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)

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Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Edibles Incredible

It’s no secret that the Crusaders are theater geeks and, as such, we of course have a favorite Broadway performer: Idina Menzel. Some of you may know her as the woman who originated Maureen in Rent, others from Elphaba in Wicked. However, it’s not only her Broadway resume that has given her the title of favorite performer for the Crusaders. She is also an amazing songwriter and we love her solo albums. When we found out she would be returning to Wolf Trap (Vienna, VA), we thought there would be no better way to spend the day than to pick up cupcakes from bakeries nearby, and arrive early to picnic in the grass. Any time we can combine theater with cupcakes is a good day for us.


(Above is our cupcake loot from Edibles Incredible, Cupcakes! Cupcakery and Sticky Fingers. Reviews for Cupcakes! Cupcakery and Sticky Fingers coming this week. And, it wouldn’t be tailgating without a little booze, Crusader-style, with Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco.)

Guest Crusader Ashley, who is also an Idina fan, visited for the weekend to attend the concert with us. She had visited Edibles Incredible (Reston, VA) with family the month before. Since it is only 15 minutes from Wolf Trap we thought, what better place to go?

Edibles Incredible caters to more than just cupcake lovers. They also sell whole cakes, chocolates, fudge, gift baskets, specialty and wedding cakes. One of the things that surprised me when we walked in was the size of the cupcakes. Ashley hadn’t adequately warned me that they are the large ones, right on par with Snickerdoodles Bakery (which we have reviewed a few times) and can easily feed two people (the cupcakes are priced at $3.95, which is understandable with the size). The shop is located in the Reston Town Center, which ended up being perfect for Ashley and I. It’s a great outdoor shopping area, so we were also able to grab dinner. If we had more time, it would have been nice to sit outside and eat dinner and a cupcake, but concert parking was a priority for us, so we grabbed our food and were on our way.


(Cute, but can you see the predicament the packaging puts one in when it comes time for removal?)

Our cupcakes were uniquely packaged in Chinese food containers. While this is a creative idea, it doesn’t bode well for the cupcakes. There is a paper “lift-strip” but with cupcakes so large, and the strip not always landing perfectly under the cupcake, it doesn’t help very much. We really like to have our cupcakes coming out of their packaging perfect, or nearly perfect, looking. The cupcakes at Edibles Incredible were already a little messy looking in the display case, and these containers just made the frosting worse. Aside from liking our cupcakes pretty, trying to get them out of the container just made a sticky mess of my fingers and hands…not cool when you are on a blanket and eating outside!

The first cupcake we tasted from Edibles Incredible was the Butterscotch Baby. When Ashley and I saw the description we had to have it: butterscotch cake, with caramel buttercream frosting, filled with caramel, and topped with homemade toffee candy. This was our favorite of the two we purchased, although still not the best. The caramel filling was like a chewy caramel and the cake tasted like Duncan Hines’ yellow cake mix. Because it was richer, denser, and moister than a box mix, Crusader Stacy and I actually really liked the cake. But Crusader Elisa was disappointed and wished she could taste the butterscotch the cake was supposed to have.

Ashley and I also decided to purchase the Neapolitan cupcake for all of us to try. It had a little bit of everything, including a marble strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate cake, strawberry filling, and topped with the three different buttercreams to mimic the ice cream. Us Crusaders recently had a great Neapolitan cupcake from IcedGems, so I was hopefully we’d be getting something that fell into the same category. Unfortunately the cupcake was overly sweet, and no particular flavor came through, even when trying parts of the cake separately. The filling, which was similar to strawberry jam, seemed out of place and overpowered the cupcake. Although the cake was moist, it wasn’t enough to save this treat.

We passed on the Lemon Dream Pie during this trip because Ashley had tried it on her previous visit. It looked and sounded very good (you all know we are suckers for curd fillings), but Ashley informed me that, although she liked the overall flavor, the cupcake was very sweet for her taste.

I’ve been trying to decide if I would give Edibles Incredible’s cupcakes another chance. I think that I would. The one unifying factor was that they all had moist cake, and that’s one of the most important things to me. Flavors seem to be hit or miss, but having only tried two myself, I’m curious to see how some others stand up.

This week we’ll bring you more reviews from our Wolf Trap cupcake tailgating tasting, so stay posted!

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

Dirty Carrots’ Vegan Cupcakes

As we’ve mentioned before, the Crusaders have another passion other than cupcakes… the theater. So combining the two makes for a perfect evening. On a recent trip to the Everyman Theatre with Crusader Stacy, I stopped in Bohemian Coffee House knowing that they carry Dirty Carrots’ cupcakes. Luckily they had a few left, so I grabbed what I assumed was a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and stashed it in the car for after the show (knowing that theater world tends to frown upon bringing in your own treats).

After a great show, which you can always expect at the Everyman Theatre, Stacy and I headed back to my car ready for a cupcake!


(Please excuse the quality of the photo. This is what you get when you sit in cars late at night trying to photograph a cupcake.)

Since the cupcakes are a really good size, I’d only gotten the one for us to share. Once we bit in we realized that the frosting did not taste like vanilla. We tasted, speculated, and considered a few options thinking that maybe it was a butterscotch or salted caramel buttercream. After looking at their website I think that it was most likely their salted caramel buttercream (because they don’t have butterscotch listed). Honestly, it doesn’t even really matter because it was just so good! I could have eaten tubs of it. I have no idea how you make a vegan buttercream, but this was smooth, rich, not overly sweet, and completely delectable. The cake portion was very chocolaty but more of a muffin consistency, which I anticipated with a vegan cake. Without the frosting it tasted just like a chocolate muffin, however once paired with the icing it didn’t seem to matter anymore and the flavors came together. Once Stacy and I had each consumed our halves, we wanted more. We actually considered going back to Bohemian Coffehouse since they have late night hours.

So if you find yourself in front of a Dirty Carrots’ cupcake do not let the vegan aspect scare you. I think that you will be very happy that you gave them a chance!

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