DC Cupcake Odyssey: Red Velvet Cupcakery Keeps it Classic

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Red Velvet Cupcakery, DC's Newest Cupcake Joint.

As DC was readying itself for the Inauguration, Red Velvet Cupcakery in Penn Quarter was preparing for its grand opening on Thursday, January 15. The store, which shares a space in Penn Quarter with a new TangySweet gave away 500 free cupcakes for its grand opening. Even though I didn’t have a prayer of making it in time to nab a free cupcake, I was determined to extend my DC Cupcake Odyssey to DC’s newest cupcake shop. So a friend and I braved the bitter cold that Thursday night to see how DC’s newest cupcake shop stacked up.

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The inside of the store is minmalist, with a clean design.

Red Velvet Cupcakery’s space is small and pristine, with a minimalist feel. There’s a large blown-up photo of cupcakes against a white background that adorned one wall, and one bright red wall behind the counter with pricing information. A large display case showcasing the cupcakes, a cash register, and a small row of bright-red stools at a window counter complete the space.

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A large photo of cupcakes greets you as you enter the store.

When I heard that Red Velvet Cupcakery shared a space with TangySweet, I envisioned a food court configuration. But the side-by side storefronts are actually separate, at least for consumers; you have to walk outside to get from the TangySweet to Red Velvet. This was a good decision on the branding front, since cupcakes and fro-yo don’t exactly mix. But I was sad that we couldn’t take advantage of the ample seating space in TangySweet.

Instead, my friend and I took our cupcakes down to the Rocket Bar so we could sample our wares in the comparative peace. I tried three cupcake on my visit: the coffee-flavored Morning Call, the Red Velvet, and the Peanut Butter Cup. Each was $3.25/piece,, or $36 for a dozen.

The cupcakes were well made, with the exception of a small technical difficulty. All the cupcakes I sampled had a hard, slightly bitter, crust on their tops, as if they’d been left in the oven too long. But that problem is easily fixable, and may just have been opening day jitters.

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The Peanut Butter Cup, in the case.

My favorite cupcake, by far, was the Peanut Butter Cup – a chocolate cake topped with a slightly salty, rich peanut butter frosting. The cake was tender and had a deep chocolate flavor, but the frosting really stole the show. It had a fluffy texture, with a rich salty-sweet peanut butter flavor. I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter together, and this cupcake was really to die for.

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Red Velvet cupcakes, in the case. The sprinkles are a cute touch.

The Red Velvet was also a strong contender – the cake was fluffy and tender, and had that deep red color of a proper red velvet cake. The cream cheese frosting was the right balance of tangy and sweet, with a smooth texture.

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The Morning Call - espresso cake with mocha buttercream.

The Morning Call, an espresso-chocolate cupcake with mocha buttercream, was my least favorite. I didn’t taste the espresso in the espresso-chocolate cake, although it had a rich chocolate flavor and tender crumb. The frosting tasted like a classic buttercream – it tasted strongly of butter, had an oily texture, and was overwhelmingly rich. To be fair, the mocha flavor was well balanced, and the richness and the texture are all things I’ve encountered in buttercreams before. But I’m not a huge fan of classic buttercreams, so my dislike of the Morning Call may be more a matter of personal taste than anything else.

I was pretty happy with Red Velvet Cupcakery – just writing this makes me want to make a b-line for the store so I can get that Peanut Butter Cup cupcake again. But I also think that Red Velvet has some room to grow.

Red Velvet’s flavor combinations are classic, but seemed a little boring and expected – as though they took a gourmet dessert menu and adapted it for cupcakes. This isn’t a bad thing, but Red Velvet Cupcakery is competing with stores that are passionate about cupcakes, and which offer daily rotating menus in addition to seasonal offerings. Doing classic flavors well just isn’t enough to compete.

In this ever-crowded field, a bakery’s individuality, creativity, and execution are what makes them stand out. Red Velvet has good execution, but I’d love to see them ramp up their menu offerings, start making some seasonal cupcakes, and offer more creative flavor combinations.

My advice to Red Velvet Cupcakery: have fun with it. Take your cue from DC’s other cupcake shops and start varying your menu. See if you can make a cute cupcake for Valentine’s Day that’s a little outside the box. Mix it up. And see what happens.

And yes, I’ll be visiting soon for another Peanut Butter Cup.

Red Velvet Cupcakery
675 E. St. NW
Washington DC 20004
Phone: (202) 347-7895
Fax: (202) 347-7894
order@redvelvetcupcakery.com
www.redvelvetcupcakery.com

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10 Comments »

  1. amy said

    as my official commissioner of cupcake news, i thought i would let you know that larry’s ice cream (in dupont) is now doing cupcakes during the winter. i stopped there on my way home from yoga today and was pleasantly surprised. i had a red velvet with cream cheese frosting, topped with coconut. the coconut was a nice addition, the frosting super creamy and the cake itself moist and lovely.

    check it out sister!

  2. Meg said

    I love red velvet cupcakes – will have to try one at Red Velvet Cupcakes!

  3. PhillyGirl said

    Although I have to admit my bias is towards Georgetown Cupcake, I will admit that Red Velvet wasn’t bad. It does give those of us who venture to the Verizon Center every few months something to look forward to, especially since they are open until 11 pm. The cupcakes are a bit on the small side and not as moist as GC, but RVC is still an added bonus to that area. Too bad I missed that there was a fro-yo store next door. Now, if I can only find the CowGirl Creamery….

  4. moderndomestic said

    I’m with you, PhillyGirl. Red Velvet has some good cupcakes, but GC is just in a whole other world. What they do is really, really amazing – their commitment to their product just shows in every detail.

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  7. i admit to sneaking into red velvet on a “more than my trainer would reallly approve of” basis…my fave is easily the red velvet…which as a southerner im picky about..but that they seem to have mastered..
    xoxo

  8. Jenn said

    I am actually a HUGE fan of the crispy top. I think it tastes very good without drying out the cupcake too much. I’m not a fan of GC, something about their icing is off. Hello Cupcake is amazing though.

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