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

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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

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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

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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)

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.)

JFKSpot
(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.

Fluellen-Display
(Their lovely display case and beautiful counter.)

Banana Pudding
Fluellen-Banana

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) 

Blast from the Past: Cupcake Cafe in NYC

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(Maple Walnut cupcake from Cupcake Cafe.)

Back in June of 2010 Guest Crusader Jen invited Crusader Stacy and I to help her pick out a wedding dress at the Kleinfeld Bridal in NYC (home to TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress). Although Jen lived in the city, this would be a weekend trip for Stacy and I, and a weekend in NYC wouldn’t be complete without cupcakes. Stacy worked her cupcake research magic and discovered that Cupcake Cafe was conveniently located near our shopping location. Done.

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(Assorted cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe.)

After successful dress shopping (Jen said Yes to a Dress!), we headed over to Cupcake Cafe as a pre-lunch treat. When we entered the shop we were amazed at the flower decorations on the cupcakes, all created with soft buttercream and each one unique. Not only did we pick flavors, but also which design we wanted amongst the selection.

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(Friends, including Liz in the top left and Guest Crusader Jen on the bottom…Cupcakes should always be fun!)

With such beautiful cupcakes, we all took photos and then took turns posing. Some of us take our photo ops very seriously, as you can see. The top right photo is me and my two cupcakes: the Mocha Chocolate and Maple Walnut. I have a long history of not being able to choose just one.

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(
Mocha Chocolate cupcake from Cupcake Cafe.)

My two flavors were standouts, proven by the fact that I still remember them 3 years later. I believe this was one of the first cupcakes I’d ever had that emphasized the “butter” part of “buttercream.” Stacy and I loved the smooth frosting, especially the rich maple buttercream paired with the walnut cake. This cupcake made me realize that frosting doesn’t have to be super sweet in order to be enjoyable.

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(
Top left: Crusader Stacy and Liz at Cupcake Cafe. Top right: Your favorite twins sipping on Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity’s. Bottom: The girls posing in front of Kleinfeld’s.)

On our visit, the cafe was next to Books of Wonder, near the Flatiron District. That location is now closed, however they still have a shop in Hell’s Kitchen (which is actually more convenient to my usual trips). If you prefer less sugar and more butter in your frosting, than definitely give Cupcake Cafe a try!

Our NYC friends indulged Stacy and I throughout the weekend, taking us to Serendipity’s and Dylan’s Candy Bar for more sweets. In addition to stuffing our faces with treats, we also spent time at a flea market and found ourselves at the heart of the Gay Pride Parade. Thinking back on the fun we had that weekend is bittersweet. Jen has moved to LA and Liz will be leaving NYC soon as well. NYC visits won’t be the same without spending time with my girls, but we have some good memories that will always make me smile. And Jen has promised us some LA cupcake reviews!

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

Winter Cupcake Craze: The Cupcakes You Haven’t Seen

You may have noticed, but we’ve been eating a lot of cupcakes this winter. Okay, we eat a lot of cupcakes all the time…but there is something about the winter and wanting rich comfort foods, versus light and refreshing flavors in the spring and summer. We’ve already reviewed a lot of winter flavors for you, like Chocolate Peppermint from La Cakerie and Sweet Hearts Patisserie, Eggnog from Vanilla Pastry Studio and PamCakes, Apple Cinnamon from Dessert Affairs, and we can’t forget the seasonal minis Crusader Stacy tried from Disney’s Epcot.

Aside from all these cupcakes we’ve consumed throughout winter, we’ve neglected to share with you some of the other new flavors we’ve tried from the bakeries we visit (very) frequently. Some are more seasonal flavors, others are flavors to satisfy you on a cold night. All were delicious.

Kupcakes & Co.: Cinnabon Cupcake and Reindeer Cake Pop

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This year, Kupcakes & Co. had the same seasonal flavors as last winter. While we had our share of those again this year, I was also able to try a new flavor: Cinnabon. With their rotating menu and huge flavor selection, you might see flavors you haven’t tried before depending on the day you stop in. I really loved the Cinnabon cupcake, but I’m a sucker for a good spiced cake. Kupcakes & Co.’s cream cheese frosting can be too sweet for me sometimes (not that it stops me), but the cinnamon from the cake and the crumble topping balanced it perfectly.

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While I was in there one day, the owner Michelle succumbed to Leah’s cuteness and gave her one of their reindeer cake pops. It was so well done that I had to snap photos before Leah devoured it. Kupcakes & Co. has added custom cake pops to their menu, so for each holiday you can stop in and find something creative and cute. They also had Santa hat cake pops, and now for Valentine’s Day, they have roses.

Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffee House: Sugar Cookie, Eggnog, Nutella, and Éclair Cupcake

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(Top left to right: Sugar Cookie and Eggnog cupcakes. Bottom left to right: Nutella and Éclair cupcakes.)

Snickerdoodles has been added to the list of bakeries that are household names. My husband will randomly say (on the few cupcake-less nights we have), “I wish we had some Snickerdoodles.” I also now have my big sister hooked. The Sugar Cookie and Eggnog cupcakes were special holiday flavors, and they totally lived up to their name. The cake in the Sugar Cookie cupcake had actual bits of sugar cookie in it and everything about it really tasted like a sugar cookie. I was very surprised, having expected it to just taste like a vanilla cupcake. The Éclair and Nutella cupcakes are regulars that are rotated. Yes, that’s a mini éclair on top (like the mini cannoli on their Cannoli cupcake). The Éclair cupcake could have used more pastry filling for my taste, but I’m addicted to that stuff. The Nutella cupcake was lacking in hazelnut flavor, but was still a decadent, delightful treat.

Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse: German Chocolate, Peanut Butter Lovers, and Sunday Morning Breakfast Cupcakes

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(Top left: Starry Night’s new logo. Top right: German Chocolate Cake cupcake. Bottom left to right: Peanut Butter Lovers and Sunday Morning Breakfast cupcakes.)

You all already know how much we like Starry Night’s Quirky Cupcakes, and with all the love they receive from their customers, they keep adding to the line of flavors. I really like German Chocolate cake, mostly because of that coconut topping stuff, so I’m also a fan of it in cupcake form. Paired with Starry Night’s rich chocolate ganache frosting, it was heaven. The Sunday Morning Breakfast cupcake had maple frosting, topped with a caramel drizzle and chocolate chips. My notes for this and the Peanut Butter Lovers cupcake was, “Mmmmmm,” and that’s it.  There may have been wine involved in this cupcake tasting…

IcedGems: Winter Wonderland Cupcake

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Crusader Elisa picked this IcedGems seasonal cupcake up to try, while the rest of us drooled with envy. Here’s what she had to say about it:

This cupcake was just as its title described, a winter wonderland treat! The vanilla cake had white chocolate chips and dried cranberries in it and was perfectly moist and not too dense, which can be hard to achieve when dried fruit is added to cake. The frosting was a delicious orange buttercream that paired well with the cake flavors. Honestly, I was a little skeptical about how “Winter Wonderland” this cupcake would taste, but there was something about the way the cranberry and orange flavors mixed with the vanilla cake and white chocolate chips that made the flavors come together and create a very wintertime/really good fruit cake flavor. The adorable little white chocolate topper and dried cranberries were great decorations, and added to the wintertime feel. It was a really great cupcake for anyone who likes fruit flavors paired together and I hope to see it again next winter.

We hope that you’ve consumed some great cupcakes this winter, like we have. If you haven’t, it’s still not too late to get out there and make us Crusaders proud!

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

Cupcake Tour 2012 – Philidelphia, PA

The Crusaders have been talking about a Philly tour for the past couple of years. Thanks to Crusader Jenn’s reminder and Crusader Stacy’s planning, we finally made it happen this fall for our Annual Cupcake Tour!

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(Itinerary and stickers included of course, thanks to Crusader Stacy!)

This year it was just us three Crusaders and Mr. Ross, Jenn and Stacy’s dad. (Thanks to Mr. Ross for driving. He truly is a crusader!) While Crusader Stacy, Mr. Ross and I had all been to the “city of brotherly love” before and love its charm and personality, this was Crusader Jenn’s first time. We all couldn’t wait to taste what the cities cupcakes had to offer.

We were all excited to get the tour started, and as we walked up to the corner of our first address we realized we were in front of the Reading Market and that the shop must be a part of the market. What a great location!

Flying Monkey

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Chocolate Chocolate, Espresso, Apple Cinnamon, Maple

The adorable market shop was busy, as was the rest of the market, but the staff were friendly and kept the line moving quickly. We all ordered one cupcake, and ate them standing. Immediately we all agreed that this was the perfect way to start the day! While the flavors were on the light side, they were perfect with the moist cake and buttery frosting. Crusader Stacy really enjoyed the crunchy top of her espresso cupcake; Crusader Jenn liked the moist cake in her apple cinnamon selection; Mr. Ross dove into his chocolate cupcake with gusto and I loved the extra buttery, maple frosting.

After fighting our way out of the Market, we walked down to our next stop and picked up cupcakes to eat after lunch at Moriarty’s Pub (one of my favorite Philly haunts):

Philly Cupcakes

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Chocolate Peanut Butter (aka The Massacre), Toasted Coconut, Sweet Potato Marshmallow, Sweet Potato Pecan

Philly Cupcake is a quaint little shop on a corner with a take out window,  but since it was a cold day, we went inside to peruse their selection and keep warm. Right away the flavor options intrigued and beguiled us, with names like the Massacre and the Coma it’s no wonder we had trouble deciding! This cupcake shop ends up with mixed reviews though, as Crusader Stacy was not all that impressed with her sweet potato marshmallow cupcake, but Crusader Jenn’s “Massacre” cupcake was the best chocolate and peanut butter cupcake she has EVER had. Mr Ross liked his coconut cupcake, as it tasted like a Pina Colada and was light and not too sweet. My sweet potato pecan cupcake was the perfect blend of sweet potato pie and pecan pie rolled into one heavenly mixture. It really was an even split, we liked them all, but only thought two (the Massacre and Sweet Potato Pecan) were anything to write home about.

Our next couple of stops were a bit of a walk, which was good considering we all ate a full lunch and a cupcake! In fact, we took the rest of our tour cupcakes home with us, but we all tried them later that night or the next day to ensure they were still in their prime. Below are our three other stops:

Brown Betty Petite

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Lemon Pound Cake, Pineapple pound cake (aka Aunt Eva Says), Red Velvet (Jean’s Road Trip)

While the lemon and pineapple cupcakes were dense, but overall good, the red velvet was dry and boring. Crusader Stacy thought the pineapple cupcake had really delicious flavor, and while pound cake isn’t her favorite cake it worked in this instance. Crusader Jenn thought the lemon cake was dense and lacked flavor, but the tart frosting was enough to carry the cupcake.

PamCakes

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Chocolate, Spiked Eggnog, PB&J

Both Crusaders Jenn and Stacy love eggnog cupcakes, so right away we were excited to find this flavor. The spiked eggnog was definitely spiked, with a great blend of eggnog and liquor flavor. The moist cake was sweet and satisfying. The PB&J cupcake was on the dryer side, but the flavors were amazing. There was a perfect portion of jelly filling and the peanut butter frosting was spot on in both flavor and texture. This would definitely be a spot we would go back to again!

Sweet Freedom

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Boston Creme, Salted Caramel

As Philly’s first vegan and gluten free bakery, we commend them on their attempt to make sweet treats without real butter or refined sugar, but sadly our cupcake experience fell short. There was really only one word to describe the cupcakes we tried: awful. The Boston creme tasted more like day old stale bread than anything sweet and moist, while the salted caramel chocolate tasted like baked cardboard. They were not large cupcakes, nor were they cheap at $4 per cupcake, but we ended up throwing out most of both. We discussed that perhaps our taste buds are spoiled by real butter, gluten and sugar, and therefore are not the best judges of these particular cupcakes.

While some of the cupcakes were hits and some were misses, overall we thoroughly enjoyed our tour through Philadelphia and look forward to visiting again. It’s always a fantastic day when you get to spend time with your favorite people, eating new cupcakes and exploring a city! (We’ve already started planning next year’s tour and I for one, can’t wait. Bring on the cupcakes!)

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

NYC Cupcake Crawl: Lower East Side and East Village

Prior to being a mom, I used to go to NYC with Crusaders Stacy and Elisa quite a bit. We have friends and family that live there, we love going to shows, and taking a day trip is so easy from our location. I ended up missing our annual spring overnight trip, which means that the last time I was there was when I was pregnant, a year and a half ago. Since I was craving a NYC girls’ trip and missing my friends, Stacy and I drove up for a day trip this fall.

Stacy did all the research and planned our very ambitious day…six cupcake stops, five of them in walking distance (5–15 minute walks). We arrived in the city and made our way to the East Village. Our first stop was Butter Lane Cupcakes.

Butter Lane Cupcakes:

The menu setup at Butter Lane Cupcakes was a little confusing at first. They offer three cake flavors (vanilla, chocolate, and banana) and then a long list of frostings to choose from. If they don’t have the combination you want already assembled, they will fix it up for you. When we first arrived there were people standing outside of the shop eating their cupcakes and it was crowded inside (always a good sign!), but it cleared out quickly with the quick service that staff provided. Stacy noticed a Foursquare offer on the first check-in for a buy 2, get 1 free, so we took advantage of it.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting, Banana with Maple Pecan frosting, and Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting.)

Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting: Possibly one of my favorite cupcakes ever. I was really surprised because the frosting looked crunchy, but it wasn’t. After biting in I couldn’t believe how moist the cake was and it had the perfect balance of flavors.

Banana with Maple Pecan frosting: Stacy thought that the maple overpowered the banana cake (I didn’t think so), but she still loved the frosting. Same super moist cake that was on the dense side, because of the banana.

Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting: Moist light chocolate cake with a rich, salty frosting and caramel drizzle. I would recommend this to anyone who loves the sweet and salty combination.

Prohibition Bakery:

Prohibition Bakery is a basement bakery with just enough room to order your cupcakes, and a small bench inside. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the ledge leading down into the shop ended up being a great spot for Stacy and I to try our cupcakes. Prohibition Bakery only offers mini cupcakes at $2 each or three for $5.


(Top cupcakes from left to right: Margarita and Beer and Pretzel. Bottom cupcakes from left to right: Shiny Apple, Mulled Wine, and Birthday Cake.)

Margarita: I was surprised by how strong the booze in such a tiny cupcake could be! But, it was definitely a cocktail in cupcake form. This cupcake stuck to wrapper a little more than I like for minis (since every bit of cake you can get is precious). But any margarita lover would appreciate this treat. The salt was perfect, like a salted rim.

Beer and Pretzel: This cupcake didn’t stick as much to the wrapper, but it had a weird taste. Maybe it was the beer that’s used? I usually like beer breads and cakes, but I wouldn’t recommend this cupcake.

Shiny Apple: Stacy said this cupcake tasted just like a Washington Apple shot  (whiskey, Apple Pucker, and Hot Damn—instead of cranberry juice). She gave me a bite and I thought it was like spiked apple cider. It became our favorite here at Prohibition Bakery and was perfect for the autumn season.

Mulled Wine: This mini treat was sweeter than the others, but definitely had a mulled wine taste. It was really good, but not a favorite.

Birthday cake: Stacy said the vodka in this cupcake was strong and that it tasted exactly like what it was, a vanilla cupcake with vodka. The cake was moist, but a little crumbly.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine:
After eating lunch at One More Thai (across the street from Prohibition Bakery and highly recommended), we met up with Guest Crusader Jen and her husband James and all headed to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. We were pleased to see that there was seating inside, although it was packed, because more friends, Joanna and Greg, joined us. It was nice to be able to find a few chairs to hang out for a little while. Sugar Sweet Sunshine offers more than just cupcakes, and is also known for their pudding trifles. We were all shocked to see that the regular size cupcakes were only $1.75 (especially our New Yorkers friends who are accustomed to higher prices).


(Cupcakes from left to right: Pistachio and Pumpkin.)

Pistachio: I got this cupcake out of curiosity, but was a little wary since I’ve never had a pistachio cupcake. I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh nutty flavor, and moist, light cake. Because of the uniqueness, this may have been one of my favorite cupcakes of the day (coming in behind the Banana Honey Cinnamon from Butter Lane).

Pumpkin: Stacy picked this cupcake and said the cake was also moist and light, especially for pumpkin, which tends to be heavier.

(Cupcakes from left to right: Strawberry cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Banana.)

Strawberry with Peanut Butter frosting: James got this cupcake and really liked it. He was surprised and pleased that it tasted just like PB&J sandwich, even having a taste of sandwich bread.

Banana: Jen ordered this cupcake and thought it was good. She was expecting the cake to be moister for banana, but it had a good flavor and a tasty, light cream cheese frosting. Jen isn’t usually a fan of cream cheese frosting, so the fact that she liked this one speaks volumes.

Coconut (not photographed): Greg and Joanna shared this cupcake. Joanna isn’t much of a sweets person (I know, I don’t get it either!), but they both enjoyed how light and moist the cupcake was, and that it wasn’t overly sweet.

BabyCakes:

BabyCakes is a well know vegan bakery that uses spelt instead of wheat flour and doesn’t use refined sugars, but sweetens their cupcakes with agave nectar. They also make gluten-free vegan options, and all of their cupcakes are soy-free. The prices varied and were on the higher side. With the price and limited selection Stacy and I decided to share one. We were expecting it to be over $4, based on the price marked on the display, but it ended up being $3.75 (still the highest price of the day for a normal size cupcake). My guess is the specialty ingredients make BabyCakes cupcakes cost more, but it was our least favorite of the day and perhaps the worst cupcake we’ve ever had.

Vegan Lemon: Stacy recognized the texture of the cake was a lot like Sticky Fingers vegan bakery, which we tasted over the summer. The cupcakes at BabyCakes are served cold, which is always a downside. Our first bite did not make a good impression and we only took a second bite to try and pin point the flavors. Despite the lack of wheat flour, the cake tasted floury and also bitter, probably from the spelt. It was hardly sweet, almost like a sugar cookie that suffers from too much salt and flour and not enough sugar in the batter. The frosting, which can sometimes redeem a cupcake, just made it worse. It was sticky, like a runny fondant that solidified due to being chilled.

While we commend BabyCakes for their commitment to being all-natural and offering a healthier, non-processed option on the cupcake scene, it just doesn’t work for the normal cupcake lover.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop:

Little Cupcake Bakeshop was the biggest venue we visited during our cupcake crawl, with the most seating. Just like most of the bakeries, they were very busy, perhaps the busiest one we visited since people linger at the tables. They have a large display for their cupcakes and other confections, areas to watch bakers apply frosting and prepare confections, and a full service coffee shop. Although they were packed, they are also very well staffed. The selection looked amazing, so it was hard to choose. Their cupcakes range from $3–$3.50 for normal size cupcakes, but that’s average in NYC.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Mott Street, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Luscious Lemon.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly: Stacy finally got a PB&J cupcake, one of her new favorites, and thought this one was delicious. She really liked how the jelly was swirled in the cake.

Luscious Lemon: I choose this cupcake, which had a vanilla cake and was topped with lemon butter cream and a meringue swirl. While this cupcake was well made and tasty, I think the name is a little deceiving. I was expecting much more lemon flavor, but the flavor was subtle. But after the previous lemon cupcake from Babycakes, I still thought it was refreshing and just what I needed.

Mott Street: I took the Mott Street home with me, because after hearing the description, I had to have it. It was a vanilla bean cake soaked in Illy espresso and topped with mascarpone cream cheese frosting, then dusted in cocoa powder. The girl who described it compared it to tiramisu. I thought this cupcake was really great, with a light, fluffy, and moist cake.

Baked by Melissa:  October Flavor of the Month

There was no way we could go to NYC without visiting Baked by Melissa, especially will all the locations they have now. Crusader Elisa even gave us her order before our trip, so we had to bring some back for her. We headed uptown, to Grand Central Station where there is a Baked by Melissa next door (a convenient location and also nearby to the restaurant our friend, Liz, works at and where we had dinner). The only new flavor we tried was the flavor of the month (read previous reviews here).

For October, Bake by Melissa offered a carrot cake with mini chocolate chips. Stacy’s thoughts were, “It was interesting because it tasted like carrot cake, but it had no visible carrots, or any of the other usual carrot cake fixings (like raisins or nuts). It was tasty, but the chocolate chips kind of overpowered it.”

We had a great day, filled with cupcakes and friends, so what more could we want?  Stacy and I discovered a few new cupcake places that we now call favorites. It would be hard to choose just one place to visit. Super Sweet Sunshine had their amazing prices and above average cupcakes, Butter Lane had their unique menu approach that allowed for amazing flavor combinations, Prohibition has booze, and Little Cupcake Bake shop has treats that give the feeling of high-end cakes. So depending on where you are in the East Village or Lower East Side and what type of treat you are looking for, we recommend checking out any of these four great places. Then stop by Baked by Melissa for bite size cupcakes to-go. I can’t wait for our next trip to NYC, which will no doubt include cupcakes, but maybe next time we’ll also fit in a Broadway show!

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

J Café: A Hidden Gem

Just as their website says, J Café really is a hidden gem, located on Main Street in downtown Westminster. Crusader Stacy had mentioned them about a year ago, but I wasn’t sure that they were a regular cupcake-carrying establishment, so I never rushed over there. Luckily Stacy reminded me of J Café last week, when they were debuting their seasonal pumpkin cupcake. With no plans for the day, I decided an outing was in order.

(Photo from http://www.myjcafe.com No copyright infringement intended.)

I’ve probably driven past J Café a hundred times, but its understated exterior blends perfectly with the historic Main Street surroundings. I was glad to see that the interior also mimics the traditional Victorian style, with an open entry way, original plank floors, narrow staircase (for what I’m assuming is residential space on the top floors), and a long hallway that leads to the back, where the “front” counter is. Seating is situated in the two large rooms off either side of the hall. At the counter was a display case that was filled with a respectable selection of cupcakes, particularly for a café that seems to focus on breakfast and lunch. There were probably 6-8 cupcakes to choose from. I went with the seasonal Pumpkin Maple cupcake and the Sweet Potato, since it also seemed appropriate for the fall. However, I really want to try the Limoncello!

The cupcakes were tightly packaged in a deli container, but didn’t budge much and made it home successfully. The biggest flaw in the packaging was that Leah could see the cupcakes. My girl has really developed a big love for sweets, but since I planned on waiting to share the cupcakes with my husband later that night, I was left with a very disappointed little girl. (Don’t worry. She got over it easily with a pumpkin spiced Hershey Kiss.)

Pumpkin Maple Cupcake

This cupcake had a soft, moist cake, with a buttery, maple-spiced frosting. The flavors were perfectly balanced and Crusader Elisa (the biggest butter lover you’ll ever meet) would have loved it.

Sweet Potato Cupcake

The Sweet Potato cupcake had a salted caramel frosting and was topped with a candied pecan. The cake was soft and moist, just like the pumpkin, but also had pieces of fresh sweet potato. The frosting was also buttery, and balanced the perfect level of sweetness.

The cupcakes are a normal size and have a home-baked feel to them, which is comforting and goes perfectly with the warmth of the café. After tasting the cupcakes, seeing how nice the venue is, and checking out the breakfast and lunch menu, I can’t believe I waited so long to try them out. I’m looking forward to going back when I can sit with friends and enjoy a full meal, with cupcakes for dessert.

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

“Fall” in Love with Starry Night Bakery & Coffeehouse Again

I didn’t get to Starry Night Bakery & Coffeehouse as much this summer as I would have liked. With all the Cupcake Picnics and birthday parties, there were so many cupcakes and just at an arm’s reach. But, as soon as the air got crisp in preparation for autumn and Starry Night posted their fall flavors to Facebook (and a special Buy 1 Get 1), I was there! The timing was perfect because my mom was in town and we were going to have dinner with Crusader Stacy and my big sister to celebrate my mom getting a job offer that would allow her to relocate back to our area.

As usual, Starry Night’s autumn flavors did not disappoint. We bought an assortment of 4 different flavors, including Maple Pumpkin Spice, Salted Caramel Apple, S’mores, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip.

The Maple Pumpkin Spice is the same cupcake that I was addicted to last fall and it’s just as good this year.

The Salted Caramel Apple is another flavor that we had last year, but for some reason I feel like this year it’s better. The fresh baked apple in the cake makes this cupcake a real comfort food and the sweet and savory from the salted caramel is a perfect balance. It’s my new favorite.

Starry Night is jumping on the s’mores bandwagon with this cupcake, and they’ve done it well. I like the use of dipped chocolate ganache topped in crushed graham crackers, instead of frosting. There is also a marshmallow filling in the center of chocolate cake and then the whole ensemble is topped with some mini marshmallows.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter aren’t really autumn flavors, but Starry Night’s take on this classic was a new addition to their Quirky Cupcakes menu. Knowing how much my husband would like it, we included it in our package. This cupcake has Starry Night’s amazing chocolate ganache frosting with a vanilla cake packed with peanut butter chips. I was concerned with how much peanut butter flavor would come across, but you really did taste it in every bite. My husband and daughter both loved it, and I wish I’d gotten more than just one bite!

Starry Night is still working on autumn inspired cupcakes, with Amaretto chai spice cupcakes topped with chai buttercream added to their creations. They are also offering “Fall Harvest drinks” such as Pumpkin Spice, Maple, Chai, and Toasted Marshmallow. I can’t wait to get back in there to try more!

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

Starry Night Talks to us About Cupcake Wars!

I’m sure we have a few Cupcake Wars fans out there, so if you watched this past Sunday’s show on the Food Network, then you’re in for a treat! Shannon, owner and baker of Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse who competed for the second time this past week, took some time to answer questions for us.

Most of you know by now how often I treat myself to cupcakes and coffee at Starry Night. I’ve also had the opprotunity to share my love with the other Crusaders, so we were all very excited when we found out they would be on Cupcake Wars for the second time. Everything was hush-hush prior to the show airing, but I had a feeling that this would be a redemption show. On Saturday we picked up our Cupcake Wars cupcakes (flavors from their first show) to have our own little celebration Sunday night.


(Cupcakes in hand and ready to go!)


(The Energy Drink cupcakes with Mahoo Wahoo below. Starry Night was ready for us!)


(Cupcakes for my husband and me. I had to throw in a Oreo stuffed cupcake with peanut butter frosting for him!)

Well, it took me less than 10 minutes to devour my two cupcakes, the Mahoo Wahoo and Engery Drink. In this episode the challenge was to incorporate pork BBQ to represent southern flavors. The winners would be taking their cupcakes to the CMA (Country Music Achievement) Awards in Nashville. Right after finishing my cupcakes, smacking my lips, and saying, “Pork?! Shannon’s got this!” came the round 1 elimination. The judges all seemed very pleased with the flavors Shannon and her assistant, Amber, came up with: a sweet potato cupcake topped with BBQ honey glazed ham shreds, maple buttercream frosting, crispy fried prosciutto crumble and a torched marshmallow. Unlike the cupcakes created by some of the other contestants, it looks like something I would really enjoy, a perfect balance of sweet and savory. The judges’ only critique, and a small one at that, was the texture of the frosting. So, you can imagine my surprise (and the surprise of many) when Starry Night was sent home.

But, I guess that’s just how these things work. Maybe something went askew with the frosting during filming, because all I can say is that their maple buttercream is one of my all-time favorites! I was so glad to get Shannon’s thoughts on her experiences with Cupcake Wars:

Crusaders: Have things changed in the bakery since your first episode of Cupcake Wars aired?

Shannon: Things at the shop have been crazy! Saturday mornings and afternoons are awesome because we get to meet so many new faces. People have spent 2-3 hours to travel here, just to have coffee and cupcakes! It is really cool to see little kids get so excited about seeing the shop. Before Cupcake Wars we really didn’t do that many cupcakes. Cakes and desserts were the main focus of attention. Now I am having a blast dreaming up new flavor combos and decorating ideas. We offer 15-20 variations daily.

Crusaders: Were you asked to appear on the show again or did you have to re-apply?

Shannon: They called us and wanted us back. For the short time it was, we had a blast filming again.

Crusaders: What do you like to do to get ready for the competition?

Shannon: We knew from last time to get plenty of sleep and have a TON of coffee in the morning! Being on the west coast on east coast time is not easy! Flying out super early and still being up super late takes its toll. Last time was very stressful and rushed…this time we went with a more laid back, enjoy the journey attitude.

Crusaders: What was it like going back a second time? Did you feel more prepared since you’ve been through the process before?

Shannon: Going back we knew exactly what we were getting into (which makes me question my sanity!). We knew what to bring, what to wear OR NOT WEAR (new Vans on concrete floor for 12+ hours shooting….PAIN)!

Just knowing the process, the area around our hotel, the hotel itself made things a lot less anxiety producing. We knew if one producer called or texted us…10 more of the same would come from other wranglers (assistants).  :)

Crusaders: Did you return to the show with hopes of redemption, after coming so close last time?

Shannon: Heck yea we wanted redemption! We got edged out by someone who lived 5 minutes away from the set and had been there before! I wanted the win, but really didn’t feel it with the CMAs. It was like getting to candy land and finding out you have to go through in the dark…no fun!

Crusaders: We love the Mahoo Wahoo and Energy Drink cupcake from the first episode! Will you be offering any cupcakes from the new episode?

Shannon: We will be offering our Sweet Potato cupcake with Maple Buttercream. It is the same buttercream we featured last fall on our Sunday Morning Pancake cupcake, Pumpkin Spice & Maple Covered Bacon Chai. Over the weekends we will offer the Pork BBQ version as well.

Crusaders: Most pastry chefs and bakers would be worried at seeing pork as an mandatory ingredient, however after your corned beef cupcake, I know you appreciate savory as well as sweet. When you saw the pork, were you nervous or excited?

Shannon: I wouldn’t say I was excited…I was kind of let down. Pork! Again! We did a spam slider last time topped with bacon. I wanted it to be something new, exotic, and fun!

After playing with so many flavors and combinations at the shop, having to use only one ingredient really didn’t seem thrilling. I was going to make mac & cheese as the  “icing”…maybe I should have gone with that!

Crusaders: Any final thoughts?

Shannon: This whole experience has really given me new life and growth in the shop. It has opened doors, huge doors for us, to play and dance through! I am really happy with the amazing crew I get the pleasure to work with everyday. My job is never boring. Sometimes stressful and chaotic, but never boring. I am living my dream…I get to play in my very own candy land everyday, help local charities, and make people smile. It doesn’t get any sweeter!


As I told Shannon, one of the reasons Starry Night is such a favorite for many of us is the feeling you get walking into the bakery. You can tell how much fun they all have, from the friendly team to the eclectic decor. While we wish they had gotten the redemption they were seeking, it doesn’t matter to us and they will always be winners in our book. And who knows, maybe their chance will come again? In the meantime, I can’t wait to try their sweet potato cupcake, so keep an eye out for that!

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

The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Kupcakes & Co. | Elkridge, MD

Since Kupcakes & Co. made the #1 spot on our Top 5 cupcake places on the outskirts of Baltimore City, we have eaten a lot, and I mean A LOT, of cupcakes from their shop. Today I wanted to share with you some of their new spring flavors and give you a peek at some of the cupcakes we’ve had over the past several months that you haven’t seen.

To kick off March, Kupcakes & Co. did their own “March Madness” cupcake style. They had customers submit suggestions for new flavors and then they narrowed it down to their favorite 16 flavors. Each week customers could vote for the flavors they wanted to see in a bracket style tournament. When the final two flavors went head to head, in addition to voting online, customers could actually go to the shop and taste each option and place a second vote. The Crusaders couldn’t miss out on this opportunity! It worked out perfectly too, because my mom (and Jenn’s… we are sisters – twins – for those who don’t already know) was visiting from Florida and she wanted to get cupcakes with us from one of our favorite places. The two final flavors we got to try were Crème Brûlée and Tiramisu.


(Final March Madness Contestant: Crème Brûlée)


(Final March Madness Contestant: Tiramisu)

I was ecstatic to see the two flavors I really wanted to make it to the final round actually make it, but it was so hard to pick between them for my online vote! However, after tasting each at the shop, the Crusaders (with mom and husband in agreeance) thought that the Crème Brûlée was the better of the two. Unfortunately this flavor didn’t win, but the Tiramisu was still so good that I’m looking forward to having another. AND if you weren’t able to try both flavors and would like to, Kupcakes & Co. might be offering the Crème Brûlée for mothers day. If they do, make sure not to miss out! (I will be stocking up for myself and saving some in the freezer…)

Since Tiramisu won the March Madness Contest it will now be featured on their spring menu. Some of the other flavors on their spring menu are Irish Creme, Mint Oreo, and Hummingbird. We reviewed the Irish Creme with our St. Patty’s Day cupcakes, but wanted you to see the other two delicious flavors! All 3 of these flavors will be available through May.

Mint Oreo

The Mint Oreo has crushed Oreos blended inside the cake and a peppermint buttercream frosting with more crushed Oreos on top! Usually the mint cupcakes I encounter are a chocolate cake base, so this was a nice surprise. The yellow cake makes it much lighter and perfect for a sweet treat on a mild breezy afternoon or evening (or morning if like cupcakes for breakfast like I do). :)

Hummingbird

This southern classic cupcake is amazing. You have to like a chunky cake though because it is chock full of fresh bananas, crushed pineapple and pecans. It’s spiced similarly to a carrot cake, but still keeps it light coloring. It is then finished off with their amazing cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with coconut and topped with a pecan. If you like carrot cake, you MUST try this cupcake! It takes everything that’s great about carrot cake but puts it all in a more delicate and airy package, making it a great warm weather option!

While you are there getting the new spring flavors, you will most likely want to try some of their other offerings. Below is a brief look at some of the other flavors we’ve tried.

1. Hazelnut Crunch
2. Chocolate Dipped Strawberry
3. Key Lime
4. Vanilla/Vanilla
5. Salted Caramel
6. Red Velvet
7. Chocolate Covered Pretzel
8. Pancakes and Bacon

If you want to know more about any of these flavors, before visiting their shop, feel free to ask! We love talking about cupcakes.  :)

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

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