Posts Tagged ‘DC cupcakes

14
Apr
11

Tout de Sweet, a quick sugar fix

Patisseries are candy stores for adults. Step inside, and the smorgasboard of delights puts you into sensory overdrive. Your first impulse is to take one of everything. After the ringing in your ears stops, you take a visual inventory to narrow down the contenders. You invariably fork over more money than planned, skipping out of the shop with a bag of carefully packaged goodies that gets broken into well before you get home.


That’s exactly what happened after we hit Tout de Sweet last weekend (minus the skipping), which was recently opened in downtown Bethesda by a French chef. We went just before closing and there was still a decent selection of cakes and macarons, although the croissants were sold out. We tried the lemon-basil, pistachio, caramel, vanilla, chocolate peppermint, and chocolate macarons. (Second box of macarons not pictured below.) After paying, we reconsidered the cupcakes, taking home one each of the coconut-pineapple and chocolate-peppermint.

Tout de Sweet is better when it sticks to the French stuff. The peppermint-choc cupcake was tasty (with interesting touches like a flash-fried peppermint leaf); the tropical one was just ok. It’s really all about the macarons here. Our faves were the lemon basil and chocolate-peppermint. Though I still bristle at paying $1.50 for a tiny cookie, these are pretty labor-intensive to make at home. So the price doesn’t look as bad when you factor in that French labor. Believe the Yelp hype when they say that these are the yummiest macarons you’ll find in the area. This definitely merits another visit to test their cakes and other pastries.

Side note: If you need something savory to balance out your sugar high, Hinata Grocery is just around the corner. Its tiny sushi counter is cramped, but here you’ll find some of the most fresh, reasonably priced sushi in the DC area.

***Update, June 19: Multiple subsequent visits have confirmed that this place makes the most perfect almond croissant IN THE WORLD. Perfectly flaky, generously filled with a light almond paste, topped off with freshly toasted almonds, a slightly caramelized coating, and a light dusting that doesn’t make you choke in a sugar cloud. Tout de Sweet pasty chef, please insure the hands that craft these croissants.***

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15
Mar
11

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”).

26
Feb
11

Sprinkles opens March 3. For real this time.

That Sprinkles awning has been taunting me for far too long. After being led on that the DC location would open fall 2010, then told it was delayed until February 2011, it’s finally opening on M Street this Thursday. The first 50 to whisper (do you really have to whisper it?) “capital cupcake” will get a free dark chocolate cupcake. There will also be a Sprinkles truck roaming DC with free cupcake giveaways.

Given that Georgetown Cupcake borrowed some its branding/marketing tactics from Sprinkles (a “signature” look to their icing, free cupcake giveaways, online pre-orders), it’s going to be interesting to see whether the student has truly become the master. And Baked & Wired probably isn’t thrilled about another bakery addition to Georgetown, but at least their goodies go beyond cupcakes.

Let the real cupcake wars begin!

March 4 update: the wait in line was about 10 minutes on opening day, not too bad. If you’d prefer not to wait, you can pre-order by calling 202-450-1610, then go directly to the counter to pick up. Starting Monday, 3/7, you can place your order online.

28
Nov
10

Frosting: A cupcake calamity

I’ve been to Frosting in Friendship Heights once before, and recall their riff on French toast being pretty good. This time around I got a box of four: Baba’s baby (carrot), Raspberry Zzzurbert DC (chocolate-filled cupcake with raspberry buttercream), Raspberry Zzzurbert WC (white chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream), and Bleubelle (blueberry streusel).

It’s tough to tell what’s what because after a short walk back to the car, the cupcakes looked like this. I take partial responsibility since I paid little mind to whether I was keeping the box level. But the real issue is the way they dollop the frosting high on the cupcakes in a ball shape. No doubt other customers have also gotten theirs home to find a cupcake massacre.

Good thing that looks don’t detract from taste. Among these, the carrot was the best, texture- and flavor-wise. The cake part of the Zzzurberts was on the dry side, and the raspberry frosting lacked a tartness that could’ve kicked up the flavor. The Bleubelle was a muffin (fitting, since it’s featured on their daily morning menu); cupcake fans should pass on this one unless that’s what they’re looking for.

14
Nov
10

November’s seasonal flavors at Georgetown Cupcake, caramel apple and pumpkin

The tourists may be gone, but the lines at Georgetown Cupcake are still ridiculous.

Luckily, we did a pick-up order online. While the store may not have a red velvet rope outside, it kinda feels like you’re sailing past one as you flash your order confirmation to the cupcake bouncer.

Georgetown Cupcake is offering a pumpkin and a caramel apple cupcake through November. The  caramel apple was very tasty with a moist apple cake, dulce de leche filling, and cream cheese icing. (See cross-section below.) Mr. X-sXe noted that there were actual bits of apple that gave the cake a slight tartness.

The pumpkin, a more modest cupcake, was good too. If you’re into spice cakes, you’ll enjoy this one.

Ever since Pie brought over those Baked & Wired cupcakes, though, everything else has seemed wimpy in comparison. Georgetown Cupcake is no exception, since their cupcakes are among the smallest in DC. And don’t be surprised if the ratio of icing-to-cake leaves you with a serious hankering for more cake.

18
Oct
10

Cupcakes for breakfast: The scientific justification

Pie brought over these goodies from Baked and Wired last weekend, and Mr. X-sXe thought I was crazy for having them for breakfast. But I’d read some studies like this one that show that fat metabolism genes are most active in the morning. So if you’re going to gorge on cupcakes, try to have them right after you wake up!

As for the cupcakes, they’re our new favorites. I’d had Baked & Wired a while back and remember not being particularly impressed, but this time around, I’m a fan. The ratio of icing-to-cake feels right. It doesn’t leave me wanting for more cake to balance the icing, or make my heart race from the sugar shock. These are the largest of the DC cupcakes and, for our money, the most gratifying.

23
Sep
10

Another cupcake with an identity crisis: Frosting’s Frenchie

Frosting is a bakery opened by a couple of newlyweds who gave up their 9-5 office jobs to follow their dreams (sound familiar?).  The bakery sits on the edge of the Giant, a 5-minute walk from Friendship Heights Metro. The couple who runs the place was recently interviewed on the local news, so I expected the shop to be buzzing. Not so. There was only one person ahead of me, and the early-morning weekday offerings were a bit scant (they don’t bring out the  full regalia of cupcakes until 10:30).

The dollop of frosting reminds me of Tintin's quiff.

I didn’t plan on getting the Frenchie cupcake, but the lady working the counter said it was one of her favorites. The cake base is definitely French toast-inspired. Seems the latest trend is cupcakes that are trying to be other things, like this pie-inspired cheddar-apple cupcake.

Anyway, the cake part of the Frenchie wasn’t sweet–it tasted a bit like cinnamon toast. This contrasts nicely with the maple buttercream icing (which I could’ve sworn was cream cheese, but either way, it was delicious).

Turns out cupcakes posing as French toast is actually a good thing.




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