Catching Up with Cupcakes in Orlando, FL

There are some people in your life that, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, you can pick up exactly where you left off. These friends are the ones you can always count on to be there for you, even if you may not talk everyday. My friend, Marina, is one of those friends for me. We became friends in high school, but since then she has lived as close as Delaware or as far away as California. None of that matters though, because when we see each other, the days, weeks, months, or even years just seem like seconds.

Not only is Marina a great friend, she also has a serious sweet tooth (she recently became a certified pastry chef), so it makes perfect sense that when I was in Florida, her current home state, we would do a little bit of cupcaking. When it comes to organizing a day of cupcakes, I usually take the lead on deciding which places we will visit and in what order, but after giving Marina a list of possibilities, she narrowed it down and mapped them out. It was so nice to have someone else help with the planning.

We decided that if we paced ourselves we could manage four places: Raphsodic (a vegan bakery), Blue Bird Bake Shop, Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly, and Sweet Designs Kitchen.

After a tasty lunch at Thai Thani we made our way to Raphsodic, our first stop in downtown Orlando. Raphsodic has an eclectic vintage atmosphere which was carried through with their plates and mismatched antique forks. I must confess that I was really apprehensive about going to a vegan bakery after recently having had some bad experiences, but I think it’s important to review all kinds of cupcakes, especially for the vegan cupcake lovers out there. Marina and I proceeded with caution and ordered the Mocha cupcake to split.

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(Vegan Mocha cupcake from Raphsodic)

Expecting the worst, I was actually pleasantly surprised. The cake had a really nice chocolately coffee flavor, and it was moist (yay!). I thought the simple dairy free buttercream went well with the cake, but it was a little too dense for Marina, who prefers a much lighter frosting. Knowing we had three more places to visit, we left without quite satisfying our sweet tooth, but our next stop, Blue Bird Bake Shop, was just a short drive away.

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(Blue Bird Bake Shop)

Like Raphsodic, Blue Bird Bake Shop also had an eclectic selection of mismatched plates (in fact, it’s the largest collection I’ve ever seen) and their decor was a stunning blend of rustic chic. Beautiful blue and brown tones filled the shop and Marina and I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “ahhing” as we ate our cupcakes. This time around we each got our own cupcakes; I choose the Neapolitan and Marina selected the Chocolate Raspberry.

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(Neapolitan and Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes from Blue Bird Bake Shop)

Neapolitan is one of those flavors I’m seeing more and more bakeries offer, and when it’s done right, it’s awesome. This cupcake was no exception. The frosting tasted just like strawberry ice cream and the vanilla and chocolate cake was moist and delicious. Despite feeling that the cake on the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake was a little more dense than Marina normally prefers, she said that overall, “it was really yummy.”

After eating our cupcakes and browsing the t-shirts, coffee products, and uniquely flavored marshmallows, we headed to our next stop, Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly (a two time Cupcake Wars winner).

Sweet! not only sells cupcakes, they also have a huge selection of frozen yogurt and toppings, but Marina and I didn’t let this distract us from our mission. We made our way passed the froyo machines and straight to the cupcakes.

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(Menu from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

Sampling as many different flavors as possible is always fun, and since Sweet! sells primarily minis, that made it an easy task. They had a ton of flavors available and Marina and I spent a lot of time narrowing our choices down to six each. I decided on the Coffee, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Tiramisu, White Chocolate Raspberry, Banana, and Cinnamon. Some of the flavors were just okay and some were great. The big disappointment for me was the Tiramisu.

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(Tiramisu cupcake from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

The first Tiramisu cupcake I ever tried was from Sublime, in Wyomissing, PA, (review here). None have been as good since then, but Sweet!’s didn’t even taste like Tiramisu. Luckily, it was only a mini and I had other flavors to enjoy, like the Coffee and Cinnamon, which were AMAZING. Each packed tons of flavor in such a small size. I could have easily eaten two of each on that visit.

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(Cinnamon and Coffee cupcakes from Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly)

After our visit at Sweet!, Marina and I found ourselves entering a cupcake coma, so decided to do a little shopping before making our way to our final stop, Sweet Designs Kitchen. Even with shopping and a 40 minute drive, we were still cupcaked-out when we arrived at Sweet Designs Kitchen. It was the end of the day, and their selection was limited, but the staff was super friendly. We decided to get two cupcakes each, to go.

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(Coconut Key Lime and Orange Creamsicle cupcakes from Sweet Designs Kitchen)

After all the cupcakes we tried that day I realized that I was in Florida and hadn’t yet gotten any citrus flavors. I happily remedied that and got the Coconut Key Lime and Orange Creamsicle cupcakes, while Marina choose the alcohol-free Mocha Lua and Banana’s Foster cupcakes. Unfortunately, Marina didn’t eat hers until a day later and I ended up waiting two days. Both of us felt that the cake was dry, but we really can’t fault Sweet Designs Kitchen for that since we didn’t try them when they were fresh. Even though the cake was dry I thought that the flavors of my cupcake were really fantastic, especially the fillings. The Coconut Key Lime was my favorite and I thought the key lime curd filling blended really well with the coconut frosting. Marina thought that the frostings on her cupcakes were both too heavy and that the cake was a little bland, but agreed that the fillings in her two cupcakes were really great.

It’s no secret that a day filled with cupcakes is guaranteed to be a great day for me, but getting to spend time with a good friend who really enjoys critiquing cupcakes as much as I do is even better. It was also really nice to catch up with Marina in between bites of cake and frosting, especially because she is expecting a little bundle of joy in a few months. Hopefully, Marina will pass along the “sweet tooth gene” to her little one, because when it comes to cupcake adventures, I always like to think “the more, the merrier.”

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

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Cruisin’ and Boozin’ (and Eating Some Cupcakes Too)

Let’s be honest. I think we ALL know you really only go on a cruise for two reasons: food and alcohol. Sure it’s great to relax, see some new sights, and meet some cool people, but really, everyone on that ship is there for the buffet and daily cocktails. We all know this, and that is what makes a cruise such a wonderful thing.

When my husband, Ken, and I decided to book a cruise for our big yearly vacation, I was obviously hoping to work cupcakes into it somehow. I noticed that some Royal Caribbean cruise ships actually have a cupcake shop on board called the Cupcake Cupboard, but sadly, our ship did not. I figured with all the desserts and buffets though, there were bound to be some cupcakes eventually, so I boarded the ship confident that I would eat at least one cupcake on my journey.

Our first day was spent at sea, exploring the ship, and checking out all the eating options. After lunch at the buffet, Ken and I passed the main dining room and saw a spiced rum cake on the menu. Never one to pass up a tasty treat, we headed in and were seated at a table with about four or five other diners. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one ordering just dessert.

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Now, I know this isn’t your typical cupcake, BUT it is a cake baked in a cup… so technically, it’s a cupcake. At this point I wasn’t sure if I would encounter any actual cupcakes, so I enjoyed every bite of this spiced rum cake with a soft center and slightly crunchy exterior.

The next day we docked in Port Canaveral and opted to take the shuttle to Disney World to spend the afternoon at Epcot. I absolutely love Disney World, but had never been to Epcot before, so was excited to walk around, ride some of the attractions, and find each of my nieces a special gift.

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(Ken and I posing for a quick picture in “Italy.”)

I have read that you can find cupcakes in Disney World, but Epcot is a big park, with tons of shops and places to eat, so I wasn’t 100% sure if I would. However, my cupcake luck must have been spot on because within a half hour I had a cupcake in hand.

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Ken and I stopped for lunch at Sunshine Seasons in The Land and before I even decided on what food I wanted to eat, I was buying this gigantic Cappuccino cupcake. It was about $4 dollars—which I think is good considering its size and the fact that amusement park food is usually about twice as much as it is anywhere else. I wasn’t really expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised that the cake was moist and the overall flavor really delightful. Even my non-cupcake-loving-husband (don’t ask… I don’t get it either) enjoyed it, saying the cake and whipped cream filling were both nice. I didn’t think there was enough cappuccino flavor, but Ken, who isn’t an avid coffee drinker like me, said he could taste it in the frosting.

After lunch we continued on our adventures around the world and beyond: flying to Mars, spotting Donald Duck in Mexico, stalking Snow White in Germany, and stopping for photos in Italy. When we reached The Liberty Inn restaurant in The American Adventure section of Epcot I noticed a very large gingerbread house, only to discover that they were selling mini seasonal cupcakes.

CruiseCupcakes4(They must be used to people taking pictures because they smiled at the camera without even being asked.)

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(I didn’t think twice about getting these holiday cupcakes.)

I was most excited about the Eggnog and Gingerbread, but since you couldn’t pick and choose at this stand, we took away all four flavors. Feeling positive after his first cupcake tasting of the day, my husband agreed to split these with me, which meant we had about a bite each.

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(Top left going clockwise: Gingerbread, Eggnog, Apple Pie, and Red Velvet)

The favorites in this group were the Gingerbread and the Apple Pie (which had a wonderful apple pie filling and a good contrasting texture with the candied pecans). I had high hopes for the Eggnog, since they are typically one of my favorite winter cupcakes, but this one had too much filling which left the cake soggy. The cake in the Red Velvet was pretty bland, but the cream cheese frosting was amazing. Ken also really liked it and actually couldn’t recall trying cream cheese frosting before (I know, who am I married to?!).

Back at the ship that night, I didn’t think my cupcake luck could improve, but I was wrong (well sort of…). While we were walking around the upper deck, I looked in the buffet room window and saw the staff put out cupcakes for the late night buffet.

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(Vanilla and Strawberry cupcakes on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship)

I wondered if this cupcake filled day could get any better, but it couldn’t. The cake was a weird dry yet sticky texture that lacked any flavor and the frosting wasn’t nearly sweet enough. Oh well… at least I didn’t have to pay for them. Plus, I knew the rest of the trip would be filled with plenty more food, drinks, and desserts.

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(A glimpse at some of the drinks from the cruise. Every day I tried the daily signature cocktail. Some were good, and some were okay, but it was fun to keep my record going.)

While no more cupcakes presented themselves the rest of the trip, I couldn’t believe the luck I had on our first day at port, and I of course still ate some amazing sweets like mudpie, souffle and crème brûlée.

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(Mudpie from the Chops Grille, the main dining room’s fancy take on a Jaffa Cake, Chocolate Souffle with espresso drizzle, and Baily’s Crème Brûlée—yep, that’s two desserts in one night you see there. Why not? It’s a cruise!)

All in all I would say that, with or without cupcakes, my first cruise experience was great. It was so nice to sit back, relax, and eat all the food you could manage without even lifting a finger. I want to go back.

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– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)