The school of thought is DC picks up on the trends about two years behind other cities but once we do we go full throttle. Designer cupcakes are no exception. While others may claim the cupcake has officially jumped the shark, the recent openings of Hello, Cupcake in DuPont and Lavender Moon in Old Town indicate DC residents (or at least small business owners) feel differently.
Here at Capital Spice HQ, we have the dreaded combination of a serious sweet tooth and an allergy to doing anything halfway. We invited some like-minded friends over and had our first ever Capital Spice Cupcake Showdown. Five judges, 6 bakeries, 24 cupcakes: One sugar-addled Sunday afternoon.
Get the jittery scoop after the jump!
The field: The Cupcake Showdown was semi-blind (Mike and I were the only ones who knew the source of the cupcakes). We bought four cupcakes from each bakery; two “classic” flavors and two signature flavors. Cupcakes were mixed and assigned a random number for ranking.
The judges: The Cupcake Terrorist, who took a break from writing a grad school paper on, you guessed it, terrorism to gorge with us. Itty Bitter Buttercream Betty, up to her wee ears in matzoh ball soup in the hours leading up to the challenge and Negative Nell who made the rest of us feel guilty by being all healthy-like and going for a hike in Virginia before the showdown. Oh, Mike and I judged, too.
The scoring: Cupcakes were judged and given a score of 1-5 (5 being the highest) in each of three categories: appearance, flavor and texture. Armed with nothing but forks and glass-bottled milk from Timor Market, we dug in.
The play-by-play: Everyone had a different strategy. Itty Bitty Buttercream Betty and I moved with the ferocity of foxes, taking small quick bites so we could record our scores and move on before our stomachs knew what hit them. Cupcake Terrorist and Mike were slower and methodical, jotting careful notes for every entry. Negative Nell quickly proved herself to be the harsh Russian judge of this panel, giving the lowest scores of everyone.
A classic vanilla with chocolate icing from Baked & Wired emerged as an early lead but was quickly overtaken by its well-decorated neighbors such as Lavender Moon’s S’More cupcake topped with scorched marshmallow whip and the almost-dripping icing of CakeLove’s chocolate with coffee icing.
Both Hello Cupcake and Buzz cupcakes lost points for looking too “back to school night bake sale” with the small swirls and sprinkles compared to their sophisticated neighbors. Baked & Wired’s “big and luscious” entries garnered lustful glances while we prepped and were some of the first to be sampled. Georgetown Cupcake’s designs focused on precision, a cupcake-version of Goldilock’s “just right” emphasis of frosting and cake. As the only savory entry, Hello Cupcake’s gluten-free Pumpkin Spice nailed a few extra samples and was Cupcake Terrorist’s top choice. Interesting note: no one really missed the gluten in the pumpkin cupcake.
… and the results: Mike took a deep dive into the scores to come up with a little data analysis.
Individual Cupcake Top Winners (out of a possible 75 points):
A tie for the top win with 64 points each!
Key Lime, Georgetown Cupcake
Key Lime, Cake Love
A tie for second with 63 points each!
Carrot Cake, Georgetown Cupcake
Red Velvet, Buzz Bakery
Third Place with 61 points
Mojito, Baked & Wired
Best Overall Bakery (out of a possible 300 points)
Georgetown Cupcake, 225 points
Lavender Moon, 215 points
Baked & Wired, 210 points
What have we learned? Our friends like key lime. Creamy frosting is generally more popular than sugary frosting. Sprinkles as decoration leave a little be desired. To be thankful Nell doesn’t judge other events where our reputation is at stake. After eating that much cupcake, you will feel an undeniable pull to lay on the floor. And maybe, just maybe, relative newcomer to the scene Lavender Moon can take the crown from prom queen Georgetown Cupcake.
|Key Lime||Georgetown Cupcake||64|
|Carrot Cake||Georgetown Cupcake||63|
|Mojito||Baked & Wired||61|
|S’Mores||Lavender Moon Cupcakery||60|
|Peanut Butter Blossom||Hello Cupcake||60|
|Vanilla Squared||Georgetown Cupcake||56|
|Chocolate w/ Vanilla Frosting||Lavender Moon Cupcakery||55|
|Pumpkin Spice (Gluten Free)||Hello Cupcake||54|
|Chocolate||Baked & Wired||54|
|Spiced Local Apple||Lavender Moon Cupcakery||53|
|Spice w/ Maple||Baked & Wired||50|
|Chocolate w/ Coffee Frosting||CakeLove||49|
|Vanilla w/ Vanilla Frosting||Lavender Moon Cupcakery||47|
|Vanilla w/ Chocolate Frosting||CakeLove||45|
|Vanilla||Baked & Wired||45|
|Buzz (Espresso dusted)||Buzz||43|
|Chocolate Cubed||Georgetown Cupcake||42|
|Chocolate w/ Chocolate Frosting||CakeLove||39|
|Vanilla w/ Chocolate Frosting||Buzz||39|
|Vanilla w/ Chocolate Frosting||Hello Cupcake||29|
|Chocolate w/ Vanilla Frosting||Buzz||28|
|Chocolate w/ Vanilla Frosting||Hello Cupcake||25|
1351 Connecticut Ave., NW
Note: Hello Cupcake is closed on Sundays. We purchased ours on Saturday evening and, although the icing dried out a bit, the cake stayed nice and moist.
Lavender Moon Cupcakery
116 South Royal Street
No Phone Number Yet
PS. If this isn’t enough cupcake for you, keep an eye on Blonde’s I View where they’re doing up a cupcake contest with grandeur. After working with her for years, I can attest that J-Coll is also not one to do things halfway.