A Baking Adventure: Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles

The title is a little deceiving, since I didn’t actually have to bake anything for this recipe… But it did use baked goods, and it was definitely a kitchen adventure!

I had some frozen chocolate cake that I’d been wanting to use for cake balls, so as autumn hit the air and I was sitting at home one day wishing I had a seasonal treat, I came up with this recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles:

Ingredients:
– Baked chocolate cake
– Canned pumpkin
– Pumpkin Pie Spice
– Cream cheese frosting (I used canned)
– Chocolate of choice (I used semi-sweet chips)
– Crushed walnuts (Optional)

I just happened to have all this laying around, so my on-a-whim experiment commenced. I crumbled up the cake in a large mixing bowl, added in a dollop of canned pumpkin and a dollop of frosting, and then sprinkled in some pumpkin pie spice to taste. I found the best way to mix it was with my hands, so get in there and get messy. The key to cake balls is the texture. I failed, hence the title “truffle” instead of “cake ball.” I added in a bit too much wet ingredients so they were a little too moist for a cake ball.

Once everything was mixed up well, I rolled the cake balls and set them aside in the refrigerator. A couple of hours later I returned, with my chocolate melted and ready to dip the truffles. I read that it’s best to freeze these for about 15-20 minutes before dipping in chocolate; however, thinking that they’d been in the fridge for so long anyway, I didn’t do that. Listen to the cake ball experts people! Freeze them first. It helps keep the cake together when you dip, making less of a mess.

The chocolate came out thicker than I wanted and not as “pretty.” I’m not sure if this is an experience thing or because of the chocolate I used. I tried a couple of different techniques, including one recommendation to break off the center prongs of a plastic fork, just leaving the outer prongs to create a tool that helps excess chocolate drip off. Thick chocolate aside, I topped my truffles two different ways: crushed walnuts and pumpkin pie spice. Another tip I learned: when you are sprinkling chocolate with spice, wait until after the chocolate has hardened. Otherwise, it just melts and you can’t see it.

All in all, I’m happy with how these turned out. The taste was great, but the texture was a little weird when eaten at room temperature. Since I was worried about the pumpkin filling, I kept them refrigerated anyways, so it wasn’t much of a problem. In retrospect, I probably could have eliminated the canned pumpkin and just relied on the pumpkin pie spice for the flavor I was looking for. As with most of my adventures, I learned a lot and can see myself making cake balls/truffles again!

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

Baltimore Cupcake Trucks: IcedGems Baking & Cupcake Runners

Most Baltimore City residents are familiar with the food truck rally, called The Gathering, which takes place just about every Friday night at various spots throughout the city. This gathering gives those who aren’t able to visit each truck during the middle of the week a chance to come out and eat some great food from any vendor they choose. Some of the most popular food trucks, like Miss Shirley’s, the Gypsy Queen, and Kooper’s Chowound Burger Wagon are often (if not always) present at these frequent meet ups. Of course they wouldn’t be complete without our city’s cupcake trucks, IcedGems Baking and Cupcake Runners.

We have reviewed IcedGems Baking many times before. Every week they are out and about stopping at the city’s various neighborhoods, so everyone gets a chance to indulge in a special treat at least once a week should they choose to do so. Even with their busy schedule and a storefront in Reisterstown, you can always count on them to be at the Gathering.

Cupcake Runners are a bit more difficult to track down and they aren’t able to make it out to every Gathering, but finally, on one very rainy night, I found myself standing at the side of their truck ready to place my order. Their selection was fairly limited, not at all like the list of fifteen or more flavors that IcedGems typically has, but they were incredible friendly and I happily walked away with a Classic Vanilla cupcake and a Lemon cupcake.

Unfortunately both cupcakes didn’t make it home in perfect condition… I think the combination of the bag, the soft frosting, and trying to manage an umbrella in the pouring rain was just too much working against the little sweet treats.

The first of the two, the Vanilla, actually made it out okay:

This was an old school cupcake with no frills or bells and whistles. It was moist and light, with a subtle, but present, vanilla flavor.

The Lemon was very much the same (minus the tragic looking frosting):

It had really great lemon flavor, but was also just a simple classic cupcake. While I really enjoy all the interesting and unique flavor combinations bakers are creating with cupcakes, it is nice to just get back to basics sometimes. Cupcake Runners has proven that they can make a good cupcake. I recently saw that they also have some new “happy hour” cupcakes they are selling, but the last Gathering they attended was rained out. Hopefully I’ll be able to track them down again and sample their more elaborate flavors as well.

That same night, I also decided to stop by the IcedGems truck to try a new flavor I saw them post to their Facebook page: Neapolitan.

Like the traditional ice cream flavor, this Neapolitan cupcake is a blend of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. As a kid I would always opt for just the vanilla and chocolate portion of this mixture, but have grown to love the combination of all three flavors as an adult. This cupcake did not disappoint. Each flavor presented itself well, from the marbled vanilla and chocolate cake, to the sweet strawberry frosting.

That night I only chose that one flavor from IcedGems Baking, but a little while later my co-workers and I were surprised with half a dozen IcedGems cupcakes from our boss!

There was a great variety of flavors like Lemon Raspberry, Strawberry Cheesecake, Peaches N Cream, Victoria (vanilla with strawberry jam), French Toast, and Chocolate Raspberry. Luckily my co-workers share my same thoughts on sharing (you get to try more flavors that way), so we started cutting cupcakes up and every one could take pieces of which ever they wanted to try. That day I finally tried the Strawberry Cheesecake (it had been on my “must try” list for quite some time…), the Lemon Raspberry, the Peaches N Cream, and the French Toast.

The Strawberry Cheesecake was exactly what I was hoping it would be. The rich “cheese cake” frosting was smooth and wonderful, and the strawberry filling complemented the savoriness of the frosting to create a well balanced treat.

The French Toast was another stand out to me. This is one of Crusader Elisa’s favorites, which she reviewed here, and now I know why. She best described it as “maple/cinnamon/cake heaven.” I’m so glad I could finally experience it for myself.

IcedGems also included a Chocolate Salted Caramel cake truffle which contained the perfect salty and sweet balance to create a to-die-for bite-sized morsel.

The food truck craze  seems to be making its way slowly to all the major cities in the US, and I am very happy to say that we have two great cupcake trucks that are a part of this growing industry.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit one, or both, of these cupcake trucks, you can look them up on their Facebook pages (here and here) to find out where their next stop will be.

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

Easter with IcedGems!

Easter is a holiday I look forward to all year, not only is it an important religious day to me, it also boasts time with family and friends, fantastic food, and chocolate bunnies. This year, like always, I headed down to my parents’ house to spend some time with them and of course I could not come empty handed – so I brought some Easter cupcakes from IcedGems with me to share!

A while ago Healthy Crusader Rebecca told me she was going to order some cupcakes for her Easter celebration and had ordered some for me too! When she went to pick up her order of regular and mini cupcakes, she also received FREE egg-shaped cake truffles! Luckily Rebecca shared the delightful French Toast cake truffle with me which I quickly ate up! (Each time I eat a flavor of cake truffles I love them, but my favorite is the French Toast!)

(French Toast Egg-Cake Truffle)

Rebecca also shared the mini cupcakes – sweetly decorated for the upcoming Easter Sunday and equally as sweet tasting – with me and her staff.

(Minis: French Toast with a Robbins Egg, Black Velvet with bunny sprinkles, & Lemon)

On Saturday I made the hour+ trek to my parents’ house, and they were not shocked when I showed up with IcedGems cupcakes. My Mom loves vanilla and my Dad loves chocolate, so there was something for both of them!

Birthday Cake with an Easter decoration twist

With there being a “Birthday Cake” vanilla cake with Madagascar bourbon vanilla buttercream icing, I knew my Mom would want to try that one first! I’m not always into the basic flavors, but this is a cupcake I am happy to eat again and again. Mom agrees too!

Lemon with Spring Flowers

The lemon cupcake was divine! I love true citrus flavor and this cupcake was no citrus joke. It was very tangy and tart – maybe too much for some people, but not me. I loved the color of the cake and the flecks of lemon zest in the icing.

Easter Peep S’mores

I love IcedGems S’mores cupcake, but add a Peep and you’ve got a combination that I cannot resist! Peeps are such an Easter tradition, I love how they were incorporated into a flavor that marries so well with having a sugar coated marshmallow chick on top. And of course, I enjoyed eating it too.

Chocolate Lava Nest

Simply put: This cupcake is a chocolate lovers dream. And the egg candy toppers were a cute touch, had they been the same color I would have thought they were bunny ears sticking out of the ground.

I’m always impressed with IcedGems ability to have consistently good flavors, moist cake, delicious icing, and great decorations. The fact that they have special deals, like our Valentines Day treats and Easter treats, and take custom orders is great for a cupcake lover who wants to share with others. It almost doesn’t feel like a holiday to me without IcedGems cupcakes! I’m so glad I could bring some home to share with my wonderful family, on a day as special as Easter. No need for chocolate bunnies when you have yummy cupcakes!

Did you have cupcakes this weekend? Or perhaps you made some to share with your friends and family – did you decorate them in Easter decor?

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

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National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challange: Taste of the Seasons

This past Saturday, Crusader Jenn and I braved the nasty rain soaked roads and headed to the National Capital Area Cake Show‘s Cupcake Challenge in Annandale, VA. This year’s theme was ‘Taste of the Seasons’ which was well represented with approximately 75 entries. With this many entries and about 700 attendees, we knew we needed a plan of attack, so prior to the show we decided on the flavors we most wanted to sample.

Between the two of us, we only had about 3 duplicate flavors, so we sampled 15 flavors in total. Before I proceed, I should clarify that they were mini cupcakes, so it was easy to taste every flavor in one sitting.

After sampling them all, we decided that it would be slightly overwhelming for our readers to have a full description and critique of 15 flavors, so we have picked our very own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and then provided you with a peek at the remaining 12. (These selections are not reflective of the competition’s decisions and are solely those of the Crusaders and the 15 flavors we tried).

1st Place: French Vanilla Coffee Creme Brûlée (Season: Winter)

Baker: Inayah Zaman

This was our clear favorite of the night. Amazingly, you could taste all the flavors, and there was an added element of strawberry which was unexpected, but worked incredibly well. The edible gold glitter and the chocolate “handle” added the perfect finishing touches. We both voted for this as our favorite on the People’s Choice ballot.

2nd Place: Cherry Blossom Sake (Season: Unknown)

Baker: Wanda Cushing

The delicate gum paste cherry blossom on top of this mini cupcake matched the mild sake and cherry flavors. Both flavors complemented each other nicely creating a really enjoyable and totally unique cupcake.

3rd Place: Chocolate Covered Coconut Robin’s Egg (Season: Spring)

BAKER: Monica Pearson of Monica’s Sugar Studio
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Spring’ category, voted by the competition judges. This baker was also last year’s ‘Best Professional Cupcake’ winner)

This adorable mini cupcake had really good coconut flavor throughout. The coconut blended well with the chocolate which somehow managed not to be overpowering. There was even a coconut filling in this tiny little treat!

As you can see, the competition was fierce! Here is a glimpse at the other flavors we tried, with a special “Honorable Mention” for a cupcake we thought was great, but didn’t make it into our final 3:

Honorable Mention: Root Beer Float (Season: Summer)
Baker: Deanna Rybak
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Amateur Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)

1: Gluten Free Eggnog Coco (Season: Winter) – BAKER: Caroline Litt
2: Gingerbread with Lemon Curd (Season: Winter)
– BAKER: Trevor Burroughs, “The Cake Guy” featured on Food Network’s Sweet Genius
3: Carrot with Orange Marmalade (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Linda McLean
4: Orange Creamsicle (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Sandy Schmuff, Dessertabilities
5: German Chocolate Easter Egg Nests Cake Ball (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Emily Baird, Alexandria Cake Pop Company (They won this year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Winter’ category for their Peppermint Chocolate Cake Pop, voted by the competition judges.)
6: Piñajito (Pineapple Mojito) (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Catherine Baroang
7: Peach cobbler (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Lora Gookin, Gâteau (This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)
8: Maple & Rum Flavored Pumpkin (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Juanita Holloway
9: Chocolate Bacon Chipotle (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Kyle Downes (Tied for 6th Place People’s Choice)
10: Red wine poached pear (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Tracy Fuller, Simply Desserts
11: Gluten Free Chai Brown Butter Meringue (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Becky Rink

After sampling all of these bite sized treats, we headed to the auditorium for a live demonstration by Doron Petersan, owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery. Sticky Fingers is a vegan bakery that has competed three times on the Food Network’s show, Cupcake Wars. They have won twice and are the first vegan bakery to ever win on an All-Stars show.

Doron’s demonstration was entertaining and full of great advice for upcoming bakers like, “Take business classes, the rest is easy. You like to eat, you taste it, if you like the way it tastes, it’s good.” That evening she was showing us all how she makes her Chocolate Bananas Foster cupcake. Even with all the sampling we had done, by the end of the demo, our mouths were watering hoping to one day try that cupcake.

Following the live demo was a book signing where we got to meet Doron. She couldn’t have been nicer and even posed for a quick picture with us!

We promised her we would be visiting her shop in DC this summer, when the weather got better, and we can’t wait! You will probably also see some of the recipes from her book posted on our blog as I dabble into the vegan baking world!

Overall it was a great night that couldn’t have ended on a better note!

To see a full list of the official National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challenge winners click 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)