Philly Cupcakes… And a HUGE Surprise!

A few weeks ago my boyfriend, Mike, took me on a day trip and what I thought was just a fun adventure that included cupcakes, turned into something much more…and I’m happy to share with our readers on Valentine’s Day.

After an evening visiting Mike’s brother, Joe, for his birthday, and a lovely hotel stay in Collegetown, our fun day started in Philly at Love Park. This was Mike’s first timing visiting the park and seeing the famous Love sculpture, so we braved the cold and were lucky enough that a wonderful man who was clearing snow offered to take our picture.

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I don’t normally pose, but I’m grateful that I followed the man’s instructions because this photo couldn’t be more perfect!

After a brisk walk, we found ourselves at Smokin Betty’s for some much needed brunch. Wow, the food and drinks were amazing and we felt as if we found a hidden gem!

Brunch
Smoked Salmon Hash for me and the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich for Mike

No meal is complete without a cupcake, so we walked over to the Reading Terminal Market to grab some from my favorite place in Philly; Flying Monkey Bakery! The market was packed, but I quickly picked a cupcake and found two seats in the picnic area. Mike ended up the the flourless chocolate cake, which he ate so fast I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of it, and I chose the chocolate hazelnut cupcake.

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Smooth, moist, with the perfect amount of hazelnut flavor, this cupcake takes the cake. Flying Monkey has such consistent frosting, I always know I will love it. Granted, it is very buttery, so if you prefer a sweet frosting, you may not love it as much as I do. The chocolate cake was moist and not too sweet with wonderful flavor. This wasn’t my first time at Flying Monkey, but it was my first time trying the chocolate hazelnut, and it won’t be my last. The true “cherry on top” was the free button I received after checking in on FourSquare! They only had two holiday buttons left and Mike helped me pick the holly berry red velvet; fitting for the Red Velvet Crusader.

After a trek back to the car and a 40 minute ride down to Longwood Gardens, we walked into a winter wonderland of snow, trees, and holiday decorations. Along the east path, right next to the Canopy Cathedral Treehouse, Mike stopped to get a pebble out of his shoe… or so I thought. After I decided to sit, he stood to tell me how much he loves me and then got down on one knee to ask me to marry him!!

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On top of surprising me with the proposal, he had our good friend and professional photographer, Ken Adam, there taking pictures the entire time! We are so lucky to have photos of our special moment.

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(After the proposal we we took photos all over the gardens)

As if a lovely day in Philly and a proposal at Longwood Gardens wasn’t enough, Mike then swept me off my feet and back to Baltimore where we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Salt. But Mike had one last secret up his sleeve, so we headed down to Fell’s Point and walked into my favorite bar, Max’s. There waiting for us was a huge crowd of our friends! As you can see from the picture, I was shocked to see so many people!

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I could not have asked for a more perfect proposal, but more importantly, I could not have been blessed with a more perfect partner to spend my life with. He planned such a wonderful, surprise filled day, I’m very lucky to be so loved and even luckier to have so many people who care about us show their support by coming out to celebrate! (And keeping everything a secret from me.)

Cheers

Cheers to a wonderful Valentine’s day!

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

Special thanks to: Mike, who made our day so special. Ken, for taking amazing photos. My brother Richard, for being there, always. And to all my friends (from near and far, Alli!!) who made it out to celebrate.

Happily Ever After in Philadelphia, PA

Hey Cupcake Lovers! Sorry we have been MIA for the past few weeks. Things have been really busy, but we have lots to share with you! We promise we aren’t gone, we have just slowed down the pace of this blog for now. We hope you still enjoy reading our reviews when we are able to share them and we really appreciate all your support. Today’s review may not contain cupcakes, but it does include a little pastry we just had to share with you. Enjoy!

If you stroll around Philadelphia, PA with no real agenda, you just may find yourself stumbling into Happily Ever After Dessert Café located on Market Street. There you can treat yourself to a latte, bubble tea, organic frozen yogurt, or one of their many little desserts.

This is exactly what happened to Crusader Elisa and I on a recent trip to Philly. Our primary reason for trekking to “the city of brotherly love” was The National Poster Retrospecticus hosted by AIGA Philadelphia and Masthead Print Studio. We arrived in Philly a little early hoping to stop by the AIGA offices, but they were closed so instead we decided to take our time walking to the poster show, stopping at whatever boutique caught our eye, including little dessert stand called Tartes. Sadly they were preparing to close and had just thrown away their remaining cupcakes (so close!). Instead, we got one of the best gingerbread cookies we’ve ever had.

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(Elisa and I found the perfect shirt for fur-lovers in a little boutique on 2nd Street called Never Too Spoiled.)

After a quick (and delicious) dinner at Kisso Sushi Bar, we took our time browsing all the posters displayed at Masthead Print Studio and purchased ones we couldn’t live without.

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(DESIGN NERD ALERT! I absolutely love this poster I bought, designed by Shawn Hileman from Masthead Print Studio.)

Getting our caffeine fix before hitting the road back to Baltimore sounded like a great idea, and we couldn’t believe our luck when Happily Ever After Dessert Café came up in our Google search.

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Being lovers of all things sweet, we couldn’t have asked for a better location for a late night coffee run. When we first entered, I was a bit confused by the decor, but it didn’t take long to realize that it was all movie themed, hence their name “Happily Ever After.”

Elisa “happily” ordered herself a bubble tea, while I stuck with my go-to latte. However, faced with a display of tiny treats and adorable marshmallow characters (like this one here) I couldn’t decide what goodie to take home, until I saw something I had never seen before, a canelé.

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For those who don’t know (I didn’t), a canelé is a French pastry. To me, it seemed to be a combination of mini bunt cake and crème brûlée. The texture was really spongy and you would absolutely have to love the crispy, burnt-like sugar found on crème brûlée. After looking up how a canelé is made, I think Happily Ever After may bake theirs a little too long, but I still thought it was really delicious. If you are looking for a super sweet dessert, this one is NOT for you, but if you prefer something that verges on savory, I highly recommend it.

Elisa and I had a great night, that finished with a sweet ending. If you find yourself in Philly, make sure to give yourself enough time to do some spontaneous exploring. You just might stumble across a hidden gem.

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

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)