Guest Review | Just Baked | Detroit, Michigan

Today we have a guest review from an awesome fellow cupcake lover, Karla. Karla recently visited Detroit, Michigan and knew she couldn’t leave until she found out what they had to offer when it came to cupcakes. She was able to stop by Just Baked and has shared her story and photos with us below. Thanks Karla!

While in Detroit, MI I had the pleasure of stopping by Just Baked cupcakery. Since Just Baked is listed as a Top 10 cupcakery in Michigan, I decided to try my luck and visit their downtown location. The shop is located in the historic Dime Building: a neoclassical architectural style building that didn’t look like a place housing fun and sweet treats, but I had faith.

I was immediately taken to a happy place upon entering the shop. The colors, art work, and menu really invite you in.

I was greeted by a friendly member of staff who was able to answer questions I had about the many cupcakes proudly on display. Just Baked has between 25-35 different varieties of cupcakes every day. After the shock of being in cupcake heaven, I decided to get the following three flavors for myself: lemon, peanut butter chocolate, and chocolate fudge.

Lemon Cupcake: My first bite was more cake then frosting and I was happy to find the cake light, moist, and tasting just like a lemon cake should. My second bite was filled with frosting as well as cake and that’s when I made “the face”.  Sadly, I tasted no lemon in the frosting whatsoever. It tasked more like good cake with butter on top. A disappointment. After scraping off the frosting I was able to enjoy just the cake.

Peanut Butter Cupcake: I tried the peanut butter cupcake next and had a similar reaction. I enjoyed the chocolate cake. It was moist and not dense but once again the buttercream was lacking the peanutyness. I felt as if I were eating chocolate cake with colored butter.

Chocolate Fudge: I saved the chocolate fudge cupcake for the next day, determined to try them all. Success! I was happily surprised with my first bite of the chocolate with fudge frosting. The second day cupcake was just as moist and yummy as it could have been the day before. The fudge was perfect, not too heavy and it tasted oh, so good. I enjoyed this cupcake.


(Cupcakes from Just Baked: Bottom Left – Chocolate Fudge; Bottom Right – Lemon; Top Right – Peanut Butter Chocolate)

Overall Just Baked cupcakery offered many things I liked and one major thing I didn’t. With so many cupcake flavors available I would got back and try more, just not any with buttercream. Until next time Detroit!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Karla (Baltimore, MD)

Partying in Western New York with Cupcakes

Stacy and I have been traveling together for many years, and each time I’m reminded why she’s my favorite travel partner-in-crime! We always seem to find fun, even when we are least expecting it. This past weekend we trekked up to Hilton, NY for our friend Alli’s daughter, Freya’s, 1st birthday and house warming party. On our way there, we needed to stop for something to eat, and after randomly selecting an exit (Corning, NY to be exact) we ended up smack-dab in front of Walker Cake & Coffeehouse – with a cupcake on the awning!

It was kismet, we were meant to take that stop and run into our first cupcake taste of the trip. (Honestly, it would amaze people if they knew how often things like this happened when Stacy and I were together.)

Walker Cake & Coffeehouse Cupcakes:

“Mega” Size Chocolate Peanut Butter
In Stacy’s own words: “The ganache was thick and set up like the frosting on a chocolate frosted doughnut from DD… So good! The peanut butter frosting was really thick, almost like the peanut butter you would find in a buckeye or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I have mixed feelings on whether that’s appropriate for a frosting, but it was SO GOOD. The cake was dense and crumbly but moist.

Carrot Cake
Unusual in flavor, this carrot cake might be the best carrot cake cupcake I’ve ever eaten. The frosting was not the usual cream cheese, but was a thick and subtly sweet buttercream, a perfect complement to the moist, spicy, and savory cake. This cake was not like any carrot cake I’ve ever had – there was something special about it – neither Stacy nor I could put our finger on what it was, but it really made this cake stand out and shine. I only wish I had gotten in the “mega” size, because this cupcake left me wanting more.

Soon after, we arrived at Freya’s 1st birthday party and enjoyed watching her play, spending time with our friends, relaxing with a beer, and eating the delicious cupcakes that Alli made for the party. They were a chocolate stout beer cake with a cream cheese frosting. YUM! They tasted as good as they looked, in fact, I couldn’t resist eating just one.

Stacy researched and found fantastic and fun things for us to do – so after eating a wonderful breakfast the next morning at our B&B, White Farm, we headed over to Avon, NY for a huge flea market. We found some fun items to purchase, walked around for a long while, and worked up an appetite for cupcakes.

Our first cupcake stop of the day was in Penfield, NY called Dollop. They’ve won Cupcake Wars and had an interesting “build-your-own” spin on a cupcakery. After selecting our cake, frosting, filling, and toppings we were ready to order, and eat!


“Peach Cobbler” (Vanilla Cake, Peach Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting, and topped with White Chocolate Chips)
So good! Loved the cream cheese frosting even if it was a bit runny. Vanilla cake was a great texture and the filling was perfect.

“Caramel Apple Pie” (Vanilla Cake, Apple Pie Filling, Caramel Frosting, and topped with Graham Crackers and Caramel Sauce)
This cupcake was just as good as the Peach Cobbler. The caramel drizzle was a great addition because the caramel frosting was very subtle. The star of this cupcake was really the filling though!

“Caramel S’mores” (Chocolate Cake, Marshmallow Filling, Caramel Frosting, and topped with Graham Crackers and Marshmallows)
Really worth the wait! The cake was moist and had great texture, the fluff filling was basically melted into the cake, but had great flavor, the icing was subtle in caramel flavor, and the graham cracker and marshmallow topping made this the perfect combination.

“Cinnamon Apple Pie” (Vanilla Cake, Apple Pie Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting, and topped with Cinnamon)
Yummy vanilla cake with very flavorful apple pie filling, cream cheese frosting and cinnamon sprinkled on top = delicious. All of the components of this cupcake were shinning stars, I couldn’t pick my favorite part, I just want to order another one.

Stacy and I agreed that the pricing at Dollop was a bit more than expected for that size cupcake:

Cake & Frosting: $2.50
Filling: $.25
Topping: $.50
**You can earn a free filling with your first Foursquare Check-in

However, after tasting the cupcakes, neither of us minded spending almost $4 for each one.

After Dollop, we headed to Pittsford, NY to visit Dolce Cupcakery. This adorable shop was in an old barn and was so cute; inside was really lovely, with adorable photos of kids eating cupcakes on the walls. What a slice of heaven that whole area is, situated right on the canal we decided to eat lunch there too, but back to the cupcakes:

Blueberry Pancake
This cupcake was a slight disappointment as the frosting seemed to be made with a large amount of shortening, which we weren’t fans of. It made the frosting lack depth of flavor and left your mouth coated in a greasy film. The cake had really great flavor and seemed to be a blend of blueberry cake and brown sugar cake. While the flavor was good, it was very dense, more like a muffin.

Peanut Butter Chocolate
The cake was a bit heavy, but that is the only negative thing I have to say about this cupcake. The frosting was very flavorful, thick, and unlike the Blueberry Pancake cupcake didn’t seem to have any shortening in it, thank goodness. The cake had a peanut butter cup baked into it, which is always fun and adds another level of texture. Maybe it was the frosting that made me love this cupcake so much, maybe it was the chocolate flavor of the cake, either way, I scraped the plate clean.

It was a fantastic weekend, full of friends, food, drinks, and cupcakes. Stacy and I are so lucky to be able to travel all around and spend time doing things we both love. I can’t wait to see what our next trip will be, and I wonder what we’ll randomly run into next time!

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

Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes

Crusader Stacy and I knew there was something we needed to take care of soon after arriving at our Florida vacation destination. I know you are thinking, “Get cupcakes!” and you aren’t entirely wrong…However the first thing on our agenda for the week was a girls’ afternoon to get manicures and pedicures. After all, a vacation is about being pampered and our toes deserved some attention for all the time they’d be spending out in the Florida sun, right? I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t thought of getting cupcakes on the way to our appointment, so that we could sit back in the massage chairs savoring a sweet treat. But, we mustered up our patience and enjoyed our sister-time sans cupcakes.

After our nails were beautified we decided it was time to show them off with a walk through Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Fl. The location of Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes couldn’t have been more perfect for us. Only a few miles away from our nail place, and situated in a center of high-end retailers and boutiques, we could enjoy the warm weather and shop a little.

We found Grace & Shelly’s easily and admired their cute store. They have some small tables, cupcake merchandise, and something extra…ice cream! This is becoming more common to see in our Baltimore-DC metro area, however in Florida I imagine it’s great for business, with having “ice-cream-weather” year-round.

It wasn’t easy to pick out flavors because they all looked so good! Their cupcakes are gourmet size, so a little larger than your average cupcake, and adorned with toppings. Lucky for us, they also sell pre-assembled containers of mini cupcakes by the dozen. We picked one out and then made our selection of larger cupcakes based on what was left to try. In the end, we were able to sample 13 flavors!

The standouts for us were the Chocolate Raspberry, Caramel Brown Sugar, and Tiramisu. Some of the cupcakes were on the sweet side, even for us, but what you can expect from all Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes is moist cake and creative and flavorful combinations.

Chocolate Raspberry:

Chocolate Raspberry has become my go-to for a decadent chocolate treat. Typically paired with a dark chocolate ganache and raspberry filling, it’s rich and makes me believe that nothing could ever be a more perfect combination. Grace & Shelly’s version of this treat is no different. The raspberry to chocolate ratio was perfectly balanced and Stacy and I weren’t willing to share with anyone else!

Caramel Brown Sugar:

We contemplated getting the Caramel Brown Sugar cupcake in a full-size, but opted not to, since our sample pack included two. After trying our small bite, we wish we had a larger one! The cake was so good and the frosting was buttery, a prefect complement to the caramel drizzle. Crusader Elisa would have loved it!

Tiramisu:

Crusader Stacy called dibs on this mini and, like the Caramel Brown Sugar, was wishing she had more. So was I, since I didn’t get to try it! But, as Stacy described it, it was, “Delicious. The espresso liquor made the cake a little squishy, but it didn’t matter because it was so good. And sometimes that can happen with tiramisu.” We both believe that the full-size cupcake would have stood up better to the espresso liquor drizzled on the cake and are waiting for when we have the opportunity to try it again!

Although these three were our favorites, we wouldn’t want to leave out the other cupcakes we tasted:

1) Chocolate Peanut Butter: Chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache frosting.

2) Grasshopper: Chocolate Oreo cake with mint frosting and chocolate chips. This cupcake was a contender for our top three!

3) Butterfinger: Vanilla cake with a peanut butter filling, cream cheese frosting, and topped with crushed butterfinger bars.

4) Vanilla-Vanilla: Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, topped with colorful sprinkles. We loved the decoration on this mini, and the full-size looked the same!

5) Orange Coconut: Orange cake with a cream cheese frosting, topped with toasted coconut.

6) Vanilla Strawberry: Vanilla cake with strawberry buttercream frosting, topped with a vanilla cookie. My husband really liked this cupcake and said it was as good as his favorite Maryland bakery.

7) Chocolate-Chocolate: Chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with sprinkles. Crusader Stacy’s husband would have liked this cupcake better if it had a chocolate ganache frosting instead of a chocolate buttercream, but for the chocolate lovers out there, Grace & Shelly’s does offer a triple chocolate cupcake with that combination and a chocolate filling!

8) Red Velvet: Red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting. Littlest Crusader Leah (aka: my daughter) really enjoyed this cupcake, including the sweet cream cheese frosting, although we believe it may have been too sweet for Crusader Elisa, our red velvet connoisseur.

9) Black and White: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped generously with sprinkles. Although not really black and white due to the vibrant frosting and sprinkles, it was fun!

10) Chocolate Coconut: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped with shaved coconut.

Not only are the cupcakes from Grace & Shelly’s memorable, so was the service. A nice man explained all the flavors to us, offered suggestions, spoke about the other locations when he found out we were vacationers, and once we completed our purchase, he walked our bag around the counter to hand it to us (a lost art in fine customer service). His enthusiasm about the product was obvious and contagious. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Grace & Shelly’s to my Florida family, or anyone else vacationing in the Fort Myers area!

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

Weekend Cupcake: The Baltimore Area Cupcake Hobbyist

When a reader recommended Weekend Cupcake, I knew I had to check them out. We love getting suggestions on new cupcakes to try, so I immediate headed to their Facebook Page to scope them out. After browsing through their photos of tasty looking cupcakes and reading all the rave reviews on their timeline, I contacted them to find out where they are located and if they would be willing to put together a tasting dozen for us to sample. The creator of Weekend Cupcake, Mark, emailed me back right away and said he would be thrilled to do that for us!

Throughout our correspondences I learned that Mark refers to himself as a “Cupcake Hobbyist” and his goal is to “deliver affordable, tasty and gourmet cupcakes to customers so they have an enjoyable event.” Weekend Cupcake was looking better and better and I began counting down the days until it was time to pick up their cupcakes.

We decided on a tasting dozen that consisted of 4 different flavors. I knew 2 flavors would be Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bar, the other 2 would be a surprise. After about a month or so of waiting, it was finally time to get my cupcakes. When Mark arrived at our agreed upon meet up location he took time to talk a bit and go over the cupcake flavors with me.

In addition to the 2 flavors I already knew about, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bar, there was also Chocolate Chocolate and Chocolate Peanut Butter. Knowing that I would never be able to finish all 12 on my own, I headed over to my sister’s house where she, Crusader Jenn, and I split them up (Crusader Elisa was unfortunately out of town that weekend). After my nieces went down for their naps, we dove in!

I started with the Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bar pictured above. Ohhh.Emmm.Gee. The moist yellow cake was infused with toffee pieces and filled with a dark chocolate ganache. Then, the cupcake was topped (as you can see) with caramel, toffee, chocolate, and a Rolo candy piece. If I recall correctly, I mumbled many praises with a mouth full of cupcake.

Crusader Jenn decided to start with the classic Chocolate Chocolate cupcake. At first we thought it might have been topped with sea salt, but it turned out to be large sugar crystals, which kept this cupcake sweet and added a nice crunch. On its own, the cake was moist and light, however, probably could have been a little richer in flavor. But the frosting… WOW. So rich and creamy that it was a full on chocolate explosion. In fact, the frosting was so decadent that the light chocolate cake probably created a better overall cupcake experience.

My big sister, Alissa, choose the Peanut Butter Chocolate to sample first. She doesn’t join us on all our cupcake adventures, but she has been on enough to know a good cupcake when she tastes one, and this cupcake had her smiling from ear to ear. The big surprise was that this cupcake had a full size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup baked inside the cake! Peanut Butter Chocolate is a favorite flavor for my husband so (being the wonderful wife that I am…) I shared with him. We both really enjoyed it and I think it may actually be one of the best Peanut Butter Chocolate’s he’s ever tried.

The last cupcake left was the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This cupcakes is the perfect summer treat! It was light and moist with a pineapple ring and a maraschino cherry baked in the bottom.

Weekend Cupcake really did make my weekend! Crusader Jenn and I liked them so much that we are actually thinking of ordering some for our big 30th birthday coming up. His prices are very reasonable and his cupcakes are scrumptious. That’s a winning combination in my book.

If you would like to find out more about Weekend Cupcake visit their Facebook Page or email Mark at weekendcupcake@gmail.com.

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

Memorial Day Crusade to Smith Island

Memorial Day weekend is a holiday to remember the men and women who served and died for our country. Most people get that Monday off and enjoy having the extra down time. For the past few years I’ve spent my Memorial Day weekend with my friend Kevin and his wonderful family (our significant others also joined us). This year I knew there would be a cupcake crusade mixed in between the fishing, beaching, tanning, eating, and drinking. While in Ocean City at the end of April for the OC Half Marathon, I researched the Smith Island Cake Company and knew I HAD to get there over the long Memorial Day weekend. Luckily for me, I only had to trek to the Ocean City Outlets, as there is a store front located right over the Rt 50 bridge on the mainland.

I adore their traditional layer cake and was very excited to try their cupcakes. Little did I know they also have coffee, tea, etc… so while at the shop I picked up a chai latte and a free sample of their traditional layer cake. Both were divine. The staff were friendly and the shop was very contemporary and clean. Now onto the cupcakes!

Coconut

If the texture of coconut isn’t something you like, this cupcake isn’t for you. The cake is on the dryer side, and is chock full of shredded coconut. The icing was light and fluffy, but lacked in flavor and oddly tasted more like whipped cream than true buttercream icing. The cupcake looked so yummy that it was a bit of a let down overall.

Lemon

The lovely lemon flavor of this cupcake makes it stand out among the rest. The moist cake and lemon curd filling (let’s face it, you all know I love curd!) create a sweet but tart treat. The icing was light and fluffy, but wasn’t lacking in flavor. Overall this was my favorite cupcake of the bunch.

Strawberry

Macerated strawberries are fantastic on top of just about anything (for example, short cake, pound cake, angle food cake, etc), and was great as a filling in this delicate cupcake. The moist, airy cake was simple, while the icing was the same light fluffy icing that was found on most of the cupcake options. Sometimes fruit flavors can be too sweet, because there is too much sugar added to the already sweet fruit, but this cupcake was a great balance of sweetness. I’d definitely eat this one again and think it would be a good base for my next baking experiment! (I’m thinking a basil/strawberry spin!)

Sundae

An ice cream themed cupcake? It was too good to be true… and sadly it was. The cake was moist, but flavorless and I really missed the caramel flavor completely, which I found odd as it was supposed to be “injected” with caramel. The chocolate icing on the other hand was fantastic. Not too sweet, very smooth, and creamy, this icing and filling saved this cupcake from being totally boring, with a cherry on top.

Chocolate Peanut Butter

This delectable cupcake was filled with creamy peanut butter and topped with the same creamy chocolate icing I described above. The cake was a little on the dry side, but with all the filling and icing I barely noticed. I would order this cupcake again and eat it while I drank a cup of coffee.

Rocky Road

Another ice cream themed cupcake?! This one, like the other was a bit of a disappointment. While the cake was moist, and the chocolate icing was good, there was not enough marshmallow fluff or flavor to create that true “rocky road” experience and the almonds slices weren’t crunchy.

While I love Smith Island Cakes traditional layer cake and will gladly pay $4.50 a SLICE, I am not sure I would go back for another half dozen cupcakes. The cake was a little too inconsistent and something seemed to be lacking in almost every cupcake. I did love the chocolate icing, but I’d rather buy it in a tub to spread on my own cupcakes. Overall I am just grateful to Kevin and his parents for the wonderful weekend, and for sharing in my cupcake crusade!

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

Rebecca’s Cupcake Surprise! Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery

Our Healthy Guest Crusader and my co-worker, Rebecca, often surprises me with fun things, like a high heel shoe tape dispenser… but the best surprises are always cupcakes! Last week, while on a trip to DC,  she was kind enough to buy me cupcakes from Sprinkles and Bittersweet Bakery!

Knowing my love for Sprinkles, she stopped by and got me two cupcakes she knew I had been dying to try, their Cherry Blossom and S’mores cupcakes.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry done right! This cake has cherries puréed in both the icing and the cake! The icing was sweet, pink, and very cherry, while the cake actually tasted more almond to me and had a lovely blue/pink/gray color. This cupcake celebrates the beautiful cherry blossom trees just perfectly.

S’more

Graham cracker lined bottom with gooey chocolate ganache filling, and toasted marshmallow on top really embody a s’more in cupcake form.

The crust stayed crunchy and buttery too, which has to be a difficult challenge when you are putting cake batter on top. I don’t always love chocolate cake, but this cupcake really let each flavor shine, making it a chocolate cake I would always order. Sadly, S’mores is only offered a few months out of the year and the next time it will be around is next fall. I can’t believe I will have to wait that long to get one again!

Rebecca has been telling me for months now how much she loves Bittersweet Bakery in Alexandria, VA. So while she was in the DC/VA area, she got me four of their adorable mini cupcakes to try (starting on the far right and working clockwise):


Chocolate Peanut Butter
What a peanut butter punch! This little deep dark chocolate cake was topped with the most savory and delicious peanut butter frosting. I mean, WOW, it was that good and I would love to have a full size cupcake of this flavor!

Boston Creme
This little cupcake looked better than it tasted. The cake was oddly oily, and while the chocolate ganache topping was yummy, it did not save this cupcake from being mediocre. Maybe their full size cupcake would be different, but it would be tough to get me to order it, especially knowing how good some of the other flavors are.

Red Velvet
Knowing how much I love red velvet (when it’s done right), Rebecca made sure to include this one for me. However, as can often be the case with red velvet, this cupcake was disappointing. The cream cheese icing was just okay, and the cake was very dry. I love the chocolate shavings on top though; what an interesting and delightful treat, sadly, the only treat about this cupcake.

Carrot Cake
Rebecca warned me about how much I would love this cupcake, and boy was she right! The very moist and spicy cake was full of carrot and raisins. The cream cheese icing (which I swear was not the same as the icing on the red velvet) was perfect and smooth. My one problem with this cupcake is how small it was… all I wanted was more of it!

Surprise cupcakes are always a treat and I really enjoyed these cupcakes. I’m always looking to eat more flavors from Sprinkles and am excited to have finally had cupcakes from Rebecca’s favorite bakery! I’m looking forward to the next time Rebecca swings by my office with sweet treats to share. 🙂

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

The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Fresh Bakery | Owings Mills, MD

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Top 5 post on Fresh Bakery, over the past couple of years we’ve eaten a lot of their cupcakes. Even though those cupcakes may not have made the “highly recommended” list, they are all still great, so we wanted to share some of them with you:

Red Velvet


(Not being the Red Velvet pro like Crusader Elisa, Jenn and I thought this cupcake, topped with a sweet cream cheese frosting, was pretty good. But her expert taste buds on this flavor disagreed with us. She said it was good, but not her favorite.)

Banana’s Foster


(Years ago this was one of my favorites, but now having tried so many other great flavors, this cupcake has moved down that list, but doesn’t stop it from being a tasty option.)

Sweet Potato Cheesecake


(This cupcake contains a sweet potato cake blended with soft cheese cake and topped with a sweet frosting. While it doesn’t scream “sweet potato” the cheesecake blends with the spices to create a balanced and delicious cupcake.)

Chocolate Chocolate


(This rich dark chocolate cake has just the right amount of sweetness to make it decadent and wonderful.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter


(Chocolate cake combined with creamy peanut butter frosting form this savory classic cupcake.)

Chocolate Strawberry


(This cupcake has the same chocolate cake that is found in the chocolate peanut butter but instead it’s topped with a sweet strawberry frosting.)

Cookies and Cream


(The cake and frosting on this cupcake are each filled with an abundance of crushed cookie pieces resulting in a wonderfully strong “Oreo” cookie flavor.)

Pecan


(This is a great cupcake complete with large and small chunks of yummy pecans. It would be perfect for a Thanksgiving Day spread.)

Have you been to Fresh Bakery? What are your favorite flavors? We’d love to hear!

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