| Sweets |

Celebrity Cupcakes

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Though Celebrity Cupcakes was included in the Houston Press Cupcake Smackdown, the owners were far from happy afterward. Except for best overall appearance, Celebrity's cupcakes didn't fare too well. The owners blame it on the fact that the cupcakes were purchased a day in advance and that they were unaware of the event. We decided it was time to revisit Celebrity Cupcakes to see what we were missing.

Owner Marie Cagle comes from a baking family. Her mother has been working in a bakery for 24 years. "I grew up around homemade desserts and started cooking as a kid," Cagle says. Three years ago, she decided to bring her passion for food to the Houston bakery scene. "At the time, there weren't any cupcake places in Houston," she explains. "I spent 24 hours a day for about three years researching my cupcake bakery." Her research wasn't all long nights and strong cups of coffee. Cagle had to taste her competition. "My husband, Chris, and I traveled around the U.S. tasting lots of cupcakes." They even visited the supposed birth place of the cupcake movement, Magnolia Bakery in New York City. Carrie Bradshaw may crave them, but the Cagles were not too impressed with the cupcakes. "I thought I could do better," she says.

So Cagle came home and found her head pastry chef, Margaret Hastings. The two spent countless hours perfecting Cagle's dream cupcakes. "I would rather produce a smaller variety of cupcakes that taste delicious than 10 great cupcakes and two not-so-good ones," Cagle says.

Celebrity Cupcakes uses only the best ingredients - organic carrots, organic strawberries, organic milk from Texas farms, and Belgian chocolate. And you can taste that passion and dedication in the cupcakes. The pastry chefs were washing the strawberries in the kitchen while we spoke with Cagle.

It was love at first bite when we sunk our teeth into the moist fleur de sel cupcake, Celebrity's signature. Don't be deterred by the salt-speckled, dark chocolate icing. That small bit of salt just takes the flavor of the homemade caramel-filled, dark chocolate cupcake up a notch. It reminded us of being a kid biting into every Russell Stover's chocolate looking for our favorite - chocolate and caramel.

The rest of the flavors were a huge hit with our friends, including the hummingbird and the vanilla made with Nielsen Massey Mexican vanilla. And we aren't the only ones. Multiple customers came in to buy cupcakes, raving that they were the best in Houston.

While some of their cupcake competitors mask dry cake with mounds of sweet icing, Celebrity's nostalgic goodies are the perfect combo of moist cake and soft icing. Smackdown or not, these cupcakes are definitely worth every bite. We will be back to check out Celebrity's Easter seasonal cupcake, which Cagle tells us will be either lemon or a lemon coconut variation.

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