Selecting Riverfront Times' Best of St. Louis 2011 was no picnic. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned -- until now. In this Gut Check series, we are chewing our way through notable runners up in a number of categories. To see hundreds more winners and finalists and download the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis mobile app, visit our Best of St. Louis homepage.
Are trendy cupcakes now a cliché? Yes. Are cupcakes, trendy or not, delicious? Yes. Does the second fact trump the first? Absolutely.
Page through to see the four finalists and our pick for "Best Cupcakes" in St. Louis.
Jilly's Cupcake Bar (8509 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-993-5455)
One of the first cupcake-centric spots in St. Louis, Jilly's Cupcake Bar has gained national attention thanks to its victorious appearance on the popular Food Network show Cupcake Wars. The cupcakes here aren't decorated so much as crafted, a cityscape of spangled buttercream towers like something out of a child's storybook. The "Chocolate Thunder," for example tops chocolate cake, itself stuffed with dark chocolate ganache, with milk chocolate buttercream, vanilla buttercream, chocolate shavings and chocolate bark. Look for the unusual seasonal specialties, like the "Chicken and Waffles," which, yes, does have a piece of chicken atop it.
Sarah's Cake Shop and Catering Co. (10 Clarkson Wilson Centre, Chesterfield; 636-728-1140)
This west county bakery turns out an impressive roster of classic cupcakes: vanilla cream, chocolate, red velvet carrot. There are also rotating daily specials, like the "Samoa," a riff on the popular Girl Scout cookie, a caramel cake topped with vanilla buttercream, chocolate, coconut shavings and a drizzle of caramel sauce. A sprinkle of sea salt turns an ordinary caramel-topped cupacke into the decadent, delicious "Salted Caramel." Nowhere near Sarah's Cake Shop? Look for Sarah's Cake Stop, the bakery's food truck.