kara's cupcakes

8:46 AM sians 0 Comments

my new found fascination is slowly turning into obsession. for cupcakes i mean! :) yummmmm... i'd say this might be the entry that i was most excited to share from my trip to san francisco.

how i found kara's cupcakes... well, a friend of mine, son (i would say he's a cupcake connoisseur, as i mentioned in my previous post) shared with me that his favorite cupcake bakery would be kara's cupcakes and since i was in the city, i wasn't gonna miss this chance to try out what he considers the best cupcakes he has ever had so far.

kara's cupcakes is the vision of the executive pastry chef, kara lind who started it as a small cupcake catering business. soon after, the demands for her cupcakes were overwhelming that she opened her first cupcake bakery in san francisco and then a retail outlet in ghirardelli square (which is the one i went to). now she has three other locations in the bay area more specifically in san jose, palo alto and napa, california. kara's cupcakes competed in one of the cupcake wars episodes featured on food network.

when we reached to ghirardelli square, the area was bustling with people and it had a cheer-y atmosphere... perhaps sugar high since the ghirardelli store was just around the corner? heheh.. i was getting far too excited and couldn't wait to find kara's cupcakes. as soon as i spot the store, i made a fast bee line for the cute cupcake store (sorta leaving ryan behind..) actually, ryan found it amusing and was slightly surprised that i started walking so quickly towards kara's cupcakes.. almost sprinting..

similar to many cupcake bakeries that i've been, the store is petite and brightly illuminated by the afternoon sun, streaming through the glass windows. its decor was modern contemporary clad with sweet pink and white.

however, what caught my attention were the lovely cupcakes that were on display which immediately put a huge a smile on my face. my initial plan was to get a dozen of mini cupcakes so i could try as many flavor as i can. much to my disappointment, they said they don't sell mini cupcakes in this particular store and mentioned that they have them in the original kara's cupcakes at marina. 

so i was once again filled with the dilemma of choosing which cupcakes to try. kara's cupcakes offers the regular and filled cupcakes with the occasionaly seasonal flavors which are listed on their menu printed on the pink back wall. the friendly staff were patient with us as we thought over our tough choices.. everything just looked so awesome! 

we decided on five cupcakes that we thought we might like: two different chocolate cupcakes, a lemon cupcake, a java cupcake and strawberry cream cupcake. as they say, five cupcakes are better than one ;) (btw, they don't sell red velvet cupcakes...sadly) looking at the cupcakes make me just want to lick the frosting off the cupcake but we decided to wait till we get back to the apartment. both the regular and filled cupcakes are priced at $3.25 each or $36 per dozen. if you prefer the mini cupcakes, it's priced at $24 per dozen.

the lucky five:
ghirardelli chocolate cupcake| chocolate cupcake with a sugary sweet chocolate frosting

this was one of the two chocolate cupcakes that we have gotten since we wanted to compare these classic cupcakes with their own twists. the cupcake itself is bittersweet, moist and buttery but light. the chocolate frosting is smooth, light and the sweetness balances the bitter undertones of the cupcake which has a good amount of chocolate flavor. the bittersweet flavor lingers in the back of the tongue after every bite but in a good way. being a cake purist / frosting minimalist, the amount of frosting was almost too much but it somehow just works. very very yummy! <3

chocolate velvet | chocolate cupcake with a velvety bittersweet chocolate cream

this cupcake is somewhat the inverse of the ghirardelli chocolate cupcake. their cupcake is airy, moist and light with a good amount of milk chocolate flavor, very much the opposite of the ghirardelli chocolate cupcake which was a lil denser. similar to the cake itself, the frosting was also light and at first glance it may seem to be too much forsting but suprisingly was just the right amount due to it being so airy. the lightness and airiness is contrasted by the bittersweet sprinkles on the top to give it a slight texture and taste difference. another good chocolate cupcake for one who prefers the milk chocolate version.

between the two wonderful cupcakes, i'd have to give the ghirardelli chocolate cupcake the slight edge since it is slightly denser and in my opinion more satisfying. i love the bitter undertones of the cupcakes alternating the sweetness of the frosting which play with my taste buds. melt in your mouth goodness :)

meyer lemony lemon | vanilla cupcake with a tart lemon filling and lemon buttercream

i might be slightly bias when i tasted this lemon cupcake. so first let me start explaining why. the name itself, meyer lemony lemon leads me to have a certain expectation for this lemon cupcake to be tart with every bite. this was the first of the filled cupcakes that we tried from kara's. with that expectation in mind, the cupcake offered a vanilla flavor off the bat with the same moistness and lightness just like the other cupcakes were. the filling was that burst of lemon flavor that the cupcake needs and what i was searching for. this is paired with a frosting that was sweet with a soft whisper of lemon flavor which melts in your mouth.

so my overall verdict is that it has a big burst of tart lemon flavor but it always ends with a vanilla flavor in the end from the cupcake which is sweet. there is nothing wrong with it but it was just very much against my expectations for a lemon cupcake. it does have a good balance of sweetness and tartness so it isn't just too tart or anything like that. ryan loves it and notes that it gives a burst of lemon (from the filling) but it doesn't saturate your pallete before the vanilla kicks in which he thinks leaves one wanting more - just like a tease.

organic strawberry cream cupcake | vanilla cupcake with organic local strawberries and cream

this is one of their seasonal cupcakes. my thoughts when i had my first bite was like tasting delicious fluffy cloud. :) the cake itself is moist and sweet and is somewhat reminiscent of the pound cake butteriness. it is topped with sweetened cream cheese frosting which is oddly almond-y and gives that subtle tartness to the overall taste. this tartness is enhanced by the surprise in the middle of the cupcake - strawberry cream filling which balances well with the sweetness of the cake. just like your favorite grandma's strawberry shortcake recipe. the cupcake tastes amazing as it is attractive to look at and is not overly sweet.

what i failed to notice when i cut into it the first time until i read it online on a blog is what makes it unique too. apparently, when you slice it in half, the revealed red filling and green fondant decoration that is suppose to mimic the stem looks like a strawberry.

java cupcake | chocolate cupcake with a rich espresso buttercream

true to its namesake, it was a good take on a java chocolate chip frappucino. the cake had a subtle flavor of chocolate and moist paired with the slight frothy-ness of the lingering expresso flavor at the end from the frosting.  the chocolate covered espresso bean brought the flavor to where it needs to be but it wasn't enough to elevate the whole cupcake. besides, ryan gobbled up the bean so i can't even tell how it affects its overall flavor. overall, it had a slight lightness. compared to the other cupcakes, this had a more mellow flavor and might be lacking something. quite pale in comparison to its peers. 

the one that i wanted to try but didn't get was the filled cupcake called fleur de sel which is a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, ganache frosting and fleur de sel. maybe in the near future.. :D

kara's cupcake is probably the reason behind my fascination turning into an obsession for these sweet, satisfying, creamy and delicious confections. even now, i am still craving one of those amazing kara's cupcake :) as kara's cupcakes summarizes it best: a sophisticated twist on an old fashion favorite.

now i understand why son loves kara's cupcake because it is also quickly becoming a favorite of mine and the home of the best cupcakes i've had so far. (thanks for the recommendation, son!)i could only wish they would open one here in chicago...

i only have one word for these incredible morsels: scrumpdeliyumptious! :)

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

on a side note | happy independence day, malaysia ! :) <3

Kara's Cupcakes (Ghirardelli Square) on Urbanspoon


pier market.

11:30 PM sians 0 Comments

one of the things that i think is missing in the midwest is the abundance of fresh seafood. even if you find some, it would probably be quite expensive. since i was in san francisco last weekend, fresh seafood was definitely in my agenda and fisherman's wharf was our destination of choice.

although we are well aware that pier 39 was a tourist trap, we have had food at pier market last year and was blown away by the cioppino we had. hence, we had to return for a second time to satiate the cravings i've had since the last time we were there. i've been dreaming to have that awesome cioppino again and this was the perfect opportunity to get some. :)

pier market is located within pier 39 and it was hard to miss. there was a crowd waiting outside the restaurant as we approached it so we thought it might be a long wait before we could get a table... we were told by the maitre'd that it would only be about a 15 minute wait which we were extremely happy about since we were starving. we were drawn to the menu right outside and thought it might be perfect to just decide what we wanted before hand so we could order as soon as we get seated.

what is great is that if you wanted a piece of pier market goodness without having to be seated in the restaurant, you could get some small bites from their crab stand which serves to-go food such as chowders, sandwiches and crab cakes. i've read some yelp reviews that the salmon burger which they freshly grill for you as you order is definitely a must try. it is also said that the food at the pier market's crab stand is fast, cheap and good. definitely something to bear in mind the next time we head out here.

after about a ten to fiften minute wait, we were shown to our table in the restaurant where the decor is pretty old school. the back of the restaurant are lined with windows to have the sunlight stream in to illuminate the space and also allow one to enjoy the pier while enjoying their meal. 

they also have outdoor seating which was what i would have preferred since it was such a nice sunny day out but i have to admit we didn't ask the maitre'd for one. definitely something to request for the next time, assuming the temperature is ideal for outdoor dining.

it was difficult to decide on what i want since i wanted everything... but we decided on getting an entree and two appetizers instead of just two entree dishes. this way we can try the variety of dishes. :)

they started us with some sourdough french bread and guess where it's from? boudin! hehe. what intrigues me is why do everyone go with "extra sour" sourdough bread. i had a slice just to try it and it was definitely extra crunchy but it was too sour for my liking.

crab cakehouse specialty, served with a cajun rémoulade ($10.95)

as the dish was served, it looked appetizing and i couldn't wait to get a bite of it. warm and crispy outside, it was moist on the inside. however, i couldn't really see any distinct crab meat pieces hence i could only taste the subtle crab flavor.. i love to see the colors of the red pepper that gives the slight sweetness to the crab cake and the cilantro for the slight freshness. the rĂ©moulade has a light flavor that pairs well with the dish since it doesn't overpower the crab cakes. it is definitely not as heavy as the traditional louisiana ones that we have tried before.

although it has good textures and moistness, i wasn't too keen on this dish. i am still looking for a crab cake that i can call amazing..the ideal crab cake that i am searching for should have big chunks of crab meat with minimal filling because the additional ingredients should enhance the natural sweetness of the crab and not mask it. 

steamed clams | steamed in garlic, butter and white wine (half order for $8.95, full order for $11.95)

i love clams especially when it's very fresh. i just wanted to eat up all the clams when this dish came and its aroma was garlicky and lemony which was exactly how the dish tasted like. ryan accidentally squeezed too much lemon into the dish so it was tad too lemony but pier market cooked it right. they treated these fresh clams right - succulent and not overcooked.


cioppino a classic san francisco dish. a tomato based seafood stew with fresh fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and crab served over pasta ($21.95)

a definite must have when you are in san francisco. a classic dish.

we ordered the lazy man's cioppino where the crab in the shell is substituted by picked crab meat for an additional $3.95. essentially it is as the name suggests, its for people who are too lazy to pick the crab meat from the shell and it's all done for you.  the dish arrived all steamy and i was uber excited since this was our main aim for coming here.

with lovely flavors all around, it packs a punch with the slight spiciness that builds over time (well, it isn't like that spicy but has a slight kick). the tomato broth is flavorful accented by the spices, slices of celery and onions in addition to the seafood flavor from the mussels, clams, crab meat, tilapia, salmon, shrimp. the bed of pasta was cooked al dente but unfortunately it wasn't flavored enough and plus the broth didn't really adhere to the pasta itself. the onions and celery add the sweetness and i like the different textures it contributes.

the salmon fillets were very fresh and delicious, not overcooked and the flavors just melts in my mouth. ryan, on the other hand, was looking for the butteriness that he usually expects from salmon which wasn't present in this dish. the tilapia didn't really stand out and was a tad fishy for my liking but it did impart some good flavors into the broth. mussels might have been overcooked just a lil and it was almost dry that makes me question its freshness. the crab meat was a disappointment because it was dry and almost flavorless that even ryan thinks that he would rather order the regular dish and pick the crab from shell despite how much he dislikes the extra work. and plus, i think it would add more flavor to the stew.

the biggest highlight of the whole meal was the fresh clam. each dish comes with two clams so we get one each and we both agree is the best thing of the day. love love loveeeeeeeeee. the clam is soo very fresh and cooked on point..just perfect. i saved the best for last and it took me a minute to savor the clam to the fullest. when i put the clam in my mouth, the first bite burst with clam flavor. it was like tasting the sea just with that one tiny morsel. ryan thought it was like an everlasting gobstopper of clam flavor.

this single clam would be enough to tempt me to return to this place for their cioppino again.  hehe. :) their crab cake not so much..

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Pier Market Seafood on Urbanspoon


san francisco love.

6:03 PM sians 0 Comments

"east is east, and west is san francisco" | o. henry

last weekend was one i was very much excited for..i was flying to california to visit ryan in his new place in folsom, california. we had planned out what we were gonna do for the weekend - a day trip to san francisco and a day of shopping at ikea to furnish his new apartment. both of which seems so fun for me but he decided that saturday was a good day for our san francisco trip since he wanted to have fun first. (shopping is not his thing)

famous for its landmark - the golden gate bridge, chinatown, steep roads and cable cars, san francisco is definitely one of my favorite cities in the united states. this was probably my fourth or fifth time into the city and our plan was mainly to go to pier 39 for fresh seafood and some good fun at the one of the city's tourism spots.

forecast for the day was said to be sunny in mid-60s which is supposed to be really good warm weather for this area but as we were driving towards our destination, dark and heavy clouds loomed over the horizons making me somewhat cranky since it looked like it might rain. my last visit to sf was dampened by rain too. this is what ryan told me:

"this is the first time in the month i'm here that i see clouds in the skies. so far it's been clear blue skies.."

oh bugger... it seems like i bring the clouds and rain with me whenever i go to california. grrr..

anywho, we got there and i guess it was a good sign that it hasn't rained a drop yet so there might be a chance that the weather forecast was right. we parked at a garage just passed pier 39 and as we got out of the car i was surprised at how chilly it was. the streets were bustling with people and the general atmosphere reminded me of bourbon street in new orleans but with slight difference - with the palm trees, the cable car, the streets with bars and petite shops and the rows of restaurants. the weather started looking up a lil bit as we approached the pier with the sky clearing up and the sun shining with all its glory :)

our first stop was chowders... we were both hungry by the time we got there since it was nearing lunch time for us. true to its namesake, this place is popular for its white and red chowder served in boudin sourdough bread bowls.

boudin is a famous local sourdough bakery which started in 1894 and has been supplying sourdough french bread and bread bowls around san francisco. so if you see a bread bowl with clam chowder, you can safely bet that the bread is freshly made from boudin. boudin's bakery is just minutes away from pier 39 and there is also a small store on the pier itself so you could walk in and fresh from the oven sandwiches.

we ordered the classic white clam chowder for a snack since we were heading elsewhere for lunch.

typically, the creamy chowder pairs well with the sourdough bread bowl but we skipped the bread bowl since we both weren't too fond of the sourdough bread since it was too sour. i think we have recently found out why. we suspect that they might get their sourdough bread from boudin "extra sour"... (perhaps... do not qoute us on this)and if they do....now why would they get the sourdough bread "extra sour" that might overpower natural sweetness of the clam and the creaminess of the chowder?

the place itself reminds me of an old school diner with the vintage posters hung on the plank walls. it is brightly lit enhanced by the sunlight streaming in through the window that looks out to the pier.

the chowder was seasoned just right but i thought it was lacking clam meat that i crave for. it was creamy and smooth and didn't have a lot of diced potatoes which was great..typically i am irked by the chowders at a lot of other places since they add too much potatoes which makes it more like a potato chowder than clam chowder. my verdict: it's good chowder with promising flavors but i've had better chowders elsewhere.

next stop: pier market for lunch. coming soon in my next post. :)

after lunch, there wasn't much to do but sightseeing around the pier and enjoying the chilly yet warm san francisco weather.

then we stumbled upon this candy store, candy baron. i yelped (just a lil bit) with joy when i saw taffies. oh how i miss thee! barrels and barrels of sticky, sweet and yummy taffy. every kid's dream and every parent's nightmare! lol. it was like a rainbow of candy and you can just scoop a handful of each flavor into a basket as much as your heart's desires which is exactly what i did (but with some self control, of course...hehe)

there are so many food places on pier 39 and i just wanted to try most of them out.. one in particular that caught my attention was this one....

yup, crepes. especially those nutella with strawberries/banana crepes. thinking about it makes me drool...

i was very tempted to get myself one of these sinful creations but then stopped myself since i had other plans for dessert. you'll know just in a lil bit. :)

before we left to go to our dessert destination, we decided to drop by boudin bakery at pier 39 to get ourselves a loaf of the famous sourdough bread.  what i didn't know was that they were also serving sandwiches and chowders.

it was nearly 3 pm when it was time for us to head out to where i've been planning to go for weeks. our next destination was the ghirardelli's square. but this time it isn't for chocolate.

it's for kara's cupcakes! :)  they have one located within the square and i was very, very excited to get there...but kara's cupcakes will be covered in another blog post...so watch out for it :)

"san francisco has only one drawback. 'tis hard to leave" | rudyard kipling
san francisco will remain to be one of my favorite cities and this trip has reminded me once again what i've always loved about it.  

"leaving san francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. you want to linger as long as possible." | walter cronkite
"but oh, san francisco! it is and has everything~
you wouldn't think that such a place as san francisco could exist.
the lobsters, clams,crabs. Oh, cat, what food for you. and all the people are open and friendly."
| dylan thomas, poet

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others