Magnolia Bakery

As I mentioned last week in our Christmas post, Elisa and I stopped by Magnolia Bakery‘s Rockefeller Center location this past month since we were in the area. Even though it isn’t our favorite cupcake place in the city, we were both hoping to try their Chocolate Truffle Cupcake, but they were out that night. So instead, we got the Rockette Red Velvet, a classic Vanilla with Chocolate frosting, and a Pistachio cupcake. Unfortunately none of them were very good. Since we already posted about the Rockette Red Velvet in our Christmas post, we wanted to share our thoughts on the other two.

Pistachio

Like the Red Velvet, the cake was very dense and dry. The redeeming quality to this cupcake was the flavor. It really did have great pistachio flavor. I wouldn’t go all the way back to NYC for this cupcake, but it ended up being the best of the three.

Classic Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

The cake on this cupcake was the same as the Pistachio and Red Velvet. Dense and dry. I’m not sure if everyone experiences this with their cupcakes, but at the rate they were baking them that night, freshness shouldn’t have been an issue. The “cupcake care” instructions on their website state that if you plan to store them (which we did for just one night) they should be kept in an airtight container at room temperature (which we always do). This didn’t change the fact that the cake was still dry. The creamy frosting could have saved this cupcake, but it was more of a milk chocolate, which I’m not really a fan of.

Despite the let down with their cupcakes (which they are known for) Magnolia does have some great aspects that I love. First, the look of their cupcakes. I mean, seriously? How cute are they? They are almost too pretty to eat.

Second, their packaging.

Being a graphic designer, I pay a lot of attention to details like that and they do not cut corners when it comes to this. Even though I only got one cupcake (and a pumpkin whoopie pie – more on that later) they still placed my cupcake in a pretty box and a gave me a pretty bag to take with me. This gives them MAJOR points.

Not only does their packaging look good, but their cupcake boxes are top notch.

See those little “cupcake grips” to the bottom right of the photo above? This cupcake isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Since they are located in NYC, it is really important to have secure cupcake packaging when you are hopping on and off of buses and subways and making your way through the crowds. Magnolia’s boxes do not disappoint.

I was also very impressed with our service that evening. Since it is the holiday season, it was packed, but the employees were all really nice and kept the line moving along. It’s easy to get frustrated when you are behind the counter dealing with a crowd like that, but they didn’t let that effect them.

Last, – this alone would make me go back – their pumpkin whoopie pie was AMAZING. Like, heart stopping “OMG” amazing. I wish I had taken a photo of it, but that little treat didn’t even make it back to the car. I was only going to take one bite, but before I knew it, I was finished. Unlike the cupcakes, the cake portion was super moist and rich with pumpkin flavor and spices. The cream cheese filling was an appropriate sweetness and had a nice smooth fluffy texture. This whoopie pie was worth the wait in line.

What are your thoughts on Magnolia Bakery compared to other cupcake shops? Let us know, we would love to hear!

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

Very Merry Christmas Cupcakes

Throughout the month of December the Crusaders (and a friend of the Crusaders)  have been gathering Christmas themed cupcakes to share in one big post. We hope you enjoy these reviews as you spend these next couple of days wrapping presents, baking, and spending time with family.

Crumbs Bake Shop – NYC
This year Crumbs had an assortment of cupcakes decorate and flavored for Christmas. Unfortunately, when Crusader Elisa and I stopped by they only had the following two, Vanilla/Vanilla and Vanilla/Chocolate with holiday sprinkles. We decided to go ahead and give them a try, since we haven’t had any of Crumbs classic flavors and we had waited in a long line. We were so glad we did!


(Crumbs Bake Shop’s Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting)

This cupcake blew me away! I’m still often pleasantly surprised by how good a vanilla cupcake can be. The cake was light, moist and very buttery. It brought back memories of the vanilla cake my mom used to make when I was a kid. The vanilla cream cheese frosting was the perfect compliment and it was double perfect because I ate half of this cupcake for breakfast. Vanilla is quickly becoming a favorite flavor of mine, which is still a bit shocking to me.


(Crumbs Bake Shop’s Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting)

The cake on this cupcake was exactly like the cake on the Vanilla/Vanilla cupcake. The frosting was just as light a fluffy as the vanilla cream cheese frosting, but the milk-chocolatiness of it complimented the vanilla cake perfectly.

Magnolia Bakery – NYC
While visiting NYC Elisa and I also stopped by Magnolia Bakery. It’s not typically our favorite place for cupcakes, but we were in the area and figured “why not?” They were out of a lot of options, but they did have these Red Velvet Rockette cupcakes left:


(Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet Cake with Whipped Vanilla Frosting)

Unfortunately this was not a good cupcake. The cake was really dry and dense and there wasn’t much flavor to it at all. The frosting was just okay too. Unfortunately the best part of this cupcake was the edible glitter and the chocolate Rockette on top. One redeeming quality was that even with how busy they were, the staff was incredibly friendly, so we had a great experience while we were there.

IcedGems – Baltimore, MD
IcedGems has a huge assortment of holiday flavors and decorated cupcakes this year. The options are amazing and thanks to one of Elisa’s co-workers – a fellow cupcake lover, Rebecca – Elisa has five to show you below. Thanks Rebecca for hooking us up with such awesome cupcakes!


(IcedGems’ Peppermint Cupcake)

Chocolate, peppermint, Hershey’s Kisses… what more can you ask for?! The perfect blend of sweet and peppermint, this cupcake made me go, “MMmmmmmmmm.” The cake was moist and rich with flavor, while the icing was smooth, creamy, and unfolded a peppermint taste on your tongue. Find their truck and buy one of these asap!


(IcedGems’ “Christmas Tree” holiday cupcake)

This was their “birthday cake” cupcake, which is fun-fetti cake with sweet buttercream icing. With it’s adorable star on top, this cupcake screams Christmas cheer! It was moist, delicious, sweet, savory, and just plain yummy. Simple flavors sometimes get lost in the mix of extravagant, complex, flavors, but this one was a shining star!


(IcedGems “Elf” holiday cupcake)

This adorable cupcake was very moist and sweet. It was a peanut butter swirl cake with vanilla buttercream icing. Elisa said that while it was really good, it wasn’t her favorite, but that there was some pretty steep competition with some of the other flavors.


(IcedGems “Santa Pants” holiday cupcake)

This chocolate cupcake was very good. With Santa’s legs sticking out of it like he’s stuck in a chimney, the flavorful cupcake was a sweet treat – with it’s reese’s peanut butter cup and marshmallow on top, this cupcake wasn’t just fun, it was flavorful too!


(IcedGems’ Egg Nog Cupcake)

Rebecca said that this cupcake was very good. In her own words, “The buttercream frosting was smooth with the right hint of spice and richness. While the cake wasn’t as moist as the others, it was also eaten a couple of days after it was purchased, and was still light with a nice kick of spice in it as well.  With an edible, white chocolate ornament on top, this cupcake all around was great!”

** IcedGems also very kindly gave Rebecca a Red Velvet, knowing that it’s Elisa’s favorite. We will be sharing that review in a separate post in the next week or two. So keep an eye out for that!  🙂

Sprinkles Cupcakes – Georgetown, DC
Another big “THANKS!” must go out to our newest Guest Crusader, Rebecca, for bringing a Red Velvet Sprinkles Cupcake to Elisa and sharing a review of the chocolate peppermint she got for herself.


(Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Chocolate Peppermint Cupcake)

This cupcake is described as a “Belgian dark chocolate cake topped with bittersweet chocolate-peppermint frosting. Sprinkled with crushed peppermint candies, it will get everyone rockin’ around the Christmas tree!” Apparently Rebecca agrees because she said, “Delicious! Moist, yummy, and great flavor.”


(Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Red Velvet Cupcake)

From Elisa: “Having previously reviewed the red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles, I was afraid this one wouldn’t live up to my memories… But it just confirmed my original review of simply scrumptious cake with fabulous cream cheese icing. Anytime I go there, I will have to get their red velvet.”

We hope whether you are baking cupcakes or ordering them from your local bakery, that you and your family have a very “sweet” Christmas.

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

Baked by Melissa Sells Little Bites of Heaven

You may think that this is an extreme statement to make, but after my second visit to Baked by Melissa, I’m convinced it’s true. There is something so special and wonderful about popping a cupcake the size of a quarter in your month and the explosion of flavor that erupts from it. When you take that cupcake, and dip it in chocolate, it gets about a billion times better.

I would like to introduce you to In Chocolate, Baked by Melissa’s new product:


(Isn’t it nice on the eyes? I’m obsessed with the plaid themed sturdy packaging. I will surely keep this and use to store trinkets of some kind.)


(Well hello Morsel of Magnificence. It’s so nice to finally meet you.)


(Oh yes, not just one, but three. So glad they come in groups: Cookie Dough, Tie-Dye and Cookies & Cream.)

After thoroughly enjoying the “unwrapping experience” I decided I could wait no longer and selected the Tie-Dye mini cupcake covered in chocolate.

I couldn’t have been happier with the flavors and textures. The chocolate shell offered a nice crunch, similar to a cake pop, but the inside was 100% cupcake. Soft cake and creamy frosting, it was perfection. This was actually a lot like the texture from a Popsy Cake, but the miniature scale made it so much easier to eat and enjoy.

In an effort to savor the three that I had, I waited a couple of days for my next fix. When the time came, I selected the Cookies & Cream, deciding to save one of my favorite Baked by Melissa flavors, Cookie Dough, for last.

The Cookies & Cream actually tastes a lot like the cupcake even with the chocolate coating. Unlike the Tie-Dye, which typically doesn’t have any chocolate, the Cookies N Creme is chocolate based. I still loved the added crunch the the chocolate shell provided.

The Cookie Dough isn’t going to last in it’s safe little box much longer. I’ve got big (uh… little?) plans for him tonight. While I haven’t tried it yet, I already know it’s going to be amazing. It’s $10 for a box of 3 of these specialty cupcakes, but go ahead and splurge. It’s the holiday season and that’s what it’s all about, right? You won’t be disappointed.

On top of the excitement of finally sampling In Chocolate, Crusader Elisa and I also got Baked by Melissa’s mini of the month for December, Snow Covered Pretzel (as well as all the other flavors I reviewed here).

This is by far the best (non-chocolate-dipped) cupcake I’ve had from them. It was Elisa’s favorite. It was my favorite. And my hubby actually said, “that puts a smile on your face.” And it totally does. The sweet/salty and soft/crunchy combos going on in this cupcake are amazing. We all wish that we had bought more of these and sad that it is only a monthly flavor. Hopefully, they will bring it back at some point, becuase it really is THAT amazing. So, if you are visiting or living in the NYC area, get yourself to a Baked by Melissa to try these while you can. If you aren’t in that area, then you can always place an order on their website. It’s totally worth it.

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

Guest Post: Cake Pops | Sweet Sixteen Cafe | Lockport, NY

We are excited to share our first guest post by Alli from Creative Exurbia. Alli is a fantastic graphic designer and a close friend of the Crusaders. When Crusader Stacy was returning from Ontario her and her hubby dropped by Alli’s house in upstate New York for a brief visit and Alli had a nice little treat waiting for them.

When you find out your friend Stacy (aka Cupcake Crusader Stacy) is coming to town, you plan to have cupcakes.

Period.

About a month before she and her husband were to stop by my place here in the exurbs I was lucky enough to stumble upon a Groupon for  Sweet Sixteen Cafe. The café is located in Lockport, NY — only 25 miles from me — and I had yet to pay them a visit. This was the perfect opportunity!

The Groupon was for six of their award winning cake pops. My mouth watered while reading their menu and because I wanted to be able to taste a variety of flavors, I called the shop beforehand to place an order. I learned that special orders start at a minimum of 50 and that it would be best to just stop in.

So the day before Stacy’s arrival, I headed to Lockport. I was pleased to see that Sweet Sixteen Cafe was a nice looking establishment. I was greeted with a clean, eye catching logo, cute interior, a wall of gift items for sale, an extremely friendly staff and ALL six flavors of cake pops listed on their chalkboard. Hurray!

Come to find out, the baker was coming in that afternoon and they had only seven cake pops in just three of the flavors remaining. Grr. I took what they had left and hoped for them that no other Groupon-holding customer would arrive after me! I was told that I was getting one red velvet, one Nutella, and four pumpkin spice flavored cake pops.

They handed me a beautiful box along with a mini red velvet cupcake. (The mini cupcake was a treat to go alongside my light lunch. It is a bakery and a café after all!) The mini-cake was one bite of perfectly melded flavors.


(Cake pops to go, and a small treat while there. Photo Courtesy Alli from Creative Exurbia)

The cake pops were unlike any we had seen. Rather than being ball-shaped they were rectangular as if they’d been cubed from a whole cake and then dipped in chocolate. Each pop had two layers of frosting sandwiched in between three layers of cake. They were stunning!


(Photo Courtesy Alli from Creative Exurbia)

We started with “pumpkin spice” since we had the most of this flavor. The cake was moist and flavorful, but wait. What flavor? Unmistakably, a classic carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing dipped in white chocolate. I was more shocked than disappointed that the staff member didn’t know the flavor she served. However, it was delicious and we had no problem eating all of them.


(Pumpkin Spice (AKA: Carrot Cake) from Sweet Sixteen Cafe.)

Next up was “Nutella” (or so I was told). Stacy took one look at this cake and knew it wasn’t Nutella. After all, Nutella is a hazelnut spread and this cake pop was adorned with chopped peanuts, not hazelnuts. Hmm. Two for two the staff member incorrectly identified their cakes. Now I was disappointed. As it turns out we were tasting the chocolate peanut butter dipped in dark chocolate. This was, however, our favorite flavor of the day. Peanut butter cream in between dark chocolate cake dipped in chocolate on a stick. Need I say more?


(Nutella (AKA: Chocolate Peanut Butter) from Sweet Sixteen Cafe.)

Our final cake pop was, in fact, red velvet. Unfortunately, neither of us were impressed with this one. The menu promised a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, but it tasted more like a basic buttercream. Also, the cake was much too wet and dense. Meh. We had one bite and tossed the rest.


(Red Velvet from Sweet Sixteen Cafe. Photo Courtesy Alli from Creative Exurbia)

Despite the numerous mishaps, the cake pops from Sweet Sixteen Café were quite beautiful and fun to eat. I’ll definitely be returning to taste some of their other offerings such as snickerdoodle and root beer float, that is, if they can serve the correct flavor next time.

– Review by Guest Crusader, Alli (Lyndonville, NY). To find out more about Alli and Creative Exurbia visit www.creative-exurbia.com.

Molly’s Cupcakes

We are excited to have a new guest reviewer! Jen is a close friend of the Crusaders (and a “name twin” to Crusader Jenn), currently living in New York City. She’s been on many adventures with us and has taken the time to share a review on Molly’s Cupcakes, a bakery with locations in Chicago and NYC who donates a portion of their proceeds to schools in their community. Thanks Jen!

I was thrilled and honored when Stacy asked me to write a guest post for her blog, and I knew that I had to take the task seriously. As the only one of their cupcake-obsessed friends living in NYC, I had many options, but did not want to start with something that we had all tried, like Crumbs or Magnolia Bakery. On a day date with my husband a few weeks ago, I took note of a few places around the city, but none were all that exciting. But then last weekend while down in the Village, we noticed something that we had never seen before – the newly opened Molly’s Cupcakes. I instantly knew it would be perfect for my first guest post, so in we went!

Now, I know that this is a blog about cupcakes, but first I have to say how cool the shop is inside! Not only is there plenty of seating and cute touches everywhere, just look at these hanging bar stools!

And look at the cute logo!

They also have “build your own” cupcakes with a pretty decent selection of flavors, but who needs those when you have so many fun choices already baked? Just look at the choices: a huge cupcake-shaped éclair, apple pie, crème brulee, lemon meringue, peanut butter nutella (yes, you read that right!), chocolate decadence, kahlua…we definitely had some hard decisions to make.

After going back and forth trying to decide which four flavors to try, we settled on (from top left, clockwise) butterscotch caramel, pumpkin, cake batter and chocolate raspberry.

First up: pumpkin!

I’m pretty sure that this was my first pumpkin cupcake, ever. I’ve had many pieces of pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin donuts, but never a cupcake. My first impression was that it tasted a lot like pumpkin pie, just not quite as sweet. The cake was very moist, and just about the perfect consistency, but I am not a fan of whipped cream frosting, at all. Unfortunately, that’s mostly the only type of frosting they use. We were both surprised to find that there was cream filling inside, which was the same as the frosting on the top. As you can see in the photos, there was cinnamon sprinkled on top, which was a nice touch. This cupcake was also probably the prettiest of them all – unfortunately there is nothing spectacular about the way Molly’s cupcakes are decorated. Verdict: the pumpkin cupcake is definitely worth trying, but if you don’t like whipped cream, you may want to try something else.

Next: chocolate raspberry!

I am very glad I decided to try this cupcake, it was delicious! The chocolate ganache frosting was incredible, the cake was delicious and perfectly moist, and there was the perfect amount of raspberry filling. My only complaints were that it was extremely crumbly (I’m glad I was using a fork) and though it’s nice that the raspberry filling was real, the seeds in it became annoying after a while. Also, the raspberry on top may have tasted alright but it was a very strange consistency when I picked it up that made me not want to try it. I will most likely be ordering this cupcake again, it’s a must for any chocolate lovers!

The next one we tried was the butterscotch caramel:

I was quite excited to try this cupcake, doesn’t it just look mouthwatering with those caramel drizzles? My expectations were a little higher than the others for this one, but I was also a bit nervous that it would be too sweet. Luckily, it was the perfect amount of sweetness, and incredibly moist cake (seriously the moistest cake I have ever eaten in my life!). I didn’t mind so much that it was whipped cream frosting on this cupcake, I think it was because the caramel drizzles helped disguise the whipped cream taste. And the filling was absolutely incredible:

Because it was so moist and surprisingly not very sweet, this was the only cupcake out of our selection that I could have easily eaten all by myself. It will definitely be hard to resist this one on our next visit.

And finally: cake batter!

On the description of the cupcake, the sign mentioned funfetti. Well if you know me (or my husband, or Jenn or Stacy) you know that if funfetti is mentioned, we are on it! So we definitely had to try this one. Well…it did and it didn’t live up to our expectations. Firstly, the cake was the driest of all of the cupcakes, though by normal cupcake standards it was decent. It tasted pretty good, but I always end up preferring the boxed funfetti mix. The frosting was again the whipped cream frosting, just dyed blue, as well as some rainbow sprinkles. By far the most surprising and exciting thing about this cupcake was the actual cake batter inside!

Seriously! I don’t know if it is really cake batter or not, but it tastes exactly it, so I don’t care what it is! Overall, this cupcake would have been sort of disappointing in my book, but when I discovered the amazing filling, it more than made up for it!

It was hard to decide a real “winner” out of these cupcakes, but I’d have to say it was either the chocolate raspberry or the butterscotch caramel. The best cake was definitely in the butterscotch caramel, though they were all nice and moist. Due to my dislike of whipped cream frosting, the only frosting I truly enjoyed was the chocolate ganache on the chocolate raspberry cupcake. And obviously, the cake batter filling wins hands down in that category.

My husband and I will definitely be taking another trip to Molly’s Cupcakes (I need to try the peanut butter nutella and the chocolate decadence!), and you definitely should stop by next time you’re in NYC. The unique flavors and wide selection and of course the fun décor, make Molly’s Cupcakes a place definitely worth visiting!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Jen (NY, NY)

Good things come in small packages: Baked by Melissa

I’ve been wanting to check out Baked by Melissa‘s teeny tiny little cupcakes for quite some time now. When I found out they had opened a shop in the Fashion District of New York City, I knew I’d finally be able to stop by on one of my quick day/weekend trips to “The Big Apple.”


Photo borrowed from Baked by Melissa’s Facebook Page (click here). No harm or infringement intended.

This past weekend I visited a couple of friends in NYC and planned to stop at Baked by Melissa on my way back to Penn Station before heading home. I wasn’t there long, but the staff was very friendly and I could tell would have answered any questions I had. They made sure I had a menu to take with me so I could use it as a guide when I got home. I asked for one of each flavor, and since I was getting a dozen, two had to be repeated. The shop doesn’t have any space for seating, which is a little disappointing if you wanted to sit and enjoy a few, but since I was just grabbing and going, it wasn’t a big deal. I would guess that in this area most people are doing the same.

As I waited for my train to New Jersey to arrive, I was tempted to begin tasting, but I wanted to be able to savor each tiny treat, so I waited patiently, staring at the bag in anticipation.

When I got home I was finally able to get a good look at them:

How cute are they? Here are a couple photos for size reference:

Since they were so small and I was sharing them with my husband, I decided that we would eat them all that night. This was not hard to do, so I would highly recommend that everyone should get at least one of each flavor when visiting. It’s $10 for a dozen, which might seem pricey to some (in fact a girl in front of me said, very loudly, “I’m not paying $3 for 3!”), but my thought on this is that most cupcakes are about $3 a piece, so it works out to be about the same price/size.

Since there was such a variety, I’m going to focus on the least favorite, the favorites, and the most unique ones.

We ended up with 10 different flavors total (8 are pictured above). The least favorite was the Red Velvet (not pictured). The cake was dense and a little dry, however, my husband and I both agreed that the cream cheese frosting was great!

Our favorites were: Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Cookie Dough. My husband really wished that I had duplicated the Cookie Dough one. I think, when I go back, I will make sure to get a bunch of those for him. The Peanut Butter & Jelly ended up being a total surprise to him. He’s a big peanut butter and chocolate fan, and doesn’t even eat PB&J sandwiches, but he really enjoyed this one too. My top picks were the Mint Chocolate Chip and the PB&J.

There was a tie for the most unique one: Chocolate Chip Pancake (shown above) and Milk & Cookies (show below).

The Chocolate Chip Pancake really tasted like a pancake. The cake was more dense than a typical cupcake, similar to a pancake, and the maple frosting was full of syrup-y flavor. When we tasted the Milk & Cookies we didn’t know what to expect. This is their flavor of the month, so it wasn’t on the menu and I hadn’t thought to ask when I was there. Our first reaction was, “It’s really clean tasting.” It’s very subtle and not too sweet. I would really like to try this one again, now that I know what flavor it is, but unfortunately won’t get back to NYC until December.

Overall, every cupcake that we tried was moist, light, and full of flavor (with the exception of the Red Velvet). This shop is located close to Penn Station, so I know that I will be going there again and again before heading home. Whether you are a local or a tourist I would highly recommend stopping at one of their 4 locations in SoHo, Union Square, Grand Central, or the Fashion District.

Next time I’m not so sure these little morsels of tastiness will make it back to Baltimore.

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