We Got Cupcakes on Cupcakes
Ankur Chawla | Thursday, November 10, 2011
This weekend, the Maryland football team won’t be the only cupcake in D.C. For those of you going to the game, use this Cupcake Guide to find the best cupcake for you (or me, if you’re feeling generous).
Over fall break, while many of you were enjoying a relaxing time at home, on campus, in Appalachia or elsewhere, I was in our nation’s capital, touring the best cupcakeries Washington D.C. had to offer (oh, and on a Sustainable Development Seminar through the CSC). The following is a cupcakery-by-cupcakery and cupcake-by-cupcake breakdown, starting with my favorites.
Dupont Circle and Capital Hill
Hello Cupcake was far and away my favorite cupcake bakery in all of D.C., even over the “DC Cupcakes”-featured Georgetown Cupcake. At Hello, we sampled three of their classic cupcakes and one of their specialty cupcake top sandwiches with frosting in-between.
The “melt in your mouth” peanut butter cream frosting in the middle of their famous Peanut Butter Blossom cupcake top sandwich certainly proved its celebrity. The Pumpkin Spice cupcake was made of rich pumpkin cake studded with pecans and an incredible vanilla cream cheese frosting that took it to the next level. Cookie-like graham chocolate chip cake and a slightly disappointing wannabe-marshmallow meringue topping composed the playful S’mores cupcake.
Finally, there was the best cupcake any of us had ever eaten — the Gianduja. The Gianduja was a chocolate hazelnut cupcake with a brownie-like moist cake, thick brownie batter-like ganache frosting and candied hazelnut topping that provided a much-needed crunch that literally took the cake.
Our last day on the seminar, we were all but cupcaked out. Luckily, we held enough room to buy Crumbs cupcakes for the train ride back, and not one of us regretted that decision. Crumbs’ trademark is the sheer size (about the size of a small baby) and unique flavors (including the Cosmo and Baba Booey) of their cupcakes. The first crumbs spilt were of the Tiramisu cupcake, a light airy cake with a perfect rum butter cream frosting and chocolate sprinkles.
Next was the slightly disappointing Cookies n’ Cream cake. While the frosting was divine, a delicious vanilla cream cheese with crushed cookie bits, the cake itself was a bit hard and dry, making me wish for even more frosting (which quite frankly, my figure could do without).
The third cupcake, the Tuxedo, at Crumbs was really extraordinary and rivaled Hello as our favorite. It was a Blondie cake with toffee bits and walnuts, which was dry by design and had a very cookie like texture. The frosting was again a thick vanilla cream cheese topped with white chocolate chips and a chocolate drizzle.
Owned by “Cupcake Wars” judge Candace Nelson, Sprinkles is another nationwide cupcake bakery similar to Crumbs. However, it can boast the claim of the first pure cupcakery in the world. As such, their cakes are uniform and perfect, full of flavor as one would expect a cupcake should taste.
The Red Velvet had the perfect blend of chocolate taste, deep rich red color and moist cake. However, the frosting at times was overbearing and too sweet, particularly the cream cheese frostings.
The Chocolate Coconut, with a coconut butter cream frosting, was delicious and delicately balanced the two flavors. My personal favorite at Sprinkles, the Chocolate Marshmallow, had a perfect chocolate ganache and was filled with delicious marshmallow. Overall though, the cupcakes lacked inspiration. Despite being solid and tasty, there was no wow factor.
The first thing one notices at Georgetown Cupcake is the line stretching far outside the store nearly a block down the street. The 45-minute wait seemed a bit of a stretch, but ought to be worth it considering this is the bakery featured on TLC’s “DC Cupcakes.” Admittedly, my sampling at Georgetown was very limited, as I only tried one cupcake and it was a seasonal variety. It may also have something to do with the wait, but I was considerably disappointed with Georgetown Cupcake. The cupcake I tried was the Maple Chocolate Chip. It had an incredible maple cream cheese frosting that I ended up devouring before even touching the cake part. However, the cake itself was quite dry, and I ended up wishing I hadn’t licked off all of the frosting before going for the cake. The size of the cupcakes was also a bit underwhelming compared to every other cupcakery. I definitely expected more after hearing the hype and waiting in such a long line.
The Red Velvet bakery was by and large the worst cupcake bakery I have tried. Though in a chic location, it would benefit from a better chef. The first cupcake we tried was a hazelnut cake with a hazelnut butter cream frosting. Unfortunately, the frosting was oily and the cake dry, so overall it had no redeeming qualities. Surprisingly, the next ones were even worse. There was the Heart of Darkness, which was a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a 14-karat gold leaf on top. The cake was again dry and the frosting sour, bitter and just not good tasting. The last one was a “Cookies and Cream” cupcake. I use the quotation marks because it hardly tasted like its name, unless it was literally trying to be an Oreo. The cake was honestly rock-hard, and the frosting awkwardly resembled that of a double-stuffed Oreo, but in a bad way. All in all, Red Velvet had great location, but didn’t come through in terms of being a solid cupcakery.