Stay Sweet Cupcakery | Lewisburg, PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caramel Latte

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

Heath Bar

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

Salted Caramel

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

Pineapple Coconut

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

Peanut Butter Pie

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

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

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

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Boozy Blue Hawaii Cupcakes

It’s April, but feels more like February. Urgh. I am very ready for warmer weather, which must be why, when thinking about cupcakes to make for my next experiment, my mind wandered directly to tropical flavors. Coincidentally, I happen to have the Booze Cakes cookbook (which I have been eager to use) and found the perfect recipe to quench my tropical thirst: Blue Hawaii Pineapple Upside-down Cupcakes.

BoozCakesBook

I know… it’s not my own flavor combination, nor is it filled, but it was all I could think about making once I saw it. It was a complicated recipe, that included several challenges: homemade rum sauce and boozy whipped cream, dying and layering batter, and toasting coconut – all from scratch. After gathering all the ingredients, including a bottle of Blue Curaçao, I was ready to bake. I only hoped my cupcakes turned out as beautiful as the photo in the book.

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First things first, the Rum Pineapple topping. Butter, brown sugar, and rum makes the sauce, and I was so excited to use the Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum I brought back from a trip. (Side note: If you go to Jamaica, buy a large bottle of this rum, it is totally worth it.) The sauce gets spooned onto the pineapple rounds at the bottom of the cupcake pan. No liners for this baking experiment, the top was really going to be the bottom for this cupcake.

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Once the sauce and pineapple rounds were in place I moved on to making the batter. Having never dyed batter before, it was interesting dividing it out and adding the food coloring. It felt and looked more like I was mixing paint than making cake batter. Very fun! And I had no idea you had to cool the first layer before you add the second layer. (I’m now looking forward to the challenge of making more color layered cake recipes.)

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The cake didn’t bake up the way that normal cupcakes do, instead it stayed very flat. But it looked that way in the pictures, so I tried not to worry too much and moved on to make the “spike whipped cream,” which was possibly the easiest and BEST recipe for really fantastic boozy whipped cream:
• 3 cups (1 pint) heavy cream, cold
• 5 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons liquor, wine or liqueur
• food coloring (if desired)

The Appleton Estate Rum made another appearance, and I couldn’t believe how much rum flavor came through in the whipped cream. Assemble and voila!

HawaiiBlueCupcake(Almost as pretty as the picture in the book!)

I managed to create my own little teleportation device in the form of a cupcake… all together the flavors whisked me away to a tropical beach! I literally closed my eyes and imagined laying on a beach while drinking a pineapple and rum cocktail. The cake turned out a bit on the dense side, but it was so moist and flavorful that it didn’t matter. Boozy for sure: you could definitely taste the rum and the blue curaçao in the cake, as well as the rum in the whipped cream. On a cold too-much-like-winter day in April, a little bit of the tropics is just what this Crusader ordered!

Moogie & Pap also made these cupcakes. To read about their results and to get the full recipe, click here.

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

Happy Hour Cupcakes from Kupcakes & Co.

Summer may be coming to an end, but Kupcakes & Co. decided to go out with a bang. All last week was their Happy Hour Week, with a featured cupcake fashioned after popular drinks and special offers to go along with them.

I had a chance to stop by and sample some of the week’s offerings. As usual, I was greeted with a friendly smile and eagerness to help out.  They were only featuring one happy hour cupcake a day, and on this day the option was Piña Colada.

This cupcake had Kupcakes & Co.’s signature light, moist cake, flavored with coconut (and rum?), pineapple frosting, and was topped with coconut. As soon as I bit into the treat I thought, “Wow! It tastes just like the drink!” It’s one of my favorite Piña Colada cupcake to date and made me crave the actual drink, just to continue the flavor.

Due to my timing in stopping by the shop, I was fortunate enough to get the cupcake that would be featured the next day: Margarita, my favorite drink! I’m sure you can imagine my excitement.

The Margarita cupcake had a lime, rum cake (although I didn’t really detect the rum), with a lime frosting, sprinkled with salt, and topped with a festive paper umbrella. Although the cake was amazingly moist and light, just how I like it, there was one thing still missing for me: the telltale tequila flavor. Since I love margaritas, I would have liked to pick up hints of tequila. But I am glad they added salt, because a lot of margarita cupcakes skip the salt, and I’m a salt on the rim girl.

Whenever I’m at Kupcukes & Co. I always scan the display case for new flavors I haven’t had before. They have a large rotating menu, and on this day I saw Peach Cobbler. The moist peach cake maybe could have used more peaches, but then again that could have made the cake mushy. I particularly loved the crumb/streusel topping and small dollop of vanilla bean frosting. Frosting lovers might not agree, but I thought it was the perfect amount for a cobbler cupcake, just like having a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

While we don’t usually review cookies, this item needs to be mentioned. Besides, it has frosting so that makes it okay. This summer, Kupcakes & Co. has been offering a margarita sandwich cookie. The only way to describe it is to say it’s amazing. On my last visit, they only had the cookies without frosting. I really liked the cookies and thought the frosting might make this treat too sweet for me, but I was wrong! The sandwich cookie had the perfect amount of salt to balance the sweet. Dare I say I may have liked this more than the cupcake? I can’t even pinpoint why, with them both sporting the same frosting, but it was just that good.

Special Mention:
Cassis Macaroon from Apple Pie Bakery Café,
The Culinary Institute of America
While I was there I talked to the owner, Michelle, about her twin daughters going off to college. Allison just started at JMU and Amanda is at the CIA in New York. She is such a proud mom (as she should be!), and took the opportunity to share with me what sorts of treats come out of the CIA kitchens, include one of the amazing macaroons. If I’ve had a macaroon before, it was forgettable, but this one was not. It had the perfect texture I’ve heard described on The Food Network, crunchy and smooth on the outside, soft on the inside, with a mild, but sweet flavor. Hopefully macaroons of this quality will be a part of the menu at Kupcakes & Co. in the future. And now I’m really curious what the cupcakes at Apple Pie Bakery Café are like…

Weekend Cupcake: The Baltimore Area Cupcake Hobbyist

When a reader recommended Weekend Cupcake, I knew I had to check them out. We love getting suggestions on new cupcakes to try, so I immediate headed to their Facebook Page to scope them out. After browsing through their photos of tasty looking cupcakes and reading all the rave reviews on their timeline, I contacted them to find out where they are located and if they would be willing to put together a tasting dozen for us to sample. The creator of Weekend Cupcake, Mark, emailed me back right away and said he would be thrilled to do that for us!

Throughout our correspondences I learned that Mark refers to himself as a “Cupcake Hobbyist” and his goal is to “deliver affordable, tasty and gourmet cupcakes to customers so they have an enjoyable event.” Weekend Cupcake was looking better and better and I began counting down the days until it was time to pick up their cupcakes.

We decided on a tasting dozen that consisted of 4 different flavors. I knew 2 flavors would be Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bar, the other 2 would be a surprise. After about a month or so of waiting, it was finally time to get my cupcakes. When Mark arrived at our agreed upon meet up location he took time to talk a bit and go over the cupcake flavors with me.

In addition to the 2 flavors I already knew about, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bar, there was also Chocolate Chocolate and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Knowing that I would never be able to finish all 12 on my own, I headed over to my sister’s house where she, Crusader Jenn, and I split them up (Crusader Elisa was unfortunately out of town that weekend). After my nieces went down for their naps, we dove in!

I started with the Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bar pictured above. Ohhh.Emmm.Gee. The moist yellow cake was infused with toffee pieces and filled with a dark chocolate ganache. Then, the cupcake was topped (as you can see) with caramel, toffee, chocolate, and a Rolo candy piece. If I recall correctly, I mumbled many praises with a mouth full of cupcake.

Crusader Jenn decided to start with the classic Chocolate Chocolate cupcake. At first we thought it might have been topped with sea salt, but it turned out to be large sugar crystals, which kept this cupcake sweet and added a nice crunch. On its own, the cake was moist and light, however, probably could have been a little richer in flavor. But the frosting… WOW. So rich and creamy that it was a full on chocolate explosion. In fact, the frosting was so decadent that the light chocolate cake probably created a better overall cupcake experience.

My big sister, Alissa, choose the Peanut Butter Chocolate to sample first. She doesn’t join us on all our cupcake adventures, but she has been on enough to know a good cupcake when she tastes one, and this cupcake had her smiling from ear to ear. The big surprise was that this cupcake had a full size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup baked inside the cake! Peanut Butter Chocolate is a favorite flavor for my husband so (being the wonderful wife that I am…) I shared with him. We both really enjoyed it and I think it may actually be one of the best Peanut Butter Chocolate’s he’s ever tried.

The last cupcake left was the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This cupcakes is the perfect summer treat! It was light and moist with a pineapple ring and a maraschino cherry baked in the bottom.

Weekend Cupcake really did make my weekend! Crusader Jenn and I liked them so much that we are actually thinking of ordering some for our big 30th birthday coming up. His prices are very reasonable and his cupcakes are scrumptious. That’s a winning combination in my book.

If you would like to find out more about Weekend Cupcake visit their Facebook Page or email Mark at weekendcupcake@gmail.com.

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

Baking & Decorating Experiment: Hummingbird Cupcakes

On my mom’s recent visit to Maryland, she wanted Stacy and I to take her to a couple of our favorite cupcake places. One of those places was Kupcakes & Co., which we ranked number 1 in our Top 5 outside Baltimore City. While there, I tried their hummingbird cupcake for the first time. It was described as banana, pineapple, pecans, a little spice, and topped with cream cheese frosting, kind of like a spring-summer carrot cake. At the time, I thought this was a unique creation, but then I started seeing other places promoting their hummingbird cupcakes. I guess I’m still an amateur at this!

Having loved Kupcakes & Co.’s hummingbird cupcake, I decided that for my spring-into-summer recipe I wanted this to be the cake. I also wanted to dabble with decorating cupcakes differently, to practice some techniques. After researching the cake, I wasn’t sure if it would be sacrilegious to top a cupcake, based off a traditional southern recipe, with a springtime explosion. But these are my cupcakes after all! I found out that some recipes call for including coconut on top and thought this would be perfect for “grass.” I also wanted to practice piping flowers and hard royal icing decorations, so I did it all!

Since I knew I’d be spending time on the decorations, I wanted the cake to be easy. I scoured the internet for a recipe that used a box mix to start, but had more trouble finding one than I anticipated. I discovered that the cake was a standard yellow cake, so just when I thought I would have to wing it, I finally found Duncan Hine’s recipe (now I know to just start at their website)! The recipe calls for the addition of Maraschino cherries, but since I hadn’t found that in other recipes, or in Kupcakes & Co.’s version, I decided to leave them out. I also added a whole banana, instead of just half, and substituted walnuts for pecans. That was a last minute decision, after seeing how much more pecans cost versus walnuts. I had no idea!


(Cake ingredients)


(I love texture in cake. Look at all of those yummy walnuts!)

The cake part was really easy. I did make my own cream cheese frosting and after debating on which to go with, choose one from SlashFood. The reviews were good and it seemed similar to some of the other frostings I’ve made that start with a cream cheese base. I added extra confectioner’s sugar to get the consistency right, but I think that’s because I choose to do this on a warm day. I used to think making frosting was complicated, but not anymore (or at least not the recipes I use)!


(Four simple ingredients to the cream cheese frosting.)

Starting the decorating process, I dyed shredded coconut using green food color. I had read about adding the dye to a little water first, but it just made the coconut almost too wet to work with. In the future, I will just put the dye right in, shake it up, and see what happens. After the coconut was green, I took my frosted cupcakes and dipped them into the coconut to completely cover the tops.


(Since you don’t have to worry about what the frosting looks like, I just used a butter knife to slather it on.)


(I didn’t think so much of the frosting would show through the green coconut.)

Prior to getting the decorating started, I experimented with the royal icing. I knew a form of royal icing is used in gingerbread houses as the “glue.” I thought it was just water and confectioner’s sugar and found recipes that only called for that, but it wasn’t setting up the way I planned. More research led me to discover that in order for it to get really hard, you have to add Meringue Powder. Who knew?! I learn something knew every time…

Since I wouldn’t be able to go out until the next day, I tried creating some piped flowers. After trial and error, I now realize that 1) it was just too warm in the house to get buttercream to cooperate and 2) I need more piping tips to choose from.

After a trip out the next day, with my cupcakes only half decorated (and some with failed flower attempts), I was finally able to get the royal icing decorations done. The consistency still wasn’t where I wanted it, even after adding more water than called for (maybe this is why sifting first is so important?), but I worked with it anyway and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out!


(Before piping, I sketched a couple of flowers and hummingbirds. Then I covered the sketches with wax paper, to use as a template.)

In the end, I had 3 versions of decorated cupcakes:


(I still wanted to make some traditional looking. I love the minimalistic look and I wanted to taste the cupcakes without the coconut, to see which I preferred.)


(My attempt at piping flowers. From far away, and at the right angle, they don’t look too bad…)


(Maybe not a traditional look, but I think they look great for a spring party!)

Flavor wise, the cake turned out great (but still not as good as Kupcakes & Co.)! I like the coconut on top because the cream cheese frosting turned out a little sweeter than I prefer, so the coconut toned it down.

Aside from having some great tasting cupcakes, I learned some new things. My favorite technique is the royal icing decorations. I feel like the possibilities for custom cupcake toppers are now endless!

What are some favorite things you’ve learned by challenging yourself in the kitchen?

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

Healthy Cupcakes: Italian Wedding Cake Re-make

Continuing with her healthy crusade, Rebecca has another recipe for cupcakes with fewer calories and less guilt then their original recipe.

One of my favorite cupcakes, that I have not had in a while, is the “Italian Wedding Cake” cupcake from IcedGems bakery. This pineapple almond shortening cake with cream cheese frosting is light, fluffy, decadent, and flavorful. I knew I wanted to recreate these flavors for my next “lightened up” recipe, so I decided to try a few new substitutions to recreate the almond, pineapple, and coconut flavors of the Italian Wedding Cupcake.

To make the cake, I started with a basic white cake mix and used a can of crushed pineapple in juice (not heavy syrup). The additional moisture from the pineapple was going to be my oil substitute. I did include 2 eggs in this recipe to ensure that the cake would rise. For added texture, I included ¼ of a cup of coconut flakes and ¼ of a cup of crushed pecans. Once it was well mixed, I added 2 tablespoons of almond extract, to really give it that almond kick I was looking for!

I recently found new cupcake baking cups that wouldn’t “fade” after baking and was very excited to test them out! So while the cakes were baking in the new StayBright baking cups, I moved on to the frosting.

IcedGems’ cream cheese frosting is rich and thick, like cheesecake, so I wanted to try and create a cheesecake flavor, without the added sugar and cream cheese. I used an 8oz. container of Whipped Weight Watchers Cream Cheese, mixed with sugar-free cheesecake pudding mix that had been dissolved in 8oz. of skim milk. The texture was similar to very thick pudding, but it had a nice cream cheese flavor. The pudding mix served as a wonderful, alternative to sugar in this recipe, cutting back on the calories and WW points!

This recipe made 24 cupcakes and remained at 4 Points, which is very reasonable for a dessert. I was very pleased with the flavors and texture and would make this recipe again, though the next time IcedGems is featuring their Italian Wedding Cake, I will be sure to stop by the truck for one!

- Recipe by our Healthy Guest Crusader, Rebecca (Baltimore, MD)