But recently, I stopped by Mermaids Bakery—a downtown shop that flies under the cupcake radar—and was pleasantly surprised by the creative array of ready-to-go treats. While Mermaids sells predictable favorites such as red velvet, I chose a few of the more novel flavors: peanut butter and raspberry jelly, cinnamon cheesecake, dulce de leche, and coconut with a chocolate buttercream topping.
Less flamboyantly decorated than other shops, Mermaids' cakes offer a nice ratio of cake to frosting (no ridiculous three-inch frosting stacks here), and the flavors are balanced and not achingly sweet. The staff isn't terribly helpful and there's no place to sit, but the close proximity to the 16th Street Mall makes the bakery an easy stop for an afternoon treat.
Bonus: Mermaids offers several ready-made gluten-free options (including cinnamon churro), as well as several more GF flavors when ordered in advance.
1543 Champa St., 303-534-0956