Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anatomy of a Cupcake at CakeLove

Toffee Crunch at CakeLove

Long before there was Georgetown Cupcake (and a plethora of like-minded cupcakeries) there was Warren Brown and CakeLove at 15th & U Streets, NW. It's hard to believe that cupcakes were once considered a risky proposition; but Brown has since opened five additional locations, including new digs at 8512 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. I paid them a visit earlier this evening and have this to report.

For starters, the space looks old. It's large... almost too large considering the lack of seating (save for a few tables and a sofa.) It's relatively clean, and features a large glass counter filled with delicious looking cupcakes. I was warmly greeted by a super nice cashier who immediately engaged me in casual conversation (a welcome break from the usual robotic service seen elsewhere.) I ordered a single Toffee Crunch and told her I'd be eating in. She offered to heat it up for me, which (at the time) I thought was strange.

I sat down and took inventory of my order. Yellow cake with vanilla buttercream, scratch-made caramel and toffee chunks sat before me. On looks alone, I was impressed. Then I took a bite. The icing is thick (almost hard) but tasty nevertheless. Because of strict rules (they're complicated) CakeLove is required to refrigerate any cupcakes with buttercream. The result is a recommendation to let their cakes defrost for 15 minutes or so. That's fine I suppose, if you're carrying them to and from the bakery; but if you're dining in...

Cold icing is one thing, but an almost frozen cake is quite another. With each bite, I couldn't help but think about my next dental appointment. It's rock hard (may as well be dry.) Now I know why the cashier asked me if I wanted it heated up. Sadly, it was too late. Perhaps they should heat up all in-store purchases automatically... or at least make a stronger recommendation. I've had buttercream cakes elsewhere, and haven't encountered this problem. Unless you're "in the know," I don't see how a first experience could be anything but disastrous. It's a shame, because a thawed out Toffee Crunch could have been something special.

Appearance: B+ (It looks delicious.)
Store Atmosphere: (Like most of Silver Spring, it's quirky yet inviting. Being from DC, I prefer to call it dated. Service is fantastic.)
Cake: F (I can only judge what I ate. It's not necessarily the customer's job to know the ins & outs of local refrigeration laws.)
Icing: B (Even cold, it's good. I can only imagine what it tastes like properly prepared.)
Value: C- $3.35 is fair enough, but I couldn't help but feel cheated (even though it wasn't on purpose.)
Overall: C- (The potential is there, but who knows if I'll be willing to make a special trip to find out.)