Cupcake Challenge, Part 2 — LA-Style

In one corner, cupcakes from Joan's on Third.

It would be hard to do justice to the cupcake culture that’s risen in Los Angeles. Everywhere you turn, it seems like there’s a cupcake bakery or one about to open. And it would be doubly hard to do an all-out cupcake-off after one is already bursting at the seams from a lunch of bone marrow, and burrata pizza.

But my hubby and I gave it our best shot, even after such a filling lunch. We picked up five cupcakes total from two bakeries (priced at $3 to $4), then took them back to our hotel room to do our own taste-test.

First up, cupcakes from Joan’s on Third, a cute-as-a-button, family-owned, cafe-bakery that also sells gourmet food to-go, including chi-chi pasta sauces, cheeses galore, charcuterie, and roast chickens. We had high hopes for these cupcakes. They were beautiful to look at. We chose a Snickers bar-topped chocolate cupcake; a peanut butter-marshmallow chocolate cupcake; and a “Cloud,” a chocolate cupcake topped with a huge spiral beehive of chocolate-dipped marshmallow that looked like Marge Simpson’s head.

In the other corner, cupcakes from Sweet Lady Jane.

We also picked up two cupcakes from an old favorite, Sweet Lady Jane, known for its fabulous cakes. The downside to Sweet Lady Jane is that it doesn’t always have cupcakes. You just have to hit it at the right time and hope for the best. We lucked out that day, getting our hands on a Red Velvet and a chocolate cupcake.

We tried the Joan’s on Third cupcakes first. The cupcakes themselves were pretty dry, unfortunately. The beehive of marshmallow was less sweet than expected and quite fluffy good. The chopped-up Snickers bar topping was super sweet. The creamy mousse-like peanut butter center was a nice surprise, its salty flavor a nice contrast to the sweetness of the rest of the cupcake. We just wish the cakes themselves were more delectable.

Next up, the cupcakes from Sweet Lady Jane. The Red Velvet was incredibly moist with a slightly tangy cream cheese frosting. I couldn’t stop eating it. The chocolate cupcake, with its day-glow buttercream flowers, was a surprise. We expected achingly sweet. But the buttercream was silky and lovely. Again, we couldn’t stop eating it.

I guess you can tell which cupcake bakery was victorious. Yes, Sweet Lady Jane’s by a landslide. Even after a meal of bone marrow and burrata pizza, these are cupcakes we wouldn’t turn down. Nope, not ever. 

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  • You’re killing me here. Killing me. I expect a call the next time you go on a cupcake bender in the South Bay. Seriously.

  • Did you know that a red velvet cupcake is actually a chocolate cupcake that’s got a lot of red food coloring in it? I didn’t know until Annie tried making some. But they are so good, especially with that frosting.

    How does Lady Jane’s compare with Sugar Butter Flour?

  • Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know Sugar Butter Flour was doing cupcakes now! Cheryl: Perhaps this calls for a trip together to the bakery. heehee. Perhaps with two of us, we’ll use more restraint when it comes to ordering the cupcakes. Ya think? Nah, me, either. Bring on the frosting! 😉

    Nate: I did know about Red Velvet. And for a long time, I resisted eating it because of that. I figured, I like chocolate just fine as it is; why would I want it to be RED?? But you’re right _ it’s darn good stuff, food coloring and all.

  • Really? As a lover of all things cupcake, I thought for sure you knew!

    Here’s our recipe article about Red Velvet Cupcakes. The first pic is actually a RVC from SBF.

  • Hmmmm, day-glo cupcakes! Now that’s so La-La-Land. So, where’s the burrata pizza from? Did you go to Mario’s restaurant?

  • You guessed it, Single Guy. I can never pass up an opportunity to eat at Pizzeria Mozza.

  • Did you know that October 18th is National Cupcake Day? I think it calls for more cupcake tasting.

  • what’s the difference between a cupcake and a muffin?

  • Hmm, a cupcake and a muffin are pretty similar these days. Both are really small cakes baked in “muffin” tins. I would say the big difference is that cupcakes have that big blob of frosting on top, whereas muffins usually are unadorned. Cupcakes are always sweet; while muffins can be sweet or savory (cheddar-jalapeno muffin, anyone?). In any event, I never turn down either if they are made well.

  • Oh, I’m surprised Joan’s on Third didn’t satisfy. I love that place. Their strawberry muffin is incredible. Sweet Lady Jane is where I got my birthday cake a couple years ago. Always unbelievable. Next time you’re in L.A., your two cupcake spots need to be Hot Cakes in Culver City, and Violet’s Cakes in Pasadena.

    And if you go to Sugar Butter Flour for a tasting, say hi to my mom (she’ll probably be the only one with bright red hair)! She now apprentices there. The cupcakes at SBF are some of the very very very best.

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