Author Archives: Kat

About Kat

Eats on a hobbit-like schedule.

Baked & Wired – Smurfette, Strawberry, Raspberry Cloud

FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

Well, it’s that time again, kiddos! We finally managed to find some time to make our pilgrimage to one of our favorite DC cupcakeries for a review threesome! Here’s what the website says about this week’s contestants:

l-r: Smurfette/Raspberry Dream/Strawberry

From left to right, we have…

the Smurfette: “Fresh blueberries are baked into vanilla cake, topped with lemon buttercream”

the Raspberry Cloud: “Lemon cake with a raspberry cream cheese frosting”

and Strawberry: “The bestseller! Vanilla cake with fresh strawberries folded in the batter and finished with a swirl of pink buttercream”

Kat:

Smurfette: I am a big fan of lemon and I quite enjoyed this one. Lemon buttercream frosting, sweet vanilla cake, with blueberries in the batter. The inclusion of whole berries made this one feel a lot lighter and healthier than it’s near cousin, the raspberry-preserve-filled lemony Rasmanian Devil. Still sweet, but you won’t feel so guilty. The berries had sunk to the lower half of the cake, so you have to make an effort to get all three tastes in one bite. A-

Raspberry Cloud: The lemon cake was as good as usual, but the flavor of the raspberry icing did not quite work for me. Tasted more like candy than fruit. C

Strawberry: The cake was unflavored but had strawberry bits mixed throughout. Also not as moist as most of the B&W cakes. Taken on it’s own, it was much more muffin-y than cake-y. The frosting was strawberry-flavored and supersweet. Together they made a pretty good cupcake. C+


Kendra:

Smurfette: I love blueberries in my baked goods–it’s hard to resist a freshly-baked blueberry muffin for breakfast. I was pretty excited to try out the Smurfette, since not only did it feature blueberries, it had a vanilla cake and lemon frosting (which makes it the delicious Rasmanian Devil’s bosom buddy). It’s a nice, fresh taste, though the blueberries end up being a bit  overwhelmed by the intensity of the lemon icing. B+

Raspberry Cloud: One of the cashiers told us that this was better than the Razzmanian Devil. UM, NOT SO MUCH. It was okay–can’t go wrong with the lemon cake here, nice an’ tart an’ moist, but the raspberry-cream cheese frosting does not beat out the raspberry jam-filled/lemon buttercream-frosted combo of the Razzmanian Devil. It’s certainly not bad, just very, very sweet. Cashier fail. C+

Strawberry: Er, I’m not sure how it’s labeled as the ‘most popular’ of the cupcake flavors on the website, because…well, it’s not that great. But I guess that’s the moral of the story here–WHAT IS POPULAR IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT, that’s how it goes, right? Anyway, the cake was dry and bland, and the frosting was sugary-sweet, and I didn’t get any strawberry flavors out of this at all.  D

 

And a special guest review from an honorary Sugarvamp, Miss Mary!

Smurfette: the clear winner out of the three, and in a way, Smurfette combines the best qualities of the two that came before it.  The lemon buttercream is zingy and delicious, and the cake is perfectly soft and moist.  The cake part actually reminded me of a muffin, but while that was bad news for the Strawberry cupcake, Smurfette reminded me of the packaged blueberry muffins I used to get at the convenience store in college: amazingly moist but never soggy, and with just the right ratio of blueberry-to-cake parts.  A

Raspberry Cloud: At first, I was convinced that this cupcake reminded me of a candy flavor I couldn’t quite place – a lemon or lime jolly rancher, maybe? – , but after a few more bites and input from Kendra, I changed my mind – this cupcake is remarkably like sherbet.  The raspberry cream cheese frosting is smooth and light and almost melts in your mouth, but has a hint of a kick that really does mimic tangy, refreshing sherbet.  Add in the lemon cupcake base and you’ve got your summer treat.  I was surprised that I didn’t notice cream cheese overtones as I often do with cream cheese frosting.  This cupcake’s weak point is the actual cake part.  Not bad, per se, but it’s a little bland.  A solid B.

Strawberry: Katie observed that this cupcake is really more like a muffin, and not in a good way.  The texture of the actual cake is pretty coarse, and I wasn’t impressed with the frosting, either.  Forgettable.  I give it a C mainly because I tend not to like strawberry-flavored things, so someone who does might not be so turned off by this one.

…and here’s the Smurfette showing off her goodies:

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Baked & Wired – Cherry Blossom (Seasonal)

Baked & Wired had a seasonal flavor to celebrate DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival. This cupcake was ‘vanilla cake with maraschino cherries mixed in the batter and topped with a cherry-flavored buttercream.’

Kat: This cupcake is so pink and pretty that it looks like something Barbie would eat, but is is definitely real food. The cake is as pink as the frosting, and has a bit of a syrup-like translucency. I’m used to maraschino cherries being served singly as a garnish, so all the chunks of cherry in the cake seemed quite indulgent. Mmmmm…preserved fruit. This is one of the sweetest cupcakes I have had from Baked & Wired, which definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste. B

Kendra: After you get past the fact that consuming this shockingly pink cupcake makes you look like a Pretty Pretty Princess, it’s not too bad. As Kat noted, it is verrrrry sweet, but the cherry flavor comes through enough to make this worth trying. Probably too sugary for most, but little  kids and people who love sweet things (like me) should probably enjoy this. B


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RICHMOND – For the Love of Chocolate

YESSSSS

For the Love of Chocolate

3136 West Cary Street
Richmond, Virginia 23221

Remember that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the good one) that takes place in the candy store? And the shopkeeper has a bajillion candies and it’s magical and wonderful and I think they sing a song? Yeah, For the Love of Chocolate is sorta like that. Well, minus the singing, and the moving ladders, and the British schoolchildren.

CHOCOLATE FROM EVERYWHERE

It’s jam-packed with chocolate from all over the world (hence the flags), local chocolate,  artisanal brands of chocolate (Vosges, Lake Champlain) and more. ‘More’ in this case involving marzipan (!!! Niederegger fans rejoice!), gummies (Haribo!), and general sugary goodies. You can purchase bars, truffles, or go the ‘purchase giant bags of chocolate-covered bridge mix by the pound’ route.

there's another wall of jars, trufax

Seriously, this is the most extensive chocolate shop I have been to.

IT'S LIKE THE CATACOMBS...BUT CHOCOLATEY

It’s not completely perfect–it’s a bit cramped due to the store size, some of the pricing is a bit wonky (the Vosges bars are  normally priced, but the Chuao bars cost twice as much as what I’ve seen at Wal-mart), and they stopped carrying Kinder Eggs. Still, if you’re in Carytown area and you love chocolate (or marzipan or torrone or sugar), you must check this place out.

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Baked & Wired Vanilla Latté Cupcake Review

Vanilla Latté, one of three coffeehouse themed cupcakes at Baked & Wired (along with Mocha and Chai Latte), is a “vanilla cake with an espresso buttercream.”

Kat got the espresso bean

Kat: I think I may have a new top cupcake. I wonder if B&W’s signature parchment square wraps are what helps lock in the moisture of the cakes, since no part of the cake base is exposed to air. Whatever it is, it works! The vanilla cake is soft and delicious and almost pancake-y in flavor. The buttercream frosting is rich with bittersweet coffee undertones. The combination is perfect. A

mmmm yeahhh

Kendra: Guys. YOU GUYS. I’m about to write something blasphemous.

I prefer vanilla to chocolate.

Okay, that’s not 100% true–but it is when we’re talking about B&W cakes. I’ve had a few of their vanilla-cake cupcake options now, and in my opinion, their vanilla cake is better. I know vanilla is plain, safe, and standard, but this cake is somehow rich and dense and just SOLID, like they’ve encapsulated the flavor of great vanilla ice cream and produced it in cake form.

Anyway, so the Vanilla Latté starts with that awesomeness. Onto the frosting, which is sweet with a nice bitter hint of espresso.

I place this cupcake at the same ranking as the Chocolate Cupcake of Doom; the cake might be better with the Vanilla Latté, but I still love the chocolate ganache frosting on the Doomcake too much to place the espresso buttercream above it. WE HAVE A TIE. (And, if you’re into cupcake pairing like Kat and I are, the Doomcake is the perfect accompaniment). A+

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Factsheet & Review: Sprinkles Cupcakes

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Georgetown's got some cool old buildings

Sprinkles has opened their first East Coast location in Washington, DC, less than two blocks from Georgetown Cupcakes and Baked & Wired. If DC is the cupcake capitol of the East, Georgetown must be the executive residence.

Location: 3015 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

Neighborhood: Georgetown

Transit: The nearest metro station is Foggy Bottom, though the walk from Rosslyn across the Key Bridge is probably not much longer. The Dupont-Georgetown-Rosslyn circulator brings you nearby, as do many other buses on K and M street routes.

Seating: With two tables, Sprinkles is primarily a take-out joint.

Sweets: Nothing but cupcakes, which are of typical size and priced at $3.50. Find the weekly flavor schedule on their website.

well, we do cast reflections, maybe we aren't vamps...

Drinks: Coffee, tea, bottled soda, and Sprinkles branded bottled water.

Otherwise Notable: Sprinkles sells cardboard and ribbon cupcake display kits, Sprinkles t-shirts, Sprinkles cupcake mixes, Sprinkles cupcake ziploc baggies…

::insert WTF Picard gif::

Kat: Kendra and I visited the day after their grand opening. We wanted to try a chocolate flavor and a lighter flavor so we ordered the Strawberry and the seasonal Irish Chocolate. The cupcakes are the typical mushroom-ish shape, baked in crinkly paper wrappers. They all have a brightly colored decoration on top. From the photos I imagined these cute little garnishes might be fondant, but when we opened our cupcake box I found myself staring dubiously at my pink disc suspecting it was made of plastic. With a good chomp, it shattered between my teeth releasing a faintly sugary and overwhelmingly unpleasant alkaline flavor. Recommendation: do not attempt to eat.

the strawberry looks like a boob! whuwha

The Strawberry cupcake is pink-flecked strawberry cake with pink strawberry icing. The icing was very light, more like a cream filling than a frosting. Both cake and icing were very sweet, with sugar as the overwhelming flavor component. The flavor all hit just one spot of tongue. B

Irish Chocolate is a special that will be running until Saint Patrick’s Day. Sprinkles describes it as ‘belgian dark chocolate cake topped with a Baileys irish cream cheese frosting.’ The cake did not taste very good. The frosting was creamy and custardy and sweet, though I could not taste Baileys and I definitely couldn’t taste any cream cheese. I did like the texture contrast of the crunchy parts around the rim of the cupcake, where it was unprotected by paper, with the main body. C

SEE THE TOP FELL OFF FAIL

Kendra: Wow, they sure do love their branding! Perhaps they ought to spend more time on their cupcakes…or at least make the cupcake decorations more edible! Like Kat mentioned, the decorations are completely wretched–I assume they’re sugarpaste, but they were like biting into a rock–and not even a delicious rock. Putting nigh-inedible things on something meant to be consumed is just a bad idea.

Strawberry was a pleasantly sweet deal, though the strawberry itself was fairly subtle. I tasted the strawberry faintly in the cake, but the frosting seemed more like straight-up buttercream to me. It was somewhat reminiscent of drinking NesQuik strawberry milk, and overall it was enjoyable enough, though not very memorable. C+

The Irish Chocolate was a big disappointment–the Bailey’s was undetectable, and the actual chocolate cake was completely underwhelming–tasted like box mix, which isn’t too surprising considering a.) Sprinkles is a chain and b.) they sell box mixes of their cupcake flavors. You do the math. The cupcake itself just didn’t taste like much of anything.

…also, the top of my cupcake fell off. 😦  D

Kat: I returned to Sprinkles on my own for an Orange Cupcake, which is only offered on Tuesdays. Sprinkles bills this as ‘fragrant orange cake with orange-vanilla frosting flecked with zest.’ The cake tasted like poundcake to me, but I did spot some orange flecks. The sweet frosting was also flecked with zest, and tasted lightly citrusy with floral notes. The frosting is very soft and giving.

This time I was eating a the whole cupcake by myself. Sprinkles cupcakes are more-or-less flat on top with a dome of frosting over half an inch thick. I liked it a lot at first but about half-way through the cupcake I found myself eating around the frosting as it became unpleasantly greasy (not unlike the texture experience of Cupcake Pebbles). The ratio of frosting to cake is much too high for me and I discarded the final gobs of it. I can imagine that some people would really enjoy it, though, the way I can really enjoy Cadbury Creme Eggs. C+

This time I asked the clerk about the colored circles that adorn the cupcakes. She said “they are for telling the flavors apart” and confirmed that they are sugar paste. Sprinkles provides flavor cards that index the cupcakes by their circle colors, and the circles also show up a lot in their branding, but I think the cupcakes would be much improved by making the decorations out of something that tasted good–and ideally something chewable.

TAPTAP

This time I was eating a the whole cupcake by myself.

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Bayou Bakery – Beignets

unassuming

Bayou Bakery

Location: 1515 N Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA, 22201

Transit: Close to the Courthouse metro station

Seating: Clean, bright, and theme-y interior with full seating area

more exciting inside!

Sweets: A case of cookies, muffins, croissants, and so on, but the beignets are the star attraction at $3 for three and made fresh to order

Savories: Sandwiches and Louisiana fare, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus

Drinks: Coffee, tea, soda, beer & wine

Otherwise Notable: Bayou Bakery will be making King Cakes until Mardi Gras. They seem to sell out fast!

SUGARY PILLOWS

Kat: Before our first visit to Bayou Bakery, I had neither eaten nor even heard of beignets. I had no idea these sugar-dusted pillows of deep fried dough could bring so much gustatory pleasure. Simple flavors, perfect textures, eat them while they’re warm! A+

Kendra: Bayou Bakery is a fairly new establishment, but it’s already adding some flavor (hoho) to the otherwise staid Courthouse area. The name is a wee bit misleading, as it’s really more of a sandwich shop, and their signature item isn’t even baked–it’s fried. I may quibble about their name, but I won’t quibble about the deliciousness of their beignets. They’re so light and airy when you bite into one that you immediately forget that they’re basically donuts without the hole. The only downside is that people may confuse you for a coke addict when your face is covered with the powdered sugar that dusts the beignets, though this is a far cheaper addiction. A


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Art of Tea – Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong (Green)

Iron Goddess of Mercy (often transliterated as Ti Kuan Yin or Tie Guanyin) is your standard oolong.  Art of Tea‘s Green Iron Goddess of Mercy is a full-leaf loose tea. They also offer a ‘roasted’ variety with higher oxidation, which I am very interested in trying.

This is one of my favorite teas that I have in the house.  It has a medium flavor strength, crisp with a hint of sharpness, that is definitely in the woodsy flavor family (but not smoky!). The tea slowly unfurls over repeated steepings, and looks good on display in an open-topped infusing basket. With a medium-size spoonful, I can resteep for 4-8 (large) cups.

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