Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes | Fort Myers, FL

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Now that I have a decent grasp on the Fort Myers and Naples area cupcake spots, I wasn’t worried about whether or not cupcakes would be a part of my trip when I recently visited my family in southwest Florida. Since I was staying with my Nana, and I know how much of a sweet tooth she has (ever wondered where I get it from?), I wanted to get some fancy cupcakes to say thank you and to put a smile on her face.

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After treating her to lunch at one of our favorite spots, Sweet Tomatoes, my aunts, cousin, and I decided to do a little shopping. My Aunt Jane wanted to visit a boutique located in the Bell Tower Shops, and I was in luck because Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes also resides there.

On my last visit to Grace & Shelly’s, Crusader Jenn and I selected a big variety, including a couple of full size cupcakes and tons of minis. This time I focused on just the full size flavors and selected Lemon, Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake, Butter Pecan, and Peach Cobbler. My Aunts also got a variety of flavors, and Aunt Jane added her two selections to my order since you save a little bit with orders of half a dozen.

When we got back to Nana’s house, we worked off our big lunch with some pool-time, and then took a quick cupcake break. My cousin, Allen, joined Aunt Jane, Nana and I for this cupcake tasting and, for the most part, we were unanimous in our feelings (except my sweet Nana, who loved them all).

Lemon

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Of the four cupcakes I selected, this was the best of them all. The cake and frosting were both light and tart. And even though the frosting didn’t hold up too well in the Florida heat (as you can tell from the photo), it didn’t make this cupcake any less tasty.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

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I was really excited about this cupcake, only to be disappointed. My Aunt Jane didn’t think that it was sweet enough, and also didn’t like the bits of raspberry seeds. That didn’t bother me too much, but the cake ended up being very squishy because of the filling.

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As you can see, the filling soaked almost all the way through to the wrapper. Gross.

Peach Cobbler

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The Peach Cobbler cupcake was very much the same. So much so, that I just couldn’t finish it. Luckily Nana didn’t mind because I choose this cupcake specifically for her and she ended up finishing my portion. Even though the cake wasn’t working for me, I did like the frosting and toppings, but what is a cupcake without cake?!

Butter Pecan

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Of all the cupcakes, I thought the presentation of this one was the best. I really liked that it looked like a scoop of butter pecan ice cream had been dropped on top. Unlike the Lemon cupcake though, the cake was dry and kind of plain. But the frosting was good and packed with pecans.

Snickerdoodle

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My Aunt Susan didn’t join us for our post-swim cupcake crusading, but later that night we had another little cupcake tasting at her house with some of the cupcakes she brought home. The first that I tried was the Snickerdoodle. While the cake was a little dry, the frosting was so good and had lots of cinnamon flavor.

Cookies and Cream

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The other cupcake I tasted at my Aunt Susan’s house was the Cookies and Cream. This cupcake had little cookie bits in the cake and frosting and tasted JUST like the ice cream, it was amazing!

Even if the cupcakes weren’t as good as I remembered them being, it was so fun doing my “cupcake thing” with my family. And I’ll never forget seeing my Nana scrape those wrappers clean… that woman has a crazy sweet tooth, you gotta love her!

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

Cupcakes in Paradise | Bonita Springs, Florida

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Some of you may remember that last year Crusader Stacy and I had an opprotunity to visit our family in Florida AT THE SAME TIME! This has rarely happened as adults, after having worked together for nearly 5 years. But, with myself no longer employed at the same establishment, we jumped at the chance to take a family vacation together. Well, try as we might, this year we just couldn’t make it happen. Sad as it may have been to not have my twin with me, my little family and I had a wonderful time. I stayed with my Nana, and it was like being home again.

Shortly after arriving, my uncle and cousins were quick to tell me that there was a new cupcake place in Bonita Springs, Florida. As much as I wanted to revisit one of my Florida favorites, Sassy Cakes, I had to try the new place.

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Cupcakes In Paradise has a cute exterior and fits in perfectly with the colorful shopping center. When I walked into the shop I was surrounded by bright pink walls and modern flat-screen tvs for menus. There wasn’t any staff around, and I eventually had to say, “Hello?” into the direction of the kitchen, but it gave me time to take some pictures.

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At the counter there was a modest display of cupcakes with around 10 flavors to choose from. I was curious to try one of each, but I knew that I had to resist. Without my partner in crime, it would only be my husband and myself eating the cupcakes. So I (only) selected four. I was feeling the Florida air and picked Coconut, Key Lime, Funky Monkey, and then threw in a Chocolate Peanut Butter to keep the man happy.

Coconut

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The Coconut cupcake was the first one we tried and I’m sad to say it was my least favorite. It was filled, but unfortunately it was filled with the same super-sweet frosting that it was topped with. While the coconut flavor did come through, there was just too much frosting for me. However Dan, who prefers cupcakes on the sweet side, and Leah, who is going through a frosting-only phase, both loved this cupcake.

Key Lime

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You can’t visit a cupcakery in Florida without trying Key Lime. After the Coconut cupcake, I was worried that they’d all be filled with frosting (and I’m a firm believer that a filling should complement the cake and frosting, but should be a different element). To my relief, the cupcake was not filled. The cake was very moist and had a good, real key lime flavor. I’m usually the one scrapping the wrapper of a good cupcake, but Dan beat me to it this time!

Peanut Butter Chocolate

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The Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake was a very moist and light chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, and topped with a chocolate peanut butter crumble. The frosting didn’t look like it would have a smooth texture, but in the end it did, and the flavor was bold without overpowering the chocolate.

Funky Monkey

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Saved for last, the Funky Monkey is a banana chocolate cupcake with a marble cake, topped with banana frosting, and then drizzled with chocolate. For me this cupcake was only okay. The banana flavor seemed a little artificial, but the cake was good. I’m not sure I’d order it again with at least two other good options.

Overall, I would go back to Cupcakes in Paradise. I’ve heard their Lemon cupcake has a curd filling, that they make a good Red Velvet, and it was already hard to leave without the French Toast. I’ll have to try those out on my next visit to Florida!

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

Catching Up with Cupcakes in Orlando, FL

There are some people in your life that, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, you can pick up exactly where you left off. These friends are the ones you can always count on to be there for you, even if you may not talk everyday. My friend, Marina, is one of those friends for me. We became friends in high school, but since then she has lived as close as Delaware or as far away as California. None of that matters though, because when we see each other, the days, weeks, months, or even years just seem like seconds.

Not only is Marina a great friend, she also has a serious sweet tooth (she recently became a certified pastry chef), so it makes perfect sense that when I was in Florida, her current home state, we would do a little bit of cupcaking. When it comes to organizing a day of cupcakes, I usually take the lead on deciding which places we will visit and in what order, but after giving Marina a list of possibilities, she narrowed it down and mapped them out. It was so nice to have someone else help with the planning.

We decided that if we paced ourselves we could manage four places: Raphsodic (a vegan bakery), Blue Bird Bake Shop, Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly, and Sweet Designs Kitchen.

After a tasty lunch at Thai Thani we made our way to Raphsodic, our first stop in downtown Orlando. Raphsodic has an eclectic vintage atmosphere which was carried through with their plates and mismatched antique forks. I must confess that I was really apprehensive about going to a vegan bakery after recently having had some bad experiences, but I think it’s important to review all kinds of cupcakes, especially for the vegan cupcake lovers out there. Marina and I proceeded with caution and ordered the Mocha cupcake to split.

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(Vegan Mocha cupcake from Raphsodic)

Expecting the worst, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The cake had a really nice chocolately coffee flavor, and it was moist (yay!). I thought the simple dairy free buttercream went well with the cake, but it was a little too dense for Marina, who prefers a much lighter frosting. Knowing we had three more places to visit, we left without quite satisfying our sweet tooth, but our next stop, Blue Bird Bake Shop, was just a short drive away.

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(Blue Bird Bake Shop)

Like Raphsodic, Blue Bird Bake Shop also had an eclectic selection of mismatched plates (in fact, it’s the largest collection I’ve ever seen) and their decor was a stunning blend of rustic chic. Beautiful blue and brown tones filled the shop and Marina and I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “ahhing” as we ate our cupcakes. This time around we each got our own cupcakes; I choose the Neapolitan and Marina selected the Chocolate Raspberry.

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(Neapolitan and Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes from Blue Bird Bake Shop)

Neapolitan is one of those flavors I’m seeing more and more bakeries offer, and when it’s done right, it’s awesome. This cupcake was no exception. The frosting tasted just like strawberry ice cream and the vanilla and chocolate cake was moist and delicious. Despite feeling that the cake on the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake was a little more dense than Marina normally prefers, she said that overall, “it was really yummy.”

After eating our cupcakes and browsing the t-shirts, coffee products, and uniquely flavored marshmallows, we headed to our next stop, Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly (a two time Cupcake Wars winner).

Sweet! not only sells cupcakes, they also have a huge selection of frozen yogurt and toppings, but Marina and I didn’t let this distract us from our mission. We made our way passed the froyo machines and straight to the cupcakes.

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(Menu from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

Sampling as many different flavors as possible is always fun, and since Sweet! sells primarily minis, that made it an easy task. They had a ton of flavors available and Marina and I spent a lot of time narrowing our choices down to six each. I decided on the Coffee, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Tiramisu, White Chocolate Raspberry, Banana, and Cinnamon. Some of the flavors were just okay and some were great. The big disappointment for me was the Tiramisu.

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(Tiramisu cupcake from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

The first Tiramisu cupcake I ever tried was from Sublime, in Wyomissing, PA, (review here). None have been as good since then, but Sweet!’s didn’t even taste like Tiramisu. Luckily, it was only a mini and I had other flavors to enjoy, like the Coffee and Cinnamon, which were AMAZING. Each packed tons of flavor in such a small size. I could have easily eaten two of each on that visit.

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(Cinnamon and Coffee cupcakes from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

After our visit at Sweet!, Marina and I found ourselves entering a cupcake coma, so decided to do a little shopping before making our way to our final stop, Sweet Designs Kitchen. Even with shopping and a 40 minute drive, we were still cupcaked-out when we arrived at Sweet Designs Kitchen. It was the end of the day, and their selection was limited, but the staff was super friendly. We decided to get two cupcakes each, to go.

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(Coconut Key Lime and Orange Creamsicle cupcakes from Sweet Designs Kitchen)

After all the cupcakes we tried that day I realized that I was in Florida and hadn’t yet gotten any citrus flavors. I happily remedied that and got the Coconut Key Lime and Orange Creamsicle cupcakes, while Marina choose the alcohol-free Mocha Lua and Banana’s Foster cupcakes. Unfortunately, Marina didn’t eat hers until a day later and I ended up waiting two days. Both of us felt that the cake was dry, but we really can’t fault Sweet Designs Kitchen for that since we didn’t try them when they were fresh. Even though the cake was dry I thought that the flavors of my cupcake were really fantastic, especially the fillings. The Coconut Key Lime was my favorite and I thought the key lime curd filling blended really well with the coconut frosting. Marina thought that the frostings on her cupcakes were both too heavy and that the cake was a little bland, but agreed that the fillings in her two cupcakes were really great.

It’s no secret that a day filled with cupcakes is guaranteed to be a great day for me, but getting to spend time with a good friend who really enjoys critiquing cupcakes as much as I do is even better. It was also really nice to catch up with Marina in between bites of cake and frosting, especially because she is expecting a little bundle of joy in a few months. Hopefully, Marina will pass along the “sweet tooth gene” to her little one, because when it comes to cupcake adventures, I always like to think “the more, the merrier.”

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

Guest Review | LA Sweets | Miami, FL

We have met a lot of great bakers and cupcake lovers since starting this blog, including today’s Guest Crusader, Joel of Josie’s Confections. Joel not only takes pride in producing cupcakes that combine intricate flavors and textures, but he is one of the toughest critics I’ve ever met. His background in baking helps him dissect a cupcake and tell what has been done right, or what has been done wrong. In his below review of cupcakes from LA Sweets, located in Miami, FL, you will see how indepth his cupcake tastings are.

As a baker, I always find myself trying to develop new and fresh ideas for creating cakes and cupcakes. Already having developed some interesting cupcakes that included meat, there is only so much more one can do to push the boundaries of the cupcake. I often travel to different cupcake shops to assess how I stand against the competition, as well as looking for new ideas. My friend, Delvin, and I took our talents to South Beach for what was supposed to be a birthday celebration for a friend. Unfortunately, our birthday boy couldn’t make the trip, so to make the best out of it, I began to look for cupcake shops in the area. I was curious to see if bakers in Florida would do more tropical flavored cupcakes since they had access to those fruits. To my joy and delight, I found one cupcake shop that I was eager to try. LA Sweets, is owned and run by a lovely lady named Letty Alvarez. She has competed on Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss: Next Great Baker (NGB).

I was excited to meet her and try her cupcakes after reaching out to her on Facebook and discovering we have a mutual friend (who was also on NGB). However, I was going to be a tough critic. If anyone knows me well, they know that I am extremely critical and will pick a cupcake apart in minutes. I do the same for my own, so LA Sweets wasn’t going to be any different.

Delvin and I finally made it into the shop, and immediately I noticed the very bright colors. It was clean with open space and a few tables and chairs. Behind the counters was an assortment of cupcakes under glass domes. The presentation and appearance was just fun and creative. One thing I found interesting about LA Sweets is that they only offered mini cupcakes. We finally got to meet Letty, and she was a complete sweetheart. We talked for a few minutes, took pictures, and shared our love for cupcakes. After all the chatter, it was time to get serious. I asked,  “What are the best cupcakes you offer?” Letty’s husband, who also works at the shop told me that their best seller was their Guava cupcake.

“Guava cupcake?” I asked in disbelief. He simply replied, “Yep…best seller.” I’ve never heard or thought of guava incorporated in a cupcake but I was eager to try it. Things were going to get interesting. Before I go any further, I have to share with you all that I am Caribbean American and grew up eating guava jelly right out of the package. If anyone knows ANYTHING about guava, it is going to be me. I find that tropical fruits are harder to incorporate in cupcakes than anything else. I’ve tried to incorporate mango and passion fruit, and it was a process. With me being of Caribbean descent and a baker, this cupcake was already going to be approached with the most critical palette I could muster up.

I selected a few others that intrigued me: a Red Velvet, a Caramel Swirl, and a White Chocolate Raspberry cupcake. Let the tasting begin!

Red Velvet

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Letty informed me that the Red Velvet wasn’t the sophisticated version that includes cocoa powder. It was more of the traditional Southern Red Velvet, which I appreciated. The cupcake was a brighter red color and was topped with cream cheese frosting. The cupcake itself was moist, and had a buttery, vanilla flavor. The cream cheese frosting was light and sweet, with a slight tang. In my opinion, one of the better cream cheese frostings I’ve had. I think the cupcake itself was simple and passable for me, but may not be for red velvet enthusiasts who love the depth that the cocoa powder provides. All in all, it was a solid cupcake but my least favorite of the four.

Caramel Swirl

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I love caramel. However, caramel can be lost in cupcakes. It wasn’t lost here. The cake itself was very moist, light and had a nice light caramel flavor. I knew the cake was moist just by looking and touching the top. The top was sticky to the touch, and appeared to be under baked which was not the case.

Some people are turned off if the tops of cupcakes are sticky. As a baker, I can tell you that it isn’t a bad thing to have sticky tops. My cupcakes can have sticky tops depending on the recipe, especially if it is brushed with a flavored glaze containing alcohol. Think about it for a moment. The sticky top will be covered with buttercream so who will notice? In my opinion, I’ll take a moist cupcake with a sticky top over a dry cupcake with a dry top. The cream cheese frosting was again light and the flavor was enhanced with the caramel drizzle. This cupcake was good and would be a great base for a salted version. Who doesn’t love salted caramel?

White Chocolate Raspberry

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Chocolate and berries are a marriage made in heaven! White chocolate and raspberries is a good match. I made a white chocolate raspberry ganache once to frost a cake. Let’s just say I took care of the leftovers in the bowl after the cake was finished! So I was overjoyed to see this cupcake. Like the other cupcakes, the cake itself was moist and light. The vanilla cupcake had a good flavor. However, I felt that the cake itself could have benefited from the use of raspberry sauce/puree in the batter itself. That is not to say that the cupcake wasn’t good. Personally, I love HUGE flavor in cake, and wanted raspberries in the cake somehow. To be fair, there was raspberry drizzle on the cake itself, but I wanted more. The cream cheese frosting was light, and I love the dab of raspberry sauce in the middle, with the white chocolate chip on top. It was pretty, very different, and the raspberry came through if you ate the whole thing together. I liked the cupcake, but I think more raspberry flavor would enhance it.

Guava

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Last but not least the Guava cupcake. To be honest, this was the second cupcake I tried at the shop but I wanted to save this review for last. With all the hype about this being their best cupcake, I was ready for battle. Was this cupcake indeed their best seller? Would I be pleased with the flavor profile of this cupcake? As a Caribbean American, would this cupcake bring me back to my summers as a child in the Caribbean? There was only one way to find out. I went ahead and took a bite of the cupcake. Now what I am about to share is my exact reaction to the cupcake with no exaggerations. None whatsoever. I immediately got up, and walked away. I stood back a few feet staring at the cupcake. Letty and her husband were confused by my reaction. I continued to chew as I stared at the Guava cupcake that was before me. My face was in shock as I said, “WOW”. It was one of the Top 3 cupcakes I have EVER had. I looked at her husband and said, “Dude, you weren’t kidding. This is a great cupcake.” Words couldn’t express my admiration for this cupcake. I took a trip down memory lane. It had nothing but GUAVA flavor in the cake. I was impressed. I went to Letty and told her, “I am impressed and that’s saying a lot because I am not easily impressed by food.” She was ecstatic that I loved the cupcake. Ok, now to break it down. The cupcake, like the others, was moist, but the guava flavor was pronounced. You could have eaten it blindfolded and known this was a guava cupcake. The cream cheese frosting paired very nicely with the cake itself. It shocked me how well cream cheese frosting and guava works. On top was a square piece of guava jelly. The jelly just took the cupcake to a different level. Minus the jelly, the cupcake was still phenomenal, but the jelly took it past that. The cupcake was something that needed to be savored. Although the other cupcakes were good, I personally felt that they all pale in comparison to the guava. I thought it was a stroke of genius to be able to create something like that. To make it more interesting, Letty’s husband challenged me and said, “I dare you to make something like that.” My response was, “Oh trust me…. I WILL!” I immediately bought out the rest of the guava cupcakes she had on display. My friend initially didn’t buy one and I told him how much he was missing. He tried it, and felt the same way I felt. I told Letty that as a fellow baker, I was extremely impressed. I will be working on a guava cupcake and it will be my Ode to Letty!

After saying our goodbyes, we left the store and headed back to the hotel with a plethora of cupcakes. To make matters more interesting, I went to another location (she has two shops) that was close by and bought more guava cupcakes. This was a unique experience for me on two levels. I was able to find a cupcake that has cemented itself in my Top 3 best cupcakes of all time, as well as meet someone who shares the same passion. Make no mistake, when it comes to passion Letty has it! There is no doubt about it. Overall, I had a great experience at LA Sweets. I would be visiting that place again and again. If you are in Miami, you HAVE to go to LA Sweets. When you do go, get your hands on the guava cupcake and try it yourself. Trust me, you WON’T be disappointed.

– Review by Guest Crusader Joel of Josie’s Confections

Cruisin’ and Boozin’ (and Eating Some Cupcakes Too)

Let’s be honest. I think we ALL know you really only go on a cruise for two reasons: food and alcohol. Sure it’s great to relax, see some new sights, and meet some cool people, but really, everyone on that ship is there for the buffet and daily cocktails. We all know this, and that is what makes a cruise such a wonderful thing.

When my husband, Ken, and I decided to book a cruise for our big yearly vacation, I was obviously hoping to work cupcakes into it somehow. I noticed that some Royal Caribbean cruise ships actually have a cupcake shop on board called the Cupcake Cupboard, but sadly, our ship did not. I figured with all the desserts and buffets though, there were bound to be some cupcakes eventually, so I boarded the ship confident that I would eat at least one cupcake on my journey.

Our first day was spent at sea, exploring the ship, and checking out all the eating options. After lunch at the buffet, Ken and I passed the main dining room and saw a spiced rum cake on the menu. Never one to pass up a tasty treat, we headed in and were seated at a table with about four or five other diners. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one ordering just dessert.

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Now, I know this isn’t your typical cupcake, BUT it is a cake baked in a cup… so technically, it’s a cupcake. At this point I wasn’t sure if I would encounter any actual cupcakes, so I enjoyed every bite of this spiced rum cake with a soft center and slightly crunchy exterior.

The next day we docked in Port Canaveral and opted to take the shuttle to Disney World to spend the afternoon at Epcot. I absolutely love Disney World, but had never been to Epcot before, so was excited to walk around, ride some of the attractions, and find each of my nieces a special gift.

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(Ken and I posing for a quick picture in “Italy.”)

I have read that you can find cupcakes in Disney World, but Epcot is a big park, with tons of shops and places to eat, so I wasn’t 100% sure if I would. However, my cupcake luck must have been spot on because within a half hour I had a cupcake in hand.

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Ken and I stopped for lunch at Sunshine Seasons in The Land and before I even decided on what food I wanted to eat, I was buying this gigantic Cappuccino cupcake. It was about $4 dollars—which I think is good considering its size and the fact that amusement park food is usually about twice as much as it is anywhere else. I wasn’t really expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised that the cake was moist and the overall flavor really delightful. Even my non-cupcake-loving-husband (don’t ask… I don’t get it either) enjoyed it, saying the cake and whipped cream filling were both nice. I didn’t think there was enough cappuccino flavor, but Ken, who isn’t an avid coffee drinker like me, said he could taste it in the frosting.

After lunch we continued on our adventures around the world and beyond: flying to Mars, spotting Donald Duck in Mexico, stalking Snow White in Germany, and stopping for photos in Italy. When we reached The Liberty Inn restaurant in The American Adventure section of Epcot I noticed a very large gingerbread house, only to discover that they were selling mini seasonal cupcakes.

CruiseCupcakes4(They must be used to people taking pictures because they smiled at the camera without even being asked.)

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(I didn’t think twice about getting these holiday cupcakes.)

I was most excited about the Eggnog and Gingerbread, but since you couldn’t pick and choose at this stand, we took away all four flavors. Feeling positive after his first cupcake tasting of the day, my husband agreed to split these with me, which meant we had about a bite each.

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(Top left going clockwise: Gingerbread, Eggnog, Apple Pie, and Red Velvet)

The favorites in this group were the Gingerbread and the Apple Pie (which had a wonderful apple pie filling and a good contrasting texture with the candied pecans). I had high hopes for the Eggnog, since they are typically one of my favorite winter cupcakes, but this one had too much filling which left the cake soggy. The cake in the Red Velvet was pretty bland, but the cream cheese frosting was amazing. Ken also really liked it and actually couldn’t recall trying cream cheese frosting before (I know, who am I married to?!).

Back at the ship that night, I didn’t think my cupcake luck could improve, but I was wrong (well sort of…). While we were walking around the upper deck, I looked in the buffet room window and saw the staff put out cupcakes for the late night buffet.

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(Vanilla and Strawberry cupcakes on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship)

I wondered if this cupcake filled day could get any better, but it couldn’t. The cake was a weird dry yet sticky texture that lacked any flavor and the frosting wasn’t nearly sweet enough. Oh well… at least I didn’t have to pay for them. Plus, I knew the rest of the trip would be filled with plenty more food, drinks, and desserts.

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(A glimpse at some of the drinks from the cruise. Every day I tried the daily signature cocktail. Some were good, and some were okay, but it was fun to keep my record going.)

While no more cupcakes presented themselves the rest of the trip, I couldn’t believe the luck I had on our first day at port, and I of course still ate some amazing sweets like mudpie, souffle and crème brûlée.

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(Mudpie from the Chops Grille, the main dining room’s fancy take on a Jaffa Cake, Chocolate Souffle with espresso drizzle, and Baily’s Crème Brûlée—yep, that’s two desserts in one night you see there. Why not? It’s a cruise!)

All in all I would say that, with or without cupcakes, my first cruise experience was great. It was so nice to sit back, relax, and eat all the food you could manage without even lifting a finger. I want to go back.

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– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Simply Cupcakes of Naples

After a week of sweet reviews from our recent trip to Florida, we have finally arrived at our last one, Simply Cupcakes of Naples. Before heading to Florida I would often stalk visit Simply Cupcakes’ Facebook page admiring all their cupcake photos, so I knew we had to stop in to sample their oversized cupcakes.

When we arrived at Simply Cupcakes the owners and staff were in the middle of a meeting, but that didn’t keep them from taking a break to show us all the flavors and talk a little bit about the company. We learned that the company was started in 2006 by selling cupcakes at a local farmers market and now there are many locations throughout Florida and the United States. We also learned that Simply Cupcakes offers a program to help bakers start up a Simply Cupcakes online company. It’s not a normal franchise opportunity, but rather, they go over things like legal requirements for at home baking, calculating your costs, marketing yourself, and even provide recipes. It’s everything you need to start up your own Simply Cupcakes!

After learning so much about Simply Cupcakes, we were ready to get some cupcakes! I immediately knew two of the flavors I would be getting: Funky Monkey and Key Lime (their signature flavor). When Simple Cupcakes posted about Funky Monkey on their Facebook page I couldn’t help but comment, and they happily told me they would make sure that flavor was there for us to try!

The remaining cupcakes we decided on were Carrot Cake, Red Velvet (for Crusader Elisa), Hint of Mint, and Raspberry Almond. We found out that they predominantly use an Italian meringue buttercream for their frosting which gives each cupcake a lightness that is greatly appreciated in the hot Florida air.

Funky Monkey:

The Funky Monkey cupcake was everything I dreamed it would be. Banana cake, chocolate ganache, peanut butter filling and a strongly flavored, yet light and airy, whipped peanut butter frosting. Crusader Jenn and I both agree that this is one of our all time favorite cupcakes.

Key Lime:

Made with a key lime curd filling, this cupcake was another crowd pleaser. Any one who has ever tasted a regular lime vs a key lime knows that the key lime packs more flavor and more tartness than the regular lime. It’s no wonder that this is the signature cupcake of a Florida cupcakery.

Carrot Cake:

I wish I could say that I tried this nicely decorated cupcake, but we purchased this for my Nana (one of the most wonderful grandmothers ever!). She loves carrot cake so when we saw that Simply Cupcakes had that option, we quickly added it to our growing list of flavors we would be purchasing that day.

Red Velvet:

This Red Velvet is another that I didn’t have a chance to try since it was for Crusader Elisa. I have to admit though, that with its tasteful, yet simple, decorations it traveled quite well from Fort Myers to Baltimore in my cupcake container.

Hint of Mint:

After reading the notes for this cupcake that Crusader Jenn took (yes, we often take actual notes…) I had to laugh because she wrote: “Stacy grunted twice: ‘ganache… mmmmm…'” I sure do enjoy my cupcakes. 😉 At first I thought the frosting could have used more mint flavor, but looking back it was the perfect amount for sitting by the pool on a warm day. I think if it had been any stronger it may have made the cupcake feel much heavier, which is not what you want on a hot day.

Raspberry Almond:

This cupcake was a great way to finish our tasting with. It had a fluffy almond flavored cake, raspberry preserves smeared on top, and was finished with a soft Italian meringue buttercream and almond shavings. It was light and refreshing. Another perfect treat when relaxing by the water.

I’ve always looked forward to visiting my family in Florida. I spent countless summers there growing up and it really is like a second home to me. Now that we have discovered some amazing cupcake places it will make our visits there even “sweeter.”

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

Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Sassy Cakes in Naples, FL

As you may have already read from Jenn’s past two reviews (here and here), we had a great start to our Florida vacation! After a week of relaxing, visiting with family, swimming in the pool, going to the beach, and eating TONS of great food, we arrived at the last day of our trip. Before getting to Florida, we had already planned to do some cupcaking with our cousin and her daughter on the Friday before we left. Excited to have new people to share our passion with and happy to spend more time with them, we decided to visit two cupcake shops in Naples, Florida: Sassy Cakes, a former Cupcake Wars contestant, and Simply Cupcakes of Naples.

Our first stop was Sassy Cakes, tucked behind a shopping strip on 4th Avenue South in Downtown Naples. The first thing that jumped out to me in this cute little shop was an adorable kids’ table adorned with a hand painted cupcake graphic.

This table really sets the whole tone for the shop, which also has cupcake trinkets scattered throughout, cupcake photography hanging on the walls, and a mismatched collection of plates which their cupcakes are served on for “dine in” customers. One of my current obsessions is finding cute and different dessert plates at flea markets and antique stores, so I was immediately in love. Cupcakes and fun plates? It couldn’t get any better for me at that moment.

The owner and baker, Bayah, could not have been more sweet as she described the flavors and waited for us to make our choice. Normally I don’t have too many issues when it comes to flavor selection, but Sassy Cakes had so many I wanted to try, including mini cupcakes, that it took me forever. I finally decided on a full size Hazelnut Espresso Cafe and three mini cupcakes: Banana Pudding, Lemon Parade of Blueberry, and Caramel by the Sea. Jenn and our cousin, Megan, decided on a full size Banana Pudding, while Megan’s daughter and Jenn’s husband each choose a full size Cookies N Cream.

Since it was only 11am, I thought the Hazelnut Espresso Cafe cupcake would be the perfect late morning treat. Plus hazelnut flavored coffee is my go to beverage when I need a morning – or afternoon – pick-me-up. (I’m not sure how I would survive without my Hazelnut Kuerig K-cups.) The chocolate cake on Sassy Cake’s Hazelnut Espresso Cafe cupcake was moist and filled with a rich chocolate hazelnut filling. The espresso frosting could have had a stronger espresso flavor (in my opinion) but Jenn thought it was absolutely perfect, so I guess maybe I just like my coffee strong? 😉 Overall this was a really tasty cupcake that I would definitely get again.

The Cookies N Cream cupcake was a big hit with Jenn’s husband, Dan, and my cousin’s daughter. When I asked Dan his thoughts on the cupcake he responded with and enthusiastic “Ooooo…. Man…. It was GOOOOD!” He also added that he thought Sassy Cakes was awesome!

While the first two flavors were quite delectable, the stand out winner of the day was the Banana Pudding. I’m really glad I took a mini version of this flavor home with me, however, I’m kinda wishing that I had gotten a full size one. The soft, moist, banana cake was packed with flavor and the banana cream filling was spot on. This is a cupcake I could eat again and again.

The other two mini flavors I brought home with me were the Lemon Parade of Blueberry and the Caramel by the Sea. Looking back, I should have selected full size of these flavors too, but I was trying to be good…

The only other time I’ve had a Lemon Blueberry cupcake was from Kupcakes & Co. and since they are one of my all time favorite cupcakeries, the competition was tight. Sassy Cakes did a great job on their version, but if I’m given the opportunity again, I would definitely try the full size option because I only saw a couple of fresh blueberries in the cake. Even with that though, the cupcake was moist and fresh tasting, so I really enjoyed it.

The last of my mini morsels was the Caramel by the Sea. I’m a sucker for anything with salted caramel and I unfortunately devoured this cupcake before taking any mental notes. But I guess that almost speaks for how good it really was and Jenn confirmed that it was one of her favorites too.

As I mentioned above, Sassy Cakes was featured on Cupcake Wars, and in their season 3 episode, the Tim Burton Bake Off, they were eliminated in the first round because their tapioca filling didn’t set up leaving the cake mushy. I can personally attest that this must have been a fluke due to the tight time constraints, because all the cake and fillings were perfect in the cupcakes we tried. They bake their cupcakes fresh daily and it shows! Curious as to what happens to the leftover cupcakes, we asked if they worked with a local food shelter and were pleased to find out that they work with an organization called Maria’s Birthday Wish for the Homeless. Maria’s Birthday Wish works with several bakeries and shelters to bring happiness and recognition to men, woman, and children who are often forgotten on their birthdays. To find out more about their cause, please visit their website or Facebook page.

With all the tasty cupcakes, great atmosphere, and their desire to give back to the community, there are a ton of reasons why you should visit Sassy Cakes the next time you are in Naples, FL!

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