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Traditional flavors hit the mark here as well. In fact, their moist carrot cupcake is the best of that flavor category in town.
(Cool because of its homey interior and, obviously, its victory on a national reality show)
Polka Dot Bake Shop
(Cool because of its nod to the Latino community by offering a Latino cupcake)
1730 E. Woodlawn Road; 704-523-5001
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Cost: $2.50 each or $25 per dozen
Gluten-Free: Wednesdays and Saturdays (but they keep a few in the freezer)
In 2007, business partners Jennifer Chapman and Michelle Miller opened Charlotte's first cupcake emporium. The small shop offers at least nine to 12 varieties daily. Standout flavors include Chai tea and the Latino-inspired cinnamon sopaipilla. Their most requested cupcake is the Tuxedo, a devil's food cupcake with a cream cheese chocolate chip filling, cream cheese frosting and chocolate shavings.
On varying levels of cake plates and in rows behind the display rests the daily assortment, including Red Velvet with cream cheese icing, Oreo and cream, carrot cake, and chocolate with chocolate buttercream. Polka Dot bakes fresh each day. Leftover cupcakes are donated to nonprofit organizations.
(Cool because of its old-school bakery style, with a glass display case fronting the sidewalk)
In Suarez Bakery, Park Road Shopping Center; 704-375-7400
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $2.50 each or a half-dozen for $16.50
Tiz Benson started Tizzerts, Inc. in 1995 and became known for her bars, cakes and exquisite flower artwork. In 2009, she began a "temporary arrangement" with Suarez Bakery to share the Park Road Shopping Center location. She's still there, and the arrangement has had positive results for both companies. One immediate benefit for Benson was the ability to sell her creative cupcakes to walk-in customers.
Tizzerts' most popular cupcakes are vanilla and chocolate; however, her lineup includes Tangerine Dream, a white cake with orange filling and a citrus frosting; Hot Chocolate, which becomes a S'More in summer with a dusting of graham cracker crumbs; and, Benson's personal favorite, Boston Cream Pie Cupcake with vanilla filling, which is a small serving of that traditional cake.
(Cool because of its use of a North Carolina sweet wine as the primary ingredient in one of its cupcakes)
20017 North Main St., Cornelius; 704-895-5800
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Cost: $2.75 each or $30 for a dozen; mini cupcakes are $1 each or $11 per dozen
Gluten-Free: Wednesday and Saturday
The mother-daughter team of Brenda Lord and Heather Allen opened their shop in 2010 after several years baking at home and selling at the Davidson Farmers Market. Lord says she uses as many local ingredients as possible, especially local eggs and local strawberries. "Our strawberry cupcakes are popular and we make them year round," she notes.
Each day, SweetCakes offers 12 to 20 flavors. Among the rotated cupcakes are Mississippi Mud Cupcake with a brownie base, a layer of marshmallow and a fudge frosting; NC Blackberry Wine Cupcake with blackberry wine icing; and Almond Joy, a coconut cake with chocolate frosting, almonds and coconuts.
The Blushing Bakeshop
(Cool because of the "adult" [liquor, that is] content)
14825 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5800
Website: www.theblushingbakeshop.com; specials are Tweeted
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Cost: $3 each or 6 or more $2.50 each
Gluten-Free: Wednesday and Friday
Vegan: Thursday and Saturday
New owner Brandi Phillips, a self-described "PTA mom who likes to bake," bought the business last August. Since then, she has added cookies, wedding cakes and birthday cakes. Phillips offers at least 10 flavors of cupcakes every day. The most popular is Red Velvet with a Southern-styled cream cheese frosting. For many of her cupcakes, she uses a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, which is not super sweet and compliments the liquor-flavored cupcakes. "It's for the more sophisticated palate," Phillips offers. This icing becomes hard quickly if refrigerated, though.
In the summer, mango and key lime cupcakes headline the roster, but during the winter, Phillips offers a charming Hot Chocolate Cupcake complete with a sculpted dark chocolate "handle."
(Cool if you're a girl or you like to accessorize your food)
9941 Rea Road; 704-295-1777
14130 RiverGate Parkway; 704-504-2253
Hours: Vary daily at both locations. Listed on Website.
Cost: $2 each on Tuesday, except holidays; $3.25 each, 6 for $16, 12 for $32
At SAS, fresh cupcakes with their signature beehive swirl frosting and monogrammed baking cups sit in cheerful rows. This pretty pink palace may be too "girl," as my son put it, but the cupcakes are sugary sumptuousness. Two-ounce icing shots are 75 cents. SAS specializes in packaging and accessorizing the cupcakes. The sprinkle table is low enough that even a preschooler can manage.