Throwback Thursday: Ashley’s Sweet Beginnings | Towson, MD

Today we are posting a “Throwback Thursday” review because it was almost a year ago that we first visited Ashley’s Sweet Beginnings (located in the Shops at Kenilworth in Towson, Maryland), but we never shared our thoughts. At that time, they were preparing for their grand opening, but were still opened for business, so we grabbed a variety of treats including cupcakes, macarons, truffles, and coffee.

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Ashley’s serves Zeke’s Coffee, which is a local Baltimore favorite, so we were already off to a good start. Along with her coffee, Crusader Jenn ordered the Triple Chocolate cupcake, a coffee macaron, and an pistachio macaron.

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Unfortunately Ashley’s refrigerates their cupcakes, which isn’t the best way to enjoy them while sitting in the cafe (we prefer our cupcakes at room temperature). Jenn still enjoyed the dense fudgey dark chocolate center and said that even though it was cold, the cake was still relatively moist, but it was just your average chocolate cake. The buttery chocolate frosting also would have been a nice balance to the dark chocolate center, but because the cupcake was cold, it was a bit on the hard side.

Like Jenn, I ordered one cupcake and two macarons with my coffee, but instead of being different, I selected the same coffee and pistachio macarons as her. However, I chose the PB&J cupcake and also included a chocolate raspberry liquor truffle with my purchase (which isn’t pictured — but it was delicious!).

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PB&J cupcakes are one of my favorite flavors, so the standard has been set pretty high for me. Overall this cupcake had really amazing, well-balance flavor, with the just the right amount of filling, but I think because of the refrigeration process, the cake was overly dry. It may have improved if I had let it get to room temperature. Even though the frosting was cold and a bit hard, the flavor was perfect and it had a nice creamy texture. Each cupcake was priced well at only $2.50.

Jenn and I really love their macarons and have become repeat customers. They are miniature sized with a price to match at only $1.00 each, which means we tend to get a variety of flavors depending on what’s available. They always have a nice crumbly shell and light fluffy texture on the inside. The flavor of the coffee macaron was a bit mild for me, but Crusader Jenn thought it was perfect, and the pistachio macaron had a wonderfully nutty flavor. Since then we’ve tried many flavors including lemon, raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, and more. I haven’t been disappointed yet!

My suggestion to anyone visiting Ashley’s is to take your cupcakes to go so you aren’t eating them cold. If you are sitting and staying for a while, I would recommend selecting macarons, truffles, or any of the variety of other pastries they offer.

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

 

 

 

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Birthday Cupcakes from Corazon Cakery

Several months ago Corazon Cakery commented our our Facebook page and, after reading their stellar reviews and seeing pictures of their vibrant cupcakes, we knew we were going to have to try them for ourselves. It wasn’t long after adding them to our list that we saw a great Living Social voucher to get one dozen cupcakes for only $16. The expiration date was only four days after Crusader Elisa’s birthday, so I decided that would be the perfect time to order them.

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To my surprise, instead of just selecting one or two flavors when redeeming the Living Social Voucher, Corazon Cakery was offering sample packs with six different flavors (two of each flavor). Since they were for Elisa’s birthday, I let her decide on which sample pack we would order and she selected the  “Exotic Sampler” which came with: Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, Dirty Sanchez, Happy Ending, Cherry Jubilee, Cafe Mocha Latte, and Orange Creamsicle.

I had them delivered right to my office (for a small extra delivery fee) so I could take them directly to Elisa’s party and ensure they would be at their ultimate freshness. Megon, the owner and baker of Corazon Cakery, had the cupcakes packaged really well with pretty tissue paper. It was like a gift all on its own! And their aroma was amazing.

The birthday girl decided that we should cut them up and share, which was fine with me and the other party goers (there were lots of our cupcake loving friends  at the party, including Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusaders Beth and Rebecca).

Cherry Jubilee (Seasonal Flavor)

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Overall this was probably everyone’s least favorite cupcake of the dozen. It had a bit of a cough syrup taste (which is why I normally don’t like cherry flavored anything, except Cherry Coke. I LOVE Cherry Coke). Even though the majority of the group didn’t like it, Elisa said the artificial cherry flavor didn’t bother her and she happily finished her piece.

Orange Creamsicle

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This cupcake got mixed reviews. Overall everyone liked it, but not everyone loved it. I personally really liked it. Creamsicle cupcakes are becoming one of my favorite flavors, even though I never liked Creamsicle Popsicles as a kid. The cake on this cupcake was really moist and though some claimed the frosting had a bit of an artificial flavor to it, that didn’t bother me any. Someone actually made a good observation and said that the cake tasted very “creamsicle-y” while the frosting was more like orange soda.

Cafe Mocha Latte

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Being a total cupcake AND coffee addict I was most excited about this cupcake and its flavor did not disappoint. The coffee flavor was really present and the cupcake wasn’t too sweet. The only downside was that the cake was a little on the dry side. It wasn’t too bad, but we all felt it could have been more moist.

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam

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It’s no secret that PB&J cupcakes are high up on my list of favorites, and this cupcake sadly didn’t meet my expectations. There just didn’t seem to be that “POW” of nostalgia that I look for in a PB&J cupcake, but Guest Crusader Beth really enjoyed it.

Dirty Sanchez

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The Dirty Sanchez is a Mexican hot chocolate cake topped with bourbon vanilla frosting and garnished with spicy chocolate, which is right up Elisa’s alley. She loves mixing sweet with savory and gives this cupcake two thumbs up. I personally can’t handle the heat, so this cupcake just isn’t for me. Like the Cafe Mocha Latte, the cake also could have been a little more moist.

Happy Ending

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This cupcake was the clear favorite. After taking the first bite comments like, “Ohhh yeahhhh…” were muttered and Elisa said “it’s lovely.” The cake was super moist and it wasn’t too sweet but was very rich, with the flavors of the hazelnut cake, Nutella filling, and peanut butter all coming through.

Normally for a birthday celebration we would order cupcakes from a trusted source, but we were all glad to try new cupcakes. Corazon Cakery delivered a great product that we were happy to indulge in. When asked what her top three favorites were, Elisa listed the Nutella, Dirty Sanchez, and Orange Creamsicle. Jenn and I both agreed that the Nutella was our number one favorite, but we thought that the Cafe Mocha Latte would also make our top three.

If you are looking to order fun, unique, and vibrant cupcakes definitely visit Corazon Cakery’s website and give them a call!

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

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)

La Cakerie Brings Sweet and Savory to Towson

In my opinion there are a few factors, other than delicious baked treats and good customer service, that create a successful bakery: location, daily specials, new menu items, and excellent social media skills. Apparently La Cakerie agrees because they meet each item on the list and it has already made me a frequent visitor. If their location was any closer, I’d probably end up stopping in every other day (if not every day). I’m sure my waistline is thankful for that.

On our first visit to La Cakerie we were lucky enough to leave with a variety of flavors like Vanilla, Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Turtle, Chocolate Vanilla, Vanilla Chocolate, and Chocolate Peppermint.

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My overall impression of La Cakerie’s cupcakes was that they have the perfect balance of being not too sweet, but not too buttery. Jason, the owner and executive chef, has really found the perfect balance. Going into the tasting I was worried that these cupcakes would taste exactly like Flavor Cupcakery’s, since Jason previously worked there and some of the cupcakes had the same look, but he really has developed his own unique flavor.

One surprising thing I noticed about the cupcakes was that the vanilla cake was much more dense than I’m used to, while the chocolate cake was light and fluffy. Normally I’m a light and fluffy cake person, so at first this was a bit disappointing, however, after multiple visits I’m starting to appreciate their moist dense cake. La Cakerie’s vanilla cake also has a unique nutty taste to it, almost almond-like, which I really enjoy.

Since we’ve tried so many of La Cakerie’s cupcakes, for today’s review we are focusing on our favorites, as well as their special New Year’s cupcakes, their NFL Ravens playoff cupcakes, and one of their savory cupcakes.

PB&J

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PB&J cupcakes have become one of my all-time favorites. There’s something about the nostalgic flavors that have me constantly going back for more. La Cakerie’s PB&J cupcake completely met my expectations. At first I thought the cake was too dense for my liking, but the peanut butter frosting was so light and smooth that it had me thinking two words: frosting shots. I would be perfectly happy downing tubs of this peanut butter heaven.

Chocolate Peppermint

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The Chocolate Peppermint was Crusader Elisa’s favorite. She said, “Fantastic chocolate cake, moist, flavorful, not too sweet and just the right density. The peppermint frosting was also super smooth. It tasted like the holidays!” Crusader Jenn was surprised at how light the frosting was, and I think that it might possibly be the best peppermint frosting I’ve ever had.

Carrot Cake

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Jenn was the lucky Crusader who got to try this cupcake. She’s becoming the “Carrot Cake Crusader” so we couldn’t deny her. Her thoughts were that the cake had a great texture. Although the frosting was heavier than the others, she adds that would be expected with a cream cheese base. However, it was not overly rich or sweet in flavor, something difficult to find in a cream cheese frosting. She ended by saying it was “perfectly balanced.”

Peanut Butter Fudge

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Since this cupcake is Jason’s favorite, we decided we had to give our thoughts on it too. Like the PB&J, the frosting was to-die-for. Jenn thought this cupcake was more rich than the Chocolate Fudge, with the chocolate and peanut butter combination, including a chocolate ganache filling, which I loved. We can definitely see why this could be anyone’s favorite.

New Year’s Cupcakes

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After our first tasting I knew eventually I’d be going back for, but I had no idea how soon. When I saw that they were offering Strawberry Martini and Cosmo cupcakes on New Year’s Eve, I couldn’t deny myself. You may remember my not-so-successful Cosmo Cupcake experiment, so let me just say that Jason’s version blows mine out of the water. This cupcake had a TON of tasty filling, working well with the dense cake. The Strawberry Martini was good, but the star of the night was the Cosmo cupcake.

While there, I decided that having one of their egg and cheese breakfast pastries would be much better than making breakfast myself on New Year’s Day. This was the first of La Cakerie’s savory treats I tried, and its buttery richness really did hit the spot. Elisa tried a bacon and egg pastry, as well as a sausage and egg one, and had nothing but good things to say.

Raven’s Cupcakes

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Just when I thought I would finally be able to start my post-holiday healthy eating, the Ravens made it to the playoffs against the Denver Broncos. This brought purple cupcakes to most Baltimore and Maryland based bakeries, and I found myself back at La Cakerie less than two weeks after my previous visit. La Cakerie even added a “Bye Bye Broncos” creamsicle cupcake that was SO GOOD. Growing up I was never a big fan of the orange popsicles with their vanilla ice cream center, and I still don’t love them, but turn it into a cupcake and I’m so there.

Savory BBQ Chicken Cupcake

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Savory cupcakes raise a ton of controversy in the cupcake world. Who knew a cupcake could spark so much debate? We take our promise not to “rest until we’ve tried them all” very seriously, and if I can have any excuse to eat a cupcake for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’ll take it. This cupcake isn’t your typical cupcake, rather it is a corn based cake with a cheesy mashed potato “frosting” which is filled and topped with BBQ chicken. You may think that a corn based cake would be more muffin-like, but surprisingly this cake was actually very cake-like with just a touch of sweetness. My favorite bites of this cupcake were when all the components were blended together. Just make sure you heat it up before eating!

I think that if La Cakerie continues to offer a wide range of baked goods and actively promote themselves via social media, they will have no problem keeping their customers happy and reaching any goals they have for the future.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Guest Review | Sugar Bakeshop | Charleston, South Carolina

We are delighted to have our first guest review by avid cupcake lover, Jessica, of Poundcake Press. Last January Jessica joined us on a cupcake tasting at Flavor Cupcakery and was even kind enough to donate her adorable cupcake thank you cards to one of our giveaways. Today we are sharing her recent visit to Sugar Bakeshop located in Charleston, South Carolina. She’s awesome and we hope to share more of her cupcake adventures with you all. Thanks Jessica!

Charleston, South Carolina is one of my favorite places to visit. I love the southern hospitality, charm and the amazing food! On a recent visit with my husband and my parents, we decided to check out a bakery that I had heard great things about. Sugar Bakeshop sells cakes, pies, tarts, cookies and cupcakes (as well as a few other sweet treats). The bakery is a little out of the way from the historic downtown area, and parking is a little tricky, but don’t let that deter you. The building itself is adorable and inside you find the most inviting display of goodies.

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When you walk through the doors of the quaint shop, you are faced with a charming display of vintage cake stands and jars containing every sweet treat you can imagine – including some good old southern sweet tea. Happiness! A super friendly employee greeted us right away and went over all of the flavors they had on display that day.

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My mom and I picked out a half dozen cupcakes to go and we were on our way. My only regret was not grabbing a sweet tea and chocolate chip cookie for the ride!

SugarBakeshop3[Please note that with the exception of the coconut cupcake, all of the cupcakes were a day old when we tried them. We kept them in the fridge overnight and that could have affected the moistness of the cake. Like I said, Charleston is full of amazing food, and we were too stuffed from dinner to eat the cupcakes that night. Shame on us! Lesson learned: you should always leave room for dessert.]

Peanut Butter & Jelly

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The peanut butter and jelly cupcake is a must-have for a PB&J junkie like my husband. The peanut butter icing was very rich and creamy. According to my husband, the white cake was perfect because it reminded him of eating a PB&J sandwich on white bread. Our only complaint with this one was that, even with the delicious strawberry jelly inside, the white cake was very dry.

Lime

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The lime cupcake was really pretty with sugar crystals and light green buttercream icing. Both the cake and the icing were vanilla, so the lime filling is what really made this cupcake. It was super tangy and refreshing.

Caramel

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The caramel cupcake was the one that I was most excited about and it did not disappoint. The icing was thick and fudgy – I loved it! The vanilla cake was moist and light and I thought it was a perfect match for the candy-like topping.

Coconut

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The coconut cupcake reminds me of a snowball. I didn’t get a chance to try this one but my parents described it as heavenly. The dense vanilla cake was moist and loaded with shredded coconut on top. The vanilla buttercream icing was also delicious, and not too sugary sweet, which was good because it was piled high!

Chocolate

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This cupcake was a dream for a chocoholic like me. The cake had a dark chocolate flavor and was rich and moist. The thick, fudgy icing was simply delicious. I drank a tall glass of milk with this one and I was in heaven.

Lemon

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My husband and I are huge fans of lemon cupcakes. After sampling quite a few rich desserts, a citrus-flavored cupcake is usually a real treat. The lemon cupcake from Sugar was similar to the lime cupcake. The vanilla cake contained a tart lemon curd filling and was topped with vanilla buttercream icing. While there wasn’t anything wrong with the subtle flavors of this cupcake, I would have liked it more if the lemon was a little more prominent.

Overall, my family and I were pleased with everything we tasted from Sugar Bakeshop. We’ll be sure to stop in the next time we’re in Charleston.  With all of the different desserts they offer, there is so much more we still have to try!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Jessica of Poundcake Press (Baltimore, MD). To find out more about Poundcake Press, visit their Esty Shop or follow them on Facebook.

Cupcake Tour 2012 – Philidelphia, PA

The Crusaders have been talking about a Philly tour for the past couple of years. Thanks to Crusader Jenn’s reminder and Crusader Stacy’s planning, we finally made it happen this fall for our Annual Cupcake Tour!

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(Itinerary and stickers included of course, thanks to Crusader Stacy!)

This year it was just us three Crusaders and Mr. Ross, Jenn and Stacy’s dad. (Thanks to Mr. Ross for driving. He truly is a crusader!) While Crusader Stacy, Mr. Ross and I had all been to the “city of brotherly love” before and love its charm and personality, this was Crusader Jenn’s first time. We all couldn’t wait to taste what the cities cupcakes had to offer.

We were all excited to get the tour started, and as we walked up to the corner of our first address we realized we were in front of the Reading Market and that the shop must be a part of the market. What a great location!

Flying Monkey

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Chocolate Chocolate, Espresso, Apple Cinnamon, Maple

The adorable market shop was busy, as was the rest of the market, but the staff were friendly and kept the line moving quickly. We all ordered one cupcake, and ate them standing. Immediately we all agreed that this was the perfect way to start the day! While the flavors were on the light side, they were perfect with the moist cake and buttery frosting. Crusader Stacy really enjoyed the crunchy top of her espresso cupcake; Crusader Jenn liked the moist cake in her apple cinnamon selection; Mr. Ross dove into his chocolate cupcake with gusto and I loved the extra buttery, maple frosting.

After fighting our way out of the Market, we walked down to our next stop and picked up cupcakes to eat after lunch at Moriarty’s Pub (one of my favorite Philly haunts):

Philly Cupcakes

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Chocolate Peanut Butter (aka The Massacre), Toasted Coconut, Sweet Potato Marshmallow, Sweet Potato Pecan

Philly Cupcake is a quaint little shop on a corner with a take out window,  but since it was a cold day, we went inside to peruse their selection and keep warm. Right away the flavor options intrigued and beguiled us, with names like the Massacre and the Coma it’s no wonder we had trouble deciding! This cupcake shop ends up with mixed reviews though, as Crusader Stacy was not all that impressed with her sweet potato marshmallow cupcake, but Crusader Jenn’s “Massacre” cupcake was the best chocolate and peanut butter cupcake she has EVER had. Mr Ross liked his coconut cupcake, as it tasted like a Pina Colada and was light and not too sweet. My sweet potato pecan cupcake was the perfect blend of sweet potato pie and pecan pie rolled into one heavenly mixture. It really was an even split, we liked them all, but only thought two (the Massacre and Sweet Potato Pecan) were anything to write home about.

Our next couple of stops were a bit of a walk, which was good considering we all ate a full lunch and a cupcake! In fact, we took the rest of our tour cupcakes home with us, but we all tried them later that night or the next day to ensure they were still in their prime. Below are our three other stops:

Brown Betty Petite

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Lemon Pound Cake, Pineapple pound cake (aka Aunt Eva Says), Red Velvet (Jean’s Road Trip)

While the lemon and pineapple cupcakes were dense, but overall good, the red velvet was dry and boring. Crusader Stacy thought the pineapple cupcake had really delicious flavor, and while pound cake isn’t her favorite cake it worked in this instance. Crusader Jenn thought the lemon cake was dense and lacked flavor, but the tart frosting was enough to carry the cupcake.

PamCakes

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Chocolate, Spiked Eggnog, PB&J

Both Crusaders Jenn and Stacy love eggnog cupcakes, so right away we were excited to find this flavor. The spiked eggnog was definitely spiked, with a great blend of eggnog and liquor flavor. The moist cake was sweet and satisfying. The PB&J cupcake was on the dryer side, but the flavors were amazing. There was a perfect portion of jelly filling and the peanut butter frosting was spot on in both flavor and texture. This would definitely be a spot we would go back to again!

Sweet Freedom

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Boston Creme, Salted Caramel

As Philly’s first vegan and gluten free bakery, we commend them on their attempt to make sweet treats without real butter or refined sugar, but sadly our cupcake experience fell short. There was really only one word to describe the cupcakes we tried: awful. The Boston creme tasted more like day old stale bread than anything sweet and moist, while the salted caramel chocolate tasted like baked cardboard. They were not large cupcakes, nor were they cheap at $4 per cupcake, but we ended up throwing out most of both. We discussed that perhaps our taste buds are spoiled by real butter, gluten and sugar, and therefore are not the best judges of these particular cupcakes.

While some of the cupcakes were hits and some were misses, overall we thoroughly enjoyed our tour through Philadelphia and look forward to visiting again. It’s always a fantastic day when you get to spend time with your favorite people, eating new cupcakes and exploring a city! (We’ve already started planning next year’s tour and I for one, can’t wait. Bring on the cupcakes!)

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

NYC Cupcake Crawl: Lower East Side and East Village

Prior to being a mom, I used to go to NYC with Crusaders Stacy and Elisa quite a bit. We have friends and family that live there, we love going to shows, and taking a day trip is so easy from our location. I ended up missing our annual spring overnight trip, which means that the last time I was there was when I was pregnant, a year and a half ago. Since I was craving a NYC girls’ trip and missing my friends, Stacy and I drove up for a day trip this fall.

Stacy did all the research and planned our very ambitious day…six cupcake stops, five of them in walking distance (5–15 minute walks). We arrived in the city and made our way to the East Village. Our first stop was Butter Lane Cupcakes.

Butter Lane Cupcakes:

The menu setup at Butter Lane Cupcakes was a little confusing at first. They offer three cake flavors (vanilla, chocolate, and banana) and then a long list of frostings to choose from. If they don’t have the combination you want already assembled, they will fix it up for you. When we first arrived there were people standing outside of the shop eating their cupcakes and it was crowded inside (always a good sign!), but it cleared out quickly with the quick service that staff provided. Stacy noticed a Foursquare offer on the first check-in for a buy 2, get 1 free, so we took advantage of it.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting, Banana with Maple Pecan frosting, and Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting.)

Banana with Cinnamon Honey frosting: Possibly one of my favorite cupcakes ever. I was really surprised because the frosting looked crunchy, but it wasn’t. After biting in I couldn’t believe how moist the cake was and it had the perfect balance of flavors.

Banana with Maple Pecan frosting: Stacy thought that the maple overpowered the banana cake (I didn’t think so), but she still loved the frosting. Same super moist cake that was on the dense side, because of the banana.

Chocolate with Chocolate Sea Salt frosting: Moist light chocolate cake with a rich, salty frosting and caramel drizzle. I would recommend this to anyone who loves the sweet and salty combination.

Prohibition Bakery:

Prohibition Bakery is a basement bakery with just enough room to order your cupcakes, and a small bench inside. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the ledge leading down into the shop ended up being a great spot for Stacy and I to try our cupcakes. Prohibition Bakery only offers mini cupcakes at $2 each or three for $5.


(Top cupcakes from left to right: Margarita and Beer and Pretzel. Bottom cupcakes from left to right: Shiny Apple, Mulled Wine, and Birthday Cake.)

Margarita: I was surprised by how strong the booze in such a tiny cupcake could be! But, it was definitely a cocktail in cupcake form. This cupcake stuck to wrapper a little more than I like for minis (since every bit of cake you can get is precious). But any margarita lover would appreciate this treat. The salt was perfect, like a salted rim.

Beer and Pretzel: This cupcake didn’t stick as much to the wrapper, but it had a weird taste. Maybe it was the beer that’s used? I usually like beer breads and cakes, but I wouldn’t recommend this cupcake.

Shiny Apple: Stacy said this cupcake tasted just like a Washington Apple shot  (whiskey, Apple Pucker, and Hot Damn—instead of cranberry juice). She gave me a bite and I thought it was like spiked apple cider. It became our favorite here at Prohibition Bakery and was perfect for the autumn season.

Mulled Wine: This mini treat was sweeter than the others, but definitely had a mulled wine taste. It was really good, but not a favorite.

Birthday cake: Stacy said the vodka in this cupcake was strong and that it tasted exactly like what it was, a vanilla cupcake with vodka. The cake was moist, but a little crumbly.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine:
After eating lunch at One More Thai (across the street from Prohibition Bakery and highly recommended), we met up with Guest Crusader Jen and her husband James and all headed to Sugar Sweet Sunshine. We were pleased to see that there was seating inside, although it was packed, because more friends, Joanna and Greg, joined us. It was nice to be able to find a few chairs to hang out for a little while. Sugar Sweet Sunshine offers more than just cupcakes, and is also known for their pudding trifles. We were all shocked to see that the regular size cupcakes were only $1.75 (especially our New Yorkers friends who are accustomed to higher prices).


(Cupcakes from left to right: Pistachio and Pumpkin.)

Pistachio: I got this cupcake out of curiosity, but was a little wary since I’ve never had a pistachio cupcake. I was pleasantly surprised by the fresh nutty flavor, and moist, light cake. Because of the uniqueness, this may have been one of my favorite cupcakes of the day (coming in behind the Banana Honey Cinnamon from Butter Lane).

Pumpkin: Stacy picked this cupcake and said the cake was also moist and light, especially for pumpkin, which tends to be heavier.

(Cupcakes from left to right: Strawberry cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Banana.)

Strawberry with Peanut Butter frosting: James got this cupcake and really liked it. He was surprised and pleased that it tasted just like PB&J sandwich, even having a taste of sandwich bread.

Banana: Jen ordered this cupcake and thought it was good. She was expecting the cake to be moister for banana, but it had a good flavor and a tasty, light cream cheese frosting. Jen isn’t usually a fan of cream cheese frosting, so the fact that she liked this one speaks volumes.

Coconut (not photographed): Greg and Joanna shared this cupcake. Joanna isn’t much of a sweets person (I know, I don’t get it either!), but they both enjoyed how light and moist the cupcake was, and that it wasn’t overly sweet.

BabyCakes:

BabyCakes is a well know vegan bakery that uses spelt instead of wheat flour and doesn’t use refined sugars, but sweetens their cupcakes with agave nectar. They also make gluten-free vegan options, and all of their cupcakes are soy-free. The prices varied and were on the higher side. With the price and limited selection Stacy and I decided to share one. We were expecting it to be over $4, based on the price marked on the display, but it ended up being $3.75 (still the highest price of the day for a normal size cupcake). My guess is the specialty ingredients make BabyCakes cupcakes cost more, but it was our least favorite of the day and perhaps the worst cupcake we’ve ever had.

Vegan Lemon: Stacy recognized the texture of the cake was a lot like Sticky Fingers vegan bakery, which we tasted over the summer. The cupcakes at BabyCakes are served cold, which is always a downside. Our first bite did not make a good impression and we only took a second bite to try and pin point the flavors. Despite the lack of wheat flour, the cake tasted floury and also bitter, probably from the spelt. It was hardly sweet, almost like a sugar cookie that suffers from too much salt and flour and not enough sugar in the batter. The frosting, which can sometimes redeem a cupcake, just made it worse. It was sticky, like a runny fondant that solidified due to being chilled.

While we commend BabyCakes for their commitment to being all-natural and offering a healthier, non-processed option on the cupcake scene, it just doesn’t work for the normal cupcake lover.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop:

Little Cupcake Bakeshop was the biggest venue we visited during our cupcake crawl, with the most seating. Just like most of the bakeries, they were very busy, perhaps the busiest one we visited since people linger at the tables. They have a large display for their cupcakes and other confections, areas to watch bakers apply frosting and prepare confections, and a full service coffee shop. Although they were packed, they are also very well staffed. The selection looked amazing, so it was hard to choose. Their cupcakes range from $3–$3.50 for normal size cupcakes, but that’s average in NYC.


(Cupcakes from left clockwise: Mott Street, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Luscious Lemon.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly: Stacy finally got a PB&J cupcake, one of her new favorites, and thought this one was delicious. She really liked how the jelly was swirled in the cake.

Luscious Lemon: I choose this cupcake, which had a vanilla cake and was topped with lemon butter cream and a meringue swirl. While this cupcake was well made and tasty, I think the name is a little deceiving. I was expecting much more lemon flavor, but the flavor was subtle. But after the previous lemon cupcake from Babycakes, I still thought it was refreshing and just what I needed.

Mott Street: I took the Mott Street home with me, because after hearing the description, I had to have it. It was a vanilla bean cake soaked in Illy espresso and topped with mascarpone cream cheese frosting, then dusted in cocoa powder. The girl who described it compared it to tiramisu. I thought this cupcake was really great, with a light, fluffy, and moist cake.

Baked by Melissa:  October Flavor of the Month

There was no way we could go to NYC without visiting Baked by Melissa, especially will all the locations they have now. Crusader Elisa even gave us her order before our trip, so we had to bring some back for her. We headed uptown, to Grand Central Station where there is a Baked by Melissa next door (a convenient location and also nearby to the restaurant our friend, Liz, works at and where we had dinner). The only new flavor we tried was the flavor of the month (read previous reviews here).

For October, Bake by Melissa offered a carrot cake with mini chocolate chips. Stacy’s thoughts were, “It was interesting because it tasted like carrot cake, but it had no visible carrots, or any of the other usual carrot cake fixings (like raisins or nuts). It was tasty, but the chocolate chips kind of overpowered it.”

We had a great day, filled with cupcakes and friends, so what more could we want?  Stacy and I discovered a few new cupcake places that we now call favorites. It would be hard to choose just one place to visit. Super Sweet Sunshine had their amazing prices and above average cupcakes, Butter Lane had their unique menu approach that allowed for amazing flavor combinations, Prohibition has booze, and Little Cupcake Bake shop has treats that give the feeling of high-end cakes. So depending on where you are in the East Village or Lower East Side and what type of treat you are looking for, we recommend checking out any of these four great places. Then stop by Baked by Melissa for bite size cupcakes to-go. I can’t wait for our next trip to NYC, which will no doubt include cupcakes, but maybe next time we’ll also fit in a Broadway show!

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