Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes | Fort Myers, FL

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Now that I have a decent grasp on the Fort Myers and Naples area cupcake spots, I wasn’t worried about whether or not cupcakes would be a part of my trip when I recently visited my family in southwest Florida. Since I was staying with my Nana, and I know how much of a sweet tooth she has (ever wondered where I get it from?), I wanted to get some fancy cupcakes to say thank you and to put a smile on her face.

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After treating her to lunch at one of our favorite spots, Sweet Tomatoes, my aunts, cousin, and I decided to do a little shopping. My Aunt Jane wanted to visit a boutique located in the Bell Tower Shops, and I was in luck because Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes also resides there.

On my last visit to Grace & Shelly’s, Crusader Jenn and I selected a big variety, including a couple of full size cupcakes and tons of minis. This time I focused on just the full size flavors and selected Lemon, Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake, Butter Pecan, and Peach Cobbler. My Aunts also got a variety of flavors, and Aunt Jane added her two selections to my order since you save a little bit with orders of half a dozen.

When we got back to Nana’s house, we worked off our big lunch with some pool-time, and then took a quick cupcake break. My cousin, Allen, joined Aunt Jane, Nana and I for this cupcake tasting and, for the most part, we were unanimous in our feelings (except my sweet Nana, who loved them all).

Lemon

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Of the four cupcakes I selected, this was the best of them all. The cake and frosting were both light and tart. And even though the frosting didn’t hold up too well in the Florida heat (as you can tell from the photo), it didn’t make this cupcake any less tasty.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

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I was really excited about this cupcake, only to be disappointed. My Aunt Jane didn’t think that it was sweet enough, and also didn’t like the bits of raspberry seeds. That didn’t bother me too much, but the cake ended up being very squishy because of the filling.

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As you can see, the filling soaked almost all the way through to the wrapper. Gross.

Peach Cobbler

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The Peach Cobbler cupcake was very much the same. So much so, that I just couldn’t finish it. Luckily Nana didn’t mind because I choose this cupcake specifically for her and she ended up finishing my portion. Even though the cake wasn’t working for me, I did like the frosting and toppings, but what is a cupcake without cake?!

Butter Pecan

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Of all the cupcakes, I thought the presentation of this one was the best. I really liked that it looked like a scoop of butter pecan ice cream had been dropped on top. Unlike the Lemon cupcake though, the cake was dry and kind of plain. But the frosting was good and packed with pecans.

Snickerdoodle

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My Aunt Susan didn’t join us for our post-swim cupcake crusading, but later that night we had another little cupcake tasting at her house with some of the cupcakes she brought home. The first that I tried was the Snickerdoodle. While the cake was a little dry, the frosting was so good and had lots of cinnamon flavor.

Cookies and Cream

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The other cupcake I tasted at my Aunt Susan’s house was the Cookies and Cream. This cupcake had little cookie bits in the cake and frosting and tasted JUST like the ice cream, it was amazing!

Even if the cupcakes weren’t as good as I remembered them being, it was so fun doing my “cupcake thing” with my family. And I’ll never forget seeing my Nana scrape those wrappers clean… that woman has a crazy sweet tooth, you gotta love her!

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

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More Summer Specials in Georgetown

Mmmmm…. Georgetown Cupcakes. Back in June we posted about Georgetown’s monthly specials. It’s great that each month there are seasonal flavors, even if it can be frustrating when you just want a Pumpkin Spice cupcake in April but have to wait until the fall to get it. Even so, at least their yummy rotating flavors are offered for a couple months out of the year.

When July came around I was lucky enough to have a visit from my “Georgetown Cupcake Fairy” and friend, Laura. She brought me two of their July Cupcake Special Flavors:

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Yes, technically not a cupcake, but SO good! I love cheesecake and this little mini blueberry delight was the perfect treat. Smooth and creamy, the cheesecake had great texture and fantastic blueberry flavor. Maybe a little heavy for a hot summer day in July, but sitting in my lovely air conditioned house, this tasted just right.

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When I think about what to write for this cupcake, all I can think is, “there are no words” or, “just…WOW.” Georgetown describes this cupcake as: Valrhona chocolate cupcake filled with rich caramel, topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting, a fudge star, crushed hazelnuts, rainbow bobbles, and a maraschino cherry. The cake was rich and moist, the caramel filling was gooey and sweet, the frosting was creamy, and the toppings…oh the toppings. The hazelnuts were a welcome change to the typical peanuts and added great flavor and texture, while the rainbow bobbles (what the heck is a bobble!?) were tiny bites of candy heaven. This cupcake beats out any “real” sundae I have ever had, and I can’t believe I have to wait until next July to have another one!

July’s cupcakes where just as good as June’s! With only a couple of weeks left in August, I hope my “Georgetown Fairy” will stop by for a visit and bring me either a Peaches & Cream, Banana Split or a Neapolitan. With the days flying by as they are, I might have to settle for some of Georgetown’s September Specials: Double Butterscotch Chip, Caramel Apple, or Cinnamon Coffee Crumb. If only everyone were so lucky… Laura, YOU are my “Georgetown Cupcake Fairy,” and I am one lucky Crusader!

To see Georgetown’s Monthly Specials visit their menu here. And yes, they will deliver or ship cupcake directly to you!

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

Sweet Dukes Vegan Treats

Every summer the main street community of Hamilton organizes the Hamilton Street Festival. I have to be completely honest and say it’s definitely NOT the best street festival in Baltimore. Even though this year’s flyer design was pretty good, it’s not even half as awesome as the Fell’s Point Fun Festival or HonFest (but really, nothing is a cool as HonFest).

My husband and I live within easy walking distance of Harford Rd, where the festival takes place, so this year we decided to explore the vendors’ tents and grab some lunch. As we were walking around (which only took about ten minutes… totally not exaggerating), I noticed quite a few places selling cupcakes. Only one place had cupcakes that really drew me in though, Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery.

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I really want to love vegan desserts. I already don’t eat red meat or pork, so if there’s any way I can limit the amount of animal bi-products I consume, I’m totally down for that. I was also excited because they are organic and have gluten-free options.

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Their table was really colorful with hand written signs (which I love), fun flavor names and a big variety of cookies, cakes, and pastries, including the cake kabobs pictured above.

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After seeing the the cake kabobs and their Party on Wayne cupcake (made with Fruity Pebbles, which apparently are considered vegan… still horrible for you, but vegan nonetheless), I was complete baffled as to what I wanted to get. I knew I’d be eating cupcakes the next day, so I was determined to limit my choice to one item. After tell the very nice people helping me that I was taking it home for later, they recommended the cupcake because the cake kabob works better if you are going to eat it immediately.

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I really loved how colorful this cupcake was, but unfortunately my first bite wasn’t stellar. The Fruity Pebbles on top of the frosting were a bit squishy and that grossed me out a little bit. I’m guessing this was either because of the moisture from the cake and frosting, or the intense humidity from the day, probably a combination of the two. Luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the cake though. After pushing the cereal sitting on top of the frosting aside (sad face… I was really looking forward them), I was able to examine the rest of the cupcake for what it really was: a decent vegan treat. I can’t say that it was as good as its non-vegan counterparts, but definitely better than some of the other vegan varieties we’ve tried. The cake was a bit dense, but still moist with decent flavor. The frosting was a little gritty but had a good flavor that wasn’t too sweet and didn’t taste like a butter substitute—I was boggled by this, in a good way.

If you would like to try Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery, you can find them at the Fell’s Point Farmers Market on Saturdays, the Fleet Street Market, or the Grind House Juice Bar. You can also follow their Facebook page to stay up to date on their latest flavors and where you can find them.

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

Crumbs Bake Shop Has Come to Maryland!

It’s no secret that us Crusaders love Crumbs Bake Shop. After discovering one of their shops on a girls’ weekend in New York City, it has become somewhat of “must-have” on all our trips to the Big Apple. However, we’ve read mixed reviews on their franchises outside of New York, even though Crusader Elisa has enjoyed their cupcakes in the DC area. When we heard that a few local malls in Maryland would become home to their own Crumbs locations, we knew it wouldn’t take too long before our first visit.

When I stopped by the new kiosk located in Towson Town Center, I noticed that, in addition to a variety of cupcake sizes and flavors, they offered Starbucks Coffee, cupcake push-pops, and the candy bars that Elisa recently reviewed.

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(Photo from Towson Town Center’s Facebook Page. No harm or infringement intended)

When faced with a display filled with tempting flavors, it’s always hard to pick just one, but when I saw the Coffee & Doughnuts cupcake, I was sold. How could you not be? There’s a whole mini doughnut sitting on top of a pile of coffee frosting. It was an easy choice for this coffee lover.

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I have to admit, I had very big expectations for this cupcake. I wanted so badly for it to be good, and it was! The frosting had a nice sweet coffee flavor, almost like coffee ice cream. The cake was Crumbs Bake Shop’s standard buttery, moist yellow cake, which I have come to expect from them. It had a subtle enough flavor that the coffee flavor from the frosting came through really well. Unfortunately though, the doughnut on top was dry and reminiscent of a convenience store packaged doughnut (which came as no surprise, since that is exactly what it looked like). Despite the doughnut on top, I would definitely get this cupcake again.

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With the location being a kiosk at the mall (and no kitchen in sight), I was pretty impressed by the quality. This makes me very curious about how Crumbs is running their operation with so many franchises (where do they bake, how do the ship?) because if the doughnut on top had been better, I would have given this cupcake an A+. If you are a Maryland local and would like to try Crumbs Bake Shop, you can check out their new locations at the Columbia Mall and White Marsh Mall, in addition to Towson Town Center. If you don’t live in Maryland, DC, or New York, visit their website to see if they have a location near you!

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

Cupcakes at Camden Yards Have Struck Out

Anyone who knows me understands that the real reason I love to go to baseball games is for the food and drink. Beer, soda, peanuts, nachos, pulled chicken sandwiches, fries… the list goes on. Of course I like watching the game too, but let’s be honest, the game is so much better when snacks are involved.

On my most recent trip to Camden Yards, my husband, Ken, and I met up with my sister-in-law and her new boyfriend. Ken and I were running late and so we missed the O’s practice time and the first pitch, which was given that night by Ravens player Lardarius Webb. I think my husband was a little bummed because he is a huge Ravens fan and he also missed out on seeing his sister catch a baseball during the pre-game warmups. But with a beer in hand, we—well, at least I—happily made our way to our seats.

In between innings we decided to go get more food and drinks, and that was when I spotted this:

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A DESSERT CART WITH CUPCAKES!

Not only was it a dessert cart filled with cupcakes, cake pops, and push pops, but they were being served right outside of Lardarius Webb’s private suite, which was swarming with Ravens players. Because of the high-profile suite, we had to wait—for what seemed like forever—to finally buy a cupcake at a steep price of $6, which is probably the most I’ve ever spent on a normal sized cupcake.

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Unfortunately the high price didn’t buy high quality. The frosting on this Cookies and Cream cupcake lacked any flavor other than food-coloring. The cake was more like pound cake than what you would normally find on a cupcake, but actually had a decent flavor. Since I wasn’t impressed with the frosting, I ignored it and focused on the cake. After a few bites I ran into a whipped filling that was a little too sweet for my taste buds, so left that lying next to the frosting while I finished the cake.

Event though this cupcake didn’t come close to meeting my expectations, the nachos, peanuts, and beer certainly made up for it. Camden Yards should probably just stick to what they do best: typical ballpark food. One bad cupcake couldn’t put a damper on my night though because my sister-in-law had her baseball signed by Lardarius Webb and the Orioles won! Go O’s!

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

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
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(Beautifully designed packaging and “Made with Love.”)

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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 Bakeshop Called “Bakershop” in Arlington, VA

With the abundance of bakeries, cakeries, cupcakeries, pastry shops, and bake shoppes (or bakeshops) you might think that a new venture would go for a unique name to set themselves apart. But Bakeshop, on Fillmore Street in Arlington, VA, chose to go with the idea that “simple is better.”

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With the large, bold “Bakeshop” type on the storefront windows , there is no confusion on what you will find behind them. Once inside, you will see that Bakeshop is a blend of modern, classic, and quirky with a display of mismatched dessert stands showcasing Parisian macarons, cookies, and pretty little cupcakes.

After exploring their website and Facebook page, I knew I would be getting some macarons along with my cupcakes, but I was also interested in something they call “Oreo in a Blanket.” If you think an Oreo cookie can’t get any better, think again. Bakeshop has baked an Oreo inside of a chocolate chip cookie, which I can only imagine tastes like heaven. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up leaving with my entire wish list, because at $2.75 each, the Oreo in a Blanket cost more than their cupcakes or macarons, so I had to pass.

Crusader Jenn was with me and we decided to take three cupcakes and three macarons home with us. I selected a Lemon cupcake, a Lemon macaron, and a Peaches N Cream macaron. Jenn decided to stay in the car with her sleeping daughter, Leah, and asked that I pick out two cupcakes and one macaron for her, so I chose a Cookies N Cream cupcake, a Strawberry Lemonade cupcake, and a Salted Peanut macaron.

Lemon Cupcake

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The frosting on this Lemon cupcake didn’t seem to have much (if any) lemon flavor to it, but it was smooth, light, and creamy. While the cake had more flavor, it seemed like there was an extra flavor in there which reminded me of a lemon poppyseed muffin. The cake was far from muffin-like though with its moist, fluffly, and light texture. Even though this cupcake didn’t have the burst of fresh citrus flavor I prefer in a Lemon cupcake, it was still really tasty.

Strawberry Lemonade

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Crusader Jenn said that this cupcake was moist and light, but it had a bit of a weird flavor that tasted more like candy than fresh fruit. Even though you can see the strawberries in the frosting she said she couldn’t taste it at all.

Cookies N Cream

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Crusader Jenn said that this cupcake was better than the Strawberry Lemonade but it still was nothing special, and that while it had the same nice texture, the chocolate cake tasted a bit like a box mix. She also said that the frosting was good by itself, with a good cookies and cream flavor, but that with the cake it just tasted like a chocolate cupcake. She added that, “I don’t usually say this, but it needed more frosting for a true cookies and cream flavor.”

Macarons

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I think macarons accompany cupcakes in a great way. Small and packed with flavor, if a bakery or coffee shop sells them, I will almost always buy one or two. I’m still not an expert on macarons, but these were $2 a piece which I think is about the normal average cost of one. The outer shell of the cookie was not quite as smooth as I’m normally used to seeing, but that didn’t stop me from diving it. I thought the Peaches N Cream really could have used more flavor, but the lemon one was great. It had a more true lemon flavor than the cupcake from Bakeshop, so it was a happy surprise. Jenn said that the Salted Peanut macaron was the best of all three treats she tried from Bakeshop because it had lots of rich flavor that was a good balance of sweet and salty. She felt like it might have been a little more airy than she’s had in the past (I thought the same about mine), but that since it had a nice crunchy outside and was soft and moist on the inside it was still really enjoyable.

Bakeshop’s cupcakes are on the small side, but priced well at only $2 each. If I ever find myself in their neighborhood again, I would definitely stop in to get some macarons. I might even grab a new cupcake flavor or two (at only $2 each, how could I say “no?”).

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