DC Cupcakes: What the Locals Think

With the latest DC cake show to be airing tonight I thought I'd have the locals of DC weigh in on the cupcake scene. As seen on Photograzing. 

As a baker who lives and works in DC it’s high time I discuss with you the cupcake craze. It seems to have taken DC by storm. Since I moved here three years ago, a new cupcakery seems to have sprouted up about every six months. It’s so hard to keep track of which cupcake I ate and where. 

So, I decided it was time to hold a blind taste test and an opinion poll. Let me take one second to make my disclaimer: I’m not paid for this, don’t want to paid for this, I just want to eat cake and give you some straight up unbiased and unpaid for opinions.

I picked my first three cupcakeries to taste: Georgetown Cupcakes (soon to have a show on TLC  DC Cupcakes), Baked & Wired, and Hello Cupcake. I went to each and picked up the basic staple: chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. Because each place has a few variations, I chose the cupcake that the shop deemed good enough to serve on a daily basis.

The results were ENTIRELY unanimous on the taste test:
  • Hello Cupcake was DRY. Lease favorite for all.
  • The favorite frosting was Baked & Wired.
  • The favorite cake was Georgetown Cupcake.
  • When asked to pick an “overall favorite” every single person picked Baked & Wired.

Survey Stats:
100 people were asked: Hello Cupcake, Baked and Wired, and Georegetown Cupcakes: which is your favorite and least favorite, and why?????

Baked and Wired: 76%
Georgetown Cupcakes 24%
Hello Cupcake: 0%

Least Favorite:
Hello Cupcake: 55%
Georgetown Cupcake: 33%
Baked & Wired: 12%

*non responses were excluded from the percentages. Roughly 1 in five people were excluded from the survey because they’d never been to any of the three.

Surprised by the results? I’m not.

For the next round we’ll do Love Cafe (Part of Cake Love and their show on the Food Network Sugar Rush), Red Velvet and Sticky Fingers, a vegan bakery.

Here’s my personal review each cupcakery.

The Least Favorite: Hello Cupcake

DRY. So dry it was hard to actually get a good bit out of it with a fork, and for me, the fork test for cake is HUGE. If I can’t get a good fork full of cake…not worth my time. Their location is steps away from a metro stop and their the only cupcake hub for a mile in any direction. I’m pretty sure that’s how they stay in business. They also gets some props for catering to the gluten free or vegan crowd which also seems to hang around the Dupont section of town. Their store is basic, and displays are lackluster. Cheaply decorated with ten dollar glass containers full of sprinkles, that are not airtight and make me wonder about their sanitation. I know because I considered these containers for my kitchen storage and decided against them. Their staff is less than knowledgeable. If you are going to have gluten free and vegan snacks, you need to know what types of sugar and flour go into each cupcake. 

One of our taste testers was surprised that he picked the Hello Cupcake as his least favorite as he frequents it so often.

The good points: In the opinion poll people RAVED about their Lemon Cupcakes. It was called to die for. Their packaging is great for traveling. Your cupcake with make it anywhere and not be ruined or loose half the frosting.

Favorite flavor cupcakes mentioned in the survey: You Tart! Mayan Chocolate

Décor: 2
Service: 2, prompt, but the staff is not knowledgeable about ingredients
Packaging:  8, not cute, but your cupcake will arrive safely
Variety:  7

Georgetown Cupcakes: Chic and Trendy

Georgetown easily has the best branding of any cupcake shops in DC. They’ve marketed themselves so well it’s amazing. One person in the survey even mentioned that they “love their corporate identity” and that’s true of most of their fans. Since they’ve recently moved locations however I feel some of the identity has been lost. I love the quaint little shop around the corner. Walking into the new location on M Street felt a little too much like a factory. Standing in line watching the baking trays of cupcakes in their stands, I felt like a lot of the personality was gone. They have more seating now, pretty molding, white walls and modern furniture accents and lovely three tiered cupcake displays that are charming. But watching the army of staff and the loss of the personal feel of the old store I am leaning away from the love. I also found the large signs warning about nut allergies to be rather detracting. They strongly advise that if you have nut allergies you do not eat any of their cupcakes.

Flavor wise? This is not the bang for your buck cupcake. Easily the smallest cupcake of the three, with the least frosting or decoration. It’s still a very chic cupcake, minimalist in decoration, made with quality ingredients and very moist. The favorite cake of the three. A very good cupcake, but neither the taste test or the survey lived up to the hype.

Favorites flavor cupcake mentioned in the survey: Lemon Berry, Chocolate2 or 3, Chocolate Coconut

Décor: 8
Service: 8, not fast, long lines, but friendly and knowledgable
Packaging:  5 cute, but I’ve never had a cupcake travel twenty feet with losing half the frosting in the box
Variety:  9

Baked & Wired: The Locals Favorite

“Off-Beat” is probably the best way to describe Baked & Wired. They aren’t just cupcakes though. One survey participant didn’t think they should be included in the survey even because of it. (Personally I think it’s smart of them to diversify. Cupcakes won’t last forever). But overwhelmingly the taste test and the survey professed DC’s deep love for Baked & Wired.

They have much more hang out appeal, with local art on the walls, a coffee bar, and a large selection of flavors all lined up under glass domes. Rows and Rows of cake plates covered in treats and a selection that is better for a group that includes those people who don’t like cake. They give away free coffee grinds for composting, have doggy water bowls, and draw on the sidewalk in chalk all the time. They’re relaxed and very friendly. You practically can get the life story of the guy behind the counter if you want it. It has a community, and their community loves them.

They also have the largest of the cupcakes, with inventive names and frosting flavors, quality ingredients, and the best frostings. If only their cake was a little more moist, they’d be the trifecta.

Favorite flavors mention in the survey: Karen’s Birthday Cake, Chocolate Doom, Pretty Bitchin’, Red Velvet

Décor: 7 - creative, but a bit poorly lit
Service: 10 -  friendly, helpful, knowledgeable
Packaging:  9 – minimalist but also get the cupcake there in one piece, love the wax paper wrappers
Variety:  8 -  creative flavor names, wide selection, heavy on the chocolate flavors but I like chocolate, seasonal fresh fruit incorporated

Let’s Talk Peanut Butter:

I personally have also tried to peanut butter flavor at each location. I feel iffy about Hello Cupcakes peanut butter blossom. The cake it still too dry, as is the frosting. The texture leaves something to be desired. I end up there because it’s on my way home.  Georgetown Cupcakes does not have a good equivalent. Their peanut butter ditty is hardly peanut butter. A couple tablespoons of peanut butter filling is harldy going to please the peanut butter lover. It’s their only cupcake that has ever actually annoyed me. Baked & Wired has my favorite peanut butter cupcake named “Pretty Bitchin’” and it lives up to the name. Why can’t that cake be more moist??? Like our other taste test and survey, Baked and Wired wins out again.

A few Quotes from the Survey:

If I really want to indulge, then I go for B&W.  If I just want a sugar fix, then I go to GC. I've never really been impressed with Hello –MM in DC
I love Baked and Wired because I like a denser cake that you have to cut with a fork. Their cupcakes are big and the frosting is thick. Favorite: Karen's Birthday Cake (chocolate cake with buttercream frosting!) – ML in Maryland
I've never been to any of them. I think the fancy cupcake craze is rather ridiculous. –EC in DC
Favorite is baked and wired, the georgetown's frosting tends to be too buttery. –HP in DC
Favorite is Baked and Wired, because they're bigger and just feel more like home-cooked amazingness.  I haven't been to Hello Cupcake yet I'm inclined to say it's my least favorite, which is probably why I've never been.  I think Georgetown Cupcake is cute and tasty, but not as amazing as B &W. –BC in Maryland
I love Baked and Wired - big, dense, sugary cupcakes! While trying to decide on a flavor I once said, as an aside to my friend, that I wanted a strawberry chocolate cupcake.  The girl working there gave me a free strawberry cupcake that she was going to throw away (because it had one minuscule chocolate crumb on it) and I bought a chocolate cupcake - two for the price of one! (I shouldn't have eaten both but I did.) Once I try all of their cupcake flavors I need to start in on those brownies that are so tempting. Least Favorite: Georgetown Cupcake - they have some interesting flavors, but they're small and I was under whelmed with the taste –MS in Maryland
 I find cupcakes on the whole really awkward to eat with the frosting piled high the way it is.  Unless one is going to eat the cupcake with a knife and a fork, I think the frosting on the cupcake should be flat or close to flat on the cake.—JD in Maryland
I've never been to any of them, actually, though I had heard something about D.C. being the cupcake capitol of the world—AH in Maryland
I've only been to Georgetown Cupcake and Hello Cupcake. Between those two, Georgetown definitely wins. They just taste better! Although I have to hand it to Hello's lemon cupcake, which is delicious. But EVERYTHING at Georgetown Cupcake is delicious, and it's hard to compete with that.—CK in Maryland
I've only tried GC, and I think they're fantastic, but I also think cupcakes are on their way out.  Vive les macarons! –JL in Maryland
I like Georgetown cupcake for many reasons. The location is chic. The boxes are adorable. The cupcakes are delicious (especially chocolate Gnache, Red Velvet, and Carrot Cake. MMMM!) They are super yummy. It's just a classy place that I don't think you can beat. –HJ in Maryland
Baked and wired is the best because their cupcakes are more filling (bigger) and their frosting is more creamy. By far more delicious all around. Georgetown cupcakes are my least favorite. –CH in DC
Baked and Wire is my favorite.  The portion sizes are big, the cake is thicker (but not as overly dry as Cakelove's) and the frosting is creamy and has a good flavor.  I used to like Georgetown cupcake because the cupcakes are so light and airy, but I don't think the wait or the price is worth it. –JD in DC
Never been, and find the craze a bit ridiculous.—SO in Virginia
I've never been to any of them...  And while I like cupcakes, I'm not sure what all the hullabaloo is about.—RR in Maryland