Thursday, April 21, 2011

Koo Koo for Kara's Part Deux

After writing my last post, I clearly had to go back and try their monthly special: the Hazelnut Crunch.  Here is the verdict on this sweet treat, available through the end of this month...

Well, of course we couldn't just walk away with a single cupcake.  Let's be serious.  We walked out with the Hazelnut crunch (the object of our initial affection) and a vanilla coconut.  

The Hazelnut had a yummy crunchy topping, atop a simple vanilla cake.  I loved the texture twist - the crunchy and spongy all in one glorious bite.  The hazelnut taste wasn't too overpowering, very subtle.  

My question is this: how do you get it so that cupcake holder doesn't get oily and gross looking?  Kara - can you riddle me that?  (or, really, anyone)

The afterthought in this transaction, was the coconut.  I am a SUCKER for all things coconut, especially when they involve 1) Frosting 2) Cake 3) anything at all on this earth.  Take a look at this awesomeness (you may need sunglasses)

Inside info - it has a delish filling of awesome goodness, otherwise known as lemon and coconut cream.  Do I really NEED to say anything else?

Verdict: 5/5 cupcakes for both of these bad boys.  Go over to Kara's and pick one up for yourself!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Koo Koo for Kara's

Kara's Cupcakes, a Bay Area staple, has been a favorite of mine for some time.  I love their flavors, their presentation (for the most part) and definitely their proximity to my house!  It is about a 2.4 mile walk from my place, so it's easy to walk there, earn my cupcake, walk back - thus shedding 100% of the calories.  Okay, probably not all of the calories - but a girl can dream, right?

Part of me is, honestly, hesitant to like Kara's as much as I do.  It is kind of corporate feeling - the one in our area is a simple store front, and has absolutely no internal seating to enjoy your cupcake.  But, nevertheless, they have some bangin' cupcakes.  So, for the overall decor and setting, I would say:

Photo by Monica Schuet
My girlfriend, Monica, and I decided to venture out together on a Sunday afternoon - I had asked her to do some "research" with me.  All in the name of the blog, of course.  It's easy to get people to help you with your blog when you are writing about food!  We went to the Kara's on Santana Row in San Jose.  As I mentioned before, it is a simple store front - there is a small space to order the cupcakes, a small display, and then you have to pay and move about your day!  St. Patrick's day was coming up, and so they had some pretty awesome flavors in celebration.  Monica and I decided on two: Banana with carmel (OMG, OMG, OMG) and a Guiness cake.  I was a bit hesitant about the Guiness cake, not being a fan of the beer, but Monica went for it, and I was glad to try something new and adventurous.
Photo by Monica Schuet

We took them back to Monica's house (even closer than mine!  Boy, would I be in trouble...)  She has a beautiful natural light coming through her kitchen window, and she volunteered to take some beauty shots of our cupcakes before we dove in!  She also whipped us up some delicious Chai tasty on a cold and rainy day.

We really prepped it and savored the steps that I am so very much looking for in my dream cupcakery.  Lattes in simple white mugs: check.  Cupcakes halved and plated: check.  Good company: check!

Prepping our plates!
Photo by Monica Schuet

Plates are ready!  Let's eat!
Photo by Monica Schuet
Always the enthusiastic eater -
Photo by Monica Schuet
Banana Caramel

Oh BOY was this exciting to see.  I know I mentioned that at the last destination, Sweet Passions, I had passed up the banana cake option.  But this time, I had not just baked banana bread, and it had CARAMEL.  I was sold.

 Decoration: Kara's has a fairly signature and reliable decoration scheme.  They place a single fondant decoration on top - be it a circle, flower, or other holiday specific images.  They have a simple and plain frosting application on this cake.  It had a light cream cheese frosting, and wasn't too much, or too little.  It got squished on the ride from the store to Monica's house, but it looked very pretty in the store!

Taste:  It was creamy, banana-y, and DELICIOUS.  There was just enough caramel so as to not overwhelm the banana flavor, but not too much so that it was overly sweet.  My friend, Emily, and I were talking today about how a banana cupcake is really just a banana muffin.  But the caramel really set it on a different plane from a muffin!

This is one of the most amazing cupcakes I have tasted.  Seriously.  Look at this thing:

Photo by Monica Schuet

Overall, I would rate the taste:  That's right!  Five stars, baby!


As I mentioned before, I am not a huge Guiness fan.  But, I am glad Monica got us this treat!  

Photo by Monica Schuet
Decoration: This decoration was a little silly, to me.  It had the signature fondant on the top, but then some haphazard green sprinkles, presumably in honor of St. Patrick's day.  I could have done without.  Again, this one got crushed along with the banana cake, so it wasn't pretty to look at when we took it out, but it looked alright in the store!  Overall, I would give this a: 

Taste: For not liking Guiness, I sure liked this cupcake!  The beer flavor was not overwhelming, but just enough so that you knew it was in there.  It was, overall, very mild.  However, there was a bit of a tartness to it.  
Photo by Monica Schuet

 Overall, I am a fan of Kara's.  Their cupcakes are moist, they have a variety of flavors, and I am always pleased with my purchase.  I just wish they had a bit more in the seating department!  Another thing I like about them is that they change up their menu often, offering a flavor of the month!  This month, it is Hazelnut Crunch - now available at all stores!  Get yours today!  I know I will!  My rating for Kara's:
 (I should say, this is based on this visit as well as a few others - undocumented...)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sweet Passions Redemption

After the anti-climax of my first two Sweet Passions cupcakes, I was less than enthused to try the next two.  I was anticipating a dry less than flavorful bite o' cake, but was very pleasantly surprised by the redemption of Sweet Passions by the Pineapple Cream and Strawberry Banana!

The Pineapple Cream

This cake was very moist, and not overly sweet or tart.  The cream mellowed out the pineapple quite nicely, and made for pretty good eats!  It was a nice shade of yellow, though I wondered if they might use yellow coloring...which I wouldn't like as much!

 Decoration: Again, very simple.  Their frosting is a bit much.  I'm more of a minimalist when it comes to toppings.  I wasn't a huge fan of the random white dots on the top - they didn't feel well incorporated and didn't really make sense.  I'd have loved to see it all dolled up as a kind of pineapple - that would have been hot.

Taste:  Moist and delish.  Seriously - just the right balance of cream and fruit.  Love it.

Can you spell redemption?

Strawberry Banana

So, after reading my initial post, a few friends told me that the absolutely LOVED their wedding cakes from this place - a few of which were the banana flavor.  I guess that is one of their best known flavors.  I was remiss in passing that up in favor of some different, more creative ones, but I had just baked banana bread earlier in the week, and wanted something new - can you blame me?  I felt this was a close second.

: Kind of boring.  I don't know what it will take to please me in this category, but folks - this ain't it.  I felt that the fruit could have been more artfully displayed (yes, I realize this may sound pretentious). I don't know - it just looks really clunky, for lack of a better word.

Taste: Like banana bread with a hint more sweetness.  It was goooooood.  I love banana bread, and I love strawberries - so this was a good combo to me.  It was moist, and the flavors were subtle.  The consistency was a bit more like a muffin than a cake, though - but that was the only downfall!


Overall, my Sweet Passions experience would have to get a 1/2.  Half of the cupcakes didn't do it for me, and the commercial nature of the store also is not really up my ally.  My friends, as I mentioned, loved this place for their weddings - maybe they just need to stick to that?


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