Just Desserts: Wrapping Up the Cupcake Smackdown

We lost count of the guests somewhere around the 300-person mark. The crumbs and frosting of 144 different cupcakes smeared most of the available table surfaces. Empty cups of milk and wine lay discarded across the room. And our panel of five judges were fairly begging for a platter of spicy, salty, greasy food after tasting 24 super-sweet cupcakes apiece. But we accomplished our goal last night at Block 7 Wine Company of crowning the best cupcake in town.

It wasn't easy, though. With six different metrics to judge (cake taste, cake texture, frosting taste, frosting texture, cake-to-frosting ratio and overall apperance), our panel had quite a task in front of them. Judge Jody Stevens, owner of Jodycakes and pastry chef at Gravitas, explained her somewhat messy process to us: "First I stick my finger in the frosting to feel its consistency, then I taste it. Then I take a piece of cake to feel it, then I taste it. Then I take an overall bite to see how they taste together." Blindfolded, this process led to the judging table covered in crumbs, spilled drinks, glops of frosting and generally looking as though a set of toddlers had had a field day with a box full of the desserts.

Although there was some confusion about whether the public would be able to taste the cupcakes (bakeries were only asked to bring enough cupcakes for the judges) or whether any cupcakes were available for purchase (Block 7 made several enormous batches that went as quickly as they were set out), guests seemed to have a good time and raised an enormous amount of food and money for the Houston Food Bank as they watched the judges polish off cake after cake.

In the end, though, there could be only one winner. In the vanilla with chocolate category, the overall winner was Ooh La La with 117 total points out of a possible 150 (each metric was worth 25 points). Second place went to CRAVE Cupcakes with 94 points and Sugarbaby's came in a strong third with 93. In the red velvet category, the overall winner was once again Ooh La La with 121 points out of 150. CRAVE also took second place again with 100 points, followed very closely by Bella Cibo with 99. Interestingly, the scores across the board were much higher in the red velvet round, confirming our suspicion that everyone loves red velvet cake.

Other interesting statistics that jumped out at us as we were scoring the ballots:

  • Best cake texture and taste went to Ooh La La, with Cupcake Cafe coming up second in both the red velvet and vanilla with chocolate categories.
  • Best frosting texture and taste went to Sugarbaby's, with Ooh La La second in the vanilla with chocolate frosting round.
  • Best frosting texture and taste went to Ooh La La, with Frosted Betty coming in second in the red velvet with cream cheese frosting round.
  • Best overall appearance was a tie between Celebrity Cupcakes and Ooh La La in the vanilla round.
  • Best overall appearance went to Ooh La La, with the Sweet Spot coming in second in the red velvet round.

And in case you'd like to place an order from any of the delicious dozen that competed yesterday, here are the bakeries (in order of competition):

  1. CRAVE Cupcakes, 1151 Uptown Park Boulevard, $36 per dozen
  2. Bella Cibo, 7348 Senate Avenue, Jersey Village, $27 per dozen
  3. Celebrity Cupcakes, 2343 University Boulevard, Suite B, $36 per dozen
  4. Frosted Betty, 5806 4th Street, Katy, $35.88 per dozen
  5. Cupcake Cafe, 16525 Lexington Boulevard, Sugar Land, $30 per dozen
  6. Three Brothers Bakery, 4036 South Braeswood Boulevard, $47.40 per dozen
  7. Sugarbaby's, 3310 South Shepherd, $31 per dozen
  8. Ooh La La, 23920 Westheimer Parkway, Katy, $36 per dozen
  9. Homemade batch by our editor-in-chief, Margaret Downing, $3 per dozen
  10. Sweet Spot, The Woodlands (no address yet), $32 per dozen
  11. Dessert Gallery, 3600 Kirby Drive, Suite D, $33.50 per dozen
  12. Block 7 Wine Company, 720 Shepherd (special event only)

For more photos from the event, check out our slideshow.

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Katharine Shilcutt