Hamilton Bakery’s New Summer Flavors

Hey Cupcake Lovers! We are so sorry we’ve been gone for so long! We haven’t stopped eating cupcakes, so we are going to do our best (at least this summer) to catch up on all the reviews we’ve been wanting to share with you. Today we are reviewing two new summer flavors that Hamilton Bakery is serving this month: Key Lime and Neapolitan.

I have to admit, while I love Hamilton Bakery (they make the best scones) their cupcakes have never quite lived up to my expectations in the past. I really want to like them, but I often end up slightly disappointed, until now. I hoped that I would eventually be pleasantly surprised, so when I saw that they were giving one free cupcake to each customer during First Friday in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, and introducing special June flavors (Butter Pecan, Neapolitan, Key Lime, and Cookies and Cream), I thought it would be a great time to give them another try.

Key Lime

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At first, I was worried that this cupcake wouldn’t have a filling (I think Key Lime cupcake should always have a filling), but to my surprise, it did! I would have liked more, but it was very tasty. The frosting had subtle lime flavor and the cake was dense but very moist. Altogether, it was a really solid cupcake and was one of my favorites from Hamilton Bakery so far.

Neapolitan

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Hamilton Bakery offered two versions of this cupcake: one with vanilla cake and one with chocolate cake. I selected the cupcake with chocolate cake because the other option was topped with a large portion of milk chocolate frosting, which isn’t my favorite. However, all three frosting flavors ended up being very good. The strawberry was my favorite though, so I wish there was more of that. The last time I had a chocolate cake cupcake from Hamilton Bakery it was super dry, but not this time!

These were easily some of the best cupcakes I’ve eaten from Hamilton Bakery. Finally!

If you would like to try the new flavors, hurry! They’ll only be available for another week or so. If you would rather enjoy a FREE cupcake, stop by Hamilton Bakery during their next First Friday event (check their Facebook Page for more information). Just a little heads up, you can’t take the cupcake in a to-go box, so grab a cup of coffee or tea, and stay a little while.

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

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The Cupcake Ship has Set Sail at Harbor East’s Lamill Coffee Shop

There’s nothing worse than waiting too long for something and then missing out completely. This is what happen to us recently at Lamill Coffee in Baltimore’s Harbor East. For a brief moment they offered cupcakes, but we kept pushing off our visit and sadly they don’t make them anymore. When they first opened, they were also known for their beignets, which they also stopped selling. Ugh. Utter disappointment.

Lamill hit the Baltimore coffee scene with a bang, bringing their own roasted beans and a variety of brewing techniques, including hand drip and siphon—which is seriously cool to watch. The atmosphere is a mix of sleek and rustic, which they’ve blended really well. The blog, Dear Coffee I Love You, has written about their coffee process and has amazing photos of the interior. You can check that out here.

When we asked the nice employee why they stopped making cupcakes, she explained  that they were really just okay, and Lamill didn’t want a sub-par confection on their menu. I totally understand that and, lucky for us coffee-loving sweet eaters, we like just about anything made with sugar.

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While they don’t have beignets or cupcakes anymore (sigh…), they do still have a large assortment of pastries and cookies, including parisian macarons. We each selected a different macaron, and we each thought ours was the best. Elisa had the mint chocolate, Jenn got the cookies and cream, and I chose the blueberry. Lamill makes a great macaron with a perfectly crunchy outer shell and soft, moist, center. Each paired perfectly with our coffee selections.

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Though they don’t sell cupcakes or beignets anymore, they are making their own doughnuts with a variety of flavors. On our visit, they didn’t have them out at first, but just before we left had the opportunity to try one. The cake was a lot more dense than we anticipated, and a bit on the chewy side. I wouldn’t say it was a bad doughnut, just not at all what we expected. I would definitely like to try more.

Lamill is a great addition to the Baltimore Coffee scene. They have even started a campaign to encourage people to explore Baltimore’s local coffee shops, instead of sticking with the big names. To participate, just visit their shop and pick up their “Disloyalty Card.” You can also visit the participating coffee shops: Charmingtons, Pitango Gelato, Sidewalk Espresso, High Grounds, and Dooby’s. Once you’ve purchased a drink from each location and had your card stamped, you can receive a complimentary beverage from the shop of your choice. We think this is so awesome and a great excuse to explore the city.

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

Sweet Dukes Vegan Treats

Every summer the main street community of Hamilton organizes the Hamilton Street Festival. I have to be completely honest and say it’s definitely NOT the best street festival in Baltimore. Even though this year’s flyer design was pretty good, it’s not even half as awesome as the Fell’s Point Fun Festival or HonFest (but really, nothing is a cool as HonFest).

My husband and I live within easy walking distance of Harford Rd, where the festival takes place, so this year we decided to explore the vendors’ tents and grab some lunch. As we were walking around (which only took about ten minutes… totally not exaggerating), I noticed quite a few places selling cupcakes. Only one place had cupcakes that really drew me in though, Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery.

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I really want to love vegan desserts. I already don’t eat red meat or pork, so if there’s any way I can limit the amount of animal bi-products I consume, I’m totally down for that. I was also excited because they are organic and have gluten-free options.

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Their table was really colorful with hand written signs (which I love), fun flavor names and a big variety of cookies, cakes, and pastries, including the cake kabobs pictured above.

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After seeing the the cake kabobs and their Party on Wayne cupcake (made with Fruity Pebbles, which apparently are considered vegan… still horrible for you, but vegan nonetheless), I was complete baffled as to what I wanted to get. I knew I’d be eating cupcakes the next day, so I was determined to limit my choice to one item. After tell the very nice people helping me that I was taking it home for later, they recommended the cupcake because the cake kabob works better if you are going to eat it immediately.

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I really loved how colorful this cupcake was, but unfortunately my first bite wasn’t stellar. The Fruity Pebbles on top of the frosting were a bit squishy and that grossed me out a little bit. I’m guessing this was either because of the moisture from the cake and frosting, or the intense humidity from the day, probably a combination of the two. Luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the cake though. After pushing the cereal sitting on top of the frosting aside (sad face… I was really looking forward them), I was able to examine the rest of the cupcake for what it really was: a decent vegan treat. I can’t say that it was as good as its non-vegan counterparts, but definitely better than some of the other vegan varieties we’ve tried. The cake was a bit dense, but still moist with decent flavor. The frosting was a little gritty but had a good flavor that wasn’t too sweet and didn’t taste like a butter substitute—I was boggled by this, in a good way.

If you would like to try Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery, you can find them at the Fell’s Point Farmers Market on Saturdays, the Fleet Street Market, or the Grind House Juice Bar. You can also follow their Facebook page to stay up to date on their latest flavors and where you can find them.

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

Cupcakes at Camden Yards Have Struck Out

Anyone who knows me understands that the real reason I love to go to baseball games is for the food and drink. Beer, soda, peanuts, nachos, pulled chicken sandwiches, fries… the list goes on. Of course I like watching the game too, but let’s be honest, the game is so much better when snacks are involved.

On my most recent trip to Camden Yards, my husband, Ken, and I met up with my sister-in-law and her new boyfriend. Ken and I were running late and so we missed the O’s practice time and the first pitch, which was given that night by Ravens player Lardarius Webb. I think my husband was a little bummed because he is a huge Ravens fan and he also missed out on seeing his sister catch a baseball during the pre-game warmups. But with a beer in hand, we—well, at least I—happily made our way to our seats.

In between innings we decided to go get more food and drinks, and that was when I spotted this:

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A DESSERT CART WITH CUPCAKES!

Not only was it a dessert cart filled with cupcakes, cake pops, and push pops, but they were being served right outside of Lardarius Webb’s private suite, which was swarming with Ravens players. Because of the high-profile suite, we had to wait—for what seemed like forever—to finally buy a cupcake at a steep price of $6, which is probably the most I’ve ever spent on a normal sized cupcake.

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Unfortunately the high price didn’t buy high quality. The frosting on this Cookies and Cream cupcake lacked any flavor other than food-coloring. The cake was more like pound cake than what you would normally find on a cupcake, but actually had a decent flavor. Since I wasn’t impressed with the frosting, I ignored it and focused on the cake. After a few bites I ran into a whipped filling that was a little too sweet for my taste buds, so left that lying next to the frosting while I finished the cake.

Event though this cupcake didn’t come close to meeting my expectations, the nachos, peanuts, and beer certainly made up for it. Camden Yards should probably just stick to what they do best: typical ballpark food. One bad cupcake couldn’t put a damper on my night though because my sister-in-law had her baseball signed by Lardarius Webb and the Orioles won! Go O’s!

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

Birthday Cupcakes from Corazon Cakery

Several months ago Corazon Cakery commented our our Facebook page and, after reading their stellar reviews and seeing pictures of their vibrant cupcakes, we knew we were going to have to try them for ourselves. It wasn’t long after adding them to our list that we saw a great Living Social voucher to get one dozen cupcakes for only $16. The expiration date was only four days after Crusader Elisa’s birthday, so I decided that would be the perfect time to order them.

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To my surprise, instead of just selecting one or two flavors when redeeming the Living Social Voucher, Corazon Cakery was offering sample packs with six different flavors (two of each flavor). Since they were for Elisa’s birthday, I let her decide on which sample pack we would order and she selected the  “Exotic Sampler” which came with: Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, Dirty Sanchez, Happy Ending, Cherry Jubilee, Cafe Mocha Latte, and Orange Creamsicle.

I had them delivered right to my office (for a small extra delivery fee) so I could take them directly to Elisa’s party and ensure they would be at their ultimate freshness. Megon, the owner and baker of Corazon Cakery, had the cupcakes packaged really well with pretty tissue paper. It was like a gift all on its own! And their aroma was amazing.

The birthday girl decided that we should cut them up and share, which was fine with me and the other party goers (there were lots of our cupcake loving friends  at the party, including Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusaders Beth and Rebecca).

Cherry Jubilee (Seasonal Flavor)

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Overall this was probably everyone’s least favorite cupcake of the dozen. It had a bit of a cough syrup taste (which is why I normally don’t like cherry flavored anything, except Cherry Coke. I LOVE Cherry Coke). Even though the majority of the group didn’t like it, Elisa said the artificial cherry flavor didn’t bother her and she happily finished her piece.

Orange Creamsicle

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This cupcake got mixed reviews. Overall everyone liked it, but not everyone loved it. I personally really liked it. Creamsicle cupcakes are becoming one of my favorite flavors, even though I never liked Creamsicle Popsicles as a kid. The cake on this cupcake was really moist and though some claimed the frosting had a bit of an artificial flavor to it, that didn’t bother me any. Someone actually made a good observation and said that the cake tasted very “creamsicle-y” while the frosting was more like orange soda.

Cafe Mocha Latte

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Being a total cupcake AND coffee addict I was most excited about this cupcake and its flavor did not disappoint. The coffee flavor was really present and the cupcake wasn’t too sweet. The only downside was that the cake was a little on the dry side. It wasn’t too bad, but we all felt it could have been more moist.

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam

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It’s no secret that PB&J cupcakes are high up on my list of favorites, and this cupcake sadly didn’t meet my expectations. There just didn’t seem to be that “POW” of nostalgia that I look for in a PB&J cupcake, but Guest Crusader Beth really enjoyed it.

Dirty Sanchez

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The Dirty Sanchez is a Mexican hot chocolate cake topped with bourbon vanilla frosting and garnished with spicy chocolate, which is right up Elisa’s alley. She loves mixing sweet with savory and gives this cupcake two thumbs up. I personally can’t handle the heat, so this cupcake just isn’t for me. Like the Cafe Mocha Latte, the cake also could have been a little more moist.

Happy Ending

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This cupcake was the clear favorite. After taking the first bite comments like, “Ohhh yeahhhh…” were muttered and Elisa said “it’s lovely.” The cake was super moist and it wasn’t too sweet but was very rich, with the flavors of the hazelnut cake, Nutella filling, and peanut butter all coming through.

Normally for a birthday celebration we would order cupcakes from a trusted source, but we were all glad to try new cupcakes. Corazon Cakery delivered a great product that we were happy to indulge in. When asked what her top three favorites were, Elisa listed the Nutella, Dirty Sanchez, and Orange Creamsicle. Jenn and I both agreed that the Nutella was our number one favorite, but we thought that the Cafe Mocha Latte would also make our top three.

If you are looking to order fun, unique, and vibrant cupcakes definitely visit Corazon Cakery’s website and give them a call!

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

What Was I Thinking?

We’ve all been there… You’re hungry. You’re craving something sweet. And there, sitting in front of you, is a cupcake. It’s really not a great looking cupcake. You know you’ll probably be disappointed. But it is a cupcake nonetheless. And you’re hungry. So you give in and buy the sketchy looking cupcake.

This has happened to me on multiple occasions. If it hasn’t happened to you, then well done. You have way more self control than I do.

Recently, after a crazy couple of days, I found myself starring at these jumbo sized cupcakes at my local Safeway:

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Not only was I curious about how these new gigantic cupcakes tasted, but I was in desperate need of a cupcake (don’t judge… I know you’ve been there too…) I was torn between a couple flavors, but went with my go-to comfort flavor, the Chocolate Raspberry.

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This cupcake was easily the size of two or three cupcakes combined, and a total steal at $2.99. Of course, since it was a grocery store cupcake, I proceeded with caution. While the cake had a subtle hint of raspberry flavor, the frosting completely tasted like cotton candy. There wasn’t an ounce of raspberry flavor present! I tasted it over and over again, to see if my tastes buds were off, but couldn’t get past the artificial cotton candy sweetness. For as much as I love real cotton candy, I don’t like anything that is trying to taste like it (or, in this cupcake’s case, that isn’t supposed to taste like it but still does). The cake was a little dry on the outside, but fairly moist on the inside, and after the day I had, I wasn’t going to be too picky. I finished the cake and trashed the frosting.

As I mentioned above, I have often purchased questionable cupcakes in the past, each producing mixed results. There are two times in particular that are especially memorable for me: first, an awful cupcake from Au Bon Pain in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and second, a sketchy looking cupcake from Target in White Marsh, MD, which ended up being okay.

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(Vanilla cupcake from Au Bon Pain).

I had heard bad things about the cupcakes from Au Bon Pain, but I wanted some coffee so decided to stop in one afternoon. Of course, I couldn’t resist browsing the desserts while I was there and left with more than just an iced coffee (ignoring all advice to avoid the cupcakes). I really should have taken a closer look at the Vanilla cupcakes before spending $3 on it. The frosting looked like half melted wax, and it certainly didn’t taste any better. Even though you can see the vanilla bean specks, there wasn’t any vanilla flavor and it had a weird texture. While the cake had a decent flavor, it was completely void of any moisture, like a dried out sponge. I decided to try and microwave the cupcake to see if I could salvage the cake (the frosting was a lost cause), but that didn’t do anything to help, so into the trash it went. At least I had a tasty iced coffee to comfort me and my cupcake sadness.

With a handful of “What was I thinking” cupcake moments under my belt, you would think that I would learn when NOT to buy a cupcake, but we’ve vowed to try them all, and it’s something we take VERY seriously (well, as serious as cupcake eating can be). And, for as many bad experiences as I’ve had, there are also some not-so-bad ones too, like this Ticklebelly White Out cupcake from Target.

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I really wasn’t expecting much from this cupcake, but it came in a cute little to-go container, and since Crusader Jenn has had such great experiences with Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe (found at her local Walmart), I figured I’d give it a try. Plus, it was only $1.29.

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(Ticklebelly White Out cupcake from Target)

The cake was a little spongy and commercial tasting, but it was also more moist than a typical grocery store cake. The frosting was a little greasy (I think they used some kind of shortening as the base), but not overly sweet, with a nice flavor. The biggest surprise was the filling (I didn’t even know it had a filling!). It was a pastry cream that was actually pretty good. Overall, this cupcake was totally worth its low price—especially since I knew I could reuse the to-go container.

Ticklebelly also makes cake pops, molten cakes, dessert shots, and sheet cakes. I’m curious to see if Target carries any of their other products because I’ve only ever noticed the White Out cupcake and Red Velvet. They also offer Chocolate, Key Lime, PB&J, Pumpkin (seasonal), and Snickerdoodle filled cupcakes. According to their website, you can find their products at Kroger, Ralphs, Raley’s, Fred Meyer, and King Soopers, in addition to Target.

I think the most important things to remember when buying cupcakes are to keep an open mind, don’t expect too much, and always have a back up plan if you really need to feed your sweet tooth. In the world of cupcakes, whether you are at a high-end pastry shop or the local grocer, some are great and some are not, so why not give them all a try?

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

Ooh La La Cupcakery’s New Storefront is so Trés Chic

With a wall-mounted flat screen tv, a couple of high top tables with chairs, and bold black, white, and pink decor, Ooh La La Cupcakery‘s new location is certainly a big step up from their previous location in Inner Harbor (although, while that location wasn’t a full walk-in shop, they did a great job glamming it up as best they could).

Their new shop on 1216 North Charles Street opened at the beginning of February, less than a block away from where my weekly grad-school class meets. Even though it’s been over two months since their opening, I wasn’t able to stop in until this past weekend. Working full time, going to school, and keeping up with this blog have put a serious limit on any free time I used to have. Thinking back, it’s been about two months since I’ve actually gone cupcaking in a full service cupcake shop (I’m not counting stops at cupcake trucks, fundraising events, etc. Of course there have been cupcakes, just no new visits to actual cupcake shops).

There is something wonderful about stepping into a room filled with beautiful cupcake displays. I love the process of reading the names, asking questions, and narrowing the options down to my final selections. Obviously I like eating cupcakes, but I also really love the entire experience. However, if the service isn’t good, it can ruin that experience. On my first visit to Ooh La La in the Inner Harbor, I was helped by a young man who seemed less than eager, but this time, that same gentleman was AWESOME. He greeted me an enthusiastic “hello” and a warm smile before going over the flavors. I guess everyone has off days, and I was glad to see his happy side.

On that day Ooh La La had many refreshing warm-weather flavors and tasty looking classics available, so it wasn’t an easy choice to make. I saw the Birthday Cake cupcake and knew right away that it was going home with me (I can’t say no to anything with sprinkles). Then I decided on the Pistachio, Key Lime, and Lemon cupcakes as my remaining three.

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At first, I was a little disappointed that my cupcakes weren’t placed in a cupcake box (I’m always worried they will be smooshed and destroyed before I can take pictures), but the cupcakes were arranged neatly in their containers and carefully placed in a white bag with a pretty pink ribbon. They even included pink napkins and an information card on Ooh La La. And luckily their cupcakes are pretty sturdy and held up nicely on the ride home.

Pistachio Cupcake

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For some reason pistachio flavored food intrigues me, but I think I’ve decided that it’s just not a flavor I enjoy. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Ooh La La’s Pistachio cupcake. The cake was moist, the pistachio flavor was present throughout the cupcake, but I didn’t dig it as much as the others. But, if you love pistachios, then you should definitely try this cupcake.

Key Lime

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The cake on this cupcake was moist and had a nice key lime flavor, but the best part was the frosting. It was perfectly tangy and sweet. I REALLY wish this cupcake had a filling. It might actually be the first Key Lime cupcake I’ve tried that didn’t, and I think that it helps make the cupcake reminiscent of a Key Lime pie. Still, it was a tasty cupcake.

Lemon

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This cupcake was so good and exactly what I look for in a Lemon cupcake. Similar to the Key Lime cupcake, it was the perfect blend of tangy and sweet. This was easily my favorite of the four. There is really not much else to say other than: YUM.

Birthday Cake

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Sprinkles! As I mention above, the second I saw how jam-packed this cupcake was with sprinkles, I knew it was going to be all mine. Funfetti is one of my favorites, and this cupcake was like Funfetti taken to the next level. It even tasted almost like a spoonful of sprinkles! Which is a good thing—at least in my book. This cupcake was sweet, fun, and totally put a smile on my face.

Other than the fabulous new location and storefront, I really enjoyed how the cake AND frosting were flavored in all the cupcakes I purchased. More often than not, cupcake shops will use a basic yellow or chocolate cake as a base and then just flavor the frosting to create a variety, but not Ooh La La. They also offer chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate dipped pretzels, candy covered apples, and ice cream.

Their website is currently under construction, but they have been very active on their Facebook page, where you can follow them to stay updated on new flavors and specials.

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