Thinky thoughts: The $6 Cupcake Paradox

Okay, I admit it: Sometimes the economic side of the restaurant business escapes me. How is it that a bakery can make a mediocre cupcake in house and sell it for $3, then make a better product, walk it across the street to a restaurant, and charge double?

Confused? Me too…

Last night I met a friend at Buzz for a little catch-up session and dessert-y goodness- they have the only palatable cupcakes in Metro DC. I had read that Buzz had a new Guiness chocolate cupcake and was curious to try it. However, there were none in the bakery case, so I ordered a chocolate with chocolate icing (the parsnip-carrot looked good, but I wasn’t feeling adventurous) and plunked myself down on the couch to nibble and have a chat.

The chocolate was good, but somewhat muted- the cake was a touch dry but the icing was (as usual) creamy in texture. It is, in fact, the only icing I will ever eat. The sprinkling of pink tinted raw sugar on top finished it off nicely. Buzz uses Valrhona in most of their baked goods, so you know what you’re getting is high quality, but for some reason the chocolate flavor was a bit dulled- as though cornstarch had been added or something. Very odd.

I went back up to the counter to ask about the Guiness chocolate cupcake and was told that it was only sold across the street at Rustico (part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group of which Buzz, Vermilion, Tallula, Planet Wine, Star Catering and Evening Star Cafe are also a part). Apologies abounded. But apologies don’t satisfy a sweettooth, so we packed up and went across the street.

At Rustico (worth a review in itself for their duck confit pizza and beer selection- we’ve been following our happy hours at Buzz with dinner at Rustico since the bakery opened) we settled in at one of the counters and were presented with dessert menus. The waiter recommended the Strawberry Creme Brulee so we ordered that too.

The creme brulee was delicious- dusty rose in color, lightly flavored, warm and on the tongue it had a sort of nubbly/creamy texture. I almost choked on a bit of the sugary crust (not thick, but pernicious nonetheless), but all in all worth a try though they would do well to leave out the swirl of Reddi-Whip on top. The cupcake (slightly larger than the $2.15 version at Buzz) came perched, paperless, on a drizzling of fresh, buttery, caramel syrup. The butter cream frosting is dusted with cocoa and the dark, rich, moist cake below makes the whole thing look like a shot of Guinness. Fun! Unfortunately we’ve polished off a cupcake each and split a creme brulee prior to this and we have hit our limit at a bite each.

The bill is where we get our shock. The cupcake alone was $6. Excuse me? $6?! Are you kidding?

Check this out:

  1. The bakery is ACROSS THE STREET. Literally. You can see it from the diningroom.
  2. No fuel was used to transport those cupcakes, as far as I know. This is the epitome of eating locally, in fact.
  3. For the trouble of driving from Bethesda to Alexandria (about 16 miles), settling in at Buzz with a mediocre cupcake ($2.15) and then walking ACROSS THE STREET, I then get the privilege of a better cupcake, only slightly larger then the first, from the SAME BAKERY for $6?!

That’s messed up. On the other hand, if I had been at Rustico for dinner I might not have noticed the cost when coupled with the $8 beer and $12 pizza, because I would have been paying for the presentation and the restaurant’s ambiance as well.

So maybe the answer is this: I stop going to Buzz itself and just eat whatever they serve at Rustico. The cupcake at Rustico tasted better, after all. It tastes even better the next day (although, as you can see from the photo above, it sure didn’t travel well- beyond across the street, that is).

But in the meantime, maybe Chockylit or Garrett can come up with a recipe for a Guinness cupcake? Please? Because at $6 a pop I’d be better off using the money to make a whole batch myself.

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2 responses to “Thinky thoughts: The $6 Cupcake Paradox

  1. >Sounds like a tasty challenge… Will have to see who gets to it first.

  2. >So, it sounds like you spent nearly $20 bucks on dessert…For $20 bucks, those desserts better come with phone numbers and friends.

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