Cupcake Tasters Challenge!
With all the hype surrounding the cupcake craze (yes, craze – I think this fad will fade) have you ever want to know, once and for all, who has the BEST cupcake in Alexandria? Well, I have. Tasters Challenges are my absolute favorite way to solve this dilemma for just about any food item, (shoot me an email if you have a suggestion for another one!) so one was arranged. My favorite cupcake eating partner from New York City came to visit and of course a tasters challenge was on our list of things to do. Then, it was rainy and cold and we had to cut down our list. Womp Womp. Luckily, I had already tried a some of the other cupcakes on our list, so I can speak to those.
Here our my final thoughts:
Losing out totally was Occasionally Cake. The frosting to cupcake ratio was way off on the side of too much frosting, and the cake wasn’t very good either.
Buzz Bakery definitely has great cupcakes and always a fun variety of flavors like peanut butter & caramel, lemon chiffon with green tea buttercream and, of course, the cookie monster. Their cupcakes are moist and sometimes have that little bit of frosting in the middle, which I love. I had these for my birthday last year and was very pleased.
I was told that Lavender Moon had the BEST cupcakes in Alexandria, so I was eager to try them. You could really taste the coco in both the chocolate frosting and cake which was borderline over powering. The cake was good, but a little dense for me. The cake to frosting ratio was solid, but the frosting itself – not impressed. The peanut butter frosting was cream cheese based instead of butter cream. Big mistake- if you ask me. You get that tangy aftertaste that goes well with a carrot cake but not peanut buttter. It’s hard to mess up a chocolate-peanut butter combo, but I think they pulled it off. Still, the cupcakes here certainly weren’t bad.
Finally - Alexandria Cupcake! I LOVE this place. From the very first cupcake I had here, I knew this place was special. I was excited to find that it was definitely the best in Alexandria. The customer service is off, but who cares when the cupcakes are so delicious. The frosting is fluffy and perfect. They have a great variety of flavors and the cake is consistently good. By far the winner in the “Overall Taste in Mouth” category. YUM. Treat Yo’ Self!
All of this being said, I’m not a HUGE cupcake person. I’d choose a salty, savory appetizer over dessert any day, but I certainly don’t dislike them. If I do splurge on the sweets, it will be with an Alexandria Cupcake.
- Alexandria Cupcake - 1022 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 - (703)299-9099
- Buzz Bakery - 901 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, VA 22314 – (703) 600-2899
- Lavender Moon – 16 South Royal Street Alexandria, VA 22314 – (703) 683-0588
- Occasionally Cake - 207 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 - (703) 647-9638 AND 8859 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309 – (703) 780-CAKE
Killer E.S.P. - I Already Knew This Would be Good
I’ve probably walked by this place twenty times and thought it was just a gelato shop. Oh, how wrong I was! I guess I never considered what Killer E.S.P. stoof for, but had I given it more than a passing glance I would’ve realized that E.S.P. stands for Espresso, Sorbet and Pies and that this little cafe has a lot more to offer than just the gelato that I tell myself I don’t need to consume as I continue down King Street.
Espresso – self-explanatory. But this is not just any coffee shop. Unlike many of the other charming coffee shops around Alexandria that are inviting and popular, this place actually has really good coffee. You can’t really go wrong if you’re brewing with Stumptown beans, but most places around here don’t carry this Seattle based coffee roaster. Now, I love me some St. Elmo’s or Misha’s on a Sunday morning for a muffin and cup, but the coffee is really nothing to write home about. Owner Rob Shelton traveled to Seattle to learn the brewing techniques and had a Stumptown employee spend three days in Alexandria training his staff how to make the perfect shot of espresso and cup of mud. Another cool thing about this cafe is their iced coffee brewing process. The filtered water slowly drips through this science project-like contraption for a full flavored, balanced cup.
Sorbet – not their only frozen treat, they also have gelato! Rob has fun experimenting and perfecting with new flavors for both the gelato (milk based) and sorbet (water based). He likes to find exotic fruits at the nearby Latin market and mix traditional flavors to make new ones – like the pineapple mint flavor that was on tap last week. The gelato is creamy and wonderful, and the kind staff at Killer E.S.P. will offer you a sample if you’re having trouble deciding between the many delicious options.
Pies – I don’t know why more places don’t serve savory pies, because they are yummy and fun! Killer E.S.P. gets their pies from Dangerously Delicious Pies, a DC favorite. They have interesting pie combos such as curry tofu, steak-mushroom-onion-swiss, pork BBQ and sausage-tomato-fennel. The sweet pies are your traditional pie flavors, but they also have more unique ones like strawberry rhubarb or caramel apple crumb. (I’m getting hungry just typing this). It will be a toss-up as to what Killer E.S.P. decides to serve each day which keeps the variety fresh! As if savory and sweet pies aren’t enough, they also sell Julia’s empanadas for a different, spicier kind of pie.
Get excited! There is a lot more happening at this great new find. Rob is planning to expand the breakfast options with sweet potato & gluten-free waffles and hopefully start creating healthy, organic smoothies as well. The cafe is also getting a face lift and renovations are underway. Next time you are walking along King Street, don’t pass by Killer E.S.P. without popping in and sampling their offerings. If you do, I have a feeling you’ll be back!
Killer E.S.P – 1012 King Street - Alexandria, VA 22314
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The Happy Tart
As you’re strolling down Mount Vernon Avenue, distracted by smell of roasting pig from Pork Barrel BBQ and wondering when the sushi restaurant next door will finally open, try to remember look across the street (and down that little alley) and notice the recent addition to the Del Ray neighborhood. The Happy Tart is a Gluten-free Patisserie that has been serving up yummy baked goods for the past six months. I know, I know – gluten free you say? Why not just stay on the Dairy Godmother side of the street and try the flavor of the day? BECAUSE! The Happy Tart has delicious desserts and you already went to Dairy Godmother once this week.
Check out this cute little bakery run by Emma Cech who discovered she could not eat gluten while in culinary school. Personally, I can’t image much worse than cooking all day unable to eat your creations, but Emma stuck it out and started creating her own gluten free recipes. She chose Del Ray as a home for her little shop because of the neighborhood feel, and it didn’t hurt that the many women who owned businesses along Mount Vernon Avenue are all part of a strong coalition. Emma estimates that only about 40% of her customers are gluten free – the rest just frequent her shop because they love the food. She also makes breads and cakes for all occasions, including weddings. At the rate people are getting married (seems like I’m getting another save-the-date every time I open my mailbox!) and also discovering they can no longer eat gluten, this seems like quite a lucrative business. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to substituting main ingredients (like flour!) in baked goods, but Emma’s pastries really are delicious, so support this local business and give The Happy Tart a try.