This past Saturday, I went cupcake sampling in Pasadena, first at Dots Cupcakes followed by Violet's Cakes. After experiencing both within an hour of each other, the best analogy I could come up with to describe the whole experience was that of the City Mouse vs. the Country Mouse.
In one corner, you have Dots Cupcakes, which to me was the City Mouse. The storefront looks pretty sophisticated. The building is pink with a brown awning and that same color scheme is utilized for their company logo. Inside, the cupcakes are presented through these white cut-outs, which strangely enough reminded of the cells within a beehive where the honey is deposited. Perhaps something subliminal is happening? As for the interior of the cup cake shop, it was orderly. Everything was in its place.
As for the cupcakes themselves, they were quite pretty looking and when put into the box with the brown and pink polka dotted tissue paper, they made a nice presentation. I took home some for a chocolate potluck I was having that evening, but before I left, I went ahead and tried two cupcakes at the shop, or at least half of each one.
First up was the Pina Colada Cupcake. They definitely did not skimp on the coconut portion of this cupcake and that coconut was quite good, moist and with just the right amount of chewiness. According to the website, the coconut was supposed to be toasted, but that didn't seem to be the case. As for the "Pina" in this cupcake, it went AWOL, unless the pineapple flavor is supposed to be really subtle. I think that calling this a Pina Colada Cupcake was quite a misnomer and calling it a simple Coconut Cupcake would have been more accurate. Based on it being called a Pina Colada Cupcake, I was disappointed, but thinking of it as just as a Coconut Cupcake, I was able to like it better.
Following this so-called Pina Colada Cupcake, came the Red Velvet Cupcake. I was definitely more pleased with this second offering although not necessarily wowed. While I liked this cupcake better than the first, I think the cake part should have been a little sweeter, but perhaps that was done on purpose because of the cream cheese frosting. When tasting that cream cheese frosting by itself, I found that it was actually pretty sweet, but when eaten with the cupcake, everything came together fairly well.
I found that the actual cake part of both cupcakes were a little dryer than I would have liked, but at that time, it was fine. What I found interesting is that when I had the other halves of these cupcakes much later on in the evening, both of them were even drier than when I first got them. I just took a couple of small bites of each and threw them out.
From Dots Cupcakes, I made a trip down the road to Violet's Cakes and by just looking at the entrance, you already got that "Country Mouse" feeling. When entering the shop, you'll see a lot of hustle and bustle in the open kitchen behind the counter and on either side of of the shop, one table had some crafty stuff that the owner apparently was using to make something crafty and the other table had flyers and business cards on top of it.
When looking at the case, it was even more obvious that the Dots Cupcakes and Violet's Cupcakes were night and day. Violet's cupcakes were a little smaller and had that homey, just baked in the kitchen with grandma look whereas Dots Cupcakes looked like they could have been made by a Pastry Chef.
I was quite disappointed with Dots, so I wasn't sure what to expect with Violet's, but let me tell you, Violet's did not disappoint and in fact, surpassed expectations. The two that I decided to sample were the banana cupcake with dark chocolate frosting and their French Toast cupcake.
The banana cupcake had great flavor. It actually reminded me of good banana bread. Unlike Dots' Pina Colada Cupcake which seemed to be missing the "Pina", I could taste the banana in Violet's banana cupcake. Isn't that as it should be? Also, that dark chocolate frosting was so creamy, so filled with chocolate goodness, that I could have had it by itself without the cupcake.
As for the French Toast cupcake, wow, I loved it. I can't tell you that it tasted exactly like French Toast because it didn't have that eggy flavor/texture you'd might associate with this particular breakfast treat. However, you could really taste the spicing in this cupcake that could be associated with French Toast like cinnamon, allspice and/or nutmeg and when you top it off with a creamy, maple frosting, I was in cupcake heaven.
Unlike the Dots Cupcakes, I finished up both Violet's cupcakes without even a thought. Not only did both have great flavor, I also found both cupcakes to be moist unlike their drier counterparts at Dots. I also brought home cupcakes from Violet's for my chocolate potluck and actuallly had one left over. When I had that leftover cupcake the next day, it still tasted just as good and the cake was just as moist.
While Violet's may not have the City Sophistication of Dots, what they do have is dreamingly delicious cupcakes. In the end, pretty presentation will only go so far if the flavor isn't there and Violet's cupcakes definitely have that flavor.
400 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, CA 91105
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21 E Holly St
Pasadena, CA 91103
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