Let me introduce you to a person I have never met, someone I know almost nothing about, but nevertheless someone I have taken to my heart for one simple reason: She creates heavenly desserts.
Pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac's name pops up on my computer screen all the time, not only because I "follow" her (I am fairly new to Twitter and still find the expression "to follow someone" mildly disturbing), but also because she plays a significant role in the Washington DC culinary scene, and is therefore often mentioned in magazine articles, best-of-lists and reviews of the restaurants she creates desserts for. This is the mastermind behind Birch and Barley's sticky buns and chicken and waffles (soon to be sampled), GBD's gourmet donuts, and Buzz Bakery's visually stunning cupcakes. How could you not love her!
The pictures MacIsaac posts on Twitter make my mouth water, and they very quickly catapulted Buzz Bakery and Birch and Barley to the top of my list of must-visit dessert spots. Considering that the former is more economically accessible, a trip to Ballston was a natural first move.
Buzz Bakery Ballston has a little something for everyone: A fountain out front for children to play in; an evening wine and beer menu for social gatherings; plenty of indoor and outdoor seating for students and professionals to sit back and get some work done; songs from the Dawson's Creek and Gilmore Girls soundtracks playing in the background, taking twenty-somethings like me back to their teenage years; MadCap coffee making it the first choice for snobby caffeine drinkers to stop by before work; whole pies and cakes for last minute celebration emergencies; a location right next to Rustico, which belongs to the same group of restaurants and tempts diners to walk right over for a sweet treat after dinner; and, last but not least, a display of very pretty cupcakes for girls of all ages to swoon over.
Can you tell I like this place? But I am also a little biased... The reason I only made it there now was fear. Fear that I was going to love it too much. Neither the Ballston nor the Alexandria locations are really convenient for me, so falling in love with Buzz Bakery was going to cause trouble.
The first time I went, I tried two of their cupcakes. It was a Monday night after 8 pm and they offered six cupcakes for only $9, which is a steal, but I knew I was just going to end up eating all of them in the shortest amount of time and didn't want to risk it. So I opted for the cookie monster (a signature item) and the blueberry pie. That is one attractive cupcake!
The focus at Buzz Bakery is on high quality, fresh ingredients. That being said, I have to confess that I was not so impressed with the taste of these cupcakes. Neither the frosting nor the actual cake won me over. They were not bad, not at all, but then they were not great either. The unique selling point here are the cupcake designs, which are almost artsy and definite to make a lasting impression if you are looking for a gift.
The blueberry pie cupcake consisted of yellow cake with a blueberry preserves filling and a vanilla butter cream frosting. Great concept, great look. The cookie monster had small chocolate pieces baked into the cake, which is a nice touch and very fitting. The small cookie on top was my favorite part; chewy and with raisins in it. And what a great idea to put cookie dough in the middle! The frosting for both cupcakes, however, was almost sugar-shock-sweet, definitely too much for my taste.
Because I was so taken with the cozy atmosphere - it's a proper café, not just a store with a few stools that were put there for the sake of it -, I came back for breakfast the next day. Having problems getting out of bed too early in the morning (I am a student after all) I arrived at 11 am, and there were not a lot of breakfast items left. I ordered a cappuccino and a waffle with banana pecan topping, sat down at a large, wooden table at the back of the room and started preparing for my afternoon class. It's a great way to start your day both productively and relaxed. Buzz Bakery offers free wi-fi, you just need to ask for the password at the counter. I also like that they provide proper cutlery and plates, not just napkins and plastic forks like most other bakeries.
The waffle was tasty and crisp, and had the perfect amount of sweetness. It was served with butter and extra syrup on the side for those who like theirs a little heavier, but I'd say that is really not necessary. Definitely filling. Maybe not that good for you. But it instantly brightens your mood. I can also now confirm that a MadCap cappuccino really is better than what you get at Starbucks or the next best coffee place around the corner.
The overall verdict? Great ambiance, great food and drink selection, great pastry chef who knows how to make something sweet look even sweeter. The cupcakes look beautiful but are not my favorites in terms of flavor. I'll be back for breakfast!
Brownie Points for the cookie monster cupcake: 1 out of 3 for taste, 2 out of 3 for looks (yes, I just decided to change my rating system this one time)
Brownie Points for the blueberry pie cupcake: 1 out of 3 for taste, 3 out of 3 for looks
Brownie Points for the banana pecan waffle: 3 out of 3