Sunday, July 19, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakery: Review

I'll be the first to admit that I've been slightly remiss in dropping by to visit one of the newer players in the DC cupcakery game. Opened in December 2008, I really have no excuse for not dropping by Red Velvet Cupcakery sooner, especially since I can be found in Chinatown or Penn Quarter almost any day of the week. Nevertheless, I finally got a chance to check out this cute little shop over the weekend and had a very good experience all around. Located at 675 E St. NW, an added bonus for this bakery is that it is very metro accessible--only a block from the Verizon Center--and within walking distance of the National Mall in case you decide to have a cupcake picnic.
Though I'd intended to behave myself and order a modest two cakes for sampling, my fellow cupcake taster had other plans, "I'll take one of each," he ordered proudly. So, please withhold your judgment when you hear that I've sampled no fewer than a dozen varieties of cupcake over the past few days, the circumstances were clearly out of my hands. :) Like most cupcakeries, Red Velvet offers a selection of classic cakes (Vanilla Bean, Devil's Food) as well as seasonal selections (currently Key West- key lime cake with white chocolate buttercream, and Summertime- lemon cake with coconut frosting).

As the cupcake trend grows, a criticism that often arises is that no one cupcakery seems to have mastered both the perfect cake AND the perfect frosting. Personally, I believe this is impossible because each individual has different cake/icing preferences and one cupcake could never hope to be all things to all people. Deep, I know. However, while I don't believe that Red Velvet has necessarily mastered this task, I do believe that they have some of the best cakes and frostings that I have tasted yet, though not always together on the same cupcake.

In terms of flavors, my friend and I both agreed that the Cafe Latte cupcake was the standout winner. A moist, extra chocolately cake topped with an extraordinarily smooth (almost whipped) texture of buttercream, what we liked best was that the latte flavor was so subtle that it balanced the chocolate of the cake perfectly while still leaving the slightest aftertaste of mocha. Definitely recommend this one (unless you don't like coffee, of course...).

For the traditionalists, I'd like to say that I loved the Vanilla Bean, but what I mostly liked was the cake. I found the frosting too sweet but loved that the cake was slightly sweeter than your average white cake--paired with a tangy raspberry or lime frosting instead, I bet this could be a standout as well. If you typically go for the vanilla cupcake, I might recommend Birthday Cake instead. This yellow cupcake is topped with a unique milk chocolate frosting that is remarkably reminiscent of Betty Crocker (but in a good, reminds-you-of-childhood kind of way). Finally, the namesake Red Velvet.

At Red Velvet, the red velvet cupcake they feature is actually named the Southern Belle. I knew I couldn't properly review this bakery without trying this cake and I was not disappointed. Even though I tried this one the day after purchasing, the cake was still moist inside and out. While I think the decorative sugar on top takes away from the texture, I do love that the cream cheese frosting is just strong enough to remind you that red velvet is a cupcake with attitude.

Overall, while Red Velvet may not serve up the fanciest cupcakes, I like that their classic approach seems homemade, approachable and friendly. One downside, don't think that your $3.25 will also buy you a place to sit down to enjoy your cakes, this teeny shop is carryout only. However, a sign inside directs patrons to another local business that allows Red Velvet customers to enjoy their cakes seated. But if it's a nice day, you're just as well off to take a stroll over to the Mall or the steps of the National Portrait Gallery and inspire cupcake jealousy in all of the passersby.

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