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Until Justin Stegall recently opened his own place in the Zoso Flats building (cue “Black Dog,” dude) in Clarendon, he was sort of a phantom presence on the scene. His cupcakes could be found at java shops like Chinatown Coffee Co., but he was always just a name, sometimes just a first name, without either face or form.
Now you can find Stegall at his own joint, Bakeshop, learning the hard lessons about consumer demand: Supply doesn’t always keep up. When Carrie and I visited on Sunday, Stegall had run out of chocolate-based cupcakes, forcing his customers either to buy a non-cocoa product or just wait until the new batch had cooled. We opted for the former.
His tiny cupcakes, at about $3 a pop, feature a crusty top, which makes me think Stegall works with an oven with high ambient heat. The oven creates a crunchy topping while leaving the rest of the cake extremely moist inside. I sampled the red velvet and apple cupcakes, and both were textbook examples of fresh, flavorful, and crumbly cakes, not too dense and not too loose. Stegall’s a guy who knows how to mix batter. He also knows how to add a bit of texture with small pieces of fruit in his cinnamony apple cupcake.
His miniature cakes come with tiny dunce caps of piped frosting, which struck me as stingy at first. But after tasting them, I quickly realized Stegall was striving for balance between his cake and frosting, and with both the red velvet and apple cupcakes, he achieved it. The vanilla bean/buttercream frosting on the red velvet could have easily dominated the subtle richness of the chocolate cake without a lean application.
The Bakeshop may have just become my go-to joint for cupcakes.