Christine Nordstrom has built a mini-empire in Sarasota, and for good reason: Her pastries are delicious, and the cupcakes she and her team of bakers whip up are no exception. The cakes are moist and flavorful, and they're not over-frosted or too sweet. We love the chocolate with slightly tangy vanilla icing. Stop by Sift's brick-and-mortar location in McAnsh Square to try to nab one, or call (941) 552-8079 to order.
One of Sarasota's O.G. cupcake shops, Cupcakes a Go-Go celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. And although the shop has a reputation for beautifully decorated little confections—think flamingoes, flowers, even Pokémon—there's substance underneath all that style, too. The cakes are full-flavored and well-balanced, and the icing flavors run the gamut, from traditional (chocolate, vanilla) to more adventurous (raspberry, caramel latte, chocolate almond toffee). Yum.
Another one of Sarasota's founding cupcake bakeries, Heavenly Cupcakes offers not only traditional cupcakes in regular and mini sizes, but also gluten-free, paleo and vegan ones, and even cupcake jars (Mason jars layered with cake and frosting). Owner Becky Hayden whips up 18 flavors daily, with flavors of the month (currently: lemon blueberry with coconut buttercream) and week (currently: hummingbird) rotating out. You can't go wrong with any of them.
Hometown desserts opened its first location on Anna Maria Island before later opening a follow-up shop on Manatee Avenue in west Bradenton. The bakery offers traditional desserts and custom cakes, and also provides its treats to local restaurants. Everything is good, but we love the cupcakes—succulent mounds of cake adorned with waves of frosting that span the color spectrum. Get a half-dozen, at least.
It sounds counterintuitive, but this Village of the Arts bakery whips up gluten-free, vegan cupcakes that we swear are just as good as ones packed with butter, sugar and eggs. Owner Rachel Sokoloweicz hosts a monthly pop-up during the art walks and takes custom orders the rest of the time. Cupcake flavors range from Key lime pie to peanut butter fudge to Hostess-style chocolate with chocolate frosting. Pro tip: Arrive early if you plan on attending a pop-up. The line often snakes out the door and around the corner.