…it being a cupcake that has both delicious, non-overpowering icing and a deliciously moist cake.
Where, pray tell, did I find this fabulous, perfectly delectable, surprisingly delicious, morsel of goodness? I am wondering if I should give away the secret…
Ok, fine. Here: Buzz Bakery, in Alexandria (thank you, Renea and Graham!).
I present to you Buzz’s cupcake of the month:
Yes, that’s bacon on top. And bacon crumbled into the peanut butter icing. That tops the perfectly baked (I cannot emphasize this enough) devil’s food cupcake (and I don’t care that it tasted like Betty Crocker straight from the box. If it was that, kudos to the baker who baked it to perfection. If it was, actually, from scratch and still tasted like that, then kudos to the baker who baked it to perfection).
I mean, come on. I know it sounds disgusting. But that combination was so interesting and such a surprise to your tastebuds that you have no reason but to just revel in its authenticity and uniqueness. And the flavor. By God, the flavor. If a peanut butter and bacon sandwich is good enough for Elvis, a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter and bacon icing is good enough for me. You like the mixing of savory and sweet (think chocolate covered pretzels, for example)? Then this is the cupcake for you. The peanut butter icing, by virtue of its main component, was not too sugary to begin with–which is good, since the cake part took the cake (haha) in the sweet category. Thus, when you mixed in the bacon it just added a subtlety to the icing. Don’t get me wrong, the taste of bacon was quite obvious (and happily shocking) but it melded so well with the minimalist peanut butter icing and the cake. And then on top of the cake in just the right proportion…heaven.
Now, I know Elvis had banana on that sandwich, too. Josh Short, the baker extraordinaire at Buzz, smartly left that ingredient out. To include it would have been overkill. Ha, I’m assuming he even considered including it. I’d never try to put thoughts into the head of such a phenomenal and creative baker.
Those who know me know I have a slight obsession with the cupcake. And, I’d like to just throw it out there–while I have a public forum–that I enjoyed a good cupcake well before cupcakeries began popping up on every corner. Right next to Starbucks. That being said, I enjoy travelling about town, stopping in on bakeries and the like, trying out their attempts at the individual sized cake. Because, essentially, what is a cupcake but that?
Anyway, my friend Whitney (a fellow individual min-cake connoisseur) and I sampled a couple (ok, more than a couple) such creations on a recent trip to Georgetown a few weekends ago. I meant to write a battle of the cupcakes review. I really did. But, now, after indulging in this gem today, I think that there is an actual war that is raging in the cupcake world.
Whitney and I had our first cupcake at Baked and Wired. We chose and shared a Red Velvet, as that is a favorite of us both. To say this cupcake was unremarkable would be a compliment. The cupcake was the opposite of indulgent, and even more the opposite of delicious. So opposite, in fact, that we each took one bite and decided to share it with the trash receptacle. The cream cheese frosting was so dense and so sweet that one would wonder if there was any sugar left in the bakery. There was not even a tinge of the tartness you expect to savor in a cream cheese frosting (and, granted, the ratio of butter to sugar to cream cheese is a difficult one to master. But, if you’re going to open a bakery? That is “known” for its cupcakes? I’d suggest you perfect that one. Just sayin’.). Add to that that the cake was dry beyond belief. It crumbled into teeny, tiny crumbs. This is an attribute a good cupcake should never possess. We left Baked and Wired $3 poorer yet hopeful that our next spot would relegate success.
Several hours later we found ourselves standing in line (one that went halfway down the block, in fact) in 90+ degree heat awaiting the nirvana that many claim is Georgetown Cupcake. Now, our bakers at GC have been featured on the Today Show and on both Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart’s shows. Owen Wilson has even been known to stop by when he’s in town. And for good reason. Their cupcakes are, undoubtedly, tasty. But, they’re also inconsistent. I say this because, in my experience, you can go and get the same cupcake three days in a row and it will never taste as it did the day before. Similar, yes. But never the same cake texture or flavor consistency. At least in my experience.
On this trip, we sampled many flavors of cupcakes, each purchasing six (for ourselves and others, of course). My mom, who is quite opinionated about food of the sweet variety, claimed that the cupcakes she had (lemon with raspberry icing and vanilla with chocolate icing) were both “very good.” She made note that the icing was not too sweet and not of an overwhelming amount (as that, for instance, of Cake Love (whose website is as underwhelming as its desserts) or Crumbs) and that the cake was “not dry.” Usually, she aptly stated, it’s either a great cupcake and horrible icing or an awful cake and fantastic icing. This, while not great and fantastic, was at least even across the board as good. Good cake, good icing. This makes for a good cupcake.
But, unlike the one I had today at Buzz, the GC cupcakes were not great. The red velvet, per Whitney, was just cake dyed red (or so it seemed)
and did not have the German Chocolate flavor she was expecting (she did say that the version I make myself at home is a million times better. That’s because I add pureed chocolate chips and cream cheese to the batter. Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra risky, I throw in a dollop of sour cream. But enough about that…). GC’s cream cheese icing was leaps and bounds better than that of Baked and Wired but, again, nothing special. The chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles passed the taste test of my two year old pal, William. He and his parents enjoyed the vanilla on vanilla, the aforementioned chocolate cubed, the red velvet, and the vanilla with chocolate icing. While they enjoyed them and thanked me for bringing them, not one of them even mentioned how delicious they were until I asked. I figure, if they were great, I would’ve heard about it immediately. I will say that, despite the long line full of anxious anticipation, the staff at GC really knows how to get a line moving. They are very efficient and kind. They do not seem, either, to make mistakes. Also, the menu is quite eclectic and the “special” cupcakes change with the season. Despite the inconsistency, I look forward to stopping by in the fall for a pumpkin spice cupcake.
Since I mentioned them above, I should pay respect to Warren Brown and Cake Love and what, until a few years ago, was the be all end all of cupcakes in this area. I have given Mr. Brown and his creations three chances…the last of which, actually, was yesterday, when I chose a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing over a DQ Blizzard. Bad move. For the third time, I was disappointed. With the flavor, with the texture…with everything. Including the service. I happened to go to the location that was in the mall. The employees were rude and hyperactive teenagers who were more interested in acting crazy and loud and–I’m gonna say it–under the influence and who were more interested in talking about hoodies and Forever 21 than they were with even pretending I (and three other people) was in line. It left a bad taste in my mouth before the cupcake even had a chance to. Which it did. No more Cake Love for me.
So, friends, there you have it. My search for the perfect cupcake, though, is far from over. I still have many cupcake joints to try in this great city of ours. And I look forward to doing so. But at least, now, there is some competition. Competing with badness and mediocrity is boring. The rest of these places have their work cut out for them and my tastebuds anxiously anticipate the challenge. Let the battle of the cupcakes continue.