I like to think that I'm not particularly picky about most foods, but there's one item that I'm extraordinarily particular about whenever I go out to eat: cupcakes. I used to be an obsessive amateur cupcake baker and it's surprisingly difficult to find cupcakes that taste as good as what I make at home. Some bakeries serve cupcakes that are bigger than my hand wrapped around my fist, with a cake that's off-puttingly dense. Others top their cupcakes with frosting that's so cloyingly sweet that my teeth hurt for hours afterward. I got a cupcake from a bakery that shall go unnamed last week, and the frosting tasted as though the bakers had beaten vegetable shortening in a mixing bowl with just a dash of sugar and nothing else. I was grimacing as I forced myself to finish it.
Given that I'm almost always dissatisfied with bakery cupcakes, I don't know what compelled me last month to stop into KoDee Cakes, a tiny stand-alone spot in Mount Washington near Whole Foods. Inside the cozy storefront, cupcakes with interesting and seasonal flavors—cranberry chai, choco honey nut, snickerdoodle, butterscotch—stood in neat lines behind glass along with a few other baked goods, including pumpkin brownies. I decided to get a busted pumpkin cupcake ($3.50), and I'm glad I did because holy shit, this might be the best commercial cupcake I've ever had. The cake was moist and fluffy, chocolatey without being overly sweet. Pumpkin puree appeared to have been folded into the batter, so that partway through scarfing it down I encountered a ribbon of bright orange pumpkin that only added an extra depth to the chocolate flavor. And the frosting wasn't too heavy or too sweet—it was light and hit an all-too-rare balance between butter and sugar.
KoDee Cakes' website says the cupcakes are made in small batches daily, and the bakery, which is available for catering and custom cake orders (and offers vegan and gluten-free baking options), also has a location at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport—so next time I'm flying anywhere, you'd better believe that I'll be making a beeline to KoDee Cakes for a pre-flight sugar rush. (Anna Walsh)
1340 Smith Ave., (410) 243-0167, KoDeeCakes.com