One cupcake looks much like another, which is why Red Velvet Cupcakery's pastry chefs pay such careful attention to what makes them different: the ingredients. Even before a Red Velvet customer takes a bite, they'll probably smell the presence of European butter, Valrhona chocolate, Maldon sea salt, local dairy products, French-style buttercream, and accents made from 24K gold leaf.
That difference was tasted by Washington Post Express, which concluded that Red Velvet's devil's-food cupcake "is sinfully satisfying" with its rich buttermilk cake topped with Valrhona bittersweet-chocolate ganache. It likewise hailed the red-velvet Southern Belle's whipped cream-cheese frosting as "simple, elegant, and too scrumptious for words." To ensure fresh cupcakes?and to keep their wastebaskets available for crumpled-up paper during "writer's block" montages?Red Velvet donates each day's remainders to local shelters and nonprofit organizations.
Over the years, Almaz Dama has developed her childhood love for pastry making into a professional pursuit through formal training at Howard University and the acclaimed food-science institution, L'Academie de Cuisine. In partnership with family members Hailu and Amsale, Almaz puts her extensive experience into practice at Dama Bakery by crafting 11 rich cake flavors, seven vegan-friendly variants, and sugar or gluten-free portions. Almaz also customizes birthday cakes, wedding cakes, and everyday celebration cakes for dessert or firing into a best friend's window via slingshot. While Almaz oversees bakery tasks, Hailu Dama takes on barista duties, brewing and blending a quintet of espressos mixed with delectable milks, foams, and caramels. Patrons can pair their robust beverages with Ethiopian and North American breakfast and snack fare or one of Almaz's tasty pastries in original, vegetarian, or sugarless forms.
CakeLove's baking staff, led by owner and Food Network's Sugar Rush host Warren Brown, specializes in cupcakes and cakes, baking batches from scratch daily with fresh, natural butter, sugar, eggs, and more. Each location's rotating selection of vanilla, chocolate, red-velvet, banana, carrot, and pumpkin cake bases is smothered with a variety of flavored buttercreams. Chocoholics can silence grumbling sweet tooths with creative concoctions like Cynthia's sin (chocolate cake dipped in chocolate ganache, topped with peanut butter buttercream, drizzled with chocolate and caramel, and sprinkled with candied peanuts), while those longing for a tropical getaway can abduct their tongue to a farflung locale with the lime on the coconut (shredded coconut and lime zest on a vanilla cupcake with lime buttercream). Cupcakes are $3.25 each, $19.50 for a half dozen, and $39 for a baker's dozen. Other sweet forms of gourmet baked goods ($2–$5), as well as the bakery's six-inch to 12-inch layer cakes ($25–$130), can sugary-up birthdays or candy-coat a van full of Shriner cars.
With its dark wood floors and warm beige walls and the earthy-sweet smell of brewing coffee filling every corner, sitting in Mocha Cafe and Pastry is in some ways not unlike being immersed in a warm, fancy latte. Cozy is the aim of this international coffee and tea shop, where colorful chairs and mismatched mugs are playfully juxtaposed with a modern feel to hide the fact that all of reality is just a hologram.
House specialties focus on traditional Persian, French, and American breakfast and lunch dishes. More than 20 varieties of baked goods are available, from crispy Persian puff pastries and rum-soaked yeast cake to buttercream-frosted cupcakes served in a mason jar. Meanwhile, egg-croissant sandwiches, quiche, and fresh paninis sate most cravings for savory food, and Turkish coffee and espresso wash down every bite.
The Sweet Life Sugar Tour allows cupcake lovers, brownie aficionados, and fans of the cookie to cut out the middle man. Organizers travel around the country, selecting the finest local bakeries and sweet shops to share their sweets, both as samples and as full-size treats to buy and take home or devour in the car. Admission is capped so that booths don't get too crowded and there's always enough sugar to go around.
Cafe Sazon's cooks whip up signature dishes from scratch in 5–10 minutes, adding just enough "sazon," or seasoning, to give them mouth-watering flavor. Freshly made jalapeño hot sauce and beef-cube-laden pique macho alike are crafted from high-quality ingredients, which patrons can savor while seated on chairs or sofas. Unlimited internet access allows wireless modems to soak up radio waves until they get an even tan, and bilingual staff are on hand to help explain the menu or translate any novels patrons bring in.