Starry Night’s Winter’s Night Treats

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I have to admit, it had been a while since I’d stopped into my favorite local cupcake shop, Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse. Cupcakes had been plentiful throughout the fall and sweets are never lacking at my house. But when they posted their new winter/Christmas flavors, I couldn’t stay away. I’m a sucker for new flavors. A push from Stacy, who wanted one or two for herself, didn’t hurt either.

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The White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha cupcake is the one that I couldn’t wait to dig in to. As soon as the little one was in bed for her nap, out it came. If you are a coffee lover like me, I’m sure just hearing the flavor combination is enough to make you swoon. The mocha and peppermint both came through, just like a well made peppermint mocha latte. Since Starry Night is a coffee shop, it’s no surprise that they know their coffee flavors. In fact, their coffee buttercream (which is also on their Mahoo Wahoo cupcake) is my all-time favorite. Unfortunately the white chocolate wasn’t present enough for me, but that could be because it’s a mild flavor and was overpowered by both the peppermint and coffee. It may have subtly balance out the other flavors though. Either way, the lack of white chocolate was clearly not a deterrent for me, as I’ve now ordered it two more times since.

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In addition to seeing a list of new flavors, Starry night also posted a photo of this cupcake in conjunction with a naming contest (“Peanut Butter Chocolate Time” won). Who wouldn’t want to try this bad-boy?  Starry Night is no stranger to a peanut butter chocolate combination, but they are always mixing it up. This cupcake obviously stands out, with a Girl Scouts Tagalong cookie on top, but also has chocolate frosting AND peanut butter frosting, with peanut butter chips baked into the chocolate cake. My cupcake happened to have a clump of chips all in the center. I’m not sure it that was an accident or intentional, but it was delicious. And, as always, very moist cake and smooth frosting.

(Update: Peanut Butter Chocolate Time is not always sold with half a cookie on top. Sometimes it only has chocolate chips topping the frosting.)

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The worst part about the above Spiced Cider cupcake was that I had to share it with the hubby. After hoarding the White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha cupcake all to myself, I thought it was the nice thing to do (after all, ’twas the season for giving, right?). This cupcake had the aroma of a snickerdoodle cookie, with a spiced apple cake. The cake was baked with a generous amount of fresh diced apples and the buttercream was sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. I’d be a happy girl if this cupcake reappears throughout the year.

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How can you not appreciate a cupcake with a tiny Gingerbread man on top? The cookie had the perfect spiced ginger flavor and consistency (not rock-solid like some). The cake also had the same, familiar spiced ginger “bite” which was mellowed by the sweet frosting, and the sugar crystals sprinkled on top add a nice crunchy texture.

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The cupcake above is called the Drunkin’ Elf, which is a chocolate bourbon cupcake with chocolate ganache frosting. It’s chocolatey goodness paired with booze…’nuff said.

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At a first glance, I thought this was another s’mores cupcake, but it’s really a Marshmallow Hot Chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cake is filled with a marshmallow filling, then topped with chocolate buttercream and garnished with a marshmallow and chocolate shavings. I was pleased with how the two flavors came through, without one overpowering the other.

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Eggnog isn’t for everyone. I can only handle it in small amounts myself, but there’s something about eggnog cupcakes that I love and this one was no exception. In addition to eggnog, it had a bit of spice (I’m guessing nutmeg) and I think even a hint of booze.

After such a successful tasting of all the winter flavors, I went back on New Year’s Eve. Last year my NYE cupcakes came from Starry Night, so now it’s a tradition.

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After talking with the owner, Shannon, she said that they’ll be keeping some of these flavors to offer throughout the season (and hopefully the year), but a couple (like the Eggnog cupcake) were only for the holidays. They are gearing up for new spring flavors in the next couple of months, so we’ll have to keep our eyes and ears posted to see what they come up with next!

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

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NYC Cupcake Crawl: Lower East Side and East Village

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

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

Butter Lane Cupcakes:

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


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

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

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

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

Prohibition Bakery:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BabyCakes:

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

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

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

Little Cupcake Bakeshop:

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


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

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

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

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

Baked by Melissa:  October Flavor of the Month

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

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

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

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

“Fall” in Love with Starry Night Bakery & Coffeehouse Again

I didn’t get to Starry Night Bakery & Coffeehouse as much this summer as I would have liked. With all the Cupcake Picnics and birthday parties, there were so many cupcakes and just at an arm’s reach. But, as soon as the air got crisp in preparation for autumn and Starry Night posted their fall flavors to Facebook (and a special Buy 1 Get 1), I was there! The timing was perfect because my mom was in town and we were going to have dinner with Crusader Stacy and my big sister to celebrate my mom getting a job offer that would allow her to relocate back to our area.

As usual, Starry Night’s autumn flavors did not disappoint. We bought an assortment of 4 different flavors, including Maple Pumpkin Spice, Salted Caramel Apple, S’mores, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip.

The Maple Pumpkin Spice is the same cupcake that I was addicted to last fall and it’s just as good this year.

The Salted Caramel Apple is another flavor that we had last year, but for some reason I feel like this year it’s better. The fresh baked apple in the cake makes this cupcake a real comfort food and the sweet and savory from the salted caramel is a perfect balance. It’s my new favorite.

Starry Night is jumping on the s’mores bandwagon with this cupcake, and they’ve done it well. I like the use of dipped chocolate ganache topped in crushed graham crackers, instead of frosting. There is also a marshmallow filling in the center of chocolate cake and then the whole ensemble is topped with some mini marshmallows.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter aren’t really autumn flavors, but Starry Night’s take on this classic was a new addition to their Quirky Cupcakes menu. Knowing how much my husband would like it, we included it in our package. This cupcake has Starry Night’s amazing chocolate ganache frosting with a vanilla cake packed with peanut butter chips. I was concerned with how much peanut butter flavor would come across, but you really did taste it in every bite. My husband and daughter both loved it, and I wish I’d gotten more than just one bite!

Starry Night is still working on autumn inspired cupcakes, with Amaretto chai spice cupcakes topped with chai buttercream added to their creations. They are also offering “Fall Harvest drinks” such as Pumpkin Spice, Maple, Chai, and Toasted Marshmallow. I can’t wait to get back in there to try more!

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

Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! April’s Pie Company

Crusader Stacy, our husbands, Little Leah and I spent one afternoon in Downtown Fort Myers while we were vacationing in Florida. We had lunch and then walked around the shops and galleries along 1st Street. Having run out of cupcakes, and only being halfway through our trip, Stacy and I were also keeping a look out for bakeries. We passed by a French bakery that has some pastries, but was mostly set up with a lunch deli. We’d almost given up on finding any tiny treats, when we stumbled past April’s Pie Company (also know as April’s Eatery).

It is located in the old Arcade building in Downtown Fort Myers, beneath a very neat old sign. They also have a breakfast and lunch menu but having already filled up at Ford’s Garage, we only had eyes for sweets…and behold, they had mini pie bites!

We selected four of the options: Apple, Key Lime, Cookies and Cream, and Coconut Cream. For anyone who loves pie for the crust, these pie bites are perfect for you! The crust is in a higher ratio than pie filling, but is flaky, crunchy, and buttery. I’m not usually a pie person, but the small bite of filling made me want more. The key lime that I selected was perfectly tart and Stacy said the apple was delicious and definitely her favorite. I was hoping that she’d let me take a small bite, but was too afraid to ask…She never offered, so I’ll have to take her word for it. 😉

April’s Pie Company also offers pies by the slice and whole pies for special order, so the next time I’m in Fort Myers, I think I’ll have to try a regular slice and stay for lunch!

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

New York City, Center of the Universe…

Recognize that lyric? It’s from one of my all time favorite musicals, Rent, written by Jonathan Larson. By now you will have probably guessed that Jenn, Elisa, and I are total musical theater geeks. And as any musical theater geek will know, New York is not only the center of the universe, it’s the center of the musical theater world. So, several years ago we decided that while going up for one day trips to see shows a few times a year was great, it just wasn’t enough. We started organizing our “Annual Spring NYC Girls Weekend Getaway.” What could be better than a weekend full of good theater, tasty food, fabulous friends, and of course, cupcakes?

Unfortunately this year, Jenn wasn’t able to join us (it’s okay, we aren’t holding any grudges against baby Leah). Since it’s become our tradition, the three of us decided that Elisa and I should still go without her.

Other than cupcakes, our first day in NYC consisted of lunch, hanging out with good friends, attending the theater (we saw End of the Rainbow – I highly recommend it!), and post show drinks. We couldn’t have asked for a better day and we were happily able to sprinkle cupcake eating conveniently throughout.

Our first cupcake of the day was from Burgers & Cupcakes. Burgers & Cupcakes is situated just a few blocks away from Penn Station on 9th Avenue. Crusader Elisa and I have tried several of their cupcakes before, but we’ve never sat down to try their burgers so on this trip, we decided that needed to be remedied and went straight there for lunch after arriving in the city.


(As you can see, food makes me happy.)

We each ordered their homemade veggie burger with toppings of our choice and choose the Banana Vanilla cupcake to share. After savoring the delicious burgers and munching on some sweet potato fries we sat and chatted with a friend who met up with us before splitting the cupcake up for tasting.


(A table of yumminess!)

I’ll be honest, while we were chatting my eyes kept wondering back to the cupcake, but it was well worth the wait. The banana was the primary focus of this cupcake with the vanilla sitting in the background. The cake was moist and light and the frosting just sweet enough. It was our first cupcake of the weekend and it was a huge success!

After checking into our hotel we headed to our second cupcake stop, Donna Bell’s Bake Shop found on 49th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. Lucky for us, Donna Bell’s is right next to the courtyard in which Blockheads and Mother Burger are located. For those who don’t know, Blockheads (and their sister restaurant, Mother Burger) makes a fierce drink called the Pink Bulldog with a Coronarita flipped upside down into it. It is basically a frozen vodka pink lemonade with sangria on top and then finished with the Corona. It may sound strange, but it is so good and went PERFECTLY with the Coconut cupcake I purchased from Donna Bell’s.


(Donna Bell’s has some of the best cupcake-to-go containers I’ve seen!)

Being the red velvet Crusader, Elisa had to get the Red Velvet , but based off her reaction it wasn’t nearly as good as my choice. The Coconut cupcake had a thick layer of sweet frosting and was then coated in coconut shavings. The edges of the cupcake were a little crisp, as if they had been touching the pan during the baking process, and this gave the cupcake a toasted coconut flavor, which I loved. Between the fruity frozen drink and the Coconut cupcake I felt like I should be sitting on the beach, not in the center of busy Manhattan.


(Elisa enjoying her Red Velvet cupcake in her signature fashion: sandwich style.)

So far, I was two for two on day one.

The day continued on with more food, more time with good friends, and finally, our main reason for being there, some theater! Before leaving Baltimore, I had already decided where we would be getting our post-show cupcake from: Crumbs Bake Shop. Even though Crumbs is a chain cupcakery, it has been a favorite of ours for a long time. Their jumbo cupcakes have always been moist and full of flavor. Last week I saw that their flavor of the week would be Apple Honey and I knew I had to try it.

Elisa and I decided to go to Crumb’s new Time Square location on 42nd Street since it was on our way to meet up with another friend. I usually try to avoid 42nd Street at night, but we were on a mission so decided we had no choice and had to tackle the crowds.


(Crumb’s Times Square location on 42nd Street. Love the signage, hate the crowds.)

After weaving through the mob of people we were shocked to see that Crumb’s display was still packed with cupcakes. And sitting in there waiting for us, was the Apple Honey cupcake which had made me drool at my desk just a few days earlier. We took the cupcake to go and ended up sharing it in our hotel room later that night.

I’ll be honest, it’s not easy having a “cupcake photoshoot” with the sweet aroma of apples in the air, but I managed and we finally cut the cupcake in half to share, only to discover a delightful surprise: apple pie filling!

This cupcake was every bit as good as I expected it to be. The honey flavor was a bit hard to detect, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying each bite. Normally the Crusaders are okay with splitting Crumbs cupcakes since they are so large, but on that night, I think I can speak for Elisa and myself when I say, we both wish we had each had one whole cupcake to ourselves.

Happily full on cupcakes and great memories we made that day, we turned in for the night ready to continue our adventure the next day…

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

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Favorite Cupcakes on the Outskirts of Baltimore City | Fresh Bakery | Owings Mills, MD

We are excited to introduce our next series! Every Tuesday for the next 5 weeks we will countdown our Top 5 favorite cupcake places outside of Baltimore City. In order to make sure we did the proper research and included places that would “qualify” we decide that any place that was within a 20 to 45 minute drive from the Baltimore City boundary would be included. If you don’t see a place that you think should have been featured in this Top 5 let us know! We do our best to research where the cupcakes are, but there’s no better way to find out than a recommendation!

Our 5th favorite cupcakery located outside of Baltimore City is Fresh Bakery. Fresh Bakery is currently stationed in the food court at the Owings Mills mall, but they used to have several kiosks spread out in malls around the outskirts of Baltimore City. My first experience with them, almost 2 years ago, was at one of those kiosks located in Towson Town Center. I randomly stumbled upon it on a shopping trip and ended up going home with four of their deliciously square (yep, they are square!) cupcakes.


(My first four cupcakes from Fresh Bakery were: Key Lime, Bananas Foster, Strawberry Chocolate, and Red Velvet)

After my first taste of these cupcakes, I was amazed at how moist and full of flavor they were. Each one of them was unique, yet wonderful.

Fresh Bakery’s only downside is their location. While they used to be housed in several shopping centers (Arundel Mills, Columbia, and Towson Town Center), they are now only located in the Owings Mills mall. For anyone who has been there recently, you know that this mall doesn’t have a lot to offer. It seems to be slowly closing down so there are very few stores and food options remaining. This means that you will most likely have to make a separate trip there just for these cupcakes. When they were placed throughout several great malls, their cupcakes were the perfect end to a successful (or not-so-successful) shopping excursion.

Over time, the Crusaders and I have had many encounters with Fresh Bakery’s cupcakes and I have never had a bad experience with any. We do have our favorites though, so for now we are going to focus on just a few that we would highly recommend to anyone.

Vanilla

By now most of you probably know about my growing fascination with vanilla cupcakes. Some may find them boring, but I think they are a great classic when done well and Fresh Bakery knows how to make this classic a standout. There is an intense vanilla flavor that creates a total birthday party in your mouth. The cake is also very airy and moist which is a great contrast to the thick creamy frosting.

Apple Pie

You can’t really go wrong when apples and caramel are paired together, and this cupcake is no exception. The sweet caramel melded into the moist cake which was brimming with perfectly cooked apples. I’d rather have this cupcake than actual apple pie any day.

Cookie Dough

I’m a big fan of cookie dough straight from the bowl (or a store bought container…), so this cupcake combines two of my favorite things. The cookie dough isn’t just a light sprinkling throughout the cake or frosting, instead there is a big ball of it baked right in the center.

Look at all that wonderful cookie goodness! You might think that the frosting would play second fiddle to the awesomeness of the cookie dough in the cake, but that’s not the case at all. The frosting itself manages to taste exactly like cookie dough too! I don’t know how they do it, but if you get a chance, you must experience this cupcake for yourself.

Snickerdoodle

I’ve had some really tasty snickerdoodle cupcakes recently, and this is one of them. Sweet, moist and packed with cinnamon flavor. You really can’t ask for more from this tiny treat. It is a definite must try.

Despite the less than perfect location, Fresh Bakery provides creative and mouth watering square cupcakes. If the shape isn’t already unique enough, their flavor combinations always make me want to return to try something I haven’t already tried. But they have also proven that even though they can go over the top, they can also keep it simple and cater to those who prefer the more classic flavors. So whether you are looking for something different or an old fashioned standard, Fresh Bakery delivers.

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

A Baking Adventure: Apple Maple Cupcakes

I was feeling adventurous so I decided that my next baking experience should be an attempt at baking cake from scratch…for the first time ever! I have been collecting a few recipes and stumbled on this website, Ming Makes Cupcakes. The site lists 33 different recipes, all of which seemed very easy and straightforward. I was interested in making a cream cheese frosting since the last frosting I made was buttercream, but also thought that a maple icing would be nice (I’ve been slightly obsessed with it lately). Cupcake #27 fit this description, however my husband also mentioned an apple cupcake, like #10. As a solution, I combined the two and did apple cake with a maple cream cheese frosting. Upon gathering the ingredients for the cake, I began.

I was very surprised how easy it was! Fifteen minutes later I had the batter complete and in the cupcake pan!

I was a little concerned with how much apple was in the batter, but knowing that apple cooks down, I tried to not think too much into it and just hoped for the best.

The cupcakes came out of the oven looking okay. They didn’t plump up the way I’m used to cake doing and the top of the cake was very crunchy.

While letting the cupcakes cool, I moved on to the icing, which was also super easy to make. I modified the recipe some, adding in a little more cream cheese and a little more maple syrup and also confectioners sugar to firm it up. At first I didn’t think the frosting had enough maple flavor, but I think my taste buds had too many taste tests because when I came back to it later, I really did like it.

Now it was time to frost! I received a stainless steel pastry bag for Christmas and wanted to give it a try. It definitely takes some getting use to, but I was glad to have the practice!


(Piping frosting for the first time with my new Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Pastry Bag)


(The results from one of the more successful cupcakes)

Next I had to decide on a garnish. I went with two options: a maple drizzle and a cinnamon sprinkle.


(With Maple Drizzle)


(With Cinnamon Sprinkle)

In the end, I recommend the cinnamon sprinkle. The cake is really sweet so the extra maple syrup is just too much, in my opinion. I would prefer a cake that wasn’t so sweet because it would help the spices come through. However, despite the sweet cake and crunchy top layer, the inside is incredibly moist!

Overall, I’d consider this a success and look forward to baking from scratch in the future! I even inspired a visiting friend to give it a try!

Have you dabbled with baking cakes and cupcakes after always relying on a box mix? Did you also find the experience encouraging? Let us know what some of your favorite recipes are!

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