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Orange County Cupcake Challenge by Kate Lucas of the OC Register

May 29, 2008

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CREDITS:Original article and photos by

Kate Lucas/The Orange County Register

Glad to know I’m not the only cupcake monster out there. I was surprised by all the emails I got from those of you who were dying to know the results of our OC cupcake tasting challenge. Sorry for the wait! As it turns out, there was a bit of cupcake overload. We wound up going to nearly a dozen bakeries and chomping through some 60+ cupcakes. And just when I thought I had picked up goods from all the bakeries, I discovered that I had forgotten a few places and had to go back out and fetch some more. It also took yours truly awhile to sift through the mound of notes from our ragtag crew of six taste testers.

While it was an awesome opportunity for us to stuff our faces, this might help a few of you decide A): whether these gourmet cupcakes warrant the $3 to $4 price tags. And if so, B): where to go to get your money?s worth.

***Sprinkles icing shots

Here are the bakeries we grabbed cupcakes from, in no particular order:

  • SusieCakes in Newport Beach
  • Dolcissimo in Costa Mesa—MOVED TO CHINO. NOV 08 OPENING PLANNED
  • Zov’s in Tustin
  • Rockwell’s Bakery in Villa Park
  • Sprinkles in Newport Beach
  • Wonderland Bakery in Newport Beach
  • Bristol Farms in Newport Beach
  • Five Sweets in Newport Beach—CLOSED
  • Frosted Cupcakery in Long Beach (OK, not OC, but close enough!)
  • Mrs. Beasley’s in Costa Mesa
  • Pacific Whey in Costa Mesa

We compared the cupcakes based on a few factors, including: Appearance, Frosting (taste of), Cake (taste/texture of), etc.

And now, for the results:

The results!

Best Traditional: Pacific Whey’s chocolate cupcake. The frosting was silky smooth and tasted like melted chocolate. The cake part was fluffy, moist and rich in chocolate flavor

The results!

Best Red Velvet: Sprinkles for the cake’s dense but moist texture and chocolate undertones. Honorable mentions: SusieCakes for its rich cream cheese frosting and Zov’s for its buttery cake.

The results!

Most Creative Flavors: Frosted Cupcakery in Long Beach. The flavor of the month, the Mexican Chocolate Buttercream cupcake, featured a delicately spicy chocolate frosting and the cake was buttery and dense. The cupcake pictured above is the Nutella Buttercream cupcake, a vanilla cupcake with a hazelnut frosting. Worthy of mention: SusieCakes for its seasonal flavor of Peanut Butter & Jelly, which, well, tastes just like PB&J in dessert form.

The results!

Best in Appearance: A tie between Dolcissimo’s immaculately pretty frosting and
Bristol Farms, extra gourmet touches. Pictured above: The Sugar Mama (Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting).
Honorable mention: Zov’s chocolate cupcake with a red rose

The results!

Best Overall: Bristol Farms, which had the largest cupcakes out of the entire bunch, about as big as a softball. Likely the only cupcake that might warrant the $3 price tag. The frosting was decadent but not too sweet, with gorgeous touches like chocolate curls and fresh fruit. The cake was consistently dense but fluffy. And the best part? If you ever have a late-night craving for a gourmet cupcake, Bristol Farms is your answer. It’s open until 10 p.m. Most bakeries close around 7 p.m. at the latest! Pictured above: The Lemon Raspberry cupcake. Honorable mentions: Frosted Cupcakery and SusieCakes

The results!

Best Frosting: Bristol Farms for its consistently creamy and luscious icing that was just the right amount, not an unwieldy giant glop. Pictured above: The Strawberry Cupcake. Honorable mention: Dolcissimo for its beautifully whipped and light-tasting frosting that’s perfect for the cupcake lover who doesn’t want an overly sugary icing.

The results!

Worst: Wonderland Bakery for its messily-baked cupcakes with runny, too-sweet frosting. The cake portion was dense but gummy and several taste testers reported a strange, chemical-like aftertaste. Pictured above: The Southern Princess aka: Red Velvet. At $3.75 each, Wonderland had the second most expensive cupcakes of the bunch. *Zov’s were the priciest, commanding $4 a pop.

Other random cupcake tidbits:

Most, affordable, cupcakes: $2.25 at Five Sweets

Driest cupcakes: Five Sweets, Oreo cupcake, Rockwell’s Bakery,

So there you have it. We were surprised that our favorites happened to come from a high-end grocery store that’s been doing cupcakes well before Sprinkles even came to town. Go figure. We?ll be doing a full package in the paper’s Food & Wine section so you can get the complete lowdown on cupcakes from each of the bakeries. We’re still figuring out when to run it in the paper, will let you know as soon as I get a firm date!

*Photos by Kate Lucas/The Orange County Register

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