Cupcake Facelift: Hamilton Bakery Debuts All NEW Cupcakes

When you love your neighborhood, and love your neighborhood bakery, it’s such a disappointment when their cupcakes are nothing to rave about. Ever since I moved to the Hamilton neighborhood of Baltimore, Hamilton Bakery has been my go-to for anything BUT cupcakes. Their croissants are buttery, their scones are flavorful, and their muffins are the perfect pairing with a cup of coffee. Even their cake truffles are wonderful!

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(Original cupcakes from Hamilton Bakery)

I guess they realized that their cupcakes just weren’t up to par with all their other baked goods because on Friday, February 1st, they debuted their brand new line of cupcakes and gave out free ones to the first 500 customers from 4pm to 9pm. I was already planning to stop in for my free cupcake when Hamilton Bakery contacted us. They wanted to give us a chance to try a variety of flavors, confident in their new recipes.

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(New cupcakes from Hamilton Bakery)

They were not at all stingy with the cupcakes they put aside for us. With 10 new and revitalized flavors, I was excited to get started. I was most excited to try what appeared to be a Lemon Meringue cupcake, so began my tasting with that.

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Unfortunately this cupcake was a bit of a let down. The cake was moist and the meringue “frosting” had a nice toasted crunch, but I was really hoping for a lemon curd filling. The cake also had a bit of an artificial taste, reminding me of Lemon Drop candies.
After trying all the cupcakes, there were only a couple more disappointments, like the Peanut Butter Chocolate (not enough peanut butter flavor) and two cupcakes which appeared to be gluten free or vegan (dry crumbly cake and frosting that had separated), so the majority were still vastly improved upon. Since I tasted so many, I think it’s best just to focus on a few of the highlights which were the Vanilla, Creamsicle, and Carrot Cake.

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If tasked with naming Hamilton Bakery’s Vanilla cupcake I would call it “Birthday Cake,” because that is exactly what it reminded me of. This cupcake had moist buttery vanilla cake with frosting that was sweet without tasting like confectioners sugar. There was a little bit of a crunch to the outside of the frosting, like it had dried out just a tad, but that just gave it even more of a birthday cake like quality.

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The next cupcake that I really enjoyed was somewhat of a mystery cupcake until I bit into it. The orange flavor was so present that there was no question that this was a Creamsicle cupcake. The cake was a little over-baked on top, but luckily the inside hadn’t dried out. The orange-cream frosting was the best part though, and really made this cupcake standout from the rest.

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Carrot Cake is a classic that can be done really well, or not. Hamilton Bakery has their recipe for this mastered! The cake was super moist and chock-full of nuts and wonderful spices. The cream cheese frosting was sweet, without taking away from the flavor and really worked well with the cake. This is a cupcake I would go back for again and again. Having tried their carrot cake cupcakes in the past though, I believe that this recipe is something they’ve been doing right for a while now, and I really hope they don’t change it!

Overall, I think Hamilton Bakery has definitely improved their recipes, but I do think they still have a little work to do on some of their flavors. I look forward to tracking their progress and now won’t be scared to buy a cupcake when I stop in for a breakfast pastry and some coffee. Looks like our little neighborhood bakery just might be able to compete with the big dogs in the cupcake market after all!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Winter Cupcake Craze: The Cupcakes You Haven’t Seen

You may have noticed, but we’ve been eating a lot of cupcakes this winter. Okay, we eat a lot of cupcakes all the time…but there is something about the winter and wanting rich comfort foods, versus light and refreshing flavors in the spring and summer. We’ve already reviewed a lot of winter flavors for you, like Chocolate Peppermint from La Cakerie and Sweet Hearts Patisserie, Eggnog from Vanilla Pastry Studio and PamCakes, Apple Cinnamon from Dessert Affairs, and we can’t forget the seasonal minis Crusader Stacy tried from Disney’s Epcot.

Aside from all these cupcakes we’ve consumed throughout winter, we’ve neglected to share with you some of the other new flavors we’ve tried from the bakeries we visit (very) frequently. Some are more seasonal flavors, others are flavors to satisfy you on a cold night. All were delicious.

Kupcakes & Co.: Cinnabon Cupcake and Reindeer Cake Pop

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This year, Kupcakes & Co. had the same seasonal flavors as last winter. While we had our share of those again this year, I was also able to try a new flavor: Cinnabon. With their rotating menu and huge flavor selection, you might see flavors you haven’t tried before depending on the day you stop in. I really loved the Cinnabon cupcake, but I’m a sucker for a good spiced cake. Kupcakes & Co.’s cream cheese frosting can be too sweet for me sometimes (not that it stops me), but the cinnamon from the cake and the crumble topping balanced it perfectly.

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While I was in there one day, the owner Michelle succumbed to Leah’s cuteness and gave her one of their reindeer cake pops. It was so well done that I had to snap photos before Leah devoured it. Kupcakes & Co. has added custom cake pops to their menu, so for each holiday you can stop in and find something creative and cute. They also had Santa hat cake pops, and now for Valentine’s Day, they have roses.

Snickerdoodles Bakery and Coffee House: Sugar Cookie, Eggnog, Nutella, and Éclair Cupcake

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(Top left to right: Sugar Cookie and Eggnog cupcakes. Bottom left to right: Nutella and Éclair cupcakes.)

Snickerdoodles has been added to the list of bakeries that are household names. My husband will randomly say (on the few cupcake-less nights we have), “I wish we had some Snickerdoodles.” I also now have my big sister hooked. The Sugar Cookie and Eggnog cupcakes were special holiday flavors, and they totally lived up to their name. The cake in the Sugar Cookie cupcake had actual bits of sugar cookie in it and everything about it really tasted like a sugar cookie. I was very surprised, having expected it to just taste like a vanilla cupcake. The Éclair and Nutella cupcakes are regulars that are rotated. Yes, that’s a mini éclair on top (like the mini cannoli on their Cannoli cupcake). The Éclair cupcake could have used more pastry filling for my taste, but I’m addicted to that stuff. The Nutella cupcake was lacking in hazelnut flavor, but was still a decadent, delightful treat.

Starry Night Bakery and Coffeehouse: German Chocolate, Peanut Butter Lovers, and Sunday Morning Breakfast Cupcakes

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(Top left: Starry Night’s new logo. Top right: German Chocolate Cake cupcake. Bottom left to right: Peanut Butter Lovers and Sunday Morning Breakfast cupcakes.)

You all already know how much we like Starry Night’s Quirky Cupcakes, and with all the love they receive from their customers, they keep adding to the line of flavors. I really like German Chocolate cake, mostly because of that coconut topping stuff, so I’m also a fan of it in cupcake form. Paired with Starry Night’s rich chocolate ganache frosting, it was heaven. The Sunday Morning Breakfast cupcake had maple frosting, topped with a caramel drizzle and chocolate chips. My notes for this and the Peanut Butter Lovers cupcake was, “Mmmmmm,” and that’s it.  There may have been wine involved in this cupcake tasting…

IcedGems: Winter Wonderland Cupcake

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Crusader Elisa picked this IcedGems seasonal cupcake up to try, while the rest of us drooled with envy. Here’s what she had to say about it:

This cupcake was just as its title described, a winter wonderland treat! The vanilla cake had white chocolate chips and dried cranberries in it and was perfectly moist and not too dense, which can be hard to achieve when dried fruit is added to cake. The frosting was a delicious orange buttercream that paired well with the cake flavors. Honestly, I was a little skeptical about how “Winter Wonderland” this cupcake would taste, but there was something about the way the cranberry and orange flavors mixed with the vanilla cake and white chocolate chips that made the flavors come together and create a very wintertime/really good fruit cake flavor. The adorable little white chocolate topper and dried cranberries were great decorations, and added to the wintertime feel. It was a really great cupcake for anyone who likes fruit flavors paired together and I hope to see it again next winter.

We hope that you’ve consumed some great cupcakes this winter, like we have. If you haven’t, it’s still not too late to get out there and make us Crusaders proud!

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

A Perfect Party, Minus One.

Being the only one of your friends to have the bad cupcake of the bunch is like being the only kid in class who wasn’t invited to the party. You are stuck hearing all the wonderful fun things that happened, while crying on the inside that you weren’t a part of it all.

Okay, maybe that’s a teeny tiny bit dramatic. But I can tell you, eating the only bad cupcake is still no fun.

About a year ago we reviewed Cooks ‘N Cakes located in Ellicott City, MD. At the time, our thoughts on their cupcakes were just so-so. Shortly after, Cooks ‘N Cakes contacted us explaining that they made some changes to their recipes and would love for us to come back and give them another try. Fast forward to about 8 months later—time really does fly by—and we finally made it back to their shop.

Excited to give them another try, I selected three new cupcakes and one Coffee Craze, which we had tried previously. I knew then that I would divide the cupcakes among us Crusaders, plus our good friend and Guest Crusader, Miss Beth Lacey, who I would be seeing that afternoon.

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(True Simplicity from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

For myself, I selected True Simplicity, a vanilla butter cake with Madagascar vanilla buttercream frosting. I hate complaining about a bad cupcake almost as much as I hate eating it in the first place, but there is really nothing good to say about it. The cake was so dry that it actually crumbled like a cookie. The flavor would have been good, but there was no way to get past the dryness and the frosting was just okay. In my opinion, it didn’t contain enough vanilla flavor and had way too much of a confectioner’s sugar aftertaste. When buying cupcakes, normally I come from the mindset that “you win some, you lose some,” but I was actually upset that I spent $2.50 on this.

I immediately texted Jenn, Elisa, and Beth Lacey to give them a heads-up that my cupcake was inedible, but to my surprise, none of them had the same reactions. That’s when I realized that, apparently, I had not been invited to the party.

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(Split Decision from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

Beth Lacey said that her Split Decision cupcake (banana cake with strawberry frosting and a dollop of chocolate on top) “rocked!” and that it “totally tasted like a banana split!” Hearing this I was a bit perplexed, but relieved she didn’t have the same experience as me.

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(Coffee Craze from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

Then Jenn, who had tried the Coffee Craze before, said that it still had a great aroma and a nice strong coffee flavor. She added that the frosting was nice and smooth, but that the chocolate cake was just basic and nothing really stood out about it.

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(Chocolate Strawberry from Cooks ‘N Cakes)

Elisa’s exact thoughts on her Chocolate Strawberry cupcake were, “The strawberry frosting was really good and the chocolate cake wasn’t bad either.”

So apparently my cupcake was a dud, while everyone else’s wasn’t. I’ve recovered from my $2.50 loss, but am not sure that I’ll be visiting Cooks ‘N Cakes anytime soon. Their location isn’t really convenient to my home, job, or family and friends, and with a cupcake that was as bad as mine was, I just can’t get excited about another visit.

For Cooks ‘N Cakes sake, I really do hope that my cupcake was merely a random fluke. I would hate to see a small business suffer because others have had similar experiences. So, if you are reading this, I encourage you to go and try their cupcakes for yourself, just maybe stay away from the Vanilla?

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Baking Adventure: Tea Party Cupcakes

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Our friend was putting together a tea party for her daughter’s 10th birthday, so when Crusader Stacy and I were asked if we wanted to help make cupcakes we immediately began brainstorming. We’ve been wanting to host an adult tea party of our own, but this event would have elegantly dressed tables, fun stations for nails, hair and dress-ups, and a photo booth, so we knew these cupcakes couldn’t be ordinary.

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(Crusader Stacy and I also got to have a good time with the dress-ups and photo booth. Photo by Kenneth Adam, who donated his services for the day.)

Stacy suggested an idea she found, using chocolate or royal icing to create a “handle” on the cupcakes. After having experimented with royal icing in the past (and knowing how temperamental white chocolate can be), I choose that option. The birthday girl had one request, she wanted the cupcakes to have filling. Since she loved the Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes we’ve made before, I made those using a different raspberry filling and also made Vanilla Marshmallow cupcakes, a new flavor for me.

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The Vanilla Marshmallow cupcakes were very simple. I used yellow cake box mix, added in a packet of vanilla pudding mix, and then filled them with marshmallow fluff. For the frosting, I started with store-bought frosting and added in some extra butter, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract, until the taste and texture was where I wanted it. Then I divided the vanilla frosting into two parts, so that I could match the color to the party theme.

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I was really pleased with how the colors turned out. They matched perfectly! The cupcakes were very sweet, but for a bunch of 10-year-old girls, that was good. It turned out to be a very chic party and all the girls had a terrific time!

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I’ve never been to a better tea party. Even if I was there as “the staff” I had a great time and picked up some ideas for when Stacy and I do finally have our own party.

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

Quaint Little Bakery in a Quaint Little Town | Roy’s Bakery, Williamsport, PA

Crusader Jenn shared the details of our most recent annual girls’ camping weekend trip, in her post for Campfire Cupcakes, and like her, it’s something I look forward to every year. I mean, good friends, tons of food, a decent amount of wine, and lots of laughter. What’s not to love? Due to some last minute changes (hurricane damages to the cabin we initially rented), we happily found ourselves in the same town, and the same cabin, as two years ago in Williamsport, PA. One difference was that this year I came prepared with some research on where we could get cupcakes (I’m sure this shocks you. No?).

RoysWilliamsportStorefront

Roy’s Bakery is a “mom and pop” bakery that was highly recommended by one Yelp reviewer. It has been around for over 60 years, so they must be doing something right. Right? Well they are, but unfortunately it wasn’t their cupcakes that impressed us.

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(The newest members to our girls’ trip, Freya and Leah, ogling the goodies at Roy’s.)

With so many treats available it was impossible for us to just try their cupcakes. Collectively the three of us ended up leaving with the following bounty: three cupcake-shaped sugar cookies, a chocolate and peanut butter cookie cup, two peanut butter cookie sandwiches, two whoopie pies (red velvet and pumpkin), and three cupcakes (chocolate/chocolate, vanilla/vanilla, and a jumbo-sized red velvet).

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With a small town bakery I was hoping to get cupcakes that had a nice homemade quality, but these just didn’t live up to my expectations. Overall the flavors where bland and Crusader Elisa said the cake on the red velvet cupcake was really dry. They were a big disappointment, but with that disappointment came delight over all the other treats we selected.

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Crusader Jenn said the chocolate peanut butter cup and peanut butter cookie sandwich were both really good (still not as good as La Casa de Sweet‘s or Kupcakes & Co.‘s, but good nonetheless); however, Elisa really loved the sugar cookies and her peanut butter cookie sandwich, and she and I couldn’t believe how good the whoopie pies were. They were the complete opposite from the dry lackluster cupcakes. The moist flavorful cake seemed to add more dimension to the sweet frosting which appeared to be the same used on their cupcakes. How the two products, made of the same components, could be so vastly different is beyond me, but I’m glad they were because they redeemed this sweet family owned bakery located in a pleasant little town along the Susquehanna River.

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

Firehouse Coffee & Cupcakes

Firehouse Coffee Co. is located on the square in Canton, and I frequently stop in for a coffee or my favorite chai latte. Recently, I popped into the shop for some lunch and a latte when I noticed cupcakes in the bakery case. Never able to resist the call of a cupcake, I asked the barista if they were made in house. Not only are they made in house, the owner of the shop makes them himself! The friendly staff member then offered me one—free of charge—just for asking about them. I let him know that I write for a cupcake blog and he was excited to have me try one.

Firehouse White Cupcake

This friendly little cupcake was an anomaly of flavors! The moist cake looked like normal “run of the mill” vanilla, but tasted like a mixture of angel food cake and pound cake—both of which are some of my favorite cakes. The top of the cake had a great little crunch to it, adding a nice texture. The frosting was really smooth but super sweet, which I do not normally like, but paired well with the subtly sweet cake.

You really can’t find better local coffee or friendlier staff… and now you can add yummy homemade cupcakes to that list. I hope the next time I stop in for coffee they have cupcakes in the case too.

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

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)