Thursday, July 22, 2010

"We're known for our Red Velvet cupcakes!"

Are you?  Really?

No fewer than half of the cupcake bakeries I have been to in LA have told me some variation of that sentence.  Now, the thing is, if they're all known for Red Velvet, aren't they all sort of not known for it?

What I mean is, if every bakery has spectacular Red Velvet, they what would bring a customer to one over another?  Nothing but loyalty or curiosity I suppose.  The thing is, as a newcomer to any given bakery, sometimes they fool me into thinking they really do have the best ones.  And then I try them and am inevitably disappointed.

The fact is, Red Velvet cupcakes just aren't all that good (with the exception being the ones at Famous Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, where I got a free sample of one and it really was that good).  They're extremely popular right now, but besides being freakishly red, they're not special.  I think what people like is the cream-cheese frosting (which, I might point out, could be put on any cupcake) and the fact that the things are called "Red Velvet."  Velvet sounds luxurious and sophisticated somehow.  But you know what, it's a cupcake, not fabric.  It is still loaded with [deliciously sweet] sugar and enough calories to count as dinner.  

Don't get me wrong, I've tried to make them a few times, but they always seem not to come out quite right.  Why do I bother?  So come on, cupcake bakeries of LA.  Put your efforts into another flavor, and PLEASE stop telling me you make the best Red Velvet cupcakes because you probably don't.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New kitchen!

Alright, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my new kitchen (photos to come after it's a bit...cleaner).  But I'm scared.  It has a gas stove.  I used one briefly in Italy (it was sort of primitive and required you to light it with a match, which I did not know how to say in Italian, so I just had to gesture idiotically to cashiers until they got it), but I'm still not used to it.  I keep thinking I'm going to leave the gas on (which I don't think is possible as you have to push in the knob to make gas come out) and blow up the building.

But I have so much new baking equipment to use!  My mother-in-law gave me her KitchenAid mixer, which I am super excited to use (if I can manage to lift it onto the counter without breaking my back).  Also, my grandparents picked up a bunch of used/new baking stuff at an auction.  Among it are:  4 non-stick cupcake pans, 2 bundt pans, 1 or 2 angel-food cake pans, 2 loaf pans (finally I can make batter breads!), and several round cake pans.  You may wonder why a person needs 2 bundt pans.  And I would tell you, most people don't, myself included.  But if the burning desire to make multiple bundt cakes strike me, I can.  Can you?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The cupcake heaven that is Los Angeles

Perhaps the title of this entry is misleading.  It makes it sound like I have found a heaven where cupcakes go after they’re eaten.  What I really mean is, Los Angeles is a heaven for one who loves cupcakes (one who loves cupcakes = me). 

I have been here less than one week (yes, I just moved from the east coast all the way to LA) and have already tried cupcakes from four different cupcake bakeries.  This is not my fault.  I did not seek them out.  Rather, I stumbled upon them because THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. 

Let me start from the beginning.  I was in Santa Monica with Nick, and we were on the way back to the car because the meter was about to run out.  When we passed Yummy Cupcakes, we (or rather, I) couldn't resist and had to have a cupcake.  I believe that by that point I was going through cupcake withdrawal after not having had one since a couple of days after the wedding.  

The place was magnificent.  I was just gaping at all of the cupcakes, and each flavor looked better than the last.  I went with a favorite of mine, coconut.  There may have been a little too much frosting, but other than that I have no complaints.  I also tried Nick's Junior Mint cupcake, and it was SPECTACULAR.  It really tasted exactly like a Junior mint and was so creamy.  In fact, it was better than the coconut one.  I have to admit, Yummy's mint frosting put mine to shame.  I have some work to do.  

The next stop was Dots in Pasadena.  I got a chocolate-hazelnut (just like mine, only a lot better) mini and...hmm.  I have no idea what the other flavor was.  Now that's not a knock on Dots, it's just have had so damned many cupcakes that I can't remember what flavors I've tried anymore.  Is that bad?  

Third came Polkatots, also in Pasadena.  Though I wouldn't call it my favorite cupcake bakery, they had one of the best flavors I've ever tasted. It was called dolcissimo:  dulce de leche cupcake with dulce de leche frosting.  Holy shit.  I got a mini of that, and also a lemonade. 

Finally, I went to Mrs. Beasley's, once again in Pasadena.  I had a mini red velvet and a mini peanut butter.  You know what?  They weren't very good.  Waaaay too much frosting, and not very much flavor in the cake itself (though that could have been because the frosting was so overpowering).  To be fair, I ate them when they were still cold (the lady told me to wait until they got to room temperature.  I am not capable of waiting to eat a cupcake.  Silly lady).  But really, with all of the other amazing cupcakes, I feel like Mrs. Beasley's has little hope of competing.  (Unfortunately, the only pictures I have are from here.  After three unexpected visits to bakeries, I decided it was time to bring my camera with me).      

Dots had my favorite cupcakes, no contest.  Besides tasting great, I thought they were frosted the best.  They were hand-frosted but looked so perfect you'd swear a machine did it.  Yummy Cupcakes is in second with Polkatots following at a close third.  And Mrs. Beasley's?  Fourth and probably shortly falling to fifth and then sixth (it's a new week with many new cupcake bakeries to visit.  On my list is:  Sprinkles, Crumbs, Jamaica's Cakes, and Vanilla Bake Shop.  I'll be broke soon).     

Also, I finally have a new apartment and, therefore, a NEW KITCHEN!!! This one is so much better than my last one, and I plan to bake many (hundreds? thousands??) of cupcakes in it.