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Sweets for Santa Monica
Santa Monica seems to be the epicenter of cupcakes these days, now that there are not one just one (Yummy Cupcakes one block closer to the Promenade) but two cupcake places there -- four on the Westside, if you count Susie Cakes in Brentwood and Butter Cake Bakery on Pico.
Vanilla Bake Shop is dessert caterers Amy and Jeremy Berman's first bakery, and it's very charming. A lot of people in this town are over the cupcake but I (as I was reminded today, and as I've written in these pages before) like small foods. I like that you can eat the whole thing and not feel badly. I like being left wanting a little more. Fortunately the this place has something for everyone.
They claim to serve cakes, though I didn't see any. (I think the one pictured is fake, just to show decorations.) They had large cupcakes for $3.25 and small cupcakes, three for $5. They also have refridgerator cakes, like tiramisu or berry trifle, served up in mason jars (one cake you don't have to worry about on the ride home!)
Today was the second day open at at the Vanilla Bake Shop. Inside, things were clean and white, with brown accents and just the tiniest bit of color, just to make the white look a shinier. Though the line never went outside, there were never fewer than five people in the store when I was there. That being said, I didn't feel like I was kept waiting, and the girl behind the counter put my cupcakes in the box as I picked them out.
I chose bittersweet chocolate, the vanilla-vanilla (which I believe is vanilla cake with vanilla icing) the vanilla-chocolate (chocolate cake with vanilla icing), a brownie cupcake, a red velvet and one mysteriously called "Mom's birthday cake." The frosting is swirled onto the cupcakes, and topped with a sprinkle, for the most part, though Mom's has a flower and the bittersweet chocolate has a flat frosting with chocolate sprinkles on it.
I found the vanilla buttercream icing (with tiny specks of vanilla in it) to be a little overwhelming when paired with the chocolate cake and brownie, but with the vanilla cake, it was lovely -- a breath of vanilla. The vanilla cake itself didn't have much flavor, but it didn't need it. I also didn't like the bittersweet chocolate as much as I thought I would, but I suspect this was because it was after the sweet vanilla cupcake. I think it deserves another chance. Mom's birthday cake was great, yellow cake with thick chocolate frosting. It was the most decorated one with a hard sugar rose on it. But my favorite would have to be the red velvet cupcake -- the cream cheese icing was lighter than the buttercream and the cake (an almost purplish red) was moist and delicious.
Vanilla Bake Shop is a pleasure to be in, and the cupcakes are good, and maybe in the future, the brownie cupcake and the chocolate vanilla will get better. I'll definitely be back, maybe for a larger one, but more likely to get three small ones to share with two friends. A perfect afternoon treat.
Vanilla Bake Shop, 512 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401