Friday, November 16, 2012

Anatomy of a Georgetown Cupcake

Apple Caramel (top) & Lemon Blossom cupcakes

I've long wondered why anyone would wait in line behind 100-200 people for a cupcake. Walk by Georgetown Cupcake's splashy location at the corner of 33rd & M Streets on a Saturday afternoon, and you'll see at least that many people in que, practically all day long. For someone who remembers the chain's humble beginnings at their closet-sized boutique on Potomac Street, it's a lot to take in.

Much has happened since then. In fact, tomorrow marks the opening of the first west-coast Georgetown Cupcake (in Los Angeles.) Why such a fuss over a simple cupcake? To their credit, there's nothing simple about Georgetown Cupcakes. 15 everyday flavors. Five daily specials (x7 days = 35) and 48 season flavors (including 14 in December alone.) That's just shy of 100 cupcakes. I settled on two for today's review.

I didn't have to wait long (about three minutes) despite stopping by at 12 noon on a Friday. Two cashiers (one terribly efficient, the other just terrible) took orders, while a team of cupcake elves buzzed around, icing and boxing at a pace even Santa Claus would be proud of. As luck would have it, I got stuck with the terrible cashier... the lone male employee who stood out like a sore thumb. No hello, just a grumble of "$6.05"... my total, which I had to ask him to repeat (since I couldn't hear him the first time.) He handed me my change, no thank you and more importantly no order number. I mention this, because the cashier next to him made a point of emphasizing it (since that's the number we need to respond to, in order to get our cupcakes.) Said number was on my receipt, but I couldn't help but yearn to be waited on by the other person (or anyone else, for that matter.) I've visited GC many times, and their staff is usually top notch. Go figure.

Things took a turn for the better, when my number was called (with joyful glee by a perky packager... everyone else seems to be happy there.) Cupcakes are presented in a beautiful pink box with fitted slots and a black & white sticker to seal in all the goodness. I selected Caramel Apple (one of their four seasonal flavors for November) and Lemon Blossom (a Friday special.) Single cupcakes cost just $2.75 ($15/6 $29/DZ) but rank on the small side versus their competition. Three bites is all I needed to devour their delicious Lemon Blossom... I wish it were bigger; I bet that fourth bite would have been killer. The icing is incredibly light and the cake good (not great) and sufficiently moist. Nice lemon flavor too, without being overpowering.

I opted for smaller bites with my second cake, the Caramel Apple. Again, pillowy soft icing that literally melts in your mouth. The cake had a strong apple taste, which I found appealing but non-apple lovers may not. It's a great flavor combination, and one of my new favorites at GC.

Georgetown Cupcakes makes a mean cupcake... some downright delicious. They run small, but they're priced lower than others (so it balances out, I suppose.) Today's service issues with my cashier drop my grade a bit, but if you can get there when the line is inside the store, you likely won't go away disappointed. P.S. My pink box earned looks of envy from locals and visitors alike, as I walked down M Street... It's like carrying flowers (girls just love flowers... and evidently cupcakes too.)

Appearance: A- (Beautiful to look at, and brilliantly packaged)
Store Atmosphere: C (Sorry GC, you're a victim of your own success. There's a sense of hurriedness and panic inside, that I find unappealing.)
Cake: B+
Icing: A+ (Best icing around. Period!)
Value: B+ (It's like getting two cupcakes for the price of one)
Service: C (One bad apple can ruin the batch.)
Overall: B (They're not worth lining up around the block for, but they're pretty darn delicious.)