Crumbs into Chocolate

From gift guides to giveaways, we Crusaders always have our eyes out for new cupcake related items. It really is amazing how the cupcake trend has taken the entire shopping world by storm in the past couple of years. Recently, Healthy Crusader Rebecca brought me a Crumbs Red Velvet Cupcake chocolate bar. (Of course the Red Velvet Crusader has to taste test anything Red Velvet.) As if Crumbs cupcakes weren’t grand enough, now they can temp consumers with chocolate bars too?!

Red Velvet Cupcake Chocolate Bar
Crumbs-RVcandyBarWrapped
(Beautifully designed packaging and “Made with Love.”)

Crumbs-RVcandyBar

Red Velvet cake batter in “fine Belgian” milk chocolate with bits of cream cheese frosting make up this sweet treat. Smooth and creamy with the perfect balance of savory cocoa and sweet, this red velvet chocolate bar is better than most Red velvet cupcakes I have tasted. The slightly red chocolate has the perfect texture and melts in your mouth. While I didn’t taste the cream cheese frosting bits, I could see them throughout the chocolate. I had to stop myself from eating the entire bar all in one sitting.

Who would have thought that one of my favorite Red Velvet cupcakes would become a chocolate bar? Granted, all three of us Crusaders enjoy a good chocolate bar and sweets in general, but of course we prefer cupcakes. This chocolate bar is one I would buy and eat again, and now with two locations in the Baltimore area (Columbia and Towson), and locations popping up all over the nation, you can get delicious Crumbs cupcakes or chocolate bars anytime you want. It’s great to see cupcake flavors branching out into other “foodie” realms, and the next time I am at a Crumbs you can be sure I will be buying both cupcakes AND chocolate bars.

Special thanks to Healthy Crusader Rebecca for this special treat!

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

A Baking Adventure: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with a Brown Sugar, Caramel, and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I feel as though I should preface this post by letting you all know that this cupcake recipe has the potential to be AMAZING, however my final product? Eh. But, I do know ways it could have been better, which I’ll share with you.

I started with a carrot cake box mix. I know, I know. That was my first mistake. Carrot cake in a box…maybe the worst boxed option ever, after red velvet (see our thoughts in a previous review).  Had I used a real recipe for carrot cake or modified the box mix (because you all know how much I love a good carrot cake with walnuts and fresh carrot) then that would have made about 80% of the difference in the quality of these cupcakes.

Next, the frosting…I used a canned frosting. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that this concoction was all about using up pantry items and putting something together on a whim. The modifications I made to the frosting helped with the “canned” flavor, however had I started with a homemade cream cheese frosting it would have been so much better. I added in caramel syrup, cinnamon, and brown sugar, all just to taste. The cinnamon and caramel were a huge win. The flavor of the brown sugar was good, but I expected it to soften and dissolve. It didn’t, which left a grainy texture.

One good thing that came out of this experiment was a recipe for baked peaches. I found an easy recipe on The Kitchen is My Playground. The peaches turned out amazing and were a perfect complement to the sub-par cupcakes. The next time I attempt brown sugar in a frosting, I’ll have to do my research first. If you have a tried and true recipe, please share it with us!

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

Corner Bakery Cafe Supports No Kid Hungry

As many of you know, we’ve been supporters of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Every September they promote their Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ where many participating restaurants offer specials and give donations to support this great cause. Last weekend we were lucky enough to walk into Corner Bakery Cafe located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where they are collecting donations and even offering a free whoopie pie if you give just $1.00.

We usually review cupcakes, but with this being a great cause, we thought we’d make an exception. Plus we are still talking about cake and a frosting filling…equally as enjoyable as a cupcake (and much easier to store for later if you want to walk around town before indulging).

Not only did Corner Bakery Cafe impress us by supporting No Kid Hungry, they also impressed us with their personal sized treat. We chose the Pumpkin Spiced whoopie pie with moist, flavorful cake (the edges were slightly dry, kind of like what happens to cookies) and filled with a smooth cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It really was delicious.

There are still a few days left in September, so if you can get out to Corner Bakery Cafe, or any other restaurants and bakeries in your area that are supporting No Kid Hungry, please do! You can visit Share Our Strength’s website to see a list of places participating.

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

Baking & Decorating Experiment: Hummingbird Cupcakes

On my mom’s recent visit to Maryland, she wanted Stacy and I to take her to a couple of our favorite cupcake places. One of those places was Kupcakes & Co., which we ranked number 1 in our Top 5 outside Baltimore City. While there, I tried their hummingbird cupcake for the first time. It was described as banana, pineapple, pecans, a little spice, and topped with cream cheese frosting, kind of like a spring-summer carrot cake. At the time, I thought this was a unique creation, but then I started seeing other places promoting their hummingbird cupcakes. I guess I’m still an amateur at this!

Having loved Kupcakes & Co.’s hummingbird cupcake, I decided that for my spring-into-summer recipe I wanted this to be the cake. I also wanted to dabble with decorating cupcakes differently, to practice some techniques. After researching the cake, I wasn’t sure if it would be sacrilegious to top a cupcake, based off a traditional southern recipe, with a springtime explosion. But these are my cupcakes after all! I found out that some recipes call for including coconut on top and thought this would be perfect for “grass.” I also wanted to practice piping flowers and hard royal icing decorations, so I did it all!

Since I knew I’d be spending time on the decorations, I wanted the cake to be easy. I scoured the internet for a recipe that used a box mix to start, but had more trouble finding one than I anticipated. I discovered that the cake was a standard yellow cake, so just when I thought I would have to wing it, I finally found Duncan Hine’s recipe (now I know to just start at their website)! The recipe calls for the addition of Maraschino cherries, but since I hadn’t found that in other recipes, or in Kupcakes & Co.’s version, I decided to leave them out. I also added a whole banana, instead of just half, and substituted walnuts for pecans. That was a last minute decision, after seeing how much more pecans cost versus walnuts. I had no idea!


(Cake ingredients)


(I love texture in cake. Look at all of those yummy walnuts!)

The cake part was really easy. I did make my own cream cheese frosting and after debating on which to go with, choose one from SlashFood. The reviews were good and it seemed similar to some of the other frostings I’ve made that start with a cream cheese base. I added extra confectioner’s sugar to get the consistency right, but I think that’s because I choose to do this on a warm day. I used to think making frosting was complicated, but not anymore (or at least not the recipes I use)!


(Four simple ingredients to the cream cheese frosting.)

Starting the decorating process, I dyed shredded coconut using green food color. I had read about adding the dye to a little water first, but it just made the coconut almost too wet to work with. In the future, I will just put the dye right in, shake it up, and see what happens. After the coconut was green, I took my frosted cupcakes and dipped them into the coconut to completely cover the tops.


(Since you don’t have to worry about what the frosting looks like, I just used a butter knife to slather it on.)


(I didn’t think so much of the frosting would show through the green coconut.)

Prior to getting the decorating started, I experimented with the royal icing. I knew a form of royal icing is used in gingerbread houses as the “glue.” I thought it was just water and confectioner’s sugar and found recipes that only called for that, but it wasn’t setting up the way I planned. More research led me to discover that in order for it to get really hard, you have to add Meringue Powder. Who knew?! I learn something knew every time…

Since I wouldn’t be able to go out until the next day, I tried creating some piped flowers. After trial and error, I now realize that 1) it was just too warm in the house to get buttercream to cooperate and 2) I need more piping tips to choose from.

After a trip out the next day, with my cupcakes only half decorated (and some with failed flower attempts), I was finally able to get the royal icing decorations done. The consistency still wasn’t where I wanted it, even after adding more water than called for (maybe this is why sifting first is so important?), but I worked with it anyway and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out!


(Before piping, I sketched a couple of flowers and hummingbirds. Then I covered the sketches with wax paper, to use as a template.)

In the end, I had 3 versions of decorated cupcakes:


(I still wanted to make some traditional looking. I love the minimalistic look and I wanted to taste the cupcakes without the coconut, to see which I preferred.)


(My attempt at piping flowers. From far away, and at the right angle, they don’t look too bad…)


(Maybe not a traditional look, but I think they look great for a spring party!)

Flavor wise, the cake turned out great (but still not as good as Kupcakes & Co.)! I like the coconut on top because the cream cheese frosting turned out a little sweeter than I prefer, so the coconut toned it down.

Aside from having some great tasting cupcakes, I learned some new things. My favorite technique is the royal icing decorations. I feel like the possibilities for custom cupcake toppers are now endless!

What are some favorite things you’ve learned by challenging yourself in the kitchen?

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

A Baking Adventure: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

I’ve never really participated in a bake sale before. I’m sure that’s hard to believe since I’m such a sweets lover. My participation is limited to purchasing bake sale items for my own enjoyment. I have no idea about what the “rules” are. But when we Crusaders decided to host our own bake sale to raise money for Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, I thought, “How hard can it be?” Then I happened to watch the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character has to take something to her daughter’s school bake sale and, for fear of looking like a failure to the highly domestic moms, she doctors up (or destroys, depending on how you look at it) a store bought pie, hoping to pass it off as homemade. This put fear in me. Do bake sale items HAVE to be homemade? And if so, what qualifies as homemade? Does it have to be from scratch? And what if it turns into a TOTAL disaster?!

Deciding that as a stay at home mom I should have the time to do a recipe from scratch, I searched the internet for the perfect bake sale cupcakes. Stacy would be doing chocolate, so I wanted to something that would be more of an opposite, but still fun and seasonal. With these thoughts in mind, I came up with Lemon Raspberry cupcakes with a raspberry filling and a lemon cream cheese frosting. The problem with being a new baker and at the mercy of the internet for recipes is that if you haven’t tried it, you don’t really know if it’s going to be good. So, when I found LemonCupcakes.net, claiming that the recipe on The Little Red House blog was the best, I decided to trust them. The recipe is for Lemon Coconut, but the cake is purely lemon.

Lemon Cupcakes:
As soon as I saw that the recipe included using more than one bowl, I panicked. Anything using more than one bowl for a cake is bound to be complicated and I only had 40 minutes, if I was lucky! My goal was to get the cake batter done and in the oven before my daughter woke up from her morning nap. Well, that didn’t happen.


(Prep time included zesting 2 lemons, squeezing fresh lemon juice, and separating eggs.)


(One of the more unique steps: rub the sugar and lemon zest together in a bowl until the sugar takes on a yellow hue and becomes fragrant.)

At some point during my process of measuring dry ingredients and whisking the eggs and buttermilk, Leah woke up from her nap, only adding to my level of stress. How was I going to finish this complicated recipe (okay, complicated for ME) with a curious, mobile, and awake 9 month old? I prepped an area in the family room next to me, removing the dog’s water bowl, so that Leah could freely, and safely, roam around while I finished up the batter and kept an eye on her. Of course this would be the day that she learned how to turn the tv on and off…but the batter was much more important than the tv at this point!

After combining all the ingredients with a hand mixer, and having the spatula shoot straight through the mixing attachments twice, it was finally done and ready to go into the cupcake pans! A couple of adjustments I made to the recipe: I choose to use real lemon juice instead of lemon extract. Knowing that extract is more concentrated, I used at least 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Also, I didn’t realize the recipe called for cake flour, not all-purpose flour. Instead of going to the store, I looked up how to use all-purpose flour as a substitute (who knew there was a specific cake flour?!). After baking, I was surprised by how little the cupcakes rose. I thought, “Oh no! Something went wrong! I should have just followed the recipe exactly!”


(I filled the liners 2/3 full, like you are usually suppose to do, but it hardly rose while baking.)


(I did like that you could see flecks of yellow from the lemon zest.)

I cut out a part of the cupcake center, since I’d be filling them later anyway, to taste it. The cake was dense, but so moist! Relief set in. Only two more items left to make!

Raspberry Filling:
I found a recipe for raspberry cake filling on Food.com. It looked so simple and it was! I think it also helped that I waited until the next day, when someone else was home to keep an eye on Leah, so that I could put all my focus on making the perfect filling.


(Only 4 ingredients needed for this recipe! So easy!)


(The filling had an amazing color!)

Just as I’ve done before, I cut out the centers of the cupcakes so they’d be ready to spoon in the filling. One day I’ll experiment with my filling injector, but now was not the time to risk failure, especially after making it this far.


(I used a grapefruit knife this time, and it worked perfectly!)


(As I mentioned in my last baking experiment, baby spoons work perfectly for dropping in the filling. My favorite is The First Years’ Take and Toss spoons.)

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
When it came time for the frosting, I decided not to go with the option on The Red House’s recipe. I was worried that it wouldn’t be lemony enough. Instead I used a recipe from Annie’s Eats for their Blueberry Lemon cupcakes, which uses lemon juice and zest.


(Always be sure to have extra confectioners’ sugar, in case you need to stiffen up the frosting to get the texture you are looking for.)

After using the 3 cups of sugar the recipe calls for, I thought the frosting was the consistency that I wanted. However, when I got around to piping, it was very runny. So, I dumped the frosting out of my stainless steel piper and added another 1-2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. That seemed to help a little, but it still wasn’t the exact consistency I wanted. I went with it anyway, knowing that since it was warm in the house getting the consistency just right would be difficult and that the frosting would set up better as soon as I moved them to a cooler location.


(I added some yellow sprinkles, but felt it was still missing the splash of red to represent the raspberry.)


(I went to the store later that night for fresh raspberries. I think it really helped the look!)


(I like how the filling soaked into the cake.)

The lemon and raspberry came together in a perfect balance. I was worried that the filling wouldn’t bring enough raspberry flavor, but it was perfect. Despite all the hard work, I will definitely make these again! They were a huge hit at the bake sale and that’s what really matters!

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

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