Part 2: Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Sticky Fingers Bakery

Since you’ve most likely already read Crusader Jenn’s review from yesterday, you don’t need me to go on and on about how much we adore this woman:

(In case you don’t know or haven’t guessed, this is the wonderful Idina Menzel.)

I will say though that the concert was fantastic, as always. She sang amazing songs, told some great antidotes, and even encouraged lots of audience participation. But, you probably want to hear more about the cupcakes now, right?

Crusader Elisa and I decided to stop at two locations since they were both almost on our way to Wolf Trap. Our first stop was at Sticky Fingers Bakery located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington DC. Back in March, Crusader Jenn and I were fortunate enough to meet the owner of Sticky Fingers, Doron Petersan, at the National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challenge. Whether or not she remembers, we promised her that we would stop into her shop this summer, and we always like to keep our promises.

Upon arriving we instantly fell in love with the decor. With high ceilings and a concrete floor, the space is filled with nods to the 50s and can be best described as retro industrial. From the old fashion refrigerator that serves as a product display and an neat old stove that creates a makeshift coffee area, Elisa and I weren’t quite ready to leave after receiving our coffee and cupcake orders from the attentive staff. Unfortunately we had another stop to visit before meeting Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusader Ashley, so we had to leave after spending just a few minutes there.

Once we arrived at Wolf Trap and spread our blankets out, we revealed our cupcake selections to Jenn and Ashley:

Elisa and I decided that trying the Orange Creamsicle and the Lavender Lemon were absolutely necessary. The bakery, which sells all 100% vegan goods, was serving many cupcake flavors that day, but Elisa and I like to be adventurous so the Lavender Lemon was an easy choice.

The lemon flavor wasn’t very strong in this cupcake, but was present enough to balance out the lavender flavor and keep it from tasting like soap. That is often a reaction we hear from people when they encounter lavender in their food, but for the Crusaders, we didn’t think this tasted like soap at all. The cake was a bit crumbly though. It wasn’t really dry, but the texture isn’t what we would normally expect in a cupcake. Maybe this has something to do with vegan products? We’ve only tried vegan baked goods a couple times, so we really aren’t experts on what to expect from the texture.

Next, after taking in all the flavor options, we finally chose the Creamsicle, knowing it would be the perfect addition to a summer pre-show picnic.

Our first reaction from this cupcake was, “OMG. THE FROSTING IS AMAZING!” I think I could have easily eating an entire gallon of it. Elisa called it “dreamy” and I couldn’t agree with her more. The cake was also crumbly, similar to the Lavender Lemon, but that frosting easily saved this cupcake and left me wanting a whole one for myself.

Even though the cake texture wasn’t our favorite on each of these cupcakes, I would love to go back, sit in one of their shiny pink vinyl chairs, and enjoy another cupcake and delicious cup of coffee. The flavors made these cupcakes ones I think anyone would keep going back for.

Tomorrow we’ll share our last review from our Wolf Trap cupcake tailgating tasting, so stay posted!

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


Guest Review | Frosted Robin Cupcakes | San Diego, California

We are so excited to have our first guest review from California! Our good friend and new Guest Crusader, Julie, is a San Diego resident who loves cupcakes as much as we do! After lots of subtle hints (okay, I may have nagged her a bit… but just a little bit…) she finally agreed to write up a review for us from one of her many cupcake adventures. I hope that this is the first of many, as she always seems to be trying new and fun cupcakes from her region. Thanks Julie!

For the Fourth of July this year, my friends and I headed down to the Embarcadero in San Diego for the Big Bay Boom fireworks show. (Yes, THAT fireworks show. The one that made headlines all over the world because all of the fireworks went off at one time and before they were supposed to, but I digress.) There are lots of places to spread out in the park areas or along the sea wall with a great view of the synched fireworks displays. We arrived mid-afternoon and decided to kill some time walking around Seaport Village, a little touristy area with shops and restaurants. As we wandered, we stumbled across a cupcake, coffee, and tea cafe none of us recalled seeing before, Frosted Robin.

The store fronts at Seaport Village are more or less the same, but Frosted Robin had their doors wide open and the interior draws you in. They say on their website that the decor is designed to make it feel as though you are hanging out in your kitchen at home, and it does just that. The robin’s egg-colored walls and white countertops set a relaxed tone and the large wooden table makes you feel right at home. But of course, what really caught my eye was the display case full of cupcakes.

Frosted Robin had about a dozen flavor options that day, each with the frosting applied in the shape of a flower. Available flavors included chocolate fudge (with a red star on top for the holiday), chocolate peanut butter cup, cinnamon roll, and blue vanilla, but the one that really caught my eye was lavender. Not only was that the color of the cake and butter cream frosting, but the cake itself was infused with lavender flavor. I’d never seen that before, so I knew I had to try it. And since I was buying that one I might as well get a few more to try.

(Cupcake selection – flavors listed from left to right, top to bottom: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Lavender, Pink Lemonade, Cayman Spice, Cinnamon Roll, and Chocolate Fudge)

The lavender cupcake lasted all of 5 seconds once I was out of the bakery. The cake was light, sweet, and moist with just a hint of lavender. Not “perfumey” at all, as one of my friends thought it would be. The frosting was a buttercream, which I’m usually not a fan of, but this frosting was very light and used somewhat sparingly, so it complemented the cake very well. I would definitely get this pretty and tasty treat again.

(Lavender cupcake from Frosted Robin)

My other favorite of the batch was Cayman spice, with a coconut milk infused, cinnamon, and nutmeg cake and coconut buttercream frosting, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. As with the lavender, the cake and frosting were light and tasty. I often find spice cakes to be on the drier side, but this one was perfect. I was concerned that the coconut milk might make both the cake and frosting too sweet, but it was a light, subtle flavor that blended well with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Heaven!

(Close up of Cayman Spice and Pink Lemonade from Frosted Robin)

The best presentation, however, was the pink lemonade cupcake. The lemon cake, which tasted like most other lemon cakes and was on the heavier side, with pink buttercream frosting, was topped with a little straw as though you are going to drink the cupcake. A very cute touch!

Not a cupcake fan? Frost Robin also serves a variety of loose-leaf teas and coffee, including cold pressed coffee and specialty drinks, which we returned later to try. I indulged in their lavender white mocha. The lavender was a bit more prominent in the mocha than it was in the cupcake, but it was delicious. Next time I will have to try the macadamia nut white mocha.

And yes, there will be a next time. Frosted Robin just may be my new go-to place in downtown San Diego. I wouldn’t mind visiting their second location in Camana Bay, Cayman Islands, either, especially if they have fireworks that function properly…

 – Review by Guest Crusader, Julie (San Diego, California)

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling

Let me start by saying that I am not a baker. In fact, prior to this recipe, my “from scratch” experience with baking cupcakes was completely nonexistent. I love to cook, but have not baked much because, frankly, it scared me. Baking is a science that requires precision, while cooking is more like art – you can deviate  from the recipe and still have it turn out tasting great. With that said, I decided to face my fears and really go all out with my first cupcake “baking from scratch” experiment.

I follow a fantastic blog, YummyMummyKitchen and saw Marina’s post about Lemon filled Lavender Cupcakes. Lucky for me, she included an easy-to-follow recipe! While YummyMummyKitchen called for purchased or homemade lemon curd filling, I knew I had to go the homemade route and make it from scratch, as it would be one more test of my baking/cooking know-how! One of my favorite places to look up recipes is, so I went in search of a lemon curd recipe and settled on this recipe by The Barefoot Contessa.

First things first, I had to find lavender that was for human consumption, and not potpourri. After searching the traditional grocery stores to no avail, I sought out a natural food store that might have just what I was looking for and is right around the corner from work. Located on Preston Street, OK Natural Food Store boasts organic everything and a wide variety of herbs sold in bulk! Sure enough, they had lavender!! (I highly recommend stopping in next time you are in the Mount Vernon area.)

Once I gathered the rest of my ingredients, it was time to bake!

The first thing I did was make the cake batter. I was so excited to be working with lavender! It is something I have always wanted to bake/cook with. Following the cake batter recipe was easy, but it surprised and worried me that the batter seemed very thick. I trusted the recipe and trekked on, placing baking cups into my vintage Muffinaire pan (thanks goes to my wonderful Nona, who gave me this many years ago) and popping it in the oven. I set the timer and moved onto making the lemon curd.

Again, an easy enough recipe to follow. Removing the zest of the lemons was no small feat, but the real nerves came when I cooked it. Having made homemade pudding (one of the very few things I have experience with) I knew I could cook the egg too fast and end up with lemon scramble instead of lemon curd, so I watched carefully and made sure to keep my heat on low. One problem: I had my heat on too low. Instead of the curd thickening in about 10 minutes, I stirred constantly for 25 minutes. Having a gas stove may have something to do with that, as gas heat on low translates to almost NO heat at all. After 15 minutes I turned it up slightly, wondering if the semi strange curdling looking lemon concoction would ever even out and become smooth. Another 10 minutes later, with a little more heat, it did and looked like lovely translucent lemon goo. I promptly put it into my vintage Pyrex mixing bowl (have you sensed a trend? I love vintage kitchen stuff, and this mixing bowl happened to be a Christmas gift from Stacy!) and into the fridge for cooling.

In the middle of making the lemon curd, I took the cupcakes out of the oven, out of the pan, and onto a cooling rack – all with one hand because the curd needed constant stirring. (What had I gotten myself into!?!)

Frosting was the last item on my list to make, so I followed the directions, using flower honey instead of lavender honey because I couldn’t find it anywhere (not even at OK), but I figured flower honey was better than plain honey. I didn’t add all of the confectioners sugar right away, I wanted to watch because I really felt like three cups would be too much and make the icing too sweet – as we all know, I do not like my cream cheese frosting too sweet. I only used two cups of sugar, and still achieved a stiff enough frosting to work with.

After using a pairing knife to cut out small “plugs” from the cupcakes, I used a ziplock bag with one of the corners cut off to fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd.

I then used the same technique to ice the cupcakes, as I have not invested in pastry bags/tips/etc.

For decoration, and an added hint of lavender, I sprinkled a couple of lavender buds on top. And voilà!

I ate one that night and while the cake was a little dry, overall I thought it had amazing flavor. The lemon curd really added a whole other level of flavor and texture, and the icing had the perfect hint of honey and cream cheese. While this cupcake may not be for everyone, as lavender is not something everyone wants to eat, it is a perfect cupcake for me – sweet, tangy, and savory. Even with the drier cake, I count this as a very successful baking experience! And now, not only do I have experience baking with a rarely used flower, I have baked from scratch, survived, and can’t wait for the next recipe! (And stay tuned, I’ve decided I love filled cupcakes so much that I plan on all of the recipes I try being filled as well!)

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