Local bakeries put twists on favorites


Alice Jones

American Cupcake's red velvet was among the best we tasted. ALICE JONES | The Broadview

Convent girls are blessed and cursed to have four bakeries specializing in cupcakes within walking distance of school. A rich, sugary and moist cupcake sounds like the perfect sugar boost after a long day of school, but the hardest decision is choosing which shop to go to.

SusieCakes Bakery on Chestnut and Steiner streets offers consistently moist, thick cakes topped with a rich slow-churned butter frosting with satisfying, yet subtle flavors. The Mocha is a perfect example of Susie Cakes’ elegant muted flavors, finished off with a big swirl of chocolate frosting with hints of coffee and topped with chocolate jimmies.

Most bakeries in the Cow Hollow–Pacific Heights–Marina triangle have a low-key Red Velvet cupcake and each puts its own spin on the chocolaty bottom, but they all seem to stay away from a strong cream cheese frosting. What should be a bold, smooth, yet tangy taste usually is sweet cream with only a cream cheese aftertaste.

The best Red Velvet cupcake is at American Cupcake on Union and Laguna streets. All its cupcakes follow a similar pattern with a very light, whipped frosting and a thick moist cake. The Red Velvet has a very chocolaty cake and an airy yet sugary whipped cream cheese frosting topped with chocolate chips. Some may find the frosting too sweet, so you may want to use it to finish off a meal from the shop’s lunch menu.

Susie Cakes' red velvet and a seasonal cupcake are $3 each. ALICE JONES | The Broadview

American Cupcake’s best cupcake is the Salted Caramel. The cake’s whipped frosting is almost tasteless underneath the caramel drizzle that makes the cupcake consisting of spongy thick chocolate bottom with hints of sea salt and a delightful caramel dollop in the center.

The best use of salt and caramel in cupcakes is at Kara’s Cupcakes on Scott at Chestnut Street. It’s Fleur De Sel tops all local cup- cakes with a super thick, dark chocolate frosting topped with sea salt artfully piped on top of a perfectly baked, not-too-moist and not-too-dry thick chocolate cake with a surprisingly gooey salted caramel center.

A close challenger is the bold but genuinely named No Competition at That Takes the Cake on Union at Steiner streets. Although the No Competition is very similar to Kara’s Fleur De Sel in concept, the thick dark chocolate frosting is less rich than Kara’s. The gooey caramel center is delicious but heavily salted, yet surprisingly works well with the cake.

Another notable cupcake is the Sweet ’Smores at Kara’s. With one of their signature fondant cutouts on top of a fluffy whipped marshmallow frosting, the cake is super chocolaty but light and surprisingly moist cake on top of a graham cracker crust.

Each bakery brings its own spin and own signature ideas to the collective Cow Hollow-Pacific Heights-Marina foodie community and all deserve to be tried. It’s a fight to keep a successful business going in these pricey neighborhoods, and it is up to loyal customers to make sure the best cupcakes stay standing.