Happy Hour Cupcakes from Kupcakes & Co.

Summer may be coming to an end, but Kupcakes & Co. decided to go out with a bang. All last week was their Happy Hour Week, with a featured cupcake fashioned after popular drinks and special offers to go along with them.

I had a chance to stop by and sample some of the week’s offerings. As usual, I was greeted with a friendly smile and eagerness to help out.  They were only featuring one happy hour cupcake a day, and on this day the option was Piña Colada.

This cupcake had Kupcakes & Co.’s signature light, moist cake, flavored with coconut (and rum?), pineapple frosting, and was topped with coconut. As soon as I bit into the treat I thought, “Wow! It tastes just like the drink!” It’s one of my favorite Piña Colada cupcake to date and made me crave the actual drink, just to continue the flavor.

Due to my timing in stopping by the shop, I was fortunate enough to get the cupcake that would be featured the next day: Margarita, my favorite drink! I’m sure you can imagine my excitement.

The Margarita cupcake had a lime, rum cake (although I didn’t really detect the rum), with a lime frosting, sprinkled with salt, and topped with a festive paper umbrella. Although the cake was amazingly moist and light, just how I like it, there was one thing still missing for me: the telltale tequila flavor. Since I love margaritas, I would have liked to pick up hints of tequila. But I am glad they added salt, because a lot of margarita cupcakes skip the salt, and I’m a salt on the rim girl.

Whenever I’m at Kupcukes & Co. I always scan the display case for new flavors I haven’t had before. They have a large rotating menu, and on this day I saw Peach Cobbler. The moist peach cake maybe could have used more peaches, but then again that could have made the cake mushy. I particularly loved the crumb/streusel topping and small dollop of vanilla bean frosting. Frosting lovers might not agree, but I thought it was the perfect amount for a cobbler cupcake, just like having a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

While we don’t usually review cookies, this item needs to be mentioned. Besides, it has frosting so that makes it okay. This summer, Kupcakes & Co. has been offering a margarita sandwich cookie. The only way to describe it is to say it’s amazing. On my last visit, they only had the cookies without frosting. I really liked the cookies and thought the frosting might make this treat too sweet for me, but I was wrong! The sandwich cookie had the perfect amount of salt to balance the sweet. Dare I say I may have liked this more than the cupcake? I can’t even pinpoint why, with them both sporting the same frosting, but it was just that good.

Special Mention:
Cassis Macaroon from Apple Pie Bakery Café,
The Culinary Institute of America
While I was there I talked to the owner, Michelle, about her twin daughters going off to college. Allison just started at JMU and Amanda is at the CIA in New York. She is such a proud mom (as she should be!), and took the opportunity to share with me what sorts of treats come out of the CIA kitchens, include one of the amazing macaroons. If I’ve had a macaroon before, it was forgettable, but this one was not. It had the perfect texture I’ve heard described on The Food Network, crunchy and smooth on the outside, soft on the inside, with a mild, but sweet flavor. Hopefully macaroons of this quality will be a part of the menu at Kupcakes & Co. in the future. And now I’m really curious what the cupcakes at Apple Pie Bakery Café are like…

Our Westminster, MD Cupcake Picnic Recap

Sunday’s Westminster Cupcake Picnic was another successful gathering, with help from Joel of Josie’s Confections. More cupcake lovers were able to make it out to the Westminster Community Pond and the cupcakes were plentiful! We scored a great spot under the pavilion, next to the playground, which worked out well for some of our youngest attendants.


(Crusader Elisa, Guest Crusader Beth, and myself hanging out while others arrived.)

Although sitting on blankets at our DC Cupcake Picnic made it really feel like an old-fashion picnic, it was nice to have the tables this time. The breeze felt great sitting in the shade. It couldn’t have been a better day for a picnic!

We were admiring the cupcakes that had already shown up, but holding off digging in. It seemed like it would be more polite to wait until some of the others arrived. But then our little niece Lylah said, “I want a cupcake.” With that, the cupcaking began and didn’t stop, as more people showed up with their picnic contributions.

Cupcakes that were in attendance:
1) Joel brought some of his new Josie’s Confections’ boozy flavors, including Tiramisu with a Kahlua filling. Look out for a full review of Josie’s Confections coming later this week.
2) Josie’s Confections’ Mango Passion Fruit and Rum & Coke.
3) Josie’s Confections’ Ciroc Red Berry Lemonade.
4) Robin and Camille came with homemade marble cupcakes topped with chocolate ganache.
5) Beth brought an assortment from Fresh Bakery. We’ve reviewed Fresh a few times but this was the my first time tasting their Creamsicle and it had the perfect Creamsicle flavor.
6) Rachael brought her homemade Snickers cupcakes, which I also tried at her daughter’s 1st birthday and are always a hit!
7) Crusader Elisa made Honey Grapefruit cupcakes, two ways. One had a grapefruit curd filling and the other had a honey filling. Keep an eye out for a full recipe review soon!
8) I brought these store bought cupcakes that came from Walmart. Flavors included Lemon, Vanilla Bean, and Triple Chocolate. For those curious about how these full-size Walmart cupcakes tasted, I’ll be doing a review next week.
9) Crusaders’ Dad brought Golden Snitch cake pops, extras from a Harry Potter birthday party he hosted the night before. Guest Crusader Beth was very excited to see these there!
10) I think these Pink Lemonade cupcakes also came from Robin and Camille’s group. So many cupcakes, it was hard to keep track! After tasting and complimenting them, I found out that they were made with Pillsbury’s Pink Lemonade cake mix.
11) Another candy bar themed cupcake came from Guest Crusader Kim, who wrote about her first experience making these for her 30th birthday party.
12) Crusader Stacy made Lemon Blueberry cupcakes and jazzed them up for the summer with some fancy decorating. She’ll be featuring these in a post coming soon!


(With so many cupcakes, we learned that there would be a lot of cupcake-exchanging going on. This time the Crusaders provided a “to-go” option for our guests.)

At the last picnic we had a cupcake eating challenge and thought maybe we’d see if anyone wanted to take on “The King” and try to beat his time of 5 cupcakes in 3 minutes and 45 seconds. There was one brave lady, Simone, who stepped up to the plate (or in our case the picnic table…we ran out of plates that could fit all 5 cupcakes).


(Simone with the 5 cupcakes she selected. We admire her courage in taking on The King!)

She attacked those cupcakes with gusto, but in the end Joel gets to keep his reigning title as the real “Cupcake King.” We were very proud of Simone’s attempt and she left with a prize pack as a thank you for participating.


(My cupcake carnage…Those cupcakes didn’t see what was coming to them.)

We hope that everyone had a good time and thank our guests, especially those who drove over an hour from DC and Northern Virginia! It was great to meet other enthusiasts and enjoy the nice day talking about baking, cupcakes, and getting to know one another better. After two great Cupcake Picnics, we are even more excited for our final Baltimore picnic next month and are already getting requests to have a 2013 picnic series! If you are interested in attending the Baltimore Cupcake Picnic, check out more details and RSVP here.

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

Summer Baking Experiement: Mojito Cupcakes (with Rum!)

When the time came for me to select a cupcake recipe for our DC Cupcake Picnic, I knew I wanted something with a summer flare. As I browsed through my collection of saved cupcake recipes (I feel like I’ll never bake them all…) I was torn between so many different options. In the end, I settled on a cupcake inspired by one of my favorite summer drinks, a Mojito.

The recipe I had started with a box mix, which as you know is the only way I bake. Unfortunately I can’t find where the recipe came from (if you know, please share and I will update this review), but here are the directions I had saved:

“Prepare 1 package of super moist butter recipe white cake mix according to directions, but substitute 1/2 cup of rum” and juice of 1 lime for roughly half the water (I put the rum and lime juice in the measuring cup first, then filled to 1 1/4 cup as the box instructed with water), and add the zest from the lime and ~ 1 oz. of finely chopped mint to the batter while mixing.

This cake batter was super easy to make and only required a handful of ingredients. The result was a moist cake that contained a complex level of flavors with the lime, mint, and rum.

That same recipe used a pre-made frosting, but since I recently decided that it’s easy to mix up and modify a simple buttercream frosting, I knew I had to find something else. While I was searching for the perfect mojito frosting, I came across instructions for a rum glaze. After having the Piña Colada cupcake from Roland Park Bagel Co. which had some sort of rum glaze, I knew I had to give it a shot.

The rum glaze I found came from the Cupcake Villains’ blog and only contained 4 ingredients! While the cupcakes were in the oven, my awesome baking assistant (AKA: my good friend, Kerry) and I tackled the glaze. It ended up being easier than we thought, so we left it on a low heat while the cupcakes finished baking and moved on to the frosting.

After finding tons of possible recipes to use for the mojito frosting, I decided to go with a recipe from Gooseberry Mooseberry. Her mint was WAY MORE finely chopped than mine was, so I’ll need to work on that, but overall, it turned out great.

I modified her recipe by omitting the triple sec and adding in just a splash (about 1 teaspoon) of the dark rum. I did this for two reasons: 1.) mojitos have rum, and 2.) I didn’t have triple sec, but I did have plenty of dark rum. I thought the rum was a good addition because it helped cut the tartness of the lime juice and lime zest, which was a little overpowering at first.

I really could not have been happier with the final results. Even my trusty assistant, Kerry, loved the cupcakes and she doesn’t even like mojitos. I would definitely call that a success.

Even though Kerry and I decided they were amazing, the real test would be how everyone else reacted to them the next day at the cupcake picnic (especially the real bakers!). Luckily I received nothing but positive feedback, praise, and shocked faces when I fessed up to starting out with a box mix. Maybe I should start keeping that little secret to myself?

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

National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challange: Taste of the Seasons

This past Saturday, Crusader Jenn and I braved the nasty rain soaked roads and headed to the National Capital Area Cake Show‘s Cupcake Challenge in Annandale, VA. This year’s theme was ‘Taste of the Seasons’ which was well represented with approximately 75 entries. With this many entries and about 700 attendees, we knew we needed a plan of attack, so prior to the show we decided on the flavors we most wanted to sample.

Between the two of us, we only had about 3 duplicate flavors, so we sampled 15 flavors in total. Before I proceed, I should clarify that they were mini cupcakes, so it was easy to taste every flavor in one sitting.

After sampling them all, we decided that it would be slightly overwhelming for our readers to have a full description and critique of 15 flavors, so we have picked our very own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners and then provided you with a peek at the remaining 12. (These selections are not reflective of the competition’s decisions and are solely those of the Crusaders and the 15 flavors we tried).

1st Place: French Vanilla Coffee Creme Brûlée (Season: Winter)

Baker: Inayah Zaman

This was our clear favorite of the night. Amazingly, you could taste all the flavors, and there was an added element of strawberry which was unexpected, but worked incredibly well. The edible gold glitter and the chocolate “handle” added the perfect finishing touches. We both voted for this as our favorite on the People’s Choice ballot.

2nd Place: Cherry Blossom Sake (Season: Unknown)

Baker: Wanda Cushing

The delicate gum paste cherry blossom on top of this mini cupcake matched the mild sake and cherry flavors. Both flavors complemented each other nicely creating a really enjoyable and totally unique cupcake.

3rd Place: Chocolate Covered Coconut Robin’s Egg (Season: Spring)

BAKER: Monica Pearson of Monica’s Sugar Studio
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Spring’ category, voted by the competition judges. This baker was also last year’s ‘Best Professional Cupcake’ winner)

This adorable mini cupcake had really good coconut flavor throughout. The coconut blended well with the chocolate which somehow managed not to be overpowering. There was even a coconut filling in this tiny little treat!

As you can see, the competition was fierce! Here is a glimpse at the other flavors we tried, with a special “Honorable Mention” for a cupcake we thought was great, but didn’t make it into our final 3:

Honorable Mention: Root Beer Float (Season: Summer)
Baker: Deanna Rybak
(This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Amateur Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)

1: Gluten Free Eggnog Coco (Season: Winter) – BAKER: Caroline Litt
2: Gingerbread with Lemon Curd (Season: Winter)
– BAKER: Trevor Burroughs, “The Cake Guy” featured on Food Network’s Sweet Genius
3: Carrot with Orange Marmalade (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Linda McLean
4: Orange Creamsicle (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Sandy Schmuff, Dessertabilities
5: German Chocolate Easter Egg Nests Cake Ball (Season: Spring)
– BAKER: Emily Baird, Alexandria Cake Pop Company (They won this year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Winter’ category for their Peppermint Chocolate Cake Pop, voted by the competition judges.)
6: Piñajito (Pineapple Mojito) (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Catherine Baroang
7: Peach cobbler (Season: Summer)
– BAKER: Lora Gookin, Gâteau (This year’s 1st place winner in the ‘Professional Summer’ category, voted by the competition judges.)
8: Maple & Rum Flavored Pumpkin (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Juanita Holloway
9: Chocolate Bacon Chipotle (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Kyle Downes (Tied for 6th Place People’s Choice)
10: Red wine poached pear (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Tracy Fuller, Simply Desserts
11: Gluten Free Chai Brown Butter Meringue (Season: Fall)
– BAKER: Becky Rink

After sampling all of these bite sized treats, we headed to the auditorium for a live demonstration by Doron Petersan, owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery. Sticky Fingers is a vegan bakery that has competed three times on the Food Network’s show, Cupcake Wars. They have won twice and are the first vegan bakery to ever win on an All-Stars show.

Doron’s demonstration was entertaining and full of great advice for upcoming bakers like, “Take business classes, the rest is easy. You like to eat, you taste it, if you like the way it tastes, it’s good.” That evening she was showing us all how she makes her Chocolate Bananas Foster cupcake. Even with all the sampling we had done, by the end of the demo, our mouths were watering hoping to one day try that cupcake.

Following the live demo was a book signing where we got to meet Doron. She couldn’t have been nicer and even posed for a quick picture with us!

We promised her we would be visiting her shop in DC this summer, when the weather got better, and we can’t wait! You will probably also see some of the recipes from her book posted on our blog as I dabble into the vegan baking world!

Overall it was a great night that couldn’t have ended on a better note!

To see a full list of the official National Capital Area Cake Show’s Cupcake Challenge winners click here.

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