Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some West Coast Competition for Magnolia

Too often, quality and/or popular food means giving up the customer experience. At Sprinkles Cupcakes in Los Angeles, customers wait outside, only to be herded in and out with no time to make a decision. BabyCakes Baking Company in Torrance, CA rivals every cupcake bakery on both coasts, plus the husband/wife team who own it make every customer feel welcome.

The bakery opened about two months ago. The pink and white decor gives the place an old-fashioned feel. The couple used to cater out of their house where she had time to perfect dozens of cupcake recipes. Every day, five signature cupcakes are offered and the rest vary from day to day.

We arrived about an hour before closing on a Saturday. They were running low on cupcakes, and they were out of her specialty, the vanilla with vanilla bean frosting. We said that was ok as you can get vanilla cupcakes anywhere, but the husband insisted that these were different, and she whipped us up one. While we were waiting, he gave us free samples (mini cupcakes which are sold for a dollar) of the chocolate mousse and the red velvet.

We purchased four cupcakes to split. I didn't try the lemon, but the strawberry cupcake with fresh strawberry buttercream was made with fresh strawberries which meant it was not too sweet. The banana with caramel frosting was good, although it tasted more like a muffin. But he was certainly right about the vanilla cupcake. The whipped cream center is a unique and delicious touch.

The bakery also sells cookies, muffins, and other pastries. The cupcakes cost $2.50 and the fresh ingredients and customer service definitely make it worth the price. I'm already looking forward to my next trip home when I can return for the sparkling pear cupcake made with champagne. And if they don't have it, I'll guess I'll just have to keep going back until they do.

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