Monday, May 19, 2008

I Attended the L.A. Cupcake Challenge

Wayyyy back in mid April, I wrote a post announcing the L.A. Cupcake Challenge happening in May. Well, that eventful day arrived yesterday, and I was there to see how it all went down.

First, let me say, I loved it. I took a girlfriend and we waited almost no time in line on the Hollywood Blvd. sidewalk outside the Montmartre Lounge to have our names crossed off the list. We climbed the red carpeted stairs to the event, picked up an empty wine glass and a voting sheet, and began the tour de force of cupcake tastings.

Now let me admit, I could have planned better. There were two bakeries stationed at the entrance, then some white leather sofas for lounging, and then a giant room full of booth after booth of cupcake bakeries, displaying their concoctions and handing out mini-versions. I had no idea just how many samples I'd end up eating. So for the first couple of mini-cupcakes, I ate the entire things. I shouldn't have. As the afternoon rolled on, I too felt I would soon be rolling on... I ended up needing to cut back and take single bites of sample cupcakes in order to try as many as possible.

On a side note, as you can see above, I wore my cupcake tee for the occasion. The shirt says Make Cupcakes Not War. And because of that silly shirt, I was approached by three media outlets: LA Weekly, ABC 7, and the Food Network. In the pic below, I'm being interviewed for the Food Network. They made me promise to enter my own cupcakes in next year's L.A. Cupcake Challenge. What did I just get myself into!?

Returning your attention to cupcakes (and away from t-shirts), many of the cupcake flavors were traditional, such as red velvet, chocolate, and vanilla, though there were variations among even those. For example, one red velvet had sugar crystals, another was strictly vegan. Many of the cupcakes were creative, in both presentation, and flavor combinations. I was really pleased with the variety. Here are just a few of the cupcakes I sampled yesterday.

Mandarin orange cupcake with pistachio frosting from Sugar Jones

Chocolate cupcakes with a beer-caramel sauce from Lucky Devils

Lemon cupcakes from BabyCakes Baking Company

Root beer float cupcake complete with straw (so cool!) from Yummy Cupcakes

Peanut butter and jelly cupcake from The Oinkster

Red velvet, Elvis, and another I can't remember from Violet's Cakes

Strawberry cupcake from Leyna's Baby Cakes

Red velvet cupcakes from Hotcakes Bakes

Just some of the remaining scraps

I went home satiated, sick, vowing never to eat another cupcake in my life, and unable to do anything but lie sprawled out on my couch and watch my latest recorded Ugly Betty episode. But I have to tell you, despite all the queasiness post-event, the experience of being in a room filled with bakery booths - and all the sensory and mental happiness that comes with that - was one of the most amazing food experiences I've had.

Oh, and a couple hours after the event, I managed to eat an apple and a small cucumber. Still waiting for my sweet tooth to grow back...

Note: The winners of the L.A. Cupcake Challenge were not announced at the event so that attendees would have the full three hours to cast their vote. Check back later to find out who won!


Unknown said...

I still can't get over this event. It sounds hilarious and amazing. I loved the pics! Was there root bear in the cupcake itself?

Unknown said...

I love your reporting. Will you be on TV?

Anonymous said...

Great recap! I'm kinda sorry I missed it. :(

Marni said...

randi - there might have been root beer in the recipe, but certainly not liquid root beer to suck up with the straw post-baking. But it was so yummmmmy!

beth - we'll just have to wait and see if my segment makes it to tv. it was quite a long interview!

hilary - thanks so much! you definitely should have come, and then we could have finally met. if the $60 price tag detered you (it would deter me), a tip would be to check Goldstar cuz they often sell discount tix to these events (including this one at $40). but on the good side, by missing it, you didn't eat your weight in cupcakes and feel like barfing. :)

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew about it - Sadly I'm sure I would have embarrassed myself by eating my way through every booth... Great pictures!

Chris said...

The little lemon cupcakes with the tiny flowers are from BabyCakes Baking Company in Torrance

Anonymous said...

Wow you got interviewed with the gal from Leyna's Kitchen? Was she the winner? Her strawberry one were my favorite too!! Cute and juicy! I actually expected better from the Vanilla Bake. the designs and colors on some of the bakers were out of this world!!! Although i lost my cravings for a cupcake for at least a week...I'll have to say it was definately worth it...

Anonymous said...

$60 dollars was soooo worth it...Especially if you have a sweet tooth. I loved the strawberry ones too! Is Leyna's Kitchen a new bake shop? Marni, What was your overall and original favorites?

Marni said...

chuck s - that's not embarrassing; that's what everyone there did! the embarrassing part is the hallucinations and cold sweats that come afterward...just kidding. two days later, i think i'm finally fully recovered.

chris - Thanks for the info on that mysterious cupcake. I will go ahead and change the caption on that photo. Weren't those lemon ones delicious!?

cupcake christina - We don't actually know the winners yet. They were interviewing Leyna with me because I opened my big mouth and said to the reporter that I love to bake cupcakes. He goes, "Then why didn't you enter?" and I said, "I think you have to have a business." And he didn't agree, and wanted a second opinion from a baker who knew the rules. But Leyna's were great. I wouldn't be surprised if she won some sort of prize.

Jennifer - You're right, $60 was definitely worth it now that I've been and know what I'd be paying for. Otherwise, that sounds a bit pricey. Leyna makes her cupcakes out of her kitchen, so I think they are only made to order for now, not a storefront bakeshop. My faves? That's a toughy. I loved the root beer float one, the Lucky Devils one with beer caramel sauce, the Key Lime one, and the mandarin orange one. I also LOVED the chocolate one with choc-peanut butter frosting and banana inside, and the Red Velvet from both Hotcakes and Violet's.

Elise Thompson said...

It's amazing almost everyone's favorites are the same ones.

The one you aren't sure of was chocolate with little chunks of brownie in the cake.

Which ones were vegan?

Anonymous said...

Vegan? ewe that doesn't sound too tasty.
Marni I love your blog! When are you going to start your own bakery? I heard the strawberry shortcakes came from a start up company too. My friends and I agreed she the best ones. So if she can do it, You can win next year!!

Marni said...

Kiki - oooh thanks for the tip on that brownie one, which i adored. the only one i clearly remember as vegan was the red velvet next to the lucky devils table. but it's all a jarble in my head now so my memory is incomplete.

trisha - glad you're having fun reading all my silliness. Gosh, I don't know if I'll ever start a bakery. It's a dream, but not very realistic for me. Instead, I just bake all the time and give away most of it to happy campers.

lucindamichele said...

Cool to click thru to your comment on eatingLA! :) Always good to run into you. I was outta twon for the Challenge & it broke my sugar-lovin' lil' heart.

City Elf said...

how cool! i love the t-shirt and the recap. :)

Marni said...

lucindamichele - that would have been so fun if i saw u there and we could commiserate about chocolate-full belly aches. and about finding me thru eatingla - i think we run in the same circles. ;)

city elf - thanks! why don't u get a matching one. the shirt brand johnny cupcakes is opening up in LA!!

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