The Opening Day Scene at Hello Cupcake

Think the cupcake trend is growing stale? It sure didn’t seem that way this morning at Hello Cupcake, the new cupcake bakery just off Dupont Circle. The place had only been open for 10 minutes on its opening day, and already a line about 20 people deep wound outside its doors. Bemused passersby raised their eyebrows—“What is this,” one asked, “Magnolia Bakery for DC?” One girl, an NYU student, worried she’d miss her bus back to New York if she didn’t get her sugar fix soon.

Inside, Penny Karas’s little shop is unabashedly girly, with pink chandeliers, flowery walls, and decorative jars of sugar and sprinkles. The $3 cupcakes have names like “Prima Donna” (chocolate with strawberry buttercream) and “You Tart!” (lemon cake, lemon frosting), and there are around 14 or 15 flavor selections each day, including one vegan, one gluten-free, and one seasonal variety (currently it’s root-beer float). Icings are made from buttercream, cream cheese, or ganache.

So how do they rank with competition? 45 minutes after I first stepped into the slowly shuffling line, I left with my four-pack and headed back to the office to find out. My favorite was the moist chocolate cake topped with strawberry buttercream, which tasted closer to a sugar icing than the dense Italian buttercream served at places like CakeLove. A lime cupcake with coconut/cream cheese icing and the Velvet Elvis, a banana cupcake with peanut-butter frosting, were also good, but instead of the latter I wished I’d gotten the Peanut Butter Blossom, which pairs the super-peanut-y icing with chocolate cake. The biggest surprise? The root-beer float, which comes complete with a little straw. It’s delicious, like the fluffiest gingerbread you’ve ever had with a swirl of not-too-cream-cheesy icing.  

Is any cupcake worth a 45-minute wait? Earlier this morning I'd have said no way. But these might change my mind.

Hello Cupcake, 1351 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-861-2253; Open Monday through Thursday, 10 AM to 7 PM, Friday and Saturday, 10 AM to 9 PM.

Have you been to Hello Cupcake yet? What did you think of the cupcakes? Let us know in the comments below!

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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.