I confess, at times there's no art in planning a cupcake reconnaissance. It might be influenced by curiosity, a craving, or simply convenience.
In this instance, a combination of the above lead me to Hotcakes Bakes in Los Angeles, California.
As is often my regime, I reviewed their website before my visit. One particular cupcake was touted as a winner on Food Network's Cupcake Wars. Thinking of the taste round, I noted it as a must-try.
t was hard making a decision in Hotcakes Bakes shop that afternoon, even with a plan. Their two display cases were stocked with a variety of cupcakes. Some were frosted in buttercream, while others had mousse or whipped cream.
I don't know why, but I gravitated toward the lighter frosting options, a testament to how my palate has changed.
I selected two, completed my purchase, and secured the cupcake box for the drive home.
Later, I opened the box and reached immediately for the Cupcake Wars Winner - Tres Leches Spicy Mango.
It's a vanilla cake soaked in tres leches (three milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream) frosted with cinnamon sugar whipped cream, and topped with spiced mangos.
From the first bite, the cupcake had a full-bodied flavor. The cake's vanilla essence was obvious. Its texture was spongy. Not my preference, but I enjoyed the rich tres leches flavor along the top.
The whipped cream frosting was delightful. The cinnamon sugar was a tasty complement.
And I loved the mangos. With a sweet taste, then spicy kick, I wanted a bowl!
Next I tried their Banana Chocolate Mousse. It's a vanilla cake with banana cream filling, frosted with chocolate mousse dipped in chocolate ganache.
Back at Hotcakes Bakes, I had wavered between this cupcake and another flavor, Chocolate Raspberry Mousse. Ultimately, I chose this one because of the filling.
To my dismay, this description was used loosely.
The vanilla cake had a strong flavor and a spongy texture, as with my first sample. The chocolate mousse was silky and light. Its cacao intensity was spot on, while the glossy ganache added depth.
However, the filling wasn't even a dollop. Perhaps smidgen is a better word.
Just as I reached it, I finished it.
Amidst the proportion of cake and frosting, the smidgen was lost. So I can't say what it tasted like.
Disappointing indeed, especially when you consider the cupcake's name.
I give Hotcakes Bakes 3.5 out of 5 stars.
I've seen higher scores on Yelp and admittedly, I went there with higher expectations. But I'm not a fan of spongy cake.
Maybe there lies part of the problem. I fell into the Cupcake Wars trap - again. I see it and expect better.
Is that so wrong? I'm starting to wonder.
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