Warming Up This Winter with Hot Beverage Cupcakes

As a graphic designer, you would hope that I would be impervious to products marketed specifically for the winter season. I know the tactics used to get shoppers to buy these products, so theoretically, this should keep me from purchasing them. Well cupcake lovers, this is not the case. I too fall subject to the snowflakes, fun type, and bold colorful photos. Exhibit A:

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When I saw this Betty Crocker Hot Chocolate cupcake mix, I almost danced in the grocery aisle. I can’t help myself. Sure, I know that it’s really just a normal chocolate cake mix with some mini marshmallows tossed in and a sub-par frosting mixture added to the box, but while my head says “don’t succumb to the festive graphics,” everything else inside of me screams, “BUY IT!”

So that is exactly what I did.

It turned out to be a good thing that I purchased this box mix because I signed up to make 3 dozen cupcakes for a charity event and knew the kids would love these. To go along with the “hot beverage theme” I also decided to make two dozen Coffee and Doughnuts cupcakes, which have been on my list for quite some time.

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(Coffee and Doughnuts and Hot Chocolate cupcakes ready to be eaten.)

Aren’t they pretty? I wish they all had turned out this well…

I decided not to modify the Hot Chocolate cupcake mix in order to provide you all with a review of exactly what I thought of Betty Crocker’s winter product. The directions say to beat the frosting while it cooks on the stove and that it will fluff up in the process. Unfortunately, I have no electrical outlet near my stove, so this proved to be a challenge—which I lost. The frosting ended up super runny and there didn’t appear to be enough for twelve cupcakes, so I added confectioners sugar until the consistency thickened and there looked to be enough for the dozen cupcakes I had cooling. This, however, made the frosting lose its marshmallow-like flavor and instead, just taste like sugar. Despite this, it went on the cupcake nicely and I figured the kids probably wouldn’t mind the sugary flavor.

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(I only have a few of these fancy teacup cupcake cups, so the majority of the cupcakes were baked in Christmas paper liners.)

I was really happy with the end result and added little marshmallows and a cookie roll to the top for the finishing touches. Sadly, when I woke the next day, the cupcakes looked like this:

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The frosting on about half of them had oozed and melted off the cupcakes, while the other half remained in place. I have no idea what happened. The cupcakes had completely cooled and (ignoring my usual “no fridge rule”) I left them in the fridge overnight, just to make sure the house didn’t get too warm with all the baking I was doing. In the end, I decided that these could not be taken to the event so only delivered six of these and two dozen of the coffee and doughnuts cupcakes, instead of the three dozen I initially promised.

The Coffee and Doughnuts cupcakes actually ended up being much easier to make than the Betty Crocker Hot Chocolate cupcakes. I used my typical chocolate cake modification for box mix (one box of instant chocolate pudding and mini chocolate chips). For the frosting, I made a simple buttercream recipe (3 sticks of butter and about 5 cups of confectioners sugar to taste) and then mixed one to two tablespoons of cream with about a tablespoon of instant decaf coffee and added it to the frosting. I just did everything to taste, so if you like a sweeter frosting you can use more sugar and if you prefer a more buttery frosting, just use less sugar. It’s really as easy as that.

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To make these cupcakes even easier, I bought pre-made doughnut holes and placed them on top before delivering them to the party. These cupcakes were a huge hit, and I have to admit, the coffee buttercream was some of the best frosting I’ve ever made.

Since there was some frosting leftover, I decided to freeze it to make cakepops at a later time. I also had some frozen chocolate cake leftover from removing the center of cupcakes for fillings, so all I had to do was thaw the cake pieces and frosting, mix those together, roll into balls, and freeze. For the chocolate coating, I didn’t want it to be too thick, so I turned to one of my favorite blogs, Love from the Oven. From there, I navigated my way to Simply Designing, which recommended to add a bit of vegetable oil to the chocolate while melting it.

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The cakepops dipped well into the melted chocolate and, as I had hoped, there was only a thin layer of coating. I was worried that some of my family wouldn’t like them because of the coffee flavor (they aren’t all addicted coffee drinkers like my sisters and I), but the chocolate ended up overpowering the coffee, so everyone loved them. Next time I will add some instant coffee granules to the cake/frosting mixture to bump that flavor up more, but for this occasion, I think it was perfect and that the coffee undertones actually helped to enhance the chocolate flavor.

Even though not all of these hot beverage cupcakes turned out as I had hoped, I still have many “beverage themed” cupcakes I would like to explore, like tea-infused and Dr. Pepper cupcakes. My advice, however, is this: skip Betty Crocker’s Hot Chocolate cupcake mix, and make your own version of a Hot Chocolate cupcake instead. You’ll thank me later.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

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PopsyCakes: Not Just a Tasty Treat

Back in September, Cupcake Crusader, Elisa, stumbled across PopsyCakes at a Florida airport. If you’ve never heard of a PopsyCake, it’s a cupcake stuck on a pretzel stick, dipped in chocolate and then decorated. (Are you drooling yet?) We were all so excited to try this, but unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as we had hoped. However, their Facebook Page is filled with compliment after compliment and after reading their story about how the company began, I decided to contact them to see if we could get a replacement and give them another shot before reviewing.

To give a little background, PopsyCakes were created by Jessica Cervantes when she was just 16 years old. Two years later, in 2008, this idea won her first place in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE.com) National Business Plan. She is now a college student and managing the business at the same time. After reading this, I knew that I didn’t want to post a negative review, especially if so many people have been enjoying them.

Our first-class experience with PopsyCakes began almost immediately after contacting them. They emailed us back within 12 hours, shocked that we didn’t have a good experience. Convinced that they could change our minds, they decided to send us a variety of flavors to sample, instead of just replacing the 1 PopsyCake we had purchased. I have been so impressed with their customer service and the way they stand behind their product 100%. I think many companies could learn a thing or two from them.

After only waiting a few days (and dealing with some minor issues with USPS… but that’s another story…) my box arrived!

I really wanted to dive right into these the moment they arrived, but knew I needed to take photos of them first and I wanted to share them with the other Crusaders, so, I waited. For 3 days. (It felt like an eternity. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic).

Unfortunately, Crusader Jenn and I had to try them without Elisa, but since they sent us 2 duplicates of the Peanut Butter Blast (the flavor that we had initially tried) I have a full one for Elisa to have. Despite how well they were wrapped, the pretzel sticks on 2 of the 4 were broken.

I wasn’t too concerned about this because I knew I would be cutting it up to share, but I can see that if someone ordered them and they arrived with the sticks broken, they could be disappointed. This also could have happened on my end. I’m honestly not sure. Either way, it was finally time to unwrap and taste them!

The first one we decided to try was the Peanut Butter Blast.

It was a thousand times better than the one we tried back in September! This PopsyCake is described as “Reese’s Peanut Butter cake dipped in scrumptious milk chocolate. Finished with chocolate drizzle and fresh peanut accents” I’m not sure if the cake is actually peanut butter cake, or if the peanut butter is limited to the space between the cake and the milk chocolate.

I think this could use a little more of a “peanut butter punch,” but overall, it still had a nice flavor. The cake closest to the pretzel was the best part with a good mix of salty and sweet. Milk chocolate isn’t my favorite, so it’s hard for me to say that I loved that part, but the cake inside was really good.

Next up: Vanilla Bean Dream

This PopsyCake is vanilla cake dipped in milk chocolate. Usually Jenn and I find that vanilla cake can be boring, but this was actually really good. I think we both agreed that we preferred it over the Peanut Butter Blast. The vanilla cake was light and had great flavor. The milk chocolate on the outside actually worked really well with the cake. After this, we were exited to move on to the next one:

Dark Chocolate Decadence.

Being a big fan of dark chocolate, we decided to save this for last, hoping it would be the best. And in our opinion, it was. This PopsyCake was made with savory brownie cake (which really just tasted like a brownie, but we weren’t complaining) dipped in dark chocolate.

I could have easily finished this whole thing on my own. In fact, I kinda wish I didn’t have to share, but I love my crusaders, so I wasn’t going to do that. (Plus, I’m not sure that I could have even used physical force to get Jenn’s piece away from her). This PopsyCake has left me wishing that PopsyCakes reached more vendors across the USA. Right now they are limited to Florida, but I have no doubts they will continue to expand.

So, what went wrong with our first PopsyCake? Well, the representative from PopsyCakes and I both think that the vendor did not maintain the conditions that are necessary to guarantee freshness of their PopsyCakes. They are aware of the location we purchased ours, and said they will look into it further. If you’ve had a similar experience, I urge you to give PopsyCakes another chance. When you are shipping a product out to a vendor, you put a lot of trust into them, and unfortunately sometimes things go wrong. But after experiencing PopsyCakes for myself, I know you won’t be disappointed if you give them a second chance. Or, if you’ve never tried them, give them a first chance, and then, I’m sure you’ll be going back for more.

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

My Starbucks Birthday Cake Cakepop Quest is Over!!!

Happy Monday Cupcake Lovers! So, you may or may not have read in an earlier blog post that I was on a mini quest to taste the Birthday Cake flavored Cakepop at Starbucks. As I mentioned in that post, there are several things I believe are in the “cupcake family,” like cakepops, cakeballs, doughnuts, muffins, etc., so to me this is an okay topic for this blog. When my quest began, I had already tried the Tiramisu flavor, but had heard that the Birthday Cake one was amazing and this weekend I FINALLY got to try it for myself!

During my search, I was able to try both the Birthday Cake flavored doughnut and the Rocky Road Cakepop. As a reminder, The Rocky Road was really good, but the doughnut? Not so much.

So what are my thoughts on the Birthday Cake Cakepop? It was good. I really did enjoy it, but I think that I like the Tiramisu the best. I guess it would depend on what mood I was in, but I think I would get the Rocky Road or Tiramisu before getting this one again.

Now, that my Starbucks Cakepop quest is over, I will be moving on to try their cupcakes. (Shockingly, I’ve yet to try them). I’ve heard that the chocolate peanut butter one is pretty decent. They also have a red velvet whoopi pie that I want to try. So many sweets… so little time…

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