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Cupcake Love-In 2012: So Many Cupcakes, So Little Time

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Pie is so last week (no really, check out the photos from last weekend's Pie Social), leaving this weekend's dining schedule open for the biggest cupcake event of the year. Hundreds came out to the third annual Cupcake Love-In at the Hotel Valley Ho to participate in a frosted free-for-all with treats from 16 local vendors.

No tasting tickets this year meant loading up your plate or cup or napkin or just your bare hands with mountains of tiny cakes - it also meant that most bakers ran out long before the event was scheduled to end. Shortage or not, judging by the screaming children and general all-around happiness, this year's event was another success.

See also: - Cupcake Love-In 2012 at Hotel Valley Ho (Slideshow) - Clash of the Cupcake Chains: Sprinkles v. Gigi's Cupcakes

It takes several tries for event planners to figure out what works and what doesn't and for this year's Cupcake Love-In the planner's ditched the tickets in favor of unlimited samplings. Long lines and limited seating had us standing and stuffing our faces with whatever we could get our hands on, which was still only a fraction of the complete offerings - next time we'll have to tag team the tables.

Standouts included Santa Barbara Catering Company, whose well-designed display housed a trio of delightful cupcakes. Santa Barbara took home awards for Best Use of Secret Ingredient (popcorn) and Best Classic Cupcake. We have to side with the judges, the Snap! Crackle! And Popcorn cupcakes aced the flavor profile test without being buttery popcorn overkill. Their strawberry and thyme cupcakes were refreshingly light on both flavor and sweetness, a good strategy when attendees are busy overdosing on both savory and sweet options.

Savory wins worth mentioning should include the "sweet potatoe" (not sure if the added "e" was a spelling error or a foot-related play on words...) cupcake from Sweet Tooth Fairy. The cupcake, which helped the fairy bring home the win on food Network's Cupcake Wars, was moist with well-executed frosting. Amid a sea of pumpkin-inspired cakes, the sweet potato-flavor stood out for its mild sweetness.

Butter and Me's cornbread cupcake with sour cream frosting won over the masses and nabbed the Favorite Discovery award. For us, the combo didn't exactly jive but their gingerbread with lemon cream cheese frosting was one of the few cupcakes we didn't mind finishing. Other wins from the people's choice awards included Whoppie Pie Baking Company's mini pies for Best Overall cupcake and Urban Cookies's German chocolate cupcake for Best Chocolate Inspired and Best Smell. Cupcake chain, Gigi's Cupcakes took the prizes for Prettiest Cupcakes, Most Creative and Best Overall Booth.

We have to mention we missed out on the Bourbon Steak's prosciutto-topped Figgy Piggy cupcake that won a slew of people's choice awards as well as the judge's award for Best Savory Cupcake. Bourbon Steak's booth, located just inside the doors was one of the first to dispense of its entire stock of goods.

We nursed our aching stomach while watching the cupcake-eating contest, which took place not long after most vendors ran out of their offerings. After eating more than a dozen miniature cupcakes, we were nothing short of awed by watching back-to-back cupcake eating champ Nathan Simpson shove a half-dozen full-sized cupcakes down the pipes in just one minute. It took just enough time for the sugar high and caffeine rush to begin to wear off, sending us into a spiral of exhaustion that could only be cured by a nap and anything but more sweets.

Aside from missing out on so many unique treats we can confidently say had more than our share of cupcakes for at least the next six months. We also learned that one person, two hands and a single small plate just don't cut it in the world of cupcake chaos so next year we'll have to bring a friend...and our tennis shoes.

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