While each of the following places has its upsides and downsides, they all offer a tastier, more carefully assembled cake than you'll find at a supermarket bakery. And with flavors like chai latte, lemon coconut, passion fruit and mocha, they're definitely not just for kids. If you want to read more about cupcakes, check out the blog Cupcakes Take the Cake.
Leda's Bakeshop (Sherman Oaks)
Upside: I like that mini sized cupcakes are available, so you can taste a few flavors. My favorite thing about Leda's cupcakes is the curd fillings, which intensifies the flavor for a more grownup taste. The passion fruit was very nice. The decorations are cute, and help distinguish the flavors.
Downside: The mascarpone frosting on the carrot cake tasted like Crisco. There's a reason carrot cakes use cream cheese frosting -- because it tastes good, and mascarpone doesn't have the right tang.
Leda's mini carrot cupcake
Sprinkles Cupcakes (Beverly Hills)
Upside: The store is darling -- a modernist cupcake nirvana. This place is all about the concept. There are even lunchbox cupcake holders ($5) and vintage toy grabbags ($12) for your inner or flesh and blood child. Flavors rotate each day, but red velvet and the standards are always available. The strawberry cake is nearly unsweetened, almost like a muffin, which provides an interesting, if not completely successful, juxtaposition with the intensely sweet frosting.
Downside: The frosting is way too sweet for most adults, although some people like it that way. Again, the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet failed to provide proper tangyness, and the red velvet cake itself was bland. Cupcakes are pricey at $3.25 each, and the mini size is for dogs only.
Sprinkles lemon coconut, strawberry and red velvet
Joan's on Third (on Third)
Upside: Chocolate frosting was very good quality, rich and slightly bitter. You can pick up a nice lunch while you're getting your cupcakes.
Downside: Attitudinal staff, limited flavor selection. The cake itself seemed too light and airy -- a bit of density would counter all these sweet frostings better. Photos in original review.
Auntie Em's (Eagle Rock)
Upside: Strong assertive flavors, rich red velvet. Tangy, buttery frostings. Large size -- one cupcake is easily enough for two. Coconut cake had nice density and flavor.
Downside: Cupcakes are too big for one serving. Some flavors can be dry. Photos in original review.
Toast (Third St.)
Upside: These cupcakes look like they could have come out of my own decidely amateur kitchen, and taste like it too. If you're looking for a homey, traditional cupcake, this is the place. Red velvet is sweet and gooey yet satisfying. Excellent frosting on the lemon. Normal size, decent price ($1.95).
Downside: You could have made these yourself if only you had time. Only lemon, red velvet, chocolate and vanilla flavors. Not the cupcakes with which to construct your wedding cake.