Cupcake Tour 2012 – Philidelphia, PA

The Crusaders have been talking about a Philly tour for the past couple of years. Thanks to Crusader Jenn’s reminder and Crusader Stacy’s planning, we finally made it happen this fall for our Annual Cupcake Tour!

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(Itinerary and stickers included of course, thanks to Crusader Stacy!)

This year it was just us three Crusaders and Mr. Ross, Jenn and Stacy’s dad. (Thanks to Mr. Ross for driving. He truly is a crusader!) While Crusader Stacy, Mr. Ross and I had all been to the “city of brotherly love” before and love its charm and personality, this was Crusader Jenn’s first time. We all couldn’t wait to taste what the cities cupcakes had to offer.

We were all excited to get the tour started, and as we walked up to the corner of our first address we realized we were in front of the Reading Market and that the shop must be a part of the market. What a great location!

Flying Monkey

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Chocolate Chocolate, Espresso, Apple Cinnamon, Maple

The adorable market shop was busy, as was the rest of the market, but the staff were friendly and kept the line moving quickly. We all ordered one cupcake, and ate them standing. Immediately we all agreed that this was the perfect way to start the day! While the flavors were on the light side, they were perfect with the moist cake and buttery frosting. Crusader Stacy really enjoyed the crunchy top of her espresso cupcake; Crusader Jenn liked the moist cake in her apple cinnamon selection; Mr. Ross dove into his chocolate cupcake with gusto and I loved the extra buttery, maple frosting.

After fighting our way out of the Market, we walked down to our next stop and picked up cupcakes to eat after lunch at Moriarty’s Pub (one of my favorite Philly haunts):

Philly Cupcakes

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Chocolate Peanut Butter (aka The Massacre), Toasted Coconut, Sweet Potato Marshmallow, Sweet Potato Pecan

Philly Cupcake is a quaint little shop on a corner with a take out window,  but since it was a cold day, we went inside to peruse their selection and keep warm. Right away the flavor options intrigued and beguiled us, with names like the Massacre and the Coma it’s no wonder we had trouble deciding! This cupcake shop ends up with mixed reviews though, as Crusader Stacy was not all that impressed with her sweet potato marshmallow cupcake, but Crusader Jenn’s “Massacre” cupcake was the best chocolate and peanut butter cupcake she has EVER had. Mr Ross liked his coconut cupcake, as it tasted like a Pina Colada and was light and not too sweet. My sweet potato pecan cupcake was the perfect blend of sweet potato pie and pecan pie rolled into one heavenly mixture. It really was an even split, we liked them all, but only thought two (the Massacre and Sweet Potato Pecan) were anything to write home about.

Our next couple of stops were a bit of a walk, which was good considering we all ate a full lunch and a cupcake! In fact, we took the rest of our tour cupcakes home with us, but we all tried them later that night or the next day to ensure they were still in their prime. Below are our three other stops:

Brown Betty Petite

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Lemon Pound Cake, Pineapple pound cake (aka Aunt Eva Says), Red Velvet (Jean’s Road Trip)

While the lemon and pineapple cupcakes were dense, but overall good, the red velvet was dry and boring. Crusader Stacy thought the pineapple cupcake had really delicious flavor, and while pound cake isn’t her favorite cake it worked in this instance. Crusader Jenn thought the lemon cake was dense and lacked flavor, but the tart frosting was enough to carry the cupcake.

PamCakes

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Chocolate, Spiked Eggnog, PB&J

Both Crusaders Jenn and Stacy love eggnog cupcakes, so right away we were excited to find this flavor. The spiked eggnog was definitely spiked, with a great blend of eggnog and liquor flavor. The moist cake was sweet and satisfying. The PB&J cupcake was on the dryer side, but the flavors were amazing. There was a perfect portion of jelly filling and the peanut butter frosting was spot on in both flavor and texture. This would definitely be a spot we would go back to again!

Sweet Freedom

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Boston Creme, Salted Caramel

As Philly’s first vegan and gluten free bakery, we commend them on their attempt to make sweet treats without real butter or refined sugar, but sadly our cupcake experience fell short. There was really only one word to describe the cupcakes we tried: awful. The Boston creme tasted more like day old stale bread than anything sweet and moist, while the salted caramel chocolate tasted like baked cardboard. They were not large cupcakes, nor were they cheap at $4 per cupcake, but we ended up throwing out most of both. We discussed that perhaps our taste buds are spoiled by real butter, gluten and sugar, and therefore are not the best judges of these particular cupcakes.

While some of the cupcakes were hits and some were misses, overall we thoroughly enjoyed our tour through Philadelphia and look forward to visiting again. It’s always a fantastic day when you get to spend time with your favorite people, eating new cupcakes and exploring a city! (We’ve already started planning next year’s tour and I for one, can’t wait. Bring on the cupcakes!)

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

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Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Sassy Cakes in Naples, FL

As you may have already read from Jenn’s past two reviews (here and here), we had a great start to our Florida vacation! After a week of relaxing, visiting with family, swimming in the pool, going to the beach, and eating TONS of great food, we arrived at the last day of our trip. Before getting to Florida, we had already planned to do some cupcaking with our cousin and her daughter on the Friday before we left. Excited to have new people to share our passion with and happy to spend more time with them, we decided to visit two cupcake shops in Naples, Florida: Sassy Cakes, a former Cupcake Wars contestant, and Simply Cupcakes of Naples.

Our first stop was Sassy Cakes, tucked behind a shopping strip on 4th Avenue South in Downtown Naples. The first thing that jumped out to me in this cute little shop was an adorable kids’ table adorned with a hand painted cupcake graphic.

This table really sets the whole tone for the shop, which also has cupcake trinkets scattered throughout, cupcake photography hanging on the walls, and a mismatched collection of plates which their cupcakes are served on for “dine in” customers. One of my current obsessions is finding cute and different dessert plates at flea markets and antique stores, so I was immediately in love. Cupcakes and fun plates? It couldn’t get any better for me at that moment.

The owner and baker, Bayah, could not have been more sweet as she described the flavors and waited for us to make our choice. Normally I don’t have too many issues when it comes to flavor selection, but Sassy Cakes had so many I wanted to try, including mini cupcakes, that it took me forever. I finally decided on a full size Hazelnut Espresso Cafe and three mini cupcakes: Banana Pudding, Lemon Parade of Blueberry, and Caramel by the Sea. Jenn and our cousin, Megan, decided on a full size Banana Pudding, while Megan’s daughter and Jenn’s husband each choose a full size Cookies N Cream.

Since it was only 11am, I thought the Hazelnut Espresso Cafe cupcake would be the perfect late morning treat. Plus hazelnut flavored coffee is my go to beverage when I need a morning – or afternoon – pick-me-up. (I’m not sure how I would survive without my Hazelnut Kuerig K-cups.) The chocolate cake on Sassy Cake’s Hazelnut Espresso Cafe cupcake was moist and filled with a rich chocolate hazelnut filling. The espresso frosting could have had a stronger espresso flavor (in my opinion) but Jenn thought it was absolutely perfect, so I guess maybe I just like my coffee strong? 😉 Overall this was a really tasty cupcake that I would definitely get again.

The Cookies N Cream cupcake was a big hit with Jenn’s husband, Dan, and my cousin’s daughter. When I asked Dan his thoughts on the cupcake he responded with and enthusiastic “Ooooo…. Man…. It was GOOOOD!” He also added that he thought Sassy Cakes was awesome!

While the first two flavors were quite delectable, the stand out winner of the day was the Banana Pudding. I’m really glad I took a mini version of this flavor home with me, however, I’m kinda wishing that I had gotten a full size one. The soft, moist, banana cake was packed with flavor and the banana cream filling was spot on. This is a cupcake I could eat again and again.

The other two mini flavors I brought home with me were the Lemon Parade of Blueberry and the Caramel by the Sea. Looking back, I should have selected full size of these flavors too, but I was trying to be good…

The only other time I’ve had a Lemon Blueberry cupcake was from Kupcakes & Co. and since they are one of my all time favorite cupcakeries, the competition was tight. Sassy Cakes did a great job on their version, but if I’m given the opportunity again, I would definitely try the full size option because I only saw a couple of fresh blueberries in the cake. Even with that though, the cupcake was moist and fresh tasting, so I really enjoyed it.

The last of my mini morsels was the Caramel by the Sea. I’m a sucker for anything with salted caramel and I unfortunately devoured this cupcake before taking any mental notes. But I guess that almost speaks for how good it really was and Jenn confirmed that it was one of her favorites too.

As I mentioned above, Sassy Cakes was featured on Cupcake Wars, and in their season 3 episode, the Tim Burton Bake Off, they were eliminated in the first round because their tapioca filling didn’t set up leaving the cake mushy. I can personally attest that this must have been a fluke due to the tight time constraints, because all the cake and fillings were perfect in the cupcakes we tried. They bake their cupcakes fresh daily and it shows! Curious as to what happens to the leftover cupcakes, we asked if they worked with a local food shelter and were pleased to find out that they work with an organization called Maria’s Birthday Wish for the Homeless. Maria’s Birthday Wish works with several bakeries and shelters to bring happiness and recognition to men, woman, and children who are often forgotten on their birthdays. To find out more about their cause, please visit their website or Facebook page.

With all the tasty cupcakes, great atmosphere, and their desire to give back to the community, there are a ton of reasons why you should visit Sassy Cakes the next time you are in Naples, FL!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (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)