Cupcake BLVD Tells Us How They are Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and More!

This month Cupcake BLVD, a cupcake shop located in Crofton, MD with a truck that provides cupcake in the Maryland and DC area, is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Latino inspired flavors and owner Angelette Aviles will be donating a portion of the proceeds to a local charity. Angelette and the Crusaders have been in contact since their early days on the cupcake scene, but we’ve never had the chance to try their cupcakes until now! Crusader Elisa will be sharing her review later this week, but today we are happy to share an interview with Angelette, who took time to answer questions about her involvement in the Latino community, how she balances everything, and more!

CupcakeBLVD_fromFB1Can you tell us a little bit about how you have been involved in giving back to the Latino community, both in your former hometown, Florida, and more recently in Anne Arundel County, Maryland?
Everywhere you go in Florida you are influenced by the Latino culture, from food to history. Although I grew up in Maryland, I spent my college and early adult years in Florida where I was involved in several professional Hispanic organizations which either helped raise funds for Latino college scholarships for my alma mater (University of South Florida) or organized cultural related events. I even had a public relations and branding company in Florida that specialized in the Hispanic market. Although Anne Arundel county is not known to have a large Hispanic community, I decided to share and introduce something different, inspired by my Spanish culture.

Why is it important for you to give back to the community?
If it wasn’t for the community support of my business we wouldn’t be where we are today, therefore it only made sense to give back to our community through Cupcakes for a Cause. The organizations we choose to support are local, such as B.A.R.C.S (several of our customers have even adopted pets from them) or Hospice Hundred (a division of Hospice of the Chesapeake). We will continue to choose several more organizations in the upcoming year.

CupcakeBLVD_fromFB2Can you describe some of the special Latino-inspired flavors you are offering during Hispanic Heritage month?
Tres Leche…something you see in many Latino restaurants which is basic vanilla cake soaked with sweet condensed and evaporated milk and topped with a sweet whipped heavy cream and cinnamon.  We carry Dulce de Leche (very similar to caramel) cupcakes twice a week but for our Hispanic Heritage tribute we made it with our chocolate cake. The cake is filled with Dulce de Leche and topped with a Dulce de Leche frosting. Piña Colada….a coconut flavored cake topped with a fresh pineapple buttercream. Margarita and Mojito….which are both our Lime zested cake soaked with either Tequila or Rum and topped with a fresh Lime buttercream or Mint cream cheese frosting.  Mojadito (Amaretto Almond)…which hails from my island of Puerto Rico!  It goes on with Flancocho which includes Flan, Churro cupcake, Guava and Cream, and Chocolate Chili.

What is your favorite baking memory?
One of my favorite memories was when I was about 11 years old making cookies with a friend and recording it on a camcorder imitating Julia Child, with the voice and all, then decorating them with frosting only to realize I misspelled a word!

CupcakeBLVD_fromFB3How do you juggle your charity work, your business and your family?
I go to the kitchen just before my 2 youngest kids wake up and, luckily living only 1 mile away, I run home to get them off to school and then come back. I try and do as much as I can while my kids are in school, so that I can either go over homework or haul them off to dance and sports. Fridays are usually the longest days as I not only work on orders for that day, but also prepare for Saturday’s menu, and then head over to watch my oldest son play for Spalding’s varsity football team. #GoCavs! Sundays and Mondays we are closed!

What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
My employees will say the fondant roller since I’ve pretty much been handling all our fondant related orders, but I have to say the zester or blender since it is what breaks down our natural flavors.

Of course we have to ask, what is your favorite cupcake flavor?
Hmmmm….I love Nutella and Dulce de Leche, and pretty much every cupcake with our cream cheese frosting, including the Red Velvet.

What sets your cupcakes apart from the competition?
That we use fresh ingredients and bake from scratch. We don’t take a box mix and add a few other extra stuff and call it our own. Every cupcake we provide has gone through some alterations to make sure it was just right like taste and texture prior to opening. That was a lot of taste testing! Butter, butter, butter! No shortening in our cake or frosting. Yuck!

We want to thank Angelette for taking the time to answer our questions! Follow Cupcake BLVD on Facebook and Twitter to find out about where you can find their truck. And remember, for the remainder of Hispanic Heritage Month, Cupcake BLVD will be offering their special flavors listed here:

10/1: Chocolate Chili
10/2: Tres Leche
10/3: Flancocho
10/4: Mojito
10/5: Pina Colada
10/8: Chocolate Dulce de Leche
10/9: Margarita
10/10: Churro Cupcake
10/11: Guava & Cream
10/12: Mojadito (Almond Amaretto)

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

Photos in this post were found on Cupcake BLVD’s Facebook page. No harm intended. 

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An Interview with CakeLove’s Warren Brown

As you saw in our post yesterday, we recently re-visited CakeLove and really enjoyed our experience. Warren Brown, former educator and lawyer, is the owner of CakeLove. He began his baking journey in 1999, with a resolution to overcome a fear of flour, and opened CakeLove, three short years later. He’s a featured chef and was the host of Sugar Rush on the Food Network. Warren has been written about numerous times, both nationwide and here in the Baltimore/DC area.

We were lucky enough to have Warren take some time for a little Q&A session!

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Warren Brown: Baker, Chef, Author, Host, Entrepreneur, Educator, Lawyer, etc. etc. etc. (Photo found here, no harm intended)

What is your first baking memory?
I didn’t start baking at an early age. My first memories of a real adventure in the kitchen are from around age 10 when I made BBQ sauce and short ribs on the outdoor gas grill. If anything I think the first memories of baking was when my sister and her friends were baking box cakes at our neighbor’s house. I wanted to be there, but wasn’t and in some way I suppose my curiosity about cake started then.

I read that you started baking in 1999, just 1 year prior to leaving your law practice in 2000. What were the first steps you took in changing your career and opening CakeLove?
My first steps toward baking were small steps. I was determined to learn to bake and really use a lot of my research skills to find the best recipes. I found myself combing through books, websites, magazines and asking friends and relatives about their baking secrets. What surprised me was the number of people who had a special baking trick or piece of helpful info that they were willing to share. One man in the apartment building I lived in had a shelf full of books that he let me borrow for a few months. It takes a lot of time to find good recipes—there’s just so much testing involved. It took about 2 years for me to really feel comfortable writing my own recipes. And when I look back at what I wrote, I can really see that baking is a lesson in life-long learning. I’m happy to say that I use a broader array of ingredients now which keeps things interesting. It’s not that I out-and-out disagree with my early recipes, but what we’re doing now is more advanced, better balanced, and features a texture and crumb that is just more delicate.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to change their careers and start their own business?
Fluffy thoughts advice in a nutshell: Starting a business is a great opportunity to have a memorable and riveting life experience. Recognize that you’re jumping into the unknown and be prepared—at least mentally—for the unexpected. A lot of what will happen will be great so celebrate the good things when they happen. Don’t fret over the bad stuff, not everything in life will go the way you hope.

Nuts & bolts advice in a nutshell: Have a big idea. Get focused on a strategy to make it happen. Check your ego at the door, get lots of feedback and adapt.

Who/What inspired you to become a baker?
I was inspired by memories of my favorite bakery from when I was boy: Lax & Mandel on South Taylor in University Heights, Ohio. The women who worked there were always very kind, the cakes were delicious, and my memories of the goodies in the box on my kitchen counter give me peace.

What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
My digital scale. It makes measuring fast and accurate.

Do you have a favorite cupcake flavor?
My favorite right now is our Red Velvet. I became a convert once we revamped the recipe in December ‘12 to make it more moist and delicate.

What makes CakeLove different from other bakeries and how did you come up with the name?
Well, I think there is a lot that distinguishes CakeLove from other bakeries. To me, it’s all about the balance we try to achieve in each product—and we sell a variety of items apart from just cupcakes or cake pops. Our eclairs are awesome. The caramel brownies and chocolate chip cookies get lots of nods. The lemon bars never last long.

Of course, our bread & butter are cakes and cupcakes. So we try to keep a reasonable cake to frosting ratio for the cakes and cupcakes. We like the smiles of relief that come when people sample our buttercream or cream cheese icing; they like it because it’s “not too sweet.” And we really enjoy being innovative. We began a gluten free and vegan line back in 2006 which we’ve also recently updated with a wonderful , simpler recipe. I experiment in the kitchen all of the time and am very excited about our latest new release: Cake in a Jar. It’s cake & cream cheese icing in a recyclable jar with a screw top. It gives our product portability and customers have the option to eat a little now and save the rest for later. We’re stoked about its pending release in June.

The name CakeLove has always been a great part of the business. We get a lot of positive feedback about it. I love cake and wanted a strong name and thought a compound word would be fun. I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked compound words. Anyway, “love cake” didn’t quite work so I flipped it and found myself liking CakeLove from the beginning.

If you aren’t making the desserts yourself, where are you buying them from?
I’m liking my friend Jeff’s ice cream sandwiches from Cream Cycle—ice cream sandwiches sold via (adult sized) tricycles.

You were a great host on the Food Network’s Sugar Rush, will we see you or CakeLove on TV again anytime soon?
Thanks, I had fun hosting. No plans now, but we’re always talking with producers about ideas. A lot of the time I’ve spent working on media over the past few years has been focused on research & writing. My fourth cook book, PieLove, publishes this September. (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

You recently made some changes to CakeLove, including recipes and refrigeration, what made you change things?
After ten plus years we took stock of where we were and listened closely to what people were saying. We’re thankful for all of the feedback—it’s been a gift in terms of telling us what our customers like and don’t like. After a few deep gulps, we committed to change and dove in. We just kept it simple and asked what can we do better? Display the cupcakes so they’re ready to eat—done. Revamp the recipes so they have a softer texture—done. Boost the flavor of the red velvet—done. And so on.

Since we initiated change at the bakery, I’ve noticed just how many other businesses are doing the same thing and how normal it is. For a while I think I didn’t want to embrace change out of fear of alienating our core base. But our core values of baking from scratch with only the finest ingredients remains firmly in place and with our commitment to quickly incorporate the feedback from our community via social media, focus groups, and feedback swaps we’ve adapted and have much better product because of it.

We cannot thank Warren (and Kim LaMore, CakeLove’s Corporate Sales and Service Manager) enough for taking the time to contact us and answer our questions. We really enjoyed our second visit to CakeLove and Warren inspires us to continue to pursue our dreams, just as he did. If you’re ever in the area, stop in to one of his CakeLove shops and enjoy a sweet treat!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

From Baking Memories to Cupcakes for Gayle King: Q&A with Michelle Kupiec, Owner of Kupcakes & Co.

If you follow us, you already know that Kupcakes & Co. (Elkridge, MD) is one of our favorite cupcake spots. Not only do they produce a consistently delicious cupcake, the employees are friendly and helpful, the selection is beyond amazing, they are always looking for ways to expand their offerings and improve, and they take every opportunity to give back to the community.

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(New cupcake flavors: French Toast in the back and Black Cherry in the front.)

Our first visit was back in the winter of 2011, during their Cupcakes with Santa event, and it was love at first sight. During our frequent visits since then, we’ve gotten to know the “family” including Michelle, whose hands on approach, kindness, and enthusiasm is no doubt one of the reasons that we are always greeted with a smile from the Kupcakes’ team.

We wanted to get to know Michelle a little better, so she agreed to answer some of our questions. We hope you enjoy getting to know her and Kupcakes & Co. better too!

Michelle_wGirlsYou are very involved in organizing fundraising events throughout the year. What are some the organizations you support and why do you think it is important give back to the community?
We support the Blossoms of Hope Foundation of Howard County. This is a foundation that helps women who are struggling and coping with breast cancer. We have created a special, Blossoms of Hope cupcake that we give back 50% of the sales to during Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. We also help out at their Pretty in Pink event in April as well. Another foundation we support is Team Fight, The Ulman Cancer fund for young adults. We have created a Team Fight cupcake that we bake for them for their Blue Jeans Ball and give back a portion of the proceeds to that as well. We also have a huge fundraiser called Kupcakes with Santa when we donate 100% of the profits back to the Howard County General Hospital, where one of my twin daughters spent 5 years. Our weekly donations of cupcakes go to the Route 1 Homeless Shelter, The Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center and the Love Mission of Howard County. These people would never have the opportunity to try our cupcakes, so it feels wonderful being able to give them some of our sweet treats each and every week! We feel it is so important to give back to our community and help those in need. There is always going to be a time in our lives that we need the support from others and at Kupcakes & Co. giving back is a huge part of what we are all about.

On your website, you talk about baking with your mother while growing up. What is one of your favorite baking memories with her?
My mom is my inspiration, my hero, my best friend! She and I always had so much fun baking in the kitchen together.

My most memorable experiences with her are baking our famous pound cake. It was super delicious, from scratch and we always had fun, laughing and carrying on in the kitchen! We used to say that no matter what, if we were in the kitchen together, we could get through anything! She also used to let me experiment with ingredients all of the time and never minded if some of my creations turned out a little crazy! She was super supportive of me then and continues to be everyday!

You also mention that you began baking with your daughters from an early age. What were some of the first things you taught them in the kitchen, and can you offer any tips for other parents who’d like to start baking with their children?
Allie and Amanda always loved being in the kitchen baking with me! We baked Christmas cookies together from scratch and I used the same recipes that my mom passed down to me. Sugar cookies were their favorites because they could be so creative and make such a mess. They would spend hours making and rolling out the dough, then cutting out the cookies and finally decorating their masterpieces. We also loved to bake sweet treats for all of their teachers – it was such a tradition that the teachers could not wait for their gift from Allie and Amanda each holiday because they knew they were going to be baked with love! The tips I would recommend would be to have PATIENCE, allow for lots of creativity, don’t mind the mess and by all means…have FUN 🙂

Kupcakes_WeddingCake
(Wedding cake and cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Kupcakes & Co.)

What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
My favorite tool is my cupcake scoop. The reason is that we have tried hundreds and hundreds of cupcake recipes and my scoop is just a daily reminder of how far we have come! Each time we try out a new recipe, the same excitement is there for me: How will it turn out? How can I make it better? How will everyone like it?

You recently began expanding the line of baked goods you offer at Kupcakes & Co. Besides cupcakes, what is your next best seller?
Our gourmet cookies are huge sellers at Kupcakes & Co. My daughter, Amanda, who attends the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) shared with us one of their secret CIA recipes for Sweet & Salty cookies and we can’t bake then fast enough. Also, our Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies are great sellers as well – that recipe was given to me from my very best friend, who lives in Maine. It has been in her family for years! Biscotti, coffee cake and scones are also yummy treats we sell. I also have to mention that we are selling so many cakes now. We have such talented bakers/pastry chefs at Kupcakes & Co. and we are getting more and more calls everyday for cakes. We average about 8 cakes a weekend – some very simple and some very elaborate!

DecoratedCakes
(Fun and beautiful decorated cakes. Photos courtesy of Kupcakes & Co.)

Do you have any other goodies you are working on that you can give us a sneak peek of?
We are coming up with seasonal goodies all of the time. We just introduced our spring Lemon Wedding cookies and our cupcake clients seem to love them. Also, for Easter we made sugar cookie sandwiches, shaped liked bunnies and filled with ganache. We just had a client ask us to make cannoli for her wedding this summer, and we said, “No problem!” We are really expanding our sweet indulgences and are proud of the feedback we get from our customers.

With so many wonderful flavors already, how did you come up with the idea to offer an additional boutique line of cupcakes?
We have almost 70 signature cupcake flavors that we are very proud of. Our customers have been asking for filled cupcakes for a while now. We really worked very hard on this concept and decided that a Boutique line of filled cupcakes would be a perfect complement to our signature line. Since we use only the finest ingredients, we knew they had to have the WOW factor and we could not be more thrilled by the comments and feedback we get from our customers! We try and surprise our clients right before our newest 3 flavors come out and have them guessing the flavors. Our newest 3 Boutique cupcakes debuted last Friday and Saturday, right before Easter and the theme is PIES! Oh yes, they are going to knock everyone’s socks off! We are super thrilled about this.

CurrentBoutique
(Current line-up of Boutique Cupcakes including Coconut Cream on the left, Key Lime on the top right, and Boston Cream on the bottom right. Photos courtesy of Kupcakes & Co.)

We have to ask…what is YOUR favorite cupcake flavor?
Well, I have a few for sure… but my most favorite vanilla based cupcake is our Keylime. I love the tangy and fresh key lime buttercream and I have such fond memories creating it with my dear Amanda! My most favorite, chocolate based cupcake is Salted Caramel. The sweet & salty taste complement one another so well and I love the richness of the chocolate cake! My most favorite Boutique flavor is definitely, Brownie Batter – one taste and you will know why! The gooey brownie center and brownie buttercream is pure bliss!

Kupcakes_BrownieBatter
(The retired previous line-up of Boutique Cupcakes, including Michelle’s favorite: Brownie Batter in the front.)

Lastly, you’ve had a lot of neat things happening at Kupcakes & Co. Can you share with us some of your favorite or most exciting orders?
Some of our favorite orders include all of the baby reveal cupcakes and cakes we do! The parents to be come in so super excited to give us a sealed envelope with their sonogram in it and we wait until they leave, then open it and scream…BOY or GIRL! We then stuff their cupcakes with either blue or pink buttercream and we are also so thrilled to be a smart part in all of this excitement.

We have had two very thrilling deliveries in the past two weeks. One was to NYC for a Premiere Party for Andrew Jenks, an amazing young filmmaker who produces and is on his show, “World of Jenks.” He showcases the lives of teens struggling with something and gets real with them on each episode he does. He also just wrote a book on his amazing life and it was his birthday as well. He ordered our cupcakes to help celebrate at his party and we were thrilled to be  part of it all! We made custom cupcakes for him in his favorite colors (ORANGE AND BLUE FOR THE NEW YORK KNICKS!) with his favorite NYC sayings!

Last weekend we did another delivery to NYC, this time a special secret delivery to Gayle King, Oprah’s bff. Her assistant editor of O magazine is the daughter of the doctor that delivered my twin daughters, Allison and Amanda! Dr. Davis came to Kupcakes & Co. and asked if we would deliver cupcakes to Gayle, thanking her for all that she does for his daughter, Arianna. We of course said, “SURE!”

Kupcakes_GayleKingDelivery
(Photos taken by Kupcakes & Co. during their most recent delivery to Gayle King in NYC. Photos courtesy of Kupcakes & Co.)

We got to meet with Arianna and she was very interested in “our story” and how much paying it forward we do. She texted me later to say that Gayle LOVED all of the cupcakes (we brought her 4 dozen to share with her staff) and her favorite was the Pancakes & Bacon! She also mentioned that she would definitely like to keep us in mind for stories that may fit into one of O’s magazine articles one day on Women in Business!

We want to thank Michelle for taking the time to answer our questions. We always love seeing a business who genuinely cares about the community and their customers grow and succeed. If you stop in, please tell them the Crusaders say hi!

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

From Cupcake Wars to Baking Tools: Q&A with Jason Hisley from La Cakerie

LaCakerie_Interview1

When you first walk into Towson’s new bakery, La Cakerie, you are greeted by hot pink walls, impressive cake displays, and a friendly staff. The few times I’ve been there, Jason Hisley, the owner and executive chef, has personally been there, offering up a huge smile backed by tons of enthusiasm.

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Jason’s energy is contagiousness and you can’t help but smile as you browse the cases filled with everything from cupcakes to breakfast pastries. There is something for everyone at La Cakerie and you might find yourself going in for a quick pretzel dog and then leaving with a box of sweets to share with your family and friends.

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If Jason happens to be there during your visit, you may recognize him from his appearance on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars (with Flavor Cupcakery, his previous employer) and Sweet Genius. Even with all that he has accomplished at such a young age, Jason hasn’t let it go to his head, instead he is welcoming and kind, with a larger than life personality.

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(Photo courtesy of La Cakerie)

We were thrilled when Jason agreed to answer some of our questions to share with you all. The following gives you just a glimpse of his passion for baking.

What makes La Cakerie different from other bakeries and how did you come up with the name?
As a trained pastry chef in both America and Europe, I feel that what defines truly successful bakeries is their ability to combine not only unique styles of cuisine but also interesting flavors and products. Walk into La Cakerie and you can find sweet and savory baked goods. Whether it’s our gourmet cupcake line, savory breakfast pastries, phenomenal lunch options, or even custom orders and party/wedding cakes, La Cakerie caters to all.

The name La Cakerie grew from “Cakerie” playing off my passion for an artisan, elegant and refined approach to cake design. The name is modern, clean and sleek. Adding the hot pink and cursive “La” speaks to our delicate approach to pastry production.

We read you will be providing vegan and gluten free treats from Sweet 27—we have been fans of them for a long time. What kinds of vegan and gluten free treats will you carry in your shop?
Sweet 27 is an amazing bakery that we are working with to provide gluten free and vegan products to our clientele daily and we will definitely continue our partnership with their great bakery. However, in lieu of a recent tragedy, La Cakerie will be taking an additional approach to gluten free products. My business partner, Adam Klein, 21, was in a relationship with Cara Becker when she was diagnosed with Leukemia earlier this year.  While everything was looking hopeful for a recovery, Cara ultimately passed away on December 30th 2012. The news was devastating and truly shook everyone that knew her. In her honor, La Cakerie will be launching a gluten free line with money raised to help fund cancer research (Cara was severely allergic to gluten). I have many great memories of working with Adam (who has a business major), laughing, teaching him the delicate art of pastry production as we created gluten free products for Cara. We will continue this now in her honor in hopes that our work and her legacy will shape the future.

What was it like being on TWO televised dessert competitions? What were some of the similarities and differences?
Competing on the Food Network twice has been the most enjoyable and stressful times of my life! As a trained pastry chef, I have learned how to produce baked goods efficiently and to the highest possible quality. With that being said, nothing prepares you for the fast paced production of Food Netowrk competitions! The time is clocking down, there are cameras and producers running every which way, and in the back of your mind that grand prize is looming!

While Cupcake Wars was definitely challenging, the pure pressure of being put to the test as a pastry chef was really lived out on Sweet Genius. I made cupcakes everyday for a very long time before going on Cupcake Wars. While the ingredients and themes were unique, the vehicle was very familiar. However, with Sweet Genius, being thrown into production of candies and chocolates was very “unfamiliar territory”…and I LOVED it!  Haha! Maybe I’m crazy but being put to the test is my specialty. I consider myself a modern day pastry chef with a creative edge and flair…what’s next, Food Network? I’m waiting!

Will we be seeing you or La Cakerie on any future baking competitions?
You bet!! This Mohawk is just dying to get back on TV and other baking competitions!  Stay tuned and check out our Facebook page regularly to find out news and updates with regards to this.

We read that you and the owner of Flavor Cupcakery are still friendly with one another. What made you decide to branch out and open your own bakery? What was it like starting that process?
In branching out to open my own bakery, I truly wanted to showcase all my talents as a trained and certified pastry chef. The quality and dedication to a truly amazing product was evident everyday at my previous employer, but I also craved the ability to showcase the other amazing skill sets I have as a chef. At La Cakerie, not only can you find trendy, hip and fun cupcakes, but you can also grab an amazing cup of coffee, a breakfast croissant, a hot soup in a bread bowl, or even custom created and artisan cakes. This is the world of a true baker, and everyday I am able to push the limits with my creativity and talent.

How long have you been baking and what is your first baking memory?
I have been baking in the kitchen ever since I was a young child. I have pictures of myself kneading dough with my Czechoslovakian grandmother before I could even reach the table standing in a chair! That was probably one of my very first memories. I would go into her refrigerator and pull out all her flavorings, extracts, spices and dried fruits and whip up an amazing concoction that could only compare to a mad scientist in his laboratory, haha!  From there, my baking spirit grew from a hobby, into a passion and ultimately a career.

What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
Wow! What a tough question! Having seven years of cake design experience, I would have to pick a tool I use every single day when creating elaborate custom cakes: a hot pink Xacto knife with a fresh blade. Nothing works to cut through fondant smoothly and cleanly like a new Xacto knife. If you want decorations that are smooth, clean and perfected, this is the only way to go…don’t even think about a knife or roll cutter. And why hot pink?…why not?!?

And of course we have to ask, what is your favorite cupcake flavor?
Oh so many to choose from! My favorite is a true classic and top seller at La Cakerie: Peanut Butter Fudge…whoever first combined peanut butter and chocolate is a saint in my book! Our chocolate cake is stuffed with a gooey chocolate ganache and frosted with the smoothest peanut butter frosting in town! Garnishing with more chocolate ganache and peanut butter chunks is just our little cherry on the top!

You are so young and have accomplished so many things already, where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years?
Taking a vacation! Just kidding! Haha! In life I have two major career goals: to land my own show on the Food Network and also build a bakery empire that reaches national levels. I know these goals are wild but I have pushed very hard in life to take advantage of all the opportunities presented my way and ones that I have worked towards. For the Food Network, I love the ability to teach others and would be thrilled to do so on a national level. With La Cakerie, I feel that so many people are lacking a high quality baked good in so many communities and I want to fill that void.


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We want to thank Jason for taking the time to answer our questions. During our first visit we left with a TON of cupcakes (courtesy of La Cakerie) and have since visited several times to show our support for this new local bakery, so check back for our review on everything from their sweet and savory cupcakes to their buttery pastries.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Interview with The Sweet Lobby

The Presidential election is around the corner and The Sweet Lobby’s cupcake and macaron polls are in full swing (you can track the results on their Facebook and Twitter pages). We had a chance to review them a few weeks ago and are now big fans of their tasty treats. The owner, Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and her brother, Timothy McIntosh, participated in Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, using their love of sweets and engineering backgrounds to win first place for The Sweet Lobby.

We had a chance to interview Winnette to find out more about their “sweet” election campaign, cupcakes vs. macarons, and Cupcake Wars:


(Article hanging in The Sweet Lobby, with photo of Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and Timothy McIntosh.)

The election is right around the corner and politics are in the air wherever one goes. Are you finding that customers are coming in specifically to place their vote?
I hope they are coming in because we have the best cupcakes and macarons in town but if “voting” makes them feel better about it, that’s great!

Being located so close to the center of political action, do you know if either candidate is aware of the sweet campaign you are running?
Yes, they are aware of the campaign. In fact, one of the Presidential candidates actually had two Barracks Row boxes full of political macarons presented to him on his bus.


(Presidential election macarons)

Your location seems to make The Sweet Lobby the perfect place to hold a presidential polling, sweet-tooth-style. Campaign parties must be popular around Capital Hill. Have you already seen a lot of interest in large orders for campaign parties?
Most definitely! We’ve been inundated with requests for the political pastries as well as our classic desserts.

When can we expect to see the Mac-Attack ads go live?
They are running now and will continue through Election Day. The Mac-Attack ads are actually “ad-like” banners that we feature on our Facebook cover page. They’re intended to deliver messages to constituents that have a “sweet tooth.”

Aside from the current debate topic, “Is your candidate more like a cupcake or a macaron,” what other issues might we see brought up for debate?
Our social media followers will be able to debate issues to include foreign and domestic relations ingredients, and effective ways to use sweets to boost the economy. We’ll give the Vice Presidential candidates some airtime as we debate the flavor of the VEEP.

While the main agenda of this campaign is to track candidates, the Cupcake Crusaders are also curious about another poll…What is more popular in your shop, cupcakes or macarons?
As an All-American indulgence, the cupcake embodies the irresistible combination of childhood nostalgia and undeniable appeal of a “made just for me” individual dessert that, at some level, is easy to make. On the other-hand, the macaron is a more delicate dessert that’s difficult to make and easy to ruin. They’re not very forgiving, but when made well, the impression is lasting. The first bite of the lightly crisp shell, the chewy interior and the flavorful, creamy filling! Who can deny the refined elegance coupled with fantastical whimsy of a Parisian macaron? At the end of the day, we are totally bi-partisan. We bake, you decide.


(ObamaMac and Obama topper on a Boston Cream Cupcake.)

Although you sell other pastries at The Sweet Lobby, cupcakes and macarons are what you are most known for. What do you think it is about each that makes them so enjoyable?
At the Sweet Lobby, we don’t take shortcuts! We prepare real buttercreams using traditional European methods, fresh fruit and ultra-premium chocolates. We pride ourselves in creating both classic and daring incarnations using the finest globally and locally sourced ingredients imaginable!

In addition to cupcakes and macarons, we have several product lines including shortbread, madeleines, caneles, éclairs, loose-leaf tea, and hot chocolate. We think that our guests can truly taste the difference and appreciate the care we put into everything we offer.

How do you recommend eating the MacTop cupcake? Taking the macaron off and enjoying it separately or digging right into to the whole thing?
That is totally up to you! We’ve seen it all! I am personal fan of the macaron-first technique.


(RomneyMac and Romney topper on a Boston Cream Cupcake.)

What’s the strangest or most unique order you’ve created in your Cupcake Lab?
Right now, we are working on a trio of beer inspired cupcakes for a craft beer themed wedding.

When you appeared on the Chinese New Year episode of Cupcake Wars and had to select at least 3 of the 12 exotic flavors, were you at all nervous that selecting 5 would be too much?
Not at all. I’m from Trinidad and Tobago, which is very culturally diverse, so all of those ingredients were very familiar to me. As an engineer/scientist, I am comfortable thinking on my feet and I understand how to combine flavors.

What did you take from your experience on Cupcake Wars (aside from the first place prize!)?
Cupcake Wars highlighted the importance of balancing some of the most key ingredients in food service: quality, presentation and delivery.

Cupcake Wars is known to have previous contestants return. Would you consider going back to battle again?
Of course! In addition to Cupcake Wars, we had the honor of participating on Cupcake Champions this past May. We welcome any new opportunities to return to television!


If you aren’t in the DC area and are now craving a perfect little pastry from The Sweet Lobby, no need to worry. They are offering nationwide shipping next month! You can find out more by visiting their website.


(The Sweet Lobby indulged our graphic design side and gave us a sneak peek at their new gift boxes, premiering in November!)

We’d like to thank The Sweet Lobby for taking time to answer our questions. Their Cupcake Wars win was well deserved and we appreciate what they are doing to get people excited about the election and getting out to vote.

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

Starry Night Talks to us About Cupcake Wars!

I’m sure we have a few Cupcake Wars fans out there, so if you watched this past Sunday’s show on the Food Network, then you’re in for a treat! Shannon, owner and baker of Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse who competed for the second time this past week, took some time to answer questions for us.

Most of you know by now how often I treat myself to cupcakes and coffee at Starry Night. I’ve also had the opprotunity to share my love with the other Crusaders, so we were all very excited when we found out they would be on Cupcake Wars for the second time. Everything was hush-hush prior to the show airing, but I had a feeling that this would be a redemption show. On Saturday we picked up our Cupcake Wars cupcakes (flavors from their first show) to have our own little celebration Sunday night.


(Cupcakes in hand and ready to go!)


(The Energy Drink cupcakes with Mahoo Wahoo below. Starry Night was ready for us!)


(Cupcakes for my husband and me. I had to throw in a Oreo stuffed cupcake with peanut butter frosting for him!)

Well, it took me less than 10 minutes to devour my two cupcakes, the Mahoo Wahoo and Engery Drink. In this episode the challenge was to incorporate pork BBQ to represent southern flavors. The winners would be taking their cupcakes to the CMA (Country Music Achievement) Awards in Nashville. Right after finishing my cupcakes, smacking my lips, and saying, “Pork?! Shannon’s got this!” came the round 1 elimination. The judges all seemed very pleased with the flavors Shannon and her assistant, Amber, came up with: a sweet potato cupcake topped with BBQ honey glazed ham shreds, maple buttercream frosting, crispy fried prosciutto crumble and a torched marshmallow. Unlike the cupcakes created by some of the other contestants, it looks like something I would really enjoy, a perfect balance of sweet and savory. The judges’ only critique, and a small one at that, was the texture of the frosting. So, you can imagine my surprise (and the surprise of many) when Starry Night was sent home.

But, I guess that’s just how these things work. Maybe something went askew with the frosting during filming, because all I can say is that their maple buttercream is one of my all-time favorites! I was so glad to get Shannon’s thoughts on her experiences with Cupcake Wars:

Crusaders: Have things changed in the bakery since your first episode of Cupcake Wars aired?

Shannon: Things at the shop have been crazy! Saturday mornings and afternoons are awesome because we get to meet so many new faces. People have spent 2-3 hours to travel here, just to have coffee and cupcakes! It is really cool to see little kids get so excited about seeing the shop. Before Cupcake Wars we really didn’t do that many cupcakes. Cakes and desserts were the main focus of attention. Now I am having a blast dreaming up new flavor combos and decorating ideas. We offer 15-20 variations daily.

Crusaders: Were you asked to appear on the show again or did you have to re-apply?

Shannon: They called us and wanted us back. For the short time it was, we had a blast filming again.

Crusaders: What do you like to do to get ready for the competition?

Shannon: We knew from last time to get plenty of sleep and have a TON of coffee in the morning! Being on the west coast on east coast time is not easy! Flying out super early and still being up super late takes its toll. Last time was very stressful and rushed…this time we went with a more laid back, enjoy the journey attitude.

Crusaders: What was it like going back a second time? Did you feel more prepared since you’ve been through the process before?

Shannon: Going back we knew exactly what we were getting into (which makes me question my sanity!). We knew what to bring, what to wear OR NOT WEAR (new Vans on concrete floor for 12+ hours shooting….PAIN)!

Just knowing the process, the area around our hotel, the hotel itself made things a lot less anxiety producing. We knew if one producer called or texted us…10 more of the same would come from other wranglers (assistants).  🙂

Crusaders: Did you return to the show with hopes of redemption, after coming so close last time?

Shannon: Heck yea we wanted redemption! We got edged out by someone who lived 5 minutes away from the set and had been there before! I wanted the win, but really didn’t feel it with the CMAs. It was like getting to candy land and finding out you have to go through in the dark…no fun!

Crusaders: We love the Mahoo Wahoo and Energy Drink cupcake from the first episode! Will you be offering any cupcakes from the new episode?

Shannon: We will be offering our Sweet Potato cupcake with Maple Buttercream. It is the same buttercream we featured last fall on our Sunday Morning Pancake cupcake, Pumpkin Spice & Maple Covered Bacon Chai. Over the weekends we will offer the Pork BBQ version as well.

Crusaders: Most pastry chefs and bakers would be worried at seeing pork as an mandatory ingredient, however after your corned beef cupcake, I know you appreciate savory as well as sweet. When you saw the pork, were you nervous or excited?

Shannon: I wouldn’t say I was excited…I was kind of let down. Pork! Again! We did a spam slider last time topped with bacon. I wanted it to be something new, exotic, and fun!

After playing with so many flavors and combinations at the shop, having to use only one ingredient really didn’t seem thrilling. I was going to make mac & cheese as the  “icing”…maybe I should have gone with that!

Crusaders: Any final thoughts?

Shannon: This whole experience has really given me new life and growth in the shop. It has opened doors, huge doors for us, to play and dance through! I am really happy with the amazing crew I get the pleasure to work with everyday. My job is never boring. Sometimes stressful and chaotic, but never boring. I am living my dream…I get to play in my very own candy land everyday, help local charities, and make people smile. It doesn’t get any sweeter!


As I told Shannon, one of the reasons Starry Night is such a favorite for many of us is the feeling you get walking into the bakery. You can tell how much fun they all have, from the friendly team to the eclectic decor. While we wish they had gotten the redemption they were seeking, it doesn’t matter to us and they will always be winners in our book. And who knows, maybe their chance will come again? In the meantime, I can’t wait to try their sweet potato cupcake, so keep an eye out for that!

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

Cupcakes AND Books? A Perfect Combination!

As you may already know, we Crusaders love it when some of our favorite things collide. We’ve been able to mix theater and cupcakes, but we’ve never had the opportunity to mix books and cupcakes. So, when we were contacted to review The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, a new series written by mother-daughter team Sheryl and Carrie Berk, we jumped at the opportunity! Not only have I reviewed the book below, but we also interviewed the authors and have a giveaway!

The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes is geared towards “tweens,” but this almost-30-year-old also found it entertaining. The protagonist, 9-year-old Kylie, is easily relatable to, in that she just doesn’t seem to fit in. After arriving at a new school, the “popular” girl quickly decides that she’s going to make things very difficult for Kylie. Luckily, Kylie has a good teacher and supportive parents. With their help she starts a new club at school and finds a few other “outcasts” to join. As the girls overcome baking obstacles and bullies, while learning to manage a growing business, they begin to realize that they aren’t so alone after all.

The subject for the book was a natural selection for 9-year-old Carrie Berk, cupcake blogger for Carrie’s Cupcakes Critiques. She has a passion for cupcakes, so when she approached her mom about writing a book for her age group, they both agreed it should be about fun, friendship, and cupcakes.

Some of the trials that Kylie encounters and feelings of not belonging, reminded me of the Judy Bloom books I read growing up.  There are moments when I wanted to say to Kylie, “Don’t take that from them! It wasn’t even a good insult!” but then remembered what kids can be like. This book series is one that I would love for my daughter to read when she’s in the target age group. There are some valuable lessons about confidence, friendship, and what it means to be the bigger person.

We had an opportunity to interview the authors, Sheryl and Carrie, to find out more about their inspiration for the book and how cupcakes and writing fit in to their lives:

Crusaders: Carrie, do you have a baking club at school? If so, did you help get it started? If not, are you thinking about starting one with your friends now that the book has been released?

Carrie: We had a cooking club during lunch clubs at school with Taste Buds, who is also my recipe developer (Jessi Walter). We made all sorts of things, not just cupcakes. It was fun! But I don’t really bake cupcakes with a club. I bake with my mom and my friends and we share them, not sell them.

Crusaders: When I was growing up I was lucky to have great teachers who made school fun, so I related to Kylie in that aspect. Carrie, have you had similar experiences with teachers as Kylie? Do you have a favorite teacher at school?

I love all of my teachers at PS 6, but it was really Ms. Schottland, my second grade teacher, that first taught me about realistic fiction and got me writing reviews of cupcakes. The name of Kylie’s teacher in the book is Ms. Shottlan–that’s for her! And my teacher Ms. Levenherz is into cupcakes big time and is a great baker. So we’re always talking about them.


(Mother and Daughter writing team, Sheryl and Carrie Berk.)

Crusaders: Carrie and Sheryl, can you give any examples of characters that may have been inspired by people in your own lives?

Carrie:  I used a lot of the names from my friends, family and teachers in the book, because they support and inspire me so much. Like my principal is Ms. Fontana, and Kylie’s principal is Ms. Fontina. Sadie, Abby and Ava are names of my BFFs, Saperstone is my cousin’s last name, and Mr. Ludwig, the gourmet shop owner, is actually the last name of my BFF Jaimie Ludwig.

My friend Darby’s birthday is around Halloween, so she’s really into watching cool monster movies, and that gave me the idea for Kylie liking monster movies.

Everyone loves trying to find themselves in the book. My Uncle Charles says, “It’s like Where’s Waldo!”

Sheryl: I think there’s a little bit of Carrie in each of the four main Cupcake Club girls in the book as well as her besties. As for where the book takes place, New Fairfield, CT, that’s where I spent my summers as a child with my BFF Pam! Lots of great memories of bake sales on Frisbee Street! And Greenwich is where my husband grew up.

Crusaders: Sheryl, what would you say to other parents who might be hesitant to let their child start their own time consuming business?

Sheryl: I think it’s so important to support your child when they have a passion. In Carrie’s case, that’s cupcakes as well as ballet. So we divide our time between her hobbies and her school work. If your child is creative, ambitious and motivated, these are all great qualities that you should embrace. When Carrie said, “I want to write a book about a cupcake club,” I didn’t say, “No, you’re too busy. You have too much homework.” Instead, I said, “Let’s figure out how to make this happen for you.” I think it’s been a great lesson for her in time management and following your dreams. I always want her to dream big!

Crusaders: Carrie, how did you manage to juggle school, with the blog and then the book?

Carrie: I love reviewing cupcakes. My mom and dad take me on vacations and holidays to cupcake places all over the country and the world. We just did four in Boston. I really like posting cupcake pics and news on our Facebook page, site, Twitter and Pinterest. And my mom and I worked together on the book. We talked about how the story would go, then she wrote a rough draft and I edited and changed it, and she put in my changes. I think writing the book has made me a better writer in school-my teachers really like my essays.

Crusaders: As Cupcake Crusaders, we obviously love cupcakes! Carrie, what is it about cupcakes that you love?

Carrie: I like that there are so many more elements to them than other desserts like brownies or ice cream. There’s the cake, the frosting, the decoration. Cupcakes taste good and look good…hopefully! I also like that they’re small and unique. You never run out of ideas for new cupcakes.


Thanks so much to Carrie and Sheryl for taking time to answer our questions!

One of my favorite things from the book is that it includes recipes for some of the cupcakes mentioned. So, after reading mouth-watering descriptions of cupcakes, like their Eco-licious Chocolate, you can make them yourself! The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes is available now. If you can’t find it at a bookstore near you, it’s also available on Amazon.

And for our giveaway, we want to know what YOUR favorite cupcake is! The winner will receive a signed copy of The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes and a Cupcake Club measuring spoon. All you have to do is tell us below, in the comments section, where you found the recipe, who the bakery is, or where you had your favorite cupcake!! The contest ends on Sunday, April 29th and we will post the winner on Monday, April 30th. The winner will be selected at random. Enter now! We can’t wait to hear what some of your favorites are!

** This contest is now closed.

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

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