David Dodd 10:32 a.m., May 25
The cupcake craze of the recent past is gone, but the cupcake shops remain. It's likely that most of them will be around for a while since no real alternative pastry fashion has risen to take the reins. Pie was supposed to be the next big thing, but the lack of hip, pie boutiques springing up all over the place indicates otherwise. Regardless, cupcakes are still fun.
Cupcakes Squared, because it's crammed into a Point Loma mini-mall, isn't in the coolest spot to go visit, but at least has ample parking. Despite the fall of the cupcake from high fashionability, business seems to still be fairly brisk on a weekend, which inspires confidence.
The bakery doesn't do much more than cupcakes. They've recently added some cookie bars to the menu, but the business remains cupcake dependent after four years. This might make Cupcakes Squared look like a one-trick-pony, but there's an advantage to having a narrow inventory; namely, that everything is likely to be fresh.
It's also very cool and European to display just a few items in a display case.
Does anybody not know by now that this company bakes square cupcakes? Giving credit where credit's due, Cupcakes Squared did pioneer the idea, but it's nothing amazing once it's become easy to do at home.
There's something geometrically satisfying about a square cake in a square box, however.
Anyways, the real point of taking a fresh look at an established spot is this: Cupcakes Squared may have the nicest buttercream around. Velvety and light, the icing on top of their signature square cakes is a cut above the rest.
Since the icing is about a third of the average cupcake by volume, it's important for it to be delicious. Unfortunately, frosting is where so many pastries fall short of outstanding. Too heavy, too sweet, too grainy; all these problems commonly send cakes to the territory of the underwhelming.
The cake beneath the frosting is...well...cake. It's more of a vessel for the great frosting than anything else. Their lilikoi cupcake, for example, is plain vanilla cake. Perfectly nice in its own right, but what takes it to the next level is the passionfruit buttercream that is spot on in terms of sweetness and flavor to accent the plain cake beneath.
The "graham cracker" cake that forms the base of the S'mores cupcake deserves special mention for being chewy and substantial but not too heavy. It's novel as cake goes, and ends up tasting much like its namesake campfire treat when topped with chocolate buttercream.
At $3.50 each and $39 for a dozen, Cupcakes Squared little square cakes are pricey. Of course, cupcakes are pricey everywhere, which is a big reason so many bakeries leapt onto the cupcake bandwagon when it started out. In practical terms, cupcakes are essentially frosted muffins for dessert--they aren't much more difficult or costly to make than breakfast pastries, and they're usually smaller.
Still, Cupcakes Squared makes really good buttercream.
3772 Voltaire Street