Blast from the Past: The Cupcakery in Las Vegas

Long before the Cupcake Crusaders had this blog, we had dreams about what it might become. A place to share our love, stories, thoughts, and photos of cupcakes. Almost a year before our blog began, in August of 2010, my husband and I went to Las Vegas as a last hoorah before taking the plunge into parenthood. Prior to leaving, I did plenty of research to find cupcakes while on vacation. After finding out that the hotel-casino we were staying in had a cupcakery IN it, I knew I didn’t need to worry about going through cupcake withdrawal.

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(Dan and I stayed at the Monte Carlo, where The Cupcakery has one of its locations.)

The Cupcakery has three locations in Las Vegas, The Monte Carlo being one of the long standing ones. As luck would have it, we were staying at the Monte Carlo, so before hitting the slots, “The Strip,” and the drinks, I HAD to scope out the cupcakes.

Kir Royale

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It was so hard to select just a few flavors. I didn’t want to get too many, knowing we’d only be in Vegas for a few days and that I’d hopefully be collecting more cupcakes on our explorations. There was one that I did have my mind set on prior to arriving and that was the Kir Royale, a raspberry cake with champagne frosting. Dusted in glitter, this cupcake was made to stand out. They had a couple remaining in their display when we showed up, but my built up excitement was replaced with disappointment after tasting the overly sweet cupcake that was lacking in any hint of bubbly.

Grasshopper

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At the time Dan was still my little cupcaker in training so I helped him select flavors I thought he would like. The Grasshopper was a chocolate cake with mint chocolate frosting. Just like the Kir Royale, we remember it being too sweet for our liking, which was surprising with a cupcake that has a dark ganache frosting. According to The Cupcakery’s website this is one of the original flavors and, “has gotten better by the year.” So it would be worth a second tasting to see if they are right.

Mound of Joy

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We saved the Mound of Joy and Boston Dream cupcakes for breakfast the next day. This cupcake did not skimp on toppings, with a coconut cake, chocolate buttercream frosting, and rolled in shaved almonds and coconut. Luckily it wasn’t as sweet as the cupcakes we indulged in the night before and I remember really liking it.

Boston Dream

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Clearly I haven’t changed much in three years, because if I see a Boston Cream (or Boston Dream, to The Cupcakery) I have to get it. And it’s perfect for breakfast! Just like the Mound of Joy, this cupcake was not overly sweet. It is your standard Boston Cream concoction, with vanilla cake, Bavarian creme filling, and dipped in smooth chocolate ganache. Very tasty.

My husband and I had a lot of fun in Vegas, playing penny and nickel slots (we love the video slot machines), walking around, taking in the lights and sights, window shopping, and helping ourselves to a few cocktails. Cupcakes just made the trip that much sweeter (for me anyway). Although it’s been a few years, according to The Cupcakery’s website these cupcakes are still available (and even look the same) and they are still located in the Monte Carlo. When I get back to Vegas, I wouldn’t hesitate in trying them again since it’s been so long. Although they weren’t my favorite in Sin City, the location is very convenient. The Cupcakery was the first cupcake place we found on this trip but there were others, so look out for more to come!

Minus5
(In addition to The Cupcakery, The Monte Carlo also has an ICE BAR. Minus 5 may have been a little pricey, but totally worth the experience!)

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

What’s NYC Fashion Week Without Cupcakes?

“Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future…this is known as Fashion Week.”
                                                                       ~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Something you may not know about me is that I am not the only talented (and modest) designer in the family. Of course there’s my twin, Crusader Stacy, but while she and I stick with graphic arts, my brother-in-law is a very talented fashion designer. The gene for visual art skipped my husband and went straight to his younger brother, David. David has been producing his own line of men’s accessories, called David Hart & Co., and has been doing very well with it, but this year was his time to really shine, presenting his first full line of menswear at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York.

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(David Hart’s Fall/Winter 2013 Menswear Collection, presented at New York City’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.)

I was honored to be invited to the presentation and very excited about having a reason to spend the day in NYC. Unlike what Carrie Bradshaw would do, I took the bus to the city, made my way around via the subway, and loved every minute of it! The best part of taking the subway was that I could stop at one of my favorite NYC bakeries, Little Cupcake Bakeshop, for a cupcake on my way to the New Museum, where David’s fashion show would be. Even better, was that I was able to meet up with my good friend and Guest Crusader, Jen!

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(Quick photo-op with Guest Crusader Jen after our cupcake date.)

Having first tried Little Cupcake Bakeshop on a spur-of-the-moment cupcake crawl last fall, I knew that I could go in and get a great cupcake and warm cappuccino, which I was in desperate need of. While it was difficult, I was good and just ordered one cupcake: the Dreaming Princess.

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This cupcake has an almond cake with raspberry jam spread on top, then covered in almond buttercream and topped with meringue frosting and toasted almonds. Jen and I both agreed that it was amazing. Perfect balance of flavors and sweetness with moist cake and a wonderful meringue.

Jen selected one cupcake to eat there, the Brooklyn Blackout, and took two home, the Peanut Butter and Jelly (which I assured her was one of Crusader Stacy’s favorites) and the Vanilla.

NYFW_Chocolate

The Brooklyn Blackout was chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate which they spruced up for Valentine’s Day with some heart shaped sprinkles. Jen allowed me to have a bite and wow! It had so much chocolate flavor without being overly sweet. Just thinking about it makes me want one right now (and I just ate a cupcake…hey, you can’t write about cupcakes and not get hungry!).

Unfortunately Jen thought the Vanilla cupcake was just, “Eh,” and kind of boring. I guess they can’t all be winners. I’d be curious to get Stacy’s take on it since she’s becoming somewhat of a vanilla cupcake connoisseur.

Although it was a quick day trip, it was great to spend time with family and friends, eat some cupcakes, and have some new experiences. David’s presentation was my first fashion show, and while I’m far from being a fashionista, it was a lot of fun to feel cool, like Carrie, for a day! After all, we owe a lot to Sex and the City for bringing cupcake lovers out of hiding. So really, what would Fashion Week be without cupcakes?

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

MmmmMmm Delicious! – That’s So Morie Cupcakes

We met Lamorea, of That’s So Morie Cupcakes, at our first Cupcake Picnic in Washington DC. She came fully prepared with many summer flavors, each wrapped up individually and ready to take home to enjoy after recovering from an intense cupcake coma. Since then, we tried several times to meet up again to indulge in cupcake goodness, but for one reason or another it never worked out, until recently.

She graciously gave us a dozen cupcakes to sample in a variety of flavors: The Usual (Vanilla), Strawberry Cheesecake, Naptown (Coconut Almond—named after our mutual hometown, Annapolis), and Caramel Butter-Pecan Chocolate Deluxe.

It just happened to be my mom’s birthday the same day I picked up cupcakes from Lamorea, so after delivering one of each flavor to Crusader Elisa’s house, there were eight left for my family to all enjoy together (with the disclaimer that Crusader Jenn and I each had to have at least one bite of every flavor).

The Usual

I knew, on looks alone, this vanilla cupcake would be the favorite of my nieces (ages three and under). They were all instantly drawn to the vibrant blue frosting and happily split one cupcake among the three of them. This classic cupcake almost had a sugar cookie like quality to it. The frosting wasn’t overly sweet and it reminded us of those frosted sugar cookies you find at the store (which we actually really love). Typically I would prefer a vanilla cupcake to have more vanilla flavor, but because it was reminiscent of a sugar cookie, it didn’t bother me at all.

Strawberry Cheesecake

This cupcake consists of a fresh strawberry cake infused with cheesecake, a vanilla wafer crust on the bottom, and topped with a cream cheese frosting. We all agreed it was wonderful. My mom felt like it tasted like a strawberry danish, while Jenn thought it was more like a strawberry shortcake. With its true cream cheese frosting (not too sweet) I personally agree with my mom (sorry Jenn!).

The Naptown

This cupcake starts with an almond cake, is topped with Lamorea’s savory cream cheese frosting and is then dipped in toasted coconut. When done right, almond cake is one of my favorites and the combination of flavors in this cupcake work much better than I thought they would. In fact, this was both Jenn’s and my favorite.

Caramel Butter-Pecan Chocolate Deluxe

When Lamorea told me about this cupcake I was immediately intrigued. I like butter-pecan, I like chocolate, I like caramel, but how would they all taste together? Well, as it turns out, they work really well. Of all the cupcakes, this one was the sweetest of the bunch, which we think was due to the caramel drizzle. I’m not sure if it would be too much, but I LOVE salted caramel and wonder if it would work on this cupcake, or just add too many flavors?

Going into this cupcake tasting, I already knew I would love these cupcakes, since we tried several other flavors at the cupcake picnic, but it was nice to try Lamorea’s creations without being somewhat overdosed on cake and frosting.

That’s So Morie Cupcakes will be offering Treat Yourself Fridays starting in late November.  She’ll be testing this out by posting select cupcake flavors every other Tuesday to be picked up as a six pack that following Friday. Also, according to her Facebook page, she’ll be coming to Odenton, MD soon (currently located in Millersville, MD) and will be selling her cupcakes and cake pops individually. We are very excited for Lamorea and her growing business! For more information on That’s So Morie Cupcakes, visit their website or Facebook page (trust me, you won’t be disappointed!).

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

Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Simply Cupcakes of Naples

After a week of sweet reviews from our recent trip to Florida, we have finally arrived at our last one, Simply Cupcakes of Naples. Before heading to Florida I would often stalk visit Simply Cupcakes’ Facebook page admiring all their cupcake photos, so I knew we had to stop in to sample their oversized cupcakes.

When we arrived at Simply Cupcakes the owners and staff were in the middle of a meeting, but that didn’t keep them from taking a break to show us all the flavors and talk a little bit about the company. We learned that the company was started in 2006 by selling cupcakes at a local farmers market and now there are many locations throughout Florida and the United States. We also learned that Simply Cupcakes offers a program to help bakers start up a Simply Cupcakes online company. It’s not a normal franchise opportunity, but rather, they go over things like legal requirements for at home baking, calculating your costs, marketing yourself, and even provide recipes. It’s everything you need to start up your own Simply Cupcakes!

After learning so much about Simply Cupcakes, we were ready to get some cupcakes! I immediately knew two of the flavors I would be getting: Funky Monkey and Key Lime (their signature flavor). When Simple Cupcakes posted about Funky Monkey on their Facebook page I couldn’t help but comment, and they happily told me they would make sure that flavor was there for us to try!

The remaining cupcakes we decided on were Carrot Cake, Red Velvet (for Crusader Elisa), Hint of Mint, and Raspberry Almond. We found out that they predominantly use an Italian meringue buttercream for their frosting which gives each cupcake a lightness that is greatly appreciated in the hot Florida air.

Funky Monkey:

The Funky Monkey cupcake was everything I dreamed it would be. Banana cake, chocolate ganache, peanut butter filling and a strongly flavored, yet light and airy, whipped peanut butter frosting. Crusader Jenn and I both agree that this is one of our all time favorite cupcakes.

Key Lime:

Made with a key lime curd filling, this cupcake was another crowd pleaser. Any one who has ever tasted a regular lime vs a key lime knows that the key lime packs more flavor and more tartness than the regular lime. It’s no wonder that this is the signature cupcake of a Florida cupcakery.

Carrot Cake:

I wish I could say that I tried this nicely decorated cupcake, but we purchased this for my Nana (one of the most wonderful grandmothers ever!). She loves carrot cake so when we saw that Simply Cupcakes had that option, we quickly added it to our growing list of flavors we would be purchasing that day.

Red Velvet:

This Red Velvet is another that I didn’t have a chance to try since it was for Crusader Elisa. I have to admit though, that with its tasteful, yet simple, decorations it traveled quite well from Fort Myers to Baltimore in my cupcake container.

Hint of Mint:

After reading the notes for this cupcake that Crusader Jenn took (yes, we often take actual notes…) I had to laugh because she wrote: “Stacy grunted twice: ‘ganache… mmmmm…'” I sure do enjoy my cupcakes. 😉 At first I thought the frosting could have used more mint flavor, but looking back it was the perfect amount for sitting by the pool on a warm day. I think if it had been any stronger it may have made the cupcake feel much heavier, which is not what you want on a hot day.

Raspberry Almond:

This cupcake was a great way to finish our tasting with. It had a fluffy almond flavored cake, raspberry preserves smeared on top, and was finished with a soft Italian meringue buttercream and almond shavings. It was light and refreshing. Another perfect treat when relaxing by the water.

I’ve always looked forward to visiting my family in Florida. I spent countless summers there growing up and it really is like a second home to me. Now that we have discovered some amazing cupcake places it will make our visits there even “sweeter.”

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

Healthy Cupcakes: Italian Wedding Cake Re-make

Continuing with her healthy crusade, Rebecca has another recipe for cupcakes with fewer calories and less guilt then their original recipe.

One of my favorite cupcakes, that I have not had in a while, is the “Italian Wedding Cake” cupcake from IcedGems bakery. This pineapple almond shortening cake with cream cheese frosting is light, fluffy, decadent, and flavorful. I knew I wanted to recreate these flavors for my next “lightened up” recipe, so I decided to try a few new substitutions to recreate the almond, pineapple, and coconut flavors of the Italian Wedding Cupcake.

To make the cake, I started with a basic white cake mix and used a can of crushed pineapple in juice (not heavy syrup). The additional moisture from the pineapple was going to be my oil substitute. I did include 2 eggs in this recipe to ensure that the cake would rise. For added texture, I included ¼ of a cup of coconut flakes and ¼ of a cup of crushed pecans. Once it was well mixed, I added 2 tablespoons of almond extract, to really give it that almond kick I was looking for!

I recently found new cupcake baking cups that wouldn’t “fade” after baking and was very excited to test them out! So while the cakes were baking in the new StayBright baking cups, I moved on to the frosting.

IcedGems’ cream cheese frosting is rich and thick, like cheesecake, so I wanted to try and create a cheesecake flavor, without the added sugar and cream cheese. I used an 8oz. container of Whipped Weight Watchers Cream Cheese, mixed with sugar-free cheesecake pudding mix that had been dissolved in 8oz. of skim milk. The texture was similar to very thick pudding, but it had a nice cream cheese flavor. The pudding mix served as a wonderful, alternative to sugar in this recipe, cutting back on the calories and WW points!

This recipe made 24 cupcakes and remained at 4 Points, which is very reasonable for a dessert. I was very pleased with the flavors and texture and would make this recipe again, though the next time IcedGems is featuring their Italian Wedding Cake, I will be sure to stop by the truck for one!

– Recipe by our Healthy Guest Crusader, Rebecca (Baltimore, MD)

Spotlight: Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse, Part 1

Named after the common cookie, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse (Hampstead, MD). Would it just be a take-out bakery that you stop in on your way to work for a quick cup of coffee and a muffin? When I finally went to their shop, I was surprised and pleased to find a sophisticated bakery and high-end coffeehouse, with plenty of room to bring friends and gather around one of their many tables, or just to come yourself and relax in their cozy surroundings. The mom in me loved seeing that they even have a miniature table with chairs, inviting guests to bring their kids with them.

After taking in the great atmosphere, I began investigating the goodies. My first thought? “WOW! Those cupcakes are HUGE!” My second thought? “How much are they?” With their size and the decoration and toppings on most of the cupcakes, I thought they would be pricey. However, they aren’t! At $3.00-4.00 for the large cupcakes, they are very reasonably priced. And the best part is that they are large enough to share (or to have more than one helping for yourself)!

On this day I was fortunate enough to leave with one of each flavor in the shop, making 12 cupcakes in total. Due to the grandness of these cupcakes, and the number we have to show you, we’ve decided to break our review into two parts, featuring 6 of the cupcakes in each post. Here are the first ones we’ve selected to show you:

Irish Car Bomb:
During the St. Patrick’s Day season, we see a lot of these cupcakes based on the popular drink (Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream) pop up. I’ve had a few takes on the idea, and this one is a clear stand out for me!

I usually see these cupcakes done with a chocolate cake, however Snickerdoodles has choosen to make this a true Guinness stout cake. None of the smooth Guinness flavor is lost and, just like an Irish Car Bomb, the Bailey’s Irish Cream filling and frosting complement the cake perfectly. It is so moist and flavorful!

Cannoli:
I think the best way to describe this next cupcake is with a photo.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that IS a whole (mini) cannoli on top! This cupcake has a chocolate chip cake that is moist and delicious, with a cannoli filling that I think even the toughest critic would appreciate, and is topped with a chocolate ganache frosting, American buttercream, and more chocolate chips.

Almond Raspberry:
For the Crusaders, this has become a classic combination. We love the pairing of almond and raspberry.

This cupcake has an almond cake, whipped raspberry filling and American buttercream frosting. I think the whipped raspberry filling is a nice change from the usual jam filling and also helps keep the cupcake light.

Red Velvet:
This Red Velvet cupcake has been taken to the next level.

I was really happy with the moistness of the cake! I’m always disappointed with red velvet cake, however this one is not only moist, but also has a great flavor. It’s paired with a cream cheese filling, American buttercream frosting, and topped with a chocolate shaving and toasted red velvet cake crumbs. The frosting makes this cupcake really sweet, but I enjoyed every bite!

Toasted Coconut:
This is another classic flavor. With the decoration, this cupcake needs no label.

All together the cupcake works, however it isn’t as “coconut-y” as I prefer. That being said, the moist poundcake-like cake, whipped filling, buttercream frosting, and generous toasted coconut shavings on top are still really tasty!

The Rainbow Cupcake:
This cupcake is a new one Snickerdoodles is working on and there’s only one way to describe it: Fun! Based on their “famous” Rainbow Cake, the Rainbow Cupcake is a miniature version.

I think it’s necessary to also show a photo of the inside of this cupcake, to really get a good idea.

As you can see, this cupcake has a rainbow cake, raspberry puree filling, chocolate buttercream frosting, dipped in chocolate, then piped with more chocolate buttercream, and topped with sprinkles. The cake is moist and the jam and chocolate combination is delicious!

If you have a chance to visit Snickerdoodles, please do! Whether you are looking for a special treat, a great beverage, or a place to just hang out, Snickerdoodles has it all! They also have beautiful full-size cakes, pastries, and cookies. I can’t wait to return! And, keep a look-out for Part 2 where we’ll be reviewing Strawberry White Chocolate, Carrot Cake, Boston Cream, Black Bottom, a fun, fancy, party cupcake and Death by Chocolate!

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

Oh, What a Cake!

Over the past month the Crusaders have been working hard to prepare for a series, which will be featured on our blog next month. Going along with our “Top 5 in Baltimore City,” featured on kimberlyloc.com last November, this series will be our Top 5 favorite places outside of Baltimore City (but still within a short driving distance). This means we have eaten A LOT of cupcakes. So, for February, we decided to share some of the new spots we’ve visit, but you’ll have to wait until March to see our final Top 5 picks.

While we were visiting a few bakeries in the Columbia area, we made a stop at Oh, What a Cake. Although it seems like they are mostly known for their custom cakes, they do sell some baked goods at their storefront, including cupcakes. The selection was fairly simple with vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, lemon, almond and maybe a couple of others. I decided that I didn’t want to go overboard, since this was going to be a big cupcake day for us. My cupcake selections only included the almond and lemon. Stacy also purchased the almond cupcake and Elisa got the red velvet. I also decided to try the red velvet cake pop.


(Top left to right: Almond & Lemon cupcakes. Bottom left to right: Red Velvet cupcake & Red Velvet cake pop.)

Our review for each cupcake is pretty much the same. They are good, but not great. We didn’t find any flavors or qualities that stood out and made us think, “Wow!” The cake was moist and light, with a texture similar to what can be achieved with a box mix. Unfortunately the flavors were the same.

The real star of this trip was definitely the cake pop. It was very moist and rich, almost truffle-like. This made me wish I’d gotten the two other cake pop flavors, vanilla and chocolate.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been disappointed with a bakery whose main purpose is for wedding and custom cakes. If you are looking for a cake, the reviews are fantastic, so I wouldn’t pass them up. However, if you are looking for cupcakes that make you say, “Oh, what a CUPCAKE!” I would suggest skipping them.

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