One Sweet Find in Shady Side

Spending time in Pittsburgh with my Nona is one of my favorite things, and spending Christmas with my whole family at Nona’s house is a tradition! This Christmas was no exception and it was wonderful seeing and spending time with all my family. I had the luxury of spending a couple of extra days there after Christmas and decided that I better find some cupcakes to try. (The Crusaders and I have discussed at length how crazy it is that I often visit Pittsburgh, but have never gotten cupcakes while I was there, something they told me had to be remedied.)

After doing a bit of research I decided on Vanilla Pastry Studio. They have been voted Pittsburgh’s Best Cupcakes by WPXI, two years in a row and offer a delightful assortment of treats, including: cookies, brownies, muffins, bread, scones, whoopee pies, and special order cakes.

VPS-StoreSign
(The lovely sign above the entrance)

The shop is located in the Shady Side area of Pittsburgh, an eclectic and fun area where you can find delicious food, thrift shops, and revived old buildings. The store front was easy to find because of the large cupcake sign on the light post out front. (Note: Vanilla Pastry is moving to the Regent Square area in early spring, so if you want to stop by the shop, check out their Facebook page first and make sure they haven’t moved.)

VPS-OutdoorSign
(Clearly cupcakes are sold on this street! Check out the large cupcake sign on the sidewalk and all that snow.)

VPS-StoreInside
(The beautiful display and decor. Not pictured are the booths, cafe tables and comfy arm chairs.)

Once I walked in, I was in love with the decor and excited to pick from all the cupcake flavor options. One of the Sugar Fairies (that’s what they call the staff) greeted me, recommended a couple of cupcake favorites, and boxed up my choices while I walked around to check out the shop. I chose one cupcake to eat in the shop and also took photos of the other flavors I planned on taking home to share with some of my family later that evening. At $25 a dozen, the cupcakes didn’t break the bank. Below are my flavor choices and reviews.

Boozy Eggnog (season special and the cupcake I ate in the shop)
VPS-Eggnog

While Crusader Stacy loves eggnog cupcakes and lattes, I don’t. In fact, the whole idea of eggnog weirds me out a bit, but this cupcake came highly recommend and was divine! The cake was a moist and classic vanilla cake while the frosting was very smooth and not too sweet, with a delicious mix of eggnog spices and alcohol flavors. The crispy toppings were a fantastic additional texture. (Those little gems are hand painted in the shop!) While this is clearly not a cupcake for kids, it is one fine adult cupcake indeed and one of my favorites.

Red Velvet
VPS-RedVelvet

Being dubbed the “Red Velvet Crusader” maybe makes me a particularly tough critic on the subject. The bright red cake made me leery, but the cake was quite moist and I would say it had more of a vanilla flavor than true red velvet flavor. The frosting again was smooth and well balanced with its not too sweet and not too cream cheesy flavor, and the chocolate covered puffed rice topping was also a nice touch of texture. While this was a good cupcake, it wasn’t a great red velvet, so I am not sure I would order this one again.

Coconut
VPS-Coconut

This coconut cupcake is a vanilla cake and coconut buttercream with sweet coconut shavings on top. The cake was a bit on the dry side, and while the frosting was smooth, this cupcake just didn’t do it for me. I love coconut and am not sure what I was expecting, but after tasting and being wowed by other flavors, this one just fell flat for me. Even thinking about it now makes me shrug my shoulders and say, “Eehh.” Nothing particularly wrong with it, but also nothing particularly exciting either.

Chocolate w/Espresso
VPS-ChocEspresso

Whoever decided to put chocolate and coffee together is a personal hero of mine. These flavors come together in such great harmony, and this cupcake showcased that. The rich and moist chocolate cake was subtly sweet and paired well with the smooth, buttery, coffee frosting. The chocolate covered espresso bean on top added great crunch and a burst of additional coffee flavor. If you like coffee and chocolate together, I would highly recommend ordering this cupcake.

Lemon
VPS-Lemon

Sweet and tart in all the right ways. This cupcake had the same vanilla cake as the coconut, but wasn’t as dry. (Who knows why. Maybe one was baked a little longer, or wasn’t fresh from that day, etc.) The lemon buttercream was that smooth consistency I began to count on from Vanilla Pastry and had HUGE lemon flavor. You could actually see the lemon rind in the frosting and because it was paired with the sweet cake the tart and sweet flavors balanced out to just about perfect.

Chocolate w/Peanut Butter
VPS-ChocPeanut

We Crusaders have eaten a lot of chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes, and I use peanut butter on an almost daily basis, and I loved this cupcake. The chocolate cake was moist and had the perfect, true cocoa flavor. The smooth peanut butter frosting was the perfect peanut flavor and the salted peanuts on top added the perfect extra crunch to this fantastic cupcake. A must order!

While not all the cupcakes from Vanilla Pastry Studio were perfect for me, one thing was always consistent and dependable: the frosting. I don’t know how they do it, but their frosting is perhaps the smoothest frosting I have ever discovered. The flavor in the frosting is undeniably good and if they sold it in tubs I might never make my own frosting ever again. All in all a wonderful experience and one I look forward to having again the next time I am up in Pittsburgh for a visit.

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

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Sometimes You Just Need a Bite

Pint-sized cupcakes are already hard to turn away, so when you take an already small treat and make it even smaller it’s next to impossible to say “no!” Today, we are sharing a collection of small bite treats we’ve sampled, from Smith Island Cake Company’s miniscule “cake-its” to a new Starbucks cake-pop flavor.

Smith Island Cake-Its

SmithIslandCakeIts

While in the bakery section of the Giant grocery store, I spotted a wide variety of Smith Island Cake treats. I’ve never actually tried Smith Island Cake (you don’t have to say it… I know… it’s practically a sin among Maryland-based cake lovers), so was excited to see such an assortment. They had mini cakes (which I might have to get one day), slices of their famous layered cake, cake pops, and these teeny tiny little cake bites, which they call “Cake-Its.” I haven’t seen anything like them before, so snatched them up without a second thought. The flavors included were: Original (yellow cake/chocolate icing), Red Velvet (red velvet cake/cream cheese icing), and Coconut (white cake/coconut buttercream). Even though Crusader’s Elisa’s review of their cupcakes didn’t have tons of positive things to say, she’s always said great things about their layered cake, so I was hopeful that these treats would be moist and delightful, and lucky for me, they were. I didn’t really have a favorite because each time I ate a new flavor, I would decide it was the best. Much smaller than a typical cake pop or cake truffle, each was like a little explosion of flavor. The Red Velvet had a good cocoa flavor, the Classic had a rich deep dark chocolate flavor from their signature frosting, and I thought coconut was perfect for any coconut lover.

Godiva Cake Truffles

GodivaCakeTruffles

Being a long-time Godiva lover (let’s face it, who isn’t?), I couldn’t wait to try their new line of cake truffles, which were created with the cake master himself, Chef Duff from Charm City Cakes. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was able to pick up three flavors on my visit: Birthday Cake, Butterscotch Walnut Brownie, and Pineapple Hummingbird. To my (slight) disappointment, there was no cake involved, but these still had the wonderful creaminess and richness you would expect from a Godiva truffle. The Birthday Cake had a white (pink) chocolate outer layer, then a milk chocolate layer, and a “funfetti cake” center. This didn’t really have the “cake batter” like flavor I was hoping for and, for the most part, just tasted like a white and milk chocolate truffle. The Butterscotch Walnut Brownie ended up being my favorite, and was reminiscent of “brownie batter” with all the other flavors being very present as well. The final truffle, Pineapple Hummingbird, also had a good mixture of flavors, but was still missing that cake-like quality. If you’ve ever had a cake batter ice cream flavor, you know what I’m talking about. I still love Godiva, but I think I’ll be sticking to my favorite, the dark chocolate raspberry truffle, on future visits.

Hamilton Bakery Carrot Cake Cake Truffle

HamiltonBakeryCakeTruffle

With Hamilton Bakery located a hop, skip, and jump from my front door, it’s a shame that their cupcakes don’t rank higher on my list. Despite that, their other baked goods and friendly customer service always have me stopping in for something. During a breakfast visit for a scone and a cup of Zeke’s I spotted this Carrot Cake cake truffle. It was the first time I had seen cake truffles at Hamilton Bakery, so I quickly added that to my order. The texture was perfect: not too dry and not too mushy. The spicy carrot cake flavor was also perfect and the thin coating of white chocolate didn’t overpower this bite-sized treat.

Starbucks Chocolate Raspberry Cake Pop

Starbucks_Cakepop

We are no strangers to Starbucks‘ cake pops. From the classic Birthday Cake to the seasonal Peppermint Brownie (also pictured above) we grab these sweet additions to our coffee break when a caffeine high isn’t enough. Recently we spotted a flavor we hadn’t seen before: Chocolate Raspberry. Crusader Jenn said this cake pop was good with rich moist chocolate cake and raspberry flavor. Although the raspberry tasted a bit artificial.

How do you feel about cake pops, truffles, and other similar items? Do you think there is room in the dessert world for them and cupcakes, or will cupcakes always outshine these tiny treats?

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Guest Review | Sugar Bakeshop | Charleston, South Carolina

We are delighted to have our first guest review by avid cupcake lover, Jessica, of Poundcake Press. Last January Jessica joined us on a cupcake tasting at Flavor Cupcakery and was even kind enough to donate her adorable cupcake thank you cards to one of our giveaways. Today we are sharing her recent visit to Sugar Bakeshop located in Charleston, South Carolina. She’s awesome and we hope to share more of her cupcake adventures with you all. Thanks Jessica!

Charleston, South Carolina is one of my favorite places to visit. I love the southern hospitality, charm and the amazing food! On a recent visit with my husband and my parents, we decided to check out a bakery that I had heard great things about. Sugar Bakeshop sells cakes, pies, tarts, cookies and cupcakes (as well as a few other sweet treats). The bakery is a little out of the way from the historic downtown area, and parking is a little tricky, but don’t let that deter you. The building itself is adorable and inside you find the most inviting display of goodies.

SugarBakeshop1

When you walk through the doors of the quaint shop, you are faced with a charming display of vintage cake stands and jars containing every sweet treat you can imagine – including some good old southern sweet tea. Happiness! A super friendly employee greeted us right away and went over all of the flavors they had on display that day.

SugarBakeshop2

My mom and I picked out a half dozen cupcakes to go and we were on our way. My only regret was not grabbing a sweet tea and chocolate chip cookie for the ride!

SugarBakeshop3[Please note that with the exception of the coconut cupcake, all of the cupcakes were a day old when we tried them. We kept them in the fridge overnight and that could have affected the moistness of the cake. Like I said, Charleston is full of amazing food, and we were too stuffed from dinner to eat the cupcakes that night. Shame on us! Lesson learned: you should always leave room for dessert.]

Peanut Butter & Jelly

SugarBakeshop4

The peanut butter and jelly cupcake is a must-have for a PB&J junkie like my husband. The peanut butter icing was very rich and creamy. According to my husband, the white cake was perfect because it reminded him of eating a PB&J sandwich on white bread. Our only complaint with this one was that, even with the delicious strawberry jelly inside, the white cake was very dry.

Lime

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The lime cupcake was really pretty with sugar crystals and light green buttercream icing. Both the cake and the icing were vanilla, so the lime filling is what really made this cupcake. It was super tangy and refreshing.

Caramel

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The caramel cupcake was the one that I was most excited about and it did not disappoint. The icing was thick and fudgy – I loved it! The vanilla cake was moist and light and I thought it was a perfect match for the candy-like topping.

Coconut

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The coconut cupcake reminds me of a snowball. I didn’t get a chance to try this one but my parents described it as heavenly. The dense vanilla cake was moist and loaded with shredded coconut on top. The vanilla buttercream icing was also delicious, and not too sugary sweet, which was good because it was piled high!

Chocolate

SugarBakeshop8

This cupcake was a dream for a chocoholic like me. The cake had a dark chocolate flavor and was rich and moist. The thick, fudgy icing was simply delicious. I drank a tall glass of milk with this one and I was in heaven.

Lemon

SugarBakeshop9

My husband and I are huge fans of lemon cupcakes. After sampling quite a few rich desserts, a citrus-flavored cupcake is usually a real treat. The lemon cupcake from Sugar was similar to the lime cupcake. The vanilla cake contained a tart lemon curd filling and was topped with vanilla buttercream icing. While there wasn’t anything wrong with the subtle flavors of this cupcake, I would have liked it more if the lemon was a little more prominent.

Overall, my family and I were pleased with everything we tasted from Sugar Bakeshop. We’ll be sure to stop in the next time we’re in Charleston.  With all of the different desserts they offer, there is so much more we still have to try!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Jessica of Poundcake Press (Baltimore, MD). To find out more about Poundcake Press, visit their Esty Shop or follow them on Facebook.

Art and Cake Bakery | Arbutus, MD

When I heard about Art and Cake Bakery located in Arbutus, MD, I quickly added it to my ever growing list of “must visit” cupcake spots. Not long after that, Art and Cake Bakery offered a Groupon deal for $20 worth of baked goods, which was too tempting to pass up. Since my “must visit” list seems to grow longer every day, it wasn’t until the day the Groupon expired that I redeemed it (talk about cutting it close!).

Art and Cake Bakery is a full service bakery with breads, bagels, cookies, pastries, and even freshly prepared breakfast dishes like french toast. Obviously I headed straight for the cupcakes. The man behind the counter (who I’m guessing is one of the owners, Eric Boardley) greeted me with a big smile as soon as I walked through the door and patiently waited as I selected 4 cupcakes, 1 cake pop, and a loaf of bread ($20 will get you a lot of baked goods…). The flavors I took home were: Caramel, Coconut, Chocolate Raspberry, and Chocolate Peanut Butter.

Caramel

I was expecting this cupcake to be exploding in caramel flavor. It was filled with caramel, then dipped in it, and even the frosting was swirled with it, but somehow this cupcake managed not to have much caramel flavor at all. The best way to describe the texture of the cake is to say that it reminded me of a sponge, but at least it had a decent, subtle vanilla flavor. After trying all 4 cupcakes from Art and Cake Bakery, this one ended up being my least favorite.

Coconut

The cake in this cupcake was just like the cake from the caramel cupcake. The frosting was also very sweet, but actually quite tasty. If you are a coconut lover, which I happen to be, this cupcake is a great selection because, as you can see, it’s COVERED in shredded coconut.

Chocolate Raspberry

Unfortunately, the chocolate cake and ganache on this cupcake weren’t as rich as I would have liked, but the raspberry filling was great. The filling was a little more sweet than tart, but since the cake and ganache weren’t that sweet it created a good balance. In the end, the raspberry filling saved this cupcake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter

The chocolate cake on this cupcake was sadly the same bland cake found on the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake, but there was peanut butter baked in the center of the cake which added more depth and flavor, making it my favorite of all 4 flavors.

Chocolate Cake Pop

After experiencing the chocolate cake on 2 of the 4 cupcakes, I was really worried this cake pop would be bland, but it somehow managed to not be too bad. It still wasn’t super rich, but it had a good balance of chocolatiness and sweetness.

Even if the cupcakes from Art and Cake Bakery didn’t “wow” me, the service and the fresh baked bread did (that loaf of bread might have been the best I’ve ever had). If I’m in the area and decide to stop in for more savory goodies, I just might be lured into trying another sweet treat too.

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

NYC Cupcake Crawl: Lower East Side and East Village

Prior to being a mom, I used to go to NYC with Crusaders Stacy and Elisa quite a bit. We have friends and family that live there, we love going to shows, and taking a day trip is so easy from our location. I ended up missing our annual spring overnight trip, which means that the last time I was there was when I was pregnant, a year and a half ago. Since I was craving a NYC girls’ trip and missing my friends, Stacy and I drove up for a day trip this fall.

Stacy did all the research and planned our very ambitious day…six cupcake stops, five of them in walking distance (5–15 minute walks). We arrived in the city and made our way to the East Village. Our first stop was Butter Lane Cupcakes.

Butter Lane Cupcakes:

The menu setup at Butter Lane Cupcakes was a little confusing at first. They offer three cake flavors (vanilla, chocolate, and banana) and then a long list of frostings to choose from. If they don’t have the combination you want already assembled, they will fix it up for you. When we first arrived there were people standing outside of the shop eating their cupcakes and it was crowded inside (always a good sign!), but it cleared out quickly with the quick service that staff provided. Stacy noticed a Foursquare offer on the first check-in for a buy 2, get 1 free, so we took advantage of it.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting, Banana with Maple Pecan frosting, and Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting.)

Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting: Possibly one of my favorite cupcakes ever. I was really surprised because the frosting looked crunchy, but it wasn’t. After biting in I couldn’t believe how moist the cake was and it had the perfect balance of flavors.

Banana with Maple Pecan frosting: Stacy thought that the maple overpowered the banana cake (I didn’t think so), but she still loved the frosting. Same super moist cake that was on the dense side, because of the banana.

Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting: Moist light chocolate cake with a rich, salty frosting and caramel drizzle. I would recommend this to anyone who loves the sweet and salty combination.

Prohibition Bakery:

Prohibition Bakery is a basement bakery with just enough room to order your cupcakes, and a small bench inside. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the ledge leading down into the shop ended up being a great spot for Stacy and I to try our cupcakes. Prohibition Bakery only offers mini cupcakes at $2 each or three for $5.


(Top cupcakes from left to right: Margarita and Beer and Pretzel. Bottom cupcakes from left to right: Shiny Apple, Mulled Wine, and Birthday Cake.)

Margarita: I was surprised by how strong the booze in such a tiny cupcake could be! But, it was definitely a cocktail in cupcake form. This cupcake stuck to wrapper a little more than I like for minis (since every bit of cake you can get is precious). But any margarita lover would appreciate this treat. The salt was perfect, like a salted rim.

Beer and Pretzel: This cupcake didn’t stick as much to the wrapper, but it had a weird taste. Maybe it was the beer that’s used? I usually like beer breads and cakes, but I wouldn’t recommend this cupcake.

Shiny Apple: Stacy said this cupcake tasted just like a Washington Apple shot  (whiskey, Apple Pucker, and Hot Damn—instead of cranberry juice). She gave me a bite and I thought it was like spiked apple cider. It became our favorite here at Prohibition Bakery and was perfect for the autumn season.

Mulled Wine: This mini treat was sweeter than the others, but definitely had a mulled wine taste. It was really good, but not a favorite.

Birthday cake: Stacy said the vodka in this cupcake was strong and that it tasted exactly like what it was, a vanilla cupcake with vodka. The cake was moist, but a little crumbly.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine:
After eating lunch at One More Thai (across the street from Prohibition Bakery and highly recommended), we met up with Guest Crusader Jen and her husband James and all headed to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. We were pleased to see that there was seating inside, although it was packed, because more friends, Joanna and Greg, joined us. It was nice to be able to find a few chairs to hang out for a little while. Sugar Sweet Sunshine offers more than just cupcakes, and is also known for their pudding trifles. We were all shocked to see that the regular size cupcakes were only $1.75 (especially our New Yorkers friends who are accustomed to higher prices).


(Cupcakes from left to right: Pistachio and Pumpkin.)

Pistachio: I got this cupcake out of curiosity, but was a little wary since I’ve never had a pistachio cupcake. I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh nutty flavor, and moist, light cake. Because of the uniqueness, this may have been one of my favorite cupcakes of the day (coming in behind the Banana Honey Cinnamon from Butter Lane).

Pumpkin: Stacy picked this cupcake and said the cake was also moist and light, especially for pumpkin, which tends to be heavier.

(Cupcakes from left to right: Strawberry cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Banana.)

Strawberry with Peanut Butter frosting: James got this cupcake and really liked it. He was surprised and pleased that it tasted just like PB&J sandwich, even having a taste of sandwich bread.

Banana: Jen ordered this cupcake and thought it was good. She was expecting the cake to be moister for banana, but it had a good flavor and a tasty, light cream cheese frosting. Jen isn’t usually a fan of cream cheese frosting, so the fact that she liked this one speaks volumes.

Coconut (not photographed): Greg and Joanna shared this cupcake. Joanna isn’t much of a sweets person (I know, I don’t get it either!), but they both enjoyed how light and moist the cupcake was, and that it wasn’t overly sweet.

BabyCakes:

BabyCakes is a well know vegan bakery that uses spelt instead of wheat flour and doesn’t use refined sugars, but sweetens their cupcakes with agave nectar. They also make gluten-free vegan options, and all of their cupcakes are soy-free. The prices varied and were on the higher side. With the price and limited selection Stacy and I decided to share one. We were expecting it to be over $4, based on the price marked on the display, but it ended up being $3.75 (still the highest price of the day for a normal size cupcake). My guess is the specialty ingredients make BabyCakes cupcakes cost more, but it was our least favorite of the day and perhaps the worst cupcake we’ve ever had.

Vegan Lemon: Stacy recognized the texture of the cake was a lot like Sticky Fingers vegan bakery, which we tasted over the summer. The cupcakes at BabyCakes are served cold, which is always a downside. Our first bite did not make a good impression and we only took a second bite to try and pin point the flavors. Despite the lack of wheat flour, the cake tasted floury and also bitter, probably from the spelt. It was hardly sweet, almost like a sugar cookie that suffers from too much salt and flour and not enough sugar in the batter. The frosting, which can sometimes redeem a cupcake, just made it worse. It was sticky, like a runny fondant that solidified due to being chilled.

While we commend BabyCakes for their commitment to being all-natural and offering a healthier, non-processed option on the cupcake scene, it just doesn’t work for the normal cupcake lover.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop:

Little Cupcake Bakeshop was the biggest venue we visited during our cupcake crawl, with the most seating. Just like most of the bakeries, they were very busy, perhaps the busiest one we visited since people linger at the tables. They have a large display for their cupcakes and other confections, areas to watch bakers apply frosting and prepare confections, and a full service coffee shop. Although they were packed, they are also very well staffed. The selection looked amazing, so it was hard to choose. Their cupcakes range from $3–$3.50 for normal size cupcakes, but that’s average in NYC.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Mott Street, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Luscious Lemon.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly: Stacy finally got a PB&J cupcake, one of her new favorites, and thought this one was delicious. She really liked how the jelly was swirled in the cake.

Luscious Lemon: I choose this cupcake, which had a vanilla cake and was topped with lemon butter cream and a meringue swirl. While this cupcake was well made and tasty, I think the name is a little deceiving. I was expecting much more lemon flavor, but the flavor was subtle. But after the previous lemon cupcake from Babycakes, I still thought it was refreshing and just what I needed.

Mott Street: I took the Mott Street home with me, because after hearing the description, I had to have it. It was a vanilla bean cake soaked in Illy espresso and topped with mascarpone cream cheese frosting, then dusted in cocoa powder. The girl who described it compared it to tiramisu. I thought this cupcake was really great, with a light, fluffy, and moist cake.

Baked by Melissa:  October Flavor of the Month

There was no way we could go to NYC without visiting Baked by Melissa, especially will all the locations they have now. Crusader Elisa even gave us her order before our trip, so we had to bring some back for her. We headed uptown, to Grand Central Station where there is a Baked by Melissa next door (a convenient location and also nearby to the restaurant our friend, Liz, works at and where we had dinner). The only new flavor we tried was the flavor of the month (read previous reviews here).

For October, Bake by Melissa offered a carrot cake with mini chocolate chips. Stacy’s thoughts were, “It was interesting because it tasted like carrot cake, but it had no visible carrots, or any of the other usual carrot cake fixings (like raisins or nuts). It was tasty, but the chocolate chips kind of overpowered it.”

We had a great day, filled with cupcakes and friends, so what more could we want?  Stacy and I discovered a few new cupcake places that we now call favorites. It would be hard to choose just one place to visit. Super Sweet Sunshine had their amazing prices and above average cupcakes, Butter Lane had their unique menu approach that allowed for amazing flavor combinations, Prohibition has booze, and Little Cupcake Bake shop has treats that give the feeling of high-end cakes. So depending on where you are in the East Village or Lower East Side and what type of treat you are looking for, we recommend checking out any of these four great places. Then stop by Baked by Melissa for bite size cupcakes to-go. I can’t wait for our next trip to NYC, which will no doubt include cupcakes, but maybe next time we’ll also fit in a Broadway show!

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

MmmmMmm Delicious! – That’s So Morie Cupcakes

We met Lamorea, of That’s So Morie Cupcakes, at our first Cupcake Picnic in Washington DC. She came fully prepared with many summer flavors, each wrapped up individually and ready to take home to enjoy after recovering from an intense cupcake coma. Since then, we tried several times to meet up again to indulge in cupcake goodness, but for one reason or another it never worked out, until recently.

She graciously gave us a dozen cupcakes to sample in a variety of flavors: The Usual (Vanilla), Strawberry Cheesecake, Naptown (Coconut Almond—named after our mutual hometown, Annapolis), and Caramel Butter-Pecan Chocolate Deluxe.

It just happened to be my mom’s birthday the same day I picked up cupcakes from Lamorea, so after delivering one of each flavor to Crusader Elisa’s house, there were eight left for my family to all enjoy together (with the disclaimer that Crusader Jenn and I each had to have at least one bite of every flavor).

The Usual

I knew, on looks alone, this vanilla cupcake would be the favorite of my nieces (ages three and under). They were all instantly drawn to the vibrant blue frosting and happily split one cupcake among the three of them. This classic cupcake almost had a sugar cookie like quality to it. The frosting wasn’t overly sweet and it reminded us of those frosted sugar cookies you find at the store (which we actually really love). Typically I would prefer a vanilla cupcake to have more vanilla flavor, but because it was reminiscent of a sugar cookie, it didn’t bother me at all.

Strawberry Cheesecake

This cupcake consists of a fresh strawberry cake infused with cheesecake, a vanilla wafer crust on the bottom, and topped with a cream cheese frosting. We all agreed it was wonderful. My mom felt like it tasted like a strawberry danish, while Jenn thought it was more like a strawberry shortcake. With its true cream cheese frosting (not too sweet) I personally agree with my mom (sorry Jenn!).

The Naptown

This cupcake starts with an almond cake, is topped with Lamorea’s savory cream cheese frosting and is then dipped in toasted coconut. When done right, almond cake is one of my favorites and the combination of flavors in this cupcake work much better than I thought they would. In fact, this was both Jenn’s and my favorite.

Caramel Butter-Pecan Chocolate Deluxe

When Lamorea told me about this cupcake I was immediately intrigued. I like butter-pecan, I like chocolate, I like caramel, but how would they all taste together? Well, as it turns out, they work really well. Of all the cupcakes, this one was the sweetest of the bunch, which we think was due to the caramel drizzle. I’m not sure if it would be too much, but I LOVE salted caramel and wonder if it would work on this cupcake, or just add too many flavors?

Going into this cupcake tasting, I already knew I would love these cupcakes, since we tried several other flavors at the cupcake picnic, but it was nice to try Lamorea’s creations without being somewhat overdosed on cake and frosting.

That’s So Morie Cupcakes will be offering Treat Yourself Fridays starting in late November.  She’ll be testing this out by posting select cupcake flavors every other Tuesday to be picked up as a six pack that following Friday. Also, according to her Facebook page, she’ll be coming to Odenton, MD soon (currently located in Millersville, MD) and will be selling her cupcakes and cake pops individually. We are very excited for Lamorea and her growing business! For more information on That’s So Morie Cupcakes, visit their website or Facebook page (trust me, you won’t be disappointed!).

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

Happy Hour Cupcakes from Kupcakes & Co.

Summer may be coming to an end, but Kupcakes & Co. decided to go out with a bang. All last week was their Happy Hour Week, with a featured cupcake fashioned after popular drinks and special offers to go along with them.

I had a chance to stop by and sample some of the week’s offerings. As usual, I was greeted with a friendly smile and eagerness to help out.  They were only featuring one happy hour cupcake a day, and on this day the option was Piña Colada.

This cupcake had Kupcakes & Co.’s signature light, moist cake, flavored with coconut (and rum?), pineapple frosting, and was topped with coconut. As soon as I bit into the treat I thought, “Wow! It tastes just like the drink!” It’s one of my favorite Piña Colada cupcake to date and made me crave the actual drink, just to continue the flavor.

Due to my timing in stopping by the shop, I was fortunate enough to get the cupcake that would be featured the next day: Margarita, my favorite drink! I’m sure you can imagine my excitement.

The Margarita cupcake had a lime, rum cake (although I didn’t really detect the rum), with a lime frosting, sprinkled with salt, and topped with a festive paper umbrella. Although the cake was amazingly moist and light, just how I like it, there was one thing still missing for me: the telltale tequila flavor. Since I love margaritas, I would have liked to pick up hints of tequila. But I am glad they added salt, because a lot of margarita cupcakes skip the salt, and I’m a salt on the rim girl.

Whenever I’m at Kupcukes & Co. I always scan the display case for new flavors I haven’t had before. They have a large rotating menu, and on this day I saw Peach Cobbler. The moist peach cake maybe could have used more peaches, but then again that could have made the cake mushy. I particularly loved the crumb/streusel topping and small dollop of vanilla bean frosting. Frosting lovers might not agree, but I thought it was the perfect amount for a cobbler cupcake, just like having a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

While we don’t usually review cookies, this item needs to be mentioned. Besides, it has frosting so that makes it okay. This summer, Kupcakes & Co. has been offering a margarita sandwich cookie. The only way to describe it is to say it’s amazing. On my last visit, they only had the cookies without frosting. I really liked the cookies and thought the frosting might make this treat too sweet for me, but I was wrong! The sandwich cookie had the perfect amount of salt to balance the sweet. Dare I say I may have liked this more than the cupcake? I can’t even pinpoint why, with them both sporting the same frosting, but it was just that good.

Special Mention:
Cassis Macaroon from Apple Pie Bakery Café,
The Culinary Institute of America
While I was there I talked to the owner, Michelle, about her twin daughters going off to college. Allison just started at JMU and Amanda is at the CIA in New York. She is such a proud mom (as she should be!), and took the opportunity to share with me what sorts of treats come out of the CIA kitchens, include one of the amazing macaroons. If I’ve had a macaroon before, it was forgettable, but this one was not. It had the perfect texture I’ve heard described on The Food Network, crunchy and smooth on the outside, soft on the inside, with a mild, but sweet flavor. Hopefully macaroons of this quality will be a part of the menu at Kupcakes & Co. in the future. And now I’m really curious what the cupcakes at Apple Pie Bakery Café are like…