A cupcake craving in Asia is seldom satisfied. Ask for a cupcake in the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore and chances are you’ll end up with imposters: muffins and little bland chiffon cakes squeezed in tiny paper cupcake cups. The sellers are absolutely clueless, which only adds to my vexation.
This pursuit for genuine cupcakes was ignited after watching the sisters Kallinis’ TV show DC Cupcake that chronicled the pressures, excitement and the tension of fulfilling the requests of their clients to render their favourite objects and events into cupcakes as well as the day-to-day operation of Georgetown Cupcake. As I mentioned in my blog entry “Cupcakes by Sophie and Katherine”, I finally crossed the threshold of Georgetown Cupcake, taking in every nook and cranny of the store and as many cupcakes I could with me. After biting into their Red Velvet, Birthday and Choco-vanilla cupcakes, Georgetown Cupcake tops my list of favourite cupcakes. This is not to say that I am not wont to try other cupcakes. On the contrary, I am more than inclined to conduct taste tests and see how they measure up to my chosen cupcake of all cupcakes.
Promenading around National Harbor in Maryland led me to CakeLove – Cakes from Scratch, which, revealed my cousin, is the brainchild of a lawyer-turned-baker. Cousin said she saw his show on the Food Network, but I can’t say I’ve seen it. With seven locations scattered around DC and its surrounding areas, the Maryland branch is warm and bright, and the cupcakes nicely arranged in the glass storage display. As for the servers, I’m chalking up their attitude to fatigue as I’ve always believed that people working in the pastry and ice cream stores should match the buoyant characteristic of their products.
As for the cupcake, from an aesthetic standpoint, CakeLove – Cakes from Scratch is nowhere near the Japanese-like presentation of Georgetown Cupcake, which shows perfect frostings on the cupcake. Packaging is disappointing too; the server just wrapped them in mini cookie sheets and dumped them in the box. Compare that with Georgetown Cupcake’s presentation: pink boxes with individual cupcake holders so the frosting won’t stick to the next cupcake and the gentle placement in the holder.
CakeLove – Cakes from Scratch also carries the popular Red Velvet like Georgetown Cupcake but the latter has mastered the art of a balanced cupcake base and frosting. Both complement the other. The former’s cream cheese frosting, on the other hand, overpowered the base, and unless you’re a big cream cheese frosting fan you’d like find it cloying to the taste. However, it still makes for a nice alternative when you’re nowhere near Georgetown. Another flavour, Cookies & Cream, proved to be a better cupcake in both taste and presentation.
I stumbled upon Kara’s Cupcakes, which apparently has six outlets in California, at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. The creation of Kara Lind, executive pastry chef with a huge sweet tooth much to the chagrin of her dentist-parent, can give the sister Kallinis a run for their money from set-up, presentation to taste. Pink boxes have cake holders and the frostings are not running all over the place.
Red Velvet was nowhere to be found so I settled for Kara’s Karrot, a cupcake version of the all-time favourite Carrot Cake, which proved to be light and easy on the palate. The cupcake was moist and the frosting was silky sweet and which is why one cupcake is more than enough to satisfy the craving for something sweet. As for the servers, they were, comparatively speaking, a lot more exuberant than at CakeLove’s.
Up for the taste test (a box of it sits on the kitchen table of my high friend Joy) are Sweet Smores, chocolate cupcake with graham cracker crust and a toasted marshmallow frosting; Meyer Lemony Lemon, vanilla cupcake with a tart lemon filling and lemon butter cream; Vanilla Chocolate, vanilla cupcake with sweet Madagascar bourbon vanilla frosting; and Fleur de Sel, chocolate cupcake filled with caramel filling, ganache frosting and fleur de sel.
Georgetown Cupcake is still top on my list but Kara’s Cupcakes comes in a strong second followed by CakeLove. The list might see a change in ranking once I get to Red Velvet, which, in the words of my cousin Och, made him forget Georgetown Cupcake instantly after he bit into one of its delicious cupcakes.
160 National Plaza
Oxon Hill, MD 20645
Kara’s Cupcakes (Ghirardelli Square)
Plaza Level 900 North Point
San Francisco, CA 94109
415 351- CAKE (2253)