Puddin' Out Cupcakes - Sherman Oaks
I mentioned this place in another thread, but this is a new cupcake place that opened in the strip mall at Ventura and Noble. (The menu lists the address at 15030 Ventura Blvd.) I wanted to wait until I had tried a few different things before I posted in detail.
I thought cupcakes have already become passe and, with Leda's only two miles away, I'm not sure if a new cupcake place really fills a void in the area, but I have been favorably impressed with what I have tried so far. The premise is fairly straightforward. Puddin' Out's menu has about 20 different cupcake flavors, but they rotate regularly. On my visits, they have generally had between three and five different types of cupcakes in stock.
The flavors aim for creativity and have cutesy names. Instead of calling it chocolate fudge, they have "Fudge Those Figures," a chocolate cake with chocolate chips and dark chocolate frosting. Or you can try Oranga-Twang, which is orange cake, with orange custard, and vanilla-orange frosting with some Grand Marnier. (You get the idea. I'm taking the names and contents from the menu)
The cupcakes actually compare pretty favorably with competitors'. Most, like Leda's have a small bit of cream or filling inside the cake, and have a thick layer of frosting. The frosting is not as heavy and dense as Leda's which I like, though it is the basis for one of my criticisms below. The cakes have all been very moist and the flavors have been pretty true to form. So far, I have had samples of the "Lemon Meringue High" (lemon cake, lemon filling and vanilla frosting -- it could have been a little more tart, but I like tart lemon cake), "Oranga-Twang," and "Vanilla Vice" (vanilla cake, vanilla cream, and some vodka in the frosting, which is listed as white chocolate, but tasted like vanilla to me). I also have purchased for sharing the the Fudge, "Yo Mama Mocha" (coffee cake, toffee creme, and chocolate/coffee frosting -- the coffee flavor was pretty subtle and this was more chocolatey than it would sound), "Rootbeer Float" (Rootbeer flavored cake, vanilla cream, rootbeer frosting with a maraschino cherry -- unusual, but pretty tasty), and "Red Velvet" (very moist cake and a mild cream-cheese flavor frosting that has a stronger flavor when refrigerated.) The price for each cupcake is $2.85 and they are about 2 inches in diameter. The menu says they have small cupcakes for $0.95 each, but I have never seen them in the store.
I have a few general criticisms of the cupcakes. The first is that the rotation of flavors seems a bit odd. The first time I went in to the store, there were no cupcakes with chocolate at all. They only had fruit flavors -- apple pie, lemon, strawberry. The second visit had Mocha and Red Velvet, which people might not realize have some chocolate. I know the place aims for creativity, but I think people might be turned off if they have multiple visits and think the selections are too limited. I hope the owners realize this and aim to have at least one general chocolate and one general vanilla flavor every day.
I also think in the desire to be creative, there are some flavors they missed. For instance, they have a "Peanut Butter and Jealousy" cupcake made with Peanut Butter cake, peanut butter filling, and vanilla/blueberry frosting, but they do not have a chocolate-peanut butter cupcake. And they put toffee filling in the mocha cupcake, but apparently not in a versin without coffee flavors. I was told that they will do cupcakes to order, i.e., that allow you to select cake, filling, and topping, but I do not know how many you need to order to take advantage of that option.
The other criticism I have is that the cupcakes appear to be kept at room temperature in the store. As a result, the frosting is quite soft when ordered. This isn't such a big deal for most of the cupcakes, but it did have a noticeable effect on the Red Velvet. When I first tried the red velvet right after bringing it home, the cream cheese topping tasted a lot like whipped cream. After refrigerating it for a little while, however, the frosting took on a denser texture, which enhanced the cream cheese flavor. While the effect on flavor was most noticeable for the Red Velvet, I have enjoyed all of the cupcakes a bit more after refrigerating, and definitely recommend it. Refrigeration has not affected the moistness of the cake.
They also sell cookies and small brownie squares that I highly recommend. The cookies are $0.95 each, and very buttery and moist. I have tried white chocolate macadamia, peanut butter, and chocolate chip. (They also rotate.) All have been quite good. The brownie bites are very moist and, for $1.75, give you about 7-8 square pieces. These are definitely reasonably priced.
The menu also lists bread pudding and puddin' cakes, but I have not tried them. I was going to try the brioche bread pudding today, but I would like to try the bread pudding with one of the warm sauces listed on the menu, but none were available when I was there.
There is one last thing worth noting. Puddin' Out's sign says they are open until 10:30 every night. Given that one of my major frustrations (as I've mentioned on this board) with Leda's is its short hours of operation, that is a definite plus in my book. I think for special occasions, I will probably go to Leda's, but for a sweet fix, especially late at night, I wouldn't be surprised if I become a regular at Puddin' Out.
I've been twice. The first time I walked out because the woman that walked in while I was deciding had 4 kids with her that couldn't make up their minds.
The sole person behind the counter couldn't ask me if there was something that I wanted while the kids decided.
My Baseball Nut from next door filled the need.
The second time (and last) I took 2 of the Red Velvet to go.
They were dry and they weren't red! Wondering what time of day they'd be fresh.
I'll try it again, but I'll give them a little more time.
Good review, Jwsel. The boba place in the same spot could never do any business. I don't know if the location is jinxed, but I'd think it's good for cupcakes since there is a Starbucks in that center (and their sweets suck, but people might be too lazy to walk across the parking lot) as well as a Baskin-Robbins right next door. However, Baby Donuts couldn't make it and they had a decent product and were right next to Starbucks. Who knows. Anyway, we stopped in on Sunday evening on the way to a quick dinner at El Rancho, and they had nice-sized samples out on a tray, but we declined given it was pre-dinner and also the samples looked kind of old and worn out. The cupcakes definitely look quite a bit larger than Leda's standard minis. I'm not so much into cupcakes as I don't care for buttercream very much, I'd rather spend my dessert calories on ice cream actually, but since I'm around that center fairly often maybe I'll make more of an effort to check them out.
re: Debbie W
I never liked Baby Donuts (even when they were delivered to my office for free), but I think Puddin' Out has a distinct advantage by being open late. Being open late does fill a void for the neighborhood. If you want quick late-night baked goods, your options are a supermarket, Mrs. Fields in the Galleria (and its nightmarish parking), Roman's (whose pastries have always left me disappointed), and Starbucks (which, as you say, sucks for sweets). I hope Puddin' Out gets foot traffic from the sushi place and El Rancho.
I should have mentioned one more thing. Each time I have gone in, they have offered a free cup of coffee with a cupcake purchase. I do not know if that is just temporary, but it is a nice way to build goodwill. They also have been very willing to give samples. Not only do they have a sample tray, which do look a little old (but have still been reasonably moist), but when another customer asked some questions about one of the flavors, the clerk pulled out a cupcake, cut it up, and gave everyone in the shop a taste.
Leda's has samples of almost everything out but the cupcakes. All her cookies, bars and such. They encourage ytou to tase as much as you want. I've never saked them for a cupcake tasting, but the minis are so small, I can see how that woudl be a bit silly.
Still nothing ion there wants to drag me away. But I DO think I may sneak in for a look see
I like Leda's a lot and still think they are the best overall cupcake in the city, but these cupcakes are different. They are not designed to be as upscale as Leda's, imo. The flavors are not as sharp, but the cupcakes are larger and the frosting is lighter. (If I have any problems with Leda's cupcakes, it is with the extremely dense frosting.)
I think Puddin' Out's goal is to be a place to grab a sweet to take home after dinner if you get a strong sugar craving or to sit down in a casual environment and have a cupcake with a cup of coffee. Whether there is a market for that, I don't know. But that has never been how I viewed Leda's, which because of its hours is usually a destination for me. In other words, if I know I'm going to have company or want to purchase cupcakes for an event, I will plan as part of my shopping to go to Leda's. It is not really a spur of the moment place.
I'm on a mission to find the best cupcakes. And I was told to go to this store. To say the least, it was very disappointing. I ordered 3 flavors, of the 3, 2 were stale. The store was dirty, the help was less than "on the ball", and to top it all off, they gave me three cupcakes to go in french fry boats in 3 separate brown lunch bags. Needless to say they fell over in the car, smashing icing. Overall, not impressed, will never go there again.