We have met a lot of great bakers and cupcake lovers since starting this blog, including today’s Guest Crusader, Joel of Josie’s Confections. Joel not only takes pride in producing cupcakes that combine intricate flavors and textures, but he is one of the toughest critics I’ve ever met. His background in baking helps him dissect a cupcake and tell what has been done right, or what has been done wrong. In his below review of cupcakes from LA Sweets, located in Miami, FL, you will see how indepth his cupcake tastings are.
As a baker, I always find myself trying to develop new and fresh ideas for creating cakes and cupcakes. Already having developed some interesting cupcakes that included meat, there is only so much more one can do to push the boundaries of the cupcake. I often travel to different cupcake shops to assess how I stand against the competition, as well as looking for new ideas. My friend, Delvin, and I took our talents to South Beach for what was supposed to be a birthday celebration for a friend. Unfortunately, our birthday boy couldn’t make the trip, so to make the best out of it, I began to look for cupcake shops in the area. I was curious to see if bakers in Florida would do more tropical flavored cupcakes since they had access to those fruits. To my joy and delight, I found one cupcake shop that I was eager to try. LA Sweets, is owned and run by a lovely lady named Letty Alvarez. She has competed on Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss: Next Great Baker (NGB).
I was excited to meet her and try her cupcakes after reaching out to her on Facebook and discovering we have a mutual friend (who was also on NGB). However, I was going to be a tough critic. If anyone knows me well, they know that I am extremely critical and will pick a cupcake apart in minutes. I do the same for my own, so LA Sweets wasn’t going to be any different.
Delvin and I finally made it into the shop, and immediately I noticed the very bright colors. It was clean with open space and a few tables and chairs. Behind the counters was an assortment of cupcakes under glass domes. The presentation and appearance was just fun and creative. One thing I found interesting about LA Sweets is that they only offered mini cupcakes. We finally got to meet Letty, and she was a complete sweetheart. We talked for a few minutes, took pictures, and shared our love for cupcakes. After all the chatter, it was time to get serious. I asked, “What are the best cupcakes you offer?” Letty’s husband, who also works at the shop told me that their best seller was their Guava cupcake.
“Guava cupcake?” I asked in disbelief. He simply replied, “Yep…best seller.” I’ve never heard or thought of guava incorporated in a cupcake but I was eager to try it. Things were going to get interesting. Before I go any further, I have to share with you all that I am Caribbean American and grew up eating guava jelly right out of the package. If anyone knows ANYTHING about guava, it is going to be me. I find that tropical fruits are harder to incorporate in cupcakes than anything else. I’ve tried to incorporate mango and passion fruit, and it was a process. With me being of Caribbean descent and a baker, this cupcake was already going to be approached with the most critical palette I could muster up.
I selected a few others that intrigued me: a Red Velvet, a Caramel Swirl, and a White Chocolate Raspberry cupcake. Let the tasting begin!
Letty informed me that the Red Velvet wasn’t the sophisticated version that includes cocoa powder. It was more of the traditional Southern Red Velvet, which I appreciated. The cupcake was a brighter red color and was topped with cream cheese frosting. The cupcake itself was moist, and had a buttery, vanilla flavor. The cream cheese frosting was light and sweet, with a slight tang. In my opinion, one of the better cream cheese frostings I’ve had. I think the cupcake itself was simple and passable for me, but may not be for red velvet enthusiasts who love the depth that the cocoa powder provides. All in all, it was a solid cupcake but my least favorite of the four.
I love caramel. However, caramel can be lost in cupcakes. It wasn’t lost here. The cake itself was very moist, light and had a nice light caramel flavor. I knew the cake was moist just by looking and touching the top. The top was sticky to the touch, and appeared to be under baked which was not the case.
Some people are turned off if the tops of cupcakes are sticky. As a baker, I can tell you that it isn’t a bad thing to have sticky tops. My cupcakes can have sticky tops depending on the recipe, especially if it is brushed with a flavored glaze containing alcohol. Think about it for a moment. The sticky top will be covered with buttercream so who will notice? In my opinion, I’ll take a moist cupcake with a sticky top over a dry cupcake with a dry top. The cream cheese frosting was again light and the flavor was enhanced with the caramel drizzle. This cupcake was good and would be a great base for a salted version. Who doesn’t love salted caramel?
White Chocolate Raspberry
Chocolate and berries are a marriage made in heaven! White chocolate and raspberries is a good match. I made a white chocolate raspberry ganache once to frost a cake. Let’s just say I took care of the leftovers in the bowl after the cake was finished! So I was overjoyed to see this cupcake. Like the other cupcakes, the cake itself was moist and light. The vanilla cupcake had a good flavor. However, I felt that the cake itself could have benefited from the use of raspberry sauce/puree in the batter itself. That is not to say that the cupcake wasn’t good. Personally, I love HUGE flavor in cake, and wanted raspberries in the cake somehow. To be fair, there was raspberry drizzle on the cake itself, but I wanted more. The cream cheese frosting was light, and I love the dab of raspberry sauce in the middle, with the white chocolate chip on top. It was pretty, very different, and the raspberry came through if you ate the whole thing together. I liked the cupcake, but I think more raspberry flavor would enhance it.
Last but not least the Guava cupcake. To be honest, this was the second cupcake I tried at the shop but I wanted to save this review for last. With all the hype about this being their best cupcake, I was ready for battle. Was this cupcake indeed their best seller? Would I be pleased with the flavor profile of this cupcake? As a Caribbean American, would this cupcake bring me back to my summers as a child in the Caribbean? There was only one way to find out. I went ahead and took a bite of the cupcake. Now what I am about to share is my exact reaction to the cupcake with no exaggerations. None whatsoever. I immediately got up, and walked away. I stood back a few feet staring at the cupcake. Letty and her husband were confused by my reaction. I continued to chew as I stared at the Guava cupcake that was before me. My face was in shock as I said, “WOW”. It was one of the Top 3 cupcakes I have EVER had. I looked at her husband and said, “Dude, you weren’t kidding. This is a great cupcake.” Words couldn’t express my admiration for this cupcake. I took a trip down memory lane. It had nothing but GUAVA flavor in the cake. I was impressed. I went to Letty and told her, “I am impressed and that’s saying a lot because I am not easily impressed by food.” She was ecstatic that I loved the cupcake. Ok, now to break it down. The cupcake, like the others, was moist, but the guava flavor was pronounced. You could have eaten it blindfolded and known this was a guava cupcake. The cream cheese frosting paired very nicely with the cake itself. It shocked me how well cream cheese frosting and guava works. On top was a square piece of guava jelly. The jelly just took the cupcake to a different level. Minus the jelly, the cupcake was still phenomenal, but the jelly took it past that. The cupcake was something that needed to be savored. Although the other cupcakes were good, I personally felt that they all pale in comparison to the guava. I thought it was a stroke of genius to be able to create something like that. To make it more interesting, Letty’s husband challenged me and said, “I dare you to make something like that.” My response was, “Oh trust me…. I WILL!” I immediately bought out the rest of the guava cupcakes she had on display. My friend initially didn’t buy one and I told him how much he was missing. He tried it, and felt the same way I felt. I told Letty that as a fellow baker, I was extremely impressed. I will be working on a guava cupcake and it will be my Ode to Letty!
After saying our goodbyes, we left the store and headed back to the hotel with a plethora of cupcakes. To make matters more interesting, I went to another location (she has two shops) that was close by and bought more guava cupcakes. This was a unique experience for me on two levels. I was able to find a cupcake that has cemented itself in my Top 3 best cupcakes of all time, as well as meet someone who shares the same passion. Make no mistake, when it comes to passion Letty has it! There is no doubt about it. Overall, I had a great experience at LA Sweets. I would be visiting that place again and again. If you are in Miami, you HAVE to go to LA Sweets. When you do go, get your hands on the guava cupcake and try it yourself. Trust me, you WON’T be disappointed.
– Review by Guest Crusader Joel of Josie’s Confections