Our Westminster, MD Cupcake Picnic Recap

Sunday’s Westminster Cupcake Picnic was another successful gathering, with help from Joel of Josie’s Confections. More cupcake lovers were able to make it out to the Westminster Community Pond and the cupcakes were plentiful! We scored a great spot under the pavilion, next to the playground, which worked out well for some of our youngest attendants.


(Crusader Elisa, Guest Crusader Beth, and myself hanging out while others arrived.)

Although sitting on blankets at our DC Cupcake Picnic made it really feel like an old-fashion picnic, it was nice to have the tables this time. The breeze felt great sitting in the shade. It couldn’t have been a better day for a picnic!

We were admiring the cupcakes that had already shown up, but holding off digging in. It seemed like it would be more polite to wait until some of the others arrived. But then our little niece Lylah said, “I want a cupcake.” With that, the cupcaking began and didn’t stop, as more people showed up with their picnic contributions.

Cupcakes that were in attendance:
1) Joel brought some of his new Josie’s Confections’ boozy flavors, including Tiramisu with a Kahlua filling. Look out for a full review of Josie’s Confections coming later this week.
2) Josie’s Confections’ Mango Passion Fruit and Rum & Coke.
3) Josie’s Confections’ Ciroc Red Berry Lemonade.
4) Robin and Camille came with homemade marble cupcakes topped with chocolate ganache.
5) Beth brought an assortment from Fresh Bakery. We’ve reviewed Fresh a few times but this was the my first time tasting their Creamsicle and it had the perfect Creamsicle flavor.
6) Rachael brought her homemade Snickers cupcakes, which I also tried at her daughter’s 1st birthday and are always a hit!
7) Crusader Elisa made Honey Grapefruit cupcakes, two ways. One had a grapefruit curd filling and the other had a honey filling. Keep an eye out for a full recipe review soon!
8) I brought these store bought cupcakes that came from Walmart. Flavors included Lemon, Vanilla Bean, and Triple Chocolate. For those curious about how these full-size Walmart cupcakes tasted, I’ll be doing a review next week.
9) Crusaders’ Dad brought Golden Snitch cake pops, extras from a Harry Potter birthday party he hosted the night before. Guest Crusader Beth was very excited to see these there!
10) I think these Pink Lemonade cupcakes also came from Robin and Camille’s group. So many cupcakes, it was hard to keep track! After tasting and complimenting them, I found out that they were made with Pillsbury’s Pink Lemonade cake mix.
11) Another candy bar themed cupcake came from Guest Crusader Kim, who wrote about her first experience making these for her 30th birthday party.
12) Crusader Stacy made Lemon Blueberry cupcakes and jazzed them up for the summer with some fancy decorating. She’ll be featuring these in a post coming soon!


(With so many cupcakes, we learned that there would be a lot of cupcake-exchanging going on. This time the Crusaders provided a “to-go” option for our guests.)

At the last picnic we had a cupcake eating challenge and thought maybe we’d see if anyone wanted to take on “The King” and try to beat his time of 5 cupcakes in 3 minutes and 45 seconds. There was one brave lady, Simone, who stepped up to the plate (or in our case the picnic table…we ran out of plates that could fit all 5 cupcakes).


(Simone with the 5 cupcakes she selected. We admire her courage in taking on The King!)

She attacked those cupcakes with gusto, but in the end Joel gets to keep his reigning title as the real “Cupcake King.” We were very proud of Simone’s attempt and she left with a prize pack as a thank you for participating.


(My cupcake carnage…Those cupcakes didn’t see what was coming to them.)

We hope that everyone had a good time and thank our guests, especially those who drove over an hour from DC and Northern Virginia! It was great to meet other enthusiasts and enjoy the nice day talking about baking, cupcakes, and getting to know one another better. After two great Cupcake Picnics, we are even more excited for our final Baltimore picnic next month and are already getting requests to have a 2013 picnic series! If you are interested in attending the Baltimore Cupcake Picnic, check out more details and RSVP here.

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

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Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes

Crusader Stacy and I knew there was something we needed to take care of soon after arriving at our Florida vacation destination. I know you are thinking, “Get cupcakes!” and you aren’t entirely wrong…However the first thing on our agenda for the week was a girls’ afternoon to get manicures and pedicures. After all, a vacation is about being pampered and our toes deserved some attention for all the time they’d be spending out in the Florida sun, right? I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t thought of getting cupcakes on the way to our appointment, so that we could sit back in the massage chairs savoring a sweet treat. But, we mustered up our patience and enjoyed our sister-time sans cupcakes.

After our nails were beautified we decided it was time to show them off with a walk through Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Fl. The location of Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes couldn’t have been more perfect for us. Only a few miles away from our nail place, and situated in a center of high-end retailers and boutiques, we could enjoy the warm weather and shop a little.

We found Grace & Shelly’s easily and admired their cute store. They have some small tables, cupcake merchandise, and something extra…ice cream! This is becoming more common to see in our Baltimore-DC metro area, however in Florida I imagine it’s great for business, with having “ice-cream-weather” year-round.

It wasn’t easy to pick out flavors because they all looked so good! Their cupcakes are gourmet size, so a little larger than your average cupcake, and adorned with toppings. Lucky for us, they also sell pre-assembled containers of mini cupcakes by the dozen. We picked one out and then made our selection of larger cupcakes based on what was left to try. In the end, we were able to sample 13 flavors!

The standouts for us were the Chocolate Raspberry, Caramel Brown Sugar, and Tiramisu. Some of the cupcakes were on the sweet side, even for us, but what you can expect from all Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes is moist cake and creative and flavorful combinations.

Chocolate Raspberry:

Chocolate Raspberry has become my go-to for a decadent chocolate treat. Typically paired with a dark chocolate ganache and raspberry filling, it’s rich and makes me believe that nothing could ever be a more perfect combination. Grace & Shelly’s version of this treat is no different. The raspberry to chocolate ratio was perfectly balanced and Stacy and I weren’t willing to share with anyone else!

Caramel Brown Sugar:

We contemplated getting the Caramel Brown Sugar cupcake in a full-size, but opted not to, since our sample pack included two. After trying our small bite, we wish we had a larger one! The cake was so good and the frosting was buttery, a prefect complement to the caramel drizzle. Crusader Elisa would have loved it!

Tiramisu:

Crusader Stacy called dibs on this mini and, like the Caramel Brown Sugar, was wishing she had more. So was I, since I didn’t get to try it! But, as Stacy described it, it was, “Delicious. The espresso liquor made the cake a little squishy, but it didn’t matter because it was so good. And sometimes that can happen with tiramisu.” We both believe that the full-size cupcake would have stood up better to the espresso liquor drizzled on the cake and are waiting for when we have the opportunity to try it again!

Although these three were our favorites, we wouldn’t want to leave out the other cupcakes we tasted:

1) Chocolate Peanut Butter: Chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache frosting.

2) Grasshopper: Chocolate Oreo cake with mint frosting and chocolate chips. This cupcake was a contender for our top three!

3) Butterfinger: Vanilla cake with a peanut butter filling, cream cheese frosting, and topped with crushed butterfinger bars.

4) Vanilla-Vanilla: Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, topped with colorful sprinkles. We loved the decoration on this mini, and the full-size looked the same!

5) Orange Coconut: Orange cake with a cream cheese frosting, topped with toasted coconut.

6) Vanilla Strawberry: Vanilla cake with strawberry buttercream frosting, topped with a vanilla cookie. My husband really liked this cupcake and said it was as good as his favorite Maryland bakery.

7) Chocolate-Chocolate: Chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with sprinkles. Crusader Stacy’s husband would have liked this cupcake better if it had a chocolate ganache frosting instead of a chocolate buttercream, but for the chocolate lovers out there, Grace & Shelly’s does offer a triple chocolate cupcake with that combination and a chocolate filling!

8) Red Velvet: Red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting. Littlest Crusader Leah (aka: my daughter) really enjoyed this cupcake, including the sweet cream cheese frosting, although we believe it may have been too sweet for Crusader Elisa, our red velvet connoisseur.

9) Black and White: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped generously with sprinkles. Although not really black and white due to the vibrant frosting and sprinkles, it was fun!

10) Chocolate Coconut: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped with shaved coconut.

Not only are the cupcakes from Grace & Shelly’s memorable, so was the service. A nice man explained all the flavors to us, offered suggestions, spoke about the other locations when he found out we were vacationers, and once we completed our purchase, he walked our bag around the counter to hand it to us (a lost art in fine customer service). His enthusiasm about the product was obvious and contagious. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Grace & Shelly’s to my Florida family, or anyone else vacationing in the Fort Myers area!

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

Old Mill Bakery Café: Not Just a Typical Bakery

Over the past month the Crusaders have been working hard to prepare for another series which was supposed to be featured on another blog. Unfortunately, this fell through, so instead, we will be featuring this series on our own blog next month. This series will highlight our Top 5 favorite places outside of Baltimore City (but still within a short driving distance). This means we have eaten A LOT of cupcakes. So, for February, we decided to share some of the new spots we’ve visit, but you’ll have to wait until March to see our final Top 5 picks. 🙂

One of our many cupcake outings this month led us to Old Mill Bakery Café in downtown historic Ellicott City. Guest Crusader, Beth, recently shared cupcakes of hers from this location, but we decided to check it out for ourselves.

When we walked in we were surprised to find out that this isn’t your normal bakery. It is a bakery, a coffee shop, and a gift shop all wrapped up into one whimsical place. We browsed the large merchandize table as we waited in line, drooling over the plates, mugs, wall hangings, and more that featured cupcakes.

After we reached the front of the line we asked about the cupcake options for the day. They didn’t have any flavors posted, and clearly cupcakes aren’t their main thing. The nice woman told us our options and we settled on three flavors: Red Velvet, Chocolate with Vanilla frosting, and Butterfinger.

Red Velvet

The cake in this cupcake was airy and moist. Crusader Jenn said that it was the best Red Velvet she has ever had. However, the competition was a little tougher for our Red Velvet Crusader, Elisa. She really did like it but felt that the cream cheese frosting was a little too sweet, but luckily still maintained a nice cream cheese flavor. We all thought the shaved chocolate on top was a nice touch.

Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting

This cupcake shocked us by tasting much more like a Cookies and Cream cupcake. A really good Cookies and Cream cupcake! The vanilla frosting tasted just like the center cream of an Oreo cookie. The chocolate cake was light and flavorful, but a little crumbly. That didn’t stop this from being a very tasty cupcake though.

Butterfinger

This cupcake was the clear winner of the three. Even though the cake was a little dry, the flavor and aroma was unbelievably wonderful! It was packed with so much Butterfinger flavor that it is definitely up there as one of our favorite flavors. The half of a mini Butterfinger on top finished the whole thing off nicely.

Our overall experience with Old Mill Bakery Café was definitely a good one. Since we were on a time crunch that day we didn’t have a chance to sit and enjoy our cupcakes with a nice coffee or a cup of tea, but I look forward to returning to do just that. Historic Ellicott City is one of our favorite places to walk along the main street and browse the boutiques and antique stores. Old Mill Bakery Café will certainly be added to our “must do” list when we are there next.

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

Guest Post: Kim’s 30th Birthday Cupcakes

Today we are sharing our 2nd guest review from our friend Kim! Last weekend she celebrated her 30th birthday and took on the task of baking and decorating 4 different flavors of cupcakes. Below she talks about her experience. Happy Birthday Kim!

For my 30th birthday my husband, Jesse, threw me a party. He asked me if I wanted a cake or cupcakes. I just looked at him, waited and minute and said, “Really?” with a little smirk. He replied, “Yea, that’s what I thought.” So the next step was to figure out where would we get the cupcakes?

After discussing places like Caroline’s Cupcakes (prior to hearing they were closing), IcedGems, and a couple of others, I suggested that I could make them. For Christmas, Jesse had gotten me a wonderful cupcake cook book – Betty Crocker Big Book of Cupcakes – and I thought this may be a more cost effective alternative. This way I could also choose flavors I wanted and make as many or few as I wanted, with no ordering restrictions. Besides, I used to love baking.

What I really like about this book is that it gives you recipes to make the basic cupcake flavors from scratch, or on most pages they give you the option to “use a cake mix”. I spent an evening looking through the book and choosing a few different flavors. I settled on four different ones: The Snickerdoodle (page 60), Banana-Chocolate Chip (page 72), Mini Candy Bar (the non-name brand for Butterfinger) (page 106), and the one I was most looking forward to, Mini Raspberry-Filled Chocolate cupcakes (page 110). However with the last two, I decided I was going to make them regular sized instead of minis.

So the day before the party I set most of the day aside just to bake. I decided to ask my brother to come and help because I was making so many (and sadly, unlike on Cupcake Wars, Betty doesn’t provide four assistants!) I would use the boxed cake batters, as well as some pre-made icings.

The first batter we made was the Snickerdoodle. It was easy enough, and just required a couple additions to a white cake box batter, like adding cinnamon and adjusting the ingredients. Then we made the Candy Bar batter, which was simply adding in some crushed up Butterfinger candy bar pieces to a white batter mix. Next up was the Banana-Chocolate Chip, again merely adding chocolate chips and smooshed ripened bananas. And finally the Raspberry Chocolate. For this I guess I didn’t read the “use a cake mix” box properly. It said I needed a chocolate batter with pudding. However I got a Devil’s Food batter and a box of pudding. Luckily my brother was here, and he finagled it so it worked out. After almost a full day of baking I decided to hold off and do the frosting the next morning.

The next morning, before the party, I got a jump on making a couple of the frostings and decorating all the finished cupcakes – we made about two dozen of each flavor.

The first one was the Snicker doodle. This was pretty simple – the recipe was almost exactly like icing I make on my own, except with different measurements and the addition of cinnamon. They turned out great. The decorating was simply the combination of cinnamon and sugar.

Next I made the chocolate icing for the Candy Bar cupcakes. This was just like my normal icing recipe, except adjusting some measurements. The only thing the decorations called for were more crushed Butterfinger pieces.

For the Banana-chocolate Chip I used a can of Chocolate icing, and decorated them with Banana Runts candies and a couple of chocolate chips.

Finally the Raspberry-filled Chocolate cupcakes: These were a bit more work. I scooped the centers out, filled them with some raspberry jam that I made sure wasn’t lumpy. Then pureed some thawed, frozen raspberries, and mixed it with some Whipped Vanilla icing. It was a little runnier that I had expected, but it still turned out nice. For the decorations, I placed a raspberry gummy candy on top.

All in all, they turned out great, and were a HUGE hit at the party.  I even got a few people telling me they were going to pay me to make some for their own parties!

Since I did all this hard work for my party, on my actual birthday (which was Superbowl Sunday), I was treated to a Chocolate Raspberry cupcake from IcedGems Baking. Yummy!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Kim (Maryland)

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)