Thursday, January 08, 2009

Super Trendy Cupcakes--a Review

Welcome to the third installation of:

ECL's Opinionated Opinion
on Local Bakeries

Actually, this is a special edition of ECL's Opinionated Opinions as this is about a bakery in Palo Alto, CA.

Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto

One of my family's Christmas traditions is to spend a day at Stanford. Now, when we say "Stanford" we are talking about the Stanford Shopping Center, and almost never the prestigious university that happens to share the same name (and is right next door). I say it is a family tradition, but it really is the ladies' tradition as Dad dislikes shopping and would rather spend the time golfing. Usually we go before Christmas to get our last minute shopping done, but this year my sister and I went without Mom (who was deep in a fit of organizing her storage closet and junk room) the Monday after the holiday.

As my sister and I approached the mall we noticed a brand new little cupcake bakery that had a line stretching out of the door and down the sidewalk.

Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto

"Sprinkles," my sister exclaimed. "You know how Magnolia was the first cupcake bakery in New York? Sprinkles was the same on the West Coast, in L.A."

"Well then, we should try one," I proclaimed. (Although I must admit, I am kind of over the cupcake thing, and like a true Bay Area native I dislike anything from Southern California. I can't help it; it was bred into us from an early age.)

And so after our little shopping expedition was finished, we got in line at Sprinkles and waited. The people in line were electric with excitement, as if they were waiting to meet their favorite celebrity. This had me really curious: I mean, could these really be the best freaking cupcakes EVER? Or was it all just hype? The original bakery is in Beverly Hills which can turn a trend in seconds--and what the celebrities love, the media hypes. I mean, Sprinkles has had a ton of positive press from Oprah, Martha, Gourmet, celebrities, etc. The bakery looked and behaved a lot like an upscale boutique, with a very clean and modern design that pushes their gimmick with every detail, including the cute little wooden knives and forks that are made available. It could be easy to buy into the Sprinkles way of life, but what about the cupcakes? Hype will get people in the door, but a good product will keep people coming back, right?

Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto

Sprinkles has a wide and creative variety of cupcake flavors that rotate daily. The cupcakes were very nicely displayed, and very visually appealing. On our day, we chose a banana cupcake with bittersweet chocolate frosting and a lemon cupcake with lemon-vanilla frosting. We scurried outside with our prizes and cut them open to share.

The banana cupcake was moist and flavorful; very delicious. It reminded me of Rose's sour-cream banana cake, which is moist, light, and has a great banana flavor without being dense or heavy. The chocolate frosting was very sweet and a tad gritty. The lemon cupcake also had a great, soft texture with bright lemon flavor. It was really good, but again the frosting was very sweet and gritty. I think it was the classic American sugar-butter-milk kind of frosting, instead of a classic buttercream made with a sugar syrup, egg yolks, and butter. At least, that's my suspicion.

Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto

As we sat outside the shop munching on our cupcakes, a very chicly dressed woman stopped and asked, "so are they worth the fuss?"

I looked at her, as I savored the sunshine lemon flavor lingering my mouth. "Not really," I said almost apologetically.

And with a knowing nod, she walked on. My sister and I threw away the very cute box with the adorable wooden knife and fork and the lumps of discarded frosting inside, and went home.


  1. Sad! I was so excited when I started reading your post, because I'm planning a trip to Sunnyvale in the next couple months, and I thought you were going to alert me to a must-see stop! At least I know to avoid it now. Where would you recommend as quality dessert places in the area?

  2. Amanda, it's not that the cupcakes are bad, it's just that they are not all that fabulous. I know you can bake a better cupcake at home.
    Unfortunately, I haven't lived there in so long that I have no idea where to send you! Sorry. Let us know if you find somewhere great!

  3. I just love ECL'S OO on LB!
    The boxes and stuff all look so swish. Shame about the hype.
    I guess cupcakes shouldn't try to get above their station. Nobody likes an uppity cupcake.

  4. Melinda, aw thanks! It is all your idea anyway. I agree with you; nobody likes an uppity cupcake. Poor ol' cupcake.

  5. I"ll do some research on chowhound. So far, I plan on going to Scharffenberger and Michael Recchiuti. I don't want to try mediocre cupcakes, I'll only go out of my way for the best!

  6. Hey Lady! Are you OK? Awaiting some serious baking from you! Cheers x