Guest Review: Billy’s Bakery Cupcake Tasting

We are excited to have another guest review from Jen. 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 write today’s review on a cupcake tasting she attended at Billy’s Bakery! Thanks Jen!

About a month ago, I was recruited by the Cupcake Crusaders to go to a meet-up at Billy’s Bakery in TriBeCa to try their new flavors. My husband tagged along, and together we tried all of the new flavors that Billy’s offers.

First up was the Maple Pecan. This was by far my husband’s favorite flavor, and he ate every bite of it! I did not try this one because I am not a fan of pecan, but I trust that it is delicious.


(Maple Pecan – Billy’s Bakery)

Next was the cupcake that I was most looking forward to – the Banana Nutella cupcake. I. Am. Obsessed. I didn’t want to fill up and not be able to try all of the flavors, so I ate half of this one and then at the end, I finished the rest. If fewer people had showed up to the meet-up, I would have taken a couple of these to go. They are really delicious. The frosting tastes like Nutella, but it’s nice and light and mixes perfectly with the banana cupcake.


(Banana Nutella – Billy’s Bakery)

I had high expectations for the Mint Chocolate cupcake, because I have had some amazing ones at other bakeries, but honestly, this one kind of disappointed me. The balance of flavors wasn’t quite right for my taste (I can’t remember if it was too much mint or not enough) and it was also the driest of the cupcakes.


(Mint Chocolate – Billy’s Bakery)

The Chocolate Cherry cupcake was pretty decent. The cake was nice and moist and had little pieces of cherry in it. Normally I am not a fan of cherry things, but the chocolate made it pretty good.


(Cherry Chocolate – Billy’s Bakery)

I was very curious when I heard that they had an Orange Dreamsicle cupcake. I have eaten both good and bad renditions of this classic flavor, but never in a cupcake. I really liked the cake, as the orange flavor was very light. When I looked closely, I could see the tiny pieces of orange zest that are in both the cake and the frosting, and though I liked it in the cake, I did not like having little chunks in my frosting. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Dreamsicle frosting because it was very sweet and the pieces of zest distracted me from the flavor.


(Orange Dreamsicle – Billy’s Bakery)

The other cupcake that I was really looking forward to was the Lemon Poppy Seed. I had never had a lemon poppy seed cupcake before, and I was pleased with the flavor. My husband did not really like this one because he is not a huge fan of lemon, but as a lemon lover, I thought it was very good. The cake was nice and light but still flavorful with a light lemon taste, and the frosting, though it had pieces of zest like the Orange Dreamsicle did, tasted really nice. If not for the Banana Nutella cupcake, this would have been my favorite of the day.


(Lemon Poppy Seed – Billy’s Bakery)

While I was not a huge fan of all of their cupcake flavors, I am a huge fan of their adorable branding and especially their single cupcake “take out” box! I saw a display of these when we first came in, and fell in love. I have never seen a cupcake box with a handle, and really, that’s an extremely smart idea. I love the light yellow and teal color combo, and their vintage yet trendy typography works very well.


(Billy’s Take Out Packaging)

All in all, if it weren’t for the amazing Banana Nutella cupcake, I may not be itching to visit Billy’s Bakery again any time soon, but because it is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had, it may soon be time to make another visit!

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

National Carrot Cake Day – February 3rd

There seem to be a lot of strange daily food holidays out there, but we don’t mind, they just make life a little more interesting. Several websites claim that tomorrow, February 3rd, is National Carrot Cake Day, so we wanted to share several of our past Carrot Cake experiences. Don’t forget to indulge in celebration!

Woodlea Bakery – Bel Air, MD (Crusader Elisa)

Spicy and sweet, this little mini cupcake packed a punch. The cake was too dry for my liking, and the icing was creamy and a great consistency, but sweeter than I like my cream cheese icing. Overall, being a carrot cake fan, this wasn’t my favorite and wouldn’t be one I would order again. It just seemed like it was missing something. Was it nutmeg? Was it allspice? Was it carrot pieces? Sadly, I just can’t put my finger on that missing ingredient.

(Read full Woodlea Bakery review here.)

Starbucks – Annapolis, MD (Crusader Jenn)

Carrot cake is usually one of my favorite cake flavors. I love a spiced cake that you can get all year round. However there was nothing memorable about this cupcake. Despite my lack of enthusiasm over these mini cupcakes, I still love Starbucks. They specialize in coffee and don’t pretend to be a bakery. I appreciate that they offer fun sweet options, including bite-size minis, to accompany their beverages, should their guest like to indulge a bit more.

(Read full Starbucks Cupcake review here.)

Sweet Sixteen Cafe – Lockport, NY (Guest Crusader Alli & Crusader Stacy)

This cake pop was unlike any we have seen. Rather than being ball-shaped it was rectangular as if it had been cubed from a whole cake and then dipped in chocolate. Inside, the cake pop had two layers of frosting sandwiched in between three layers of cake. It was stunning! This classic carrot cake, with rich cream cheese icing dipped in white chocolate, was moist and flavorful. It was delicious!

(Read full Sweet Sixteen Cafe review here.)

Sweet Bakery (Now Closed) – Baltimore, MD (Crusader Stacy and Crusader Elisa)

Unfortunately this cupcake was a bit of a disappointment. This is shocking because Sweet Bakery was one of our favorite places to get cupcakes. The first big problem was the frosting. I’m a fan of cream cheese frosting with my carrot cake. And their cream cheese frosting was so good that it was a shame they didn’t put it on this one. Another big problem was that the cake was super chunky and really dry. While I like a lot of “stuff” in my carrot cake, this was just extreme. Luckily Sweet Bakery had so many other amazing cupcakes that they will always be one of our favorite bakeries.

(Read full Sweet Bakery review from “Cupcaked Out” here.)

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

Great Cupcakes & Packaging = One Happy Crusader

It’s no secret that I am a sucker for great packaging. But when there are 25 delicious mini cupcakes inside that great packaging, I go weak in the knees. It’s a bit (or a lot) nerdy, but I just can’t help myself.

For Christmas my husband ordered cupcakes from one of my favorite NYC locations, Baked by Melissa. I was in awe of the packaging. They arrived frozen, in a custom shipping box, complete with a custom printed Baked by Melissa ice pack. Since I’ve reviewed their cupcakes a couple times before (here and here) I’m going to focus on the amazing packaging.


(LOVE the slogan on the box!)

Inside the shipping box was the gift box that contained the tasty little gems. This sturdy box is not some cheap throw-away. Adorned with their logo on the top, their tie-dyed pattern on the inside, and sealed with a tie-dyed ribbon, it’s a keeper.

Once opened, you are face to face with ANOTHER piece of their unique packaging which keeps each tiny cupcake upright and protected from any rough handling that may occur during delivery. All 25 cupcakes were in perfect condition when I received them.

I like to call each little section built for the cupcakes “Freshness Pods.” My husband received the frozen cupcakes on Wednesday, December 21st and gave them to me on Friday, December 23rd. A week later, I was shocked that the cupcakes were still moist! I think each compartment somehow seals in the moisture and keeps the cupcakes from drying out. Hence the name “Freshness Pods.”

Since we really loved their December Mini of the Month, Snow Covered Pretzel, half of the container was filled with just them. The other half was a blend of some of our other favorite flavors like Cookie Dough, Cinnamon, and Peanut Butter & Jelly.

The only downside to them being frozen and then thawed is that the pretzels ended up being a bit chewy. They weren’t too bad and the flavor was still great, it just lacked the crunch from the store-bought ones we initially tried.

I was also excited to try the S’mores, since they were out of this flavor when I first went to their Fashion District location.

Like the Snow Covered Pretzel, the graham cracker ended up being a little chewy, but overall, I still enjoyed this one too.

January’s Mini of the Month is New York Cream, a take on Boston Cream with a custard filling and a chocolate drizzle. Boston Cream cake and doughnuts are a favorite of mine, so I would love to try this cupcake, but unfortunately I won’t be able to get to NYC this month (and I can’t justify the high shipping rates and $25 minimum just to try one flavor). If you get a chance to try it, let us know how it is, we’d love to hear about it!

Baked by Melissa seems to be doing everything right. From their tasty little cupcakes to their quality packaging, they remain on my list of favorites.

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

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.