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El Cerrito/Berkeley/Richmond/Oakland Cupcakes?

I adore cupcakes, but I am still searching for my ideal cupcake. I know it exists because I've had it, but alas every time I find it, it disappears.

Does anyone have any suggestions on cupcakes I should try in the El Cerrito/Berkeley/Oakland area? I prefer ones that have moist and tender cakes, strong & interesting flavors and not hideously sweet frostings. Picture perfect looks are not so important as those things. They don't have to be from a cupcake-specific bakery.

I hope to order a bunch of cupcakes for a party, so places that have more than one flavor and can handle orders of a few dozen are a plus.

My favorite cupcakes were from Sugar Cone Bakery in Kensington, made by Alfred Schilling. They were amazing (especially his banana-chocolate cake topped with white chocolate frosting and granola). Alas Sugar Cone Bakery is closed and I don't know where to get his cupcakes anymore (any leads?).

Places I am thinking of trying: Sweetbar in Oakland, Crixa Cakes in Berkeley (do they really have cupcakes or just mini-cakes?)

Are Braxtons Boxes or Stephanie's Sparkles worth ordering from? I wish they had a brick and mortar shops so I could just try a few cupcakes before ordering a dozen (or 3 dozen minimum in Stephanie's case).

Thanks in advance!

If it helps, here's what I have tried so far:

Duck and Bunny in Providence, RI- My current #1 favorite but I really can't justify that plane ticket price for a cupcake (they are seriously good though).

Cako in SF- they are my #2, but I'd love to find something this good closer to me. I'm sad that they changed their recipes from when they first started, they used to be moister, messier, less sweet, and a lot more fun.

Teacakes in Emeryville- they are my current #3, though I find their flavors a little uninspired and they are a little on the sweet and too-dry side, they are still the best of what I've found in the East Bay so far.

EncoreCakes, El Cerrito- I tried so hard to love them, but after trying a dozen+ cupcakes, they are just too dry and the flavors too timid, though I love the idea of her flavor combos. Her textures need work- the fruity ones are too soggy and the chocolate filled ones are overwhelmed by having a giant dense chocolate truffle stuck in the middle of them. But I'll keep trying as she gets used to her oven and fine-tunes her flavors. Her mocha cupcake and her copycat "Hostess cupcake" are pretty good.

Fat Apple's, El Cerrito- Dry cupcakes, buttercream has a weird salty flavor. Bonus for not being horribly sweet though, and the chocolate actually tasting like chocolate.

Lalime's, Berkeley- The most amazing buttercream. I've never found any other place that makes buttercream this good (though Alfred Schilling came very very close). Unfortunately the cupcake part is only one step above 3 day old muffins- dry, crumbly, bizarrely dense and firm, almost slightly rubbery in texture.

Love at First Bite, Berkeley- Ugh. Terrible. Dry, tasteless, frosting tasted worse than pre-made from the grocery store because it has this weird "stale oil" aftertaste.

Kara's Cupcakes, SF- so very pretty, but that's about it. Each flavor tastes pretty much the same: sweet, dry, vanilla cake. Snooze.

Suziecake's, Los Angeles- incredibly moist, and I love piles of frosting but this was way too sweet. The sugar bomb made my teeth hurt and I have been known to nibble on sugar cubes.

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  1. Personally, my favorite cupcakes are from the Cupkates truck. Luckily they can be found around the east bay fairly easily. Moist, tender cake and the best buttercream I've had on a cupcake in recent memory. Of the places you mentioned, I've only tried Teacakes and Love at First Bite, and I agree with you about both of those. The flavors at Cupkates are good enough to keep me interested (which is saying something) but not super adventurous. Twinkie, tiramisu, salted caramel, to name a few. They also usually have a special, seasonal flavor. In any case, I've thoroughly enjoyed all the ones I've tried from there.

    Lastly, I'm pretty sure that Crixa just has small cakes, and not actual cupcakes. I hope you'll report back with what you find.

    1. Not a huge cup cake fan, but the ones i tried from angel cakes (they have a pop up every friday from 1-5 at tea here now in oakland) were pretty good.

      1. I'll recommend Cupkates too. I'm not much of a cupcake fan but these were moist, luscious and interesting flavors. Here's the display at my friends' wedding.

        1. Thanks chemchef and Melanie, I will definitely check out Cupkate's, they sound like what I am looking for.

          Majordanby, thanks for the Angel Cakes suggestion, what fun flavors (meyer lemon blackberry?)! I can hopefully plan things out to swing through their Popup on Friday and also check out Sweetbar nearby. I'm thinking of "suggesting" Angel Cake's "cupcake of the month" club as a birthday present idea... home-delivered cupcakes sounds wonderful.

          1 Reply
          1. re: greymalkin

            I tried CupKate's today and they were great! Moist and flavorful as promised, and not overly sweet. Nice buttercream too. Tentatively, I may have found my new local favorite! Huzzah!

            An interesting contrast to the ones at Sugar Daddies in Davis which I was able to try the day before. Those were ginormous and tasted okay but were very very sweet. Something that sweet on a very warm Davis evening was not a good combo and probably not a fair way to try the cupcakes. Chilled water never tasted so good though.

          2. I also recommend the CupKates truck. You can order from them for pickup and delivery.

            1 Reply
            1. re: milklady

              I just tried them this Sunday and they were great! Particularly enjoyed the s'mores and tiramisu.

            2. I picked up a couple cupcakes at James and the Giant Cupcake a couple weeks ago--they have a lot of interesting-sounding flavors, though I only tried the sea salt caramel and a Meyer lemon. The sea salt caramel came with a drizzle of caramel and a light dash of sea salt (maybe Maldon? not sure), added after you order it. The lemon was moist and lemony, not too tart or too sweet. Their shop is on San Pablo at Alcatraz in Oakland.

              Also, I believe Sweet Adeline does cupcakes, though I've only ever had cakes from them--but their cakes are sooo good, I would want to try their cupcakes, too, if I were doing a comparison.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Leadbelly

                Thanks leadbelly, I've passed through that area of San Pablo many times and never knew there was a cupcake place there! I'll definitely check them out. Their flavors are definitely interesting and fun- like the Smurf cupcake! :) Nice that they do minis as well.

                I have been meaning to try Sweet Adeline, I'll have to bump it up the list.

                Your suggestions are much appreciated!

                1. re: greymalkin

                  I just tried James and the Giant Cupcake- their mini cupcakes are so adorable! Their cupcakes were a bit hit and miss. Some of them were very tasty, moist and not too sweet, just as promised. Sadly, a few had off flavors (the vanilla cakes generally had a strong salty edge and tasted of uncooked flour even though they were full baked) or had extremely sweet frostings (snowball).

                  The winners were the Salted caramel (definitely fun and very tasty with the drizzle of sticky caramel on top), chocolate with chocolate buttercream (and rainbow sprinkles, which made it even better), Chiquita (banana with just a bit of caramel for that bananas foster taste) and german chocolate (I don't usually like coconut but this was really nicely balanced and moist).

                  I also went by Sweet Adeline- they only had one cupcake flavor, Red Velvet. RV is not my favorite but it was very pretty. The cake was extremely tender and light, but the creamcheese frosting tasted so strongly of creamcheese that it totally overwhelmed the delicate cake. So sad! Based on this though, I will totally have to go back and try their cakes frosted with a non-cheesecake frosting. If all their cakes are like that, I can see why you like them!

                  I also snagged a blueberry-pluot upside down mini-cake because seriously, how could I pass that up? :)

                  Thanks for the tips!

              2. Was reminded that I haven't updated this with the results of my (sweet) research. :)

                Loved CupKate's, ended up ordering from them for my party and was extremely happy with them. Cupcakes arrived without a single frosting smudge, and were delivered to my house for a minimal fee. I loved that I could pick a combination of all available flavors, I didn't have to order an even dozen of each like I have had to with other places.

                And to add to my other reviews on the rest of the thread, I recently tried the cupcakes at SweetBar in Oakland and they were delicious! Different from CupKate's but tasty, with moist and tender cake and flavorful not too-sweet frosting. I particularly liked their pumpkin ginger (like a tender spice cake with creamcheese frosting and it's gluten free) and their vanilla cupcake with a touch of lemon curd. Their vegan chocolate raspberry was a little dry and the frosting was too hard, but the overall cake had a nice chocolate flavor.

                Thank you again to everyone for all your suggestions, I have recovered my cupcake enthusiasm!

                1 Reply
                1. I promised greymalkin I would report on this cupcake place which is near our home.

                  Most can skip this place, which is very sweet compared to the CupKate's cupcakes. But hey, if you like the sugary stuff, it's fine. My MIL has a rabid sweet tooth and nothing is ever too sweet for her, so she loved these sugar-frosted bombs.

                  That Takes The Cake
                  5855 MacArthur Blvd. @Seminary Ave., Oakland, CA (Maxwell Park neighborhood)

                  This cupcake bakery originally gained its reputation from a location on Union Street (Cow Hollow/Marina) in San Francisco which opened in 2007. In 2012 the ownership changed hands and the store moved to a very odd location in East Oakland, right behind Mills College which is close to where we live.

                  Although this area is not as bad as 98th Avenue, it is completely understandable to locals that this tiny storefront has not only bars on the window but a locked iron screen door where they have to buzz you in for entrance before you can buy anything.

                  They have different flavors on each day of the week, so I'd recommend checking the website for what they're offering that day. We picked four of various flavors: Key lime, Peach, Chocolate with raspberry frosting, Chocolate with Salted Caramel drizzle on white coconut frosting.

                  The good: clean true flavors, reasonably moist cake.

                  The bad: Super-sweet buttercream frosting with very little butter taste. We are not buttercream fans anyway, as we're firm believers in ganache.

                  Spouse also bought a cinnamon roll, which was a huge mistake as he confused it with a walnut sticky bun. The cinnamon bun was thick overly sweet dough, very little butter/brown sugar inside, so little cinnamon we couldn't tell if it was real Ceylon or cheap cassia, very little powdered sugar glaze on top. One of the worst CBs we've had, to be honest.