2011 Cupcake Challenge–A Cupcake-by-Cupcake Analysis of All 32 Entries

2011 CCCPhoto by Lindsay Flinn. Full gallery below the jump.

Forrest Gump put it best when he astutely stated, “Life is like a box of cupcakes. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The crazy thing is how right Tom Hanks always is–life is indeed like a box of cupcakes… especially at the 2011 Los Angeles Cupcake Challenge, the annual cupcake clash between Los Angeles and Orange County’s top bakers.

Last year, I admittedly made some mistakes. I ate too many cupcakes in too little time and paid for it. This year, as an official event judge? I ate too many cupcakes in too little time and… felt just dandy walking out of the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. The difference? For some reason there were eight less entries in the Challenge. SO, I ONLY ATE 32 CUPCAKES IN AN HOUR IN 2011. Way easier to digest.

And, now, a Lilliputiancake-by-Lilliputiancake breakdown of all 32 entries and full photo gallery below…


1. Chocolate W/ Meringue (Bitter Sweet Treats) – A honey brittle adornment demonstrated the creativeness that made baker Danielle Keene a finalist on the first season of “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” The overall cupcake? Showed why she didn’t win “T.C.”

2. Chocolate S’Mores (Blue Cupcake) – S’Mores was a trendy cupcake in the 2011 competition; Blue Cupcake separated themselves from the pack courtesy of a surprisingly rich fudge insert in the middle of the cake.

3. Red Velvet (Cake Pop) – The cake popsicle (rolled cake covered by a chocolate shell), much like the bagel chip, seems to have arisen from a baker’s ingenuity regarding the reuse of old product. Cake Pop’s Red Velvet transcends this designation and should be your first cake popsicle if you seek such a thrill.

4. Chocolate Zin (Double D Cupcakes) – Awesome chocolate cake. Awesome chocolate frosting. Awesome red wine tasting center. Awesome.

5. Abuelita’s Chocolate Cupcake (Frandise Pastries) – Very tasty cake due to hints of cinnamon, cayenne and chunks of Nestle Abuelita chocolate.

6. Salted Caramel Chocolate (Goodie Girls) – I love salted caramel. I love chocolate. I didn’t love this cupcake.

7. Bridal White Cake (Hansen’s) – For the second consecutive year Hansen’s reminded me just because you make everyone’s favorite birthday and wedding cakes, it does not mean you automatically make good cupcakes.

8. Mallow Delight (Hollicakes) – Tasted like a Ho-Ho. Still not sure if that’s good or bad.

9. Red Velvet (Jus Minis) – The best cupcake in the Traditional category. More on this RV later…

10. Red Velvet (My Delight) – Incredibly moist cake, but nothing else distinguished this cupcake from the seemingly millions of Red Velvets I’ve had in recent years.

11. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Sugar Babies Cupcakery) – A regal name for a commoner’s cupcake at best.

12. Pink Velvet (Sweet E’s) – The thick frosting was tasty. The cake – well, like all things pink, it sucked.

13. Chocolate Truffle (The Cake Mamas) – Although the cake was a tad dry, the chocolate mouse frosting with chocolate shaving swirls certainly made up for it.

14. Red Velvet (The Cake Shop) – Not sure how to describe the taste, but it almost didn’t even taste like Red Velvet. What did it taste like? A boring cupcake.


15. PB And J (Blue Cupcake) – Like every cupcake I’ve ever had from Blue, the PB And J was awesome. Moist cake and delicious frosting.

16. Peanut Butter Cup (Cake Pop) – Tasted like a bad Buckeye, if you know what a Buckeye is. If you don’t know what a Buckeye is, learn (http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/buckeyes-i/Detail.aspx).

17. D&D Root Beer Float (Double D Cupcakes) – At first taste this cupcake reminded me more of ginger ale than root beer. But, like most bad light beers, it has a crazy aftertaste… that tastes just like a root beer float.

18. Pineapple Right Side Up (Fairy Cakes) – Does anyone truly like Pineapple Upside Down Cake? Anyone? Please raise your hand. That’s what I thought. That said, this was as good as it could be.

19. Candied Sweet Potato (Friandise Pastries) – Reminded me of Thanksgiving; more specifically, the marshmallow sweet potato dish (in a cupcake!) that is single-handedly making America obese.

20. Churro Dulce de Leche (Frosting Forever) – The cake was slightly overdone, but it delivers on its moniker’s promise: tasted just like a fresh ballpark churro.

21. Pineapple Upsidedown (Goodie Girls) – Another Pineapple Upsidedown cupcake??? Somebody please put me out of my misery.

22. Cactus Cooler (Hollicakes) – There was nothing cool(er) about this cupcake.

23. Josephine (Jus Minis) –The Josephine – vanilla cake filled with caramel, topped with a nutella frosting, a caramelized pear and an agave phyllo crisp – was just like my favorite Wallflowers song of the same name… mysteriously awesome.

24. S’Mores (Magnolia) – Go back to New York. Cake dry, frosting too fluffy.

25. Orange (Magnolia) – Slightly better than the S’Mores entry, it evoked memories of Easter Brunch. Note: I have never had Easter Brunch.

26. Late Night Breakfast (My Delight) – This fried chicken-topped cupcake was definitely the main buzz of the ballroom. Original? Yes. Gimmicky as all hell? Even more so.

27. Acai Jungleberry Bliss (Stephanie Sparkles) – Definitely the prettiest cupcake in the competition. A nice mix of lemon cake with frosted acai berry and blueberry.

28. Sweet Picnic Chevre (Stephanie Sparkles) – Like that foreign exchange student you dated freshman year, this exotic, fig-filled cupcake just didn’t work out.

29. PB And J (Sugar Babies Cupcakery) – Cake overcooked, but a very pleasing, decadent peanut butter frosting.

30. Sparking Strawberry Champagne (Sweet E’s) – Does a Sparkling Strawberry Champagne cupcake sound good? No, it doesn’t. And no, it wasn’t.

31. Cookies ‘N Cream (The Cake Mamas) – My personal favorite in the Original Category. More later…

32. Cherry Bomb (The Cake Shop) – B-O-M-B.


Red Velvet (Jus Minis) – The reigning Cupcake Challenge champions returned with another incredibly strong cupcake. While most of the competition went with the traditional Red Velvet, the Jus Minis crew mixed it up a bit by filling the RV cake with a little cheesecake and topping it with a cherry compote/coulis cream cheese frosting and a graham cracker crumble.


Cookies ‘N Cream (The Cake Mamas) – I love cookies ‘n cream everything, which makes it almost impossible to impress me in the category. And that is why I think The Cake Mamas of Glendora deserve a hearty golf clap for their C’nC cupcake. Moist vanilla cake with pieces of Oreo and a thick cookie sprinkled vanilla frosting combined for a killer cupcake. So good I went on Google Maps to figure out where the hell Glendora is located.


Blue Cupcake
Double D Cupcakes
Friandise Pastries

NOTE: The official results should be posted on their website in the next few days.

DOUBLE NOTE: You can follow Mike’s daily LA food musings on UnemployedEater.com and on Twitter @UnemployedEater.

Photos by Lindsay Flinn (@ElleEff)