Oh, What a Cake!

Over the past month the Crusaders have been working hard to prepare for a series, which will be featured on our blog next month. Going along with our “Top 5 in Baltimore City,” featured on kimberlyloc.com last November, this series will be 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.

While we were visiting a few bakeries in the Columbia area, we made a stop at Oh, What a Cake. Although it seems like they are mostly known for their custom cakes, they do sell some baked goods at their storefront, including cupcakes. The selection was fairly simple with vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, lemon, almond and maybe a couple of others. I decided that I didn’t want to go overboard, since this was going to be a big cupcake day for us. My cupcake selections only included the almond and lemon. Stacy also purchased the almond cupcake and Elisa got the red velvet. I also decided to try the red velvet cake pop.


(Top left to right: Almond & Lemon cupcakes. Bottom left to right: Red Velvet cupcake & Red Velvet cake pop.)

Our review for each cupcake is pretty much the same. They are good, but not great. We didn’t find any flavors or qualities that stood out and made us think, “Wow!” The cake was moist and light, with a texture similar to what can be achieved with a box mix. Unfortunately the flavors were the same.

The real star of this trip was definitely the cake pop. It was very moist and rich, almost truffle-like. This made me wish I’d gotten the two other cake pop flavors, vanilla and chocolate.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been disappointed with a bakery whose main purpose is for wedding and custom cakes. If you are looking for a cake, the reviews are fantastic, so I wouldn’t pass them up. However, if you are looking for cupcakes that make you say, “Oh, what a CUPCAKE!” I would suggest skipping them.

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

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National Carrot Cake Day – February 3rd

There seem to be a lot of strange daily food holidays out there, but we don’t mind, they just make life a little more interesting. Several websites claim that tomorrow, February 3rd, is National Carrot Cake Day, so we wanted to share several of our past Carrot Cake experiences. Don’t forget to indulge in celebration!

Woodlea Bakery – Bel Air, MD (Crusader Elisa)

Spicy and sweet, this little mini cupcake packed a punch. The cake was too dry for my liking, and the icing was creamy and a great consistency, but sweeter than I like my cream cheese icing. Overall, being a carrot cake fan, this wasn’t my favorite and wouldn’t be one I would order again. It just seemed like it was missing something. Was it nutmeg? Was it allspice? Was it carrot pieces? Sadly, I just can’t put my finger on that missing ingredient.

(Read full Woodlea Bakery review here.)

Starbucks – Annapolis, MD (Crusader Jenn)

Carrot cake is usually one of my favorite cake flavors. I love a spiced cake that you can get all year round. However there was nothing memorable about this cupcake. Despite my lack of enthusiasm over these mini cupcakes, I still love Starbucks. They specialize in coffee and don’t pretend to be a bakery. I appreciate that they offer fun sweet options, including bite-size minis, to accompany their beverages, should their guest like to indulge a bit more.

(Read full Starbucks Cupcake review here.)

Sweet Sixteen Cafe – Lockport, NY (Guest Crusader Alli & Crusader Stacy)

This cake pop was unlike any we have seen. Rather than being ball-shaped it was rectangular as if it had been cubed from a whole cake and then dipped in chocolate. Inside, the cake pop had two layers of frosting sandwiched in between three layers of cake. It was stunning! This classic carrot cake, with rich cream cheese icing dipped in white chocolate, was moist and flavorful. It was delicious!

(Read full Sweet Sixteen Cafe review here.)

Sweet Bakery (Now Closed) – Baltimore, MD (Crusader Stacy and Crusader Elisa)

Unfortunately this cupcake was a bit of a disappointment. This is shocking because Sweet Bakery was one of our favorite places to get cupcakes. The first big problem was the frosting. I’m a fan of cream cheese frosting with my carrot cake. And their cream cheese frosting was so good that it was a shame they didn’t put it on this one. Another big problem was that the cake was super chunky and really dry. While I like a lot of “stuff” in my carrot cake, this was just extreme. Luckily Sweet Bakery had so many other amazing cupcakes that they will always be one of our favorite bakeries.

(Read full Sweet Bakery review from “Cupcaked Out” here.)

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

Will Flavor Cupcakery “Win” the Crusaders Vote?

Several months ago, prior to their appearance (and win) on Cupcake Wars, a couple of friends told the Crusaders about Flavor Cupcakery, located north of Baltimore City in Bel Air, Maryland. We were unable to make it to their storefront location before the show aired, but after their success, we knew we had to check them out. So, last Saturday, Crusader Elisa, some good friends and I met for brunch followed by cupcakes at Flavor. The day was warm for January and brunch was great, it was a perfect way to start the day!


(Flavor’s shop located at 118 North Tollgate Road  Bel Air, MD 21014)

When we arrived at Flavor there were a few customers ahead of us, which was great as we could shop the fun merchandise and make our cupcake selections.


(They had some great t-shirts! See the peach “LOVE” shirt at the top right? That shirt belongs to me now.)

The staff were amazingly friendly. Patient, full of smiles and willing to answer all our questions. They couldn’t have been a better fit in the adorable cupcake shop.

We all decided to have a cupcake there and then take a bunch home. They didn’t have any seating inside, but they did have a small table and a bench outside. Since the weather was so beautiful, we took the chance to enjoy it.

I decided that I would have the Cupcake Wars flavor, Modern Fruit Cake, first.

I was so intrigued by this flavor and didn’t know what to expect. The rum vanilla bean frosting was not too sweet and very creamy, like butter. The five spice vanilla cake was very dense, but still moist and had a great flavor which the spices really came through. While the frosting and cake already formed a great cupcake, the filling is really what made it stand out.

The filling was full of raisins, cherries and walnuts and had a great gooey texture. Overall this cupcake had so many different levels of textures and flavors that all worked cohesively. It was the only Cupcake Wars cupcake they had that day, but I would love to see what their other ones taste like. It’s amazing to me that this cupcake was thought up in minutes, not weeks.

While we were there, Elisa decided to have the Snickerdoodle one she bought.

Here are her thoughts on this cupcake: “This cupcake really spoke cinnamon to me! The cake was teaming with cinnamon and the butter cream icing swirled with it as well. You might be thinking, that’s too much cinnamon, but the flavor was spot on! Not over powering at all! The moist cake complimented the buttery icing, creating a smooth, not-too-sweet cupcake that I could eat over and over again. On top of tasting great, this cupcake was beautiful in color and texture.”

So far, we were two for two! Our two friends decided to eat the S’mores cupcake they selected. It consisted of a graham cracker pie crust, chocolate cake, and a marshmallow frosting.

Elisa also got this cupcake and tried it later, at home. She said, “The shocking part of this cupcake was when all three components were eaten together it completely tasted like a smore, but when eaten apart, I couldn’t taste the marshmallow flavor in the icing. That minor detail didn’t matter, because together the buttery graham cracker pie crust, moist chocolate cake, and buttery sneakily marshmallow flavor, created one rich and whimsical cupcake.”

All in all, we left there very happy and with many cupcakes to indulge in later. I also left with a dozen cake truffles since my husband and I were having company over that night. But I’ll post more on those later. For now, we’ll get back to the cupcakes.

Crusader Jenn was coming to my house the next day and really wanted to try these cupcakes too, so I saved the remaining five (of my initial half a dozen) so we could enjoy together.

We started with the Peanut Butter Chocolate.

The dome of peanut butter frosting really had us excited. It was a little less “frosting-like” and a little more peanut buttery, but still was a very satisfying peanut butter mixture. Unfortunately the chocolate cake was crumbly and dry. We were super bummed about this and hesitant to move on to the next cupcake, a Double Chocolate cupcake with chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting.

As we suspected, the cake was also dry and crumbly, but the frosting was amazing! I’m a big fan of dark chocolate and this frosting hit the mark. If the cake had been more rich and moist this cupcake would have been a big winner.

We still had 3 cupcakes to go, so we decided to go with the last cupcake that contained chocolate cake: The Salted Caramel.

Surprisingly, the cake wasn’t dry and the smooth salted caramel frosting was UNBELIEVABLE! This is easily the best salted caramel frosting I’ve ever tasted. It was just the right blend of sweet and savory. The saltiness didn’t over power the caramel and likewise, the caramel didn’t overpower the saltiness. It was a perfect combination. I was so glad I decided to get this one!

With only two left to go, I decided to give the Vanilla a try. If you’ve been reading recently, you’ll know that lately I’ve been really into Vanilla. I used to think it was boring, but I’ve had some cupcakes that had great vanilla flavor and have decided that, when done correctly, it’s a tasty classic.

Unfortunately this Vanilla didn’t do it for me. The cake was moist and the frosting was creamy, but it lacked the punch of vanilla flavor that I was looking for. So, not a total disappointment, just not the best I’ve had.

With that, it was time for the last cupcake, the Mixed Berry one.

This cupcake is vanilla cake, with a raspberry filling and a strawberry frosting. Normally, I’m not a fan of strawberry frostings, but this cupcake was AMAZING. It was definitely my favorite of the bunch. On its own, the frosting was really sweet, but with the mild vanilla cake and the tart raspberry filling, it all worked so well together.

The filling was the biggest surprise. The way it was so evenly distributed in the cupcake was really nice. It ensured that with every bite you got the raspberry and strawberry flavors mixed together. I would drive the half hour to have another bite of this cupcake. It was so good!

As I mentioned above, I also got some cake truffles for “game night” at my house. They had three flavors in the shop, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Funfetti, and Double Chocolate, so I requested a mixture of them.

The first I tried, before everyone arrived, was the Salted Caramel. Like the cupcake, it was a great blend of salty and sweet. Later that night I sampled the Chocolate Funfetti which was dipped in white chocolate. This little cake truffle was packed with rich chocolatey sweetness. After just one, a tall glass of milk would have been wonderful. I didn’t try the Double Chocolate until the next day and strangely, something seemed “off” about it. We aren’t sure what it was, but there were three of us tasting it and we all couldn’t quite place it.

Overall, I was really happy with my Flavor experience. There may have been some things that weren’t my favorite, but the treats that were good, were really good.

I’m so happy that our Maryland cupcakeries are getting so much recognition on a show like Cupcake Wars. One day, I hope to visit all the Maryland locations that have competed.

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

Kupcakes with Santa

It’s not every day that you get to eat cupcakes, make ornaments, have your photo taken with Santa and help give back to the community. But Kupcakes & Co. made that happen for kids and adults last Saturday. They organized and hosted an event called Kupcakes with Santa and 100% of the proceed went to Howard General Hospital Pediatrics. This little family owned shop – that has only been open for about 5 months – had a line out the door all day and ended up raising $2,500 to donate to the hospital. If you go to their website you can read the wonderful story about their business, but really, you should go there to experience their warmth and friendliness first hand.

The Cupcake Crusaders have been wanting to visit their storefront for quite some time, but it was really the youngest Crusader who finally got us there. Since it’s Jenn’s daughter, Leah’s, first Christmas she couldn’t pass up a chance to meet Santa, even if she’s still too young to indulge in cupcakes with us. The adult Crusaders were excited to finally taste Kupcake & Co.’s sweet treats. Combine that with Santa photos and a good cause? We are there.


(Who says your ever too old to take a picture with Santa? From left to right: me (Stacy); Guest Crusader – Beth Lacey; Santa (duh); Elisa; and Jenn)

As soon as we arrived there were a ton of people and excitement in the air. The line was quite long, but as we waited we were asked what cupcakes we would like and told they would be ready for us at the register. Sure enough, they were. After putting them in the car we heading back in for some crafts and Santa.


(The shop was decked out in holiday decor, including a small tree with this hand painted ornament with their logo!)

While there, the owner of Kupcakes & Co., Michelle, took a minute to speak with us and get to know us a little. She was so sweet and told us how it was always her goal, from the beginning, to give back to the community. Not only do they do events like these, but every week they freeze cupcakes that are left over at the end of the day and donate them to homeless shelters.

Crusader Jenn and her husband ate two cupcakes from their box of a dozen while we were there, so they already knew how good they were, but even though Elisa and I still hadn’t tried ours we left the shop that day already madly in love with Kupcakes & Co.

We ended up getting a ton of different flavors between the 3 of us, but for today’s post, since it is the holiday season, we are going to focus on the following holiday flavors: Candy Cane, Gingerbread Latte (cupcake and cake pop), Hot Chocolate, Egg Nog and Snickerdoodle (since it’s a “cookie” flavor, and this is the season of cookies, I’m counting it as a holiday flavor).

Candy Cane

This adorable cupcake tasted just like a holiday candy cane! It was a mint explosion, but in a light refreshing way. The cake was moist, soft, and very flavorful. While it had little red dots throughout it, the cake mostly tasted like delicious yellow/vanilla cake. The icing was divinely smooth and scrumptiously peppermint! Together, it was the perfect holiday cupcake and the teeny tiny candy canes on top we a nice change from the normal peppermint pieces that adorn peppermint cupcakes.

Gingerbread Latte

This cupcake is pure heaven! We loved the TRUE ginger flavor and the spiciness of the very moist and perfectly textured cake! The cream cheese icing was smooth, creamy, sweet, and savory! The bite of the ginger with the creaminess of the icing really created a perfectly balanced cupcake. It was so good that Elisa said she savored every bite and would make a trip down to Elkridge just to get one!

Gingerbread Latte Cake Pop

Like the cupcake, this Gingerbread Cake Pop had that true ginger taste and spiciness. It was a perfect compliment to the sweet white chocolate that surrounded it. This bite size treat went perfect with a small glass of milk. I think that Santa would love some of these left by the tree on Christmas Eve instead of cookies (he gets plenty of those)!

Hot Chocolate

This was a big crowd pleaser and it was Jenn’s favorite of all the cupcakes she tried. We both agreed that is was the perfect hot chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cake was moist and rich, and the marshmallow frosting was fluffy and light. We later found out that the frosting is a combination between marshmallow fluff and a meringue. (What a clever combination that works so well with this flavor!) Elisa and I shared one, but I think we both secretly wished we had one of our own.

Egg Nog

This cupcake flavor is one that I’ve been pining for all season. It was made with both an egg nog frosting and egg nog flavored cake. Despite flavor in both it’s not overpowering, but it makes sure that you taste egg nog in every bite. It is sweet though, so make sure to keep the glass of milk nearby!

Snickerdoodle

I was the only one to get this flavor. The other girls sure did miss out! While it wasn’t my favorite of the bunch (I think the Hot Chocolate and Egg Nog won that fight), it was still so good. Full on cinnamon flavor that reminded me of the actual cookie. The addition of the sweet cinnamon frosting was a great compliment to the soft cake.

Overall, I think we can all agree that Kupcakes & Co. has taken a spot on our favorites list. The cupcakes are on the large side (but no so large you can’t enjoy all to yourself in one sitting) and only $2.50 each. They bake fresh daily, so you never have to worry about day-old cupcakes. The whole day was a wonderful and we are all looking forward to our next visit there.

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

Cake Pops: Cousin to the cupcake

Recently I “ran into” three cake pops that I couldn’t pass up. The first two were from Whole Foods in Mt. Washington. I was going in hoping for cupcakes because I’ve read before that they are decent. Unfortunately, there were no cupcakes but they did have cake pops (so not a total waste of a time).

They had three flavor options: white chocolate, dark chocolate, and pistachio. Neither my hubby or I are huge white chocolate fans, so I left with a dark chocolate and a pistachio for about $2 each (I think).

We started with the pistachio. Lately, my hubby and I have been snacking on pistachios so we were both really excited, only be be let down. The pistachios on the outside were soft and chewy, and there really wasn’t much flavor present. Bummer. But we moved on to the next one.

The dark chocolate was melt in your mouth amazing. It was super rich and chocolatey, so much so I grabbed a glass of milk. We were both wishing we didn’t have to share this tiny morsel of a treat. Even though my local Whole Foods doesn’t seem to carry cupcakes, I’ll definitely be going back for their dark chocolate cake pops.

Shorty after that, I strolled into Starbucks for my expensive coffee fix (it’s a special treat for me). I’ve tried their standard cake pops before (see here and here), but on this particular visit, they had a seasonal flavor: peppermint brownie. I figured, why not?

With my holiday red cup in one hand and my cake pop in the other, I headed home. I love the look of this cake pop. White with red flecks scream “winter holiday” and it stays true to Starbuck’s red and white holiday branding.

I have to admit though, I was a bit disappointed. I’m not sure exactly why, but overall it just didn’t excite me. I did enjoy the combination of textures though, with the soft cake, fudgey coating, and crunchy sugar crystals. I think that was definitely the best thing this cake pop had to offer. Guess I’ll have to stick with their tiramisu and rocky road flavors.

Even if I’ve had some recent hit or miss experiences with cake pops, I think they are a fabulous addition to the “tiny treat” family. I’m visiting a cupcake shop this weekend that often carries cake pops, so I’m really hoping they’ll have them. I know that the quality of a grocery store and a coffee chain won’t come close to that of a family run cupcakery. I can’t wait!

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

Guest Post: Cake Pops | Sweet Sixteen Cafe | Lockport, NY

We are excited to share our first guest post by Alli from Creative Exurbia. Alli is a fantastic graphic designer and a close friend of the Crusaders. When Crusader Stacy was returning from Ontario her and her hubby dropped by Alli’s house in upstate New York for a brief visit and Alli had a nice little treat waiting for them.

When you find out your friend Stacy (aka Cupcake Crusader Stacy) is coming to town, you plan to have cupcakes.

Period.

About a month before she and her husband were to stop by my place here in the exurbs I was lucky enough to stumble upon a Groupon for  Sweet Sixteen Cafe. The café is located in Lockport, NY — only 25 miles from me — and I had yet to pay them a visit. This was the perfect opportunity!

The Groupon was for six of their award winning cake pops. My mouth watered while reading their menu and because I wanted to be able to taste a variety of flavors, I called the shop beforehand to place an order. I learned that special orders start at a minimum of 50 and that it would be best to just stop in.

So the day before Stacy’s arrival, I headed to Lockport. I was pleased to see that Sweet Sixteen Cafe was a nice looking establishment. I was greeted with a clean, eye catching logo, cute interior, a wall of gift items for sale, an extremely friendly staff and ALL six flavors of cake pops listed on their chalkboard. Hurray!

Come to find out, the baker was coming in that afternoon and they had only seven cake pops in just three of the flavors remaining. Grr. I took what they had left and hoped for them that no other Groupon-holding customer would arrive after me! I was told that I was getting one red velvet, one Nutella, and four pumpkin spice flavored cake pops.

They handed me a beautiful box along with a mini red velvet cupcake. (The mini cupcake was a treat to go alongside my light lunch. It is a bakery and a café after all!) The mini-cake was one bite of perfectly melded flavors.


(Cake pops to go, and a small treat while there. Photo Courtesy Alli from Creative Exurbia)

The cake pops were unlike any we had seen. Rather than being ball-shaped they were rectangular as if they’d been cubed from a whole cake and then dipped in chocolate. Each pop had two layers of frosting sandwiched in between three layers of cake. They were stunning!


(Photo Courtesy Alli from Creative Exurbia)

We started with “pumpkin spice” since we had the most of this flavor. The cake was moist and flavorful, but wait. What flavor? Unmistakably, a classic carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing dipped in white chocolate. I was more shocked than disappointed that the staff member didn’t know the flavor she served. However, it was delicious and we had no problem eating all of them.


(Pumpkin Spice (AKA: Carrot Cake) from Sweet Sixteen Cafe.)

Next up was “Nutella” (or so I was told). Stacy took one look at this cake and knew it wasn’t Nutella. After all, Nutella is a hazelnut spread and this cake pop was adorned with chopped peanuts, not hazelnuts. Hmm. Two for two the staff member incorrectly identified their cakes. Now I was disappointed. As it turns out we were tasting the chocolate peanut butter dipped in dark chocolate. This was, however, our favorite flavor of the day. Peanut butter cream in between dark chocolate cake dipped in chocolate on a stick. Need I say more?


(Nutella (AKA: Chocolate Peanut Butter) from Sweet Sixteen Cafe.)

Our final cake pop was, in fact, red velvet. Unfortunately, neither of us were impressed with this one. The menu promised a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, but it tasted more like a basic buttercream. Also, the cake was much too wet and dense. Meh. We had one bite and tossed the rest.


(Red Velvet from Sweet Sixteen Cafe. Photo Courtesy Alli from Creative Exurbia)

Despite the numerous mishaps, the cake pops from Sweet Sixteen Café were quite beautiful and fun to eat. I’ll definitely be returning to taste some of their other offerings such as snickerdoodle and root beer float, that is, if they can serve the correct flavor next time.

– Review by Guest Crusader, Alli (Lyndonville, NY). To find out more about Alli and Creative Exurbia visit www.creative-exurbia.com.

Sorta related to Cupcakes.

In my opinion, there are several things in the “cupcake family.” Included in this list are cakepops, cakeballs, donuts, muffins, you get my point…If it is sweet and a single serving, then I think it can be discussed on this blog. Well, I guess since it’s my blog I can discuss anything I want, but back to my story:

So, this weekend I started a small, casual search for Starbucks’ Birthday Cake Cakepop. I heard that it was amazing from a friend, and after trying the Tiramisu flavor a while back, I decided that I had to try this one also. My search began on Friday night when I decided to stop into a local Starbucks while picking up dinner. Well, to my suprise, not only did they not have any of the Birthday Cake Cakepops left, they didn’t have any cakepops left at all. So, instead I got:

You may have guessed, it’s the Birthday Cake Mini Doughnut. I have to admit, I love doughnuts, so I was fairly excited about this, but to my disappointment it was bland and didn’t have much flavor at all. Of course that didn’t stop me from finishing it.

So, my search continued… On Sunday, during the trip home from visiting my Grandmother who recently had her hip replaced, my big sister and I decided that a Starbucks trip was necessary. We were about an hour from home and I was convinced that Sunday would be the day I could try the Birthday Cake Cakepop. But no. They had the Tiramisu and the Rocky Road:

So, since I had already tried the Tiramisu I went with the Rocky Road. Thankfully the Rocky Road was actually very delicious. I still think I liked the Tiramisu better, but at least it was much better than the mini doughnut. I can only imagine how good this Birthday Cake Cakepop must be since it’s been sold out the past two times I’ve been to Starbucks. So, the search continues…

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