Sometimes You Just Need a Bite

Pint-sized cupcakes are already hard to turn away, so when you take an already small treat and make it even smaller it’s next to impossible to say “no!” Today, we are sharing a collection of small bite treats we’ve sampled, from Smith Island Cake Company’s miniscule “cake-its” to a new Starbucks cake-pop flavor.

Smith Island Cake-Its

SmithIslandCakeIts

While in the bakery section of the Giant grocery store, I spotted a wide variety of Smith Island Cake treats. I’ve never actually tried Smith Island Cake (you don’t have to say it… I know… it’s practically a sin among Maryland-based cake lovers), so was excited to see such an assortment. They had mini cakes (which I might have to get one day), slices of their famous layered cake, cake pops, and these teeny tiny little cake bites, which they call “Cake-Its.” I haven’t seen anything like them before, so snatched them up without a second thought. The flavors included were: Original (yellow cake/chocolate icing), Red Velvet (red velvet cake/cream cheese icing), and Coconut (white cake/coconut buttercream). Even though Crusader’s Elisa’s review of their cupcakes didn’t have tons of positive things to say, she’s always said great things about their layered cake, so I was hopeful that these treats would be moist and delightful, and lucky for me, they were. I didn’t really have a favorite because each time I ate a new flavor, I would decide it was the best. Much smaller than a typical cake pop or cake truffle, each was like a little explosion of flavor. The Red Velvet had a good cocoa flavor, the Classic had a rich deep dark chocolate flavor from their signature frosting, and I thought coconut was perfect for any coconut lover.

Godiva Cake Truffles

GodivaCakeTruffles

Being a long-time Godiva lover (let’s face it, who isn’t?), I couldn’t wait to try their new line of cake truffles, which were created with the cake master himself, Chef Duff from Charm City Cakes. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was able to pick up three flavors on my visit: Birthday Cake, Butterscotch Walnut Brownie, and Pineapple Hummingbird. To my (slight) disappointment, there was no cake involved, but these still had the wonderful creaminess and richness you would expect from a Godiva truffle. The Birthday Cake had a white (pink) chocolate outer layer, then a milk chocolate layer, and a “funfetti cake” center. This didn’t really have the “cake batter” like flavor I was hoping for and, for the most part, just tasted like a white and milk chocolate truffle. The Butterscotch Walnut Brownie ended up being my favorite, and was reminiscent of “brownie batter” with all the other flavors being very present as well. The final truffle, Pineapple Hummingbird, also had a good mixture of flavors, but was still missing that cake-like quality. If you’ve ever had a cake batter ice cream flavor, you know what I’m talking about. I still love Godiva, but I think I’ll be sticking to my favorite, the dark chocolate raspberry truffle, on future visits.

Hamilton Bakery Carrot Cake Cake Truffle

HamiltonBakeryCakeTruffle

With Hamilton Bakery located a hop, skip, and jump from my front door, it’s a shame that their cupcakes don’t rank higher on my list. Despite that, their other baked goods and friendly customer service always have me stopping in for something. During a breakfast visit for a scone and a cup of Zeke’s I spotted this Carrot Cake cake truffle. It was the first time I had seen cake truffles at Hamilton Bakery, so I quickly added that to my order. The texture was perfect: not too dry and not too mushy. The spicy carrot cake flavor was also perfect and the thin coating of white chocolate didn’t overpower this bite-sized treat.

Starbucks Chocolate Raspberry Cake Pop

Starbucks_Cakepop

We are no strangers to Starbucks‘ cake pops. From the classic Birthday Cake to the seasonal Peppermint Brownie (also pictured above) we grab these sweet additions to our coffee break when a caffeine high isn’t enough. Recently we spotted a flavor we hadn’t seen before: Chocolate Raspberry. Crusader Jenn said this cake pop was good with rich moist chocolate cake and raspberry flavor. Although the raspberry tasted a bit artificial.

How do you feel about cake pops, truffles, and other similar items? Do you think there is room in the dessert world for them and cupcakes, or will cupcakes always outshine these tiny treats?

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

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Our Favorite… Cupcake Baking Tools

We Crusaders are always looking for the next best cupcakery or bakery to review, but we all enjoy baking too. I’ve said before that baking is a science, and sometimes the tools you have to experiment with help you to achieve your cupcake goal. Whether we are making Chocolate Raspberry Chambord cupcakes, Hummingbird cupcakes, or Strawberry Basil cupcakes we all use the same tools over and over; and more often than not, it is the little things in the kitchen (and life) that make a big difference. With the gift giving season in full swing, we thought we would share each of our favorite baking tools so that it might help you find the perfect present for that special baker in your life (or if you are that special baker… you may want to add these to your wish list).

Crusader Stacy: Small and Large Pampered Chef ScoopsScoops-Stacy

Crusader Stacy received these scoops as gifts for her bridal shower. They are her favorite baking tools because they make it easy to fill the cupcake liners so that all the cupcakes are even and don’t spill over. She swears they are a lifesaver! Not only are they useful for making cupcakes, but they can be used for so many other kitchen and cooking related projects, like portioning doughs, filings, side dishes, etc. They also have a charming vintage look. (And check out Crusader Stacy’s cupcake kitchen towel too! So cute.)

Crusader Jenn: Kitchen Aid Mixer Whirla-Jenn

Crusader Jenn recently received this Kitchen Aid Mixer from her husband for their anniversary. “Whirla” is her newest kitchen “gadget” and it has already been put to good use! This kitchen tool helps cupcake making go faster and is so much easier than a hand mixer, especially for frosting. She’s only had this mixer for about a month and has already made pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes, and 8 dozen cupcakes, including batter and frosting! It has quickly become the most utilized small appliance in her kitchen. (Coincidentally, I’ve got the exact same mixer and couldn’t agree more.)

Crusader Elisa: Muffinaire vintage baking pan (available on Etsy or Ebay)Elisa-TinPan

I received this “Muffinaire” aluminum pan from my Nona when I moved into my first apartment after college. Not only does it have vintage charm, but because it is made of aluminum it doesn’t hold onto heat the same way that new steel pans can, which causes some cakes/cupcakes to cook unevenly. This pan is cool to the touch after just minutes out of the oven and I won’t cook cupcakes, muffins, or mini frittatas in anything else.

These are just our favorite, of the many, kitchen tools we use when we are baking. Of course we would all be lost without our cupcakes carriers and our mixing bowls. Crusaders Jenn and Stacy even have fancy cake testers, and Jenn says she loves having a dedicated tool just for that. And have I mentioned piping tips? Yeah, we love those too! While these tools help us when we are baking in our own kitchens, and we are grateful for them, we still prefer tasting and reviewing cupcakes from other people’s kitchens, no clean up needed. 😉

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

Baking & Decorating Experiment: Hummingbird Cupcakes

On my mom’s recent visit to Maryland, she wanted Stacy and I to take her to a couple of our favorite cupcake places. One of those places was Kupcakes & Co., which we ranked number 1 in our Top 5 outside Baltimore City. While there, I tried their hummingbird cupcake for the first time. It was described as banana, pineapple, pecans, a little spice, and topped with cream cheese frosting, kind of like a spring-summer carrot cake. At the time, I thought this was a unique creation, but then I started seeing other places promoting their hummingbird cupcakes. I guess I’m still an amateur at this!

Having loved Kupcakes & Co.’s hummingbird cupcake, I decided that for my spring-into-summer recipe I wanted this to be the cake. I also wanted to dabble with decorating cupcakes differently, to practice some techniques. After researching the cake, I wasn’t sure if it would be sacrilegious to top a cupcake, based off a traditional southern recipe, with a springtime explosion. But these are my cupcakes after all! I found out that some recipes call for including coconut on top and thought this would be perfect for “grass.” I also wanted to practice piping flowers and hard royal icing decorations, so I did it all!

Since I knew I’d be spending time on the decorations, I wanted the cake to be easy. I scoured the internet for a recipe that used a box mix to start, but had more trouble finding one than I anticipated. I discovered that the cake was a standard yellow cake, so just when I thought I would have to wing it, I finally found Duncan Hine’s recipe (now I know to just start at their website)! The recipe calls for the addition of Maraschino cherries, but since I hadn’t found that in other recipes, or in Kupcakes & Co.’s version, I decided to leave them out. I also added a whole banana, instead of just half, and substituted walnuts for pecans. That was a last minute decision, after seeing how much more pecans cost versus walnuts. I had no idea!


(Cake ingredients)


(I love texture in cake. Look at all of those yummy walnuts!)

The cake part was really easy. I did make my own cream cheese frosting and after debating on which to go with, choose one from SlashFood. The reviews were good and it seemed similar to some of the other frostings I’ve made that start with a cream cheese base. I added extra confectioner’s sugar to get the consistency right, but I think that’s because I choose to do this on a warm day. I used to think making frosting was complicated, but not anymore (or at least not the recipes I use)!


(Four simple ingredients to the cream cheese frosting.)

Starting the decorating process, I dyed shredded coconut using green food color. I had read about adding the dye to a little water first, but it just made the coconut almost too wet to work with. In the future, I will just put the dye right in, shake it up, and see what happens. After the coconut was green, I took my frosted cupcakes and dipped them into the coconut to completely cover the tops.


(Since you don’t have to worry about what the frosting looks like, I just used a butter knife to slather it on.)


(I didn’t think so much of the frosting would show through the green coconut.)

Prior to getting the decorating started, I experimented with the royal icing. I knew a form of royal icing is used in gingerbread houses as the “glue.” I thought it was just water and confectioner’s sugar and found recipes that only called for that, but it wasn’t setting up the way I planned. More research led me to discover that in order for it to get really hard, you have to add Meringue Powder. Who knew?! I learn something knew every time…

Since I wouldn’t be able to go out until the next day, I tried creating some piped flowers. After trial and error, I now realize that 1) it was just too warm in the house to get buttercream to cooperate and 2) I need more piping tips to choose from.

After a trip out the next day, with my cupcakes only half decorated (and some with failed flower attempts), I was finally able to get the royal icing decorations done. The consistency still wasn’t where I wanted it, even after adding more water than called for (maybe this is why sifting first is so important?), but I worked with it anyway and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out!


(Before piping, I sketched a couple of flowers and hummingbirds. Then I covered the sketches with wax paper, to use as a template.)

In the end, I had 3 versions of decorated cupcakes:


(I still wanted to make some traditional looking. I love the minimalistic look and I wanted to taste the cupcakes without the coconut, to see which I preferred.)


(My attempt at piping flowers. From far away, and at the right angle, they don’t look too bad…)


(Maybe not a traditional look, but I think they look great for a spring party!)

Flavor wise, the cake turned out great (but still not as good as Kupcakes & Co.)! I like the coconut on top because the cream cheese frosting turned out a little sweeter than I prefer, so the coconut toned it down.

Aside from having some great tasting cupcakes, I learned some new things. My favorite technique is the royal icing decorations. I feel like the possibilities for custom cupcake toppers are now endless!

What are some favorite things you’ve learned by challenging yourself in the kitchen?

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, 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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