Cupcake Tour 2012 – Philidelphia, PA

The Crusaders have been talking about a Philly tour for the past couple of years. Thanks to Crusader Jenn’s reminder and Crusader Stacy’s planning, we finally made it happen this fall for our Annual Cupcake Tour!

Philly-StopsStickers
(Itinerary and stickers included of course, thanks to Crusader Stacy!)

This year it was just us three Crusaders and Mr. Ross, Jenn and Stacy’s dad. (Thanks to Mr. Ross for driving. He truly is a crusader!) While Crusader Stacy, Mr. Ross and I had all been to the “city of brotherly love” before and love its charm and personality, this was Crusader Jenn’s first time. We all couldn’t wait to taste what the cities cupcakes had to offer.

We were all excited to get the tour started, and as we walked up to the corner of our first address we realized we were in front of the Reading Market and that the shop must be a part of the market. What a great location!

Flying Monkey

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Chocolate Chocolate, Espresso, Apple Cinnamon, Maple

The adorable market shop was busy, as was the rest of the market, but the staff were friendly and kept the line moving quickly. We all ordered one cupcake, and ate them standing. Immediately we all agreed that this was the perfect way to start the day! While the flavors were on the light side, they were perfect with the moist cake and buttery frosting. Crusader Stacy really enjoyed the crunchy top of her espresso cupcake; Crusader Jenn liked the moist cake in her apple cinnamon selection; Mr. Ross dove into his chocolate cupcake with gusto and I loved the extra buttery, maple frosting.

After fighting our way out of the Market, we walked down to our next stop and picked up cupcakes to eat after lunch at Moriarty’s Pub (one of my favorite Philly haunts):

Philly Cupcakes

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Chocolate Peanut Butter (aka The Massacre), Toasted Coconut, Sweet Potato Marshmallow, Sweet Potato Pecan

Philly Cupcake is a quaint little shop on a corner with a take out window,  but since it was a cold day, we went inside to peruse their selection and keep warm. Right away the flavor options intrigued and beguiled us, with names like the Massacre and the Coma it’s no wonder we had trouble deciding! This cupcake shop ends up with mixed reviews though, as Crusader Stacy was not all that impressed with her sweet potato marshmallow cupcake, but Crusader Jenn’s “Massacre” cupcake was the best chocolate and peanut butter cupcake she has EVER had. Mr Ross liked his coconut cupcake, as it tasted like a Pina Colada and was light and not too sweet. My sweet potato pecan cupcake was the perfect blend of sweet potato pie and pecan pie rolled into one heavenly mixture. It really was an even split, we liked them all, but only thought two (the Massacre and Sweet Potato Pecan) were anything to write home about.

Our next couple of stops were a bit of a walk, which was good considering we all ate a full lunch and a cupcake! In fact, we took the rest of our tour cupcakes home with us, but we all tried them later that night or the next day to ensure they were still in their prime. Below are our three other stops:

Brown Betty Petite

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Lemon Pound Cake, Pineapple pound cake (aka Aunt Eva Says), Red Velvet (Jean’s Road Trip)

While the lemon and pineapple cupcakes were dense, but overall good, the red velvet was dry and boring. Crusader Stacy thought the pineapple cupcake had really delicious flavor, and while pound cake isn’t her favorite cake it worked in this instance. Crusader Jenn thought the lemon cake was dense and lacked flavor, but the tart frosting was enough to carry the cupcake.

PamCakes

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Chocolate, Spiked Eggnog, PB&J

Both Crusaders Jenn and Stacy love eggnog cupcakes, so right away we were excited to find this flavor. The spiked eggnog was definitely spiked, with a great blend of eggnog and liquor flavor. The moist cake was sweet and satisfying. The PB&J cupcake was on the dryer side, but the flavors were amazing. There was a perfect portion of jelly filling and the peanut butter frosting was spot on in both flavor and texture. This would definitely be a spot we would go back to again!

Sweet Freedom

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Boston Creme, Salted Caramel

As Philly’s first vegan and gluten free bakery, we commend them on their attempt to make sweet treats without real butter or refined sugar, but sadly our cupcake experience fell short. There was really only one word to describe the cupcakes we tried: awful. The Boston creme tasted more like day old stale bread than anything sweet and moist, while the salted caramel chocolate tasted like baked cardboard. They were not large cupcakes, nor were they cheap at $4 per cupcake, but we ended up throwing out most of both. We discussed that perhaps our taste buds are spoiled by real butter, gluten and sugar, and therefore are not the best judges of these particular cupcakes.

While some of the cupcakes were hits and some were misses, overall we thoroughly enjoyed our tour through Philadelphia and look forward to visiting again. It’s always a fantastic day when you get to spend time with your favorite people, eating new cupcakes and exploring a city! (We’ve already started planning next year’s tour and I for one, can’t wait. Bring on the cupcakes!)

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

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Florida Fun, Relaxation, and Treats! Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes

Crusader Stacy and I knew there was something we needed to take care of soon after arriving at our Florida vacation destination. I know you are thinking, “Get cupcakes!” and you aren’t entirely wrong…However the first thing on our agenda for the week was a girls’ afternoon to get manicures and pedicures. After all, a vacation is about being pampered and our toes deserved some attention for all the time they’d be spending out in the Florida sun, right? I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t thought of getting cupcakes on the way to our appointment, so that we could sit back in the massage chairs savoring a sweet treat. But, we mustered up our patience and enjoyed our sister-time sans cupcakes.

After our nails were beautified we decided it was time to show them off with a walk through Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Fl. The location of Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes couldn’t have been more perfect for us. Only a few miles away from our nail place, and situated in a center of high-end retailers and boutiques, we could enjoy the warm weather and shop a little.

We found Grace & Shelly’s easily and admired their cute store. They have some small tables, cupcake merchandise, and something extra…ice cream! This is becoming more common to see in our Baltimore-DC metro area, however in Florida I imagine it’s great for business, with having “ice-cream-weather” year-round.

It wasn’t easy to pick out flavors because they all looked so good! Their cupcakes are gourmet size, so a little larger than your average cupcake, and adorned with toppings. Lucky for us, they also sell pre-assembled containers of mini cupcakes by the dozen. We picked one out and then made our selection of larger cupcakes based on what was left to try. In the end, we were able to sample 13 flavors!

The standouts for us were the Chocolate Raspberry, Caramel Brown Sugar, and Tiramisu. Some of the cupcakes were on the sweet side, even for us, but what you can expect from all Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes is moist cake and creative and flavorful combinations.

Chocolate Raspberry:

Chocolate Raspberry has become my go-to for a decadent chocolate treat. Typically paired with a dark chocolate ganache and raspberry filling, it’s rich and makes me believe that nothing could ever be a more perfect combination. Grace & Shelly’s version of this treat is no different. The raspberry to chocolate ratio was perfectly balanced and Stacy and I weren’t willing to share with anyone else!

Caramel Brown Sugar:

We contemplated getting the Caramel Brown Sugar cupcake in a full-size, but opted not to, since our sample pack included two. After trying our small bite, we wish we had a larger one! The cake was so good and the frosting was buttery, a prefect complement to the caramel drizzle. Crusader Elisa would have loved it!

Tiramisu:

Crusader Stacy called dibs on this mini and, like the Caramel Brown Sugar, was wishing she had more. So was I, since I didn’t get to try it! But, as Stacy described it, it was, “Delicious. The espresso liquor made the cake a little squishy, but it didn’t matter because it was so good. And sometimes that can happen with tiramisu.” We both believe that the full-size cupcake would have stood up better to the espresso liquor drizzled on the cake and are waiting for when we have the opportunity to try it again!

Although these three were our favorites, we wouldn’t want to leave out the other cupcakes we tasted:

1) Chocolate Peanut Butter: Chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache frosting.

2) Grasshopper: Chocolate Oreo cake with mint frosting and chocolate chips. This cupcake was a contender for our top three!

3) Butterfinger: Vanilla cake with a peanut butter filling, cream cheese frosting, and topped with crushed butterfinger bars.

4) Vanilla-Vanilla: Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, topped with colorful sprinkles. We loved the decoration on this mini, and the full-size looked the same!

5) Orange Coconut: Orange cake with a cream cheese frosting, topped with toasted coconut.

6) Vanilla Strawberry: Vanilla cake with strawberry buttercream frosting, topped with a vanilla cookie. My husband really liked this cupcake and said it was as good as his favorite Maryland bakery.

7) Chocolate-Chocolate: Chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with sprinkles. Crusader Stacy’s husband would have liked this cupcake better if it had a chocolate ganache frosting instead of a chocolate buttercream, but for the chocolate lovers out there, Grace & Shelly’s does offer a triple chocolate cupcake with that combination and a chocolate filling!

8) Red Velvet: Red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting. Littlest Crusader Leah (aka: my daughter) really enjoyed this cupcake, including the sweet cream cheese frosting, although we believe it may have been too sweet for Crusader Elisa, our red velvet connoisseur.

9) Black and White: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped generously with sprinkles. Although not really black and white due to the vibrant frosting and sprinkles, it was fun!

10) Chocolate Coconut: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and topped with shaved coconut.

Not only are the cupcakes from Grace & Shelly’s memorable, so was the service. A nice man explained all the flavors to us, offered suggestions, spoke about the other locations when he found out we were vacationers, and once we completed our purchase, he walked our bag around the counter to hand it to us (a lost art in fine customer service). His enthusiasm about the product was obvious and contagious. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Grace & Shelly’s to my Florida family, or anyone else vacationing in the Fort Myers area!

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

Guest Review | Sweet Carolina Cupcakes | Hilton Head, SC

We are excited to have a new Guest Crusader, Erin! She is a friend of the Crusaders who LOVES cupcakes. She is sharing a review with us today on Sweet Carolina Cupcakes, a cupcakery she stumbled across on a recent trip to South Carolina. Thanks for sharing this with us Erin!

Recently I drove to South Carolina to visit my friend who lives on Hilton Head Island. Now if you’ve ever been to Hilton Head, you know there’s not much to do on the island except go to the beach and other ocean related activities (such as surfing). As my luck had it, it rained for the majority of my visit, so for lack of something better to do, my friend suggested that we walk around the Coligny Plaza Shopping Center.

Sweet Carolina Cupcakes is located in the middle of the maze of shop that is Coligny Plaza, but if you do make the effort to find it, you’ll find it’s well worth the hunt. On their website, they claim to be “The Lowcountry’s Premiere Cupcakery” and they apparently offer different flavors on different days of the week.

The shop itself has a blindingly bright lime green and hot pink color scheme and is pretty small. The common area only had two 2-person tables and a back wall bar to sit at.

The day we were there, they had ten flavors to choose from (pictured below).


(Top Row: Peanut Butter Cup, Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, Coconut Snowball, Chocoholic
Bottom Row: Wedding Cake, Raspberry Zinger, Sweet Carolina, Classic Vanilla with Chocolate or Vanilla Icing and Classic Chocolate with Chocolate or Vanilla Icing.)

They also had a small selection of muffins and whoopee pies for non-cupcake people. The cupcakes themselves are larger than what I would consider an average-sized cupcake. They were closer to the size of a large muffin, but were priced averagely at 3.50 each.

While I was trying to choose my flavor, I asked what the Sweet Carolina (a bright pink cupcake with vanilla icing and pink sprinkles) was and was told that is was Sweet Carolina Cupcakes’ take on a “pink red-velvet” cupcake. I didn’t end up buying this one because I am not a huge fan of red velvet, but I wondered what Red Velvet Cupcake Crusader Elisa would think of a pink-velvet cupcake.

After quite a long deliberation I settled on the following cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Cup

My boyfriend actually chose peanut better cup because he doesn’t really like desserts or sweets EXCEPT for anything that is peanut butter flavored (I know, I think he’s crazy for not liking sweets). He did let me have a bite though. The chocolate cake was moist and full of dark chocolaty goodness. The cake was also very light and fluffy. The icing was smooth and VERY peanut buttery. My boyfriend who loves peanut butter thought the icing was great. I thought that the dark chocolate was a little overpowered by the peanut butter flavor, but I am also not a huge peanut butter fan, so I probably would never order this flavor for myself.

Carrot Cake

I ended up choosing a Carrot Cake cupcake for myself and was not disappointed by my choice. The cake, again, was light and fluffy, especially for carrot cake. I think the lightness of the cake was a great feature since the cupcakes were larger than average. If the cake had been too dense and “meaty,” I don’t think I would have wanted/been able to eat a whole cupcake (which I did easily). The flavor of the cake was not very spiced, but it did have a great texture of nuts, carrots and coconut. The icing tasted like a combination of buttercream and cream cheese and was pretty smooth and thick. Overall, I enjoyed this cupcake, although I did end up left with a mound of icing on my plate that I didn’t eat (I like my cupcake to icing ration about 2-1 cupcake to icing).

The friends I was with also got Red Velvet, Chocoholic and Classic Chocolate with Vanilla Icing cupcakes. (Sadly I didn’t manage to get photos of them before they were devoured.) My friend who bought the Red Velvet said it was better than the Peanut Butter Cup (which she also tried) and my friend who bought the Chocoholic cupcake couldn’t stop talking about how good it was and asking when he could go back and get another.

Overall, Sweet Carolina Cupcakes gets a big stamp of approval. Their cupcakes are larger than average, reasonably priced and full of flavor. If you’re ever on Hilton Head Island, make sure you stop by and try one!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Erin (Baltimore, MD)

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Spotlight: Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse, Part 1

Named after the common cookie, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffeehouse (Hampstead, MD). Would it just be a take-out bakery that you stop in on your way to work for a quick cup of coffee and a muffin? When I finally went to their shop, I was surprised and pleased to find a sophisticated bakery and high-end coffeehouse, with plenty of room to bring friends and gather around one of their many tables, or just to come yourself and relax in their cozy surroundings. The mom in me loved seeing that they even have a miniature table with chairs, inviting guests to bring their kids with them.

After taking in the great atmosphere, I began investigating the goodies. My first thought? “WOW! Those cupcakes are HUGE!” My second thought? “How much are they?” With their size and the decoration and toppings on most of the cupcakes, I thought they would be pricey. However, they aren’t! At $3.00-4.00 for the large cupcakes, they are very reasonably priced. And the best part is that they are large enough to share (or to have more than one helping for yourself)!

On this day I was fortunate enough to leave with one of each flavor in the shop, making 12 cupcakes in total. Due to the grandness of these cupcakes, and the number we have to show you, we’ve decided to break our review into two parts, featuring 6 of the cupcakes in each post. Here are the first ones we’ve selected to show you:

Irish Car Bomb:
During the St. Patrick’s Day season, we see a lot of these cupcakes based on the popular drink (Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream) pop up. I’ve had a few takes on the idea, and this one is a clear stand out for me!

I usually see these cupcakes done with a chocolate cake, however Snickerdoodles has choosen to make this a true Guinness stout cake. None of the smooth Guinness flavor is lost and, just like an Irish Car Bomb, the Bailey’s Irish Cream filling and frosting complement the cake perfectly. It is so moist and flavorful!

Cannoli:
I think the best way to describe this next cupcake is with a photo.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that IS a whole (mini) cannoli on top! This cupcake has a chocolate chip cake that is moist and delicious, with a cannoli filling that I think even the toughest critic would appreciate, and is topped with a chocolate ganache frosting, American buttercream, and more chocolate chips.

Almond Raspberry:
For the Crusaders, this has become a classic combination. We love the pairing of almond and raspberry.

This cupcake has an almond cake, whipped raspberry filling and American buttercream frosting. I think the whipped raspberry filling is a nice change from the usual jam filling and also helps keep the cupcake light.

Red Velvet:
This Red Velvet cupcake has been taken to the next level.

I was really happy with the moistness of the cake! I’m always disappointed with red velvet cake, however this one is not only moist, but also has a great flavor. It’s paired with a cream cheese filling, American buttercream frosting, and topped with a chocolate shaving and toasted red velvet cake crumbs. The frosting makes this cupcake really sweet, but I enjoyed every bite!

Toasted Coconut:
This is another classic flavor. With the decoration, this cupcake needs no label.

All together the cupcake works, however it isn’t as “coconut-y” as I prefer. That being said, the moist poundcake-like cake, whipped filling, buttercream frosting, and generous toasted coconut shavings on top are still really tasty!

The Rainbow Cupcake:
This cupcake is a new one Snickerdoodles is working on and there’s only one way to describe it: Fun! Based on their “famous” Rainbow Cake, the Rainbow Cupcake is a miniature version.

I think it’s necessary to also show a photo of the inside of this cupcake, to really get a good idea.

As you can see, this cupcake has a rainbow cake, raspberry puree filling, chocolate buttercream frosting, dipped in chocolate, then piped with more chocolate buttercream, and topped with sprinkles. The cake is moist and the jam and chocolate combination is delicious!

If you have a chance to visit Snickerdoodles, please do! Whether you are looking for a special treat, a great beverage, or a place to just hang out, Snickerdoodles has it all! They also have beautiful full-size cakes, pastries, and cookies. I can’t wait to return! And, keep a look-out for Part 2 where we’ll be reviewing Strawberry White Chocolate, Carrot Cake, Boston Cream, Black Bottom, a fun, fancy, party cupcake and Death by Chocolate!

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

A Sad Farewell to Caroline’s Cupcakery

Last week we heard that Caroline’s Cupcakery, located off Fort Avenue in Locust Point, was closing. Hearing this sad news, Crusader Elisa and I planned our final visit for their last day, which was this past Saturday.

Caroline’s has always been one of our favorite places to get cupcakes. We even listed it as a Top 5 pick for cupcakes inside Baltimore City on KimberlyLoc.com. Since this may have been the last time we were able to indulge in their signature “mile-high” frosting and fluffy moist cake, we decided to focus on getting our favorite flavors.


(Yes, you are looking at 2 dozen cupcakes. No, they were not all for Elisa and I. Almost a full dozen was for my family, who I was meeting up with later that day and some were for Jenn who asked Elisa and I to get some for her, because she couldn’t join us there.)

Since we did end up getting quite a few, and we have reviewed Caroline’s Cupcakery several times before, we will just quickly share some of our favorites that we decided to get on that last day:


(Pink Wonder with Strawberry Drizzle – I don’t normally like Strawberry cupcakes, and now I know why. None have ever compared to this one from Caroline’s.)


(Citrus Wonder with Lemon Drizzle – Like summer in a cupcake. Light and refreshing, this cupcake will be missed.)


(Red Velvet – I’m not sure how Elisa, our “Red Velvet Crusader,” feels about this cupcake, but I love it. The cake is rich, light and moist, and the cream cheese frosting is buttery and not too sweet.)


(Carrot Cake – I’ve had a hard time finding a Carrot Cake that I like, but this one is moist, light, and full of spicy carrot cake flavor.)


(Sunday Morning (French Toast Bacon Cupcake) – This cupcake sometimes has me wishing I ate bacon. It’s one of Jenn and Elisa’s favorites and the maple frosting on top (which I’ve sampled) is amazing.)


(Guinness cupcake with toasted coconut – Perfect combo of beer, chocolate, and sweetness. Elisa reviewed this cupcake before here.)

We were also able to try a new cupcake. It was called the Butterfinger Candy Bar Cupcake. This cupcake was buttery and sweet, just like a Butterfinger should be. The only thing that could have made it better would be the addition of more chocolate. (You can never have too much chocolate).

(Butterfinger Cupcake from Caroline’s)

Every bite of these cupcakes brought back some great memories. The Pink Wonder with Strawberry Drizzle took me back to my first experience with Caroline’s when Jenn and I attended a wine and cupcake night and were able to sample tons of mini cupcakes paired uniquely with specific wines.


(Cheers! What is better than wine and cupcakes? Click here to read about this night.)

Then, the Citrus Wonder with Lemon Drizzle reminded me of Jenn’s baby shower. We got a variety of cupcakes from Caroline’s, but this was a clear favorite of the day and was perfect with the hot summer weather.


(Caroline’s Cupcakes dressed up for Jenn’s baby shower.)

I also thought back to a more recent Caroline’s cupcake adventure where Elisa brought us Hot Chocolate cupcakes to enjoy while watching the most recent Twilight movie at the theater.


(Disclaimer: Most movies theaters are NOT okay with bringing in your own food. Do so with caution. Read our review here.)

Caroline’s will not only be missed for their amazing cupcakes, but for all the many wonderful memories we’ve had that have included their cupcakes.

We love you Caroline’s Cupcakery!

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