Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hello Cupcake!

Penny Karas, Owner & Executive Pastry Chef of the much anticipated Hello Cupcake (set to open later this summer in Dupont), graciously offered me a sneak preview of her treats before the shop’s Grand Opening. With original flavors like the Velvet Elvis and Maya Favorite Cupcake, I was SUPER excited to make my way over to Penny’s place and put my taste buds to work. And work I did! After tasting 5 different flavors, I can safely say that Hello Cupcake's cupcakes are the best I have had in this area!

With charming little touches like both indoor and outdoor seating, recycled pink packing, a flashy pink chandelier, and the perfectly crafted cupcakes themselves, Hello Cupcake is all about the details. And you can taste Penny's attention to detail in each and every bite. I think it's this special attention that is going to make Hello Cupcake so successful. Here are my reviews:

Gluten Free Carrot Cake - Oh.My.God. GLUTEN FREE?!?! I’ve died and gone to cupcake heaven. The cream cheese icing was SO delicious it’s hard to put into words! The mixture of cinnamon, real carrots, walnuts, and pineapple was perfect. When you go to Hello Cupcake, you have GOT to try this masterpiece.

Vanilla Gorilla - A light and fluffy banana bread with an anything but average vanilla frosting. I gave one to a friend who is a banana bread connoisseur, and her eyes about bulged out of her head when she took her first bite. “This is AMAZING!!” I would have to agree. I've never really liked bananas, but I LOVED this cupcake.

Vegan German Chocolate - I tried this one both room temperature and warmed up. I think I prefer the warmed up version as it makes the caramel topping a little creamier. This combined with chocolate cake was a great combination.

Triple Coconut - My taste buds had a field day with this one. The Triple Coconut is exactly how a cupcake should taste: sweet, light, and moist. Normally I avoid coconut as I’m not a big fan, but this was just divine.

Peanut Butter Blossom - WOW. The peanut butter frosting on this cupcake is so creamy and delicious you must try it for yourself. Unlike many other peanut butter frostings I’ve had, this one is not at all oily or overpowering. It’s perfect. The chocolate cake was smooth and rich. Put them together and you’ve got one amazing combination.

You can find these and over 15 other flavors on Hello Cupcake's menu. Speaking of which, I asked Penny if we could be expecting any new flavors once the shop opens, to which she replied "Oh definitely! Coming up with new flavors is the best part." For more on what Penny had to say about her cupcakes and her shop, check out our conversation below:

(In regards to the Vegan German Chocolate Cupcake)
Penny: “The caramel topping doesn’t have the butter in it to make it really gooey, so it hardens almost into a caramel fudge, it’s awesome. If you wanted to have the gooeyness, I would recommend just warming it up. Pop it in the microwave for about 10 seconds and it goo’s right up.

Penny: And then this is Gluten Free Carrot Cake.

Danielle: OH those are my favorite!

Penny: Oh good! This is really good even if you’re not eating gluten free, so I think you’ll enjoy it but the real stuff is also amazing . You’ll have to come and have some of those some day! The gluten-free one has carrots, toasted walnuts, pineapple and coconut, filled with all kinds of goodness, and then a traditional cream cheese frosting and a dusting of cinnamon.

Danielle: I love the way you do your icing. I was checking out the website and everything is so cute, people are loving it! You know you’ve got so many good reviews already and you haven’t even opened. Everyone is just like, “I love the way they look!”

Penny: It kind of validates the whole idea of really going for a high end brand look too. I mean, I think the products are number one, and they’re really good, so that’s a good thing, but I also think that just having the brand appeal has really attracted people.

Danielle: People really go for presentation.

Penny: I think that’s true; and I wanted the shop itself to have a modern aesthetic. The whole idea behind the shop is that when you walk in it feels more like you’re walking into a little boutique.

Danielle: Yea, I read about your pink chandelier!

Penny: Hahaha Yea!

(Back to cupcakes)

Penny: This is Peanut Butter Blossom which is my basic Scharfenberger chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, which is addictive. [This is] Vanilla Gorilla, which is banana cake and has real bananas, not just banana flavoring, and vanilla cream cheese frosting. It’s a really nice moist cake because of the Banana.

Danielle: Speaking of the Banana, your Velvet Elvis cracks me up.

Penny: Isn’t that great? I didn’t know if people would get the reference! There is another one called Lucy, “the sassy red head.” A friend of mine who is like 10 years younger than me said “are you sure younger people are going to get this reference?

Danielle: Oh, I definitely think so.

What I like most about the cupcakes from Hello Cupcake is that not only are the cake and frosting delicious on their own, but when you bite into them together, it's the perfect combination. They look great, they're moist, the flavors are rich but aren't overpowering; they’re absolutely delicious.

Penny was shocked that I came all the way from Bethesda to her corner of DC to try the cupcakes. Are you kidding?? People are going to be coming from all over to try these cupcakes! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the Grand Opening later this summer, Hello Cupcake is going to be a huge hit.

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