Polkatots vs. Dots: A Pasadena Cupcake Quest

Polkatots - Dolcissimo (Dulce de Leche) Cupcakes

How did you spend your Labor Day Holiday? Was it a weekend getaway? Grilling with family or friends? Shopping?

Oh, me? You know, the usual… I had frosting on the brain.

Hoping for a lull in traffic, I planned a cupcake quest to Pasadena, California. My sights were set on two locations.

The first, Polkatots, was previously voted one of the 10 Best Cupcake Shops in Los Angeles by LA Weekly.

The second, Dots Cupcakes, was voted a “Best Of” by Pasadena Weekly consecutively. 

Since both were top cupcakeries, I was curious. What’s the difference between Polkatots and Dots?

Let’s review some basics.

Polkatots: Known for their cupcakes and cupcake cakes, their Biggie size is $3; Minis are $1.50. Their most popular flavors are the Dolcissimo and Lucky Charm.

Dots Cupcakes: With two boutique style shops in the area, their Regular size is $3; Minis are $1.75. Their most popular flavors are Red Velvet and Fleur de Sel. They offer a Sweet Rewards card where customers can earn two regular cupcakes after 12 visits.

Dots Cupcakes - Passion Fruit

Perhaps because it was my last stop, I began my comparison with Dots Cupcakes. Instead of their most popular, I purchased flavors I had chosen from their website beforehand.

First up, the Vanilla Passion Fruit. It’s a vanilla cake filled with passion fruit curd and topped passion fruit whipped cream frosting.

I purposely selected this flavor to extend my comfort zone, as I prefer the fruit in beverage form. 

It was a surprisingly refreshing choice. The cake had a nice vanilla essence throughout; while the dollop of passion fruit curd had a sweet intro and tart finish. I enjoyed the smooth whipped cream frosting the most. Its light flavor and consistency were the right complement.

Next, I tried the Mostess from Dots Cupcakes. It’s a chocolate cake with homemade whipped cream filling and chocolate buttercream frosting.

This was a no-brainer. There was no way I was leaving without trying their take on the Hostess classic. 

Like the vanilla, I was impressed with the cake’s chocolate flavor. It didn’t need the thick, chocolaty buttercream. Still, it was a delicious addition. I gobbled it up.

I looked for the whipped cream filling, but I missed it… Maybe I blinked. 

Dots Cupcakes - Mostess

Had the critique ended here, perhaps I could’ve forgiven the flimsy fillings and given 4 out of 5 stars rating.

However, it wasn’t meant to be. 

After a day of rest, I continued with Polkatots. Back at the store, I was indecisive. Their cupcakes looked good, just not special. So, I went with the most popular.

Little did I know I was in for a big surprise.

I started with the Dolcissimo. It’s a Dulce de leche cupcake with Dulce de leche buttercream.

Now, just to make sure we’re all on the same page. Dulce de leche is a combination of milk and sugar that has been slowly cooked until the sugars caramelize, producing a thick, creamy, and flavorful spread.

Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? 

That’s what this cupcake was!

Caramelized flavor infused every crumb of the moistest cake. The layer of buttercream was thin by most frosting to cake ratios. Yet, it was ample enough to serve its purpose. The cake was marvelous on its own. The creamy frosting was there to enhance. More would’ve been too sweet.

Polkatots - Lucky Charm (Pistachio) Cupcakes

I concluded with Polkatots Lucky Charm. It’s a pistachio cake with pistachio buttercream.

Admittedly, I don’t have much pistachio experience. It just hasn’t come up. Hence I happily accepted this opportunity to expand my palate.

This proved to be another excellent choice!

My mouth welcomed the moist cake. I relished its texture and flavor, wondering what their secret was? After a couple of bites I added the smooth frosting. Once again, the amount was enough to enrich.

Only the occasional crunch of the pistachio garnish was louder than my hum of contentment.

Hands down, fork down, Polkatots makes the better cupcakes! With a 4 out of 5 star rating, I agree with LA Weekly. They are among the best in Los Angeles. 

If I doled out ratings of such increments, Dots Cupcakes would be 3.75 stars. However, since I do not, a solid 3.5 stars will have to suffice. 

I do hope you enjoyed this extended quest. Comparing two shops at once does offer a different perspective.

Maybe it’s a journey we can take again. 

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