Très “Fraîche” et délicieuse!

The Crusaders love the opportunity to review new places – not only do we get to eat cupcakes, but we also get to visit new shops! Recently, we all trekked to Bethesda, MD to Fraîche Cupcakery to spend some time together and taste some cupcakes. We even had a chance to meet our friend Joel, from Josie’s Confections. Thanks for meeting up with us Joel!

Fraîche Cupcakery (“fresh” in French – for those who don’t know) has been on our “to try” list for quite a while, and we love their dedication to being all natural and eco-friendly. Using all-natural and local ingredients, as well as recycled materials in their shop and display signs and packaging, already scores points with the Crusaders, as we all three try to watch our environmental impact.

After checking out the beautiful, clean, and contemporary shop we reviewed our flavor options and discovered they had mini cupcakes in almost every flavor. Minis are great because it meant we could order more flavors to try, so after selecting our flavors we sat down for our first bite of Fraîche cupcakes. No one was more excited to get to the cupcakes than our littlest Crusader, Jenn’s daughter, Leah – she was so excited to see cupcakes and very anxious to eat them. Below are our flavor picks and thoughts:

Chocolate Green Tea (Sept 26 – Oct 2 Special flavor – full-size cupcake)

Interesting flavor combos always intrigue and inspire us, so we knew we had to try this cupcake. When Crusader Jenn and I initially tasted the frosting we liked its punch of tea flavor, but then tasting it with the cake made us all look at each other quizzically. We just didn’t like the two flavors together. The cake flavor itself was ok, but the texture was off and reminded us of a cake/brownie mix. The frosting alone tasted exactly like green tea, but had a very sweet aftertaste that I didn’t care for. Joel also didn’t like this flavor combination, and didn’t finish this cupcake. While this might not have been our favorite cupcake, it did spark discussion of what kind of flavors might work better and might have inspired my next baking experiment flavor!

Red Velvet mini

Being the “Red Velvet Crusader” I am very particular, but this cupcake did not disappoint. Cake with a crunchy top isn’t always a good thing, but it was one of the many reasons I loved this cupcake. The cake had amazing flavor and the frosting was smooth with a well balanced cream cheese frosting. Crusader Stacy and I really enjoyed this mini and next time I’ll need to order a full-size Red Velvet.

Blueberry Pancake mini

Pancake in cupcake form? Yes please. While this cake was a bit on the dense side, it tasted exactly like a blueberry pancake. The subtle maple flavor of the buttercream frosting added just the right amount of “syrup” on top. Crusader Stacy said it best, “This is awesome.”

Cinnamon mini

Cinn-fully delicious! Wow, did this cupcake pack a cinnamon flavor explosion. We all enjoyed the generous dusting of cinnamon on top. And with the perfect sweet, moist cake and creamy frosting balance, this cupcake was a great fall treat.

Raspberry Almond mini

Almond is a favorite flavor profile of the Crusaders and this cupcake was the perfect balance of tangy raspberry and almond flavors. The cake was on the dense side, but that didn’t bother us as we dove in and devoured this mini. The frosting wasn’t too sweet and the sliced almonds on top added a fantastic crunch of texture.

Mocha mini

Jenn took this one home and enjoyed it, here are her thoughts: This cupcake had tons of coffee/espresso flavor in the frosting, but the cake had the same weird texture as the Chocolate Green Tea cupcake.

Joel picked a couple of flavors that we didn’t try, including Lemon Almond and Carrot Cake. He agreed that the cakes were dense and a bit too dry for his liking. He also thought the carrot cake tasted more like a plain yellow cake with carrots in it, missing the spices that are typical for carrot cake flavor.

Overall we enjoyed Fraîche Cupcakery’s cupcakes, and while the Green Tea cupcake wasn’t a favorite, it did inspire flavor discussions and baking ideas. All of the cake was on the dense side, but that didn’t take away from their fantastic flavors. Their friendly staff, great flavor options, and dedication to the environment will keep us coming back when we are in the Bethesda area. The Weekly Savory Specials in October (available on Sat and Sun) include: Rosemary Fig (Oct 6-7), Baked Potato (Oct 13-14) and Chips & Salsa (Oct 20-21) and are all flavors that make us want to stop in on the upcoming weekends – oh if only we lived closer!

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


2011 Cupcake Tour: 2nd Stop – Fancy Cakes by Leslie

After our major letdown during the first stop at Just Cakes, the Crusaders were ready for some good cupcakes and luckily, Fancy Cakes by Leslie did not disappoint.

What a world of difference it was from the moment we walked it. The staff was so friendly and energetic. And the display was full of beautiful and colorful cupcakes!

There were so many flavors, so it took a while for us to decide, but finally we each made our selections.

First Cupcake: Yellow Cake with Passion Fruit Frosting (Jenn’s Selection)

Jenn thought that this cupcake was a little too sweet for her, but still really good. I thought that while it was sweet, it was just right for the flavors that it had.

Second Cupcake: Peanut Butter Chocolate (Jenn’s Selection)

This cupcake is perfect. The Peanut Butter frosting manages to be smooth and creamy while still packing in the peanut butter flavor. The chocolate cake was moist and a perfect compliment to the cupcake.

Third Cupcake: Banana with Chocolate Ganache Frosting (Elisa’s Selection)

Elisa (and everyone) LOVED this cupcake. Elisa describes it best in her own words, “WOW. Honestly, there aren’t enough fantastic adjectives to describe this cupcake. The cake was moist, soft, a little dense – but this was understandable considering it was made with real bananas – and just delicious. I was pleasantly surprised that the cake was still cake-y and didn’t automatically taste like banana bread. Then there was the mouth melting ganach! What a compliment to the cake! Not too sweet, allowing the chocolate to shine. Together it was simply bliss.” Yes, it was all that. So good!

Forth Cupcake: Chocolate Bourbon (Elisa’s Selection)

Elisa’s thoughts: “Filled with a Jack Daniels chocolate filling, this cupcake was chocolate, alcohol, and more chocolate. The cake was moist, the filling delicious, and the icing smooth. While this might not be a cupcake I feed to kids, being an adult who enjoys the flavor of Jack, this cupcake had the perfect balance of alcohol and chocolate. This cupcake was a treat for me, as for the past 7 weeks I have not been drinking while preparing for a half marathon, it was a glimpse into the alcohol I gave up and was one of the highlights of my Cupcake Tour day!” Jenn agreed saying that it was “possibly one of my favorites from the day. Rich chocolate, liquor…can’t really go wrong.”

Fifth Cupcake: Peanut Butter and Jelly (my (Stacy) selection)

This cupcake was my top favorite of the day. The cake was light and fluffy, the peanut butter frosting was smooth and creamy and the filling was just the right amount to give the whole cupcake a PB&J feeling without being to gooey in the middle.

I can’t say enough good things about this cupcake, except that you really need to try it for yourself. I’m a big fan of PB&J’s and this was exactly that in cupcake form. Jenn agreed and said, “The PB&J really tastes like a PB&J! Even though it doesn’t look like a lot of jam filling for the amount of frosting, it all balanced perfectly.” I think I will have wonderful dreams about this cupcake until we can meet again…

Sixth Cupcake: Spiced Chocolate (my selection)

I have never had spiced chocolate before, so I was immediately intrigued by this flavor. I also loved the color combinations with the rich dark brown and the vibrant teal. While this cupcake wasn’t my favorite of the day, the cake was moist and fluffy, and the frosting was rich and wonderful just like all the other cupcakes we tried. The spice offset the chocolate in a really nice way. Since I was sharing, I only got a bite of this flavor, so I think I would definitely re-order again, just to have the whole thing to myself.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the last cupcake, which my dad ordered. It was a Lemon Coconut, and was just as delicious as the rest. Jenn thought that the coconut flavor was overpowered a little by the lemon flavor, but I thought it was perfect.

Other than cupcakes this shop has tons of different cake/cupcake related treats:

They have cake push pops, which seem to be increasing in popularity, a “decorate your own” station, mini cakes and cake pops, and even “Puppycakes!”

All around this stop was a much better experience than the first. With the friendly staff (who asked about our tour and the blog and seemed really excited about it) and the amazing cupcakes, I can’t wait to go back for more. After this stop the Crusaders were re-energized and ready to continue the tour.

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

2011 Cupcake Tour: 1st Stop – Just Cakes

We are happy to report that our 2011 Cupcake Tour in the Bethesda area of Maryland was a huge success! In an effort to provide you with as much information as possible on each stop, we are going to post one review every day this week for each of the 5 stops locations we visited.

I want to start by saying that no Cupcake Tour is complete without one of these…

Logo Sticker

… and one of these…

Itinerary for the day

… and one of these…

Cute Baby

Okay, maybe the cute baby isn’t totally necessary, but how adorable is she? Crusader Jenn had her hands full that day, but luckily Baby Leah stayed in good spirits and the rest of us loved when it was our turn to hold her. It’s crazy to think that next year she will actually be able to taste cupcakes with us.

Okay, onto the review… First Stop of the Day: Just Cakes.

Unfortunately this first stop wasn’t a positive one, at all. When we first got there the cupcake selection was very limited. They seemed to have a decent selection of flavors, but at 11am you would expect to see more cupcakes than you see in the below photo. We decided not to be phased by that though and each made our selections.

First Cupcake: Princess? (Chocolate Raspberry)

Jenn and I (Stacy) each choose this cupcake. We aren’t sure what the name is, but we both thought someone said it was called the “Princess” or something like that. But then, when asked about it again, they seemed to not know what the name of it was. Weird. This cupcake was chocolate cake with a raspberry mouse filling, and raspberry butter cream frosting.

As you can see, it’s a very pretty (girlie) cupcake. Jenn and I both love raspberry, so we were really excited about this cupcake but only ended up disappointed. The cupcake itself was cold and dry. We think that it was leftover from the previous day and then refrigerated overnight to serve on Saturday. This is most likely why there were only 3 on the display shelf. The mouse and the raspberry butter cream both had a really good flavor though, but that didn’t save this cupcake unfortunately.

2nd Cupcake: Lemon Mini

Jenn and I are both suckers for Lemon cupcakes, so we each got a Lemon Mini. I haven’t tried mine yet, but Jenn said that it was pretty much the same as the Chocolate Raspberry. Cold frosting, and dry cake. After having the Chocolate Raspberry experience, I decided to take mine home and let it get to room temperature before trying, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to eat it.

3rd Cupcake: Lemon Raspberry

Elisa and Jenn both got this cupcake. It was in the same condition as the Chocolate Raspberry and the Lemon Mini. Jenn said that she actually thinks this one was more dry than the Chocolate Raspberry because there was no filling to even help give the cake some moisture. Elisa says that “the icing was good, but couldn’t save the disaster that was the cake. Good icing can only save so much, I ended up leaving more than half of the cake and a quarter of the icing.”

4th Cupcake: Red Velvet Mini

I’m sure you can guess how this one went… Elisa chose this cupcake and said that not only was it cold and dry but that she could hardly taste any flavor in it. One more cupcake to go… will it get any better?

5th Cupcake: Chocolate/Chocolate

My dad got this cupcake, and he was the lucky one. This one was actually NOT cold. Which is one of the main reasons we think that they refrigerate their leftovers. This might not be so bad if you are just picking up cupcakes “to go” and can then allow them to get to room temperature, but they do have tables and chairs and we weren’t getting them to go. Anyways… The cake on this one was not to dry, it wasn’t the most moist cake we’ve ever had, but it was WAY better than the other selections. At the time, I remember thinking that it was much better than ours, but honestly, compared to the cupcakes we had the rest of the day, it was forgettable.

On a whim, Elisa and I bought a pumpkin bar for everyone to share.

Now THIS was the shocker of the day. After tasting some pretty bad cupcakes, this pumpkin bar was actually REALLY good. It was moist and full of flavor. If the cupcakes had been this good, this place would have been a huge hit.

After having such a bad experience, Jenn’s husband decided to do some research and found that many people have the same complaints. In one complaint a women said she called in on a Thursday to order cakes and cupcakes for that Saturday only to find out that they had already pre-baked all the cakes for that weekend. Yuck.

Overall this place was a letdown. It’s a shame too because it was really cute inside with lots of different baking and cooking knickknacks, fun fall decorations, and a variety of treats. But with the horrible service (Jenn described it as, “No Smiles. No enthusiasm.” which is exactly what it was) and the poor quality of the cupcakes, this is a place that we won’t be coming back to. Luckily this was only the first stop of the day, and we had 4 others places to go and make up for this disappointment.

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