When it comes to sweets, cupcakes are often a fast resolution for dessert because they are the perfect size for a one-person treat and because you can often try multiple cupcake flavors and get the same amount of indulgence as one big dessert. Not only do they look elegant, but they also come in a variety of unique flavors. You also cannot forget the beauty of frosting: A simple frosting design on a cupcake can change the whole personality and feel of the dessert. From each of the well-established cupcake shops around Berkeley, we decided to try one popular staple flavor and one that was a specialty flavor for that cupcakery because, after all, you can’t just eat one cupcake.
James & the Giant Cupcake
Eurydice Manning started James & the Giant Cupcake in the summer of 2008. She wanted to bring a cupcake shop to her hometown in Oakland that provided fresh cupcakes with organic and local ingredients, such as fruit from farmers’ markets. Her cupcake store strives to provide a cupcake that is always moist and topped with delicious and sweet frosting.
The sea salt caramel cupcake
Decoration: The cupcake comes drizzled with sea salt caramel and fleur de sel, or sea salt. It is a beautiful and tasty creation that leaves you wishing you had bought a couple more cupcakes to take to go.
The moment you bite into the extremely moist, dark chocolate, “fudge-y” cupcake half, you will understand why it is one of the most popular items on the menu. The vanilla buttercream with salt just adds more texture and flavor to balance out the overall sweetness of the cupcake.
The “Creamsicle” cupcake
Decoration: The orange cupcake with orange filling is already one of a kind. But the orange mascarpone frosting really topped it off as a homemade flavor.
The frosting was a bit too sweet on this cupcake, and even though the cupcake was nice and moist, it didn’t have the special boost that we were looking for. We do have to give it credit for tasting like orange zest. It just did not live up to its name, however.
Overall Tip: James & the Giant Cupcake makes mini, regular and large cupcakes each day in an assortment of flavors. The variety of cupcakes is almost endless, with at least 10 different flavors each day and about 50 different flavors each week.
Time: Sunday – Tuesday: 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Location: 6326 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
Love At First Bite
Love At First Bite, which opened in 2005, is not only a cupcakery. It is also a bakery that makes cookies, cakes and goods from scratch with the finest ingredients. Patricia Powell is the owner of Love At First Bite and bakes the cupcakes herself early in the morning; she bakes about 300 cupcakes each day, yet they almost always sell out by the end of the day.
The “Pretty in Pink” cupcake
Decoration: The pastel-pink strawberry buttercream frosting is absolutely beautiful on top of the strawberry-flavored pink cupcake. There are also sprinkles on top that make the cupcake elegant … what’s not to love?
These strawberry cupcakes are one of the most popular items here because they are made with real fruit, and the strawberry frosting on top is super sweet and abundant. The cake is moist and flavorful, and the strawberry frosting is tangy and leaves you wanting for more. It was, however, a little bit too sweet for our preference.
The matcha green tea cupcake
Decoration: It had a beautiful green color to its matcha-infused whipped cream, along with a green Japanese blossom decoration on top.
You can smell and taste the ceremonial Japanese matcha green tea the moment you bite into the cupcake. The whipped cream frosting on top is perfect alongside the not-so-sweet cupcake. It is smooth and creamy and filled with matcha flavor.
Overall Tip: Love At First Bite is located upstairs in this hip shopping area called Walnut Square. It’s cute and dainty and includes baking supplies and treats on the side. But the most popular cupcake flavors, such as the “Pretty in Pink” and the matcha green tea, will sell out well before closing hours.
Time: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Location: 1510 Walnut St., Berkeley
Cupcakin’ Bake Shop
Lila Owens started her home-based cupcake bakeshop early in 2007. When she saw how popular her unique cupcake decors and flavors were becoming, she decided to open a cute bakeshop this year in Berkeley to showcase her artisan skills to a wider audience.
The red velvet cupcake
Decoration: The chocolate decorations on top are simple and elegant and do not take away from the deliciousness of the cupcake itself. The cupcake is vibrant with its signature red cupcake batter.
With the first bite you can already taste the fresh and moist texture of the cupcake. The vanilla cream-cheese frosting has a very fluffy feel and a perfect signature swirl. The cupcake is the perfect size, and the frosting sweetness does not overshadow the cupcake portion, so you can easily finish the cupcake without feeling like it is too rich for you.
The banana chocolate chip cupcake
Decoration: The chocolate chips are a little bit excessive on the cupcake but nonetheless delicious. Within the moist cupcake, you can taste a mixture of banana mix, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.
You will be able to smell the banana cake the moment you raise the cupcake up to your nose. The dark chocolate frosting is a little bit too sweet to our taste but still well made and paired rightfully so with the not-as-sweet banana cupcake bottom. Unlike the red velvet, this cupcake had more texture because of the chips, but it was still just as moist and delectable.
Overall Tip: Cupcakin’ Bake Shop usually sells out of its most popular flavors by 5 p.m. of that day, so be sure to pop in early if you want a fresh and moist cupcake. They also sell day-old cupcakes for $2.
Time: Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Address: 2435 Durant Ave., Berkeley