DC Cupcakes: Red Velvet Cupcakery, Cake Love, and Whole Foods

Second round of taste tests for the local DC cupcakeries! This time we decided to see how the low-end grocery store cupcake holds up to the challenge! 

Care to take a guess on which cupcake is which? Red Velvet is another one of the chains that have popped up in the cupcake trend. Cake Love is one of DC's most prominent and longest standing cake stores, that only started selling cupcakes along side their slices of cake since the trend. Then there's Whole Foods, a healthy grocery store specializing in herbs, health foods, organic, farm raised foods, which also offers a "boutique" cupcake at nearly half the price of actual cupcake boutiques. 

Looking at the above pictures I can sure tell you which cupcake I think would cost two dollars.

So, I held my second taste test with all the same standards and criteria I did for my first edition of DC Cupcakes: What the Locals Think. These results were dramatically different than the first round. The first round were the cupcakeries I determined to be perhaps the "more popular" cupcakeries. It turns out I was right. I knew Cake Love would be well known, and chances were few people had considered a Whole Foods cupcake...I had no idea how poorly asking about Red Velvet would go.  

But first: Let's talk taste test! 

The results were nearly unanimous on the taste test: 

  • Red Velvet had the favorite cake. 
  • Cake Love had the favorite icing. 
  • Whole Foods was deemed "tasteless" 
  • Red Velvet's Gnache Icing was "far too bitter" 
  • When asked to pick an "overall favorite" every person picked Cake Love. 
Survey Stats: 
Unlike last time, where 100 people were just brimming over with their opinions about Georgetown Cupcakes, Hello Cupcake, and Baked & Wired, Wednesdays survey yielded a lot of confused looks, perplexed responses, and questions about each one's location. Easily the most common response was "Is that the one that's in [Penn Quarter/U St.]? I think my [roommate/girlfriend/boyfriend/coworker] has been there." 

I honestly in good faith can't even give you stats. The response rate just wasn't high enough for me to consider it truly legit. Lets just leave it with: Cake Love had the most consistent favorable comment, and Red Velvet was easily the most hated, and literally, only one person said they'd had a Whole Foods cupcake, and they expressed sheer hatred towards it. 

Even at the end of all this, Baked & Wired and Georgetown Cupcake are remaining as the only cupcakes in town that the DC locals really poured out the love for. If you're only in town for a short trip head straight to Baked & Wired! I'd hate for the line at Georgetown to take up an hour of your trip! 

Cake Love: A DC Tradition

Cake Love has been in DC longer than the cupcake craze, the same cannot be said for the other cupcake boutiques, and though they won today's taste test, it was commonly noted that they are better for cakes, and not cupcakes. Though they did win the taste test, in the survey they were always described as "okay." Nobody said that it was their favorite cake spot in town (but after last months love for Baked & Wired it would be hard for me to imagine there a lot of love left). The shop itself is somewhat airy, if not a little too dark despite the large windows. The displays were uninspiring, and the cupcake the least gourmet looking of any cupcake yet in either taste test. The chocolate cake itself came off with a highly nutty flavor, and during the taste test was not identified as chocolate cake, but rather a spice cake. Odd right? 

Favorites flavor cupcake mentioned in the survey: Chocolate, German Chocolate, and Coconut

Décor: 8 it has a semi cutesy vintage kitchen feel
Service: 8 friendly, not enthusiastic
Packaging: 2, paper bags and due to the soft frosting it traveled POORLY
Variety:  5 nothing you hadn't seen before

Red Velvet: Move Over Hello Cupcake, Meet The New Last Favorite

Thought not everyone agreed the survey was pretty explicit that Red Velvet Cupcakery was not loved. On a personal note, I'm sorry but I have to say it: I spit out my bite of chocolate gnache. It was inedible. I tried it again once I'd adjusted my notions that this gnache was very dark, but it didn't help. It was bitter and frankly disgusting. The taste testers agreed. Some of the survey participates spoke about seeing unsanitary conditions and bug infestations. I wish I had started with the survey. I wouldn't have taken that bite. One of the taste testers actually said: "UGH! If the Donner party would have had these cupcakes, they still would have kept on eating each other!" 

To be fair, there was some praise of Red Velvet, and one person did say "as a frequent buyer, I've noticed that some days the cupcakes are better than others.  So if you only go once and hate it, I'd say go back at least once." So maybe we just caught them on a bad day....except for one thing. They also have a location in Tucson, Arizona, and I sent some feelers out to the foodies I know in Tucson. The responses I got said the exact same discouraging things, AND were wondering how Red Velvet Cupcakery had managed to stay in business as they rarely saw customers in the store located on the University of Arizona Campus. A vacant cupcake shop on a major university campus? That might say it all. 

Favorites flavor cupcake mentioned in the survey: Birthday Cake, Black Velvet

Décor: 5, depending on location, Dupont: 0 it's stuck in with Tangy Sweet, Penn Quarter 6, Tucson: 4
Service: 7, not particularly friendly, not ready at opening
Packaging: 5 a brown bag with a BIG A sticker on it, poor branding
Variety: 7 

Whole Foods: The "Boutique" Cupcake You've Never Heard of For a Reason

I won't even humor  the idea of trying to talk about Whole Foods. I LOVE this store, but it was a bad cupcake, with waxy frosting and no taste. It literally tasted like you were eating nothing. If there wasn't texture you wouldn't have known there was a cupcake. With nobody in the survey having tried the cupcakes, save one, there isn't a whole lot to say except this: 

Boutique cupcakes cost twice as much for a reason. They actually have flavor. 

I must admit, I was very excited about the idea that maybe this underdog cheap cupcake could contend....but it couldn't. You can make a better cupcake from a mix, and you should. For two dollars, go ahead and buy a cake mix. You'll be much happier. 

Favorites flavor cupcake mentioned in the survey: NA

Décor: NA it's a grocery store after all
Service: 7, polite, helpful, not knowledgeable
Packaging: 6, plastic containers that actually traveled best out of the day
Variety:  6, but does it matter if they aren't good? 

Thanks for reading! Hope that helps you make your choices! Personally I recomend reading the quotes below! They crack me up! 

A few quotes from the survey: 

Is cake love the one on U-Street?  I've never been there, and I've never even heard of the other two.. - M in DC

Never had any of them... I guess I should expand my cupcake horizons... - G in MD

I've heard of cake love but..... - M in MD

Cake love/love cafe: There cupcakes are ok, their frosting is different, I like their use of fresh fruit.  They have a good chocolate cake.  Not my favorite cupcake place. - E in DC

Cake love has the best German Chocolate cupcake I have ever had and they have a lot of novel ideas for cupcakes. Cake Love gets my vote. Red Velvet is a bit ordinary and boring for my taste and I have never had on of the whole foods boutique cupcakes.  - C in DC

I tried Cake Love once...it was alright. The most memorable part was the sweet, light, homemade tasting frosting (good but not my favorite kind...it was kind of like eating cool whip) and the cute vintagy look of the kitchen. The day I went anything with chocolate was on sale. So that was automatic brownie points in my book. - M in DC

Red Velvet Cupcakery: Easily my favorite of the 3.  I love their small tiny shop on 7th & E NW. It's simple and I like that.  Their Red Velvet cupcake isn't any better or worse than Red Velvet cupcakes at other places.  But I'm not a Red Velvet fan.  I really love their Devil's Food, best Chocolate Gauche Frosting I can buy on a cupcake.  B-Day is also yummy, they use almond in their yellow cake and that works nicely with the chocolate frosting. I also love their Black Velvet cupcake .  It's a vegan, gluten free cupcake.  I'm neither a vegan nor do I have to eat gluten free foods, but I love this cupcake.  The texture is different, it's a nice change.  To me, gluten free means more room to add coco. Their Peanut Butter cupake is also good.  Being a frequent buyer, I've noticed that some days the cupcakes are better than others.  So if you only go once and hate it, I'd say go back at least once. - EU in DC

Red Velvet...my least favorite in DC. The cupcakes are too expensive for what you get. Their Devil's Food? SICK. Don't even try it. Their Summertime cupcake is yummy though. - M in DC

Red velvet had flies all over the place the one time I was there. -MC in DC

I've never tasted their "boutique" cupcakes.  If you give me a choice of buying brownie bites or cupcakes at the same store , I'll choose the brownie bites every time.  That said, I'm sure the cupcakes are pretty good.  I've never had anything from Whole Foods that was sub par. But truthfully I'd rather buy my boutique cupcakes from a boutique than a grocery store. - E in DC