Posts Tagged cupcake odyssey

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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DC Cupcake Odyssey: Georgetown Cupcake Lives Up to the Hype

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Georgetown Cupcake's Red Velvet Cupcake. As pretty as it is good.

Last month I took a break from the holiday baking craziness and visited Georgetown Cupcake with my coworker. This was a belated stop on my DC cupcake odyssey, which started with my review of Hello Cupcake soon after its opening, and continued with my CakeLove review back in October.

I had my doubts about Georgetown Cupcake, because all I’ve heard is how great they are (after all, isn’t that the biggest criticism of Cake Love? That it’s all hype and no cake?). And I was annoyed that The Washington Post didn’t really “review” so much as “drool over” their cupcakes during the Cupcake Wars.

For those of you who don’t know the story, Georgetown Cupcake is DC’s first cupcake shop, and was founded by sister baking team Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne. Considering that the DC area now has three cupcake-only establishments (Hello Cupcake, Georgetown Cupcake, Lavender Moon Cupcakery) and recently added a fourth (Red Velvet Cupcakery), it’s pretty shocking that DC’s oldest cupcakery opened back in February 2008, less than a year ago.

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A busy night at Georgetown Cupcake.

My coworker and I went to Georgetown Cupcake on a Friday night in December. Georgetown’s streets were less crowded than usual due to the upcoming holidays, but there was almost a line out Georgetown Cupcake’s door. The store at 1209 Potomac St. N,  just off M street, isn’t much bigger than a cupcake box, with just one table that served as a bag-dropping station while customers placed their orders. If you’re looking for a place to have your cupcake and eat it too, then head across the street to Dean and Deluca.

The cupcakes were beautifully displayed on different cake stands, adding to the fairy-tale charm of the store. I had planned to only buy two cupcakes, but the spirit overtook me and I ordered up a whole half dozen: the Red Velvet, Chocolate2, Chocolate3, Vanilla, Vanilla and Chocolate, and Carrot Cake.

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Georgetown Cupcake's Display.

I was pretty much won over the moment I saw the beautiful presentation—the cakes were small, just peeking over the edge of their wrappers, with nary a muffin top in site. The frosting was perfectly piped in appealing swirls, and the fondant decorations were perfectly centered. From the presentation alone I could tell that this sister baking team cares deeply about its craft. And according to The Washington Post, the sisters pipe the frosting onto every cupcake themselves, which may be why they looked so pretty.

And as for the cupcakes themselves? I was absolutely blown away. First off, the cake is exactly what I’m looking for in a cupcake—it’s extremely light and tender, with the moistness of an oil cake, but the full flavor of a butter cake. The flavors were rich and deep—the vanilla cupcake tasted like it was infused with vanilla beans, and the chocolate cupcake tasted like the cake version of a chocolate bar.

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A plate of Georgetown Cupcakes, a little battered after a rough trip home the night before.

But my favorite part was the frosting, which I liked even more than the cake, and has taken hold in my mind as a Platonic, ideal version of frosting. It was extremely light and fluffy, and free of that teeth-shocking sweetness that frostings often have. The flavors were intense and balanced. The vanilla frosting really tasted like vanilla beans, and the cream cheese frosting was the perfect balance of sweet and tang, lightness and flavor.

The chocolate frosting had a deep, rich chocolate flavor that rivaled that of a ganache, but without being as heavy. I’ll admit that the chocolate frosting was so intensely chocolatey that it completely overwhelmed the vanilla cake in the Vanilla-Chocolate cupcake, but is that such a horrible thing? My favorites were the Vanilla Squared (vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, simple but extremely well done) and the Chocolate Squared (chocolate cake with Chocolate ganache).

Can you tell that the cupakes completely won me over? It’s no wonder, with this really fabulous product, that Georgetown Cupcake has become a DC media darling. Not only did they win the Washington Post Cupcake Wars, (and, by the way, they even gave out the recipe for the Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes), but they’ve appeared on the Martha Stewart Show and have been favorable reviewed in the New York Times.

The only thing that could have improved my experience was the customer service. It’s possible that it was an off night when I was there, but the cashiers seemed much more interested in gossiping than getting the huge line of customers taken care of. Considering that Georgetown Cupcake’s branding promises a chic, professional, and “couture” product, the service didn’t quite fit with their carefully crafted brand.

Still, I’m now a big fan of Georgetown Cupcake and I can’t wait to go back. You heard it here, folks—this is no CakeLove. Some things really can live up to the hype.

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