Cupcakes have clearly exceeded the expectations of whoever is their publicist.

What was once a winsome dessert is now in every shopping center from Frisco to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there are a lot of crumbs in the crowd. After endless ?research,? we?ve surmised that the best cupcakes in town are actually under the radar and beyond our everyday radius. Here?s a road guide to the best:

Ultimate Cupcake Hudson Oaks is a drive, but these buttercream-frosted, shaved-chocolate-topped beauties ($3.25 each) are worth every mile--and calorie. Tony and Malgosia Monje?s signature move is to cover each of their cakes with a glorious amount of their shaved Belgian chocolate. They opened their store four years ago and have gained a devout following, even among celebrities (Rosie O?Donnell is a fan of the red velvet). Go now and make a return trip in the summer, when the limited-edition local peach cupcake is back. (3316 Fort Worth Highway, Hudson Oaks; 817-596-9090)

Leah?s Sweet Treats Farther east, Leah Cichocki?s new bakery offers untraditional flavors (think cotton candy, Mexican hot chocolate and Dr Pepper chocolate) and an attention to nutritional details--no shortening or oils are used--without sacrificing deliciousness. And these cakes ($3.25 each) are perfectly sweet. (4910 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; 817-731-5223)

Sugar & Frosting If you?re more a fan of the cake than the icing, this shop?s for you. Co-owner Melody Fitzgerald has a prestigious pedigree: She?s the former pastry chef of the Mansion on Turtle Creek, and she holds the unique distinction of having baked the cake for Julia Child?s 88th birthday. Most of these cakes ($2.75 each) are simply adorned, but the menu is eclectic, from stracciatella (vanilla cake with chocolate flecks) to salted caramel (dark chocolate cake filled with homemade salted caramel). (126 Taylor St., Keller; 817-562-2500)

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