Baltimore Cupcake Charm in Hampden

We’re so lucky to have such supportive friends and followers. We really enjoy when they want to contribute their own cupcake crusades to our blog. Below, Guest Crusader Mike fills us in on his most recent cupcake experience.

When I found out I would have the opportunity to write a guest-post for the Cupcake Crusaders, I knew Hampden was the perfect place to try and find something special to write about. The colorful urban storefronts, eclectic antiques shops, not to mention the 20-foot tall pink flamingo (Hey Hon!), all add a distinctive flavor to this local area.

Spro-Storefront

While walking down 36th Street after a particularly delicious brunch at Golden West Café, Crusader Elisa and I decided to grab some coffee at Spro, a quaint, yet modern, mom-n-pop coffee shop that had an equally delicious looking batch of Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes sitting in the display case that I just had to try. Those who know me know that two things I can hardly ever stay away from are chocolate and espresso.

Spro-display

This cupcake hit it out of the park. The chocolate cake was rich and moist without being overly sweet and the espresso icing was smooth, creamy and definitely packed with coffee flavor. I would have liked a bit more texture in the cake, maybe a coffee/fudge center or chocolate chips, because I think all chocolate cake needs chocolate chips. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with this cupcake.

spro-chocespresscupcake_edited

What impressed me even more than the quality of the cupcake was who made them. When I asked the cashier about the cupcakes, he proceeded to tell me that his 15 year-old brother, Nehum Potler, who he described as a, “child prodigy with flour, sugar and a rolling pin,” had made them earlier that morning. When I was 15, the only baking experience I had was licking the batter off of my mom’s spatula.

This was my first time in Hampden and my first cupcake review, but it certainly won’t be my last. If you ever find yourself on the Avenue, I highly recommend grabbing a coffee (or a triple espresso, if you’re like me) and a cupcake from Spro.

– Review by Guest Crusader, Mike (Baltimore, MD)

Golden West Cafe’s Banana Cupcake

My coworkers are too kind to me. For a recent birthday celebration at the office they ordered lunch (and cupcakes) from the Golden West Cafe, located in Hampden, and since I was working from home on that particular day, they saved one for me and put it in the freezer so it would be in perfect condition when I was ready to fulfill a cupcake craving. I had never heard of the Golden West Cafe having cupcakes, so this was an unexpected, and very happy surprise.

My coworkers raved about how good this banana cupcake was. My first impression was that with its pink frosting and tiny white pearls, it seemed fit for a princess. My first bite was full on banana flavor. The cake was dense and maybe a little closer to a banana bread in texture, but it really did pack in tons of flavor. The frosting was really sweet. I read that it could be a cream cheese frosting, but it was too sweet for me to pick up hints of that. Because of the frosting, by the time I had finished the cupcake I really wished I had a large glass of cold milk.

Since my coworkers thought it was fabulous, but I thought it was a bit too sweet, I was curious what other people thought. I was also wondering if this cupcake is something that the Golden West Cafe serves on a regular basis and if they have other flavors. To find out some answers I hit the internet and discovered that the banana cupcake is a regular menu item and everyone seems to love it. An added bonus find was that it appears that they have fun with their decorations and switch it up frequently. Here are some of the different decorations I found (with links to the pictures):

– Crazy orange frosting with pink and white pearls and covered in purple sugar
– White frosting covered in purple sugar and yellow frosting covered in yellow sugar
– Yellow frosting with yellow pearls
– Blue frosting covered in blue sugar and multi-color pearls

If you are ever in the Hampden area and craving some tasty food followed by a sweet treat, stop in and grab a table at the quirky Golden West Cafe.

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

Baltimore Cupcake Trucks: IcedGems Baking & Cupcake Runners

Most Baltimore City residents are familiar with the food truck rally, called The Gathering, which takes place just about every Friday night at various spots throughout the city. This gathering gives those who aren’t able to visit each truck during the middle of the week a chance to come out and eat some great food from any vendor they choose. Some of the most popular food trucks, like Miss Shirley’s, the Gypsy Queen, and Kooper’s Chowound Burger Wagon are often (if not always) present at these frequent meet ups. Of course they wouldn’t be complete without our city’s cupcake trucks, IcedGems Baking and Cupcake Runners.

We have reviewed IcedGems Baking many times before. Every week they are out and about stopping at the city’s various neighborhoods, so everyone gets a chance to indulge in a special treat at least once a week should they choose to do so. Even with their busy schedule and a storefront in Reisterstown, you can always count on them to be at the Gathering.

Cupcake Runners are a bit more difficult to track down and they aren’t able to make it out to every Gathering, but finally, on one very rainy night, I found myself standing at the side of their truck ready to place my order. Their selection was fairly limited, not at all like the list of fifteen or more flavors that IcedGems typically has, but they were incredible friendly and I happily walked away with a Classic Vanilla cupcake and a Lemon cupcake.

Unfortunately both cupcakes didn’t make it home in perfect condition… I think the combination of the bag, the soft frosting, and trying to manage an umbrella in the pouring rain was just too much working against the little sweet treats.

The first of the two, the Vanilla, actually made it out okay:

This was an old school cupcake with no frills or bells and whistles. It was moist and light, with a subtle, but present, vanilla flavor.

The Lemon was very much the same (minus the tragic looking frosting):

It had really great lemon flavor, but was also just a simple classic cupcake. While I really enjoy all the interesting and unique flavor combinations bakers are creating with cupcakes, it is nice to just get back to basics sometimes. Cupcake Runners has proven that they can make a good cupcake. I recently saw that they also have some new “happy hour” cupcakes they are selling, but the last Gathering they attended was rained out. Hopefully I’ll be able to track them down again and sample their more elaborate flavors as well.

That same night, I also decided to stop by the IcedGems truck to try a new flavor I saw them post to their Facebook page: Neapolitan.

Like the traditional ice cream flavor, this Neapolitan cupcake is a blend of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. As a kid I would always opt for just the vanilla and chocolate portion of this mixture, but have grown to love the combination of all three flavors as an adult. This cupcake did not disappoint. Each flavor presented itself well, from the marbled vanilla and chocolate cake, to the sweet strawberry frosting.

That night I only chose that one flavor from IcedGems Baking, but a little while later my co-workers and I were surprised with half a dozen IcedGems cupcakes from our boss!

There was a great variety of flavors like Lemon Raspberry, Strawberry Cheesecake, Peaches N Cream, Victoria (vanilla with strawberry jam), French Toast, and Chocolate Raspberry. Luckily my co-workers share my same thoughts on sharing (you get to try more flavors that way), so we started cutting cupcakes up and every one could take pieces of which ever they wanted to try. That day I finally tried the Strawberry Cheesecake (it had been on my “must try” list for quite some time…), the Lemon Raspberry, the Peaches N Cream, and the French Toast.

The Strawberry Cheesecake was exactly what I was hoping it would be. The rich “cheese cake” frosting was smooth and wonderful, and the strawberry filling complemented the savoriness of the frosting to create a well balanced treat.

The French Toast was another stand out to me. This is one of Crusader Elisa’s favorites, which she reviewed here, and now I know why. She best described it as “maple/cinnamon/cake heaven.” I’m so glad I could finally experience it for myself.

IcedGems also included a Chocolate Salted Caramel cake truffle which contained the perfect salty and sweet balance to create a to-die-for bite-sized morsel.

The food truck craze  seems to be making its way slowly to all the major cities in the US, and I am very happy to say that we have two great cupcake trucks that are a part of this growing industry.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit one, or both, of these cupcake trucks, you can look them up on their Facebook pages (here and here) to find out where their next stop will be.

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

Sandwiches, Cupcakes, and Friends: Lunchtime Break at Roland Park Bakery and Deli

About a week or so ago, Crusaders Jenn, Elisa, and I decided to get together for a rare mid-week lunch. Even though Elisa and I work relatively close to each other, for some reason we never seem to meet up for lunch. After some discussion on where to meet, we decided that we would go to Roland Park Bakery and Deli, which recently relocated to Chestnut Avenue in Hampden. They have been in business for almost 30 years and are well known for their delicious sandwiches and baked goods. Cupcakes aren’t their main focus, but on a previous trip there I noticed that there was a small selection so we thought this would be the perfect lunch spot for us.

After each of us ordered our sandwiches (we all chose the daily special which was sliced turkey breast on freshly baked bread with cranberry sauce – SO GOOD!), we decided to share two cupcakes. There aren’t any labels for the cupcakes and instead of asking for the flavors, we pointed to two which looked like a classic vanilla and a slightly more fancy one that looked like a S’mores cupcake.

What we first thought was Vanilla/Vanilla with a colored frosting, ended up actually having a hint of lemon flavoring. Even if this cupcake doesn’t look like something special, it was actually really good. The frosting was sweet, but since there was just a smear of it on top, it didn’t overpower the cupcake. The cake was moist and actually had a bit of a crunch around the edges which we all enjoyed.

Unfortunately the second cupcake didn’t go over as well.

As I mentioned above, at first glance we thought this was a S’mores cupcake, but after further examination we realized it was more of a chocolate marshmallow cupcake topped with a Charleston Chew. While the Lemon Vanilla cupcake was right on target, this one was a miss for us. The marshmallows on top were stale and chewy, the chocolate cake was dry, and the frosting was way too sweet. Elisa didn’t seem to mind the cake too much though and she thought that the combination of the sweet frosting with the mild chocolate cake balanced out well flavor wise. My thoughts? Not so much. After one bite, I decided I was done.

Even though one cupcake was a win and the other wasn’t, their cupcake prices are really good, their sandwiches are amazing, and their cookie selection is extensive. It’s no surprise why they have maintained a well loved business for over 25 years.

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