All 40 Entries in the 2010 LA Cupcake Challenge--A Cupcake-by-Cupcake Analysis

All 40 Entries in the 2010 LA Cupcake Challenge–A Cupcake-by-Cupcake Analysis


Some may say cupcakes are passé at this point. I say those people are idiots. The hundreds of participants who took part in Saturday’s sold out annual Nesquik Cupcake Challenge at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood this past Saturday seem to agree.

As a cupcake devotee, this was like returning home to the Holy Land. Forty different mini-cupcakes from twenty-five local bakeries? Jackpot. Everywhere I looked there were cupcakes and good-looking girls eating cupcakes. It was like a summer Cupcake Fantasy Camp.

Making sure I did not squander the greatest opportunity of my life I did the most reasonable thing: I SAMPLED ALL FORTY CUPCAKES … IN LESS THAN AN HOUR. A night of stomachache and ginger ale followed, but it was totally worth it, in a getting-with-a-bridesmaid-at-your-sister’s-wedding-sort-of-way. Not prudent, yet enjoyable.

Below, for your reading pleasure, is a minute analysis of all 40 cupcakes along with a photo gallery…


1. Hot Chocolate (Babycakes Baking Company)
– Not very good and in no way reminded me of my Swiss Miss childhood glory days.

2. Red Velvet (Big Man Bakes) – Really, really good. The Big Man told me the “scientific” recipe perfection came to him one night while he was in Med School.

3. Sweet and Salty Vanilla (Blue Cupcake) – My personal choice for the best entry in the Traditional Category. More on the cupcake later.

4. Red Velvet (Charmed Cupcakes) – Okay.

5. Vanilla Bean Almond Dream (Fairy Cakes) – The almond on top made this cupcake taste a little better than it probably was.

6. Wedding Cupcake (Hansen Cakes) – Same great Hansen’s frosting we’ve come to expect at office birthday parties, but I would advise them to stick to the cakes bigger than cup size.

7. Red Velvet (Jus Minis) – Really good. One of the better Red Velvets for sure.

8. Little Penguin (Polkatots) – Awesome. Looked like a chocolate-vanilla frozen yogurt swirl.

9. Red Velvet (Southern Girl Desserts) – I didn’t love this cupcake. That said, the Southern Girls were the most boisterous group there and a little personality never hurts when you are forking over cab fares for a measly cupcake.

10. Lavender Vanilla (Sugar Bliss Sweets) – The lavender reminded me of the bathroom soap at my crazy cousin’s house. And she’s crazy.

11. Chocolate Vanilla Swirl (Sweet E’s) – A very pleasing, thick frosting like that of cupcake demigod Sprinkles.

12. Vanilla (Tavern Restaurant) – Bor-ing.

13. Red Velvet (The Cake Shop) – Very good-looking cupcake, but a tad of a letdown taste-wise.

14. Vanilla Throwback (Two Parts Sugar) – Proving how difficult it must be to bake hundreds of moist mini-cupcakes this mini-cupcake was overcooked and not good.


15. Bananas Foster (Babycakes Baking Company) – I am allergic to banana, so I asked some girls sitting near me to taste it. They gave it top marks. But, really, is anything banana any good? I mean, I wouldn’t know, so I’m honestly asking.

16. Carrot Cake (Big Man Bakes) – As good as a carrot cupcake could be.

17. Pumpkin (Blue Cupcake) – Although pumpkin flavored desserts can be found almost everywhere year-round now, this cupcake certainly made me yearn for Thanksgiving.

18. Blueberry (Charmed Cupcakes) – First, kudos to Charmed Cupcakes for handing out regular-sized cupcakes, rather than the minis. Secondly, the cupcake was really good.

19. Sunday Mimosa (Cupcakes Couture) – NOPE. Reminded me of awkward family brunches – in a bad way.

20. Little Miss Shortcake (Cupcakes Couture) – Not bad for something called “Little Miss Shortcake.”

21. Pumpkin White Chocolate (Fairy Cakes) – Very good. Enough said.

22. Sticky Toffee Pudding (Friandise Pastries) – Probably my most anticipated cupcake based on the name … and probably my least favorite cupcake overall.

23. Coconut (Friandise Pastries) – Not bad for coconut.

24. Caramel Banana (Jus Minis) – The banana-testing girls also said this was a solid cupcake with a slightly thicker, better frosting than Babycakes’ Bananas Foster.

25. Fall Spice (Layers) – I will admit Layers hit the mark with the taste: it certainly tastes like Fall. Now, whether or not that is a good thing, I do not know.

26. Chocolate Coconut (Layers) – Like I said before, good for coconut.

27. Pretty Woman (Meringue Bake Shop) – With a name like “Pretty Woman,” the Bake Shop did not have me in mind when they submitted this cupcake. Also, it was meringue, thus for girls. Thus, I did not like it.

28. Pigs on Tap (Meringue Bake Shop) – Not sure if I’ll ever warm up to the whole bacon in desserts craze. It just doesn’t work for me.

29. Breakfast Cake (My Delight Cupcakery) – Same as above, but was an enjoyable experience as the cupcake tasted like maple-drenched pancakes with a side of bacon.

30. Key Lime (My Delight Cupcakery) – Makes no sense – Key Lime is the worst dessert on every steakhouse menu, so why make a cupcake out of it?

31. Lucky Charm (Polkatots) – My favorite cupcake in the Original category. More later.

32. Maple and Bacon (Renaissance Hotel) – Although the cake was a tad over baked, the frosting was one of the better on the day.

33. Irish Car Bomb (Speakeasy Sweets) – After eating forty cupcakes I felt a little like I had been downing shots of these all day.

34. Amaretto Sour (Speakeasy Sweets) – I don’t order Amaretto Sours at bars and I certainly would not order this cupcake.

35. Rose Petal (Sugar Bliss Sweets) – Like a bouquet on Valentine’s Day morning: pretty, but eating your money.

36. Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (Sweet E’s) – Probably my second favorite in the Original Category – good cake, great frosting.

37. Salted Caramel (Tavern Restaurant) – The caramel inside the cupcake was a nice surprise. A decent showing for the Brentwood restaurant.

38. Orange Cranberry (The Cake Shop) – Nope.

39. Chocolate Covered Strawberry (Two Parts Sugar) – I’ll give them credit for creativity, but that’s about it.

40. Spiced Apple w/ Brown Sugar (Urban Sweets) – It reminded me of something my Granny would accidentally make on a fall afternoon. In a good way.



Sweet and Vanilla Salty (Blue Cupcake) – I’ll let the components do the talking: vanilla cake, caramel filling and a salted caramel buttercream frosting topped with a touch of sea salt. The cupcake was so good I may even consider braving downtown for another.


Lucky Charm (Polkatots) – The cupcake known around the ballroom as the “green one” surprised me. An all pistachio affair–cake, buttercream frosting and topping–proved the nut was useful for something. The cupcake came from the same Pasadena bakery that won the 2009 Challenge with a Dulce de Leche cupcake. Kills me to show love to Pasadena, but this cupcake was too damn good to ignore.


Sweet E’s Bakery |

Big Man Bakes |

NOTE: Check the Nesquik Cupcake Challenge website in the next few days for the official voting results.