Cupcake wars

Stephanie Chang

The cupcakes purchased were Rose Velvet, Cookies and Creme, and Pumpkin Spice. Frost Cupcake Factory also sells 18 other flavors of cupcakes. Photo by Stephanie Chang.

Frost Cupcakes: 199 E Campbell Ave Campbell
Price: $3.25 a cupcake
Rating: ★★★★☆

Frost Cupcakes is the definition of kitschy, complete with bright pink and lime green wallpaper, flower bouquets, leather couches, a kids’ corner and tacky prints of various flavored cupcakes. It’s a casual place to hang out, and you are not constantly getting the stink eye from the hostesses to make room for new customers. There is a large variety of cupcake flavors, in mini sizes for kids and slightly enlarged sizes for the big kids. We ordered the Rose Velvet, the Pumpkin Spice and the Cookies and Cream cupcakes. The Rose Velvet, a red velvet cupcake with a pretentious name, is the best seller of the shop; the cake is airy and just flavorful enough to withstand the overwhelming, thick cream cheese frosting. The Pumpkin Spice cupcake tasted like a cake version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, but because of the thickness, it could make you sick after eating too much. The Cookies and Creme cupcakes tasted like an over-sweetened Oreo McFlurry, and the excessive use of baking soda will make you wrinkle your nose.

 

Despite the cheap price of the Red Velvet and Chocolate Marble cupcakes, the taste was not worth the money. Sugar Butter Flour is located on Campbell on South Bascom Ave. Photo by Stephanie Chang.

Sugar Butter Flour: 1875 S. Bascom Avenue, Campbell
Price: $3.00 a cupcake
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Sugar Butter Flour offers cupcakes for lower prices than many of its competitors, but the cheap price does not make up for the stuffy and sterile interior. As the store specializes in other baked goods, their cupcakes seem to fall by the wayside. Only four flavors were available: Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Marble and Red Velvet. The frosting for the cream cheese frosting cupcakes tasted bland, and the texture of the cakes was dense and heavy. While we hoped for something better in the whipped frosting cupcakes, the muddy texture melted the moment our forks touched it.The disappointing cake was dry and unnaturally moist at the same time, probably the result of too much egg. Despite Sugar Butter Flour’s cheaper cupcakes, we would rather drive the extra few miles and pay a quarter more at Frost Cupcakes.

 

The cupcakes bought were Salty Caramel, Cinammon Sugar, and Red Velvet. Sprinkles packs its baked goods in cardboard boxes. Custom made cardboard boxes are available for special occasions. Photo by Stephanie Chang.

Sprinkles: 393 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto
Price: $3.50 a cupcake
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Surrounded by pristine wooden oak walls and their unified dot trademark, Sprinkles Cupcakes welcomes all customers. Their decorations are neither too girly nor too masculine but a perfect in between. Customers are greeted by smiling employees and a spotless glass case filled with perfectly festive holiday cupcakes. However, despite Sprinkles’ attractive interior, their bland and ordinary cupcakes lead this cupcakery to its downfall. The Red Velvet is less than satisfactory with a combination of hard, crispy frosting and thick, chewy cake. It seems like an extra pound of sugar was added to the Salted Caramel, making the cupcake overwhelmingly sweet.The Cinnamon Sugar cupcake was a muffin in disguise and tasted like it was at least four days stale, as dry as a lizard’s skin. At most cupcakeries, the price for one cupcake is $3.25, but at Sprinkles, they are $3.50 and not at all worth the extra money because of their poor quality. Sprinkles Cupcakes cares more about show and presentation than the actual quality of their products.

 

A Kara’s Cupcakes employee helps a customer with her order. Kara's is squeezed between Maggiano's and Pluto's in Santana Row on El Camino Real. Photo by Stephanie Chang.

Kara’s Cupcakes: 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
Price: $3.25 a cupcake
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Located in Santana Row beside a well-known Italian joint, Maggiano’s, and a Louisiana jazz bar called Ploux, Kara’s seems a bit out of a place in the elite restaurant feel of the plaza. If you’re macho enough to brave the pink awning and curlicue handwriting of Kara’s Cupcakes, expect a grocery-store quality dessert. While the young workers manning the drop-in stand are friendly and helpful, the cupcakes we ordered — Carrot, Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Ganache, and Vanilla — were sub-par.

The carrot cake, while rich and satisfying, was overly dense and embedded with bits of nuts, raisins and carrots. Luckily, no one in our tasting group had allergies, but it would have been nice if the young workers had warned us about the extra ingredients. The frosting of the carrot was also deliciously creamy, but one reporter was disappointed that it melts in your mouth too fast for the cake and the frosting to blend.

On the other hand, the vanilla cupcake concentrated its flavor on the top half, the sugary frosting coated in ridiculously crispy sprinkles that make and then proceed to break the cupcake. The cake, while soft and loose, tasted like melted vanilla ice cream.

The Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Ganache sounds like a pretentious dessert coming from a posh restaurant in France, but it looks (and tastes) like a cheap cupcake from Lucky’s. The first explosion of taste comes from the peanut butter frosting, and then gradually, from a hint of dry, dark chocolate cake. The flavors are so overwhelming that it muddles the taste buds in your mouth and takes a few moments for them to sort themselves out.

Kara’s cupcakes has a cute interior for a drop-in cupcakery, but the spirit of the shop usurps the flavor and texture of the mediocre cakes.

 

The cupcakes ordered at Bebecakes were “Blue Hair Lady”, “Pink Hair Lady,” and “Miss Scarlett”. While “Pink Hair Lady” and “MIss Scarlett” are scrumptious, “Blue Hair Lady” will make you choke and plead for water. Photo by Stephanie Chang.

Bebecakes: 230 University Avenue, Palo Alto
Price: $3.25 a cupcake
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Bebecakes, pronounced ‘Baby’cakes, is attached to the front of a dimly lit but unique stationary shop called Paperwhirl. Even with its festive Christmas decorations blinding passerbys, the cupcake shop seems to be just a pebble in the water, hidden by its surroundings. While Bebecakes is not your typical hang-out location, and more of a stop-and-go corner store, the vibrant paintings of designer cupcakes, the atmosphere of the shop, and the eager employees make the trip worth while. Their red velvet cupcake, “Miss Scarlett”, stands out amongst the crowd with its vivid red color. Soft and creamy, “Miss Scarlett” is tummy-pleasing because the frosting and cake complement each other, blending to make a good overall package. Their peppermint cupcake feels like a cool mint breeze on your tongue, and is topped with crushed pieces of candy cane that are evenly distributed over the frosting. The decoration even adds a satisfying crunch to the smoothness of the flavor.

Although Bebecakes prides itself in their creation of original cupcakes and creative names, they do not succeed with every flavor. For example, “Blue Hair Lady”: infused with lavender in the frosting. The sickly purple color of the cupcake tastes and looks like Playdoh — it made all the reporters gag and ask for water once the concoction touched their lips. While this puke-inducing cupcake can be somewhat forgiven because of the other more delicious flavors, it definitely puts a bad mark on the cupcakery. Bebecakes is a great place for a quick sweet stop, but take caution in the flavors you order.