Cupcake Craze Hits NoVa: Alexandria and Clarendon Shops Open
If you had suggested 10 years ago that designer cupcakeries, selling cute little treats at $3 a pop, would one day compete with donut shops for our sweet tooth's attention, I would have backed away slowly, hoping I could escape before your thoughts turned to Armageddon and Christ's second coming.
But these days, I'm starting to feel like the crazy one. Cupcake shops and bakeries specializing in the tiny sweets are almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks stores. How much longer before a cupcakery opens in my gym locker?
More than a year ago, the Post half-thought the craze might die before the paper could even declare a winner in its Cupcake Wars. "To be honest, we thought that cupcakes' 15 minutes might well be over when we launched Cupcake Wars, a round-robin showdown of Washington area bakeries. But after receiving hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from bakers and rabid fans, we could see that the trend has life in it yet, " wrote Jane Black back in November 2008.
More than 14 months later, the trend continues unabated. Not only has Georgetown Cupcake added a second location, but two shops have recently opened in Northern Virginia (although one technically had a presence in the metro area already). Justin Stegall has finally opened Bakeshop after several years of selling sweets at java shops like the now defunct Murky and Chinatown Coffee.
I stopped by the other newbie this weekend. When I walked in, I thought that Alexandria Cupcake wasn't actually open for business yet. Or that I had accidentally tripped upon a private soft opening. The walls and the counter — the counter where the cupcakes sit, that is — were essentially barren. Four little forlorn cakes were the last survivors from a brisk Sunday business, one of the owners told me. It was not even 4 p.m.
This cupcake phenomenon has clearly not hit its peak.
I bought two of the four remaining cupcakes at Alexandria and took them back to my vehicle in this cool (if wasteful) brown box with two round slots for the sweets (see picture below). I promptly wolfed them down with the wife.
The red velvet cake was moist, while its frosting balanced sweetness with the slightest hint of sour, thanks to the addition of cream cheese. The shop's signature cupcake, however, failed in the most critical area: its chocolate content. The red velvet had little of the luxuriousness I look for in such a cake. By contrast, the vanilla bean cupcake with Belgian cocoa rouge/buttercream frosting was crumbly but decadently rich. You could see the specks of vanilla bean in the cake.
I figured those two cupcakes would hold me for awhile...until I heard just today that Hello Cupcake is rolling out specially designed treats for the Super Bowl: one cupcake for the Colts, another for the Saints. You show your support by buying your team's cupcake. A "winner" will be announced game-day Sunday. Somehow I don't think this contest works the same way as the 7-Election coffee cups. The Super Bowl ain't an election, folks.