Sweet Dukes Vegan Treats

Every summer the main street community of Hamilton organizes the Hamilton Street Festival. I have to be completely honest and say it’s definitely NOT the best street festival in Baltimore. Even though this year’s flyer design was pretty good, it’s not even half as awesome as the Fell’s Point Fun Festival or HonFest (but really, nothing is a cool as HonFest).

My husband and I live within easy walking distance of Harford Rd, where the festival takes place, so this year we decided to explore the vendors’ tents and grab some lunch. As we were walking around (which only took about ten minutes… totally not exaggerating), I noticed quite a few places selling cupcakes. Only one place had cupcakes that really drew me in though, Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery.

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I really want to love vegan desserts. I already don’t eat red meat or pork, so if there’s any way I can limit the amount of animal bi-products I consume, I’m totally down for that. I was also excited because they are organic and have gluten-free options.

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Their table was really colorful with hand written signs (which I love), fun flavor names and a big variety of cookies, cakes, and pastries, including the cake kabobs pictured above.

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After seeing the the cake kabobs and their Party on Wayne cupcake (made with Fruity Pebbles, which apparently are considered vegan… still horrible for you, but vegan nonetheless), I was complete baffled as to what I wanted to get. I knew I’d be eating cupcakes the next day, so I was determined to limit my choice to one item. After tell the very nice people helping me that I was taking it home for later, they recommended the cupcake because the cake kabob works better if you are going to eat it immediately.

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I really loved how colorful this cupcake was, but unfortunately my first bite wasn’t stellar. The Fruity Pebbles on top of the frosting were a bit squishy and that grossed me out a little bit. I’m guessing this was either because of the moisture from the cake and frosting, or the intense humidity from the day, probably a combination of the two. Luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the cake though. After pushing the cereal sitting on top of the frosting aside (sad face… I was really looking forward them), I was able to examine the rest of the cupcake for what it really was: a decent vegan treat. I can’t say that it was as good as its non-vegan counterparts, but definitely better than some of the other vegan varieties we’ve tried. The cake was a bit dense, but still moist with decent flavor. The frosting was a little gritty but had a good flavor that wasn’t too sweet and didn’t taste like a butter substitute—I was boggled by this, in a good way.

If you would like to try Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery, you can find them at the Fell’s Point Farmers Market on Saturdays, the Fleet Street Market, or the Grind House Juice Bar. You can also follow their Facebook page to stay up to date on their latest flavors and where you can find them.

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

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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)

NYC Cupcake Crawl: Lower East Side and East Village

Prior to being a mom, I used to go to NYC with Crusaders Stacy and Elisa quite a bit. We have friends and family that live there, we love going to shows, and taking a day trip is so easy from our location. I ended up missing our annual spring overnight trip, which means that the last time I was there was when I was pregnant, a year and a half ago. Since I was craving a NYC girls’ trip and missing my friends, Stacy and I drove up for a day trip this fall.

Stacy did all the research and planned our very ambitious day…six cupcake stops, five of them in walking distance (5–15 minute walks). We arrived in the city and made our way to the East Village. Our first stop was Butter Lane Cupcakes.

Butter Lane Cupcakes:

The menu setup at Butter Lane Cupcakes was a little confusing at first. They offer three cake flavors (vanilla, chocolate, and banana) and then a long list of frostings to choose from. If they don’t have the combination you want already assembled, they will fix it up for you. When we first arrived there were people standing outside of the shop eating their cupcakes and it was crowded inside (always a good sign!), but it cleared out quickly with the quick service that staff provided. Stacy noticed a Foursquare offer on the first check-in for a buy 2, get 1 free, so we took advantage of it.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting, Banana with Maple Pecan frosting, and Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting.)

Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting: Possibly one of my favorite cupcakes ever. I was really surprised because the frosting looked crunchy, but it wasn’t. After biting in I couldn’t believe how moist the cake was and it had the perfect balance of flavors.

Banana with Maple Pecan frosting: Stacy thought that the maple overpowered the banana cake (I didn’t think so), but she still loved the frosting. Same super moist cake that was on the dense side, because of the banana.

Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting: Moist light chocolate cake with a rich, salty frosting and caramel drizzle. I would recommend this to anyone who loves the sweet and salty combination.

Prohibition Bakery:

Prohibition Bakery is a basement bakery with just enough room to order your cupcakes, and a small bench inside. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the ledge leading down into the shop ended up being a great spot for Stacy and I to try our cupcakes. Prohibition Bakery only offers mini cupcakes at $2 each or three for $5.


(Top cupcakes from left to right: Margarita and Beer and Pretzel. Bottom cupcakes from left to right: Shiny Apple, Mulled Wine, and Birthday Cake.)

Margarita: I was surprised by how strong the booze in such a tiny cupcake could be! But, it was definitely a cocktail in cupcake form. This cupcake stuck to wrapper a little more than I like for minis (since every bit of cake you can get is precious). But any margarita lover would appreciate this treat. The salt was perfect, like a salted rim.

Beer and Pretzel: This cupcake didn’t stick as much to the wrapper, but it had a weird taste. Maybe it was the beer that’s used? I usually like beer breads and cakes, but I wouldn’t recommend this cupcake.

Shiny Apple: Stacy said this cupcake tasted just like a Washington Apple shot  (whiskey, Apple Pucker, and Hot Damn—instead of cranberry juice). She gave me a bite and I thought it was like spiked apple cider. It became our favorite here at Prohibition Bakery and was perfect for the autumn season.

Mulled Wine: This mini treat was sweeter than the others, but definitely had a mulled wine taste. It was really good, but not a favorite.

Birthday cake: Stacy said the vodka in this cupcake was strong and that it tasted exactly like what it was, a vanilla cupcake with vodka. The cake was moist, but a little crumbly.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine:
After eating lunch at One More Thai (across the street from Prohibition Bakery and highly recommended), we met up with Guest Crusader Jen and her husband James and all headed to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. We were pleased to see that there was seating inside, although it was packed, because more friends, Joanna and Greg, joined us. It was nice to be able to find a few chairs to hang out for a little while. Sugar Sweet Sunshine offers more than just cupcakes, and is also known for their pudding trifles. We were all shocked to see that the regular size cupcakes were only $1.75 (especially our New Yorkers friends who are accustomed to higher prices).


(Cupcakes from left to right: Pistachio and Pumpkin.)

Pistachio: I got this cupcake out of curiosity, but was a little wary since I’ve never had a pistachio cupcake. I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh nutty flavor, and moist, light cake. Because of the uniqueness, this may have been one of my favorite cupcakes of the day (coming in behind the Banana Honey Cinnamon from Butter Lane).

Pumpkin: Stacy picked this cupcake and said the cake was also moist and light, especially for pumpkin, which tends to be heavier.

(Cupcakes from left to right: Strawberry cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Banana.)

Strawberry with Peanut Butter frosting: James got this cupcake and really liked it. He was surprised and pleased that it tasted just like PB&J sandwich, even having a taste of sandwich bread.

Banana: Jen ordered this cupcake and thought it was good. She was expecting the cake to be moister for banana, but it had a good flavor and a tasty, light cream cheese frosting. Jen isn’t usually a fan of cream cheese frosting, so the fact that she liked this one speaks volumes.

Coconut (not photographed): Greg and Joanna shared this cupcake. Joanna isn’t much of a sweets person (I know, I don’t get it either!), but they both enjoyed how light and moist the cupcake was, and that it wasn’t overly sweet.

BabyCakes:

BabyCakes is a well know vegan bakery that uses spelt instead of wheat flour and doesn’t use refined sugars, but sweetens their cupcakes with agave nectar. They also make gluten-free vegan options, and all of their cupcakes are soy-free. The prices varied and were on the higher side. With the price and limited selection Stacy and I decided to share one. We were expecting it to be over $4, based on the price marked on the display, but it ended up being $3.75 (still the highest price of the day for a normal size cupcake). My guess is the specialty ingredients make BabyCakes cupcakes cost more, but it was our least favorite of the day and perhaps the worst cupcake we’ve ever had.

Vegan Lemon: Stacy recognized the texture of the cake was a lot like Sticky Fingers vegan bakery, which we tasted over the summer. The cupcakes at BabyCakes are served cold, which is always a downside. Our first bite did not make a good impression and we only took a second bite to try and pin point the flavors. Despite the lack of wheat flour, the cake tasted floury and also bitter, probably from the spelt. It was hardly sweet, almost like a sugar cookie that suffers from too much salt and flour and not enough sugar in the batter. The frosting, which can sometimes redeem a cupcake, just made it worse. It was sticky, like a runny fondant that solidified due to being chilled.

While we commend BabyCakes for their commitment to being all-natural and offering a healthier, non-processed option on the cupcake scene, it just doesn’t work for the normal cupcake lover.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop:

Little Cupcake Bakeshop was the biggest venue we visited during our cupcake crawl, with the most seating. Just like most of the bakeries, they were very busy, perhaps the busiest one we visited since people linger at the tables. They have a large display for their cupcakes and other confections, areas to watch bakers apply frosting and prepare confections, and a full service coffee shop. Although they were packed, they are also very well staffed. The selection looked amazing, so it was hard to choose. Their cupcakes range from $3–$3.50 for normal size cupcakes, but that’s average in NYC.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Mott Street, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Luscious Lemon.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly: Stacy finally got a PB&J cupcake, one of her new favorites, and thought this one was delicious. She really liked how the jelly was swirled in the cake.

Luscious Lemon: I choose this cupcake, which had a vanilla cake and was topped with lemon butter cream and a meringue swirl. While this cupcake was well made and tasty, I think the name is a little deceiving. I was expecting much more lemon flavor, but the flavor was subtle. But after the previous lemon cupcake from Babycakes, I still thought it was refreshing and just what I needed.

Mott Street: I took the Mott Street home with me, because after hearing the description, I had to have it. It was a vanilla bean cake soaked in Illy espresso and topped with mascarpone cream cheese frosting, then dusted in cocoa powder. The girl who described it compared it to tiramisu. I thought this cupcake was really great, with a light, fluffy, and moist cake.

Baked by Melissa:  October Flavor of the Month

There was no way we could go to NYC without visiting Baked by Melissa, especially will all the locations they have now. Crusader Elisa even gave us her order before our trip, so we had to bring some back for her. We headed uptown, to Grand Central Station where there is a Baked by Melissa next door (a convenient location and also nearby to the restaurant our friend, Liz, works at and where we had dinner). The only new flavor we tried was the flavor of the month (read previous reviews here).

For October, Bake by Melissa offered a carrot cake with mini chocolate chips. Stacy’s thoughts were, “It was interesting because it tasted like carrot cake, but it had no visible carrots, or any of the other usual carrot cake fixings (like raisins or nuts). It was tasty, but the chocolate chips kind of overpowered it.”

We had a great day, filled with cupcakes and friends, so what more could we want?  Stacy and I discovered a few new cupcake places that we now call favorites. It would be hard to choose just one place to visit. Super Sweet Sunshine had their amazing prices and above average cupcakes, Butter Lane had their unique menu approach that allowed for amazing flavor combinations, Prohibition has booze, and Little Cupcake Bake shop has treats that give the feeling of high-end cakes. So depending on where you are in the East Village or Lower East Side and what type of treat you are looking for, we recommend checking out any of these four great places. Then stop by Baked by Melissa for bite size cupcakes to-go. I can’t wait for our next trip to NYC, which will no doubt include cupcakes, but maybe next time we’ll also fit in a Broadway show!

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

Guest Review | First Annual Cupcake-A-Palooza | DC Area

When we found out our graphic design colleague, Kristina, was in a cupcake club and had organized their first ever Cupcake-A-Palooza, we had to find out more. Luckily she agreed to be a Guest Crusader and share her story and reviews with everyone! Thanks Kristina!

What’s Cupcake-A-Palooza you ask?

Well, it all started about a year ago, with me, two of my friends and our mutual love for cupcakes. We decided we needed a cupcake club. Better yet, a SECRET cupcake club, just because that’s more fun, complete with a secret handshake and secret knock! We started meeting once a month, and on members’ birthdays, just to eat and critique those delicious mini cakes. Little by little we started inviting more friends (and cupcake lovers) until we completed the group at 6 (it’s worth mentioning, we are coed). This way, when we bought a dozen cupcakes, everyone could have 2.

And then Cupcake-A-Palooza came to life. We realized there were so many cupcake shops we were missing out on because either they didn’t deliver, or they were not feasible to get to during a workday.  So we picked a day – August 10th – where we would take the day off of work and go on what is now dubbed “a cupcake crawl.” We decided to hold our first annual event in DC.

We chose 10 bakeries/cupcakeries to try and one of the club members graciously mapped out our plan of attack. But what is Cupcake-A-Palooza without an event T-Shirt? I’m not only a cupcake lover, I’m a graphic designer, and so, our t-shirts were born.


(Our official Cupcake-A-Palooza t-shirts, complete with a concert tour inspired list of stops!)

Decked out in our matching tees, we headed into DC and began Cupcake-A-Palooza. After four hours of eating cupcakes, here’s how I think the shops rate (with the help of some of my club members)…

1. Baked & Wired (Georgetown)
This happened to be our first stop. So not only did I need a cupcake, I needed some caffeine! I decided on the Dirty Chai cupcake. And just to stick with the theme, a Chai Latte. Both were outstanding!


(The staff at Baked & Wired was just as fun as their hand drawn flavor signs)

The cupcake was bigger than usual, but the cake was perfectly moist throughout. The espresso buttercream melted in my mouth and was just strong enough to complement the spice of the cake. As an extra treat, it was topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean. Yum! This cupcake and latte left me longing for fall…

2. The Sweet Lobby (Capitol Hill)
This was our final stop of the day. There were so many interesting flavor choices, that I went a little cupcake crazy here. I decided on Chocolate Raspberry, Green Tea Pistachio, Caramel Apple, Bananas Foster, Butterscotch Crunch, and Pineapple Inside Out. I gave a couple of them to another club member and gifted a couple. Ultimately, I only tried two.


(Top row, from left to right: Chocolate Raspberry, Butterscotch Crunch, and Green Tea Pistachio. Bottom row, from left to right: Caramel Apple, Pineapple Inside Out, and Bananas Foster)

The Butterscotch Crunch won me over in two bites. As soon as I hit the butterscotch center, I was sold. The vanilla cake and buttercream were an excellent balance so that the butterscotch flavor was not overpowering. Topping it off, were some Butterfinger crumbles.

As an avid Green Tea drinker, the Green Tea Pistachio cupcake was an obvious choice. Although, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. This cupcake is a Cupcake Wars Winner and one of The Sweet Lobby’s signature “MacTops,” meaning it had a Green Tea macaroon on top.  At first I thought, this is different…then, half way through, I thought, this is good! I enjoyed the cake with the bits of pistachio and macaroon most. I wasn’t crazy about the green tea buttercream; I would have liked it to be a little sweeter.

3. Georgetown Cupcake (Georgetown)
With all the hype and long lines…I really didn’t want to love Georgetown Cupcake, but it was inevitable. I was excited to try one of their seasonal cupcakes, Banana Split. Complete with sprinkles, hazelnut bits, fudge drizzle and a cherry on top, I felt like I was indulging in the real dessert. The vanilla cream cheese frosting was so smooth and acted as the ice cream, while the fudge center mixed perfectly with the banana cake.

Another club member tried Georgetown Cupcake’s other season flavor, Blueberry Cheesecake. The fresh blueberry cheesecake was just as advertised. The cupcake had the graham cracker bottom, adding to the authenticity of a cheesecake. While there was no icing, the top had a soft cheese texture and a blue fondant flower.

4. Hello Cupcake (Dupont Circle)
This shop prides itself on its use of fresh and all natural ingredients. Well, it’s working. It was a no brainer as soon as I saw the selection; I went for the flavor of the month, Root Beer Float.

I imagined sipping the real thing while I enjoyed this spicy/sweet cupcake topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting (my absolute favorite) and a fun chocolate straw. This cupcake was rather refreshing.

5. Sweet Themez Cake & Cupcake (Adams Morgan)
The employee in this shop won brownie points with his enthusiasm over our Cupcake-A-Palooza tees. He even offered me a dozen free cupcakes if I send him one!


(Sweet Themez isn’t as glitzy as some of the other shops from the outside, but it’s worth the stop)

I can’t vouch for myself on this one, but one of the club members had the Cookies ‘n’ Cream cupcake. The scent of the cupcake was amazing – it made you want to dig right in! While the rich chocolate cake was moist, it crumbled. The icing and the mini Oreo on top made the cupcake.

6. Red Velvet Cupcakery (Penn Quarter)
This shop is teeny, tiny. So if you pay them a visit, don’t plan on staying to enjoy your cupcake inside. As a coffee lover, I chose the Hazelnut Café cupcake.


(Hazelnut Café on the left, another club member’s Carrot Cake cupcake on the right.)

However, I was disappointed. The cake was pretty dry and was only saved by the bits of crunchy hazelnuts throughout. I wasn’t a fan of the whipped icing, as I always prefer something creamier, but the pinch of espresso on top was a nice touch.

7. Sprinkles Cupcakes (Georgetown)
I was really looking forward to trying Sprinkles, as I had heard mixed reviews. I’m a sucker for pumpkin anything, so I went for their Pumpkin cupcake.

I was really hoping to taste pumpkin, but the flavor was barely there. It was overpowered by the cinnamon cream cheese frosting, which was the only part of the cupcake that I enjoyed. On top was one of Sprinkles signature modern dots, which added no flavor value.

8. Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats (Columbia Heights)
This shop is 100% vegan. While I am not, I recommended we add this shop to our list of stops 1) Because I liked the name 2) They were two time Cupcake War Winners and 3) My mom went dairy free in the past year for health reasons, so I wanted to taste things from her perspective.

I had not had a red velvet cupcake all day, so I tried theirs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even finish it, and neither could my fellow club member. I found the cake to be plastic-y and lacking in flavor, but as the shops name suggests, it actually was also sticky! I thought the icing was grainy, and was not up to par with the other cream cheese icings of the day. Lesson learned: I need my dairy.

However, another club member saw it differently. She tried the Lavender Lemon. Although she found the cake to be denser than non-vegan cupcakes, she thought it was moist and quite delicious. The lavender flavor was very present, without being overwhelming. Lesson learned: try it for yourself!

Out of the 10 stops we planned to make on Cupcake-A-Palooza, we only made it to 8.

When we got to Cupcake Felicity, or at least, what used to be Cupcake Felicity, it was no longer there. Instead there was a café called Bread & Brew. We found out that Felicity, who also makes 100% vegan cupcakes, now sells her cupcakes to the café. Unfortunately, they did not have any available that day. Chatman’s D’Vine Bakery & Café was supposed to be our last stop, but by 2PM we were stuffed and coming down off our sugar high. The shop didn’t open until 3PM, so we decided to save it for another time.

Our first annual Cupcake-A-Palooza was a fun, sweet filled day! Up Next: Cupcake-A-Palooza 2013, Northern VA…

– Review by Guest Crusader, Kristina (Baltimore, MD)

Best of Baltimore Party, with cupcakes!

When my co-worker, Alyssa, asked me if I would be her date for the Best of Baltimore 2012 Party I jumped at the chance to go to this exclusive party dedicated to all the best things in Baltimore. It was at the Hippodrome this year, which is a favorite venue of the Crusaders, and boasts tons of food, drinks, dancing, Baltimore fun… and cupcakes!

(Photo from Best of Baltimore website, no harm intended)

Luckily I mentioned to Crusader Stacy that I was going, because her immediate reaction was, “I bet there will be cupcake places there!” Surely enough there were – two in fact – and Alyssa and I hunted them down to try the confections of the night.

We started with Dirty Carrots, a new vegan bakery. They had two mini vegan cupcakes:

Chocolate with Salted Caramel Frosting (on the left)

This mini cupcake, which Crusader Jenn and Stacy have tried before, was really good! The cake was moist and had good texture – not like a normal cake, but not like some other vegan cakes I have had that tend to be dry, with an almost grainy texture. The frosting was also good, very flavorful and I loved the hint of salt. It did have a little bit of an odd texture, but not off-putting enough to bother me. I really enjoyed that mini and would like to try it in a full-size cupcake sometime.

Vanilla cake dipped in Chocolate Ganache with Vanilla Frosting (on the right)

This mini wasn’t as good as the first one. It was on the drier side and the chocolate ganache just didn’t taste like chocolate. The icing was very good though, especially since I know there isn’t any butter in it.

Next we went to Midnite Confections, a favorite of the Crusaders. They also had two mini cupcakes in flavors we haven’t tried before:

Strawberry (on the left)

Having recently fallen head over heels for strawberry cake, this cupcake had a lot to live up to… and it DID! The cake was the perfect strawberry, moist, mini treat and the frosting was sweet, smooth, and paired perfectly with the cake. I did not know that Midnite Confections made a strawberry cake cupcake, and it is now a necessity for me to stop by the shop and pick up a full size version.

Vanilla with Vanilla Buttercream (on the right)

Moist and exploding with vanilla flavor, this mini really packed a flavor punch. I’m not always a fan of vanilla/vanilla cupcakes, but I enjoyed this mini and know I would love their full size cupcake.

The Best of Baltimore party was fantastic, I cannot thank Alyssa enough for taking me as her date, and I thank Crusader Stacy for suggesting I write a post about the cupcakes featured there. An awesome party, with cupcakes, and a post?! Count me in anytime!

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

National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challange: Taste of the Seasons

This past Saturday, Crusader Jenn and I braved the nasty rain soaked roads and headed to the National Capital Area Cake Show‘s Cupcake Challenge in Annandale, VA. This year’s theme was ‘Taste of the Seasons’ which was well represented with approximately 75 entries. With this many entries and about 700 attendees, we knew we needed a plan of attack, so prior to the show we decided on the flavors we most wanted to sample.

Between the two of us, we only had about 3 duplicate flavors, so we sampled 15 flavors in total. Before I proceed, I should clarify that they were mini cupcakes, so it was easy to taste every flavor in one sitting.

After sampling them all, we decided that it would be slightly overwhelming for our readers to have a full description and critique of 15 flavors, so we have picked our very own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and then provided you with a peek at the remaining 12. (These selections are not reflective of the competition’s decisions and are solely those of the Crusaders and the 15 flavors we tried).

1st Place: French Vanilla Coffee Creme Brûlée (Season: Winter)

Baker: Inayah Zaman

This was our clear favorite of the night. Amazingly, you could taste all the flavors, and there was an added element of strawberry which was unexpected, but worked incredibly well. The edible gold glitter and the chocolate “handle” added the perfect finishing touches. We both voted for this as our favorite on the People’s Choice ballot.

2nd Place: Cherry Blossom Sake (Season: Unknown)

Baker: Wanda Cushing

The delicate gum paste cherry blossom on top of this mini cupcake matched the mild sake and cherry flavors. Both flavors complemented each other nicely creating a really enjoyable and totally unique cupcake.

3rd Place: Chocolate Covered Coconut Robin’s Egg (Season: Spring)

BAKER: Monica Pearson of Monica’s Sugar Studio
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Spring’ category, voted by the competition judges. This baker was also last year’s ‘Best Professional Cupcake’ winner)

This adorable mini cupcake had really good coconut flavor throughout. The coconut blended well with the chocolate which somehow managed not to be overpowering. There was even a coconut filling in this tiny little treat!

As you can see, the competition was fierce! Here is a glimpse at the other flavors we tried, with a special “Honorable Mention” for a cupcake we thought was great, but didn’t make it into our final 3:

Honorable Mention: Root Beer Float (Season: Summer)
Baker: Deanna Rybak
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Amateur Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)

1: Gluten Free Eggnog Coco (Season: Winter) – BAKER: Caroline Litt
2: Gingerbread with Lemon Curd (Season: Winter)
– BAKER: Trevor Burroughs, “The Cake Guy” featured on Food Network’s Sweet Genius
3: Carrot with Orange Marmalade (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Linda McLean
4: Orange Creamsicle (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Sandy Schmuff, Dessertabilities
5: German Chocolate Easter Egg Nests Cake Ball (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Emily Baird, Alexandria Cake Pop Company (They won this year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Winter’ category for their Peppermint Chocolate Cake Pop, voted by the competition judges.)
6: Piñajito (Pineapple Mojito) (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Catherine Baroang
7: Peach cobbler (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Lora Gookin, Gâteau (This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)
8: Maple & Rum Flavored Pumpkin (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Juanita Holloway
9: Chocolate Bacon Chipotle (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Kyle Downes (Tied for 6th Place People’s Choice)
10: Red wine poached pear (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Tracy Fuller, Simply Desserts
11: Gluten Free Chai Brown Butter Meringue (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Becky Rink

After sampling all of these bite sized treats, we headed to the auditorium for a live demonstration by Doron Petersan, owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery. Sticky Fingers is a vegan bakery that has competed three times on the Food Network’s show, Cupcake Wars. They have won twice and are the first vegan bakery to ever win on an All-Stars show.

Doron’s demonstration was entertaining and full of great advice for upcoming bakers like, “Take business classes, the rest is easy. You like to eat, you taste it, if you like the way it tastes, it’s good.” That evening she was showing us all how she makes her Chocolate Bananas Foster cupcake. Even with all the sampling we had done, by the end of the demo, our mouths were watering hoping to one day try that cupcake.

Following the live demo was a book signing where we got to meet Doron. She couldn’t have been nicer and even posed for a quick picture with us!

We promised her we would be visiting her shop in DC this summer, when the weather got better, and we can’t wait! You will probably also see some of the recipes from her book posted on our blog as I dabble into the vegan baking world!

Overall it was a great night that couldn’t have ended on a better note!

To see a full list of the official National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challenge winners click here.

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

Dirty Carrots’ Vegan Cupcakes

As we’ve mentioned before, the Crusaders have another passion other than cupcakes… the theater. So combining the two makes for a perfect evening. On a recent trip to the Everyman Theatre with Crusader Stacy, I stopped in Bohemian Coffee House knowing that they carry Dirty Carrots’ cupcakes. Luckily they had a few left, so I grabbed what I assumed was a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and stashed it in the car for after the show (knowing that theater world tends to frown upon bringing in your own treats).

After a great show, which you can always expect at the Everyman Theatre, Stacy and I headed back to my car ready for a cupcake!


(Please excuse the quality of the photo. This is what you get when you sit in cars late at night trying to photograph a cupcake.)

Since the cupcakes are a really good size, I’d only gotten the one for us to share. Once we bit in we realized that the frosting did not taste like vanilla. We tasted, speculated, and considered a few options thinking that maybe it was a butterscotch or salted caramel buttercream. After looking at their website I think that it was most likely their salted caramel buttercream (because they don’t have butterscotch listed). Honestly, it doesn’t even really matter because it was just so good! I could have eaten tubs of it. I have no idea how you make a vegan buttercream, but this was smooth, rich, not overly sweet, and completely delectable. The cake portion was very chocolaty but more of a muffin consistency, which I anticipated with a vegan cake. Without the frosting it tasted just like a chocolate muffin, however once paired with the icing it didn’t seem to matter anymore and the flavors came together. Once Stacy and I had each consumed our halves, we wanted more. We actually considered going back to Bohemian Coffehouse since they have late night hours.

So if you find yourself in front of a Dirty Carrots’ cupcake do not let the vegan aspect scare you. I think that you will be very happy that you gave them a chance!

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