The two major upscale cupcake chains in Northern California are Kara’s Cupcakes and Sprinkles. Our family first fell in love with cupcakes at Kara’s small store in Santana Row. What really made us drool is their filled cupcake called Fleur de Sel. It is rich dark chocolate cake oozing with caramel and a little fleur de sel (sea salt) sprinkled on top. The combination of the sweet with salty and the rich taste of the chocolate is truly yummy. Then my daughter’s friend Sarah suggested we try their S’mores cupcake. This flavor started as an occasional special and is now a permanent menu offering — for good reason. I think it is a great example of Kara’s creativity. She recreated the classic s’mores dessert in a cupcake by using chocolate cake with a graham cracker crust at the bottom and a toasted marshmallow frosting on top. When you bite into it, you get the crunchy graham cracker, the velvety chocolate cake and the gooey but fluffy marshmallow frosting. A perfect summer treat and just a little less messy than eating the real thing.
But despite our love for Kara’s little cakes, we just had to try Sprinkles. Many people, including my son, said that Sprinkles trumped Kara’s for flavor. So one day when I was in Palo Alto with a little extra time on my hands, I headed to the Sprinkles store at Stanford Shopping Center. Came home with a box of 4 cupcakes to try – chocolate banana, mocha, red velvet, and chocolate marshmallow. That night we cut each one into 4 pieces and had a Sprinkles tasting. The anticipation was great and we were expecting to be blown away. Sadly, though, we were not. In our opinion, the cupcakes were a little dry and didn’t have the same blow your tastebuds away OMG! Yummy flavors and textures as Kara’s cupcakes do for us.