Ooh La La Cupcakery’s New Storefront is so Trés Chic

With a wall-mounted flat screen tv, a couple of high top tables with chairs, and bold black, white, and pink decor, Ooh La La Cupcakery‘s new location is certainly a big step up from their previous location in Inner Harbor (although, while that location wasn’t a full walk-in shop, they did a great job glamming it up as best they could).

Their new shop on 1216 North Charles Street opened at the beginning of February, less than a block away from where my weekly grad-school class meets. Even though it’s been over two months since their opening, I wasn’t able to stop in until this past weekend. Working full time, going to school, and keeping up with this blog have put a serious limit on any free time I used to have. Thinking back, it’s been about two months since I’ve actually gone cupcaking in a full service cupcake shop (I’m not counting stops at cupcake trucks, fundraising events, etc. Of course there have been cupcakes, just no new visits to actual cupcake shops).

There is something wonderful about stepping into a room filled with beautiful cupcake displays. I love the process of reading the names, asking questions, and narrowing the options down to my final selections. Obviously I like eating cupcakes, but I also really love the entire experience. However, if the service isn’t good, it can ruin that experience. On my first visit to Ooh La La in the Inner Harbor, I was helped by a young man who seemed less than eager, but this time, that same gentleman was AWESOME. He greeted me an enthusiastic “hello” and a warm smile before going over the flavors. I guess everyone has off days, and I was glad to see his happy side.

On that day Ooh La La had many refreshing warm-weather flavors and tasty looking classics available, so it wasn’t an easy choice to make. I saw the Birthday Cake cupcake and knew right away that it was going home with me (I can’t say no to anything with sprinkles). Then I decided on the Pistachio, Key Lime, and Lemon cupcakes as my remaining three.

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At first, I was a little disappointed that my cupcakes weren’t placed in a cupcake box (I’m always worried they will be smooshed and destroyed before I can take pictures), but the cupcakes were arranged neatly in their containers and carefully placed in a white bag with a pretty pink ribbon. They even included pink napkins and an information card on Ooh La La. And luckily their cupcakes are pretty sturdy and held up nicely on the ride home.

Pistachio Cupcake

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For some reason pistachio flavored food intrigues me, but I think I’ve decided that it’s just not a flavor I enjoy. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Ooh La La’s Pistachio cupcake. The cake was moist, the pistachio flavor was present throughout the cupcake, but I didn’t dig it as much as the others. But, if you love pistachios, then you should definitely try this cupcake.

Key Lime

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The cake on this cupcake was moist and had a nice key lime flavor, but the best part was the frosting. It was perfectly tangy and sweet. I REALLY wish this cupcake had a filling. It might actually be the first Key Lime cupcake I’ve tried that didn’t, and I think that it helps make the cupcake reminiscent of a Key Lime pie. Still, it was a tasty cupcake.

Lemon

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This cupcake was so good and exactly what I look for in a Lemon cupcake. Similar to the Key Lime cupcake, it was the perfect blend of tangy and sweet. This was easily my favorite of the four. There is really not much else to say other than: YUM.

Birthday Cake

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Sprinkles! As I mention above, the second I saw how jam-packed this cupcake was with sprinkles, I knew it was going to be all mine. Funfetti is one of my favorites, and this cupcake was like Funfetti taken to the next level. It even tasted almost like a spoonful of sprinkles! Which is a good thing—at least in my book. This cupcake was sweet, fun, and totally put a smile on my face.

Other than the fabulous new location and storefront, I really enjoyed how the cake AND frosting were flavored in all the cupcakes I purchased. More often than not, cupcake shops will use a basic yellow or chocolate cake as a base and then just flavor the frosting to create a variety, but not Ooh La La. They also offer chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate dipped pretzels, candy covered apples, and ice cream.

Their website is currently under construction, but they have been very active on their Facebook page, where you can follow them to stay updated on new flavors and specials.

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

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Trekked from Arizona, Pt. 2

Healthy Guest Crusader Rebecca trekked cupcakes for me all the way from Arizona, and managed to stop by more than one cupcake location. My previous review about Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe in Tucson went very well, so I was hoping that the cupcakes and cake truffle pops from Caketini in Gilbert AZ, would be just as delicious.

There were two HUGE cupcakes and six cake truffle pops for me to sample:

Salted CaramelCakeTini-SaltedCaramel

Almost too pretty to eat, this cupcake was simply beautiful, and tasted great too. The cake was airy with a classic vanilla flavor. The frosting was light, smooth and not very sweet. It also seemed to be whipped and it was very buttery, which is right up my alley. The carefully drizzled caramel and cracked salt crystals on top added flavor and texture that took this cupcake over the top. Definitely a cupcake I would eat again, and even one I would trek back from Arizona!

Celebration Cupcake CakeTini-BirthdayCake
Funfetti cake with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles on top = an Elisa kinda cupcake! Most of my friends know about my love of funfetti, Crusader Stacy even made me funfetti cupcakes for my 30th birthday, so I was dying to try this cupcake. Like the Salted Caramel, the cake was moist and light, but very flavorful and FULL of funfetti specks throughout. The vanilla buttercream frosting was smooth and sweet, pairing well with the cake. The edible glitter and sprinkles on top certainly didn’t hurt my affection for this cupcake; it looked like a party and tasted like one too.

Cake Truffles: (clockwise from top) Carrot Cake, Chocolate Strawberry, Key Lime, Red Velvet with Milk Chocolate, Red Velvet with White Chocolate, & Chocolate Hazelnut

CakeTini-TrufPops1WOW – Aren’t these so pretty all lined up? Maybe cake pops/cake truffle pops should always be sold in half dozens. lol.

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The shop staff recommended that the truffles be refrigerated and then eaten, as they prefer people to be able to crunch into the chocolate coating, so that’s just what I did. Each truffle was better than the next. All were moist and full of flavor, all had fantastic texture, and all were devoured in a day. (My goal had been to eat 3 and save 3 for the next day, but they were too good to stop eating!) My two favorites were the Red Velvet with White Chocolate and Chocolate Strawberry. While these two stood out, I would be more than happy to eat any of them again. By far some of the BEST cake truffles I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

If all of Arizona’s cupcakes are as good as the cupcakes I tried from Sweet Things Cupcake Shoppe and Caketini, that Arizona is one lucky state! There wasn’t one bad cupcake or cake truffle in the bunch, and that’s very impressive considering they passed through two time zones on a plane and were already a day old. A special thanks to Healthy Guest Crusader Rebecca (and her fiance Jim) for trekking these treats back for me – if this is the kind of payment I get for watching their new puppy Shelby, then count me in!

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

A Baking Adventure: Orange Campfire Cakes

A craving for sweets can hit at any moment, so it’s always best to be prepared, even when camping. S’mores are great, but what if what you really want is cake? You may remember we posted about spotting Betty Crockers’ Shake-N-Pour cupcake mix at our local grocery store on our Facebook page. This is the perfect item to take along for a camping trip. All you have to do is add water!

Every fall, a handful of my girlfriends, including Crusaders Stacy and Elisa, get together for a girls’ weekend. It started five years ago in tents, and although we no longer stay in tents—after spoiling ourselves on year three with a cabin—the gist of the trip is the same: Sit around a fire, have fun, eat food, and throw in some drinks. With Pinterest, my campfire ideas for the weekend bloomed and I found a recipe for Orange Campfire Cakes from ljcfyi.com. Oranges are simple to take along with you and, with the added bonus of cake mix that requires no bowls, utensils, eggs, or oil, it was a no brainier that we would have these “rugged cupcakes” during our weekend.

Easy steps:
1. Hollow out an orange. This was the most difficult of the steps and we used several methods among us girls including spoons and bare hands.
2. After adding water to the mix, shake it up! As you can see, I had a good time with this step because who doesn’t love shakin’ it? (We also have music playing anytime we are at in the cabin.)
3. Pour the batter into the orange peels, replace the top, and wrap in foil.
4. Bake in the coals of a fire for 20 minutes, then enjoy!

Since it was SO cold on the weekend we went away, instead of an outdoor campfire we stayed in and kept the wood stove burning. The coals of the wood stove worked perfectly!

We had Funfetti cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes, for variety. We may have overfilled them, so the cake stuck to the tops of the oranges and oozed out the sides a little. But, the results were the same: Delicious!

A couple of my friends added chocolate chips to their Funfetti, but I slathered my chocolate cake with chocolate frosting! It’s not pretty, but keep in mind, this is “camping.”

Some might be skeptical of a cake mix in a plastic container that only requires water to be added. I know we were. But, baking them in an orange peel adds moisture and seals it in. If you don’t like orange flavor, than these cakes aren’t for you, but we all loved the flavor it added to the cake. The leftover cake batter made great pancakes the next morning too!

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(Having fun in Williamsport, PA! From left to right: Crusader Elisa, Crusader Jenn, Guest Crusader Beth Lacey with Leah, Guest Crusader Alli with her daughter Freya, Crusader Stacy, and Amy – who needs to be a guest crusader!)

There were more than enough sweets for the weekend and the bar was set high this year, but I’m sure we’ll manage next year. Now that there are two little girls who join us (my “little” Leah and my friend’s girl Freya, who is only 4-5 days older than Leah), I can’t help but think of the memories they’ll have from our fall trips, sitting around a campfire (or wood stove) making treats, laughing, and having fun with some of the best ladies in my life.

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

A Baking Adventure: Princess Cupcakes for Our Princess Niece

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lylah, my 3-year-old niece, talked about her birthday party for 3 months. It started when her little sister, Lily, turned 1. “It’s my party? Those are my presents?” she would ask. Then when Leah turned a year old, we got the same questions, only to answer, “No Lylah, those are Leah’s. But your party is next!” As soon as items were purchased for her party, I was greeted with, “Auntie Jenny! Look at my princess party!” For the next few weeks, she talked about her princess party, which would have (of course) princess cupcakes.

We had all the fixings for a perfect 3-year-old princess party: My sister purchased a Wilton kit that had a Disney Princess cupcake stand, cupcake liners, and picks, and also bought the Disney princess frosting transfers. Crusader Stacy purchased purple metallic liners, which would be a complementing color, and I provided extra pink sugar crystals. Stacy came up with a plan of action for the frosting transfers, which included rolled fondant. After Leah’s party I’m now the fondant “expert” in the group, so I volunteered to help with the cupcakes.

I baked and frosted the funfetti and chocolate cupcakes the day before the party. We used Duncan Hines Strawberry Shortcake Flavor Creations for the pink frosting, which I had to add confectioner’s sugar to in order to pipe.

I did my best to pipe a flat swirl on the cupcakes that would be getting fondant circles placed on top.

I was really nervous about the transfers. I didn’t want to mess them up, because we didn’t have any extras, so I practiced with one a few days early and it worked great. The ink on the transfer didn’t get funky after a couple of days, so I was able to calm down a bit about preparing the cupcake decorations in advance.

The night before the party I prepped the fondant-transfer decorations, to place on the cupcakes the morning of the party. I rolled out the fondant, like I did for Leah’s birthday cupcakes, this time using the larger cutter to fit the whole top of the cupcakes. Then, following advice I found from Google searches, I used a damp cloth (AKA: a wet paper towel) to moisten the top of the fondant. The instructions for removing the transfer from the sheet worked perfectly and they peeled off easily.

I was really proud of trying something new again and it turning out well. The fondant with the transfers stayed perfect through the night (stored in an air-tight container), so the next morning I was able to finish up the decorating.

We rolled the edges of the frosting in sugar crystals, just to give it a finished look. Plus, a princess party needs a little extra bling!

I figured we would have enough time to sprinkle sugar on the pink frosted cupcakes when I got to the party location. Well, I’m glad I waited because as soon as I got in the car, on the way to the party, I noticed that the pink frosting had slide right off the tops of the cupcakes. It was a disaster. I’ve decided that moisture is a big issue with the Duncan Hines frosting and they are better off being left out to “set-up” (which is a problem when you want moist cake). Luckily I was going to be early anyway, so Stacy and I went into cupcake-rescue mode. We scrapped frosting and reapplied it to the cupcakes, sprinkled, and double-lined the wrappers, to hide some of the mess. The results? Not too bad.

Although it’s not exactly what I had envisioned, no one noticed. We did have a few pink survivors, which stayed at the forefront of the display.

The cupcakes with the fondant and transfers still stole the show and the birthday girl was giddy with delight over her princess cupcakes.

There was one casualty of this experience: my batter dispenser. A fallen hero, really. Cupcake baking hasn’t been the same without it, but it put up a good fight. So long, kitchen accessory. You shall be missed (until I’m able to get a new one)…

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

From the Archives: 2009 Tony Awards Cupcakes

Last night the 2012 Tony Awards hosted by Neil Patrick Harris (us Broadway nerds refer to him as NPH) aired on CBS and I was reminded of one of my favorite Tony Awards shows (also hosted by NPH) that took place in 2009. That year I saw all four shows nominated for best musical and best original score, five of the shows nominated for lead actor in a musical, four of the shows nominated for lead actress in a musical, and so on (you get the point…it was a BIG Broadway year for me). Having seen so many shows just made the Tonys that much more entertaining, and to top it off, I was visiting my friend (one of our Guest Crusaders), Jen, who lives in New York City and hosted a Tony Awards party complete with cupcakes. Even though we weren’t physically at the Tonys, you could feel the energy throughout the city and we had a blast testing our hand at decorating:


(It’s hard to read, but that says “2009 Tony Awards.” As I said above, we were TESTING our hand at decorating, not perfecting it…)


(Hair was one of my favorite musicals that year. Clive Barnes described it perfectly: “What is so likable about Hair…? I think it is simply that it is so likable. So new, so fresh, and so unassuming…” I attempted to replicate the 2009 Cast Recording on this cupcake. It wasn’t easy, and it took FOREVER. By the time I finished this cupcake, Jen had decorated most of the others.)


(Even though I wasn’t able to see the revival of West Side Story before the Tonys, I really loved the artwork from the film soundtrack so decided to decorate this one mimicking the fire escape and type treatment.)


(Jen did a great job decorating this Shrek the Musical cupcake and I loved eating it!)


(All 15 cupcakes (mainly decorated by Jen)! If you are curious, the cake was Funfetti. Jen and I have a shared love of Funfetti cupcakes. 🙂 )

I wasn’t able to make any cupcakes this year for the Tonys, and unfortunately I haven’t seen many of the shows that were nominated or won, but that doesn’t keep me from watching. I always look forward to seeing the performances and deciding what the next show I want to attend will be (the first two on my list are Once and Newsies). Maybe next year I will try to decorate cupcakes again. I would hope that over the past three years I have developed a more steady hand and with another year of practice, they could look amazing!

Have you ever made cupcakes for an awards show or themed party? If so, we would love to hear about them!

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

Elisa’s 30th Birthday Baking Experiment: Red Velvet Cake Pops and Vanilla Buttercream

Something you may not know about Crusader Elisa is that she loves her birthday. This means that her birthday doesn’t just involve a causal gathering with balloons and cake, but instead, it is a full day (sometimes a full weekend or even week) of fun activities and full on celebration. This year she celebrated her 30th birthday so of course, it had to be spectacular! Elisa decided that we would start the day at our favorite bi-annual Patterson Park Flea Market, then have a small barbeque (just the Crusaders, significant others, and Jenn’s daughter) at my house, and end the day with a party in a rented out room at one of our favorite Baltimore hang outs, the Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point. While we were discussing all the details of the day, I asked if she would like me to handle the cupcakes. She excitedly said that she would love if I would do that, and requested one of her favorites, Funfetti.

After much thought I decided that not only would I do Funfetti cupcakes, but I would make Red Velvet cake pops (she is our Red Velvet Crusader after all…) dipped in white chocolate and finished with rainbow sprinkles to match the Funfetti cupcakes. I also decided that instead of using pre-made frosting from a jar, I was going to attempt a rich vanilla buttercream.

On the evening of my baking adventure, I decided to start with the cake pops so they could have plenty of time to cool before dipping them. I pulled out a Red Velvet cupcake mix that had been given to me as a gift and got to work.

You may recall that during my last cake pop making experience, using a mix didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped. The cake pops were too fluffy and as a result there were a few casualties. I was determined to keep that from happening this time, so I compared the ingredients and add-ins from the packaged mix to the recipes that come with the BabyCakes Cake Pop maker.

It looked as if the results should be okay, so I continued with the instructions from the packaging. They didn’t rise as much as I would have liked, which resulted in one side being a little flat, but I figured that could be the bottom of the cake pop, where the stick gets inserted.

While those cooled in the refrigerator, I moved on to the cupcakes. I wasn’t worried about these at all.

Box mix – check.

Instant Jell-o pudding to add in – check.

Follow the instructions on the box – check.

It really was as easy at that. The result were light, fluffy, and moist “Rainbow Chip” (AKA: Funfetti) cupcakes. Before I tackled the more difficult portion of these cupcakes, the homemade vanilla buttercream frosting, I decided to go back to the cake pops. While the cupcakes were in the oven I had inserted the sticks so they were ready for dipping.

For the white chocolate coating I had two options, fancy bars of organic madagascan vanilla white chocolate and a bag of Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips, which were meant to be a backup in case I needed more. Well, I needed more, and I learned not to take the cheap road when it comes to white chocolate. The organic white chocolate melted, dipped, and set up beautifully, while the cheap white chocolate chips didn’t set up quickly at all, resulting in major drips.

It was definitely a struggle to work with, but with just a few “oopsies” I managed to finish the rest of the cake pops. The result was a stunning deep red inside with a crunchy sweet white coating.

With the cake pops out of the way it was time to focus on the frosting for the cupcakes. I was really worried about this at first, but after a mini Facebook conversation with Christi from Love from the Oven, I was feeling much more confident about experimenting without a recipe. We discussed possible add-ins and she shared links from her blog with me. In the end I decided on adding in marshmallow fluff. I had already ordered my madagascar bourbon vanilla bean paste and knew that I would add a touch of salt to balance out the sweetness. Armed with my three “secret” weapons, I was ready to tackle this next baking challenge.

To achieve a frosting I was happy with, I ended using the following measurements (approximately):

  • 2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Cups of Confectioners Sugar
  • Most of a 7oz container of Marshmallow Fluff (looking back I probably could have used the whole thing)
  • About a 1/4 of a 4oz bottle of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste (Christi told me to use a lot so I just kept on pouring…)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Whipping Cream and Milk until it reached my desired consistency

At first I wasn’t sure if the frosting was too buttery and not sweet enough, but when I tried it with the cupcake, it was a perfect balance! Even Jenn, who wasn’t thrilled with just the frosting at first, thought that it paired really nicely. And of course, Elisa, who loves buttery frosting, thought it was great! And really, she was the only opinion that mattered. But on top of all that, everyone at the party seemed to really enjoy all the sweet treats. It was my first attempt at a fancy buttercream frosting, and I couldn’t have been more proud of the outcome and I was so happy to be able to provide Elisa with the tasty cupcakes and cake pops she deserved on her 30th birthday!


(Photo by Kenneth Adam)

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

Butterfly Cupcakes for a Special Birthday Girl

When our sister, Alissa, approached Stacy and I about our niece’s 1st birthday party, we asked, “Are you going to have cupcakes?!” Her answer was, of course, “YES!”

At first I assumed that we would just do box mixes, store bought frosting, and then make them look pretty, but I was wrong. Alissa wanted to tackle something bigger for this party…homemade American buttercream frosting! She likes the sweeter, thicker frostings, and wanted to try and achieve that for this event. I was nervous. The only time I’ve ever made a homemade frosting that worked was when I added another flavor, like citrus or mint. American buttercream is such a tricky thing to create. So, I left it up to Alissa to find the recipe. I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the cupcakes at my nieces 1st birthday!

We decided that we should have the cupcakes done the day before the party. After a lot of research on the theme, butterflies, we had everything we needed to pull it off. Alissa had sent out a beautiful invitations (designed by Stacy), we had party decorations, snack bags shaped like butterflies, butterfly sugar cookies, and the final item that would make the cupcakes come together…butterfly gummy candies which would make the perfect cupcake topper.


(The butterfly gummies, which we purchased online, arrived individually wrapped. So part of our process included removing them from the wrappers.)

As soon as my baby girl, Leah, went down for a nap, I got started on the funfetti cupcakes. The goal was to finish baking 48 cupcakes during her morning nap, let them cool, then frost them in the afternoon when the kids went down for their afternoon nap and when Stacy and Alissa would be there to help. While I was working on the second batch, the chocolate cupcakes, Alissa arrived with her girls and asked, “Are we sure this is going to be enough?” At the last minute we decided to throw in another batch of yellow cupcakes, just to be safe. Luckily I had a spare box mix in the pantry! And enough storage containers to house all of the cupcakes!


(I’m a lucky girl to have so many cupcake/cake containers!)

Just as planned, we were ready to start making the frosting when the girls went down for their afternoon nap. I pulled up the vanilla buttercream recipe Alissa found on my laptop and we got to work. We made some tweaks along the way, adding more vanilla extract, more whipping cream, and more confectioners sugar. I still didn’t think it came out as good as what you find in bakeries, but Alissa was happy with it, and that’s all that mattered! We made two batches and divided the frosting into separate containers so that we could use food dye and create four different colors. The colors came out so vibrant, a perfect match for the toppers!


(The purple buttercream with cupcakes ready to be frosted!)

With so many colors, and only my single bagless piper, we opted to use Ziploc bags to pipe the frosting. Starting out was a struggle for all of us. I eventually got the hang of it, but then started failing again at the end. Alissa was really eager to try some out as well. What she lacked in ability, she made up for in enthusiasm! We blamed everything for our (borderline disaster) piping skills, from the bags having too much air in them, to the holes being cut too big. I don’t know if it was the sugar rush from all the taste testing, or comfort in knowing that we were covering these up with butterfly candies, but we all managed to laugh at our attempt and stay in good spirits. Cupcakes are supposed to be fun, after all! And, what’s more fun then making them with your sisters?


(Some of the more successful results!)


(We choose to wait until the morning of the party to add the gummy candies, just so that any moisture from the cake and frosting didn’t make them get funky overnight.)


(The different color butterflies and bright frosting created a beautiful display. Perfect for a birthday party!)


(Lily’s special #1 cupcake.)

We all felt like the end results were great! The kids loved the cupcakes and, most importantly, the birthday girl loved them too!


(The Crusaders’ beautiful niece, Lily! Photo by Kenneth Adam.)

I’m still really curious how bakeries make their buttercream. There has to be more to it than butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and whipping cream. I think it’s a big secret amongst them, and they aren’t sharing! Figuring that out might be my next mission…Let us know if you have any suggestions!

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

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