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

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

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_1

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

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_2

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

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

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

French ToastSweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_3

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

Classic Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_4

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

Chocolate Covered Pretzel SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_7

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

S’mores SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_6

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

Pumpkin SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_5

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

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

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

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

Baking Experiment: Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes

Fall is in full swing and it is officially pumpkin season. With these cool fall days I can’t help but think of toasting marshmallows by a campfire and making s’mores… What could be better than putting those ideas together for my next cupcake experiment? Ok, I’d love to claim this as my idea, but really it was Crusader Stacy’s. While away on our annual girls trip we were chatting about what kind of cupcake I should make and it all came together. Every year I make pumpkin pancakes on our trip and Crusader Stacy is our s’mores queen. BAM! An idea was born. And it might be my best cupcake yet!

After doing my usual research I settled on these recipes: a graham cracker crust, pumpkin pie spice cake, marshmallow fluff filling, chocolate buttercream with marshmallow fluff edge frosting, and crumbled graham cracker crust sprinkles on top.

PumpkinSmoresCupcake
(A little fall foliage for a fantastic fall flavor!)

Two of my favorite things put together created the perfect fall cupcake AND it was SO good. The graham cracker crust added a flavor and texture that helped make this cupcake truly taste like a s’more. The cake was moist, spicy and didn’t turn out muffiny (which some pumpkin cakes do). The frosting was smooth and, considering it was my first chocolate buttercream ever, it might be the best frosting I have ever made. I baked the leftover crust ingredients and crumbled it on top – that pop of crunch was the perfect way to finish this cupcake.

PumpkinSmoreCutHalf
(Check out that yummy filling!)

I did run into a couple of issues with this baking experiment. The first being that the cake recipe made many more than the 18 that was stated. Granted I had graham cracker crust in the bottom, but after making 2 dozen cupcakes, I had enough batter left over to make at least another dozen. The other issue I ran into is the marshmallow fluff edge on the frosting. I thought it would be as simple as lining the pastry bag with fluff, adding the frosting and presto. Well, not so much. Lining the pastry bag would have worked had I used two types of frosting, but the fluff was a bit too sticky and didn’t line the edges of the chocolate buttercream the way I wanted. It still looked cute and tasted great, so this was only a minor bump in an otherwise smooth baking road.

Overall this cupcake was a total baking success. Sweet, spicy, chocolatey, and with the perfect amount of pumpkin, this cupcake concoction embodies its namesake campfire treat. I’m so glad our girls trip inspired such a fun and interesting baking experiment. Who knows what we’ll come up with for my next flavor – if you’ve got an idea for an interesting (and filled) cupcake that you’d like me to make, let us know below!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, 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)

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)

Rebecca’s Cupcake Surprise! Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery

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

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

Cherry Blossom

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

S’more

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter with IcedGems!

Easter is a holiday I look forward to all year, not only is it an important religious day to me, it also boasts time with family and friends, fantastic food, and chocolate bunnies. This year, like always, I headed down to my parents’ house to spend some time with them and of course I could not come empty handed – so I brought some Easter cupcakes from IcedGems with me to share!

A while ago Healthy Crusader Rebecca told me she was going to order some cupcakes for her Easter celebration and had ordered some for me too! When she went to pick up her order of regular and mini cupcakes, she also received FREE egg-shaped cake truffles! Luckily Rebecca shared the delightful French Toast cake truffle with me which I quickly ate up! (Each time I eat a flavor of cake truffles I love them, but my favorite is the French Toast!)

(French Toast Egg-Cake Truffle)

Rebecca also shared the mini cupcakes – sweetly decorated for the upcoming Easter Sunday and equally as sweet tasting – with me and her staff.

(Minis: French Toast with a Robbins Egg, Black Velvet with bunny sprinkles, & Lemon)

On Saturday I made the hour+ trek to my parents’ house, and they were not shocked when I showed up with IcedGems cupcakes. My Mom loves vanilla and my Dad loves chocolate, so there was something for both of them!

Birthday Cake with an Easter decoration twist

With there being a “Birthday Cake” vanilla cake with Madagascar bourbon vanilla buttercream icing, I knew my Mom would want to try that one first! I’m not always into the basic flavors, but this is a cupcake I am happy to eat again and again. Mom agrees too!

Lemon with Spring Flowers

The lemon cupcake was divine! I love true citrus flavor and this cupcake was no citrus joke. It was very tangy and tart – maybe too much for some people, but not me. I loved the color of the cake and the flecks of lemon zest in the icing.

Easter Peep S’mores

I love IcedGems S’mores cupcake, but add a Peep and you’ve got a combination that I cannot resist! Peeps are such an Easter tradition, I love how they were incorporated into a flavor that marries so well with having a sugar coated marshmallow chick on top. And of course, I enjoyed eating it too.

Chocolate Lava Nest

Simply put: This cupcake is a chocolate lovers dream. And the egg candy toppers were a cute touch, had they been the same color I would have thought they were bunny ears sticking out of the ground.

I’m always impressed with IcedGems ability to have consistently good flavors, moist cake, delicious icing, and great decorations. The fact that they have special deals, like our Valentines Day treats and Easter treats, and take custom orders is great for a cupcake lover who wants to share with others. It almost doesn’t feel like a holiday to me without IcedGems cupcakes! I’m so glad I could bring some home to share with my wonderful family, on a day as special as Easter. No need for chocolate bunnies when you have yummy cupcakes!

Did you have cupcakes this weekend? Or perhaps you made some to share with your friends and family – did you decorate them in Easter decor?

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

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The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | IcedGems Creations | Reisterstown, MD

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, the Crusaders and I have tried just about every flavor that IcedGems Creations has offered in the past few months. We listed our favorites for you, but here are some you haven’t seen yet:

Ban-offee

(While the coffee flavor in this was too subtle for me, the natural banana flavor was spot on.)

Bear Claw


(This cupcake was very close to making my “must try” list. The cake reminds me of the bear claws my Dad used to make at the doughnut shop he owned when I was a kid.)

Caramel Apple

(Sweet and decadent, this cupcake truly lives up to its name. The icing alone makes this cupcake a smart purchase.)

Chocolate Cherry


(This rich chocolate cake was given an interesting cherry twist.)

Italian Wedding Cake

(Mascarpone filling with an almond flavor = delicious.)

Raspberry Lemonade

(With a light lemon flavor and a sweet raspberry icing, this adorable cupcake is as sweet as it is cute.)

Rosewater

(While I am not afraid of eating flowers (or baking with them) this cupcake was a bit too “rosey” for me.)

Smores


(Not quite enough marshmallow flavor for me, but still a great chocolate cupcake.)

Strawberry Cheesecake


(Not the typical “mini-cheesecake in a cupcake cup” this is truly a cake with cheesecake flavor and fantastic icing to top it all off!)

Have you been to IcedGems Creations (either the store front or visited the cupcake truck)? What are your favorite flavors? Are there any the Crusaders have not tried that you think we should?

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


Will Flavor Cupcakery “Win” the Crusaders Vote?

Several months ago, prior to their appearance (and win) on Cupcake Wars, a couple of friends told the Crusaders about Flavor Cupcakery, located north of Baltimore City in Bel Air, Maryland. We were unable to make it to their storefront location before the show aired, but after their success, we knew we had to check them out. So, last Saturday, Crusader Elisa, some good friends and I met for brunch followed by cupcakes at Flavor. The day was warm for January and brunch was great, it was a perfect way to start the day!


(Flavor’s shop located at 118 North Tollgate Road  Bel Air, MD 21014)

When we arrived at Flavor there were a few customers ahead of us, which was great as we could shop the fun merchandise and make our cupcake selections.


(They had some great t-shirts! See the peach “LOVE” shirt at the top right? That shirt belongs to me now.)

The staff were amazingly friendly. Patient, full of smiles and willing to answer all our questions. They couldn’t have been a better fit in the adorable cupcake shop.

We all decided to have a cupcake there and then take a bunch home. They didn’t have any seating inside, but they did have a small table and a bench outside. Since the weather was so beautiful, we took the chance to enjoy it.

I decided that I would have the Cupcake Wars flavor, Modern Fruit Cake, first.

I was so intrigued by this flavor and didn’t know what to expect. The rum vanilla bean frosting was not too sweet and very creamy, like butter. The five spice vanilla cake was very dense, but still moist and had a great flavor which the spices really came through. While the frosting and cake already formed a great cupcake, the filling is really what made it stand out.

The filling was full of raisins, cherries and walnuts and had a great gooey texture. Overall this cupcake had so many different levels of textures and flavors that all worked cohesively. It was the only Cupcake Wars cupcake they had that day, but I would love to see what their other ones taste like. It’s amazing to me that this cupcake was thought up in minutes, not weeks.

While we were there, Elisa decided to have the Snickerdoodle one she bought.

Here are her thoughts on this cupcake: “This cupcake really spoke cinnamon to me! The cake was teaming with cinnamon and the butter cream icing swirled with it as well. You might be thinking, that’s too much cinnamon, but the flavor was spot on! Not over powering at all! The moist cake complimented the buttery icing, creating a smooth, not-too-sweet cupcake that I could eat over and over again. On top of tasting great, this cupcake was beautiful in color and texture.”

So far, we were two for two! Our two friends decided to eat the S’mores cupcake they selected. It consisted of a graham cracker pie crust, chocolate cake, and a marshmallow frosting.

Elisa also got this cupcake and tried it later, at home. She said, “The shocking part of this cupcake was when all three components were eaten together it completely tasted like a smore, but when eaten apart, I couldn’t taste the marshmallow flavor in the icing. That minor detail didn’t matter, because together the buttery graham cracker pie crust, moist chocolate cake, and buttery sneakily marshmallow flavor, created one rich and whimsical cupcake.”

All in all, we left there very happy and with many cupcakes to indulge in later. I also left with a dozen cake truffles since my husband and I were having company over that night. But I’ll post more on those later. For now, we’ll get back to the cupcakes.

Crusader Jenn was coming to my house the next day and really wanted to try these cupcakes too, so I saved the remaining five (of my initial half a dozen) so we could enjoy together.

We started with the Peanut Butter Chocolate.

The dome of peanut butter frosting really had us excited. It was a little less “frosting-like” and a little more peanut buttery, but still was a very satisfying peanut butter mixture. Unfortunately the chocolate cake was crumbly and dry. We were super bummed about this and hesitant to move on to the next cupcake, a Double Chocolate cupcake with chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting.

As we suspected, the cake was also dry and crumbly, but the frosting was amazing! I’m a big fan of dark chocolate and this frosting hit the mark. If the cake had been more rich and moist this cupcake would have been a big winner.

We still had 3 cupcakes to go, so we decided to go with the last cupcake that contained chocolate cake: The Salted Caramel.

Surprisingly, the cake wasn’t dry and the smooth salted caramel frosting was UNBELIEVABLE! This is easily the best salted caramel frosting I’ve ever tasted. It was just the right blend of sweet and savory. The saltiness didn’t over power the caramel and likewise, the caramel didn’t overpower the saltiness. It was a perfect combination. I was so glad I decided to get this one!

With only two left to go, I decided to give the Vanilla a try. If you’ve been reading recently, you’ll know that lately I’ve been really into Vanilla. I used to think it was boring, but I’ve had some cupcakes that had great vanilla flavor and have decided that, when done correctly, it’s a tasty classic.

Unfortunately this Vanilla didn’t do it for me. The cake was moist and the frosting was creamy, but it lacked the punch of vanilla flavor that I was looking for. So, not a total disappointment, just not the best I’ve had.

With that, it was time for the last cupcake, the Mixed Berry one.

This cupcake is vanilla cake, with a raspberry filling and a strawberry frosting. Normally, I’m not a fan of strawberry frostings, but this cupcake was AMAZING. It was definitely my favorite of the bunch. On its own, the frosting was really sweet, but with the mild vanilla cake and the tart raspberry filling, it all worked so well together.

The filling was the biggest surprise. The way it was so evenly distributed in the cupcake was really nice. It ensured that with every bite you got the raspberry and strawberry flavors mixed together. I would drive the half hour to have another bite of this cupcake. It was so good!

As I mentioned above, I also got some cake truffles for “game night” at my house. They had three flavors in the shop, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Funfetti, and Double Chocolate, so I requested a mixture of them.

The first I tried, before everyone arrived, was the Salted Caramel. Like the cupcake, it was a great blend of salty and sweet. Later that night I sampled the Chocolate Funfetti which was dipped in white chocolate. This little cake truffle was packed with rich chocolatey sweetness. After just one, a tall glass of milk would have been wonderful. I didn’t try the Double Chocolate until the next day and strangely, something seemed “off” about it. We aren’t sure what it was, but there were three of us tasting it and we all couldn’t quite place it.

Overall, I was really happy with my Flavor experience. There may have been some things that weren’t my favorite, but the treats that were good, were really good.

I’m so happy that our Maryland cupcakeries are getting so much recognition on a show like Cupcake Wars. One day, I hope to visit all the Maryland locations that have competed.

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

Great Cupcakes & Packaging = One Happy Crusader

It’s no secret that I am a sucker for great packaging. But when there are 25 delicious mini cupcakes inside that great packaging, I go weak in the knees. It’s a bit (or a lot) nerdy, but I just can’t help myself.

For Christmas my husband ordered cupcakes from one of my favorite NYC locations, Baked by Melissa. I was in awe of the packaging. They arrived frozen, in a custom shipping box, complete with a custom printed Baked by Melissa ice pack. Since I’ve reviewed their cupcakes a couple times before (here and here) I’m going to focus on the amazing packaging.


(LOVE the slogan on the box!)

Inside the shipping box was the gift box that contained the tasty little gems. This sturdy box is not some cheap throw-away. Adorned with their logo on the top, their tie-dyed pattern on the inside, and sealed with a tie-dyed ribbon, it’s a keeper.

Once opened, you are face to face with ANOTHER piece of their unique packaging which keeps each tiny cupcake upright and protected from any rough handling that may occur during delivery. All 25 cupcakes were in perfect condition when I received them.

I like to call each little section built for the cupcakes “Freshness Pods.” My husband received the frozen cupcakes on Wednesday, December 21st and gave them to me on Friday, December 23rd. A week later, I was shocked that the cupcakes were still moist! I think each compartment somehow seals in the moisture and keeps the cupcakes from drying out. Hence the name “Freshness Pods.”

Since we really loved their December Mini of the Month, Snow Covered Pretzel, half of the container was filled with just them. The other half was a blend of some of our other favorite flavors like Cookie Dough, Cinnamon, and Peanut Butter & Jelly.

The only downside to them being frozen and then thawed is that the pretzels ended up being a bit chewy. They weren’t too bad and the flavor was still great, it just lacked the crunch from the store-bought ones we initially tried.

I was also excited to try the S’mores, since they were out of this flavor when I first went to their Fashion District location.

Like the Snow Covered Pretzel, the graham cracker ended up being a little chewy, but overall, I still enjoyed this one too.

January’s Mini of the Month is New York Cream, a take on Boston Cream with a custard filling and a chocolate drizzle. Boston Cream cake and doughnuts are a favorite of mine, so I would love to try this cupcake, but unfortunately I won’t be able to get to NYC this month (and I can’t justify the high shipping rates and $25 minimum just to try one flavor). If you get a chance to try it, let us know how it is, we’d love to hear about it!

Baked by Melissa seems to be doing everything right. From their tasty little cupcakes to their quality packaging, they remain on my list of favorites.

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

S’mores Cups

smorescups1_watermark

I’ve mentioned before that I believe there are certain non-cupcake items that can be discussed on this blog because, to me, they are in the “cupcake family” and that cupcake lovers will also enjoy reading about them.  These delicious, and incredibly easy to make, S’more Cups are in that category. I’ve also mentioned before that I have a long list of recipes that I’ve been collecting, and in an effort to work through that list, I’ve decided to bake one at least once a month, and share my results here. This month’s recipe I came across from Pampered Chef (click here for full recipe). I knew our recent girls weekend getaway would be the perfect opportunity to make these. Us six girls have all gotten together for a weekend in the fall for the past 4 years, starting in tents, then moving to a rustic cabin, and this year, a nice house. The downside to the house was that there was no place to roast marshmallows for S’mores (which I’m usually put in charge of) so these little S’mores Cups were the next best thing.

You are going to be shocked how easy these are. I don’t have a lot of the Pampered Chef “equipment” so I had to improvise and they still weren’t hard to make:

Step 1:
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Place graham crackers into a large resealable plastic bag. Finely crush into crumbs. Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter in Small Batter Bowl.

Step 2:
Using a small scoop, place a small amount of crumb mixture in each cup of a mini muffin pan. Press crumbs to form shallow cups with a Mini-Tart Shaper (I didn’t have this, so I used my fingers). Bake 4-5 minutes or until edges are bubbling.

Step 3:
While the crust is in the oven, break two of the candy bars into rectangles. Remove pan from oven; place one rectangle into each cup.

Step 4:
Cut marshmallows in half crosswise. Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup. Return to oven 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are just slightly softened. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan. Cool completely.

Step 5:
Break remaining candy bars and place in bowl. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute-1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds. Dip the top of each marshmallow in melted chocolate. Turn top-side up and let stand 40 minutes-1 hour or until set.

Yield: 24 cups
Store the cups in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Freezing is not recommended. For a richer chocolate flavor, substitute dark chocolate candy bars for the milk chocolate.

I think next time I’m going to try the dark chocolate. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so I think that would take these from AWESOME, to UNBELIEVABLE.

Either way, this simple treat was a huge hit for our girls “camping” trip, and I might be making them a staple at our yearly gatherings.

Full recipe available at PamperedChef.com (click here).

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