She Said: Pastry Xpo
As you can probably tell from our latest feature (Two Palate Dining: Four Sisters Restaurant) one of our few problems with one of our favorite restaurants is that they don’t have an extensive dessert menu. One day, after having eaten at Four Sisters for a couple of years and complaining about the lack of dessert we tried decided to try the bakery a few doors down. Pastry Xpo is an adorable shop. I always love looking in their display cases with their delicate pastries and fat cupcakes. But, the cupcake counter is the first station that greets you upon arrival so I’ve never managed to try anything that wasn’t a cupcake. This used to be my favorite place to get cupcakes from but I’ve had mixed experiences in the past few months. I know that my palate is widening in many positive ways (I can’t bear to go more than two weeks without squash soup) I’ve noticed that in desserts I’m becoming more restrictive. I’m not giving up my search on finding good cupcakes in the area but I think it may be a taller order than I had originally thought it would be.
I have to give Pastry Xpo kudos for always having a clean, lovely establishment and I’ve never had bad service from them either. I adore their pastry boxes because they are cute and my cakes never tip over. And the cupcakes are precious! They are so sweet looking and the always look very appetizing. And they always are well marked as to what flavor they are (hello, Giant! Take a lesson!).
It just hurts me to say that I don’t think they are very good cupcakes! I know I’m really picky. I wanted to like these cakes and we picked out two that looked really good but they were awful. I actually only took a bite or so from each and then wanted an Oreo to get the taste out of my mouth!
The first cake was a Sea Salt Caramel Cupcake. Anyone reading this blog knows that I love caramel! This should have been an easy victory! The cake was a chocolate cake and didn’t taste at all chocolaty and had a squeaky almost rubbery texture to it. The frosting was not assertively caramel and tasted like an old caramel candy and had no salty contrast at all. The chocolate drizzled on the top was bitter and not fudgy yummy. And the small amount of sea salt sprinkled on the top came off in one bite instead of infusing the whole cupcake with contrasting flavors it just made for a very salty, bitter last bite.
The second cupcake was a Peanut Butter Cupcake. It had the misfortune of being the same squeaky chocolate (less) base as the first cupcake. The frosting on top was okay. They actually leaved chunks of peanut in the frosting, which can either be charming on annoying depending on the size of the pieces. The balance of the frosting was slightly better contrasted between salty and sweet but was still pretty bland.
Like I said before, if you need an Oreo to get the taste of a baked good out of your mouth, how does it sound like it tasted?
I know there are good cupcakes out there and I’m going to find them!
Sea Salt Caramel- 1
Peanut Butter- 2
He Said Pastry Xpo
When we first started eating at Four Sisters in Falls Church the only problem we had is that they don’t serve any desserts that are appealing to us. That problem was solved when we discovered Pastry Xpo, which we had to walk right by to get to the parking garage. Over time, we’ve opted for dessert after our Vietnamese dinners less often, some of it had to do with how filling the meal was, but something just didn’t sit right about the cupcakes we were getting.
This time we tasted two cupcakes that should be slam-dunks, Sea Salt Caramel and Peanut Butter. The first one I tried was the Sea Salt Caramel. The cake tasted very chocolately, but was a little too crumbly. This is a characteristic that is typically associated with dry cake, but somehow the moistness of this cake has translated into something that falls apart in your hand. The Caramel filling of the cake was good. The frosting is where a salted caramel cupcake either succeeds or fails. In this case the chocolate ganache was satisfying. It gave the feeling of a dipped cupcake over other salted caramel cupcakes. The sea salt is pleasant, but there isn’t nearly enough on top. The caramel frosting starts out creamy but all most as soon as you get the taste of caramel, you get something else. It’s hard to describe, but it isn’t pleasant. It was the most like freezer burn I’ve tasted on a baked good. Definitely not good.
Then came the Peanut Butter. The base is the same chocolate cake that I’ve already discussed. Somehow, it falls apart more in the peanut butter variety. How exactly does a filling help hold together a mushy cupcake? The taste of the peanut butter in the frosting is assertive. At first. Then that familiar monster attacks again. How is the same exact taste destroying two cupcakes that could be at least good (they probably would never reach stellar)?
After some reflection I believe I’ve figured out the problem with the icings. It’s the opposite of the problem that Cupcakes Actually had. Where their cupcakes hadn’t sat out long enough, these had sat out in the display case with all the other cupcakes and pastries far too long. The “freezer burn” is actually a mélange of all the other flavors that it’s been sitting with all day. It’s worth noting that we visited them close to closing time. That being said, your product really should be able to stand up to beign around other flavors for a reasonable amount of time. And it still doesn’t account for crumbly cake.
Sea Salt Caramel Cupcake Rating- 4
Peanut Butter Cupcake Rating-3
Have you had any cupcakes that are worth us writing about? Are these cupcakes any better at lunchtime? Don’t forget to vote in our “Choose Our Adventure” Survey. If you’ve already voted, remember that you can like us on facebook and vote a second time. Hurry, you’ve only got a couple days left!