Cupcakes. Whether you need a snack, a break from the day, or simply have a craving for something sweet—they’re the perfect dessert. Over the past few years, cupcake shops have popped up, not just in the DC region, but also all over the country. It seems that when economic times are tough, we all need a sweet surrender to help us get through the day.
I took it upon myself to taste my way through the cupcake shops around DC. It wasn’t easy, but I felt someone had to do it. I tried to taste the same type of cupcake at each cupcake shop—vanilla cake with chocolate frosting—however, in a couple situations when the specific type was unavailable I went with the closest option available. (To go to individual websites, click on the red store name).
1 location—Dupont Circle
Price—$3 plus $0.50 for the “special”
If you find yourself craving sweets in Dupont Circle, look no further than Hello Cupcake. It’s a bright and cheery shop right on the Circle. When you walk in, the cupcake aroma is accented by the bright white walls and furniture. I was happy to find no line to wait in for my cupcake treat and they had a very large selection of cupcakes to choose from—I’d say about twelve varieties in total. The cupcakes will cost you $3 each and they have plenty of café style seating if you want to dine-in. For those with dietary restrictions, Hello Cupcake has vegan and gluten-free options. The cupcakes were very tasty, but didn’t blow me away. There wasn’t a ton of frosting (which could be a plus for some people) and the frosting was more sweet than flavorful. The cake was very moist, fluffy and not at all dense.
Location: Roaming pink truck
Price $3 single, $15 for a 6-pack
(Cupcakes in photo at top)
If you’re a spontaneous person and enjoy seeing where life takes you—then, Curbside Cupcakes is the place for you. This roaming, pink truck finds new streets and corners in DC to stop and sell delicious cupcakes. You can follow Curbside Cupcakes on Twitter to find out if they’re in your neighborhood. On the day I visited, the line was almost wrapped around the corner. And, the line moved really, really slow. To this day, I still can’t figure out why the service was so slow. We only had six flavors to choose from and unless you were buying $15 or more, you had to pay in cash and not credit. But, I have to say, the long line and slow service were well worth the wait. The cupcakes were delicious. The frosting was plentiful, thick, sugary and tasted homemade. The cake was soft, spongy, not overly flavorful, but moist.
3 locations: Dupont, Penn Quarter, and Reston, Virginia
Ah, the creme-de-la-creme. Red Velvet. Whether you’re in the vicinity of one of the three locations or not, you owe it to yourself to make your way to this cupcake shop and taste one for yourself. The Penn Quarter location is very small and understated. There was no line and a selection of about ten cupcakes to choose from. They have daily varieties and featured flavors as well. The shop is so small that there’s no seating. If you’d like to dine-in, you can take your cupcakes next door to Tangy Sweet. But, proceed with caution because while you’re over there, you might be tempted to get some frozen yogurt. Red Velvet also had vegan and gluten-free options for those with dietary concerns. The cupcakes were absolutely delicious and fresh. The frosting blew me away—it was thick, plentiful, fudgy and extremely flavorful. The cake was amazing, too. It was buttery, a little dense, and so flavorful you could taste the almond extract and spices used in the batter. You could really tell that Red Velvet uses high quality ingredients and goes out of its way to present its cupcakes in a decadent manner.
7 locations in DC, VA and MD
Price—$3.25 (free cupcake on your birthday)
If you’re in the mood for cupcakes, you’ve most likely walked by Cake Love as it has the most locations with seven around DC, VA and MD. Right off, Cake Love is more than just a cupcake shop. They also sell eclairs, brownies, cookies, cakes and many other baked goods. At the U Street location, across the street from the Cake Love bakery is the Love Café. There, you can enjoy tea, sandwiches and salads as a precursor to your cupcake dining. For those with dietary restrictions, Cake Love has vegan, gluten-free and low sugar options. While Cake Love has a large selection of cupcakes and desserts, overall, I wasn’t impressed with my cupcakes. The presentation was kind of sloppy and the cake was stale and dry—as if it had been sitting out for a day or two. The top of the cupcake was really hard and overcooked. The frosting was bland, very sugary, but not very flavorful.
2 locations: Georgetown and Bethesda
Price $2.75 per cupcake (0.50 for a single-cupcake box)
The last cupcake shop I went to was Georgetown Cupcake. Perhaps I saved the best for last or I had a hard time trekking to one of their two locations. But, either way, I was overjoyed with the decadent cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcakes. If you watch TLC, you may have seen the founders (two sisters) on their new TV series, DC Cupcakes. As expected, the line at Georgetown Cupcake was quite long, but I was surprised at how fast it moved. The sales people really knew how to get people their cupcakes and move them out the door. There was a large variety of cupcakes to choose from—18 different flavors on the day I visited. And, the cupcakes are absolutely delicious. I found myself saying, “mmm” and, “oh my” a lot while I was enjoying them. The cake is really moist and extremely flavorful—you can really taste the vanilla. The cake is part fluffy and part dense—a nice balance. And, the frosting was out of this world. Again, flavorful is the word I want to use to describe it—plentiful, creamy, rich frosting. You can tell these ladies use the finest ingredients and go above and beyond to make them look beautiful and presentable.
Just remember, you don’t really need a reason to buy yourself a cupcake. If you have a craving or are simply walking by (or out of your way)—it really is worth it to drop a couple dollars on a little piece of heavenly dessert.