Atwaters Bakery Cupcakes (Finally!)

We know it’s been awhile since we’ve shared a review (and believe me, we have plenty to share!), but we’ve know for a long time that Atwaters carried cupcakes, and so after finally trying a couple flavors just last night, we didn’t want to waste any more time reviewing them.

Atwaters is a Baltimore staple that is known for their delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches along with a variety of baked goods, homemade ice cream, coffee and more.

After a quick stop at the Atwaters in Belvedere Square for dinner (which was wonderful), I decided to bring cupcakes home with me for desert, while my husband chose the amazing chocolate pudding ice cream. There were only two flavors left in the display case, so I got one of each: Guinness Chocolate Stout and Coconut.

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The cake on both cupcakes was very dense and crumbly. The coconut cake was still moist and very flavorful, but the chocolate stout cake was a little on the dry side and the flavor was just okay to me. However, combined with the chocolate frosting, the stout cake worked very well. Atwaters’ chocolate frosting actually reminded me of their chocolate pudding ice cream, and is the perfect level of richness without being overly sweet. In the end, I preferred the frosting on the chocolate stout cupcake, but the cake on the coconut cupcake was delicious.

I would like to go to Atwaters more (their food really is quite good), and I wouldn’t shy away from trying new cupcake flavors, but their ice cream is so good, that I might end up getting that for dessert instead.

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

 

 

On the Road: The Barbecue Exchange – Gordonsville, VA

BBQExchange

I know what you are thinking. “Jenn, we know that you have to eat something other than cupcakes, but this IS a cupcake blog…” And you’re right. I try to find cupcakes every time I’m out of town, and my anniversary trip was no different. My husband and I, along with the toddler, headed to Gordonsville, VA to spend a few days in the Shenandoah Valley. I Googled. I Foursquared. I scrutinized every shopping center we passed. I was beginning to think I would fail you all. And then my husband and I stepped into The Barbecue Exchange, a highly recommended food stop that he was aching to try.

It was like the clouds parted, and the light shone down on the counter display.

BBQExchange_Display

Here, in the middle of Virginia wine country at a BBQ joint, was a creative and generous selection of homemade cupcakes. I have a tendency to over-do it, so Dan and I decided to just pick two and if they were good we’d come back for more. We went with the Key Lime (we honeymooned in Belize, so Key Lime is like “our” flavor) and the chocolate coconut. Looking back at the selection I’m not sure why we choose that one. But we did.

BBQExchange_CupcakePair

I didn’t expect much in the way of packaging. This was a BBQ spot after all. But the cupcakes actually held up well in the bowl-shaped take-out container.

Now here’s the catch…I was sick during this trip. Total head cold where I couldn’t breath, couldn’t hear, and worst of all…couldn’t taste! So, my personal critique is limited to textures and we’ll have to trust Dan’s taste critiques.

Chocolate Coconut
BBQExchange_ChocolateCoconut

My review was also jeopardized because we weren’t able to eat these the day we bought them (blaming the head cold again…just not feelin’ sweets so we ended up taking them home instead of instantly indulging). I think the chocolate cake in this cupcake probably would have been more moist if the cupcakes hadn’t sat a day. However, the frosting had a smooth and buttery texture. Dan said the coconut flavor was in good balance and he liked the density of the chocolate cake.

Key Lime
BBQExchange_KeyLime

First I just want to say, how cute is the little cake topper? This technique isn’t something you see done frequently. I felt like the cake could have been more moist, like with the chocolate cake, but Dan disagreed. I was pleased that I could actually could pick up on the key lime flavor. There were even bits of lime zest in the frosting. The frosting wasn’t as buttery as the Chocolate Coconut cupcake’s frosting and was sweeter with a more whipped, but still sugary quality.

Looking back I wish we’d selected more flavors, but Dan is desperate to go back so I’m sure we’ll find an excuse to pass through Gordonsville again. If you are in the Shenandoah Valley area, The Barbecue Exchange is a great place to stop in for lunch before heading out for some wine tasting (or whatever else you do in that part of VA). Along with a big selection of meat, they also have a wide selection of homemade pickles, breads, and of course BBQ sauces. After following their Facebook page, it looks like they have cupcakes regularly and they even customize the menu for holidays, recently offering St. Patrick’s Day themed flavors. As it turns out BBQ and cupcakes make a great pair (when you aren’t sick)!

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

4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #2: SAS Cupcakes | Newark, DE

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(Crusaders enjoying lunch at 16 Mile Taphouse, practically right across the street from SAS Cupcakes.)

Although we couldn’t wait to try out our next cupcake stop, the appeal of local brews was too much to resist, so we decided that a savory break would be a good idea. 16 Mile Taphouse is situated across the street and about a block down from SAS Cupcakes and offers a full menu, as well as their own 16 Mile Brewery beers (Georgetown, DE).

16MileBrewery

In addition to each selecting a beer to fit our tastebuds, we ordered the 16 Mile Fries to share. The beer cheese fondue that came with the fries sounded the most appealing, but paired with the spicy aioli…perfection! The weather was so nice that we were able to sit outside (and the people-watching was top notch – Newark is a college town and, to our luck, they were having some sort of family day). After filling ourselves with savory delights and ample people-watching, we headed up to SAS Cupcakes.

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SAS Cupcakes makes sure they are easy to find. Although their awning was a little hard to spot while driving down Main Street, the windows are filled with large cupcake photos and they have a sidewalk sign, so it was really hard to miss them.

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Walking into the store, we were instantly transformed into kids in a candy store. Greeting us were fun chandeliers, cupcake themed gifts, nostalgic candy, and a wall full of party hats for all occasions. It’s hard to do anything but smile in a place like that, and the staff further proved it. They were all friendly, patient, and excited about their store and cupcakes. We were (slightly) more successful in sticking to our one cupcake per person rule here. I think I had more trouble deciding than the rest, because Crusader Elisa’s eyes bee-lined to the Red Velvet and she didn’t look back.

Red Velvet
SAS_RedVelvet

You can tell just from the photo that the cream cheese frosting on this Red Velvet cupcake is smooth and buttery, Elisa’s favorite kind of frosting. Red Velvet tends to be one of those cakes that you either love or hate. While Stacy and I lean more towards the “dislike” side, we both agreed that this was one of the top Red Velvet cupcakes we’ve tasted. It was hard to get Elisa’s thoughts into words…she was too busy enjoying her cupcake!

 Frangelico Hazelnut – Seasonal
SAS_FrangelicoHazelnut

Stacy also didn’t take too long to decide, settling on the Frangelico Hazelnut cupcake. Her thoughts were that the frosting was really sweet, but had a good flavor. And while the cake was a tiny bit dry (mainly dense and crumbly), it did have a good natural flavor, unlike some places that offer a moist cake, but taste just like what you’d find in a box mixed.

Triple Chocolate
SAS_TripleChocolate

It’s possible that my dad picked the winning cupcake of the day, the Triple Chocolate. It was so incredibly moist, with a rich chocolate cake and dense chocolate truffle center. The chocolate layers continued with dark chocolate ganache on top, a dollop of chocolate buttercream, and chocolate sprinkles. Really, that’s five chocolate elements (not three), but we’ll let SAS Cupcakes off the hook for that.

Pumpkin Spice – Seasonal
SAS_Pumpkin

After much debate (and seeing what everyone else was getting…meaning what I’d still get to taste), I settled on the Pumpkin Spice cupcake. I don’t usually like this much frosting on a cupcake, but most of the cupcakes were heavily topped, and the cinnamon in the frosting looked very appealing. As soon as I had this cupcake in my hands, I noticed how sweet it smelled and wondered if I made the right choice. I proceeded with caution and was pleasantly surprised how the spice and pumpkin came through over the sweetness, giving this cupcake a great flavor. However I was left with a kick of sweetness at the end, that stuck with me. The cake was also a little crumbly, not something I’m used to in a pumpkin cupcake, which tend to be very moist and dense.

Despite my thoughts on the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake,  I decided to select two cupcakes to take home since the Triple Chocolate cupcake was so good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
SAS_ChocolatePB

I was really hoping that the peanut butter frosting on this cupcake would deliver big flavor, however it wasn’t very peanut-buttery at all. My initial disappointment was redeemed when I realized that the center of the chocolate cake was loaded with pure, smooth peanut butter. If the frosting had packed more flavor it would have easily overpowered the chocolate cake, but all the elements blended together created a well balanced cupcake in the end.

Oreo
SAS_CookiesCream

After a full day of cupcakes, I went ahead and gave the Oreo cupcake to my husband, to enjoy all to himself. So, we’ll have to take his word that, “It was awesome.”

All-in-all, we really enjoyed our trip to SAS Cupcakes. We’d love to go back and explore the town more, grab a beer at 16 Mile Taphouse, and pick up a cupcake or two. For chocolate lovers, the Triple Chocolate cupcake is reason enough to visit if you find yourself in the area.

Next week, Crusader Elisa will be sharing our last tour stop, Cupcake Heaven in Wilmington, DE. We had an interesting experience there, so keep an eye out for the review!

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

4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #1: Sweet Devotions | Havre de Grace, MD

For our Annual Cupcake Tour at the end of 2013, we decided to hit the road and visit a few places north of Baltimore, MD. Our first stop took us to a cupcake shop located in Havre de Grace, MD. Sweet Devotions hit the cupcake scene in 2010 with a bit of a twist, they served fresh, made to order crepes as well.

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_1

On our visit, in addition to cupcakes and crepes, Sweet Devotions was offering cake pops, chocolate dipped pretzels and bacon (yep, chocolate covered bacon!), salad, wraps, and more. They had ample seating for all their customers in a shop adorned with cupcake nicknacks and paintings by local artists.

SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_2

We created a “game plan” for our day of cupcake eating to try and pace ourselves: Since there were four adults (my dad always participates in our cupcake tours) and one toddler, our goal was to order only two or three cupcakes, share them, and if they were awesome, we would go back and get more to take home with us. Well, on this first stop we failed miserably and ended up with five cupcakes, a cake pop, chocolate covered bacon, and three savory crepes. So much for self control…

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(Jenn’s daughter, Leah, enjoying her tiger stripped cake pop while sporting a 2013 Cupcake Roadtrip sticker on her hand.)

After finishing our crepes, we moved on to the cupcakes. I selected the French Toast with no bacon (which made this non-pork eater VERY happy), Jenn chose the Chocolate Covered Pretzel, Elisa went with the S’mores cupcake, and my dad got a classic Chocolate with Vanilla frosting and a Pumpkin cupcake for us all to share.

French ToastSweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_3

Seeing that it was only about 11 a.m. when we made our first stop at Sweet Devotions, this French Toast Cupcake was the perfect choice. It was made of of a moist cinnamon cake topped with a great cream cheese frosting. I really enjoy cream cheese frosting whether it’s more on the sweet side or more savory, but this one stayed true to its name and packed in the cream cheese flavor, which paired perfectly with this morning themed cupcake.

Classic Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_4

My dad is pretty easy to please when it comes to cupcakes, unless they are dry, and
unfortunately this cupcake was a little bit. That didn’t stop him from eating the whole thing though. You gotta love a man who loves his sweets. I guess I know where Jenn and I get it from.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_7

Jenn is usually a little hesitant when it comes to Chocolate Covered Pretzel cupcakes, since the pretzels tend to get a little soft and stale, but this one was too pretty to pass up. She said it was REALLY good and was surprised that the pretzels weren’t mushy (even the one baked into the middle) and the chocolate cake was actually moist—unlike the cake from our dad’s chocolate cupcake. She added that it wasn’t overly sweet and overall it was well balanced.

S’mores SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_6

Elisa is a total sucker when it comes to S’mores, especially S’mores cupcakes (you may have read her recent recipe review for Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes). With its toasted marshmallow frosting, this cupcake looked as good as it tasted. It even had a graham cracker filling that added a twist we haven’t seen before.

Pumpkin SweetDevotions_cupcaketour2013_5

We were all in agreement that this Pumpkin cupcake was SO GOOD. The cake was very moist and the frosting was the same found on my French Toast cupcake, with a true cream cheese flavor.

We all unanimously agreed that we had a great start to the day at Sweet Devotions. If you find yourself in Havre de Grace, please stop by their shop. Grab a crepe, grab a cupcake, then sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Next week, Crusader Jenn will share her review for our second stop, SAS Cupcakes in Newark, DE. Stay tuned!

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

Starry Night’s Winter’s Night Treats

StarryNightWinter2013-14_ALL

I have to admit, it had been a while since I’d stopped into my favorite local cupcake shop, Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse. Cupcakes had been plentiful throughout the fall and sweets are never lacking at my house. But when they posted their new winter/Christmas flavors, I couldn’t stay away. I’m a sucker for new flavors. A push from Stacy, who wanted one or two for herself, didn’t hurt either.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_Peppermint

The White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha cupcake is the one that I couldn’t wait to dig in to. As soon as the little one was in bed for her nap, out it came. If you are a coffee lover like me, I’m sure just hearing the flavor combination is enough to make you swoon. The mocha and peppermint both came through, just like a well made peppermint mocha latte. Since Starry Night is a coffee shop, it’s no surprise that they know their coffee flavors. In fact, their coffee buttercream (which is also on their Mahoo Wahoo cupcake) is my all-time favorite. Unfortunately the white chocolate wasn’t present enough for me, but that could be because it’s a mild flavor and was overpowered by both the peppermint and coffee. It may have subtly balance out the other flavors though. Either way, the lack of white chocolate was clearly not a deterrent for me, as I’ve now ordered it two more times since.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_PBChocolateTime

In addition to seeing a list of new flavors, Starry night also posted a photo of this cupcake in conjunction with a naming contest (“Peanut Butter Chocolate Time” won). Who wouldn’t want to try this bad-boy?  Starry Night is no stranger to a peanut butter chocolate combination, but they are always mixing it up. This cupcake obviously stands out, with a Girl Scouts Tagalong cookie on top, but also has chocolate frosting AND peanut butter frosting, with peanut butter chips baked into the chocolate cake. My cupcake happened to have a clump of chips all in the center. I’m not sure it that was an accident or intentional, but it was delicious. And, as always, very moist cake and smooth frosting.

(Update: Peanut Butter Chocolate Time is not always sold with half a cookie on top. Sometimes it only has chocolate chips topping the frosting.)

StarryNightWinter2013-14_SpiceCookie

The worst part about the above Spiced Cider cupcake was that I had to share it with the hubby. After hoarding the White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha cupcake all to myself, I thought it was the nice thing to do (after all, ’twas the season for giving, right?). This cupcake had the aroma of a snickerdoodle cookie, with a spiced apple cake. The cake was baked with a generous amount of fresh diced apples and the buttercream was sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. I’d be a happy girl if this cupcake reappears throughout the year.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_Gingerbread

How can you not appreciate a cupcake with a tiny Gingerbread man on top? The cookie had the perfect spiced ginger flavor and consistency (not rock-solid like some). The cake also had the same, familiar spiced ginger “bite” which was mellowed by the sweet frosting, and the sugar crystals sprinkled on top add a nice crunchy texture.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_DrunkinElf

The cupcake above is called the Drunkin’ Elf, which is a chocolate bourbon cupcake with chocolate ganache frosting. It’s chocolatey goodness paired with booze…’nuff said.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_ChocolateMarshmallow

At a first glance, I thought this was another s’mores cupcake, but it’s really a Marshmallow Hot Chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cake is filled with a marshmallow filling, then topped with chocolate buttercream and garnished with a marshmallow and chocolate shavings. I was pleased with how the two flavors came through, without one overpowering the other.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_Eggnog

Eggnog isn’t for everyone. I can only handle it in small amounts myself, but there’s something about eggnog cupcakes that I love and this one was no exception. In addition to eggnog, it had a bit of spice (I’m guessing nutmeg) and I think even a hint of booze.

After such a successful tasting of all the winter flavors, I went back on New Year’s Eve. Last year my NYE cupcakes came from Starry Night, so now it’s a tradition.

StarryNightWinter2013-14_NewYears

After talking with the owner, Shannon, she said that they’ll be keeping some of these flavors to offer throughout the season (and hopefully the year), but a couple (like the Eggnog cupcake) were only for the holidays. They are gearing up for new spring flavors in the next couple of months, so we’ll have to keep our eyes and ears posted to see what they come up with next!

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

Halloween Piñata Cupcakes

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A friend approached me about helping with a church bake sale, the weekend before Halloween. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring a little holiday-seasonal flare to the fundraiser. After passing by the White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms, inspiration struck. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make piñata cupcakes, so what could be better for a holiday focused around candy, than candy exploding out of a cupcake?

HalloweenPinataCupcakes_CandyCornMM

I kept it simple by using box mixes for the cake (I struggle over doing this when it comes to bake sales, but I just can’t seem to get that light, fluffy texture from anything else…yet). I made the holes a little larger than I would for a filling, to accommodate the larger candy. For the frosting you can use your favorite vanilla or chocolate buttercream recipe.

HalloweenPinataCupcakes_Candy

I thought an appropriate (or maybe just obvious) topper for cupcakes filled with Candy Corn M&Ms would be…Candy Corn!

HalloweenPinataCupcakes_MiniMMFilled

While I was shopping for my candy fillings and toppers, I passed the mini M&Ms. I was hoping to find chocolate M&Ms that were Halloween/Autumn colors, but failed. However, I figured that if the larger Candy Corn M&Ms didn’t work out I couldn’t go wrong with these tiny ones. Having the white chocolate and milk chocolate also offered up a nice variety for the sale.

HalloweenPinataCupcakes_Chocolate

When I was considering what other candy could top the chocolate M&M cupcakes, I wanted to keep it nostalgic. After seeing the mini Hershey bars, I was sold. They’ve always been a favorite of mine and, just like with the candy corn on the other cupcakes, it seemed to make perfect sense.

The chocolate M&M cupcakes are the ones that SOLD OUT. I would have liked to get my hands on one, but I sacrificed for the greater good.

HalloweenPinataCupcakes_Minis

In addition to the piñata cupcakes, I also made a bunch of simple, but festive, mini cupcakes with various combinations and toppers. Minis are always popular at bake sales because you can sell them a lower price and they are great for kids.

But I’m sure you are wondering, “So what did the piñata cupcakes look like on the inside? How did they work?”

HalloweenPinataCupcakes_Inside

Well, they faired pretty well! I was a little concerned about the moisture from the cake affecting the candies. It did a little on the Candy Corn M&Ms, but not enough to make much of a difference. And I heard through the grapevine that the cupcakes with mini M&Ms were great!

But most importantly, the bake sale was successful and I was even asked to make more cupcakes for another fundraising event this weekend!

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

Blast From the Past: Pazo’s Cupcakes & Cocktails

Back in March of 2010, the Crusaders and a few girlfriends met up several times at Pazo for their Thursday night Cupcakes & Cocktails event. Pazo is known for amazing food and a unique cocktail selection, but we didn’t always order the cupcakes with their recommended cocktail pairing, since we can eat many more cupcakes than we should drink cocktails. Below are the cupcakes we tried, way back when…
Angel Food Cupcake with Rasperry Sorbet, paired with La Vie en
Rose (Moscato d’Asti, Soho Lychee Liqueur, rose water, and a fresh
rose petal)
Pazo-Sorbet
This was the first of our cupcake and cocktail combos. The cake was light and airy, as angel food cake should be. The cocktail was so delicious that Crusader Stacy said it was, “probably the best drink I’ve ever had!” Even though this was a frosting-free cupcake, the pairing worked well together and was certainly a great start to the evening.
Chocolate Cupcake, paired with an Espresso Martini
Pazo-Chocolate
(Photo from Baltimore Sun, no harm or infringement intended.)
This chocolate cupcake topped with white chocolate mousse and drizzled with salted caramel was AMAZING! Not too sweet, and the little bit of saltiness was perfect! The chocolate martini cocktail was smooth and sweet with the perfect alcohol zing.
Bacon & Manchego Cupcake with Miticrema Mousse
pazo-Bacon

This cupcake was interesting. Not a typical dessert cupcake in flavor or texture, this cupcake was good, once you knew what to expect. It was a tasty and an interesting take on a cupcake and cocktail pairing.
Sweet Corn Cupcake with Butter Pecan Ice Cream & Caramel Corn topping
Pazo-CaramelCorn
Both our friend Beth’s and my favorite of all the cupcakes, this sweet corn cake was amazing and tasted a bit like caramel corn. The maple iceream alone was wonderful and with a STACK of homemade caramel corn on top, it is a cupcake that still stands out to me today!
Rum Baba Cupcake with Crème Fraiche & Candied Mint, paired with
Classic Elderflower Mondello Mojito St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur,
fresh lemon.
Pazo-RumBaba
This cupcake was very good, with a lightness that paired well with the cocktail. Lemony and fresh this was a cupcake that we would love to try again.
We Crusaders still enjoy going to Pazo, and try to stop by when we are in the Fell’s Point/Harbor East area. They have fantastic food, a too cool atmosphere and comfy couches. On a recent visit, Crusader Stacy and I ended up there late night, sipping unique cocktails and catching up. With or without cupcakes we love this Baltimore gem… if only they would bring back Cupcakes & Cocktails!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)