Cupcake craze really takes the cake

Lemon ricotta cupcake
Lemon ricotta cupcake

The cupcake craze has exploded like muffin tops swelling over the lips of the pan: The Food Network is airing Season 2 of “Cupcake Wars.”

Catharine L. Kaufman

A whole cottage industry revolving around cupcakes has emerged as cupcake bakeries pop up in towns across the country.

The popularity of these mini cakes is due to their multi-tasking nature and their appeal for indulging the sweet tooth without the “Super Size Me” mentality.

Cupcakes are as suitable to serve at a kid’s birthday party as they are at an elegant wedding or a baby shower. The nostalgic Hostess cupcake of the 1950s has truly evolved into a cultural phenomenon with connoisseurs concocting mini masterpieces. Here’s a roundup of the hot cupcake spots around town:

Cups, 7857 Girard Ave.

For the health-conscious cupcake aficionado, Cups, an organic cupcakery in the heart of La Jolla has more than 100 astronomic, gastronomic creations both sweet and savory — all made in-house with the highest quality, sustainable, organic ingredients, including mascarpone, ricotta and cream cheeses from scratch, and only using food colorings for special requests, ergo the Not So Red Velvet cupcake.

Michelle Lerach, owner, cooking teacher, organic bakery pioneer and goat farm intern, traded in her law practice to follow her dream of opening an Ina Garten-esque patisserie/coffee shop, focusing on the self-limiting cupcake concept.

Lerach’s fantasies include her fave flavs: Arancia, a blood orange buttercream beauty; Brulee J. Curry Cup (curry-spiced chocolate with coconut curry chocolate frosting); Fig Leap (fig cake topped with goat cheese frosting and candied fig); Churros and Chocolate; and the tort-like Limone Ricotta.

Special dietary cupcakes include low glycemic sweetened with agave, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free, plus doggie PupCups made with human-grade, organic ingredients.

Finally, there’s Wine and Cheese (a Cabernet chocolate cup with brie frosting and candied walnut) and Better with Bacon. Cups offers two sizes: “full” and “mini,” depending on your will power.

Sprinkles, 8855 Villa La Jolla Drive

The glitterati of cupcakes started with husband/wife team Candace and Charles Nelson who opened their first Sprinkles in Beverly Hills in 2005. Now they have locations “sprinkled” across the nation. The latest is at the Shops of La Jolla Village. The list of flavors (as long as the queue out the door) includes the signature Red Velvet with cream cheese topping; Chocolate Marshmallow; Chai Latte; Ginger Lemon; and holiday and seasonal treats.

March brings Green Velvet, and Belgian dark chocolate topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream cheese frosting and a candied shamrock, while April ushers in a vanilla Earth Day cupcake, a flourless chocolate Passover cupcake adorned with a blue star of David, and Easter brown sugar praline and carrot cupcakes decorated with pink and green bunnies.

Most Sprinkles’ cupcakes are stamped with signature color-coded candied dots, large replicas of which grace their storefronts.

Cupcake Love, 437 S. Hwy. 101

A retro, nostalgic-style cupcake parlor is at the Beach Walk Shopping Center in Solana Beach. Cupcake Love waxes poetic with such fun and romantic flavors as German Chocolate Love Story, Bunny Love (carrot cake with smooth cream-cheese icing), Girls’ Night Out Cosmo, Fancy Pants Red Velvet, and seasonal spring flavors, like Irish Cream Kiss for March.

Cupcake Love offers cupcakes and love bites, with everything made in-house including the marshmallows used in the Rocky Road treats.

Cupcakery, online at (510) 703-2970

A brother-and-sis baking duo created Cupcakery, designing specialty, custom-order cupcakes, like the West Coast “Cake Boss,” delivered free to your door anywhere in San Diego. The standards include Red Velvet with cream cheese topping (gluten-free available) and Mocha Spice with vanilla bean buttercream. Spring offerings bring Raspberry Truffle and White Pear.

Limone Ricotta Cupcakes

Courtesy of Cups’ Michelle Lerach

(Gluten-free, makes 2 dozen)

1 pound almond meal (or finely ground almond flour)

7 ounces gluten-free flour

1 pound softened butter

1 pound, 9 ounces sugar

8 eggs

2 pounds ricotta cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon oil

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift almond meal and flour together. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in ricotta, and add one egg at a time until smooth. Mix in the flours, vanilla and lemon oil. Scoop into lined cupcake tins (3/4 full). Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and frost.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

14 ounces softened cream cheese

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

6 ounces powdered sugar

1 teaspoon lemon oil

Directions: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar in 2 batches until well incorporated. Add lemon oil until combined.

E-mail your cupcake queries to



Be relevant, respectful, honest, discreet and responsible. Commenting Rules