Drink Eat Play: Cupcake Challenge 2010

cupcakes from Cupcake Couture

When I first heard about the Cupcake Challenge, I was interested but wasn’t willing to plop down $40. Just how many cupcakes could I eat anyway?

Key Lime Cupcakes from My Delight Cupcakery

Well, I ended up judging the challenge along with some other bloggers and I found out though I was willing to try all 40 cupcakes, I only ate one. In fact, I scarfed that one and forgot to take a picture of it! It was the Meringue Bake Shop’s Pigs on Tap (a chocolate cupcake with bacon).

Cupcakes from Big Man Bakes

I thought I was adequately prepared for the challenge by doing a cupcake off and recent tasting in addition to the cupcake crawl I did last year. Walking into the Renaissance Hotel, I was wholly unprepared for the madness. There were a mob of people canvassing the cupcakeries and loading up.

boxes for cupcakes

Notice how they have plastic boxes? Most people brought in boxes ready to take cupcakes home! Ah, now I know how people make the $40 ticket worth it.

Speakeasy Sweets

After taking pictures, I took the one or two available cupcakes from each bakery, took a nibble and licked the frosting. Then I wrote down some brief thoughts and moved on. Multiple this by the 20 or so vendors and you got one tired Minty. Over- sugared, under-watered and over-loaded. Oh, did I mention bottles of water were being sold for $4? The hotel did provide some free water and there was plenty of free chocolate milk from sponsor Nesquik but I needed pure unadulterated water. Or booze. Whatever came first.

red velvet cupcake from Southern Girl Desserts

One of my favorite cake flavors is red velvet. I first had it in the South, Atlanta to be exact so I judge every red velvet against it. So far, I don’t have a favorite in LA. And after trying 5 different red velvets that day, I’d say Big Man Bakes was the best. It’s not too sweet, perfectly moist (like his sign proclaims) and has the right amount of frosting. He is proud of his carrot cake but I happen to hate carrots so though I tried it, I don’t know what to make of it. Vegetables don’t belong in cakes!

Spiced Apple from Urban Sweets

There were a lot of pretty cupcakes and I loved the metallic pink wrappers from Urban Sweets. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the leathery chocolate leaf or the cupcake much. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to eat the leaf?

Carmelizing bananas from Jus Minis

For the most part, the cupcakes were made ahead of time but I always liked seeing the final touches. Jus Minis was carmelizing banana slices for their Caramel Banana cupcake. Very cool! I thought they were a little too sweet and liked the Banana Fosters cupcake better from Babycakes Baking Company.

Babycakes display

I’m so in love with the Babycakes display. Those little hot chocolate cupcakes were great too.

Maple & Bacon Cupcakes from Renaissance Hotel

There were three cupcakes that featured bacon and I loved the aforementioned Meringue’s. I also really enjoyed My Delight’s Breakfast Cake but I have to say the ones from the hotel were dry and hard. Only the bacon saved it.

Chewy Coconut from Friandise Pastries

Besides carrots, I hate coconut or rather, dried shredded coconut. I bravely ate some of the Chewy Coconut cupcakes from Friandise and was pleasantly surprised. It was more like real coconut candy.

Cupcakes from Blue Cupcake

Strangely, I found myself really enjoying the non-traditional flavors more. I had a hard time deciding who had the best traditional cupcake but I couldn’t pick a real favorite from the best original categories. I had way too many favorites. Blue Cupcake fell into that category with my enjoyment of their pumpkin cupcake with its real pumpkin seed adornment. Their sweet and salty vanilla cupcake was unusual and very good.

Sweet E's

By the time I hit the Sweet E’s table, I was really overwhelmed with chocolate. And they were serving up Chocolate Vanilla Swirl and Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Oh man! How does that lady maintain such great arms with all these sweets!?

Vanilla Bean Almond Dream from Fairy Cakes

Pumpkin White Chocolate from Fairy Cakes

One of the last couple of bakeries I tried, Fairy Cakes woke me up from my sugar stupor. I loved, loved, loved the vanilla bean almond dream! It was perfect. And the pumpkin was pretty good too. In fact, I didn’t have one bad pumpkin cupcake from any of the vendors.

Sugar Bliss Sweets

The last vendor to set up was Sugar Bliss Sweets. They came up with rose petal and lavendar vanilla cupcakes. While I thought the frosting was really cool, the cupcakes themselves were dry.

After the event, I craved nothing more than vegetables and meat. I thought about getting KBBQ but ended up going to Natalie Peruvian which combatted the sugar coma I was in.

But next year? I’m bringing boxes!

For more of my pictures from the event, check out my Flickr set.

Update: 2/24/10

The winners!

Best Traditional
Big Man Bakes “Red Velvet”

Best Original
My Delight Cupcakery “Breakfast Cake”

Best Overall
Jus Minis “Caramel Banana”

How did some other judges feel about the day? Check out these blog posts from them.


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