Sunday, February 16, 2014

San Francisco Cupcake Tour

Cupcake display at SusieCakes
On Sunday, a few of my friends and I went on a cupcake tour throughout the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco. We weren't entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into, but honestly, how can you mess up walking around to bakeries and eating cupcakes?

The tour was hosted by Great Food Tours, which does various food tours throughout the country. In San Francisco, there are two tours - a chocolate one and the cupcake one that I did. The tour was led by a guide who took us from bakery to bakery, while filling us in with various facts and tidbits about the neighborhood and cupcake history. All in all, we hit up six bakeries, while getting to try a sample at each one. By the end, we were all on a sugar high and pretty happy with the variety of treats we got to taste! Here's my take on the tour:

Bakery #1: Kara's Cupcakes

Chocolate raspberry cupcake
Our first stop was Kara's Cupcakes, which was a bakery I'm pretty familiar with. My company often orders from this bakery for cupcake desserts, so I've previously tried quite a few of these cupcakes.

I've also recently attended a few events hosted by Kara herself. The cupcake in the picture above is from a cupcake demo I attended at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, which I posted about in a previous post. I also attended her cupcake decorating class, which I also wrote about before.

But back to the tour: we stopped by the Marina location and got to try a mini cupcake. I picked a chocolate velvet cupcake covered in chocolate sprinkles - chocolate cake with a huge mound of chocolate frosting topped with sprinkles and fondant. The cake was fluffy and moist and the frosting was smooth and sweet. My favorite thing about these cupcakes is how consistent the cake and frosting are and how all the ingredients are locally sourced (even the salt is from the bay). Great first stop for the tour!

Chocolate velvet cupcake
Bakery #2: SusieCakes

Storefront of SusieCakes
The next stop was SusieCakes, which is an all-American bakery that uses European-style butter. The result is a rich and dense cupcake - so delicious!

SusieCake cupcake selection!
We each got to pick between a chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet mini cupcake. I chose to taste the red velvet cake. The cake was intensely red and dense. I liked that the cake wasn't too sweet, which complemented the super sweet cream cheese frosting. The European style butter really did make a difference with the frosting to make it very rich, dense, and creamy.

Red velvet cupcake
I loved it - although the frosting was probably a tad sweet and I wouldn't be able to eat more than a mini-cupcake version of it. It was good, but it was probably my least favorite of the six bakeries. It just wasn't as unique as the other bakeries we went to on the tour (but still delicious!)

Bakery #3: Caffe Dolci

The inside of Caffe Dolci
The third bakery on the tour was Caffe Dolci, which is an Italian-style bakery. They had the most innovative dessert ever - cupcake that uses gelato as the filling AND the frosting. It was definitely the most unique cupcake on this tour!

The cupcakes (left) with our choice of gelato (right)
We got to pick between a chocolate cupcake with a vanilla gelato filling and a vanilla cupcake with a grapefruit gelato. I went with the vanilla/grapefruit combo and topped it with a mango cream gelato.

Vanilla/grapefruit/mango gelato cupcake!
The vanilla cake was sweet, but kind of dry. That actually worked out though with the gelato. The vanilla also tasted a bit lemon-y (although that could be me getting citrus flavors from the grapefruit filling). The gelato was amazing though - the grapefruit was sweet, lightly flavored, and had a creamy texture, while the mango gelato was rich and sweet.

I loved this bakery - I definitely want to stop by again sometime to try the other gelato flavors!

Bakery #4: Cocoabella

Storefront of Cocoabella
The next stop on the tour was a little different. Instead of a bakery, Cocoabella was a chocolatier with different chocolates around the world. It was a good change of pace - after that heavy dense gelato cupcake, a little chocolate square was perfect.

The Belgium section of the store
 We each got to sample a dark chocolate raspberry chocolate - it was very smooth, sweet and dark and tasted great. Looking around, I wished I could have sampled more chocolates - there were varieties from Belgium, Switzerland, France, etc!

The chocolate we sampled!
I liked this stop because it was different from the others, although I was confused why a chocolatier was included as one of the stops on a cupcake tour. There was absolutely nothing cupcake-related about the chocolates, but hey, I'm not going to complain (and honestly at this point, I needed a break from cupcakes for just a little while).

Artistic shot of the chocolate sample!
Bakery #5: La Boulange

La Boulange storefront
The fifth stop was a French-style bakery, where besides cupcakes, there were a variety of pastries as well. We got to try a few different kinds.

Inside of the bakery
I first sampled the a cannel├ęs de Bordeaux - it's a pastry with a soft custard center and the crust is caramelized and covered in beeswax. I really liked the juxtaposition of the sweet and creamy core with the nice thick crust. 

I sampled a cannel├ęs de Bordeaux (left) and a chocolate fondant (middle)
I also got to try a chocolate fondant, which is a French flourless chocolate cake. It's very dense and rich. The dark chocolate had some pretty complex flavors (I thought I detected some coffee notes). It wasn't quite a cupcake, but I really liked trying different pastries!

Om nom nom
Bakery #6: American Cupcake

American Cupcake storefront
Our last bakery on the tour was right next door to La Boulange - the all American Cupcake bakery! Besides selling cupcakes and other sweets, they also had a restaurant in the back where you could order meals as well!

Brunch menu specials
The menu looked pretty unique as well - I'm not exactly sure what red velvet fried chicken and waffles are, but they certainly sound interesting (although my stomach is more intrigued by the cupcake pancakes that are listed below that).
Cupcake selection
They also pride themselves on their variety in the cupcakes. Besides the traditional chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, they also had flavors, such as popcorn. (Guess which one I chose?)

The popcorn cupcake
The popcorn cupcake consisted of a chocolate cupcake, topped with a vanilla frosting and caramel corn. I actually liked it a lot - the popcorn helped offset some of the sweetness of the frosting and the cake was very fluffy. Unfortunately, I was pretty full at this point on sugar, so I couldn't finish this one and had to bring it home (the roommate happily ate the rest).

Clockwise from top left - mocha, peanut butter, funfetti, popcorn

The tour was great - there was a huge variety in the bakeries visited, ranging from regular cupcake stores to unique sweets (GELATO CUPCAKE!). I didn't feel like I was eating the same type of cupcake over and over. I also wasn't ridiculously full by the end and not too high on sugar, so six bakeries was the ideal number. 

As far as value, I definitely think it was worth it. My friends and I had purchased an Amazon Local deal where we ended up paying $20 bucks a person, which I think is a totally reasonable price for this tour. The regular price of the tour was $50 however, and I don't know if I would pay that full price for the bakery tour. 

Our guide, Helga, was also awesome. I learned a lot about cupcake history and the Pacific Heights neighborhood. On the top of that, the entire tour ran smoothly - we never got held up at any of the bakeries waiting for our cupcake orders, so clearly they did a good job setting things up ahead of time. 

All in all, this was definitely worth my Sunday afternoon. I would recommend it to any dessert lover or foodie! (Although, I would definitely try to get some sort of discount deal through Amazon Local or Groupon or something). 

Happy cupcake eating!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like so much fun. I love the lemon cupcakes from Kara's (you should try them next time you stop by!).


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