PubCakes (pubcakes.com): Clever Misty Birchall is making a splash with her beer-and-cupcake combos. PubCakes are made-to-order, or you can nibble them in watering holes Toronado, K&B Wine Cellars and The Tipsy Crow. The Irish Carbomb, made with Guinness, Irish Cream frosting and a chocolate whiskey ganache was a doozy. However, the Top Ten Cake, made with Karl Strauss Tower Ten IPA, cherries and cayenne was a killer combination. The cakes are a bit on the dry side, but the flavors are great, and as bar food goes, PubCakes are a fantastic alternative to chicken fingers. Grade: 8 out of 10 sprinkles.
Babycakes (3766 Fifth Ave. in Hillcrest, babycakessandiego.com): Babycakes is as stylish as the treats they serve. The Blood Orange cupcake was a highlight, topped with an excellent and not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting and surprise blueberries on the bottom of the cake. The Classic Vanilla is a standout example of the simplest of cakes, and though the Red Velvet is not as tangy as I'd like, it's gorgeously red and the cream cheese frosting is near perfect. Grade: 8.5 out of 10 sprinkles.
Coronado Cupcakery (1201 First St. in Coronado, coronadocupcakery.com): Coronado Cupcakery sees a steady stream of tourists and locals at the Ferry Landing, and its enormous, frosting-laden confections are indeed eye-catching. But there's such a thing as too much. Though I liked the Black Bottomed Betty, (I'm a sucker for chocolate/cheesecake combo), the pointless red ring of frosting screwed it up. The (Red) Velvet Valerie and Nelly Vanilla Birthday were mediocre at best, close to Vons bakery department at worst. Grade: 6 out of 10 sprinkles.
Heavenly Cupcakes (518 Sixth Ave., Downtown, heavenlycupcake.com): The haloed locale serves up an impressive combination of cute and stylish decor and truly tasty cupcakes. The Chocolate is just plain great. The frosting is devilishly intense, and the cake is moist and fresh. If you're a chocolate lover, this is the cupcake for you. The signature Orange Chip is good but needed way more orange zest to be worth a repeat order. Grade: 9 out of 10 sprinkles.
Auntie M's Cup 'n Cake Bakery (7406 University Ave. in La Mesa, auntiematcupncakebakery.com): Auntie M herself was behind the counter, and if I had princess-and-pink-loving nieces instead of fart-preferring nephews, I'd take them to Auntie M's sweet little shop for a dose of pink and cuteness. The cakes are all Wizard of Oz-themed, and the best I had was the Wicked Witch of the East— which is who I feel like for being less than charitable in my comments about this sweet woman's baked goods. The chocolate cake and vanilla butter-cream combo was a good sugar fix, but not much more than that. And the Ruby Red Slipper, a too-pink Red Velvet cake with cherry cream cheese frosting and a maraschino topper tasted artificial. Grade: 5 out of 10 sprinkles.
Cupcakes Squared (3772 Voltaire St. in Point Loma, cupcakessquared.com): The best. Hands down. The Chocolate was a dense yet moist cake, just barely speckled with a few surprise chips of chocolate. The whole thing is topped with the most amazingly light chocolate buttercream. But my proverbial cakehole didn't know what to do when it bit into the amazing and unique Vanilla Chai. The velvet-soft frosting was dusted with a spicy-but-not-cloying chai powder, and the cake was light and moist and perfectly balanced with barely-there chai flavor. Grade: a bazillion out of 10 sprinkles.