Do-It-Yourself CakeLove

We’ve never been big fans of the $3.25 cupcakes at CakeLove, Warren Brown’s local bakery chain. His lawyer-follows-his-passion story seems to distract customers from the ordinariness of what he makes. Even when we’ve followed the “cake care” instructions (cupcakes with directions!) and eaten them only at room temperature, we’ve found the cake dry and the blob of buttercream reminiscent of a sweetened block of butter. With the help of Brown’s new cookbook, CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes From Scratch, we set out to see if we could do better.

The standard cupcake recipe is fairly simple, although we had to upgrade our pantry with Brown’s specific recommendations: superfine sugar instead of regular; 82-percent-butterfat unsalted butter (we used Plugrá); and his secret ingredient for softer cakes, potato starch. The biggest pain? Instead of scooping and leveling, Brown insists on measuring ingredients by weight in ounces, which requires a kitchen scale.


The mixing and folding went fast. The technique was easy, and novices will appreciate the book’s step-by-step photos that show the batter-making process. The making of the Italian-meringue buttercream, which called for a whole pound of butter, went quickly, too.

So how did the at-home CakeLove stack up against the original? The cake came out dense and buttery but moister than the version sold at the bakery. And it’s much more delicious with a thin slick of buttercream rather than a big blob.


Carrying Cupcakes in Style 

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.