Summertime: Time for An Old Favorite

Summer is always a jam-packed cupcake time for the Crusaders, due to all the birthdays, picnics, and cookouts. With so many cupcakes all the time, I ended up neglecting a neighborhood favorite of mine, Starry Night Bakery. We’ve reviewed many of their rotating flavors, but I’m always excited for new and seasonal options. After a wellness visit with my doctor, she prescribed me with, “doing something nice for myself before heading home,” to take advantage of not having the little one with me. I’m not sure cupcakes would have been her exact solution, however Starry Night is right across the street from the office, and when I think of treating myself, obviously cupcakes come to mind.

Cherry Limeade

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Starry Night’s summer flavors are brightly colored (sometimes a warning sign for me), but they all smelled summery and refreshing. The first one I tried was the Cherry Limeade, and it tasted similar to Fruit Loops cereal. Despite the appearance of real cherries in the frosting, the flavor was on the artificial side. However, I personally like Fruit Loops so I thought this cupcake was fun (and surprisingly not overly sweet).

Mai Tai

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The Mai Tai cupcake had me the most excited. I haven’t seen many (if any) this year, so originality plus adult drinks turned cupcakes is always a win for me. Perfectly summery in flavor, Starry Night’s Mai Tai was like sipping a fruity beverage on the beach. The pineapple compote filling added a nice touch and a lot of flavor. There was a mild citrus punch and I’m almost certain there was rum cooked in the cake or filling because it replicated the drink too much not to have it.

Raspberry Lemonade

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Just like the Cherry Limeade, the Raspberry Lemonade also tasted like fruity cereal. So, if you are looking for fresh, real fruit flavors this cupcake may not be for you. But if you are like me and love sugary breakfast cereal as a special treat, then you just may love it!

Root Beer Float

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Having tried a few Root Beer Float cupcakes this season, I was curious to see how Starry Night’s would differ from the rest. The cake was made with root beer and the cupcake got its ice cream touch with the vanilla “cream” frosting. I thought this cupcake had a very authentic flavor, with a little spice from the root beer (just like those root beer barrel candies). The frosting was super light and smooth and all together the cupcake was balanced and not overly sweet.

Starry Night also has a new website, so if you haven’t seen it before you should check it out. And, if you’ve had some creative, fun, and tasty cupcakes this summer, tell us about them!

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

Birthday Cupcakes from Corazon Cakery

Several months ago Corazon Cakery commented our our Facebook page and, after reading their stellar reviews and seeing pictures of their vibrant cupcakes, we knew we were going to have to try them for ourselves. It wasn’t long after adding them to our list that we saw a great Living Social voucher to get one dozen cupcakes for only $16. The expiration date was only four days after Crusader Elisa’s birthday, so I decided that would be the perfect time to order them.

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To my surprise, instead of just selecting one or two flavors when redeeming the Living Social Voucher, Corazon Cakery was offering sample packs with six different flavors (two of each flavor). Since they were for Elisa’s birthday, I let her decide on which sample pack we would order and she selected the  “Exotic Sampler” which came with: Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, Dirty Sanchez, Happy Ending, Cherry Jubilee, Cafe Mocha Latte, and Orange Creamsicle.

I had them delivered right to my office (for a small extra delivery fee) so I could take them directly to Elisa’s party and ensure they would be at their ultimate freshness. Megon, the owner and baker of Corazon Cakery, had the cupcakes packaged really well with pretty tissue paper. It was like a gift all on its own! And their aroma was amazing.

The birthday girl decided that we should cut them up and share, which was fine with me and the other party goers (there were lots of our cupcake loving friends  at the party, including Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusaders Beth and Rebecca).

Cherry Jubilee (Seasonal Flavor)

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Overall this was probably everyone’s least favorite cupcake of the dozen. It had a bit of a cough syrup taste (which is why I normally don’t like cherry flavored anything, except Cherry Coke. I LOVE Cherry Coke). Even though the majority of the group didn’t like it, Elisa said the artificial cherry flavor didn’t bother her and she happily finished her piece.

Orange Creamsicle

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This cupcake got mixed reviews. Overall everyone liked it, but not everyone loved it. I personally really liked it. Creamsicle cupcakes are becoming one of my favorite flavors, even though I never liked Creamsicle Popsicles as a kid. The cake on this cupcake was really moist and though some claimed the frosting had a bit of an artificial flavor to it, that didn’t bother me any. Someone actually made a good observation and said that the cake tasted very “creamsicle-y” while the frosting was more like orange soda.

Cafe Mocha Latte

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Being a total cupcake AND coffee addict I was most excited about this cupcake and its flavor did not disappoint. The coffee flavor was really present and the cupcake wasn’t too sweet. The only downside was that the cake was a little on the dry side. It wasn’t too bad, but we all felt it could have been more moist.

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam

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It’s no secret that PB&J cupcakes are high up on my list of favorites, and this cupcake sadly didn’t meet my expectations. There just didn’t seem to be that “POW” of nostalgia that I look for in a PB&J cupcake, but Guest Crusader Beth really enjoyed it.

Dirty Sanchez

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The Dirty Sanchez is a Mexican hot chocolate cake topped with bourbon vanilla frosting and garnished with spicy chocolate, which is right up Elisa’s alley. She loves mixing sweet with savory and gives this cupcake two thumbs up. I personally can’t handle the heat, so this cupcake just isn’t for me. Like the Cafe Mocha Latte, the cake also could have been a little more moist.

Happy Ending

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This cupcake was the clear favorite. After taking the first bite comments like, “Ohhh yeahhhh…” were muttered and Elisa said “it’s lovely.” The cake was super moist and it wasn’t too sweet but was very rich, with the flavors of the hazelnut cake, Nutella filling, and peanut butter all coming through.

Normally for a birthday celebration we would order cupcakes from a trusted source, but we were all glad to try new cupcakes. Corazon Cakery delivered a great product that we were happy to indulge in. When asked what her top three favorites were, Elisa listed the Nutella, Dirty Sanchez, and Orange Creamsicle. Jenn and I both agreed that the Nutella was our number one favorite, but we thought that the Cafe Mocha Latte would also make our top three.

If you are looking to order fun, unique, and vibrant cupcakes definitely visit Corazon Cakery’s website and give them a call!

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

Baking Adventure: Bourbon Black Forest Cupcakes

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I’m not usually a big fan of Black Forest cake. I like fresh cherries, but can’t seem to get into anything else that has cherries in it, or a cherry flavor. That was until Guest Crusader Beth, from Sweetness Follows, gave me a jar of her Bourbon Cherry Jam. As soon as I tried it, I knew I wanted to use it in a cupcake (you may remember we used her Raspberry Chambord Jam in Chocolate Raspberry Chambord cupcakes).

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(Sweetness Follows jams are available on Etsy in seasonal flavors.)

I had un-frosted chocolate cupcakes in my freezer, waiting to be turned into something good. After thawing, I filled them with the delicious jam. Since I didn’t have to bake or cook anything, the first two steps made these the easiest cupcakes I’ve ever made.

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The first two steps being so simple, I decided that I needed to do something to challenge myself…this is called a “Baking Adventure” after all. So, instead of picking up a tub of Cool Whip or can of whipped topping, I decided to make my own.

I’ll be honest, I was scared. I watch Food Network, I know making whipped cream can make or break a dessert (I’ve seen it happen on Chopped). The cream may never set properly or you can over whip it. There’s such a fine balance to making it successful.

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Well my fear was for nothing, because my whipped topping was PERFECT. I found a recipe on AllRecipes.com for Black Forest Cake, which included the frosting. I only made a half batch, so I used 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream, but instead of the small amount of confectioner’s sugar, I slowly added in about 1/2 cup so that it would be stiffer (hoping I wouldn’t mess it up!). The recipe didn’t tell me how long to whip it with an mixer, only to do it until it formed stiff peaks. I opted to pull out my hand mixer, thinking that I might over whip it with my standing mixer.

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In the end I was really please with how the frosting piped, yet was still super airy (just like what you’d expect from the aerosol can stuff). The cupcakes were pretty good and not overly sweet, thanks to the liquor infused jam and light frosting. What I really loved was how simple they were and I learned not to be afraid of making my own whipped cream! I need to get my hands on more Sweetness Follows jams, since they are so good in cupcakes!

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

Guest Recipe Review | Cherry Almond & Cherry Coke Cupcakes

Fellow blogger, Tiffany from Fizzy Party, loves planning parties and baking cupcakes as much as we do. Today, she is sharing two recipes she made for an office party that took place last month. Thanks Tiffany!

I’m so excited to have a guest post here on Cupcake Crusaders. Not only am I a HUGE fan, but, like the Crusaders, I too love cupcakes. I have so many recipes I want to try and, thank goodness, I have co-workers who enjoy tasting all the minis I bring to work.

For February, I had the opportunity to try two different recipes (Woo Hoo!) for a Valentine’s Day treat party at work, which the whole office building was invited to. I made Cherry Almond and Cherry Coke cupcakes. Here’s my assessment of the two:

Cherry Almond Cupcakes

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The Cherry Almond cupcake recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens. I made these full size since they had a cherry in the middle. I prefer making mini cupcakes because they’re the perfect bite sized afternoon pick me up, but if I had made minis the cherry would have taken up the whole middle! The cake on these was moist and the cherry added a little surprise, but the frosting was just okay. My co-workers who tried these also said they were just okay. I think they were a little bland. This is one recipe I’m glad I tried, but doubtful I’ll make again.

Cherry Coke Cupcakes

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The recipe for these Cherry Coke cupcakes is from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. When I went to take the mini cupcakes out of the pan I squished one. Oops! (But you know I had to taste it). Even with one cup of coke added to the batter, the cake tasted just like chocolate cake. I was disappointed. I continued on with the frosting hoping it would add to the cake. When I tried the frosting by itself it was super sweet and again, I was disappointed. It was already 9:00 p.m. the night before the party and my co-workers were counting on my bringing two kinds of cupcakes. So I frosted all the minis and quality controlled one. Oh MY! You take the disappointing just chocolate cake, add a little too sweet frosting and POW! The flavors burst onto your tongue. My co-workers raved about this flavor and even ate more than one. This recipe is a must make and a keeper.

– Review by Guest Crusader, Tiffany, from Fizzy Party

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)

Guest Review: Billy’s Bakery Cupcake Tasting

We are excited to have another guest review from Jen. Jen is a close friend of the Crusaders (and a “name twin” to Crusader Jenn), currently living in New York City. She’s been on many adventures with us and has taken the time to write today’s review on a cupcake tasting she attended at Billy’s Bakery! Thanks Jen!

About a month ago, I was recruited by the Cupcake Crusaders to go to a meet-up at Billy’s Bakery in TriBeCa to try their new flavors. My husband tagged along, and together we tried all of the new flavors that Billy’s offers.

First up was the Maple Pecan. This was by far my husband’s favorite flavor, and he ate every bite of it! I did not try this one because I am not a fan of pecan, but I trust that it is delicious.


(Maple Pecan – Billy’s Bakery)

Next was the cupcake that I was most looking forward to – the Banana Nutella cupcake. I. Am. Obsessed. I didn’t want to fill up and not be able to try all of the flavors, so I ate half of this one and then at the end, I finished the rest. If fewer people had showed up to the meet-up, I would have taken a couple of these to go. They are really delicious. The frosting tastes like Nutella, but it’s nice and light and mixes perfectly with the banana cupcake.


(Banana Nutella – Billy’s Bakery)

I had high expectations for the Mint Chocolate cupcake, because I have had some amazing ones at other bakeries, but honestly, this one kind of disappointed me. The balance of flavors wasn’t quite right for my taste (I can’t remember if it was too much mint or not enough) and it was also the driest of the cupcakes.


(Mint Chocolate – Billy’s Bakery)

The Chocolate Cherry cupcake was pretty decent. The cake was nice and moist and had little pieces of cherry in it. Normally I am not a fan of cherry things, but the chocolate made it pretty good.


(Cherry Chocolate – Billy’s Bakery)

I was very curious when I heard that they had an Orange Dreamsicle cupcake. I have eaten both good and bad renditions of this classic flavor, but never in a cupcake. I really liked the cake, as the orange flavor was very light. When I looked closely, I could see the tiny pieces of orange zest that are in both the cake and the frosting, and though I liked it in the cake, I did not like having little chunks in my frosting. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Dreamsicle frosting because it was very sweet and the pieces of zest distracted me from the flavor.


(Orange Dreamsicle – Billy’s Bakery)

The other cupcake that I was really looking forward to was the Lemon Poppy Seed. I had never had a lemon poppy seed cupcake before, and I was pleased with the flavor. My husband did not really like this one because he is not a huge fan of lemon, but as a lemon lover, I thought it was very good. The cake was nice and light but still flavorful with a light lemon taste, and the frosting, though it had pieces of zest like the Orange Dreamsicle did, tasted really nice. If not for the Banana Nutella cupcake, this would have been my favorite of the day.


(Lemon Poppy Seed – Billy’s Bakery)

While I was not a huge fan of all of their cupcake flavors, I am a huge fan of their adorable branding and especially their single cupcake “take out” box! I saw a display of these when we first came in, and fell in love. I have never seen a cupcake box with a handle, and really, that’s an extremely smart idea. I love the light yellow and teal color combo, and their vintage yet trendy typography works very well.


(Billy’s Take Out Packaging)

All in all, if it weren’t for the amazing Banana Nutella cupcake, I may not be itching to visit Billy’s Bakery again any time soon, but because it is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had, it may soon be time to make another visit!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Jen (NY, NY)