Celebrating an Amazing Night with Georgetown Cupcakes!

I’m just going to jump into today’s post by saying that back in March, Crusader Jenn and I got to meet Demi Lovato!

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(Eek! Seriously, how adorably is she? Gotta love the pink hair.)

Okay, “meet” may not be the correct word. It was more like: ran into a room and snapped a quick photo with Demi after standing in line for what seemed like hours (and very well could have been), but it was totally worth it!

I should start from the beginning (I promise I’ll get to the cupcakes soon). Back in October I convinced Jenn and Elisa to go with me to see Demi Lovato on her Neon Lights Tour. After buying our tickets, it didn’t take long until they were fans too, so leading up to the concert Jenn and I entered a few contests only to find out a couple weeks before the concert that we (well really Jenn…) won two tickets for floor seats along with passes to the sound check and a “meet and greet.” We couldn’t believe it! But this left us in a bit of a scramble because we ended up with two spare tickets and we didn’t want Elisa sitting alone. Luckily my sister, Alissa, and Elisa’s good friend (and major cupcake enthusiast), Laura, joined us, so no tickets went to waste. Everything worked out perfectly. Elisa, Laura, and Alissa when to dinner, while Jenn and I attended the sound check and “meet and greet.”

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(Our concert-going group from left to right: Jenn, Alissa, me, Elisa, and Laura. So glad I got to spend such an awesome night with some fab ladies!)

It was amazing to hear Demi sing to such a small audience during the sound check (if you don’t already know this, her voice is really incredible) and she KILLED IT during her concert, which at moments had the auditorium feeling like it was a gigantic night club. The energy before, during, and after the concert was palpable, so when we walked out of the venue to discover pouring rain, it didn’t ruin the mood at all. We happily walked/danced/skipped on the long journey back to the car where we discovered that Laura brought us Georgetown Cupcakes. She knows us well!

Laura really is the greatest friend a cupcake lover could ask for and she almost always shows up with Georgetown Cupcakes in tow.

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There was a great variety to choose from so we divided the cupcakes up. I selected Carrot Cake and Cherry Blossom to enjoy over the next couple of days.

Carrot Cake

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Somehow, I had never tried Georgetown’s Carrot Cake before, even though I really like this classic flavor. Unlike most carrot cake, Georgetown’s was very dense and much lighter in color and it wasn’t as chunky either. Even though there were no raisins or nuts (just carrot pieces), it still managed to taste like true carrot cake with a great spice flavor. The frosting was a little gritty in texture, but not too bad. It was also sweet, but the cream cheese flavor blended nicely with the cake. Overall this was a really satisfying cupcake. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth trying if you can.

Cherry Blossom

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By the time I got around to eating this cupcake I thought that it would be a little dry, but I was surprised to find out that it was still moist after three days! The cake was also dense like the carrot cake and it had a very subtle cherry flavor. I don’t typically like things that are cherry flavored (except for Cherry Coke… I love that), however this time it was fine with me. Due to the lightness of the flavor it wasn’t overpowering or “fake” tasting.

Jenn and I are excited that we are going to see Demi Lovato preform again in October on her World Tour, which starts this fall. We’ll be in Hershey, PA for that concert, so I’m sure there will be cupcakes! Last time we were in Hershey, all of the cupcakes seemed to be a chocolate/peanut butter combo, so this time I hope to expand outside of that and try some new flavors!

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

Summer Specials in Georgetown

Georgetown Cupcake is so well known just about everyone recognizes their name and has seen their TV show. We Crusaders have been to both their Georgetown and Bethesda locations and enjoy their consistently delicious cupcakes. In fact, we wish they were closer so that we could enjoy them more often.

Luckily, my friend Laura also LOVES Georgetown Cupcakes and brings me cupcakes almost every time she comes to visit. (I know, I am so lucky!) On a recent visit she brought me two of the “June Special” cupcakes that I have never had before.

Coffee Cookies & Creme
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Cookies and Coffee? Yes, Please. The frosting was savory with heavy coffee flavor, cookie crumbles stirred through and on top. The cake was moist and had great cookie flavor. I haven’t always loved cookies and cream cupcakes, maybe they were just missing coffee and cookie frosting!?

Orange Blossom
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I’m still sad about the fact that I can no longer get Hostess Orange cupcakes, so this was a welcome surprise. Tart and sweet, this cupcake was like a Hostess Orange cupcake on steroids. You can see the real orange pieces throughout the cake and the frosting, there are no fake flavors here! Citrus flavors are a favorite of mine, and this cupcake really takes the cake!

Georgetown’s cupcakes are so delicious and the June’s Specials were no exception! Every new flavor has me falling in love with them all over again. Thanks so much to Laura for being so wonderful, coming to Baltimore to visit me, and bringing me cupcakes!  (Watch for a review of July’s Specials coming soon!)

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

An Interview with CakeLove’s Warren Brown

As you saw in our post yesterday, we recently re-visited CakeLove and really enjoyed our experience. Warren Brown, former educator and lawyer, is the owner of CakeLove. He began his baking journey in 1999, with a resolution to overcome a fear of flour, and opened CakeLove, three short years later. He’s a featured chef and was the host of Sugar Rush on the Food Network. Warren has been written about numerous times, both nationwide and here in the Baltimore/DC area.

We were lucky enough to have Warren take some time for a little Q&A session!

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Warren Brown: Baker, Chef, Author, Host, Entrepreneur, Educator, Lawyer, etc. etc. etc. (Photo found here, no harm intended)

What is your first baking memory?
I didn’t start baking at an early age. My first memories of a real adventure in the kitchen are from around age 10 when I made BBQ sauce and short ribs on the outdoor gas grill. If anything I think the first memories of baking was when my sister and her friends were baking box cakes at our neighbor’s house. I wanted to be there, but wasn’t and in some way I suppose my curiosity about cake started then.

I read that you started baking in 1999, just 1 year prior to leaving your law practice in 2000. What were the first steps you took in changing your career and opening CakeLove?
My first steps toward baking were small steps. I was determined to learn to bake and really use a lot of my research skills to find the best recipes. I found myself combing through books, websites, magazines and asking friends and relatives about their baking secrets. What surprised me was the number of people who had a special baking trick or piece of helpful info that they were willing to share. One man in the apartment building I lived in had a shelf full of books that he let me borrow for a few months. It takes a lot of time to find good recipes—there’s just so much testing involved. It took about 2 years for me to really feel comfortable writing my own recipes. And when I look back at what I wrote, I can really see that baking is a lesson in life-long learning. I’m happy to say that I use a broader array of ingredients now which keeps things interesting. It’s not that I out-and-out disagree with my early recipes, but what we’re doing now is more advanced, better balanced, and features a texture and crumb that is just more delicate.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to change their careers and start their own business?
Fluffy thoughts advice in a nutshell: Starting a business is a great opportunity to have a memorable and riveting life experience. Recognize that you’re jumping into the unknown and be prepared—at least mentally—for the unexpected. A lot of what will happen will be great so celebrate the good things when they happen. Don’t fret over the bad stuff, not everything in life will go the way you hope.

Nuts & bolts advice in a nutshell: Have a big idea. Get focused on a strategy to make it happen. Check your ego at the door, get lots of feedback and adapt.

Who/What inspired you to become a baker?
I was inspired by memories of my favorite bakery from when I was boy: Lax & Mandel on South Taylor in University Heights, Ohio. The women who worked there were always very kind, the cakes were delicious, and my memories of the goodies in the box on my kitchen counter give me peace.

What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
My digital scale. It makes measuring fast and accurate.

Do you have a favorite cupcake flavor?
My favorite right now is our Red Velvet. I became a convert once we revamped the recipe in December ‘12 to make it more moist and delicate.

What makes CakeLove different from other bakeries and how did you come up with the name?
Well, I think there is a lot that distinguishes CakeLove from other bakeries. To me, it’s all about the balance we try to achieve in each product—and we sell a variety of items apart from just cupcakes or cake pops. Our eclairs are awesome. The caramel brownies and chocolate chip cookies get lots of nods. The lemon bars never last long.

Of course, our bread & butter are cakes and cupcakes. So we try to keep a reasonable cake to frosting ratio for the cakes and cupcakes. We like the smiles of relief that come when people sample our buttercream or cream cheese icing; they like it because it’s “not too sweet.” And we really enjoy being innovative. We began a gluten free and vegan line back in 2006 which we’ve also recently updated with a wonderful , simpler recipe. I experiment in the kitchen all of the time and am very excited about our latest new release: Cake in a Jar. It’s cake & cream cheese icing in a recyclable jar with a screw top. It gives our product portability and customers have the option to eat a little now and save the rest for later. We’re stoked about its pending release in June.

The name CakeLove has always been a great part of the business. We get a lot of positive feedback about it. I love cake and wanted a strong name and thought a compound word would be fun. I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked compound words. Anyway, “love cake” didn’t quite work so I flipped it and found myself liking CakeLove from the beginning.

If you aren’t making the desserts yourself, where are you buying them from?
I’m liking my friend Jeff’s ice cream sandwiches from Cream Cycle—ice cream sandwiches sold via (adult sized) tricycles.

You were a great host on the Food Network’s Sugar Rush, will we see you or CakeLove on TV again anytime soon?
Thanks, I had fun hosting. No plans now, but we’re always talking with producers about ideas. A lot of the time I’ve spent working on media over the past few years has been focused on research & writing. My fourth cook book, PieLove, publishes this September. (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

You recently made some changes to CakeLove, including recipes and refrigeration, what made you change things?
After ten plus years we took stock of where we were and listened closely to what people were saying. We’re thankful for all of the feedback—it’s been a gift in terms of telling us what our customers like and don’t like. After a few deep gulps, we committed to change and dove in. We just kept it simple and asked what can we do better? Display the cupcakes so they’re ready to eat—done. Revamp the recipes so they have a softer texture—done. Boost the flavor of the red velvet—done. And so on.

Since we initiated change at the bakery, I’ve noticed just how many other businesses are doing the same thing and how normal it is. For a while I think I didn’t want to embrace change out of fear of alienating our core base. But our core values of baking from scratch with only the finest ingredients remains firmly in place and with our commitment to quickly incorporate the feedback from our community via social media, focus groups, and feedback swaps we’ve adapted and have much better product because of it.

We cannot thank Warren (and Kim LaMore, CakeLove’s Corporate Sales and Service Manager) enough for taking the time to contact us and answer our questions. We really enjoyed our second visit to CakeLove and Warren inspires us to continue to pursue our dreams, just as he did. If you’re ever in the area, stop in to one of his CakeLove shops and enjoy a sweet treat!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

A Second Chance for True “CakeLove”

We Crusaders want each cupcake we try to be great, sadly that isn’t always the case and sometimes we end up writing reviews that aren’t so sweet. Because we pride ourselves in being perfectly honest, good or bad, we will write about it. Every so often we hear back about changes that a baker or shop made after reading our review, with requests to try their cupcakes again. Well, we love eating cupcakes and are always up for giving a shop a second chance, so when CakeLove contacted us about giving them another try, we knew we had to go!

Crudsader Stacy was the first to try CakeLove about a year ago (read review), sadly it didn’t quite live up to her expectations. Kim LaMore, CakeLove’s Corporate Sales and Service Manager, saw our review this past February and contacted us about giving CakeLove another try. We were excited to hear that they made some changes after reading reviews from yelp, bloggers, and other social media outlets. (It is always nice when companies listen to their customers and take criticism in stride.)

After planning with Crusaders Jenn and Stacy, I set out to swing by CakeLove after the DC Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon in March. When I got to the shop I was greeted by very friendly staff and choose 6 cupcakes to bring back to Baltimore. The Crusaders and I made plans to spend the next day together and try them in true “cupcake buffet” form.

Bailey’s
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Who wouldn’t want some Bailey’s and chocolate cake the day after running a 1/2 Marathon, oh, and on St. Patrick’s day! While we thought the chocolate cake was just ok, the frosting really stood out and packed a punch of Bailey’s flavor. When eaten together the cake and frosting combination was a win.

Coffee Chocolate
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All three of the Crusaders love coffee, so this flavor was a must when I made my selections, and this cupcake did not disappoint. While we agreed that the cake by itself was nothing extraordinary, the frosting was amazing and we could have eaten a tub of it. The cake in this instance was merely a vessel for the fantastic frosting.

Red Velvet
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As always, Red Velvet vexes me and my cupcake crusade. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t a stand out in this bunch. The frosting was very smooth and a bit sweet, with an interestingly different flavor to it, perhaps mascarpone and a bit of butter? I wouldn’t mind having more of that frosting, but am not sure I want it on their Red Velvet cupcake.

Salted Caramel
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Lovely swirls of caramel and salt crystals adorn the delicious frosting of this cupcake, sadly the cake underneath was a bit dry and crumbly. I personally loved the frosting, it was smooth, very buttery (my favorite), and Crusader Stacy agreed that it had great salted caramel flavor. Crusader Jenn thought the frosting didn’t balance the sweet and salty, so this wasn’t her favorite frosting or cupcake.

Strawberry Vanilla
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This cupcake reminded me more of Strawberry Shortcake than a cupcake. The cake was a dry and crumbly, like that of the Salted Caramel, and even though the frosting was smooth and had great flavor, it couldn’t save this cupcake from being just “ok.”

Triple Chocolate
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Sweeter than the rest, I was glad I saved this chocolate explosion for last! Rich and chocolatey, Crusader Stacy wished she had a glass of milk to drink with it. The shavings on top added a nice texture. And while super sweet isn’t always my style, this is a cupcake I would eat again and again.

CakeLove obviously made some fantastic changes to their recipes and we enjoyed their re-vamped cupcakes. We cannot thank them enough for reaching out to us! Not only did it give me a reason to eat cupcakes after running 13.1 miles, but it also gave us a fresh perspective on this very accomplished bakery. (And an added bonus for our readers: Kim sent along some interview questions to Warren Brown himself! Watch for that interview tomorrow.)

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

Rockin’ the 9:30 Club Cupcakes

The 9:30 Club in Washington DC has been rockin’ and rollin’ since 1980 – before any of the Crusaders were born – and has cemented its place in DC’s live music scene. Everyone from Bob Dylan to the Smashing Pumpkins have played shows there, and I have been going to concerts there for 15 years, that’s half my lifetime! Recently, I went to see Rufus Wainwright at the 9:30 Club with my friend Laura. We’ve been listening to Rufus since I was introduced to him in college and were so excited to see him live – AND eat cupcakes.

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Not all music venues offer good food (mostly it is just fried chicken tenders and soggy french fries) but at 9:30 you can get an assortment of delicious sandwiches, wraps, and even some entrees… And if you are really lucky, you get there early enough to grab one of the 9:30 Club Cupcakes!

Baked by Buzz Bakery (locations in both Arlington and Alexandria VA) these cupcakes are simply delicious! It wasn’t because Laura and I were starving, or the two drinks we had while we waited for our food order, we both agreed: the cupcakes were really good. Super moist and rich chocolate cake with a thick layer of smooth, melt-in-your-mouth ganache frosting, a sweet buttercream center, and to finish it all off: a hand pipped 9:30 logo on top. We were lucky to get two of the last few that were remaining, and after tasting them, we knew why they disappeared so quickly.

Great concerts are always easy to find at the 9:30 Club – who knew great cupcakes could be found there too? So the next time you find yourself rockin’ out in DC, get there early and grab a cupcake, it’s worth the cold wait in line.

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

Baked with Love: Tweet’s Sweets

Last month we shared an interview with Tweet’s Sweets discussing both her charity event to raise money for cancer patients and why cancer awareness is so important to her. Tweety has seen many close friends and family battle cancer, so she has dedicated her company and her baking skills to fighting back. Her most recent event, Cancer Bites: We’ll Bite Harder, raised $1,500 which was divided between three charities. Tweety told us that two of those charities had people waiting to receive the funds to help with the expenses for fighting cancer. At the event, Tweety made a shocking announcement: she’s now battling cancer herself. Instead of letting this discourage her, Tweety is pressing forward and is determined to overcome cancer while growing her business. To watch videos of the event, click here and here.

After her fundraising event, Tweety found time in her busy schedule to hand-deliver cupcakes to us for a tasting. She provided three flavors: Suga Mama (Sweet Potato), Red Velvet, and Licia’s Puddin (Banana Pudding).

Suga Mama (Sweet Potato):

Our initial reaction? This woman can BAKE! The sweet potato cake was incredibly moist. So moist in fact that Crusader Jenn said, “Maybe almost too moist?” I’m not sure how that is possible, except that it was a little difficult to pick up and eat, but being a cupcake warrior, I seemed to manage just fine.

Red Velvet:

I think this was my favorite out of all three. Normally Red Velvet isn’t my thing (I reserve this flavor for our Red Velvet Crusader, Elisa), but Tweety had just the right blend of flavors and moist cake—which seems to be a rarity when it comes to Red Velvet. While the frosting to cake ratio might not seem to be enough for some, it was surprisingly perfect.

Licia’s Puddin (Banana Pudding):

This cupcake ended up being Crusader Jenn’s favorite. The moist cake was a bit denser than the Red Velvet, but that’s to be expected since it was packed with real bananas. Because of all the fresh ingredients used, Tweety told us to keep this cupcake refrigerated. Normally this wreaks havoc on cake, causing it to dry out, but not Tweety’s cupcakes! It was just as moist and wonderful as if it was fresh from the oven.

Tweet’s Sweets’ cupcakes are a rare find in today’s world of over-the-top cupcakes. They are simple with a homemade quality that doesn’t come around very often. With each bite you feel like you are sitting in your grandmother’s kitchen, listening to the stories of the “good ole days,” while snacking on fresh baked goods. She says she learned to bake from her “Nan” back when she was just a young girl and her love of baking is evident with each cupcake.

Tweet’s Sweets recently celebrated their 5th anniversary by giving goodies away to their fans while raising money for the homeless (Tweety is a super-hero when it comes to giving back!). When asked where she sees herself in the next year, she replied, “Next year I am anticipating having another fundraiser where I announce that I have bitten cancer into remission.” We believe that with her drive and determination, Tweety can do anything!

To read our full interview with Tweet’s Sweets, click here.

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

Well deserved “Crumbs”

A couple of weekends ago I ran my very first full marathon! Running through Washington DC I tried to remember not too push too much and to enjoy the historic sites we were passing along the course. It obviously worked, because 26.2 miles later, I had completed the Marine Corps Marathon and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I’ve mentioned in the past how much fun it is to receive the medal at the end, and at this marathon’s end, a Marine placed the medal around my neck and saluted me. WOW.

While running for just under 5.5 hours, I thought about a lot of different things and dessert kept popping up. I knew how I wanted to celebrate finishing the marathon—with cupcakes! After going back to my friend’s apartment in Arlington, to clean up and rest a bit (A very special thanks to my friend Kevin and his roommate for letting me stay overnight, a stone’s throw from the starting line) I hopped on my phone and searched for cupcake places close by that were still open on a Sunday night. My inner Crusader told me someone HAD to be open—sure enough Crumbs in Clarendon, VA didn’t let me down!

I stopped in and the very helpful staff helped me pick out a couple of celebratory cupcakes (and I picked up a Chai Latte for the ride home).

Mudslide

This cupcake looked and smelled amazing. Chocolate chips, Oreo pieces, Baileys icing, and chocolate cake… yeah, I couldn’t think of anything better either. This cupcake was moist and flavorful, and tasted a bit like the drink it was named after, but mostly just tasted chocolatey. I’m not always a fan of chocolate chips on top, they can add an odd texture for me, but with this cupcake they worked.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate

This cupcake looked like the yin to the Mudslide cupcakes yang… but carried its own flavor profile. The peanut butter icing was perfect in taste and texture, the chocolate icing was the same, and the chocolate cake was rich and not too sweet. With this cupcake, the peanut butter chips added that extra hint of peanut flavor, which otherwise might have been overpowered by all the chocolate.

I also got two of their “Thanksgiving Special” flavors. You’ll get to read about those cupcakes in a future post! (Sneak peak – they are Pumpkin and Apple Cobbler.)

I learned two things that weekend: 1. Running a marathon is crazy… and I might just be crazy enough to do it again (and again). 2. Always listen to your inner Crusader, because there WILL be a cupcake shop close by, that is open. And hopefully it will be as good as Crumbs was!

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