinkles (dark chocolate or mocha) to Crumbs.

                        2. I'm a big fan of a place in Burbank called Yummy Cupcakes, because they are. Very fresh & moist cakes. A month or so ago, I got a few. We wound up not eating one for a couple of days, yet it was still reasonably moist after two days in the fridge! I've enjoyed their red velvet, old school, chocolate/chocolate, and chocolate/coconut cream cheese varieties, that I can recall.

                          I've also been to Violet's in Pasadena. While I liked them flavorwise (and they were definitely not dry), they were actually too sweet for me. They were even too sweet for my wife to eat a whole cupcake at one sitting, and she loves sweets.

                          Auntie Em's are good, too, but I think they're a bit more expensive than YC, and not as big a daily selection.

                          Check out Yummy Cupcakes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Jack Flash

                            I agree about Violet's. Their cupcakes are WAY too sweet! The only one I sorta liked was the banana with chocolate frosting. I wanted to like the pistachio, but like I said, too sweet.

                          2. For me, it's about moist flavorful cake and JUST enough frosting... not too much and not too sweet...

                            My current fave is Susie Cakes...YUM! :)


                            1. HotcakesBakes on Centinela in Mar Vista has GREAT tasting homemade type cupcakes. Yummy cream cheese frosting...

                              1. i tried crumbs last night. first thing, this place is a full service bakery unlike sprinkles right down the street. very nice young couple who own the place and have six shops in nyc. i actually loved the cupcake. had the cookie dough. vanilla cake (very moist) with fudge center and cream cheese frosting with cookie dough mixed in. only thing was that the frosting was a little congealed because it was almost 9pm. but still, it blows sprinkle out of the water. we also had an oreo brownie which i thought was too over the top chocolately but my husband loved it. i would defintely go back and try some other cupcakes.

                                1 Reply
                                1. My current favorite is Jongewaard's in Long Beach, a diner that also makes superb baked goods.
                                  They typically only have a two flavors of cupcakes (chocolate and red velvet), but they are the simple moist kind that aren't all weighted down with too much stuff. But the best part? Only $1.90 each! All those other places are so freakin' insane expensive.

                                  I also like cupcakes at old-fashioned type bakeries like the Monrovia Bakery. Up until the cupcake insanity hit a couple years ago, their simple chocolate cupcakes were just 80 cents each! Still good, not overwhelmingly sweet, and the place itself is old-timey, sweet and not trendy.

                                  I don't need a fancy box with pastel ribbon, I don't want to pay for an overly cutesy storefront in a high-rent neighborhood, I just want a nice cupcake.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: CookieEater

                                    hands down they make the best red velvet cake. and their pies are awesome.

                                  2. I'm partial to the cupcakes at Cake & Art up on Santa Monica Blvd. They're always test fresh, moist, and they have generous amounts of frosting. I also like the fact that they come in unusual(PB&J) and sometimes seasonal flavors(like Gingerbread)

                                    1. I'm with you when it comes to Dots. I also found them quite dry. Have you ever tried Violet's Cake on Holly in Pasadena. It's down the road from Dots. You can see pics here:


                                      I actually found their cupcakes to be moist and flavorful.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: pleasurepalate

                                        I think Yummy Cupcakes ( Santa Monica & Burbank ) are pretty damn good. But some of their flavor experiments aren't as great as others. They have a monthly flavor calendar online. Their yellow cake with vanilla icing and sprinkles is standard, but good and fresh.

                                        They also make a great red velvet cupcake as well. But the other day, I tried a red velvet cupcake at Sweet Lady Jane's on Melrose and LOVED it!

                                        1. re: hyperboy

                                          I am SO NOT a dessert or cupcake person but I am SO IN LOVE with people who are...and they swear by the previously mentioned Yummy Cupcakes, which I believe is in Burbank AND Santa Monica.


                                          Yummy Cupcakes
                                          2918 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

                                          1. re: hyperboy

                                            I've also heard Yummy is very good and less over-the-top than Sprinkles.

                                            1. re: hyperboy

                                              I tried a Yummy Cupcakes red velvet today, and all I could taste was food coloring in the cake part. It didn't even have a slight chocolate flavor. Just bitter food coloring.

                                          2. I am a pastry chef and am working on opening a bakery. So in the name of research I have been to a great deal of bakeries in the past few years. I usually go with other pastry chefs or chefs and we have lots of fun over analizing our baked goods.

                                            Our favorite cupcakes in the LA area would be Leda's and Frosted in Long Beach, I also really do like about half of the Sprinkles flavors. Both Ledas and Frosted have great flavor and texture. Good frosting to cake ratio. Leda's uses real buttercream rather than frosting and I love that but realize it is almost too rich for some people.

                                            We went to NYC and did the bakery crawl there and on that trip Crumbs was my favorite for good texture and flavor so I am excited there is one in LA now.

                                            On our last LA bakery trip we went to Big Sugar Bake Shop in the Valley and Vanilla in SM. I loved Big Sugar Bake Shop. Love the style of the shop, the other gift items offered and the sweets that I tried were yummy. My dh ate the cupcake I had brought home so I did not get to try their cupcakes. He voted a thumbs up.

                                            Vanilla's cupcakes were pretty good, not great. The decor is very cute. I would go back to try them again. We went very soon after they opened and I think they needed a bit of time to settle in. I was surprised to see how much crap they got here for their packaging. First the boxes were too fancy and the cupcakes falling over etc. It is so difficult to make everyone happy!

                                            The Yummy place down a block also on Wilshire was dirty, the frosting area in the front looked like kids had gone crazy, and we just could not justify another cupcake that day. I had been to the other one in the valley before and was not impressed.

                                            Now we are going to have to make a trip to Lark and Dots. Lark sounds great!
                                            Thanks for all the great leads here on CH. My life is sweeter and richer because of CH!

                                            1. I really like the red velvet, chocolate, and coconut cupcakes at Auntie Em's. Everytime I've gone, they've been perfect, not dry at all.

                                              My other fave place is Dainties. Their cupcakes are totally different from Auntie Em's since they only come in devil's food cake that's dipped in ganache and filled with flavored whipped cream. I TOTALLY love the Nutella, tiramisu, and caramel flavors. I didn't care for the Crème De Menthe(tasted too much like toothpaste) or the NY cheesecake.

                                              Dots and Susie Cakes were very disappointing. I was driving down Arroyo Parkway, saw Dots, and remembered reading about it on this board. So, I decided to try their cupcakes. I had one red velvet (acceptable) and one coffee latte (very dry...tasted old!). Although, I must say that the box and cupcakes were very pretty. At Susie Cakes, I only tried the red velvet. Something about the cream cheese frosting didn't taste right. It wasn't overly sweet or anything, but it just tasted "off." I'm just glad I was in the area (went there after going to Dainties). I would've been hugely disappointed if I drove all the way over there just to try the place. Then again, I only tried one thing...

                                              Bluebird Cafe is next on my list.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: lillizkat

                                                Sprinkles is my standby, and the original object of my cupcake love. Hard to beat, IMO. I could live and die by their peanut butter and chocolate, not to mention the red velvet.

                                                Leda's Bake Shop in Sherman Oaks is HEAVENLY. I can't believe no one has mentioned them. They specialize in mini cupcakes in a multitude of flavors. Go in the AM because they sell out fast. We got my hubby's BD cake from there and it was similarly amazing. Light, tiny cupcakes (often with a filling) and smooth rich frosting.

                                                Love Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock. Huge and delicious.

                                              2. I put my vote in for Yummy's in Burbank. By far better than Sprinkles. The cake is much more moist than Sprinkles. Sprinkles is just alright, but always seem to be a bit dry.

                                                1. Agreed the salted carmel cupcake at Lark is divine. Avoid the cookies, though.
                                                  Personally, I like the yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting at Delilah's as well as the red velvet but I'm kind of over red velevt these days.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: peachmahoney

                                                    I loved the salted caramel topping, but the cake was very dry, as were the other 3 cupcakes we sampled.

                                                  2. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one that wasn't impressed with Dots. I like Auntie Em's, although I haven't had a consistent experience with them. Sprinkles was my first experience with the cupcake craze and I ate it after heating it up in the microwave, I remember thinking it was so good. Violet's....WAY too sweet on top of being dry. I actually got some cupcakes from Bristol Farms once. They weren't too bad. Not as dry as Dots and not as sweet as Violet's. They tend to have some pretty good flavors too.

                                                    Seems like none of these places are consistent. One person might have a great experience then someone else says they're dry. That's what I'm afraid of when I go to a new place.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: bigtums

                                                      I've never had an inconsistancy issue with either Dainties or Buttercake, but it's not like I'm eating their goods on a daily basis. I can tell you that both take alot of pride in their goods and depend alot on word-of-mouth as opposed to setting up shops that scream, "look at me!" or have publicists.

                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                        Alright, I'm determined to try these two spots. Especially the Nutella one at Dainties. So far the only mini-cupcakes that I've found are at Auntie Em's. So I'm going to try the ones at Buttercake to compare. Hope I can find them, people seem to have a hard time.

                                                        1. re: bigtums

                                                          Okay, I'm not sure if these two terms are being used within the same context but consistancy and availability are two different issues. Any place (especially if they are consistantly good) can run out of the goods (availability). I always make a point of going as early as I can to either of these locations as they both shut down early - like 4-5PM.

                                                          Dainties usually has about eight to a dozen varieties of whipped cream frostings available at any given time. All flavors are made either from scratch (e.g., he makes his own carmel from scratch) or derived directly from the source of the flavor's name (like Nutella) which is whipped into the cream.

                                                          Slacker mentions that Buttercake's cake is great but the frostings are too sweet. I like sweet (and personally I don't find their frosting overly sweet) when it comes to dessertish snackity foods so it's no issue for me.

                                                          I can tell you that Bluebird is a place that everyone speaks highly of but I have yet to try because I work in Venice during the week. Bluebird is at the east end of the Westside so I just won't make it there given their hours. Bluebird, like Dainties and Buttercake, has a condensed operating schedule. In fact, they are closed on weekends as well so I'll just have to hit it "one of these days..."

                                                        2. re: bulavinaka

                                                          Dainties cupcakes have always been good and moist the several times I've had them. They are kept refridgerated at the store and are meant to be served that way is what one of the ladies told me. The Stupid Chocolate is the way to go. I'm usually not big on whipped cream-type frosting but in the case of the Stupid Chocolate it all works obscenely well.

                                                          1. re: Josh90004

                                                            Do you think if I bought them on Friday, but served them on Saturday they'd still be moist?

                                                            1. re: bigtums

                                                              I definitely think so. I usually buy extra since I don't live closeby. I've eaten them two days after buying them, and they're fine. But, then again...I'm biased since I really love Dainties. Seriously though, I think the cupcakes will taste fine.

                                                              1. re: bigtums

                                                                Yes, just ask them for any storage tips and serving tips.

                                                                1. re: Josh90004

                                                                  The Dainties cupcakes were a hit! I was really impressed on how good they were a day after buying them. I think they taste better when they sit for a little while. I like the stupid chocolate one the best, although Nutella comes in a very close second. My faith in the cupcake has been restored! Thanks!

                                                                  1. re: bigtums

                                                                    Yay for Dainties! Long live the king.

                                                            2. re: bigtums

                                                              I found Violet's to be way too oily and the frostings too sweet.
                                                              Love the cake part of the cupcake at Buttercake, but their frostings are too sweet too.
                                                              Bluebird is still my fav.

                                                            3. I concur with your assessment of Vanilla in SM. It is such a pretty store, I was expecting a lot more. We bought a box of 24 mini cupcakes in all flavors for my father in law's birthday dinner. There wasn't a single flavor that rated as anyone's favorite. Even my 3 and 4 year old neices didn't like them. I have had cupcakes from Joan's on 3rd. Not bad. Sprinkles was just okay. I admit I am a tough sell when it comes to cupcakes. I compare all of them to a transcendent moment I had at the Cupcake Cafe in NYC 10 years ago (yellow cake, lemon buttercreme). I'm sure my memory of that cupcake has taken on mythic flavors but I haven't found a cupcake in LA that would send me back asking for more. Now that salted caramel cupcake at Lark, I might try.

                                                              1. I agree that Sprinkles is totally overrated. I had Crumbs over the weekend and they were ok. I really liked the Oreo cupcake at Jamaica's Cakes recently. The cake and frosting were "oreo-ed." Why is it so difficult to find a good cupcake?!?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: earl1971

                                                                  Agree on Sprinkles. They are above average, but at 1 billion calories per cupcake and excessive proportions, they damn well should be.

                                                                  I think their popularity, like many thinks LA, is grounded in being the 'hip' place vs. substance & the go-to place for gift cupcakes. Just good marketing.

                                                                2. My first LA cupcake experience was from Sprinkles. They tasted exactly like my grandmother's. The icing was light and you could feel the tiny sugar beads on your tongue. The cake was moist and full of flavor. I was happy.

                                                                  This weekend, after many drive-bys i stopped at Vanilla BakeShop and ordered 6.
                                                                  First off, who puts creamcheese icing on a banana chocolate chip cupcake?
                                                                  Second, the icing felt like i took a big spoonful of Crisco, it was greasy, heavy as lead, coated my tongue and the back of my throat to the point where i couldnt taste the cake itself.
                                                                  Which may have been a good thing as the cake was dry and crumbly and without much flavor at all, save for the pumpkin one.
                                                                  At about 45$ for a dozen cupcakes it is a terrible waste of money.
                                                                  You pay for the cute decor, the boxes and the bags. All very chic and trendy. But come on... i couldn't live with myself if i charged that much for the poor quality of product i put out.

                                                                  Ahh the pitfalls of trends in LA...

                                                                  1. If you haven't had Leda's by now, you should definitely try it. I love the filling in each mini cupcake and the real buttercream frosting. I've tried many places that's mentioned here, and Leda's is THE BEST!!!

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: fdb

                                                                      Is "real buttercream" supposed to taste like flavored butter? That's what Leda's taste like to me.

                                                                      1. re: Josh90004

                                                                        Yeah... That is actually what I DON'T like about Ledas mini cup cakes, the Frosting to Cake Radio is totally off and it drowns out any flavor or texture of the cake itself! :P


                                                                    2. A moist cupcake is always a delicious cupcake and the frosting should obviously compliment the bottom part.
                                                                      Try Dainties Cupcakes in West Hollywood, I think they're divine!

                                                                      p.s. DON'T put cupcakes in the fridge, it dries them out!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: 48pinups

                                                                        If you're talking about the Dainties around the corner from the Winchell's off Santa Monica Blvd just east of Sepulveda where Bill and Susan offer up various whipped cream frostings on top of the Devilsfood cupcakes, that would be West LA. If there's one in West Hollywood now as well, more power to them!