Who doesn't love a good cupcake? Cupcakes have replaced cakes in the hearts and minds of all the cool kids, and it's been downright entertaining to watch how elaborate cup-caking has gotten. There's even a Food Network TV show "Cupcake Wars" that brings high drama to the art of what was once the simplest thing to throw together in your kitchen for when the kids got home from school.
One of the players in the cupcake battles has been Casey's Cupcakes, the brainchild of Casey Reinhardt, whose parents own the historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, Ca. Her first shop opened in her parents' hotel in December 2009 and she just announced that a second shop will open on Feb. 14th -- Valentine's Day -- in her home town of Laguna Beach.
You can slave over a hot stove at Thanksgiving or, if you are in New York City, you can let Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery pick up some of the slack. This year they are offering pies, cookies and more. There are turkey-shaped versions of the TKO cookies, one of Thomas Keller's favorite snacks with a chocolate sable dough and a sweet white chocolate ganache filling ($3 each) and fall leaf cookies, house made speculoos cookies finished with a yogurt glaze and shaped as a leaf (3 per bag/$9.50).
For cupcake aficionados there is the pilgrim hat cupcake, an upside down pumpkin spice cupcake filled with cream cheese, enrobed with fondant and festively decorated with a gold buckle and mini marzipan corn ($5.75 each). Pumpkin brioche are available for $3.25 each.And of course, there are pies. Bouchon has bourbon pecan pies, apple pies with oat streusel and the classic pumpkin pie, shown above. Each 8-inch pie is $30. All orders must be placed by 5:00pm on Monday, November 22rd and can be picked up on November 24th from 10am – 8pm or on November 25th at 8:30am, 10:30am, & 11:30am. Orders can be made via phone, email or in person.
It was only a matter of time, really, before somebody took cupcakes to the next level. The perfect marriage of cake and lollipop, Lollibakes are the delicious creation of pastry chef Diana Sproveri. Each beautiful little specimen is comprised of four bites of dense cake that's dipped in chocolate before being sprinkled with 'flair.' Sproveri says "They're like creating little works of art. I have so much fun coming up with new flavors and being creative." Originally only available in larger batches, Lollibakes are now sold in groups as small as 4 or 6, or you can order by the dozen, and get gift wrapping if you want. Prices vary, as do available flavors every week, but you can order online at lollibakes.com or stop in on location at Kake by Diana Sproveri in Culver City, CA.
Crumbs offers an irresistible blend of comfort-oriented classics and elegant baked goods. Crumbs homemade cakes come in a variety of delicious flavors, from Red Velvet to Vanilla Cake and Chocolate. Crumbs cupcakes come in three different sizes. At each of its bake shops, it offers more than 50 varieties baked fresh daily and a new cupcake of the week every Monday. Crumbs also offers a variety of delicious cakes, from Red Velvet to Vanilla Cake and Chocolate. Accordingly, Crumbs Bake Shop is also a nominee for a Readers' Choice Award for Best Cake.
Currently, Crumbs has locations in California, Connecticut and New Jersey. Its baked goods can also available by placing an order online.
Los Angeles, Ca.-based Sprinkles is the winner of the Readers' Choice Award for Best Cupcake.
Sprinkles is a favorite of Hollywood stars from Tyra Banks, Russell Crowe and Paris Hilton to Katie Holmes, Oprah Winfrey and Teri Hatcher, all of who proclaim love for the sumptuous treats. "I love Sprinkles Cupcakes," says Banks. "I am addicted to them." Ryan Seacrest is a fan, too. "These are not just cupcakes, they're a lifestyle," he says. Barbra Streisand once sent a box of Sprinkle's cupcakes to Oprah Winfrey. Oprah enjoyed them so much she ordered enough to share with her entire studio audience. Sprinkles is also known for its star topped variety served at Oscar parties.
Luxist readers describe the cupcakes this way:
"Amazingly delicious and beautiful with a variety of flavors."
"The best cupcakes anywhere! Long lines, but worth the wait. Their butter with vanilla frosting will change your life."
"The original luxury cupcake store."
"Their entire range of flavors is executed masterfully, from classics like Red Velvet to more exotic editions like chai latte. The cake is light and not too sweet with rich frostings that balance each other perfectly."
Company founders Candace and Charles Nelson opened the first Sprinkles in Beverly Hills in April 2005. People thought the couple were crazy to open a cupcakes-only bakery in the middle of "thin city" at a time with low carb mania was at its peak. Despite naysayers, they sold out within hours of opening, and sales haven't slowed since. Today, Sprinkles is known as much for its long lines and devoted fans as for its delicious cupcakes. Sprinkles is credited with inspiring a national cupcake craze as reported by the New York Times, USA Today, the Today Show and Nightline.
SusieCakes is a nominee for a Readers' Choice Award for Best Cupcake.
The Los Angeles, Ca.-based company was launched in 2006 by Susan Sarich. The inspiration behind the company's founding was Sarich's childhood in Chicago. Each day, she used to arrive home from school to a warm kitchen filled with the smell of baking and treats fresh from the oven. Her two grandmothers, who were also neighbors, loved to bake, from frosted sugar cookies to Whoopie pies and chocolate layer cakes.
To this day, Sarich is captivated by what those desserts symbolized. "Baked goods are hallmarks of happiness," says Sarich. "Whether we're celebrating a holiday or a specific event, we want them to be as unique as the day." It was a combination of Sarich's sweet tooth and nostalgia for the homemade desserts of her childhood that led her to open SusieCakes.
SusieCakes' cupcakes are known for their "frosting filling". Flavors include chocolate chocolate, luscious lemon, strawberry, peanut butter, fluffy coconut, and vanilla with pastel-blue vanilla frosting. The most popular cupcake is SusieCake's Southern Red Velvet, an award-winning dessert, including the "Best Traditional" category of the 2009 Nesquick Cupcake Challenge in Los Angeles. Cupcakes cost $3 each.
Other speciality items include the Whoopie Pie, seasonal fruit pies, classic chocolate brownies, lemon bars, sour cream cheesecake, and homemade pudding. SusieCakes also makes custom layer, stacked and sheet cakes, as well as its signature six-layer "Cupcake" cake. Custom orders are also accepted with advance notice.
Cupcakes are one of the best sweets for bringing to a party or offering guests because not only are they tasty, but they're cute, fun to decorate and personalize, and are conveniently pre-sized in individual servings. And although baking a cupcake is easy enough in principle, baking a perfect cupcake takes a bit of attention to detail.
Use your favorite cake recipe A standard 2-layer cake recipe should make 24 average-sized cupcakes
Use the highest quality ingredients, including fresh eggs and butter instead of margarine
Allow all ingredients to come to room temperature before mixing
Mix thoroughly but don't overmix Over-mixing can cause your cupcakes to taste chewy and flat
Fill the cups 2/3 of the way -- less and they can burn or dry out, more and they might spill, drip, or not cook thoroughly
After filling the cups let them rest for 2-5 minutes to let the batter settle evenly
Know your oven If your oven cooks hotter at the back be sure to rotate the cupcake pan halfway through cooking
Test for doneness after the minimum cooking time to prevent overcooking. A toothpick should come out clean when stuck in the middle.
Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting or the frosting will melt and look sloppy (and the decorations might even slide off)
Serve and enjoy cupcakes the same day they are made for optimum richness, moistness, and flavor.
Diamond wedding cakes have made the rounds but doesn't the humble cupcake deserve a shot at diamond dazzle? Mervis Diamond Importers says they are the first to create a diamond cupcake. The cupcake is topped with eight ideal cut round brilliant diamonds around its circumference, and a two carat Asscher cut diamond in the center for a total value of $30,000. The cupcakes (there are two like this) will be on display at Mervis Diamond Importers, for their "Cupcakes and Wedding Rings" trunk show on May 1 and 2. You can see more photos of the cupcake at the Mervis website.
Why did Jonathan Mervis decide to do this? He's heard that question a few times and says that he sees it from a couple of different angles: "Firstly, I'm having fun. But secondly, I'm in the business of helping make engagements and weddings as stunning and memorable as possible. On the big wedding day when money is no object, I think a diamond-topped cupcake could be the ultimate in luxury. I've already had a few phone calls inquiring about more "affordable" diamond cupcakes, and I could foresee a situation where diamond cupcakes become the 'it' thing for brides."
He has applied to the Guinness Book of Records to see if he can get listed as the world's first diamond cupcake. But beyond the obvious publicity spin, Mervis also has an interesting point about the connection between sweets and luxury treats and the salutary benefits of indulgence. He asks if, in a time like this "when so many Americans are in the poor house, can it be healthy to dream for a moment and let our minds play with images of decadent diamond cupcakes?"