About Crusader Elisa

Art Director by day, cupcake eater by night, and "doggie mom" to Delilah. Life doesn't get much better!

Philly Cupcakes… And a HUGE Surprise!

A few weeks ago my boyfriend, Mike, took me on a day trip and what I thought was just a fun adventure that included cupcakes, turned into something much more…and I’m happy to share with our readers on Valentine’s Day.

After an evening visiting Mike’s brother, Joe, for his birthday, and a lovely hotel stay in Collegetown, our fun day started in Philly at Love Park. This was Mike’s first timing visiting the park and seeing the famous Love sculpture, so we braved the cold and were lucky enough that a wonderful man who was clearing snow offered to take our picture.

LOVEsculpture
I don’t normally pose, but I’m grateful that I followed the man’s instructions because this photo couldn’t be more perfect!

After a brisk walk, we found ourselves at Smokin Betty’s for some much needed brunch. Wow, the food and drinks were amazing and we felt as if we found a hidden gem!

Brunch
Smoked Salmon Hash for me and the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich for Mike

No meal is complete without a cupcake, so we walked over to the Reading Terminal Market to grab some from my favorite place in Philly; Flying Monkey Bakery! The market was packed, but I quickly picked a cupcake and found two seats in the picnic area. Mike ended up the the flourless chocolate cake, which he ate so fast I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of it, and I chose the chocolate hazelnut cupcake.

FM-ChocolateHazelnut

Smooth, moist, with the perfect amount of hazelnut flavor, this cupcake takes the cake. Flying Monkey has such consistent frosting, I always know I will love it. Granted, it is very buttery, so if you prefer a sweet frosting, you may not love it as much as I do. The chocolate cake was moist and not too sweet with wonderful flavor. This wasn’t my first time at Flying Monkey, but it was my first time trying the chocolate hazelnut, and it won’t be my last. The true “cherry on top” was the free button I received after checking in on FourSquare! They only had two holiday buttons left and Mike helped me pick the holly berry red velvet; fitting for the Red Velvet Crusader.

After a trek back to the car and a 40 minute ride down to Longwood Gardens, we walked into a winter wonderland of snow, trees, and holiday decorations. Along the east path, right next to the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse, Mike stopped to get a pebble out of his shoe… or so I thought. After I decided to sit, he stood to tell me how much he loves me and then got down on one knee to ask me to marry him!!

MikeOnKnee

On top of surprising me with the proposal, he had our good friend and professional photographer, Ken Adam, there taking pictures the entire time! We are so lucky to have photos of our special moment.

MontageLG
(After the proposal we we took photos all over the gardens)

As if a lovely day in Philly and a proposal at Longwood Gardens wasn’t enough, Mike then swept me off my feet and back to Baltimore where we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Salt. But Mike had one last secret up his sleeve, so we headed down to Fell’s Point and walked into my favorite bar, Max’s. There waiting for us was a huge crowd of our friends! As you can see from the picture, I was shocked to see so many people!

SupriseParty

I could not have asked for a more perfect proposal, but more importantly, I could not have been blessed with a more perfect partner to spend my life with. He planned such a wonderful, surprise filled day, I’m very lucky to be so loved and even luckier to have so many people who care about us show their support by coming out to celebrate! (And keeping everything a secret from me.)

Cheers

Cheers to a wonderful Valentine’s day!

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

Special thanks to: Mike, who made our day so special. Ken, for taking amazing photos. My brother Richard, for being there, always. And to all my friends (from near and far, Alli!!) who made it out to celebrate.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, with a twist

The holiday season and the entire month of January have flown by! Before you know it, Valentine’s Day will be here and you’ll need a gift for your sweetheart. Last year our gift guide was a hit. This year we decided to do something a little different; we picked all handmade, vintage, and DIY gifts! Up-cycling, recycling, vintage, and supporting handmade are important to us, so enjoy our picks for your sweetheart while supporting great initiatives!

CupcakePlanter(Photo courtesy of uncommongoods.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Want to give your cupcake-loving green thumb the perfect present? How about this adorable DIY planter?

CupcakeStandMini
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Oooo La La! Mini, perfectly-portioned, cupcake stands! Does your sweetheart like taking photos of their baked parfections? Then this mini, french chic cupcake stand is perfect.

VinatgeShoes
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Granted, this pair of vintage shoes is only available in a size 6, but these shoes are undeniably stylish and cool. And they are PINK! The perfect Valentines color!

ScrapbookDownload
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

If your sweetheart likes cupcakes and scrapbooking, you can grab this digital download and create a page with your favorite photos!

CupcakeNapkinHolder
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Painting your sweetheart a mug is pretty standard, but how about a vintage cupcake napkin holder? Cuter than cute and you can paint it to match the kitchen.

CupcakeTierStand
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

We Crusaders love vintage plates (we often use them for our cupcake photos) but we also love the tiered cupcake stands created with vintage plates! If you search, you can find one in just about any color/pattern that fits your sweethearts style.

BakerNecklace
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

This bakers necklace was too cute not to have on the gift guide. Handmade and available in other color options, this necklace is the perfect for a Valentine’s jewelry gift.

And because the ladies aren’t the only one’s who love cupcakes, here are some guy specific gift ideas:

Cufflinks
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

Handmade cufflinks with cupcakes?! Who knew! And they let the cupcake loving man in your life know he’s #1.

bearCupcakeShirt
(Photo courtesy of etsy.com. No copyright infringement intended.)

This manly shirt has a bear and cupcakes on it… what guy wouldn’t wear it?

The most important part of Valentine’s Day isn’t the about presents, it is letting the people you love know just how special they are. Take the time this Friday to call, text, make a trip, give a hug, write a note, or do whatever you can think to touch the hearts of the people you love.

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

4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #3: Cupcake Heaven | Wilmington, DE

Two stops into our roadtrip tour we Crusaders felt like we won the cupcake jackpot! Great cupcakes, cool shops, and even a little brewery break set the bar pretty high for our last stop, Cupcake Heaven in Wilmington, DE. (you can read those first two reviews here and here).

Following the GPS to the shopping center, things started to look oddly familiar. As we parked, I knew this was not my first time at this cupcake shop. A friend lives near Wilmington and we stopped by Cupcake Heaven during one of my visits. Honestly, I was hoping this experience would be better than my first… so we walked in and I wiped the opinion slate clean.

CupcakeHeavenSFacade

Cupcake Heaven had a variety of cupcakes to choose from. The staff was helpful, but didn’t seem enthused to be working. After making some difficult choices, we sat to try our flavors.

Cinnamon AppleAppleCinn-HC

Stacy’s Cinnamon Apple cupcake looked pretty appetizing, but was a complete disappointment. The cake was incredibly dry and the frosting was “blah.” The only redeeming quality of this cupcake was the filling, unfortunately there was very little of it, making for an overall sad cupcake experience.

Mint Chocolate ChipMintChoco-CH

Jenn was weary of her cupcake after seeing Stacy’s reaction… but as a true Crusader would, she trekked on and tried the Mint Chocolate Chip cupcake. The chocolate cake was very dry. And the frosting, while oddly bright, was surprisingly smooth and had great mint flavor. The best thing about this cupcake was how much Leah loved the frosting.

Sweet PotatoSweetPotato-CH

My sweet potato cupcake looked fantastic, but tasted like cinnamon cardboard. The frosting was too sweet and didn’t have much flavor, while the cake was a crumbly mess. After years of eating cupcakes all over the spectrum from good to bad, this one sticks out as one of the worst. Confirming that my first experience wasn’t a fluke.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake TrufflePBtruffle-HC

The best part of this cupcake stop, minus the company, was Stacy’s Peanut Butter Cake Truffle. The chocolate cake had great peanut flavor mixed in and the truffle texture was smooth. It might have been the only thing that made us glad we stopped by Cupcake Heaven. Well….That and Leah’s face covered in frosting:

LeahFrosting-CH
(No one can deny that adorable face!)

It was such a shame to have our last stop be such a disappointment. Cupcake Heaven was more like Cupcake Purgatory… there wasn’t fire and brimstone, but it certainly wasn’t Heaven. Sadly, after our experience there, I think Jenn and Stacy’s dad, Mr. Ross, said it best: “Go get some tasty cakes instead.”

Overall, our cupcake roadtrip tour was a HUGE success! We enjoyed our stops along the way and while not everything was perfect, spending a whole day together is always a great time!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

 

Halloween Gathering, Lanterns, and IcedGems!

The Creative Alliance Lantern Parade & Festival is a yearly event not to be missed. A huge crowd of people come from all over the city to see kids and adults in full costume walking through the park. Handmade lanterns, kids activities and crafts, vendors, and yummy food can all be found here on the cool October night. This year, The Gathering was going to be there too, including IcedGems, and Crusader Stacy and I knew we had to go!

LanternParade2013-Pagota

We met at my Patterson Park house and walked over to partake in the festivities. As usual it was bustling with adults and kids of all ages, most of which were in costume and carrying lanterns. We decided to head straight to The Gathering and get in line for cupcakes from IcedGems. With so many flavors to choose from, we chose 4 Halloween themed cupcakes and each got a Halloween Gingerbread cookie. Not wanting to miss out on dinner before eating our dessert, we got in line for The Sultan and ordered some delicious chickpea curry. Very happily full, we walked around checking out all of the lanterns and strolling up to the Pagoda before heading back to the house to dive into our Halloween cupcakes and cookies.

Cookie Monster
LanternParade2013-Mnstr

Crusader Stacy and I both agree that this cupcake was on the dry side. The cookies and creme eyes and cookie dough filling were really good and took this otherwise simple vanilla cupcake to another level.

Worms in Dirt (Cookies-N-Creme)
LanternParade2013-WormsDrt

First, this cupcake was adorable! We loved the decoration of cookie dirt and gummy worms, it really felt like Halloween without being scary. The flavor of the cake was good, with large cookie crumbles throughout the cake, but this cake was also on the dry side. The frosting was a bit on the sweet side for us, but we powered through and finished our bites with our gummy worms.

Pumpkin Spice
LanternParade2013-Pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice and everything nice… including heavenly cinnamon buttercream frosting. The cake was, again, on the dry side, but had great spice and pumpkin flavor. Crusader Stacy and I agreed, this was one yummy pumpkin cupcake.

Carrot Cake
LanternParade2013-Carrot

Neither of us had every tried IcedGems carrot cake before, so when we saw it was decorated for Halloween we jumped at the chance to try it. This cupcake had visible carrot shreds and raisins in it, the cake was very moist and the spice was spot on. The tangy cream cheese frosting was smooth and was the perfect companion to the delicious cake. The only thing we both commented on was that we prefer our carrot cake with walnuts in it, however, this cupcake was so good, we didn’t mind them missing.

Gingerbread Skeleton & Mummy
LanternParade2013-MumCook
LanternParade2013-SkelCook

Fun and festive, these cookies were as good as they were fun to look at! WOW did they pack the perfect gingerbread punch while being the perfect balance of crunchy and soft cookie. They were too cute not to try and too good not to finish.

Our Lantern Parade date was so much fun. We really loved being a part of this Baltimore tradition and supporting the Creative Alliance, The Gathering, and IcedGems! And cupcakes were a great way to end our night.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (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)

Blast From the Past: Pazo’s Cupcakes & Cocktails

Back in March of 2010, the Crusaders and a few girlfriends met up several times at Pazo for their Thursday night Cupcakes & Cocktails event. Pazo is known for amazing food and a unique cocktail selection, but we didn’t always order the cupcakes with their recommended cocktail pairing, since we can eat many more cupcakes than we should drink cocktails. Below are the cupcakes we tried, way back when…
Angel Food Cupcake with Rasperry Sorbet, paired with La Vie en
Rose (Moscato d’Asti, Soho Lychee Liqueur, rose water, and a fresh
rose petal)
Pazo-Sorbet
This was the first of our cupcake and cocktail combos. The cake was light and airy, as angel food cake should be. The cocktail was so delicious that Crusader Stacy said it was, “probably the best drink I’ve ever had!” Even though this was a frosting-free cupcake, the pairing worked well together and was certainly a great start to the evening.
Chocolate Cupcake, paired with an Espresso Martini
Pazo-Chocolate
(Photo from Baltimore Sun, no harm or infringement intended.)
This chocolate cupcake topped with white chocolate mousse and drizzled with salted caramel was AMAZING! Not too sweet, and the little bit of saltiness was perfect! The chocolate martini cocktail was smooth and sweet with the perfect alcohol zing.
Bacon & Manchego Cupcake with Miticrema Mousse
pazo-Bacon

This cupcake was interesting. Not a typical dessert cupcake in flavor or texture, this cupcake was good, once you knew what to expect. It was a tasty and an interesting take on a cupcake and cocktail pairing.
Sweet Corn Cupcake with Butter Pecan Ice Cream & Caramel Corn topping
Pazo-CaramelCorn
Both our friend Beth’s and my favorite of all the cupcakes, this sweet corn cake was amazing and tasted a bit like caramel corn. The maple iceream alone was wonderful and with a STACK of homemade caramel corn on top, it is a cupcake that still stands out to me today!
Rum Baba Cupcake with Crème Fraiche & Candied Mint, paired with
Classic Elderflower Mondello Mojito St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur,
fresh lemon.
Pazo-RumBaba
This cupcake was very good, with a lightness that paired well with the cocktail. Lemony and fresh this was a cupcake that we would love to try again.
We Crusaders still enjoy going to Pazo, and try to stop by when we are in the Fell’s Point/Harbor East area. They have fantastic food, a too cool atmosphere and comfy couches. On a recent visit, Crusader Stacy and I ended up there late night, sipping unique cocktails and catching up. With or without cupcakes we love this Baltimore gem… if only they would bring back Cupcakes & Cocktails!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

A Yummy Path to Cupcake BLVD in Crofton, MD

Cupcake BLVD in Crofton, Maryland has been written about in local papers, has scores of local patrons, and almost 2000 Facebook fans. I’ve passed by the shop quite a few times, driving up Rt. 3 after visiting my Mom in Charles County. Alas, every time I passed by it was later in the evening and they were already closed. I knew I had to get there and review the cupcakes, but my timing was always off.

While Crusader Stacy organized an interview with the owner, Angelette, I picked up cupcakes on Saturday (luckily they put the cupcakes aside in the morning, because when I went to pick them up, they only had two cupcakes left!). I was excited to try their cupcakes, and especially excited to help them celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The special for the day was Mojadito (almond amaretto) and the two cupcakes they had left were Maple Bacon, which was not on my half-dozen order, so I added that cupcake to the lot. After a tour through the shop, including the back bakery area and party room, meeting the owners son and some friends, I took my cupcakes to share with some friends and family. With 7 cupcakes to try, I knew I couldn’t eat them alone, and was glad to share them with my boyfriend Mike, his Dad, Stepmom, and brothers. Here’s what we thought:

Maple Bacon
BLVD-MapleBacon

We all know I love bacon, and I sure was lucky they had two of these cupcakes left so I could add it to my order! The cake alone wasn’t too sweet or flavorful, but the frosting was truly amazing. Very smooth and buttery, this frosting was super maple flavored and the crunchy bacon on top added a great texture.

Dulce de Leche
BLVD-DolcedeLeche

Caramel filling was the perfect addition to this cupcake. The frosting followed the buttery flavor and consistency that I would find on all BLVD cupcakes, with a moist semi-sweet cake. Not too sweet and not too boring, this cupcake achieved the perfect balance between cake and frosting.

Nutella
BLVD-Nutella

This Nutella filled cupcake had a lightly flavored and airy vanilla cake with smooth chocolate frosting. Like the other cupcakes, this one was just sweet enough, and the chocolate shavings on top added texture and melted in your mouth!

Cinnamon French Toast
BLVD-CFT

While the other flavors were good, this cupcake really stood out of the bunch. It was amazing how this cupcake tasted exactly like french toast! You could really taste both the syrup and butter flavors in the frosting and the cake had a great light toasty flavor. I could have eaten about ten of these cupcakes, it was that good.

Milky Way
BLVD-MilkyWay

With part of the namesake chocolate bar on top, how could you go wrong?! The filling was like marshmallow fluff and it worked well with the chocolate cake to create the milky way flavor. The frosting was a bit sweeter on this cupcake, but still smooth and buttery.

Mojadito
BLVD-Amaretto

Super amaretto! This cupcake was almost too beautiful to eat. Edible glitter adorned the swirled, sweet frosting atop the moist and airy cake. Of all the cupcakes this was the sweetest. I love almond and amaretto, but because this cupcake was so sweet I couldn’t eat the whole thing—good thing I was sharing.

Coconut
BLVD-Coconut

My favorite of the bunch, I have never had a better coconut cupcake. Moist, lightly flavored cake paired with a frosting packed with coconut flavor made for a very delicious cupcake. If you don’t like the texture of shaved coconut, just pick it off the top, I love the texture, so it was an added bonus for me!

All of the cupcakes from Cupcake BLVD were a treat and most exploded with flavor. My favorites were the special “Mojadito,” Coconut, and French Toast. Angelette was lovely and couldn’t have been nicer—taking time out of her busy day to chat with me and give me a tour. The one thing I wished was for all of the daily flavors to be listed online, because I didn’t know that the Bacon Maple was an option until I got to the shop as it was not on their “daily flavors” list for Saturday. I could have easily called and asked, which I will do next time around so I don’t miss out on the Pumpkin cupcake. I look forward to going back to Cupcake BLVD and trying some more flavors with Crusaders Jenn and Stacy, because they’ve got to try them!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)