13722 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
If you’re supposed to starve a cold, but feed a fever, then the crop of bakeries that have sprouted up all over LA in the last few years has fed the cupcake fever that had anti-Atkins faction screaming for sugary, fatty, comforting carbo retro relief. Auntie Em’s, Joan’s on Third, and the cupcakerie that gets prescribed all the time....Sprinkles.
I have tried more than my fair share of Sprinkles’ cupcakes on a couple of occasions. Strawberry, red velvet, chocolate, coconut cupcakes all made me sick – cotton mouth, lumpy leaden knots in my stomach, a sugar-induced migraine and teeth that ached as if the sandy, saccharin-sweet frosting were boring gaping holes through my enamel straight to the nerve. If I too was running a slight cupcake fever, then Sprinkles left me...cold, worse off than before, like the body that succumbs to sickness because you never correctly completed a full-course of antibiotics last time and now the germ has built up a mutated tolerance. I just couldn’t finish a whole cupcake. I could only ever take just one, maybe two, bites of the dry, doughy, dense-as-lead cake before I had to wrap up the remainder in a napkin and leave it as an unfinished surprise for I don’t know who.
Sprinkles isn’t the only cupcakerie in LA, simply the one that is the closest and most convenient to the Westside. But after such a scarring, traumatizing experience, I just wasn’t ready to masochistically traipse all over LA for what could potentially to turn into more therapy-requiring disappointment. Then along trots the sassy red vixen. She who swears by the miracle of “therapy,” she who knows I’d never seek out help on my own, she who knows that I would never climb over Mt. Everest also known as the 405-north into *gasp!* the Valley, she hand-delivered to me a half-dozen itty bitty baby cupcakes from Leda’s Bakeshop.
There they were in the box, six sparkling little jewels in a perfect ring. Leda very thoughtfully dabs chocolate on the bottom of each cupcake to keep them from slipping all over the place, bumping into each other, and worst of all, smashing up againt the side of the paperboard box creating the dreaded frosting spot with a halo of grease. They were so pretty, so cute, so evey-damned-synonym-for-reminds-me-of-a-bunny, they almost awakened my giggling inner Hello Kitty. Almost? No, completely. I was shamelessly ooh-ing and aah-ing over the perfectly piped swirls of frosting and cooing at the adorable polka-dot, flower, and butterfly sugar decorations. The pink and white princess was in full-force and I couldn’t fight back.
The teeny tiny colorfully sparkling cupcakes were pretty, no doubt, but I caught myself in the midst of my admiration. Sprinkles cupcakes had been pretty, too. Would Leda’s taste as good as they look, or will they go the way of LA, all dolled up on the outside, dreadfully dense, dry and dulled down on the inside?
Each cupcake was a different flavor: chocolate with chocolate frosting, kid’s chocolate with chocolate frosting, vanilla passionfruit, vanilla dulce de leche, black & white, and carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I tasted all of them (whether or not it was done in one sitting, I shall not admit), only for the guilt of what would probably be one regular-sized cupcake. Oh, alright, maybe one and a half. Some of the flavors were preferable to others (carrot cake was my favorite), but overall, Leda’s baby cupcakes look good and taste good.
The cupcake crumb is soft and airy. Some may have issue with that and call it “textureless,” but then, those are they who prefer the leaden density of Sprinkles. Each of Leda’s cupcakes, even on these tiny babies, has a gentle crater under the frosting that’s filled with a tiny blob of creamy custard or chocolate ganache or fruity curd to accent the cake’s flavor. Rather than the “balance” of two extremes – bland cake and horribly sugary frosting – that makes each bite alternating bad with bad, Leda balances sweetness throughout the entire cupcake, filling and frosting. Whether taking a bite of cake or licking off just the smooth, velvety frosting, it’s always the perfect intensity of sweetness, texture and flavor.
Somehow, the Valley doesn't seem so far away anymore.