It’s amazing what kind of magic can come from a handful of ingredients in perfect measure. Taste buds come alive. Frowns change to smiles. And adults momentarily become kids again. This is the “cupcake effect”—a trend that will never go out of style. But not all cupcakes are created equal. The ones done right are moist, spongy and light, with just the right amount of sweetness. And while taste is definitely tops in importance, presentation is a close second (if you’re paying $3.00 for a little bundle of heaven, it should look the part!).

So where can you find the best cupcakes in California for National Cupcake Day (December 15)? Well, there are actually a lot of contenders. But because we’re avid-sugar fans, we did the painstaking (and delicious) research and narrowed the list down to six cupcake shops that consistently deliver on the aforementioned “cupcake effect.” Without further adieu: here are our picks for the dreamiest cupcake shops in California.

1. Big Man Bakes—413 S. Main St., Los Angeles

Big Man Bakes is special for a few reasons. First, the cupcakes are actually reasonably priced ($3.25 for an XL cupcake or $1 for a mini). Second, the man behind Big Man Bakes really is a big man (when was the last time a beefy 6-foot 5-inch man baked for you?). Third, the cupcakes are crazy good. Try the Mounds, the Red Velvet and the “Food Network” favorite—the Old School—for a real treat.

2. Pure Cupcake—1772 A Garnet Ave., San Diego

This 2013 “Cupcake Wars” winner is absolutely worthy of a few trophies, with flavors like the decadent Salted Caramel, ROL-E-OL-EE-O (think Rolos in a cupcake—oh my!) and Lemon Curd leading the way. If you’re a vegan, you’re also in luck because they typically have a vegan option available, too. Prices: $2.75 for regular flavors (i.e. Red Velvet), $3.25 for specialty flavors (i.e. White Chocolate & Strawberries) and $3.75 for premium flavors (i.e. Bacon Baby).

3. SusieCakes—Multiple Northern Cal and Southern Cal Locations (L.A., Bay Area and more)

With eight locations across California, SusieCakes is obviously doing something right…actually, they’re doing just about everything right! Ask anyone and everyone about the Red Velvets, and you’ll undoubtedly see a glazed look in their eyes as they instantly replay every delicious moment. Go. Eat. Enjoy. Price: $3.00 each for regular “frosting filled” cupcakes and $20/dozen for mini cupcakes.

4. Icing on the Cupcake—1121 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento, CA

Fans of this vintage-y Sacramento shop swear that no one in the world does cupcakes better—and admittedly, you have one bite, you do feel like you’re floating on a pink, fluffy cloud. Which is a good thing. They have a lot of the usuals (Red Velvet, Confetti, Chocolate Mint) as everyday flavors and then some special day-of-the-week flavors that will blow you away, including Caramel Apple, PB&J and Death by Chocolate. Price is $2.85/each

5. Kara’s Cupcakes—3294 Scott St., San Francisco

There is so much to love about Kara’s—the perfect frosting, the decadent flavors and the green angle (we always fall for companies that love the planet!)—it’s no wonder it’s a San Francisco favorite. Some of the most awe-inspiring cupcakes to try are the uber-rich (filled) Fleur de Sel, the Banana Caramel and the ultimate Chocolate Velvet. There are also several gluten-free selections, as well. All cupcakes are $3.25/each and $2.00 per mini cupcake.

6. Sibby’s Cupcakery—716 S. Railroad Ave., San Mateo

This cupcakery is a favorite for birthdays, weddings, Christmas…and our favorite holiday: the “I’m Awake and Want Sugar Day.” These cupcakes are really the perfect combination of moist and not-too-sweet with a great variety of flavors and an option to Mix & Match frostings and cakes. The only catch is: there’s a minimum order required, so you’ll have to force yourself to get half a dozen (poor you!). Call 415.613.4373 to place your order. Prices per dozen are: $42 for 12 regulars or $27 for 12 minis.

Are you still reading? Or are you heading out the door for your cupcake fix? Let us know if you’ve tried any of these cupcakeries!