Interview with The Sweet Lobby

The Presidential election is around the corner and The Sweet Lobby’s cupcake and macaron polls are in full swing (you can track the results on their Facebook and Twitter pages). We had a chance to review them a few weeks ago and are now big fans of their tasty treats. The owner, Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and her brother, Timothy McIntosh, participated in Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, using their love of sweets and engineering backgrounds to win first place for The Sweet Lobby.

We had a chance to interview Winnette to find out more about their “sweet” election campaign, cupcakes vs. macarons, and Cupcake Wars:


(Article hanging in The Sweet Lobby, with photo of Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and Timothy McIntosh.)

The election is right around the corner and politics are in the air wherever one goes. Are you finding that customers are coming in specifically to place their vote?
I hope they are coming in because we have the best cupcakes and macarons in town but if “voting” makes them feel better about it, that’s great!

Being located so close to the center of political action, do you know if either candidate is aware of the sweet campaign you are running?
Yes, they are aware of the campaign. In fact, one of the Presidential candidates actually had two Barracks Row boxes full of political macarons presented to him on his bus.


(Presidential election macarons)

Your location seems to make The Sweet Lobby the perfect place to hold a presidential polling, sweet-tooth-style. Campaign parties must be popular around Capital Hill. Have you already seen a lot of interest in large orders for campaign parties?
Most definitely! We’ve been inundated with requests for the political pastries as well as our classic desserts.

When can we expect to see the Mac-Attack ads go live?
They are running now and will continue through Election Day. The Mac-Attack ads are actually “ad-like” banners that we feature on our Facebook cover page. They’re intended to deliver messages to constituents that have a “sweet tooth.”

Aside from the current debate topic, “Is your candidate more like a cupcake or a macaron,” what other issues might we see brought up for debate?
Our social media followers will be able to debate issues to include foreign and domestic relations ingredients, and effective ways to use sweets to boost the economy. We’ll give the Vice Presidential candidates some airtime as we debate the flavor of the VEEP.

While the main agenda of this campaign is to track candidates, the Cupcake Crusaders are also curious about another poll…What is more popular in your shop, cupcakes or macarons?
As an All-American indulgence, the cupcake embodies the irresistible combination of childhood nostalgia and undeniable appeal of a “made just for me” individual dessert that, at some level, is easy to make. On the other-hand, the macaron is a more delicate dessert that’s difficult to make and easy to ruin. They’re not very forgiving, but when made well, the impression is lasting. The first bite of the lightly crisp shell, the chewy interior and the flavorful, creamy filling! Who can deny the refined elegance coupled with fantastical whimsy of a Parisian macaron? At the end of the day, we are totally bi-partisan. We bake, you decide.


(ObamaMac and Obama topper on a Boston Cream Cupcake.)

Although you sell other pastries at The Sweet Lobby, cupcakes and macarons are what you are most known for. What do you think it is about each that makes them so enjoyable?
At the Sweet Lobby, we don’t take shortcuts! We prepare real buttercreams using traditional European methods, fresh fruit and ultra-premium chocolates. We pride ourselves in creating both classic and daring incarnations using the finest globally and locally sourced ingredients imaginable!

In addition to cupcakes and macarons, we have several product lines including shortbread, madeleines, caneles, éclairs, loose-leaf tea, and hot chocolate. We think that our guests can truly taste the difference and appreciate the care we put into everything we offer.

How do you recommend eating the MacTop cupcake? Taking the macaron off and enjoying it separately or digging right into to the whole thing?
That is totally up to you! We’ve seen it all! I am personal fan of the macaron-first technique.


(RomneyMac and Romney topper on a Boston Cream Cupcake.)

What’s the strangest or most unique order you’ve created in your Cupcake Lab?
Right now, we are working on a trio of beer inspired cupcakes for a craft beer themed wedding.

When you appeared on the Chinese New Year episode of Cupcake Wars and had to select at least 3 of the 12 exotic flavors, were you at all nervous that selecting 5 would be too much?
Not at all. I’m from Trinidad and Tobago, which is very culturally diverse, so all of those ingredients were very familiar to me. As an engineer/scientist, I am comfortable thinking on my feet and I understand how to combine flavors.

What did you take from your experience on Cupcake Wars (aside from the first place prize!)?
Cupcake Wars highlighted the importance of balancing some of the most key ingredients in food service: quality, presentation and delivery.

Cupcake Wars is known to have previous contestants return. Would you consider going back to battle again?
Of course! In addition to Cupcake Wars, we had the honor of participating on Cupcake Champions this past May. We welcome any new opportunities to return to television!


If you aren’t in the DC area and are now craving a perfect little pastry from The Sweet Lobby, no need to worry. They are offering nationwide shipping next month! You can find out more by visiting their website.


(The Sweet Lobby indulged our graphic design side and gave us a sneak peek at their new gift boxes, premiering in November!)

We’d like to thank The Sweet Lobby for taking time to answer our questions. Their Cupcake Wars win was well deserved and we appreciate what they are doing to get people excited about the election and getting out to vote.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

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Tweet’s Sweets Charity Event: Cancer Bites, We’ll Bite Harder

Tweet’s Sweets, an up and coming sweets baker in the DC area, was recently introduced to us via email from Baltimore Eats. The owner and head baker, Ros (AKA: Tweety), is passionate about raising awareness and eradicating cancer, so she is using her business to make a difference.

Her most recent event, Cancer Bites: We’ll Bite Harder, located in Washington DC on October 19th, 2012, will raise money to allow patients to seek holistic treatment, pay for medicine, and anything else that often comes up when a person is fighting cancer.

Tweety graciously agreed to answer some questions about herself, baking, and her commitment to ending cancer, for us to share with our readers:

Do you mind sharing with us how you got the nickname “Tweety?”
I was given this nickname my first week at Howard University because my suite mates couldn’t remember what my name was and my entire dorm room was covered with Michael Jordan and Tweety stuff.  So they decided they were going to call me Mikey or Tweety  and I wasn’t going to answer to Mikey. ; )

What is your favorite cupcake to eat and what is your favorite cupcake to bake?
My favorite cupcake to bake is probably the Suga Mama (Sweet Potato) cupcake because it gives off the yummiest smells when it is baking….smells just like my Nan’s kitchen when she used to bake her sweet potato pies.  My favorite cupcake to eat is tied between Tweet’s Heart (Chocolate on Chocolate) and MSC (pineapple upside right cake)  because I love love love love – did I say love? – me some milk chocolate and (as quiet as it is kept), my favorite dessert is pineapple upside down cake.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you are so dedicated to eradicating cancer and helping those who are fighting it?
Cancer has come for some people that have helped shaped my life:  my grandfather, my favorite uncle, some of my cousins and aunts and now it’s coming for one of my best friends.  I hate cancer because it’s one of those diseases that you really can’t protect against.  It doesn’t discriminate.  It affects the young, the old, the rich the poor, black, white, healthy eaters, and non-healthy eaters.  Many lose their battle with cancer because they can’t afford to fight or because they don’t know how to fight.  I want to change this….I have to change this.

We saw there will be live music and cupcakes at your event, Cancer Bites, We’ll Bite Harder. Can you give us a sneak peek of what cupcake flavors attendees will be indulging in that evening?
Lol, I can tell you that the Licia’s Puddin and the Suga Mama will definitely be on site but as far as which other yummy goodness I am going to whip up, readers will have to come out and see and taste for themselves.

Do you have any advice to those hoping to raise money or organize an event for cancer awareness and research?
I will tell them to follow their heart and to never give up even when it appears like the event isn’t taking shape because organizing a fundraiser is a lot of hard work but the end result is so humbling and so worth it.  The fact that folks are even talking about my event that I haven’t even met already makes my event a success in my book.

Do you hope to one day own a storefront or would you like to keep your focus on baking and hosting charitable events? Or do you see yourself one day doing both?
I am going to open a non-profit that will ultimately host my charitable events but I will continue using my bakery to raise money and awareness for causes that are near and dear to my heart.

We want to thank Tweety for taking the time to answer our questions! Her goal is to raise $10,000 and we are hoping that we can all help make that happen! Here are the details for her event:

For more information on Tweet’s Sweets, visit their website or Facebook page. You can also watch a video about Tweet’s Sweets and this event from Washington Eats, here. To donate or purchase tickets, CLICK HERE. We hope you can make it out to Tweety’s event and support her cause!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

The Sweet Lobby: Getting out the Vote


(Boston cream cupcakes displaying each candidate and a lemon cream telling us to vote.)

It’s impossible to ignore that the presidential election is right around the corner and The Sweet Lobby, located in DC’s Capital Hill and winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, has started campaign polls and debates of their own. They are selling cupcakes and macarons with presidential candidate and party logos at their shop and tracking the sales to see which is more popular. You can also visit The Sweet Lobby’s Facebook page or Twitter page to track the results and join in the debate, “Which best represents your favorite candidate: a cupcake or a macaron?”


(Signage outside of the store promoting their election debate.)

The location of The Sweet Lobby makes it the perfect business to promote voting, while engaging our sweet tooth. We love that they are doing something to get people excited about the election. They also offer generic “Vote 2012” confections and are participating in Get Out The Vote initiatives, including providing voter registration information.


(Not only does The Sweet Lobby specialize in cupcakes they’ve also become well known for their macarons.)

Crusaders Stacy, Elisa, and myself decided spend the afternoon in DC together after The Sweet Lobby invited us to sample some of their campaign cupcakes and macarons. Although one of our friends, Guest Crusader Kristina, has visited the shop and had a lot of good things to say in her review, it was our first time there and our inner design geeks were in heaven. The branding features clean design, with a look that is consistent throughout the packaging, storefront signage, and interior design. Not to mention their creative custom boxes, which fit the products perfectly and allow for easy and safe travel.


(Storefront and packaging. The macarons fit perfectly into the long box and we love the handle on the cupcake carrier.)


(Just a sampling of the selection.)


(Making a decision is not easy, but the girls working that day were very helpful in making suggestions.)

Once we started eying up the selection, we couldn’t help but take more home with us than planned. In addition to Boston Cream and Lemon Cream election cupcakes and presidential macaroons gifted to us, we also took home a seasonal Caramel Apple cupcake, a Chocolate Raspberry MacTop, and a few extra macarons. If the selection of cupcakes and macarons isn’t enough (and it is!), they also offer their own line of shortcakes and tea.

Boston Cream
The Boston Cream cupcake seen in the photos above is a vanilla cake filled with pastry cream, dipped in chocolate ganache and topped with whipped vanilla frosting. This is one of the best Boston Cream cupcakes I’ve had. The cake is on the denser side, but since the frosting is light it’s the perfect balance. Not too sweet, not too buttery, not too savory…my mouth was happy.

Lemon Cream
The cupcake had the perfect amount of tartness mixed with sweet. Just like the Boston Cream, the vanilla cake was on the denser side, but moist, then filled with lemon cream  and topped with whipped lemon frosting.

Caramel Apple


(Compared with some of the other cupcakes the Caramel Apple has an understated look, but the caramel swirl and autumn flavor spoke to me.)

This cupcake had a caramel apple cake with cream cheese frosting, drizzled with caramel. The cake was dense but very moist and contained fresh apples with a subtle caramel flavor (which I liked because otherwise it can make the cupcake too sweet). I felt like the cream cheese frosting overpowered the cake, however since it was so tasty I’d still go back for more.

Chocolate Raspberry MacTop


(Yes, that IS a mini raspberry macaron on top of a decadent chocolate raspberry cupcake.)

The Sweet Lobby originally created the first MacTop on their episode of Cupcake Wars. Since then, they’ve created an entire line of flavor combinations, including the Chocolate Raspberry. Here’s what Crusader Stacy had to say about it:

Wow. Chocolate Raspberry is one of my all time favorite combinations and this was no exception. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect because the frosting appeared to be milk chocolate, which I’m not really a fan of, but it surprisingly complemented the dark chocolate ganache and moist, fudgy cake very well. The mini macaron on top was, of course, perfect. Nice and tart, the way raspberry anything should be. The cupcake portion seemed to have some kind of subtle raspberry flavor, but there was no filling so I’m not entirely sure if the chocolate cake was flavored with raspberries or if it was the lingering aftertaste of the macaron. The cupcake and macaron combined resulted in a wonderfully decadent treat.

Macarons

(Assorted selection includes Olive Oil Walnut Pecorino, Sweet Potato Pecan, Orange Ginger, Coffee, and Strawberry Basil.)

There’s no denying that when it comes to macarons, The Sweet Lobby knows what they are doing. Their election macarons are named the Obamamac and Romneymac. They appear to be plain, however they consist of almond meringue shells filled with premium Belgian white chocolate ganache infused with vanilla beans from Madagascar and Tahiti. The only way to describe it is delicious. We all really loved the selections we picked, which ranged from simple to complex in flavor combinations. Crusader Stacy said she couldn’t put her Sweet Potato Pecan down and Elisa was very enthusiastic about the Strawberry Basil. I tried the Olive Oil Walnut Pecorino, which came recommended. Although it sounds strange, the olive oil complemented the walnut well.

When you stop by The Sweet Lobby you’ll have a lot to think about. Obamamac or Romneymac? Cupcake, macaron, or MacTop? And that’s before you even decide on a flavor. But whatever sweet treat you choose, your taste buds won’t be disappointed. We’ll have an interview with The Sweet Lobby for you soon, so keep a lookout for it!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

*We were lucky to be gifted some of our treats, but, as ever, this review reflects our honest opinion. We will gladly patronize The Sweet Lobby in the future and we are happy that we purchased some additional treats to share our thoughts on as well.

2012 CupcakeCamp DC Recap

When CupcakeCamp DC posted that they had an opening for a fan judge, I jumped at the opportunity. Finally I could put all of my “practice” into use, and for a great cause. CupcakeCamp DC is in its third year and raises money for DC Candlelighters: Childhood Cancer Foundation. I’ve heard criticism about the past years, but being a new event organized by a single person, that’s expected. Each year changes have been made to make a better experience for all who participate.


(Cupcakes tasted by Crusaders Stacy and Elisa.)

This year the event was held at the very chic Continental Modern Pool Lounge, located in Arlington, VA (but right over the bridge from Georgetown Park in DC). From a judge’s perspective, check-in was super easy. I saw that a line was forming, mostly due to the rain bringing in people from the Jazz Festival across the street, but was able to bypass it with my oh-so-important title. I checked in with a volunteer, who had the list on his phone and took my spot at the judges’ table. The other blogging judges arrived and then cupcakes started coming our way.

(Judges from left to right: Adrienne from Little Miss Cupcake, Jill from Cuisine Queen, me, Kimberly from Yelp NoVa, and Nikki from Cupcakes for Breakfast.

Judging went fairly smoothly. Cupcakes were brought to us, in no particular order. Finding them on our score sheet was fairly easy, unless a baker switched up their entry at the last minute. We asked for knives to divide the cupcakes among the judges, but there weren’t any available. Luckily none of us were germaphobes, so we decided that we would dig in and wipe off excess frosting and cake on our forks, instead of slobbering all over them. We had to request forks, napkins, water, and a trash bag. The volunteer, who was working hard and running around a lot to bring the cupcakes to us, didn’t look too thrilled with our requests…but how else could we taste the cupcakes? Other than that, the judges were treated well and, to show their appreciation, we all received event t-shirts and awesome swag bags, provided by Izze, one of the event sponsors.

I asked Crusader Stacy for insight from an attendee’s perspective. She said that when they arrived there was a line and it seemed a bit disorganized, but that could have been due to the rain and people who hadn’t registered wanting to get in. Lines also seem to form at these cupcake events because the guests are aware that it’s first come first served. Although the venue could be tight to navigate sometimes, it had a great ambiance. It seems like people enjoyed that you could order adult beverages and there were a lot of areas to lounge and indulge in cupcakes. The venue also offers game tables, like billiards, for added entertainment. Stacy mentioned that she and Crusader Elisa did not realize that the people’s choice ballot was in the brochure, and wished they had known. At the end of the event, it was hard to hear the winners (I think due to background sound…not much you can do about that) and it was a little confusing when announcing the winners was mixed in with the announcing the raffle prizes. Luckily all the winners heard their names called, and we were all very excited that Joel Gill, from Josie’s Confections, took first place for his Chicken N Waffle Cupcake!


(The Cupcake Crusaders with 1st Place Winner Joel Gill from Josie’s Confections.)

1st Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crusaders’ Favorite:
Chicken N Waffle Cupcake by Joel Gill

(Chicken & Waffles Cupcake)

It’s no surprise that we adore Joel’s cupcake, having first had it at our 2012 DC Cupcake Picnic (see Crusaders’ review). What did surprise me was that the other judges were very excited to try a Chicken N Waffle cupcake, especially when most people question this creation. I was relieved when they all agreed that it was the best they’d had all day.

Crusaders’ Favorite:
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcake by Hilary Nelson


(Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcake)

Stacy and Elisa both agreed that this was their favorite cupcake of the day. It had a peanut butter cake with grape jam filling, topped with peanut butter buttercream and grape coulis. They both love the nostalgia of PB&J cupcakes and thought the grape was a nice change from the strawberry jams most bakers use.

Crusaders’ Favorite:
Earl Grey Cupcake by Tess McEnery


(Earl Grey Cupcake)

This cupcake was a standout for me on this day. I have wanted to try a tea-infused cupcake and I think Earl Grey was a perfect choice, with its hint of lemon flavor. The base was an Earl Grey buttermilk cake with Earl Grey and lemon buttercream frosting. Crusader Stacy also really liked this cupcake and would like to dabble in making her own tea-infused cupcakes. She described it as, “Heaven for a tea drinker, with light, airy cake and spot-on flavor.”

Crusaders’ Honorable Mentions:
We would also like to recognize some of the other cupcakes we enjoyed, with our own Honorable Mentions (separate from the CupcakeCamp DC winners):

1. Megan Ferrey, from Cakes by Megan: Banana chocolate chip cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with peanut butter frosting.
2. Monika Geraci, 2ND Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crowd Favorite: Salted Caramel Apple – apple spice cake filled with salted caramel and topped with cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.
5. Melissa Westervelt, from Honeybee Bakeshop: Pumpkin spice latte – pumpkin espresso cake topped with cinnamon and spiced buttercream and a caramel/fondant pumpkin pie decoration.
4. Claire Almquist: Chai tea latte cupcake with buttercream frosting.

So Many Cupcakes!
The three of us all tasted so many cupcakes at the event, obviously with me trying the most:

1. Amanda Rouse 3RD Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner: Vanilla cupcake with Nutella ganache and Nutella buttercream topped with roasted hazelnuts.
2. Shelly Facemire, 4TH Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crowd Favorite: Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache.
3. Shanika, from Couture Cakes by Nika: Lemon lavender cupcake topped with lavender butter cream, candied lemon, and an edible lavender flower.
4. Valerie Estep, from Silver Swirl Cupcake: Salted Caramel & Chocolate – Butter yellow cake with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and topped with a chocolate covered pretzel.
5. Heather Jesness: Vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate frosting.
6. Megan Ferrey, from Cakes by Megan: Dark chocolate cherry filled cake with pistachio meringue buttercream.
7. Kelly Zonderwyk: Lemon lavender cupcake with a glaze and filled with lemon curd.
8. Elisabeth Shankle: Banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting.
9. Shannon Paciorek: Key Lime Pie Cupcake – Graham cracker crust, lime infused cake filled with a lime curd, and lime cream cheese frosting.
10. Paola Veronica: Mini mocha cupcake with espresso buttercream.
11. Chinwe Aldridge: Vanilla cupcake with cream cheese/buttercream frosting, graham crackers, white chocolate, candies, and shoe decoration.
12. Alicia Hadley: Red velvet cake with a walnut cream cheese frosting.
13. Katie Walker: Canoli Cupcake – Vanilla cupcake with orange zest, ricotta and chocolate chip filling, and vanilla buttercream frosting with chocolate garnish.
14. Kat Harper: Chocolate cake with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream
15. Jennifer Hlad: Hummingbird cupcake with coconut cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.
16. Meghan Ochs: Vanilla cupcake, with cinnamon apple compote, topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.
17. Kathleen Mudge: Vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate fudge icing, topped with a brownie truffle and cookie.
18. Michelle Byers: German chocolate cake with caramel buttercream topped with bacon.
19. Danny McGibney: Sweet potato pie cupcakes with browned buttercream frosting.
20. Mini Guinness Cupcake (not in competition – baker unknown)

The 2012 CupcakeCamp DC raised $2,000 for DC Candlelighters and in the end we all had a really great time, Stacy and Elisa as guests and myself as a judge. I met some great people and I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings, but I think I’ll just enjoy the event as a spectator or volunteer. Twenty-five cupcakes were A LOT to taste!

To see more event more photos, visit CupcakeCamp’s DC Flikr pool.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Guest Review | First Annual Cupcake-A-Palooza | DC Area

When we found out our graphic design colleague, Kristina, was in a cupcake club and had organized their first ever Cupcake-A-Palooza, we had to find out more. Luckily she agreed to be a Guest Crusader and share her story and reviews with everyone! Thanks Kristina!

What’s Cupcake-A-Palooza you ask?

Well, it all started about a year ago, with me, two of my friends and our mutual love for cupcakes. We decided we needed a cupcake club. Better yet, a SECRET cupcake club, just because that’s more fun, complete with a secret handshake and secret knock! We started meeting once a month, and on members’ birthdays, just to eat and critique those delicious mini cakes. Little by little we started inviting more friends (and cupcake lovers) until we completed the group at 6 (it’s worth mentioning, we are coed). This way, when we bought a dozen cupcakes, everyone could have 2.

And then Cupcake-A-Palooza came to life. We realized there were so many cupcake shops we were missing out on because either they didn’t deliver, or they were not feasible to get to during a workday.  So we picked a day – August 10th – where we would take the day off of work and go on what is now dubbed “a cupcake crawl.” We decided to hold our first annual event in DC.

We chose 10 bakeries/cupcakeries to try and one of the club members graciously mapped out our plan of attack. But what is Cupcake-A-Palooza without an event T-Shirt? I’m not only a cupcake lover, I’m a graphic designer, and so, our t-shirts were born.


(Our official Cupcake-A-Palooza t-shirts, complete with a concert tour inspired list of stops!)

Decked out in our matching tees, we headed into DC and began Cupcake-A-Palooza. After four hours of eating cupcakes, here’s how I think the shops rate (with the help of some of my club members)…

1. Baked & Wired (Georgetown)
This happened to be our first stop. So not only did I need a cupcake, I needed some caffeine! I decided on the Dirty Chai cupcake. And just to stick with the theme, a Chai Latte. Both were outstanding!


(The staff at Baked & Wired was just as fun as their hand drawn flavor signs)

The cupcake was bigger than usual, but the cake was perfectly moist throughout. The espresso buttercream melted in my mouth and was just strong enough to complement the spice of the cake. As an extra treat, it was topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean. Yum! This cupcake and latte left me longing for fall…

2. The Sweet Lobby (Capitol Hill)
This was our final stop of the day. There were so many interesting flavor choices, that I went a little cupcake crazy here. I decided on Chocolate Raspberry, Green Tea Pistachio, Caramel Apple, Bananas Foster, Butterscotch Crunch, and Pineapple Inside Out. I gave a couple of them to another club member and gifted a couple. Ultimately, I only tried two.


(Top row, from left to right: Chocolate Raspberry, Butterscotch Crunch, and Green Tea Pistachio. Bottom row, from left to right: Caramel Apple, Pineapple Inside Out, and Bananas Foster)

The Butterscotch Crunch won me over in two bites. As soon as I hit the butterscotch center, I was sold. The vanilla cake and buttercream were an excellent balance so that the butterscotch flavor was not overpowering. Topping it off, were some Butterfinger crumbles.

As an avid Green Tea drinker, the Green Tea Pistachio cupcake was an obvious choice. Although, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. This cupcake is a Cupcake Wars Winner and one of The Sweet Lobby’s signature “MacTops,” meaning it had a Green Tea macaroon on top.  At first I thought, this is different…then, half way through, I thought, this is good! I enjoyed the cake with the bits of pistachio and macaroon most. I wasn’t crazy about the green tea buttercream; I would have liked it to be a little sweeter.

3. Georgetown Cupcake (Georgetown)
With all the hype and long lines…I really didn’t want to love Georgetown Cupcake, but it was inevitable. I was excited to try one of their seasonal cupcakes, Banana Split. Complete with sprinkles, hazelnut bits, fudge drizzle and a cherry on top, I felt like I was indulging in the real dessert. The vanilla cream cheese frosting was so smooth and acted as the ice cream, while the fudge center mixed perfectly with the banana cake.

Another club member tried Georgetown Cupcake’s other season flavor, Blueberry Cheesecake. The fresh blueberry cheesecake was just as advertised. The cupcake had the graham cracker bottom, adding to the authenticity of a cheesecake. While there was no icing, the top had a soft cheese texture and a blue fondant flower.

4. Hello Cupcake (Dupont Circle)
This shop prides itself on its use of fresh and all natural ingredients. Well, it’s working. It was a no brainer as soon as I saw the selection; I went for the flavor of the month, Root Beer Float.

I imagined sipping the real thing while I enjoyed this spicy/sweet cupcake topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting (my absolute favorite) and a fun chocolate straw. This cupcake was rather refreshing.

5. Sweet Themez Cake & Cupcake (Adams Morgan)
The employee in this shop won brownie points with his enthusiasm over our Cupcake-A-Palooza tees. He even offered me a dozen free cupcakes if I send him one!


(Sweet Themez isn’t as glitzy as some of the other shops from the outside, but it’s worth the stop)

I can’t vouch for myself on this one, but one of the club members had the Cookies ‘n’ Cream cupcake. The scent of the cupcake was amazing – it made you want to dig right in! While the rich chocolate cake was moist, it crumbled. The icing and the mini Oreo on top made the cupcake.

6. Red Velvet Cupcakery (Penn Quarter)
This shop is teeny, tiny. So if you pay them a visit, don’t plan on staying to enjoy your cupcake inside. As a coffee lover, I chose the Hazelnut Café cupcake.


(Hazelnut Café on the left, another club member’s Carrot Cake cupcake on the right.)

However, I was disappointed. The cake was pretty dry and was only saved by the bits of crunchy hazelnuts throughout. I wasn’t a fan of the whipped icing, as I always prefer something creamier, but the pinch of espresso on top was a nice touch.

7. Sprinkles Cupcakes (Georgetown)
I was really looking forward to trying Sprinkles, as I had heard mixed reviews. I’m a sucker for pumpkin anything, so I went for their Pumpkin cupcake.

I was really hoping to taste pumpkin, but the flavor was barely there. It was overpowered by the cinnamon cream cheese frosting, which was the only part of the cupcake that I enjoyed. On top was one of Sprinkles signature modern dots, which added no flavor value.

8. Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats (Columbia Heights)
This shop is 100% vegan. While I am not, I recommended we add this shop to our list of stops 1) Because I liked the name 2) They were two time Cupcake War Winners and 3) My mom went dairy free in the past year for health reasons, so I wanted to taste things from her perspective.

I had not had a red velvet cupcake all day, so I tried theirs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even finish it, and neither could my fellow club member. I found the cake to be plastic-y and lacking in flavor, but as the shops name suggests, it actually was also sticky! I thought the icing was grainy, and was not up to par with the other cream cheese icings of the day. Lesson learned: I need my dairy.

However, another club member saw it differently. She tried the Lavender Lemon. Although she found the cake to be denser than non-vegan cupcakes, she thought it was moist and quite delicious. The lavender flavor was very present, without being overwhelming. Lesson learned: try it for yourself!

Out of the 10 stops we planned to make on Cupcake-A-Palooza, we only made it to 8.

When we got to Cupcake Felicity, or at least, what used to be Cupcake Felicity, it was no longer there. Instead there was a café called Bread & Brew. We found out that Felicity, who also makes 100% vegan cupcakes, now sells her cupcakes to the café. Unfortunately, they did not have any available that day. Chatman’s D’Vine Bakery & Café was supposed to be our last stop, but by 2PM we were stuffed and coming down off our sugar high. The shop didn’t open until 3PM, so we decided to save it for another time.

Our first annual Cupcake-A-Palooza was a fun, sweet filled day! Up Next: Cupcake-A-Palooza 2013, Northern VA…

– Review by Guest Crusader, Kristina (Baltimore, MD)

Part 3: Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Cupcakes!

As Crusader Jenn and Crusader Stacy said in their posts the past two days, we all adore Idina Menzel. My adoration only began because they introduced me to her and I thank them, because she is amazing… but enough about her talented self and onto more cupcakes.

Crusader Stacy and I made two stops before meeting up with Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusader Ashley at Wolf Trap for the concert. Our second stop was Cupcakes! in Vienna, VA. Located in a cute little shopping center, and upstairs from an eclectic gift shop, Cupcakes! was the perfect spot.

Cupcakes! boasts a lovely cupcake display with a variety of flavors to choose from, but they also have cupcake related gifts and gift items. Stacy went home with a new cupcake stand that has to be the most perfect little mini cake stand ever made. The staff were very helpful and sweet, explaining that they bake fresh every day and that the cupcakes are moist and flavorful, while the frosting is just sweet enough. They are just lovely; great customer service is never wasted on the Crusaders, we really appreciate it, as it can be hard to find.

We stuck to our “one cupcake per person, per location” rule for the day and decided on the following:

Dolce De Leche

Moist cake with smooth frosting that embodied Dolce de Leche. It’s a tough flavor to begin with, as it is sweetened milk that is heated and reduced down to an almost caramel type consistency, but Cupcakes! nailed it. The cake alone was lacking a little in flavor, but with the frosting and spot-on texture, all together it created perfect harmony. We liked this cupcake, and agreed its decoration was simple, but cute.

Strawberry

Two words: Strawberry CAKE. The staff told us that they use fresh strawberry in their cake, instead of using the strawberry in the frosting – we all thought this was brilliant! This allowed the strawberry flavor to shine, while the frosting wasn’t overly sweet. (I find fruit frostings to be on the sweeter side because you have to add more sugar to keep it stiff.) All of us enjoyed this cupcake, but I have to say that it was my favorite of the day and makes my list of top 5 cupcakes I have ever eaten. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Our experience with Cupcakes! could not have been better. Friendly staff and fantastic cupcakes, who could ask for more? Its only downfall is that it is so far away from Baltimore – because I wish I could go once a week for my strawberry cupcake fix. Whenever any of the Crusaders are in the Vienna, VA area we will have to stop into Cupcakes!.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Part 2: Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Sticky Fingers Bakery

Since you’ve most likely already read Crusader Jenn’s review from yesterday, you don’t need me to go on and on about how much we adore this woman:


(In case you don’t know or haven’t guessed, this is the wonderful Idina Menzel.)

I will say though that the concert was fantastic, as always. She sang amazing songs, told some great antidotes, and even encouraged lots of audience participation. But, you probably want to hear more about the cupcakes now, right?

Crusader Elisa and I decided to stop at two locations since they were both almost on our way to Wolf Trap. Our first stop was at Sticky Fingers Bakery located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC. Back in March, Crusader Jenn and I were fortunate enough to meet the owner of Sticky Fingers, Doron Petersan, at the National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challenge. Whether or not she remembers, we promised her that we would stop into her shop this summer, and we always like to keep our promises.

Upon arriving we instantly fell in love with the decor. With high ceilings and a concrete floor, the space is filled with nods to the 50s and can be best described as retro industrial. From the old fashion refrigerator that serves as a product display and an neat old stove that creates a makeshift coffee area, Elisa and I weren’t quite ready to leave after receiving our coffee and cupcake orders from the attentive staff. Unfortunately we had another stop to visit before meeting Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusader Ashley, so we had to leave after spending just a few minutes there.

Once we arrived at Wolf Trap and spread our blankets out, we revealed our cupcake selections to Jenn and Ashley:

Elisa and I decided that trying the Orange Creamsicle and the Lavender Lemon were absolutely necessary. The bakery, which sells all 100% vegan goods, was serving many cupcake flavors that day, but Elisa and I like to be adventurous so the Lavender Lemon was an easy choice.

The lemon flavor wasn’t very strong in this cupcake, but was present enough to balance out the lavender flavor and keep it from tasting like soap. That is often a reaction we hear from people when they encounter lavender in their food, but for the Crusaders, we didn’t think this tasted like soap at all. The cake was a bit crumbly though. It wasn’t really dry, but the texture isn’t what we would normally expect in a cupcake. Maybe this has something to do with vegan products? We’ve only tried vegan baked goods a couple times, so we really aren’t experts on what to expect from the texture.

Next, after taking in all the flavor options, we finally chose the Creamsicle, knowing it would be the perfect addition to a summer pre-show picnic.

Our first reaction from this cupcake was, “OMG. THE FROSTING IS AMAZING!” I think I could have easily eating an entire gallon of it. Elisa called it “dreamy” and I couldn’t agree with her more. The cake was also crumbly, similar to the Lavender Lemon, but that frosting easily saved this cupcake and left me wanting a whole one for myself.

Even though the cake texture wasn’t our favorite on each of these cupcakes, I would love to go back, sit in one of their shiny pink vinyl chairs, and enjoy another cupcake and delicious cup of coffee. The flavors made these cupcakes ones I think anyone would keep going back for.

Tomorrow we’ll share our last review from our Wolf Trap cupcake tailgating tasting, so stay posted!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)