A good friend of mine recently celebrated her fiftieth birthday. I was given the responsibility for buying the cake which was an opportunity to drive from Reston into downtown D. C. and try the widely discussed and publicized Cakelove for the first time.
Before I go any further I have to tell you that Cakelove is nothing like, say, the Heidelberg Pastry Shop. It is not set up for a large number of birthday and wedding cakes. It is fairly small and seems much more personal with a real emphasis on providing non traditional cakes that look and taste different from what most of us might traditionally expect.
On a very positive note Cakelove has the absolute best cupcakes I have ever tasted in my life. There were four or five different kinds. They all looked seriously good. I couldn't decide on one so I bought one of each. Summarily they tasted exactly as they looked: incredibly delicious. Within ten minutes I had eaten all of them.
I ordered a 12" birthday cake, called something like "heavenly hazelnut" that cost $99.95. After placing the order I was told the cake would be ready after 4:00PM the day of the order. I wasn't happy with this which I thought was rather late but no alternative was offered.
The day the cake was ready I drove in from Reston to pick up the cake. Although it wasn't ready for my early arrival (3:40) the owner went out of his way to complete it soon after 4:00. I hadn't considered the possibility of keeping the cake cool for the one plus hour evening drive to Reston but it became a concern sitting in traffic. When I arrived home at 5:30 the cake had survived however and I put it straight into the refrigerator.
Several hours later, after dinner, about twenty of us decided we could wait no longer and started serving the cake.
Cakelove's heavenly hazelnut looks like an amateurish homemade cake that for some is a put off. For others it is an attraction since it obviously is not a mass produced cake. Just its appearance tells you that this is going to be something totally unique.
Unfortunately it was not up to the level of the cupcakes. There were several layers of cake and meringue along with frosting and one of the layers of chocolate cake was actually quite dry. The inscription on the top of "Happy Fiftieth Birthday..." was extremely sloppy and very amateurish. This was not a plus; in fact the lettering was actually an embarassment. It was very thin and "squiggly," uneven as it had been written on the top of the cake.
Most of us thought the cake was very good. As an alternative to other professional cakes it was a success since it was special and received as an attempt to provide a unique birthday cake. But three or four of the women were bakers in their own right and they all thought they could do as good if not better of a job. When one of them asked how much it cost and I said $99.95 she couldn't believe me. She had guessed less than half of that. (Heidelberg is about $55.00 or so for a similarly sized cake and my guess is that some of the more "personal" bakers and caterers in the D. C. area range as high as Cakelove for their efforts.)
I would definitely go back to Cakelove. Having fully sampled his cupcakes I know what he is capable of. But if he is going to be successful in selling birthday, wedding and other special occasion cakes he has to sell to his customers' schedule, not his own. Picking up a cake after 4:00PM, I thought, was totally inflexible. He also needs to do a much better job with inscription. An amateurish, obviously homemade cake is fine. But at some point there should be noted a certain level of professionalism. There must also be more consistency in the cakes themselves. I had four or five cupcakes, each of which was moist, rich and intensely flavored. I don't believe a single layer of this could be characterized as any of those.
This is a new business and I really want him to succeed. He seems like a wonderful, giving person who has taken some real risks. I hope my criticism is taken as an opinion that may be helpful.
At his best, based on the cupcakesm, I think he can provide something really special. But a $100.00 12" cake doesn't have any margin for error.
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