Baking Experiment: Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes

Fall is in full swing and it is officially pumpkin season. With these cool fall days I can’t help but think of toasting marshmallows by a campfire and making s’mores… What could be better than putting those ideas together for my next cupcake experiment? Ok, I’d love to claim this as my idea, but really it was Crusader Stacy’s. While away on our annual girls trip we were chatting about what kind of cupcake I should make and it all came together. Every year I make pumpkin pancakes on our trip and Crusader Stacy is our s’mores queen. BAM! An idea was born. And it might be my best cupcake yet!

After doing my usual research I settled on these recipes: a graham cracker crust, pumpkin pie spice cake, marshmallow fluff filling, chocolate buttercream with marshmallow fluff edge frosting, and crumbled graham cracker crust sprinkles on top.

PumpkinSmoresCupcake
(A little fall foliage for a fantastic fall flavor!)

Two of my favorite things put together created the perfect fall cupcake AND it was SO good. The graham cracker crust added a flavor and texture that helped make this cupcake truly taste like a s’more. The cake was moist, spicy and didn’t turn out muffiny (which some pumpkin cakes do). The frosting was smooth and, considering it was my first chocolate buttercream ever, it might be the best frosting I have ever made. I baked the leftover crust ingredients and crumbled it on top – that pop of crunch was the perfect way to finish this cupcake.

PumpkinSmoreCutHalf
(Check out that yummy filling!)

I did run into a couple of issues with this baking experiment. The first being that the cake recipe made many more than the 18 that was stated. Granted I had graham cracker crust in the bottom, but after making 2 dozen cupcakes, I had enough batter left over to make at least another dozen. The other issue I ran into is the marshmallow fluff edge on the frosting. I thought it would be as simple as lining the pastry bag with fluff, adding the frosting and presto. Well, not so much. Lining the pastry bag would have worked had I used two types of frosting, but the fluff was a bit too sticky and didn’t line the edges of the chocolate buttercream the way I wanted. It still looked cute and tasted great, so this was only a minor bump in an otherwise smooth baking road.

Overall this cupcake was a total baking success. Sweet, spicy, chocolatey, and with the perfect amount of pumpkin, this cupcake concoction embodies its namesake campfire treat. I’m so glad our girls trip inspired such a fun and interesting baking experiment. Who knows what we’ll come up with for my next flavor – if you’ve got an idea for an interesting (and filled) cupcake that you’d like me to make, let us know below!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Stay Sweet Cupcakery | Lewisburg, PA

Crisp air, leaves changing, pumpkin spice everything… fall is officially here and that means GIRLS WEEKEND! Crusaders Jenn, Elisa, and I always look forward to our annual getaway with our closest girl friends. It started in tents, but has since progressed to cabins fully loaded with bathrooms, beds, and TVs—basically it’s not rugged at all. But that’s okay with us because we are there for serious girl time, tents or no tents.

This year, our 6th anniversary of gathering together, we decided to head to Corning, NY. Year after year we have spotted billboards advertising various exhibits at the Corning Museum of Glass, and finally we made it our destination spot. You may remember that last summer Elisa and I stumbled across Walker Cake Co. during a brief stop in Corning, but after doing some research I couldn’t find any new spots that would guarantee cupcakes. So, on our way to Corning, we stopped in Lewisburg, PA, home of Stay Sweet Cupcakery. Stay Sweet has been on my radar for quite some time, but stopping there never seemed to work out, until now.

StaySweet_PA_GirlsWeekend1

When we visited Stay Sweet Cupcakery we decided to grab our cupcakes to go because we already stopped for about two hours in Sellinsgrove, PA (if you are ever passing through Sellinsgrove get raw oysters from BJ’s Steak House and a coffee at The Kind Cafe). Stay Sweet is an adorable little shop, with an inviting front porch and a small “general store” like atmosphere inside. Already behind schedule, we quickly chose six cupcakes (five different flavors) and were back on the road in a matter of minutes.

After an evening spent around a campfire with lots of seasonal beer, appetizers, baked ziti, red wine, and S’mores, we didn’t have the room in our bellies for cupcakes the night we arrived. The next day we spent time at the Corning Museum of Glass, making wind-chimes, glass sculptures, wandering the enormous gift shop, and trying to escape the rain (I was so relieved we weren’t in tents that weekend…). After dinner back at the cabin, we dove into the cupcakes while playing Cards Against Humanity (which is a hilarious game, thanks for bringing it Beth Lacey!).

StaySweet_PA_GirlsWeekend2
(Our Cupcake Loot: Caramel Latte, Heath Bar, Salted Caramel, Pineapple Coconut, and Peanut Butter Pie)

NOTE: Normally we like to try at least one cupcake right away, to really get the best feel for the freshness of the cake and frosting. But since we were sharing these with a group of girls and a cabin stocked with more food than we could eat, we didn’t try them until the following evening. They also ended staying in the box because we didn’t have the proper air-tight storage. I truly think this effected the moistness of the cake on all the cupcakes we tried, so we don’t want to fault Stay Sweet for that.

Caramel Latte

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Elisa and I were both really excited about this cupcake. So much so, that we ordered two of them as part of our half dozen. The coffee flavor was super present, almost too much though because it over-powered the caramel. Since I love coffee, this didn’t totally bother me, but the coffee grinds in the frosting did. I don’t mind a little bit here and there for texture, but it was a bit of an overkill, even for me.

Heath Bar

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Sadly, while this cupcake had a lot of excitement, it really wasn’t anything special. The Heath Bar flavor was missing so it ended up tasting more like a basic vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting.

Salted Caramel

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I believe this flavor was voted one of the favorite flavors at the shop, so we had to get it and,with its great caramel flavor, it didn’t let us down. Some thought there could be more saltiness, but others thought it was just right.

Pineapple Coconut

StaySweet_PA_GirlsWeekend6

This may seem like a strange flavor for the fall, but Jenn said she wanted something “light and citrusy” so this is what we selected for her, and we are so glad we did! The filling in the middle seemed to keep this cupcake more moist than some of the others. There was a nice balance of coconut and pineapple flavor with buttery cake and smooth frosting. Definitely one of the favorites of the night!

Peanut Butter Pie

StaySweet_PA_GirlsWeekend7

I think we were all excited about this cupcake and it lived up to our expectations. The peanut butter flavor was fully there and, like the Pineapple Coconut cupcake, the delicious peanut butter filling made this one of the more moist cupcakes of the evening. So glad we selected this one.

We love crusading and we love our girls, so sharing cupcakes with them and hearing their thoughts is always fun for us. It was even better that it was on a weekend getaway with lots of food, drinks, and much needed catching up. Can’t wait until next year!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Blast From the Past: Pazo’s Cupcakes & Cocktails

Back in March of 2010, the Crusaders and a few girlfriends met up several times at Pazo for their Thursday night Cupcakes & Cocktails event. Pazo is known for amazing food and a unique cocktail selection, but we didn’t always order the cupcakes with their recommended cocktail pairing, since we can eat many more cupcakes than we should drink cocktails. Below are the cupcakes we tried, way back when…
Angel Food Cupcake with Rasperry Sorbet, paired with La Vie en
Rose (Moscato d’Asti, Soho Lychee Liqueur, rose water, and a fresh
rose petal)
Pazo-Sorbet
This was the first of our cupcake and cocktail combos. The cake was light and airy, as angel food cake should be. The cocktail was so delicious that Crusader Stacy said it was, “probably the best drink I’ve ever had!” Even though this was a frosting-free cupcake, the pairing worked well together and was certainly a great start to the evening.
Chocolate Cupcake, paired with an Espresso Martini
Pazo-Chocolate
(Photo from Baltimore Sun, no harm or infringement intended.)
This chocolate cupcake topped with white chocolate mousse and drizzled with salted caramel was AMAZING! Not too sweet, and the little bit of saltiness was perfect! The chocolate martini cocktail was smooth and sweet with the perfect alcohol zing.
Bacon & Manchego Cupcake with Miticrema Mousse
pazo-Bacon

This cupcake was interesting. Not a typical dessert cupcake in flavor or texture, this cupcake was good, once you knew what to expect. It was a tasty and an interesting take on a cupcake and cocktail pairing.
Sweet Corn Cupcake with Butter Pecan Ice Cream & Caramel Corn topping
Pazo-CaramelCorn
Both our friend Beth’s and my favorite of all the cupcakes, this sweet corn cake was amazing and tasted a bit like caramel corn. The maple iceream alone was wonderful and with a STACK of homemade caramel corn on top, it is a cupcake that still stands out to me today!
Rum Baba Cupcake with Crème Fraiche & Candied Mint, paired with
Classic Elderflower Mondello Mojito St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur,
fresh lemon.
Pazo-RumBaba
This cupcake was very good, with a lightness that paired well with the cocktail. Lemony and fresh this was a cupcake that we would love to try again.
We Crusaders still enjoy going to Pazo, and try to stop by when we are in the Fell’s Point/Harbor East area. They have fantastic food, a too cool atmosphere and comfy couches. On a recent visit, Crusader Stacy and I ended up there late night, sipping unique cocktails and catching up. With or without cupcakes we love this Baltimore gem… if only they would bring back Cupcakes & Cocktails!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

New Packaging & Fall Cupcakes From Kupcakes & Co.

FallCupcakes_NewPackaging

As always, Kupcakes & Co. (Elkridge, MD) has new things happening, one of which is a change in packaging. In early September they announced they’d be shifting from their beautiful, black pastry boxes to the plastic cupcake containers, but that didn’t stop them from dressing the boxes up in true Kupcakes & Co. fashion. Tied with a black ribbon, the packaging still looks like a gift you can’t wait to open. Kupcakes & Co. made the decision to change with their customers in mind. Rising costs of their previous pastry boxes would have raised the price of their product, and they didn’t want that to happen.

Although many of us avoid plastic in striving to be more “green,” the Crusaders have some ideas on how to be more environmentally conscious in light of plastic cupcake containers. One of the things we do is reuse the containers. Unlike the cardboard boxes, which almost always end up with food stains and have to be thrown out, these containers can easily be rinsed in hot water and used again. Some other perks to the new boxes are that they travel better (great for the Crusaders, since we are always sharing) and they keep the cupcakes fresher (pastry boxes pull moisture from the cupcakes).

Even though Kupcakes & Co. is still making their new boxes look beautiful, I think we can all agree that what really matters is what’s INSIDE the box, right? Well, Kupcakes & Co. is also giving us new flavors to put in the new containers. So many that we can’t keep up! But here’s a sampling of some of the new flavors they are now offering:

Ginger Pear

FallCupcakes_GingerPear

When I heard about this flavor, I couldn’t wait. The combination piqued my interest from the start. My husband was lucky that I waited until he came home to share it. The aroma when pulling it out of the box was pure, sweet pear. On my first bite I got a generous amount of fresh baked pear, a crunch from nuts in the cake, and a hint of spice. This cupcake is, by far, the most unique “fall” flavor I’ve had (and one of the most successful creative flavors I’ve tried in a long time). Kupcakes & Co. topped their Ginger Pear cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, a perfect match. Together this cupcake was not too sweet and well-balanced.

Mocha Frappuccino

FallCupcakes_MochaFrappe

As an avid coffee lover, this was the other new flavor that I just couldn’t wait to get my taste buds on. I think I would have preferred more coffee flavor in the frosting, or maybe a dark chocolate buttercream, but that’s more of a personal preference since I’m not a huge milk chocolate buttercream fan. However, the cake was packed with frappe flavor that didn’t overwhelm or get lost in the chocolate

Pumpkin Cupcake

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Crusader Stacy requested the Pumpkin cupcake, which I’ve had before, but this was her first time. She said that it was, “So good. I love pumpkin everything and this cupcake screamed fall. The cake was dense, like on most pumpkin cupcakes, but still really moist for two days later.” We can thank the moistness on the new container!

Maple Brownie Cupcake

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Another new endeavor for Kupcakes & Co. has been brownies. We’ve mentioned before that the owner, Michelle’s, daughter is a student at CIA in NYC. After a summer of internships and helping out in the Kupcakes’ kitchen, Amanda shared a recipe that has been getting rave reviews (one of her mega-brownie creations was even featured in Howard Magazine). I was lucky to grab the LAST Maple Brownie cupcake (at 11am!). It was a great brownie topped with an amazing maple frosting, dressed up as our favorite…a cupcake!

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie

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Okay, so it’s not a cupcake…and it’s large, more than enough for two people. But, this brownie has to be shared. My exact thoughts were, “I mean, seriously? Holy moly.” The brownie was rich and moist, with a lot of depth to the chocolate flavor, topped with a thin layer of chocolate buttercream, and then smothered in a heavenly mint chocolate frosting. You’d think that the brownie might get lost under all that frosting, but each holds its own. Together it was decadent, but not too sweet, and refreshing. The frosting was so light in texture that it was like biting into a cloud (if that was possible).

Brownie Batter – Boutique Flavor

FallCupcakes_BrownieBatter

Kupcakes & Co.’s “Boutique” flavors floor me every time. This cupcake tasted JUST like brownie batter! How is it even possible for a baked product to taste like batter? I just don’t know. I’ve said this about the Cookie Dough cupcake, but it’s like magic. The cake was baked with a fudge “batter” center and high quality dark chocolate chips. That all sunk to the bottom, but still added to the layer upon layer of chocolate flavor. If you are a chocolate lover (or brownie batter lover), you need to try this.

Some other new flavors hitting the Kupcakes & Co. menu are The Twist (a vanilla and chocolate combination cupcake topped with a Hershey Kiss), White Chocolate Espresso, and Beer & Pretzels (for Oktoberfest). I see another visit happening soon. Which flavor should we try for you?

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

A Yummy Path to Cupcake BLVD in Crofton, MD

Cupcake BLVD in Crofton, Maryland has been written about in local papers, has scores of local patrons, and almost 2000 Facebook fans. I’ve passed by the shop quite a few times, driving up Rt. 3 after visiting my Mom in Charles County. Alas, every time I passed by it was later in the evening and they were already closed. I knew I had to get there and review the cupcakes, but my timing was always off.

While Crusader Stacy organized an interview with the owner, Angelette, I picked up cupcakes on Saturday (luckily they put the cupcakes aside in the morning, because when I went to pick them up, they only had two cupcakes left!). I was excited to try their cupcakes, and especially excited to help them celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The special for the day was Mojadito (almond amaretto) and the two cupcakes they had left were Maple Bacon, which was not on my half-dozen order, so I added that cupcake to the lot. After a tour through the shop, including the back bakery area and party room, meeting the owners son and some friends, I took my cupcakes to share with some friends and family. With 7 cupcakes to try, I knew I couldn’t eat them alone, and was glad to share them with my boyfriend Mike, his Dad, Stepmom, and brothers. Here’s what we thought:

Maple Bacon
BLVD-MapleBacon

We all know I love bacon, and I sure was lucky they had two of these cupcakes left so I could add it to my order! The cake alone wasn’t too sweet or flavorful, but the frosting was truly amazing. Very smooth and buttery, this frosting was super maple flavored and the crunchy bacon on top added a great texture.

Dulce de Leche
BLVD-DolcedeLeche

Caramel filling was the perfect addition to this cupcake. The frosting followed the buttery flavor and consistency that I would find on all BLVD cupcakes, with a moist semi-sweet cake. Not too sweet and not too boring, this cupcake achieved the perfect balance between cake and frosting.

Nutella
BLVD-Nutella

This Nutella filled cupcake had a lightly flavored and airy vanilla cake with smooth chocolate frosting. Like the other cupcakes, this one was just sweet enough, and the chocolate shavings on top added texture and melted in your mouth!

Cinnamon French Toast
BLVD-CFT

While the other flavors were good, this cupcake really stood out of the bunch. It was amazing how this cupcake tasted exactly like french toast! You could really taste both the syrup and butter flavors in the frosting and the cake had a great light toasty flavor. I could have eaten about ten of these cupcakes, it was that good.

Milky Way
BLVD-MilkyWay

With part of the namesake chocolate bar on top, how could you go wrong?! The filling was like marshmallow fluff and it worked well with the chocolate cake to create the milky way flavor. The frosting was a bit sweeter on this cupcake, but still smooth and buttery.

Mojadito
BLVD-Amaretto

Super amaretto! This cupcake was almost too beautiful to eat. Edible glitter adorned the swirled, sweet frosting atop the moist and airy cake. Of all the cupcakes this was the sweetest. I love almond and amaretto, but because this cupcake was so sweet I couldn’t eat the whole thing—good thing I was sharing.

Coconut
BLVD-Coconut

My favorite of the bunch, I have never had a better coconut cupcake. Moist, lightly flavored cake paired with a frosting packed with coconut flavor made for a very delicious cupcake. If you don’t like the texture of shaved coconut, just pick it off the top, I love the texture, so it was an added bonus for me!

All of the cupcakes from Cupcake BLVD were a treat and most exploded with flavor. My favorites were the special “Mojadito,” Coconut, and French Toast. Angelette was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer—taking time out of her busy day to chat with me and give me a tour. The one thing I wished was for all of the daily flavors to be listed online, because I didn’t know that the Bacon Maple was an option until I got to the shop as it was not on their “daily flavors” list for Saturday. I could have easily called and asked, which I will do next time around so I don’t miss out on the Pumpkin cupcake. I look forward to going back to Cupcake BLVD and trying some more flavors with Crusaders Jenn and Stacy, because they’ve got to try them!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Cupcake BLVD Tells Us How They are Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and More!

This month Cupcake BLVD, a cupcake shop located in Crofton, MD with a truck that provides cupcake in the Maryland and DC area, is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Latino inspired flavors and owner Angelette Aviles will be donating a portion of the proceeds to a local charity. Angelette and the Crusaders have been in contact since their early days on the cupcake scene, but we’ve never had the chance to try their cupcakes until now! Crusader Elisa will be sharing her review later this week, but today we are happy to share an interview with Angelette, who took time to answer questions about her involvement in the Latino community, how she balances everything, and more!

CupcakeBLVD_fromFB1Can you tell us a little bit about how you have been involved in giving back to the Latino community, both in your former hometown, Florida, and more recently in Anne Arundel County, Maryland?
Everywhere you go in Florida you are influenced by the Latino culture, from food to history. Although I grew up in Maryland, I spent my college and early adult years in Florida where I was involved in several professional Hispanic organizations which either helped raise funds for Latino college scholarships for my alma mater (University of South Florida) or organized cultural related events. I even had a public relations and branding company in Florida that specialized in the Hispanic market. Although Anne Arundel county is not known to have a large Hispanic community, I decided to share and introduce something different, inspired by my Spanish culture.

Why is it important for you to give back to the community?
If it wasn’t for the community support of my business we wouldn’t be where we are today, therefore it only made sense to give back to our community through Cupcakes for a Cause. The organizations we choose to support are local, such as B.A.R.C.S (several of our customers have even adopted pets from them) or Hospice Hundred (a division of Hospice of the Chesapeake). We will continue to choose several more organizations in the upcoming year.

CupcakeBLVD_fromFB2Can you describe some of the special Latino-inspired flavors you are offering during Hispanic Heritage month?
Tres Leche…something you see in many Latino restaurants which is basic vanilla cake soaked with sweet condensed and evaporated milk and topped with a sweet whipped heavy cream and cinnamon.  We carry Dulce de Leche (very similar to caramel) cupcakes twice a week but for our Hispanic Heritage tribute we made it with our chocolate cake. The cake is filled with Dulce de Leche and topped with a Dulce de Leche frosting. Piña Colada….a coconut flavored cake topped with a fresh pineapple buttercream. Margarita and Mojito….which are both our Lime zested cake soaked with either Tequila or Rum and topped with a fresh Lime buttercream or Mint cream cheese frosting.  Mojadito (Amaretto Almond)…which hails from my island of Puerto Rico!  It goes on with Flancocho which includes Flan, Churro cupcake, Guava and Cream, and Chocolate Chili.

What is your favorite baking memory?
One of my favorite memories was when I was about 11 years old making cookies with a friend and recording it on a camcorder imitating Julia Child, with the voice and all, then decorating them with frosting only to realize I misspelled a word!

CupcakeBLVD_fromFB3How do you juggle your charity work, your business and your family?
I go to the kitchen just before my 2 youngest kids wake up and, luckily living only 1 mile away, I run home to get them off to school and then come back. I try and do as much as I can while my kids are in school, so that I can either go over homework or haul them off to dance and sports. Fridays are usually the longest days as I not only work on orders for that day, but also prepare for Saturday’s menu, and then head over to watch my oldest son play for Spalding’s varsity football team. #GoCavs! Sundays and Mondays we are closed!

What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
My employees will say the fondant roller since I’ve pretty much been handling all our fondant related orders, but I have to say the zester or blender since it is what breaks down our natural flavors.

Of course we have to ask, what is your favorite cupcake flavor?
Hmmmm….I love Nutella and Dulce de Leche, and pretty much every cupcake with our cream cheese frosting, including the Red Velvet.

What sets your cupcakes apart from the competition?
That we use fresh ingredients and bake from scratch. We don’t take a box mix and add a few other extra stuff and call it our own. Every cupcake we provide has gone through some alterations to make sure it was just right like taste and texture prior to opening. That was a lot of taste testing! Butter, butter, butter! No shortening in our cake or frosting. Yuck!

We want to thank Angelette for taking the time to answer our questions! Follow Cupcake BLVD on Facebook and Twitter to find out about where you can find their truck. And remember, for the remainder of Hispanic Heritage Month, Cupcake BLVD will be offering their special flavors listed here:

10/1: Chocolate Chili
10/2: Tres Leche
10/3: Flancocho
10/4: Mojito
10/5: Pina Colada
10/8: Chocolate Dulce de Leche
10/9: Margarita
10/10: Churro Cupcake
10/11: Guava & Cream
10/12: Mojadito (Almond Amaretto)

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Photos in this post were found on Cupcake BLVD’s Facebook page. No harm intended. 

Texas Cupcake Trekking (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in my Texas adventures from last week’s review, after leaving Dallas, four men and me trekked to Austin in a very small car which meant a tight squeeze, funny stories, and laughing. After a few hours in the cramped car, we were more than happy to check into our hotel and relax by the pool. Right away I did some cupcake research and narrowed down the sites I wanted to see in our short two day trip.

After a fantastic brunch at Taverna, I attempted to stop at me first cupcake shop, Delish. Sadly, it was closed because of Labor Day. :( I hadn’t even thought of Labor Day being an issue, so when I got back to the hotel I took time to call and see if my other stops would be open. That’s when I ended up on the phone with Totally Nuts Bakery. Sadly, they are a delivery service not a store front, but I had to mention them because they were so wonderful on the phone. (On top of that, they said they would look up our blog and send us some cake pops to sample! We haven’t heard from them yet, but after perusing their website, we are very excited about the possibility!) I felt like I was striking out left and right, and began to think I would never find cupcakes in Austin!

AustinCapImage
(The Capital Building, Cool Sign near the University, and Barton Springs)

Luckily my last pick was the voted the best cupcake in Austin and was open! After seeing some sights (including the amazing Capital building) and taking dip in Barton Springs, the boys and I drove over to Hey Cupcake! on South Congress Street. (They have 4 locations throughout the Austin area.)

Austin-StoreFront

I quickly picked 2 cupcakes to try and bought one of their official take-home oven boxes. My boyfriend ordered a cupcake as well and we sat down at their cute picnic tables for a taste.

Pumpkinator
Austin-Pumpkin

Spicy and sweet cake with graham cracker cream cheese frosting = YUM. Some pumpkin cupcakes end up more in the muffin category, but not this one! By-far the best pumpkin cupcake I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The frosting to cake ratio was perfect, so perfect in fact, I didn’t want to share it! While it might have been very hot outside, this cupcake felt like a cool fall breeze.

24 Carrot
Austin-Carrot

GOLD. This cupcake wins a gold medal for it’s layering flavor profiles and smooth, complimentary cream cheese frosting. The walnuts on top gave great additional texture to this already fantastic cupcake. The shredded carrot weaved through the moist cake with raisins and walnuts as well. What a cupcake, it really is worth it’s weight in 24 carrot gold.

Red Velvet
Austin-RedVelvet

When I ordered this cupcake the lovely staffer said that their red velvet wasn’t like others, it was more traditional. That it was. The cake was moist, but didn’t wow me with red velvet flavor. The cream cheese frosting is the same great frosting found on the other two cupcakes we tried. Perhaps the it was hyped up a bit too much, or the other two cupcakes were just that fantastic and made this one seem boring. Either way, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my favorite of the three.

Austin was great, and while I thought my cupcake trek was over, on our drive back to Dallas we stopped at a famous truck stop called Czech Stop & Little Czech Bakery. Most people go there for the kolaches (a type of pastry) but they also happened to have cupcakes!

Austin-Czech
(Adorable Little Czeck bag, Peach & Sausage Kolaches)

I ordered two kolaches and a cupcake, I just couldn’t help myself. My breakfast sausage kolache was the perfect pastry breakfast treat and the peach kolache was sweet and tart. I can see why people make it a point to stop at this little bakery ad truck stop. Not sure I could eat more, I moved on to trying the cupcake…

Peanut Butter Chocolate
Austin-CzechCupcake

Creamy and rich, moist and sweet, this cupcake was the perfect end to my cupcake treck across Texas. The frosting was smooth, super peanut buttery, and as you can see, very tall! There was SO much frosting, but the rich chocolate cake called for that over abundance. The largest of the cupcakes I tried while I was in Texas, also happened to be one of the best.

Labor day weekend in Texas was relaxing, fun, filling, and wonderful. The people were welcoming and lovely, and the food was fantastic! (Be warned, everything has some heat to it, even if it doesn’t say it’s spicy.) It was great to be out of town, see two new cities, visit some historical sites, and spend time getting to know some new friends. The cupcakes were fantastic too, and I can’t wait to go back and try new spots I missed this time around.

*A very special thank you my loving boyfriend Mike and his friends for letting me tag along on their boys trip, and trekking me all over to find cupcakes in two Texas cities!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Taste Test: How does Chef Duff’s Cake Mix Compare?

ChefDuffMix6

I did it again… While walking down the grocery aisle I was totally sucked in by colorful packaging, sale prices, and big names:

ChefDuffMix1

We haven’t reviewed Baltimore local, Chef Duff of Charm City Cake’s, line of cake mixes and frosting yet because, to be honest, they are a bit pricey compared to the competition. The retail price for the above is $5.69 for a box of cake mix and $3.29 for a tub of frosting (I’m sure prices vary by location). On sale, I picked these up for $3.49 and $2.99, so still not super cheap. The box of mix did come with a large packet of pre-made peanut butter ganache though, so I was glad to see they hadn’t skimped on that.

ChefDuffMix2

Even though we’ve heard that Chef Duff is not a fan of the cupcake frenzy (crazy, I know!), I decided to use this mix to make cupcakes instead of a layered cake. Take that Chef Duff! (Kidding! We actually really love him, his show, and that he calls Baltimore home).

In order to provide you all with an accurate review of the product line, we didn’t modify this mix or frosting like we normally like to do and the only “extra” thing I decided to purchase was Peanut Butter Oreos to add on top (if you haven’t had these, what are you waiting for? Seriously, run to your nearest grocer).

When I mixed the batter according to the directions it appeared very runny and the dry ingredients didn’t seem to mix easily in with the wet, causing little chunks throughout. Shrugging this off, I filled the baking cupcakes and set the timer on the oven. The instructions called for 20 to 25 mins, but that seemed really high to me, so I decided to bake for 16 minutes (my normal cupcake baking time) and add more time if necessary. I’m glad I did that because they were completely finished baking when I checked them.

Once they cooled, I cored the center and added the peanut butter ganache. The texture of it was perfect for the filling, and the bag it came in made filling the cupcakes easy and mess free. Since I was filling the cupcakes, I didn’t chill the ganache as the box suggests, but if you are going to spread it on a layer cake, I definitely think you should. It might be too runny otherwise.

Before I frosted the cupcakes, I did a little taste test of Duff’s Chocolate Fudge Frosting, and was glad I did. It was really rich and overly sweet, like typical pre-made store bought frosting. I decided a thin layer with a dollop on top would be the perfect amount.

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Overall these cupcakes were good. Not great. Not Special. Just good. Although, I was able to get 25 cupcakes from the mix, while with other brands I’m lucky to get 22. Also, it was nice to have something included in the box to use as a filling, but in my opinion the cake and frosting were just as good as any of the competitors’.

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I’m not sure if I would seek out Chef Duff’s mixes in the future. I may pick up a box from time to time, if they are on sale and I fall into the gimmick trap again, but otherwise I think I’ll stick with my old friends, Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury.

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Charm City Cupcakes – Are New Locations Impressing New Neighbors?

Engelia, from Key Events, is a new friend to the Crusaders. We met at church and quickly discovered a love for a couple of things: Reality TV and cupcakes! I later found out that Engelia is also party lover and expert at DIY. This lead her and a friend to start Key Events – Boutique Event Planning. Check out their website…You’ll find beautiful wedding cupcakes in their gallery. Today, Engelia is sharing a review of Charm City Cupcakes’ new location in Owings Mills, MD at the Valley Village Shoppes. Thanks, Engelia!

In the process of running around town picking up food and decorations for a “manly” themed birthday party, I stopped at a stoplight across from the Valley Village Shopping Center in Owings Mills, MD. A sign caught my eye that read “Charm City Cupcakes.” I live in the area and pass this center at least five times a week and knew that this was a new addition. As I pulled into the parking lot and parked, my heart sped up at the anticipation of a new dessert hitting my lips and maybe even making an appearance at this “manly” birthday party.

Charm City Cupcakes is a well-known bakery in the MD area. With three locations including a flagship store at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, they have a new location at 9101 Reisterstown Rd. Owings Mills, MD 21117. Out of all of their choices, I selected the red velvet cupcake (one of their Charm City Classics as listed on the menu) with a cream cheese frosting and a chocolate mousse filling. They require a minimum order of six cupcakes. I placed an order of six cupcakes for pick up the day before the party. Side note: I did not order more as 1) this was my first time ordering from Charm City Cupcakes and wanted to minimize loss if the cupcakes were not enjoyed and 2) I’d just picked up a dozen cupcakes from Giant. Basically, I’d already filled my cupcake party quota with the Giant order but thought it would be a nice surprise for my client.

The pickup went smoothly and the associate behind the counter was the same woman who helped me when I placed the order. She was very pleasant and was able to call the owner directly with any questions. The cupcakes were placed nicely in a white box. I placed the treats in the refrigerator overnight and prayed that they did not dry out.

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(Red Velvet cupcakes in custom cupcake wrappers, from Etsy. To see more from this moustache party, visit Key Event’s Facebook album.)

Party Night! I placed the six cupcakes out on a glass display. I wrapped them in moustache themed cupcake wrappers and placed a moustache ring on top of the cupcakes. Long story short, I had to swipe one of the cupcakes about an hour into the party so that I could try it later. As I listened to guests enjoy the cupcakes, there were mixed reviews. A couple of guests commented on how smooth the chocolate mousse filling was and made a great pairing with the softness of the cupcake. Another guest did remark that his cupcake was a little dry and the frosting too sweet. I quickly interjected that the dryness most likely had to do with the fact that I refrigerated them overnight.

My thoughts: I finally got to try the red velvet cupcake around 11:30pm that night. The cupcake was at the perfect temperature as it’d sat out for about two hours. I have to let you know that the red velvet flavor is my absolute favorite and I’ve tried it in pretty much every way possible from cake pops to cakes to cheesecake to doughnuts. Often, if not mixed and baked properly, the essence of the flavor can be easily dried out. Charm City Cupcakes did a good job of preserving the center of the cupcake and incorporating the filling. The center was soft and moist. The top of the cupcake was a little hard around the edges but was offset by the softness of the cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting was semi-sweet. I tend to like my frosting a little less sweet but as we know everyone is different. Overall, I would have liked the cupcake to be moister at the top and a less sweet frosting but I’m more than open to trying their other flavors and recommending them to others.

- Guest Crusader Engelia, from Key Events (Baltimore, MD)

Texas Cupcake Trekking (Part 1)

Labor day in Baltimore for the past three years has been taken hostage by the Grand Prix race. The race closes over 50% of the roads and, for us locals, can cause a huge headache. Because of this I decided to retreat from my city and trek to another! Lucky for me my boyfriend invited me to Texas with him to visit his friend. Our itinerary was full, including two cities, and of course cupcakes!

Our first stop was Dallas, and it was full of American history and sweet treats. While the boys watched the Penn State game, I rented a car and drove from Irving into the city. My first stop was the 6th Street Museum. The museum is in the Dallas book depository and explores the life and tragic assassination of JFK from that same building. It’s well worth the wait in line if you ever have the opportunity to go. Take the time to listen to all of the audio and watch all of the videos, as it will move and inspire you. (And if you are anything like me, bring tissues, lots and lots of tissues.)

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(Standing on Elm Street in the exact spot JFK was shot. Note: You cannot take any photos inside the museum.)

After the museum, I walked to my first cupcake stop, Fluellen Cupcakes on Elm Street. After speaking with the lovely staff, and finding out they had just opened the month before, I chose two flavors to try.

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(Their lovely display case and beautiful counter.)

Banana Pudding
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Truly delicious banana cupcakes are an elusive rarity. Often banana cupcakes end up with the texture and taste of a muffin, instead of true cake. This cupcake was one of those TRUE banana cupcakes. No muffin here, just a moist, airy, sweet and banana-y cupcake with smooth cream cheese frosting. The vanilla wafer on top added a nice crunch, all in all, a fantastic cupcake that is not to be missed.

Strawberry
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Pink, Pink, Pink… talk about a colorful cupcake! Sweet cake with a subtle strawberry flavor and a strawberry infused cream cheese frosting, topped with a fresh strawberry slice. While this isn’t my all-time favorite strawberry cupcake, it is very good and one I wouldn’t mind eating again.

My trek then lead me to Frisco, an area north of the city, where the “best cupcakes in Dallas” live: Dimples Cupcake Factory. After driving 30 minutes, I walked in the adorable shop and realized the cupcakes looked oddly similar to the cupcakes I had just eaten! After confirming with the staff that the baker was indeed the same, I decided not to get more cupcakes, but to instead get cake balls! And wow, was I glad I did!

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Flavors: Maple, Carrot Cake, Lemon, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lemon, Black Velvet, and Cookies & Cream
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I never thought after eating 6 cake balls, all at one time mind you, I would want more… but I did. These were amazing. My favorites were Maple and Black Velvet, but all of them were fantastic. Moist, packed full of flavor, and perfectly sweet, these were by far the best I have ever eaten and made the drive completely worth it!

Dallas was warm, welcoming, educational, fun, and the cupcakes were great too. It was hard to imagine I would find cupcakes as good in Austin, the next stop on our trek… but you’ll have to wait until next week to find out!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)