“It’s like an ice cream shop, only better,” one friend told me.

“I know you hate cupcakes, Rodger, but these… these are different,” said another.

“They will actually change your life.”

It all started one Friday evening. We were at Chipotle, a favorite gluten-free hotspot of mine. My friends were all clamoring over a new dessert place that just opened across the street. Cupcakes Actually is what it’s called, and it’s one of two specialty cupcake places that recently opened in Northern Virginia.

After licking clean my burrito bowl, I lumbered across the street to the tiny shop in Fairfax Corner, an upscale Northern Virginia shopping center.

Inside the store, a long display case stretched from wall-to-wall, with ten varieties of cupcakes sitting on neat pedestals perched delicately behind the glass. And, much to my surprise, one variety read “Flourless Chocolate” on the label. I had to ask – “So is the flourless chocolate cupcake gluten-free?” The lady behind the counter hesitated, eradiating that aura of discomfort that so many restaurant staff seem to display when asked about all things gluten. “Yes, yes it is,” she said. I asked more questions, and she had all the answers.

“Well, then I’ll have two.”

My total for this escapade? Seven (7) dollars. For cupcakes. My wallet felt a little stung by the transaction. “This place must be making a killing,” my friend Phoebe commented after she saw the shock on my face upon seeing the total.

But nonetheless, I paid, and, for someone who doesn’t like cupcakes, who feels a little unclean after spending so much on something so small and delicate, it took quite a bit for this dessert to win me over. But win me over it did. Each bite was as soft and satisfying as the next. Nothing irks me like frosting with no taste but that of pure sugar. But this frosting was perfect – an ideal blend of creaminess and sweetness, it cooled my taste buds and delighted them, all at once. And most importantly, these cupcakes lived up to the hype, which is a lot to say, especially coming from a former cupcake skeptic.

The next week in the office, I told Kay about my find, and we took an excursion out to the shop. We bought both the regular chocolate and the gluten-free chocolate, to see which one had more taste. And undoubtedly, the gluten-free cupcake was still the favorite. It felt richer, both in taste and texture. At times, it seemed almost like biting into a piece of fudge, rather than cake, as the store undoubtedly added quite a bit more chocolate to make up for the tendency of many gluten-free baked goods to flake and fall apart like sand.

I talked more with the shop’s staff, and they said they change their flavors every week, but they usually have at least one gluten-free variety. Past gluten-free flavors have included both banana and peanut butter, which I’m looking forward to getting the chance to try.

Elana’s Pantry just posted a great recipe for a gluten-free chocolate cupcake for all you bakers out there. Does anyone else have a favorite cupcake spot that offers gluten-free?