New York City, Center of the Universe…

Recognize that lyric? It’s from one of my all time favorite musicals, Rent, written by Jonathan Larson. By now you will have probably guessed that Jenn, Elisa, and I are total musical theater geeks. And as any musical theater geek will know, New York is not only the center of the universe, it’s the center of the musical theater world. So, several years ago we decided that while going up for one day trips to see shows a few times a year was great, it just wasn’t enough. We started organizing our “Annual Spring NYC Girls Weekend Getaway.” What could be better than a weekend full of good theater, tasty food, fabulous friends, and of course, cupcakes?

Unfortunately this year, Jenn wasn’t able to join us (it’s okay, we aren’t holding any grudges against baby Leah). Since it’s become our tradition, the three of us decided that Elisa and I should still go without her.

Other than cupcakes, our first day in NYC consisted of lunch, hanging out with good friends, attending the theater (we saw End of the Rainbow – I highly recommend it!), and post show drinks. We couldn’t have asked for a better day and we were happily able to sprinkle cupcake eating conveniently throughout.

Our first cupcake of the day was from Burgers & Cupcakes. Burgers & Cupcakes is situated just a few blocks away from Penn Station on 9th Avenue. Crusader Elisa and I have tried several of their cupcakes before, but we’ve never sat down to try their burgers so on this trip, we decided that needed to be remedied and went straight there for lunch after arriving in the city.


(As you can see, food makes me happy.)

We each ordered their homemade veggie burger with toppings of our choice and choose the Banana Vanilla cupcake to share. After savoring the delicious burgers and munching on some sweet potato fries we sat and chatted with a friend who met up with us before splitting the cupcake up for tasting.


(A table of yumminess!)

I’ll be honest, while we were chatting my eyes kept wondering back to the cupcake, but it was well worth the wait. The banana was the primary focus of this cupcake with the vanilla sitting in the background. The cake was moist and light and the frosting just sweet enough. It was our first cupcake of the weekend and it was a huge success!

After checking into our hotel we headed to our second cupcake stop, Donna Bell’s Bake Shop found on 49th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. Lucky for us, Donna Bell’s is right next to the courtyard in which Blockheads and Mother Burger are located. For those who don’t know, Blockheads (and their sister restaurant, Mother Burger) makes a fierce drink called the Pink Bulldog with a Coronarita flipped upside down into it. It is basically a frozen vodka pink lemonade with sangria on top and then finished with the Corona. It may sound strange, but it is so good and went PERFECTLY with the Coconut cupcake I purchased from Donna Bell’s.


(Donna Bell’s has some of the best cupcake-to-go containers I’ve seen!)

Being the red velvet Crusader, Elisa had to get the Red Velvet , but based off her reaction it wasn’t nearly as good as my choice. The Coconut cupcake had a thick layer of sweet frosting and was then coated in coconut shavings. The edges of the cupcake were a little crisp, as if they had been touching the pan during the baking process, and this gave the cupcake a toasted coconut flavor, which I loved. Between the fruity frozen drink and the Coconut cupcake I felt like I should be sitting on the beach, not in the center of busy Manhattan.


(Elisa enjoying her Red Velvet cupcake in her signature fashion: sandwich style.)

So far, I was two for two on day one.

The day continued on with more food, more time with good friends, and finally, our main reason for being there, some theater! Before leaving Baltimore, I had already decided where we would be getting our post-show cupcake from: Crumbs Bake Shop. Even though Crumbs is a chain cupcakery, it has been a favorite of ours for a long time. Their jumbo cupcakes have always been moist and full of flavor. Last week I saw that their flavor of the week would be Apple Honey and I knew I had to try it.

Elisa and I decided to go to Crumb’s new Time Square location on 42nd Street since it was on our way to meet up with another friend. I usually try to avoid 42nd Street at night, but we were on a mission so decided we had no choice and had to tackle the crowds.


(Crumb’s Times Square location on 42nd Street. Love the signage, hate the crowds.)

After weaving through the mob of people we were shocked to see that Crumb’s display was still packed with cupcakes. And sitting in there waiting for us, was the Apple Honey cupcake which had made me drool at my desk just a few days earlier. We took the cupcake to go and ended up sharing it in our hotel room later that night.

I’ll be honest, it’s not easy having a “cupcake photoshoot” with the sweet aroma of apples in the air, but I managed and we finally cut the cupcake in half to share, only to discover a delightful surprise: apple pie filling!

This cupcake was every bit as good as I expected it to be. The honey flavor was a bit hard to detect, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying each bite. Normally the Crusaders are okay with splitting Crumbs cupcakes since they are so large, but on that night, I think I can speak for Elisa and myself when I say, we both wish we had each had one whole cupcake to ourselves.

Happily full on cupcakes and great memories we made that day, we turned in for the night ready to continue our adventure the next day…

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

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The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse | Westminster, MD

Even with all of our Starry Night reviews, there are still cupcakes that haven’t been seen by our followers! Around Oreo’s 100 year anniversary, Starry Night went crazy creating Oreo-stuffed cupcakes. Being a cupcake lover AND an Oreo lover, how could I resist? I initially went in for what I thought would be a few cupcakes, and left with a dozen! Starry Night seems to always do this to me, but thankfully I have people to share with! While I was picking up my Oreo stuffed cupcakes, they also had a couple of candy themed cupcakes that made it into my dessert box.

One of my favorites from the cookies and candy themed collection was the Nutter Butter:

Starry Night’s chocolate ganache frosting is a perfect match for the peanut buttery goodness of the cupcake. This cupcake should be a permanent offering, it is THAT good!

Every other cupcake in the collection was also perfectly moist and delicious:

1: Oreo stuffed chocolate cake with American buttercream
2: Oreo stuffed red velvet cake with American buttercream
3: Oreo stuffed yellow cake with peanut butter frosting
4: Oreo stuffed chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting
5: Berry ‘licious – Berry Oreo stuffed yellow cake with berry buttercream
6: Choco Mint – Mint Oreo stuffed chocolate cake with chocolate mint buttercream
7: Junior Mint – Junior Mint stuffed yellow cake with chocolate mint butter cream
8: Twix – Twix stuffed yellow cake with caramel buttercream

Of course with stuffed cupcakes, we also have to show you the inside. The cookies held up well during baking and added a nice crunchy texture:

1: Example of the regular Oreo stuffed cake
2: Example of the Mint Oreo stuffed cake (you can see hints of the green Oreo cream)
3: Example of the Berry Oreo stuffed cake (you can see hints of the pink Oreo cream)
4: Twix stuffed cake
5: Junior Mint stuffed cake (this didn’t hold up as well as the cookies)

Starry Night’s Oreo and candy stuffed creations give you a great idea of the fun flavor combinations you will find in their bakery. More recently they also added a Samoa cupcake to the menu, fashioned after the popular Girl Scout’s cookie!

This cupcake has a caramel cake, frosted with chocolate ganache and topped with plenty of toasted coconut and half of a Samoa cookie! It’s the perfect execution of a Samoa in cupcake form.

There have been a few other new additions to the spring cupcake collection at Starry Night, so they will be seeing the Crusaders again soon!

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

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)

Spotlight: Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse, Part 1

Named after the common cookie, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse (Hampstead, MD). Would it just be a take-out bakery that you stop in on your way to work for a quick cup of coffee and a muffin? When I finally went to their shop, I was surprised and pleased to find a sophisticated bakery and high-end coffeehouse, with plenty of room to bring friends and gather around one of their many tables, or just to come yourself and relax in their cozy surroundings. The mom in me loved seeing that they even have a miniature table with chairs, inviting guests to bring their kids with them.

After taking in the great atmosphere, I began investigating the goodies. My first thought? “WOW! Those cupcakes are HUGE!” My second thought? “How much are they?” With their size and the decoration and toppings on most of the cupcakes, I thought they would be pricey. However, they aren’t! At $3.00-4.00 for the large cupcakes, they are very reasonably priced. And the best part is that they are large enough to share (or to have more than one helping for yourself)!

On this day I was fortunate enough to leave with one of each flavor in the shop, making 12 cupcakes in total. Due to the grandness of these cupcakes, and the number we have to show you, we’ve decided to break our review into two parts, featuring 6 of the cupcakes in each post. Here are the first ones we’ve selected to show you:

Irish Car Bomb:
During the St. Patrick’s Day season, we see a lot of these cupcakes based on the popular drink (Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream) pop up. I’ve had a few takes on the idea, and this one is a clear stand out for me!

I usually see these cupcakes done with a chocolate cake, however Snickerdoodles has choosen to make this a true Guinness stout cake. None of the smooth Guinness flavor is lost and, just like an Irish Car Bomb, the Bailey’s Irish Cream filling and frosting complement the cake perfectly. It is so moist and flavorful!

Cannoli:
I think the best way to describe this next cupcake is with a photo.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that IS a whole (mini) cannoli on top! This cupcake has a chocolate chip cake that is moist and delicious, with a cannoli filling that I think even the toughest critic would appreciate, and is topped with a chocolate ganache frosting, American buttercream, and more chocolate chips.

Almond Raspberry:
For the Crusaders, this has become a classic combination. We love the pairing of almond and raspberry.

This cupcake has an almond cake, whipped raspberry filling and American buttercream frosting. I think the whipped raspberry filling is a nice change from the usual jam filling and also helps keep the cupcake light.

Red Velvet:
This Red Velvet cupcake has been taken to the next level.

I was really happy with the moistness of the cake! I’m always disappointed with red velvet cake, however this one is not only moist, but also has a great flavor. It’s paired with a cream cheese filling, American buttercream frosting, and topped with a chocolate shaving and toasted red velvet cake crumbs. The frosting makes this cupcake really sweet, but I enjoyed every bite!

Toasted Coconut:
This is another classic flavor. With the decoration, this cupcake needs no label.

All together the cupcake works, however it isn’t as “coconut-y” as I prefer. That being said, the moist poundcake-like cake, whipped filling, buttercream frosting, and generous toasted coconut shavings on top are still really tasty!

The Rainbow Cupcake:
This cupcake is a new one Snickerdoodles is working on and there’s only one way to describe it: Fun! Based on their “famous” Rainbow Cake, the Rainbow Cupcake is a miniature version.

I think it’s necessary to also show a photo of the inside of this cupcake, to really get a good idea.

As you can see, this cupcake has a rainbow cake, raspberry puree filling, chocolate buttercream frosting, dipped in chocolate, then piped with more chocolate buttercream, and topped with sprinkles. The cake is moist and the jam and chocolate combination is delicious!

If you have a chance to visit Snickerdoodles, please do! Whether you are looking for a special treat, a great beverage, or a place to just hang out, Snickerdoodles has it all! They also have beautiful full-size cakes, pastries, and cookies. I can’t wait to return! And, keep a look-out for Part 2 where we’ll be reviewing Strawberry White Chocolate, Carrot Cake, Boston Cream, Black Bottom, a fun, fancy, party cupcake and Death by Chocolate!

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

Surprised with Georgetown Cupcakes!

Recently, we’ve been surprised TWICE with cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. Being a Cupcake Crusader definitely has its perks! The first set of cupcakes, reviewed by Crusader Elisa, were from her good friend, Laura. Because of Laura, we were lucky enough to taste the brand new New York City flavors! The second set of cupcakes, reviewed by Crusader Stacy, were a surprise from her boss who had meetings scheduled in DC. Both were great unexpected treats and we are happy to share our reviews of the cupcakes here!

Elisa’s New York City Flavors Review:

NYC cupcakes in DC! Or is it DC Cupcakes in NYC?! People had to have been cheering on Feb 11, 2012 all over NYC, because Georgetown Cupcake opened their doors on 111 Mercer Street in Soho. While the crusaders have loved Georgetown’s DC (and now Bethesda) location for years, our NYC friends have had to make the the journey to the DC area or be content with our write ups about them – until now!

To celebrate their grand opening, Georgetown Cupcake created some “Big Apple” inspired flavors that were available at all three locations through the end of February. And of course, the Crusaders HAD to try them. (Have we also told you that we are huge NYC fans too?) Luckily, a dear friend and fellow Georgetown Cupcake lover, Laura, was coming to visit me in Baltimore and stopped by the Bethesda location to pick some up! (Check out Georgetown Cupcakes Facebook page to see all the flavors that were available in NYC!)

The three flavors available to us are as follows:

NYC Cheesecake

While this might not be your traditional “cupcake,” because it was basically its own little mini cheesecake, it has all the flavor of a NYC cheesecake, with that special hint of citrus that makes NYC cheesecake stand out from all the rest. The taxi cab fondant topper was not only adorable, but tasty! And no one can deny the fantastic-ness that is buttery graham cracker crust!

Black & White Cookie

These cookies are more like cake for me and are always something I drool over when I am in NYC. This cupcake is just as drool worthy! The mix of vanilla and chocolate frosting was sweet and decadent. The cake was tasty and moist, all around, this is a cupcake I’d like to see make itself a spot on the permanent menu in DC!

Big Apple Crumble

By far the BEST apple cupcake I have ever eaten. The cake was full of apple pieces and was moist and buttery. The icing was a cinnamon and buttercream explosion of flavor, with brown sugar on top that created the flavor and texture of the “crumble” topping my mom puts on top of her apple pies. Even the fondant apple decoration was cinnamon flavored! I would pay very good money to have this cupcake again, and again, and again.

The three NYC cupcakes were all cute and tasted great! I’m so glad that Laura picked some up for us and that we could all enjoy them! (Next time, I’m not sure I’d be willing to share the Big Apple Crumble though!)

Stacy’s Surprise Cupcake Review:

Just a little while ago my boss came into the office with a dozen cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake’s DC location. I would have been perfectly happy taking all twelve flavors home with me, but being the kind co-worker I try to be, I shared with the office. (Okay, maybe I didn’t have much of a choice, but I PROMISE I would have shared if I did).

Luckily the office is small, so I got to have three flavors all to myself. I have never tried the classic flavors from Georgetown, so I decided this would be a good opportunity and selected a Chocolate2, a Vanilla Birthday, and one fun flavor – Coconut.

Chocolate 2

This cupcake with Valrhona chocolate cake and a whipped Callebaut chocolate frosting was any chocolate lover’s dream. While the cake was a bit crumbly, the frosting easily made up for it with its rich, creamy, and decadent wonderfulness. Normally I wouldn’t get a cupcake again if the cake wasn’t really nice and moist, but the frosting on this is worth every penny.

Vanilla Birthday

Although this cupcake with Madagascar bourbon vanilla cake and a sweet vanilla buttercream frosting wasn’t the best vanilla I’ve ever had, it was still pleasant. It was light and smooth, a classic that any cupcake lover would enjoy. The best part was the rainbow sprinkles. These aren’t any normal sprinkles, they have a fruity candy flavor that matches the “birthday” part of their name.

Coconut

I’m a big fan of coconut anything and this cupcake lived up to all my hopes. The cake was filled with coconut shavings and packed with flavor. The vanilla cream cheese frosting balanced it all out and stayed in the background, letting the coconut really shine. The abundance of coconut shavings on top might seem like a bit much, but it only sealed the deal for me. I think this might actually be one of my new favorites (along with the NYC flavors Elisa reviewed above).

I’m often reminded of how lucky I am to work with such great people, and this was one of those times. The fact that my boss made time in her day to get cupcakes and lug a big bag around DC is just awesome. And what could be better than sharing cupcakes with co-workers? I can’t think of a better way to bring a team together.  🙂

– Posted by Cupcake Crusaders Stacy and Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Healthy Cupcakes: Carrot Cake!

Continuing our healthy crusade, Rebecca has another recipe for cupcakes with fewer calories… and less guilt.

Carrot cake has vegetables in it, so it must be healthy, right? The average carrot cake recipe can include upwards of 1 cup of oil, not to mention ounces of butter and cream cheese. This vegetable based cake can be worse for you than eating chocolate!

This recipe makeover has a low Weight Watcher Points+ value of 4 per cupcake and is a flavorful substitute. Who doesn’t love pecans, coconut, golden raisins and a moist spiced cake, topped with cream cheese? Once again I turn to a box cake mix, but step it up a bit by adding additional texture and flavors.

Cake Ingredients:

1 box Carrot Cake Mix

1 cup canned pumpkin

8oz crushed pineapple in juice

1/3 cup golden raisins

1 cup shredded carrot

¼  cup shredded coconut

¼ cup Pecan chips

Frosting Ingredients:

4oz. Neufchatel Cheese

¼ cup fat free sour cream

¾ cups powdered sugar

¼ cup shredded coconut

1/8 cup Pecan chips

To start, mix the cake mix and canned pumpkin in the mixer for 2 minutes on #2. While that is mixing, drain the crushed pineapple and use the liquid to rehydrate the raisins. Add the pineapple, carrot and coconut to the mixer and let it continue to mix for another minute. Stop the mixer and fold in the Pecan Chips and raisins by hand. Fill the cupcake wrappers ¾ of the way and bake for 18-19 minutes at 350 degrees.

While they are baking, fold the softened cream cheese with the sour cream and then stir in powdered sugar. It will be a thicker sour cream texture, but comes out best when stirred by hand. Stir in ¼ cup of shredded coconut.

Once cupcakes are cooled, frost and sprinkle pecan chips on the top for texture and enjoy!

– Recipe by our Healthy Guest Crusader, Rebecca (Baltimore, MD)

Starry Night: We just can’t get enough!

When I found out that one of my favorite local bakeries, Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse, was introducing a new flavor, Cinnamon Chip, I just HAD to get down there and check it out! The other crusaders couldn’t resist either, so with a great “buy 1 get 1 free” deal, I stocked up for all of us. And I’m so glad I did!

This cupcake was so moist and packed a great cinnamon sugar punch. I don’t know how they created a cinnamon chip…maybe some sort of streusel…but I can’t stress enough how amazing this cupcake was. While having the cinnamon flavor you’d expect from a cinnamon roll or muffin, it still maintained a cupcake quality, which I loved about it.

Throughout many trips to Starry Night, I’ve been able to try some of their other cupcakes as well. One of these tasty treats included a cupcake they call Voodoo.

The Voodoo is an espresso cake with caramel buttercream, what I think is a chocolate filling, and topped with shaved chocolate covered espresso beans. As usual for Starry Night, this cupcake has moist cake and bold flavors. I highly recommend it for coffee enthusiasts.

On another visit, I decided that I should to venture out of their “Quirky Cupcakes” and into their standard cupcakes, so I picked up a toasted coconut.

This cupcake was good and I appreciated the sprinkling of regular and toasted coconut shavings on top. However, it wasn’t quite up to the standards I place on Starry Night because it wasn’t packed full of coconut flavor, like I expect from a cupcake. So I guess I’ll just have to stick with the “Quirky Cupcakes,” because WOW, they are good!

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

Happy Cakes = Three Happy Crusaders

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

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

How pretty are these cupcakes?

They even have “Frosting Shots!”

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

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

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

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

Up next: Caramel Apple

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cupcaked Out?

Friday night my friend, Elisa (also a cupcake lover), and I went up against 8 cupcakes. We thought we had this in the bag. Our goal was to try 8 different cupcakes from 3 different locations around Baltimore. We devised a game plan that included only eating a quarter of 4 of the larger cupcakes and half of the smaller ones then splitting the leftovers. I had a small dinner. I thought we were prepared…

But by the end of the night I thought I never wanted to see another cupcake again. I know this feeling won’t last long, but it’s a good thing I have a lot of past experience with cupcakes to post about for a little while. Here is our review of our Cupcake Night:


We didn’t eat the cupcakes in the order that I’ll review them in, we kinda jumped all over the place. But for your sanity, I’ll group them by bakery. First up, Sweet Bakery now located in Midtown Baltimore. My first experience with Sweet Bakery was when they were located on Main Street in Ellicott City and it was a good experience so I was excited to try more of their cupcakes.
Chocolate w/ Vanilla Frosting: Their vanilla frosting is really good. Buttery and not too sweet, just sweet enough. The chocolate cake though? Meh. Not great. Elisa and I both agreed that Betty Crocker makes a better chocolate cake.
Red Velvet w/ Cream Cheese Frosting: This was easily probably the best red velvet cake Elisa or I ever had. It was soft, moist, fluffy, wonderful. The cream cheese frosting was amazing too. Sweet, but like the vanilla frosting, not too sweet. It was a perfect compliment to the red velvet cake.
Vanilla w/ Vanilla Frosting: I typically don’t get Vanilla on Vanilla. With all the unique options out there I usually go for something different, but this was actually really good. Especially with all the other bold flavors we were trying, it was a nice “break” from the others. I would definitely get this one again, and I never thought I’d ever order a vanilla cupcake on my own. Elisa loves vanilla and said she thinks it’s the best vanilla cake she’s ever had.
Carrot Cake w/ Vanilla Frosting: Well… this one was such a disappointment. I’m so sad to say that because we saved this one for last because I LOVE carrot cake. The first big problem for me was the frosting. I’m a fan of cream cheese frosting with my carrot cake. And their cream cheese frosting was so good that it was a shame they didn’t put it on this one. Another big problem was that the cake was super chunky and super dry. While I like a lot of “stuff” in my carrot cake, this was just extreme. This cupcake was definitely the loser of the evening.

Next up:

You are probably questioning my cupcake tasting experience at this point, right? Well, shocked as you may be, Roland Park Bagel Co. was on Baltimore Magazine’s top ten best cupcakes in Baltimore, so we had to try them. We were pleasantly surprised by the fluffy softness and flavor of these cupcakes.
Cookies N Creme: Okay, first and foremost, I need to state that in my opinion, THIS IS NOT A COOKIES N CREME CUPCAKE! That said, it was still delicious. The frosting was cream cheese, which while it’s not appropriate for Cookies N Creme, it was light, fluffy, and very tasty. The chocolate cake was the same. No complaints other than, this is totally not a Cookies N Creme Cupcake. Elisa, however, liked it better than her recent experience with a Cookies N Creme cupcake she tried in Atlantic City (she will be giving me a review to post about that at a later date).
Chocolate w/ Salted Caramel Frosting: The person behind the counter told me this was a black bottom cake with a caramel frosting. What he didn’t say was that it as SALTED caramel and that the cake was really just chocolate cake with a speck of possible “black bottom-ness.” Either way, this was a favorite of the night. Like the “Cookies N Creme” the cake was light and fluffy. The frosting was the perfect combo of sweet and salty. Elisa and I are both really digging the recent salted caramel trend. We never seem to grow tired of it.

Last on our list:

Hamilton Bakery was listed as #2 in Baltimore Magazine’s Best Cupcake. I really don’t agree with that, but that’s just my opinion. They aren’t bad. They are decent, but they aren’t #2 good. Not compared to what’s out there. It might be a readers choice, so maybe they just have tons of supporters? Who knows, but that’s not important, what is important is our review:
Peanut Butter Chocolate: I think the most important thing to mention about this cupcake is that the cake is more like a muffin than a cupcake. It’s very dense, not too sweet and a little on the dry side. However, the peanut butter frosting on this is unbelievably amazing. And to top it off they actually spread a layer of crunchy peanut butter under the frosting. So, even if it is more muffin like, it’s really really good.
Coconut: Really, there isn’t much to say about this one other than: unmemorable. I had totally forgotten what I thought of it and had to look back at my notes (yes, we took notes…). That night we said, “more muffin like” and “more like a breakfast cupcake.” If those things sound appealing to you, then this is your cupcake. Otherwise, don’t bother.

I actually “cheated” on Elisa’s and my “Cupcake Night” by getting a cupcake from Hamilton Bakery a few days before. I figured I could wrap that up into this post. I went by their location and saw that they had a Boston Creme cupcake and knew that it probably wouldn’t be there the next day, so I decided to get it.

The cake was the same as above, very muffin like, and the frosting was just kinda blah. Not my favorite. I might try more cupcakes from them, but I’m more excited to try their breads and other pastries. Those look amazing.

If you have tried cupcakes from any of these locations I’d love to know your thoughts!

EDIT: Sweet Bakery is now, sadly, closed.

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

My Birthday

I was hoping to post this sooner, but I am now the mother of a 9 week old puppy, so things have been a bit hectic in my house. Follow Cupcake Crusader, Jenn, and I celebrated our birthday last weekend, and as I’m sure you would guess, our birthday would never be complete without cupcakes. We have to give our Dad four big thumbs up for getting an awesome selection of cupcakes from Nostalgia Cupcakes located in Annapolis, MD.

These cupcakes might be the best I’ve ever had in Maryland. My dad got a small sampling last year for our birthday and I was blown away. This year he went above and beyond. The one in the picture above was a lemon cupcake. The frosting on this one was sweet and tart, just like the perfect glass of ice cold lemonade. It was AMAZING. Here are the others he got:

Above: Chocolate City (Semi Sweet Chocolate Cake and Frosting), Coconut and Chocolate, Red Velvet with a Sweet Buttercream Frosting.

Above: Strawberry Frosted Yellow Cake with Strawberry Filling, Pina Coloda, “Blue Boy,” Lemon Frosted Yellow Cake, Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting.

Overall my favorites are definitely the Lemon, the Chocolate Coconut, and the Chocolate City. In close 2nd are the Pina Coloda and the Strawberry. The Blue Boy was okay. It was yellow cake, with a chocolate filling, and dyed blue Frosting. Nothing special. The Red Velvet was just okay too. I prefer a cream cheese frosting on my Red Velvet, so maybe that’s why I didn’t dig it as much? I didn’t even both trying the Milk Chocolate Frosted on Yellow Cake. Boring. Too many fabulous cupcakes and too little time to be wasted on something as common as that.

Overall, my dad made some really fantastic selections! I seriously have the best dad in the whole world. I also want to give a big thanks to my family for letting me cut up the cupcakes just to try as many flavors as possible. You all are the best!

If any of you have a chance to check out Nostalgia Cupcakes in Annapolis, MD, don’t hesitate. Run. Don’t Walk. You will not be disappointed.

UPDATE: We are sad to say that Nostalgia is now closed after serving Annapolis for 3 years, but you can now get her amazing cupcakes at her new shop located in Bowie, MD, called The Cake Courtesan.

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