Chocolate Hazelnut Cappuccino Brownie Bites

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Sometimes things come together perfectly and sometimes they don’t, but often it’s a little bit of both. That’s exactly how I feel about these Chocolate Hazelnut Cappuccino Brownie Bites. The flavors and final product came together perfectly, even if there were bumps along the way. Well, maybe it was just one bump. But it was a pretty big one… I’ll start from the beginning.

Several months ago, Crusaders Jenn, Elisa, and I bought tickets for Wicked Divas with Stephanie J. Block and Julia Murney at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. Last summer, we saw the fabulous Idina Menzel at Wolf Trap and had seats about three rows back. While sitting that close is amazing, part of us envied the concert-goers who were spread out on the lawn with blankets, wine, and tons of food, so this year we decided to do the same.

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(Cheers ladies! Jenn and Elisa enjoying some wine while we wait for the concert to start at Wolf Trap)

In the weeks leading up to the concert we began discussing who should bring what. I volunteered to bake something sweet because it’s been FOREVER since I last baked—April to be exact—and I already had the perfect dessert in mind.

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I had everything I would need to pull this recipe together. The Jif Mocha Cappuccino Hazelnut spread was purchased on a whim using a coupon, knowing that at some point it would be great for frosting, and the brownie mix was one of those “I need chocolate” moments while walking down the aisle at the grocery store. Don’t act like you haven’t been there before…We know you have.

These two items were sitting in my pantry begging to be combined. Initially, I intended to make a dozen mini brownie “cupcakes” topped with chocolate cappuccino hazelnut frosting, in addition to a square dish of plain classic brownies. After tasting the batter (I replaced the water in the recipe with hazelnut coffee) I thought these mini brownie cupcakes would be perfect, but I still had to bake them, and that was where my recipe went askew. I severely overestimated the baking time. They didn’t burn, but once they completely cooled, they were solid like rocks. I couldn’t even get the baking liners off and I’m pretty sure they would have broken our teeth. Determined to make this dessert work, and with a square dish of perfectly cooked brownies, I moved on to the frosting.

I started by searching the internet for a Nutella frosting recipe (since this Jif spread is basically a knock-off version) and found that I had a decision to make: buttercream base or cream cheese? Not being able to decide on my own, I called my reinforcements (AKA: Crusader Jenn or Elisa…which ever answers the phone first). I told Jenn I was leaning towards cream cheese because I thought it could be interesting, but that I was also worried it might taste weird. Her response was, “Would you eat Mocha Cappuccino cheesecake?” My answer, “Ummm…hell yeah!” It was decided then: cream cheese.

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(Try to resist the urge to lick the screen. I dare you.)

I found a recipe on the blog Can You Stay For Dinner that seemed very simple, which of course I love, and the blogger, Andie, seemed to really like it. The only ingredients required were cream cheese, hazelnut spread, powdered sugar, and milk. One thing I did differently—something I’ve never done before—was sifting the powdered sugar before mixing it with the other ingredients. It made a HUGE difference. The frosting was so smooth and creamy, and the cream cheese gave the flavor a good balance that wasn’t too sweet.

While making the frosting, I had time to process the fact that my cute little mini brownies were a no-go, and instead decided to use a cookie cutter to shape the remaining brownies into individual sized circles before topping with frosting.

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Even though the brownie bites didn’t turn out exactly as I planned, the end results were still amazing. The mini cakes looked fancy on our new flower plates (birthday gifts from Elisa) and I’m sure we made a few people around us wish they were a part of our picnic. It was the perfect dessert to share with two of my favorite ladies while sipping wine and listening to the sounds of the symphony accompanied by two great Broadway performers.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (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)

The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Kupcakes & Co. | Elkridge, MD

Since Kupcakes & Co. made the #1 spot on our Top 5 cupcake places on the outskirts of Baltimore City, we have eaten a lot, and I mean A LOT, of cupcakes from their shop. Today I wanted to share with you some of their new spring flavors and give you a peek at some of the cupcakes we’ve had over the past several months that you haven’t seen.

To kick off March, Kupcakes & Co. did their own “March Madness” cupcake style. They had customers submit suggestions for new flavors and then they narrowed it down to their favorite 16 flavors. Each week customers could vote for the flavors they wanted to see in a bracket style tournament. When the final two flavors went head to head, in addition to voting online, customers could actually go to the shop and taste each option and place a second vote. The Crusaders couldn’t miss out on this opportunity! It worked out perfectly too, because my mom (and Jenn’s… we are sisters – twins – for those who don’t already know) was visiting from Florida and she wanted to get cupcakes with us from one of our favorite places. The two final flavors we got to try were Crème Brûlée and Tiramisu.


(Final March Madness Contestant: Crème Brûlée)


(Final March Madness Contestant: Tiramisu)

I was ecstatic to see the two flavors I really wanted to make it to the final round actually make it, but it was so hard to pick between them for my online vote! However, after tasting each at the shop, the Crusaders (with mom and husband in agreeance) thought that the Crème Brûlée was the better of the two. Unfortunately this flavor didn’t win, but the Tiramisu was still so good that I’m looking forward to having another. AND if you weren’t able to try both flavors and would like to, Kupcakes & Co. might be offering the Crème Brûlée for mothers day. If they do, make sure not to miss out! (I will be stocking up for myself and saving some in the freezer…)

Since Tiramisu won the March Madness Contest it will now be featured on their spring menu. Some of the other flavors on their spring menu are Irish Creme, Mint Oreo, and Hummingbird. We reviewed the Irish Creme with our St. Patty’s Day cupcakes, but wanted you to see the other two delicious flavors! All 3 of these flavors will be available through May.

Mint Oreo

The Mint Oreo has crushed Oreos blended inside the cake and a peppermint buttercream frosting with more crushed Oreos on top! Usually the mint cupcakes I encounter are a chocolate cake base, so this was a nice surprise. The yellow cake makes it much lighter and perfect for a sweet treat on a mild breezy afternoon or evening (or morning if like cupcakes for breakfast like I do). 🙂

Hummingbird

This southern classic cupcake is amazing. You have to like a chunky cake though because it is chock full of fresh bananas, crushed pineapple and pecans. It’s spiced similarly to a carrot cake, but still keeps it light coloring. It is then finished off with their amazing cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with coconut and topped with a pecan. If you like carrot cake, you MUST try this cupcake! It takes everything that’s great about carrot cake but puts it all in a more delicate and airy package, making it a great warm weather option!

While you are there getting the new spring flavors, you will most likely want to try some of their other offerings. Below is a brief look at some of the other flavors we’ve tried.

1. Hazelnut Crunch
2. Chocolate Dipped Strawberry
3. Key Lime
4. Vanilla/Vanilla
5. Salted Caramel
6. Red Velvet
7. Chocolate Covered Pretzel
8. Pancakes and Bacon

If you want to know more about any of these flavors, before visiting their shop, feel free to ask! We love talking about cupcakes.  🙂

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

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