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!

Hello Cupcake

Pastry Chef Special w/ Skim Latte

In the past two weeks, I’ve visited Hello Cupcake twice. In the beginning (a year ago to the day), Hello Cupcake was one of my favorites because of the interesting flavors and convenient location. Unfortunately, I think their quality and recipes have changed and gone downhill.
Most recently, I’ve eaten the Bailey’s/Guinness cupcake (March), Pick Me Up, Velvet Elvis, Root Beer Float, and Pastry Chef’s Special (Almond frosting with vanilla cake). All of the cakes were too dry and the icing too sweet, but I’ll highlight the two that stood out the most below:
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Root Beer Float Cupcake
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I missed out on this cupcake flavor last summer, and as a result I think I built it up more than I should have. It tasted like a pumpkin muffin, but instead of pumpkin, it was licorice flavored. The frosting had a hardened crust on the outside that gave way to a soft, sickeningly sweet inside. I could see where they were going with this, but it was entirely too sweet. I actually wondered if I was going to get sick from eating this. I scraped the icing off (read: the cupcake fell icing first onto my desk while being eaten), but without the icing, the cake was too dry.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Pastry Chef’s Special (8/17/09)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This cupcake was being offered with either a vanilla or chocolate cake and I figured the vanilla cake would complement the almond frosting the best. I liked the smell of the cupcake and the added almond slivers on top. The icing itself was hard and looked like a supermarket cupcake. It was ridiculously hard and did nothing to offset the dryness of the cake. I was expecting a nice, nutty flavor from this, but it tasted strongly of almond paste (marzipan) that had probably been sitting on the shelf for a few winters. This made me wonder if the pastry chef actually tasted this before calling it their “special” of the day! After breaking through the icing crust, I proceeded to slowly eat this over the span of an hour, balanced out with a bland latte. This was the closest I’ve ever been to a diabetic coma, and not the good kind. I was seriously sick after eating this.

I also tried their latte and it was alright. The coffee tasted a bit burnt and on it’s own, the latte was flavorless and needed some sugar. Fortunately, I had plenty of sugar to go with it in the cupcake that I purchased.

Something Sweet

Food Decor Service Cost
15 16 16 $6

August 7th, 2009
Nothing much to say about this place. It’s right across the street from 2Amy’s, which they admittedly did on purpose to catch all the diners “pouring out” with a “sweet tooth” that couldn’t be satisfied by the pizzeria. The service is a little off-putting, and the layout is cramped and awkward as well. Think Georgetown Cupcake, but instead of having all of the choices displayed right in front of you, you have to travel down a little alleyway crowded with people to see the non-cupcake options (and menu for that matter).

The cupcakes were alright. I was able to finish them, but they weren’t good enough to recommend to someone else or to even eat again. I picked the chocolate ganache one because it was just coming into the display case. I thought this meant that it would be fresh from the oven, but that wasn’t the case. The cake on the coconut cupcake was dry and the icing too sweet. The chocolate no-fat frozen yogurt was nice and silky, similar to Costco’s yogurt. I like Iceberry better though. Don’t make the trip out here for Something Sweet. Actually, don’t even eat here if you’re right across the street.


somethingsweet_1 somethingsweet_3 somethingsweet_4 somethingsweet_2

Buzz Bakery

Buzz Bakery: August!

This is an update on my previous post about Buzz Bakery. We’ll leave the scores all the same, but I’ll share my experience, which I have mixed feelings about.

I returned back to Buzz Bakery August 15th to try their much-famed flavor-of-the month cupcake: Bacon. The bacon cupcake consists of a chocolate cake topped with peanut butter mousse and sprinkled with crisped pieces of thick-cut applewood smoked bacon. Sounds all fine and dandy right? Wrong! This cupcake, touted as the cashier’s “second-fave” really leads me to wonder the staff’s tastebuds! (re: previous visit & toffee cupcake)

The cake itself just tasted wrong wrong wrong — lighter-fluid-doused kinda wrong. Paired with the frosting that tasted like the chipped gravy poured over biscuits in dining halls, I was turned off. After several bites of disbelief, trying to *force* myself to like this cupcake after all the media it’s received, the rest of the ‘cake went uneaten. Shame on you buzz, shame.

The trip was redeemed by some awesome Candyland and a glass of fresh, thirst-quenching lemonade. And I know it’s fresh because the same guy that sold me the disgusting lard-cake fresh-squeezed it and mixed it in front of me! Mmm Mmm!

Best Buns Bread Co.

Food Decor Service Cost
18 16 17 $5

Best Buns is the bakery that provides all of the Great American Restaurants with their delicious bread. That alone should be a reason to go here. The bakery is located next to the wonderful Carlyle restaurant in Shirlington. I always go there for a cupcake, and undoubtebly get the chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting. In the picture attached, I put a fork next to the cupcake for size reference. This thing is huge. I don’t care who you are, you’ll need to split this with someone. That, or get it to go and eat it gradually by yourself (not saying that I’ve done this myself of course…). The cake is dense, moist, and fluffy all at the same time. The icing is piled on perfectly and has a wondorous balance between the tart sourness of the cream cheese and the oodles of sugar I’m sure they put in there.

The staff is helpful and patient, quick to make recommendations, and patient when patrons can’t seem to make up their mind on what delicious baked good to order (again, not saying this has happened to me…).  Seating in here is sparse, consisting of one wall lined with a high bar and stools, so we usually get the ‘cake to go and either eat it next door at Carlyle’s bar or one of the great outdoor spots in Shirlington.

Chocolate with Cream Cheese Frosting

Continue reading