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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thing 142: Cakelove

It's Cupcake Madness! Click here for the bracket and the judging sheet.  Check out previous contenders Red Velvet and Couture Cupcakes.

Cakelove was the original.  Before cupcakeries were a dime a dozen, before Sex and the City made cupcakes flirty and commonplace, Warren Brown had a dream.  He was a government worker, droning on at a job he didn't like, and during his free time, he was baking cakes.  His coworkers reaped the rewards of his after-hours experiments as he adjusted butter and sugar levels, coming up with perfect butter cream and seductive, layered combinations.

Now, Warren owns six Cake Loves, the Love Cafe, is a minor local celebrity and even has his own show on the Food Network.  He is a pillar of the business community.

But can his cakes compete??

I had my doubts.

Truth be told, I don't much like Cakelove cupcakes anymore.  Sure, there was a time in my life when I asked a coworker to drive from Fairfax to U Street to pick some up for my birthday.  And when I was a having a quarter-life crisis I gave very serious thought to taking Warren's offer of a minimum wage job just to learn the secrets of good baking.  I still think his cakes themselves are about the best in town (that chocolate/vanilla/raspberry/butter cream/ganache monster being my favorite).  But the last few times I tried his cupcakes...well, they were dry.  I thought the cake was dry, and the frosting was fine, but not great.  

I don't know if Warren has re-calibrated his cake recipe, or if Cakelove was just having a good day, but when my team came to evaluate the cupcakes for the bracket, they were good.  Really good.

As per the bracket, we ordered three "control" cupcakes (vanilla cake, chocolate frosting), as well as one salted caramel cupcake, and one maple butterscotch.  Cakelove uses a very traditional butter cream, and I had to restrain my team from eating the cupcakes right away -- the frosting needs at least 20 minutes to come to room temperature or it just tastes like butter.  

But once we cut in and tasted, we really liked them!  The cakes were more moist than I remember, and the frosting, though not particularly thick, was rich and well-flavored.  The maple butterscotch in particular was a big hit, though I was partial to the salted caramel.

At $3.25, these were priced about average, and were average-sized.  Overall, these cupcakes scored above-average on cake, size and amount of frosting, with average or low scores for icing and creativity.  One person even checked the 'yes' box on the all-important "this cupcake makes me want to say 'do me on this cupcake'" criteria, a sentiment we all came close to sharing. 

Comments from my team included "do me with butterscotch," "maple butterscotch very good, salty caramel good too," "maple butterscotch almost 'do' worthy," "control - buttery, cake good, maple butterscotch - incredible, best yet," "did not like it," "big, but control was too buttery,""pretty good, almost do me good," and "cake moist!".

The overall score for Cakelove? A 3.6!  0.5 points more than Couture Cupcakes!!  Cakelove advances to the Tasty Two!!  

Who will make it from the Western Bracket??  Check back to find out!