A Perfect Party, Minus One.

Being the only one of your friends to have the bad cupcake of the bunch is like being the only kid in class who wasn’t invited to the party. You are stuck hearing all the wonderful fun things that happened, while crying on the inside that you weren’t a part of it all.

Okay, maybe that’s a teeny tiny bit dramatic. But I can tell you, eating the only bad cupcake is still no fun.

About a year ago we reviewed Cooks ‘N Cakes located in Ellicott City, MD. At the time, our thoughts on their cupcakes were just so-so. Shortly after, Cooks ‘N Cakes contacted us explaining that they made some changes to their recipes and would love for us to come back and give them another try. Fast forward to about 8 months later—time really does fly by—and we finally made it back to their shop.

Excited to give them another try, I selected three new cupcakes and one Coffee Craze, which we had tried previously. I knew then that I would divide the cupcakes among us Crusaders, plus our good friend and Guest Crusader, Miss Beth Lacey, who I would be seeing that afternoon.

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(True Simplicity from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

For myself, I selected True Simplicity, a vanilla butter cake with Madagascar vanilla buttercream frosting. I hate complaining about a bad cupcake almost as much as I hate eating it in the first place, but there is really nothing good to say about it. The cake was so dry that it actually crumbled like a cookie. The flavor would have been good, but there was no way to get past the dryness and the frosting was just okay. In my opinion, it didn’t contain enough vanilla flavor and had way too much of a confectioner’s sugar aftertaste. When buying cupcakes, normally I come from the mindset that “you win some, you lose some,” but I was actually upset that I spent $2.50 on this.

I immediately texted Jenn, Elisa, and Beth Lacey to give them a heads-up that my cupcake was inedible, but to my surprise, none of them had the same reactions. That’s when I realized that, apparently, I had not been invited to the party.

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(Split Decision from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

Beth Lacey said that her Split Decision cupcake (banana cake with strawberry frosting and a dollop of chocolate on top) “rocked!” and that it “totally tasted like a banana split!” Hearing this I was a bit perplexed, but relieved she didn’t have the same experience as me.

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(Coffee Craze from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

Then Jenn, who had tried the Coffee Craze before, said that it still had a great aroma and a nice strong coffee flavor. She added that the frosting was nice and smooth, but that the chocolate cake was just basic and nothing really stood out about it.

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(Chocolate Strawberry from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

Elisa’s exact thoughts on her Chocolate Strawberry cupcake were, “The strawberry frosting was really good and the chocolate cake wasn’t bad either.”

So apparently my cupcake was a dud, while everyone else’s wasn’t. I’ve recovered from my $2.50 loss, but am not sure that I’ll be visiting Cooks ‘N Cakes anytime soon. Their location isn’t really convenient to my home, job, or family and friends, and with a cupcake that was as bad as mine was, I just can’t get excited about another visit.

For Cooks ‘N Cakes sake, I really do hope that my cupcake was merely a random fluke. I would hate to see a small business suffer because others have had similar experiences. So, if you are reading this, I encourage you to go and try their cupcakes for yourself, just maybe stay away from the Vanilla?

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Old Mill Bakery Café: Not Just a Typical Bakery

Over the past month the Crusaders have been working hard to prepare for another series which was supposed to be featured on another blog. Unfortunately, this fell through, so instead, we will be featuring this series on our own blog next month. This series will highlight our Top 5 favorite places outside of Baltimore City (but still within a short driving distance). This means we have eaten A LOT of cupcakes. So, for February, we decided to share some of the new spots we’ve visit, but you’ll have to wait until March to see our final Top 5 picks. 🙂

One of our many cupcake outings this month led us to Old Mill Bakery Café in downtown historic Ellicott City. Guest Crusader, Beth, recently shared cupcakes of hers from this location, but we decided to check it out for ourselves.

When we walked in we were surprised to find out that this isn’t your normal bakery. It is a bakery, a coffee shop, and a gift shop all wrapped up into one whimsical place. We browsed the large merchandize table as we waited in line, drooling over the plates, mugs, wall hangings, and more that featured cupcakes.

After we reached the front of the line we asked about the cupcake options for the day. They didn’t have any flavors posted, and clearly cupcakes aren’t their main thing. The nice woman told us our options and we settled on three flavors: Red Velvet, Chocolate with Vanilla frosting, and Butterfinger.

Red Velvet

The cake in this cupcake was airy and moist. Crusader Jenn said that it was the best Red Velvet she has ever had. However, the competition was a little tougher for our Red Velvet Crusader, Elisa. She really did like it but felt that the cream cheese frosting was a little too sweet, but luckily still maintained a nice cream cheese flavor. We all thought the shaved chocolate on top was a nice touch.

Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting

This cupcake shocked us by tasting much more like a Cookies and Cream cupcake. A really good Cookies and Cream cupcake! The vanilla frosting tasted just like the center cream of an Oreo cookie. The chocolate cake was light and flavorful, but a little crumbly. That didn’t stop this from being a very tasty cupcake though.

Butterfinger

This cupcake was the clear winner of the three. Even though the cake was a little dry, the flavor and aroma was unbelievably wonderful! It was packed with so much Butterfinger flavor that it is definitely up there as one of our favorite flavors. The half of a mini Butterfinger on top finished the whole thing off nicely.

Our overall experience with Old Mill Bakery Café was definitely a good one. Since we were on a time crunch that day we didn’t have a chance to sit and enjoy our cupcakes with a nice coffee or a cup of tea, but I look forward to returning to do just that. Historic Ellicott City is one of our favorite places to walk along the main street and browse the boutiques and antique stores. Old Mill Bakery Café will certainly be added to our “must do” list when we are there next.

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

Cooks ‘N Cakes: Home of The Two-Touch Cupcake

Over the past month the Crusaders have been working hard to prepare for another series which was supposed to be featured on another blog. Unfortunately, this fell through, so instead, we will be featuring this series on our own blog next month. This series will highlight our Top 5 favorite places outside of Baltimore City (but still within a short driving distance). This means we have eaten A LOT of cupcakes. So, for February, we decided to share some of the new spots we’ve visit, but you’ll have to wait until March to see our final Top 5 picks. 🙂

One of the places we visited for the first time was Cooks ‘N Cakes located off the Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City, MD. This new cupcake spot opened their doors in December 2011. Their tagline, “Home of the Two-Touch Cupcake” means that they have made a commitment that no more than two hands will create a cupcake from batter to frosting. They believe that this allows them to make each cupcake spectacular and not just “a dime a dozen” like some critiques believe.

After seeing all their posts on Facebook, we couldn’t wait to test this latest addition to Maryland’s cupcakeries, so Crusader Elisa and I finally made it there about a month after their grand opening.

We were visiting a couple other places that day (cupcake research is a tough job…), so we limited our selection to 4 cupcakes: Butter Me Up, Childhood Friend, Spiked Punch, and Coffee Craze. They placed the cupcakes in an upside down cup, which is a recent packaging idea that I’ve seen and LOVE. The cupcakes don’t move around and they arrive at your destination with the frosting and decorations still in place.

Elisa and I took our cupcakes over to Crusader Jenn’s house later that night. We also had cupcakes from other locations that we stopped at earlier that day, so we were happy to have help eating them all!

We started with the cupcakes from Cooks ‘N Cakes. Here are our thoughts:

Butter Me Up:
(Vanilla Butter Cake with Butterscotch Buttercream and Chopped Pecans
)

The cake on this cupcake was very dense, similar to a pound cake in texture and flavor. The sweet butterscotch frosting worked really well with this mild cake and overall the flavor was nice, nutty and sweet. The one thing about this cupcake that is worth mentioning though, is the unevenness of the cake and frosting (as you can see in the picture above). It wouldn’t have been a big deal, except we were cutting it into several pieces and some taste testers didn’t get as much of the delicious frosting.

Childhood Friend:
(Vanilla Butter Cake with Strawberry Jelly Filling and Peanut Butter Buttercream)

Unfortunately, I think I was the only one who liked this flavor. The others thought it left behind a strange aftertaste that made this a cupcake they would not get again. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it, but I actually enjoyed this cupcake. The frosting was smooth and sweet and PB&J cupcakes tend to be a favorite of mine.

Coffee Crazy:
(Devil’s Food Cupcake with Cinnamon Coffee Buttercream)

The first thing I want to mention is that the cake on this cupcake was very short, like it didn’t rise while baking. Also, from the description it didn’t seem to be a devil’s food cake to us. I’m not sure if they were trying something different that day, but the cake wasn’t very chocolaty and it actually had a burnt coffee taste to it. The aroma of this cupcake was amazing though, and the frosting was equal to that. I also didn’t taste any hints of cinnamon in the frosting and I’m wondering if the coffee flavor in the frosting overpowered everything? The upside of this was that when eating the cake and the frosting together, the burnt coffee taste in the cake was eliminated. Two of the four of us would have gotten this cupcake again, even if it didn’t seem to match its description.

Spiked Punch (Saturday Special):
(Vanilla Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and Raspberry Grand Marnier Filling)

This last one was definitely the overall crowd pleaser. The chocolate frosting was considered perfect by everyone and the raspberry filling was amazing. (Like, unbelievably amazing.) We really can’t say enough good things about this cupcake!

All in all, I would definitely visit this cupcakery again. They have so many flavor options and while we were there, they had samples left out to try. Elisa and I each thought the vanilla buttercream from one of the samples was amazing and the chocolate cake from another sample was very moist and light. Next time, we would definitely like to try some full-size cupcakes including those flavors.

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

SweetCakes at Mistletoe Village

After getting a recommendation from a reader, I knew I had to check out SweetCakes a made to order cupcake baker located in Ellicott City, Maryland. On their Facebook page I noticed that they attend many vender events around town and figured this would be a good way to sample several of their cupcakes (instead of a dozen of just 1 flavor).

When I asked on their Facebook page if they would be at any upcoming events, they told me about Mistletoe Village at St. John’s Parish Day School. Not being ones to turn up vendor events selling unique items during the holidays, Elisa and I decided to go and see what we could find and try some new cupcakes.

Luckily, they were situated right by the door to one of the many rooms filled with vendors, so we spotted them right away. Our options were Red Velvet, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Vanilla/Vanilla, and Chocolate Cream.


(They were selling them by the half dozen, so Elisa and I decided on 2 Peanut Butter Chocolates, 2 Red Velvets, 1 Vanilla/Vanilla (for me), and 1 Chocolate Cream (for her).)

After getting a quick bite to eat we couldn’t wait to try a cupcake. We each chose the Red Velvet to start with.

Our first bite had us uttering praises with a mouth fulls of cupcake. Elisa, the Red Velvet expert, has sampled countless Red Velvet cupcakes, so if she likes it, you know it’s good. The cake was rich and very moist. Then we realized, there’s cheese cake in the center! Instead of being just straight up Red Velvet, it was more of a Black Bottom with Red Velvet cake. So good!

(While it wasn’t a ton of cheese cake in the center, it was just enough to add some extra texture and flavor to this cupcake.)

The next cupcake that I tried was the Chocolate Peanut Butter.

This wasn’t the best chocolate peanut butter that I’ve ever had, but the frosting was really good and totally made this cupcake. It was gooey and full of peanut butter flavor. The chocolate cake was really dark and moist (almost like a black velvet), but lacked the richness I usually prefer in a chocolate cake.

After having 2 good experiences, I was really looking forward to the Vanilla/Vanilla. After having some great experiences with Vanilla recently, and realizing how good they can really be, I’ve been on bit of a Vanilla kick lately.

Unfortunately this didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It wasn’t bad, it just could have had more vanilla flavor too it. However, if I had ordered these for an event, like a birthday, I would not have been disappointed. The cake was moist and buttery and the frosting was smooth and sweet. And after I finished it, I realized it definitely satisfied my cupcake craving and didn’t leave me wanting more.

The last of the 4 was Elisa’s choice, the Chocolate with Cream Cheese frosting.

She described this as good, with very dark moist cake. Like the Peanut Butter Chocolate, she said it also had more of a Black Velvet feel to it. She said the icing was creamy and smooth, and reminded her of the stuffing in an Oreo and that she would definitely order this one again.

Over all we had a really good experience with SweetCakes. They have a great cake to frosting ratio and their price of $20 per dozen leaves the price per cupcake under $1.75 each. In the Baltimore/DC area, that’s a great price for homemade cupcakes! Some may say they are on the small side, but Elisa and I both agreed that they are just the right size. Not too large that you feel like you shouldn’t eat a whole one, but not so small that it leaves you wanting more.

If I have any future events that need cupcakes (what event doesn’t need cupcakes?) I will be sure to call them and find out what flavor combos I can get. And they only require 48 hours notice! If you have an event coming up definitely contact SweetCakes!

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