Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Simply Cupcakes of Naples

After a week of sweet reviews from our recent trip to Florida, we have finally arrived at our last one, Simply Cupcakes of Naples. Before heading to Florida I would often stalk visit Simply Cupcakes’ Facebook page admiring all their cupcake photos, so I knew we had to stop in to sample their oversized cupcakes.

When we arrived at Simply Cupcakes the owners and staff were in the middle of a meeting, but that didn’t keep them from taking a break to show us all the flavors and talk a little bit about the company. We learned that the company was started in 2006 by selling cupcakes at a local farmers market and now there are many locations throughout Florida and the United States. We also learned that Simply Cupcakes offers a program to help bakers start up a Simply Cupcakes online company. It’s not a normal franchise opportunity, but rather, they go over things like legal requirements for at home baking, calculating your costs, marketing yourself, and even provide recipes. It’s everything you need to start up your own Simply Cupcakes!

After learning so much about Simply Cupcakes, we were ready to get some cupcakes! I immediately knew two of the flavors I would be getting: Funky Monkey and Key Lime (their signature flavor). When Simple Cupcakes posted about Funky Monkey on their Facebook page I couldn’t help but comment, and they happily told me they would make sure that flavor was there for us to try!

The remaining cupcakes we decided on were Carrot Cake, Red Velvet (for Crusader Elisa), Hint of Mint, and Raspberry Almond. We found out that they predominantly use an Italian meringue buttercream for their frosting which gives each cupcake a lightness that is greatly appreciated in the hot Florida air.

Funky Monkey:

The Funky Monkey cupcake was everything I dreamed it would be. Banana cake, chocolate ganache, peanut butter filling and a strongly flavored, yet light and airy, whipped peanut butter frosting. Crusader Jenn and I both agree that this is one of our all time favorite cupcakes.

Key Lime:

Made with a key lime curd filling, this cupcake was another crowd pleaser. Any one who has ever tasted a regular lime vs a key lime knows that the key lime packs more flavor and more tartness than the regular lime. It’s no wonder that this is the signature cupcake of a Florida cupcakery.

Carrot Cake:

I wish I could say that I tried this nicely decorated cupcake, but we purchased this for my Nana (one of the most wonderful grandmothers ever!). She loves carrot cake so when we saw that Simply Cupcakes had that option, we quickly added it to our growing list of flavors we would be purchasing that day.

Red Velvet:

This Red Velvet is another that I didn’t have a chance to try since it was for Crusader Elisa. I have to admit though, that with its tasteful, yet simple, decorations it traveled quite well from Fort Myers to Baltimore in my cupcake container.

Hint of Mint:

After reading the notes for this cupcake that Crusader Jenn took (yes, we often take actual notes…) I had to laugh because she wrote: “Stacy grunted twice: ‘ganache… mmmmm…'” I sure do enjoy my cupcakes. 😉 At first I thought the frosting could have used more mint flavor, but looking back it was the perfect amount for sitting by the pool on a warm day. I think if it had been any stronger it may have made the cupcake feel much heavier, which is not what you want on a hot day.

Raspberry Almond:

This cupcake was a great way to finish our tasting with. It had a fluffy almond flavored cake, raspberry preserves smeared on top, and was finished with a soft Italian meringue buttercream and almond shavings. It was light and refreshing. Another perfect treat when relaxing by the water.

I’ve always looked forward to visiting my family in Florida. I spent countless summers there growing up and it really is like a second home to me. Now that we have discovered some amazing cupcake places it will make our visits there even “sweeter.”

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

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Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Margarita Cupcakes

Happy almost Cinco de Mayo! In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, I decided to take on the challenge of making a margarita cupcake for my next “from scratch” baking experiment.

After running the idea by the other Crusaders, they loved it and really helped plan out the cupcake, including a lime curd filling, tequila cake, and a salted buttercream frosting. Finding recipes for these pieces to the puzzle was not easy, in fact I took recipes and changed them to suit my needs – which is very scary and breaks my first rule of baking: follow the recipe.

For example the cake recipe is actually for Grand Marnier cupcakes – I just figured I could substitute the GM with tequila and leave out the orange zest. Then came the frosting. I settled on a vanilla buttercream, all the while knowing I would not be adding vanilla, but tequila and lime juice in its place. The lime curd was the only thing I knew I wouldn’t need to look up as I had much success with this lemon curd recipe and knew substituting lime for lemon wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Once I had all the ingredients I was ready to start! This time around making the curd was first on the list, as it needs time to cool before it can be used as filling. Just as last time, there was a moment of panic when the mixture hit the stove and created an odd consistency – luckily I knew to just keep stirring. Presto, the lime curd was complete and tasted great!

Then came the cake… While I did follow the recipe, I changed the Grand Marnier to tequila… both being clear, but brown alcoholic liquids, I didn’t think it would make a difference. While the recipe was very easy to follow I didn’t realize that the recipe was for 24 cupcakes, luckily my friend Sami at work recently gave me a cupcake pan/case, so I could cook all 24 at the same time! Following the recipe I cooked them for exactly 18 minutes and then set them to cool. I’ll admit, right off the bat they seemed to have large bubble holes in them, unlike most cakes I have made, but I trekked on…

The frosting was a very standard recipe, except when it called to add the milk, I added tequila and lime juice instead, and added an extra pinch of salt. I also only used 3.5 cups of confectioners sugar instead of 4 cups, as it was stiff enough and I didn’t want the frosting too sweet.

Once I began cutting the “plugs” to fill the cupcakes with lime curd, I knew something was wrong with the cake. Sadly, it seemed oily and oddly textured. There isn’t any oil in the cake ingredients, so I am not sure why it would seem oily. I tried one of the plugs – ok, I ate about half of them – and didn’t think the cake tasted bad, just not great, and didn’t give me as much of the tequila flavor as I was hoping for. I filled all 24 with the lime curd and after tasting it I thought, “That curd might just save this cupcake cake disaster.”

I whipped out my fancy pipping tools – thank you again Stacy – and loaded the pipping bag with the very yummy frosting… I cut straws and lime wedges to really add some character to the cupcakes: one of my other goals is to keep trying new ways to decorate, and I also added some pink sea salt for taste. (Side note: In fact, I was going to make candied lime peels to decorate these cupcakes with, but I was afraid the sugar would over power the salt in the frosting, so after buying 4 limes I didn’t need, I decided against it.)

While these cupcakes may look great and very festive, they only taste so-so. The lime curd is fantastic, even the icing is finger licking good… but the cake failed. Oddly oily and weirdly textured, I am not sure what went wrong. It isn’t a matter of too much time in the oven, or disregard for following instructions, it just didn’t turn out quite right. Together they really do taste a bit like a margarita… it’s just a shame the cake is so odd, otherwise these cupcakes would be a huge hit on May 5th!

Not everything can be perfect, and I knew it was only a matter of time before something wouldn’t go the way I wanted it to during one of these baking experiments. What’s most important is that I tried something new, made a new curd and frosting that I would eat again and again, and got one more baking experience under my belt!

Now I just have to decide what to try baking next month! Any suggestions or requests?

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