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Art News

The Great State Cupcake Debate: Best of Arizona

In a previous editorial role, I was once asked to edit an article about culinary schools in Arizona. I remember this vividly because the opening line of the article read, “Have you ever dreamed of pastry-making in the hot Arizona sun?” I thought it was hilarious because I thought there wasn’t a single person in the world who would dream of that. It turned out I was dead wrong.

It turns out the Grand Canyon state isn’t just home to a few ambitious pastry-makers, it is practically a hotbed (pun most definitely intended) for young pastry-makers looking to establish roots and open a shop. Apparently it doesn’t matter what the temperature is around the state, because these cupcake shops have established themselves as some of the best in the country and continue to gain critical acclaim all over the state.


TopIt Cupcakes

This shop gets it’s name from the fact that it allows customers to add their own toppings on their cupcakes, but it could as easily work as a dare to other shops who are thinking they can out duel this recently opened Gilbert shop. Rather than offer a wide variety of flavors, designs, and toppings, TopIt offers eight different gourmet cupcake flavors and focuses on making them as delicious as possible — which they do quite well.

As we mentioned, if for some reason you don’t want the experts to build your cupcake, TopIt has a topping bar with frosting and candy that allows customers to decorate and flavor their own. If you have to try one, the Boston Cream Pie may not blow you away aesthetically, but that’s just fine, because it’s taste will leave you wanting more.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Yelp


SweetDaddy Cupcakes

The founders of this shop are veterans of an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and their skill is evident, because the shop has become so popular it is opening a second location. Already a hit in Glendale, SweetDaddy is opening a second location in Chandler, where they will entice the locals with their delicious red-velvet or triple chocolate cupcakes.

Like TopIt, SweetDaddy is less interested in offering dozens of flavors and flashy designs, preferring to stick to making some of the tastiest cupcakes in the Southwest. And after trying one of their cupcakes, there is little doubt that you will be able to criticize their strategy.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Yelp  On Twitter


Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe

As one of the largest cities in the state, Tucson can be a competitive place to open a business, but Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe has quickly put their worries to rest thanks to their increasingly popular cupcakes, which you can find at Foothills Mall. Their prices are cheap, their flavors are diverse, and of course their cupcakes are quite tasty.

In addition to a daily cast of eight flavors that are always available, Sweet Things offers additional flavors depending on the day of your visit. You definitely don’t want to miss Crisp’s Coconuts with it’s cream cheese frosting. And if you happen to pass by on a Tuesday or Friday, be sure to check out Mick’s Monkeys, a banana cupcake with a rich milk chocolate frosting. You won’t be disappointed.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Yelp


Cupcakes By Design

While the three previous shops all forgo intricate designs in favor of creating the most delicious cupcakes they can, Cupcakes By Design offers a broader selection of flavors and, as their name indicates, an impressive array of detailed designs that will leave you wondering how they even created them.

From colorful butterflies perched atop vanilla frosting to a group of cupcakes linked together to create a crocodile, Cupcakes By Design will leave you floored with their creativity and skill when it comes to designing the cakes themselves. Just don’t assume design is all these folks are good at. Your cupcake may look so incredible you don’t even want to eat it, but once you sink your teeth into the actual cupcake, you won’t ever look back.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Yelp


Jewels Cupcakes Shop

Shame on you for thinking that cupcakes can’t be healthy and tasty as the same time. Phoenix-based Jewels Cupcakes Shop is proving that gluten-free, sugar-free, and even Vegan cupcakes can be healthy, and still taste decadent at the same time.

You won’t find cute animals or your favorite TV show character on their cupcakes, but their subtle and elegant designs combine with their multi-flavored cupcakes to leave a lasting impression on anyone who walks through the door. With it’s cream cheese frosting and addicting caramel drizzle on top, the Salted Caramel cupcake is especially delightful, and you won’t even feel like you need to run ten miles to burn it off after you eat it.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter



This shop just goes to show that a simple name doesn’t necessarily mean that the cupcakes simple too. This sister-run shop calls cupcakes a “lifestyle” and it shows in their work. Their menu is to the point, with seven daily flavors and nine others available on different days of the week, but that helps them concentrate on making an even tastier treat.

Their designs are simple but colorful and elegant, and their flavors include multiple ingredients and toppings to create an especially savory taste. They have gotten so well known for their skills they have competed on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and have been successful enough to expand their empire to include Scottsdale and now Tucson. If you are in the area, make sure to try “The Tuxedo” a simple chocolate cake with vanilla frosting that may sound ordinary but is really anything but.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter


Cruelty Free Cupcakes

Who said the best cupcakes had to be unhealthy ones? Cruelty Free’s 100 percent vegan cupcakes aren’t just healthier, but they are just as tasty. Located in The Coffee Shop in Gilbert, Cruelty Free has made a name for itself delivering a wide variety of delectable flavors, without the dairy, and sometimes the gluten.

They have some of the classic flavors, but their menu diverse enough that is also includes some colorful and creative flavors that combine cute designs with delicious ingredients and toppings. Even cupcake purists who dream of mountainous butter cream frosting will have nothing to complain about after just one bite of these cupcakes. Cruelty Free proves that healthy eating can be tasty and artistic all in one small shop.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter



Another “Cupcake Wars” veteran, OllieCake’s simple yet effective menu and organic and local ingredients make it one of the go-to cupcake shops in the Greater Phoenix area, and that is saying something. The husband-wife tandem doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to showing off their trade secrets, they let customers see and know every ingredient that is going into their cupcakes, and that type of customer service is rare in the baking industry.

Their menu and designs aren’t meant to be elaborate or flashy, they stick to what they do well, and that is make cupcakes like their “Classic Chocolate” or their “Orange Blossom”, which are what keep the customers happy and satisfied. They won’t overload your cupcake with frosting or toppings, but their mix of ingredients packs the perfect punch for an after-dinner treat.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter


Let Them Eat Cake

As their name would imply, Let Them Eat Cake is a cupcake shop dedicated to their eaters, a champion of the cause…er something. This Phoenix shop has been around for nearly 30 years, so you better believe that when it comes to cupcakes, they know what they are doing.

Their flavors are uniquely named, designed, and baked. Each cupcake has multiple tasty ingredients and it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with accessories like caramel drizzle and butter cream frosting. In case that wasn’t enough to convince you to give it a try, this shop is family-owned and has eclectic menu that means that everyone can find a dessert to sink their teeth into.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter


Candyland Cupcakes

A Phoenix staple for the past two decades, Candyland Cupcakes stakes their name on the “Original Pink Champagne” cupcake but they are much more than a one-trick shop. Their daily menu is straight-forward and not exactly elaborate when it comes to designs or flavors.

But they also have plenty of other flavors available for special orders and sometimes simple is better. The shop relies on its baking skills, mix of ingredients, and variety of toppings and fillings to keep their customers satisfied. And if their longevity is any indication, they are doing a pretty good job.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter


Trucking Good Cupcakes

It’s semi-ridiculous that more bakeries aren’t adapting and putting their product on wheels and bringing it to you. Luckily, the folks at Trucking Good Cupcakes recognized the value of a mobile cupcake truck, and now the good folks of Tucson can find excellent cupcakes all over the city.

Obviously it is difficult for a truck to stock three-dozen flavors of cupcakes, but Trucking Good makes up for their smaller selection with cupcakes that pack a flavorful punch and have all the frosting you would ever want to eat. Don’t sleep on their design skills either. You may not be able to get an exact replica of the Taj Mahal on your cupcake but you will get some elegant designs that will leave you thoroughly impressed every step of the way.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter


Mind Over Batter

This Tempe bakery takes their cupcake creation seriously, from the ingredients right down to the clever names for their cupcakes. With more than 20 different beautifully designed options to choose from, you might want to leave yourself some time to make the right selection. But with that said, you really can’t go wrong no matter what you choose.

The chocolate-laced “Dark Vader” is mouth-watering, especially if you love chocolate, and the “Reese With-a-Spoon” is so rich with flavor it will be hard to finish. They take care when it comes to the frosting, making sure not overload any cupcake. In addition to their baking abilities, the folks at Mind Over Batter don’t mess around when it comes to design either. From Sesame Street characters to baseballs to dollar signs, these folks create detailed and impressive designs, truly treating their cupcakes as an art form.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Yelp


21 Cakes

This Scottsdale cupcake shop stays true to its name and offers at least 21 flavors to try every day. The flavors are available on a rotating basis so make sure to check the schedule before you visit, but even if you stop by on a whim, I will go out on a limb and say you will find something you like.

Their Vanilla Salted Caramel cake will leave you speechless and if you have a hankering for cupcakes for breakfast, 21 Cakes has you covered with a coffee cake with cinnamon sugar crumble that is more than satisfying. Their designs are simple, yet elegant, and when they want to, they can show off some incredibly detailed and colorful cupcakes that truly complete the experience.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Yelp


Treehouse Vegan Bakery

If you have been driving around Phoenix looking for the delicious Treehouse Vegan Cupcakes you have been hearing all about, you can go ahead and stop now. That’s because this small shop doesn’t have a storefront, you will have to go to the Phoenix Public Market to find these treats.

But if you do venture down there, you won’t be disappointed, because they have a wide selection of fine vegan cupcakes to choose from, and their baking skills and delicious toppings and ingredients leave customers wanting more. If you couldn’t already tell, these folks are environmentally conscious as all of their ingredients are natural and locally grown. They hand-make their cupcakes and their small business allows them to pay more attention to what the customers want, which has made them one of the most popular cupcake shops in the state.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter


Tammie Coe Cakes

What this shop lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in taste and flavor. A culinary school graduate, Tammie Coe’s specialty is larger cakes, in particular wedding cakes. But her shop does have three different cupcake flavors on the menu — red velvet, coconut, and ooey gooey.

The cupcakes are great for frosting aficionados, as all three flavors are loaded with the icing, but once you actually bite into one, you will understand why so many people keep going back. It would be nice if they were able to add some variety to their cupcakes, but that’s just nit-picking, because once you have one of the cupcakes, you will forget all about your complaints.

For more information, be sure to check them out:  On Facebook  On Twitter

  • Anna Ortiz
    Anna Ortiz

    Mural Hunter, Photographer, & Writer | Anna is a writer and lover of urban street art who attended San Francisco State University. She is self-taught in digital and film photography, and spends most of her free time fueling her photography obsession by researching vintage cameras.