Super Cupcakes for the Super Bowl

With the Super Bowl yesterday, it was a big weekend for parties. And we know what that means…CUPCAKES! This was no exception for the Crusaders. Many places were offering Super Bowl themed cupcakes, so we got out to make sure we had a few ourselves.

Starry Night Bakery and Coffee House not only had their cupcakes decorated with hand-drawn candy footballs and XLVIs, they were also offering a new flavor…Hot Chocolate!


(The decorated cupcakes are Starry Night’s amazing Cinnamon Chip Cupcakes)

After having a few hot chocolate cupcakes from other bakeries this season, I was very excited to try this flavor from one of my favorites. And it didn’t disappoint. The moist chocolate cake was complemented with a marshmallow filling and what I believe was a marshmallow buttercream frosting. I hope they keep it on the menu through winter, because I’ll be needing another one!

When Crusaders Stacy and Elisa heard that Pirate Cupcakes created a spicy chocolate cupcake specifically for a Super Bowl chili cook-off that was taking place at Captain Larry’s in South Baltimore, they knew they had to try it.

According to Stacy, “The rich chocolate cake was moist but WOW there was a ton of heat after the first bite!” This cupcake was also filled with pepper jam and topped with cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese frosting was sweet and delicious, but unfortunately did nothing to cool the burning left behind. This cupcake definitely requires a cold beer immediately after sampling. Elisa and Stacy just couldn’t handle the spiciness and decided that they will return to try some of Pirate Cupcake’s other, non-spicy, cupcakes.

Did you have any cupcakes during the Super Bowl? Were any more on the savory side? Do you like savory cupcakes, or do you prefer them to stick to their roots as a sweet treat?

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

Starry Night: We just can’t get enough!

When I found out that one of my favorite local bakeries, Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse, was introducing a new flavor, Cinnamon Chip, I just HAD to get down there and check it out! The other crusaders couldn’t resist either, so with a great “buy 1 get 1 free” deal, I stocked up for all of us. And I’m so glad I did!

This cupcake was so moist and packed a great cinnamon sugar punch. I don’t know how they created a cinnamon chip…maybe some sort of streusel…but I can’t stress enough how amazing this cupcake was. While having the cinnamon flavor you’d expect from a cinnamon roll or muffin, it still maintained a cupcake quality, which I loved about it.

Throughout many trips to Starry Night, I’ve been able to try some of their other cupcakes as well. One of these tasty treats included a cupcake they call Voodoo.

The Voodoo is an espresso cake with caramel buttercream, what I think is a chocolate filling, and topped with shaved chocolate covered espresso beans. As usual for Starry Night, this cupcake has moist cake and bold flavors. I highly recommend it for coffee enthusiasts.

On another visit, I decided that I should to venture out of their “Quirky Cupcakes” and into their standard cupcakes, so I picked up a toasted coconut.

This cupcake was good and I appreciated the sprinkling of regular and toasted coconut shavings on top. However, it wasn’t quite up to the standards I place on Starry Night because it wasn’t packed full of coconut flavor, like I expect from a cupcake. So I guess I’ll just have to stick with the “Quirky Cupcakes,” because WOW, they are good!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, 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)

What will you be dishing up this Thanksgiving?

The Cupcake Crusaders knew that we had to celebrate Thanksgiving in “Cupcake Style,” so when we saw what Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse had up their sleeve for this holiday the temptation was too much to bare.

I couldn’t wait to get these masterpieces out of the box to more closely admire them. While I was most excited about the cupcakes that looked like Thanksgiving staples, I also appreciated the festiveness of the turkey character and the simple leaf on top of chocolate icing.

Starry Night chose to take one of their special Cupcake Wars’ cupcakes, Mahoo Wahoo, and dress it up for the holiday with a cartoon turkey. This centerpiece for the collection is a good place to start.

While the flavors are not your typical for the season, the coffee taste for me represents the warmth that you expect this time of year. This cupcake uses Kona Coffee and is a chocolate cake with coffee drizzle glaze and coffee buttercream. If you like coffee and you like it strong, as I do, then this is the cupcake for you! Paired with the chocolate and it’s a match made in heaven.

Next in my selection was the Turkey Leg, which is their seasonal Pumpkin Maple cupcake (read a past review here).

While the decoration is seemingly simple, using crumbs and a candy bone sticking out of the frosting, it really looks like a turkey leg! And, what Thanksgiving would be complete without it? As for flavor, this is probably the 5th or 6th time I’ve had this cupcake this season. The maple flavor paired with pumpkin is a new favorite of mine and I just can’t get enough.

Moving around the dinner plate brings us to the Mashed Potatoes, or in this case chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, topped with a dollop of caramel.

This cupcake flavor falls into Starry Nights “Standards” and while it was tasty, with a buttercream icing that is just right, the cake wasn’t as chocolaty rich and moist as I would have liked. I wouldn’t say that it was dry, but I do prefer a decadently moist chocolate cake and this was not it. However, the caramel “gravy” did take the flavor to the next level and really makes me wish they plopped caramel on more frequently.

As with any dinner plate, there’s always a veggie. In this case it was Peas and Carrots, or a Red Velvet cupcake with buttercream frosting.

The detail in the decoration impressed me, right down to the sugar mimicking salt and pepper specks. I’m not usually a fan of peas and carrots, or Red Velvet, but was hoping for this cupcake to change my mind. Red Velvet is just so difficult to do correctly so I feel like most places should just skip it. While the flavor of this cake was good, better than most actually, the cake was dry so I wouldn’t recommend this for Crusader Elisa who knows her Red Velvet cupcakes. Also, while the butter cream icing was very good, I do prefer a cream cheese frosting on Red Velvet.

Continuing around the plate, takes us to dessert! In this case what looks like a sweet potato pie, but what is really an apple cake with buttercream frosting.

I’m assuming this cake is the same used in their Salted Caramel Apple seasonal cupcake (read a past review here). I was concerned that it wouldn’t be as good without the caramel buttercream, but this cupcake proved me wrong. The cake is just so good! Moist, flavorful, chunks of apple, need I continue? Topped with their perfect, not too sweet, buttercream really worked and it lets the cake be the star flavor, which I really appreciated.

Last on our plate is the Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache frosting, adorned with some festive sprinkles and a fondant leaf.

As with the chocolate cake, this cupcake could have been more moist. Not that it was what I would call dry, because I’ve had some very dry cupcakes, but it just could have been better. However, this is the same chocolate ganache frosting that was on their Halloween cupcake (see here) and I could eat tubs of it.

Like with any meal, some things stand out as the stars and others not so much. Over all I was pleased with what Starry Night brought to the table this Thanksgiving and I’m very thankful to have such a tasty bakery just minutes away! If you have a chance to stop in, their “Quirky” cupcakes are the way to go!

What will you bring to the table this Thanksgiving?

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

Creep Crawly Cupcakes!

Halloween is everywhere today. Kids (and adults) are all dressed up, either waiting to receive loads of candy tonight, or just hoping to put a smile on someone’s face. Houses are decked out, candy bowls are waiting by the front door, pumpkins are carved, and even the cupcakes are celebrating.

Today’s post will showcase cupcakes from 6 different locations ranging from the most popular (like Georgetown Cupcake) to the simple neighborhood grocery store, and everything in between.

The idea for this post came about becuase I heard my local bakery not only had Halloween themed cupcakes, but they also had special Halloween boxes to put them in. I had to go check this out and we decided the other crusaders should see what they could find. We hope you enjoy our collection of spooky sweets!

Hamilton Bakery: Baltimore City
Review by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy

As I mentioned above, I found out my neighborhood bakery, Hamilton Bakery, created themed cupcakes and were placing them in colorful Halloween boxes. I decided had to have one for myself. They only had the classic Vanilla/Chocolate flavors adorned with creepy fun, so I choose a Vanilla Vanilla with the Bat.

I have to say, for amazing as Hamilton Bakery is at creating pastries, I’m still not a huge fan of their cupcakes. I know the other crusaders might not agree with me, but like before, I think that their cake is a little too muffin like, and their frosting is way to buttery for my liking. But, it was a really fun treat to have for “Halloween Weekend.”

Fresh & Green’s: Baltimore City
Review by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy

Today was my boss’s birthday, and she loves having a Halloween birthday, so today we surprised her with cupcakes (of course), flowers, balloons, candy, the works. I was so glad that Fresh & Green’s decided to join in the Halloween fun and dress their cupcakes up for the occasion. I heard from my co-worker that the Chocolate Chocolate with the Trick or Treat Bag was delicious. I opted for the Vanilla Vanilla with the Green Frosting and Jack-o-lantern.

Doesn’t he look so happy? And it wouldn’t be Halloween without some Candy Corn and Chocolate Eyeballs to wash it all down with. The cupcake was decorated with a plastic, confetti-like, edible sprinkle. I’ve had edible glitter and edible gold, but I’ve never had edible plastic before, so I was a bit skeptical. After biting into it, the edible green stuff seemed to stick to my teeth, but it quickly dissolved. I’m not sure if this would be okay on a normal day, but for Halloween, it was just fine by me. The cake was the typical fluffy cake they had before and the frosting was the same wiped cream that I tend to enjoy. I was a little disappointed to see that their price has increased from $.99 to $1.50 per cupcake, but I’m going to assume that is becuase of all of the added decorations. And still, at $1.50 for these cupcakes, it puts them at half the price of most cupcakeries and bakeries.

UPDATE: Fresh & Green’s Hampden location is now closed.

Pirate Cupcakes: Baltimore City
Review by Guest Crusader, Beth Lacey

The moment I bought these six hilarious cupcakes from Pirate Cupcakes in Baltimore, Md., (sold exclusively through Captain Larry’s in Locust Point) I thought to myself, “Did I just spent $28 on a gimmick? Oh crap!”

I had bought two seeing eyes, two exposed brains and two vampire bites. They were out of mummies and spiders. The bartender at Captain Larry’s handed them to me unceremoniously in a plain styrofoam container (slightly squishing the brains and bites). I brought these crazy cool cupcakes home for further investigation and, you know, tasting. I selected the brain to sample first.

Mmm. It was a great surprise. Frankly, I started to think zombies might be on to something! It was huge, moist and flavorful. The madagascar vanilla bourbon spice frosting doesn’t just look killer. It was in good proportion to the cake and not so sweet that I didn’t want more. Inside, the cupcake was vanilla spice pumpkin with a pumpkin cream filling. Every bite of this delicious brain was good. Almost worth an arm and a leg, even!

Though Pirate Cupcakes loses a few points from me for presentation that doesn’t reflect the awesomeness of its super icing design, it absolutely gets this crusader’s thumbs up. Somebody bring me more body parts!

Starry Night Bakery and Coffee House: Westminster, MD
Review by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn

Hearing that one of my favorite local bakeries, Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse, had cupcakes decorated for Halloween, I decided that I should head over there and check them out. There wasn’t a big selection of varying decoration, but I did manage to get a seasonal favorite, the Orange Cranberry , with a spider web and also ventured into their standards section for a chocolate cupcake with a chocolate ganche frosting and gummy eyeball.


(Note: Prior to photographing the cupcake I accidentally dropped the box on it’s side, so the cupcakes sustained minor damage to the decorations.)

The Orange Cranberry appeared in our original review of Starry Night and this is the third time I’ve ordered it. I think that speaks for itself!

The chocolate cupcake was the first time I’ve ordered something from their standards and I have to say…YUM! While the cake was your standard chocolate cake, the icing was something between what you would find on a Berger cookie, a Baltimore favorite, and a chocolate frosted donut.

Although the decorations were on the minimalistic side, I fully enjoyed the taste of both of my selections and still had fun picking out which Halloween themed cupcakes I should get!

Georgetown Cupcake: Washington DC
Review by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa

Both of these cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake were Vanilla cake with Vanilla butter-cream icing (with some food coloring for the Ghost, orange icing!)

While they are on the more simple side, and not something I would normally order, they where simply tasty! The cake was moist, the icing was just what I expect from Georgetown, and they are the perfect size and price (in my Crusader opinion). I was very lucky that I got the LAST one with a ghost decoration and the orange icing – Lucky me!!

Sprinkles Cupcakes: Washington DC
Review by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa

The cupcake decorated with the Ghost is Caramel Apple and it was YUM! Apple-y delicious moist cake with a smooth dreamy caramel frosting. This is one for the cupcake record books!

The one with the signature Sprinkles Cupcakes‘ circle done in orange and black is Red Velvet. It was super moist cake with subtle cream cheese icing. This has easily moved in as my second favorite Red Velvet. I’d go back for them again!

Over all, the decorations were simple, but were on anything-but-simple cupcakes!

———————-

We hope everyone enjoyed our collection of tricky treats. It’s not too late to go out and find some of your own!

Happy Halloween!

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

Starry Night Bakery: A Shining Star for Cupcakes?

My experience with Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse began over a year ago. I was in search of a cupcake place in Westminster. There are plenty in Baltimore City, but living outside of the city I was curious about what local cupcake bakeries my town had to offer. I stumbled upon Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse and the reviews seemed good, but considering my cupcake experiences I was skeptical. Their website, while very creative, didn’t give me any details about flavors or even store hours. So one day, on my way home from work, I stopped in.  I was very please with the selection, made a few choices, and brought the cupcakes home. I had mixed feelings about the cupcakes, mainly because one of the flavors had a raspberry filling, but it was way too much filling. I recall that particular cupcake being too sweet between the jam filling and the icing.

Fast-forward to today…I heard about Starry Night’s seasonal selection and was very excited about their Salted Caramel Apple. I’d just tasted Happy Cakes’ and thought if I could get something similar locally, that would be great. I also learned that since my last experience with Starry Night, they were on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars! Now I was REALLY excited!

I went in and ended up leaving with four cupcakes: Two of the Salted Caramel Apple (one for hubby and one for me) and two of their “Quirky” Cupcakes; a Banana & Chocolate (called Monkey Biznass – or something like that) and their Salty Caramel. I later went back and decided that before reviewing these cupcakes I really should try the other two seasonal flavors, which also sounded delicious, and their Cupcake Wars cupcake, which seemed intriguing.  For the sake of the review, instead of going in chronological order I am going to start with seasonal, quirky, and then end with their Cupcake Wars cupcake.

Seasonal
The Salted Caramel Apple is an apple cake with a salted caramel buttercream.

While this cupcake was delicious, I do think that it could have used more caramel flavor. I’m not a big caramel person, but I do feel like caramel lovers would find it lacking and think that a caramel drizzle could be the solution. Not only would it add flavor, but it would also bump of the decoration and get customers really excited about their seasonal selection. However, the salty with the sweet was worked out perfectly and the apple cake was very good, so all-in-all, a very good cupcake.

The Orange Cranberry is an orange cake with dried cranberries and a buttercream frosting.

The aroma of this cupcake let me know that it was going to be good. I could smell the orange and cranberry and the taste was no different! Again, perfect level of sweetness with the bite of the citrus and cranberries. After tasting this cupcake, I thought it would be my favorite!

Lastly, the Pumpkin Maple is a pumpkin cake with maple buttercream. Yum!

I’m a sucker for maple buttercream, so I was really excited about this. Just like the Orange Cranberry, this cupcake did not lack on delicious aroma or flavor. Everything was balanced perfectly and I even picked up a hint of spice in the cake, maybe cinnamon. I appreciated the creative combination of pumpkin with maple versus the standard creamcheese frosting or plain buttercream typically used on a spice cake. As a seasonal flavor, this one ended up “taking the cake!”

“Quirky” Cupcakes
The Banana & Chocolate is a banana cake with banana filling and chocolate buttercream frosting.

After tasting the banana cream separately I was a little worried that the banana flavor was too artificial, however altogether the flavors really worked to create a perfectly balanced cupcake with all of the banana and chocolate taste you’d expect. The banana cake was excellent!

The Salty Caramel is a chocolate cake with caramel filling and salty caramel buttercream.

I was a little confused by the filling and originally thought it was a chocolate ganche filling. I think this is due to the caramel absorbing into the chocolate cake. As with the Salted Caramel Apple, I think the caramel flavor could have been bumped up a notch, but the salt with the chocolate still really worked and made this cupcake very enjoyable.

It looks like the “Quirky” Cupcake flavors are rotated, but they have some amazing looking combinations. I’m excited to try one that has chocolate and espresso. They also have their standard flavors, but who can even look at those with all the other interesting selections?

Cupcake Wars
As mentioned earlier, I found out that Starry Night was a competitor on Cupcake Wars. I thought this was so cool and wished that I had caught that episode, but sadly I did not and can’t find it online anywhere. While they did not win the competition, they did make it to the final challenge and according to Candance Nelson’s blog, it was a close battle. On my second trip there this week, I decided that it was mandatory to taste their Energy Drink cupcake, that they had created on the show. This cupcake is Ginger Poppyseed with a Quava buttercream. Sounds good to me!

And, it was! While all might not appreciate the floral note to the guava buttercream, I do. It wasn’t overpowering in my opinion and I loved the uniqueness to it. I couldn’t pick up the ginger in the cake, but the poppyseed flavor was delicious and the guava really complimented it well.

Verdict?
I believe that Starry Night has come a long way in a year and that they are a shinny star in the cupcake industry. While there’s room for improvement in terms of bringing some of the flavors out fully, they make a perfectly balanced cupcake with moist cake that will have me coming back for more!

Side Note: Starry Night also has a great coffeehouse selection and they really know how to make a good cup of joe with flavor combinations equal to their cupcakes!

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