8 Places For Great Cupcakes

Where to satisfy your craving for the paper-wrapped indulgences.

There’s something about cupcakes that draws people in. Perhaps it’s the memory of the home-baked ones from our childhood, or the fact that eating a small, delicate dessert feels different from scarfing down a thick slice of cake or pie. And, let’s face it, cupcakes are fun. We’ve complied a list of go-to places for cupcakes, whether you need treats to haul to an office function, a contribution to a baby shower, or something sweet to eat on the go.

Vanilla cupcakes topped with Peeps at Sweetbites Cafe & Bakery. Photo courtesy of Sweetbites.

1. Sweetbites Café and Bakery

Sweetbites started as a food truck in 2010 – one of the first in the District, owner Sandra Panetta says – and became a brick-and-mortar operation about two years ago. Cupcake flavors include salted caramel, red velvet, vanilla and chocolate, with seasonal twists such as a fig-and-honey cupcake during the summer and a Christmas cupcake made with peppermint candy cane. Panetta uses imported chocolate and fresh butter and cream, and says that her frostings aren’t as sugary as others.

Sweetbites Café, 6845 Elm St., McLean


Chocolate cupcakes with strawberry-vanilla frosting at LeoNora Gourmet Bakery. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

2. LeoNora Gourmet Bakery

Six flavors are offered here, including “funfetti” – a vanilla cupcake with homemade rainbow sprinkles throughout, topped with a rainbow swirl frosting and birthday-cake crumble on top. There’s also, on occasion, a lavender-white chocolate cupcake with a lavender-infused buttercream topping. Sharp-eyed customers may recognize some of the same flavors at Lyon Hall, Northside Social and The Liberty Tavern, since LeoNora is part of The Liberty Tavern Group of restaurants.

LeoNora Gourmet Bakery, 1108 N. Irving St., Arlington


Hostess cupcake at Buzz Bakeshop. Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

3. Buzz Bakeshop

Retro décor also signals retro cupcakes – vanilla with vanilla frosting, vanilla with chocolate frosting, chocolate with vanilla frosting, chocolate with chocolate frosting. Oh, and remember Hostess cupcakes and s’mores? Buzz has come up with versions that approximate both. The s’mores cupcake includes a graham-cracker crumble and part of a chocolate bar on top, while the Hostess one is a classed-up version of the original: a cream-filled cupcake with a chocolate mousse top, dipped in glaze and finished with a white squiggle.

Buzz Bakeshop, 818 N. Quincy St., Arlington


Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes at Best Buns. Photo courtesy of Great American Restaurants.

4. Best Buns

Cupcakes come in two main sizes here: Regular and large (about the size of a muffin). Among the options are triple lemon, carrot cake and toasted coconut. Retail manager Christina Kaufman says the shop is considering adding a strawberry or orange one this summer and a gingerbread one in the winter. One thing to note: Cupcakes sell out fast, so Kaufman suggests ordering the night before or several hours before pickup.

Best Buns, 4010 Campbell Ave., Arlington


Taro cupcake at Bakeshop. Photo courtesy of Bakeshop.

5. Bakeshop

Prepare to linger for several agonizing minutes here, as there are almost too many options to choose from. In addition to the standard vanilla/chocolate combos, there are vanilla and chocolate versions of cookies ‘n’ cream, plus other flavors such as pina colada, strawberry shortcake, toffee crunch, and blueberry with a cream-cheese frosting. For the truly adventurous, try the taro-flavored cupcake. Made from the taro plant, a root vegetable, it has a nutty vanilla flavor and features a purple, sweet buttercream frosting.

Bakeshop, 1025 Fillmore St., Arlington


Lemon buttercream cupcakes at Danielle’s Desserts. Photo by Jon Van Dalen.

6. Danielle’s Desserts

It’s fitting that this upscale confectionery and its decadent offerings are located in the glitzy Tysons Galleria. Owner Danielle Poux says she uses “a lot of butter and a lot of heavy cream” in her cupcakes and adds, “They’re probably not the healthiest for you.” Other ingredients contributing to the rich taste: brown sugar and evaporated milk. Flavors include caramel, key lime, lemon buttercream, orange buttercream and strawberries and cream. If you’re shopping and your blood sugar suddenly drops, this is the place for a pit stop.

Danielle’s Desserts, 1770 International Drive, Tysons

Hydrangea cupcakes at The Happy Tart. Photo by J. Poole Photography.

7. The Happy Tart

Gluten-free goodies never tasted so good. This bakery offers several varieties of cupcakes, including vanilla-salted caramel, apple pie, German chocolate and a banana-nutella confection that may make you swear off flour forever. For an imaginative take, try the sweet-looking chrysanthemum or hydrangea cupcakes with frosting in the shape of the flowers.

The Happy Tart, 410 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church; 2307a Mount Vernon Ave., Del Ray

Dulce de Leche cupcake at Fluffy Thoughts. Photo from Fluffy Thoughts’s website.

8. Fluffy Thoughts

Missed out on Girl Scout cookies this year? Try the samoa cupcake, a rough approximation of the chocolate-caramel-coconut Scout favorite. Fluffy Thoughts fills a vanilla cake with caramel and tops it with coconut buttercream, coconut shavings and a drizzle of chocolate ganache. A cupcake filled with dulche de leche and topped with similarly flavored buttercream and an alfajor (caramel-flavored) cookie on top summons memories of Argentina. There’s a cupcake flavor of the day and of the month.

Fluffy Thoughts, 1320 Old Chain Bridge Road, McLean

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