Restaurant Review: Isabella’s Cupcakes, Riverside’s new sugar-coated gem

Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER
Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER

If there is one thing I take seriously in life, it’s cupcakes. I’ve brought my business and taste buds to several cupcake shops over the years (Crumbs, Yummy Cupcakes, Sprinkles, etc.) so I consider myself a seasoned cupcake connoisseur. And, sadly, I have had my fair share of disappointment. Too often I’ll see a beautifully decadent cupcake behind glass and order it in excitement, only to find that the frosting is hard along the ridges or the cake is stale and crusty.

But I am excited and proud to announce a worthy cupcake shop has landed right in the midst of the humble city of Riverside. Isabella’s Cupcakes, which opened its doors just recently, is baking up some of the finest cupcakes in all of Southern California, and they are only about a five-minute drive from campus in the Canyon Crest Towne Center!

This quaint little shop doesn’t look like much at first glance, but when I struck up conversation with the young woman who sold me my sweet treat, she informed me that the shop had only opened a week ago. The place is completely family-owned, which increases its appeal to me — I always enjoy helping out a budding business. The family who owns it is also very friendly and helpful. The daughter of the family, who greeted me when I walked in, certainly made me want to come back again; she was extremely gracious and sweet.

They are planning to have a grand opening when things are more settled, and will presumably set up a solid menu soon. But for now, they change up their cupcakes daily, and showcase their flavor-of-the-day cupcakes for all their sugar-craving customers.

On the cupcake shelf was a chocolate-filled vanilla cupcake, a blueberry cupcake, a banana cupcake and a peanut butter banana cupcake. Below the array of colorful frosting heads was another shelf filled with eclairs.

The cupcakes, so prettily perched in rows behind the display case, looked so sweet and adorable when I saw them that I was suspicious. I liken cute cupcakes to wedding cake: they often look fabulous, but taste less than satisfactory. However, I ordered the most impressive-looking cupcake, which was a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, filled with chocolate ganache and drizzled with Italian buttercream. It came packaged in a dainty little box with a complimentary napkin and fork, and it was $3.00 flat.

When I had finished admiring the lovely decor of my treat, I took my first bite and to sum it up in just one word: wow. It was everything a cupcake should be. The cake was not stale in the least; in fact, the cake was soft and fluffy and perfect. The frosting also surprised me with how silky and flavorful it was. It was truly the perfect consistency, and wasn’t too overbearingly sweet. The Italian buttercream drizzle was a lovely touch as well, and added to the overall wow-factor of my cupcake. Needless to say, I was smitten.

On a scale of one to five cupcakes, this place gets five cupcakes! Friendly service, affordable treats and cupcakes that look gourmet but have that unparalleled homemade taste; what’s not to like? I am excited to see how this business grows over the next few months. I have high hopes!

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