After 13.1 miles, I needed a “Cake Break”

A few weeks ago I ran my second half marathon in Ocean City! (As Stacy mentioned in this post, I recently became a more serious runner.) Of course when traveling, whether it be for a 13.1 mile run or for pleasure, we Crusaders have to find cupcakes to try. So after doing our usual research, I settled on Cake Break in Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The OC race was very early on Saturday morning and ended at Assateague Island; from there the racers were shuttled to Seacrets where I was lucky enough to have my Mom, Dad, Nona, Rich (Nona’s boyfriend), and a bunch of friends waiting to celebrate. I then headed up to Bethany Beach, where my family and I spent the evening at my Uncle’s beach house, ate a fantastic celebratory dinner in Rehobeth, and got some well deserved rest.

   (My metal and bib from the race! #2 in my metal collection.)

The next morning, I trekked up to Cake Break for some cupcakes, breakfast, and coffee. The staff were very friendly, welcoming, and even knew about the Crusaders! I settled on an everything bagel and a caramel latte – which was delicious – for breakfast, and picked six cupcakes to take home with me:

Carrot Top

Carrots, raisins, cream cheese – oh my! This cupcake had a fantastic spice to it and the icing was very sweet, but paired well with the savory cake. Filled with white raisins and carrot pieces, the cake might be the best carrot cake I have ever had, and I loved the decoration on top too.

Lemon Head

This cupcake was a must, as one of the owners (who helped me choose my six flavors) said it was one of their BEST… and boy were they right! I loved the true lemon flavor of this cupcake and the fact that it was not overly sweet. The lemon curd on top of the icing was an added bonus of lemon pleasure. A great cupcake that I will order again.

Red Velvet

Of course I had to bring home a red velvet! This moist and truly deep, dark, rich, cake really shone all on its own. Then there was the icing, which was very smooth, and not overly sweet. The hard sprinkles on top added an interesting new texture to this already great cupcake.

Cannoli

It is impossible for me not to order a Cannoli cupcake, because they are one of my favorite desserts. Sadly, this cupcake doesn’t come close to the dessert original. The filling was good, but not great and had a bit of a grainy texture to it, and the cake was just okay, as I felt it lacked flavor. I did love the presentation of this cupcake, but it isn’t one I would try again. (They also offer a chocolate version, which I would like to try, just to see if the addition of a more flavorful cake would help overall.)

Chocolate Overload

WHOA. Chocolate, chocolate, and MORE chocolate! If you love chocolate, this cupcake is for you! I was amazed at how moist the cake was, while not being overly sweet! I love when cocoa is allowed to be the star of the show and this cupcake was its own musical!

I-rish I Had Another

I do wish I had another one of these cupcakes! Having created my own “Car Bomb” cupcakes, this flavor was one I didn’t want to pass up. While the cake was moist, I wish it had more stout/beer flavor. The icing was divine, smooth and very Irish Cream flavored. The best part was the Jameson chocolate fudge filling; it melted in like a chocolate truffle and had the perfect hint of whiskey. All together this cupcake truly tasted like the drink and the next time I make them I might have to ditch my jelly and fill them with Jameson chocolate fudge.

Running my second half marathon felt fantastic and is quite an accomplishment on my running journey. Having friends and family there to support me (and my crazy habit) makes me feel like I’m the luckiest person… and having delicious cupcakes to eat isn’t a bad deal either.

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

Rebecca’s Cupcake Surprise! Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery

Our Healthy Guest Crusader and my co-worker, Rebecca, often surprises me with fun things, like a high heel shoe tape dispenser… but the best surprises are always cupcakes! Last week, while on a trip to DC,  she was kind enough to buy me cupcakes from Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery!

Knowing my love for Sprinkles, she stopped by and got me two cupcakes she knew I had been dying to try, their Cherry Blossom and S’mores cupcakes.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry done right! This cake has cherries puréed in both the icing and the cake! The icing was sweet, pink, and very cherry, while the cake actually tasted more almond to me and had a lovely blue/pink/gray color. This cupcake celebrates the beautiful cherry blossom trees just perfectly.

S’more

Graham cracker lined bottom with gooey chocolate ganache filling, and toasted marshmallow on top really embody a s’more in cupcake form.

The crust stayed crunchy and buttery too, which has to be a difficult challenge when you are putting cake batter on top. I don’t always love chocolate cake, but this cupcake really let each flavor shine, making it a chocolate cake I would always order. Sadly, S’mores is only offered a few months out of the year and the next time it will be around is next fall. I can’t believe I will have to wait that long to get one again!

Rebecca has been telling me for months now how much she loves Bittersweet Bakery in Alexandria, VA. So while she was in the DC/VA area, she got me four of their adorable mini cupcakes to try (starting on the far right and working clockwise):


Chocolate Peanut Butter
What a peanut butter punch! This little deep dark chocolate cake was topped with the most savory and delicious peanut butter frosting. I mean, WOW, it was that good and I would love to have a full size cupcake of this flavor!

Boston Creme
This little cupcake looked better than it tasted. The cake was oddly oily, and while the chocolate ganache topping was yummy, it did not save this cupcake from being mediocre. Maybe their full size cupcake would be different, but it would be tough to get me to order it, especially knowing how good some of the other flavors are.

Red Velvet
Knowing how much I love red velvet (when it’s done right), Rebecca made sure to include this one for me. However, as can often be the case with red velvet, this cupcake was disappointing. The cream cheese icing was just okay, and the cake was very dry. I love the chocolate shavings on top though; what an interesting and delightful treat, sadly, the only treat about this cupcake.

Carrot Cake
Rebecca warned me about how much I would love this cupcake, and boy was she right! The very moist and spicy cake was full of carrot and raisins. The cream cheese icing (which I swear was not the same as the icing on the red velvet) was perfect and smooth. My one problem with this cupcake is how small it was… all I wanted was more of it!

Surprise cupcakes are always a treat and I really enjoyed these cupcakes. I’m always looking to eat more flavors from Sprinkles and am excited to have finally had cupcakes from Rebecca’s favorite bakery! I’m looking forward to the next time Rebecca swings by my office with sweet treats to share. :)

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

Guest Review | Sweet Carolina Cupcakes | Hilton Head, SC

We are excited to have a new Guest Crusader, Erin! She is a friend of the Crusaders who LOVES cupcakes. She is sharing a review with us today on Sweet Carolina Cupcakes, a cupcakery she stumbled across on a recent trip to South Carolina. Thanks for sharing this with us Erin!

Recently I drove to South Carolina to visit my friend who lives on Hilton Head Island. Now if you’ve ever been to Hilton Head, you know there’s not much to do on the island except go to the beach and other ocean related activities (such as surfing). As my luck had it, it rained for the majority of my visit, so for lack of something better to do, my friend suggested that we walk around the Coligny Plaza Shopping Center.

Sweet Carolina Cupcakes is located in the middle of the maze of shop that is Coligny Plaza, but if you do make the effort to find it, you’ll find it’s well worth the hunt. On their website, they claim to be “The Lowcountry’s Premiere Cupcakery” and they apparently offer different flavors on different days of the week.

The shop itself has a blindingly bright lime green and hot pink color scheme and is pretty small. The common area only had two 2-person tables and a back wall bar to sit at.

The day we were there, they had ten flavors to choose from (pictured below).


(Top Row: Peanut Butter Cup, Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, Coconut Snowball, Chocoholic
Bottom Row: Wedding Cake, Raspberry Zinger, Sweet Carolina, Classic Vanilla with Chocolate or Vanilla Icing and Classic Chocolate with Chocolate or Vanilla Icing.)

They also had a small selection of muffins and whoopee pies for non-cupcake people. The cupcakes themselves are larger than what I would consider an average-sized cupcake. They were closer to the size of a large muffin, but were priced averagely at 3.50 each.

While I was trying to choose my flavor, I asked what the Sweet Carolina (a bright pink cupcake with vanilla icing and pink sprinkles) was and was told that is was Sweet Carolina Cupcakes’ take on a “pink red-velvet” cupcake. I didn’t end up buying this one because I am not a huge fan of red velvet, but I wondered what Red Velvet Cupcake Crusader Elisa would think of a pink-velvet cupcake.

After quite a long deliberation I settled on the following cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Cup

My boyfriend actually chose peanut better cup because he doesn’t really like desserts or sweets EXCEPT for anything that is peanut butter flavored (I know, I think he’s crazy for not liking sweets). He did let me have a bite though. The chocolate cake was moist and full of dark chocolaty goodness. The cake was also very light and fluffy. The icing was smooth and VERY peanut buttery. My boyfriend who loves peanut butter thought the icing was great. I thought that the dark chocolate was a little overpowered by the peanut butter flavor, but I am also not a huge peanut butter fan, so I probably would never order this flavor for myself.

Carrot Cake

I ended up choosing a Carrot Cake cupcake for myself and was not disappointed by my choice. The cake, again, was light and fluffy, especially for carrot cake. I think the lightness of the cake was a great feature since the cupcakes were larger than average. If the cake had been too dense and “meaty,” I don’t think I would have wanted/been able to eat a whole cupcake (which I did easily). The flavor of the cake was not very spiced, but it did have a great texture of nuts, carrots and coconut. The icing tasted like a combination of buttercream and cream cheese and was pretty smooth and thick. Overall, I enjoyed this cupcake, although I did end up left with a mound of icing on my plate that I didn’t eat (I like my cupcake to icing ration about 2-1 cupcake to icing).

The friends I was with also got Red Velvet, Chocoholic and Classic Chocolate with Vanilla Icing cupcakes. (Sadly I didn’t manage to get photos of them before they were devoured.) My friend who bought the Red Velvet said it was better than the Peanut Butter Cup (which she also tried) and my friend who bought the Chocoholic cupcake couldn’t stop talking about how good it was and asking when he could go back and get another.

Overall, Sweet Carolina Cupcakes gets a big stamp of approval. Their cupcakes are larger than average, reasonably priced and full of flavor. If you’re ever on Hilton Head Island, make sure you stop by and try one!

- Review by Guest Crusader, Erin (Baltimore, MD)

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National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challange: Taste of the Seasons

This past Saturday, Crusader Jenn and I braved the nasty rain soaked roads and headed to the National Capital Area Cake Show‘s Cupcake Challenge in Annandale, VA. This year’s theme was ‘Taste of the Seasons’ which was well represented with approximately 75 entries. With this many entries and about 700 attendees, we knew we needed a plan of attack, so prior to the show we decided on the flavors we most wanted to sample.

Between the two of us, we only had about 3 duplicate flavors, so we sampled 15 flavors in total. Before I proceed, I should clarify that they were mini cupcakes, so it was easy to taste every flavor in one sitting.

After sampling them all, we decided that it would be slightly overwhelming for our readers to have a full description and critique of 15 flavors, so we have picked our very own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and then provided you with a peek at the remaining 12. (These selections are not reflective of the competition’s decisions and are solely those of the Crusaders and the 15 flavors we tried).

1st Place: French Vanilla Coffee Creme Brûlée (Season: Winter)

Baker: Inayah Zaman

This was our clear favorite of the night. Amazingly, you could taste all the flavors, and there was an added element of strawberry which was unexpected, but worked incredibly well. The edible gold glitter and the chocolate “handle” added the perfect finishing touches. We both voted for this as our favorite on the People’s Choice ballot.

2nd Place: Cherry Blossom Sake (Season: Unknown)

Baker: Wanda Cushing

The delicate gum paste cherry blossom on top of this mini cupcake matched the mild sake and cherry flavors. Both flavors complemented each other nicely creating a really enjoyable and totally unique cupcake.

3rd Place: Chocolate Covered Coconut Robin’s Egg (Season: Spring)

BAKER: Monica Pearson of Monica’s Sugar Studio
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Spring’ category, voted by the competition judges. This baker was also last year’s ‘Best Professional Cupcake’ winner)

This adorable mini cupcake had really good coconut flavor throughout. The coconut blended well with the chocolate which somehow managed not to be overpowering. There was even a coconut filling in this tiny little treat!

As you can see, the competition was fierce! Here is a glimpse at the other flavors we tried, with a special “Honorable Mention” for a cupcake we thought was great, but didn’t make it into our final 3:

Honorable Mention: Root Beer Float (Season: Summer)
Baker: Deanna Rybak
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Amateur Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)

1: Gluten Free Eggnog Coco (Season: Winter) - BAKER: Caroline Litt
2: Gingerbread with Lemon Curd (Season: Winter)
– BAKER: Trevor Burroughs, “The Cake Guy” featured on Food Network’s Sweet Genius
3: Carrot with Orange Marmalade (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Linda McLean
4: Orange Creamsicle (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Sandy Schmuff, Dessertabilities
5: German Chocolate Easter Egg Nests Cake Ball (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Emily Baird, Alexandria Cake Pop Company (They won this year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Winter’ category for their Peppermint Chocolate Cake Pop, voted by the competition judges.)
6: Piñajito (Pineapple Mojito) (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Catherine Baroang
7: Peach cobbler (Season: Summer)
- BAKER: Lora Gookin, Gâteau (This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)
8: Maple & Rum Flavored Pumpkin (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Juanita Holloway
9: Chocolate Bacon Chipotle (Season: Fall)
- BAKER: Kyle Downes (Tied for 6th Place People’s Choice)
10: Red wine poached pear (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Tracy Fuller, Simply Desserts
11: Gluten Free Chai Brown Butter Meringue (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Becky Rink

After sampling all of these bite sized treats, we headed to the auditorium for a live demonstration by Doron Petersan, owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery. Sticky Fingers is a vegan bakery that has competed three times on the Food Network’s show, Cupcake Wars. They have won twice and are the first vegan bakery to ever win on an All-Stars show.

Doron’s demonstration was entertaining and full of great advice for upcoming bakers like, “Take business classes, the rest is easy. You like to eat, you taste it, if you like the way it tastes, it’s good.” That evening she was showing us all how she makes her Chocolate Bananas Foster cupcake. Even with all the sampling we had done, by the end of the demo, our mouths were watering hoping to one day try that cupcake.

Following the live demo was a book signing where we got to meet Doron. She couldn’t have been nicer and even posed for a quick picture with us!

We promised her we would be visiting her shop in DC this summer, when the weather got better, and we can’t wait! You will probably also see some of the recipes from her book posted on our blog as I dabble into the vegan baking world!

Overall it was a great night that couldn’t have ended on a better note!

To see a full list of the official National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challenge winners click here.

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

Spotlight: Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse, Part 2

We are so excited to bring you our final thoughts for the remaining six cupcakes we tried from Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse, since we couldn’t fit them all into one review! If Part 1 wasn’t enough to make you crave a cupcake, I think this will do it!

Death by Chocolate:
This cupcake wasn’t ready when I first stopped in, but the owner insisted that I must try it. I was planning on grabbing lunch next door, so I told her I would be back. I’m so glad I returned!

After hearing and seeing all that goes into this cupcake, it’s understandable why it takes them all morning to bake it fresh. The chocolate cake is rich and moist, the chocolate buttercream is perfection, and if those aren’t enough, it is then hand dipped in chocolate ganache! A chocolate lover couldn’t ask for anything more out of a cupcake!

Strawberry White Chocolate:
Another gorgeous cupcake that puts others to shame, this cupcake is a strawberry cake, with whipped filling, strawberry frosting, and then topped with white chocolate shavings AND a white chocolate covered strawberry!

Us Crusaders are typically concerned with berry cupcakes being overly sweet, however the whipped filling tones down the sweetness and just like the others, the cake is perfectly moist. Also, eating a cupcake with a white chocolate covered strawberry just makes a girl feel special!

Blackbottom:
Considering this next treat a cupcake might be a little controversial, since there is no frosting on top. However, as soon as I saw it I couldn’t wait to try it!

All those chocolate chips mixed in with cheesecake had my mouth watering from the start. I was so pleased by this blackbottom that if they have it on future visits, there’s no way I could leave without one.

Carrot:
As I’ve mentioned before, carrot cake is one of my favorites. It’s a classic and, even though it’s more of a spice cake, you can find it year round.

This carrot cake could possibly be one of my all-time favorites. The cake has real carrot pieces and nuts, which add a nice texture, then a cream cheese filling, with American buttercream frosting. The mixture of spice and sweet is perfect. As large as these cupcakes are, I wish I had a whole one to myself and hadn’t shared! And I usually like sharing!

Boston Cream:
I love anything Boston cream. Pie, cake, doughnuts…and cupcakes are no exception. As soon as I heard this was a Boston cream, I became giddy.

This cupcake is a vanilla cake, filled with Boston cream, and topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache. While speaking with the owner, she told me that after they put the chocolate buttercream on the cupcakes, they chill them, so that the chocolate ganache sets up properly. Normally I would only want chocolate ganache on a Boston cream treat, however their chocolate buttercream is so rich that it holds up well to the overall flavor. I secretly would have enjoyed more pastry cream, but that’s only because I could have eaten bowls of it alone!

Party Cupcake:
I don’t know what else to call this cupcake, but it is so much fun!

This cupcake is priced at only $2.00, which I couldn’t believe. The moist vanilla cake and sweet American buttercream are reminiscent of a traditional birthday cake. Although it is an average size, unlike their other super-sized cupcakes, its decoration makes me feel like I attended a chic party.

I recently stopped by Snickerdoodles, after having been impressed by their cupcakes, and tried their coffee and sugar cookies. Just like with their cupcakes, everything was perfectly tasty! Like I said in Part 1 of our review, if you have a chance to visit Snickerdoodles, please do!

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