Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! April’s Pie Company

Crusader Stacy, our husbands, Little Leah and I spent one afternoon in Downtown Fort Myers while we were vacationing in Florida. We had lunch and then walked around the shops and galleries along 1st Street. Having run out of cupcakes, and only being halfway through our trip, Stacy and I were also keeping a look out for bakeries. We passed by a French bakery that has some pastries, but was mostly set up with a lunch deli. We’d almost given up on finding any tiny treats, when we stumbled past April’s Pie Company (also know as April’s Eatery).

It is located in the old Arcade building in Downtown Fort Myers, beneath a very neat old sign. They also have a breakfast and lunch menu but having already filled up at Ford’s Garage, we only had eyes for sweets…and behold, they had mini pie bites!

We selected four of the options: Apple, Key Lime, Cookies and Cream, and Coconut Cream. For anyone who loves pie for the crust, these pie bites are perfect for you! The crust is in a higher ratio than pie filling, but is flaky, crunchy, and buttery. I’m not usually a pie person, but the small bite of filling made me want more. The key lime that I selected was perfectly tart and Stacy said the apple was delicious and definitely her favorite. I was hoping that she’d let me take a small bite, but was too afraid to ask…She never offered, so I’ll have to take her word for it. 😉

April’s Pie Company also offers pies by the slice and whole pies for special order, so the next time I’m in Fort Myers, I think I’ll have to try a regular slice and stay for lunch!

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

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Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes

Crusader Stacy and I knew there was something we needed to take care of soon after arriving at our Florida vacation destination. I know you are thinking, “Get cupcakes!” and you aren’t entirely wrong…However the first thing on our agenda for the week was a girls’ afternoon to get manicures and pedicures. After all, a vacation is about being pampered and our toes deserved some attention for all the time they’d be spending out in the Florida sun, right? I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t thought of getting cupcakes on the way to our appointment, so that we could sit back in the massage chairs savoring a sweet treat. But, we mustered up our patience and enjoyed our sister-time sans cupcakes.

After our nails were beautified we decided it was time to show them off with a walk through Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Fl. The location of Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes couldn’t have been more perfect for us. Only a few miles away from our nail place, and situated in a center of high-end retailers and boutiques, we could enjoy the warm weather and shop a little.

We found Grace & Shelly’s easily and admired their cute store. They have some small tables, cupcake merchandise, and something extra…ice cream! This is becoming more common to see in our Baltimore-DC metro area, however in Florida I imagine it’s great for business, with having “ice-cream-weather” year-round.

It wasn’t easy to pick out flavors because they all looked so good! Their cupcakes are gourmet size, so a little larger than your average cupcake, and adorned with toppings. Lucky for us, they also sell pre-assembled containers of mini cupcakes by the dozen. We picked one out and then made our selection of larger cupcakes based on what was left to try. In the end, we were able to sample 13 flavors!

The standouts for us were the Chocolate Raspberry, Caramel Brown Sugar, and Tiramisu. Some of the cupcakes were on the sweet side, even for us, but what you can expect from all Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes is moist cake and creative and flavorful combinations.

Chocolate Raspberry:

Chocolate Raspberry has become my go-to for a decadent chocolate treat. Typically paired with a dark chocolate ganache and raspberry filling, it’s rich and makes me believe that nothing could ever be a more perfect combination. Grace & Shelly’s version of this treat is no different. The raspberry to chocolate ratio was perfectly balanced and Stacy and I weren’t willing to share with anyone else!

Caramel Brown Sugar:

We contemplated getting the Caramel Brown Sugar cupcake in a full-size, but opted not to, since our sample pack included two. After trying our small bite, we wish we had a larger one! The cake was so good and the frosting was buttery, a prefect complement to the caramel drizzle. Crusader Elisa would have loved it!

Tiramisu:

Crusader Stacy called dibs on this mini and, like the Caramel Brown Sugar, was wishing she had more. So was I, since I didn’t get to try it! But, as Stacy described it, it was, “Delicious. The espresso liquor made the cake a little squishy, but it didn’t matter because it was so good. And sometimes that can happen with tiramisu.” We both believe that the full-size cupcake would have stood up better to the espresso liquor drizzled on the cake and are waiting for when we have the opportunity to try it again!

Although these three were our favorites, we wouldn’t want to leave out the other cupcakes we tasted:

1) Chocolate Peanut Butter: Chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache frosting.

2) Grasshopper: Chocolate Oreo cake with mint frosting and chocolate chips. This cupcake was a contender for our top three!

3) Butterfinger: Vanilla cake with a peanut butter filling, cream cheese frosting, and topped with crushed butterfinger bars.

4) Vanilla-Vanilla: Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, topped with colorful sprinkles. We loved the decoration on this mini, and the full-size looked the same!

5) Orange Coconut: Orange cake with a cream cheese frosting, topped with toasted coconut.

6) Vanilla Strawberry: Vanilla cake with strawberry buttercream frosting, topped with a vanilla cookie. My husband really liked this cupcake and said it was as good as his favorite Maryland bakery.

7) Chocolate-Chocolate: Chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with sprinkles. Crusader Stacy’s husband would have liked this cupcake better if it had a chocolate ganache frosting instead of a chocolate buttercream, but for the chocolate lovers out there, Grace & Shelly’s does offer a triple chocolate cupcake with that combination and a chocolate filling!

8) Red Velvet: Red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting. Littlest Crusader Leah (aka: my daughter) really enjoyed this cupcake, including the sweet cream cheese frosting, although we believe it may have been too sweet for Crusader Elisa, our red velvet connoisseur.

9) Black and White: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped generously with sprinkles. Although not really black and white due to the vibrant frosting and sprinkles, it was fun!

10) Chocolate Coconut: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped with shaved coconut.

Not only are the cupcakes from Grace & Shelly’s memorable, so was the service. A nice man explained all the flavors to us, offered suggestions, spoke about the other locations when he found out we were vacationers, and once we completed our purchase, he walked our bag around the counter to hand it to us (a lost art in fine customer service). His enthusiasm about the product was obvious and contagious. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Grace & Shelly’s to my Florida family, or anyone else vacationing in the Fort Myers area!

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

LuLi’s Cupcakes – St Augustine, Florida

Traveling without eating cupcakes is a no-no when it comes to the Crusaders; so on a recent trip to St. Augustine Florida I knew I had to find some cupcakes to review! Luckily my sister knows of my love of cupcakes and told me about LuLi’s Cupcake  and how much she loved their Tiramisu cupcake called “The Godfather.” She’s not a huge sweets person, so if she likes it, I knew it would be really good. We took a trip down Rt.1 and stopped in for some cupcakes.

The sweet shop was easy to get to and adorably decorated! The staff were very friendly, and on top of cupcakes, they serve ice-cream, gourmet coffee and other sweet treats. The glass case that housed the cupcakes was well organized with pink polkadot signage to explain each flavor. I settled on four cupcakes, below are their reviews.

Lemon Twist

Lemon with a real twist! This lemon cupcake had a ginger flavor to it that was exciting and packed a bite. The sweet buttercream icing was a great complement to the cake, whose complex flavors fully developed after you were finished. The cake was light, moist, airy and delicious. There was a very generous layer of icing on top and the Lemonhead candy garnish was a treat too!

Fire Engine Red Velvet

This classic red velvet had a twist with crunchy pecan bits on top! The cake was FLAVORFUL and rich – and definitely the color of a fire truck! This is a red velvet cake done right! The cream cheese icing was everything it should be, creamy, cheesy, sweet (but not too sweet) and married well with the cake. The pecans on top added a layer of texture to this cupcake that I haven’t seen in many red velvet cupcakes. Definitely a red velvet I would like to have again!

Blueberry Fields Forever

Blue and yellow sugar sprinkles delicately danced on the top of this very interesting cupcake. The lemon, blueberry, and poppy-seed cake tasted a bit like black licorice to me – which isn’t a great thing, as I dislike black licorice immensely. The dried blueberries in the cake saved it a bit, as they added texture and much needed blueberry flavor. The cream cheese frosting (the same that was found on the red velvet) was delightful. This was a “special” cupcake for the day, and while it was not my favorite of the four, it was very interesting… so much in fact that I wouldn’t mind trying it again.

The Godfather

“The Godfather” Tiramisu cupcake with mascarpone cheese frosting reminded me of the movie quote, “take the gun, leave the cannoli,” except I would flip that statement around and replace cannoli with cupcake. I would “go to the mattresses” for this cupcake! WOW! The cake had a fantastic coffee flavor, but wasn’t soggy from being drenched in it as it was not dipped into espresso, but the coffee flavor was incorporated into the batter. The icing was smooth and tart – this pairing of cake and icing was simply perfect, as was the icing to cake ratio. I love tiramisu, but this cupcake really is the Godfather of the traditional dessert.

Visiting LuLi’s was a perk to an already wonderful trip to Florida that included some great weather and even better company. I can’t wait to taste more flavors next time! If you’re ever in St. Augustine, stop by and say hi to “The Godfather” for me – well, order one at least.

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

PopsyCakes: Not Just a Tasty Treat

Back in September, Cupcake Crusader, Elisa, stumbled across PopsyCakes at a Florida airport. If you’ve never heard of a PopsyCake, it’s a cupcake stuck on a pretzel stick, dipped in chocolate and then decorated. (Are you drooling yet?) We were all so excited to try this, but unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as we had hoped. However, their Facebook Page is filled with compliment after compliment and after reading their story about how the company began, I decided to contact them to see if we could get a replacement and give them another shot before reviewing.

To give a little background, PopsyCakes were created by Jessica Cervantes when she was just 16 years old. Two years later, in 2008, this idea won her first place in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE.com) National Business Plan. She is now a college student and managing the business at the same time. After reading this, I knew that I didn’t want to post a negative review, especially if so many people have been enjoying them.

Our first-class experience with PopsyCakes began almost immediately after contacting them. They emailed us back within 12 hours, shocked that we didn’t have a good experience. Convinced that they could change our minds, they decided to send us a variety of flavors to sample, instead of just replacing the 1 PopsyCake we had purchased. I have been so impressed with their customer service and the way they stand behind their product 100%. I think many companies could learn a thing or two from them.

After only waiting a few days (and dealing with some minor issues with USPS… but that’s another story…) my box arrived!

I really wanted to dive right into these the moment they arrived, but knew I needed to take photos of them first and I wanted to share them with the other Crusaders, so, I waited. For 3 days. (It felt like an eternity. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic).

Unfortunately, Crusader Jenn and I had to try them without Elisa, but since they sent us 2 duplicates of the Peanut Butter Blast (the flavor that we had initially tried) I have a full one for Elisa to have. Despite how well they were wrapped, the pretzel sticks on 2 of the 4 were broken.

I wasn’t too concerned about this because I knew I would be cutting it up to share, but I can see that if someone ordered them and they arrived with the sticks broken, they could be disappointed. This also could have happened on my end. I’m honestly not sure. Either way, it was finally time to unwrap and taste them!

The first one we decided to try was the Peanut Butter Blast.

It was a thousand times better than the one we tried back in September! This PopsyCake is described as “Reese’s Peanut Butter cake dipped in scrumptious milk chocolate. Finished with chocolate drizzle and fresh peanut accents” I’m not sure if the cake is actually peanut butter cake, or if the peanut butter is limited to the space between the cake and the milk chocolate.

I think this could use a little more of a “peanut butter punch,” but overall, it still had a nice flavor. The cake closest to the pretzel was the best part with a good mix of salty and sweet. Milk chocolate isn’t my favorite, so it’s hard for me to say that I loved that part, but the cake inside was really good.

Next up: Vanilla Bean Dream

This PopsyCake is vanilla cake dipped in milk chocolate. Usually Jenn and I find that vanilla cake can be boring, but this was actually really good. I think we both agreed that we preferred it over the Peanut Butter Blast. The vanilla cake was light and had great flavor. The milk chocolate on the outside actually worked really well with the cake. After this, we were exited to move on to the next one:

Dark Chocolate Decadence.

Being a big fan of dark chocolate, we decided to save this for last, hoping it would be the best. And in our opinion, it was. This PopsyCake was made with savory brownie cake (which really just tasted like a brownie, but we weren’t complaining) dipped in dark chocolate.

I could have easily finished this whole thing on my own. In fact, I kinda wish I didn’t have to share, but I love my crusaders, so I wasn’t going to do that. (Plus, I’m not sure that I could have even used physical force to get Jenn’s piece away from her). This PopsyCake has left me wishing that PopsyCakes reached more vendors across the USA. Right now they are limited to Florida, but I have no doubts they will continue to expand.

So, what went wrong with our first PopsyCake? Well, the representative from PopsyCakes and I both think that the vendor did not maintain the conditions that are necessary to guarantee freshness of their PopsyCakes. They are aware of the location we purchased ours, and said they will look into it further. If you’ve had a similar experience, I urge you to give PopsyCakes another chance. When you are shipping a product out to a vendor, you put a lot of trust into them, and unfortunately sometimes things go wrong. But after experiencing PopsyCakes for myself, I know you won’t be disappointed if you give them a second chance. Or, if you’ve never tried them, give them a first chance, and then, I’m sure you’ll be going back for more.

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

Happy Cakes = Three Happy Crusaders

Before I get into our review from last nights cupcake tasting, I wanted to announce that Jenn and I have decided that Elisa is going to join us as as a full fledged Cupcake Crusader. She has been on so many cupcake adventures with us, and also has always pursued trying new cupcake places when we aren’t even around, so it doesn’t make sense for her to only be a “guest” crusader. Most recently she brought back cupcakes for us all to try all the way from Florida to Baltimore! Without her we would not have all the wonderful memories that we have and we would not have this review.

Over the weekend, Elisa visited her family in St. Augustine, Florida, and was awesome enough to bring back 3 delicious cupcakes from Happy Cakes: A Cupcake Shop. She describes the shop as,”bright, cheery, and very beautifully decorated.” They even have kid’s tables and chairs which was perfect for Elisa’s to nephew to sit and eat his mini cupcake while playing a little bit.

How pretty are these cupcakes?

They even have “Frosting Shots!”

While Elisa was at the shop, she had a “Mocha Mini.” She says that this one was her 2nd favorite of all 4 flavors that she tried.

I’m not sure how she carried 3 cupcakes through 2 airports and on a plane without devouring them before Monday night, but she somehow managed so that Jenn and I could taste them with her when she returned. On Monday night, we all gathered around my kitchen table and decided our plan of attack would be: Red Velvet first, then Caramel Apple, and last the Key Lime Coconut. The Red Velvet probably held up the worst after it’s trip from Florida:

But that’s okay, we piled the frosting back on and divided it for the 3 of us to taste. My first reaction to pulling back the wrapper was how amazingly red the cake was. It was gorgeous!

After tasting this cupcake, our thoughts were pretty much unanimous, the sweet cream cheese frosting was AMAZING, but we don’t think the red velvet cake quite held up to the fantasticness of the frosting. It got lost a little bit. Still, the cupcake was worth it, just for the frosting. I should also say that we are all pretty picky about our red velvet cake, and I’ve personally only ever tried a few that I actually liked. (It’s not my favorite in general). BUT if you are a huge red velvet fan, I would definitely give this a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Up next: Caramel Apple

This cupcake held up shockingly well from the trip to Baltimore. I’m not quite sure how it managed, but if you are looking to travel a long distance with a cupcake, this is definitely the one for you. Hands down, this was all of our favorite. After cutting into it to split 3 ways we saw the aromatic apple pie filling:

Everything about this cupcake worked well. The filling could have been used in a pie or cobbler just by itself, it was that good. The cake was a mild flavor that didn’t compete with the apple and caramel flavors, and the frosting complemented the entire thing. I can only hope that I find myself in the St. Augustine area, in the Fall, sometime in my future, to be able to taste this delicious cupcake again.

After that, we knew that the Key Lime Coconut cupcake was going to have to be pretty good. I would say that if we hadn’t had the Apple Caramel, the Key Lime would have been Jenn’s and my favorite. Elisa said that the Mocha Mini was her 2nd favorite though (after the Caramel Apple) so I know that had to be amazing too. The Key Lime Coconut held up pretty well during the trip. Not quite as well as the Caramel Apple, but still, pretty impressive:

This cupcake was everything you would expect out of cupcake with Key Lime flavor. It was sweet and tart and a perfect warm weather/summer treat. The coconut flavor in the cake was very mild (we are guessing becuase they use natural ingredients) but had a true coconut flavor, not a processed artificial flavor. The key lime frosting can only be described as “WOW!”

If you are ever in the St. Augustine area, make sure check out Happy Cakes (and tell them the Cupcake Crusaders say, “Hello!”)

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