Tuesday, August 31, 2010

kara's cupcakes

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

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