Two delicate chandeliers hang from the ceiling of Hello Cupcake in Barracks Row. One is molded from a rusting copper, the other in pink glass.
This old-meets-new aesthetic is well-suited to the cupcake shop’s second location in an up-and-coming neighborhood.
“It’s in a historic neighborhood, so we sort of pay homage to the historic nature of the space,” explained Penny Karas, owner and executive pastry chef for Hello Cupcake. “It’s sort of, just like we are, a new space in a historic neighborhood.”
The shop features a minimalist brick wall speckled with Hello Cupcake’s signature flower sprinkles on one side, with the rest of the space fashioned in sleek brown and pink. It is reminiscent of the Dupont Circle location, a space designed by her husband that has won five awards, and Karas hopes the new location will follow in that same vein.
“Walking into a space and feeling like you’re not necessarily walking into a bakery, but like you’re walking into a beautiful boutique or a beautiful jewelry store, is sort of the Hello Cupcake experience,” she said.
What sets Hello Cupcake apart from the swarm of cupcakeries that seems to have invaded D.C. in recent years is not just its quirky cupcake names but also its community outreach.
Hello Cupcake’s Dupont location offered cupcake-decorating classes to patrons, and though they’ve been on hiatus for the past few months while efforts to open the new shop ratcheted into high gear, Karas hopes to start them back up and expand their offerings in the new location.
“We’re going to do [classes] here [in the Barracks Row location] where you can do a private class, for bridal showers, baby showers, that kind of thing,” she explained, adding that she hopes to do private events for Congressional offices, as well.
And Congress, she says, is no stranger to Hello Cupcake. Karas said Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have tasted her wares, and she hopes the new location’s proximity to the Capitol will entice more legislators and their staffers to visit.
The gluten-free and vegan offerings help make the shop family friendly, Karas explained. She said the shop serves a small niche of children with food allergies.
Hello Cupcake’s first location opened in Dupont Circle in 2007 after Karas decided to leave a career in public relations, wanting to get back into the restaurant business.
“I grew up in a restaurant, and my dad was the chef/owner, so I had been looking to get back into food for some time,” she said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.