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The Cupcakery That Ate Georgetown

19 Aug

Visiting Georgetown Cupcake, the subject of TLC’s new show DC Cupcakes,  has been something I was both anticipating and dreading.  There’s just so much hype orbiting this cupcakery that I feared it would cloud my objective.  Plus, I imagined the inevitable line would be somewhat disagreeable on a mid-August evening.  However, deep down I was dying to know – do these cupcakes live up to the frequent “DC’s best cupcake” proclamation?

My husband and I set out for this mission on Monday and arrived on the scene around 6:30 pm.  Enter the first obstacle we encountered on our journey – parking.  Driving down M St. has never been a cake walk, especially during rush hour.  So to navigate the swarms of cars and pedestrians into a (legal) parking spot is no easy feat.  Second obstacle – the line.  A fairly long line, out the door, too.  It probably took about 20 minutes to get up to the door.  Once at said door, we encountered a Georgetown Cupcake employee that some folks have deemed “the cupcake bouncer”.  This gentleman kindly passed out menus and fielded questions, like what the seasonal selections were this month (August = Ginger Peach and Cherry Cheesecake).  When the moment was right, he opened the door and allowed us to pass.  Third obstacle – quickly making your decision amidst all the commotion, beautiful confectionery, and dozens of hot and hungry people standing behind you.  No time to admire or marvel here folks, which is a shame because the cupcakes are certainly worth marveling at! 

The final obstacle may or may not be an issue for everyone  – seating.  There are a total of 3 tables inside the shop, and while they had a delightful, fresh floral arrangement on each, I got the impression that this was not a place to linger.

Steve and I made our selection of four cupcakes, in record time.  We were able to snag a corner table and eat somewhat removed from the masses.  Here’s what we experienced:

~Red Velvet:  I was pretty determined not to like this one, just because it’s so popular and again all that hype.  But, darn it all for winning me and my stubborn ways over.  It was soft and spongey, the red coloring wasn’t that awful stop-sign-red shade, and the frosting was a neat combination of butter cream and cream cheese.  It was topped with a petite, shiny lavender heart, which I thought was a cute touch.  (The “Simply Red” red velvet cupcake at Cupcakes Actually in Fairfax had similar adornment – I can see why these are popular at Valentine’s Day).

~Toffee Crunch:  A vanilla cake with surprise bits of toffee tucked throughout, topped with a toffee vanilla frosting and crumbs of Heath Bar.  This one I could take it or leave it.  I left it actually, after I had my bite, for Steve to finish off since he seemed to really like it.

~Cherry Cheescake:  This was one of the “seasonal flavors”, and its graham cracker crust bottom impressed me.  This was a new concept for me, and I really like it.  The cherry and mascarpone cheese cupcake with vanilla frosting made for a winning combination.

~Milk Chocolate Birthday:  I think it’s official, a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting is now my go-to cupcake.  Add a few colorful sprinkles on top and I’m 6 all over again eating birthday cake in sheer delight.  This was a good version, and I especially loved the frosting.  The cake wasn’t overly sweet so it was possible to eat the entire thing without feeling a cavity coming on.

Before I break it down, I feel the need to justify all the line-goers to those that pass by and scoff.  Yeah, it probably does look pretty nutty to see SO many people lined up for just a cupcake.  But that’s just it, it is JUST a cupcake, a $2.75 cupcake, which is a little piece of luxury that almost everyone can afford.  And now that these cupcakes are featured on a TV series, it adds even more value (and more excitement) to our purchase.  An article on this local hot spot, by J. Freedom du Lac in Tuesday’s Washington Post Metro section, discussed how we’re used to seeing people line up (even camp out) for iPhones and iPads and those all cost a lot more than $2.75.  If purchasing a small baked good at a pretty bakery can brighten up a day without putting a serious dent in your budget, shouldn’t that be something worth understanding?  Ok, stepping down from the soapbox now!  Let’s break it down now…

Georgetown Cupcake / 3301 M Street, Washington, D.C. (flagship store)/ / Additional location at 4834 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda, MD.

  1. Price:  $2.75!  This was a surprise, given the all the fame surrounding this cupcakery as well as the affluent neighborhood.  I’ll take it though, and appreciate it – under $3 cupcakes are becoming hard to find.  Looking to buy in bulk?  $15 for half a dozen / $29 for a dozen.

 2. Room temperature:  Yes.  Actually…these may have been just a smidge above room temperature.  Or maybe I was still hot from standing in line?

 3.  Size:  Average.

4. Vegan or gluten free options:  None to be found on the menu.

 5. To-go packaging:  Pretty pink box with a graphic b&w sticker.  I loved the cupcake dividers, the nicest ones I’ve encountered, in that they keep the frosting above the dividers.  Loosing vital frosting on packaging can be discouraging.

Interestingly enough, you have to pay 50 cents if you need a box for a single cupcake, and you can choose to “gift wrap” an individual cupcake for $1.50.  Other to-go items:  I have a hunch that their utensils were those of the biodegradable potato starch kind, which gets a big thumbs up from me.  Napkins were no where to be found, so Steve had to ask for some.  Ask and you shall receive napkins!

6. Milk for sale?:  Yes!  They have that, soy milk, Izze sodas, teas, illy coffee (yum!), lattes, espresso – pretty much everything you’d expect at a cafe.

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:    No, it’s all about the cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake.  Their name isn’t misleading in the least.

8.  Ambiance:   If  you can see past the gobs of people, you’ll actually notice the interior is awfully lovely.  Hardwood floors, abundance of natural light, cleverly stacked silver cake stands to display the cupcakes, fun Warhol-esque art work on the wall, fresh flowers on the tables.  But the constant stream of people did leave the floors a bit untidy (it’s crumb city down there) and the table sort of dirty. 

9. Service:  They mean business at Georgetown Cupcake!  They’re efficient for sure, but they certainly didn’t seem like they wanted to chit-chat.  The whole process of standing in line and quickly ordering at the cashier made me feel like herded cattle…which I wasn’t thrilled about.  So, this got me thinking.  One of the reasons why I love visiting all these cupcakeries is, as I mentioned above, it’s a little sliver of luxury for me.  I step into each “boutique” and soak up the scents of vanilla, almond, and cocoa.  I admire the unique displays and sugary creations.  I enjoy all the colors of frostings and get excited about unique sprinkles or innovative cupcake toppings.  It’s inspiring and uplifting.  Maybe some people feel this way walking into Tiffany’s, a Porsche showroom, or even the Apple store.  They like to leisurely browse, try on, take a test drive, etc. of this exciting merchandise.  I find this excitement in cupcakes, which is why you will almost always find me ohhhing and ahhhing, waffling back and forth between flavors, asking questions about ingredients, admiring my surrounding, and so on upon entering a bakery.  At Georgetown Cupcake, I was deprived of this type of experience.  That sounds awfully dramatic, I know.  I’m just saying that having a tasty cupcake is very important, but having a tasty cupcake + an enchanting experience while purchasing and eating a tasty cupcake = me coming back for more!

Final verdict:  That red velvet really hooked me, so it will be sliding into spot #3 on the “Top 10”.  The “Milk Chocolate Birthday” was also a contender and can now be found in spot #7.

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