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)

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A Baking Adventure: Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles

The title is a little deceiving, since I didn’t actually have to bake anything for this recipe… But it did use baked goods, and it was definitely a kitchen adventure!

I had some frozen chocolate cake that I’d been wanting to use for cake balls, so as autumn hit the air and I was sitting at home one day wishing I had a seasonal treat, I came up with this recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles:

Ingredients:
– Baked chocolate cake
– Canned pumpkin
– Pumpkin Pie Spice
– Cream cheese frosting (I used canned)
– Chocolate of choice (I used semi-sweet chips)
– Crushed walnuts (Optional)

I just happened to have all this laying around, so my on-a-whim experiment commenced. I crumbled up the cake in a large mixing bowl, added in a dollop of canned pumpkin and a dollop of frosting, and then sprinkled in some pumpkin pie spice to taste. I found the best way to mix it was with my hands, so get in there and get messy. The key to cake balls is the texture. I failed, hence the title “truffle” instead of “cake ball.” I added in a bit too much wet ingredients so they were a little too moist for a cake ball.

Once everything was mixed up well, I rolled the cake balls and set them aside in the refrigerator. A couple of hours later I returned, with my chocolate melted and ready to dip the truffles. I read that it’s best to freeze these for about 15-20 minutes before dipping in chocolate; however, thinking that they’d been in the fridge for so long anyway, I didn’t do that. Listen to the cake ball experts people! Freeze them first. It helps keep the cake together when you dip, making less of a mess.

The chocolate came out thicker than I wanted and not as “pretty.” I’m not sure if this is an experience thing or because of the chocolate I used. I tried a couple of different techniques, including one recommendation to break off the center prongs of a plastic fork, just leaving the outer prongs to create a tool that helps excess chocolate drip off. Thick chocolate aside, I topped my truffles two different ways: crushed walnuts and pumpkin pie spice. Another tip I learned: when you are sprinkling chocolate with spice, wait until after the chocolate has hardened. Otherwise, it just melts and you can’t see it.

All in all, I’m happy with how these turned out. The taste was great, but the texture was a little weird when eaten at room temperature. Since I was worried about the pumpkin filling, I kept them refrigerated anyways, so it wasn’t much of a problem. In retrospect, I probably could have eliminated the canned pumpkin and just relied on the pumpkin pie spice for the flavor I was looking for. As with most of my adventures, I learned a lot and can see myself making cake balls/truffles again!

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

Fabulous Fall Selection from Kupcakes & Co.

My friend (and guest Crusader from our first California review), Julie flew in a week and a half ago to visit for a long weekend. For the most part, our plan was to visit Hersheypark because the amazing Megan Hilty, from NBC’s Smash, would be performing. However, I couldn’t host company for the weekend without cupcakes. This is what my friends have come to expect from me.

I decided that we would take a “back way” home from the airport (to avoid traffic, of course!) that conveniently took us past Kupcakes & Co. On this day I was able to take home all five of the new fall flavors! Michelle, owner of Kupcakes & Co., was very generous and also gave us a non-seasonal cupcake, a cupcake parfait which Stacy had been dying to try, cake pops including one fall flavor, and cookies! We left with more than enough to take us through the weekend!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Parfait

When I told Stacy that I would be stopping in Kupcakes & Co., her instructions to me were to bring her a fall treat. Her order of priority would be a parfait first, then cupcake, then cake pop. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any fall flavored parfaits but when Michelle heard that we still hadn’t tried one and how much Stacy wanted to, she wouldn’t let me leave without selecting one of the three options being offered that day. I choose the Salted Caramel Chocolate because caramel is a good flavor for the season (I think I’ll have to go back for the chocolate raspberry).

As you can imagine, a dessert layered with frosting and caramel is sweet! We’ve tried the cupcake version before but Dan (my hubby) really loved the parfait. I think he’s addicted now. Maybe it’s the size? Or all the frosting? But he has found a new love. I have to be honest, I might be addicted now too.

Maple Walnut

The Maple Walnut boasted a ton of maple flavor. Because of this, it would be difficult to finish a whole one without a cup of milk nearby, but I loved it. It reminded me of the maple candies I used to pick up every fall on a trip to Deep Creek with my hubby.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is definitely the most popular flavor of the season. And, I’m admittedly obsessed with it. This cupcake had a cake that is denser than Kupcakes & Co.’s usual cake, but that’s expected with pumpkin, and it was so moist! The thing that sets this cupcake apart from other pumpkin flavors is the tasty cinnamon cream cheese frosting that was a perfect complement.

Spice Cake

We expected the spice cake with cream cheese frosting would be similar to the carrot cake in flavor but were pleased to discover that it has its own distinct (and delicious) taste. Stacy pointed out that the spice flavor, from the nutmeg used, would make it perfect for the winter holiday. Hopefully Kupcakes & Co. will consider carrying this cupcake into winter.

Caramel Apple

Another favorite combination of the season, this cupcake had a moist apple cake, vanilla frosting, and a caramel drizzle. As far as apple caramel cupcakes go, this one was a little too sweet for me. Since Stacy, Julie, Dan, and I were sharing, I only got a portion and I would have liked more apple in my piece.

Carrot Cake

Like most, Kupcake & Co. tops their carrot cake with their awesome cream cheese frosting. It’s one of the best I’ve had…not too sweet, great spice in the cake, and great texture with fresh shredded carrot and nuts.

Mint Chocolate Chip

The Mint Chocolate Chip is definitely the odd-ball in a group of exclusively fall flavors. It is not one of their fall selections, but sneaked its way into our box. As much as I wanted to dive into it, I let Dan have this one all to himself, as a consolation prize for staying home with Leah while Stacy, Julie, and I had a girls’ dinner out. You’ll have to take his word for it when he says it was delicious. I think we can trust him, since he’s been on many, many crusades with me.

Cake Pops

Stacy called dibs on the Pumpkin cake pop (the bright, orange colored one), so that left the rest of us with the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch and Peanut Butter Marshmallow White Chocolate (Fluffernutter?) cake pops. I thought maybe Stacy was the lucky one after she raved about the Pumpkin cake pop, but upon trying the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch, I’d pick it again in a heartbeat.

Cookies
Kupcakes & Co. has been serving up cookies, along with biscotti, buckeyes, and other non-cupcake goodies, for a while now, and they really know what they are doing when it comes to baked treats. This time we got to try their large sugar cookie sandwich with chocolate ganache filling and a pumpkin chocolate chip sandwich cookie. It was so good. I mean REALLY good. So, if you are in there for a cupcake, don’t turn your nose up at the cookies.

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

Corner Bakery Cafe Supports No Kid Hungry

As many of you know, we’ve been supporters of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Every September they promote their Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ where many participating restaurants offer specials and give donations to support this great cause. Last weekend we were lucky enough to walk into Corner Bakery Cafe located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where they are collecting donations and even offering a free whoopie pie if you give just $1.00.

We usually review cupcakes, but with this being a great cause, we thought we’d make an exception. Plus we are still talking about cake and a frosting filling…equally as enjoyable as a cupcake (and much easier to store for later if you want to walk around town before indulging).

Not only did Corner Bakery Cafe impress us by supporting No Kid Hungry, they also impressed us with their personal sized treat. We chose the Pumpkin Spiced whoopie pie with moist, flavorful cake (the edges were slightly dry, kind of like what happens to cookies) and filled with a smooth cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It really was delicious.

There are still a few days left in September, so if you can get out to Corner Bakery Cafe, or any other restaurants and bakeries in your area that are supporting No Kid Hungry, please do! You can visit Share Our Strength’s website to see a list of places participating.

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

“Fall” in Love with Starry Night Bakery & Coffeehouse Again

I didn’t get to Starry Night Bakery & Coffeehouse as much this summer as I would have liked. With all the Cupcake Picnics and birthday parties, there were so many cupcakes and just at an arm’s reach. But, as soon as the air got crisp in preparation for autumn and Starry Night posted their fall flavors to Facebook (and a special Buy 1 Get 1), I was there! The timing was perfect because my mom was in town and we were going to have dinner with Crusader Stacy and my big sister to celebrate my mom getting a job offer that would allow her to relocate back to our area.

As usual, Starry Night’s autumn flavors did not disappoint. We bought an assortment of 4 different flavors, including Maple Pumpkin Spice, Salted Caramel Apple, S’mores, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip.

The Maple Pumpkin Spice is the same cupcake that I was addicted to last fall and it’s just as good this year.

The Salted Caramel Apple is another flavor that we had last year, but for some reason I feel like this year it’s better. The fresh baked apple in the cake makes this cupcake a real comfort food and the sweet and savory from the salted caramel is a perfect balance. It’s my new favorite.

Starry Night is jumping on the s’mores bandwagon with this cupcake, and they’ve done it well. I like the use of dipped chocolate ganache topped in crushed graham crackers, instead of frosting. There is also a marshmallow filling in the center of chocolate cake and then the whole ensemble is topped with some mini marshmallows.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter aren’t really autumn flavors, but Starry Night’s take on this classic was a new addition to their Quirky Cupcakes menu. Knowing how much my husband would like it, we included it in our package. This cupcake has Starry Night’s amazing chocolate ganache frosting with a vanilla cake packed with peanut butter chips. I was concerned with how much peanut butter flavor would come across, but you really did taste it in every bite. My husband and daughter both loved it, and I wish I’d gotten more than just one bite!

Starry Night is still working on autumn inspired cupcakes, with Amaretto chai spice cupcakes topped with chai buttercream added to their creations. They are also offering “Fall Harvest drinks” such as Pumpkin Spice, Maple, Chai, and Toasted Marshmallow. I can’t wait to get back in there to try more!

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

Birthday Celebration with Duncan Hines Frosting Creations: Cinnamon Pecan Cupcakes

I have a confession to make. My husband and I are crazy dog parents. Not quite as bad as this (tangent: if you haven’t seen the mockumentary, Best in Show, you really should, it’s hilarious), but still, we have our moments. Our most recent moment was for our puppy, Lana’s, first birthday.


(Yes, that is our adorable puppy, wearing a birthday crown, and posing for a picture. I told you we have our moments… Photo by Kenneth Adam)

We decided to have a “puppy party” with some good friends and encouraged them to bring their own fur babies. I haven’t ventured into the world of baking dog treats yet, but decided that since this was a birthday, and a gathering of mainly humans, I would finally use my Duncan Hines Frosting Creations to make cupcakes for the occasion.

A few weeks ago I purchased the Frosting Starter, the Cinnamon Roll flavor packet, and decided on a spice cake mix. I knew I had some time to decide how I wanted to modify this box mix and frosting, so after mulling over a couple ideas I went with Cinnamon Pecan Cupcakes.


(Mmmmm…. the final results were definitely tasty, but it wasn’t exactly what I had initially planned.)

Lately I’ve been modifying box mixes by adding a box of instant pudding, but with the spice cake, I knew that wouldn’t work. Instead, I Googled some easy modifications and replaced the oil with melted butter and the water with skim milk. I also added chopped pecans to the cake mix to give it that extra pecan flavor and added texture.

While the cupcakes were baking, I moved onto the pecan and brown sugar crumble I wanted to put on top. At first, I wanted this to be a nice gooey mixture, like a typical pecan cinnamon roll, but instead I got a crumbly mix. I’m not sure if I didn’t use enough butter or if I cooked the ingredients too long on the stove, but either way, since it still tasted great, I decided to go for it!


(Pecan and Brown Sugar Crumble.)

Once the pecan crumble and cupcakes were cooling I mixed up the Duncan Hines Frosting Creation. This was definitely the easiest part of this whole baking experience! While I don’t think it was any better than a cinnamon cream cheese frosting I made from scratch once before, it was still worth using since I had to focus a lot of my attention on the pecan crumble.

I didn’t want the pecan crumble to make the cake soggy, but I knew that I needed it to be placed in a frosting “ditch” to hold it in place, so I smeared a little frosting on the cake first to act as a barrier:

Once that was done, I filled my piping bag with the remaining mixture and added a ring of frosting around the edge, leaving a perfect space for the pecan crumble to sit:


(Luckily you don’t have to be too neat about this process since the crumble will cover up any extra frosting that ends up in the center.)

To scoop the pecan mixture on to the top of the cupcake, I used my Pampered Chef Small Scoop. It placed the perfect size dollop in the center of the cupcake.

Final results? A flavorful cupcake perfect for all occasions, especially breakfast!

If you want some ideas on modifying the Frosting Creations, you can visit Duncan Hines website here. Love from the Oven has also been doing lots of experiments that you can browse through here.

Have you tried Duncan Hines Frosting Creations yet? Did you modify it or just use as it was intended? What were your thoughts?

– 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)