America’s Best Cupcake Shops

August 4, 2011

War has been declared and it might get a little sugary—America's 15 top cupcakes duke it out for the top spot!

Hand to Cake Combat: The Cupcake WarsJillys Cupcake Bar and CafeSugar BakeshopAtlanta Cupcake FactoryBrown Betty Dessert BoutiqueGigi's CupcakesInStyle CupcakesSociety BakeryYummy CupcakesMagnolia BakerySaint CupcakeCakeologyMollys CupcakesCupcake RoyaleSticky Fingers Sweets and EatsHappy Cakes Bakeshop
Cupcakes, darlings, are the new macarons—and it's easy to see why. These personally sized cutie cakes come in thousands of flavors and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face (and a smear of frosting on your chin or nose). In celebration thereof, here are America's top 15 bakeries and cupcakeries. We love them all equally but want to hear which shop YOU think should be the winner. Sound off on our Facebook Page!
Where: Saint Louis, Mo.
At Jilly's Cupcake Bar and Cafe bigger is better. The fantastically gourmet cupcakes weigh in at about a half-pound and are iced like pieces of art. The styling can even get a little crazy on creations like the Bee Sting, a vanilla cake stuffed with honey lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting, toasted almonds and a lemon candy beehive. These designs have carried owner Jill Segal and Chefs Casey Shiller and Dana Holland far. They appeared on Food Network's Cupcake Wars and brought home the gold with their funky outer space-themed cupcakes.
Where: Charleston, S.C.
There are few places more charming than Charleston, S.C., and few bakeries more adorable than Sugar Bakeshop. Praised by Bon Appetit and adored by locals and tourists alike, owners Bill Bowick and David Bouffard believe in simplicity and making cupcakes the old-fashioned way. One of their best selling confections is a homey cupcake topped with sugared blueberries. Another fan favorite is the romantic Lady Baltimore cupcake with a vanilla cake base and dried fruit filling made from scratch each Thursday.
Where: Atlanta, Ga.
These little indulgences found at the equally sweet and adorable Atlanta Cupcake Factory are well known throughout the bustling city. The family owned and operated bakery is headed by Jamie and Thomas Fahey and remains committed to offering handcrafted small-batch creations. Each cupcake is decorated according to its flavor, and that could mean anything from a modest homemade vanilla-iced swirl with a touch of sprinkles to a chocolatey mountain of icing covered in salty pretzel pieces.
Where: Philadelphia, Pa.
Brown Betty Dessert Boutique's elegant array of bakery treats and cupcakes are not only fit for a queen but made in honor of women who deserved to be crowned. Each cake is dedicated to an important woman in founders' Norrinda and Linda Brown's lives. The "Aunt Eva Says Cupcake" is a cutie - made of pineapple pound cake with cream cheese frosting, and their popular "Jean's Road Trip" is a rich red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. But their chief inspiration has always been Linda's mother and Norrinda's grandmother, Betty Hinton.
Where: Nashville, Tenn. and various locations
Ready for an irresistible icing high? Gigi's Cupcakes certainly swirls on the sugar by topping cakes with more than two inches of creative icings. Founded by Gina Butler (aka Gigi) in 2008, this small cupcake shop was a labor of love that once-upon-a-time barely eked out enough profit to open its doors. But once curious customers got a load of cupcakes Midnight Magic, a tantalizing devil's food cake topped with chocolate butter cream frosting and chocolate chips, the little shop-that-could formed a following and soon had a line out the door. Now, only four years after opening, Gigi's Cupcakes has grown to 36 stores nationwide.
Where: Miami, Fla.
These cupcakes do their bakery’s name justice. At InStyle Cupcakes, all desserts and cakes use the freshest local ingredients and only organic eggs, milk and butter. InStyle's icing is also of the finest quality and uses Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla for a silky, melt-in-your mouth-feel. But if that alone doesn't make you feel stylish, just take a look at the bakery's two menus: One has nine cupcake classics while the other is reserved for special cocktail flavors such as Champagne and Cuba Libre.
Where: Dallas, Texas
Dallas-based Society Bakery is causing quite a stir with fabulously designed cupcakes. The shop was tapped by The Ellen Degeneres Show as some of the top 10 in the nation, and on August 15, it will be featured on the premiere episode of Food Network’s new show Sugar High, with cake king Duff Goldman as host. But the bakery didn't set out for national recognition. Founder Roshi Muns just wanted to open a bakery that fed the community in more ways than one while baking old-fashioned treats topped with dollops of love. So besides making cupcakes like this one (a peanut butter chocolate chip creation), Society makes it a point to donate to 100 charities each year.
Where: Los Angeles, Calif.
Named by the owner's 2-year-old son, Yummy Cupcakes has real star power. The sugary cakettes have been served to guests at the Oscars, the Emmys and the Golden Globes. And the scrumptious cupcake flavors just keep coming (almost 300 and counting) and as eclectic as Pancakes N' Bacon. Even better, they are all baked on-site by Executive Chef, creator and cupcake mad scientist Tiffini Soforenko.
Where: New York City, N.Y.
This quaint little bakeshop on the corner of New York's Bleecker Street can justifiably take credit for setting off America's cupcake craze. Drawing a crowd so large that a line wraps around the small building daily, Magnolia Bakery has become a New York landmark and has been featured in Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and a digital short on Saturday Night Live. Co-founded by Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel in 1996 and now run by cupcake extraordinaire Steve Abrams, Magnolia has made an international name for itself by baking home-style cupcakes the old-fashioned way - without preservatives or stabilizers. Magnolia's most popular is a rich and buttery vanilla cake with a pastel-colored icing.
Where: Portland, Ore.
Jami Curl of Saint Cupcake opened her doors back in 2005 and has since developed a loyal cupcake following. And if you think these cupcakes taste like your grandmother's, you're probably right! Jami's Grandma (affectionately known as Gramma Dot) is behind many of the shop's recipes. The menu is chock full of uniquely made homemade cakes that use nothing but natural flavorings, including five vegan options. A top seller is one of the simplest, a rich chocolate cupcake with fluffy vanilla cream cheese frosting.
Where: Boston, Mass.
Cakeology is a bakery on wheels that carries homemade creations in a big yellow truck with an adorable signature panda named Bruce painted on the side. But Founder Victoria Donnelly's cupcake dream is only just beginning to take off. After winning $10,000 on Cupcake Wars, the mobile cupcakery has decided to expand and open a storefront this year. And with more than 36 flavors ranging from Root Beer Float to Earl Grey and Honey, these magnificently moist cupcakes are sure to draw a crowd.
Where: Chicago, Ill.
Molly's Cupcakes is without a doubt Chi-town's top cupcake destination ... and another shop to take home the dough on Cupcake Wars. But Molly's success is no fluke. Molly's Cupcakes are baked from scratch everyday, and right in front of customers. Patrons even get to design their own and add a final sparkling touch at the sprinkle counter. Who is this sugar goddess named Molly? She is founder John Nicolaides's inspiring third-grade teacher, who always baked delicious cupcakes for her students on their birthdays. Now the teacher's namesake bakery donates to local schools in the community.
Where: Seattle, Wash.
Labeled by the Seattle Times as “Cupcakes with a Conscience,” Cupcake Royale uses local flour, fruit and eggs as well as growth hormone-free milk and organic sugar in all of its cupcake creations. And these cakes are absolute beauties, with billowy tops and perfectly swirled icing dashed with sprinkles and various toppings. Founder Jody Hall started Seattle’s first cupcake bakery back in 2003, and with cupcakes that taste as good as they look, business has been booming ever since. It’s easy to see why with sweet flavors like the one pictured here, Dance Party with Holly Hobbie, a butter cake with pink vanilla butter cream and a little bit of edible confetti.
Where: Washington, D.C.
Vegan cupcakes? You bet - and they are sensational. In fact Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats's dairy-free and egg-less cakes won a crown on Cupcake Wars - during the season finale no less. Doron Petersan founded the bakery in 1999, with a mission to run a vegan bakery with treats just as decadent and delicious as her non-vegan counterparts. So whether you are looking for a Strawberry Crème or a Red Velvet cupcake, you can find it here - topped with homemade icing and totally animal free. Not in the neighborhood? No problem. Sticky Fingers ships nationwide!
Where: Denver, Colo.
You know when Martha Stewart labels a bakery one of the "top five in the nation" it has to be good. And Happy Cakes Bakeshop most certainly is. A top-notch creative team made up of Laura Reynolds, Lisa Herman and Sara Bencomo begin with an uncompromisingly good ingredients and serve a rotating menu of mini and regular-sized cupcakes. The ladies get creative in their flavor choices too (Berry Crisp, Lemondrop and Snickerdoodle to name a few) and they also offer gluten-free cupcakes.
Cupcakes, darlings, are the new macarons—and it's easy to see why. These personally sized cutie cakes come in thousands of flavors and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face (and a smear of frosting on your chin or nose). In celebration thereof, here are America's top 15 bakeries and cupcakeries. We love them all equally but want to hear which shop YOU think should be the winner. Sound off on our  Facebook Page!Where: Saint Louis, Mo.

At  Jilly's Cupcake Bar and Cafe bigger is better. The fantastically gourmet cupcakes weigh in at about a half-pound and are iced like pieces of art. The styling can even get a little crazy on creations like the Bee Sting, a vanilla cake stuffed with honey lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting, toasted almonds and a lemon candy beehive. These designs have carried owner Jill Segal and Chefs Casey Shiller and Dana Holland far. They appeared on Food Network's Cupcake Wars and brought home the gold with their funky outer space-themed cupcakes.Where: Charleston, S.C.

There are few places more charming than Charleston, S.C., and few bakeries more adorable than  Sugar Bakeshop. Praised by Bon Appetit and adored by locals and tourists alike, owners Bill Bowick and David Bouffard believe in simplicity and making cupcakes the old-fashioned way. One of their best selling confections is a homey cupcake topped with sugared blueberries.  Another fan favorite is the romantic Lady Baltimore cupcake with a vanilla cake base and dried fruit filling made from scratch each Thursday.Where: Atlanta, Ga.

These little indulgences found at the equally sweet and adorable  Atlanta Cupcake Factory are well known throughout the bustling city. The family owned and operated bakery is headed by Jamie and Thomas Fahey and remains committed to offering handcrafted small-batch creations. Each cupcake is decorated according to its flavor, and that could  mean anything from a modest homemade vanilla-iced swirl with a touch of sprinkles to a chocolatey mountain of icing covered in salty pretzel pieces.Where: Philadelphia, Pa.

 Brown Betty Dessert Boutique's elegant array of bakery treats and cupcakes are not only fit for a queen but made in honor of women who deserved to be crowned. Each cake is dedicated to an important woman in founders' Norrinda and Linda Brown's lives. The "Aunt Eva Says Cupcake" is a cutie - made of pineapple pound cake with cream cheese frosting, and their popular "Jean's Road Trip" is a rich red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. But their chief inspiration has always been Linda's mother and Norrinda's grandmother, Betty Hinton.Where: Nashville, Tenn. and various locations

Ready for an irresistible icing high?  Gigi's Cupcakes certainly swirls on the sugar by topping cakes with more than two inches of creative icings. Founded by Gina Butler (aka Gigi) in 2008, this small cupcake shop was a labor of love that once-upon-a-time barely eked out enough profit to open its doors. But once curious customers got a load of cupcakes Midnight Magic, a tantalizing devil's food cake topped with chocolate butter cream frosting and chocolate chips, the little shop-that-could formed a following and soon had a line out the door. Now, only four years after opening, Gigi's Cupcakes has grown to 36 stores nationwide.Where: Miami, Fla.

These cupcakes do their bakery’s name justice. At  InStyle Cupcakes, all desserts and cakes use the freshest local ingredients and only organic eggs, milk and butter. InStyle's icing is also of the finest quality and uses Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla for a silky, melt-in-your mouth-feel. But if that alone doesn't make you feel stylish, just take a look at the bakery's two menus: One has nine cupcake classics while the other is reserved for special cocktail flavors such as Champagne and Cuba Libre.Where: Dallas, Texas

Dallas-based  Society Bakery is causing quite a stir with fabulously designed cupcakes. The shop was tapped by The Ellen Degeneres Show as some of the top 10 in the nation, and on August 15, it will be featured on the premiere episode of Food Network’s new show Sugar High, with cake king Duff Goldman as host. But the bakery didn't set out for national recognition. Founder Roshi Muns just wanted to open a bakery that fed the community in more ways than one while baking old-fashioned treats topped with dollops of love. So besides making cupcakes like this one (a peanut butter chocolate chip creation), Society makes it a point to donate to 100 charities each year.Where: Los Angeles, Calif.

Named by the owner's 2-year-old son,  Yummy Cupcakes has real star power. The sugary cakettes have been served to guests at the Oscars, the Emmys and the Golden Globes. And the scrumptious cupcake flavors just keep coming (almost 300 and counting) and as eclectic as Pancakes N' Bacon. Even better, they are all baked on-site by Executive Chef, creator and cupcake mad scientist Tiffini Soforenko.Where: New York City, N.Y.

This quaint little bakeshop on the corner of New York's Bleecker Street can justifiably take credit for setting off America's cupcake craze. Drawing a crowd so large that a line wraps around the small building daily,  Magnolia Bakery has become a New York landmark and has been featured in Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and a digital short on Saturday Night Live. Co-founded by Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel in 1996 and now run by cupcake extraordinaire Steve Abrams, Magnolia has made an international name for itself by baking home-style cupcakes the old-fashioned way - without preservatives or stabilizers. Magnolia's most popular is a rich and buttery vanilla cake with a pastel-colored icing.Where: Portland, Ore.

Jami Curl of  Saint Cupcake opened her doors back in 2005 and has since developed a loyal cupcake following. And if you think these cupcakes taste like your grandmother's, you're probably right! Jami's Grandma (affectionately known as Gramma Dot) is behind many of the shop's recipes. The menu is chock full of uniquely made homemade cakes that use nothing but natural flavorings, including five vegan options. A top seller is one of the simplest, a rich chocolate cupcake with fluffy vanilla cream cheese frosting.Where: Boston, Mass.

 Cakeology is a bakery on wheels that carries homemade creations in a big yellow truck with an adorable signature panda named Bruce painted on the side. But Founder Victoria Donnelly's cupcake dream is only just beginning to take off. After winning $10,000 on Cupcake Wars, the mobile cupcakery has decided to expand and open a storefront this year. And with more than 36 flavors ranging from Root Beer Float to Earl Grey and Honey, these magnificently moist cupcakes are sure to draw a crowd.Where: Chicago, Ill. 

 Molly's Cupcakes is without a doubt Chi-town's top cupcake destination ... and another shop to take home the dough on  Cupcake Wars. But Molly's success is no fluke. Molly's Cupcakes are baked from scratch everyday, and right in front of customers. Patrons even get to design their own and add a final sparkling touch at the sprinkle counter. Who is this sugar goddess named Molly? She is founder John Nicolaides's inspiring third-grade teacher, who always baked delicious cupcakes for her students on their birthdays. Now the teacher's namesake bakery donates to local schools in the community.Where: Seattle, Wash.

Labeled by the Seattle Times as “Cupcakes with a Conscience,”  Cupcake Royale uses local flour, fruit and eggs as well as growth hormone-free milk and organic sugar in all of its cupcake creations. And these cakes are absolute beauties, with billowy tops and perfectly swirled icing dashed with sprinkles and various toppings. Founder Jody Hall started Seattle’s first cupcake bakery back in 2003, and with cupcakes that taste as good as they look, business has been booming ever since. It’s easy to see why with sweet flavors like the one pictured here, Dance Party with Holly Hobbie, a butter cake with pink vanilla butter cream and a little bit of edible confetti.Where: Washington, D.C.

Vegan cupcakes? You bet - and they are sensational. In fact  Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats's dairy-free and egg-less cakes won a crown on Cupcake Wars  - during the season finale no less. Doron Petersan founded the bakery in 1999, with a mission to run a vegan bakery with treats just as decadent and delicious as her non-vegan counterparts. So whether you are looking for a Strawberry Crème or a Red Velvet cupcake, you can find it here - topped with homemade icing and totally animal free. Not in the neighborhood? No problem. Sticky Fingers ships nationwide!Where: Denver, Colo.

You know when Martha Stewart labels a bakery one of the "top five in the nation" it has to be good. And  Happy Cakes Bakeshop most certainly is. A top-notch creative team made up of Laura Reynolds, Lisa Herman and Sara Bencomo begin with an uncompromisingly good ingredients and serve a rotating menu of mini and regular-sized cupcakes. The ladies get creative in their flavor choices too (Berry Crisp, Lemondrop and Snickerdoodle to name a few) and they also offer gluten-free cupcakes.
Magnolia BakeryJillys Cupcake Bar and CafeAtlanta Cupcake FactoryLaura Novak PhotographyInStyle CupcakesSociety BakeryYummy CupcakesMagnolia BakerySaint CupcakeAdam Towner/The SwapaholicsMollys CupcakesCupcake RoyaleSticky Fingers Sweets and EatsHappy Cakes Bakeshop
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