The Best Cupcakes in the U.S.

Brooklyn's Little Cupcake Bakeshop
Photo: © Abby Hocking

Pastry trends come and go, but America's cupcake infatuation endures. Here are some of the best cupcakes in the country, made by talented pastry chefs using locally grown fruits, intense dark chocolate, and other carefully selected ingredients. — Alessandra Bulow

01 of 15

Buzz Bakery (Alexandria, Virginia)

Courtesy of Buzz Bakery

"It's so fun to get to watch people come into a cupcake spot," says pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac. "Everyone's so excited to see the showcase." The shop's bestseller is The 9:30 (rich devil's food cake that's filled with vanilla buttercream and topped with thick chocolate frosting dipped in chocolate glaze, which MacIsaac describes as "a giant Hostess cupcake"). "It's for people who love chocolate, and they're super happy with it."

02 of 15

Kara's Cupcakes (San Francisco)

Courtesy of Kara’s Cupcakes

Every ingredient at this cupcakerie's three stores is sourced from the Bay Area. Pastry chef–owner Kara Haspel Lind fills her Strawberry Cream cupcakes with organic strawberries from Watsonville's Yerena Farms and tops them with her terrific cream cheese frosting. This icing also adorns her Spiced Pumpkin cupcakes, the most anticipated fall cupcake, which has a local cult following. Lind's profession as a sugar rush specialist is ironic considering her father's profession — he's a dentist.

03 of 15

Georgetown Cupcake (Washington, D.C.)

© Powers | Crewe

Founded by sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis, Georgetown Cupcake is a D.C. phenomenon that's spawned a cookbook, TV show, and four locations across the country. In addition to classic flavors that are available every day, like Chocolate Ganache, the bakery offers daily specials like a Salted Caramel cupcake (a F&W editors' favorite) and seasonal selections like September's Caramel Apple (apple cake with dulce de leche filling, vanilla cream cheese frosting, and a dulce de leche drizzle). "In the fall, we shop at the Dupont Circle market for Gala apples for our caramel apple cupcakes," says LaMontagne.

04 of 15

Swirlz Cupcakes (Chicago)

© Jamie Finnan

This cupcake shop's special display case angles a rotating arsenal of double-frosted flavors — along with gluten-free and vegan options — toward ogling customers. A play on chocolate silk pie features chocolate cake baked with a shortbread cookie crust, filled with chocolate pastry cream, and topped with chocolate ganache, chocolate buttercream, and chocolate curls. Another special offering is the fantastic Apple Fritter cupcake, consisting of vanilla cake filled with apple compote and finished with brown sugar buttercream and apple fritter glaze.

05 of 15

Fluff Bake Bar (Houston)

Fluff Bake Bar Cupcakes in Houston
© Mark Woolcott Photography

"It's not that we don't love cupcakes," says Rebecca Masson, Fluff's baker/owner. "But move on to the next." And so she created the Cup|Cake: cake slices in cups. Masson's flavors are genius: Veruca Salt features chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream and pretzel crunch; Birthday Cake is a mix of funfetti cake, chocolate buttercream, and cake crumbles. I love these Cup|Cakes, because as much as I like cupcakes, I like cake even more.

06 of 15

Little Cupcake Bakeshop (New York City)

Brooklyn's Little Cupcake Bakeshop
© Abby Hocking

This Brooklyn-born, family-owned shop honors classic NYC sweets. They make a stellar cupcake version of the Brooklyn Blackout cake (in fact, it's tastier than 99% of the Blackout cakes I've had). My favorite, though, is the Black & White, an ode to my favorite cookie, with a chocolate and vanilla-swirled top.

07 of 15

Jones Bros (Omaha, Nebraska)

© Bill Jones

Brothers Brad and Bill Jones, with their parents, Jerry and Elizabeth, run this super-popular dessert restaurant, the first of its kind in Omaha. The family serves terrific cupcakes like the Ice Cream Sundae (ganache-filled chocolate cake iced with vanilla buttercream, drizzled with chocolate, and topped with crushed peanuts and a maraschino cherry). The Sweet and Salty cupcake (a caramel and sea salt-filled chocolate cake topped with chocolate buttercream and caramel drizzle) is the shop's top seller and a favorite of F&W editors.

08 of 15

Bakery at Mason Jar Kitchen & Bar (Minneapolis)

Courtesy of Cupcake

When F&W editors first reported on this Minneapolis favorite in 2005, it was selling 30 cupcake varieties. By 2017, the shop had more than 70 flavors and was named the Grand Champion of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars cooking competition show. Among the flavors, owner Kevin VanDeraa's favorite is the Handle with Caramel, a caramel-filled chocolate cupcake with caramel mousse on top, dipped in chocolate ganache, then topped with chocolate drizzle and a caramel candy. "It delivers caramel in three ways: liquid caramel sauce, whipped caramel, and caramel filling," he says.

09 of 15

Cupcake Royale (Seattle)

© Benjamin Blackketter

Unadulterated, fluffy cupcakes with billowy buttercream rule at this Seattle shop. Seasonal favorites include the Peanut Butter Cup (peanut butter cake frosted with chocolate buttercream and topped with chocolate sprinkles and mini peanut butter cups) and Chocolate Covered Cherry; the year-round Salted Caramel (chocolate cake with caramel buttercream frosting and a sprinkle of fleur de sel) is hands-down most popular.

10 of 15

Baked (Brooklyn, New York)

© Amy Samuel

At their brilliant little bakery, co-owners and cookbook authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito interpret each of their fantastic layer cakes into cupcakes. For their seasonal Wintermint cupcake, the duo starts with the same dark chocolate cake used in their Wintermint layer cake. "It's super chocolaty because we use dark cocoa powder and melted chocolate," says Lewis. "Most places will just use one of them, but by using both I feel like the chocolate really comes through." The cupcake is then filled with chocolate ganache and frosted with peppermint vanilla buttercream.

11 of 15

Take 5 Urban Market (Seattle)

© Quentin Bacon

"I put bacon on my sandwiches — I wouldn't put it on my dessert," says chef Bryan Vietmeier. "I believe in keeping it simple and traditional." His terrifically moist carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are a F&W editor favorite. To prevent crumbs from breaking off, Vietmeier freezes the cupcakes to firm them up before frosting them with cream cheese icing. "We've done red velvet and double lemon cupcakes, but that carrot cake always outsells them."

12 of 15

Sprinkles Cupcakes (Nationwide)

Courtesy of Sprinkles Cupcakes

Making cupcakes at this Los Angeles–based phenomenon is an art. The creative varieties on offer include Triple Cinnamon, Vanilla Milk Chocolate, and Chocolate Marshmallow. The Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting outsells all of the other cupcakes combined. In addition to 24 brick-and-mortar locations throughout the country, the Sprinkles cupcake empire includes forty 24-hour pink Cupcake ATMs — aka machines that are stocked with cupcakes around the clock.

13 of 15

Dessert Club, Chikalicious (New York City)

© AngSnaps

Pastry chef-partner Chika Tillman whips up the lightest buttercream for dainty cupcakes in flavors like red velvet and salted caramel, which is also filled with caramel. A newer addition at this cheery little bakery is a Key lime version, stuffed with lemon curd and topped with crushed graham crackers and candied lime.

14 of 15

Big Sugar Bakeshop (Los Angeles)

© Jeff Greenstein

The fantastically inventive home of the doughnut muffin and the apple pie bar, this terrific bakery also sells delicious cupcakes. While some of baker and co-owner Lisa Ritter's delectable desserts are surprising (an unassuming cinnamon cake explodes with the sweet-spicy flavors of red hot candies), other sweets — like the best-selling red velvet cupcakes with vanilla buttercream — are unabashedly retro.

15 of 15

Magnolia Bakery (New York City)

Courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

In 1996, Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker's character on Sex in the City, took a bite of a pastel pink buttercream-frosted vanilla cupcake at this West Village bakery and changed cupcake history. Today the bakery has U.S. locations in New York, Illinois, and California as well as international outposts in Asia and the Middle East. Magnolia's most glamorous cupcake was their sparkling Swarovski cupcake for 2012's New York Fashion Week, iced with shimmering vanilla buttercream and topped with an edible jewel. "The buttercream has a pleasant grittiness from confectioner's sugar," said former F&W editor Tina Ujlaki. "You really get a feeling of the crystalized sugar texture."

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