When you have the distinguished privilege of judging three consecutive Los Angeles Cupcake Challenges you learn a few things about cake’s little sister.

First, ENOUGH WITH THE BACON. We get it, it’s savory’s most gluttonous item baked into and atop a gluttonous frosted cupcake! Whoa. Awesome. That was so unique… in 2009. And if you are going to go the bacon route, you better make sure it’s well done, almost chip-like. If I’m handed one more undercooked bacon topped-cupcake, I’m going to throw it back in your face.

Secondly, where the hell are the sprinkles? In the entire 2012 CC, there were maybe two cupcakes decorated with sprinkles. Cupcake bakers – do not forget your roots. Third, it is almost impossible to properly bake the cake of hundreds of mini-cupcakes. However, the best bakers always find a way.

And, finally, just because you’re being original with your Challenge entry does not mean you have a free pass for it to suck.

My five favorite 2012 entries below prove my case…

Buffalo Chicken Cupcake

5. Buffalo Chicken Cupcake[desi]gn cakes & cupcakes – This cupcake could have sucked so easily and everyone still would have voted for it out of pure innovativeness. Especially because [desi]gn was the only cupcakery who took the time to create a Super Bowl-themed entry. How did they do it? A polenta cupcake topped with ranch cream cheese frosting and a buttermilk chicken breast niblet.

Chocolate Salted Caramel
4. Chocolate Salted CaramelThe Cake Mamas – Despite the fact I’ve probably had way too many salted desserts after the past two years, the richness of the chocolate, caramel and salt in this cupcake really surprised me. The sea salt caramel brittle atop and some mini chocolate chips added just prior to baking raised this cupcake above the competition.

The Top 3 and a full photo gallery of the day are below…

Chocolate Bourbon
3. Chocolate BourbonWonderland Custom Cakes – Whoa! Major bourbon taste. And I love bourbon. Wonderland does it right – a dark chocolate Valrhona cake with a bourbon cream cheese frosting and a bourbon ganache.

Chocolate Wasted
2. Chocolate WastedFrosted Heaven Cupcakery – The only disappointing thing about this decadently chocolate cupcake is the name – which may or may not be a reference to the horridness that was “Grown Ups.” That aside, in a competition chock full of chocolate cupcakes, Frosted Heaven Cupcakery’s was by far the best. Valrhona cake, dark chocolate ganache, chocolate buttercream topped with mini Valrhona crunchy chocolate balls.

Evil Twin
1. Evil TwinWonderland Custom Cakes – I can’t tell you how much it hurts me to admit Pasadena once again provided the LA Cupcake Challenge with its top entry. Two years ago it was Polkatots’ Lucky Charms cupcake and this year it’s Wonderland’s mischievously delicious Evil Twin, the perfect combination of a moist jalapeno-carrot cake with a sharp cheddar frosting. It’s next available at Wonderland on Friday, 2/24, so mark your calendars: “Drive to Pasadena. Eat amazing cupcake. Order an extra one for Mike. Bring to his house.”

Photos by Lindsay Flinn

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