Guest Review | Dessert Affairs Kiosk | Columbia, MD

I couldn’t ask for a better co-worker than today’s Guest Reviewer (and fellow blogger), Deidre. She not only loves sweets as much as I do, but she often acts as a taste tester for my kitchen creations and never objects when I bring a cupcake in, hoping she’ll share with me so I can have a partner in crime. If you love fashion and sewing in addition to sweets, you should check out her blog, Sew Hot Mommi. Today, she has taken a break from threads and patterns to share her review of Dessert Affairs, a cupcake kiosk at the Columbia Mall located in Columbia, MD. Thanks Deidre!

One of the side effects of working with a cupcake blogger is a heightened awareness of the confection. When “cake-to-frosting” ratio is a part of the normal office banter, you can’t help but become hyper sensitive to their presence. And with the explosion of bakeshops specializing in the diminutive treats, I see them literally everywhere.

Now normally when out shopping at the mall, I’m on a mission, in and out as quickly as possible, mainly out of respect to my wallet. However, recently I was in the mall, with my power-walk going, when I’m stopped dead in my tracks by of all things…a cupcake kiosk. Who knew! Evidently Dessert Affairs did because they’ve taken up residence in Columbia Mall. Now as a self-professed sweet-aholic, I felt compelled to stop and was greeted by one of the friendliest bakers I’ve met. When I do a little blog name-dropping, i.e., that I’m pals with the Cupcake Crusaders, the red-carpet is rolled out and I get star treatment.

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So let’s start! For a satellite location, they’re pretty well stocked. Owner, Atiba de Souza, rattles off 11 flavors for starters and lists several more that are back at his store in Rockville. I decide on a half-dozen including: Cinnamon Caramel Apple, Strawberry and their signature Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake. Of course I go right for the signature cupcake and I must say, it was yummy!

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(Signature Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake)

The frosting was superior! Not too much and not too sweet. Even a sweet-aholic has her limits. The chocolate cake was moist, which is an absolute must in my book. My only comment would be on the filling. I was hoping for something more…hmm…homemade as the strawberry filling was more of a gel. Guess I was hoping for bits of fruit, but it wasn’t distracting so I enjoyed it all the same. Next to cross my palette was the Cinnamon Caramel Apple.

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(Cinnamon Caramel Apple)

Flavor wise, this was in the yum buckets category too. However, I would classify it as more of a breakfast treat as the cake was denser than anticipated, which wasn’t a bad thing. I could imagine sipping tea with this to the side. Frosting was a wee sweet for me though, but the texture was surprisingly smooth.

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(Strawberry)

Last tasting honors were given to the Strawberry cupcake. Decent enough, nothing that wouldn’t satisfy the urge for dessert, but wasn’t quite as memorable as the other two.

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Now because this is a kiosk, I’ll end on giving them kudos for décor. There were enough eye-catching props to invite you in. Final analysis, I would have to say, well done Dessert Affairs, well done.

MAIN STORE: Rockville, MD (by appointment only for design consultations)
MALL LOCATION:  Columbia Mall, Columbia, MD

– Review by Guest Crusader Deidre (Maryland)

Apple, Maple, Pumpkin, Spice – The Flavors of Fall

This time of year we can’t seem to resist anything with a fall seasonal flavor, which means we have tried many random cupcakes from several locations that we want to share with you. What better way to do that then one big post?! The cupcakes below are from: AngelCakes in Frederick, MD; Sweet Sin Bakery and Cafe in Baltimore, MD; Caffe Latte’da in Baltimore, MD; Crumbs Bake Shop in Clarendon, VA; Georgetown Cupcake in Bethesda, MD; Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse in Westminster, MD; and Snickerdoodles Bakery in Coffee House in Hampstead, MD.

AngelCakes – Frederick, MD
Pumpkin Spice Cupcake

Last time I reviewed AngelCakes it was a bit of a mixed review. I tried two cupakes, but only really enjoyed one. Well, this Pumpkin Spice cupcake work out in my favor with its super moist cake and great pumpkin spice flavor. The frosting was sweet, but not overly so. This cupcake actually reminded me a lot of a Dunkin Donut’s pumpkin doughnut, which isn’t a bad thing (I could eat those doughnuts all day, every day if my waistline would let me).

Sweet Sin Bakery and Cafe (AKA: Sweet 27 – Gluten Free) – Baltimore, MD
Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin Apple Caramel Cupcakes

Sweet Sin can often be a hit or miss, but their Chocolate Raspberry cupcake is completely decadent and just that alone has me thinking about their cupcakes often—its close proximity to my day job doesn’t hurt either. Plus, they are gluten free, so kind of healthy too, right? (Don’t burst my bubble on this…) Recently, I found myself with a fierce cupcake craving, so decided to stop in and see what fall cupcakes were on the menu. They actually had about four seasonal flavors that day, so I selected Pumpkin Spice and Pumpkin Apple Caramel. Unfortunately only one really worked for me. The Pumpkin Apple Caramel had large chunks of baked apples, but also contained a weird spice flavor that just didn’t win me over. Luckily the Pumpkin Spice saved the day and ended up having a great flavor and smooth frosting. The cake on both was a bit dense and the texture wasn’t totally like “normal” cake, but since I convince myself that I was eating a healthy cupcake I decided to overlook that.

Cafe Latte’da – Baltimore, MD
Pumpkin Cupcake

This cupcake is a bit like a muffin pretending to be a cupcake. The cake’s texture screams, “I’m a muffin!” but, the flavor of the “cake” is really nice and the cream cheese frosting on top is smooth with just the right amount of sweetness. This cupcake is also HUGE which means you can share it or eat half immediately and save the rest for later (or just eat the whole thing in one sitting, we won’t judge).

Crumbs Bakery – Clarendon, VA

Pumpkin

Pumpkin… sadly this cupcake did not live up to its namesake. The cake was moist and delicious, but didn’t taste like pumpkin at all, the icing was the same…both had a lovely vanilla flavor—which after a bit of searching on their website I discovered that Crumbs has two cupcakes that reference pumpkin: one that is just vanilla and one that is actually pumpkin flavored. As a Vanilla cupcake, this cupcake did NOT disappoint. Simple in flavor, but decorated for the season!

Apple Cobbler

Streusel Crumbs = Heaven. Filled with apple pie preserves, covered in delicious vanilla buttercream and topped with streusel crumbs, this cupcake flavor is amazing and complex. It didn’t just taste like apple cobbler, it embodied and elevated the flavors of its namesake dessert.

Georgetown Cupcake – Bethesda, MD
Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple Cupcakes

For November Georgetown Cupcake has some fantastic fall flavor offerings; including the two pictured above: Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple. The Pumpkin Spice cupcake was just as I remembered it from our 2011 Cupcake Tour—a little dense, but the flavors were amazing. The cake was full of spices while the cream cheese icing had a subtle maple flavor. Caramel Apple, whoa! The apple cake was moist and the dolce de leche filling adds a whole new level of flavor to this cupcake. Both cupcakes are fall-tastic!

Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse – Westminster, MD
Amaretto Chai Spice Cupcake

Starry Night released this new flavor after I went in this year to pick their other 2012 Fall Seasonal cupcakes. Luckily they had them on my most recent visit! This cupcake was moist and light, full of flavor. It seemed more like a spice cake to me, but I’m not a big chai tea drinker (unlike Crusader Elisa). The chai buttercream was smooth and I think I picked up notes of cinnamon. Another winning cupcake from Starry Night!

Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffee House – Hampstead, MD
Apple Cinnamon Cupcake

This Apple Cinnamon cupcake was amazing, to say the least. Snickerdoodles tends to always fill their large gourmet cupcakes, even if just with a whipped frosting, but this cupcake was filled with an apple cinnamon compote and topped with cinnamon buttercream. The crumb around the edge added a nice texture and gave it the feeling of an apple crisp.

We hope that you were able to get out this fall and taste some seasonal cupcakes. Fall flavors are some of our favorites, but now with Thanksgiving bringing the season to a close, we are ready for the cupcakes that winter has to offer!

– Reviews by the Cupcake Crusaders

Fabulous Fall Selection from Kupcakes & Co.

My friend (and guest Crusader from our first California review), Julie flew in a week and a half ago to visit for a long weekend. For the most part, our plan was to visit Hersheypark because the amazing Megan Hilty, from NBC’s Smash, would be performing. However, I couldn’t host company for the weekend without cupcakes. This is what my friends have come to expect from me.

I decided that we would take a “back way” home from the airport (to avoid traffic, of course!) that conveniently took us past Kupcakes & Co. On this day I was able to take home all five of the new fall flavors! Michelle, owner of Kupcakes & Co., was very generous and also gave us a non-seasonal cupcake, a cupcake parfait which Stacy had been dying to try, cake pops including one fall flavor, and cookies! We left with more than enough to take us through the weekend!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Parfait

When I told Stacy that I would be stopping in Kupcakes & Co., her instructions to me were to bring her a fall treat. Her order of priority would be a parfait first, then cupcake, then cake pop. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any fall flavored parfaits but when Michelle heard that we still hadn’t tried one and how much Stacy wanted to, she wouldn’t let me leave without selecting one of the three options being offered that day. I choose the Salted Caramel Chocolate because caramel is a good flavor for the season (I think I’ll have to go back for the chocolate raspberry).

As you can imagine, a dessert layered with frosting and caramel is sweet! We’ve tried the cupcake version before but Dan (my hubby) really loved the parfait. I think he’s addicted now. Maybe it’s the size? Or all the frosting? But he has found a new love. I have to be honest, I might be addicted now too.

Maple Walnut

The Maple Walnut boasted a ton of maple flavor. Because of this, it would be difficult to finish a whole one without a cup of milk nearby, but I loved it. It reminded me of the maple candies I used to pick up every fall on a trip to Deep Creek with my hubby.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is definitely the most popular flavor of the season. And, I’m admittedly obsessed with it. This cupcake had a cake that is denser than Kupcakes & Co.’s usual cake, but that’s expected with pumpkin, and it was so moist! The thing that sets this cupcake apart from other pumpkin flavors is the tasty cinnamon cream cheese frosting that was a perfect complement.

Spice Cake

We expected the spice cake with cream cheese frosting would be similar to the carrot cake in flavor but were pleased to discover that it has its own distinct (and delicious) taste. Stacy pointed out that the spice flavor, from the nutmeg used, would make it perfect for the winter holiday. Hopefully Kupcakes & Co. will consider carrying this cupcake into winter.

Caramel Apple

Another favorite combination of the season, this cupcake had a moist apple cake, vanilla frosting, and a caramel drizzle. As far as apple caramel cupcakes go, this one was a little too sweet for me. Since Stacy, Julie, Dan, and I were sharing, I only got a portion and I would have liked more apple in my piece.

Carrot Cake

Like most, Kupcake & Co. tops their carrot cake with their awesome cream cheese frosting. It’s one of the best I’ve had…not too sweet, great spice in the cake, and great texture with fresh shredded carrot and nuts.

Mint Chocolate Chip

The Mint Chocolate Chip is definitely the odd-ball in a group of exclusively fall flavors. It is not one of their fall selections, but sneaked its way into our box. As much as I wanted to dive into it, I let Dan have this one all to himself, as a consolation prize for staying home with Leah while Stacy, Julie, and I had a girls’ dinner out. You’ll have to take his word for it when he says it was delicious. I think we can trust him, since he’s been on many, many crusades with me.

Cake Pops

Stacy called dibs on the Pumpkin cake pop (the bright, orange colored one), so that left the rest of us with the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch and Peanut Butter Marshmallow White Chocolate (Fluffernutter?) cake pops. I thought maybe Stacy was the lucky one after she raved about the Pumpkin cake pop, but upon trying the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch, I’d pick it again in a heartbeat.

Cookies
Kupcakes & Co. has been serving up cookies, along with biscotti, buckeyes, and other non-cupcake goodies, for a while now, and they really know what they are doing when it comes to baked treats. This time we got to try their large sugar cookie sandwich with chocolate ganache filling and a pumpkin chocolate chip sandwich cookie. It was so good. I mean REALLY good. So, if you are in there for a cupcake, don’t turn your nose up at the cookies.

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

The Sweet Lobby: Getting out the Vote


(Boston cream cupcakes displaying each candidate and a lemon cream telling us to vote.)

It’s impossible to ignore that the presidential election is right around the corner and The Sweet Lobby, located in DC’s Capital Hill and winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, has started campaign polls and debates of their own. They are selling cupcakes and macarons with presidential candidate and party logos at their shop and tracking the sales to see which is more popular. You can also visit The Sweet Lobby’s Facebook page or Twitter page to track the results and join in the debate, “Which best represents your favorite candidate: a cupcake or a macaron?”


(Signage outside of the store promoting their election debate.)

The location of The Sweet Lobby makes it the perfect business to promote voting, while engaging our sweet tooth. We love that they are doing something to get people excited about the election. They also offer generic “Vote 2012” confections and are participating in Get Out The Vote initiatives, including providing voter registration information.


(Not only does The Sweet Lobby specialize in cupcakes they’ve also become well known for their macarons.)

Crusaders Stacy, Elisa, and myself decided spend the afternoon in DC together after The Sweet Lobby invited us to sample some of their campaign cupcakes and macarons. Although one of our friends, Guest Crusader Kristina, has visited the shop and had a lot of good things to say in her review, it was our first time there and our inner design geeks were in heaven. The branding features clean design, with a look that is consistent throughout the packaging, storefront signage, and interior design. Not to mention their creative custom boxes, which fit the products perfectly and allow for easy and safe travel.


(Storefront and packaging. The macarons fit perfectly into the long box and we love the handle on the cupcake carrier.)


(Just a sampling of the selection.)


(Making a decision is not easy, but the girls working that day were very helpful in making suggestions.)

Once we started eying up the selection, we couldn’t help but take more home with us than planned. In addition to Boston Cream and Lemon Cream election cupcakes and presidential macaroons gifted to us, we also took home a seasonal Caramel Apple cupcake, a Chocolate Raspberry MacTop, and a few extra macarons. If the selection of cupcakes and macarons isn’t enough (and it is!), they also offer their own line of shortcakes and tea.

Boston Cream
The Boston Cream cupcake seen in the photos above is a vanilla cake filled with pastry cream, dipped in chocolate ganache and topped with whipped vanilla frosting. This is one of the best Boston Cream cupcakes I’ve had. The cake is on the denser side, but since the frosting is light it’s the perfect balance. Not too sweet, not too buttery, not too savory…my mouth was happy.

Lemon Cream
The cupcake had the perfect amount of tartness mixed with sweet. Just like the Boston Cream, the vanilla cake was on the denser side, but moist, then filled with lemon cream  and topped with whipped lemon frosting.

Caramel Apple


(Compared with some of the other cupcakes the Caramel Apple has an understated look, but the caramel swirl and autumn flavor spoke to me.)

This cupcake had a caramel apple cake with cream cheese frosting, drizzled with caramel. The cake was dense but very moist and contained fresh apples with a subtle caramel flavor (which I liked because otherwise it can make the cupcake too sweet). I felt like the cream cheese frosting overpowered the cake, however since it was so tasty I’d still go back for more.

Chocolate Raspberry MacTop


(Yes, that IS a mini raspberry macaron on top of a decadent chocolate raspberry cupcake.)

The Sweet Lobby originally created the first MacTop on their episode of Cupcake Wars. Since then, they’ve created an entire line of flavor combinations, including the Chocolate Raspberry. Here’s what Crusader Stacy had to say about it:

Wow. Chocolate Raspberry is one of my all time favorite combinations and this was no exception. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect because the frosting appeared to be milk chocolate, which I’m not really a fan of, but it surprisingly complemented the dark chocolate ganache and moist, fudgy cake very well. The mini macaron on top was, of course, perfect. Nice and tart, the way raspberry anything should be. The cupcake portion seemed to have some kind of subtle raspberry flavor, but there was no filling so I’m not entirely sure if the chocolate cake was flavored with raspberries or if it was the lingering aftertaste of the macaron. The cupcake and macaron combined resulted in a wonderfully decadent treat.

Macarons

(Assorted selection includes Olive Oil Walnut Pecorino, Sweet Potato Pecan, Orange Ginger, Coffee, and Strawberry Basil.)

There’s no denying that when it comes to macarons, The Sweet Lobby knows what they are doing. Their election macarons are named the Obamamac and Romneymac. They appear to be plain, however they consist of almond meringue shells filled with premium Belgian white chocolate ganache infused with vanilla beans from Madagascar and Tahiti. The only way to describe it is delicious. We all really loved the selections we picked, which ranged from simple to complex in flavor combinations. Crusader Stacy said she couldn’t put her Sweet Potato Pecan down and Elisa was very enthusiastic about the Strawberry Basil. I tried the Olive Oil Walnut Pecorino, which came recommended. Although it sounds strange, the olive oil complemented the walnut well.

When you stop by The Sweet Lobby you’ll have a lot to think about. Obamamac or Romneymac? Cupcake, macaron, or MacTop? And that’s before you even decide on a flavor. But whatever sweet treat you choose, your taste buds won’t be disappointed. We’ll have an interview with The Sweet Lobby for you soon, so keep a lookout for it!

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

*We were lucky to be gifted some of our treats, but, as ever, this review reflects our honest opinion. We will gladly patronize The Sweet Lobby in the future and we are happy that we purchased some additional treats to share our thoughts on as well.

The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | IcedGems Creations | Reisterstown, MD

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, the Crusaders and I have tried just about every flavor that IcedGems Creations has offered in the past few months. We listed our favorites for you, but here are some you haven’t seen yet:

Ban-offee

(While the coffee flavor in this was too subtle for me, the natural banana flavor was spot on.)

Bear Claw


(This cupcake was very close to making my “must try” list. The cake reminds me of the bear claws my Dad used to make at the doughnut shop he owned when I was a kid.)

Caramel Apple

(Sweet and decadent, this cupcake truly lives up to its name. The icing alone makes this cupcake a smart purchase.)

Chocolate Cherry


(This rich chocolate cake was given an interesting cherry twist.)

Italian Wedding Cake

(Mascarpone filling with an almond flavor = delicious.)

Raspberry Lemonade

(With a light lemon flavor and a sweet raspberry icing, this adorable cupcake is as sweet as it is cute.)

Rosewater

(While I am not afraid of eating flowers (or baking with them) this cupcake was a bit too “rosey” for me.)

Smores


(Not quite enough marshmallow flavor for me, but still a great chocolate cupcake.)

Strawberry Cheesecake


(Not the typical “mini-cheesecake in a cupcake cup” this is truly a cake with cheesecake flavor and fantastic icing to top it all off!)

Have you been to IcedGems Creations (either the store front or visited the cupcake truck)? What are your favorite flavors? Are there any the Crusaders have not tried that you think we should?

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


Happy Cakes = Three Happy Crusaders

Before I get into our review from last nights cupcake tasting, I wanted to announce that Jenn and I have decided that Elisa is going to join us as as a full fledged Cupcake Crusader. She has been on so many cupcake adventures with us, and also has always pursued trying new cupcake places when we aren’t even around, so it doesn’t make sense for her to only be a “guest” crusader. Most recently she brought back cupcakes for us all to try all the way from Florida to Baltimore! Without her we would not have all the wonderful memories that we have and we would not have this review.

Over the weekend, Elisa visited her family in St. Augustine, Florida, and was awesome enough to bring back 3 delicious cupcakes from Happy Cakes: A Cupcake Shop. She describes the shop as,”bright, cheery, and very beautifully decorated.” They even have kid’s tables and chairs which was perfect for Elisa’s to nephew to sit and eat his mini cupcake while playing a little bit.

How pretty are these cupcakes?

They even have “Frosting Shots!”

While Elisa was at the shop, she had a “Mocha Mini.” She says that this one was her 2nd favorite of all 4 flavors that she tried.

I’m not sure how she carried 3 cupcakes through 2 airports and on a plane without devouring them before Monday night, but she somehow managed so that Jenn and I could taste them with her when she returned. On Monday night, we all gathered around my kitchen table and decided our plan of attack would be: Red Velvet first, then Caramel Apple, and last the Key Lime Coconut. The Red Velvet probably held up the worst after it’s trip from Florida:

But that’s okay, we piled the frosting back on and divided it for the 3 of us to taste. My first reaction to pulling back the wrapper was how amazingly red the cake was. It was gorgeous!

After tasting this cupcake, our thoughts were pretty much unanimous, the sweet cream cheese frosting was AMAZING, but we don’t think the red velvet cake quite held up to the fantasticness of the frosting. It got lost a little bit. Still, the cupcake was worth it, just for the frosting. I should also say that we are all pretty picky about our red velvet cake, and I’ve personally only ever tried a few that I actually liked. (It’s not my favorite in general). BUT if you are a huge red velvet fan, I would definitely give this a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Up next: Caramel Apple

This cupcake held up shockingly well from the trip to Baltimore. I’m not quite sure how it managed, but if you are looking to travel a long distance with a cupcake, this is definitely the one for you. Hands down, this was all of our favorite. After cutting into it to split 3 ways we saw the aromatic apple pie filling:

Everything about this cupcake worked well. The filling could have been used in a pie or cobbler just by itself, it was that good. The cake was a mild flavor that didn’t compete with the apple and caramel flavors, and the frosting complemented the entire thing. I can only hope that I find myself in the St. Augustine area, in the Fall, sometime in my future, to be able to taste this delicious cupcake again.

After that, we knew that the Key Lime Coconut cupcake was going to have to be pretty good. I would say that if we hadn’t had the Apple Caramel, the Key Lime would have been Jenn’s and my favorite. Elisa said that the Mocha Mini was her 2nd favorite though (after the Caramel Apple) so I know that had to be amazing too. The Key Lime Coconut held up pretty well during the trip. Not quite as well as the Caramel Apple, but still, pretty impressive:

This cupcake was everything you would expect out of cupcake with Key Lime flavor. It was sweet and tart and a perfect warm weather/summer treat. The coconut flavor in the cake was very mild (we are guessing becuase they use natural ingredients) but had a true coconut flavor, not a processed artificial flavor. The key lime frosting can only be described as “WOW!”

If you are ever in the St. Augustine area, make sure check out Happy Cakes (and tell them the Cupcake Crusaders say, “Hello!”)

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