4th Annual Cupcake Tour – Roadtrip Style | Stop #3: Cupcake Heaven | Wilmington, DE

Two stops into our roadtrip tour we Crusaders felt like we won the cupcake jackpot! Great cupcakes, cool shops, and even a little brewery break set the bar pretty high for our last stop, Cupcake Heaven in Wilmington, DE. (you can read those first two reviews here and here).

Following the GPS to the shopping center, things started to look oddly familiar. As we parked, I knew this was not my first time at this cupcake shop. A friend lives near Wilmington and we stopped by Cupcake Heaven during one of my visits. Honestly, I was hoping this experience would be better than my first… so we walked in and I wiped the opinion slate clean.

CupcakeHeavenSFacade

Cupcake Heaven had a variety of cupcakes to choose from. The staff was helpful, but didn’t seem enthused to be working. After making some difficult choices, we sat to try our flavors.

Cinnamon AppleAppleCinn-HC

Stacy’s Cinnamon Apple cupcake looked pretty appetizing, but was a complete disappointment. The cake was incredibly dry and the frosting was “blah.” The only redeeming quality of this cupcake was the filling, unfortunately there was very little of it, making for an overall sad cupcake experience.

Mint Chocolate ChipMintChoco-CH

Jenn was weary of her cupcake after seeing Stacy’s reaction… but as a true Crusader would, she trekked on and tried the Mint Chocolate Chip cupcake. The chocolate cake was very dry. And the frosting, while oddly bright, was surprisingly smooth and had great mint flavor. The best thing about this cupcake was how much Leah loved the frosting.

Sweet PotatoSweetPotato-CH

My sweet potato cupcake looked fantastic, but tasted like cinnamon cardboard. The frosting was too sweet and didn’t have much flavor, while the cake was a crumbly mess. After years of eating cupcakes all over the spectrum from good to bad, this one sticks out as one of the worst. Confirming that my first experience wasn’t a fluke.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake TrufflePBtruffle-HC

The best part of this cupcake stop, minus the company, was Stacy’s Peanut Butter Cake Truffle. The chocolate cake had great peanut flavor mixed in and the truffle texture was smooth. It might have been the only thing that made us glad we stopped by Cupcake Heaven. Well….That and Leah’s face covered in frosting:

LeahFrosting-CH
(No one can deny that adorable face!)

It was such a shame to have our last stop be such a disappointment. Cupcake Heaven was more like Cupcake Purgatory… there wasn’t fire and brimstone, but it certainly wasn’t Heaven. Sadly, after our experience there, I think Jenn and Stacy’s dad, Mr. Ross, said it best: “Go get some tasty cakes instead.”

Overall, our cupcake roadtrip tour was a HUGE success! We enjoyed our stops along the way and while not everything was perfect, spending a whole day together is always a great time!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

 

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Baked with Love: Tweet’s Sweets

Last month we shared an interview with Tweet’s Sweets discussing both her charity event to raise money for cancer patients and why cancer awareness is so important to her. Tweety has seen many close friends and family battle cancer, so she has dedicated her company and her baking skills to fighting back. Her most recent event, Cancer Bites: We’ll Bite Harder, raised $1,500 which was divided between three charities. Tweety told us that two of those charities had people waiting to receive the funds to help with the expenses for fighting cancer. At the event, Tweety made a shocking announcement: she’s now battling cancer herself. Instead of letting this discourage her, Tweety is pressing forward and is determined to overcome cancer while growing her business. To watch videos of the event, click here and here.

After her fundraising event, Tweety found time in her busy schedule to hand-deliver cupcakes to us for a tasting. She provided three flavors: Suga Mama (Sweet Potato), Red Velvet, and Licia’s Puddin (Banana Pudding).

Suga Mama (Sweet Potato):

Our initial reaction? This woman can BAKE! The sweet potato cake was incredibly moist. So moist in fact that Crusader Jenn said, “Maybe almost too moist?” I’m not sure how that is possible, except that it was a little difficult to pick up and eat, but being a cupcake warrior, I seemed to manage just fine.

Red Velvet:

I think this was my favorite out of all three. Normally Red Velvet isn’t my thing (I reserve this flavor for our Red Velvet Crusader, Elisa), but Tweety had just the right blend of flavors and moist cake—which seems to be a rarity when it comes to Red Velvet. While the frosting to cake ratio might not seem to be enough for some, it was surprisingly perfect.

Licia’s Puddin (Banana Pudding):

This cupcake ended up being Crusader Jenn’s favorite. The moist cake was a bit denser than the Red Velvet, but that’s to be expected since it was packed with real bananas. Because of all the fresh ingredients used, Tweety told us to keep this cupcake refrigerated. Normally this wreaks havoc on cake, causing it to dry out, but not Tweety’s cupcakes! It was just as moist and wonderful as if it was fresh from the oven.

Tweet’s Sweets’ cupcakes are a rare find in today’s world of over-the-top cupcakes. They are simple with a homemade quality that doesn’t come around very often. With each bite you feel like you are sitting in your grandmother’s kitchen, listening to the stories of the “good ole days,” while snacking on fresh baked goods. She says she learned to bake from her “Nan” back when she was just a young girl and her love of baking is evident with each cupcake.

Tweet’s Sweets recently celebrated their 5th anniversary by giving goodies away to their fans while raising money for the homeless (Tweety is a super-hero when it comes to giving back!). When asked where she sees herself in the next year, she replied, “Next year I am anticipating having another fundraiser where I announce that I have bitten cancer into remission.” We believe that with her drive and determination, Tweety can do anything!

To read our full interview with Tweet’s Sweets, click here.

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

J Café: A Hidden Gem

Just as their website says, J Café really is a hidden gem, located on Main Street in downtown Westminster. Crusader Stacy had mentioned them about a year ago, but I wasn’t sure that they were a regular cupcake-carrying establishment, so I never rushed over there. Luckily Stacy reminded me of J Café last week, when they were debuting their seasonal pumpkin cupcake. With no plans for the day, I decided an outing was in order.

(Photo from http://www.myjcafe.com No copyright infringement intended.)

I’ve probably driven past J Café a hundred times, but its understated exterior blends perfectly with the historic Main Street surroundings. I was glad to see that the interior also mimics the traditional Victorian style, with an open entry way, original plank floors, narrow staircase (for what I’m assuming is residential space on the top floors), and a long hallway that leads to the back, where the “front” counter is. Seating is situated in the two large rooms off either side of the hall. At the counter was a display case that was filled with a respectable selection of cupcakes, particularly for a café that seems to focus on breakfast and lunch. There were probably 6-8 cupcakes to choose from. I went with the seasonal Pumpkin Maple cupcake and the Sweet Potato, since it also seemed appropriate for the fall. However, I really want to try the Limoncello!

The cupcakes were tightly packaged in a deli container, but didn’t budge much and made it home successfully. The biggest flaw in the packaging was that Leah could see the cupcakes. My girl has really developed a big love for sweets, but since I planned on waiting to share the cupcakes with my husband later that night, I was left with a very disappointed little girl. (Don’t worry. She got over it easily with a pumpkin spiced Hershey Kiss.)

Pumpkin Maple Cupcake

This cupcake had a soft, moist cake, with a buttery, maple-spiced frosting. The flavors were perfectly balanced and Crusader Elisa (the biggest butter lover you’ll ever meet) would have loved it.

Sweet Potato Cupcake

The Sweet Potato cupcake had a salted caramel frosting and was topped with a candied pecan. The cake was soft and moist, just like the pumpkin, but also had pieces of fresh sweet potato. The frosting was also buttery, and balanced the perfect level of sweetness.

The cupcakes are a normal size and have a home-baked feel to them, which is comforting and goes perfectly with the warmth of the café. After tasting the cupcakes, seeing how nice the venue is, and checking out the breakfast and lunch menu, I can’t believe I waited so long to try them out. I’m looking forward to going back when I can sit with friends and enjoy a full meal, with cupcakes for dessert.

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

Starry Night Talks to us About Cupcake Wars!

I’m sure we have a few Cupcake Wars fans out there, so if you watched this past Sunday’s show on the Food Network, then you’re in for a treat! Shannon, owner and baker of Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse who competed for the second time this past week, took some time to answer questions for us.

Most of you know by now how often I treat myself to cupcakes and coffee at Starry Night. I’ve also had the opprotunity to share my love with the other Crusaders, so we were all very excited when we found out they would be on Cupcake Wars for the second time. Everything was hush-hush prior to the show airing, but I had a feeling that this would be a redemption show. On Saturday we picked up our Cupcake Wars cupcakes (flavors from their first show) to have our own little celebration Sunday night.


(Cupcakes in hand and ready to go!)


(The Energy Drink cupcakes with Mahoo Wahoo below. Starry Night was ready for us!)


(Cupcakes for my husband and me. I had to throw in a Oreo stuffed cupcake with peanut butter frosting for him!)

Well, it took me less than 10 minutes to devour my two cupcakes, the Mahoo Wahoo and Engery Drink. In this episode the challenge was to incorporate pork BBQ to represent southern flavors. The winners would be taking their cupcakes to the CMA (Country Music Achievement) Awards in Nashville. Right after finishing my cupcakes, smacking my lips, and saying, “Pork?! Shannon’s got this!” came the round 1 elimination. The judges all seemed very pleased with the flavors Shannon and her assistant, Amber, came up with: a sweet potato cupcake topped with BBQ honey glazed ham shreds, maple buttercream frosting, crispy fried prosciutto crumble and a torched marshmallow. Unlike the cupcakes created by some of the other contestants, it looks like something I would really enjoy, a perfect balance of sweet and savory. The judges’ only critique, and a small one at that, was the texture of the frosting. So, you can imagine my surprise (and the surprise of many) when Starry Night was sent home.

But, I guess that’s just how these things work. Maybe something went askew with the frosting during filming, because all I can say is that their maple buttercream is one of my all-time favorites! I was so glad to get Shannon’s thoughts on her experiences with Cupcake Wars:

Crusaders: Have things changed in the bakery since your first episode of Cupcake Wars aired?

Shannon: Things at the shop have been crazy! Saturday mornings and afternoons are awesome because we get to meet so many new faces. People have spent 2-3 hours to travel here, just to have coffee and cupcakes! It is really cool to see little kids get so excited about seeing the shop. Before Cupcake Wars we really didn’t do that many cupcakes. Cakes and desserts were the main focus of attention. Now I am having a blast dreaming up new flavor combos and decorating ideas. We offer 15-20 variations daily.

Crusaders: Were you asked to appear on the show again or did you have to re-apply?

Shannon: They called us and wanted us back. For the short time it was, we had a blast filming again.

Crusaders: What do you like to do to get ready for the competition?

Shannon: We knew from last time to get plenty of sleep and have a TON of coffee in the morning! Being on the west coast on east coast time is not easy! Flying out super early and still being up super late takes its toll. Last time was very stressful and rushed…this time we went with a more laid back, enjoy the journey attitude.

Crusaders: What was it like going back a second time? Did you feel more prepared since you’ve been through the process before?

Shannon: Going back we knew exactly what we were getting into (which makes me question my sanity!). We knew what to bring, what to wear OR NOT WEAR (new Vans on concrete floor for 12+ hours shooting….PAIN)!

Just knowing the process, the area around our hotel, the hotel itself made things a lot less anxiety producing. We knew if one producer called or texted us…10 more of the same would come from other wranglers (assistants).  🙂

Crusaders: Did you return to the show with hopes of redemption, after coming so close last time?

Shannon: Heck yea we wanted redemption! We got edged out by someone who lived 5 minutes away from the set and had been there before! I wanted the win, but really didn’t feel it with the CMAs. It was like getting to candy land and finding out you have to go through in the dark…no fun!

Crusaders: We love the Mahoo Wahoo and Energy Drink cupcake from the first episode! Will you be offering any cupcakes from the new episode?

Shannon: We will be offering our Sweet Potato cupcake with Maple Buttercream. It is the same buttercream we featured last fall on our Sunday Morning Pancake cupcake, Pumpkin Spice & Maple Covered Bacon Chai. Over the weekends we will offer the Pork BBQ version as well.

Crusaders: Most pastry chefs and bakers would be worried at seeing pork as an mandatory ingredient, however after your corned beef cupcake, I know you appreciate savory as well as sweet. When you saw the pork, were you nervous or excited?

Shannon: I wouldn’t say I was excited…I was kind of let down. Pork! Again! We did a spam slider last time topped with bacon. I wanted it to be something new, exotic, and fun!

After playing with so many flavors and combinations at the shop, having to use only one ingredient really didn’t seem thrilling. I was going to make mac & cheese as the  “icing”…maybe I should have gone with that!

Crusaders: Any final thoughts?

Shannon: This whole experience has really given me new life and growth in the shop. It has opened doors, huge doors for us, to play and dance through! I am really happy with the amazing crew I get the pleasure to work with everyday. My job is never boring. Sometimes stressful and chaotic, but never boring. I am living my dream…I get to play in my very own candy land everyday, help local charities, and make people smile. It doesn’t get any sweeter!


As I told Shannon, one of the reasons Starry Night is such a favorite for many of us is the feeling you get walking into the bakery. You can tell how much fun they all have, from the friendly team to the eclectic decor. While we wish they had gotten the redemption they were seeking, it doesn’t matter to us and they will always be winners in our book. And who knows, maybe their chance will come again? In the meantime, I can’t wait to try their sweet potato cupcake, so keep an eye out for that!

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

The Cupcakes You Didn’t See | Fresh Bakery | Owings Mills, MD

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Top 5 post on Fresh Bakery, over the past couple of years we’ve eaten a lot of their cupcakes. Even though those cupcakes may not have made the “highly recommended” list, they are all still great, so we wanted to share some of them with you:

Red Velvet


(Not being the Red Velvet pro like Crusader Elisa, Jenn and I thought this cupcake, topped with a sweet cream cheese frosting, was pretty good. But her expert taste buds on this flavor disagreed with us. She said it was good, but not her favorite.)

Banana’s Foster


(Years ago this was one of my favorites, but now having tried so many other great flavors, this cupcake has moved down that list, but doesn’t stop it from being a tasty option.)

Sweet Potato Cheesecake


(This cupcake contains a sweet potato cake blended with soft cheese cake and topped with a sweet frosting. While it doesn’t scream “sweet potato” the cheesecake blends with the spices to create a balanced and delicious cupcake.)

Chocolate Chocolate


(This rich dark chocolate cake has just the right amount of sweetness to make it decadent and wonderful.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter


(Chocolate cake combined with creamy peanut butter frosting form this savory classic cupcake.)

Chocolate Strawberry


(This cupcake has the same chocolate cake that is found in the chocolate peanut butter but instead it’s topped with a sweet strawberry frosting.)

Cookies and Cream


(The cake and frosting on this cupcake are each filled with an abundance of crushed cookie pieces resulting in a wonderfully strong “Oreo” cookie flavor.)

Pecan


(This is a great cupcake complete with large and small chunks of yummy pecans. It would be perfect for a Thanksgiving Day spread.)

Have you been to Fresh Bakery? What are your favorite flavors? We’d love to hear!

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

Beautiful Weather and a Tasty Cupcake Makes for a Great Day

While this morning may have been rainy and gross, we’ve had some uncharacteristically warm and sunny weather for the winter. On one of these amazing days I found myself out of the office on a work assignment in Baltimore City’s Inner Harbor.


(Baltimore’s beautiful Inner Harbor – I’m not sure why this pedestrian was wearing a puffy coat and fuzzy boots, this day didn’t require any heavy winter outerwear. Just look at that crystal clear blue sky!)

Since I was in the area I finally decided to head to the Harborplace’s Light Street Pavilion and check out Ooh La La Cupcakery.

The Light Street Pavilion is currently undergoing major renovations. Right now, there are only a few shops located at the same end as Ooh La La Cupcakery. Not only does this  location place them somewhat off the radar, but their website is currently “under construction” and their Facebook page is not updated very often either. Because of this, I often forget they are located in the Inner Harbor, even though they’ve been there since March 2010.

I was a bit disappointed at the service that day. There were only about four people in the shopping center (including myself) and the young man behind the counter was less than eager to help me. He wasn’t totally rude, he just wasn’t overly friendly either. I actually saw two girls walk away becuase he was too busy talking to someone in the kitchen area to notice them standing there.

I knew that I would be getting more cupcakes the very next day, so I limited my choice to one: the Sweet Potato. The cupcakes are on the small side but only $2.70 a piece (I was later corrected because I could have sworn I paid $3.50 for it…)


(Sad smooshed frosting… No cupcake should ever treated in such an abusive way.)

After returning to the office I was anxious to see how this costly little treat tasted.

After my first bite, I knew it was worth every penny. I forgot all about the sub-par service and it being shoved in a bag. It was as if none of that happened. This cupcake was REALLY good. The cake was unbelievably soft and the frosting was super creamy. It was a little more buttery than I typically like on its own, but with the well seasoned sweet potato cake, it worked perfectly.

I look forward to my next visit to the Inner Harbor. I will never again forget that Ooh La La Cupcakery is there and I plan to visit them whenever I find myself in that area.

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