Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Savory Chocolate & Bacon Cupcakes

Bacon could be its own food group. (In my humble, bacon loving opinion.) My love of bacon is no joke. If there is bacon in the ingredient list, count me in. You’ll also find me at bacon related events like the recent Charm City Bacon & Bourbon Wars or the Mixology 101–The ABC’s: Alcohol, Bacon, Cocktails event a while back. This delicious cured pork product can be found in or on just about everything, even cupcakes. So you can see where my mind went when brainstorming my next savory cupcake idea. Why not bake with ingredients you love for Valentine’s day?

With bacon as the key ingredient, I knew chocolate was my next step and I found a great recipe for Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes on 52 Kitchen Adventures. Adapted from Joy of Baking’s chocolate cupcake recipe, this recipe intrigued me with its use of rendered bacon fat in place of some of the butter. After doing a bit more research I found out that you can easily substitute bacon fat for butter in ANY baking recipe as the sub ratio is 1:1. Who knew!

Now, one might think that in order to obtain rendered bacon fat for this recipe, you would have to cook the bacon for the recipe and then wait for that fat to cool. Not the case when you are a true bacon lover and always (and I mean always) have bacon fat in your fridge. Lucky for me I had just enough for this recipe and proceeded with making the batter while the pound of fried bacon strips cooled. Once the batter is mixed, you then add the crumbled bacon. No skimping on bacon flavor with this recipe, with both rendered bacon fat and real bacon crumbles right in the batter. I knew this cupcake was bound for greatness. (Side Note: I ran out of refined sugar and had to use 1tbsp of brown sugar to make up the difference, that substitution didn’t seem to matter, but I wanted to note it.)

With all that savory meat product in the cake, I wanted to make sure the filling and frosting had a sweet balance. So I decided to make the tried and true Chocolate Fudge filling I used in last years Chocolate Blackberry Syrah cupcake. This would add an extra punch of chocolate as well as a smooth texture. The frosting was inspired by the new Crown Royal Maple, because what kind of chocolate bacon cupcake would this be without a little whisky? Making buttercream frosting from scratch comes so naturally to me now that I just measure the butter and liquid (in this case the whisky) and add confectioners sugar until it is as sweet as I like.

Once everything came together, taking that first bite was nerve racking. I wanted so much for this cupcake to taste as fantastic as it looked…

ChocolateBaconCupcake

And success! My love of bacon (and chocolate, but mostly bacon) didn’t fail me. Not only did this cupcake taste like a delicious mix of cured pork and smooth chocolate, but it was moist, fluffy and full of flavor. The Crown Royal Maple frosting was subtle, but paired well with the cake and filling. The bits of bacon in the cake were great and didn’t end up being chewy like you might imagine. The crunchy bacon bits on top added the perfect fried bacon texture. My co-workers and friends all seemed to like it as well, noting that they couldn’t believe how much bacon flavor they tasted and they really loved the fudge filling (that filling is always a winner).

The only advice I would give about baking these cupcakes is be careful when baking the cake as the baking time is listed as 15-18 minutes, but mine were done right at 15- any longer and they would have been overdone. Otherwise, get out there, buy some bacon and have at it, I promise these will not disappoint any bacon lover.

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

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The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Kupcakes & Co. | Elkridge, MD

Since Kupcakes & Co. made the #1 spot on our Top 5 cupcake places on the outskirts of Baltimore City, we have eaten a lot, and I mean A LOT, of cupcakes from their shop. Today I wanted to share with you some of their new spring flavors and give you a peek at some of the cupcakes we’ve had over the past several months that you haven’t seen.

To kick off March, Kupcakes & Co. did their own “March Madness” cupcake style. They had customers submit suggestions for new flavors and then they narrowed it down to their favorite 16 flavors. Each week customers could vote for the flavors they wanted to see in a bracket style tournament. When the final two flavors went head to head, in addition to voting online, customers could actually go to the shop and taste each option and place a second vote. The Crusaders couldn’t miss out on this opportunity! It worked out perfectly too, because my mom (and Jenn’s… we are sisters – twins – for those who don’t already know) was visiting from Florida and she wanted to get cupcakes with us from one of our favorite places. The two final flavors we got to try were Crème Brûlée and Tiramisu.


(Final March Madness Contestant: Crème Brûlée)


(Final March Madness Contestant: Tiramisu)

I was ecstatic to see the two flavors I really wanted to make it to the final round actually make it, but it was so hard to pick between them for my online vote! However, after tasting each at the shop, the Crusaders (with mom and husband in agreeance) thought that the Crème Brûlée was the better of the two. Unfortunately this flavor didn’t win, but the Tiramisu was still so good that I’m looking forward to having another. AND if you weren’t able to try both flavors and would like to, Kupcakes & Co. might be offering the Crème Brûlée for mothers day. If they do, make sure not to miss out! (I will be stocking up for myself and saving some in the freezer…)

Since Tiramisu won the March Madness Contest it will now be featured on their spring menu. Some of the other flavors on their spring menu are Irish Creme, Mint Oreo, and Hummingbird. We reviewed the Irish Creme with our St. Patty’s Day cupcakes, but wanted you to see the other two delicious flavors! All 3 of these flavors will be available through May.

Mint Oreo

The Mint Oreo has crushed Oreos blended inside the cake and a peppermint buttercream frosting with more crushed Oreos on top! Usually the mint cupcakes I encounter are a chocolate cake base, so this was a nice surprise. The yellow cake makes it much lighter and perfect for a sweet treat on a mild breezy afternoon or evening (or morning if like cupcakes for breakfast like I do). 🙂

Hummingbird

This southern classic cupcake is amazing. You have to like a chunky cake though because it is chock full of fresh bananas, crushed pineapple and pecans. It’s spiced similarly to a carrot cake, but still keeps it light coloring. It is then finished off with their amazing cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with coconut and topped with a pecan. If you like carrot cake, you MUST try this cupcake! It takes everything that’s great about carrot cake but puts it all in a more delicate and airy package, making it a great warm weather option!

While you are there getting the new spring flavors, you will most likely want to try some of their other offerings. Below is a brief look at some of the other flavors we’ve tried.

1. Hazelnut Crunch
2. Chocolate Dipped Strawberry
3. Key Lime
4. Vanilla/Vanilla
5. Salted Caramel
6. Red Velvet
7. Chocolate Covered Pretzel
8. Pancakes and Bacon

If you want to know more about any of these flavors, before visiting their shop, feel free to ask! We love talking about cupcakes.  🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baker: Inayah Zaman

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

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

Baker: Wanda Cushing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sad Farewell to Caroline’s Cupcakery

Last week we heard that Caroline’s Cupcakery, located off Fort Avenue in Locust Point, was closing. Hearing this sad news, Crusader Elisa and I planned our final visit for their last day, which was this past Saturday.

Caroline’s has always been one of our favorite places to get cupcakes. We even listed it as a Top 5 pick for cupcakes inside Baltimore City on KimberlyLoc.com. Since this may have been the last time we were able to indulge in their signature “mile-high” frosting and fluffy moist cake, we decided to focus on getting our favorite flavors.


(Yes, you are looking at 2 dozen cupcakes. No, they were not all for Elisa and I. Almost a full dozen was for my family, who I was meeting up with later that day and some were for Jenn who asked Elisa and I to get some for her, because she couldn’t join us there.)

Since we did end up getting quite a few, and we have reviewed Caroline’s Cupcakery several times before, we will just quickly share some of our favorites that we decided to get on that last day:


(Pink Wonder with Strawberry Drizzle – I don’t normally like Strawberry cupcakes, and now I know why. None have ever compared to this one from Caroline’s.)


(Citrus Wonder with Lemon Drizzle – Like summer in a cupcake. Light and refreshing, this cupcake will be missed.)


(Red Velvet – I’m not sure how Elisa, our “Red Velvet Crusader,” feels about this cupcake, but I love it. The cake is rich, light and moist, and the cream cheese frosting is buttery and not too sweet.)


(Carrot Cake – I’ve had a hard time finding a Carrot Cake that I like, but this one is moist, light, and full of spicy carrot cake flavor.)


(Sunday Morning (French Toast Bacon Cupcake) – This cupcake sometimes has me wishing I ate bacon. It’s one of Jenn and Elisa’s favorites and the maple frosting on top (which I’ve sampled) is amazing.)


(Guinness cupcake with toasted coconut – Perfect combo of beer, chocolate, and sweetness. Elisa reviewed this cupcake before here.)

We were also able to try a new cupcake. It was called the Butterfinger Candy Bar Cupcake. This cupcake was buttery and sweet, just like a Butterfinger should be. The only thing that could have made it better would be the addition of more chocolate. (You can never have too much chocolate).

(Butterfinger Cupcake from Caroline’s)

Every bite of these cupcakes brought back some great memories. The Pink Wonder with Strawberry Drizzle took me back to my first experience with Caroline’s when Jenn and I attended a wine and cupcake night and were able to sample tons of mini cupcakes paired uniquely with specific wines.


(Cheers! What is better than wine and cupcakes? Click here to read about this night.)

Then, the Citrus Wonder with Lemon Drizzle reminded me of Jenn’s baby shower. We got a variety of cupcakes from Caroline’s, but this was a clear favorite of the day and was perfect with the hot summer weather.


(Caroline’s Cupcakes dressed up for Jenn’s baby shower.)

I also thought back to a more recent Caroline’s cupcake adventure where Elisa brought us Hot Chocolate cupcakes to enjoy while watching the most recent Twilight movie at the theater.


(Disclaimer: Most movies theaters are NOT okay with bringing in your own food. Do so with caution. Read our review here.)

Caroline’s will not only be missed for their amazing cupcakes, but for all the many wonderful memories we’ve had that have included their cupcakes.

We love you Caroline’s Cupcakery!

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

With Bacon? Or Without?

I know a lot of people (like Crusader Elisa) who say bacon makes everything better, but that might not always be the case. Recently, my wonderful hubby brought me back a Salted Caramel cupcake from Hamilton Tavern. They have about 3 desserts on their menu, and this is one of them.

Even though this cupcake typically comes topped with bacon, like the photo above, my hubby asked for it without since I don’t eat pork. Someone in the kitchen must have forgotten not to add it because when I opened it at home, there was bacon on it. No big deal for me. I just removed all the little pieces while trying to leave as much frosting behind as possible.

End result: A Salted Caramel cupcake ready to be devoured.

I enjoyed every salty sweet bite of this cupcake. The frosting was sweet, creamy and full of Salted Caramel flavor. The cupcake was moist with a bit of a crunchy caramelized outer coating.

My friend and fellow cupcake lover, Erin, also recently tried this cupcake. Unlike me, she does eat bacon, but she thought that the cupcake didn’t need it. She told me that “the bacon alone was good, I just thought the icing was better without it…It was too much salt (bacon + salt chunks). If the icing hadn’t had salt in it, the bacon might have worked better.” She added that she decided to just eat the bacon off first and then finish the rest of the cupcake.

So, my question is, does bacon really make everything better? I’m really curious to hear your thoughts. Also, if you have a chance, head over to Hamilton Tavern and try this cupcake out and let us know your thoughts! Either way, you won’t be disappointed. This cupcake is scrumptious!

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