Edible Valentines: Starry Night’s Chocolate Raspberry Hearts

Despite all the cupcakes I’ve been surrounding myself with in preparation for Valentine’s Day, when I heard Starry Night was offering their “famous” chocolate raspberry ganache hearts, I wanted one. Try as I might to resist, I quickly gave in to Crusader Stacy’s peer pressure and pleas for me to bring her one. I caved.

Of course I couldn’t get just one! I decided to get the large heart for my sweetie and I to share. Then, since I was getting one for Stacy, I decided that my big sister, Alissa, and other “sister,” Crusader Elisa, also deserved a special, edible valentine.

And I’m so glad I gave into the temptation. These hearts are decadent, delicious, and make the perfect gift to say, “I love you!”

What do you like to give for Valentine’s Day? Are edible treats in your holiday plans?

Guest Post: Kim’s 30th Birthday Cupcakes

Today we are sharing our 2nd guest review from our friend Kim! Last weekend she celebrated her 30th birthday and took on the task of baking and decorating 4 different flavors of cupcakes. Below she talks about her experience. Happy Birthday Kim!

For my 30th birthday my husband, Jesse, threw me a party. He asked me if I wanted a cake or cupcakes. I just looked at him, waited and minute and said, “Really?” with a little smirk. He replied, “Yea, that’s what I thought.” So the next step was to figure out where would we get the cupcakes?

After discussing places like Caroline’s Cupcakes (prior to hearing they were closing), IcedGems, and a couple of others, I suggested that I could make them. For Christmas, Jesse had gotten me a wonderful cupcake cook book – Betty Crocker Big Book of Cupcakes – and I thought this may be a more cost effective alternative. This way I could also choose flavors I wanted and make as many or few as I wanted, with no ordering restrictions. Besides, I used to love baking.

What I really like about this book is that it gives you recipes to make the basic cupcake flavors from scratch, or on most pages they give you the option to “use a cake mix”. I spent an evening looking through the book and choosing a few different flavors. I settled on four different ones: The Snickerdoodle (page 60), Banana-Chocolate Chip (page 72), Mini Candy Bar (the non-name brand for Butterfinger) (page 106), and the one I was most looking forward to, Mini Raspberry-Filled Chocolate cupcakes (page 110). However with the last two, I decided I was going to make them regular sized instead of minis.

So the day before the party I set most of the day aside just to bake. I decided to ask my brother to come and help because I was making so many (and sadly, unlike on Cupcake Wars, Betty doesn’t provide four assistants!) I would use the boxed cake batters, as well as some pre-made icings.

The first batter we made was the Snickerdoodle. It was easy enough, and just required a couple additions to a white cake box batter, like adding cinnamon and adjusting the ingredients. Then we made the Candy Bar batter, which was simply adding in some crushed up Butterfinger candy bar pieces to a white batter mix. Next up was the Banana-Chocolate Chip, again merely adding chocolate chips and smooshed ripened bananas. And finally the Raspberry Chocolate. For this I guess I didn’t read the “use a cake mix” box properly. It said I needed a chocolate batter with pudding. However I got a Devil’s Food batter and a box of pudding. Luckily my brother was here, and he finagled it so it worked out. After almost a full day of baking I decided to hold off and do the frosting the next morning.

The next morning, before the party, I got a jump on making a couple of the frostings and decorating all the finished cupcakes – we made about two dozen of each flavor.

The first one was the Snicker doodle. This was pretty simple – the recipe was almost exactly like icing I make on my own, except with different measurements and the addition of cinnamon. They turned out great. The decorating was simply the combination of cinnamon and sugar.

Next I made the chocolate icing for the Candy Bar cupcakes. This was just like my normal icing recipe, except adjusting some measurements. The only thing the decorations called for were more crushed Butterfinger pieces.

For the Banana-chocolate Chip I used a can of Chocolate icing, and decorated them with Banana Runts candies and a couple of chocolate chips.

Finally the Raspberry-filled Chocolate cupcakes: These were a bit more work. I scooped the centers out, filled them with some raspberry jam that I made sure wasn’t lumpy. Then pureed some thawed, frozen raspberries, and mixed it with some Whipped Vanilla icing. It was a little runnier that I had expected, but it still turned out nice. For the decorations, I placed a raspberry gummy candy on top.

All in all, they turned out great, and were a HUGE hit at the party.  I even got a few people telling me they were going to pay me to make some for their own parties!

Since I did all this hard work for my party, on my actual birthday (which was Superbowl Sunday), I was treated to a Chocolate Raspberry cupcake from IcedGems Baking. Yummy!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Kim (Maryland)

Cooks ‘N Cakes: Home of The Two-Touch Cupcake

Over the past month the Crusaders have been working hard to prepare for another series which was supposed to be featured on another blog. Unfortunately, this fell through, so instead, we will be featuring this series on our own blog next month. This series will highlight our Top 5 favorite places outside of Baltimore City (but still within a short driving distance). This means we have eaten A LOT of cupcakes. So, for February, we decided to share some of the new spots we’ve visit, but you’ll have to wait until March to see our final Top 5 picks. 🙂

One of the places we visited for the first time was Cooks ‘N Cakes located off the Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City, MD. This new cupcake spot opened their doors in December 2011. Their tagline, “Home of the Two-Touch Cupcake” means that they have made a commitment that no more than two hands will create a cupcake from batter to frosting. They believe that this allows them to make each cupcake spectacular and not just “a dime a dozen” like some critiques believe.

After seeing all their posts on Facebook, we couldn’t wait to test this latest addition to Maryland’s cupcakeries, so Crusader Elisa and I finally made it there about a month after their grand opening.

We were visiting a couple other places that day (cupcake research is a tough job…), so we limited our selection to 4 cupcakes: Butter Me Up, Childhood Friend, Spiked Punch, and Coffee Craze. They placed the cupcakes in an upside down cup, which is a recent packaging idea that I’ve seen and LOVE. The cupcakes don’t move around and they arrive at your destination with the frosting and decorations still in place.

Elisa and I took our cupcakes over to Crusader Jenn’s house later that night. We also had cupcakes from other locations that we stopped at earlier that day, so we were happy to have help eating them all!

We started with the cupcakes from Cooks ‘N Cakes. Here are our thoughts:

Butter Me Up:
(Vanilla Butter Cake with Butterscotch Buttercream and Chopped Pecans
)

The cake on this cupcake was very dense, similar to a pound cake in texture and flavor. The sweet butterscotch frosting worked really well with this mild cake and overall the flavor was nice, nutty and sweet. The one thing about this cupcake that is worth mentioning though, is the unevenness of the cake and frosting (as you can see in the picture above). It wouldn’t have been a big deal, except we were cutting it into several pieces and some taste testers didn’t get as much of the delicious frosting.

Childhood Friend:
(Vanilla Butter Cake with Strawberry Jelly Filling and Peanut Butter Buttercream)

Unfortunately, I think I was the only one who liked this flavor. The others thought it left behind a strange aftertaste that made this a cupcake they would not get again. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it, but I actually enjoyed this cupcake. The frosting was smooth and sweet and PB&J cupcakes tend to be a favorite of mine.

Coffee Crazy:
(Devil’s Food Cupcake with Cinnamon Coffee Buttercream)

The first thing I want to mention is that the cake on this cupcake was very short, like it didn’t rise while baking. Also, from the description it didn’t seem to be a devil’s food cake to us. I’m not sure if they were trying something different that day, but the cake wasn’t very chocolaty and it actually had a burnt coffee taste to it. The aroma of this cupcake was amazing though, and the frosting was equal to that. I also didn’t taste any hints of cinnamon in the frosting and I’m wondering if the coffee flavor in the frosting overpowered everything? The upside of this was that when eating the cake and the frosting together, the burnt coffee taste in the cake was eliminated. Two of the four of us would have gotten this cupcake again, even if it didn’t seem to match its description.

Spiked Punch (Saturday Special):
(Vanilla Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and Raspberry Grand Marnier Filling)

This last one was definitely the overall crowd pleaser. The chocolate frosting was considered perfect by everyone and the raspberry filling was amazing. (Like, unbelievably amazing.) We really can’t say enough good things about this cupcake!

All in all, I would definitely visit this cupcakery again. They have so many flavor options and while we were there, they had samples left out to try. Elisa and I each thought the vanilla buttercream from one of the samples was amazing and the chocolate cake from another sample was very moist and light. Next time, we would definitely like to try some full-size cupcakes including those flavors.

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

Guest Review: IcedGems Baking

We are happy to share another guest review from a new Guest Crusader! Kim has known two of the Crusaders for a very long time and has been following the blog. After reading some reviews, she decided to visit IcedGems Baking’s storefront located in Reisterstown, MD. I (Stacy) also recently stopped by IcedGems Food Truck in Baltimore City, so I’ve added my review after Kim’s. Read below to see what we though!

Guest Crusader Kim’s Review:

After reading Crusader Elisa’s review of IcedGems Baking, I realized that the shop wasn’t too far away. Actually it is closer to me than Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse, and I have made a couple of trips to visit them (after reading some of the other Crusader’s reviews). So on my way home from shopping with my sister in Bowie, I decided to take a slight detour and see just how good IcedGems was for myself.

I walked into their shop – very cute and quaint – and was greeted with the wonderful aroma of the sweet cupcakes, as well as the very friendly young man behind the counter. He was very patient while I and another couple looked over the selection and between him and the young lady baker, any questions we had about the flavors were answered.

I chose two of the French Toast (one of which I shared with my husband that night), a Chocolate/Chocolate, and a Scarlett O’Hara (red velvet with raspberry icing).

We first tried the French Toast, which you could tell was a cinnamon cake with a maple frosting. The combination was perfect and reminded us exactly of French Toast you’d have for breakfast. After trying this, I just wanted to try the others that much more!


(French Toast cupcake from IcedGems Baking)

The night after we tried the French Toast we split the Chocolate/Chocolate and the Scarlett O’Hara. My husband’s evaluation was simple – he really enjoyed both of them just as they were!

I started by trying the cake and frosting from each separately. I have to say, I loved the raspberry icing on the Scarlett O’Hara. It was very light, almost whipped like. Both the cakes were nice and moist, and the chocolate icing from the Chocolate/Chocolate was almost fudgy, exactly how I expected it to be.

After my unusual start to taste testing I went ahead and tried a bite as they were intended. First up, the Chocolate/Chocolate. The fudgy icing and the moist cake went well together. Exactly what a choc-aholic like myself likes.


(Chocolate/Chocolate from IcedGems Baking)

Next up, the Scarlett O’Hara.


(Scarlett O’Hara (red velvet with raspberry icing) from IcedGems Baking)

I can’t say I know red velvet as well as “The Red Velvet Crusader,” but I thought it was pretty good. However I was not a fan of the red velvet cake combined with the raspberry icing. I am also not usually a fan of cream cheese icing either, but here I think it would have been a better choice.

To continue with my unusual ways, I did enjoy mixing and matching. I tried the chocolate cake with raspberry icing (very good), the chocolate icing with the red velvet cake (a little too much), and I even went ahead and tried the raspberry icing with the chocolate icing (pretty good).

I can’t wait to go back and try some new flavors!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Kim (Maryland)

Crusader Stacy’s Review:

Since we were posting Kim’s review on IcedGems Baking, I thought that I would share two cupcakes I got last week. The IcedGems’ Baking Truck drives around Baltimore City posting their location to their Facebook and Twitter pages, so on one of these days – even though the truck wasn’t in walking distance – I decided to pull myself away from the computer and find the truck at their next location. I was only going to get one cupcake (I was trying to be “good”) but before I left I saw on their Facebook page that if you said a secret phrase you could get a 2nd cupcake for free. So, I came back to the office with a Blueberry Chip cupcake and a Birthday Cake cupcake.


(Blueberry Chip from IcedGems Baking – Food Truck)

The Blueberry Chip was a must have for me. When I saw that flavor posted I knew I had to try it. It totally lived up to my expectations. The frosting was sweet and full of fresh blueberry puree. Alone, it was a bit too sweet for my normal liking, but combined with the densely moist cake filled with fresh blueberries and chocolate chips it was a perfect companion. The addition of the big chunks of purple sugar added a nice crunch texture. I savored each bite of this cupcake not wanting it to end.

I had already decided that I would save the Birthday Cake for the next day and it took everything in me not to scarf that down as well.


(Birthday Cake from IcedGems Baking)

Lunch time couldn’t have come fast enough. I didn’t want to eat the cupcake on an empty stomach, for fear I would just inhale it and not take time to enjoy the flavors, so after eating it was FINALLY time to bite in. Elisa had told me that this was a good cupcake but WOW! It screamed “Birthday Party!” I thought the Blueberry Chip was amazing, but this simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla butter cream dotted with sprinkles might have taken first prize. With every bite I couldn’t believe how good this cupcake really was.

The funfetti cake was dense but moist and the frosting was also dense but creamy. And how can you not like sprinkles inside your cupcake? I’m a big fan of funfetti and this puts my boxed mix to major shame.

I’ve had IcedGems in the past and been a bit on the fence about them, but they are definitely doing something right. Jenn is the only Crusader left who needs to sample IcedGems for herself, so I hope when she finally does, they live up to the hype Elisa and I have built!

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

Will Flavor Cupcakery “Win” the Crusaders Vote?

Several months ago, prior to their appearance (and win) on Cupcake Wars, a couple of friends told the Crusaders about Flavor Cupcakery, located north of Baltimore City in Bel Air, Maryland. We were unable to make it to their storefront location before the show aired, but after their success, we knew we had to check them out. So, last Saturday, Crusader Elisa, some good friends and I met for brunch followed by cupcakes at Flavor. The day was warm for January and brunch was great, it was a perfect way to start the day!


(Flavor’s shop located at 118 North Tollgate Road  Bel Air, MD 21014)

When we arrived at Flavor there were a few customers ahead of us, which was great as we could shop the fun merchandise and make our cupcake selections.


(They had some great t-shirts! See the peach “LOVE” shirt at the top right? That shirt belongs to me now.)

The staff were amazingly friendly. Patient, full of smiles and willing to answer all our questions. They couldn’t have been a better fit in the adorable cupcake shop.

We all decided to have a cupcake there and then take a bunch home. They didn’t have any seating inside, but they did have a small table and a bench outside. Since the weather was so beautiful, we took the chance to enjoy it.

I decided that I would have the Cupcake Wars flavor, Modern Fruit Cake, first.

I was so intrigued by this flavor and didn’t know what to expect. The rum vanilla bean frosting was not too sweet and very creamy, like butter. The five spice vanilla cake was very dense, but still moist and had a great flavor which the spices really came through. While the frosting and cake already formed a great cupcake, the filling is really what made it stand out.

The filling was full of raisins, cherries and walnuts and had a great gooey texture. Overall this cupcake had so many different levels of textures and flavors that all worked cohesively. It was the only Cupcake Wars cupcake they had that day, but I would love to see what their other ones taste like. It’s amazing to me that this cupcake was thought up in minutes, not weeks.

While we were there, Elisa decided to have the Snickerdoodle one she bought.

Here are her thoughts on this cupcake: “This cupcake really spoke cinnamon to me! The cake was teaming with cinnamon and the butter cream icing swirled with it as well. You might be thinking, that’s too much cinnamon, but the flavor was spot on! Not over powering at all! The moist cake complimented the buttery icing, creating a smooth, not-too-sweet cupcake that I could eat over and over again. On top of tasting great, this cupcake was beautiful in color and texture.”

So far, we were two for two! Our two friends decided to eat the S’mores cupcake they selected. It consisted of a graham cracker pie crust, chocolate cake, and a marshmallow frosting.

Elisa also got this cupcake and tried it later, at home. She said, “The shocking part of this cupcake was when all three components were eaten together it completely tasted like a smore, but when eaten apart, I couldn’t taste the marshmallow flavor in the icing. That minor detail didn’t matter, because together the buttery graham cracker pie crust, moist chocolate cake, and buttery sneakily marshmallow flavor, created one rich and whimsical cupcake.”

All in all, we left there very happy and with many cupcakes to indulge in later. I also left with a dozen cake truffles since my husband and I were having company over that night. But I’ll post more on those later. For now, we’ll get back to the cupcakes.

Crusader Jenn was coming to my house the next day and really wanted to try these cupcakes too, so I saved the remaining five (of my initial half a dozen) so we could enjoy together.

We started with the Peanut Butter Chocolate.

The dome of peanut butter frosting really had us excited. It was a little less “frosting-like” and a little more peanut buttery, but still was a very satisfying peanut butter mixture. Unfortunately the chocolate cake was crumbly and dry. We were super bummed about this and hesitant to move on to the next cupcake, a Double Chocolate cupcake with chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting.

As we suspected, the cake was also dry and crumbly, but the frosting was amazing! I’m a big fan of dark chocolate and this frosting hit the mark. If the cake had been more rich and moist this cupcake would have been a big winner.

We still had 3 cupcakes to go, so we decided to go with the last cupcake that contained chocolate cake: The Salted Caramel.

Surprisingly, the cake wasn’t dry and the smooth salted caramel frosting was UNBELIEVABLE! This is easily the best salted caramel frosting I’ve ever tasted. It was just the right blend of sweet and savory. The saltiness didn’t over power the caramel and likewise, the caramel didn’t overpower the saltiness. It was a perfect combination. I was so glad I decided to get this one!

With only two left to go, I decided to give the Vanilla a try. If you’ve been reading recently, you’ll know that lately I’ve been really into Vanilla. I used to think it was boring, but I’ve had some cupcakes that had great vanilla flavor and have decided that, when done correctly, it’s a tasty classic.

Unfortunately this Vanilla didn’t do it for me. The cake was moist and the frosting was creamy, but it lacked the punch of vanilla flavor that I was looking for. So, not a total disappointment, just not the best I’ve had.

With that, it was time for the last cupcake, the Mixed Berry one.

This cupcake is vanilla cake, with a raspberry filling and a strawberry frosting. Normally, I’m not a fan of strawberry frostings, but this cupcake was AMAZING. It was definitely my favorite of the bunch. On its own, the frosting was really sweet, but with the mild vanilla cake and the tart raspberry filling, it all worked so well together.

The filling was the biggest surprise. The way it was so evenly distributed in the cupcake was really nice. It ensured that with every bite you got the raspberry and strawberry flavors mixed together. I would drive the half hour to have another bite of this cupcake. It was so good!

As I mentioned above, I also got some cake truffles for “game night” at my house. They had three flavors in the shop, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Funfetti, and Double Chocolate, so I requested a mixture of them.

The first I tried, before everyone arrived, was the Salted Caramel. Like the cupcake, it was a great blend of salty and sweet. Later that night I sampled the Chocolate Funfetti which was dipped in white chocolate. This little cake truffle was packed with rich chocolatey sweetness. After just one, a tall glass of milk would have been wonderful. I didn’t try the Double Chocolate until the next day and strangely, something seemed “off” about it. We aren’t sure what it was, but there were three of us tasting it and we all couldn’t quite place it.

Overall, I was really happy with my Flavor experience. There may have been some things that weren’t my favorite, but the treats that were good, were really good.

I’m so happy that our Maryland cupcakeries are getting so much recognition on a show like Cupcake Wars. One day, I hope to visit all the Maryland locations that have competed.

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

Ringing in the New Year with Cupcakes!

As I’m sure you all know, there is no way the Cupcake Crusaders could have celebrated the New Year without cupcakes. Below are reviews from two of our local favorites that offered New Year’s Eve specific cupcakes.

Kupcakes & Co., Elkridge, MD

When I heard of all the cupcake shops making Champagne cupcakes, I knew I had to get my hands on at least one. Lucky for me, Kupcakes & Co. did not disappoint. They announced that they would have Champagne, Strawberry Champagne, and Mimosa cupcakes for two days only, so of course I was there on day one.

Elisa and Jenn couldn’t go with me to pick out cupcakes, but they placed their orders with me and we ended up with at least one of each. Here are our thoughts:

Champagne

Elisa did an amazing job describing this cupcake: “Bravo for a spectacular champagne cupcake! With light moist cake that gave you a hint of brut and smooth creamy icing that did the same, this cupcake really embodied a toast to the new year! I loved the chunky sugar on top too, just a small sprinkle went a long way to add another texture to this cupcake. I’d love to eat more of these and can’t wait to try more drink inspired cupcakes from Kupcakes and Co.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m slightly obsessed with their Egg Nog cupcake at the moment (I’ll be so sad to see it go) and this Champagne cupcake was on par with that. Their Hot Chocolate cupcake is also amazing, so they really seem to have a good grasp on how to turn a beverage into a cupcake.

Strawberry Champagne

This moist strawberry filled cake was topped with the same creamy frosting as the basic Champagne cupcake, and the pairing was amazing! There were actual chunks of strawberry in this cake which made the experience that much better. The sweet cake combined with the dryness of the frosting was a perfect balance.

Mimosa

This was Jenn’s selection and after personally tasting the Strawberry Champagne and reading her review, I was a little jealous that I didn’t get one of these as well. Here is her description: “This orange citrus cupcake with champagne buttercream has made it on my list of favorites! The orange cake was light and not overpowering and champagne really came through in the frosting, giving this cupcake the true taste of a mimosa!”

Our second review is from Crusader Jenn. She stopped by Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse knowing they wouldn’t let her down.

Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse, Westminster, MD

When I found out Starry Night was offering New Year’s Eve inspired cupcakes, I knew that I had to head over there and pick up something special for the night. I’m so glad I did! Their cupcakes were decorated beautifully and made our night-in feel like something worth celebrating.

2012!  – Winter Spice with Maple Buttercream

Already knowing how amazing Starry Night’s maple buttercream is from their fall seasonal Pumpkin Maple cupcake, I was really excited about this cupcake. The spice cake was perfect and the handmade candy “2012” so exciting!

Chocolate Whiskey Cocktail

This cupcake was very similar to Starry Night’s Mahoo Wahoo, which we reviewed during Thanksgiving. The Mahoo Wahoo has been a favorite of mine due to its coffee punch with moist chocolate cake. Their Chocolate Whiskey topped with coffee buttercream was no exception. Although you can’t really taste the whiskey in the cake, it made the cake a little richer and moister. The hand drawn candy martini glass added to the top was so festive for the night!

Energy Drink Ginger Poppyseed

This cupcake was another Cupcake Wars contender, minus the guava frosting. Since our original review it’s been a favorite of mine, but hasn’t been on the menu for the fall. However, with the theme for the night being high energy, Starry Night brought it back! I missed the guava buttercream, however since the cake is amazing I was happy to at least get another taste of it!

Raspberry Champagne

It being the New Year and all, you can’t celebrate without some Champagne! Starry Night opted to keep the champagne in the cake and not the buttercream frosting, so the champagne flavor didn’t really come through but did make the cake super moist! The raspberry jam was in just the right proportion, so it didn’t overpower the cupcake and the champagne colored sprinkles added elegance to the cupcake that one associates with drinking champagne.

We hope everyone had a fantastic New Year’s Eve, with or without cupcakes! If you did have some cupcakes that are worth mentioning, please let us know, we would love to hear about them!

Happy New Year!

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

Winter Cupcakes for the Winter Cold

During our quest for holiday cupcakes, we encountered some that were more winter themed than Christmas themed. So, as the days get colder, we decided to share these cupcakes with you today.

The first two are from Fancy Cakes by Leslie.

Our first experience with Fancy Cakes was back during our 2011 Cupcake Tour. It was an overall crowd pleaser and a favorite to most of us that day. Crusader Elisa was lucky enough to sample their cupcakes again when her cupcake loving co-worker, Rebecca, brought them to her. Here are her thoughts:

Red Velvet with Purple Icing:
Red velvet is a tough cupcake to get right, and while I love Fancy Cakes, this one was not my favorite. The cake was dry and somewhat flavorless. The buttercream icing was the saving grace, with it’s sweet, buttery, savory flavor. Rarely do I eat the fondant toppings – I’m just not a fondant fan – but I do eat them from Fancy Cakes because they are simply scrumptious! So I enjoyed the glittery snowflake and scraped every bit of icing off the plate.

Chocolate with Raspberry Icing:
I love raspberries and so when Rebecca brought me this cupcake I was very excited! The chocolate cake was mild and not too sweet, and while it was a little dry, it really boasted chocolate flavor. The icing, while very sweet, had a true raspberry taste and I would bet that it was made with real raspberries and not some extract flavoring. This cupcake makes my list of cupcakes to order again, next time I am down that way.

The other cupcake we wanted to share is the Hot Chocolate from IcedGems Baking.

Elisa had a great experience with all the Christmas themed cupcakes from IcedGems, and this one was no different (from Elisa):

How can you not love a cupcake with marshmallows on top and a tiny straw for decoration? The cake was swirl cake – a cupcake rarity in my experience! I was so pleasantly surprised by the moist, swirling chocolate/vanilla cake, and then the icing just melded all the flavors together into a cohesive, creamy, yummy, chocolate-y cupcake. I would definitely order this cupcake again!

The Crusaders are excited about all the wintery flavors out there right now. Have you had any winter cupcakes yet? If not, you should definitely get out and see what your local cupcakeries have to offer!

Happy Winter!

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

Gluten free can be delicious.

I know, you’re thinking, “Gluten free cupcakes are never good.” Well, that’s just not true. There is a place in Baltimore City called Sweet Sin Bakery and Cafe, and they do Gluten free the right way. I was just reminded today how much I love their Chocolate Raspberry Ganache cupcake. It’s moist and decadent, just like a cupcake like this should be. Some of their other cupcakes are hit and miss, but I promise that you won’t be disappointed in this one. So next time you see “Gluten Free” go ahead and give it a try. You might be happily surprised.

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