Saturday, November 20, 2010

That's Entertaining: A Guide to DC Area Cupcake Stores

by Barbara Burtoff

It looked like the wedding cake had gone AWOL. It was nowhere in sight, but there was an easy explanation. The bride and groom did not want a sky-high, sugary-sweet, ornately trimmed finale to their nuptials. They wanted cupcakes – plain and simple.

The luncheon was catered. The cupcakes they bought at their favorite bakery. When the meal was over, the caterer’s crew cleared the dining room table and brought out a “tree” of cupcakes. There were chocolate ones with chocolate frosting. There were vanilla-flavored yellow cupcakes with vanilla-flavored white frosting. Guests were invited to come help themselves. And so they did. There was just one teensy tiny problem. Some people took one. Some took two. Some got none because the young couple had ordered only one per guest. They both had a look of sheer horror as they stared at the empty cupcake tree.

The groom had known me since he and his mother moved into the same apartment building years earlier. His mom was forever talking about my food columns. So he decided I was the perfect person to come to for an explanation of their cupcake problem. “Why would anyone take two cupcakes?” he wanted to know. It was a question I couldn’t help but answer with a question, “Why not?” They hadn’t put up a sign saying “One to a guest, please.” The cupcakes weren’t minis but they were smaller than some labeled “medium” in size. On the table was a stack of dessert plates, about 8 inches across; that meant plenty of room for two cupcakes. Perhaps smaller plates should have been offered or paper cocktail napkins. They could have had someone serving the dessert course. That would have guaranteed one per guest, but if that server was paid a four-hour minimum, it might have cost the couple more than the extra cupcakes.

I got to wondering how many cupcakes should have been ordered for 70 guests. If I called a bake shop owner, would I hear 105 (1 1/2 per guest), 140 (2 per guest) or 175 (2 1/2 per guest)?

Penny Karas, owner of Hello Cupcake near Dupont Circle, in DC, said, “The rule of thumb is to allow one and a half cupcakes per guest – if that’s the only dessert served. For 70 guests, that would be 105 cupcakes. I recommend for a party that the host and hostess put out at least three flavors. But if this wedding couple had done that, some guests might have taken three. People love cupcakes and they enjoy trying different ones.”

Yes, cupcakes seem to be hot, hot, hot and definitely not just for elementary school birthday parties. Said Penny Karas, “I get orders for corporate events, some even want their trademark atop the icing. They are popular desserts for all sorts of parties, including showers and weddings.” Hello Cupcake also sells the “trees.” Theirs are made of cardboard and hold 36, 100 or 300. You may have to go to a kitchenware shop if your heart is sold on owning one of the metal versions.

Teresa Velazquez, who owns Baked and Wired in Georgetown with her husband, Tony, said, “When we started out 10 years ago, a batch of cupcakes meant 12. Today, we make 2,000 at a time. We recommend three flavors for a wedding – yellow cake with fresh strawberries in it and a pink buttercream frosting, chocolate cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting and a carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes we bake for a wedding are slightly smaller than medium-sized ones.”

Nycci Nellis, publisher of TheListAreYouOnIt for all the news about food, wine and restaurants, added, “Cupcakes are here to stay. They are a trend across the whole country.” She said that New York City and Los Angeles were first to see an expansion of cupcakeries. That was at least seven years ago. They began popping up everywhere in the greater Washington area about four years ago.

Why are they so beloved? Well, everyone you ask will have opinions about that. Nycci Nellis explained, “The economy being what it is, some turn to cupcakes – childhood comfort foods – to cheer them up. Others rationalize that they are smaller than a slice of a three-layer cake with frosting so they must have less calories.”

Lisa Yockelson, a baking journalist and cookbook author, said, “The appeal of cupcakes is both psychological and culinary. It channels sweet memories, such as childhood birthday parties, and, in many ways, the one-person, hand-held treat, with its delicious ratio of frosting to cake, is a confection that you have all to yourself.” Her most recent cookbook is ChocolateChocolateand does include cupcake recipes.

Rose Beranbaum, a book author specializing in cakes and pies and other baked goods said, “As a baker, I can’t resist adding that the smaller the cake, the finer and more even the texture. Also, it stays fresher not having cut edges to dry out while sitting waiting to be served.” Her most recent book is Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

Two weeks ago, I asked Cleveland Park Listserv members to share the names of their favorite shops for cupcakes. I heard from 32 of you. There were 16 that mentioned Baked and Wired, 1052 Jefferson Street, NW, 202-333-2500, .

No bake shop came in second place, or third, but here are a few that got from two to five votes. Some sell cupcakes only, while others have a full line of bakery products. Some have a sit-down area; many don’t. If you call before you go, be sure to ask whether a parking lot or Metro stop is close by.

These bakeries are listed in alphabetical order:

Bakeshop, 1025 N. Fillmore Street, Arlington, VA, 571-970-6460.

Cake Love, 1506 U Street, NW, 202-588-7100. You can also find their cupcakes at Love Cafe across the street.

Crumbs, 604-11th Street, NW, 202-737.4001. This New York bakery just opened at this location; two more shops coming soon.

Frosting A Cupcakery, 1 Washington Circle, Chevy Chase, MD, 301-539-9021, 

Furin’s, 2805 M St. NW, 202-965-1000, 

Georgetown Cupcake, 3301 M Street, NW, 202-333-8448. They have a second shop in Bethesda, MD.

Hello Cupcake, 1361 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 202-861-2253.

Red Velvet Cupcakery, 501-7th Street, NW, 202-347-7895.

Something Sweet, 3708 Macomb Street, NW, 202-3642525.

Sticky Fingers Bakery, 1370 Park Road NW, 202-299-9700,


Barbara Burtoff spent 10 years as a food writer and editor for the Boston Herald daily newspaper. She visited farms and markets, attended culinary schools and cooking contests, and covered parties of all sizes from large, gala fundraisers to small gatherings at home. She then left to finish an M.S. Education degree, expanded from one paper to national syndication focusing on consumer/shopping issues, nutrition and psychology of eating topics.

That's Entertaining! is published by the Cleveland Park Listserv. (c) 2010 Barbara Burtoff.  Have a question? You can reach Barbara Burtoff at: Entertainingways (at) fastmail (dot) net. Your comments about this column are welcome below.


  1. Can't believe you didn't mention Baked & Wired in Georgetown! It's on Jefferson, Pl. One of the owners is a Georgetown Day School mom.
    call the store: 202.333.2500
    call the kitchen: 202.333.5506

  2. Barbara did mention "Baked & Wired" even before any of the others in the long list. Look at the 2nd paragraph up from the rest of the list. She even said that it was the bakery more people said was best/favorite - 16 out of 32 responses, in fact.

  3. in the first person's defense, B&W isn't listed in the final rundown so if people skipped to the directory, they wouldn't see it, like above did.