Cupcake Chains Ranked From Worst To Best

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Cupcakes have evolved from simple frosting-laden mini desserts to magnificent creations and eye-catching food masterpieces, like those topped with maple frosting complete with an actual slice of bacon adorning its top.

Even though cakes have been a part of people's diets for what seems like forever, actual cupcakes didn't evolve until the 19th century (via Divine Specialties). First called tiny cakes, this dessert emerged in a 1796 cookbook titled American Cookery, but they weren't officially called cupcakes until 1828, when cooking queen Eliza Leslie bestowed them with this cute moniker in her cookbook Receipts. It didn't take long before these circular baby cakes blossomed and became all the rage. Mega dessert company Hostess eventually launched the first store-bought cupcakes in 1919 and called them "snack cakes," and versions of them have been sold ever since ever since, with flavors and styles evolving over time.

Cupcakes are also commonly ordered from professional bakers for birthday parties, wedding showers, baby showers, and other special events. Sometimes you just want a break from winning the holiday baking game, and other times, you simply need a fancy cupcake just because. There are some wonderful local mom-and-pop bakeries that whip up these tasty treats, but there also are national chains and destination shops that have become household names, thanks to their creativity and media presence. So, which ones are the best and worth ordering from and visiting, and what exactly makes a special cupcake? Read on to find out.

8. Sprinkles Cupcakes

You know the cupcakes from Sprinkles Cupcakes must be amazing when the founder also serves as a judge on the competition television series Cupcake Wars and Sugar Rush. Owner Candace Nelson's whole goal when creating her signature cupcakes are to produce a sophisticated cupcake baked fresh with the finest ingredients. They're raved about by Oprah Winfrey, Blake Lively, Katie Holmes and Barbra Streisand, the company stated on its website. 

Nelson even created the world's first cupcake ATM, where fans can have a cupcake dispensed after store hours. Made with wholesome ingredients like fresh fruit, farm raised honey and organic cocoa, some of the cupcakes people rave over include raspberry chocolate chip, which contains chocolate chips buried in a Belgian dark chocolate cake mix and smothered with raspberry frosting. There's also the cookie cupcake, which is a cookie base topped with yellow cake mix covered with a cookie crust, brown sugar frosting and a dusting of cookie crumbles. Their ingredients, creativity with flavors and beautiful finished pieces make this national cupcake chain a top place finisher on our delicious list of desserts.

7. Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery, based out of New York City, scores points with its followers for their nationwide shipping, allowing everyone who's a huge fan of these delectable treats to enjoy them no matter where they live. Each month, the bakery hosts cupcake specials, such as a carrot cupcake with freshly grated carrot, coconut, pineapple, raisins and walnuts topped with a cream cheese icing and decorated with crunchy toasted walnuts. The bakery also has its classic cupcakes of course, like vanilla, chocolate and red velvet. Then, there are an array of specialty cupcakes in flavors like banana, confetti, German chocolate, hummingbird and peanut butter and jelly. The latter concoction even earned a feature in People magazine. 

With cupcakes like the Razzy, which is a rich chocolate cake featuring a dark chocolate flavor filled with raspberry jam, drizzled with chocolate ganache and ice with white chocolate raspberry meringue buttercream, it's no wonder this national bakery has its legion of followers and earns plenty of points, putting it near the top of our list.

6. Jilly's Cupcake Bar

Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Cafe chefs have won Cupcake Wars and it's no wonder why. The award-winning half-pound cupcake found at Jilly's Bar has become a tradition in their home base of St. Louis, Missouri — not to mention their daily favorites and monthly special edition cupcakes.

Jilly's cupcakes are not just delicious, but they're beautiful pieces of art, too, like the Strawberry Gooey Butter cupcake, which is filled with strawberry mouse and iced with strawberry buttercream and topped with pink royal icing drizzle, white chocolate curls and powdered sugar. There's also the heart-stopping Oreo Crazy Shake cupcake made with a chocolate Oreo cake filled with "Oreo mousse" and topped with a drizzle of chocolate icing on top of a ganache swirl dollop, chocolate-dipped Oreos crumbs with a chocolate straw, and a mini Oreo cupcake to top it all off. 

While the exotic arrangements give this bakery major points, the booze-infused gourmet cupcakes earn it major kudos with lots of people, like the RumChata cupcake featuring vanilla batter, RumChata mousse stuffing and RumChata cream cheese and caramel buttercream frosting with chocolate crispy pearls, edible RumChata logo bark, a RumChata pipette and gold disco dust. They also have a Jack & Coke cupcake and a Crown Apple cupcake. They're definitely intriguing!

5. Pinkitzel

At Pinkitzel Cupcakes and Candy in Oklahoma, every day a dozen flavors are made fresh from scratch with a bit of whimsy tossed in for good measure. These clever creations include I (heart) Candy, a beautiful vanilla-flavored blue and pink cupcake with blue and pink buttercream covered in gumdrops, gummy bears and starlight mints. There's also the Neapolitan cupcake, which is a white cupcake with a marshmallow filling topped with white, chocolate and strawberry buttercream layers covered in sprinkles and a Hershey's Kiss.

Pinkitzel's flavor combos are impressive, too, such as the Pink Lemonade cupcake, which is a vanilla-flavored cupcake with pink lemonade filling, pink lemonade buttercream hued yellow and pink and a citrus sour atop with sprinkles. They definitely score points for their beautiful cupcakes and creativity in the kitchen through the mixing of myriad surprising flavors. The only downfall for Pinitzel is that they have just four locations in the South, which just aren't enough for these incredible cupcakes that push the envelope for flavor temptations and visually beautiful cupcakes.

4. Georgetown Cupcakes

What's better than baking award winning cupcakes? Baking them with your sister, of course! Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne are the cofounders behind Georgetown Cupcakes and the stars of Cupcake Cam LIVE and DC Cupcakes. They've even penned two cupcake recipe books to help others fall in love with making their cupcakes, putting this duo and their bakery head and shoulders above others. 

The LaMontagnes create monthly specials like the Valentine Unicorn, which is a Madagascar vanilla cupcake with baby pink vanilla buttercream, infused and topped with Valentine's candy nonpareils and a fondant Valentine unicorn blowing a kiss. The sisters also offer daily specials each day of the week, such as the vegan Apple Cinnamon cupcake on Mondays and Toffee Crunch on Thursdays. They also have their classic selection, including the Double Milk Chocolate Birthday, which features Valrhona chocolate. They score points with their intriguing ingredients and explosive combination of flavors, making this a must visit when in DC or in the area of one of their other locations.

3. Baked by Melissa

It wasn't until New Yorker Melissa Ben-Ishay was fired from her job as a media planner that she finally was able to realize her dream: to own a bakery. Known for her signature bite-size cupcakes, Ben-Ishay started Baked by Melissa and even released her first cookbook in 2017. Her brother encouraged her to start her business, and she then threw herself into cooking her incredibly adorable and tasty cupcakes, with flavors like peanut butter cup, s'mores and cookie dough. 

But Ben-Ishay's favorite flavor, and one that her family and friends love, is the Tie-Dye. Baked by Melissa scores points for creating clever combinations like the Chocolate Chip Pancake cupcake with a yellow pancake cake, maple syrup icing and mini chocolate chips on top. Then, there's the beautiful Snowball cupcake from the winter collection, which features white vanilla cake, fudge stuffing, vanilla icing and white sprinkles, nonpareil snowflakes, pearl sugar and coconut on top. Ben-Ishay's fans also love the fact that she ships these tasty treats nationwide, meaning they can get their fancy cupcake fix from the Baked by Melissa bakery anywhere they want.

2. Gigi's Cupcakes

From its first location in Nashville in the early 200s to more than 50 locations in 21 states by 2021, Gigi's Cupcakes has truly established itself as a main player in the cupcake genre. One thing that sets Gigi's Cupcakes apart from others are their signature swirl and seasonal decorations. The classic cupcake flavors are topped with a tall and sugary sweet spiral of icing piped by hand, and the creative combinations are delicious, but the sky high mound of amazing homemade icing are what really earns these cupcakes points. 

The Wedding Cake cupcake, for example, consists of white cake topped with a vanilla buttercream frosting and sprinkled with tiny wedding gown white nonpareils. There's also a gluten-free version of this particular cupcake. There's also the Chocolate Peanut Buddy featuring rich chocolate cake filled with a whipped peanut butter topped with a peanut butter buttercream and smothered in a sweet chocolate ganache and peanut butter. Each cupcake has a peanut butter cup slid into the frosting for a tasty decoration. This bakery definitely earns points for its scrumptious flavor combinations and mountain of mouthwatering frosting.

1. Kara's Cupcakes

Coined "the San Francisco sweet," Kara's Cupcakes is the baby of executive pastry chef Kara Haspel Lind. As the daughter of a dentist, she was deterred from enjoying sweets growing up, but look at her now! She was a finalist on the Cupcake Wars and had a winning flavor, so it's no wonder that her cupcakes earn rave reviews from so many different people. 

Kara's Cupcakes have signature flavors along with seasonal and monthly favorites made fresh daily using local, real ingredients, which earns these cupcakes extra points. The shop also offers special dietary cupcakes, like gluten-free and vegan. The sweet S'mores cupcake is a chocolate cupcake with a graham cracker crust and a toasted marshmallow frosting, while the Fleur De Sel cupcake is a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, chocolate ganache frosting and sprinkled with fleur de sel. But while Kara's Cupcakes are amazing, the selection is limited, unless you're placing a custom order. Thankfully, Kara's Cupcakes ships nationwide, scoring even more points with fans hankering for these beautiful and tasty desserts.