It’s sad to say that I was a better cupcake consumer in the Northwest than I’ve been in DC. I still haven’t been to Baked and Wired or Buzz Bakery or Best Buns Company, but I managed to visit three cupcake shops on my West Coast jaunt. One of them, Tacoma’s “Hello, Cupcake,” was really delightful, and helped my coworkers and I muddle through the final days our convention. The second one, Cupcake Royale, was a must-do item on my Seattle to-do list. And the third . . . well, I won’t go there just yet.
I was very excited to visit Cupcake Royale during my two days in Seattle. Unlike many of the DC cupcake shops, which are recent transplants (Hello Cupcake just had its first birthday), Cupcake Royale opened before I left Seattle four years ago. It has four locations, including one in Ballard (the Nordic-inspired, trendy neighborhood that celebrates both vikings and boutiques), Madrona, West Seattle, and Capitol Hill (Seattle’s resident gay district – no relation to DC’s Capitol Hill). I visited the latter location, along with my friend Aiko, who unexpectedly had some time off from her teaching masters program.
First off, the store is delightful. The store opens with a large stained glass cupcake window, and has art pieces scattered throughout. The store’s clean white and pink color scheme and open floor plan makes the space feel both whimsical and modern – not an easy thing to accomplish. It’s also huge. There’s a large display case, counter, and huge seating area – theoretically, one could get a cupcake, a cup of coffee, and spend an hour reading a book or watching all the Capitol Hill types pass by the large windows. Try to do that in Georgetown Cupcake.
Due to waistline considerations, I wasn’t able to sample all the cupcake flavors I wanted. So I tried to choose a representative sampling, and went with a chocolate cupcake with peppermint frosting, and a vanilla cupcake with lavender frosting. Both cupcakes were the generous “muffin top” style cupcakes – like the kind one gets at Cakelove, and both were covered in powdered-sugar based buttercream frosting.
The peppermint cupcake was seriously perfect. I don’t think I could ask for anything more in a cupcake. The cake was really moist and fluffy, and had a melt in your mouth tender crumb. The frosting was very minty and incredibly smooth and soft and flavorful, without being too sweet. Really, this cupcake was spot -on in every way.
Of course, the lavender cupcake had a tough act to follow, and didn’t quite live up to its predecessor. The lavender frosting had the same great texture and sweetness, but I couldn’t help but think that it tasted a little soapy (this is the problem with lavender flavored desserts, I’ve found). The vanilla cake was lovely, however, with the same melting, fluffy texture as the chocolate cake.
All in all, I left the experience vowing that I would figure out how the hell I could make that peppermint cupcake myself – and vowing to return to Cupcake Royale and Seattle before too long. But when I was proclaiming my cupcake Royale love at happy hour later that day at one of my old college haunts (Kai’s for anyone who’s interested), I found out that there was a cupcake controversy brewing in Seattle. One of my friends told me that the Cupcake Royale cupcakes out in the Ballard store are always dry, and that Trophy, an up-and-coming cupcake shop, made the best cupcake in the city.
Had I found this out before the night before my flight, I would have gone to investigate. But I think I’ll have to save Trophy for another trip. Seattle peeps, care to weigh in on this cupcake controversy? Is the Trophy vs. Cupcake Royale debate just a matter of personal taste, or does Cupcake Royale really have consistency problems? Now that I’m no longer a Seattleite, I can only speculate.