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)

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Woodlea Surprise in Bel Air!

A few weekends ago, Crusader Stacy and I met a couple of girlfriends for brunch and stumbled upon Woodlea Bakery in Bel Air. We were headed to Open Door Cafe for brunch (which was fantastic) and noticed the bakery was in the same shopping center. Stacy and I have both seen the original Woodlea Bakery on Bel Air Road in Baltimore city, but have not had a chance to go there, so this was a pleasant coincidence we had to take advantage of!

Rarely do you find true old-school bakeries anymore, with fresh baked bread, donuts, cakes, and cookies, so it’s a treat to stumble upon one. While their baked goods selection was amazing, their cupcake selection lacked variety. But still, I was able to find two mini cupcakes and a couple of full-sized cupcakes to choose from. Here are my selections and reviews:

Red Velvet

This was the only full-size cupcake I brought home. While Red Velvet is a flavor I order often, it is not always a cupcake I finish eating – because it, in my opinion, is rarely done correctly. With that said, this red velvet was not bad. The cake alone had good flavor to it, mild but sweet, just as a red velvet should be, but that could not save it from being DRY, very dry. The icing was creamy and a great consistency, but sweeter than I like my cream cheese icing. Had the cake been more moist, I could have forgiven the overly sweet icing. This is a cupcake I would order again though, just to see if the moisture of the cake was better.

Carrot Cake Mini

Spicy and sweet, this little cupcake packed a punch. The cake was too dry for my liking, and the cream cheese icing was the same as on the red velvet above, so for me, a little too sweet. Overall, being a carrot cake fan, this wasn’t my favorite and wouldn’t be one I would order again. It just seemed like it was missing something. Was it nutmeg? Was it allspice? Was it carrot pieces? Sadly, I just can’t put my finger on that missing ingredient.

German Chocolate Mini

This little morsel of chocolate and coconut goodness was the best of the three cupcakes I tried. I love German chocolate cake and if this was a glimpse of what a full size German chocolate cake would taste like, I might have found my next birthday cake! The cake was on the dry side, but the coconut topping added enough moisture to eliminate that issue. like the Red Velvet, I would definitely order this cupcake again, and would love to get a full-size version if possible, to see if the cake wasn’t quite as dry.

The next time I am in that area, perhaps I will stop by and pick up some other baked goodies to try. Especially after reading the reviews online of the donuts! Do you live by a true old-school bakery? What’s your favorite thing to get (and does it happen to be a cupcake)?

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