Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, with a twist

The holiday season and the entire month of January have flown by! Before you know it, Valentine’s Day will be here and you’ll need a gift for your sweetheart. Last year our gift guide was a hit. This year we decided to do something a little different; we picked all handmade, vintage, and DIY gifts! Up-cycling, recycling, vintage, and supporting handmade are important to us, so enjoy our picks for your sweetheart while supporting great initiatives!

CupcakePlanter(Photo courtesy of uncommongoods.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Want to give your cupcake-loving green thumb the perfect present? How about this adorable DIY planter?

CupcakeStandMini
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Oooo La La! Mini, perfectly-portioned, cupcake stands! Does your sweetheart like taking photos of their baked parfections? Then this mini, french chic cupcake stand is perfect.

VinatgeShoes
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Granted, this pair of vintage shoes is only available in a size 6, but these shoes are undeniably stylish and cool. And they are PINK! The perfect Valentines color!

ScrapbookDownload
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

If your sweetheart likes cupcakes and scrapbooking, you can grab this digital download and create a page with your favorite photos!

CupcakeNapkinHolder
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Painting your sweetheart a mug is pretty standard, but how about a vintage cupcake napkin holder? Cuter than cute and you can paint it to match the kitchen.

CupcakeTierStand
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

We Crusaders love vintage plates (we often use them for our cupcake photos) but we also love the tiered cupcake stands created with vintage plates! If you search, you can find one in just about any color/pattern that fits your sweethearts style.

BakerNecklace
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

This bakers necklace was too cute not to have on the gift guide. Handmade and available in other color options, this necklace is the perfect for a Valentine’s jewelry gift.

And because the ladies aren’t the only one’s who love cupcakes, here are some guy specific gift ideas:

Cufflinks
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Handmade cufflinks with cupcakes?! Who knew! And they let the cupcake loving man in your life know he’s #1.

bearCupcakeShirt
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

This manly shirt has a bear and cupcakes on it… what guy wouldn’t wear it?

The most important part of Valentine’s Day isn’t the about presents, it is letting the people you love know just how special they are. Take the time this Friday to call, text, make a trip, give a hug, write a note, or do whatever you can think to touch the hearts of the people you love.

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

4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #3: Cupcake Heaven | Wilmington, DE

Two stops into our roadtrip tour we Crusaders felt like we won the cupcake jackpot! Great cupcakes, cool shops, and even a little brewery break set the bar pretty high for our last stop, Cupcake Heaven in Wilmington, DE. (you can read those first two reviews here and here).

Following the GPS to the shopping center, things started to look oddly familiar. As we parked, I knew this was not my first time at this cupcake shop. A friend lives near Wilmington and we stopped by Cupcake Heaven during one of my visits. Honestly, I was hoping this experience would be better than my first… so we walked in and I wiped the opinion slate clean.

CupcakeHeavenSFacade

Cupcake Heaven had a variety of cupcakes to choose from. The staff was helpful, but didn’t seem enthused to be working. After making some difficult choices, we sat to try our flavors.

Cinnamon AppleAppleCinn-HC

Stacy’s Cinnamon Apple cupcake looked pretty appetizing, but was a complete disappointment. The cake was incredibly dry and the frosting was “blah.” The only redeeming quality of this cupcake was the filling, unfortunately there was very little of it, making for an overall sad cupcake experience.

Mint Chocolate ChipMintChoco-CH

Jenn was weary of her cupcake after seeing Stacy’s reaction… but as a true Crusader would, she trekked on and tried the Mint Chocolate Chip cupcake. The chocolate cake was very dry. And the frosting, while oddly bright, was surprisingly smooth and had great mint flavor. The best thing about this cupcake was how much Leah loved the frosting.

Sweet PotatoSweetPotato-CH

My sweet potato cupcake looked fantastic, but tasted like cinnamon cardboard. The frosting was too sweet and didn’t have much flavor, while the cake was a crumbly mess. After years of eating cupcakes all over the spectrum from good to bad, this one sticks out as one of the worst. Confirming that my first experience wasn’t a fluke.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake TrufflePBtruffle-HC

The best part of this cupcake stop, minus the company, was Stacy’s Peanut Butter Cake Truffle. The chocolate cake had great peanut flavor mixed in and the truffle texture was smooth. It might have been the only thing that made us glad we stopped by Cupcake Heaven. Well….That and Leah’s face covered in frosting:

LeahFrosting-CH
(No one can deny that adorable face!)

It was such a shame to have our last stop be such a disappointment. Cupcake Heaven was more like Cupcake Purgatory… there wasn’t fire and brimstone, but it certainly wasn’t Heaven. Sadly, after our experience there, I think Jenn and Stacy’s dad, Mr. Ross, said it best: “Go get some tasty cakes instead.”

Overall, our cupcake roadtrip tour was a HUGE success! We enjoyed our stops along the way and while not everything was perfect, spending a whole day together is always a great time!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

 

4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #2: SAS Cupcakes | Newark, DE

Brewery_GroupShot
(Crusaders enjoying lunch at 16 Mile Taphouse, practically right across the street from SAS Cupcakes.)

Although we couldn’t wait to try out our next cupcake stop, the appeal of local brews was too much to resist, so we decided that a savory break would be a good idea. 16 Mile Taphouse is situated across the street and about a block down from SAS Cupcakes and offers a full menu, as well as their own 16 Mile Brewery beers (Georgetown, DE).

16MileBrewery

In addition to each selecting a beer to fit our tastebuds, we ordered the 16 Mile Fries to share. The beer cheese fondue that came with the fries sounded the most appealing, but paired with the spicy aioli…perfection! The weather was so nice that we were able to sit outside (and the people-watching was top notch – Newark is a college town and, to our luck, they were having some sort of family day). After filling ourselves with savory delights and ample people-watching, we headed up to SAS Cupcakes.

SAS_Storefront

SAS Cupcakes makes sure they are easy to find. Although their awning was a little hard to spot while driving down Main Street, the windows are filled with large cupcake photos and they have a sidewalk sign, so it was really hard to miss them.

SAS_StoreInterior

Walking into the store, we were instantly transformed into kids in a candy store. Greeting us were fun chandeliers, cupcake themed gifts, nostalgic candy, and a wall full of party hats for all occasions. It’s hard to do anything but smile in a place like that, and the staff further proved it. They were all friendly, patient, and excited about their store and cupcakes. We were (slightly) more successful in sticking to our one cupcake per person rule here. I think I had more trouble deciding than the rest, because Crusader Elisa’s eyes bee-lined to the Red Velvet and she didn’t look back.

Red Velvet
SAS_RedVelvet

You can tell just from the photo that the cream cheese frosting on this Red Velvet cupcake is smooth and buttery, Elisa’s favorite kind of frosting. Red Velvet tends to be one of those cakes that you either love or hate. While Stacy and I lean more towards the “dislike” side, we both agreed that this was one of the top Red Velvet cupcakes we’ve tasted. It was hard to get Elisa’s thoughts into words…she was too busy enjoying her cupcake!

 Frangelico Hazelnut – Seasonal
SAS_FrangelicoHazelnut

Stacy also didn’t take too long to decide, settling on the Frangelico Hazelnut cupcake. Her thoughts were that the frosting was really sweet, but had a good flavor. And while the cake was a tiny bit dry (mainly dense and crumbly), it did have a good natural flavor, unlike some places that offer a moist cake, but taste just like what you’d find in a box mixed.

Triple Chocolate
SAS_TripleChocolate

It’s possible that my dad picked the winning cupcake of the day, the Triple Chocolate. It was so incredibly moist, with a rich chocolate cake and dense chocolate truffle center. The chocolate layers continued with dark chocolate ganache on top, a dollop of chocolate buttercream, and chocolate sprinkles. Really, that’s five chocolate elements (not three), but we’ll let SAS Cupcakes off the hook for that.

Pumpkin Spice – Seasonal
SAS_Pumpkin

After much debate (and seeing what everyone else was getting…meaning what I’d still get to taste), I settled on the Pumpkin Spice cupcake. I don’t usually like this much frosting on a cupcake, but most of the cupcakes were heavily topped, and the cinnamon in the frosting looked very appealing. As soon as I had this cupcake in my hands, I noticed how sweet it smelled and wondered if I made the right choice. I proceeded with caution and was pleasantly surprised how the spice and pumpkin came through over the sweetness, giving this cupcake a great flavor. However I was left with a kick of sweetness at the end, that stuck with me. The cake was also a little crumbly, not something I’m used to in a pumpkin cupcake, which tend to be very moist and dense.

Despite my thoughts on the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake,  I decided to select two cupcakes to take home since the Triple Chocolate cupcake was so good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
SAS_ChocolatePB

I was really hoping that the peanut butter frosting on this cupcake would deliver big flavor, however it wasn’t very peanut-buttery at all. My initial disappointment was redeemed when I realized that the center of the chocolate cake was loaded with pure, smooth peanut butter. If the frosting had packed more flavor it would have easily overpowered the chocolate cake, but all the elements blended together created a well balanced cupcake in the end.

Oreo
SAS_CookiesCream

After a full day of cupcakes, I went ahead and gave the Oreo cupcake to my husband, to enjoy all to himself. So, we’ll have to take his word that, “It was awesome.”

All-in-all, we really enjoyed our trip to SAS Cupcakes. We’d love to go back and explore the town more, grab a beer at 16 Mile Taphouse, and pick up a cupcake or two. For chocolate lovers, the Triple Chocolate cupcake is reason enough to visit if you find yourself in the area.

Next week, Crusader Elisa will be sharing our last tour stop, Cupcake Heaven in Wilmington, DE. We had an interesting experience there, so keep an eye out for the review!

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

4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #1: Sweet Devotions | Havre de Grace, MD

For our Annual Cupcake Tour at the end of 2013, we decided to hit the road and visit a few places north of Baltimore, MD. Our first stop took us to a cupcake shop located in Havre de Grace, MD. Sweet Devotions hit the cupcake scene in 2010 with a bit of a twist, they served fresh, made to order crepes as well.

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_1

On our visit, in addition to cupcakes and crepes, Sweet Devotions was offering cake pops, chocolate dipped pretzels and bacon (yep, chocolate covered bacon!), salad, wraps, and more. They had ample seating for all their customers in a shop adorned with cupcake nicknacks and paintings by local artists.

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_2

We created a “game plan” for our day of cupcake eating to try and pace ourselves: Since there were four adults (my dad always participates in our cupcake tours) and one toddler, our goal was to order only two or three cupcakes, share them, and if they were awesome, we would go back and get more to take home with us. Well, on this first stop we failed miserably and ended up with five cupcakes, a cake pop, chocolate covered bacon, and three savory crepes. So much for self control…

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_10
(Jenn’s daughter, Leah, enjoying her tiger stripped cake pop while sporting a 2013 Cupcake Roadtrip sticker on her hand.)

After finishing our crepes, we moved on to the cupcakes. I selected the French Toast with no bacon (which made this non-pork eater VERY happy), Jenn chose the Chocolate Covered Pretzel, Elisa went with the S’mores cupcake, and my dad got a classic Chocolate with Vanilla frosting and a Pumpkin cupcake for us all to share.

French ToastSweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_3

Seeing that it was only about 11 a.m. when we made our first stop at Sweet Devotions, this French Toast Cupcake was the perfect choice. It was made of of a moist cinnamon cake topped with a great cream cheese frosting. I really enjoy cream cheese frosting whether it’s more on the sweet side or more savory, but this one stayed true to its name and packed in the cream cheese flavor, which paired perfectly with this morning themed cupcake.

Classic Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_4

My dad is pretty easy to please when it comes to cupcakes, unless they are dry, and
unfortunately this cupcake was a little bit. That didn’t stop him from eating the whole thing though. You gotta love a man who loves his sweets. I guess I know where Jenn and I get it from.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_7

Jenn is usually a little hesitant when it comes to Chocolate Covered Pretzel cupcakes, since the pretzels tend to get a little soft and stale, but this one was too pretty to pass up. She said it was REALLY good and was surprised that the pretzels weren’t mushy (even the one baked into the middle) and the chocolate cake was actually moist—unlike the cake from our dad’s chocolate cupcake. She added that it wasn’t overly sweet and overall it was well balanced.

S’mores SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_6

Elisa is a total sucker when it comes to S’mores, especially S’mores cupcakes (you may have read her recent recipe review for Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes). With its toasted marshmallow frosting, this cupcake looked as good as it tasted. It even had a graham cracker filling that added a twist we haven’t seen before.

Pumpkin SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_5

We were all in agreement that this Pumpkin cupcake was SO GOOD. The cake was very moist and the frosting was the same found on my French Toast cupcake, with a true cream cheese flavor.

We all unanimously agreed that we had a great start to the day at Sweet Devotions. If you find yourself in Havre de Grace, please stop by their shop. Grab a crepe, grab a cupcake, then sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Next week, Crusader Jenn will share her review for our second stop, SAS Cupcakes in Newark, DE. Stay tuned!

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

Starry Night’s Winter’s Night Treats

StarryNightWinter2013-14_ALL

I have to admit, it had been a while since I’d stopped into my favorite local cupcake shop, Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse. Cupcakes had been plentiful throughout the fall and sweets are never lacking at my house. But when they posted their new winter/Christmas flavors, I couldn’t stay away. I’m a sucker for new flavors. A push from Stacy, who wanted one or two for herself, didn’t hurt either.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_Peppermint

The White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha cupcake is the one that I couldn’t wait to dig in to. As soon as the little one was in bed for her nap, out it came. If you are a coffee lover like me, I’m sure just hearing the flavor combination is enough to make you swoon. The mocha and peppermint both came through, just like a well made peppermint mocha latte. Since Starry Night is a coffee shop, it’s no surprise that they know their coffee flavors. In fact, their coffee buttercream (which is also on their Mahoo Wahoo cupcake) is my all-time favorite. Unfortunately the white chocolate wasn’t present enough for me, but that could be because it’s a mild flavor and was overpowered by both the peppermint and coffee. It may have subtly balance out the other flavors though. Either way, the lack of white chocolate was clearly not a deterrent for me, as I’ve now ordered it two more times since.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_PBChocolateTime

In addition to seeing a list of new flavors, Starry night also posted a photo of this cupcake in conjunction with a naming contest (“Peanut Butter Chocolate Time” won). Who wouldn’t want to try this bad-boy?  Starry Night is no stranger to a peanut butter chocolate combination, but they are always mixing it up. This cupcake obviously stands out, with a Girl Scouts Tagalong cookie on top, but also has chocolate frosting AND peanut butter frosting, with peanut butter chips baked into the chocolate cake. My cupcake happened to have a clump of chips all in the center. I’m not sure it that was an accident or intentional, but it was delicious. And, as always, very moist cake and smooth frosting.

(Update: Peanut Butter Chocolate Time is not always sold with half a cookie on top. Sometimes it only has chocolate chips topping the frosting.)

StarryNightWinter2013-14_SpiceCookie

The worst part about the above Spiced Cider cupcake was that I had to share it with the hubby. After hoarding the White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha cupcake all to myself, I thought it was the nice thing to do (after all, ’twas the season for giving, right?). This cupcake had the aroma of a snickerdoodle cookie, with a spiced apple cake. The cake was baked with a generous amount of fresh diced apples and the buttercream was sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. I’d be a happy girl if this cupcake reappears throughout the year.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_Gingerbread

How can you not appreciate a cupcake with a tiny Gingerbread man on top? The cookie had the perfect spiced ginger flavor and consistency (not rock-solid like some). The cake also had the same, familiar spiced ginger “bite” which was mellowed by the sweet frosting, and the sugar crystals sprinkled on top add a nice crunchy texture.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_DrunkinElf

The cupcake above is called the Drunkin’ Elf, which is a chocolate bourbon cupcake with chocolate ganache frosting. It’s chocolatey goodness paired with booze…’nuff said.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_ChocolateMarshmallow

At a first glance, I thought this was another s’mores cupcake, but it’s really a Marshmallow Hot Chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cake is filled with a marshmallow filling, then topped with chocolate buttercream and garnished with a marshmallow and chocolate shavings. I was pleased with how the two flavors came through, without one overpowering the other.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_Eggnog

Eggnog isn’t for everyone. I can only handle it in small amounts myself, but there’s something about eggnog cupcakes that I love and this one was no exception. In addition to eggnog, it had a bit of spice (I’m guessing nutmeg) and I think even a hint of booze.

After such a successful tasting of all the winter flavors, I went back on New Year’s Eve. Last year my NYE cupcakes came from Starry Night, so now it’s a tradition.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_NewYears

After talking with the owner, Shannon, she said that they’ll be keeping some of these flavors to offer throughout the season (and hopefully the year), but a couple (like the Eggnog cupcake) were only for the holidays. They are gearing up for new spring flavors in the next couple of months, so we’ll have to keep our eyes and ears posted to see what they come up with next!

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

2013 Year in Review

Happy New Year Cupcake Lovers! Even though we haven’t brought you new posts these past several weeks, we are so happy to see that you all are still visiting our little blog. As a quick recap, below are some photos of our favorite cupcake adventures this past year. We hope you are looking forward to a new year filled with all new cupcake adventures (and we promise we’ll be better about sharing them with you)!

Also, WordPress.com has prepared a year in review, showing our most popular posts, comments, etc. Click here to see the complete report.

2013_CupcakeOverview

2013_BakingOverview

Thank you for all your support!

Sincerely,The Cupcake Crusaders

Halloween Gathering, Lanterns, and IcedGems!

The Creative Alliance Lantern Parade & Festival is a yearly event not to be missed. A huge crowd of people come from all over the city to see kids and adults in full costume walking through the park. Handmade lanterns, kids activities and crafts, vendors, and yummy food can all be found here on the cool October night. This year, The Gathering was going to be there too, including IcedGems, and Crusader Stacy and I knew we had to go!

LanternParade2013-Pagota

We met at my Patterson Park house and walked over to partake in the festivities. As usual it was bustling with adults and kids of all ages, most of which were in costume and carrying lanterns. We decided to head straight to The Gathering and get in line for cupcakes from IcedGems. With so many flavors to choose from, we chose 4 Halloween themed cupcakes and each got a Halloween Gingerbread cookie. Not wanting to miss out on dinner before eating our dessert, we got in line for The Sultan and ordered some delicious chickpea curry. Very happily full, we walked around checking out all of the lanterns and strolling up to the Pagoda before heading back to the house to dive into our Halloween cupcakes and cookies.

Cookie Monster
LanternParade2013-Mnstr

Crusader Stacy and I both agree that this cupcake was on the dry side. The cookies and creme eyes and cookie dough filling were really good and took this otherwise simple vanilla cupcake to another level.

Worms in Dirt (Cookies-N-Creme)
LanternParade2013-WormsDrt

First, this cupcake was adorable! We loved the decoration of cookie dirt and gummy worms, it really felt like Halloween without being scary. The flavor of the cake was good, with large cookie crumbles throughout the cake, but this cake was also on the dry side. The frosting was a bit on the sweet side for us, but we powered through and finished our bites with our gummy worms.

Pumpkin Spice
LanternParade2013-Pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice and everything nice… including heavenly cinnamon buttercream frosting. The cake was, again, on the dry side, but had great spice and pumpkin flavor. Crusader Stacy and I agreed, this was one yummy pumpkin cupcake.

Carrot Cake
LanternParade2013-Carrot

Neither of us had every tried IcedGems carrot cake before, so when we saw it was decorated for Halloween we jumped at the chance to try it. This cupcake had visible carrot shreds and raisins in it, the cake was very moist and the spice was spot on. The tangy cream cheese frosting was smooth and was the perfect companion to the delicious cake. The only thing we both commented on was that we prefer our carrot cake with walnuts in it, however, this cupcake was so good, we didn’t mind them missing.

Gingerbread Skeleton & Mummy
LanternParade2013-MumCook
LanternParade2013-SkelCook

Fun and festive, these cookies were as good as they were fun to look at! WOW did they pack the perfect gingerbread punch while being the perfect balance of crunchy and soft cookie. They were too cute not to try and too good not to finish.

Our Lantern Parade date was so much fun. We really loved being a part of this Baltimore tradition and supporting the Creative Alliance, The Gathering, and IcedGems! And cupcakes were a great way to end our night.

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)