Dessert, sweet treat or perhaps just a “little something”: No matter what you call it, everybody has their favorites, and every city has their specialties when it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth.
Cupcakes and More
Washington can’t claim the first cupcake bakery, but it can claim one of the most famous: Georgetown Cupcake. Sisters Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontagne opened the original shop in February 2008 in a tiny white house in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood.
The bakery became famous among locals for its cupcakes, but it became famous nationwide when it landed its own TLC reality show, “DC Cupcakes,” which premiered in 2010. Georgetown Cupcake now has five locations, including shops in New York and Los Angeles.
But Georgetown Cupcake “isn’t the only game in town,” said Kate Gibbs, media relations manager for Destination DC.
Baked and Wired is a locals’ spot with cupcakes that are so big that the shop calls them “cakecups.” The bakery is also known for its funky flavors and, sometimes, naughty names. Patrons can order the Elvis Impersonator “porked,” which adds candied bacon on top of the banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting. There’s the Razmanian Devil, the Dirty Chai and the signature Chocolate Cupcake of Doom. Unicorns and Rainbows has heart-shaped sprinkles mixed into the vanilla batter.
The Sweet Lobby on Capitol Hill is run by “another superstar baker,” Gibbs said. Winnette McIntosh Ambrose is an MIT- and Johns Hopkins-educated biochemical engineer who works at the National Institutes of Health and who opened the Sweet Lobby with her brother in 2011. Just a few months later, the bakery won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
The Sweet Lobby dishes up European flair. Known for its macaroon-topped cupcakes, called “MacTops,” Sweet Lobby also makes eclairs, mendicants, madeleines and other French treats.
Portland is on the proverbial map for many items: food, beer, coffee, rain and all things offbeat. But Voodoo Doughnut put the city on the doughnut map.
“A lot of people know Portland by two things: Voodoo Doughnut and Powell’s bookstore,” said Marcus Hibdon, communications and public relations manager for Travel Portland. “Not necessarily in that order, but we definitely have a reputation for doughnuts.”
Tres Shannon and Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson first opened Voodoo in 2003 in downtown Portland, and the company has since expanded to four locations. The other three are a second Portland shop; one in Eugene, Oregon; and one in Denver, which opened in 2013 and is Voodoo’s first location outside of Oregon.
Voodoo is renowned for its counterculture craziness, including the shop’s signature treat, the Voodoo Doll doughnut. The man-shaped pastry is filled with raspberry jelly and has a pretzel stick stabbed right where its deep-fried heart would be.
Voodoo’s success and Portland’s recent reputation for doughnuts has “driven other companies to open up and do doughnuts in a different way,” Hibdon said.
Blue Star Donuts opened its first shop in 2012 selling high-quality, high-concept brioche doughnuts, and Blue Star’s motto — “doughnuts for grownups” — fits the bill. The rotating menu features flavors such as blueberry bourbon basil, chocolate ganache and Cointreau creme brulee, a doughnut with creme brulee filling and a shot of Cointreau on top.
For the classic doughnut, nothing beats Coco Donuts in downtown, Hibdon said. Whether glazed twist, jelly filled or cake with sprinkles, “they’re old-school doughnuts done right,” he said.