So, after spending the last several weeks visiting quite a few bakeries, I thought maybe Len and I should take a little break to keep from turning into walking cupcakes.
But alas, this was not to be. Right after dinner last Wednesday, Len turned to me in the middle of AC360 and said, “What, no cupcakes?”
Like he hadn’t had one in months and months. Poor thing looked pale, drawn, so pitiful. Indeed, he seemed to be withering away right before my very eyes. I recognized the signs immediately. Cupcake withdrawal.
The next morning, I made an emergency trip to our local cupcakery, which, dangerously enough, is only ten minutes away. Cupcakes Actually is in Fairfax Corner — a lovely complex of shops and restaurants which we enjoy visiting.
I refer to Cupcakes Actually as a dangerous place because I had been there once before and loved their stuff. It’s taken all my willpower not to just run down there every other day. But now I had the perfect excuse a legitimate reason.
Cupcakes Actually is owned by sisters Jennifer Neiman and Susan Woodhouse. They have absolutely no qualms about describing themselves as “cupcake snobs,” because for them, only the very best will do — premium quality ingredients for their made-from-scratch-every-day cupcakes, a beautiful store presentation, and friendly, personalized service. I like their philosophy. When it comes to the smaller, finer things in life, why not go the full nine yards?
You get good vibes the moment you walk in — I like the tasteful blue and white decor, the pedestal displays, and the cupcake prints on the back wall. Of course it smells heavenly; the aroma of buttercream frosting, chocolate and caramel fills you with happy anticipation. Buying cupcakes should be in itself a pleasant, dreamy experience. As I’ve noted before, your surroundings and the people who serve you become a permanent part of your taste memory — just as your grandma’s pies taste better than anyone else’s because it reminds you of your childhood.
That day, Jen was behind the counter and graciously answered all my questions. The shop, which has been a lifelong dream for them, opened about a year ago. Sue is the baker in the family, who had quite a reputation for her delicious cupcakes when she lived in Detroit, and Jen is Marketing Director.
She said their baker comes in at around 1:30 a.m.! They start with around 200 cupcakes, and continue baking all day long. They offer almost 50 different flavors, rotating them so that about a dozen are featured each week (some are available only on a seasonal basis). Best sellers? Their signature dipped cupcakes — topped with either buttercream or peanut butter icing, then dipped in chocolate fudge, caramel or chocolate ganache. Jen’s favorite? She seemed quite rapturous about the Pumpkin Harvest (but I will have to go back this Fall to taste it myself)!
New flavors seem to keep popping up, and like at Hello, Cupcake, these creations are given plucky names: Strawberry Fields, Cuckoo for Coconut, Pucker Up, Razzmatazz, Going Bananas. It’s always hard to decide, but thinking of Len, I of course brought home Cuckoo for Coconut — along with Flourless Chocolate, Actually Dipped Chocolate, Simply Red, Chocolate with Buttercream Frosting, and Italian Stallion.
Now I had three more chocolates to compare with ones eaten at other places. I tried Flourless Chocolate first. It was quite dense, like eating a rich brownie. The buttercream frosting was excellent.
Then I tackled the Actually Dipped Chocolate (devil’s food cake topped with buttercream then dipped in chocolate fudge). The cake was light and moist, the chocolate fudge a little chewy. A nice combination of flavors and textures.
Finally, I went for the plain Chocolate with Buttercream Frosting. I have to say it was my favorite among the chocolate flavors, because it was just the right size and wholly satisfying without being overly sweet or rich. The Actually Dipped Chocolate was a little awkward to hold in your hand and bite into, and the Flourless Chocolate a little too rich for me.
Good ole plain chocolate with buttercream frosting was my fave chocolate cupcake!
Next up: Red Velvet. A well made classic — beautifully moist with nice texture and delish cream cheese frosting. Always welcome in our house!
But my favorite cupcake of all? The Italian Stallion (butter cake with Cassata cream filling and Italian buttercream icing)! I meant to give Len half of it, but after the first bite, I HAD to finish it. Oink. Next time I go back, I will definitely buy another one or two or three.
Len rallied instantly thanks to his Cuckoo for Coconut. The coconut cream filling, as well as the halves of the other cupcakes I shared with him, saved the day. I just hope this fix lasts awhile. I also brought home a lovely Cupcakes Actually mug, a memento of my nice chat with Jen, something I will save for tea drinking only when eating their cupcakes.
Here is a video of Jen and Sue on Fox News, taken just before their grand opening last year. Sue demonstrates their recipe for Strawberry Fields. They have hired a professional chef to help develop new flavors and a professional designer to handle custom orders. It’s really wonderful having such a good cupcakery close to home. But we won’t wait for another “emergency” to stop in again!
Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.