Summertime: Time for An Old Favorite

Summer is always a jam-packed cupcake time for the Crusaders, due to all the birthdays, picnics, and cookouts. With so many cupcakes all the time, I ended up neglecting a neighborhood favorite of mine, Starry Night Bakery. We’ve reviewed many of their rotating flavors, but I’m always excited for new and seasonal options. After a wellness visit with my doctor, she prescribed me with, “doing something nice for myself before heading home,” to take advantage of not having the little one with me. I’m not sure cupcakes would have been her exact solution, however Starry Night is right across the street from the office, and when I think of treating myself, obviously cupcakes come to mind.

Cherry Limeade

StarryNight_CherryLimeade

Starry Night’s summer flavors are brightly colored (sometimes a warning sign for me), but they all smelled summery and refreshing. The first one I tried was the Cherry Limeade, and it tasted similar to Fruit Loops cereal. Despite the appearance of real cherries in the frosting, the flavor was on the artificial side. However, I personally like Fruit Loops so I thought this cupcake was fun (and surprisingly not overly sweet).

Mai Tai

StarryNight_MaiTai

The Mai Tai cupcake had me the most excited. I haven’t seen many (if any) this year, so originality plus adult drinks turned cupcakes is always a win for me. Perfectly summery in flavor, Starry Night’s Mai Tai was like sipping a fruity beverage on the beach. The pineapple compote filling added a nice touch and a lot of flavor. There was a mild citrus punch and I’m almost certain there was rum cooked in the cake or filling because it replicated the drink too much not to have it.

Raspberry Lemonade

StarryNight_RaspberryLemonade

Just like the Cherry Limeade, the Raspberry Lemonade also tasted like fruity cereal. So, if you are looking for fresh, real fruit flavors this cupcake may not be for you. But if you are like me and love sugary breakfast cereal as a special treat, then you just may love it!

Root Beer Float

StarryNight_RootbeerFloat

Having tried a few Root Beer Float cupcakes this season, I was curious to see how Starry Night’s would differ from the rest. The cake was made with root beer and the cupcake got its ice cream touch with the vanilla “cream” frosting. I thought this cupcake had a very authentic flavor, with a little spice from the root beer (just like those root beer barrel candies). The frosting was super light and smooth and all together the cupcake was balanced and not overly sweet.

Starry Night also has a new website, so if you haven’t seen it before you should check it out. And, if you’ve had some creative, fun, and tasty cupcakes this summer, tell us about them!

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

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Blast from the Past: The Cupcakery in Las Vegas

Long before the Cupcake Crusaders had this blog, we had dreams about what it might become. A place to share our love, stories, thoughts, and photos of cupcakes. Almost a year before our blog began, in August of 2010, my husband and I went to Las Vegas as a last hoorah before taking the plunge into parenthood. Prior to leaving, I did plenty of research to find cupcakes while on vacation. After finding out that the hotel-casino we were staying in had a cupcakery IN it, I knew I didn’t need to worry about going through cupcake withdrawal.

TheMonteCarlo_Vegas
(Dan and I stayed at the Monte Carlo, where The Cupcakery has one of its locations.)

The Cupcakery has three locations in Las Vegas, The Monte Carlo being one of the long standing ones. As luck would have it, we were staying at the Monte Carlo, so before hitting the slots, “The Strip,” and the drinks, I HAD to scope out the cupcakes.

Kir Royale

TheCupcakeryVegas_KirRoyale

It was so hard to select just a few flavors. I didn’t want to get too many, knowing we’d only be in Vegas for a few days and that I’d hopefully be collecting more cupcakes on our explorations. There was one that I did have my mind set on prior to arriving and that was the Kir Royale, a raspberry cake with champagne frosting. Dusted in glitter, this cupcake was made to stand out. They had a couple remaining in their display when we showed up, but my built up excitement was replaced with disappointment after tasting the overly sweet cupcake that was lacking in any hint of bubbly.

Grasshopper

TheCupcakeryVegas_Grasshopper

At the time Dan was still my little cupcaker in training so I helped him select flavors I thought he would like. The Grasshopper was a chocolate cake with mint chocolate frosting. Just like the Kir Royale, we remember it being too sweet for our liking, which was surprising with a cupcake that has a dark ganache frosting. According to The Cupcakery’s website this is one of the original flavors and, “has gotten better by the year.” So it would be worth a second tasting to see if they are right.

Mound of Joy

TheCupcakeryVegas_MoundofJoy

We saved the Mound of Joy and Boston Dream cupcakes for breakfast the next day. This cupcake did not skimp on toppings, with a coconut cake, chocolate buttercream frosting, and rolled in shaved almonds and coconut. Luckily it wasn’t as sweet as the cupcakes we indulged in the night before and I remember really liking it.

Boston Dream

TheCupcakeryVegas_BostonDream

Clearly I haven’t changed much in three years, because if I see a Boston Cream (or Boston Dream, to The Cupcakery) I have to get it. And it’s perfect for breakfast! Just like the Mound of Joy, this cupcake was not overly sweet. It is your standard Boston Cream concoction, with vanilla cake, Bavarian creme filling, and dipped in smooth chocolate ganache. Very tasty.

My husband and I had a lot of fun in Vegas, playing penny and nickel slots (we love the video slot machines), walking around, taking in the lights and sights, window shopping, and helping ourselves to a few cocktails. Cupcakes just made the trip that much sweeter (for me anyway). Although it’s been a few years, according to The Cupcakery’s website these cupcakes are still available (and even look the same) and they are still located in the Monte Carlo. When I get back to Vegas, I wouldn’t hesitate in trying them again since it’s been so long. Although they weren’t my favorite in Sin City, the location is very convenient. The Cupcakery was the first cupcake place we found on this trip but there were others, so look out for more to come!

Minus5
(In addition to The Cupcakery, The Monte Carlo also has an ICE BAR. Minus 5 may have been a little pricey, but totally worth the experience!)

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

What’s NYC Fashion Week Without Cupcakes?

“Every year the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future…this is known as Fashion Week.”
                                                                       ~Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

Something you may not know about me is that I am not the only talented (and modest) designer in the family. Of course there’s my twin, Crusader Stacy, but while she and I stick with graphic arts, my brother-in-law is a very talented fashion designer. The gene for visual art skipped my husband and went straight to his younger brother, David. David has been producing his own line of men’s accessories, called David Hart & Co., and has been doing very well with it, but this year was his time to really shine, presenting his first full line of menswear at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York.

NYFW_DH_Models
(David Hart’s Fall/Winter 2013 Menswear Collection, presented at New York City’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.)

I was honored to be invited to the presentation and very excited about having a reason to spend the day in NYC. Unlike what Carrie Bradshaw would do, I took the bus to the city, made my way around via the subway, and loved every minute of it! The best part of taking the subway was that I could stop at one of my favorite NYC bakeries, Little Cupcake Bakeshop, for a cupcake on my way to the New Museum, where David’s fashion show would be. Even better, was that I was able to meet up with my good friend and Guest Crusader, Jen!

NYFW_Jen&Me
(Quick photo-op with Guest Crusader Jen after our cupcake date.)

Having first tried Little Cupcake Bakeshop on a spur-of-the-moment cupcake crawl last fall, I knew that I could go in and get a great cupcake and warm cappuccino, which I was in desperate need of. While it was difficult, I was good and just ordered one cupcake: the Dreaming Princess.

NYFW_AlmondRasp

NYFW_AlmondRasp_Inside

This cupcake has an almond cake with raspberry jam spread on top, then covered in almond buttercream and topped with meringue frosting and toasted almonds. Jen and I both agreed that it was amazing. Perfect balance of flavors and sweetness with moist cake and a wonderful meringue.

Jen selected one cupcake to eat there, the Brooklyn Blackout, and took two home, the Peanut Butter and Jelly (which I assured her was one of Crusader Stacy’s favorites) and the Vanilla.

NYFW_Chocolate

The Brooklyn Blackout was chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate which they spruced up for Valentine’s Day with some heart shaped sprinkles. Jen allowed me to have a bite and wow! It had so much chocolate flavor without being overly sweet. Just thinking about it makes me want one right now (and I just ate a cupcake…hey, you can’t write about cupcakes and not get hungry!).

Unfortunately Jen thought the Vanilla cupcake was just, “Eh,” and kind of boring. I guess they can’t all be winners. I’d be curious to get Stacy’s take on it since she’s becoming somewhat of a vanilla cupcake connoisseur.

Although it was a quick day trip, it was great to spend time with family and friends, eat some cupcakes, and have some new experiences. David’s presentation was my first fashion show, and while I’m far from being a fashionista, it was a lot of fun to feel cool, like Carrie, for a day! After all, we owe a lot to Sex and the City for bringing cupcake lovers out of hiding. So really, what would Fashion Week be without cupcakes?

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

Kupcakes & Co. New Boutique Cupcakes

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Kupcakes & Co., which was recently listed in our Top 5 on Best Friends For Frosting’s blog, has started offering a line of “Boutique Cupcakes.” They are the same wonderful cupcake, taken up several notches with toppings, fillings, special frostings, and then more toppings. While their daily cupcakes are $2.50 each, the Boutique line of cupcakes are $3.50 each and only available on Fridays and Saturdays. For now they have three flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, White Chocolate Cheesecake with a Raspberry Drizzle, and Chocolate Pecan Turtle; and we’ve tried them all!

Chocoloate Chip Cookie Dough

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Kupcakes & Co. started teasing us with their new boutique cupcakes, dropping hints here and there on their Facebook page, with photos of some of the ingredients, fillings, and frostings. As soon as I saw the chocolate chips in one of their posts, I knew there would be a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cupcake, and I had to have it. This really was the cupcake that brought me in on the day the Boutique line was released.

As an avid cookie dough lover, going so far as to make a small batch just to eat the dough, you can probably imagine my excitement when I first bit into this cupcake to realize that everything about it tasted EXACTLY like chocolate chip cookie dough. My exact thought was, “This is unreal! It’s like magic!” The frosting is already perfect and packs tons of chocolate chip cookie dough flavor, and then they take it to the next level with the cookie dough filling (which is actually baked in but maintains a doughy quality…I’m telling you, it is magical). I’ve been dreaming about this cupcake ever since.

White Chocolate Cheesecake with a Raspberry Drizzle

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This cupcake is a vanilla cake, with a cheesecake center, topped with cream cheese frosting and a raspberry drizzle. I like cheesecake and the cheesecake filling in this cupcake is very good, but it is a very sweet cupcake (I think because of the frosting).

Chocolate Pecan Turtle

Kupcakes_Boutique_Turtle

The Chocolate Pecan Turtle cupcake has chocolate cake with pecans baked on top, filled with homemade caramel, then topped with chocolate buttercream, more pecans, and drizzled with more of the wonder homemade caramel. It’s beyond decadent and I loved the texture the chunks of pecans added. I’m a big fan of the chocolate candy that inspired this cupcake, and now I’m a big fan of the cupcake as well.

You can sense the thought and time that Kupcakes & Co. has spent on creating these special cupcakes. The next time you are in their area (on a Friday or Saturday), I recommend stopping in and indulging in one of these Boutique treats. Which do you think you’d choose?

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

Passionately Pink Bake Sale Success!


(Crusader Stacy and myself at our bake sale table. Look at all that pink!)

For Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Cupcake Crusaders wanted to do something to help the cause. You may have noticed that we decided to “Go Pink” on our Facebook and Twitter pages, but that’s not all we wanted to do. On October 28th, we held a bake sale at Horizon Church in Reisterstown, MD, to raise money for Susan G. Komen’s Passionately Pink, which encourages fun ways to get the community involved.


(Full view of our table with all our baked goodies.)

After our last bake sale to raise money for No Kid Hungry, there was a lot of excitement to have the Crusaders back, which made us feel really good. There was a nice variety of treats, including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and Rice Krispie treats.


(Some of our bake sale items included: brownies – some with M&Ms, pecans, and peanut butter chips; mini chocolate cupcakes with pink vanilla buttercream frosting; and pumpkin spice cookies with white chocolate chips.)

Jackie from La Casa de Sweets was kind enough to donate 2 dozen chewy chocolate chip cookies, and they were some of the best cookies I’ve ever had! Our mom also made 4 dozen brownies!


(Cookies from La Casa de Sweets, which sold out!)

Crusader Stacy made her (now famous) Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes, and dressed them up with pink wrappers and sugar crystals for the occasion.


(Crusader Stacy’s Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes.)

I tested out a new recipe, Sprinkle’s Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream, which we’ll be posting a full review of soon.


(My Strawberry cupcakes with naturally pink cake and frosting.)

The bake sale was a huge success and we nearly sold out of everything. We raised much more then we anticipated: $132 in sales and $65 in donations, for a total of $197.00! We would like to give a big thanks to our Horizon friends and family who were so generous in their support. In total, we raised $254 dollars thanks to donations to our Passionately Pink page! If you’d like to help out, it’s still not too late to donate. Check out our Passionately Pink fundraising page…every little bit helps.

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

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

The Sweet Lobby: Getting out the Vote


(Boston cream cupcakes displaying each candidate and a lemon cream telling us to vote.)

It’s impossible to ignore that the presidential election is right around the corner and The Sweet Lobby, located in DC’s Capital Hill and winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, has started campaign polls and debates of their own. They are selling cupcakes and macarons with presidential candidate and party logos at their shop and tracking the sales to see which is more popular. You can also visit The Sweet Lobby’s Facebook page or Twitter page to track the results and join in the debate, “Which best represents your favorite candidate: a cupcake or a macaron?”


(Signage outside of the store promoting their election debate.)

The location of The Sweet Lobby makes it the perfect business to promote voting, while engaging our sweet tooth. We love that they are doing something to get people excited about the election. They also offer generic “Vote 2012” confections and are participating in Get Out The Vote initiatives, including providing voter registration information.


(Not only does The Sweet Lobby specialize in cupcakes they’ve also become well known for their macarons.)

Crusaders Stacy, Elisa, and myself decided spend the afternoon in DC together after The Sweet Lobby invited us to sample some of their campaign cupcakes and macarons. Although one of our friends, Guest Crusader Kristina, has visited the shop and had a lot of good things to say in her review, it was our first time there and our inner design geeks were in heaven. The branding features clean design, with a look that is consistent throughout the packaging, storefront signage, and interior design. Not to mention their creative custom boxes, which fit the products perfectly and allow for easy and safe travel.


(Storefront and packaging. The macarons fit perfectly into the long box and we love the handle on the cupcake carrier.)


(Just a sampling of the selection.)


(Making a decision is not easy, but the girls working that day were very helpful in making suggestions.)

Once we started eying up the selection, we couldn’t help but take more home with us than planned. In addition to Boston Cream and Lemon Cream election cupcakes and presidential macaroons gifted to us, we also took home a seasonal Caramel Apple cupcake, a Chocolate Raspberry MacTop, and a few extra macarons. If the selection of cupcakes and macarons isn’t enough (and it is!), they also offer their own line of shortcakes and tea.

Boston Cream
The Boston Cream cupcake seen in the photos above is a vanilla cake filled with pastry cream, dipped in chocolate ganache and topped with whipped vanilla frosting. This is one of the best Boston Cream cupcakes I’ve had. The cake is on the denser side, but since the frosting is light it’s the perfect balance. Not too sweet, not too buttery, not too savory…my mouth was happy.

Lemon Cream
The cupcake had the perfect amount of tartness mixed with sweet. Just like the Boston Cream, the vanilla cake was on the denser side, but moist, then filled with lemon cream  and topped with whipped lemon frosting.

Caramel Apple


(Compared with some of the other cupcakes the Caramel Apple has an understated look, but the caramel swirl and autumn flavor spoke to me.)

This cupcake had a caramel apple cake with cream cheese frosting, drizzled with caramel. The cake was dense but very moist and contained fresh apples with a subtle caramel flavor (which I liked because otherwise it can make the cupcake too sweet). I felt like the cream cheese frosting overpowered the cake, however since it was so tasty I’d still go back for more.

Chocolate Raspberry MacTop


(Yes, that IS a mini raspberry macaron on top of a decadent chocolate raspberry cupcake.)

The Sweet Lobby originally created the first MacTop on their episode of Cupcake Wars. Since then, they’ve created an entire line of flavor combinations, including the Chocolate Raspberry. Here’s what Crusader Stacy had to say about it:

Wow. Chocolate Raspberry is one of my all time favorite combinations and this was no exception. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect because the frosting appeared to be milk chocolate, which I’m not really a fan of, but it surprisingly complemented the dark chocolate ganache and moist, fudgy cake very well. The mini macaron on top was, of course, perfect. Nice and tart, the way raspberry anything should be. The cupcake portion seemed to have some kind of subtle raspberry flavor, but there was no filling so I’m not entirely sure if the chocolate cake was flavored with raspberries or if it was the lingering aftertaste of the macaron. The cupcake and macaron combined resulted in a wonderfully decadent treat.

Macarons

(Assorted selection includes Olive Oil Walnut Pecorino, Sweet Potato Pecan, Orange Ginger, Coffee, and Strawberry Basil.)

There’s no denying that when it comes to macarons, The Sweet Lobby knows what they are doing. Their election macarons are named the Obamamac and Romneymac. They appear to be plain, however they consist of almond meringue shells filled with premium Belgian white chocolate ganache infused with vanilla beans from Madagascar and Tahiti. The only way to describe it is delicious. We all really loved the selections we picked, which ranged from simple to complex in flavor combinations. Crusader Stacy said she couldn’t put her Sweet Potato Pecan down and Elisa was very enthusiastic about the Strawberry Basil. I tried the Olive Oil Walnut Pecorino, which came recommended. Although it sounds strange, the olive oil complemented the walnut well.

When you stop by The Sweet Lobby you’ll have a lot to think about. Obamamac or Romneymac? Cupcake, macaron, or MacTop? And that’s before you even decide on a flavor. But whatever sweet treat you choose, your taste buds won’t be disappointed. We’ll have an interview with The Sweet Lobby for you soon, so keep a lookout for it!

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

*We were lucky to be gifted some of our treats, but, as ever, this review reflects our honest opinion. We will gladly patronize The Sweet Lobby in the future and we are happy that we purchased some additional treats to share our thoughts on as well.

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)