Cupcake Crusader + Cupcake Enthusiast at the Best of Baltimore Party

Friend and follower, Alyssa works in Public Relations and loves cupcakes almost as much as we do. Today, she shares with us her very first guest review from our date night at the Best of Baltimore Party. Thanks Alyssa!

For the second year in a row, Crusader Elisa and I attended Baltimore Magazine’s Best of Baltimore Party at the Hippodrome Theater. It’s such a fun event, complete with delicious food samples, booze and a photo booth (LOVE a good photo booth!). But being that I was with Crusader Elisa, we were on a mission that sticky August evening: to sample Baltimore’s Best Cupcake. (Last year Crusader Elisa reviewed the cupcake offerings, this year, I was up for the challenge!) Baltimoreans wisely voted La Cakerie as the Best Cakes, so Owner and Executive Chef Jason Hisley had a HUGE booth full of full-size cupcakes, macaroons and cookies for guests to taste.

Elisa and I selected our treats – Orange Creamsicle for me, Chocolate Salted Caramel (Jason calls them “The Baltimore Cupcake”) for her, coconut macaroons for both of us – and headed to a table to get our nom on. Elisa could not stop talking about how much she loved La Cakerie’s cakes, how great the owner is, and on and on and on about how amazing and delicious and wonderful it all is going to be, so I had pretty high expectations for this experience.

Well, can I just say: these cupcakes BLEW MY MIND.

Orange Creamsicle
OrangeCleCupcake

The orange cake was light and orangey without being too sweet, and the buttercream frosting was orangey without being too acidic or too sweet. The only other orange creamsicle cupcake I’ve had was way too sugary and tasted like a bottle of orange soda in frosting form. But La Cakerie’s version was like an orange cloud of deliciousness exploding in my mouth. I could have easily eaten three more of those if given the opportunity, if I wasn’t going to be harshly judged by my peers.

Chocolate Salted Caramel – aka The Baltimore Cupcake
BmoreCupcake

I haven’t had too many chocolate salted caramel cupcakes in my life – maybe three varieties at most; I’m not a cupcake connoisseur like the Crusaders – but La Cakerie’s was the best version of that combination that I have ever, ever had. The cake was incredibly moist, chocolaty and ACTUALLY SALTY. The caramel frosting was smooth and sweet and perfect. It was everything I’ve ever dreamed of and more. Jason placed a chocolate-dipped crab chip (WHAT!) on top, firmly cementing the salty-sweet combination as the greatest combination to ever happen to man.

The coconut macaroons were bite-sized chewy balls of goodness, and I was able to sneak three into my purse for snacking later. 🙂 All in all, our La Cakerie experience was fantastic. I can’t wait to visit the newly-opened Mount Vernon store! And the rest of the party was pretty fun too.

PhotoboothAlyssaElisa2013
(Our 2013 photo booth photos: Kissing the Flamingo, Classy Ladies, Prom Pose, and Our “Mckayla Maroney is Not Impressed”)

– Posted by Guest Crusader, Alyssa (Baltimore, MD)

Advertisements

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.”

StoneMillBakery_CookiesNCream1

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.

StoneMillBakery_CookiesNCream2

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)

Sweet Dukes Vegan Treats

Every summer the main street community of Hamilton organizes the Hamilton Street Festival. I have to be completely honest and say it’s definitely NOT the best street festival in Baltimore. Even though this year’s flyer design was pretty good, it’s not even half as awesome as the Fell’s Point Fun Festival or HonFest (but really, nothing is a cool as HonFest).

My husband and I live within easy walking distance of Harford Rd, where the festival takes place, so this year we decided to explore the vendors’ tents and grab some lunch. As we were walking around (which only took about ten minutes… totally not exaggerating), I noticed quite a few places selling cupcakes. Only one place had cupcakes that really drew me in though, Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery.

SweetDukesVegan1

I really want to love vegan desserts. I already don’t eat red meat or pork, so if there’s any way I can limit the amount of animal bi-products I consume, I’m totally down for that. I was also excited because they are organic and have gluten-free options.

SweetDukesVegan2

Their table was really colorful with hand written signs (which I love), fun flavor names and a big variety of cookies, cakes, and pastries, including the cake kabobs pictured above.

SweetDukesVegan3

After seeing the the cake kabobs and their Party on Wayne cupcake (made with Fruity Pebbles, which apparently are considered vegan… still horrible for you, but vegan nonetheless), I was complete baffled as to what I wanted to get. I knew I’d be eating cupcakes the next day, so I was determined to limit my choice to one item. After tell the very nice people helping me that I was taking it home for later, they recommended the cupcake because the cake kabob works better if you are going to eat it immediately.

SweetDukesVegan4

I really loved how colorful this cupcake was, but unfortunately my first bite wasn’t stellar. The Fruity Pebbles on top of the frosting were a bit squishy and that grossed me out a little bit. I’m guessing this was either because of the moisture from the cake and frosting, or the intense humidity from the day, probably a combination of the two. Luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the cake though. After pushing the cereal sitting on top of the frosting aside (sad face… I was really looking forward them), I was able to examine the rest of the cupcake for what it really was: a decent vegan treat. I can’t say that it was as good as its non-vegan counterparts, but definitely better than some of the other vegan varieties we’ve tried. The cake was a bit dense, but still moist with decent flavor. The frosting was a little gritty but had a good flavor that wasn’t too sweet and didn’t taste like a butter substitute—I was boggled by this, in a good way.

If you would like to try Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery, you can find them at the Fell’s Point Farmers Market on Saturdays, the Fleet Street Market, or the Grind House Juice Bar. You can also follow their Facebook page to stay up to date on their latest flavors and where you can find them.

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

Crumbs Bake Shop Has Come to Maryland!

It’s no secret that us Crusaders love Crumbs Bake Shop. After discovering one of their shops on a girls’ weekend in New York City, it has become somewhat of “must-have” on all our trips to the Big Apple. However, we’ve read mixed reviews on their franchises outside of New York, even though Crusader Elisa has enjoyed their cupcakes in the DC area. When we heard that a few local malls in Maryland would become home to their own Crumbs locations, we knew it wouldn’t take too long before our first visit.

When I stopped by the new kiosk located in Towson Town Center, I noticed that, in addition to a variety of cupcake sizes and flavors, they offered Starbucks Coffee, cupcake push-pops, and the candy bars that Elisa recently reviewed.

CrumbsTowson1
(Photo from Towson Town Center’s Facebook Page. No harm or infringement intended)

When faced with a display filled with tempting flavors, it’s always hard to pick just one, but when I saw the Coffee & Doughnuts cupcake, I was sold. How could you not be? There’s a whole mini doughnut sitting on top of a pile of coffee frosting. It was an easy choice for this coffee lover.

CrumbsTowson2

I have to admit, I had very big expectations for this cupcake. I wanted so badly for it to be good, and it was! The frosting had a nice sweet coffee flavor, almost like coffee ice cream. The cake was Crumbs Bake Shop’s standard buttery, moist yellow cake, which I have come to expect from them. It had a subtle enough flavor that the coffee flavor from the frosting came through really well. Unfortunately though, the doughnut on top was dry and reminiscent of a convenience store packaged doughnut (which came as no surprise, since that is exactly what it looked like). Despite the doughnut on top, I would definitely get this cupcake again.

CrumbsTowson3

With the location being a kiosk at the mall (and no kitchen in sight), I was pretty impressed by the quality. This makes me very curious about how Crumbs is running their operation with so many franchises (where do they bake, how do the ship?) because if the doughnut on top had been better, I would have given this cupcake an A+. If you are a Maryland local and would like to try Crumbs Bake Shop, you can check out their new locations at the Columbia Mall and White Marsh Mall, in addition to Towson Town Center. If you don’t live in Maryland, DC, or New York, visit their website to see if they have a location near you!

– Review by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Cupcakes at Camden Yards Have Struck Out

Anyone who knows me understands that the real reason I love to go to baseball games is for the food and drink. Beer, soda, peanuts, nachos, pulled chicken sandwiches, fries… the list goes on. Of course I like watching the game too, but let’s be honest, the game is so much better when snacks are involved.

On my most recent trip to Camden Yards, my husband, Ken, and I met up with my sister-in-law and her new boyfriend. Ken and I were running late and so we missed the O’s practice time and the first pitch, which was given that night by Ravens player Lardarius Webb. I think my husband was a little bummed because he is a huge Ravens fan and he also missed out on seeing his sister catch a baseball during the pre-game warmups. But with a beer in hand, we—well, at least I—happily made our way to our seats.

In between innings we decided to go get more food and drinks, and that was when I spotted this:

OriolesCupcake1

A DESSERT CART WITH CUPCAKES!

Not only was it a dessert cart filled with cupcakes, cake pops, and push pops, but they were being served right outside of Lardarius Webb’s private suite, which was swarming with Ravens players. Because of the high-profile suite, we had to wait—for what seemed like forever—to finally buy a cupcake at a steep price of $6, which is probably the most I’ve ever spent on a normal sized cupcake.

OriolesCupcake2

Unfortunately the high price didn’t buy high quality. The frosting on this Cookies and Cream cupcake lacked any flavor other than food-coloring. The cake was more like pound cake than what you would normally find on a cupcake, but actually had a decent flavor. Since I wasn’t impressed with the frosting, I ignored it and focused on the cake. After a few bites I ran into a whipped filling that was a little too sweet for my taste buds, so left that lying next to the frosting while I finished the cake.

Event though this cupcake didn’t come close to meeting my expectations, the nachos, peanuts, and beer certainly made up for it. Camden Yards should probably just stick to what they do best: typical ballpark food. One bad cupcake couldn’t put a damper on my night though because my sister-in-law had her baseball signed by Lardarius Webb and the Orioles won! Go O’s!

– Review by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Crumbs into Chocolate

From gift guides to giveaways, we Crusaders always have our eyes out for new cupcake related items. It really is amazing how the cupcake trend has taken the entire shopping world by storm in the past couple of years. Recently, Healthy Crusader Rebecca brought me a Crumbs Red Velvet Cupcake chocolate bar. (Of course the Red Velvet Crusader has to taste test anything Red Velvet.) As if Crumbs cupcakes weren’t grand enough, now they can temp consumers with chocolate bars too?!

Red Velvet Cupcake Chocolate Bar
Crumbs-RVcandyBarWrapped
(Beautifully designed packaging and “Made with Love.”)

Crumbs-RVcandyBar

Red Velvet cake batter in “fine Belgian” milk chocolate with bits of cream cheese frosting make up this sweet treat. Smooth and creamy with the perfect balance of savory cocoa and sweet, this red velvet chocolate bar is better than most Red velvet cupcakes I have tasted. The slightly red chocolate has the perfect texture and melts in your mouth. While I didn’t taste the cream cheese frosting bits, I could see them throughout the chocolate. I had to stop myself from eating the entire bar all in one sitting.

Who would have thought that one of my favorite Red Velvet cupcakes would become a chocolate bar? Granted, all three of us Crusaders enjoy a good chocolate bar and sweets in general, but of course we prefer cupcakes. This chocolate bar is one I would buy and eat again, and now with two locations in the Baltimore area (Columbia and Towson), and locations popping up all over the nation, you can get delicious Crumbs cupcakes or chocolate bars anytime you want. It’s great to see cupcake flavors branching out into other “foodie” realms, and the next time I am at a Crumbs you can be sure I will be buying both cupcakes AND chocolate bars.

Special thanks to Healthy Crusader Rebecca for this special treat!

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

Mount Vernon’s New “Bun” Shop

Life in the city is always changing. Sometimes you have to say goodbye to places you love, like Sweet Bakery. That same change causes new places to be born and on April 8th, 2013 The Bun Shop opened at Sweet Bakery’s old address in Mount Vernon.

I happened to walk down Read Street one day last March and found signs on the doors for The Bun Shop. After finding them on facebook, I followed their renovation process and was excited to see they opened a month later. The entire space was completely re-vamped and renovated. It is eclectic and gilded, while fun, new wave, and inviting. It makes you feel like you are at home, and your home is clean, organized, and impeccably designed. The long family style tables, tables for two, and comfy couches give you a lot of sitting options. They even have events at the shop, including a recent Buns & Beer event with live music!

TheBunShop-Montage
(Their simple and beautiful display, a cool gold leafed sign, and the amazing window graphic.)

Okay, okay, I know, buns are not cupcakes, but we Crusaders agreed, a new place this cool, with sweet and savory bun options, was a must try! Being the indecisive person I am, I chose three buns to try, two savory and one sweet. (And yes, I ate them all at one time.)

Spinach & Feta Twist
TheBunShop-SpinachFeta

The employee behind the counter told me this was her favorite, and thank goodness she recommended it! The “bun” part was so light and fluffy, but had such fantastic flavor. The spinach and feta baked in created a wonderful earthy and green flavor. It really was light and didn’t feel heavy. While I love spanakopita, it has nothing on this savory bun treat.

Curry Puff
TheBunShop-CurryPuff

Sweet potatoes, carrots, pulled chicken, curry spices and turmeric all fold together into one delicious triangle of dough. If you don’t like a curry kick, this might not be for you, but I loved it. The dough used on this savory “bun” was totally different than the dough used on the Spinach & Feta bun, it was a bit heavier and more substantial. It never overpowered the filling though, and there was just the right amount of both.

Rotiboy
TheBunShop-Rotiboy

A traditional Mexican Coffee Bun, a Rotiboy is a sweet butter bun baked with a crisp, coffee-flavored topping. (When I did a little research I also found this Rotiboy brand which also mentions its Mexican origins, but is based out of Malaysia.) I saved this for last and was pleasantly surprised at its doughy flavor and donut texture. While the topping didn’t scream coffee, the faint flavor was there. And since I love butter, the savory and just-sweet-enough butter flavor of this bun made me smile. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it was so good I savored every bite.

The Bun Shop has 10 buns to choose from right now, including a new vegan Curry Puff made with chick peas. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Andrew, on my visit and he was as warm and welcoming as the shop itself. On top of the lovely staff and fantastic buns, the shop also specializes in Vietnamese coffee, which is a double shot of espresso, sweetened condensed milk, and coffee. You can get this and other coffee and tea options iced or hot, and if you’re not into that, they have an eclectic variety of natural sodas to choose from as well.

Okay, so no, they don’t sell cupcakes, and it isn’t Sweet Bakery, but this place has been reborn as something different. A new gem in Mount Vernon, and definitely worth a stop in for breakfast, lunch, dinner or chilling! And for me, conveniently located right around the corner from work! I’d call that a win/win situation!

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