Hamilton Bakery’s New Summer Flavors

Hey Cupcake Lovers! We are so sorry we’ve been gone for so long! We haven’t stopped eating cupcakes, so we are going to do our best (at least this summer) to catch up on all the reviews we’ve been wanting to share with you. Today we are reviewing two new summer flavors that Hamilton Bakery is serving this month: Key Lime and Neapolitan.

I have to admit, while I love Hamilton Bakery (they make the best scones) their cupcakes have never quite lived up to my expectations in the past. I really want to like them, but I often end up slightly disappointed, until now. I hoped that I would eventually be pleasantly surprised, so when I saw that they were giving one free cupcake to each customer during First Friday in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, and introducing special June flavors (Butter Pecan, Neapolitan, Key Lime, and Cookies and Cream), I thought it would be a great time to give them another try.

Key Lime

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At first, I was worried that this cupcake wouldn’t have a filling (I think Key Lime cupcake should always have a filling), but to my surprise, it did! I would have liked more, but it was very tasty. The frosting had subtle lime flavor and the cake was dense but very moist. Altogether, it was a really solid cupcake and was one of my favorites from Hamilton Bakery so far.

Neapolitan

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Hamilton Bakery offered two versions of this cupcake: one with vanilla cake and one with chocolate cake. I selected the cupcake with chocolate cake because the other option was topped with a large portion of milk chocolate frosting, which isn’t my favorite. However, all three frosting flavors ended up being very good. The strawberry was my favorite though, so I wish there was more of that. The last time I had a chocolate cake cupcake from Hamilton Bakery it was super dry, but not this time!

These were easily some of the best cupcakes I’ve eaten from Hamilton Bakery. Finally!

If you would like to try the new flavors, hurry! They’ll only be available for another week or so. If you would rather enjoy a FREE cupcake, stop by Hamilton Bakery during their next First Friday event (check their Facebook Page for more information). Just a little heads up, you can’t take the cupcake in a to-go box, so grab a cup of coffee or tea, and stay a little while.

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

On the Road: The Barbecue Exchange – Gordonsville, VA

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I know what you are thinking. “Jenn, we know that you have to eat something other than cupcakes, but this IS a cupcake blog…” And you’re right. I try to find cupcakes every time I’m out of town, and my anniversary trip was no different. My husband and I, along with the toddler, headed to Gordonsville, VA to spend a few days in the Shenandoah Valley. I Googled. I Foursquared. I scrutinized every shopping center we passed. I was beginning to think I would fail you all. And then my husband and I stepped into The Barbecue Exchange, a highly recommended food stop that he was aching to try.

It was like the clouds parted, and the light shone down on the counter display.

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Here, in the middle of Virginia wine country at a BBQ joint, was a creative and generous selection of homemade cupcakes. I have a tendency to over-do it, so Dan and I decided to just pick two and if they were good we’d come back for more. We went with the Key Lime (we honeymooned in Belize, so Key Lime is like “our” flavor) and the chocolate coconut. Looking back at the selection I’m not sure why we choose that one. But we did.

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I didn’t expect much in the way of packaging. This was a BBQ spot after all. But the cupcakes actually held up well in the bowl-shaped take-out container.

Now here’s the catch…I was sick during this trip. Total head cold where I couldn’t breath, couldn’t hear, and worst of all…couldn’t taste! So, my personal critique is limited to textures and we’ll have to trust Dan’s taste critiques.

Chocolate Coconut
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My review was also jeopardized because we weren’t able to eat these the day we bought them (blaming the head cold again…just not feelin’ sweets so we ended up taking them home instead of instantly indulging). I think the chocolate cake in this cupcake probably would have been more moist if the cupcakes hadn’t sat a day. However, the frosting had a smooth and buttery texture. Dan said the coconut flavor was in good balance and he liked the density of the chocolate cake.

Key Lime
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First I just want to say, how cute is the little cake topper? This technique isn’t something you see done frequently. I felt like the cake could have been more moist, like with the chocolate cake, but Dan disagreed. I was pleased that I could actually could pick up on the key lime flavor. There were even bits of lime zest in the frosting. The frosting wasn’t as buttery as the Chocolate Coconut cupcake’s frosting and was sweeter with a more whipped, but still sugary quality.

Looking back I wish we’d selected more flavors, but Dan is desperate to go back so I’m sure we’ll find an excuse to pass through Gordonsville again. If you are in the Shenandoah Valley area, The Barbecue Exchange is a great place to stop in for lunch before heading out for some wine tasting (or whatever else you do in that part of VA). Along with a big selection of meat, they also have a wide selection of homemade pickles, breads, and of course BBQ sauces. After following their Facebook page, it looks like they have cupcakes regularly and they even customize the menu for holidays, recently offering St. Patrick’s Day themed flavors. As it turns out BBQ and cupcakes make a great pair (when you aren’t sick)!

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

Cupcakes in Paradise | Bonita Springs, Florida

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Some of you may remember that last year Crusader Stacy and I had an opprotunity to visit our family in Florida AT THE SAME TIME! This has rarely happened as adults, after having worked together for nearly 5 years. But, with myself no longer employed at the same establishment, we jumped at the chance to take a family vacation together. Well, try as we might, this year we just couldn’t make it happen. Sad as it may have been to not have my twin with me, my little family and I had a wonderful time. I stayed with my Nana, and it was like being home again.

Shortly after arriving, my uncle and cousins were quick to tell me that there was a new cupcake place in Bonita Springs, Florida. As much as I wanted to revisit one of my Florida favorites, Sassy Cakes, I had to try the new place.

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Cupcakes In Paradise has a cute exterior and fits in perfectly with the colorful shopping center. When I walked into the shop I was surrounded by bright pink walls and modern flat-screen tvs for menus. There wasn’t any staff around, and I eventually had to say, “Hello?” into the direction of the kitchen, but it gave me time to take some pictures.

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At the counter there was a modest display of cupcakes with around 10 flavors to choose from. I was curious to try one of each, but I knew that I had to resist. Without my partner in crime, it would only be my husband and myself eating the cupcakes. So I (only) selected four. I was feeling the Florida air and picked Coconut, Key Lime, Funky Monkey, and then threw in a Chocolate Peanut Butter to keep the man happy.

Coconut

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The Coconut cupcake was the first one we tried and I’m sad to say it was my least favorite. It was filled, but unfortunately it was filled with the same super-sweet frosting that it was topped with. While the coconut flavor did come through, there was just too much frosting for me. However Dan, who prefers cupcakes on the sweet side, and Leah, who is going through a frosting-only phase, both loved this cupcake.

Key Lime

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You can’t visit a cupcakery in Florida without trying Key Lime. After the Coconut cupcake, I was worried that they’d all be filled with frosting (and I’m a firm believer that a filling should complement the cake and frosting, but should be a different element). To my relief, the cupcake was not filled. The cake was very moist and had a good, real key lime flavor. I’m usually the one scrapping the wrapper of a good cupcake, but Dan beat me to it this time!

Peanut Butter Chocolate

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The Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake was a very moist and light chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, and topped with a chocolate peanut butter crumble. The frosting didn’t look like it would have a smooth texture, but in the end it did, and the flavor was bold without overpowering the chocolate.

Funky Monkey

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Saved for last, the Funky Monkey is a banana chocolate cupcake with a marble cake, topped with banana frosting, and then drizzled with chocolate. For me this cupcake was only okay. The banana flavor seemed a little artificial, but the cake was good. I’m not sure I’d order it again with at least two other good options.

Overall, I would go back to Cupcakes in Paradise. I’ve heard their Lemon cupcake has a curd filling, that they make a good Red Velvet, and it was already hard to leave without the French Toast. I’ll have to try those out on my next visit to Florida!

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

Potluck Perfection: Pillsbury’s Key Lime Cupcakes

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We see them in the grocery stores; the brightly colored seasonal boxes with cakes and cupcakes that make your mouth water. For some of us there’s a voice in our head that says, “But it’s a box mix!” and that means artificial flavor and color, and therefore a lack of quality that we might have become accustomed to. And then there’s the rest of us who say, “OMG those would be perfect for that picnic, cookout, or potluck we’re going to this summer!” knowing that the summer months are going to be busy and we just need something easy.

I’m a mixture of both. As much as I crave a nice, gourmet quality cupcake, I haven’t outgrown my roots in boxed cake mixes. So, succumbing to the bright summer colors, I bought Pillsbury’s Key Lime cake mix and frosting (as well as their Pink Lemonade, which is still in my pantry  you may remember that we also tried their Orange Creamsicle earlier this season).

I battled with the urge to doctor up the cake and frosting, to customize them in some way. I originally wanted to pipe the frosting, but knew that I wouldn’t have enough in the tub for two dozen, and it wouldn’t set properly. And I really wanted to be able to give you an honest review of what you get straight from the box.

My solution? To make a homemade white chocolate ganache filling.

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For the filling I used white chocolate chips and, instead of butter (which can discolor the white chocolate) or heavy cream (which I just didn’t have), I used 2% milk. I had to let the ganache cool first because it was too runny when warm, but it worked beautifully even with milk.

I kept the decoration simple and the frosting minimal since it’s so sweet. Topped with some shaved white chocolate pieces, I was pleasantly surprised with how pretty they were in the end!

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The cake and frosting were both tangy, but there was definitely an unmistakable “fake-ness” to the key lime flavor. It actually made my tongue tingle a little (like when you eat too many Pixie Sticks or sour candies…I know I’m not alone here, right?!). But the cake was super moist and fluffy, one of the reasons I come back to box mixes time and time again. The white chocolate was the PERFECT pairing for this cupcake. It brought down the artificial tang (and tingle), and added that custom, high-end quality I was looking for.

I brought the cupcakes to my calligraphy guild’s pre-summer social. There were so many treats, all homemade of course. My cupcakes looked amazing, but the real test was: How would they stand-up to these people who clearly appreciate family recipes? Well, people literally gawked when I told them it was a box mix. So, they either agreed with me and the white chocolate ganache added the needed pizazz, or they just aren’t as picky as I worried they might be. Either way, if you are in a bind and need a quick dessert this summer, I think you’ll be safe picking up this box mix.

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

Ooh La La Cupcakery’s New Storefront is so Trés Chic

With a wall-mounted flat screen tv, a couple of high top tables with chairs, and bold black, white, and pink decor, Ooh La La Cupcakery‘s new location is certainly a big step up from their previous location in Inner Harbor (although, while that location wasn’t a full walk-in shop, they did a great job glamming it up as best they could).

Their new shop on 1216 North Charles Street opened at the beginning of February, less than a block away from where my weekly grad-school class meets. Even though it’s been over two months since their opening, I wasn’t able to stop in until this past weekend. Working full time, going to school, and keeping up with this blog have put a serious limit on any free time I used to have. Thinking back, it’s been about two months since I’ve actually gone cupcaking in a full service cupcake shop (I’m not counting stops at cupcake trucks, fundraising events, etc. Of course there have been cupcakes, just no new visits to actual cupcake shops).

There is something wonderful about stepping into a room filled with beautiful cupcake displays. I love the process of reading the names, asking questions, and narrowing the options down to my final selections. Obviously I like eating cupcakes, but I also really love the entire experience. However, if the service isn’t good, it can ruin that experience. On my first visit to Ooh La La in the Inner Harbor, I was helped by a young man who seemed less than eager, but this time, that same gentleman was AWESOME. He greeted me an enthusiastic “hello” and a warm smile before going over the flavors. I guess everyone has off days, and I was glad to see his happy side.

On that day Ooh La La had many refreshing warm-weather flavors and tasty looking classics available, so it wasn’t an easy choice to make. I saw the Birthday Cake cupcake and knew right away that it was going home with me (I can’t say no to anything with sprinkles). Then I decided on the Pistachio, Key Lime, and Lemon cupcakes as my remaining three.

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At first, I was a little disappointed that my cupcakes weren’t placed in a cupcake box (I’m always worried they will be smooshed and destroyed before I can take pictures), but the cupcakes were arranged neatly in their containers and carefully placed in a white bag with a pretty pink ribbon. They even included pink napkins and an information card on Ooh La La. And luckily their cupcakes are pretty sturdy and held up nicely on the ride home.

Pistachio Cupcake

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For some reason pistachio flavored food intrigues me, but I think I’ve decided that it’s just not a flavor I enjoy. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Ooh La La’s Pistachio cupcake. The cake was moist, the pistachio flavor was present throughout the cupcake, but I didn’t dig it as much as the others. But, if you love pistachios, then you should definitely try this cupcake.

Key Lime

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The cake on this cupcake was moist and had a nice key lime flavor, but the best part was the frosting. It was perfectly tangy and sweet. I REALLY wish this cupcake had a filling. It might actually be the first Key Lime cupcake I’ve tried that didn’t, and I think that it helps make the cupcake reminiscent of a Key Lime pie. Still, it was a tasty cupcake.

Lemon

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This cupcake was so good and exactly what I look for in a Lemon cupcake. Similar to the Key Lime cupcake, it was the perfect blend of tangy and sweet. This was easily my favorite of the four. There is really not much else to say other than: YUM.

Birthday Cake

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Sprinkles! As I mention above, the second I saw how jam-packed this cupcake was with sprinkles, I knew it was going to be all mine. Funfetti is one of my favorites, and this cupcake was like Funfetti taken to the next level. It even tasted almost like a spoonful of sprinkles! Which is a good thing—at least in my book. This cupcake was sweet, fun, and totally put a smile on my face.

Other than the fabulous new location and storefront, I really enjoyed how the cake AND frosting were flavored in all the cupcakes I purchased. More often than not, cupcake shops will use a basic yellow or chocolate cake as a base and then just flavor the frosting to create a variety, but not Ooh La La. They also offer chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate dipped pretzels, candy covered apples, and ice cream.

Their website is currently under construction, but they have been very active on their Facebook page, where you can follow them to stay updated on new flavors and specials.

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

Trekked from Arizona, Pt. 2

Healthy Guest Crusader Rebecca trekked cupcakes for me all the way from Arizona, and managed to stop by more than one cupcake location. My previous review about Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe in Tucson went very well, so I was hoping that the cupcakes and cake truffle pops from Caketini in Gilbert AZ, would be just as delicious.

There were two HUGE cupcakes and six cake truffle pops for me to sample:

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Almost too pretty to eat, this cupcake was simply beautiful, and tasted great too. The cake was airy with a classic vanilla flavor. The frosting was light, smooth and not very sweet. It also seemed to be whipped and it was very buttery, which is right up my alley. The carefully drizzled caramel and cracked salt crystals on top added flavor and texture that took this cupcake over the top. Definitely a cupcake I would eat again, and even one I would trek back from Arizona!

Celebration Cupcake CakeTini-BirthdayCake
Funfetti cake with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles on top = an Elisa kinda cupcake! Most of my friends know about my love of funfetti, Crusader Stacy even made me funfetti cupcakes for my 30th birthday, so I was dying to try this cupcake. Like the Salted Caramel, the cake was moist and light, but very flavorful and FULL of funfetti specks throughout. The vanilla buttercream frosting was smooth and sweet, pairing well with the cake. The edible glitter and sprinkles on top certainly didn’t hurt my affection for this cupcake; it looked like a party and tasted like one too.

Cake Truffles: (clockwise from top) Carrot Cake, Chocolate Strawberry, Key Lime, Red Velvet with Milk Chocolate, Red Velvet with White Chocolate, & Chocolate Hazelnut

CakeTini-TrufPops1WOW – Aren’t these so pretty all lined up? Maybe cake pops/cake truffle pops should always be sold in half dozens. lol.

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The shop staff recommended that the truffles be refrigerated and then eaten, as they prefer people to be able to crunch into the chocolate coating, so that’s just what I did. Each truffle was better than the next. All were moist and full of flavor, all had fantastic texture, and all were devoured in a day. (My goal had been to eat 3 and save 3 for the next day, but they were too good to stop eating!) My two favorites were the Red Velvet with White Chocolate and Chocolate Strawberry. While these two stood out, I would be more than happy to eat any of them again. By far some of the BEST cake truffles I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

If all of Arizona’s cupcakes are as good as the cupcakes I tried from Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe and Caketini, that Arizona is one lucky state! There wasn’t one bad cupcake or cake truffle in the bunch, and that’s very impressive considering they passed through two time zones on a plane and were already a day old. A special thanks to Healthy Guest Crusader Rebecca (and her fiance Jim) for trekking these treats back for me – if this is the kind of payment I get for watching their new puppy Shelby, then count me in!

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

Catching Up with Cupcakes in Orlando, FL

There are some people in your life that, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, you can pick up exactly where you left off. These friends are the ones you can always count on to be there for you, even if you may not talk everyday. My friend, Marina, is one of those friends for me. We became friends in high school, but since then she has lived as close as Delaware or as far away as California. None of that matters though, because when we see each other, the days, weeks, months, or even years just seem like seconds.

Not only is Marina a great friend, she also has a serious sweet tooth (she recently became a certified pastry chef), so it makes perfect sense that when I was in Florida, her current home state, we would do a little bit of cupcaking. When it comes to organizing a day of cupcakes, I usually take the lead on deciding which places we will visit and in what order, but after giving Marina a list of possibilities, she narrowed it down and mapped them out. It was so nice to have someone else help with the planning.

We decided that if we paced ourselves we could manage four places: Raphsodic (a vegan bakery), Blue Bird Bake Shop, Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly, and Sweet Designs Kitchen.

After a tasty lunch at Thai Thani we made our way to Raphsodic, our first stop in downtown Orlando. Raphsodic has an eclectic vintage atmosphere which was carried through with their plates and mismatched antique forks. I must confess that I was really apprehensive about going to a vegan bakery after recently having had some bad experiences, but I think it’s important to review all kinds of cupcakes, especially for the vegan cupcake lovers out there. Marina and I proceeded with caution and ordered the Mocha cupcake to split.

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(Vegan Mocha cupcake from Raphsodic)

Expecting the worst, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The cake had a really nice chocolately coffee flavor, and it was moist (yay!). I thought the simple dairy free buttercream went well with the cake, but it was a little too dense for Marina, who prefers a much lighter frosting. Knowing we had three more places to visit, we left without quite satisfying our sweet tooth, but our next stop, Blue Bird Bake Shop, was just a short drive away.

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(Blue Bird Bake Shop)

Like Raphsodic, Blue Bird Bake Shop also had an eclectic selection of mismatched plates (in fact, it’s the largest collection I’ve ever seen) and their decor was a stunning blend of rustic chic. Beautiful blue and brown tones filled the shop and Marina and I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “ahhing” as we ate our cupcakes. This time around we each got our own cupcakes; I choose the Neapolitan and Marina selected the Chocolate Raspberry.

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(Neapolitan and Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes from Blue Bird Bake Shop)

Neapolitan is one of those flavors I’m seeing more and more bakeries offer, and when it’s done right, it’s awesome. This cupcake was no exception. The frosting tasted just like strawberry ice cream and the vanilla and chocolate cake was moist and delicious. Despite feeling that the cake on the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake was a little more dense than Marina normally prefers, she said that overall, “it was really yummy.”

After eating our cupcakes and browsing the t-shirts, coffee products, and uniquely flavored marshmallows, we headed to our next stop, Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly (a two time Cupcake Wars winner).

Sweet! not only sells cupcakes, they also have a huge selection of frozen yogurt and toppings, but Marina and I didn’t let this distract us from our mission. We made our way passed the froyo machines and straight to the cupcakes.

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(Menu from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

Sampling as many different flavors as possible is always fun, and since Sweet! sells primarily minis, that made it an easy task. They had a ton of flavors available and Marina and I spent a lot of time narrowing our choices down to six each. I decided on the Coffee, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Tiramisu, White Chocolate Raspberry, Banana, and Cinnamon. Some of the flavors were just okay and some were great. The big disappointment for me was the Tiramisu.

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(Tiramisu cupcake from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

The first Tiramisu cupcake I ever tried was from Sublime, in Wyomissing, PA, (review here). None have been as good since then, but Sweet!’s didn’t even taste like Tiramisu. Luckily, it was only a mini and I had other flavors to enjoy, like the Coffee and Cinnamon, which were AMAZING. Each packed tons of flavor in such a small size. I could have easily eaten two of each on that visit.

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(Cinnamon and Coffee cupcakes from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

After our visit at Sweet!, Marina and I found ourselves entering a cupcake coma, so decided to do a little shopping before making our way to our final stop, Sweet Designs Kitchen. Even with shopping and a 40 minute drive, we were still cupcaked-out when we arrived at Sweet Designs Kitchen. It was the end of the day, and their selection was limited, but the staff was super friendly. We decided to get two cupcakes each, to go.

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(Coconut Key Lime and Orange Creamsicle cupcakes from Sweet Designs Kitchen)

After all the cupcakes we tried that day I realized that I was in Florida and hadn’t yet gotten any citrus flavors. I happily remedied that and got the Coconut Key Lime and Orange Creamsicle cupcakes, while Marina choose the alcohol-free Mocha Lua and Banana’s Foster cupcakes. Unfortunately, Marina didn’t eat hers until a day later and I ended up waiting two days. Both of us felt that the cake was dry, but we really can’t fault Sweet Designs Kitchen for that since we didn’t try them when they were fresh. Even though the cake was dry I thought that the flavors of my cupcake were really fantastic, especially the fillings. The Coconut Key Lime was my favorite and I thought the key lime curd filling blended really well with the coconut frosting. Marina thought that the frostings on her cupcakes were both too heavy and that the cake was a little bland, but agreed that the fillings in her two cupcakes were really great.

It’s no secret that a day filled with cupcakes is guaranteed to be a great day for me, but getting to spend time with a good friend who really enjoys critiquing cupcakes as much as I do is even better. It was also really nice to catch up with Marina in between bites of cake and frosting, especially because she is expecting a little bundle of joy in a few months. Hopefully, Marina will pass along the “sweet tooth gene” to her little one, because when it comes to cupcake adventures, I always like to think “the more, the merrier.”

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

Battle of the Cupcakeries: Sweet Angela’s and AngelCakes in Frederick, MD

I’ve only found myself in Frederick, MD a few times in my life (I can literally count the amount of times on one hand), but it’s a great little city, with a fabulous Downtown/Main Street area that is quaint and stylish at the same time. I haven’t had a lot of time to fully enjoy the shops and restaurants, but if you are looking for a short day trip from Baltimore or DC, it’s a good choice, with plenty to keep you entertained (including a short drive to Linganore Winecellars).

On a recent work related visit, I decided to check out their “cupcake scene.” After doing some Google research, I was shocked to see that there were actually several options. I selected two shops that appeared to be fairly close together: Sweet Angela’s Cupcakery and AngelCakes.

The cinder-block exterior of AngeCakeswas a little less than welcoming (and very different than the norm in Frederick), but they did their best by painting it a bright white and adding nice touches like the awning, sign, and light fixtures. After seeing this, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the inside but was pleasantly surprised by the trendy, modern appearance and cool blue and gray tones. I was immediate greeted and quickly placed my order (Key Lime and Salted Caramel) as the selection wasn’t overwhelmingly large.

Crossing the street to place the cupcakes in my car, I was stunned to see my next cupcake stop visible just about a block away. I knew they were close, but not that close! Happy that I wouldn’t have to walk far, I practically skipped down the sidewalk to my next destination.

If you think that AngelCakes signage is enough to catch your eye, there is no way you can miss Sweet Angela’s Cupcakery. In appearance, Sweet Angela’s is the exact opposite of AngelCakes. While AngelCakes is blue and trendy, Sweet Angela’s is very pink and cutesy, complete with cupcake illustrations on the walls. Despite the differences in decor, their flavor selection was actually quite similar. So similar in fact, that I ended up getting a Key Lime at Sweet Angela’s and thought a Key Lime Challenge would be in order. They didn’t have Salted Caramel though, so I stuck with a classic: Vanilla.

As soon as I got home the Key Lime Challenge was on. Visually, each had aspects I liked: Sweet Angela’s had a nice light colored cake, while AngelCakes’ was dark and looked to be a bit over-baked. Then, AngelCakes’ Key Lime cupcake had fresh lime zest on top, but Sweet Angela’s just had a gummy candy I knew I wouldn’t eat. But the true test would be the first bite.

Sweet Angela’s Key Lime:
The description stated that this cupcake was a fresh key lime cake with fresh squeezed lime juice, topped with buttercream frosting with a hint of lime and garnished with lime zest, but my cupcake was obviously not garnished with lime zest.

I could feel how soft and moist the cake was when pulling back the cupcake liner. It was also dense and a little sticky too, almost like a combination between pound cake and angel food cake. There was only a slight tartness with the cake, but the frosting was very tart; however, it was more of a generic tartness (not specifically key lime) and was artificial tasting.

AngelCakes’ Key Lime:

At first I thought this cupcake might be dry after seeing that the top of the cake was a dark brown, but it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t as moist as Sweet Angela’s but it definitely was not overly dry either. Although you can see the fresh lime zest in the cake (unlike Sweet Angela’s), you couldn’t taste it, which was a bit disappointing. Even the frosting, while light and fluffy, only had just a hint of lime. Overall the key lime flavor just wasn’t present enough in either cupcake, but AngelCakes tasted a bit more authentic and more like a homemade cupcake, so wins my vote in the Key Lime Challenge.

After the Key Lime challenge it was on to the other cupcakes.

Sweet Angela’s Classic Vanilla:

I’ve come to really enjoy vanilla cupcakes, but this was a letdown for me because the vanilla flavor was really not present at all. The cake lacked flavor of any kind and the frosting tasted like a straight buttercream with maybe a touch of inexpensive vanilla extract.

AngelCakes’ Salted Caramel:

My initial reaction was, “This is a good cupcake!” I only planned on eating half (and saving the other half for later), but after my first bite I knew that wouldn’t happen. The cake was  more moist than their Key Lime cupcake (even the next day) and it had a really nice caramel flavor. The frosting also had a great caramel flavor and the saltiness was well represented.

Even though Sweet Angela’s cupcakes were a bit cheaper than AngelCakes’ ($2.50 versus $2.75), I don’t think I would go back there, especially with AngelCakes just a block away. AngelCakes doesn’t make my favorites lists, but there was something nice about their homemade quality.

If you are ever in the Downtown Frederick area, maybe you could visit both shops and have a little “Battle of the Cupcakeries” too?

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

Guest Review | Brewed Awakenings at Lynchburg College | Lynchburg, VA

We have another new guest reviewer! Our good friend Ashley recently graduated from Lynchburg College and spent her entire last semester sending us photos of all the cupcakes she encountered while there. Since her classes kept her busy, she wasn’t able to write up a review for us while she was there, but now that summer is in full swing she took some time to share her experiences with us! In this first review she chronicles the cupcakes she tried from one specific location on campus. Thanks Ashley!

I must admit that when Jenn, Stacy, and Elisa started talking about cupcakes all the time I never thought that it would escalate to the creation of this awesome blog that I enjoy following so much. Cupcakes really are the perfect sweet for me because they are generally pretty small so they are the perfect size for someone who wants to limit his or her sweets intake (like me). While I am nowhere near the cupcake “expert” that the Crusaders are, I have since started eating cupcakes more frequently and find myself capturing the moment in a photo each time to share with the Crusaders and give them my own personal thumbs up or down.

I recently graduated from Lynchburg College, a small liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Virginia and during my last semester there I often visited Brewed Awakenings, the coffee shop located in the building where I worked. One day, while I waited in line I noticed some amazingly delicious looking cupcakes. My initial thought was, “Brewed has cupcakes now!?” – this is when I knew the cupcake phenomenon had reached Lynchburg and I couldn’t resist buying one to see if they were as good as they looked.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is peanut butter and chocolate, something I share with Crusader Jenn’s husband, so without hesitation I chose their Peanut Butter and Chocolate cupcake.

I took just enough time to take a picture of it before I rushed to work with my cupcake so that I could dig in. Considering this was the first cupcake I got from Brewed Awakenings I was not quite sure what to expect. After the first bite, however, I was completely sold. This cake was so moist and complemented by the peanut butter frosting and topped off perfectly with a piece of a Reese’s Cup, my favorite candy. The flavors blended well and completely satisfied my peanut butter and chocolate addiction.

I am very much a creature of habit, so on each visit to Brewed Awakenings I was tempted to get the peanut butter and chocolate cupcake again, but as the semester progressed I deviated and ended up trying several other cupcakes:

Key Lime:

This cupcake was just as, if not more, moist than the peanut butter and chocolate cupcake. I was originally not sure what to think about key lime because I have not had much of it in the past, but the woman working behind the counter insisted it was delicious so I took her word for it. She was certainly correct! The cake was moist and had the perfect amount of lime mixed in with it and the frosting was delicious with specks of lime sprinkled on top of it. Yet again I was completely sold! I would definitely recommend that, if you have yet to do so, you try a key lime cupcake next time you see one!

S’mores:

I love s’mores so words cannot express how completely excited I was about this cupcake.

Just looking at this cupcake my mouth started watering. The frosting with the graham cracker sprinkled on top of it with the mini marshmallows looked so delicious.  Maybe it was the mental build up, maybe it was the fact that the past cupcakes were so good, or maybe it was a mixture of the two but I was sadly disappointed by this cupcake. The frosting and everything on it tasted fine and made the cupcake edible but the cake portion of the cupcake was very dry and resembled corn bread texture (which was surprising based on how moist the past cupcakes were). This was very disappointing especially because I am not a big fan of the texture of corn bread. Perhaps if the cake portion of the cupcake was a little better it could be a totally different cupcake, but I definitely need to try a good s’more cupcake sometime to alter my current opinion on them.

Peppermint Patty:

Following my disappointment from the s’more cupcake I was a little nervous but I dug in anyway. I was relieved when the cake was more moist than the s’more cupcake, although not as moist as the peanut butter and key lime cupcakes. This cupcake was exactly like a peppermint patty with the chocolate covering and the peppermint filling frosting. The flavors all blended really well together and made for a very nice redemption cupcake. The only minor complaint that I have about it is that it was extremely sweet; however, in my opinion, peppermint patties are also extremely sweet so I suppose it was very fitting.

Classic Chocolate and Classic Vanilla:

These two are some of the less memorable cupcakes.  They weren’t horrible but they also didn’t stand out to me as fantastic either.

I wish I were able to tell you who brought these cupcakes to Brewed Awakenings; however, every time I asked the workers behind the counter they did not seem to have an answer for me. The closest thing I got to an answer was that they were delivered by a personal baker who only operates from her house and does not have an actual bakery. If I find out any additional information I will be sure to update everyone!

- Review by Guest Crusader, Ashley (Lynchburg, VA)

Afternoon in Annapolis: JoJo’s Cupcakes & Cream

Some of you may remember the bad storms that barraged the east coast a couple of weeks ago, leaving many of us, including Crusader Stacy, without power for days. During this time, one of our guest crusaders, Jen, was visiting for the weekend. We had planned on spending the afternoon in Annapolis, hometown for Crusader Stacy and Jenn, and wanted to visit Sweet Hearts Patisserie. I found out on Facebook that morning that they were partially without power and would not be serving fresh baked cupcakes that day, since their ovens were not operating. Instead of surprising them while they were at a low, we decided we would cut them some slack and plan a visit for another day. Bummed, we were at least glad that my dad still had power, and he and my step-mom would be able to venture out with us.

Downtown Annapolis was booming! Main Street was full of people, trying to get out of their powerless homes. It was a hot weekend and most people had no other choice but to eat out, with refrigerators and stoves out for the count. Not to mention the excuse to sit in an air-conditioned building. I called Chick ‘n Ruths that morning to make sure they had power, but when we arrived the line ran down the sidewalk. Another change of plans in our day lead us to 49 West, a coffeehouse, wine bar, and gallery on West Street, near Church Circle. They had tables available (apparently their morning rush had finally ended) so we found a spot in the cozy front dining room and perused the menu. Jen and I were happy to see that they serve breakfast late on weekends. So, we got some breakfast sandwiches while Crusader Stacy and our step-mom got a veggie sandwich. I know this is a cupcake blog, so you are probably wondering why I’m going on about 49 West, but it’s because I really recommend it. Great service, good food, and a quaint atmosphere…you really can’t ask for more while in Annapolis. And my step-mom swears that the veggie sandwich was the best she’s ever had in her life. She’s still talking about how good it was.

While strolling along Main Street we noticed that JoJo’s Cupcakes & Cream was open for business and in the same building that Nostalgia Cupcakes (now The Cake Courtesan in Bowie, MD) used to be located. We REALLY miss Nostalgia. Although you can get the same great cupcakes at their new store, the location isn’t as convenient for us anymore so we haven’t had the chance to check them out yet (but we will!). The benefit that JoJo’s has in this building is that they not only have the back space that used to be Nostalgia (and is now their party room), but they also have the street-front store, with windows and signage that can’t be missed.

This JoJo’s location also offers ice cream which is a nice feature, particularly since Annapolis’s tourist months are during the summer, and the locals don’t mind some ice cream in the winter. We had an opportunity to sample JoJo’s cupcakes around Christmas time, back when they had a kiosk in the Annapolis Mall. Anyone remember the missing cupcake mystery?

I think we all agreed that the cupcakes we had this day were a tad too sweet for us, mostly due to the very sweet icing that was piled high. Considering our previous review, this might have to do with quality control. It seemed as if more confectioner’s sugar was used at this location then the cupcakes we had before. One thing they did all have in common was moist, flavorful cake.

Lemon Blueberry

Crusader Stacy and I both got this lemon cupcake with blueberry lemon buttercream frosting. Looking at the frosting, we thought it would be packed with blueberry flavor, however the lemon and sugar overpowered it, and in the end it tasted like it was just a lemon cupcake.

Chocolate Monkey

Guest Crusader Jen and my step-mom both got this cupcake. While Jen felt that the banana flavor was lacking, my step-mom thought it was subtle, but still present. They also felt the icing was too sweet. When I was asking about ice cream and milkshakes I was told that they were out of bananas that day. I wonder if the frosting is supposed to pack more banana flavor?

Boston Cream

True to his nature, my dad stuck with his usual favorite and ordered the Boston Cream. There was just one BIG thing missing from this one…the cream! This boggled our minds because without the cream, it’s just a vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting. I did some research and found out from JoJo’s website that this cupcake is supposed to have a vanilla pudding filling. What happened, JoJo’s of Annapolis?!

Mint Chocolate

Because the cupcakes looked so good, I decided to take a couple home for my husband. I got two of his favorites, Mint Chocolate and Key Lime. While the frosting on this cupcake was sweet like the others, the mint flavor balanced it out well, making this one of my favorites.

Key Lime

Another usual favorite, this cupcake had good tartness but was still a little sweeter than I like in a Key Lime cupcake, although it didn’t seem as sweet as some of the other JoJo’s selections.

Since the day was so hot, Crusader Stacy, Jen, and I also got milkshakes to go along with our cupcakes. The choices were endless! You can make a milkshake out of any of their ice cream flavors and there are a lot to choose from.

Each of our milkshakes was really good and we happily sipped them while walking around the harbor. If you find yourself in Annapolis, I would suggest going to this JoJo’s location for the ice cream and milkshakes. Then if the cupcakes tempt you (which I think they might!) share one with a friend, because there is enough sweetness to go around.

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