Smallcakes cupcake shop opens in Del Ray

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Del Ray dog Eevee checks out her pupcake before taking a bite. (Photo/Luke Anderson)
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By Luke Anderson | [email protected]

Woman owned and operated, Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery has found a new sweet spot in Del Ray.

Smallcakes is a franchise founded in 2009 by Jeff Martin, who has appeared on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” series. Smallcakes has locations across the country, but the shop in Del Ray is the only one in Northern Virginia. It opened in October at 1506 Mt. Vernon Ave., beside Junction Bakery & Bistro. The opening was made official with a celebration on Nov. 16.

The lemondrop cupcake remains a favorite of Smallcakes patrons. (Photo/Smallcakes)

When owner Breanna Perez decided to pursue a career in baking, she chose to bypass the challenge of opening a business from scratch and opted to open a shop through a franchise. Perez said she was impressed that the Smallcakes franchise provided recipes and suggestions and the freedom to design her store and daily menus. After sampling its products at the Richmond location, she was sold.

Initially, Perez set up shop in Arlington’s Pentagon Row in July 2018 and operated at that location for a little more than a year. When the space on Mount Vernon Avenue became available, Perez felt it would be an even better spot and jumped on it. She said that when she first moved to Alexandria, Del Ray was one of her favorite hangout spots.

“I’ve always liked the feel and the offerings of what Del Ray has,” Perez said.

The new location has housed several businesses over the years, ranging from a daycare to a day spa. Because the building was already zoned for commercial operations, it required no renovations to accommodate a cupcake shop. Even better, it offered a bigger kitchen and more work space and storage than the Arlington location.

The large kitchen allowed Perez to add to the daily menu, which consists of 12 signature flavors. Smallcakes rotates 200 cupcake recipes throughout the year. Best-sellers include red velvet, strawberry and chocolate cream, which looks like a Hostess cupcake. Cupcakes are baked fresh every day.

The Smallcakes motto is written on a blackboard inside the shop. (Photo/Luke Anderson)

Since the move, Perez has noticed a difference in cupcake preferences between Alexandria and Arlington. In Arlington, birthday cake and lemon drop flavors performed well, but “[Del Ray] seems to be a chocolate area. We’ll sell out of chocolate cupcakes before we sell out of vanilla,” Perez said.

Seasonal specials also seem to do well in Del Ray. Perez said the apple cider cupcake, one of November’s Saturday specials, sold out every time.

On top of the signature flavors, there are monthly specials and at least one daily special. On weekends, there are two daily specials, as well as vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Smallcakes also sells ice cream, push-pops, whoopie pies and cupcakes in a jar.

An added bonus for dog-friendly Del Ray, Smallcakes welcomes dogs too.

Nearby resident Lindsey Webster was pleased that her dogs, Baya and Eevee, were welcome inside the shop instead of staying out in the cold. Along with two cupcakes, she also bought each of her dogs a pupcake, specially made for dogs. Pupcakes are carrot cake cupcakes with peanut butter icing and topped with a milkbone.

Both Webster and her dogs seemed to enjoy their treats.

Smallcakes’ pupcakes are smaller than the regular cupcakes and topped with a milkbone. (Photo/Luke Anderson)

“It’s got a lot of flavor, but it’s not so heavy. Definitely worth sharing with two people though. I don’t think I could eat a whole one of these by myself,” said Webster, who took the cupcakes home to share with her husband.

Perez said that many people, including herself, are surprised by the cupcakes’ size at first.

“They are considered a jumbo-size cupcake, so it’s kind of like a small cake,” Perez said.

If the jumbo-size is too much, mini cupcakes can be made by special order. They are popular for birthdays, office parties and other large events, Perez said.

Smallcakes has gained new business in Alexandria but it’s also retained its Arlington patrons, many of whom are willing to drive the extra distance.

One regular who often pops in to pick up snacks for his family told Perez that the shop is in a “dangerous” location for him since it is now only five minutes from his house.

In the next year, Smallcakes aims to continue expanding its social media presence and get involved with pop-ups and the Del Ray farmer’s market. Most importantly, it intends to continue fulfilling its mission statement: “To use creative flavors, quality ingredients and friendly service to provide the finest cupcake experience worthy of returning and recommending.”

(Read more Club Pilates to open Carlyle studio in 2020)

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