Très “Fraîche” et délicieuse!

The Crusaders love the opportunity to review new places – not only do we get to eat cupcakes, but we also get to visit new shops! Recently, we all trekked to Bethesda, MD to Fraîche Cupcakery to spend some time together and taste some cupcakes. We even had a chance to meet our friend Joel, from Josie’s Confections. Thanks for meeting up with us Joel!

Fraîche Cupcakery (“fresh” in French – for those who don’t know) has been on our “to try” list for quite a while, and we love their dedication to being all natural and eco-friendly. Using all-natural and local ingredients, as well as recycled materials in their shop and display signs and packaging, already scores points with the Crusaders, as we all three try to watch our environmental impact.

After checking out the beautiful, clean, and contemporary shop we reviewed our flavor options and discovered they had mini cupcakes in almost every flavor. Minis are great because it meant we could order more flavors to try, so after selecting our flavors we sat down for our first bite of Fraîche cupcakes. No one was more excited to get to the cupcakes than our littlest Crusader, Jenn’s daughter, Leah – she was so excited to see cupcakes and very anxious to eat them. Below are our flavor picks and thoughts:

Chocolate Green Tea (Sept 26 – Oct 2 Special flavor – full-size cupcake)

Interesting flavor combos always intrigue and inspire us, so we knew we had to try this cupcake. When Crusader Jenn and I initially tasted the frosting we liked its punch of tea flavor, but then tasting it with the cake made us all look at each other quizzically. We just didn’t like the two flavors together. The cake flavor itself was ok, but the texture was off and reminded us of a cake/brownie mix. The frosting alone tasted exactly like green tea, but had a very sweet aftertaste that I didn’t care for. Joel also didn’t like this flavor combination, and didn’t finish this cupcake. While this might not have been our favorite cupcake, it did spark discussion of what kind of flavors might work better and might have inspired my next baking experiment flavor!

Red Velvet mini

Being the “Red Velvet Crusader” I am very particular, but this cupcake did not disappoint. Cake with a crunchy top isn’t always a good thing, but it was one of the many reasons I loved this cupcake. The cake had amazing flavor and the frosting was smooth with a well balanced cream cheese frosting. Crusader Stacy and I really enjoyed this mini and next time I’ll need to order a full-size Red Velvet.

Blueberry Pancake mini

Pancake in cupcake form? Yes please. While this cake was a bit on the dense side, it tasted exactly like a blueberry pancake. The subtle maple flavor of the buttercream frosting added just the right amount of “syrup” on top. Crusader Stacy said it best, “This is awesome.”

Cinnamon mini

Cinn-fully delicious! Wow, did this cupcake pack a cinnamon flavor explosion. We all enjoyed the generous dusting of cinnamon on top. And with the perfect sweet, moist cake and creamy frosting balance, this cupcake was a great fall treat.

Raspberry Almond mini

Almond is a favorite flavor profile of the Crusaders and this cupcake was the perfect balance of tangy raspberry and almond flavors. The cake was on the dense side, but that didn’t bother us as we dove in and devoured this mini. The frosting wasn’t too sweet and the sliced almonds on top added a fantastic crunch of texture.

Mocha mini

Jenn took this one home and enjoyed it, here are her thoughts: This cupcake had tons of coffee/espresso flavor in the frosting, but the cake had the same weird texture as the Chocolate Green Tea cupcake.

Joel picked a couple of flavors that we didn’t try, including Lemon Almond and Carrot Cake. He agreed that the cakes were dense and a bit too dry for his liking. He also thought the carrot cake tasted more like a plain yellow cake with carrots in it, missing the spices that are typical for carrot cake flavor.

Overall we enjoyed Fraîche Cupcakery’s cupcakes, and while the Green Tea cupcake wasn’t a favorite, it did inspire flavor discussions and baking ideas. All of the cake was on the dense side, but that didn’t take away from their fantastic flavors. Their friendly staff, great flavor options, and dedication to the environment will keep us coming back when we are in the Bethesda area. The Weekly Savory Specials in October (available on Sat and Sun) include: Rosemary Fig (Oct 6-7), Baked Potato (Oct 13-14) and Chips & Salsa (Oct 20-21) and are all flavors that make us want to stop in on the upcoming weekends – oh if only we lived closer!

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

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2012 CupcakeCamp DC Recap

When CupcakeCamp DC posted that they had an opening for a fan judge, I jumped at the opportunity. Finally I could put all of my “practice” into use, and for a great cause. CupcakeCamp DC is in its third year and raises money for DC Candlelighters: Childhood Cancer Foundation. I’ve heard criticism about the past years, but being a new event organized by a single person, that’s expected. Each year changes have been made to make a better experience for all who participate.


(Cupcakes tasted by Crusaders Stacy and Elisa.)

This year the event was held at the very chic Continental Modern Pool Lounge, located in Arlington, VA (but right over the bridge from Georgetown Park in DC). From a judge’s perspective, check-in was super easy. I saw that a line was forming, mostly due to the rain bringing in people from the Jazz Festival across the street, but was able to bypass it with my oh-so-important title. I checked in with a volunteer, who had the list on his phone and took my spot at the judges’ table. The other blogging judges arrived and then cupcakes started coming our way.

(Judges from left to right: Adrienne from Little Miss Cupcake, Jill from Cuisine Queen, me, Kimberly from Yelp NoVa, and Nikki from Cupcakes for Breakfast.

Judging went fairly smoothly. Cupcakes were brought to us, in no particular order. Finding them on our score sheet was fairly easy, unless a baker switched up their entry at the last minute. We asked for knives to divide the cupcakes among the judges, but there weren’t any available. Luckily none of us were germaphobes, so we decided that we would dig in and wipe off excess frosting and cake on our forks, instead of slobbering all over them. We had to request forks, napkins, water, and a trash bag. The volunteer, who was working hard and running around a lot to bring the cupcakes to us, didn’t look too thrilled with our requests…but how else could we taste the cupcakes? Other than that, the judges were treated well and, to show their appreciation, we all received event t-shirts and awesome swag bags, provided by Izze, one of the event sponsors.

I asked Crusader Stacy for insight from an attendee’s perspective. She said that when they arrived there was a line and it seemed a bit disorganized, but that could have been due to the rain and people who hadn’t registered wanting to get in. Lines also seem to form at these cupcake events because the guests are aware that it’s first come first served. Although the venue could be tight to navigate sometimes, it had a great ambiance. It seems like people enjoyed that you could order adult beverages and there were a lot of areas to lounge and indulge in cupcakes. The venue also offers game tables, like billiards, for added entertainment. Stacy mentioned that she and Crusader Elisa did not realize that the people’s choice ballot was in the brochure, and wished they had known. At the end of the event, it was hard to hear the winners (I think due to background sound…not much you can do about that) and it was a little confusing when announcing the winners was mixed in with the announcing the raffle prizes. Luckily all the winners heard their names called, and we were all very excited that Joel Gill, from Josie’s Confections, took first place for his Chicken N Waffle Cupcake!


(The Cupcake Crusaders with 1st Place Winner Joel Gill from Josie’s Confections.)

1st Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crusaders’ Favorite:
Chicken N Waffle Cupcake by Joel Gill

(Chicken & Waffles Cupcake)

It’s no surprise that we adore Joel’s cupcake, having first had it at our 2012 DC Cupcake Picnic (see Crusaders’ review). What did surprise me was that the other judges were very excited to try a Chicken N Waffle cupcake, especially when most people question this creation. I was relieved when they all agreed that it was the best they’d had all day.

Crusaders’ Favorite:
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcake by Hilary Nelson


(Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcake)

Stacy and Elisa both agreed that this was their favorite cupcake of the day. It had a peanut butter cake with grape jam filling, topped with peanut butter buttercream and grape coulis. They both love the nostalgia of PB&J cupcakes and thought the grape was a nice change from the strawberry jams most bakers use.

Crusaders’ Favorite:
Earl Grey Cupcake by Tess McEnery


(Earl Grey Cupcake)

This cupcake was a standout for me on this day. I have wanted to try a tea-infused cupcake and I think Earl Grey was a perfect choice, with its hint of lemon flavor. The base was an Earl Grey buttermilk cake with Earl Grey and lemon buttercream frosting. Crusader Stacy also really liked this cupcake and would like to dabble in making her own tea-infused cupcakes. She described it as, “Heaven for a tea drinker, with light, airy cake and spot-on flavor.”

Crusaders’ Honorable Mentions:
We would also like to recognize some of the other cupcakes we enjoyed, with our own Honorable Mentions (separate from the CupcakeCamp DC winners):

1. Megan Ferrey, from Cakes by Megan: Banana chocolate chip cake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with peanut butter frosting.
2. Monika Geraci, 2ND Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crowd Favorite: Salted Caramel Apple – apple spice cake filled with salted caramel and topped with cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.
5. Melissa Westervelt, from Honeybee Bakeshop: Pumpkin spice latte – pumpkin espresso cake topped with cinnamon and spiced buttercream and a caramel/fondant pumpkin pie decoration.
4. Claire Almquist: Chai tea latte cupcake with buttercream frosting.

So Many Cupcakes!
The three of us all tasted so many cupcakes at the event, obviously with me trying the most:

1. Amanda Rouse 3RD Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner: Vanilla cupcake with Nutella ganache and Nutella buttercream topped with roasted hazelnuts.
2. Shelly Facemire, 4TH Place CupcakeCamp DC Winner & Crowd Favorite: Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache.
3. Shanika, from Couture Cakes by Nika: Lemon lavender cupcake topped with lavender butter cream, candied lemon, and an edible lavender flower.
4. Valerie Estep, from Silver Swirl Cupcake: Salted Caramel & Chocolate – Butter yellow cake with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and topped with a chocolate covered pretzel.
5. Heather Jesness: Vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate frosting.
6. Megan Ferrey, from Cakes by Megan: Dark chocolate cherry filled cake with pistachio meringue buttercream.
7. Kelly Zonderwyk: Lemon lavender cupcake with a glaze and filled with lemon curd.
8. Elisabeth Shankle: Banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting.
9. Shannon Paciorek: Key Lime Pie Cupcake – Graham cracker crust, lime infused cake filled with a lime curd, and lime cream cheese frosting.
10. Paola Veronica: Mini mocha cupcake with espresso buttercream.
11. Chinwe Aldridge: Vanilla cupcake with cream cheese/buttercream frosting, graham crackers, white chocolate, candies, and shoe decoration.
12. Alicia Hadley: Red velvet cake with a walnut cream cheese frosting.
13. Katie Walker: Canoli Cupcake – Vanilla cupcake with orange zest, ricotta and chocolate chip filling, and vanilla buttercream frosting with chocolate garnish.
14. Kat Harper: Chocolate cake with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream
15. Jennifer Hlad: Hummingbird cupcake with coconut cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.
16. Meghan Ochs: Vanilla cupcake, with cinnamon apple compote, topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.
17. Kathleen Mudge: Vanilla bean cupcake with chocolate fudge icing, topped with a brownie truffle and cookie.
18. Michelle Byers: German chocolate cake with caramel buttercream topped with bacon.
19. Danny McGibney: Sweet potato pie cupcakes with browned buttercream frosting.
20. Mini Guinness Cupcake (not in competition – baker unknown)

The 2012 CupcakeCamp DC raised $2,000 for DC Candlelighters and in the end we all had a really great time, Stacy and Elisa as guests and myself as a judge. I met some great people and I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings, but I think I’ll just enjoy the event as a spectator or volunteer. Twenty-five cupcakes were A LOT to taste!

To see more event more photos, visit CupcakeCamp’s DC Flikr pool.

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

Josie’s “Creative & Delicious” Confections

What do fried chicken, waffles, and cupcakes have in common? Josie’s Confections. But that isn’t the only amazing cupcake creation up “The Cupcake King’s” sleeve! After the Westminster cupcake picnic this past weekend, we Crusaders realized that we hadn’t actually reviewed Joel’s creations?! So here goes:

For our Washington DC Cupcake Picnic, Joel brought 4 flavors:

Fried Chicken & Waffle

All three Crusaders loved this cupcake. The fried chicken alone was amazing, in fact Crusader Jenn said she wouldn’t mind eating a bucket of the chicken and I agree. The maple cake was moist and very flavorful, with the light maple frosting pairing nicely with the perfectly fried chicken and sweet waffle. Crusader Stacy says it is in her top 5 cupcakes of ALL the cupcakes she has ever had, and ate 3 in one day, the perfect testament to just how delicious this cupcake is. (Wow, just writing about it makes my mouth water and my stomach grumble for fried chicken, waffles, and this cupcake.)

Maple Bacon

(Photo courtesy of Josie’s Confections)

If I were a cupcake, I would be THIS cupcake. My love of bacon is no secret, and this cupcake had perfectly cooked, crispy bacon on top AND in the cake. The maple frosting was again smooth, flavorful and paired perfectly with the bacon. Sweet, savory, salty, bacon-y perfection in cupcake form. I ate 3 at the picnic and took 3 home – and yes, I ate every one of them.

Strawberry Lemonade

I didn’t try this cupcake (I was too busy eating the Maple Bacon), but Stacy shared her thoughts: “This cupcake was a perfectly light and refreshing summer cupcake. It’s no wonder how Joel won 4th place for People’s Choice at the National Capital Area Cake Show’s (NCACS) Cupcake Challenge with this cupcake.”

Salted Caramel(Photo courtesy of Josie’s Confections)

This mini cupcake packed a caramel punch, with a hint of salt. Moist and flavorful, this mini had more caramel flavor than some full-sized caramel cupcakes I have encountered. The caramel drizzle on top added to the light, creamy, smooth texture. In a sea of regular sized cupcakes, this little mini stood out.

For our Westminster, MD Cupcake Picnic Joel brought 4 new flavors to share:

Red Berry Ciroc

Perfect summer boozie cupcake. Even better, you could still taste the Red Berry Ciroc vodka! While this is not a cupcake for a kid, it would be perfect for a bacholerette party or grown-up party. Love the fun bright frosting too – how Joel achieved that amazing red/pink hue without it tasting like food coloring is a mystery.

Tiramisu

This cupcake had all the right flavors, which worked together in unison to create the perfect Tiramisu dessert in cupcake form! The moist cake, tasty mascarpone and Kahlua filling and smooth frosting was one of the favorites of the day. This is one of my favorite desserts, and I was very impressed with just how much it tasted like the traditional dessert.

Capt. Morgan Rum and Coke  &  Mango Passion Fruit

Capt. Morgan Rum and Coke: At first sight you might think this cupcake looks like it has chocolate frosting, but the frosting tastes exactly like Coke – which amazed everyone at the picnic! And the cake tastes exactly like Capt. Morgan and was very moist. Like the Red Berry Ciroc, this is another 21+ only treat, but a treat that the Crusaders wouldn’t mind eating again.

Mango Passion Fruit: Another great summer cupcake! Light and sweet and full of mango and passion fruit flavor. The cake and frosting were an amazingly bright and refreshing orange color, how does Joel do it?! It reminded Crusader Jenn of tropical fruit candy; and while it was a bit sweet for me, it isn’t a cupcake I would ever turn down.

Overall Joel’s unique confections have intrigued and amazed us at each turn. Consistently moist and flavorful cake, smooth and creamy frosting, and inspired flavors are apparent in each cupcake Joel creates. Each inspired flavor has been meticulously paired together to create a delicious confection that anyone would be lucky to eat. He’ll be the first person I call the next time I need to order cupcakes for an event, party, or just when I need a Maple Bacon cupcake “fix.”

For information on ordering Josie’s Confections, call Joel at 301-541-7046, email him at joelegill@gmail.com or visit Josie’s Confections Facebook page.

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

Our Westminster, MD Cupcake Picnic Recap

Sunday’s Westminster Cupcake Picnic was another successful gathering, with help from Joel of Josie’s Confections. More cupcake lovers were able to make it out to the Westminster Community Pond and the cupcakes were plentiful! We scored a great spot under the pavilion, next to the playground, which worked out well for some of our youngest attendants.


(Crusader Elisa, Guest Crusader Beth, and myself hanging out while others arrived.)

Although sitting on blankets at our DC Cupcake Picnic made it really feel like an old-fashion picnic, it was nice to have the tables this time. The breeze felt great sitting in the shade. It couldn’t have been a better day for a picnic!

We were admiring the cupcakes that had already shown up, but holding off digging in. It seemed like it would be more polite to wait until some of the others arrived. But then our little niece Lylah said, “I want a cupcake.” With that, the cupcaking began and didn’t stop, as more people showed up with their picnic contributions.

Cupcakes that were in attendance:
1) Joel brought some of his new Josie’s Confections’ boozy flavors, including Tiramisu with a Kahlua filling. Look out for a full review of Josie’s Confections coming later this week.
2) Josie’s Confections’ Mango Passion Fruit and Rum & Coke.
3) Josie’s Confections’ Ciroc Red Berry Lemonade.
4) Robin and Camille came with homemade marble cupcakes topped with chocolate ganache.
5) Beth brought an assortment from Fresh Bakery. We’ve reviewed Fresh a few times but this was the my first time tasting their Creamsicle and it had the perfect Creamsicle flavor.
6) Rachael brought her homemade Snickers cupcakes, which I also tried at her daughter’s 1st birthday and are always a hit!
7) Crusader Elisa made Honey Grapefruit cupcakes, two ways. One had a grapefruit curd filling and the other had a honey filling. Keep an eye out for a full recipe review soon!
8) I brought these store bought cupcakes that came from Walmart. Flavors included Lemon, Vanilla Bean, and Triple Chocolate. For those curious about how these full-size Walmart cupcakes tasted, I’ll be doing a review next week.
9) Crusaders’ Dad brought Golden Snitch cake pops, extras from a Harry Potter birthday party he hosted the night before. Guest Crusader Beth was very excited to see these there!
10) I think these Pink Lemonade cupcakes also came from Robin and Camille’s group. So many cupcakes, it was hard to keep track! After tasting and complimenting them, I found out that they were made with Pillsbury’s Pink Lemonade cake mix.
11) Another candy bar themed cupcake came from Guest Crusader Kim, who wrote about her first experience making these for her 30th birthday party.
12) Crusader Stacy made Lemon Blueberry cupcakes and jazzed them up for the summer with some fancy decorating. She’ll be featuring these in a post coming soon!


(With so many cupcakes, we learned that there would be a lot of cupcake-exchanging going on. This time the Crusaders provided a “to-go” option for our guests.)

At the last picnic we had a cupcake eating challenge and thought maybe we’d see if anyone wanted to take on “The King” and try to beat his time of 5 cupcakes in 3 minutes and 45 seconds. There was one brave lady, Simone, who stepped up to the plate (or in our case the picnic table…we ran out of plates that could fit all 5 cupcakes).


(Simone with the 5 cupcakes she selected. We admire her courage in taking on The King!)

She attacked those cupcakes with gusto, but in the end Joel gets to keep his reigning title as the real “Cupcake King.” We were very proud of Simone’s attempt and she left with a prize pack as a thank you for participating.


(My cupcake carnage…Those cupcakes didn’t see what was coming to them.)

We hope that everyone had a good time and thank our guests, especially those who drove over an hour from DC and Northern Virginia! It was great to meet other enthusiasts and enjoy the nice day talking about baking, cupcakes, and getting to know one another better. After two great Cupcake Picnics, we are even more excited for our final Baltimore picnic next month and are already getting requests to have a 2013 picnic series! If you are interested in attending the Baltimore Cupcake Picnic, check out more details and RSVP here.

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

Our DC Cupcake Picnic Recap!

Enjoying cupcakes, relaxing in the beautiful weather, and gathering with people who share a similar interest was what our first ever cupcake picnic was all about. This past Saturday the Crusaders, with the help from Joel (AKA: the Cupcake King) of Josie’s Confections, organized a cupcake picnic in Georgetown Waterfront Park. It was only a small gathering but it was filled with TONS of cupcakes and good times.

We were lucky enough to land a spot in the shade under a tree, and slowly everyone arrived. The group included us three Crusaders, my dad, Joel, Lamorea from That’s So Morie Cupcakes and her family, and fellow cupcake lover, Danielle, and her boyfriend.


(Candid shot of our some of our attendees. From the left going clockwise: my dad admiring Lamorea’s to-go wrapping for each of her cupcakes; Lamorea’s little girl (she’s so cute!); Lamorea going through her photos; happy cupcake eater, Charles; Crusader Jenn; and our youngest Crusader, Jenn’s daughter, Leah.)

After chatting for a few minutes, it was time to dive into the cupcakes! Joel, from Josie’s Confections, brought his signature Chicken N Waffle cupcake, as well as Salted Caramel minis, Strawberry Lemonade (which won the 4th place for People’s Choice at the NCACS’s Cupcake Challenge), and Maple Bacon.


(The AMAZING Chicken N Waffle cupcake! For information on ordering this cupcake call Joel at 301-541-7046, email him at joelegill@gmail.com or visit Josie’s Confections Facebook page.)


(Strawberry Lemonade with strawberry filling and candied lemon peels! For information on ordering this cupcake call Joel at 301-541-7046, email him at joelegill@gmail.com or visit Josie’s Confections Facebook page.)

Lamorea, from That’s So Morie Cupcakes, brought a big assortment of cupcakes all individual wrapped up and tied with a ribbon. She came totally prepared for people to take cupcakes home with them! Among her flavors were Pina Colada, Simply Strawberry, Chocolate Chocolate, and Citrus in the City.


(Alcohol Free Pina Colada all wrapped up! For more information on this cupcake call Lamorea at 443-603-8060, email her at Thatssomoriecupcakes@yahoo.com, or visit her Facebook page or website.)


(Citrus in the City! For more information on this cupcake call Lamorea at 443-603-8060, email her at Thatssomoriecupcakes@yahoo.com, or visit her Facebook page or website.)

Other cupcakes present included another Strawberry Lemonade, a variety from Red Velvet Cupcakery, an assortment from the Giant Bakery, and the Crusaders’ contributions: Mojito (me), Mocha Brownie (Jenn), and Strawberry Basil (Elisa).


(From top center moving clockwise: Strawberry Lemonade from Josie’s Confections; Chocolate Chocolate from That’s So Morie Cupcakes; Mocha Brownie from Crusader Jenn, Mojito from me; and Maple Bacon from Josie’s Confections.)


(Cupcakes scattered all over the place!)


(More cupcakes! They were everywhere!)

While we always enjoy eating cupcakes and chatting, the fun really started when Danielle said that she would still like the challenge of eating five cupcakes for the cupcake eating competition. She was the only one who stepped up in advance so we told her the prize was hers, but she was determined to earn her prize fair and square.


(It’s all smiles before you reach the 5th cupcake! She did a great job and was such a good sport!)

About halfway through Danielle’s challenge, the Cupcake King, Joel, decided he wanted to see what he could manage. Since he helped us put together the prize pack, he was entering the contest purely to take his title of Cupcake King to the next level.


(Joel smiled most of the way through, before hitting the more challenging chocolate cupcakes. But he still came out on top and decimated all 5 cupcakes!)

It was like witnessing an episode of Man Vs. Food in person. They both did an amazing job! Danielle put down 4.5 cupcakes is 5 minutes (at first she wasn’t focusing on her time so much, but picked up the pace as soon as Joel decided to join the fun) and Joel ate 5 cupcakes in 3 minutes and 45 seconds. He truly has earned his title, Cupcake King.

We couldn’t have asked for a better first picnic and we are really looking forward to the next two in our series. Sunday, July 29th we will be meeting at the Westminster Community Pond in Westminster, MD and on Saturday, August 25th we’ll meet in Patterson Park in Baltimore, MD. For more information click here. We hope you can join us and make those cupcake picnics just as memorable as this one in Georgetown Waterfront Park was!

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

We want to give a special THANK YOU to Joel, The Cupcake King, from Josie’s Confections for helping us organize this month’s Cupcake Picnic. He searched for the perfect location, helped us brainstorm activities, and even contributed nice Wilton products for the prize pack. Thanks Cupcake King! 🙂