On the Road: The Barbecue Exchange – Gordonsville, VA

BBQExchange

I know what you are thinking. “Jenn, we know that you have to eat something other than cupcakes, but this IS a cupcake blog…” And you’re right. I try to find cupcakes every time I’m out of town, and my anniversary trip was no different. My husband and I, along with the toddler, headed to Gordonsville, VA to spend a few days in the Shenandoah Valley. I Googled. I Foursquared. I scrutinized every shopping center we passed. I was beginning to think I would fail you all. And then my husband and I stepped into The Barbecue Exchange, a highly recommended food stop that he was aching to try.

It was like the clouds parted, and the light shone down on the counter display.

BBQExchange_Display

Here, in the middle of Virginia wine country at a BBQ joint, was a creative and generous selection of homemade cupcakes. I have a tendency to over-do it, so Dan and I decided to just pick two and if they were good we’d come back for more. We went with the Key Lime (we honeymooned in Belize, so Key Lime is like “our” flavor) and the chocolate coconut. Looking back at the selection I’m not sure why we choose that one. But we did.

BBQExchange_CupcakePair

I didn’t expect much in the way of packaging. This was a BBQ spot after all. But the cupcakes actually held up well in the bowl-shaped take-out container.

Now here’s the catch…I was sick during this trip. Total head cold where I couldn’t breath, couldn’t hear, and worst of all…couldn’t taste! So, my personal critique is limited to textures and we’ll have to trust Dan’s taste critiques.

Chocolate Coconut
BBQExchange_ChocolateCoconut

My review was also jeopardized because we weren’t able to eat these the day we bought them (blaming the head cold again…just not feelin’ sweets so we ended up taking them home instead of instantly indulging). I think the chocolate cake in this cupcake probably would have been more moist if the cupcakes hadn’t sat a day. However, the frosting had a smooth and buttery texture. Dan said the coconut flavor was in good balance and he liked the density of the chocolate cake.

Key Lime
BBQExchange_KeyLime

First I just want to say, how cute is the little cake topper? This technique isn’t something you see done frequently. I felt like the cake could have been more moist, like with the chocolate cake, but Dan disagreed. I was pleased that I could actually could pick up on the key lime flavor. There were even bits of lime zest in the frosting. The frosting wasn’t as buttery as the Chocolate Coconut cupcake’s frosting and was sweeter with a more whipped, but still sugary quality.

Looking back I wish we’d selected more flavors, but Dan is desperate to go back so I’m sure we’ll find an excuse to pass through Gordonsville again. If you are in the Shenandoah Valley area, The Barbecue Exchange is a great place to stop in for lunch before heading out for some wine tasting (or whatever else you do in that part of VA). Along with a big selection of meat, they also have a wide selection of homemade pickles, breads, and of course BBQ sauces. After following their Facebook page, it looks like they have cupcakes regularly and they even customize the menu for holidays, recently offering St. Patrick’s Day themed flavors. As it turns out BBQ and cupcakes make a great pair (when you aren’t sick)!

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

A Bakeshop Called “Bakershop” in Arlington, VA

With the abundance of bakeries, cakeries, cupcakeries, pastry shops, and bake shoppes (or bakeshops) you might think that a new venture would go for a unique name to set themselves apart. But Bakeshop, on Fillmore Street in Arlington, VA, chose to go with the idea that “simple is better.”

BakeryArlington1

With the large, bold “Bakeshop” type on the storefront windows , there is no confusion on what you will find behind them. Once inside, you will see that Bakeshop is a blend of modern, classic, and quirky with a display of mismatched dessert stands showcasing Parisian macarons, cookies, and pretty little cupcakes.

After exploring their website and Facebook page, I knew I would be getting some macarons along with my cupcakes, but I was also interested in something they call “Oreo in a Blanket.” If you think an Oreo cookie can’t get any better, think again. Bakeshop has baked an Oreo inside of a chocolate chip cookie, which I can only imagine tastes like heaven. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up leaving with my entire wish list, because at $2.75 each, the Oreo in a Blanket cost more than their cupcakes or macarons, so I had to pass.

Crusader Jenn was with me and we decided to take three cupcakes and three macarons home with us. I selected a Lemon cupcake, a Lemon macaron, and a Peaches N Cream macaron. Jenn decided to stay in the car with her sleeping daughter, Leah, and asked that I pick out two cupcakes and one macaron for her, so I chose a Cookies N Cream cupcake, a Strawberry Lemonade cupcake, and a Salted Peanut macaron.

Lemon Cupcake

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The frosting on this Lemon cupcake didn’t seem to have much (if any) lemon flavor to it, but it was smooth, light, and creamy. While the cake had more flavor, it seemed like there was an extra flavor in there which reminded me of a lemon poppyseed muffin. The cake was far from muffin-like though with its moist, fluffly, and light texture. Even though this cupcake didn’t have the burst of fresh citrus flavor I prefer in a Lemon cupcake, it was still really tasty.

Strawberry Lemonade

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Crusader Jenn said that this cupcake was moist and light, but it had a bit of a weird flavor that tasted more like candy than fresh fruit. Even though you can see the strawberries in the frosting she said she couldn’t taste it at all.

Cookies N Cream

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Crusader Jenn said that this cupcake was better than the Strawberry Lemonade but it still was nothing special, and that while it had the same nice texture, the chocolate cake tasted a bit like a box mix. She also said that the frosting was good by itself, with a good cookies and cream flavor, but that with the cake it just tasted like a chocolate cupcake. She added that, “I don’t usually say this, but it needed more frosting for a true cookies and cream flavor.”

Macarons

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I think macarons accompany cupcakes in a great way. Small and packed with flavor, if a bakery or coffee shop sells them, I will almost always buy one or two. I’m still not an expert on macarons, but these were $2 a piece which I think is about the normal average cost of one. The outer shell of the cookie was not quite as smooth as I’m normally used to seeing, but that didn’t stop me from diving it. I thought the Peaches N Cream really could have used more flavor, but the lemon one was great. It had a more true lemon flavor than the cupcake from Bakeshop, so it was a happy surprise. Jenn said that the Salted Peanut macaron was the best of all three treats she tried from Bakeshop because it had lots of rich flavor that was a good balance of sweet and salty. She felt like it might have been a little more airy than she’s had in the past (I thought the same about mine), but that since it had a nice crunchy outside and was soft and moist on the inside it was still really enjoyable.

Bakeshop’s cupcakes are on the small side, but priced well at only $2 each. If I ever find myself in their neighborhood again, I would definitely stop in to get some macarons. I might even grab a new cupcake flavor or two (at only $2 each, how could I say “no?”).

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

Apple, Maple, Pumpkin, Spice – The Flavors of Fall

This time of year we can’t seem to resist anything with a fall seasonal flavor, which means we have tried many random cupcakes from several locations that we want to share with you. What better way to do that then one big post?! The cupcakes below are from: AngelCakes in Frederick, MD; Sweet Sin Bakery and Cafe in Baltimore, MD; Caffe Latte’da in Baltimore, MD; Crumbs Bake Shop in Clarendon, VA; Georgetown Cupcake in Bethesda, MD; Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse in Westminster, MD; and Snickerdoodles Bakery in Coffee House in Hampstead, MD.

AngelCakes – Frederick, MD
Pumpkin Spice Cupcake

Last time I reviewed AngelCakes it was a bit of a mixed review. I tried two cupakes, but only really enjoyed one. Well, this Pumpkin Spice cupcake work out in my favor with its super moist cake and great pumpkin spice flavor. The frosting was sweet, but not overly so. This cupcake actually reminded me a lot of a Dunkin Donut’s pumpkin doughnut, which isn’t a bad thing (I could eat those doughnuts all day, every day if my waistline would let me).

Sweet Sin Bakery and Cafe (AKA: Sweet 27 – Gluten Free) – Baltimore, MD
Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin Apple Caramel Cupcakes

Sweet Sin can often be a hit or miss, but their Chocolate Raspberry cupcake is completely decadent and just that alone has me thinking about their cupcakes often—its close proximity to my day job doesn’t hurt either. Plus, they are gluten free, so kind of healthy too, right? (Don’t burst my bubble on this…) Recently, I found myself with a fierce cupcake craving, so decided to stop in and see what fall cupcakes were on the menu. They actually had about four seasonal flavors that day, so I selected Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin Apple Caramel. Unfortunately only one really worked for me. The Pumpkin Apple Caramel had large chunks of baked apples, but also contained a weird spice flavor that just didn’t win me over. Luckily the Pumpkin Spice saved the day and ended up having a great flavor and smooth frosting. The cake on both was a bit dense and the texture wasn’t totally like “normal” cake, but since I convince myself that I was eating a healthy cupcake I decided to overlook that.

Cafe Latte’da – Baltimore, MD
Pumpkin Cupcake

This cupcake is a bit like a muffin pretending to be a cupcake. The cake’s texture screams, “I’m a muffin!” but, the flavor of the “cake” is really nice and the cream cheese frosting on top is smooth with just the right amount of sweetness. This cupcake is also HUGE which means you can share it or eat half immediately and save the rest for later (or just eat the whole thing in one sitting, we won’t judge).

Crumbs Bakery – Clarendon, VA

Pumpkin

Pumpkin… sadly this cupcake did not live up to its namesake. The cake was moist and delicious, but didn’t taste like pumpkin at all, the icing was the same…both had a lovely vanilla flavor—which after a bit of searching on their website I discovered that Crumbs has two cupcakes that reference pumpkin: one that is just vanilla and one that is actually pumpkin flavored. As a Vanilla cupcake, this cupcake did NOT disappoint. Simple in flavor, but decorated for the season!

Apple Cobbler

Streusel Crumbs = Heaven. Filled with apple pie preserves, covered in delicious vanilla buttercream and topped with streusel crumbs, this cupcake flavor is amazing and complex. It didn’t just taste like apple cobbler, it embodied and elevated the flavors of its namesake dessert.

Georgetown Cupcake – Bethesda, MD
Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple Cupcakes

For November Georgetown Cupcake has some fantastic fall flavor offerings; including the two pictured above: Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple. The Pumpkin Spice cupcake was just as I remembered it from our 2011 Cupcake Tour—a little dense, but the flavors were amazing. The cake was full of spices while the cream cheese icing had a subtle maple flavor. Caramel Apple, whoa! The apple cake was moist and the dolce de leche filling adds a whole new level of flavor to this cupcake. Both cupcakes are fall-tastic!

Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse – Westminster, MD
Amaretto Chai Spice Cupcake

Starry Night released this new flavor after I went in this year to pick their other 2012 Fall Seasonal cupcakes. Luckily they had them on my most recent visit! This cupcake was moist and light, full of flavor. It seemed more like a spice cake to me, but I’m not a big chai tea drinker (unlike Crusader Elisa). The chai buttercream was smooth and I think I picked up notes of cinnamon. Another winning cupcake from Starry Night!

Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffee House – Hampstead, MD
Apple Cinnamon Cupcake

This Apple Cinnamon cupcake was amazing, to say the least. Snickerdoodles tends to always fill their large gourmet cupcakes, even if just with a whipped frosting, but this cupcake was filled with an apple cinnamon compote and topped with cinnamon buttercream. The crumb around the edge added a nice texture and gave it the feeling of an apple crisp.

We hope that you were able to get out this fall and taste some seasonal cupcakes. Fall flavors are some of our favorites, but now with Thanksgiving bringing the season to a close, we are ready for the cupcakes that winter has to offer!

– Reviews by the Cupcake Crusaders

Well deserved “Crumbs”

A couple of weekends ago I ran my very first full marathon! Running through Washington DC I tried to remember not too push too much and to enjoy the historic sites we were passing along the course. It obviously worked, because 26.2 miles later, I had completed the Marine Corps Marathon and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I’ve mentioned in the past how much fun it is to receive the medal at the end, and at this marathon’s end, a Marine placed the medal around my neck and saluted me. WOW.

While running for just under 5.5 hours, I thought about a lot of different things and dessert kept popping up. I knew how I wanted to celebrate finishing the marathon—with cupcakes! After going back to my friend’s apartment in Arlington, to clean up and rest a bit (A very special thanks to my friend Kevin and his roommate for letting me stay overnight, a stone’s throw from the starting line) I hopped on my phone and searched for cupcake places close by that were still open on a Sunday night. My inner Crusader told me someone HAD to be open—sure enough Crumbs in Clarendon, VA didn’t let me down!

I stopped in and the very helpful staff helped me pick out a couple of celebratory cupcakes (and I picked up a Chai Latte for the ride home).

Mudslide

This cupcake looked and smelled amazing. Chocolate chips, Oreo pieces, Baileys icing, and chocolate cake… yeah, I couldn’t think of anything better either. This cupcake was moist and flavorful, and tasted a bit like the drink it was named after, but mostly just tasted chocolatey. I’m not always a fan of chocolate chips on top, they can add an odd texture for me, but with this cupcake they worked.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate

This cupcake looked like the yin to the Mudslide cupcakes yang… but carried its own flavor profile. The peanut butter icing was perfect in taste and texture, the chocolate icing was the same, and the chocolate cake was rich and not too sweet. With this cupcake, the peanut butter chips added that extra hint of peanut flavor, which otherwise might have been overpowered by all the chocolate.

I also got two of their “Thanksgiving Special” flavors. You’ll get to read about those cupcakes in a future post! (Sneak peak – they are Pumpkin and Apple Cobbler.)

I learned two things that weekend: 1. Running a marathon is crazy… and I might just be crazy enough to do it again (and again). 2. Always listen to your inner Crusader, because there WILL be a cupcake shop close by, that is open. And hopefully it will be as good as Crumbs was!

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

2012 CupcakeCamp DC Recap

When CupcakeCamp DC posted that they had an opening for a fan judge, I jumped at the opportunity. Finally I could put all of my “practice” into use, and for a great cause. CupcakeCamp DC is in its third year and raises money for DC Candlelighters: Childhood Cancer Foundation. I’ve heard criticism about the past years, but being a new event organized by a single person, that’s expected. Each year changes have been made to make a better experience for all who participate.


(Cupcakes tasted by Crusaders Stacy and Elisa.)

This year the event was held at the very chic Continental Modern Pool Lounge, located in Arlington, VA (but right over the bridge from Georgetown Park in DC). From a judge’s perspective, check-in was super easy. I saw that a line was forming, mostly due to the rain bringing in people from the Jazz Festival across the street, but was able to bypass it with my oh-so-important title. I checked in with a volunteer, who had the list on his phone and took my spot at the judges’ table. The other blogging judges arrived and then cupcakes started coming our way.

(Judges from left to right: Adrienne from Little Miss Cupcake, Jill from Cuisine Queen, me, Kimberly from Yelp NoVa, and Nikki from Cupcakes for Breakfast.

Judging went fairly smoothly. Cupcakes were brought to us, in no particular order. Finding them on our score sheet was fairly easy, unless a baker switched up their entry at the last minute. We asked for knives to divide the cupcakes among the judges, but there weren’t any available. Luckily none of us were germaphobes, so we decided that we would dig in and wipe off excess frosting and cake on our forks, instead of slobbering all over them. We had to request forks, napkins, water, and a trash bag. The volunteer, who was working hard and running around a lot to bring the cupcakes to us, didn’t look too thrilled with our requests…but how else could we taste the cupcakes? Other than that, the judges were treated well and, to show their appreciation, we all received event t-shirts and awesome swag bags, provided by Izze, one of the event sponsors.

I asked Crusader Stacy for insight from an attendee’s perspective. She said that when they arrived there was a line and it seemed a bit disorganized, but that could have been due to the rain and people who hadn’t registered wanting to get in. Lines also seem to form at these cupcake events because the guests are aware that it’s first come first served. Although the venue could be tight to navigate sometimes, it had a great ambiance. It seems like people enjoyed that you could order adult beverages and there were a lot of areas to lounge and indulge in cupcakes. The venue also offers game tables, like billiards, for added entertainment. Stacy mentioned that she and Crusader Elisa did not realize that the people’s choice ballot was in the brochure, and wished they had known. At the end of the event, it was hard to hear the winners (I think due to background sound…not much you can do about that) and it was a little confusing when announcing the winners was mixed in with the announcing the raffle prizes. Luckily all the winners heard their names called, and we were all very excited that Joel Gill, from Josie’s Confections, took first place for his Chicken N Waffle Cupcake!


(The Cupcake Crusaders with 1st Place Winner Joel Gill from Josie’s Confections.)

1st Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crusaders’ Favorite:
Chicken N Waffle Cupcake by Joel Gill

(Chicken & Waffles Cupcake)

It’s no surprise that we adore Joel’s cupcake, having first had it at our 2012 DC Cupcake Picnic (see Crusaders’ review). What did surprise me was that the other judges were very excited to try a Chicken N Waffle cupcake, especially when most people question this creation. I was relieved when they all agreed that it was the best they’d had all day.

Crusaders’ Favorite:
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcake by Hilary Nelson


(Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcake)

Stacy and Elisa both agreed that this was their favorite cupcake of the day. It had a peanut butter cake with grape jam filling, topped with peanut butter buttercream and grape coulis. They both love the nostalgia of PB&J cupcakes and thought the grape was a nice change from the strawberry jams most bakers use.

Crusaders’ Favorite:
Earl Grey Cupcake by Tess McEnery


(Earl Grey Cupcake)

This cupcake was a standout for me on this day. I have wanted to try a tea-infused cupcake and I think Earl Grey was a perfect choice, with its hint of lemon flavor. The base was an Earl Grey buttermilk cake with Earl Grey and lemon buttercream frosting. Crusader Stacy also really liked this cupcake and would like to dabble in making her own tea-infused cupcakes. She described it as, “Heaven for a tea drinker, with light, airy cake and spot-on flavor.”

Crusaders’ Honorable Mentions:
We would also like to recognize some of the other cupcakes we enjoyed, with our own Honorable Mentions (separate from the CupcakeCamp DC winners):

1. Megan Ferrey, from Cakes by Megan: Banana chocolate chip cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with peanut butter frosting.
2. Monika Geraci, 2ND Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crowd Favorite: Salted Caramel Apple – apple spice cake filled with salted caramel and topped with cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.
5. Melissa Westervelt, from Honeybee Bakeshop: Pumpkin spice latte – pumpkin espresso cake topped with cinnamon and spiced buttercream and a caramel/fondant pumpkin pie decoration.
4. Claire Almquist: Chai tea latte cupcake with buttercream frosting.

So Many Cupcakes!
The three of us all tasted so many cupcakes at the event, obviously with me trying the most:

1. Amanda Rouse 3RD Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner: Vanilla cupcake with Nutella ganache and Nutella buttercream topped with roasted hazelnuts.
2. Shelly Facemire, 4TH Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crowd Favorite: Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache.
3. Shanika, from Couture Cakes by Nika: Lemon lavender cupcake topped with lavender butter cream, candied lemon, and an edible lavender flower.
4. Valerie Estep, from Silver Swirl Cupcake: Salted Caramel & Chocolate – Butter yellow cake with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and topped with a chocolate covered pretzel.
5. Heather Jesness: Vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate frosting.
6. Megan Ferrey, from Cakes by Megan: Dark chocolate cherry filled cake with pistachio meringue buttercream.
7. Kelly Zonderwyk: Lemon lavender cupcake with a glaze and filled with lemon curd.
8. Elisabeth Shankle: Banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting.
9. Shannon Paciorek: Key Lime Pie Cupcake – Graham cracker crust, lime infused cake filled with a lime curd, and lime cream cheese frosting.
10. Paola Veronica: Mini mocha cupcake with espresso buttercream.
11. Chinwe Aldridge: Vanilla cupcake with cream cheese/buttercream frosting, graham crackers, white chocolate, candies, and shoe decoration.
12. Alicia Hadley: Red velvet cake with a walnut cream cheese frosting.
13. Katie Walker: Canoli Cupcake – Vanilla cupcake with orange zest, ricotta and chocolate chip filling, and vanilla buttercream frosting with chocolate garnish.
14. Kat Harper: Chocolate cake with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream
15. Jennifer Hlad: Hummingbird cupcake with coconut cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.
16. Meghan Ochs: Vanilla cupcake, with cinnamon apple compote, topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.
17. Kathleen Mudge: Vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate fudge icing, topped with a brownie truffle and cookie.
18. Michelle Byers: German chocolate cake with caramel buttercream topped with bacon.
19. Danny McGibney: Sweet potato pie cupcakes with browned buttercream frosting.
20. Mini Guinness Cupcake (not in competition – baker unknown)

The 2012 CupcakeCamp DC raised $2,000 for DC Candlelighters and in the end we all had a really great time, Stacy and Elisa as guests and myself as a judge. I met some great people and I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings, but I think I’ll just enjoy the event as a spectator or volunteer. Twenty-five cupcakes were A LOT to taste!

To see more event more photos, visit CupcakeCamp’s DC Flikr pool.

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

Guest Review | Ashley’s College Cupcake Adventure Part 2 | New York Penn Station & Lynchburg College

Our friend, Ashley, recently graduated from Lynchburg College and spent her entire last semester sending us photos of all the cupcakes she encountered while there. Since her classes kept her busy, she wasn’t able to write up a review for us, but now that she has finished with school she took some time to share her experiences with us. In her first review she shared the cupcakes she tried from one specific location on campus, Brewed Awakening. In this second review, she is sharing two other cupcakes she encountered prior to graduating.

Other than cupcakes from Brewed Awakenings, I snatched up cupcakes whenever I had the chance. The first one I tried was over Christmas break when I took the train home to Rhode Island.  I was excited to find out that I would have to change trains in New York City and had an hour and a half layover in Penn Station. Normally I wouldn’t be happy about a layover but I love New York so I was excited to be able to spend a short amount of time there.  While there, I wanted to get as much of the New York experience as possible so I was sure to have hot dogs for dinner, spend some time outside, and get a cupcake in the train station.  Sadly I didn’t take pictures of the cupcakes behind the glass but I was quick to snatch up my safety option: peanut butter and chocolate.  I was really excited about this cupcake because it was at least twice the size of a normal cupcake, but it was so big that I decided to wait until I arrived at my destination, where I knew I would be staying in a household with five other people eager to help eat it.

Considering the cupcake was shoved into a backpack for hours and then sat in the fridge for another half a day it was still very good! The cake was moist and the peanut butter and chocolate combination was delicious as always. The only complaint I have is the chocolate and peanut butter chips on the frosting. Although they were tasty they were kind of hard and took away from the taste of the frosting. I would have preferred just the Reese’s cup on the top, but that is just my personal taste and texture preference.  Based on this cupcake though, I definitely want to try other cupcakes at Penn Station!

The next non-Brewed Awakenings cupcake that I had was at an end of the year reception at Lynchburg College. It was a simple chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and topped with mini M&Ms.

I was excited when I saw the cupcakes as dessert but at the same time I was not expecting a whole lot because the cafeteria on campus catered the food. Although our cafeteria generally has very delicious cupcakes, I still did not expect much and also was not even sure that they made these themselves. They had clearly travelled a good distance to get to our reception because they weren’t as pretty as some of the other cupcakes I have seen and it was very hard to handle due to all the frosting. After the first bite into the cupcake, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The cupcake was really good! I was afraid that the frosting would be too much at first, however it was a whipped cream base and much lighter than I expected.  The overall cupcake was so good that I actually had another one before I left the reception. They were a pretty big hit and regardless of where they came from they were delicious. I would eat another right now if I could.

My senior year of college was hectic and packed with internship work, thesis writing and applying for a job in South Korea, but my new found interest, cupcakes (thanks to Jenn and Stacy!), made the semester much more enjoyable. Now that I know there are so many different cupcakes out there I definitely can’t wait to try others and look forward to hearing about more from the Crusaders!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Ashley (Lynchburg, VA)

Part 3: Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Cupcakes!

As Crusader Jenn and Crusader Stacy said in their posts the past two days, we all adore Idina Menzel. My adoration only began because they introduced me to her and I thank them, because she is amazing… but enough about her talented self and onto more cupcakes.

Crusader Stacy and I made two stops before meeting up with Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusader Ashley at Wolf Trap for the concert. Our second stop was Cupcakes! in Vienna, VA. Located in a cute little shopping center, and upstairs from an eclectic gift shop, Cupcakes! was the perfect spot.

Cupcakes! boasts a lovely cupcake display with a variety of flavors to choose from, but they also have cupcake related gifts and gift items. Stacy went home with a new cupcake stand that has to be the most perfect little mini cake stand ever made. The staff were very helpful and sweet, explaining that they bake fresh every day and that the cupcakes are moist and flavorful, while the frosting is just sweet enough. They are just lovely; great customer service is never wasted on the Crusaders, we really appreciate it, as it can be hard to find.

We stuck to our “one cupcake per person, per location” rule for the day and decided on the following:

Dolce De Leche

Moist cake with smooth frosting that embodied Dolce de Leche. It’s a tough flavor to begin with, as it is sweetened milk that is heated and reduced down to an almost caramel type consistency, but Cupcakes! nailed it. The cake alone was lacking a little in flavor, but with the frosting and spot-on texture, all together it created perfect harmony. We liked this cupcake, and agreed its decoration was simple, but cute.

Strawberry

Two words: Strawberry CAKE. The staff told us that they use fresh strawberry in their cake, instead of using the strawberry in the frosting – we all thought this was brilliant! This allowed the strawberry flavor to shine, while the frosting wasn’t overly sweet. (I find fruit frostings to be on the sweeter side because you have to add more sugar to keep it stiff.) All of us enjoyed this cupcake, but I have to say that it was my favorite of the day and makes my list of top 5 cupcakes I have ever eaten. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Our experience with Cupcakes! could not have been better. Friendly staff and fantastic cupcakes, who could ask for more? Its only downfall is that it is so far away from Baltimore – because I wish I could go once a week for my strawberry cupcake fix. Whenever any of the Crusaders are in the Vienna, VA area we will have to stop into Cupcakes!.

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

Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Edibles Incredible

It’s no secret that the Crusaders are theater geeks and, as such, we of course have a favorite Broadway performer: Idina Menzel. Some of you may know her as the woman who originated Maureen in Rent, others from Elphaba in Wicked. However, it’s not only her Broadway resume that has given her the title of favorite performer for the Crusaders. She is also an amazing songwriter and we love her solo albums. When we found out she would be returning to Wolf Trap (Vienna, VA), we thought there would be no better way to spend the day than to pick up cupcakes from bakeries nearby, and arrive early to picnic in the grass. Any time we can combine theater with cupcakes is a good day for us.


(Above is our cupcake loot from Edibles Incredible, Cupcakes! Cupcakery and Sticky Fingers. Reviews for Cupcakes! Cupcakery and Sticky Fingers coming this week. And, it wouldn’t be tailgating without a little booze, Crusader-style, with Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco.)

Guest Crusader Ashley, who is also an Idina fan, visited for the weekend to attend the concert with us. She had visited Edibles Incredible (Reston, VA) with family the month before. Since it is only 15 minutes from Wolf Trap we thought, what better place to go?

Edibles Incredible caters to more than just cupcake lovers. They also sell whole cakes, chocolates, fudge, gift baskets, specialty and wedding cakes. One of the things that surprised me when we walked in was the size of the cupcakes. Ashley hadn’t adequately warned me that they are the large ones, right on par with Snickerdoodles Bakery (which we have reviewed a few times) and can easily feed two people (the cupcakes are priced at $3.95, which is understandable with the size). The shop is located in the Reston Town Center, which ended up being perfect for Ashley and I. It’s a great outdoor shopping area, so we were also able to grab dinner. If we had more time, it would have been nice to sit outside and eat dinner and a cupcake, but concert parking was a priority for us, so we grabbed our food and were on our way.


(Cute, but can you see the predicament the packaging puts one in when it comes time for removal?)

Our cupcakes were uniquely packaged in Chinese food containers. While this is a creative idea, it doesn’t bode well for the cupcakes. There is a paper “lift-strip” but with cupcakes so large, and the strip not always landing perfectly under the cupcake, it doesn’t help very much. We really like to have our cupcakes coming out of their packaging perfect, or nearly perfect, looking. The cupcakes at Edibles Incredible were already a little messy looking in the display case, and these containers just made the frosting worse. Aside from liking our cupcakes pretty, trying to get them out of the container just made a sticky mess of my fingers and hands…not cool when you are on a blanket and eating outside!

The first cupcake we tasted from Edibles Incredible was the Butterscotch Baby. When Ashley and I saw the description we had to have it: butterscotch cake, with caramel buttercream frosting, filled with caramel, and topped with homemade toffee candy. This was our favorite of the two we purchased, although still not the best. The caramel filling was like a chewy caramel and the cake tasted like Duncan Hines’ yellow cake mix. Because it was richer, denser, and moister than a box mix, Crusader Stacy and I actually really liked the cake. But Crusader Elisa was disappointed and wished she could taste the butterscotch the cake was supposed to have.

Ashley and I also decided to purchase the Neapolitan cupcake for all of us to try. It had a little bit of everything, including a marble strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate cake, strawberry filling, and topped with the three different buttercreams to mimic the ice cream. Us Crusaders recently had a great Neapolitan cupcake from IcedGems, so I was hopefully we’d be getting something that fell into the same category. Unfortunately the cupcake was overly sweet, and no particular flavor came through, even when trying parts of the cake separately. The filling, which was similar to strawberry jam, seemed out of place and overpowered the cupcake. Although the cake was moist, it wasn’t enough to save this treat.

We passed on the Lemon Dream Pie during this trip because Ashley had tried it on her previous visit. It looked and sounded very good (you all know we are suckers for curd fillings), but Ashley informed me that, although she liked the overall flavor, the cupcake was very sweet for her taste.

I’ve been trying to decide if I would give Edibles Incredible’s cupcakes another chance. I think that I would. The one unifying factor was that they all had moist cake, and that’s one of the most important things to me. Flavors seem to be hit or miss, but having only tried two myself, I’m curious to see how some others stand up.

This week we’ll bring you more reviews from our Wolf Trap cupcake tailgating tasting, so stay posted!

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

Guest Review | Brewed Awakenings at Lynchburg College | Lynchburg, VA

We have another new guest reviewer! Our good friend Ashley recently graduated from Lynchburg College and spent her entire last semester sending us photos of all the cupcakes she encountered while there. Since her classes kept her busy, she wasn’t able to write up a review for us while she was there, but now that summer is in full swing she took some time to share her experiences with us! In this first review she chronicles the cupcakes she tried from one specific location on campus. Thanks Ashley!

I must admit that when Jenn, Stacy, and Elisa started talking about cupcakes all the time I never thought that it would escalate to the creation of this awesome blog that I enjoy following so much. Cupcakes really are the perfect sweet for me because they are generally pretty small so they are the perfect size for someone who wants to limit his or her sweets intake (like me). While I am nowhere near the cupcake “expert” that the Crusaders are, I have since started eating cupcakes more frequently and find myself capturing the moment in a photo each time to share with the Crusaders and give them my own personal thumbs up or down.

I recently graduated from Lynchburg College, a small liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Virginia and during my last semester there I often visited Brewed Awakenings, the coffee shop located in the building where I worked. One day, while I waited in line I noticed some amazingly delicious looking cupcakes. My initial thought was, “Brewed has cupcakes now!?” – this is when I knew the cupcake phenomenon had reached Lynchburg and I couldn’t resist buying one to see if they were as good as they looked.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is peanut butter and chocolate, something I share with Crusader Jenn’s husband, so without hesitation I chose their Peanut Butter and Chocolate cupcake.

I took just enough time to take a picture of it before I rushed to work with my cupcake so that I could dig in. Considering this was the first cupcake I got from Brewed Awakenings I was not quite sure what to expect. After the first bite, however, I was completely sold. This cake was so moist and complemented by the peanut butter frosting and topped off perfectly with a piece of a Reese’s Cup, my favorite candy. The flavors blended well and completely satisfied my peanut butter and chocolate addiction.

I am very much a creature of habit, so on each visit to Brewed Awakenings I was tempted to get the peanut butter and chocolate cupcake again, but as the semester progressed I deviated and ended up trying several other cupcakes:

Key Lime:

This cupcake was just as, if not more, moist than the peanut butter and chocolate cupcake. I was originally not sure what to think about key lime because I have not had much of it in the past, but the woman working behind the counter insisted it was delicious so I took her word for it. She was certainly correct! The cake was moist and had the perfect amount of lime mixed in with it and the frosting was delicious with specks of lime sprinkled on top of it. Yet again I was completely sold! I would definitely recommend that, if you have yet to do so, you try a key lime cupcake next time you see one!

S’mores:

I love s’mores so words cannot express how completely excited I was about this cupcake.

Just looking at this cupcake my mouth started watering. The frosting with the graham cracker sprinkled on top of it with the mini marshmallows looked so delicious.  Maybe it was the mental build up, maybe it was the fact that the past cupcakes were so good, or maybe it was a mixture of the two but I was sadly disappointed by this cupcake. The frosting and everything on it tasted fine and made the cupcake edible but the cake portion of the cupcake was very dry and resembled corn bread texture (which was surprising based on how moist the past cupcakes were). This was very disappointing especially because I am not a big fan of the texture of corn bread. Perhaps if the cake portion of the cupcake was a little better it could be a totally different cupcake, but I definitely need to try a good s’more cupcake sometime to alter my current opinion on them.

Peppermint Patty:

Following my disappointment from the s’more cupcake I was a little nervous but I dug in anyway. I was relieved when the cake was more moist than the s’more cupcake, although not as moist as the peanut butter and key lime cupcakes. This cupcake was exactly like a peppermint patty with the chocolate covering and the peppermint filling frosting. The flavors all blended really well together and made for a very nice redemption cupcake. The only minor complaint that I have about it is that it was extremely sweet; however, in my opinion, peppermint patties are also extremely sweet so I suppose it was very fitting.

Classic Chocolate and Classic Vanilla:

These two are some of the less memorable cupcakes.  They weren’t horrible but they also didn’t stand out to me as fantastic either.

I wish I were able to tell you who brought these cupcakes to Brewed Awakenings; however, every time I asked the workers behind the counter they did not seem to have an answer for me. The closest thing I got to an answer was that they were delivered by a personal baker who only operates from her house and does not have an actual bakery. If I find out any additional information I will be sure to update everyone!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Ashley (Lynchburg, VA)

Rebecca’s Cupcake Surprise! Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery

Our Healthy Guest Crusader and my co-worker, Rebecca, often surprises me with fun things, like a high heel shoe tape dispenser… but the best surprises are always cupcakes! Last week, while on a trip to DC,  she was kind enough to buy me cupcakes from Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery!

Knowing my love for Sprinkles, she stopped by and got me two cupcakes she knew I had been dying to try, their Cherry Blossom and S’mores cupcakes.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry done right! This cake has cherries puréed in both the icing and the cake! The icing was sweet, pink, and very cherry, while the cake actually tasted more almond to me and had a lovely blue/pink/gray color. This cupcake celebrates the beautiful cherry blossom trees just perfectly.

S’more

Graham cracker lined bottom with gooey chocolate ganache filling, and toasted marshmallow on top really embody a s’more in cupcake form.

The crust stayed crunchy and buttery too, which has to be a difficult challenge when you are putting cake batter on top. I don’t always love chocolate cake, but this cupcake really let each flavor shine, making it a chocolate cake I would always order. Sadly, S’mores is only offered a few months out of the year and the next time it will be around is next fall. I can’t believe I will have to wait that long to get one again!

Rebecca has been telling me for months now how much she loves Bittersweet Bakery in Alexandria, VA. So while she was in the DC/VA area, she got me four of their adorable mini cupcakes to try (starting on the far right and working clockwise):


Chocolate Peanut Butter
What a peanut butter punch! This little deep dark chocolate cake was topped with the most savory and delicious peanut butter frosting. I mean, WOW, it was that good and I would love to have a full size cupcake of this flavor!

Boston Creme
This little cupcake looked better than it tasted. The cake was oddly oily, and while the chocolate ganache topping was yummy, it did not save this cupcake from being mediocre. Maybe their full size cupcake would be different, but it would be tough to get me to order it, especially knowing how good some of the other flavors are.

Red Velvet
Knowing how much I love red velvet (when it’s done right), Rebecca made sure to include this one for me. However, as can often be the case with red velvet, this cupcake was disappointing. The cream cheese icing was just okay, and the cake was very dry. I love the chocolate shavings on top though; what an interesting and delightful treat, sadly, the only treat about this cupcake.

Carrot Cake
Rebecca warned me about how much I would love this cupcake, and boy was she right! The very moist and spicy cake was full of carrot and raisins. The cream cheese icing (which I swear was not the same as the icing on the red velvet) was perfect and smooth. My one problem with this cupcake is how small it was… all I wanted was more of it!

Surprise cupcakes are always a treat and I really enjoyed these cupcakes. I’m always looking to eat more flavors from Sprinkles and am excited to have finally had cupcakes from Rebecca’s favorite bakery! I’m looking forward to the next time Rebecca swings by my office with sweet treats to share. 🙂

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