Posts Tagged ‘DC cupcake wars


Who makes the best cupcake in DC?

There’s nothing like a massive cupcake taste-off to help you visualize yourself in that projectile puking scene from Stand By Me–with cake vomit standing in for pie vomit, in this case.

This shot was taken before disgusting amounts of cupcake consumption commenced. Photos by Ms. Pie.

Last weekend, Ms. Pie, Mr. x-sXe, Greenie, Token Vegan and I set out to determine who makes the best cupcake in DC. According to The Washington Post cupcake wars from 2008, the winner was the chocolate ganache from Georgetown Cupcake. Since then, quite a few more cupcakeries have cropped up around town, so it was time for a re-match.

The red velvet contenders, clockwise from 5 o'clock: Sticky Fingers, Sprinkles, Georgetown Cupcake, Crumbs.

Aside: If you want to take all the pleasure, joy, and fun out of cupcaking, try tasting 30+ cupcakes between 4.5 people (the .5 being Token Vegan) over the course of 3 hours. While OD’ing on cupcakes like this may put most people off cupcakes for the foreseeable future, I was hitting the freezer for leftovers within 24 hours. Appalling but true.

Appearance-wise, Red Velvet Cupcakery's cupcakes are the woman grocery shopping in sweatpants.

The Methodology: We pitted 7 DC bakeries/cupcake shops against one another. Asterisks indicate national chains.

1) Sprinkles*

2) Georgetown Cupcake

3) Baked & Wired

4) Red Velvet Cupcakery (not to be confused with red velvet cupcakes)

5) Hello Cupcake

6) Crumbs*

7) Sticky Fingers (vegan cupcakes)

We taste-tested 3 mainstay flavors side-by-side: red velvet, chocolate-on-chocolate, and vanilla-on-vanilla. Hello Cupcake doesn’t do a red velvet, and Baked & Wired was out of that flavor the day we went, sadly.

The chocolate contenders, clockwise from 6 o'clock: Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcakery, Sticky Fingers, Georgetown Cupcake, Baked & Wired (in parchment), Crumbs.

We also tasted 3 wildcard flavors:

1) Vegan peanut butter blossom from Hello Cupcakes

2) Menage a Trois from Baked & Wired (chocolate cupcake with raspberry filling, cream cheese icing, and cringeworthy name)

3) Chocolate marshmallow from Sprinkles

The wildcard flavors, clockwise from 7 o'clock: Sprinkles chocolate marshmallow, Baked & Wired Menage a Trois, Hello Cupcake Vegan Peanut Butter Blossom

Cupcakes were scored on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the best) based on:

  • Appearance
  • Frosting
  • Cake
  • Taste
  • Overall

Let the chest-beating begin: The winners

Red Velvet: Sprinkles. Score: 7.75. The cream cheese icing was exactly the way you’d want it to taste–the tangyness comes through, perfectly paired with a fluffy, moist cake. Crumbs took second place with 6.25.

Chocolate-on-chocolate: Baked & Wired. Score: 7.25. The chocolate icing is a creamy consistency (did I detect a hint of coffee in there?) atop a dense cake with a hefty crumb. Sprinkles wasn’t far behind, with a score of 7. Note that we tested the dark chocolate from Sprinkles, which some taste-testers found “too rich.” And while Ms. Pie noted that “Hello Cupcake’s chocolate cupcake is like the Platonic ideal of what a cupcake should be,” they tied for third with Crumbs at 5.25.

Vanilla-on-vanilla: Baked & Wired. Score: 7.25. Crumbs was second, with 6.25. Overall we were most underwhelmed by the vanillas. Maybe that’s why the word vanilla is used as an insult? But we also tasted them last, giving them an unfair disadvantage, since we were ready to swear off cupcakes by then.

Wildcard: Baked & Wired, Menage a Trois. Score: 7.25. A thimbleful of raspberry filling complements the chocolate cake and icing nicely. Hello Cupcake was neck-and-neck with a score of 7.2. Actually their peanut butter blossom was a sleeper hit–much tastier than any of us anticipated. And by “tasty,” we don’t mean “tasty for a vegan cupcake.”

The aftermath. By this point we were feeling very, very ill.

In conclusion: the best overall cupcake in DC is the red velvet from Sprinkles, but the best bakery overall is Baked & Wired. They also offer the best value, with cupcakes weighing in at 5.7 oz. ($3.50)–or as Ms. Pie puts it, “the Quarter Pounder of cupcakes.” To put that into perspective, a Georgetown cupcake ($2.75) weighs around 2 oz.

Sticky Fingers, a recent Cupcake Wars winner, was disappointing considering their big victory, although Ms. Pie is rallying for them to bring back their flower cupcakes.  Their scores were consistently at the bottom along with Red Velvet Cupcakery (“frosting like a stick of butter”).


Cake versus cake preview

What do you get when you bring together 35 cupcakes from 7 DC bakeries, with just 4.5 people to eat them?

Stay tuned for the results of our taste-off, where we’ll be revealing who makes the best red velvet, vanilla on vanilla, and chocolate on chocolate cupcakes in the city.


dc cupcake wars revisited: georgetown cupcake and hello cupcake face off

In response to the lameness of the Washington Post cupcake wars last year, we’ve been conducting our own rematch. So far, Hello Cupcake’s Gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) flavor is in the lead.

Both Hello and Georgetown Cupcake offer a coconut flavor, so we pitted them against one another.

Icing: The coconut on Hello Cupcake’s icing was toasted (left and top in photos), which made Mr. X-sXe prefer theirs, but I didn’t think it added that much flavor. I missed the tartness of the cream cheese in Hello’s icing and preferred Georgetown’s (right, bottom).

Cake: Hello’s was dense and drier, but seemed to have coconut bits in it. Georgetown’s was moister and lighter. Again, I preferred Georgetown’s, while Mr. X-sXe voted for Hello’s.









The Winner: It’s a draw. Honestly, the judges could not come to an agreement. A numerical evaluation proved fruitless. We didn’t think it would be so tough to decide, but there you go. These are the Venus and Serena of cupcakes. Either one could come out on top.


dc cupcake wars revisited: georgetown cupcake’s lava fudge

Note: this is a multi-part series in response to the Washington Post Cupcake Wars last fall, which was clearly a farce.

The breakdown, cake: Same as the cake in the chocolate ganache cupcake, it had that box-mix flavor and texture.

The breakdown, icing: A cream cheese icing, decently proportioned. Flavor was very sweet, could’ve used a bit of tartness.

The breakdown, lava filling: The Achilles’ heel of this cupcake. I was all psyched for an ooey, gooey chocolate center. Instead, I get something that reminds me of the flavor, consistency and aftertaste of Hershey’s syrup. It just doesn’t make any sense, given all the high-quality ingredients Georgetown Cupcake touts on its website. To borrow a quote from In Living Color, “Hated it!”

Rating: 4.9 out of 10.

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dc cupcake wars revisited: georgetown cupcake’s white chocolate raspberry

Note: this is a multi-part series in response to the Washington Post Cupcake Wars last fall, which was clearly a farce.

The breakdown, cake: This was a seasonal flavor that’s already been replaced. Pity, because this cake was one of the better ones from Georgetown Cupcake that I’ve tried. It was dense and spongy, punctuated with bits of raspberry that added some tang. The texture reminded me of some vegan cupcakes I’ve tried. And no, that was not an insult.

The breakdown, icing: Couldn’t taste the white chocolate in this. It was a sweet cream cheese icing, good but pretty standard.

Rating: 6.8 out of 10.

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dc cupcake wars revisited: does georgetown cupcake’s chocolate ganache deserve the crown?

Note: this is a multi-part series in response to the Washington Post Cupcake Wars last fall, which was clearly a farce.

This is purported to be the Grand Poobah of DC cupcakes, crowned king by The Washington Post in its cupcake wars.

So I gave it my utmost attention (as did Mr. X-sXe) when we taste-tested it.

The breakdown, icing: The ganache is rich, creamy and you can taste the quality of the ingredients. But there’s a stingy layer of it that leaves me wanting. (You can always scrape frosting off, but you can’t put more of it on.)

The breakdown, cake: The cake tastes too close to box mix. Light, fluffy and a not-quite-homemade flavor (even though this is homemade). I was hoping for more heft to the cake, a more dark-chocolatey flavor.

We wanted it to be so much better, to live up to the promise. But I’m afraid the emperor is stark naked, and we’re left praying to the ganache fairy.

Rating: 6.2 out of 10.

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dc cupcake wars revisited: hello cupcake’s de lime & de coconut

Note: this is a multi-part series in response to the Washington Post Cupcake Wars last fall, which was clearly a farce.

The breakdown, icing: Cream cheese icing with coconut flakes. More sweet than tart.

The breakdown, cake: Fragrant, lime-infused cake (lime zest is visible throughout the cake. Those are the specks in the cross-section photo below). A wee bit on the dry side.

Random note: This used to be my favorite Hello Cupcake flavor, until I tried Gianduja. This flavor is the cupcake personification of the Coconut Lime Verbena line from Bath and Body Works. In other words, it tastes the way that stuff smells.

Rating: 8.2 out of 10.



dc cupcake wars revisited: hello cupcake’s gianduja

Note: this is a multi-part series in response to the Washington Post Cupcake Wars last fall, which was clearly a farce.

The breakdown, icing: Chocolate-hazelnut ganache on a hazelnut-chocolate cupcake topped with toasted hazelnuts plus unidentified crunchy topping (“caramelized hazelnut crunch,” according to the website). It’s Hello Cupcake’s take on Nutella, basically. Italian hazelnut paste is incorporated into the ganache, giving it a dimension to the flavor that you might mistake for a touch of liqueur or extract. Almost pudding-like consistency at room temperature. (Cross-section photo shows cupcake after refrigeration.)

The breakdown, cake: Chocolate cake that complements the ganache icing. Remember how the movie “Wild Things” was basically a vehicle for Denise Richards’ implants? Same deal here: cake as hazelnut-ganache-delivery-vehicle.  Couldn’t taste the hazelnut in the cake. Too distracted by the amazing ganache, which, like Denise’s implants, was generously proportioned.

Rating: 9.2 out of 10.



Washington Post cupcake wars: I demand a recount

I still can’t believe Georgetown Cupcake took most of the top honors in the Post’s cupcake wars last fall. (Hear me gnash my teeth here Since a recount isn’t forthcoming, I’m going to conduct my own not-so-scientific cupcake challenge starting next week. Stay tuned for the reviews. Meanwhile, here’s a recap of the Post’s results.wpost


Cupcake millionaires

The winning cupcake? A chocolcate-with-chocolate-ganache. Snooze.

The winning cupcake? A chocolate-with-chocolate-ganache. Snooze.

The backstory:

Late last year, The Washington Post conducted the “Cupcake Wars,” taste-testing the wares from 16 bakeries around the DC area. 159 cupcakes were scarfed down in all, and the chocolate ganache cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake was crowned king.

While I can personally confirm the delectability of the chocolate ganache cupcake, going with a chocolate-on-chocolate cupcake just seems like such a safe (read: boring) bet. When was the last time you met a fellow American who told you they hated chocolate? Plus, I happen to really enjoy Lavender Moon’s cupcakes, which rated poorly. I’m inclined to think my taste buds have little in common with those of the 4 primary taste-testers. Gripe gripe.

Anyhow, I recently began catching up on the Cupcake Wars series. Not sure what I was doing while they were conducting these tests–stuffing my face with de lime & de coconut cupcakes from Hello Cupcake, perhaps? Anyway, the tidbit from the article that that had my jaw on the floor was that Georgetown Cupcake brings in $2 million annually. WTF? Mind you, the sisters that run the place work their bums off. They practically live there, and they personally frost each cupcake themselves. On weekends, they sell about 4,000+; weekdays, 2,000+. But $2 million?  That brings out a kind of cupcake envy that makes me wanna spit.

From The Washington Post:

“On average, the store sells between 2,000 and 3,000 cupcakes Tuesdays through Fridays (up from 800 when it opened in February), 4,000 on Saturdays and 2,000 on Sundays. Do the math: At $2.75 each, that conservatively adds up to sales of more than $38,000 a week and $2 million annually.”

Find the article here: