Cruisin’ and Boozin’ (and Eating Some Cupcakes Too)

Let’s be honest. I think we ALL know you really only go on a cruise for two reasons: food and alcohol. Sure it’s great to relax, see some new sights, and meet some cool people, but really, everyone on that ship is there for the buffet and daily cocktails. We all know this, and that is what makes a cruise such a wonderful thing.

When my husband, Ken, and I decided to book a cruise for our big yearly vacation, I was obviously hoping to work cupcakes into it somehow. I noticed that some Royal Caribbean cruise ships actually have a cupcake shop on board called the Cupcake Cupboard, but sadly, our ship did not. I figured with all the desserts and buffets though, there were bound to be some cupcakes eventually, so I boarded the ship confident that I would eat at least one cupcake on my journey.

Our first day was spent at sea, exploring the ship, and checking out all the eating options. After lunch at the buffet, Ken and I passed the main dining room and saw a spiced rum cake on the menu. Never one to pass up a tasty treat, we headed in and were seated at a table with about four or five other diners. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one ordering just dessert.

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Now, I know this isn’t your typical cupcake, BUT it is a cake baked in a cup… so technically, it’s a cupcake. At this point I wasn’t sure if I would encounter any actual cupcakes, so I enjoyed every bite of this spiced rum cake with a soft center and slightly crunchy exterior.

The next day we docked in Port Canaveral and opted to take the shuttle to Disney World to spend the afternoon at Epcot. I absolutely love Disney World, but had never been to Epcot before, so was excited to walk around, ride some of the attractions, and find each of my nieces a special gift.

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(Ken and I posing for a quick picture in “Italy.”)

I have read that you can find cupcakes in Disney World, but Epcot is a big park, with tons of shops and places to eat, so I wasn’t 100% sure if I would. However, my cupcake luck must have been spot on because within a half hour I had a cupcake in hand.

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Ken and I stopped for lunch at Sunshine Seasons in The Land and before I even decided on what food I wanted to eat, I was buying this gigantic Cappuccino cupcake. It was about $4 dollars—which I think is good considering its size and the fact that amusement park food is usually about twice as much as it is anywhere else. I wasn’t really expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised that the cake was moist and the overall flavor really delightful. Even my non-cupcake-loving-husband (don’t ask… I don’t get it either) enjoyed it, saying the cake and whipped cream filling were both nice. I didn’t think there was enough cappuccino flavor, but Ken, who isn’t an avid coffee drinker like me, said he could taste it in the frosting.

After lunch we continued on our adventures around the world and beyond: flying to Mars, spotting Donald Duck in Mexico, stalking Snow White in Germany, and stopping for photos in Italy. When we reached The Liberty Inn restaurant in The American Adventure section of Epcot I noticed a very large gingerbread house, only to discover that they were selling mini seasonal cupcakes.

CruiseCupcakes4(They must be used to people taking pictures because they smiled at the camera without even being asked.)

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(I didn’t think twice about getting these holiday cupcakes.)

I was most excited about the Eggnog and Gingerbread, but since you couldn’t pick and choose at this stand, we took away all four flavors. Feeling positive after his first cupcake tasting of the day, my husband agreed to split these with me, which meant we had about a bite each.

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(Top left going clockwise: Gingerbread, Eggnog, Apple Pie, and Red Velvet)

The favorites in this group were the Gingerbread and the Apple Pie (which had a wonderful apple pie filling and a good contrasting texture with the candied pecans). I had high hopes for the Eggnog, since they are typically one of my favorite winter cupcakes, but this one had too much filling which left the cake soggy. The cake in the Red Velvet was pretty bland, but the cream cheese frosting was amazing. Ken also really liked it and actually couldn’t recall trying cream cheese frosting before (I know, who am I married to?!).

Back at the ship that night, I didn’t think my cupcake luck could improve, but I was wrong (well sort of…). While we were walking around the upper deck, I looked in the buffet room window and saw the staff put out cupcakes for the late night buffet.

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(Vanilla and Strawberry cupcakes on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship)

I wondered if this cupcake filled day could get any better, but it couldn’t. The cake was a weird dry yet sticky texture that lacked any flavor and the frosting wasn’t nearly sweet enough. Oh well… at least I didn’t have to pay for them. Plus, I knew the rest of the trip would be filled with plenty more food, drinks, and desserts.

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(A glimpse at some of the drinks from the cruise. Every day I tried the daily signature cocktail. Some were good, and some were okay, but it was fun to keep my record going.)

While no more cupcakes presented themselves the rest of the trip, I couldn’t believe the luck I had on our first day at port, and I of course still ate some amazing sweets like mudpie, souffle and crème brûlée.

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(Mudpie from the Chops Grille, the main dining room’s fancy take on a Jaffa Cake, Chocolate Souffle with espresso drizzle, and Baily’s Crème Brûlée—yep, that’s two desserts in one night you see there. Why not? It’s a cruise!)

All in all I would say that, with or without cupcakes, my first cruise experience was great. It was so nice to sit back, relax, and eat all the food you could manage without even lifting a finger. I want to go back.

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– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

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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)

Very Merry Christmas Cupcakes

Throughout the month of December the Crusaders (and a friend of the Crusaders)  have been gathering Christmas themed cupcakes to share in one big post. We hope you enjoy these reviews as you spend these next couple of days wrapping presents, baking, and spending time with family.

Crumbs Bake Shop – NYC
This year Crumbs had an assortment of cupcakes decorate and flavored for Christmas. Unfortunately, when Crusader Elisa and I stopped by they only had the following two, Vanilla/Vanilla and Vanilla/Chocolate with holiday sprinkles. We decided to go ahead and give them a try, since we haven’t had any of Crumbs classic flavors and we had waited in a long line. We were so glad we did!


(Crumbs Bake Shop’s Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting)

This cupcake blew me away! I’m still often pleasantly surprised by how good a vanilla cupcake can be. The cake was light, moist and very buttery. It brought back memories of the vanilla cake my mom used to make when I was a kid. The vanilla cream cheese frosting was the perfect compliment and it was double perfect because I ate half of this cupcake for breakfast. Vanilla is quickly becoming a favorite flavor of mine, which is still a bit shocking to me.


(Crumbs Bake Shop’s Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting)

The cake on this cupcake was exactly like the cake on the Vanilla/Vanilla cupcake. The frosting was just as light a fluffy as the vanilla cream cheese frosting, but the milk-chocolatiness of it complimented the vanilla cake perfectly.

Magnolia Bakery – NYC
While visiting NYC Elisa and I also stopped by Magnolia Bakery. It’s not typically our favorite place for cupcakes, but we were in the area and figured “why not?” They were out of a lot of options, but they did have these Red Velvet Rockette cupcakes left:


(Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet Cake with Whipped Vanilla Frosting)

Unfortunately this was not a good cupcake. The cake was really dry and dense and there wasn’t much flavor to it at all. The frosting was just okay too. Unfortunately the best part of this cupcake was the edible glitter and the chocolate Rockette on top. One redeeming quality was that even with how busy they were, the staff was incredibly friendly, so we had a great experience while we were there.

IcedGems – Baltimore, MD
IcedGems has a huge assortment of holiday flavors and decorated cupcakes this year. The options are amazing and thanks to one of Elisa’s co-workers – a fellow cupcake lover, Rebecca – Elisa has five to show you below. Thanks Rebecca for hooking us up with such awesome cupcakes!


(IcedGems’ Peppermint Cupcake)

Chocolate, peppermint, Hershey’s Kisses… what more can you ask for?! The perfect blend of sweet and peppermint, this cupcake made me go, “MMmmmmmmmm.” The cake was moist and rich with flavor, while the icing was smooth, creamy, and unfolded a peppermint taste on your tongue. Find their truck and buy one of these asap!


(IcedGems’ “Christmas Tree” holiday cupcake)

This was their “birthday cake” cupcake, which is fun-fetti cake with sweet buttercream icing. With it’s adorable star on top, this cupcake screams Christmas cheer! It was moist, delicious, sweet, savory, and just plain yummy. Simple flavors sometimes get lost in the mix of extravagant, complex, flavors, but this one was a shining star!


(IcedGems “Elf” holiday cupcake)

This adorable cupcake was very moist and sweet. It was a peanut butter swirl cake with vanilla buttercream icing. Elisa said that while it was really good, it wasn’t her favorite, but that there was some pretty steep competition with some of the other flavors.


(IcedGems “Santa Pants” holiday cupcake)

This chocolate cupcake was very good. With Santa’s legs sticking out of it like he’s stuck in a chimney, the flavorful cupcake was a sweet treat – with it’s reese’s peanut butter cup and marshmallow on top, this cupcake wasn’t just fun, it was flavorful too!


(IcedGems’ Egg Nog Cupcake)

Rebecca said that this cupcake was very good. In her own words, “The buttercream frosting was smooth with the right hint of spice and richness. While the cake wasn’t as moist as the others, it was also eaten a couple of days after it was purchased, and was still light with a nice kick of spice in it as well.  With an edible, white chocolate ornament on top, this cupcake all around was great!”

** IcedGems also very kindly gave Rebecca a Red Velvet, knowing that it’s Elisa’s favorite. We will be sharing that review in a separate post in the next week or two. So keep an eye out for that!  🙂

Sprinkles Cupcakes – Georgetown, DC
Another big “THANKS!” must go out to our newest Guest Crusader, Rebecca, for bringing a Red Velvet Sprinkles Cupcake to Elisa and sharing a review of the chocolate peppermint she got for herself.


(Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Chocolate Peppermint Cupcake)

This cupcake is described as a “Belgian dark chocolate cake topped with bittersweet chocolate-peppermint frosting. Sprinkled with crushed peppermint candies, it will get everyone rockin’ around the Christmas tree!” Apparently Rebecca agrees because she said, “Delicious! Moist, yummy, and great flavor.”


(Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Red Velvet Cupcake)

From Elisa: “Having previously reviewed the red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles, I was afraid this one wouldn’t live up to my memories… But it just confirmed my original review of simply scrumptious cake with fabulous cream cheese icing. Anytime I go there, I will have to get their red velvet.”

We hope whether you are baking cupcakes or ordering them from your local bakery, that you and your family have a very “sweet” Christmas.

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

Kupcakes with Santa

It’s not every day that you get to eat cupcakes, make ornaments, have your photo taken with Santa and help give back to the community. But Kupcakes & Co. made that happen for kids and adults last Saturday. They organized and hosted an event called Kupcakes with Santa and 100% of the proceed went to Howard General Hospital Pediatrics. This little family owned shop – that has only been open for about 5 months – had a line out the door all day and ended up raising $2,500 to donate to the hospital. If you go to their website you can read the wonderful story about their business, but really, you should go there to experience their warmth and friendliness first hand.

The Cupcake Crusaders have been wanting to visit their storefront for quite some time, but it was really the youngest Crusader who finally got us there. Since it’s Jenn’s daughter, Leah’s, first Christmas she couldn’t pass up a chance to meet Santa, even if she’s still too young to indulge in cupcakes with us. The adult Crusaders were excited to finally taste Kupcake & Co.’s sweet treats. Combine that with Santa photos and a good cause? We are there.


(Who says your ever too old to take a picture with Santa? From left to right: me (Stacy); Guest Crusader – Beth Lacey; Santa (duh); Elisa; and Jenn)

As soon as we arrived there were a ton of people and excitement in the air. The line was quite long, but as we waited we were asked what cupcakes we would like and told they would be ready for us at the register. Sure enough, they were. After putting them in the car we heading back in for some crafts and Santa.


(The shop was decked out in holiday decor, including a small tree with this hand painted ornament with their logo!)

While there, the owner of Kupcakes & Co., Michelle, took a minute to speak with us and get to know us a little. She was so sweet and told us how it was always her goal, from the beginning, to give back to the community. Not only do they do events like these, but every week they freeze cupcakes that are left over at the end of the day and donate them to homeless shelters.

Crusader Jenn and her husband ate two cupcakes from their box of a dozen while we were there, so they already knew how good they were, but even though Elisa and I still hadn’t tried ours we left the shop that day already madly in love with Kupcakes & Co.

We ended up getting a ton of different flavors between the 3 of us, but for today’s post, since it is the holiday season, we are going to focus on the following holiday flavors: Candy Cane, Gingerbread Latte (cupcake and cake pop), Hot Chocolate, Egg Nog and Snickerdoodle (since it’s a “cookie” flavor, and this is the season of cookies, I’m counting it as a holiday flavor).

Candy Cane

This adorable cupcake tasted just like a holiday candy cane! It was a mint explosion, but in a light refreshing way. The cake was moist, soft, and very flavorful. While it had little red dots throughout it, the cake mostly tasted like delicious yellow/vanilla cake. The icing was divinely smooth and scrumptiously peppermint! Together, it was the perfect holiday cupcake and the teeny tiny candy canes on top we a nice change from the normal peppermint pieces that adorn peppermint cupcakes.

Gingerbread Latte

This cupcake is pure heaven! We loved the TRUE ginger flavor and the spiciness of the very moist and perfectly textured cake! The cream cheese icing was smooth, creamy, sweet, and savory! The bite of the ginger with the creaminess of the icing really created a perfectly balanced cupcake. It was so good that Elisa said she savored every bite and would make a trip down to Elkridge just to get one!

Gingerbread Latte Cake Pop

Like the cupcake, this Gingerbread Cake Pop had that true ginger taste and spiciness. It was a perfect compliment to the sweet white chocolate that surrounded it. This bite size treat went perfect with a small glass of milk. I think that Santa would love some of these left by the tree on Christmas Eve instead of cookies (he gets plenty of those)!

Hot Chocolate

This was a big crowd pleaser and it was Jenn’s favorite of all the cupcakes she tried. We both agreed that is was the perfect hot chocolate cupcake. The chocolate cake was moist and rich, and the marshmallow frosting was fluffy and light. We later found out that the frosting is a combination between marshmallow fluff and a meringue. (What a clever combination that works so well with this flavor!) Elisa and I shared one, but I think we both secretly wished we had one of our own.

Egg Nog

This cupcake flavor is one that I’ve been pining for all season. It was made with both an egg nog frosting and egg nog flavored cake. Despite flavor in both it’s not overpowering, but it makes sure that you taste egg nog in every bite. It is sweet though, so make sure to keep the glass of milk nearby!

Snickerdoodle

I was the only one to get this flavor. The other girls sure did miss out! While it wasn’t my favorite of the bunch (I think the Hot Chocolate and Egg Nog won that fight), it was still so good. Full on cinnamon flavor that reminded me of the actual cookie. The addition of the sweet cinnamon frosting was a great compliment to the soft cake.

Overall, I think we can all agree that Kupcakes & Co. has taken a spot on our favorites list. The cupcakes are on the large side (but no so large you can’t enjoy all to yourself in one sitting) and only $2.50 each. They bake fresh daily, so you never have to worry about day-old cupcakes. The whole day was a wonderful and we are all looking forward to our next visit there.

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