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The Best Cupcake in All 50 States

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We’re going to sugarcoat it. Twelve years after the advent of the cupcake-only bakery (the California-launched chain Sprinkles is credited with opening the first in 2005), there are a lot of options. We rounded up 50 of the best decadent desserts across the country. So go out, have your (cup)cake—and eat it, too.

1. ALABAMA // WEDDING CAKE, DREAMCAKES BAKERY

Dreamcakes Bakery Wedding Cupcake

Location: Homewood, Alabama

State newspaper Al.com found this shop, well, quite dreamy—giving them top honors in a 2012 hunt. Co-owner Jan Potter, a former food stylist, said she focuses on both taste and Instagram-ibility of the treats, telling the paper, “I believe you eat with your eyes first.” Of the 80 flavors on offer—between 18 to 20 are available each day—the paper was most impressed by best seller Wedding Cake, a white velvet confection with almond buttercream.

2. ALASKA // LEMON ROSEMARY SMOKED SALMON, KASTLE'S KREATIONS

Eagle River Alaska
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Location: Eagle River, Alaska

A perennial best of winner—most recently named Alaska’s top food truck—the mobile bakery offers flavors ranging from churro to strawberry lemonade. And for the truly brave, there’s the lemon rosemary smoked salmon deity that landed owner Kastle Sorensen and assistant Amy Gruce a victory on a 2013 episode of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

3. ARIZONA // FRENCH TOAST, TREEHOUSE BAKERY

Treehouse Bakery French Toast Cupcake

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Who needs buttercream? This dairy-free shop was named best in the state by culinary website The Daily Meal, who declared, “A vegan bakery that makes you forget about the fact that it is vegan is a winner in our book.” And for the truly healthy conscious, many of their rotating 30 flavors—including standout French Toast—are available in gluten-free varieties.

4. ARKANSAS // RED VELVET, PATTICAKES BAKERY

PattiCakes Red Velvet

Location: Conway, Arkansas

With a five-star rating on The Knot, brides will want the pros at this Conway shop to bake them a cake (or cupcake tower!) as fast as they can. A self-proclaimed “scratch bakery," the spot’s website says they’re “dedicated to serving desserts reminiscent of a visit to Grandma’s.” A highlight: their traditional red velvet—also available in doughnut form!

5. CALIFORNIA // PUMPKIN MAPLE, SUSIE CAKES

SusieCakes Pumpkin Maple

Location: Statewide

Started by Chicago native Susie Sarich—and a stack of 4x6 cards bearing her grandmothers’ recipes—this chain with 17 locations in Northern and Southern California and four in Texas prides itself on using the finest ingredients (think: European-style butter and Ghirardelli chocolate) in treats such as coconut and lemon as well as seasonal standouts such as the pumpkin maple. As the site proclaims, “If you can’t spell it, we don’t bake with it.”

6. COLORADO // CARROT CAKE, GOLD MINE CUPCAKES

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Location: Golden, Colorado

Four years after the mother-and-daughters trio started whipping up recipes for pina colada and macadamia nut cookie in the lone oven in their mom’s kitchen, they’re nabbing honors for their 40-plus flavors. But Yelp reviewers agree the carrot cake is one of their best. The key, says owner and baker Sara Rutter, is their carefully developed buttercream. “Our cake and the frosting are the perfect complement for each other, never having one overpower the other,” she explained to The Denver Post. “Our buttercream frosting was very important to us as we developed the perfect recipe because we didn’t want it to be too sweet and we loved having a soft creamy texture.”

7. CONNECTICUT // BOOZY BREAKFAST, NORA CUPCAKE COMPANY

Connecticut Welcome Sign
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Location: Middleton, West Hartford, and Canton, Connecticut

“Like most good stories, it all started in a bar,” the website for this spot reads, detailing owner Carrie Carella’s journey from bartender to owner of three locations, a mobile food truck, and more than 300 flavors. That list includes cocktail-infused confections such as the blackberry margarita and the Boozy Breakfast, made with maple cake and Jameson chocolate ganache filling, but also more PG varieties such as Lucky Charms and Candy Explosion from the “kiddie gangsters” section of the menu.

8. DELAWARE // CHOCOLATE CUPCAKE WITH OREO COOKIE MOUSSE, SWEET SOMETHINGS

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Location: Wilmington, Delaware

Recently named the best bakery in the state by Yelp reviewers, this shop dishes out nostalgic treats. “There are plenty of places that do ‘cutting edge’ desserts, but for me, it’s about making products you remember as a kid, with grandma,” owner Lee Slaninko told Delaware’s Out & About magazine. “We try and marry that with good service, creative design, and great taste.” Among the appetizing throwback flavors: a chocolate cupcake with Oreo Cookie Mousse.

9. FLORIDA // GUAYABERA, SWEETNESS BAKESHOP

sweetness bakeshop guayabera

Location: Miami

Just seven years old, the family-owned business has already been recognized by Zagat, Food and Wine Magazine, and the Miami New Times, which named them the best in the city. Though their 275-plus flavor list—the guava-and-cream cheese blend Guayabera is a signature—is impressive, it was their vanilla bean-embedded Thrilla-in-Vanilla that impressed Miami New Times writers, who raved, “They have the perfect density, consistency, moisture, flavor and icing-to-cupcake ratio.”

10. GEORGIA // SWEET POTATO & BOURBON, THE ATLANTA CUPCAKE FACTORY

The Atlanta Cupcake Factory

Location: Atlanta

Shortening is a dirty word at this artisan bakery, whose site proclaims they’re “dedicated to small batch baking and to feeding our customers with integrity.” Standouts such as the Sweet Potato and Bourbon blend (with Kentucky Bourbon cream cheese frosting) on the weekly rotating menu earned the boutique shop the distinction of being named The Today Show’s best cupcake in the country.

11. HAWAII // SHAVE ICE, HOKULANI BAKESHOP

Shave Ice Cupcake from Hokulani Bake Shop

Location: Honolulu

This island shop—another Cupcake Wars winner—prides itself on using quality ingredients (pure Grade A sweet cream butter, cane sugar, and fresh eggs) in unique creations such as the Liliko (baked with passion-fruit puree and topped with lemon-zested cream cheese icing) and Shave Ice, a local favorite made with Adzuki beans and drizzled with condensed milk.

12. IDAHO // TOMATO SOUP, SUGAR RUSH CUPCAKERY

Sugar Rush Cupcakery

Location: Boise, Idaho

A decade of baking wedding cakes—and listening to requests from clients—inspired parent company Family Ties to create a spinoff store offering mini versions of their fun flavors. Among the bakery’s more inventive creations: a tomato soup-flavored option with a cream cheese buttercream.

13. ILLINOIS // MANGO PASSIONFRUIT, SWIRLZ CUPCAKES

Mango Passionfruit Swirlz Cupcake Shop
Swirlz Cupcake Shop

Location: Chicago

Swirlz Cupcakes, the oldest all-cupcake shop in Chicago, layers each buttermilk-made cake with two dollops of frosting. As of their 10-year anniversary in 2016, the shop had dreamed up more than 1700 freshly-made flavors for their rotating list but Food & Wine editors were most impressed with the Mango Passion: a raspberry-and-vanilla cake base topped with mango white chocolate ganache, passion fruit buttercream, white chocolate, and a passion fruit flower.

14. INDIANA // RED VELVET ELVIS, THE FLYING CUPCAKE

Flying Cupcake

Location: Indianapolis

The state’s first cupcake shop when it opened in 2007, the bakery has now expanded to six locations and racked up honors from Buzzfeed, MSN, Paula Deen Magazine, and TheIndyChannel.com for its creatively named treats. One reader dubs the Red Velvet Elvis (with chocolate chunks and cream cheese icing) “unbeatable.”

15. IOWA // BAILEY'S & GUINNESS, CRÉME CUPCAKE

Creme Cupcake Bailey's and Guinness

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Few things pair better with cupcakes than cocktails. After 5 p.m., this Midwest spot turns into a dessert lounge, featuring suggested drink and dessert pairings (including wines from the aptly named Cupcake Vineyard). Or get your sweets and spirits in one fell swoop with this seasonal pick: a chocolate cake with Guinness mousse filling topped with a Bailey’s buttercream.

16. KANSAS // CHOCOLATE TORTE, GIGI'S CUPCAKES

Gigi's Cupcakes

Location: Overland Park, Kansas

Inspired to open up shop in 2008 when her brother said her red velvet treats were better than those at the famed Magnolia Bakery in New York City, Gigi Butler has expanded to 100-plus independently owned locations. But at this spot, the triple-chocolate gluten-free torte reigns supreme with the owners vowing it’s the most delicious thing you’ll ever taste.

17. KENTUCKY // UPSIDE-DOWN DIPPED CUPCAKE, HOMEMADE ICE CREAM & PIE KITCHEN

HOMEMADE ICE CREAM & PIE KITCHEN

Location: Louisville, Kentucky

Though not touted in its name, the former lunch counter is famed for their upside-down dipped cupcake created when a still-hot vanilla cupcake is thrust bottom-side-up in chocolate or vanilla icing. The result, raves Louisville.com, is a “sugary wonder.”

18. LOUISIANA // RED VELVET, BUTTERCUPS CUPCAKES

Buttercups Bakery Red Velvet

Location: Shreveport, Louisiana

Recipes for the banana pudding (topped with crushed vanilla wafers) and their standout red velvet were developed in Kim Hand’s home kitchen. Each treat incorporates what the brand calls "high quality pure ingredients," including real fruit and "rich chocolate."

19. MAINE// MAINE BLUEBERRY, LET THEM EAT CAKE

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Location: Kennebunk, Maine

Named one of the top pastry pros by Martha Stewart Weddings, this New England company also earns raves for its artfully decorated cupcakes. Their treats—one satisfied bride dubs their Maine Blueberry with Stonewall Kitchen wild Maine blueberry jam delicious—can be topped with anything from intricately crafted flowers to a fondant lobster.

20. MARYLAND // CARROT, CHARM CITY CUPCAKES

Charm City Cupcakes

Nathalie Cone, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: Baltimore

At Food Network star Duff Goldman’s original bakery even the cupcakes—available in such flavors as amaretto cream, chocolate espresso, and staff favorite carrot—are topped with a thick layer of egg white, butter, and sugar-based buttercream and turned into works of art.

21. MASSACHUSETTS // BITE ME, WHIPPED URBAN CUPCAKE CO.

Whipped Urban Cupcake Co.

Location: Boston

Though the cakes at this delivery-only brand (a pop-up shop is slated to open soon) stand only at a inch without frosting, they “pack such intense flavor, it’s almost surprising,” raved one Mass Live tester. (The local site named the company tops in the state in 2016.) Another raved that the apple-and-molasses filled Bite Me “packed unreal apple pie flavor into a tiny package” while the java-infused Get Hyped “had some of the purest coffee flavor that I’ve ever encountered in a baked food.”

22. MICHIGAN // DELISH, UNION GENERAL STORE

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Location: Clarkston, Michigan

Housed in an 1850 parsonage, this outlet is part all-purpose shop (pick up anything from bubble bath to a harmonica), part cupcakery. All the treats, piled high with a generous dollop of frosting and topped with treats such as malted milk eggs and fresh fruit, are worth the calories, but customers especially crave this blend of chocolate truffle and salted caramel.

23. MINNESOTA // HANDLE WITH CARAMEL, CUPCAKE

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Location: Minneapolis

Of the 70-plus flavors owner and Cupcake Wars grand champion Kevin VanDeraa has created—including those named for celebrities, such as the Taylor Swift, a vanilla cake with sweet frosting and sprinkles—his favorite is the Handle with Caramel, he told Food & Wine. The chocolate cake “delivers caramel in three ways,” he explained, “liquid caramel sauce, whipped caramel and caramel filling.” The topper: chocolate ganache, chocolate drizzle, and a caramel candy.

24. MISSISSIPPI // COCONUT, SUGAREE'S BAKERY

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Location: New Albany, Mississippi

As their website declares, this small batch bakery is “dedicated to the preservation of our culinary heritage in the Deep South.” As such, the pastry chefs whip up caramel by browning granulated sugar, and for the classic coconut flavor, they pour a hot butter glaze over freshly baked cakes. Their aim, they explain, “is to make the richest, moistest homemade cakes available.”

25. MISSOURI // 24 KARAT CARROT CAKE, JILLY'S CUPCAKE BAR

Jilly's Cupcake Bar 24 Karot Cake

Paul Sableman, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Location: St. Louis

Bring a friend when you visit this St. Louis shop. Chefs Casey Shiller and Dana Holland—two-time winners on Cupcake Wars—churn out gourmet cupcakes that, when stuffed and iced, weigh in at roughly a half pound. One luxe option: the 24 Karat Carrot Cake, filled with vanilla whipped cream and topped with cream cheese frosting, toasted coconut, white chocolate shavings, and gold dust. Or sample from the seasonal menu—caramel apple, banana pudding, and pumpkin cheesecake are on tap for fall!

26. MONTANA // LAVENDER CUPCAKE, BERNICE'S BAKERY

Bernice's Bakery

Location: Missoula, Montana

Around since 1978, this landmark insists they never cut corners to make their chocolate, wine, cream, and poppy seed cakes. On their site, the company vows, “All of our fillings, frostings, and toppings are made fresh, from scratch. Actual Lemons are juiced to make the Lemon Curd. Real Raspberries are cooked down and squeezed out by hand to make the Raspberry Puree.” For a special treat, request the shop's signature lavender cupcake, available in wine and chocolate varieties.

27. NEBRASKA // SWEET AND SALTY, JONES BROS. CUPCAKES

A Jones Bros Sweet and Salty cupcake next to a box.
Zane Mulligan, Flickr // CC BY ND 2.0

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Plans for the family-run business were first discussed around the Joneses’ kitchen table. Today, it’s expanded into a full café that sells tart yogurt, espresso, wine, and homemade small-batch ice cream, but the top seller is still their Sweet and Salty cupcake: chocolate laced with caramel and sea salt, then topped with chocolate buttercream and caramel drizzle.

28. NEVADA // CHOCOLATE-DIPPED CHERRY, FREED'S BAKERY

Freed's Bakery Cherry Cupcake

Location: Las Vegas

A frequent winner in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Best of Las Vegas book, the wedding cake specialists also whip up tasty cupcakes using signature ingredients like European butter cream and Bavarian crème filling. One to try: the chocolate dipped cherry with a literal cherry on top.

29. NEW HAMPSHIRE // CANNOLI, QUEEN CITY CUPCAKES

Queen City Cupcakes
Queen City Cupcakes

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire

A popular choice in New Hampshire Magazine’s best of list, the store specializes in flavors that entice both kids (the chocolate-and-marshmallow Hot Cocoa or the Chocolate Chip Cookie with a brown sugar base and cookie crumbles on top) and adults, such as the Guinness cupcake with beer baked right in. But the Cannoli—an almond cupcake with almond buttercream topped with dessert pieces, chocolate chips, and pistachios—receives extra raves.

30. NEW JERSEY // CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TRUFFLE, CUPCAKE MAGICIAN

Cupcake Magician Chocolate Raspberry Truffle

Location: Red Bank, New Jersey

No wizardry is used in making 600 daily cupcakes at this mom-and-pop shop—just plenty of fresh buttercream and chocolate ganache. The result, gushes a blogger at Flavor Chronicles of the stuffed Chocolate Raspberry Truffle variety, is “heaven.”

31. NEW MEXICO // RED VELVET, SMALLCAKES

Smallcakes Red Velvet Cupcake

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

"Maybe a cupcake will help?" is the slogan of this sugary franchise, named one of USA Today’s top ten spots. But if their 18 signature cake flavors—including birthday cake, peanut butter cup, caramel crunch, and their “famous” red velvet—aren’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, add a scoop of their homemade small batch ice cream.

32. NEW YORK // BLACK & WHITE, LITTLE CUPCAKE BAKESHOP

Black & White Little Cupcake Bakeshop
Location: New York City In the land of Magnolia (the brand Carrie Bradshaw preferred on Sex and the City) and Billy’s Bakery, this Brooklyn-launched family-owned company stands out for its take on classic New York City treats. One Food & Wine writer lauds their snack-size version of the Brooklyn Blackout cake (a blend of chocolate cake and rich pudding) as “tastier than 99 percent” of the other ones he’s had. Even better: the Black & White, a cupcake adaption of the vanilla-and-chocolate cookie.

33. NORTH CAROLINA // ASSORTED PEPPERED CUPCAKE FLAVORS, THE PEPPERED CUPCAKE

Mango & Pineapple Pepper Jelly

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Though sweets such as salted caramel and crème brulee are among the roughly 100 options on the menu, as the name suggests, this spot is known for its savory cakes baked with jalapenos, habaneros, and fresh cracked pepper and topped with one of 15 preserves such as mango and habanero or pear, mint, and wasabi.

34. NORTH DAKOTA // VANILLA, SWEET TREATS CUPCAKE BAR & BAKERY

Bismark, North Dakota
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Location: Bismarck, North Dakota

If you prefer to DIY your desserts, this Midwest eatery is your spot. Sugar seekers choose from classic cake bases—vanilla, chocolate, marble, red velvet, and seasonal varieties—then add frosting and toppings to suit their fancy.

35. OHIO // BUCKEYE, FATE CAKES

Fate Cakes Buckeye Cupcake

Location: Columbus, Ohio

The Buckeye—based off the state nickname and the most requested dessert—is a peanut butter-and-chocolate combo that has this shop's customers raving. “The first bite I had was fabulous!” wrote one fan. “The icing was to die for!”

36. OKLAHOMA // NEOPOLITAN, PINKITZEL

Neopolitan Pinkitzel

Location: Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma

Resplendent in black-and-white checked floors and chandeliers, this cafe describes itself as part Willy Wonka, part Alice in Wonderland and part Marie Antoinette. Their treats are just as fanciful. Candy-inspired cakes are topped with buttercream or cream cheese icing then wrapped in signature damask paper. One favorite: the Neopolitan, with strawberry and vanilla buttercream and a cherry sour.

37. OREGON // SESAME CARAMEL BOMB, KYRA'S BAKE SHOP

Sesame Caramel Cupcakes Kyra's Bake Shop

Location: Lake Oswego

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder at age 20, founder Kyra Bussanich went gluten-free and found herself disappointed with the dessert options on the market. Experimenting with millet, tapioca, potato, and cornstarch, the Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef (a four-time Cupcake Wars winner) developed a slate [PDF] of tasty creations, including this mix of coconut, salted caramel, and toasted sesame that the Cooking Channel has dubbed “heaven.”

38. PENNSYLVANIA // APPLE CRISP, SWEET FREEDOM

Sweet Freedom Bakery Apple Crisp Cupcake

Location: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia

The gluten-free trend is taken one step further at Sweet Freedom, where the chocolate, vanilla, banana, and apple crisp—a must-try, per Food Network—cupcakes are both vegan and devoid of any corn, wheat, peanuts, and soy. Highly processed sugars are always nix, according to their site, which swears, “The only sweeteners we will ever use are the most natural and unrefined of sugars that are gentler on your body.”

39. RHODE ISLAND // ZEPPOLE, SWEET INDULGENCE

Sweet Indulgence Zeppole Cupcake
Heidi Hope Photography for Sweet Indulgence

Location: Cranston, Rhode Island

Decorated with anything from intricate flowers to unicorn horns, these sweets—ranging from apple pie down to the seasonal Zeppole, topped with a fried Italian pastry—look as good as they taste, earning them the honor of best cupcake in the state by Rhode Island Monthly readers.

40. SOUTH CAROLINA // LEMON CURD, SUGAR BAKESHOP

Sugar Bakeshop

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

In their renovated four-seat shop, New York City transplants and architects-turned-bakers Bill Bowick and David Bouffard showcase their homemade creations inspired by the treats of their youth. Indulgences such as the by-order-only Lady Baltimore (almond cake with sherry-soaked raisins and a meringue topper) have earned raves from the likes of Southern Living, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. But it’s their “sweet and tart” Lemon Curd cupcakes that the editors of Travel + Leisure swear are a “must-try.”

41. SOUTH DAKOTA // CHOCOLATE PB ATTACK, OH MY CUPCAKES!

Oh My Cupcakes! Chocolate Peanut Butter Attack

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Among the customer-beloved signature treats at this people-pleasing bakery (their mission, they declare, is to make people smile with cupcakes): the chocolate PB attack cupcake, a gluten-free palate-pleaser infused with creamy peanut butter and topped with a whipped peanut butter buttercream.

42. TENNESSEE // PROZAC, MUDDY'S BAKE SHOP

Muddy's Bakeshop Prozac cupcake

Justin McGregor, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Location: Memphis, Tennessee

The family-owned business’s mission is to make people happier—a goal they achieve with their smartly named customer favorite, a chocolate cake topped with their “famously delicious” chocolate buttercream.

43. TEXAS // BASILBERRY CUPCAKE // SKULL & CAKEBONES

Skull & Cakebones Basilberry

Location: Austin

Cooking Channel praises the “herbacious-ness” of this vegan cake (the shop specializes in all-natural, vegan, non-GMO delicacies made with locally sourced foods) packed with basil and topped with a strawberry buttercream.

44. UTAH // CARAMEL POPCORN, ALISHA'S CUPCAKES

Caramel Popcorn Alisha's Cupcakes

Location: Pleasant Grove, Utah

Every month, this twin sister duo offers a new crop of sweets from their list of 100-plus, but one treat takes the cake. This sweet-and-salty combo, topped with their made-from-scratch caramel popcorn, was featured on Cupcake Wars.

45. VERMONT // VERMONT MAPLE BACON, MY LITTLE CUPCAKE

My Little Cupcake Vermont Maple Bacon

Location: Burlington, Vermont

As the name suggests, all the treats at this bakery are miniature-sized, but packed with local and premium ingredients. Take the Vermont Maple Bacon topped with Vermont maple buttercream and, naturally, a slice of bacon.

46. VIRGINIA // 9:30 CUPCAKE, BUZZ BAKERY

Buzz Bakeshop  9:30 cupcake

Location: Alexandria, Virginia

The bestseller at this brunch place is this rich devil’s food cake filled with vanilla buttercream, coated with chocolate frosting, then dipped in chocolate glaze. Comparing it to “a giant Hostess cupcake,” pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac told Food & Wine it’s “for people who love chocolate, and they’re superhappy with it."

47. WASHINGTON // SALTED CARAMEL, CUPCAKE ROYAL

Cupcake Royale Salted Caramel Cupcake

Location: Seattle, Washington

While seasonal favorites like the Pumpkin Cardamom delight at this Northwest favorite, the Salted Caramel, finished off with house-made caramel buttercream, Fleur de Sel, and dark chocolate curls is “hands-down” the most popular declares Food & Wine.

48. WEST VIRGINIA // OREO AND CREAM, LIL' BIT OF HEAVEN CUPCAKES

Location: St. Albans, West Virgina

Yelp reviewers rated this chocolatey treat—from the husband-and-wife-run bakery—tops in the state. A fudge cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and a white chocolate Oreo butter cream, topped with more of that buttercream and a chocolate-dipped Oreo, their site declares it’s “a chocoholic’s dream!”

49. WISCONSIN // CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER, CAKE GURU

Cake Guru Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake

Location: Appleton and Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Named the 2017 Sweetest Bakery in Wisconsin, this company is known for its oversized Fabu “Lux” Cupcakes. Among the most exorbitant: this chocolate peanut butter blend filled with peanut butter whip and chocolate, then topped with peanut butter frosting and puppy chow.

50. WYOMING // DONKEY TOWN NUTS, ALLA LALA CUPCAKES

Location: Gillette, Wyoming

At Gillette, Wyoming’s first and only cupcake boutique, the treats are sweet and available in jumbo varieties, four times the size of a standard dessert. Bite into the quirkily named Donkey Town Nuts, a mix of chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, and caramel soaked honey-roasted peanuts.

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Big Questions
Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?
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Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Food
25 Brilliant Uses For Thanksgiving Leftovers
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Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated meals of the year. But the day after? Leftover central. Instead of pushing untouched stuffing and turkey into the depths of the fridge, try out these Thanksgiving leftover ideas to spread Turkey Day cheer a little bit longer.

The Classic Approach: Incorporate Leftovers Into New Meals

1. SALADS

A fall salad.
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After a day or two of gut-busting meals, salads can help clear out your system. Leftover greens need to be used up before they wilt, and when topped with shredded turkey, nuts, and veggies like roasted carrots, this post-Thanksgiving salad just needs a stellar dressing to top it off. Luckily, using up leftover cranberries to make a vinaigrette takes about 10 minutes and clears the fridge at the same time.

2. SHEPHERD'S PIE

Shepherd's Pie.
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Stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, and turkey can come together for a quick shepherd's pie that clears out multiple side dishes all at once. And unlike pot pies, there's no need to roll out a crust—just top with extra gravy for a complete meal.

3. STIR-FRY

Wok of stir-fry.
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Stir-fry can easily be tailored to whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. Turkey and Brussels sprouts work well together, but any vegetables will do. Leftover wine can be used as a turkey marinade, making use of half-empty bottles that could otherwise go bad. The key to making a great leftover stir-fry is having a hot pan, and using meat that has warmed at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

4. PIZZA

Slice of cheese and cranberry pizza.
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Thanksgiving pizza quickly clears out leftovers—that’s because many recipes call for mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and turkey. Substitute gravy for marinara, and don’t stress about making a crust from scratch; refrigerated dough (perhaps from any unmade crescent rolls) makes this leftover innovation a much faster meal.

5. CASSEROLES

Piece of casserole.
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The classic casserole is one of the easiest ways to get rid of leftovers, and that’s because it can be thrown together quickly and baked with little oversight (a much-needed cooking style after a big Thanksgiving meal). Even leftover casseroles (like green bean casserole) can be worked into a new dish. The trick for casserole success is creating layers, similar to lasagna, instead of blending all ingredients together.

Make Next-Day Breakfast Even Better

6. MUFFINS

Cranberry muffins.
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Thanksgiving dinner can easily make its way to the next day's breakfast without picky eaters even noticing. Muffins made from sweeter leftovers, like whole or sauced cranberries, offer up a seasonal flavor while clearing out the fridge. And cooks can even sneak in a few veggies, such as carrots, for an added nutritional boost.

7. FRENCH TOAST

Cranberry French toast.
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Turn carb-heavy dinner breads or dessert loaves into breakfast treats with a stovetop or baked version of French toast. This quick-cooking breakfast clears out leftover bread, and can use up cranberry sauce, too, when used as a topping or filling.

8. POTATO AND STUFFING CAKES

Plate of potato cakes.
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Leftover mashed potatoes can be repurposed in many ways, but what about stuffing? Two cups of stuffing, an egg, and butter are all it takes to make stuffing cakes—à la potato cakes—that fry up for a lunchtime snack. If you want to carb-load for a second day in a row, you can mix mashed potatoes and stuffing for a similar pan-fried patty.

9. DOUGHNUTS

Sweet potato doughnuts.
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In the 1940s, spudnut shops popped up throughout the U.S., making tasty doughnut snacks from dried potatoes. While it's hard to find a modern spudnut spot, you can recreate this decades-old snack using leftover mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes work just as well when paired with leftover cranberries.

10. PANCAKES

Stack of potato pancakes
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Pumpkin pie can be transformed into pancakes for an easy breakfast following a big day of cooking. Beat two slices of pie into pancake batter for festive fall breakfast, and top with leftover fruit or cranberries.

Whip Up A New Dessert

11. DESSERT CRISPS

Six bowls of fruit crisps.
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Fruit crumbles and crisps became popular during World War II when food rationing made it difficult for home cooks to craft elaborate desserts. Luckily, these recipes are perfect for after Thanksgiving, because they require minimal effort and few ingredients, all while using up leftover cranberry sauce, apples, and other fruit dishes.

12. DAY-AFTER PIES

Cranberry pie.
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Sure, Thanksgiving is known for its standard pies: pecan, pumpkin, and sweet potato. But chances are, those pies don't make it to day two. Clear out your leftovers stash and fulfill a sugar craving with a cranberry pie—a lighter, whipped version with marshmallows is easy to make after a whole day of cooking, or a slab-style pie hits the spot if your oven's still begging for attention.

Sip Your Leftovers

13. PIE SMOOTHIES

Glass of pumpkin smoothie.
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If you somehow have leftover pumpkin and sweet potato pies but no whipped topping, no worries. Pie smoothies are as easy to make as they are to sip—simply toss leftover pie, sans crust, into a blender with milk or yogurt for a smooth way to savor Thanksgiving leftovers.

14. COCKTAILS

Cranberry cocktails.
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After a long day of fielding personal questions from distant relatives, you may need a stiff drink. And yes, you can use Thanksgiving meal remnants to unwind. Candied yams, Cognac, and hazelnut liqueur combine for a "Candied Yam Libation," while a "Turkey Tippler" blends turkey-infused bourbon, bitters, and celery for garnish. Feeling hesitant about meat-infused alcohol? Washington D.C. bartender Justin Hampton recommends the "nice mouthfeel."

15. SIPPING VINEGARS

Jars of apple vinegars.
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Like other home-brewed drinks, sipping or drinking vinegars are beginning to see some popularity. And, they're easily made at home. Combine leftover fruits (cranberries or fruit tray leftovers are a great option) with apple cider vinegar in a jar, leaving the mixture to ferment for a week before straining out fruits and sitting for another seven days. After two weeks, a small amount of drinking vinegar can be mixed with soda water for an effervescent treat that's ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Thanksgiving.

16. INFUSED LIQUORS

Jars of infused liquor.
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If you're up for experimenting (and a bit of a wait), leftover fruit can be put to good use infusing and flavoring alcohol. Fruits like cranberries, apples, and pears work best, and even ingredient scraps like orange peels can be used to flavor vodka for homemade seasonal liqueurs.

Make Soul-Warming Soups

17. SOUPS

Bowl of turkey soup.
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Soups are one of the easiest ways to clear out a refrigerator bursting with leftovers. Turkey is easy to add to almost any soup and can be frozen until you're ready to cook again. And, leftover soup can even be frozen for another cold day, though broth-based soups without pastas or creams store best.

18. STEWS

Bowl of stew.
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Soup purists know that stew is not the same; it generally contains less liquid than a soup, has a thicker mixture of ingredients, and has a longer cook time. And while any combination of leftover vegetables and meat can make a great post-Thanksgiving stew, consider trying out Sobaheg, a dish culinary historians believe could have been served at the first Thanksgiving. Turkey meat, beans, hominy, green beans, and squash make up this historical stew.

19. STOCKS

Glass jar of soup stock.
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Instead of dumping leftover vegetables and meat bones in the trash, toss them into a stockpot with water for a hearty homemade stock. Even better: fresh stock can be frozen for the upcoming wintry days that require a hot bowl of soup.

Prep Snacks For The Rest of the Weekend

20. QUICK DIPS

Sweet potato dip.
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Hosting family or friends for the entire holiday weekend? There's no need to worry about having extra snacks or appetizers on hand. Turn leftover beans or sweet potatoes into spreadable, hummus-style dips by blending with olive oil and seasonings of your choice.

21. DEEP-FRIED APPETIZERS

Fried green beans.
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Uneaten green beans don't have to rot in the fridge. Instead, toss in a cornmeal batter before frying for a crunchy leftover snack. As many Midwestern state fairgoers know, the deep-frying doesn't have to end there. Get creative and toss leftovers into oil for a hodgepodge of Thanksgiving fritters. Don't forget the ranch dip!

22. NACHOS

Nachos.
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Roasted turkey is easy to add to anything, tortilla chips included. While you can opt for traditional nachos with melted cheese and a turkey garnish, there's another option to clear out your fridge even faster: a Thanksgiving-style nacho using leftover gravy, potatoes, and stuffing. Mashed potatoes take the place of refried beans, and gravy is substituted for melted cheese, while stuffing creates a thicker base layer (along with the chips).

When You're Really Tired of Turkey

23. FREEZER MEALS

Thanksgiving leftovers.
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If you've spent all day in a hot kitchen basting a turkey, chances are after the big meal's served, you're already tired of looking at it. But don't let those pounds of extra meat and sides go to waste. Instead, package up plated meals for the freezer, which can be quickly defrosted and reheated on a day you really don't feel like cooking. Many Thanksgiving side dishes freeze and reheat well—such as stuffing or dressing, cranberry sauce, and breads. For best results, avoid freezing dairy-heavy dishes and casseroles with crunchy toppings that have a tendency to get soggy (such as green bean casserole).

24. SWAP LEFTOVERS WITH A FRIEND

Bowls of leftover food.
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Does a friend have a great recipe that you love…but you won't get to gorge on thanks to Thanksgiving meal logistics? Consider sharing it the next day. Swapping a plate or dish with friends or family is one way to share a meal together, while also saving you from a week's worth of grandma's famous potatoes.

25. SEND IT ALL HOME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Leftover turkey.
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If you're dining with a large crowd, consider letting friends and family clear out your fridge space. Etiquette says it's up to the host to determine if leftovers will be dished out and shared, so don't be afraid to prepackage leftovers for guests, or simply let them have at it themselves. After all, Thanksgiving is all about sharing with family and friends—both the love and the food.

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