4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #2: SAS Cupcakes | Newark, DE

Brewery_GroupShot
(Crusaders enjoying lunch at 16 Mile Taphouse, practically right across the street from SAS Cupcakes.)

Although we couldn’t wait to try out our next cupcake stop, the appeal of local brews was too much to resist, so we decided that a savory break would be a good idea. 16 Mile Taphouse is situated across the street and about a block down from SAS Cupcakes and offers a full menu, as well as their own 16 Mile Brewery beers (Georgetown, DE).

16MileBrewery

In addition to each selecting a beer to fit our tastebuds, we ordered the 16 Mile Fries to share. The beer cheese fondue that came with the fries sounded the most appealing, but paired with the spicy aioli…perfection! The weather was so nice that we were able to sit outside (and the people-watching was top notch – Newark is a college town and, to our luck, they were having some sort of family day). After filling ourselves with savory delights and ample people-watching, we headed up to SAS Cupcakes.

SAS_Storefront

SAS Cupcakes makes sure they are easy to find. Although their awning was a little hard to spot while driving down Main Street, the windows are filled with large cupcake photos and they have a sidewalk sign, so it was really hard to miss them.

SAS_StoreInterior

Walking into the store, we were instantly transformed into kids in a candy store. Greeting us were fun chandeliers, cupcake themed gifts, nostalgic candy, and a wall full of party hats for all occasions. It’s hard to do anything but smile in a place like that, and the staff further proved it. They were all friendly, patient, and excited about their store and cupcakes. We were (slightly) more successful in sticking to our one cupcake per person rule here. I think I had more trouble deciding than the rest, because Crusader Elisa’s eyes bee-lined to the Red Velvet and she didn’t look back.

Red Velvet
SAS_RedVelvet

You can tell just from the photo that the cream cheese frosting on this Red Velvet cupcake is smooth and buttery, Elisa’s favorite kind of frosting. Red Velvet tends to be one of those cakes that you either love or hate. While Stacy and I lean more towards the “dislike” side, we both agreed that this was one of the top Red Velvet cupcakes we’ve tasted. It was hard to get Elisa’s thoughts into words…she was too busy enjoying her cupcake!

 Frangelico Hazelnut – Seasonal
SAS_FrangelicoHazelnut

Stacy also didn’t take too long to decide, settling on the Frangelico Hazelnut cupcake. Her thoughts were that the frosting was really sweet, but had a good flavor. And while the cake was a tiny bit dry (mainly dense and crumbly), it did have a good natural flavor, unlike some places that offer a moist cake, but taste just like what you’d find in a box mixed.

Triple Chocolate
SAS_TripleChocolate

It’s possible that my dad picked the winning cupcake of the day, the Triple Chocolate. It was so incredibly moist, with a rich chocolate cake and dense chocolate truffle center. The chocolate layers continued with dark chocolate ganache on top, a dollop of chocolate buttercream, and chocolate sprinkles. Really, that’s five chocolate elements (not three), but we’ll let SAS Cupcakes off the hook for that.

Pumpkin Spice – Seasonal
SAS_Pumpkin

After much debate (and seeing what everyone else was getting…meaning what I’d still get to taste), I settled on the Pumpkin Spice cupcake. I don’t usually like this much frosting on a cupcake, but most of the cupcakes were heavily topped, and the cinnamon in the frosting looked very appealing. As soon as I had this cupcake in my hands, I noticed how sweet it smelled and wondered if I made the right choice. I proceeded with caution and was pleasantly surprised how the spice and pumpkin came through over the sweetness, giving this cupcake a great flavor. However I was left with a kick of sweetness at the end, that stuck with me. The cake was also a little crumbly, not something I’m used to in a pumpkin cupcake, which tend to be very moist and dense.

Despite my thoughts on the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake,  I decided to select two cupcakes to take home since the Triple Chocolate cupcake was so good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter
SAS_ChocolatePB

I was really hoping that the peanut butter frosting on this cupcake would deliver big flavor, however it wasn’t very peanut-buttery at all. My initial disappointment was redeemed when I realized that the center of the chocolate cake was loaded with pure, smooth peanut butter. If the frosting had packed more flavor it would have easily overpowered the chocolate cake, but all the elements blended together created a well balanced cupcake in the end.

Oreo
SAS_CookiesCream

After a full day of cupcakes, I went ahead and gave the Oreo cupcake to my husband, to enjoy all to himself. So, we’ll have to take his word that, “It was awesome.”

All-in-all, we really enjoyed our trip to SAS Cupcakes. We’d love to go back and explore the town more, grab a beer at 16 Mile Taphouse, and pick up a cupcake or two. For chocolate lovers, the Triple Chocolate cupcake is reason enough to visit if you find yourself in the area.

Next week, Crusader Elisa will be sharing our last tour stop, Cupcake Heaven in Wilmington, DE. We had an interesting experience there, so keep an eye out for the review!

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

Texas Cupcake Trekking (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in my Texas adventures from last week’s review, after leaving Dallas, four men and me trekked to Austin in a very small car which meant a tight squeeze, funny stories, and laughing. After a few hours in the cramped car, we were more than happy to check into our hotel and relax by the pool. Right away I did some cupcake research and narrowed down the sites I wanted to see in our short two day trip.

After a fantastic brunch at Taverna, I attempted to stop at me first cupcake shop, Delish. Sadly, it was closed because of Labor Day. 😦 I hadn’t even thought of Labor Day being an issue, so when I got back to the hotel I took time to call and see if my other stops would be open. That’s when I ended up on the phone with Totally Nuts Bakery. Sadly, they are a delivery service not a store front, but I had to mention them because they were so wonderful on the phone. (On top of that, they said they would look up our blog and send us some cake pops to sample! We haven’t heard from them yet, but after perusing their website, we are very excited about the possibility!) I felt like I was striking out left and right, and began to think I would never find cupcakes in Austin!

AustinCapImage
(The Capital Building, Cool Sign near the University, and Barton Springs)

Luckily my last pick was the voted the best cupcake in Austin and was open! After seeing some sights (including the amazing Capital building) and taking dip in Barton Springs, the boys and I drove over to Hey Cupcake! on South Congress Street. (They have 4 locations throughout the Austin area.)

Austin-StoreFront

I quickly picked 2 cupcakes to try and bought one of their official take-home oven boxes. My boyfriend ordered a cupcake as well and we sat down at their cute picnic tables for a taste.

Pumpkinator
Austin-Pumpkin

Spicy and sweet cake with graham cracker cream cheese frosting = YUM. Some pumpkin cupcakes end up more in the muffin category, but not this one! By-far the best pumpkin cupcake I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. The frosting to cake ratio was perfect, so perfect in fact, I didn’t want to share it! While it might have been very hot outside, this cupcake felt like a cool fall breeze.

24 Carrot
Austin-Carrot

GOLD. This cupcake wins a gold medal for it’s layering flavor profiles and smooth, complimentary cream cheese frosting. The walnuts on top gave great additional texture to this already fantastic cupcake. The shredded carrot weaved through the moist cake with raisins and walnuts as well. What a cupcake, it really is worth it’s weight in 24 carrot gold.

Red Velvet
Austin-RedVelvet

When I ordered this cupcake the lovely staffer said that their red velvet wasn’t like others, it was more traditional. That it was. The cake was moist, but didn’t wow me with red velvet flavor. The cream cheese frosting is the same great frosting found on the other two cupcakes we tried. Perhaps the it was hyped up a bit too much, or the other two cupcakes were just that fantastic and made this one seem boring. Either way, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my favorite of the three.

Austin was great, and while I thought my cupcake trek was over, on our drive back to Dallas we stopped at a famous truck stop called Czech Stop & Little Czech Bakery. Most people go there for the kolaches (a type of pastry) but they also happened to have cupcakes!

Austin-Czech
(Adorable Little Czeck bag, Peach & Sausage Kolaches)

I ordered two kolaches and a cupcake, I just couldn’t help myself. My breakfast sausage kolache was the perfect pastry breakfast treat and the peach kolache was sweet and tart. I can see why people make it a point to stop at this little bakery ad truck stop. Not sure I could eat more, I moved on to trying the cupcake…

Peanut Butter Chocolate
Austin-CzechCupcake

Creamy and rich, moist and sweet, this cupcake was the perfect end to my cupcake treck across Texas. The frosting was smooth, super peanut buttery, and as you can see, very tall! There was SO much frosting, but the rich chocolate cake called for that over abundance. The largest of the cupcakes I tried while I was in Texas, also happened to be one of the best.

Labor day weekend in Texas was relaxing, fun, filling, and wonderful. The people were welcoming and lovely, and the food was fantastic! (Be warned, everything has some heat to it, even if it doesn’t say it’s spicy.) It was great to be out of town, see two new cities, visit some historical sites, and spend time getting to know some new friends. The cupcakes were fantastic too, and I can’t wait to go back and try new spots I missed this time around.

*A very special thank you my loving boyfriend Mike and his friends for letting me tag along on their boys trip, and trekking me all over to find cupcakes in two Texas cities!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Charm City Cupcakes – Are New Locations Impressing New Neighbors?

Engelia, from Key Events, is a new friend to the Crusaders. We met at church and quickly discovered a love for a couple of things: Reality TV and cupcakes! I later found out that Engelia is also party lover and expert at DIY. This lead her and a friend to start Key Events – Boutique Event Planning. Check out their website…You’ll find beautiful wedding cupcakes in their gallery. Today, Engelia is sharing a review of Charm City Cupcakes’ new location in Owings Mills, MD at the Valley Village Shoppes. Thanks, Engelia!

In the process of running around town picking up food and decorations for a “manly” themed birthday party, I stopped at a stoplight across from the Valley Village Shopping Center in Owings Mills, MD. A sign caught my eye that read “Charm City Cupcakes.” I live in the area and pass this center at least five times a week and knew that this was a new addition. As I pulled into the parking lot and parked, my heart sped up at the anticipation of a new dessert hitting my lips and maybe even making an appearance at this “manly” birthday party.

Charm City Cupcakes is a well-known bakery in the MD area. With three locations including a flagship store at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, they have a new location at 9101 Reisterstown Rd. Owings Mills, MD 21117. Out of all of their choices, I selected the red velvet cupcake (one of their Charm City Classics as listed on the menu) with a cream cheese frosting and a chocolate mousse filling. They require a minimum order of six cupcakes. I placed an order of six cupcakes for pick up the day before the party. Side note: I did not order more as 1) this was my first time ordering from Charm City Cupcakes and wanted to minimize loss if the cupcakes were not enjoyed and 2) I’d just picked up a dozen cupcakes from Giant. Basically, I’d already filled my cupcake party quota with the Giant order but thought it would be a nice surprise for my client.

The pickup went smoothly and the associate behind the counter was the same woman who helped me when I placed the order. She was very pleasant and was able to call the owner directly with any questions. The cupcakes were placed nicely in a white box. I placed the treats in the refrigerator overnight and prayed that they did not dry out.

PARTY WILLandDAVE web_0028_Sized
(Red Velvet cupcakes in custom cupcake wrappers, from Etsy. To see more from this moustache party, visit Key Event’s Facebook album.)

Party Night! I placed the six cupcakes out on a glass display. I wrapped them in moustache themed cupcake wrappers and placed a moustache ring on top of the cupcakes. Long story short, I had to swipe one of the cupcakes about an hour into the party so that I could try it later. As I listened to guests enjoy the cupcakes, there were mixed reviews. A couple of guests commented on how smooth the chocolate mousse filling was and made a great pairing with the softness of the cupcake. Another guest did remark that his cupcake was a little dry and the frosting too sweet. I quickly interjected that the dryness most likely had to do with the fact that I refrigerated them overnight.

My thoughts: I finally got to try the red velvet cupcake around 11:30pm that night. The cupcake was at the perfect temperature as it’d sat out for about two hours. I have to let you know that the red velvet flavor is my absolute favorite and I’ve tried it in pretty much every way possible from cake pops to cakes to cheesecake to doughnuts. Often, if not mixed and baked properly, the essence of the flavor can be easily dried out. Charm City Cupcakes did a good job of preserving the center of the cupcake and incorporating the filling. The center was soft and moist. The top of the cupcake was a little hard around the edges but was offset by the softness of the cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting was semi-sweet. I tend to like my frosting a little less sweet but as we know everyone is different. Overall, I would have liked the cupcake to be moister at the top and a less sweet frosting but I’m more than open to trying their other flavors and recommending them to others.

– Guest Crusader Engelia, from Key Events (Baltimore, MD)

Cupcake Bites

CupcakeBites

Attempting to capture the wonder of cupcakes into a tiny candy morsel, the makers of CookieDough Bites created Cupcake Bites and Red Velvet Cupcake Bites. I found each of these at our local dollar store and curiosity got the best of me.

2YearGiveaway_Candies

They come in little boxes, like movie theater candy (and just like movie theater candy these days, the boxes are larger than necessary for the contents because the candies are housed in a bag, and then boxed).

CupcakeBites_RV

The Red Velvet Cupcake Bites are definitely red on the outside. Unfortunately so much red on such a tiny bite leaves the the candy with that unmistakable red dye flavor. The inside of the candy, to my surprise, was not red, but cookie dough colored. After popping a few more in my mouth, I realized that the flavor was more like cookie dough than cupcakes. I suspect that the insides might be a very similar recipe to the original CookieDough Bites.

CupcakeBites_Reg

I had higher hopes for the regular Cupcake Bites. They were certainly fun, with their colorful sprinkles, with extra scattered in the bag like confetti. The soft candy coating on the outside tasted like white chocolate but the inside looked like the Red Velvet candies and tasted more like cookie dough.

Although these candies don’t necessarily live up to their name, they are festive and easy to indulge in. Not overly sweet, especially for a candy, they are easy to pop in your mouth one after another, without paying much attention to how many you’ve eaten. I think they’d be great dropped into a tub of buttery popcorn!

If you’d like to try them for yourself, head over to our contest page because we are giving away a box of each in our Two Year Anniversary Grand Prize Giveaway package, and you could be the winner! The contest ends tonight, Monday July 22nd, at midnight. Good luck!

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

Crumbs into Chocolate

From gift guides to giveaways, we Crusaders always have our eyes out for new cupcake related items. It really is amazing how the cupcake trend has taken the entire shopping world by storm in the past couple of years. Recently, Healthy Crusader Rebecca brought me a Crumbs Red Velvet Cupcake chocolate bar. (Of course the Red Velvet Crusader has to taste test anything Red Velvet.) As if Crumbs cupcakes weren’t grand enough, now they can temp consumers with chocolate bars too?!

Red Velvet Cupcake Chocolate Bar
Crumbs-RVcandyBarWrapped
(Beautifully designed packaging and “Made with Love.”)

Crumbs-RVcandyBar

Red Velvet cake batter in “fine Belgian” milk chocolate with bits of cream cheese frosting make up this sweet treat. Smooth and creamy with the perfect balance of savory cocoa and sweet, this red velvet chocolate bar is better than most Red velvet cupcakes I have tasted. The slightly red chocolate has the perfect texture and melts in your mouth. While I didn’t taste the cream cheese frosting bits, I could see them throughout the chocolate. I had to stop myself from eating the entire bar all in one sitting.

Who would have thought that one of my favorite Red Velvet cupcakes would become a chocolate bar? Granted, all three of us Crusaders enjoy a good chocolate bar and sweets in general, but of course we prefer cupcakes. This chocolate bar is one I would buy and eat again, and now with two locations in the Baltimore area (Columbia and Towson), and locations popping up all over the nation, you can get delicious Crumbs cupcakes or chocolate bars anytime you want. It’s great to see cupcake flavors branching out into other “foodie” realms, and the next time I am at a Crumbs you can be sure I will be buying both cupcakes AND chocolate bars.

Special thanks to Healthy Crusader Rebecca for this special treat!

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

A Second Chance for True “CakeLove”

We Crusaders want each cupcake we try to be great, sadly that isn’t always the case and sometimes we end up writing reviews that aren’t so sweet. Because we pride ourselves in being perfectly honest, good or bad, we will write about it. Every so often we hear back about changes that a baker or shop made after reading our review, with requests to try their cupcakes again. Well, we love eating cupcakes and are always up for giving a shop a second chance, so when CakeLove contacted us about giving them another try, we knew we had to go!

Crudsader Stacy was the first to try CakeLove about a year ago (read review), sadly it didn’t quite live up to her expectations. Kim LaMore, CakeLove’s Corporate Sales and Service Manager, saw our review this past February and contacted us about giving CakeLove another try. We were excited to hear that they made some changes after reading reviews from yelp, bloggers, and other social media outlets. (It is always nice when companies listen to their customers and take criticism in stride.)

After planning with Crusaders Jenn and Stacy, I set out to swing by CakeLove after the DC Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon in March. When I got to the shop I was greeted by very friendly staff and choose 6 cupcakes to bring back to Baltimore. The Crusaders and I made plans to spend the next day together and try them in true “cupcake buffet” form.

Bailey’s
CakeLove-Baileys

Who wouldn’t want some Bailey’s and chocolate cake the day after running a 1/2 Marathon, oh, and on St. Patrick’s day! While we thought the chocolate cake was just ok, the frosting really stood out and packed a punch of Bailey’s flavor. When eaten together the cake and frosting combination was a win.

Coffee Chocolate
CakeLove-Coffee

All three of the Crusaders love coffee, so this flavor was a must when I made my selections, and this cupcake did not disappoint. While we agreed that the cake by itself was nothing extraordinary, the frosting was amazing and we could have eaten a tub of it. The cake in this instance was merely a vessel for the fantastic frosting.

Red Velvet
CakeLove-RedVel

As always, Red Velvet vexes me and my cupcake crusade. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t a stand out in this bunch. The frosting was very smooth and a bit sweet, with an interestingly different flavor to it, perhaps mascarpone and a bit of butter? I wouldn’t mind having more of that frosting, but am not sure I want it on their Red Velvet cupcake.

Salted Caramel
CakeLove-SaltedCaramel

Lovely swirls of caramel and salt crystals adorn the delicious frosting of this cupcake, sadly the cake underneath was a bit dry and crumbly. I personally loved the frosting, it was smooth, very buttery (my favorite), and Crusader Stacy agreed that it had great salted caramel flavor. Crusader Jenn thought the frosting didn’t balance the sweet and salty, so this wasn’t her favorite frosting or cupcake.

Strawberry Vanilla
CakeLove-StrawberryV
This cupcake reminded me more of Strawberry Shortcake than a cupcake. The cake was a dry and crumbly, like that of the Salted Caramel, and even though the frosting was smooth and had great flavor, it couldn’t save this cupcake from being just “ok.”

Triple Chocolate
CakeLove-TripChoc

Sweeter than the rest, I was glad I saved this chocolate explosion for last! Rich and chocolatey, Crusader Stacy wished she had a glass of milk to drink with it. The shavings on top added a nice texture. And while super sweet isn’t always my style, this is a cupcake I would eat again and again.

CakeLove obviously made some fantastic changes to their recipes and we enjoyed their re-vamped cupcakes. We cannot thank them enough for reaching out to us! Not only did it give me a reason to eat cupcakes after running 13.1 miles, but it also gave us a fresh perspective on this very accomplished bakery. (And an added bonus for our readers: Kim sent along some interview questions to Warren Brown himself! Watch for that interview tomorrow.)

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

More From Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe, One Of Our Most Popular Reviews

When I brought Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe cupcakes to one of our Summer Cupcake Picnics I had no idea how they would be perceived. I tried them and I liked them, but there would be some serious bakers there. However, after passing them around for our guests to taste, and revealing that the cupcakes were purchased from Walmart, everyone was shocked.

Kimberleys_OriginalFlavors
(Flavors from our previous review: Triple Chocolate, Vanilla Creme, and Lemon Ice.)

After posting our review, we have continued to get (mostly) positive comments from others who have found Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe cupcakes at various locations across the nation. It’s been one of our most popular reviews, with a total of 84 comments and growing weekly.

With the attention our review has received, we wanted contact Give & Go, the prepared foods company that makes Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe cupcakes, located in Toronto Canada. We told them about all the feedback we’ve seen and asked if they could provide us with any additional information about these mysterious cupcakes (they don’t have a website and are not featured on Give & Go’s site).

Give & Go was very prompt in their response and overwhelmed by the great comments you all have left for them. Out of gratitude they asked if they could send us some cupcakes. Of course our response was, “YES!” Shortly after that I received 48 cupcakes at my doorstep!

Kimberleys_Shipment
(This is what a shipping box packed with four dozen cupcakes looks like. Two dozen on top and two dozen on the bottom.)

I was flabbergasted. As much as I would like to eat 48 cupcakes, I knew I shouldn’t. But at the same time I couldn’t help feeling like a giddy little girl on the day of her birthday party. In addition to the three flavors I had already tried (Triple Chocolate, Lemon Ice, and Vanilla Crème), we had three new ones: Pumpkin Spice, Carrot Nut, and Red Velvet. Our readers mentioned all three of these, but I hadn’t been able to locate them yet. And now here they were!

Kimberleys_AllFlavors
(Kimberley Bakeshoppe’s six flavors all together.)

Give & Go informed us that they produce their own products and distribute them using a thaw and sell method, where products are shipped frozen to maintain freshness, but are thawed by the vendor and sold at room temperature. They give credit to their vendors who have adapted to the method in order to ensure that the highest quality product gets in the consumers’ hands.

When I received my cupcakes they were packed incredibly well, with dry ice, and still frozen solid. I’ve been keeping them in the freezer until I’m ready to eat one or give a few away. They have all been so fresh, with consistently moist, light cake and well balanced flavors and sweetness.

Pumpkin Spice

Kimberleys_Pumpkin

The cake on the Pumpkin Spice cupcake was perfectly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, and filled and topped with a whipped cream cheese frosting. I felt a little rebellious eating a fall cupcake in the middle of winter, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy every moment.

Carrot Nut

Kimberleys_Carrot

Out of all the flavors, this was my least favorite. That doesn’t mean it was horrible, because it still had moist cake and Kimberley’s great cream cheese frosting, however the cake didn’t have as much texture as I like in carrot cake. With the name Carrot Nut I expected to have a lot of nuts in the cake, but I didn’t detect any other than the crushed nut garnish on top, which wasn’t enough for me.

Red Velvet

Kimberleys_RedVelvet

We’ve heard a lot of good things about this cupcake from our readers. I’m not usually a Red Velvet fan, but after trying 4 of the 6 flavors I had high hopes for Kimberley’s version and it didn’t disappoint. The cake was rich and didn’t lack flavor. Although the description says that it has the whipped cream cheese frosting on top and as a filling, the frosting on this one seemed different than the filling, and had more of a marshmallow flavor. Maybe it was just the pairing with the cake, but whatever it was I liked it!

Kimberleys_VanillaBananaSplit
(Just for fun…I like to play around with cupcakes, so here is a Kimberley’s Vanilla Creme turned into a banana split. Oh, it’s VERY good!)

If you happen to pass by these cupcakes in Walmart, Target, Kroger, or another grocer, don’t hesitate to pick them up. Based on the comments it seems like they range in price from $2.99 to $4.99 for four, so you can’t go wrong. If for some reason you find that your product wasn’t moist and wonderful then you should definitely inform Give & Go. They seem to be an honest, hardworking group, who really value customer service and the feedback of their consumers. It’s always nice to find out that the people behind the cupcakes are just as great as their product!

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

P.S. I ate a Kimberley’s Triple Chocolate cupcake while writing this post. It seemed appropriate. 😉

Paid in Cupcakes

Puppies are born cute and adorable so that their mother, and anyone else who sees them, will automatically love them and care for them. Seeing a puppy photo is how you end up agreeing to puppy-sit a 9 week old mini-schnauzer. While the puppy sitting went well and Healthy Crusader Rebecca’s new puppy Shelby couldn’t have been better behaved, getting paid in cupcakes from New York wasn’t a bad deal either. And cupcakes from Junior’s, which I have never tried before, is even better! Junior’s is well known for their cheesecake, but Rebecca couldn’t resist buying two of their cupcakes for me to try. She picked up the adorable Shelby and dropped off a Red Velvet cupcake (of course!) and a Hostess Chocolate cupcake.

Red Velvet

Juniors-RedVelvet

This red velvet wasn’t a stand out for me. The cake crumbles on top were dry and flavorless… which was a repeat occurrence in the cake as well. The frosting was oddly gelatinous and didn’t have enough cream cheese flavor, not what I expected from a cheesecake aficionado. This isn’t a red velvet cupcake I want to eat again.

Chocolate Hostess

Juniors-Hostess

I remember being a kid and begging my mom for the orange flavored Hostess cupcakes when we were at the grocery store. Every once in a while she would give in and I would savor every bite. The chocolate was always a favorite as well and Junior’s take on this tradition measured up in every way. The chocolate cake was moist and the thick chocolate frosting/ganache was rich. It could have had a bit more of the cream filling, but that’s really just being nit-picky.

With this 50:50 split on reviews, I will be tempted the next time I am in NY to give Junior’s another try, I just won’t order the Red Velvet. Special Thanks to Healthy Crusader Rebecca for trekking these all the way from New York City as payment for puppy sitting! – Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

One Sweet Find in Shady Side

Spending time in Pittsburgh with my Nona is one of my favorite things, and spending Christmas with my whole family at Nona’s house is a tradition! This Christmas was no exception and it was wonderful seeing and spending time with all my family. I had the luxury of spending a couple of extra days there after Christmas and decided that I better find some cupcakes to try. (The Crusaders and I have discussed at length how crazy it is that I often visit Pittsburgh, but have never gotten cupcakes while I was there, something they told me had to be remedied.)

After doing a bit of research I decided on Vanilla Pastry Studio. They have been voted Pittsburgh’s Best Cupcakes by WPXI, two years in a row and offer a delightful assortment of treats, including: cookies, brownies, muffins, bread, scones, whoopee pies, and special order cakes.

VPS-StoreSign
(The lovely sign above the entrance)

The shop is located in the Shady Side area of Pittsburgh, an eclectic and fun area where you can find delicious food, thrift shops, and revived old buildings. The store front was easy to find because of the large cupcake sign on the light post out front. (Note: Vanilla Pastry is moving to the Regent Square area in early spring, so if you want to stop by the shop, check out their Facebook page first and make sure they haven’t moved.)

VPS-OutdoorSign
(Clearly cupcakes are sold on this street! Check out the large cupcake sign on the sidewalk and all that snow.)

VPS-StoreInside
(The beautiful display and decor. Not pictured are the booths, cafe tables and comfy arm chairs.)

Once I walked in, I was in love with the decor and excited to pick from all the cupcake flavor options. One of the Sugar Fairies (that’s what they call the staff) greeted me, recommended a couple of cupcake favorites, and boxed up my choices while I walked around to check out the shop. I chose one cupcake to eat in the shop and also took photos of the other flavors I planned on taking home to share with some of my family later that evening. At $25 a dozen, the cupcakes didn’t break the bank. Below are my flavor choices and reviews.

Boozy Eggnog (season special and the cupcake I ate in the shop)
VPS-Eggnog

While Crusader Stacy loves eggnog cupcakes and lattes, I don’t. In fact, the whole idea of eggnog weirds me out a bit, but this cupcake came highly recommend and was divine! The cake was a moist and classic vanilla cake while the frosting was very smooth and not too sweet, with a delicious mix of eggnog spices and alcohol flavors. The crispy toppings were a fantastic additional texture. (Those little gems are hand painted in the shop!) While this is clearly not a cupcake for kids, it is one fine adult cupcake indeed and one of my favorites.

Red Velvet
VPS-RedVelvet

Being dubbed the “Red Velvet Crusader” maybe makes me a particularly tough critic on the subject. The bright red cake made me leery, but the cake was quite moist and I would say it had more of a vanilla flavor than true red velvet flavor. The frosting again was smooth and well balanced with its not too sweet and not too cream cheesy flavor, and the chocolate covered puffed rice topping was also a nice touch of texture. While this was a good cupcake, it wasn’t a great red velvet, so I am not sure I would order this one again.

Coconut
VPS-Coconut

This coconut cupcake is a vanilla cake and coconut buttercream with sweet coconut shavings on top. The cake was a bit on the dry side, and while the frosting was smooth, this cupcake just didn’t do it for me. I love coconut and am not sure what I was expecting, but after tasting and being wowed by other flavors, this one just fell flat for me. Even thinking about it now makes me shrug my shoulders and say, “Eehh.” Nothing particularly wrong with it, but also nothing particularly exciting either.

Chocolate w/Espresso
VPS-ChocEspresso

Whoever decided to put chocolate and coffee together is a personal hero of mine. These flavors come together in such great harmony, and this cupcake showcased that. The rich and moist chocolate cake was subtly sweet and paired well with the smooth, buttery, coffee frosting. The chocolate covered espresso bean on top added great crunch and a burst of additional coffee flavor. If you like coffee and chocolate together, I would highly recommend ordering this cupcake.

Lemon
VPS-Lemon

Sweet and tart in all the right ways. This cupcake had the same vanilla cake as the coconut, but wasn’t as dry. (Who knows why. Maybe one was baked a little longer, or wasn’t fresh from that day, etc.) The lemon buttercream was that smooth consistency I began to count on from Vanilla Pastry and had HUGE lemon flavor. You could actually see the lemon rind in the frosting and because it was paired with the sweet cake the tart and sweet flavors balanced out to just about perfect.

Chocolate w/Peanut Butter
VPS-ChocPeanut

We Crusaders have eaten a lot of chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes, and I use peanut butter on an almost daily basis, and I loved this cupcake. The chocolate cake was moist and had the perfect, true cocoa flavor. The smooth peanut butter frosting was the perfect peanut flavor and the salted peanuts on top added the perfect extra crunch to this fantastic cupcake. A must order!

While not all the cupcakes from Vanilla Pastry Studio were perfect for me, one thing was always consistent and dependable: the frosting. I don’t know how they do it, but their frosting is perhaps the smoothest frosting I have ever discovered. The flavor in the frosting is undeniably good and if they sold it in tubs I might never make my own frosting ever again. All in all a wonderful experience and one I look forward to having again the next time I am up in Pittsburgh for a visit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)