CakeLove (Updated)


Last week I met with Warren Brown via a Yelp event at the Shirlington location of his bakery empire, CakeLove, for a cupcake tasting. The catalyst for this cupcake tasting was that in the last 6 months, CakeLove had been listening to customer feedback and re-doing some of their recipes (See: My original review for CakeLove, the Tysons location). We were offered around 8 different types of cupcakes, a slice of strawberry shortcake, and a delicious sugar cookie.

I can really tell that the cupcakes have changed for the better (except the chocolate cake, which is still a bit lacking in flavor and moisture). The cakes are lighter and the frosting is more balanced. Yay for no more cold, cornbread-y cupcakes or separated frostings!

What I sampled, in order of preference:

  1. Custom sugar cookie with icing – Perfectly soft with a strong hit of citrus and vanilla while still tasting balanced
  2. Strawberry on Vanilla – *New* Vanilla cake with Strawberry buttercream. The cake and frosting were both light and moist. Some people said the buttercream was a bit oily and coated their tongue in an unpleasant way; I thought this could have been solved by putting a little less frosting on.
  3. The King – *new* banana cake, peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache. Moist and flavorful cake with a nice surprise of peanut butter under the ganache cap.
  4. Red Velvet – *New* Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Could use to be a little moister, but it had a nice crumb and the tang of the cream cheese frosting was refreshing.
  5. Toffee Crunch on Chocolate – chocolate cake, cream cheese (?) frosting, crunchy toffee topping. The frosting paired with the crunchy topping was a bit too sweet, but I enjoyed the textural contrast. Even though the chocolate cake was a bit too lack-luster, the topping saved it.
  6. Salted Caramel – *New* Vanilla cake with cream cheese (?) frosting and salted caramel drizzle. The flavor balance of this cupcake was a bit too far on the sweet site.
  7. Chocolate Chip Cheesecake – chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, chocolate chip & graham cracker ganache. The frosting, topped with chocolate chips and dusted with graham cracker crumbs are good, but the cake lacks a deep chocolate flavor and is light brown.
  8. Chocolate Fuzzy Wuzzy – chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream, chocolate curls. The same issue as the other chocolate cakes, but the frosting is a bit too soft and reminds me of supermarket frosting. The chocolate curls on top did offer a good textural contrast.
  9. Strawberry Shortcake – layered pound cake, vanilla buttercream, fresh strawberries. The buttercream was too chemically tasting, but other than that, was just okay.

The chocolate cake hasn’t been re-worked yet, so that’s why they were at the bottom of the bracket. I also didn’t care for the frosting on the strawberry shortcake, but others loved it.

I really felt special sitting at one of the 10 spots in the Shirlington CakeLove location listening to Warren geek out over cupcake recipe and formulation changes. He seemed to really value our feedback. It was also interesting learning about the business perspective he has and how he’s grown as a business owner and baker to be able to listen to his customers and set his own ego aside a little bit.

I loved being able to share my opinions on cakes (I have a lot of them), and be in the audience with fellow cake lovers!

You also get a lot for your money. I compared the cupcakes in size to one of my green tea cupcakes, made at home in a standard muffin tin, and they’re almost double the size!

Happy 2012!

Happy 2012! As you may have noticed, I’ve made a New Year’s resolution! Or maybe you haven’t noticed because I haven’t been posting as frequently as I should have.

Well, my resolution for this year was to be less lazy/more motivated, and that includes updating my blog more often! I hadn’t changed the layout for a few years, sometimes just changing the header. Not only was it hard to find the time to update my site, but I was also lacking inspiration! Web Design used to be a hobby, but now it’s my profession. As such, sometimes I feel that all my creative juices get sucked out 9-5 and when I get home the *last* thing I want to do is design something or type on the computer.

For Christmas my Grandma gave me a cookbook I have been lusting after since it was first published: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. Not only did I get inspired by the stunning photos and typography, but I was also aligned with the book’s philosophy. With a new color scheme (including Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2010) and a new outlook, I played with the design for a few days and then spent a day implementing it.

So, here’s to out with the old and in with the new!


More detailed specifics on the new layout will be found soon under the About section. Please feel free to share your thoughts, or let me know if something is broken or doesn’t look right!

Il Canale (2 Visits)

Food Decor Service Cost
19 21 20 $30

Disclaimer: I was invited back by the owner after my 2010 review

We visited on a Tuesday night (11/15) and had a great experience. Our waiter, Rohit, was very knowledgeable about every aspect of the food and structure of the restaurant. He knew how every dish was made and where all the ingredients were sourced, down to the ingredients in the olive oil! The service was excellent and he had great recommendations for pizza and appetizers. After our meal, he offered to give us a tour of the pizzaiolo’s working space, but no pizzas were in the queue at the moment.

We tried the calamari again; there was a better ratio of zucchini to calamari and the plate came out piping hot. Though the zucchini was a little watery, the texture of the breading and calamari more than made up for it. The sauce was also more flavorful and paired well with the fried morsels. We also ordered two pizzas, the Il Canale and the Diavola. The Il Canale had a perfectly crunchy crust and the toppings were flavorful. My favorite part of the pizza was actually the tomato slices that burst with a great flavor–and I don’t really like tomatoes! My only concern was that after I finished eating one slice of pizza, the rest of the pizza had basically turned to mush because of all the cheese and veggies. The softened crust mixed with the moist ingredients melded together and lacked textural contrast. Maybe a quick zap in the toaster oven at home will revive the slices? The Diavola didn’t skimp on the ingredients and while the crust wasn’t as crunchy, each bite was still flavored well with the salami and cheese. We didn’t have room to try dessert, though we were eyeing the tiramisu.

I’m glad I visited again–I can tell that the ingredients, processes, and service has all been changed. But, I just don’t like soupy pizzas, so I will probably not be back again.

A few things: there was a guy going around selling roses, which made us feel uncomfortable (especially since they were so expensive!). There were also several times that a server tried to bring us other people’s food, or give our food to the wrong table and we had to flag him down. Other than that, the rapport with Rohit and the host was great and the weather outside was refreshing.

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Seasonal Fall Godiva Coffee – Caramel Pecan Bark & Pumpkin Spice

Long time no post, eh? I started a new job in September and have been crazy busy since then!

A few months ago, I received two bags of Godiva‘s Limited Edition fall coffee flavors — Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Pecan Bark– as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a coffee machine at my house and my new job doesn’t have a small coffee machine that I can use my own coffee in. So, I gave this coffee to my dad and went over to my parents’ house one weekend to try a cup of each.

The coffee has a strong aroma, especially the caramel pecan bark. The pumpkin spice flavor had a weaker smell that was less sweet, but still noticeable. The smell is still strong after being brewed, but the smell did not translate into flavor. Drank plain, there is no flavor in the liquid that is discernible from normal coffee. Adding cream and sugar helped to bring out some of the spice notes, but not any more than adding a flavored cream to regular coffee would. This coffee is good, but I don’t think I would buy it for myself at full price, especially since this coffee retails for $12-$14 per bag.

KC Masterpiece® Sauce

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a bottle of KC Masterpiece® Buffalo Marinade recently. At first, I thought “Wow! Awesome, I can use this for some great things”, and then I thought, “Oh.. It’s a marinade… I need to marinade things…which will take time…and has to be meat”.

So I tried that. I marinated some chicken breasts in the sauce for 30 minutes as was suggested and grilled them on a gas grill. while they were grilling, we brushed more sauce on the chicken and also brushed some on some white onion rings. The chicken tasted alright, but I felt like the flavor wasn’t truly absorbed. The onions on the other hand, tasted great with the marinade. And that’s when I realized: I shouldn’t use this as a marinade, as intended, but rather a sauce or dressing!

The photo above is of some shirataki (yam) noodles that I marinated in the sauce, then added some vegetables and cooked in a pan. I also used some below-average produce (crisper bin potatoes and frozen brussel sprouts) and they got a second lease on life with this sauce! I tossed the cubed potatoes and sprout quarters in the sauce, added some pepper and cojita cheese, and roasted at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. The vegetables had the perfect done-ness and spiciness.

The only thing to mention is that with a marinade-method, most of the sauce is discarded, so the flavor isn’t as strong. When using this as a cooking sauce or “dressing”, the sauce stays put so the flavor is stronger. In the case of the buffalo sauce I received, the flavors are red pepper, garlic, paprika, vinegar, and…hot sauce. The heat tends to build up a bit if you don’t take a break with a beverage or side dish, but that might be my low heat tolerance talking.