Friday, January 31, 2014

Bakery Review: Kara's Cupcakes

Kara's Cupcakes - visited January 18, 2014
After we had lunch at Scott's Seafood, we trekked across the parking lot to get cupcakes from Kara's for dessert. Back in the day, before cupcakeries took off, Sprinkles was the first game in town, followed closely by Kara's Cupcakes. I had a love affair with Sprinkles to the point that my friend, Annie the Baker, asked me if I knew Candace Nelson, Sprinkles' founder. Annie preferred Kara's and she knew Kara as well. If anyone could have a spirited debate over cupcakes, it was me and Annie, lol.
I did my fair share of taste testing between the two and decided that while I liked Sprinkles better overall in terms of taste, texture and size of cupcakes, there were two flavors that I thought Kara did better than Candace: the banana with caramel filling and the chocolate. Sprinkles doesn't even have a banana caramel offering and Kara's chocolate cupcake had more chocolate flavor. Kara's Cupcakes are also smaller than Sprinkles and at $3.25 a cupcake, you can think that's bad for your wallet to get "less" cupcake than Sprinkles' $3.50 price point and good for your waistline that, by sheer size, Kara's Cupcakes are probably not the going rate of 550 calories a cupcakes like Sprinkles.
I haven't been to Kara's in a couple of years; it's one of those places where you know (or think you know) it as a known quantity and I'm usually more interested in trying out new places than going back to ones I'm already familiar with. Nevertheless, since I - ahem - just happened to there already and my cousin was getting cupcakes for her boys, I "had" to get a couple for myself.
Naturally I went with my favorite banana caramel. I could've gotten the chocolate but I was in a red velvet mood so I went for that as my second cupcake choice.
Since it was January, the cupcakes were decorated early in a Valentine's theme so most of the cupcakes were topped with hearts. Not that it mattered since I never eat the topping and usually only manage no more than half of the frosting.
One drawback to me about Kara's Cupcakes is they put too much frosting on top. I know that's the norm with bakery cupcakes and Sprinkles does it too but I don't love frosting so for me, it's always too much. Not a big deal though since I always scrape more than half of it off.
The banana caramel cupcake itself was as good as I remembered it. Love the banana taste of the cupcake itself and the caramel was flow-y and injected in the middle of the cupcake as the filling - all good. But what surprised me and what I didn't like was the frosting tasted a little off. Not "off" as in it had gone bad or anything but like they changed the recipe. It wasn't just the tang of cream cheese but like they added almond extract or some kind of extract that gave it an artificial taste. A bit disappointing even for a non-frosting person like me.
Sadly I was even more disappointed in the red velvet cupcake because that too tasted like there was almond extract in the cupcake itself. There was an artificial taste that I don't recall it ever having. Granted, it's been a couple of years since I've had Kara's Cupcakes but I have a pretty good memory when it comes to sweets and I know I thought much more positively of Kara's Cupcakes than this latest experience.
While the cupcakes aren't dry, they're not as moist as Sprinkles. Good news for people who think Sprinkles is "too greasy" but I love moistness in my cupcakes and cakes so these were just okay in texture. But what really killed me was the artificial tang in both cupcakes. I'm going to have to try a different flavor in the future and see if that holds true again or if I just visited this particular Kara's Cupcakes on an off day. I hope it's the latter because I really want to like her cupcakes again and be able to sing their praises.


  1. So where ARE these places? Would love to have a taste test.

    1. For every bakery review and restaurant review I post, just click on the title of the bakery or restaurant at the top of the post. I always link it to their website if they have one or to a yelp review if they don't. Their site lists their location(s).