Caroline’s Cakes Cupcakes Fly High

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Crusader Stacy recently posted about a day of cupcakes in Orlando, FL with our good friend Marina, who is expecting a baby boy this June. Although I wasn’t able to join them on this fun expedition, I received the honor of designing the invitation and corresponding party pieces for Marina’s Maryland baby shower. Since the father-to-be, Tim, is a U.S. Marine and works in the airplane field (I’d mess up his title, so I won’t even try) the selected baby shower theme was “Taking Flight.” With this theme in mind, I designed the invitation with a cute airplane and incorporated some fun patterns that were used on signs, party favors, and the (very important) cupcake toppers.

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As the cupcake experts in our circle, the grandma-to-be (affectionately referred to as “Mom Cook”) was hosting the shower and contacted Stacy and I for a recommendation. Although we hadn’t tried Caroline’s Cupcakes in Annapolis, MD, we suggested that she grab a cupcake from them as a sample. Caroline’s Cupcakes is super close to where the party was (also the same place as our favorite high school hang-out house), making it very convenient. Mom Cook tried their cupcakes and decide that they would be best.

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She opted for a single flavor, carrot cake. The party was during brunch time, so it was a great selection. Caroline’s baked the cupcakes in white wrappers and kept the tops unadorned, allowing us to dress them up ourselves.

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The cupcakes from Caroline’s were very good. There was a home-baked, comforting quality about them. The cake was super moist and spiced just right. The cream cheese frosting was a perfect balance of sweet and savory, which was great for my first cupcake of the day, and was a nice complement to the full party spread. Caroline’s also specializes in layered cakes and they are no stranger to special orders for every occasion. Even though I’ve only tried one cupcake (so far) I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them again.

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The party was a lot of fun. I enjoyed spending time with people that I don’t see often enough and being the crazy friend that talked Marina’s baby bump (she’s seriously the cutest pregnant chic ever).

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Having my little girl has given me a greater appreciation for what new parents go through and I am so excited for my friends to be entering this next chapter in their lives. Sure there are challenges and it isn’t always easy, but their baby is entering a family that has hoped and prayed for his arrival. Marina and Tim will be amazing parents and all of us will shower their baby boy with so much love…this party was only the beginning! Congratulations Marina and Tim. We can’t wait to meet your little man!

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

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Gotta Play to Win!

SHPContest_Me (Photo by Sweet Hearts Patisserie)

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen that last week I won Sweet Hearts Patisserie‘s contest! I rarely win anything, so for a long time that discouraged me from entering contests, but then I heard the phrases, “Gotta play to win,” and, “Someone has to be a winner!” Now, I participate in more blog giveaways and Facebook contests, and it has paid off! By guessing the correct number of Easter eggs in a basket, from a photo that Sweet Hearts Patisserie posted on their Facebook page, I won a dozen cupcakes!

SHPContest_Cupcakes (Check out my prize! Chocolate Silk, Salted Caramel, French Vanilla, Strawberry Cream, and Lemon Berry cupcakes.)

The best part of winning a dozen cupcakes was the opportunity to spend the afternoon in Annapolis, having lunch with my dad and in-laws, while sharing my winnings. My mom-in-law loved the Lemon Berry cupcake we’ve tried before, and my dad enjoyed his Chocolate Silk cupcake just as much as the last time. The French Vanilla, Salted Caramel, and Strawberry Cream cupcakes were new to both my dad and I.

French Vanilla

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My dad and I both agreed that, while the vanilla cake was very dense, it was still moist and full of flavor. The frosting was equally as delicious and creamy, like vanilla ice cream.

Salted Caramel

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My dad left the Salted Caramel cupcakes to me because he isn’t a fan of the flavor combination. This cupcake used the same vanilla cake, topped with salted caramel frosting and sprinkled with sea salt. Just like all of their frosting, it was smooth and buttery.

Strawberry Cream

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The Strawberry Cream cupcake had a fresh strawberry cake, topped with strawberry buttercream. The cake was incredibly moist and the frosting tasted like a strawberry milkshake. I’ll be dreaming about this cupcake!

Sweet Hearts Patisserie’s Easter contests didn’t end last week. The Easter eggs used in the guessing game were hidden in Downtown Annapolis last Friday…all 105 of them! The eggs contain a slip of paper entitling the holder to a free treat, so if you find yourself downtown keep your eyes open (or just head over to Sweet Hearts Patisserie for an Easter treat…that might be easier than hunting down an egg)!

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

Just Like People, Can Cupcakes Have Bad Days? Another look at Sweet Hearts Patisserie

After our recent review of Sweet Hearts Patisserie, located in Annapolis, MD, we were contacted by the bakery asking if they could get a second chance. They really believed their products could get a better review and they were eager to have us try them out again. We are always open to trying a place again, when approached with a sincere effort to make things right. It shows a great level of customer service, which Sweet Hearts Patisserie had already proven they exhibited after my dad’s pleasant experience in their shop. Even if the second tasting didn’t go well, one thing we could vouch for is that Sweet Hearts Patisserie really appreciates their customers and honest feedback. However, after trying their cupcakes again and being much more satisfied, it made me wonder, can cupcakes (like people) have bad days?

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(Beautiful decor inside Sweet Hearts Patisserie and all dressed up for Christmas.)

I was really excited to see the shop for myself. Photos online made them look like a wonderful shabby-chic getaway in the middle of a busy shopping center, and it was! Decorated for Christmas, I was stunned by the effort to make this shop stand-out.

There were six cupcakes to choose from, so I picked four (we had already tried the Red Velvet and I wasn’t as interested in the French Vanilla). I was glad to see holiday flavors, so the Eggnog and Peppermint Chocolate were a no-brainer. Then the Pistachio (one of my new favorites!) found its way into my box of goodies. Since my dad would be tasting with me, and because it looked so good, we also got the Chocolate Silk.

Chocolate Silk

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Back at my Dad’s house with our box of cupcakes, we decided we’d try the two chocolate cupcakes (he had no interest in the Eggnog or Pistachio). The chocolate cake on this cupcake was delicious! It was a heavier, moist, fudge-like cake, and yet still airy somehow. You can actually see how moist the cake was from the photo. The frosting was buttery, light, and smooth (just like our first experience), and rich in flavor. My dad said this was possibly his favorite cupcake ever!

Peppermint Chocolate

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This cupcake had the same great cake as the Chocolate Silk, and the frosting also had the same texture. Unlike most places, which overpower your taste buds with peppermint flavor, Sweet Hearts Patisserie’s was subtle but still present. Another winner! My dad was still questioning if any treat for one person was worth $3.00, but then later that night he took my step-mom back and they purchased these two chocolate cupcakes. I think he must have decided that they were worth it!

Pistachio

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As much as I wanted to try all the cupcakes in one sitting, I wasn’t able to get to the Pistachio and Eggnog until the next day. The cake was on the dry side, similar to our first tasting, however the texture of pistachio chunks redeemed the cupcake (I’m a sucker for texture in a cake!), along with the amazing frosting. Sweet Hearts Patisserie should consider selling frosting shots, because it’s so good.

Eggnog

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The cake on the Eggnog cupcake was moister than the Pistachio and had a great flavor, especially with the eggnog frosting. Any eggnog lover would appreciate this cupcake. Actually, I like eggnog cupcakes much more than actual eggnog!

French Macarons

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Since Sweet Hearts Patisserie is a French pastry shop, I was really excited to try their macarons. There were so many to choose from! They are priced at $1.75 each, which is pretty reasonable for a French macaron.

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(Macarons are packaged in neat little boxes with a  viewing window. What a great idea!)

I choose four macarons, the Chocolate Chestnut, Lavender Honey, Raspberry Rose, and Eggnog.

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They all had a perfect texture: smooth, crunchy exterior with soft moist centers. The Chocolate Chestnut had a nice nutty flavor, the Lavender Honey and Raspberry Rose both had subtle floral notes that didn’t overpower their complementing flavors, and the Eggnog tasted just like the Eggnog cupcake!

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Sweet Hearts Patisserie also specializes in petit fours. They are beautiful and I’m really curious about them, but at $2.50 each, that’s more than I want to pay for a bite size treat. I know that they are usually on the pricier side and I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into creating them, but I’ll take a cupcake instead! However, if petit fours are your thing or you are looking for a special gift for a pastry lover, you should check them out (and then let us know what you think!). They are also offering a holiday menu with seasonal flavors assembled in cupcake, macaron, and petit four packages, plus cakes, tarts, and more.

I am glad we gave Sweet Hearts Patisserie a second chance. They are only a few minutes away from my dad’s house and they have the perfect cupcake to fulfill a chocolate craving. Have you ever given a place a second chance, to find that the product redeemed itself? Let us know!

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

*Products were gifted, however this didn’t affect our opinions.

Sweet Hearts Patisserie

Our review of Sweet Hearts Patisserie is long overdue. We originally planned to try them back in June, but a big storm left Annapolis without power. I called to see if they were open with cupcakes, but was told their ovens were down. Nothing would be baked fresh that day, so the only cupcakes available would be ones that had been refrigerated from the day before. We wanted to make sure we tried them when they weren’t at a disadvantage, so instead we went to JoJo’s Cupcakes & Cream. After waiting almost all summer, we finally had the opportunity to try them when my dad brought them to our August rained out picnic gathering (Yes, it’s been since August! We’ve had so much cupcaking going on, that it’s taken us this long to get our review to you. Please forgive us!).

We were very excited to try cupcakes from Sweet Hearts Patisserie. From their website their shop looks very chic and boasts French style pastries such as petit fours, macarons, cakes, eclairs, croissants, and more. My dad said that the person helping him was very friendly. She even circled the cupcakes he selected on the menu, so that he wouldn’t forget when he brought them to us. Unfortunately we were let down by what we tasted.

Maple Bacon

This cupcake had a dense cake, and while we aren’t opposed to that, it was also dry. The bacon, which topped a buttercream frosting, wasn’t crunchy like you’d expect, but instead had a chewy texture. Crusader Elisa and I agreed that the flavor was good, but couldn’t save the cupcake from its failed textures.

Chocolate Hazelnut

The cake in the Chocolate Hazelnut cupcake was also dense, but not dry (more fudge like). I thought I picked up on coffee flavor, but Crusader Stacy said that could be because I’m so use to hazelnut coffee. The frosting was buttery and the cupcake had an overall good flavor. Despite the better cake texture, it still wasn’t our favorite.

Red Velvet

We all know Red Velvet is hit or miss (and is mostly a miss with me). Crusader Elisa, our Red Velvet connoisseur, thought the flavor was good, but not great. Again, the dry, dense cake couldn’t save it.

Lemon Berry

Among the four we tried, this was our favorite. The fresh berries on top and in the cake were the redeeming quality, adding moisture to the dense cake.

We were all really surprised by these cupcakes, but not in a good way. They are so pretty and we had high expectations, since Sweet Hearts Patisserie is a bakery that specializes in many French style confections. But maybe that’s their downfall versus other places that focus solely on cupcakes? I do think I would give them a second chance, given the opportunity, especially if it was to try some of their other pastries or macarons. The photos they post on Facebook look great and make me what to test them out again. If you’ve tried them, let us know what you think and what treats you had.

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

Afternoon in Annapolis: JoJo’s Cupcakes & Cream

Some of you may remember the bad storms that barraged the east coast a couple of weeks ago, leaving many of us, including Crusader Stacy, without power for days. During this time, one of our guest crusaders, Jen, was visiting for the weekend. We had planned on spending the afternoon in Annapolis, hometown for Crusader Stacy and Jenn, and wanted to visit Sweet Hearts Patisserie. I found out on Facebook that morning that they were partially without power and would not be serving fresh baked cupcakes that day, since their ovens were not operating. Instead of surprising them while they were at a low, we decided we would cut them some slack and plan a visit for another day. Bummed, we were at least glad that my dad still had power, and he and my step-mom would be able to venture out with us.

Downtown Annapolis was booming! Main Street was full of people, trying to get out of their powerless homes. It was a hot weekend and most people had no other choice but to eat out, with refrigerators and stoves out for the count. Not to mention the excuse to sit in an air-conditioned building. I called Chick ‘n Ruths that morning to make sure they had power, but when we arrived the line ran down the sidewalk. Another change of plans in our day lead us to 49 West, a coffeehouse, wine bar, and gallery on West Street, near Church Circle. They had tables available (apparently their morning rush had finally ended) so we found a spot in the cozy front dining room and perused the menu. Jen and I were happy to see that they serve breakfast late on weekends. So, we got some breakfast sandwiches while Crusader Stacy and our step-mom got a veggie sandwich. I know this is a cupcake blog, so you are probably wondering why I’m going on about 49 West, but it’s because I really recommend it. Great service, good food, and a quaint atmosphere…you really can’t ask for more while in Annapolis. And my step-mom swears that the veggie sandwich was the best she’s ever had in her life. She’s still talking about how good it was.

While strolling along Main Street we noticed that JoJo’s Cupcakes & Cream was open for business and in the same building that Nostalgia Cupcakes (now The Cake Courtesan in Bowie, MD) used to be located. We REALLY miss Nostalgia. Although you can get the same great cupcakes at their new store, the location isn’t as convenient for us anymore so we haven’t had the chance to check them out yet (but we will!). The benefit that JoJo’s has in this building is that they not only have the back space that used to be Nostalgia (and is now their party room), but they also have the street-front store, with windows and signage that can’t be missed.

This JoJo’s location also offers ice cream which is a nice feature, particularly since Annapolis’s tourist months are during the summer, and the locals don’t mind some ice cream in the winter. We had an opportunity to sample JoJo’s cupcakes around Christmas time, back when they had a kiosk in the Annapolis Mall. Anyone remember the missing cupcake mystery?

I think we all agreed that the cupcakes we had this day were a tad too sweet for us, mostly due to the very sweet icing that was piled high. Considering our previous review, this might have to do with quality control. It seemed as if more confectioner’s sugar was used at this location then the cupcakes we had before. One thing they did all have in common was moist, flavorful cake.

Lemon Blueberry

Crusader Stacy and I both got this lemon cupcake with blueberry lemon buttercream frosting. Looking at the frosting, we thought it would be packed with blueberry flavor, however the lemon and sugar overpowered it, and in the end it tasted like it was just a lemon cupcake.

Chocolate Monkey

Guest Crusader Jen and my step-mom both got this cupcake. While Jen felt that the banana flavor was lacking, my step-mom thought it was subtle, but still present. They also felt the icing was too sweet. When I was asking about ice cream and milkshakes I was told that they were out of bananas that day. I wonder if the frosting is supposed to pack more banana flavor?

Boston Cream

True to his nature, my dad stuck with his usual favorite and ordered the Boston Cream. There was just one BIG thing missing from this one…the cream! This boggled our minds because without the cream, it’s just a vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting. I did some research and found out from JoJo’s website that this cupcake is supposed to have a vanilla pudding filling. What happened, JoJo’s of Annapolis?!

Mint Chocolate

Because the cupcakes looked so good, I decided to take a couple home for my husband. I got two of his favorites, Mint Chocolate and Key Lime. While the frosting on this cupcake was sweet like the others, the mint flavor balanced it out well, making this one of my favorites.

Key Lime

Another usual favorite, this cupcake had good tartness but was still a little sweeter than I like in a Key Lime cupcake, although it didn’t seem as sweet as some of the other JoJo’s selections.

Since the day was so hot, Crusader Stacy, Jen, and I also got milkshakes to go along with our cupcakes. The choices were endless! You can make a milkshake out of any of their ice cream flavors and there are a lot to choose from.

Each of our milkshakes was really good and we happily sipped them while walking around the harbor. If you find yourself in Annapolis, I would suggest going to this JoJo’s location for the ice cream and milkshakes. Then if the cupcakes tempt you (which I think they might!) share one with a friend, because there is enough sweetness to go around.

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