About Crusader Jenn

I'm a new mom of a baby girl, learning to stay at home with her, do some graphic design, dabble with new recipes, and taste cupcakes!

Charm City Cupcakes – Are New Locations Impressing New Neighbors?

Engelia, from Key Events, is a new friend to the Crusaders. We met at church and quickly discovered a love for a couple of things: Reality TV and cupcakes! I later found out that Engelia is also party lover and expert at DIY. This lead her and a friend to start Key Events – Boutique Event Planning. Check out their website…You’ll find beautiful wedding cupcakes in their gallery. Today, Engelia is sharing a review of Charm City Cupcakes’ new location in Owings Mills, MD at the Valley Village Shoppes. Thanks, Engelia!

In the process of running around town picking up food and decorations for a “manly” themed birthday party, I stopped at a stoplight across from the Valley Village Shopping Center in Owings Mills, MD. A sign caught my eye that read “Charm City Cupcakes.” I live in the area and pass this center at least five times a week and knew that this was a new addition. As I pulled into the parking lot and parked, my heart sped up at the anticipation of a new dessert hitting my lips and maybe even making an appearance at this “manly” birthday party.

Charm City Cupcakes is a well-known bakery in the MD area. With three locations including a flagship store at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, they have a new location at 9101 Reisterstown Rd. Owings Mills, MD 21117. Out of all of their choices, I selected the red velvet cupcake (one of their Charm City Classics as listed on the menu) with a cream cheese frosting and a chocolate mousse filling. They require a minimum order of six cupcakes. I placed an order of six cupcakes for pick up the day before the party. Side note: I did not order more as 1) this was my first time ordering from Charm City Cupcakes and wanted to minimize loss if the cupcakes were not enjoyed and 2) I’d just picked up a dozen cupcakes from Giant. Basically, I’d already filled my cupcake party quota with the Giant order but thought it would be a nice surprise for my client.

The pickup went smoothly and the associate behind the counter was the same woman who helped me when I placed the order. She was very pleasant and was able to call the owner directly with any questions. The cupcakes were placed nicely in a white box. I placed the treats in the refrigerator overnight and prayed that they did not dry out.

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(Red Velvet cupcakes in custom cupcake wrappers, from Etsy. To see more from this moustache party, visit Key Event’s Facebook album.)

Party Night! I placed the six cupcakes out on a glass display. I wrapped them in moustache themed cupcake wrappers and placed a moustache ring on top of the cupcakes. Long story short, I had to swipe one of the cupcakes about an hour into the party so that I could try it later. As I listened to guests enjoy the cupcakes, there were mixed reviews. A couple of guests commented on how smooth the chocolate mousse filling was and made a great pairing with the softness of the cupcake. Another guest did remark that his cupcake was a little dry and the frosting too sweet. I quickly interjected that the dryness most likely had to do with the fact that I refrigerated them overnight.

My thoughts: I finally got to try the red velvet cupcake around 11:30pm that night. The cupcake was at the perfect temperature as it’d sat out for about two hours. I have to let you know that the red velvet flavor is my absolute favorite and I’ve tried it in pretty much every way possible from cake pops to cakes to cheesecake to doughnuts. Often, if not mixed and baked properly, the essence of the flavor can be easily dried out. Charm City Cupcakes did a good job of preserving the center of the cupcake and incorporating the filling. The center was soft and moist. The top of the cupcake was a little hard around the edges but was offset by the softness of the cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting was semi-sweet. I tend to like my frosting a little less sweet but as we know everyone is different. Overall, I would have liked the cupcake to be moister at the top and a less sweet frosting but I’m more than open to trying their other flavors and recommending them to others.

– Guest Crusader Engelia, from Key Events (Baltimore, MD)

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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)

Stone Mill Bakery: The Goodness Missed the Cupcakes

When a client recently suggested that we meet at Stone Mill Bakery for lunch and to review some color swatches, my ears instantly perked up at the word, “bakery.” I’ve heard a lot of good things about Stone Mill Bakery and figured that maybe I could pull double duty during my meeting…being a Crusader is a 24/7 job, but someone has to do it!

I arrived early and while there were many desserts that looked amazing, I didn’t instantly spot any cupcakes. After ordering food (chilled dill cucumber soup and a turkey powerhouse on spinach feta focaccia…YUM!) and taking another quick glance around, I thought, “Did I just see the words ‘baby’ and ‘cakes’ on that box?” But my curiosity would have to wait, because Pantone books awaited us.

Upon leaving, I bee-lined to the checkout counter to take a closer look at the “baby cakes,” which actually turned out to be, “Baby Cup Cakes.”

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Each box held 9 mini cupcakes and the selection included the basic Vanilla/Chocolate combinations, Cookies & Cream, and Coconut. I didn’t realize that I was in for a bit of sticker shock when the cupcakes rang up for $9.75.  At first glance that price seemed pretty high for nine mini cupcakes, but when you do the math it’s not too bad.

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Based on Stone Mill Bakery’s reputation, and after having lunch there, I had high exceptions for the Cookies & Cream mini cupcakes. The frosting was the highlight of the cupcake and tasted like the cream filling of an Oreo. Unfortunately, the cookie crumble was soft and the chocolate cake lacked any rich, chocolatey flavor and was so dry it crumbled.

If you find yourself at Stone Mill Bakery and need something sweet to compliment your wonderful lunch or dinner, skip the “Baby Cup Cakes.” I recommend the blondie, which was dense, fudge-like, and packed with soft chocolate chips and nuts (which added a nice texture). It was a decadent treat in an unassuming package.

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

What’s a “Stay-cation” Without Cupcakes?

Crusader Stacy recently took time off from work, spending part of her vacation in Florida, and then coming home early for a few days of R&R. Part of her “stay-cation” included spending the day with Leah and me. We had lunch, we talked, we shopped, we talked, and then we sat on the deck and talked some more. A perfect sister-day. Instead of dining out, Stacy picked up lunch from J Café, in Westminster, MD. I’ve been there before, but only for the cupcakes. They have a quaint restaurant and very appealing lunch menu.

JCafe_Interior

Since our lunch was so good, I just have to share it. Stacy had the Apple Pecan Salad, which is mixed greens, topped with sliced apple, candied pecans, feta cheese, craisins, red onion, and a sweet vinaigrette. From the looks of it, she thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

JCafe_Salad
(Even in a take-out container they took time to give the salad a nice presentation.)

I was craving bread that afternoon, so I selected the Sweet Chicken Salad Sandwich. J Café was out of croissants (bummer!) but suggested their focaccia bread instead.

JCafe_Sandwich

The chicken salad was jazzed up with craisins, celery, and chopped walnuts, and was unlike any chicken salad I’ve had. Because of the bread selection, the sandwich was huge and I ate the whole thing. The craisins added a touch of sweetness, while the walnuts gave a great texture. Although it would have been nice to sit in their café, they packaged up the food nicely and it was still enjoyable, even as take-out.

Now for what you all really want to hear more about…the cupcakes! As I mentioned, I tried their Pumpkin Maple and Sweet Potato cupcakes last fall. They were, hands-down, some of the best seasonal cupcakes I had last year. So, why did it take me so long to go back? My only answer really is, parking can be tricky in that area and I was busy eating a lot of other treats. So, it took Stacy going on a stay-cation to motivate us to give them another try.

Limoncello

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(I noticed that they used cupcake wrappers that came from the dollar section at Michael’s Craft Store – I spend a lot of time there…I thought that gave the cupcakes a personal, homemade touch.)

For my cupcake, I selected the Limoncello. With it nearing the end of summer, I’m getting my last fix of light, citrus/fruit flavors before I leave them behind for pumpkin and spice. Sadly, I wasn’t as impressed with this cupcake as I’d been with the others. The cake was good, with a light, but fresh, lemon flavor. However the cake was dense and on the dry side and the lemon frosting didn’t seem as natural. Perhaps they used Limoncello to flavor the frosting, but if so it resulted in tasting more like lemon extract. A redeeming quality was the smooth texture of the frosting and balanced sweetness as a whole.

Andes Mint

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To offset her salad, Stacy chose a rich Andes Mint cupcake. Stacy said that the cake was some of the best chocolate cake she’s had, moist with deep chocolate flavor, but the frosting was the star: not too sweet, perfect hints of mint, and small pieces of Andes Mints mixed throughout. She said that it was the best cupcake she’s had in a long time!

There will definitely be a next time for J Café, and hopefully it involves grabbing a table (instead of take-out) to enjoy their charming atmosphere while eating our cupcakes.

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

Minnie Mouse & Lemonade Make a 2 Year Old Happy!

LeahsBirthday_Table

My ideas for a lemonade stand themed party began brewing shortly after Leah’s 1st birthday last year (I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about it!). I love the color yellow and the idea of lemonade for a summer party with all the lemon-themed treats and cupcakes we could have.

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As the year progressed and Leah developed a love for all things Mickey and Minnie, I thought it would be cute to include touches of her favorite characters. I knew yellow would be a dominate color, but after adding Minnie into the mix, I also included pink…which worked well for pink lemonade too. Some of the DIY items included the invitation and party signs, Minnie/Micky paper lanterns, bunting, and party favors for the girls. We also collected “change” for No Kid Hungry, which totaled $54 at the end of the day!

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Some of the items I decided not to do myself this year were the cake and cupcakes. I splurged on cupcakes, deciding to allow the experts to do their thing. Since I splurged on the cupcakes, I kept the cake inexpensive by purchasing an $8 cake from BJs Wholesale, which was the perfect color right off the shelf.

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Kupcakes & Co. has created Minnie Mouse cupcakes for clients in the past, so I knew their capabilities to make them look good. I used one on top of the cake, to jazz it up, along with a glittery candle and cake bunting that matched the window bunting.

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They also began offering Pink Lemonade cupcakes earlier this year. It’s a sweet cupcake, but kids like sweet (and some adults, like my husband). With those facts in mind, I was swayed to let someone else take this task off my plate.

Kupcakes & Co. Specialty Flavor – New Twist on Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
The cupcakes decorated like Minnie Mouse were a special flavor, made just for Leah! Well, sort of.

LeahsBirthday_Minnie1

Their Strawberry Lemon cupcake is lemon cake with strawberry frosting, but I love their strawberry cake and lemon frosting (the reverse), which I’ve tried from other cupcakes, so I asked if they could put those together for us instead of the usual, and they did! The flavor combination differed from their standard and everyone really liked it. The lemon frosting isn’t too sweet and the cake is light. It was the perfect summer cupcake.

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In addition to sugar cookies (some with a lemon glaze), rice krispie treats, and candy, we also had Minnie Mouse Oreo Pops for dessert. This gave our guests another fun, non-lemon flavored, personal-sized treat to enjoy (they were fairly easy to make, after a test run earlier in the week—let us know if you want to see more about how to create these pops).

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One thing we forgot to pull out were the cupcake flags. A few of the Pink Lemonade cupcakes would have been cute with some little flags in them, but the table didn’t really need the extra decoration in the end.

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Leah loved all the Minnie Mouse touches, the candy that was within reaching distance, and of course the cupcakes (or at least the frosting). It was a great day, filled with love from family and friends that came to celebrate my little girl!

If you’d like to see more from the party, you can check it out on Catch My Party, where we were featured again on their homepage, and Fizzy Party, where we more about the party details.! Also, the party designs (without Minnie Mouse – just lemonade themed) will be available on our new Etsy Shop, Eye2Eye Design, so keep an eye out for that!

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

Catch My Party

Summertime: Time for An Old Favorite

Summer is always a jam-packed cupcake time for the Crusaders, due to all the birthdays, picnics, and cookouts. With so many cupcakes all the time, I ended up neglecting a neighborhood favorite of mine, Starry Night Bakery. We’ve reviewed many of their rotating flavors, but I’m always excited for new and seasonal options. After a wellness visit with my doctor, she prescribed me with, “doing something nice for myself before heading home,” to take advantage of not having the little one with me. I’m not sure cupcakes would have been her exact solution, however Starry Night is right across the street from the office, and when I think of treating myself, obviously cupcakes come to mind.

Cherry Limeade

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Starry Night’s summer flavors are brightly colored (sometimes a warning sign for me), but they all smelled summery and refreshing. The first one I tried was the Cherry Limeade, and it tasted similar to Fruit Loops cereal. Despite the appearance of real cherries in the frosting, the flavor was on the artificial side. However, I personally like Fruit Loops so I thought this cupcake was fun (and surprisingly not overly sweet).

Mai Tai

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The Mai Tai cupcake had me the most excited. I haven’t seen many (if any) this year, so originality plus adult drinks turned cupcakes is always a win for me. Perfectly summery in flavor, Starry Night’s Mai Tai was like sipping a fruity beverage on the beach. The pineapple compote filling added a nice touch and a lot of flavor. There was a mild citrus punch and I’m almost certain there was rum cooked in the cake or filling because it replicated the drink too much not to have it.

Raspberry Lemonade

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Just like the Cherry Limeade, the Raspberry Lemonade also tasted like fruity cereal. So, if you are looking for fresh, real fruit flavors this cupcake may not be for you. But if you are like me and love sugary breakfast cereal as a special treat, then you just may love it!

Root Beer Float

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Having tried a few Root Beer Float cupcakes this season, I was curious to see how Starry Night’s would differ from the rest. The cake was made with root beer and the cupcake got its ice cream touch with the vanilla “cream” frosting. I thought this cupcake had a very authentic flavor, with a little spice from the root beer (just like those root beer barrel candies). The frosting was super light and smooth and all together the cupcake was balanced and not overly sweet.

Starry Night also has a new website, so if you haven’t seen it before you should check it out. And, if you’ve had some creative, fun, and tasty cupcakes this summer, tell us about them!

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

Featured! Cupcake Parties, Crusader Style

One of the best things about parties is the food. I love party food and I especially love the desserts. But I also enjoy hosting a good party, making guests feel welcomed in my home and making the guest of honor feel special. With parties becoming somewhat of a hobby, I recently joined the Catch My Party community to share photos, which included Crusader Stacy’s “Cupcakes and Tea” bridal shower.

Stacy has been married now for 2.5 years, but it seems like the ideas from her party are still current! Catch My Party loved the “Decorate Your Own Cucpake” bar we had for guests and featured it as a “Party of the day” on their homepage and also on their Facebook page!

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We came up with the idea as an alternative to the typical bridal shower activities and games. The guests knew Stacy’s well-established love for cupcakes, so taking part in one of her favorite things was fun for everyone.

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We were able to find candies and decorations that matched the shower colors (and Stacy’s wedding colors), which kept the station looking elegant. We also had pre-decorated cupcakes for those that just wanted to eat (or needed help getting their creative juices flowing), and cupcake-to-go-boxes for guests to make extras or take their dessert home for later.

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(My decorating skills have definitely come a long way!)

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The containers worked out perfectly as party favors and doubled as decoration, stacked in front of the cupcake bar. Ever since having an option for guests to take treats home, we haven’t looked back. Now it’s a must at every party!

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(Crusader Stacy’s cupcake…even then she had a knack for decorating!)

The cupcakes ranged from beautiful to humorous, but all were “sweet” with their wedding and love themes.

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It’s great to think back on this party, remembering how much fun everyone had, and how special Stacy felt. She was glowing the whole time, and after having hosted multiple showers herself, it was finally her turn to be pampered.

If you’d like to see more photos from this party, you can view my gallery. We also shared the party with Fizzy Party, who featured the full party on her blog.

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

Catch My Party