Baking & Decorating Experiment: Hummingbird Cupcakes

On my mom’s recent visit to Maryland, she wanted Stacy and I to take her to a couple of our favorite cupcake places. One of those places was Kupcakes & Co., which we ranked number 1 in our Top 5 outside Baltimore City. While there, I tried their hummingbird cupcake for the first time. It was described as banana, pineapple, pecans, a little spice, and topped with cream cheese frosting, kind of like a spring-summer carrot cake. At the time, I thought this was a unique creation, but then I started seeing other places promoting their hummingbird cupcakes. I guess I’m still an amateur at this!

Having loved Kupcakes & Co.’s hummingbird cupcake, I decided that for my spring-into-summer recipe I wanted this to be the cake. I also wanted to dabble with decorating cupcakes differently, to practice some techniques. After researching the cake, I wasn’t sure if it would be sacrilegious to top a cupcake, based off a traditional southern recipe, with a springtime explosion. But these are my cupcakes after all! I found out that some recipes call for including coconut on top and thought this would be perfect for “grass.” I also wanted to practice piping flowers and hard royal icing decorations, so I did it all!

Since I knew I’d be spending time on the decorations, I wanted the cake to be easy. I scoured the internet for a recipe that used a box mix to start, but had more trouble finding one than I anticipated. I discovered that the cake was a standard yellow cake, so just when I thought I would have to wing it, I finally found Duncan Hine’s recipe (now I know to just start at their website)! The recipe calls for the addition of Maraschino cherries, but since I hadn’t found that in other recipes, or in Kupcakes & Co.’s version, I decided to leave them out. I also added a whole banana, instead of just half, and substituted walnuts for pecans. That was a last minute decision, after seeing how much more pecans cost versus walnuts. I had no idea!


(Cake ingredients)


(I love texture in cake. Look at all of those yummy walnuts!)

The cake part was really easy. I did make my own cream cheese frosting and after debating on which to go with, choose one from SlashFood. The reviews were good and it seemed similar to some of the other frostings I’ve made that start with a cream cheese base. I added extra confectioner’s sugar to get the consistency right, but I think that’s because I choose to do this on a warm day. I used to think making frosting was complicated, but not anymore (or at least not the recipes I use)!


(Four simple ingredients to the cream cheese frosting.)

Starting the decorating process, I dyed shredded coconut using green food color. I had read about adding the dye to a little water first, but it just made the coconut almost too wet to work with. In the future, I will just put the dye right in, shake it up, and see what happens. After the coconut was green, I took my frosted cupcakes and dipped them into the coconut to completely cover the tops.


(Since you don’t have to worry about what the frosting looks like, I just used a butter knife to slather it on.)


(I didn’t think so much of the frosting would show through the green coconut.)

Prior to getting the decorating started, I experimented with the royal icing. I knew a form of royal icing is used in gingerbread houses as the “glue.” I thought it was just water and confectioner’s sugar and found recipes that only called for that, but it wasn’t setting up the way I planned. More research led me to discover that in order for it to get really hard, you have to add Meringue Powder. Who knew?! I learn something knew every time…

Since I wouldn’t be able to go out until the next day, I tried creating some piped flowers. After trial and error, I now realize that 1) it was just too warm in the house to get buttercream to cooperate and 2) I need more piping tips to choose from.

After a trip out the next day, with my cupcakes only half decorated (and some with failed flower attempts), I was finally able to get the royal icing decorations done. The consistency still wasn’t where I wanted it, even after adding more water than called for (maybe this is why sifting first is so important?), but I worked with it anyway and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out!


(Before piping, I sketched a couple of flowers and hummingbirds. Then I covered the sketches with wax paper, to use as a template.)

In the end, I had 3 versions of decorated cupcakes:


(I still wanted to make some traditional looking. I love the minimalistic look and I wanted to taste the cupcakes without the coconut, to see which I preferred.)


(My attempt at piping flowers. From far away, and at the right angle, they don’t look too bad…)


(Maybe not a traditional look, but I think they look great for a spring party!)

Flavor wise, the cake turned out great (but still not as good as Kupcakes & Co.)! I like the coconut on top because the cream cheese frosting turned out a little sweeter than I prefer, so the coconut toned it down.

Aside from having some great tasting cupcakes, I learned some new things. My favorite technique is the royal icing decorations. I feel like the possibilities for custom cupcake toppers are now endless!

What are some favorite things you’ve learned by challenging yourself in the kitchen?

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

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Roland Park Bagel Co.’s new Spring and Summer Flavors!

Just to make sure there is no confusion, yesterday we reviewed Roland Park Bakery and Deli, but today we are reviewing the new cupcakes at Roland Park Bagel Co. I promise we are not trying to confuse you, but we couldn’t wait any longer to share with you their spring and summer cupcake flavors – and the new baker. We review Roland Park Bagel Co. last August on our blog and then again in November on KimberlyLoc.com. Prior to hiring a new baker, their cupcakes could be a hit or miss. Sometimes they were great, while other times left us a bit disappointed. Hopefully their consistency has improved with the new bakery, but until we find out, we are loving their new flavors!

Since Crusader Jenn is a stay at home mom, she often comes to my office (where she also used to work) to visit with the other employees and to have lunch. Everyone always enjoys seeing her and her daughter, Leah, and of course I love any excuse to get out and eat cupcakes with one of my best friends! Despite the curt demeanor of the women who runs the front counter, we often find ourselves at Roland Park Bagel Co. for a tasty panini, a cup of coffee, and obviously, cupcakes. Don’t let her attitude fool you though, she is actually quite nice, but is trying to run a tight ship with the busy lunchtime crowds.

On this day we decided to share 3 of their new flavors: Pink Lemonade, Banana Split, and Piña Colada.

The Pink Lemonade was pure bliss with our first bite. The cake was moist and the frosting was very tart and sweet, just like you are sipping on a real pink lemonade on a hot summer afternoon. This cupcake is a perfect warm weather treat!

Next we tried their Banana Split cupcake. For us, it was good. Not the best I’ve had, but not bad either. The cake on ours was a bit squishy in the center. We think this was because there may have been a fresh banana slice placed on top of the cake either during the baking process or after. So, while the flavors were there, we were having some issues getting over the strange texture. Before trying this cupcake we had already bought a 2nd one to bring back to my co-worker (who is also an extreme sugar-holic). She didn’t waste anytime diving into it after we gave it to her, but her cake strangely didn’t have the same texture problem. So maybe ours was just a fluke?

Jenn and I are both coconut (and piña colada) lovers, so we saved Roland Park Bagel Co.’s Piña Colada cupcake for last.

Boy am I glad we did! With it’s rum glaze, soft cake, and strong coconut flavor, at first it was tough to decide which was better, the Pink Lemonade or this one, but then we hit the pineapple puree filling. The pineapple filling took this cupcake to a whole new level! I might as well have been sitting on the beach eating this cupcake with a little umbrella sticking out of it.

I’m really excited to see what other new flavor combinations Roland Park Bagel Co.’s new baker creates. Hopefully they will be consistently good and creative, which will definitely keep these crusaders going back for more!

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

Cupcakes with a Smile: Desserts Designed Delivers

I think by now it’s quite obvious that I don’t let any event, big or small, go by without involving cupcakes. This past weekend Crusader Jenn and I had a good friend visit and I spent a good portion of last week brainstorming where I would get cupcakes to “welcome” her with. I thought maybe I could go to Charm City Cupcakes because it has been a while since I’ve gotten their cupcakes, or we could try the new Soda Pop line of cupcakes from Whole Foods, but then the perfect solution presented itself in my Facebook news feed: Desserts Designed.

Desserts Designed is a Baltimore City based baker who often offers a Sample Box Sale Friday for $15. A Sample Box consist of 6 cupcakes that you can put together based on the 3 or 4 available flavors they post to their Facebook page on Wednesday or Thursday. Once Friday arrives, you can either pick the cupcakes up or have them delivered for an extra fee (which I decided to do since it was only $5 to have them delivered to my office). Last week, they offered Banana Split, Strawberry Shortcake, and Chocolate Chocolate. After reading the flavor options, my decision was an easy one: 3 Banana Splits and 3 Strawberry Shortcakes.

When the owner of Dessert Designed, Angela, arrived with my cupcakes, she was in great spirits even after getting a bit lost (my office is tucked away and a bit difficult to find). She seemed to be full of life, love and laughter which was exactly what I needed after the morning I had.

After I returned to my desk, I was able to take a good look at the beautifully decorated cupcakes. The aroma of the Strawberry Shortcake beckoned me to eat one right then and there, but my willpower won and I saved them to share with Jenn and our friend, Ashley, the next day.

The Banana Split cupcake was a balanced blend of banana, vanilla, and chocolate flavors, starting with a moist and delicate banana cake, then finished with a vanilla buttercream frosting, a chocolate syrup drizzle, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and a cherry on top! What I loved most about this cupcake was that it wasn’t overly complicated, but it still produced the same level of flavors that a more complex cupcake could give.

The Strawberry Shortcake was even more moist than the Banana Split! I couldn’t believe it! The cake was chock-full of fresh strawberry bits and drizzled with a strawberry puree. Overall the cupcake was quite sweet, but it is what I would expect from a Strawberry Shortcake cupcake. This is a cupcake everyone should experience for themselves.

I’m often amazed by how many great cupcakes you can find out there from places who might not have the biggest name or even their own storefront. Dessert Designed offers fantastic cupcakes at a very reasonable cost. Even better is that if you live or work in Baltimore City, they can be delivered directly to you with a smile. Someone told me that after eating their cupcakes I would be hooked, and she was right. I am hooked!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, 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 | Kupcakes & Co. | Elkridge, MD

Every Tuesday through the month of March we began counting down our Top 5 favorite cupcake places outside of Baltimore City and today, we are finally at #1! In order to make sure we did the proper research and included places that would “qualify” we decided that any place that was within a 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 our Top 5 let us know! We do our best to research where the cupcakes are, but there is no better way to find out than a recommendation!

We can’t say enough great things about Kupcakes & Co., located off Meadowridge Road in Elkridge, MD. Their little shop (which you can find around the back of a small shopping center) is stylishly decorated in their signature pink and black and features a custom built cupcake display case.


(Love the black and pink colors with the polka dots!)


(I’ve never seen a cupcake display quite like this!)

We instantly fell in love with Kupcakes & Co. during our first visit to their shop for Kupcakes with Santa. Not only did they “wow” us with their amazing cupcakes, but their hospitality was, and has always been, top-notch. It’s no wonder you often find a line going the entire length of the store, or even out the front door. But don’t let that deter you. They’ve got a great system down and you won’t have to wait long!

While none of us have ever tasted a cupcake we didn’t like, we want to share with you just a few of our favorite flavors:

Fluffernutter

This cupcake represents the classic fluffernutter sandwich that combines marshmallow fluff and peanut butter. You can actually see each of those components swirled in the frosting. It is also topped with a marshmallow dipped in peanut butter, which is a cleaver addition. Trying to slowly savor this cupcake was no small feat because it was so good it had me rushing to get to the next bite.

Blueberry Danish

Breakfast flavored cupcakes may not be a new concept in the cupcake world (Anyone familiar with the maple-bacon craze? Kupcakes & Co. has that too!) but this twist on a standard breakfast favorite has me wishing it was okay to eat cupcakes everyday for breakfast. The blueberry cake blends with their amazing cream cheese frosting to perfectly represent an actual blueberry danish.

The Elvis

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this peanut butter banana cupcake, but Crusader Jenn recommends this one and says that it is, “So moist and delicious.” I’ll definitely be getting it on my next visit!

Lemon Meringue

This cupcake has a lemon curd filling with a meringue topping and tastes just like a slice of lemon meringue pie, but with the added bonus of deliciously moist cake. My husband loves lemon meringue pie, so I’ll have to pick one of these up for him on my next visit too!

In addition to their stellar customer service and incredible cupcakes, there is one thing that truly seals the deal on Kupcakes & Co. taking our number one spot for favorite cupcakery on the outskirts of Baltimore City and that is their commitment to giving back to the community. Whether they are hosting events to raise money for pediatric units or creating special cupcakes that support cancer research and awareness, Kupcakes & Co. is always helping out with a great cause. So, if you haven’t already been to their shop, make sure to stop by and be blown away by their cupcakes and their service. And tell them the Crusaders say “hi!” 🙂

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

We are working to help end childhood hunger!
Together we can make a difference!

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

Guest Review: Billy’s Bakery Cupcake Tasting

We are excited to have another guest review from Jen. Jen is a close friend of the Crusaders (and a “name twin” to Crusader Jenn), currently living in New York City. She’s been on many adventures with us and has taken the time to write today’s review on a cupcake tasting she attended at Billy’s Bakery! Thanks Jen!

About a month ago, I was recruited by the Cupcake Crusaders to go to a meet-up at Billy’s Bakery in TriBeCa to try their new flavors. My husband tagged along, and together we tried all of the new flavors that Billy’s offers.

First up was the Maple Pecan. This was by far my husband’s favorite flavor, and he ate every bite of it! I did not try this one because I am not a fan of pecan, but I trust that it is delicious.


(Maple Pecan – Billy’s Bakery)

Next was the cupcake that I was most looking forward to – the Banana Nutella cupcake. I. Am. Obsessed. I didn’t want to fill up and not be able to try all of the flavors, so I ate half of this one and then at the end, I finished the rest. If fewer people had showed up to the meet-up, I would have taken a couple of these to go. They are really delicious. The frosting tastes like Nutella, but it’s nice and light and mixes perfectly with the banana cupcake.


(Banana Nutella – Billy’s Bakery)

I had high expectations for the Mint Chocolate cupcake, because I have had some amazing ones at other bakeries, but honestly, this one kind of disappointed me. The balance of flavors wasn’t quite right for my taste (I can’t remember if it was too much mint or not enough) and it was also the driest of the cupcakes.


(Mint Chocolate – Billy’s Bakery)

The Chocolate Cherry cupcake was pretty decent. The cake was nice and moist and had little pieces of cherry in it. Normally I am not a fan of cherry things, but the chocolate made it pretty good.


(Cherry Chocolate – Billy’s Bakery)

I was very curious when I heard that they had an Orange Dreamsicle cupcake. I have eaten both good and bad renditions of this classic flavor, but never in a cupcake. I really liked the cake, as the orange flavor was very light. When I looked closely, I could see the tiny pieces of orange zest that are in both the cake and the frosting, and though I liked it in the cake, I did not like having little chunks in my frosting. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Dreamsicle frosting because it was very sweet and the pieces of zest distracted me from the flavor.


(Orange Dreamsicle – Billy’s Bakery)

The other cupcake that I was really looking forward to was the Lemon Poppy Seed. I had never had a lemon poppy seed cupcake before, and I was pleased with the flavor. My husband did not really like this one because he is not a huge fan of lemon, but as a lemon lover, I thought it was very good. The cake was nice and light but still flavorful with a light lemon taste, and the frosting, though it had pieces of zest like the Orange Dreamsicle did, tasted really nice. If not for the Banana Nutella cupcake, this would have been my favorite of the day.


(Lemon Poppy Seed – Billy’s Bakery)

While I was not a huge fan of all of their cupcake flavors, I am a huge fan of their adorable branding and especially their single cupcake “take out” box! I saw a display of these when we first came in, and fell in love. I have never seen a cupcake box with a handle, and really, that’s an extremely smart idea. I love the light yellow and teal color combo, and their vintage yet trendy typography works very well.


(Billy’s Take Out Packaging)

All in all, if it weren’t for the amazing Banana Nutella cupcake, I may not be itching to visit Billy’s Bakery again any time soon, but because it is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had, it may soon be time to make another visit!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Jen (NY, NY)

The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Fresh Bakery | Owings Mills, MD

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Top 5 post on Fresh Bakery, over the past couple of years we’ve eaten a lot of their cupcakes. Even though those cupcakes may not have made the “highly recommended” list, they are all still great, so we wanted to share some of them with you:

Red Velvet


(Not being the Red Velvet pro like Crusader Elisa, Jenn and I thought this cupcake, topped with a sweet cream cheese frosting, was pretty good. But her expert taste buds on this flavor disagreed with us. She said it was good, but not her favorite.)

Banana’s Foster


(Years ago this was one of my favorites, but now having tried so many other great flavors, this cupcake has moved down that list, but doesn’t stop it from being a tasty option.)

Sweet Potato Cheesecake


(This cupcake contains a sweet potato cake blended with soft cheese cake and topped with a sweet frosting. While it doesn’t scream “sweet potato” the cheesecake blends with the spices to create a balanced and delicious cupcake.)

Chocolate Chocolate


(This rich dark chocolate cake has just the right amount of sweetness to make it decadent and wonderful.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter


(Chocolate cake combined with creamy peanut butter frosting form this savory classic cupcake.)

Chocolate Strawberry


(This cupcake has the same chocolate cake that is found in the chocolate peanut butter but instead it’s topped with a sweet strawberry frosting.)

Cookies and Cream


(The cake and frosting on this cupcake are each filled with an abundance of crushed cookie pieces resulting in a wonderfully strong “Oreo” cookie flavor.)

Pecan


(This is a great cupcake complete with large and small chunks of yummy pecans. It would be perfect for a Thanksgiving Day spread.)

Have you been to Fresh Bakery? What are your favorite flavors? We’d love to hear!

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