For Your Valentine: The Best Red Velvet Cupcake in San Diego

Update: Click here to get the updated 2014 version of this tasting!

I recently had a “red velvet cupcake tasting” with a couple of my friends (Laura and Heather) to try and determine who’s got the best red velvet cupcake in San Diego – something you might want to give your sweetheart as Valentine’s Day rolls around again. It’s not a definitive or official list, just the opinions of three locals who spent an afternoon tasting a whole lot of cupcakes.

Our list of cupcakes is a little short – we weren’t able to get cupcakes from every shop in town, but we got a pretty good sampling. The contenders of our little tasting were: Influx Cafe, The Daily Scoop, Batter Up! Cupcakes, Heaven Sent Desserts, Haute Pink Cakes, Cups La Jolla and Sprinkles.

If I had additional time and had additional reviewers to help get cupcakes, I would have liked to included Elizabethan Desserts, Heavenly Cupcake, Coronado Cupcakery, Babycakes, Cupcake Squared and Cupcake Love. Alas, there were only the three of us and we made due with what we had and we still had plenty to taste!

Below is a brief review of each cupcake, where it’s from, price, along with comments and notes from our reviewers. Our top three picks plus one runner up is listed at the end of this review!

Cupcake A
From: Influx Cafe, 1948 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92102
Price: $3.25
Comments: Cupcake was very moist with a good flavor. Raspberries were a nice touch and matched the cake. Came with cream cheese frosting. 1 reviewer thought it was too sweet, but the other 2 thought the frosting was really good. Good red color. Came boxed in a Chinese take-out container.

Cupcake B
From: The Daily Scoop, 3004 Juniper St. San Diego, CA 92104
Price: Normally $3.25, but we got an unfrosted cupcake for $2
Comments: We got this cupcake at the end of the day the night before the review, so unsure if this is what the cupcakes are usually like. This is frosted with Mary’s own frosting, so frosting was not judged. Reviewers thought the color of this cake was an unnatural red (too bright) and that it greatly lacked flavor and was gluey and almost like play-dough in consistency. Bottom was burned and the cupcake itself was lopsided. Was boxed in a styrofoam cup (same cup used for ice cream to go). (Ice cream at the shop is very good though… maybe should just stick to the ice cream…)

Cupcake C
From: Heaven Sent Desserts, 3001 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104
Price: $3.50
Comments: Favorite presentation amongst the reviewers. Largest cupcake overall. Cake by itself was a bit dry but tasted much better when eaten together with the frosting. Frosting was a cream cheese frosting – sign indicated it contained whiskey but wasn’t really detected. Notes of honey flavor detected instead. All reviewers felt the cake should have tasted better due to the excellent presentation. Came in a kraft box with a simple Heaven Sent Desserts sticker.

Cupcake D
From: Haute Pink Cakes, 7835 Highland Village Pl # D102, San Diego, CA 92129-5185
Price: Mini cupcakes – $1.25, Normal size: $2.75 | I bought these after 5PM on Saturday and got them for 50% off.
Comments: I had to get mini red velvet since normal size red velvet was out. Reviewers felt that the cupcake itself was fairly dry. Frosting was piped, though sort of lopsided. Cream cream frosting wasn’t overly sweet but frosting and cake eaten together didn’t make up for the dry cake. Came in a rounded plastic container with fitted lid on the bottom. Shop also has pink velvet cakes in addition to red velvet but were not reviewed for this tasting.

Cupcake E-1
From: Batter Up! Cupcakes, 16769 Bernardo Center Drive, K1  San Diego, CA 92128
Price: $2.95
Comments: Batter Up! offers 2 different kinds of frosting for their red velvet cupcakes. This one came with the cream cheese frosting and was more popular amongst our reviewers. Liked the presentation of the swirled frosting with bits of cake flakes sprinkled on top. Cupcake was spongy and a bit moist with a subtle chocolate flavor. Good frosting, split decision on its sweetness. Good overall bite.

Cupcake E-2
From: Batter Up! Cupcakes, 16769 Bernardo Center Drive, K1  San Diego, CA 92128
Price: $2.95
Comments: This cupcake has the buttercream frosting on it. Has a slightly different presentation but same red velvet cake flakes on top. The frosting here was a bit too sugary and oversweet and overpowered the red velvet cupcake. Both cupcakes housed in a box with a cardboard container inside to keep the cupcakes in place (prevented sliding around).

Cupcake F
From: Cups, 7857 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, CA 92037
Price: $4.00
Comments: Most expensive cupcake on our list. This is a “Not-So Red Velvet” cupcake so it was the only one that was not red. Website lists the flavor as “Southern style chocolate buttermilk cupcake”. Presentation seemed quite sloppy. Had a cream cheese frosting – it was only swirled on half of the cupcake and part of the cupcake is spilling off the side. Was very moist but tasted like a bran muffin and did not detect a chocolate flavor. Very crumbly cake. Came in a plastic, snap close lid container. One of our reviewers who isn’t keen on frosting liked this frosting.

Cupcake G
From: Sprinkles Cupcakes, 8855 Villa La Jolla Dr., San Diego, CA
Price: $3.50
Comments: Waited in line for a half hour for this cupcake. Had a deep red color with a distinct chocolaty taste. Cupcake was moist and had good flavor but no one liked this paired with the buttercream frosting. Some thought the frosting tasted store bought and some thought it was too overpowering. Came in a paper bag with a Sprinkles sticker.

Red Velvet Cupcake Tasting Results

Our panel of three tasters chose the following cupcakes as the winners of our taste test:

#1. Cupcake A from Influx Cafe
#2. Cupcake E-1 from Batter Up! Cupcakes (with cream cheese frosting)
#3. Cupcake C from Heaven Sent Desserts

Runner up: Cupcake G from Sprinkles Cupcakes

Our small sampling doesn’t cover all of the red velvet cupcakes San Diego has to offer!

Do you agree with our results or do you have a favorite red velvet or cupcake shop here in town? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments below!

Be sure to stay tuned tomorrow for a Pinkberry announcement and details about a little Valentine’s Giveaway!

4 thoughts on “For Your Valentine: The Best Red Velvet Cupcake in San Diego

  1. I’ve heard so many good things about Influx. I have to make it a point to go there soon!

    I personally think I make a mighty good red velvet so I won’t comment on my favorite shop.

  2. I was a little disappointed in Cups La Jolla after we tried 6 of their cupcakes, back when we were thinking of doing cupcakes for our wedding. Some were dry, others just weren’t flavorful enough. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Cupcakes Squared…

  3. Hi Leanne – I’ve only had Cupcakes Squared once and I don’t really remember it – a friend brought some for my birthday but we had so much food that I wasn’t totally paying attention. Must revisit!

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