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L.A.’s Cupcake Boom

Nicole Schilit/staff L.A.’s Cupcake Boom

Photo: Nicole Schilit/staff

The Place

An unexpected perk along a lonely stretch of warehouses in Culver City, Bluebird Café, with its shaded patio and turquoise window frames reminiscent of a friendly café in Mexico, is as welcoming as its menu is comforting. Crayola-bright cupcakes—and lunches of tuna melts, meatloaf sandwiches, and chicken salad—tempt a crowd from nearby studios and production houses. Can’t decide between blue, red, orange, green, white, or chocolate frosting?Try a handful of minis, then give in to ordering a full-size confection.

The Goods

Only four flavors of cake—vanilla, chocolate, coconut, and red velvet—and catch-as-catch-can specials like pumpkin, banana, and lemon. 8572 National Blvd., Culver City; 310/841-0939.

The Place

As caterers whose repertoire has long included cupcakes, chef Bill Dertouzo and partner Susan McAlindon of Dainties Cupcakes were well positioned to ride the retro wave. They simply installed new refrigerated cases, hung out a shingle, and started arriving in the kitchen even earlier in the morning. The cupcakes come in striped boxes with inner rings to hold them securely. You can even get a box for one. But unless it’s a gift, a single rarely makes it out the door. McAlindon says customers love the boxes but usually just ask for a napkin, peel away the paper on the spot, and bite into what Dertouzo calls their “own little package of love and joy.

The Goods

Chocolate ganache–dipped devil’s food cupcakes injected (and topped) with delicately and variously flavored whipped cream. 11058 Santa Monica Blvd. (behind Winchell’s), Los Angeles; 310/312-3656.

The Place

The lighthearted name and nostalgic typography of Sprinkles Cupcakes, a Beverly Hills cupcakery, belies a vision executed with military precision. Mom-and-pop owners Candace and Charles Nelson were investment bankers before they were bakers, which means they’ve thought of everything and then some: glossy cupcake serving trays, cake mixes sold in canisters, a special display-tower kit—and doggie cupcakes and T-shirts. So quickly has Sprinkles taken off that the shop is already bursting at the seams—and the sprinkling of locations in Newport Beach, Scottsdale, and Dallas has begun.

The Goods

Expertly frosted pastries, sometimes dusted with toppings and always marked with tiddledywinks-style sugar disks that, as inside the lid of a Whitman’s Sampler box, decode the 22 flavor combinations. 9635 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310/274-8765.

The Place

The patrons of Susiecakes have Madeline and Mildred to thank for its treats: owner Susan Sarich’s grandmothers carefully recorded recipes on index cards, never suspecting they would grow beyond sentimental treasures into the building blocks of a business. Even an ancestral Pyrex bowl supplied the minty-green apron color for SusieCakes’ retro smiling-hostess logo. Chicago native Sarich searched the West Coast before homing in on family-oriented Brentwood. “No matter how body-obsessed Angelenos can be, everybody has a birthday. At the very least, who can resist a cupcake?”

The Goods

Ten flavors of cupcakes, chocolate-wafer icebox pie, butterscotch pudding, whoopie pies, seasonal favorites like gingerbread, and frosted animal crackers. 11708 San Vicente Blvd. at Barrington Ave., Brentwood; 310/442-2253.

The Place

Beyond the curtained storefront of Violet’s Cakes, on Holly Street in Pasadena, Denise Weber leads her staff and daughter Olivia through the steps of baking and decorating as cheerfully as Snow White inculcated her dwarfs. Violet’s has become a popular destination for Old Town workers and residents, especially on Fridays, when people of all ages, and men in particular, swing by for a weekend reward. “We call it handsome-guy Friday,” says Denise. Will cupcakes supplant flowers as the new love token or mea culpa?

The Goods

Flavors for the inner kid: PB&J, French toast (Denise’s favorite), s’mores, and the candy-based Butterfinger, Snickers, and Twix. 21 E. Holly St., Pasadena; 626/395-9821.

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