Texas Cupcake Trekking (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in my Texas adventures from last week’s review, after leaving Dallas, four men and me trekked to Austin in a very small car which meant a tight squeeze, funny stories, and laughing. After a few hours in the cramped car, we were more than happy to check into our hotel and relax by the pool. Right away I did some cupcake research and narrowed down the sites I wanted to see in our short two day trip.

After a fantastic brunch at Taverna, I attempted to stop at me first cupcake shop, Delish. Sadly, it was closed because of Labor Day. 😦 I hadn’t even thought of Labor Day being an issue, so when I got back to the hotel I took time to call and see if my other stops would be open. That’s when I ended up on the phone with Totally Nuts Bakery. Sadly, they are a delivery service not a store front, but I had to mention them because they were so wonderful on the phone. (On top of that, they said they would look up our blog and send us some cake pops to sample! We haven’t heard from them yet, but after perusing their website, we are very excited about the possibility!) I felt like I was striking out left and right, and began to think I would never find cupcakes in Austin!

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(The Capital Building, Cool Sign near the University, and Barton Springs)

Luckily my last pick was the voted the best cupcake in Austin and was open! After seeing some sights (including the amazing Capital building) and taking dip in Barton Springs, the boys and I drove over to Hey Cupcake! on South Congress Street. (They have 4 locations throughout the Austin area.)

Austin-StoreFront

I quickly picked 2 cupcakes to try and bought one of their official take-home oven boxes. My boyfriend ordered a cupcake as well and we sat down at their cute picnic tables for a taste.

Pumpkinator
Austin-Pumpkin

Spicy and sweet cake with graham cracker cream cheese frosting = YUM. Some pumpkin cupcakes end up more in the muffin category, but not this one! By-far the best pumpkin cupcake I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The frosting to cake ratio was perfect, so perfect in fact, I didn’t want to share it! While it might have been very hot outside, this cupcake felt like a cool fall breeze.

24 Carrot
Austin-Carrot

GOLD. This cupcake wins a gold medal for it’s layering flavor profiles and smooth, complimentary cream cheese frosting. The walnuts on top gave great additional texture to this already fantastic cupcake. The shredded carrot weaved through the moist cake with raisins and walnuts as well. What a cupcake, it really is worth it’s weight in 24 carrot gold.

Red Velvet
Austin-RedVelvet

When I ordered this cupcake the lovely staffer said that their red velvet wasn’t like others, it was more traditional. That it was. The cake was moist, but didn’t wow me with red velvet flavor. The cream cheese frosting is the same great frosting found on the other two cupcakes we tried. Perhaps the it was hyped up a bit too much, or the other two cupcakes were just that fantastic and made this one seem boring. Either way, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my favorite of the three.

Austin was great, and while I thought my cupcake trek was over, on our drive back to Dallas we stopped at a famous truck stop called Czech Stop & Little Czech Bakery. Most people go there for the kolaches (a type of pastry) but they also happened to have cupcakes!

Austin-Czech
(Adorable Little Czeck bag, Peach & Sausage Kolaches)

I ordered two kolaches and a cupcake, I just couldn’t help myself. My breakfast sausage kolache was the perfect pastry breakfast treat and the peach kolache was sweet and tart. I can see why people make it a point to stop at this little bakery ad truck stop. Not sure I could eat more, I moved on to trying the cupcake…

Peanut Butter Chocolate
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Creamy and rich, moist and sweet, this cupcake was the perfect end to my cupcake treck across Texas. The frosting was smooth, super peanut buttery, and as you can see, very tall! There was SO much frosting, but the rich chocolate cake called for that over abundance. The largest of the cupcakes I tried while I was in Texas, also happened to be one of the best.

Labor day weekend in Texas was relaxing, fun, filling, and wonderful. The people were welcoming and lovely, and the food was fantastic! (Be warned, everything has some heat to it, even if it doesn’t say it’s spicy.) It was great to be out of town, see two new cities, visit some historical sites, and spend time getting to know some new friends. The cupcakes were fantastic too, and I can’t wait to go back and try new spots I missed this time around.

*A very special thank you my loving boyfriend Mike and his friends for letting me tag along on their boys trip, and trekking me all over to find cupcakes in two Texas cities!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Taste Test: How does Chef Duff’s Cake Mix Compare?

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I did it again… While walking down the grocery aisle I was totally sucked in by colorful packaging, sale prices, and big names:

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We haven’t reviewed Baltimore local, Chef Duff of Charm City Cake’s, line of cake mixes and frosting yet because, to be honest, they are a bit pricey compared to the competition. The retail price for the above is $5.69 for a box of cake mix and $3.29 for a tub of frosting (I’m sure prices vary by location). On sale, I picked these up for $3.49 and $2.99, so still not super cheap. The box of mix did come with a large packet of pre-made peanut butter ganache though, so I was glad to see they hadn’t skimped on that.

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Even though we’ve heard that Chef Duff is not a fan of the cupcake frenzy (crazy, I know!), I decided to use this mix to make cupcakes instead of a layered cake. Take that Chef Duff! (Kidding! We actually really love him, his show, and that he calls Baltimore home).

In order to provide you all with an accurate review of the product line, we didn’t modify this mix or frosting like we normally like to do and the only “extra” thing I decided to purchase was Peanut Butter Oreos to add on top (if you haven’t had these, what are you waiting for? Seriously, run to your nearest grocer).

When I mixed the batter according to the directions it appeared very runny and the dry ingredients didn’t seem to mix easily in with the wet, causing little chunks throughout. Shrugging this off, I filled the baking cupcakes and set the timer on the oven. The instructions called for 20 to 25 mins, but that seemed really high to me, so I decided to bake for 16 minutes (my normal cupcake baking time) and add more time if necessary. I’m glad I did that because they were completely finished baking when I checked them.

Once they cooled, I cored the center and added the peanut butter ganache. The texture of it was perfect for the filling, and the bag it came in made filling the cupcakes easy and mess free. Since I was filling the cupcakes, I didn’t chill the ganache as the box suggests, but if you are going to spread it on a layer cake, I definitely think you should. It might be too runny otherwise.

Before I frosted the cupcakes, I did a little taste test of Duff’s Chocolate Fudge Frosting, and was glad I did. It was really rich and overly sweet, like typical pre-made store bought frosting. I decided a thin layer with a dollop on top would be the perfect amount.

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Overall these cupcakes were good. Not great. Not Special. Just good. Although, I was able to get 25 cupcakes from the mix, while with other brands I’m lucky to get 22. Also, it was nice to have something included in the box to use as a filling, but in my opinion the cake and frosting were just as good as any of the competitors’.

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I’m not sure if I would seek out Chef Duff’s mixes in the future. I may pick up a box from time to time, if they are on sale and I fall into the gimmick trap again, but otherwise I think I’ll stick with my old friends, Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Charm City Cupcakes – Are New Locations Impressing New Neighbors?

Engelia, from Key Events, is a new friend to the Crusaders. We met at church and quickly discovered a love for a couple of things: Reality TV and cupcakes! I later found out that Engelia is also party lover and expert at DIY. This lead her and a friend to start Key Events – Boutique Event Planning. Check out their website…You’ll find beautiful wedding cupcakes in their gallery. Today, Engelia is sharing a review of Charm City Cupcakes’ new location in Owings Mills, MD at the Valley Village Shoppes. Thanks, Engelia!

In the process of running around town picking up food and decorations for a “manly” themed birthday party, I stopped at a stoplight across from the Valley Village Shopping Center in Owings Mills, MD. A sign caught my eye that read “Charm City Cupcakes.” I live in the area and pass this center at least five times a week and knew that this was a new addition. As I pulled into the parking lot and parked, my heart sped up at the anticipation of a new dessert hitting my lips and maybe even making an appearance at this “manly” birthday party.

Charm City Cupcakes is a well-known bakery in the MD area. With three locations including a flagship store at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, they have a new location at 9101 Reisterstown Rd. Owings Mills, MD 21117. Out of all of their choices, I selected the red velvet cupcake (one of their Charm City Classics as listed on the menu) with a cream cheese frosting and a chocolate mousse filling. They require a minimum order of six cupcakes. I placed an order of six cupcakes for pick up the day before the party. Side note: I did not order more as 1) this was my first time ordering from Charm City Cupcakes and wanted to minimize loss if the cupcakes were not enjoyed and 2) I’d just picked up a dozen cupcakes from Giant. Basically, I’d already filled my cupcake party quota with the Giant order but thought it would be a nice surprise for my client.

The pickup went smoothly and the associate behind the counter was the same woman who helped me when I placed the order. She was very pleasant and was able to call the owner directly with any questions. The cupcakes were placed nicely in a white box. I placed the treats in the refrigerator overnight and prayed that they did not dry out.

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(Red Velvet cupcakes in custom cupcake wrappers, from Etsy. To see more from this moustache party, visit Key Event’s Facebook album.)

Party Night! I placed the six cupcakes out on a glass display. I wrapped them in moustache themed cupcake wrappers and placed a moustache ring on top of the cupcakes. Long story short, I had to swipe one of the cupcakes about an hour into the party so that I could try it later. As I listened to guests enjoy the cupcakes, there were mixed reviews. A couple of guests commented on how smooth the chocolate mousse filling was and made a great pairing with the softness of the cupcake. Another guest did remark that his cupcake was a little dry and the frosting too sweet. I quickly interjected that the dryness most likely had to do with the fact that I refrigerated them overnight.

My thoughts: I finally got to try the red velvet cupcake around 11:30pm that night. The cupcake was at the perfect temperature as it’d sat out for about two hours. I have to let you know that the red velvet flavor is my absolute favorite and I’ve tried it in pretty much every way possible from cake pops to cakes to cheesecake to doughnuts. Often, if not mixed and baked properly, the essence of the flavor can be easily dried out. Charm City Cupcakes did a good job of preserving the center of the cupcake and incorporating the filling. The center was soft and moist. The top of the cupcake was a little hard around the edges but was offset by the softness of the cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting was semi-sweet. I tend to like my frosting a little less sweet but as we know everyone is different. Overall, I would have liked the cupcake to be moister at the top and a less sweet frosting but I’m more than open to trying their other flavors and recommending them to others.

– Guest Crusader Engelia, from Key Events (Baltimore, MD)

Texas Cupcake Trekking (Part 1)

Labor day in Baltimore for the past three years has been taken hostage by the Grand Prix race. The race closes over 50% of the roads and, for us locals, can cause a huge headache. Because of this I decided to retreat from my city and trek to another! Lucky for me my boyfriend invited me to Texas with him to visit his friend. Our itinerary was full, including two cities, and of course cupcakes!

Our first stop was Dallas, and it was full of American history and sweet treats. While the boys watched the Penn State game, I rented a car and drove from Irving into the city. My first stop was the 6th Street Museum. The museum is in the Dallas book depository and explores the life and tragic assassination of JFK from that same building. It’s well worth the wait in line if you ever have the opportunity to go. Take the time to listen to all of the audio and watch all of the videos, as it will move and inspire you. (And if you are anything like me, bring tissues, lots and lots of tissues.)

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(Standing on Elm Street in the exact spot JFK was shot. Note: You cannot take any photos inside the museum.)

After the museum, I walked to my first cupcake stop, Fluellen Cupcakes on Elm Street. After speaking with the lovely staff, and finding out they had just opened the month before, I chose two flavors to try.

Fluellen-Display
(Their lovely display case and beautiful counter.)

Banana Pudding
Fluellen-Banana

Truly delicious banana cupcakes are an elusive rarity. Often banana cupcakes end up with the texture and taste of a muffin, instead of true cake. This cupcake was one of those TRUE banana cupcakes. No muffin here, just a moist, airy, sweet and banana-y cupcake with smooth cream cheese frosting. The vanilla wafer on top added a nice crunch, all in all, a fantastic cupcake that is not to be missed.

Strawberry
Fluellen-Strawberry

Pink, Pink, Pink… talk about a colorful cupcake! Sweet cake with a subtle strawberry flavor and a strawberry infused cream cheese frosting, topped with a fresh strawberry slice. While this isn’t my all-time favorite strawberry cupcake, it is very good and one I wouldn’t mind eating again.

My trek then lead me to Frisco, an area north of the city, where the “best cupcakes in Dallas” live: Dimples Cupcake Factory. After driving 30 minutes, I walked in the adorable shop and realized the cupcakes looked oddly similar to the cupcakes I had just eaten! After confirming with the staff that the baker was indeed the same, I decided not to get more cupcakes, but to instead get cake balls! And wow, was I glad I did!

DimplesCollage

Flavors: Maple, Carrot Cake, Lemon, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Lemon, Black Velvet, and Cookies & Cream
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I never thought after eating 6 cake balls, all at one time mind you, I would want more… but I did. These were amazing. My favorites were Maple and Black Velvet, but all of them were fantastic. Moist, packed full of flavor, and perfectly sweet, these were by far the best I have ever eaten and made the drive completely worth it!

Dallas was warm, welcoming, educational, fun, and the cupcakes were great too. It was hard to imagine I would find cupcakes as good in Austin, the next stop on our trek… but you’ll have to wait until next week to find out!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD) 

Blast from the Past: Cupcake Cafe in NYC

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(Maple Walnut cupcake from Cupcake Cafe.)

Back in June of 2010 Guest Crusader Jen invited Crusader Stacy and I to help her pick out a wedding dress at the Kleinfeld Bridal in NYC (home to TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress). Although Jen lived in the city, this would be a weekend trip for Stacy and I, and a weekend in NYC wouldn’t be complete without cupcakes. Stacy worked her cupcake research magic and discovered that Cupcake Cafe was conveniently located near our shopping location. Done.

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(Assorted cupcakes from Cupcake Cafe.)

After successful dress shopping (Jen said Yes to a Dress!), we headed over to Cupcake Cafe as a pre-lunch treat. When we entered the shop we were amazed at the flower decorations on the cupcakes, all created with soft buttercream and each one unique. Not only did we pick flavors, but also which design we wanted amongst the selection.

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(Friends, including Liz in the top left and Guest Crusader Jen on the bottom…Cupcakes should always be fun!)

With such beautiful cupcakes, we all took photos and then took turns posing. Some of us take our photo ops very seriously, as you can see. The top right photo is me and my two cupcakes: the Mocha Chocolate and Maple Walnut. I have a long history of not being able to choose just one.

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(
Mocha Chocolate cupcake from Cupcake Cafe.)

My two flavors were standouts, proven by the fact that I still remember them 3 years later. I believe this was one of the first cupcakes I’d ever had that emphasized the “butter” part of “buttercream.” Stacy and I loved the smooth frosting, especially the rich maple buttercream paired with the walnut cake. This cupcake made me realize that frosting doesn’t have to be super sweet in order to be enjoyable.

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(
Top left: Crusader Stacy and Liz at Cupcake Cafe. Top right: Your favorite twins sipping on Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity’s. Bottom: The girls posing in front of Kleinfeld’s.)

On our visit, the cafe was next to Books of Wonder, near the Flatiron District. That location is now closed, however they still have a shop in Hell’s Kitchen (which is actually more convenient to my usual trips). If you prefer less sugar and more butter in your frosting, than definitely give Cupcake Cafe a try!

Our NYC friends indulged Stacy and I throughout the weekend, taking us to Serendipity’s and Dylan’s Candy Bar for more sweets. In addition to stuffing our faces with treats, we also spent time at a flea market and found ourselves at the heart of the Gay Pride Parade. Thinking back on the fun we had that weekend is bittersweet. Jen has moved to LA and Liz will be leaving NYC soon as well. NYC visits won’t be the same without spending time with my girls, but we have some good memories that will always make me smile. And Jen has promised us some LA cupcake reviews!

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

Cape May Bakers…on Vacation

Anytime I go somewhere new I look for bakeries and cupcake shops. It has become an addiction for me and is often the first thing on my mind when I plan a trip. I’ll drive, walk, or bus just about anywhere to get my favorite dessert, and my recent trip to Cape May, New Jersey was no different. After doing a little research (we Crusaders LOVE researching just about anything) I settled on two cupcake stops while in the area: Ellie’s Cupcakes and Cape May Bakers.

Sadly, after walking over to Ellie’s Bakery, they were closed. 😦 I read the hours wrong online and they were closed the only days I would be in town. Cupcake Crusader Fail. Lucky for us, Cape May Bakers were open and just a short walk away. (Actually, everything is a short walk away in Cape May, it is such a quaint and cute little tucked away town.) The shop was small with a few tables decorated in the signature Cape May Victorian style. They offer coffee and tea, breads, pastries, and even lunch specials including quiche, salads, and soups. I picked two cupcakes, of the four flavors they were offering that day.

Chocolate Caramel CapeMayChocolateCaramel

While this cupcake looks very appealing, it was just okay. The cake was very dry and while the frosting was good, it couldn’t save the cake. I liked the walnut on top, adding some crunch, but overall this cupcake lacked a lot of flavor. It looked so rich and decadent, but ended up just “meh.”

VanillaCapeMayVanilla

Vanilla is not a flavor I order a lot, as it is a little “boring” for my taste, but the addition of sprinkles made this one irresistible. Sadly, I was again disappointed. The cake was very dry and neither the cake nor the frosting had much flavor. The texture of the frosting was smooth, but paired with sub-par cake, together they still created a mediocre cupcake.

While I had a fantastic time in Cape May with my boyfriend, our cupcake experience was lacking. Since this will be an annual trip, we plan on going back next summer and making sure to hit Ellie’s when it is open and re-try Cape May Bakers… Because who knows, maybe the Cape May Bakers were away on vacation that weekend too. 😉

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

Cupcake Crusader + Cupcake Enthusiast at the Best of Baltimore Party

Friend and follower, Alyssa works in Public Relations and loves cupcakes almost as much as we do. Today, she shares with us her very first guest review from our date night at the Best of Baltimore Party. Thanks Alyssa!

For the second year in a row, Crusader Elisa and I attended Baltimore Magazine’s Best of Baltimore Party at the Hippodrome Theater. It’s such a fun event, complete with delicious food samples, booze and a photo booth (LOVE a good photo booth!). But being that I was with Crusader Elisa, we were on a mission that sticky August evening: to sample Baltimore’s Best Cupcake. (Last year Crusader Elisa reviewed the cupcake offerings, this year, I was up for the challenge!) Baltimoreans wisely voted La Cakerie as the Best Cakes, so Owner and Executive Chef Jason Hisley had a HUGE booth full of full-size cupcakes, macaroons and cookies for guests to taste.

Elisa and I selected our treats – Orange Creamsicle for me, Chocolate Salted Caramel (Jason calls them “The Baltimore Cupcake”) for her, coconut macaroons for both of us – and headed to a table to get our nom on. Elisa could not stop talking about how much she loved La Cakerie’s cakes, how great the owner is, and on and on and on about how amazing and delicious and wonderful it all is going to be, so I had pretty high expectations for this experience.

Well, can I just say: these cupcakes BLEW MY MIND.

Orange Creamsicle
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The orange cake was light and orangey without being too sweet, and the buttercream frosting was orangey without being too acidic or too sweet. The only other orange creamsicle cupcake I’ve had was way too sugary and tasted like a bottle of orange soda in frosting form. But La Cakerie’s version was like an orange cloud of deliciousness exploding in my mouth. I could have easily eaten three more of those if given the opportunity, if I wasn’t going to be harshly judged by my peers.

Chocolate Salted Caramel – aka The Baltimore Cupcake
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I haven’t had too many chocolate salted caramel cupcakes in my life – maybe three varieties at most; I’m not a cupcake connoisseur like the Crusaders – but La Cakerie’s was the best version of that combination that I have ever, ever had. The cake was incredibly moist, chocolaty and ACTUALLY SALTY. The caramel frosting was smooth and sweet and perfect. It was everything I’ve ever dreamed of and more. Jason placed a chocolate-dipped crab chip (WHAT!) on top, firmly cementing the salty-sweet combination as the greatest combination to ever happen to man.

The coconut macaroons were bite-sized chewy balls of goodness, and I was able to sneak three into my purse for snacking later. 🙂 All in all, our La Cakerie experience was fantastic. I can’t wait to visit the newly-opened Mount Vernon store! And the rest of the party was pretty fun too.

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(Our 2013 photo booth photos: Kissing the Flamingo, Classy Ladies, Prom Pose, and Our “Mckayla Maroney is Not Impressed”)

– Posted by Guest Crusader, Alyssa (Baltimore, MD)

Stone Mill Bakery: The Goodness Missed the Cupcakes

When a client recently suggested that we meet at Stone Mill Bakery for lunch and to review some color swatches, my ears instantly perked up at the word, “bakery.” I’ve heard a lot of good things about Stone Mill Bakery and figured that maybe I could pull double duty during my meeting…being a Crusader is a 24/7 job, but someone has to do it!

I arrived early and while there were many desserts that looked amazing, I didn’t instantly spot any cupcakes. After ordering food (chilled dill cucumber soup and a turkey powerhouse on spinach feta focaccia…YUM!) and taking another quick glance around, I thought, “Did I just see the words ‘baby’ and ‘cakes’ on that box?” But my curiosity would have to wait, because Pantone books awaited us.

Upon leaving, I bee-lined to the checkout counter to take a closer look at the “baby cakes,” which actually turned out to be, “Baby Cup Cakes.”

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Each box held 9 mini cupcakes and the selection included the basic Vanilla/Chocolate combinations, Cookies & Cream, and Coconut. I didn’t realize that I was in for a bit of sticker shock when the cupcakes rang up for $9.75.  At first glance that price seemed pretty high for nine mini cupcakes, but when you do the math it’s not too bad.

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Based on Stone Mill Bakery’s reputation, and after having lunch there, I had high exceptions for the Cookies & Cream mini cupcakes. The frosting was the highlight of the cupcake and tasted like the cream filling of an Oreo. Unfortunately, the cookie crumble was soft and the chocolate cake lacked any rich, chocolatey flavor and was so dry it crumbled.

If you find yourself at Stone Mill Bakery and need something sweet to compliment your wonderful lunch or dinner, skip the “Baby Cup Cakes.” I recommend the blondie, which was dense, fudge-like, and packed with soft chocolate chips and nuts (which added a nice texture). It was a decadent treat in an unassuming package.

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

Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes | Fort Myers, FL

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Now that I have a decent grasp on the Fort Myers and Naples area cupcake spots, I wasn’t worried about whether or not cupcakes would be a part of my trip when I recently visited my family in southwest Florida. Since I was staying with my Nana, and I know how much of a sweet tooth she has (ever wondered where I get it from?), I wanted to get some fancy cupcakes to say thank you and to put a smile on her face.

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After treating her to lunch at one of our favorite spots, Sweet Tomatoes, my aunts, cousin, and I decided to do a little shopping. My Aunt Jane wanted to visit a boutique located in the Bell Tower Shops, and I was in luck because Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes also resides there.

On my last visit to Grace & Shelly’s, Crusader Jenn and I selected a big variety, including a couple of full size cupcakes and tons of minis. This time I focused on just the full size flavors and selected Lemon, Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake, Butter Pecan, and Peach Cobbler. My Aunts also got a variety of flavors, and Aunt Jane added her two selections to my order since you save a little bit with orders of half a dozen.

When we got back to Nana’s house, we worked off our big lunch with some pool-time, and then took a quick cupcake break. My cousin, Allen, joined Aunt Jane, Nana and I for this cupcake tasting and, for the most part, we were unanimous in our feelings (except my sweet Nana, who loved them all).

Lemon

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Of the four cupcakes I selected, this was the best of them all. The cake and frosting were both light and tart. And even though the frosting didn’t hold up too well in the Florida heat (as you can tell from the photo), it didn’t make this cupcake any less tasty.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

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I was really excited about this cupcake, only to be disappointed. My Aunt Jane didn’t think that it was sweet enough, and also didn’t like the bits of raspberry seeds. That didn’t bother me too much, but the cake ended up being very squishy because of the filling.

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As you can see, the filling soaked almost all the way through to the wrapper. Gross.

Peach Cobbler

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The Peach Cobbler cupcake was very much the same. So much so, that I just couldn’t finish it. Luckily Nana didn’t mind because I choose this cupcake specifically for her and she ended up finishing my portion. Even though the cake wasn’t working for me, I did like the frosting and toppings, but what is a cupcake without cake?!

Butter Pecan

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Of all the cupcakes, I thought the presentation of this one was the best. I really liked that it looked like a scoop of butter pecan ice cream had been dropped on top. Unlike the Lemon cupcake though, the cake was dry and kind of plain. But the frosting was good and packed with pecans.

Snickerdoodle

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My Aunt Susan didn’t join us for our post-swim cupcake crusading, but later that night we had another little cupcake tasting at her house with some of the cupcakes she brought home. The first that I tried was the Snickerdoodle. While the cake was a little dry, the frosting was so good and had lots of cinnamon flavor.

Cookies and Cream

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The other cupcake I tasted at my Aunt Susan’s house was the Cookies and Cream. This cupcake had little cookie bits in the cake and frosting and tasted JUST like the ice cream, it was amazing!

Even if the cupcakes weren’t as good as I remembered them being, it was so fun doing my “cupcake thing” with my family. And I’ll never forget seeing my Nana scrape those wrappers clean… that woman has a crazy sweet tooth, you gotta love her!

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

What’s a “Stay-cation” Without Cupcakes?

Crusader Stacy recently took time off from work, spending part of her vacation in Florida, and then coming home early for a few days of R&R. Part of her “stay-cation” included spending the day with Leah and me. We had lunch, we talked, we shopped, we talked, and then we sat on the deck and talked some more. A perfect sister-day. Instead of dining out, Stacy picked up lunch from J Café, in Westminster, MD. I’ve been there before, but only for the cupcakes. They have a quaint restaurant and very appealing lunch menu.

JCafe_Interior

Since our lunch was so good, I just have to share it. Stacy had the Apple Pecan Salad, which is mixed greens, topped with sliced apple, candied pecans, feta cheese, craisins, red onion, and a sweet vinaigrette. From the looks of it, she thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

JCafe_Salad
(Even in a take-out container they took time to give the salad a nice presentation.)

I was craving bread that afternoon, so I selected the Sweet Chicken Salad Sandwich. J Café was out of croissants (bummer!) but suggested their focaccia bread instead.

JCafe_Sandwich

The chicken salad was jazzed up with craisins, celery, and chopped walnuts, and was unlike any chicken salad I’ve had. Because of the bread selection, the sandwich was huge and I ate the whole thing. The craisins added a touch of sweetness, while the walnuts gave a great texture. Although it would have been nice to sit in their café, they packaged up the food nicely and it was still enjoyable, even as take-out.

Now for what you all really want to hear more about…the cupcakes! As I mentioned, I tried their Pumpkin Maple and Sweet Potato cupcakes last fall. They were, hands-down, some of the best seasonal cupcakes I had last year. So, why did it take me so long to go back? My only answer really is, parking can be tricky in that area and I was busy eating a lot of other treats. So, it took Stacy going on a stay-cation to motivate us to give them another try.

Limoncello

JCafe_Lemoncillo
(I noticed that they used cupcake wrappers that came from the dollar section at Michael’s Craft Store – I spend a lot of time there…I thought that gave the cupcakes a personal, homemade touch.)

For my cupcake, I selected the Limoncello. With it nearing the end of summer, I’m getting my last fix of light, citrus/fruit flavors before I leave them behind for pumpkin and spice. Sadly, I wasn’t as impressed with this cupcake as I’d been with the others. The cake was good, with a light, but fresh, lemon flavor. However the cake was dense and on the dry side and the lemon frosting didn’t seem as natural. Perhaps they used Limoncello to flavor the frosting, but if so it resulted in tasting more like lemon extract. A redeeming quality was the smooth texture of the frosting and balanced sweetness as a whole.

Andes Mint

JCafe_MintChocolate

To offset her salad, Stacy chose a rich Andes Mint cupcake. Stacy said that the cake was some of the best chocolate cake she’s had, moist with deep chocolate flavor, but the frosting was the star: not too sweet, perfect hints of mint, and small pieces of Andes Mints mixed throughout. She said that it was the best cupcake she’s had in a long time!

There will definitely be a next time for J Café, and hopefully it involves grabbing a table (instead of take-out) to enjoy their charming atmosphere while eating our cupcakes.

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