Sunday Morning Review - Violet's Cakes

I have a lot to do today so I wanted to get this cupcake review off my "to do" list :) Aside from my normal family activities for the day, there's the Daring Bakers Challenge to finish off and write up... dance shoes to find... dance class to take... and it's going to be a steamy 100F today in my part of southern California :( Now that I'm taking honest-to-goodness classes, I've decided it's time to buy some real, honest-to-goodness shoes that are made for dancing.... so I can look all professional-like. Or... at least not look like some newb who's taking her first class ever ;-) LOL!!

Yes, with all I have going on today I still have cupcakes on the brain! I don't think they've actually left my brain for the past couple of weeks. This morning's review is of Violet's Cakes in Pasadena, California. I picked up four cupcakes to try out... Vanilla, Strawberry, Raspberry Lemonade and Red Velvet.

When I arrived it was rather late in the day and the selection looked rather picked over. The designers were busily assembling cakes and thankfully there was only one customer ahead of me in line. I looked thru the display case and saw there were no Raspberry Lemonade cupcakes behind their little sign. ACK! I experienced a moment of panic and had to regroup my thoughts to come up with a "plan B" which turned out to be "okay so I suppose we'll just buy three cupcakes instead of four". Yeah, I'm all over that complicated plan-B stuff, as you can tell... and let's not discuss how long it took for my brain to make that decision {wink}.

The customer in front of me had been there for quite a while before I walked in... and we both waited quite a while before someone came to help us. Now see, in my brain I'm thinking about what I want before the sales person comes to ask "Can I help you?". Isn't that how most people handle this kind of thing? I always thought they did. Apparently this is not how it goes for the customer who was in front of me. Despite the fact that she'd been waiting and waiting for someone to come help her, she'd put absolutely no thought into what she wanted before she was asked. ACK! And of course, she wanted a dozen cupcakes and had to decide, on-the-fly, which ones to choose. Took. Her. For. Ever. Yes indeedy it did. And there were only three Strawberry cupcakes left when I got there and as slowly as she was making up her mind and then changing it and then adding more of certain flavors, well, I started to panic there'd be no Strawberry cupcakes by the time she was finally done. Okay... so she finally, finally, finishes her dozen and I think "oh yay, I'm home free, there's one strawberry cupcake left for me". The sales girl is closing up the box and the customer say "Yanno... that might not be enough, let me get another half-dozen too". {insert screeching tire sound here}. OMG OMG OMG I think I'm gonna die. She wants to add more cupcakes? OMG OMG OMG surely she's going to take her sweet blessed time AND take the last Strawberry cupcake. I'm sure of it. Thank God she got an assortment of Chocolate cupcakes and left my Strawberry alone! whew! Lucky for her because otherwise, well, I don't even wanna share with you what mighta happened ;-) hehehehe

They had more of the Raspberry Lemonade in the back so I was able to get one. YAY! And doesn't it just look so purdy? =) I was really excited to try this flavor in particular. It was actually not bad! I was so relieved because after what I'd gone thru to get my precious bundles of delight, the last thing I wanted was to have some dried-out, leftovers from yesterday ;-) This cupcake had a lot of lemon zest in the cake itself but surprisingly it had very little lemon flavor. The icing had a definite raspberry flavor... and there might have been some raspberry puree under the crown of the cake. I say "might" because I'm honestly not sure. It was very very dark purple-ish in this area of the cupcake, all the way thru it, and it was either a God-awful huge patch of mold... or... it was raspberry puree. I'm goin with "raspberry puree" thankyouverymuch {wink}. I think most of the lemon flavor in this cupcake came from the little lemon-ball candies sprinkled on top because I really got very little flavor in the cake itself, despite the big chunks of lemon zest.

One thing I'll say about Violet's Cakes, the cupcakes (while rather rustic looking) are gorgeous sitting in the display case. Really, they are sooooo purdy sitting there all nicely lined up screaming "choose me!! choose me!!". Wait. You mean you don't hear those screams when you look at a case full of cupcakes? Hmmmm.... Uhmmm.... well, I do. That doesn't make me weird or anything, does it? Okay, no matter, cuz I do hear it :) Anyway, cupcakes from Violet's Cakes are very pretty in the case... but... it would be nice if they took some pride in the packaging of them because they did not survive the trip home very well. In fact, these cupcakes look the worst for the wear of all the different bakeries I've purchased from lately. Now, I realize a divided box would be expensive but a strip of parchment paper between the cupcakes wouldn't add a huge cost and would keep them from sliding around in the box and becoming joined-at-the-frosted-crown with the next. See this post here for an example of some good packaging. Also, is it really necessary to frost all down the wrapper? I'm all for having enough frosting to cover the whole cake but when it's all over and halfway down the wrapper, it's messy... it's messy for packing/unpacking, it's messy for eating and it's certainly messy for photographing. I tried in vain to find a good side of each cupcake to shoot. Either it had a boatload of another cupcake's frosting on it... or... it had a boatload of buttercream sliding down the wrapper.

I have come to love and appreciate Red Velvet cupcakes. I came to them late in life, having never tasted one until earlier this year. Done right, Red Velvet is very good. But at Violet's Cakes they commit what I consider to be the cardinal sin of Red Velvet. They make a definitively chocolate cake... {insert screeching tires sound here} and add a touch of red food coloring to it. Red Velvet cake is not meant to be a chocolate cake. Red Velvet is meant to be a brightly red colored cake with a hint of chocolate flavor. "Hint of" being the important words. I took a slice shot of this cupcake so you could see what I mean. Now, if you're a lover of chocolate, Violet's red velvet might be right up your alley since it's chocolate cake and it's topped with chocolate shavings. It most definitely was not my cup of tea. The cake itself was bordering on being dry... dry to the point that the crown fell off of one half when it was sliced. That was probably caused in part by the heaviness of the cream cheese icing which was very smooth but very very sweet.

The Vanilla cupcake. Okay before we go any further let's talk about the elephant in the room. See that picture of the Vanilla cupcake? I'm sure the very first thing you notice is my big ol thumb print on the left side of the icing. Big apologies for that. Big ol apologies coupled with some crocodile tears for good measure. Had there been just a teensy bit of care applied when packaging I might have been able to get the cupcakes out of the box without messing them up. Them's the breaks, I guess. But the taste of this cupcake was rather good. The cake texture was very much like angel-food cake... very much so. The icing was tasty too. But neither had an actual vanilla flavor. It was more like "plain" cake and "plain" icing cuz yanno how vanilla has an actual flavor to it? Well, this did not. The texture was good but the flavor was extremely non-existent.

The Strawberry cupcake was also like plain angel food cake... but the buttercream frosting had a hit of strawberry flavor. This cupcake was surprisingly good especially since it sat on my kitchen counter overnight in the box. It was still extremely fresh and had a good, though very subtle, flavor.

If you're in Pasadena, California and jonesin for cupcakes I'd recommend Violet's Cakes over Dots Cupcakes in a heart beat. While Violet's may not look as pretty as Dots, they taste a whole lot better. But, if you want "pretty pretty" to impress friends at a party, then perhaps Dots is more your style. Either way, in Pasadena you'll have a choice :)

Happy Sunday!