Baked by Melissa’s Spring 2015 Flavors

Baked by Melissa announced that they were offering some very special new flavors this spring… Cupcarons! What’s a Cupcaron you might ask? Well, if you guessed a teeny tiny mini cupcake topped with the smallest macaron you’ve ever seen, then you guessed correctly!

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Luckily, Crusader Elisa and I had already planned our annual girl’s weekend to NYC and we arrived in time to try these new mini treats shortly after they were released.

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(Flavors from left to right: Cotton Candy, Chocolate Graham, and Strawberry Cream)

I started with the Cotton Candy flavor because I don’t usually like cotton-candy flavored anything (unless it’s the real deal). I was actually surprised because it wasn’t awful. Maybe the miniscule size made it just enough to not be overbearing, but I would have glad eaten another.

After that I moved onto the Strawberry Cream. Sadly, I wasn’t a fan of this one at all. I know that it’s nearly impossible to pack in real strawberry flavor into something so small, but it tasted way to artificial to me. Crusader Elisa didn’t love the Cotton Candy or the Strawberry Cream either, but she thought the Strawberry Cream was better than the Cotton Candy.

I saved the Chocolate Graham for last because this flavor looked the most appealing (although the bright colors of the Cotton Candy and Strawberry Cream make those two much more fun to look at!). Of the three Cupcarons, this was by far my favorite flavor. However, compared to another flavor they had that day, Triple Chocolate Fudge, it was just “good.” The Triple Chocolate Fudge was AMAZING.

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What really surprised me was how crisp and perfect the macaron-tops managed to stay on all three cupcakes. I didn’t eat them all the same day they were purchased, and so I was expecting them to possibly get a little stale and chewy, but that didn’t happen at all. They were perfect.

I’m not sure how long these Cupcarons will be available, so if you get a chance, definitely go try them for yourself!

While we were there, we also had a chance to try Baked by Melissa’s March mini-of-the-month: Cookies in Milk.

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This little cupcake was SO GOOD and packed a lot of flavor. It actually tasted like cookies dipped in milk. I don’t know how they do it, but Baked by Melissa has mastered the art of blending lots of different flavors in something that is so very small. We’ll definitely keep going back for more!

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

Minnie Mouse & Lemonade Make a 2 Year Old Happy!

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My ideas for a lemonade stand themed party began brewing shortly after Leah’s 1st birthday last year (I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about it!). I love the color yellow and the idea of lemonade for a summer party with all the lemon-themed treats and cupcakes we could have.

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As the year progressed and Leah developed a love for all things Mickey and Minnie, I thought it would be cute to include touches of her favorite characters. I knew yellow would be a dominate color, but after adding Minnie into the mix, I also included pink…which worked well for pink lemonade too. Some of the DIY items included the invitation and party signs, Minnie/Micky paper lanterns, bunting, and party favors for the girls. We also collected “change” for No Kid Hungry, which totaled $54 at the end of the day!

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Some of the items I decided not to do myself this year were the cake and cupcakes. I splurged on cupcakes, deciding to allow the experts to do their thing. Since I splurged on the cupcakes, I kept the cake inexpensive by purchasing an $8 cake from BJs Wholesale, which was the perfect color right off the shelf.

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Kupcakes & Co. has created Minnie Mouse cupcakes for clients in the past, so I knew their capabilities to make them look good. I used one on top of the cake, to jazz it up, along with a glittery candle and cake bunting that matched the window bunting.

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They also began offering Pink Lemonade cupcakes earlier this year. It’s a sweet cupcake, but kids like sweet (and some adults, like my husband). With those facts in mind, I was swayed to let someone else take this task off my plate.

Kupcakes & Co. Specialty Flavor – New Twist on Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
The cupcakes decorated like Minnie Mouse were a special flavor, made just for Leah! Well, sort of.

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Their Strawberry Lemon cupcake is lemon cake with strawberry frosting, but I love their strawberry cake and lemon frosting (the reverse), which I’ve tried from other cupcakes, so I asked if they could put those together for us instead of the usual, and they did! The flavor combination differed from their standard and everyone really liked it. The lemon frosting isn’t too sweet and the cake is light. It was the perfect summer cupcake.

LeahsBirthday_OreoPops

In addition to sugar cookies (some with a lemon glaze), rice krispie treats, and candy, we also had Minnie Mouse Oreo Pops for dessert. This gave our guests another fun, non-lemon flavored, personal-sized treat to enjoy (they were fairly easy to make, after a test run earlier in the week—let us know if you want to see more about how to create these pops).

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One thing we forgot to pull out were the cupcake flags. A few of the Pink Lemonade cupcakes would have been cute with some little flags in them, but the table didn’t really need the extra decoration in the end.

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Leah loved all the Minnie Mouse touches, the candy that was within reaching distance, and of course the cupcakes (or at least the frosting). It was a great day, filled with love from family and friends that came to celebrate my little girl!

If you’d like to see more from the party, you can check it out on Catch My Party, where we were featured again on their homepage, and Fizzy Party, where we more about the party details.! Also, the party designs (without Minnie Mouse – just lemonade themed) will be available on our new Etsy Shop, Eye2Eye Design, so keep an eye out for that!

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

Catch My Party

A Baking Adventure: No Frosting? No Problem!

Have you ever found yourself wanting cupcakes when all the bakeries were closed? You have all the ingredients in the pantry for cake (or in my case, a box mix), but nothing for frosting? I know I’ve been in this situation. I was pregnant, craving yellow cake, and NOTHING could get my mind off of it until I had it. So I baked 2 dozen vanilla cupcakes, even with no frosting, or frosting ingredients, in the house. After the cupcakes came out of the oven and I devoured one (or maybe two…) with no toppings, I browsed the fridge and freezer to find creative frosting options I could use throughout the week.

Strawberries

I had fresh strawberries and was lucky to find Cool Whip in the freezer (actually, I pretty sure I always have Cool Whip in the freezer). It was perfect for a strawberry shortcake cupcake! The next night I decided to take it to the next level.

Berries

I got fancy and layered the cupcake with whipped cream, mixed berries, and cake. Messy to eat, but oh so good!

IceCream

Being pregnant, I of course craved ice cream at some point, so I cut the top off of a cupcake, creating a little “cake bowl.” What you do with the top is up to you. I managed to save it for photos (how I resisted is still a mystery!), but no one here will judge if you eat it as soon as it’s cut off the cupcake.

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Lastly, one night I was craving chocolate and peanut butter. I attempted to make frosting by mixing peanut butter with Marshmallow Fluff, but it still stayed fairly dense. That’s okay, it was still delicious! I also melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and spooned it on top.

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At the time I wanted the chocolate to harden to create a “shell,” so I chilled the cupcakes for a little while. Looking back I think the melted chocolate would have been amazing too!

The great thing about leaving the cupcakes “naked” after baking them was that I was able to tailor each to my cravings and got a lot of variety. I’m not one to run out every time I’m craving something I don’t have. Instead, I use what I do have to recreate my craving or act as a substitute. So, the next time you think, “I need a cupcake!” but don’t have all of the obvious ingredients, think about us and get creative! Do you have any frosting alternatives that you like to use? Let us know!

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

Gotta Play to Win!

SHPContest_Me (Photo by Sweet Hearts Patisserie)

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen that last week I won Sweet Hearts Patisserie‘s contest! I rarely win anything, so for a long time that discouraged me from entering contests, but then I heard the phrases, “Gotta play to win,” and, “Someone has to be a winner!” Now, I participate in more blog giveaways and Facebook contests, and it has paid off! By guessing the correct number of Easter eggs in a basket, from a photo that Sweet Hearts Patisserie posted on their Facebook page, I won a dozen cupcakes!

SHPContest_Cupcakes (Check out my prize! Chocolate Silk, Salted Caramel, French Vanilla, Strawberry Cream, and Lemon Berry cupcakes.)

The best part of winning a dozen cupcakes was the opportunity to spend the afternoon in Annapolis, having lunch with my dad and in-laws, while sharing my winnings. My mom-in-law loved the Lemon Berry cupcake we’ve tried before, and my dad enjoyed his Chocolate Silk cupcake just as much as the last time. The French Vanilla, Salted Caramel, and Strawberry Cream cupcakes were new to both my dad and I.

French Vanilla

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My dad and I both agreed that, while the vanilla cake was very dense, it was still moist and full of flavor. The frosting was equally as delicious and creamy, like vanilla ice cream.

Salted Caramel

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My dad left the Salted Caramel cupcakes to me because he isn’t a fan of the flavor combination. This cupcake used the same vanilla cake, topped with salted caramel frosting and sprinkled with sea salt. Just like all of their frosting, it was smooth and buttery.

Strawberry Cream

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The Strawberry Cream cupcake had a fresh strawberry cake, topped with strawberry buttercream. The cake was incredibly moist and the frosting tasted like a strawberry milkshake. I’ll be dreaming about this cupcake!

Sweet Hearts Patisserie’s Easter contests didn’t end last week. The Easter eggs used in the guessing game were hidden in Downtown Annapolis last Friday…all 105 of them! The eggs contain a slip of paper entitling the holder to a free treat, so if you find yourself downtown keep your eyes open (or just head over to Sweet Hearts Patisserie for an Easter treat…that might be easier than hunting down an egg)!

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

Guest Review | Dessert Affairs Kiosk | Columbia, MD

I couldn’t ask for a better co-worker than today’s Guest Reviewer (and fellow blogger), Deidre. She not only loves sweets as much as I do, but she often acts as a taste tester for my kitchen creations and never objects when I bring a cupcake in, hoping she’ll share with me so I can have a partner in crime. If you love fashion and sewing in addition to sweets, you should check out her blog, Sew Hot Mommi. Today, she has taken a break from threads and patterns to share her review of Dessert Affairs, a cupcake kiosk at the Columbia Mall located in Columbia, MD. Thanks Deidre!

One of the side effects of working with a cupcake blogger is a heightened awareness of the confection. When “cake-to-frosting” ratio is a part of the normal office banter, you can’t help but become hyper sensitive to their presence. And with the explosion of bakeshops specializing in the diminutive treats, I see them literally everywhere.

Now normally when out shopping at the mall, I’m on a mission, in and out as quickly as possible, mainly out of respect to my wallet. However, recently I was in the mall, with my power-walk going, when I’m stopped dead in my tracks by of all things…a cupcake kiosk. Who knew! Evidently Dessert Affairs did because they’ve taken up residence in Columbia Mall. Now as a self-professed sweet-aholic, I felt compelled to stop and was greeted by one of the friendliest bakers I’ve met. When I do a little blog name-dropping, i.e., that I’m pals with the Cupcake Crusaders, the red-carpet is rolled out and I get star treatment.

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So let’s start! For a satellite location, they’re pretty well stocked. Owner, Atiba de Souza, rattles off 11 flavors for starters and lists several more that are back at his store in Rockville. I decide on a half-dozen including: Cinnamon Caramel Apple, Strawberry and their signature Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake. Of course I go right for the signature cupcake and I must say, it was yummy!

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(Signature Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake)

The frosting was superior! Not too much and not too sweet. Even a sweet-aholic has her limits. The chocolate cake was moist, which is an absolute must in my book. My only comment would be on the filling. I was hoping for something more…hmm…homemade as the strawberry filling was more of a gel. Guess I was hoping for bits of fruit, but it wasn’t distracting so I enjoyed it all the same. Next to cross my palette was the Cinnamon Caramel Apple.

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(Cinnamon Caramel Apple)

Flavor wise, this was in the yum buckets category too. However, I would classify it as more of a breakfast treat as the cake was denser than anticipated, which wasn’t a bad thing. I could imagine sipping tea with this to the side. Frosting was a wee sweet for me though, but the texture was surprisingly smooth.

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(Strawberry)

Last tasting honors were given to the Strawberry cupcake. Decent enough, nothing that wouldn’t satisfy the urge for dessert, but wasn’t quite as memorable as the other two.

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Now because this is a kiosk, I’ll end on giving them kudos for décor. There were enough eye-catching props to invite you in. Final analysis, I would have to say, well done Dessert Affairs, well done.

MAIN STORE: Rockville, MD (by appointment only for design consultations)
MALL LOCATION:  Columbia Mall, Columbia, MD

– Review by Guest Crusader Deidre (Maryland)

A Baking Adventure: Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes

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When Crusader Stacy and I started brainstorming cupcakes ideas for our Passionately Pink Bake Sale, I knew I wanted a naturally pink frosting. That idea, paired with looking for an excuse to make Sprinkles Cupcakes’ strawberry cupcake recipe (featured on Oprah.com in June 2009), solidified my cupcake project.

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The recipe was easy to follow, although if I’d had my standing mixer at the time it would have been even easier! I wish I had noticed prior to getting started that the recipe only yields 12 cupcakes. Since I didn’t, I tried getting 24 cupcakes and ended up with 16-ish. For some reason the cake batter didn’t really rise either (I seem to have this problem with from-scratch recipes), so the cupcakes ended up being relatively small.

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The cake was dense and crumbly, and would have benefited from a strawberry filling. But, the frosting, oh the frosting! It was divine. It had the flavor of a strawberry milkshake and a perfectly smooth consistency. Although everyone seemed to like the cupcakes and said good things about them, I would recommend a different cake recipe. But definitely use Sprinkles’ frosting recipe!

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

Passionately Pink Bake Sale Success!


(Crusader Stacy and myself at our bake sale table. Look at all that pink!)

For Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Cupcake Crusaders wanted to do something to help the cause. You may have noticed that we decided to “Go Pink” on our Facebook and Twitter pages, but that’s not all we wanted to do. On October 28th, we held a bake sale at Horizon Church in Reisterstown, MD, to raise money for Susan G. Komen’s Passionately Pink, which encourages fun ways to get the community involved.


(Full view of our table with all our baked goodies.)

After our last bake sale to raise money for No Kid Hungry, there was a lot of excitement to have the Crusaders back, which made us feel really good. There was a nice variety of treats, including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and Rice Krispie treats.


(Some of our bake sale items included: brownies – some with M&Ms, pecans, and peanut butter chips; mini chocolate cupcakes with pink vanilla buttercream frosting; and pumpkin spice cookies with white chocolate chips.)

Jackie from La Casa de Sweets was kind enough to donate 2 dozen chewy chocolate chip cookies, and they were some of the best cookies I’ve ever had! Our mom also made 4 dozen brownies!


(Cookies from La Casa de Sweets, which sold out!)

Crusader Stacy made her (now famous) Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes, and dressed them up with pink wrappers and sugar crystals for the occasion.


(Crusader Stacy’s Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes.)

I tested out a new recipe, Sprinkle’s Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream, which we’ll be posting a full review of soon.


(My Strawberry cupcakes with naturally pink cake and frosting.)

The bake sale was a huge success and we nearly sold out of everything. We raised much more then we anticipated: $132 in sales and $65 in donations, for a total of $197.00! We would like to give a big thanks to our Horizon friends and family who were so generous in their support. In total, we raised $254 dollars thanks to donations to our Passionately Pink page! If you’d like to help out, it’s still not too late to donate. Check out our Passionately Pink fundraising page…every little bit helps.

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

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

MmmmMmm Delicious! – That’s So Morie Cupcakes

We met Lamorea, of That’s So Morie Cupcakes, at our first Cupcake Picnic in Washington DC. She came fully prepared with many summer flavors, each wrapped up individually and ready to take home to enjoy after recovering from an intense cupcake coma. Since then, we tried several times to meet up again to indulge in cupcake goodness, but for one reason or another it never worked out, until recently.

She graciously gave us a dozen cupcakes to sample in a variety of flavors: The Usual (Vanilla), Strawberry Cheesecake, Naptown (Coconut Almond—named after our mutual hometown, Annapolis), and Caramel Butter-Pecan Chocolate Deluxe.

It just happened to be my mom’s birthday the same day I picked up cupcakes from Lamorea, so after delivering one of each flavor to Crusader Elisa’s house, there were eight left for my family to all enjoy together (with the disclaimer that Crusader Jenn and I each had to have at least one bite of every flavor).

The Usual

I knew, on looks alone, this vanilla cupcake would be the favorite of my nieces (ages three and under). They were all instantly drawn to the vibrant blue frosting and happily split one cupcake among the three of them. This classic cupcake almost had a sugar cookie like quality to it. The frosting wasn’t overly sweet and it reminded us of those frosted sugar cookies you find at the store (which we actually really love). Typically I would prefer a vanilla cupcake to have more vanilla flavor, but because it was reminiscent of a sugar cookie, it didn’t bother me at all.

Strawberry Cheesecake

This cupcake consists of a fresh strawberry cake infused with cheesecake, a vanilla wafer crust on the bottom, and topped with a cream cheese frosting. We all agreed it was wonderful. My mom felt like it tasted like a strawberry danish, while Jenn thought it was more like a strawberry shortcake. With its true cream cheese frosting (not too sweet) I personally agree with my mom (sorry Jenn!).

The Naptown

This cupcake starts with an almond cake, is topped with Lamorea’s savory cream cheese frosting and is then dipped in toasted coconut. When done right, almond cake is one of my favorites and the combination of flavors in this cupcake work much better than I thought they would. In fact, this was both Jenn’s and my favorite.

Caramel Butter-Pecan Chocolate Deluxe

When Lamorea told me about this cupcake I was immediately intrigued. I like butter-pecan, I like chocolate, I like caramel, but how would they all taste together? Well, as it turns out, they work really well. Of all the cupcakes, this one was the sweetest of the bunch, which we think was due to the caramel drizzle. I’m not sure if it would be too much, but I LOVE salted caramel and wonder if it would work on this cupcake, or just add too many flavors?

Going into this cupcake tasting, I already knew I would love these cupcakes, since we tried several other flavors at the cupcake picnic, but it was nice to try Lamorea’s creations without being somewhat overdosed on cake and frosting.

That’s So Morie Cupcakes will be offering Treat Yourself Fridays starting in late November.  She’ll be testing this out by posting select cupcake flavors every other Tuesday to be picked up as a six pack that following Friday. Also, according to her Facebook page, she’ll be coming to Odenton, MD soon (currently located in Millersville, MD) and will be selling her cupcakes and cake pops individually. We are very excited for Lamorea and her growing business! For more information on That’s So Morie Cupcakes, visit their website or Facebook page (trust me, you won’t be disappointed!).

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

Best of Baltimore Party, with cupcakes!

When my co-worker, Alyssa, asked me if I would be her date for the Best of Baltimore 2012 Party I jumped at the chance to go to this exclusive party dedicated to all the best things in Baltimore. It was at the Hippodrome this year, which is a favorite venue of the Crusaders, and boasts tons of food, drinks, dancing, Baltimore fun… and cupcakes!

(Photo from Best of Baltimore website, no harm intended)

Luckily I mentioned to Crusader Stacy that I was going, because her immediate reaction was, “I bet there will be cupcake places there!” Surely enough there were – two in fact – and Alyssa and I hunted them down to try the confections of the night.

We started with Dirty Carrots, a new vegan bakery. They had two mini vegan cupcakes:

Chocolate with Salted Caramel Frosting (on the left)

This mini cupcake, which Crusader Jenn and Stacy have tried before, was really good! The cake was moist and had good texture – not like a normal cake, but not like some other vegan cakes I have had that tend to be dry, with an almost grainy texture. The frosting was also good, very flavorful and I loved the hint of salt. It did have a little bit of an odd texture, but not off-putting enough to bother me. I really enjoyed that mini and would like to try it in a full-size cupcake sometime.

Vanilla cake dipped in Chocolate Ganache with Vanilla Frosting (on the right)

This mini wasn’t as good as the first one. It was on the drier side and the chocolate ganache just didn’t taste like chocolate. The icing was very good though, especially since I know there isn’t any butter in it.

Next we went to Midnite Confections, a favorite of the Crusaders. They also had two mini cupcakes in flavors we haven’t tried before:

Strawberry (on the left)

Having recently fallen head over heels for strawberry cake, this cupcake had a lot to live up to… and it DID! The cake was the perfect strawberry, moist, mini treat and the frosting was sweet, smooth, and paired perfectly with the cake. I did not know that Midnite Confections made a strawberry cake cupcake, and it is now a necessity for me to stop by the shop and pick up a full size version.

Vanilla with Vanilla Buttercream (on the right)

Moist and exploding with vanilla flavor, this mini really packed a flavor punch. I’m not always a fan of vanilla/vanilla cupcakes, but I enjoyed this mini and know I would love their full size cupcake.

The Best of Baltimore party was fantastic, I cannot thank Alyssa enough for taking me as her date, and I thank Crusader Stacy for suggesting I write a post about the cupcakes featured there. An awesome party, with cupcakes, and a post?! Count me in anytime!

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

Part 3: Cupcakes + Wolf Trap + Idina Menzel = Perfect Night Out with Cupcakes from Cupcakes!

As Crusader Jenn and Crusader Stacy said in their posts the past two days, we all adore Idina Menzel. My adoration only began because they introduced me to her and I thank them, because she is amazing… but enough about her talented self and onto more cupcakes.

Crusader Stacy and I made two stops before meeting up with Crusader Jenn and Guest Crusader Ashley at Wolf Trap for the concert. Our second stop was Cupcakes! in Vienna, VA. Located in a cute little shopping center, and upstairs from an eclectic gift shop, Cupcakes! was the perfect spot.

Cupcakes! boasts a lovely cupcake display with a variety of flavors to choose from, but they also have cupcake related gifts and gift items. Stacy went home with a new cupcake stand that has to be the most perfect little mini cake stand ever made. The staff were very helpful and sweet, explaining that they bake fresh every day and that the cupcakes are moist and flavorful, while the frosting is just sweet enough. They are just lovely; great customer service is never wasted on the Crusaders, we really appreciate it, as it can be hard to find.

We stuck to our “one cupcake per person, per location” rule for the day and decided on the following:

Dolce De Leche

Moist cake with smooth frosting that embodied Dolce de Leche. It’s a tough flavor to begin with, as it is sweetened milk that is heated and reduced down to an almost caramel type consistency, but Cupcakes! nailed it. The cake alone was lacking a little in flavor, but with the frosting and spot-on texture, all together it created perfect harmony. We liked this cupcake, and agreed its decoration was simple, but cute.

Strawberry

Two words: Strawberry CAKE. The staff told us that they use fresh strawberry in their cake, instead of using the strawberry in the frosting – we all thought this was brilliant! This allowed the strawberry flavor to shine, while the frosting wasn’t overly sweet. (I find fruit frostings to be on the sweeter side because you have to add more sugar to keep it stiff.) All of us enjoyed this cupcake, but I have to say that it was my favorite of the day and makes my list of top 5 cupcakes I have ever eaten. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Our experience with Cupcakes! could not have been better. Friendly staff and fantastic cupcakes, who could ask for more? Its only downfall is that it is so far away from Baltimore – because I wish I could go once a week for my strawberry cupcake fix. Whenever any of the Crusaders are in the Vienna, VA area we will have to stop into Cupcakes!.

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