Whether you’re attracted to bright colors, a certain flavor or mounds of sugary frosting, there’s a cupcake maker in San Diego for you. When you’re paying a premium for a fancy cupcake, you don’t want something made from a box mix. You want a cupcake with as much love as flavor in the buttercream, something created artistically and with integrity. You want something memorable, a truly amazing confection that is worth posting to Instagram to make your friends jealous (and rack up those likes!).
Because everyone wants to cash in on the popularity of these desserts, it can be hard to find the perfect cupcake, so we’ve taken the guessing out of your sweet search. While you can find cupcakes at the grocery store, you won’t find flavors and frosting like what’s on offer at one of these five amazing bakeries. Skip the questionable cupcakes and head straight for something homemade and original. The next time you’re planning a party or need a treat for your co-workers, swing by one of these bakeries and pick out some creative cupcakes.
Location: 1772-A Garnet Ave.
Hours: Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There’s a reason that Pure Cupcakes won the Best Cupcake Award for the San Diego A List in 2013, 2014 and 2016, as well as Cupcake Wars in 2013. With a convenient location in the Pacific Plaza Shopping Center in the Pacific Beach neighborhood, Pure Cupcakes is a great place to find a perfect cupcake.
Single cupcakes start at $3 each or $32 per dozen. Specialty cupcakes are $3.25 each and premium cupcakes are $3.75 each. You can also buy cake pops, smash cakes, pies, cookies, layer or sheet cakes, and citrus bars depending on the daily offerings. You can find vanilla bean, red velvet, chocolate, salted caramel, Pure-fetti and Purely Toasted cupcakes daily. Other flavors, like Bacon Baby and Tiramisu, rotate throughout the week.
For those with dietary restrictions, you’ll be happy to find that there are both vegan and gluten-free cupcakes available at Pure Cupcakes for $4.25 each or $47 per dozen. They do not offer sugar-free cupcakes at this time. The varieties that are gluten-free and vegan rotate daily. You can place a special order for a specific cake base with 48 hours notice, as long as you order a dozen or more.
Location: 3766 5th Avenue
Restaurant Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. to midnight
Bar Hours: Monday-Thursday: 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to midnight
Babycakes offers single, oversized gourmet cupcakes for $4 each or $42 a dozen. They also offer gluten-free cupcakes for $4.75 each. Their offerings rotate, but common flavors include Classic Chocolate, Classic Vanilla, Pistachio, Vanilla Raspberry, Mocha, Blood Orange, Red Velvet, Lemon Bavarian and Hazelnut, among other options that regularly rotate.
Unlike some of the cupcake destinations on this list, Babycakes is a full restaurant and bar, serving brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and drinks at night from 5 until midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In addition to a decadent brunch menu, Babycakes offers soups, salads and sandwiches. From a meatloaf panini to Hot & Sexy Wings, they’ve got something for everyone here!
In addition to the Hillcrest location, there is another Babycakes Bake Shop in Imperial Beach at 874 Seacoast Drive, open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to serve your sweet tooth. Whether you’re looking for baked treats, dessert after a meal or a drink with friends in the evening, Babycakes is a must-visit San Diego eatery. With kid-friendly service and outdoor seating, there’s no reason to miss out on a trip to Babycakes.
Location: 10450 Friars Rd.
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
This cute little shop offers carry-out only, no sit-down spaces or full dining menu. However, don’t let that deter you. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better cupcakes anywhere else in the area! Their standard cupcakes are $3.25 each or $36 for a dozen. There may be several gluten-free varieties available on any given day, including vanilla, strawberry shortcake, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate raspberry, lemon coconut and even tiramisu.
Other common and popular flavors of cupcakes include Chocolate Guinness Stout, white chocolate orange, spiced apple caramel, cannoli, carrot pineapple and zucchini pecan. Each cupcake is carefully frosted and topped with attractive details, ranging from chocolate covered coffee beans to strawberries and even sprinkles. Grab a mixed dozen to try to figure out what your favorite flavor from their line up may be!
Cupcakes a la Yola does offer vegan and dairy-free cupcakes for $4.25 each, but you need to place an advance order. The minimum is at least a dozen in a single flavor, at $42 per dozen. Flavors include chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and graham cracker. They also make a Chocolate Oreo cupcake, if you’re a flexible vegan who eats Oreos.
Location: 518 6th Avenue
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Closed Monday
Originally based out of Escondido, Cute Cakes has added a Gaslamp location for San Diego locals craving an amazing sweet treat. They have certain cupcakes available in the shop every day, with other flavors available as special orders. They even do wedding cakes or wedding cupcake orders! Cute Cakes took second place for Best Wedding Cake, Best Cupcakes and Best Bakery in the 2016 San Diego A List, so it’s easy to see why they’re so popular.
You can expect to find Salted Vanilla Caramel, Death by Chocolate, Snickers, Vanilla Birthday, Carrot Cake, Samoa, Red Velvet, Marble, Thin Mint, Coconut, Lemon, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup and Gluten-Friendly Red Velvet cupcakes any time you walk in. They have a special cupcake that rotates every month, to ensure seasonable flavors are also available.
Cute Cakes also takes custom orders, ranging from dessert bars to wedding cakes, and everything in between. If you didn’t plan ahead enough, they often have a number of smaller cakes available to grab and take with you to an office party or birthday bash. Cute Cakes has a fun, confectionery setting that is sure to enchant as much as the desserts themselves, if you have time to sit and enjoy your cupcakes.
Location: 3772 Voltaire Street
Hours: Wednesday-Friday: 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Closed Monday and Tuesday
If you’re looking for an unusual and unique take on cupcakes, check out Cupcakes Squared! In addition to offering square cupcakes instead of the ubiquitous round varieties at other bakeries, Cupcakes Squared is considered the first cupcake specialty bakery to open in San Diego. This bakery has been serving Point Loma for nine years, and people absolutely love their flavors and designs.
Although the cupcakes on menu change to reflect seasonal flavors, you can count on certain staples most days. Generally, there are between nine and 12 different cupcakes on any given day. There’s the Lilikoi, with a lemon cake and passion fruit buttercream frosting, the Paleo Muffin for those on a diet, the Not So Red Velvet, Vanilla, Chocolate, Carrot Cake and a daily gluten-free or vegan variety.
Not only is the square shape an unusual take on this popular dessert, but the flavors at Cupcakes Squared are truly peerless. Whether you want chocolate, fruit or vanilla, you’ll find something just right in here. Unlike some bakeries, where cupcakes end up swimming in frosting, the offerings at Cupcakes Squared have the perfect balance of airy cake and rich buttercream frosting.