Well say goodbye to any hopes of holding down a diet this summer and hello to Hello Cupcake. Word has it that a new cupcake shop is opening up in Dupont Circle (across from the Krispy Kreme and just a block from my house..sigh).
I've been dieing for delicious cupcakes to come to my city and I guess I got my wish. Well the delicious part has yet to be seen but they look cute!
Oh and they are eco-friendly (check out the section on their packaging and their building...very detailed website which I love).
The lines on opening day were literally into the Circle -- some folks came quite close to getting flattened by speeding busses -- so I was skeptical that HC could live up to the hype. Toward the end of opening week, I scouted out the location for some colleagues and brought back a 4-pack to glowing reviews. Since I work in the area, I've since returned a number of times -- just what number, I won't disclose...suffice it to say that I get a free one next time I visit! -- and have sampled a pretty broad selection. HC was the perfect choice for a shared office b-day celebration last week, and the wait on each visit (at 11-ish) was minimal. Staff has always been cheery and relaxed, never crossing the line into perky territory.
So far, I've tried the You Tart, 24 Carrot, Velvet Elvis, De Lime & De Coconut, PB Blossom, Pick-me-up, and Prima Donna. (What? All were shared!) In terms of cake, the banana batter from the Velvet Elvis was divinely moist, and the pb frosting was incredibly satisfying, if somewhat predominant. The other winning cake would have to be the lime base for De Lime...tart and pucker-inducing like nobody's business! My colleagues strongly prefer the You Tart, and it's definitely bright and refreshing, but I wonder if it will be less popular when summer ends.
Icing-wise, the cream cheese-based ones could use a little more tartness, in my opinion. The strawberry frosting on the Prima Donna was startlingly fresh...definitely exceeded expectations. The coffee buttercream on the Pick-me-up was a little salty -- I'm all for balance and nuance, but it did seem a little odd. I'm bringing a Chococo and Peppermint Penny home to the hubby tonight and look forward to reporting back,
I haven't tried the ganache yet but dream that it will one day appear on the banana cake...yum. I'd also love to see filled cupcakes, as someone else suggested. The seasonal root beer flavor just ain't my thing, but I can't wait to see what the fall offerings are.
The boxes are definitely a bit of an issue. They mush frosting and commingle flavors that shouldn't play together. They also don't fit into my tote bag, which is a bummer if a) you commute by Metro and want to minimize schlepping, or b) you didn't ask if anyone wanted a cupcake and are trying to discreetly enter the office with your private stash!
So we finally checked out HC yesterday and sad to so, were sorely disappointed. Maybe it just didn't live up to the all the hype. We were expecting something to rival Sprinkles, only prettier. The interior wasnicely done, but not wow. I liked that there was enough seating so my husband & I could have a cup of coffee and my son could have milk with the cupcakes. The staff was not consistent. The woman at the register was as pleasant as could be , but the woman taking the orders could not have been more annoyed by dealing with the costumers. She even rolled her eyes at one customer when he asked a question about the menu. If you eat your cupcakes in the store, they are served to you, not on plates, but on paper doilies. Very tricky when trying to carry more than one - and honestly, very lame. There are no plastic spoons for utensils, only forks & knives and they didn't have there own lable on the paper coffee cups, just some generic eco lable. Having gone to so much trouble, why not get every detail right? The cupcakes themselves were ok. The vanilla cake was quite good in flavor and texture, but noticed the abscence of vanilla beans. The chocolate coconut was good, but the flavor of the chocolate cake was not intense enough - more like mild milk chocolate. The dulc de leche cake which was dry & the frosting had only the faintest dulche de leche flavor. Overall another disappointing Washington cupcake experience. I just can't wait for Sprinkles to come to town.
Prompted by this string about Sprinkles possibly coming to town, I gave them a try on a trip to palo alto last week. this is the dc board so I won't go into detail here but the dc relevant headline would be: I hope they don't come here anytime soon. I think DC is just one of many possible next stops for them. we were really disappointed with their cupcakes. Biggest problems were sickeningly sweet frostings and large mushy cake that just fell apart. You couldn't pick one up. Had to be eaten with a fork...maybe a spoon. Georgetown, Baked and Wired and Hello are all significantly better IMHO.
I stopped by last week after a doctor's appointment. The timing was perfect (11 am) and I beat the lunchtime rush. The staff was friendly and efficient.
Their cupcakes are divine! I took a dozen back to the office and everyone just loved them. Of the flavors I got, the coconut and heart of darkness were the favorites. I would definitely go back.
Well, I'm a fan. I dropped by today (Thursday) at around 6 pm, and there was no line at all. I think all the flavors were available too. There is a lot of pleasant seating, much more than at Georgetown Cupcake. I had a peanut butter cupcake: chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting. Delicious, quality cupcake. Definitely a larger portion than Georgetown Cupcake, which I appreciate. If I'm paying $3 for a cupcake, I want it to be more than 3 bites!
I will definitely be returning.
Headed up there this afternoon, right around noon time. I was terrified that they would be sold out or that the line would be horrendous. I was wrong. The wait time was under 5 minutes, the line was practically non-existent.
I thought the cupcake was better than those at cakelove and georgetown cupcake. I got the You Tart. The frosting was good, the cupcake was heavy and dense (almost poundcake like). My preference would have been for a fluffier, lighter cake. Additionally, if I am paying $3 for a cupcake, would it kill them to make them a little bigger? I hate paying that much for such a tiny cupcake. Especially when I can get a huge one at Furin's for about the same price.
All in all...it wasn't bad. I hate (hate may not be strong enough of a word) georgetown cupcake and cakelove. This was an improvement on both of those. However, I am still waiting for a cupcake place that knocks my socks off. Until then, I will keep making my own.
In reference to the part about them handing out samples that first day when they were going to run out -- I too thought it was a nice gesture, just had a bad personal experience with it. I got there just before 6:30 pm on Monday. At 6:45, they walked out with the box of cupcakes, talked for a minute and came to stand right next to me and the person behind me. He announced that they'd probably run out and from here to the back of the line, we wouldn't get any. So if we were willing to share, they had 12 cupcakes to give out b/c they hoped we'd come back.
The 2 people behind me took one to share. The people in front of me said, Will we make it? Can we have one instead? So they took one. I then said, Well, I'm actually by myself could I still have one? The employees turned and asked the group 2 parties behind me if they would take one!. So now I am very pathetically following the 2 employees as they work their way back towards the line giving out these cupcakes. I asked again -- I know I'm by myself, but could I still have one? They got, I think to the back of the line, and then they ran out. I am now standing there looking at them and they are looking at me, holding the empty box.
I really don't want to fault them, b/c as all have said, it was a nice gesture. I'm just a really unlucky person? I am invisible? I'm not pushy enough? :) I wish they had also carried some of those discount coupons to the back of the line --
Note -- I also walked by there yesterday at about 6:35 and they'd already shut down (7 pm is the closing time). I think I give up for now and will maybe try next week since I just can't get out of work any earlier!
Thanks for listening to my whining!
I'm sorry! I was wondering about that- like, if you're just before the cutoff point of when they were handing out samples, there's still a chance that you might not get any still, depending on how many cupcakes each person gets that is in front of you.
Btw- The Free Sample Invisibility happens to me all the time at the Dupont Farmer's Market when there's a chef demonstration/samples being passed around... It seems like they always pass the tray around whereever I am NOT standing, and there's always people that push through to the table to grab a sample..sheesh! :-)
The space is small, but bigger than G.Town Cupcake. Enough for 2-3 tables.
The decor is cool, very bright and cheery, but not too Kindergarten classroom.
The cupcake grabber guy was cool, but they're doing that ABP/Chop'T thing with a marked up ticket. +1 for the service/ -1 for operational
Staff - about 4 grabbers, 1 cashier, and bakers.
Time in line - ~6-8 minutes. Decent, may have been faster if the 5 people ahead of me knew what they wanted. Which leads to...
The Menu - visible, but with such whimsical names, you'd need the full menu or the website to figure out what kind of cupcake you're actually buying. (you can always ask, but in a high volume business, you want to keep things flowing)
If they were interested in moving the line along (which no one is DC seems to be - See Ben's Chil Bowl for the model of ineffiency) they'd inform the customer in line via signage - on the wall, or actually on the case.
The Cashier - Neutral. She made me reach all the way over to take my cupcakes after she took my money. Pet Peeve of mine. I give you money, you give me merchandise.
She also had to wait for cupcake grabber guy to grab my cupcakes. Basically, I can reach her before my cupcakes...meaning that she asked me what I got. I rattled off my order..and then she got the ticket.
I like well run operations. They get a B-.
But you only care about The cupcakes
1) Vanilla on Vanilla
a) The frosting - butter cream, and lots of it. I actually think it's about 1:1 ratio cupcake to frosting, in other words. GREAT! I prefer butter cream to Icing and Cream Cheese (or god forbid that whipped cream/reddi whip stuff that your Grocer would use). As to how to compare the butter cream? It was sweet and good, but I see how some could be put off by the sheer amount. (sissies)
b) The cake - On the Cake Love to Duncan Hines scale - this is definitely closer to DH than to CL. Very good. Not super moist, but it's definitely better than Magnolia in NYC.
Grade - A
2) 24 Carrot - Carrot Cake Cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting.
a) Cream Cheese Frosting - mighta had a touch of sour cream? I think the heat made it melt a bit. Not bad
b) Carrot Cake was good
Grade - B+
3) Heart of Darkness - As much as I love chocolate, chocolate cake is not high on the list of priorities.
a) Frosting - Very cacao
b) Cake - Moist.
In comparison to GTown's C3, I think these compare very favorably.
Very good cupcakes.
On the scale
sell, hold, buy, strong buy
Definitely a buy.
I went today around 10:45 am and the line was not too bad...took about 15 minutes. They seemed much more efficient than Georgetown Cupcake in its opening weeks -- probably just prepared for the demand! They had about five people taking orders, one person ringing everyone up and a few bakers that were continuously restocking. I had the 24 carrot and thought it was declicious. The other flavors that my group tried got rave reviews too. I prob would avoid prime time for a while, but they are a great treat!
Great point on the effiiciency, WashDC33. I should have credited that also in my post. I didn't go to GC for a couple of months after they opened but largely because there was so much negative stuff on the board about how disorganized they were, constantly running out of cupcakes, etc. By the time I tried it, they had those problems solved (largely thanks to buying another, larger oven). But Hello deserves a lot of credit for having their act together so well in the first couple of days. Love the report about them giving out samples and discount coupons to the last folks on the line when they realized they wouldn't make it.
Just need to make that chocolate more chocolatey (had the heart of darkness today and, while good, didn't pop like it should) and do more cream cheese or sugar icings at the expense of the buttercreams.
I checked it out last night around 6pm- a lonnnnnnnng but somewhat steadily moving line was there, almost out to the circle. nwdchound covered most of the info, especially since by the time I was there there wasn't as much of a selection. Some notes on my visit:
- If you buy a Cup-A-Cake (plastic single cupcake holder) there for $4, they will give you a cupcake for free... so essentially, you're paying for the cupcake + $1 for the Cup-A-Cake. I thought it was cute, and I've seen them before for more than $1 at LnT/BBBeyond, so I figured I might as well. I believe this only applies for your first cupcake in your order.
- Three flavors were available when I was there: Triple Coconut, Lime and de Coconut, and Velvet Elvis. I got 4 total: one of each of the 3 flavors in the 4-pack box, plus a second Velvet Elvis in the Cup-A-Cake.
- I sampled the Velvet Elvis, which was a really moist banana bread cupcake with pb frosting. My friends tried the coconut ones, and especially liked the Lime and de Coconut flavor.
- Around 6:45, one guy came out and handed out samples (or it could've been whole cupcakes, I couldn't really see from where I was sitting) to people at the very end of the line, explaining that they probably were going to sell out before they'd get a chance to purchase any. He was also handing out discount coupons to people that came to the door after they had run out, and also to people in line that didn't get any cupcakes.
- Not sure how long the 4 per person rule is going to last (I'm assuming at least for this week?), but just keep that in mind in case you're planning on bringing some to a party- I heard someone in line trying to buy a dozen for a birthday and they told him it wouldn't be fair to everyone else waiting in line behind him.
- They had punch cards at the register, so make sure to ask for one if they don't automatically give you one. It says Baker's Dozen on it, and after 12 punches you get your 13th one free.
Like nwdchound said, I loved the decor, the available seating, and the service. This one is much more metro-accessible than my other favorites (Gtown Cupcake, Baked and Wired), and I'm excited to try their other flavors. Also, to give you some perspective, I got there at 6pm and was out the door by 6:35. At least for the beginning stages though, don't go too close to 7pm thinking it'll be died down by then- if there's no line, it's probably because they already started turning people away!
I don't usually try something like Hello Cupcake on Day 1. Too crazy. Too long a wait. Not worth it when waiting a couple of weeks pays off with calm and fewer wrinkles. But, today, was in the area late afternoon and the line didn't seem that bad and...well, new cupcake place right in Dupont so in I went.
I really wanted to love it. And some things about it were definitely good or even great. And, the things that weren't so great--well, it was the first day so they'll be doing all kinds of refining over the next couple of weeks I'm sure. So, with that as backdrop:
- the space. decor aside, Hello Cupcake has several tables. And a counter. It's a bona fide cafe. Compared to the other 3 cupcake places in town, Hello wins on this dimension handily with Baked & Wired the only other even in contention.
- the creativity. Many of of the options (e.g., root beer float, velvet elvis) are just fun and reflect a lot of thought. I'll bet the people behind Hello can paint or sculpt well too.
- the choice. Tons of different flavors can't be a bad thing, right? And, love that people will be able to plan depending on which flavors they like. They publish (in a menu and online) which flavors will be offered each day of the week.
- the service. there was a posted 4 cupcake limit today but you could get a couple of extras if you asked. Even late in the day, after the staff had no doubt been run ragged, they were nice, efficient and flexible. Kudos here--not easy or typical.
- a couple of the flavors. The strawberry buttercream frosting on the prima donna was truly redolent with strawberries. the fruit really came through in the taste without being too heavy. the chocolate cake was good--they use Scharfenberger (sp?) chocolate and you can taste the quality of it in the cake thought maybe a bit too subtle. Coconut is something that seems to polarize people. I'm a fan. And the triple coconut was good (cream cheese frosting--more on that below)
WASN'T AS EXCITED ABOUT
- a few of the flavors. we'd love some tweaking. Aside from making the chocolate cake more chocolately, some of the non-strawberry buttercreams (like the vanilla on the original) were kind of bland. then again, I think hello finally confirms that I like cream cheese icings better than buttercream so there's the bias exposed. Then again, maybe buttercream was ruined for me by cakelove, which I don't at all like.
- the boxes. the four pack box didn't work well to protect the cupackes. The cutouts seemed larger than the cakes so they fell through a bit. When we opened the box just an hour later, everything was a bit of a mess. A place that has plastic single carriers should have better boxes.
- the size. this is a personal preference but we found some of the cakes to be overiced. Too much buttercream piled too high on the cake (again the original is a good example). others were too heavy (peanut butter blossom has a lot of rich peanut butter frosting and a hershey's kiss). The cakes are sized between those of G'Town Cupcake and Baked & Wired. I'm starting to think smaller is better in cupcakes but, again, I know others will disagree.
Great report, nwdchound. Thanks for taking one for the team. I think many of us are waiting for the frenzy to calm down a bit before checking it out. I saw photos of cupcakes in the box and agree the cut out shape and size allows for them to fall over and icing get everywhere. Why not just a simple hole that keeps the bottom steady and doesn't touch the icing? Hmm.
I was 7th in line when HC opened this morning (well WAS 7th till the budgers came! shame on you!). Hello Cupcake is DELICIOUS. I was lucky enough to try these at an event last year and have been waiting since then for the store to open! In my opinion WAY better than Georgetown Cupcake or Cakelove.
Triple coconut is my favorite, followed by 24 carrot (carrot cake). They had coffee (didn't notice an espresso machine), milk, iced tea, and lemonade. This super cute shop is locally-owned and operated too!
I'm still on a sugar high.....