Let’s talk cupcakes!
This past weekend, I tried six, count ’em, six, different cupcake flavors at the new Sprinkles in Georgetown. I’d been wanting to try them ever since the Spring of 2010, when I first began
pigging out researching cupcakes and learned Sprinkles was the first shop of its kind in the world.
Before Sprinkles opened in the DC area in March (first one on the East Coast), I’d read about how Candace and Charles Nelson gave up their high power investment banking careers to open their original cupcake-only boutique bakery in Beverly Hills. Of course, seeing Candace as a judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars just made me curiouser and curiouser.
Just how good could her cupcakes be, that the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Katie Holmes and Barbra Streisand just can’t get enough of them? And, to sweeten the batter a bit more, how would Sprinkles fare and compare, plunking themselves smack dab in the middle of Georgetown Cupcake territory?
The moustached kitchen leprechaun and I got there shortly after opening time on a Saturday morning, and just as I’d hoped, we didn’t have to wait in a long line. Inside, all was sparkly clean, polished wood minimalist design, and we were greeted by cheerful, friendly employees.
I asked the cashier my usual questions. What’s your bestseller? What’s your personal favorite? As you may recall, every single cupcakery I’ve visited around here said Red Velvet was their bestseller, and Sprinkles was no exception. In fact, Red Velvet seems to be the favorite everywhere in the U.S., and I’m still trying to figure out why. Is it the deep red color? The milder chocolate cake? Or that beloved cream cheese frosting? I will say that buttermilk makes for a richer, moister cake, so maybe that’s it.
The perky cashier recommended Peanut Butter Chip, but along with Red Velvet, I instead chose their second best seller, Black and White, as well as Vanilla, Strawberry, German Chocolate and the requisite Coconut for Len.
Now, for the taste test.
*rubs hands together*
Hard, hard work, but as I’ve said many times before, you are worth every bit of this sacrifice. ☺
I chose Strawberry because I had seen Candace make these with Martha Stewart. Liked the fresh puréed strawberries, pretty pink frosting with a special ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Lovely flavor (not cloying), so good, in fact, that I ate the whole thing before Len could sneak a taste. Oink!
Hello, German Chocolate! Contrary to popular belief, this cake didn’t originate in Germany, but in the U.S. The first published recipe came from a Dallas homemaker, who used the mild, sweet baking chocolate developed a hundred years earlier by Sam German. Candace developed her recipe when she opened her Sprinkles shops in Texas.
In a word, one’s eyes roll back as soon as even a tiny bit of that buttery pecan coconut frosting passes through the lips. Yes, I could have devoured the entire thing on the spot, but I deferred to Len after just two bites, since he’s big on coconut.
*pause to consider my admirable restraint*
Also took just two bites of the plain Coconut before handing it over to Len. I did like the Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting, but wished there was less of it. Cake was luscious and moist.
Red Velvet? As expected, nothing revolutionary. Did not particularly like the trademark candy dots on top. Are you supposed to let them dissolve on your tongue or bite into them? They don’t taste particularly good, are quite hard, and I’d rather not make my dentist any richer than he already is.
The Black and White was my favorite of the chocolate cupcakes. Must be that dark Belgian chocolate. Such an intense pleasure; I can see why it’s a customer favorite. More please.
And then, there was Vanilla. I often think you can tell a good bakery by their vanilla cakes. It’s a basic flavor, nothing flashy or exotic, but if it’s made well, this will be the one you remember fondly because of its associations with birthday parties. A vanilla cupcake may have very well been the first cupcake you ever ate as a child.
And I really loved this one. You can’t beat that expensive Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. It reminded me not only of childhood parties, but of those wonderful pieces of wedding cake you’re sometimes lucky to get. Sprinkles offers Vanilla with or without sprinkles. I tried “with,” since I’d heard so much about those famous French sprinkles. Next time I will try “without,” since I actually prefer smooth and creamy, not crunchy frostings.
Overall impressions? Good medium size, though pricey at $3.50 each. (Georgetown Cupcake makes theirs smaller at $2.75 each.) Len and I agreed there was too much frosting in proportion to cake, though I know some people can’t get enough frosting (Sprinkles even sells Frosting Shots if that’s your thing). Some of the frostings would have been better if a little less sweet.
Like other popular cupcakeries, Sprinkles makes their cupcakes in small batches using premium ingredients, so you’ll likely get a fresh product no matter when you visit. Still, are they better than Georgetown Cupcake or any of the other shops we’ve tried so far (Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet, Buzz Bakery, Cupcakes Actually, Best Buns, CakeLove, BakeShop)? Can’t say. Each place offers its own special flavors, and it just so happens that both Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcake are associated with popular television shows so they get a lot of extra tourist traffic. I’m still thinking about the You Tart Lemon Cupcake I had at Hello Cupcake. It’s a local bakery without all the media hype or long lines whose cupcakes are every bit as good.
If you blindfolded me and asked me to taste six Red Velvets from six different bakeries, I could tell you which one I liked best, but wouldn’t be able to tell you who made it.
Hmmmm. This probably means my palate isn’t nearly as well trained as it should be. Only one sensible solution: continue with my scientific research. I haven’t yet tried the much touted Baked and Wired, so that would be next.
No, wait. I really need to try Sprinkles’ Banana with Creamy Vanilla Frosting. A thing of beauty, no? Just look at that perfect crumb.
All for you, of course. ☺
P.S. I like that Sprinkles offers no sugar Cupcakes for Dogs ($2.50 ea.)!
♥ More of my Cupcake Capers here.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.