The Comfort of Cupcake

25 Jan

North Carolina has got (cupcake) game!  Last month,  I was in the Raleigh area for less than 24 hours for a job interview and knew that I would need  cupcake comfort immediately after.  So that’s how I met The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery, “Raleigh’s first and finest cupcake boutique and bakery”, located just 6 miles from my interview.   I walked in, a bit uncomfortable in my uncustomary suit and wobbly shoes, and breathed a sigh of relief.  In this charming atmosphere among the pretty cupcakes, I could now relax (and pretend that that interview didn’t happen…not one of my top performances.  I blame it on the fluorescent lights, they make me cagey.)

The day of my visit, the Cupcake Shoppe Bakery offered up 13 different cupcake varieties with fun names like “What’s Up Doc?” {carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing}, “Mint Condition” {chocolate cake with mint buttercream}, and “Cookie Monster” {vanilla cake with Oreo buttercream}.  They also feature flavors of the week!  Gingerbread, eggnog, and peppermint were on the menu when I was in town  as Christmas was just around the corner.   After about three other people came in, decided, ordered, and left, I finally had made my decision and departed happily with my four-pack!

Unfortunately, I let the hussle-bussle of the holidays get the best of Cupcake Crusade and am irresponsibly posting this review about a month after my visit.  I also let the interview frazzle get the best of me and didn’t take notes after engaging in my cupcake comfort – I just needed sugar STAT, then comfy pants, and then sleep.  Some cupcake reviewer I am, huh?!  I can say that I fondly remember the “Pretty in Pink” {fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream} and thinking “this has Top 10 potential!”.  It was most satisfying!  Soft cake with the perfect blend strawberry and respectfully sweet buttercream.  The remaining three didn’t leave as dramatic an impression, but were pretty to look at nonetheless.

On to the break down!

The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery / 104 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, North Carolina

1. Price:$3 each / $33 dozen / Minis (available by special order) $16 dozen. On the pricier side…

2. Room temperature:  Yes

3.  Size:  Standard

4. Cake to Frosting Ratio:  1:1

5. Vegan, gluten-free, or sugar-free/low-sugar options: No

6. To-go packaging: Standard cardboard cupcake box, with no dividers (or seat belts as I like to think of them.  Cupcake safety is important to me!) inside.

7. Milk for sale?:  Yes!  Also found on site: Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Crush, Coffee, and free water (I’m a sucker for pretty drink dispensers).

8.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: You’re in luck – homemade brownies, truffles, cookies, breakfast muffins, and marshmallows.

9.  Ambiance: Pretty!  They took a pink and brown color palette and created a classy/sweet setting.  The seating was cool (aluminum ladder-back chairs) blended with a romantic splash (chocolate brown-tufted wall benches)And pleasant lighting seemed to make the pale pink walls sparkle a bit.  Outdoor seating also in what seemed like a nice neighborhood.  Oh yeah, and the cash register is pretty darn cool too.

10. Service: Lovely, friendly folk at this well-kept cupcakery.   They bake daily here, and any cupcakes left at the end of the day are donated.  Also, the bakers come in at 3 AM!  I love baking cupcakes but wouldn’t last a week with that schedule.

11.  Three words to describe the The Cupcake Shoppe experience:  1) Calming 2) Chic 3) Charming

Thank you Cupcake Shoppe Bakery for making my very first North Carolina cupcakery visit a delightful one and providing cupcake comfort!

Cupcake Shoppe on Urbanspoon


Cupcake Confession

5 Jan

Disclaimer: Things are about to get personal.  And a little off topic.  I just need a moment to think (type?) out loud, and, in the process, explain my recent blogging inactivity.  Big ol’ venting session heading your way!  We will return to our usual cupcake reviewing program momentarily…I think.

Words to live by?

Cupcake Crusade is my happy place.  In a world full of stressors and pressures, this blog became my little bubble.  My little sugar bubble.  And when my full-time job situation found itself on shaky ground, arming myself with the mission to find THE best cupcake in the country gave me a renewed sense of purpose.  It was all in good fun, but I was passionate about it.  And, isn’t that what we always hear? – do what you love/makes you happy.  This was it!  I LOVE sugar!  I LOVE cupcakes!  I love roaming, wandering, exploring, and discovering a new cupcakery.  I love checking out out their decor, flavor combinations, packaging products, their mission statements and learning how they got their start.  And that first bite…!  Once Cupcake Crusade was up and running, pipe dreams of turning this into something more than a blog surfaced.  After years and years of uncertainty, maybe, just maybe, THIS could be what I was meant to do.  I just needed to stick with it, keep pouring my heart into it, enjoy the ride and see where it takes me!  Yet, here’s the kicker – I’m fructose intolerant.  (Oh, how it pains me to even type that.)

After a long year of illness, losing weight, no appetite, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and many many many tests, a wise doctor ordered a breath test that deemed me  fructose intolerant.  That was five years ago, and I gotta be honest, I’ve been floating down the river of denial ever since.  I just couldn’t accept it, I love sugar too much and could not (in any way, shape, or form) imagine removing sugar from my diet.  From my life?!  Just not possible!  Like telling a fish it’s allergic to water.  Maybe that’s all little extreme, but it’s kinda how I felt.  Especially since fructose is in a lot of stuff!  Now, I didn’t ignore this diagnosis completely.  I made some changes to my diet, ones that didn’t make me cry at night.  I cut out sodas and everything that had high-fructose corn syrup (sometimes I really do miss a cold Coke though).  I reduced my daily sugar intake, and would try to eat any sugary treat on a full stomach.  I switched from regular milk to almond milk.  I cut out fruit juices and some fruits (this is when things started getting harder), like apples, grapes, pears, and OJ. (I still miss fruit leather!)  Some fruits can be tolerated like bananas and some berries, but it’s all trial-and-error.  I still have so much to learn.  I don’t feel like a completely different person, but I do feel better.  Much better.  I’m not getting sick nearly as much, I gained weight and my appetite.  But as this blog will reveal, I still eat mucho sugar.  And my body is still fighting me over it.

Like many, I rang in the new year with hopes of restoring health.  I reeeeeally want to get my diet on track.  Because, even though I feel better than I did five years ago, I’m still struggling with lack of energy, mood swings, and even moodier skin (ugh!).  Since I feel like I’ve tried everything else, searched high and low for ANY other solution, I’m now (slowly, reluctantly, and a little sadly) ready to sit down with this fructose intolerance thing and look it in the eyes.  So this is where my inner struggle lies ~ I LOVE sugar.  But my body does not.  I LOVE my quest to find the perfect cupcake and blogging about the journey makes my heart happy.  But my body pushes back.   And that makes me sad.  What’s a sugar sensitive, cupcake-lover to do?

My dad suggested a spittoon.  Any other ideas?

Thanks so much for hearing me out!

Gimme Some Suga, Steve!

15 Nov

This week, I thought I’d hand over the mic to my husband, Steve.  He’s a personal trainer.  Me, I eat a lot of cupcakes and write about them.  It’s a well-balanced marriage.  Even though he’s passionate about good health and well-being, he’s still a super trooper on my quest to find the country’s best cupcake!  Last weekend, we merrily hopped in the car for a quick trip to Suwanee, GA to check out Gimme Some Suga Bakery Bar.  Turns out Roswell -> Suwanee does not equal quick trip, more like 40 minutes.  Oh well, it was still cool to explore a new Georgia town and walk around Suwanee’s lively Town Center.

So, without further ado…heeeeeeeeeeere’s Steve!  Take it away, Sugar Lips!  (Just kidding, I don’t really call him that.  But I should because it’d coordinate so well with the post’s title…and because he’s so sweet.  Sorry! Steve’s rolling his eyes right now…as I’m afraid you are, too.)

Man, when they say, “Gimme Some Suga” they really mean it!  The frosting on all of the cupcakes was super sweet.  So sweet in fact that it almost overwhelmed any flavor from the cake.  Luckily, I enjoy sweet foods and for the most part, enjoyed the cupcakes.

My favorite cupcake was easily the Pumpkin Spice.  The cake was delicious and the frosting was super sweet, but also right for the flavoring of the cake.  I feel like either the cupcakes need to be bigger or there needs to be less frosting.  I like a good amount of frosting, but when it’s as sweet as the frosting here, it overwhelms the cake. 

Overall, I think the store itself was okay.  It had neat little decorations and the person who serviced us was very friendly.  There was a birthday party going on when came in and it made the store very cramped, so we decided to eat our cupcakes outside. 

I think the Pumpkin Spice deserves a spot on my personal Top 10.  But to be honest, I have eaten so many cupcakes that I cannot remember them all. 

 ~Banana Bread Cupcake

Bread did not have much banana flavor.  Frosting was great – very chocolaty.

~Pumpkin Spice

Delicious!  I really enjoyed both the cake and frosting.  The frosting was so sweet that it might have overwhelmed the cake some.

~Lemon Cake

More sweet than tart or zingy.  Plain vanilla cake with sweet lemon frosting on top.  Not bad, but needs work to be more lemony.

~Chocolate Peanut Butter

Very sweet frosting – enjoyed it though! 

Thanks, Steve, for your insightful analysis!  My favorite was the Banana Bread Cupcake.  I really love banana bread, period.  Top it with chocolate frosting, even better.  And this guy had the genuine dense banana bread experience, yum!  I just wasn’t a fan of the dense frosting, it was almost like a piece of fudge (now, for some people, that may be right up your alley!)  The thick sugary frosting on all four cupcakes was too much for my sweet tooth to handle.  And I used to eat chocolate sprinkles by the spoonfuls, so I’ve always considered my sweet tooth to be big league.  Not to toot my own horn or anything…

Let’s roll out the break down now!

Gimme Some Suga Bakery Bar / 320 Town Center Avenue Suwanee, GA /

1. Price: $2.75 each / $15 half dozen / $28 dozen

2. Room temperature: Yes, holla! (I’ve always wanted to say that!  Did I spell it right?)

3.  Size:  Just a smidge smaller than standard

4. Cake to Frosting Ratio:  Slightly skewed in the frosting’s favor, which given it’s density, wasn’t working for me this time around

5. Vegan or gluten-free options:  Special order only

6. To-go packaging:  Cardboard box with logo sticker on top, no dividers inside though. Whoa, we were walking around with unsupported cupcakes and I didn’t even know it.  We were lucky no one was hurt!  (by no one, I mean no cupcake)

7. Milk for sale?:  I didn’t spot any milk, but they do have water, soda, Gatorade, Propel, Tazo teas, and coffee for sale.

8.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: Cheesecake!  They’ve got 4″, 7″, and 9″ cheesecakes on their menu.  Along with t-shirts ($12.99) and bath bombs ($10).

9.  Ambiance: I really like the decor here ~ it was warm & inviting; hip and youthful; girly yet grounded (they had a tv tuned into the football game.  Steve was pleased.)  There were 3 indoor tables with groovy bar stools, fun artwork,  nice music playing, and rad lighting.  I was pleased.

10. Service: Excellent.  Even though, as Steve mentioned, there was lots of commotion with a birthday party going on, the one person manning the counter that day still gave us her full and kind attention.

11.  Three words to describe the Gimme Some Suga experience (according to Steve):

1) very 2) sweet 3) cupcakes

Although I’m not crowning a Top 10 this go around, the whole experience of Gimme Some Suga was worth the less than quick trip!  If you head out that way, let me know what you think.  Any other Suwanee must-see sights?  On another note, are you a nickname/pet name user?  Got any good ones?

Cupcakes, It’s What’s For Breakfast

4 Nov

I discovered a cupcake the other weekend that would be sure to brighten any morning!  There’s no shame to eating cupcakes before noon, right?  Cupcakes are like donuts (small cake + frosting), and donuts seem to really have made a name for themselves in the breakfast department.  So I’m thinking a cupcake for breakfast every once in a while shouldn’t be frowned upon?  If you’re up for it, I’ve got just the cupcake for you – the French Toast cupcake at Smallcakes Cupcakery.

Smallcakes started in Kansas City, but opened an Atlanta location this September.  If you’re a fan of the Food Network’s show “Cupcake Wars”, maybe you saw the episode with Smallcakes owner Jeff Martin as a contestant.  Once I got wind of that little factoid, I was all geared up to go meet Jeff and hear all about the wonderful world of Food Network!  And Candace Nelson.  I sooooo want to sit next to Candace Nelson at the judges’ table and eat cupcakes and smile.

Smallcakes - Buckhead's Newest Cupcakery

Well, it just wasn’t in the cards for me to meet (and squeeze info from) Jeff that sunny Sunday.  My consolation though – a free cupcake!  It pays to follow Smallcakes’ twitter and facebook pages.  Freebies to be found!  My other consolation – the French Toast cupcake!  It’s exactly how you would imagine comforting, cinnamon-y french toast in cupcake form.  Fresh, spongy (we gotta think of a better adjective for spongy!) cake filled with cream and topped with a cinnamon buttercream / cream cheese hybrid.  Go, folks.  Get their French Toast cupcake (call first to make sure it’s available that day) and start your day with a frosting-induced smile.  Just a heads-up, they open at 10am…maybe eat a little fruit or cereal beforehand to tide you over.

Aside for the commendable moist cake, I’m sorry to say the rest of our cupcake loot – the Peanut Butter Cup, the Fudge Sundae, and the Vanilla-n-Chocolate – was kind of forgettable.  The French Toast cupcake’s deliciousness could, however, have Top 10 potential.

Let’s bring on the break down now, shall we?!

Smallcakes / 2955 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA location / other locations include Overland Park KS ~ Olathe, KS ~ Lee’s Summit, MS /

1. Price: $3

2. Room temperature:  Yes

3.  Size:  Standard

4. Cake to Frosting Ratio: Socially acceptable

5. Vegan or gluten-free options: No…bummer

6. To-go packaging: Standard box with cupcake dividers inside and logo sticker on top

7. Milk for sale?:  Negative on the milk.  Affirmative on the bottles of Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero

8.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: The only edible treats are the cupcakes.  T-shirts and water bottles are available for purchase, but those seemed to be emitting cupcake enthusiasm.  Oh well…

9.  Ambiance: This was kind of a let down, like something was missing.  Or a bunch of things.  There wasn’t any where to sit, which I’m thinking hinders the whole “Welcome!” vibe.  There’s a long counter along the window that you can stand and eat your cupcakes at.  But again, I just wasn’t getting that “Yay, you’re here! Stay a while!” message.  The cupcake counter, the main attraction, was kind of sad in its slenderness.  While the cupcakes were very attractive, they only displayed one of each variety and the rest were herded away from us on the bakers rack behind the counter.  Can you tell I’m hungry as I write this?  Which means I’m grumpy, and maybe a little too honest.  But I want to give Smallcakes (ATL) the benefit of the doubt since they had just opened this location, and say that they’re in the process of implementing cozy seating, mood music, cheery decor…

10. Service: Socially acceptable

11.  Three words to describe the Smallcakes experience:

1) Uneventful 2)  Sparse 3) FrenchToast (can we still count that as one word?)

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Smallcakes: A Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

Cupcakes, Come & Knock On My Door…

26 Oct

…we’ve been waiting for you (name that theme song).  Cupcakes knocking on your door is a reality now, folks!  Well, hmm…the cupcakes themselves won’t be a-knockin’ (I don’t think I want a cupcake that can do that) but a cupcake delivery service such as Cupcakes Express can!

Cupcakes Express Logo

Have you been wanting to send someone a happy birthday/congratulations/thank you/thinking of you/just-because you’re awesome gift?  Want to try something new but with the same convenience (and “surprise!” joy) as a floral delivery?  Too tired to leave the house and need cupcake fuel?  (If this last scenario is the case, please message me.  I’ve been there and can help.)   Well, Cupcakes Express is newly on the scene and bravely armed with a “delivering love by the dozen” mission.  You can order gourmet cupcakes by the dozen (in various arrangements) on their website or by calling 1-855-CUPCAKECupcakes Express delivery is currently available in 21 metropolitan areas but has plans to expand that coverage soon.    How it works – Cupcakes Express has established partnerships with carefully selected bakeries within these metro areas (so your recipient will get to experience a little local flavor) and works with a local courier service to hand-deliver the goods.  And I was lucky enough to get to experience this fun-in-a-box phenomenon first hand!

At the time, my zip code didn’t fall into Cupcakes Express’ Atlanta delivery zone (I bet their cupcake network is growing as I type though!) but my good friends  Beatrix & Manny’s address did.  So once again, Beatrix & Manny dutifully stepped up to the Cupcake Crusade plate (their service to Cupcake Crusade can also be recounted here & here).  They coordinated a delivery time with Cupcakes Express and hung out at home during the 3.5 hour delivery window (have I mentioned that they’re really good friends?!).  Beatrix called me as soon as they arrived, about 20 minutes after the ETA.  (When Beatrix called to inquire about the late delivery, Jessica with Cupcakes Express was an immediate help.  She found out what the situation was and called Beatrix back within 5 minutes.  Great customer service – check!)  I was dying to know – what did the package look like?  Which local bakery did our cupcakes come from?  Was it from a cupcakery we hadn’t tried?  Were the cupcakes packed in dry ice?  The excitement of surprise was all a flutter!  Beatrix calmly described the scene for me – a pink and white box with the Lenox Cupcakes logo on top was handed over to her right on her doorstep (just a heads-up, someone does need to be available/at home to receive the delivery).  A dozen pretty cupcakes in assorted flavors awaited their fate inside.  While Steve & I experienced Lenox Cupcakes back in January (which you can read about here), Beatrix and Manny hadn’t and I was eager to get their impressions.

We made a plan for the four of us to meet up, along with their adorable wonder pup Schmoo, at Chastain Park for a good ol’ fashioned cupcake picnic ( it’s true, I checked -cupcake picnics have been around since the days of yore).  If you haven’t had a cupcake picnic yet, do it NOW (and I’m saying that in a very encouraging and loving voice)!  Just a few recommendations:

-Bring a small meal to eat before the cupcake feast, you know, to buffer all that sugar.

-Bring plenty of water to drink.  Soda, milk, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. will just fill you up faster and hinder your feasting endurance.

-Bring small plates, fork & knife, and LOTS of napkins.

-A park with picnic benches will make the dividing/cutting of cupcakes easier.

-Eat until you can eat no more.  Then, take a nap.

Enough of my ramblings (we’ve heard that before, haven’t we?)!  Let’s turn it over to Beatrix now, who has some wise words on our cupcake delivery & picnic experience!

  • Delivery of cupcakes is never a bad thing, even when running a bit behind. 
  • The only bad experience for Manny was the mystery icing, which when sampled by all, was agreed to be something akin to Crisco.
  • The only complaint from Beatrix was that all the icing tasted like straight sugar – even a bit crunchy like chomping on a mouth full of granulated sugar.  Just not my preference. 
  • The caramel in the center of the salted caramel was a lovely little surprise.  I tend to go for the salted caramel cupcake everywhere I go now, and this was the first to have the caramel filling – bonus points!
  • The presentation of all was really quite lovely.  Nothing too plain like Belly, and nothing over the top like Whole Foods.  I know that you are quite partial to their cupcakes, but I can’t help but think they look a bit too fussy.   These cupcakes all looked like cupcakes should look.  Nothing gimmicky.  
  • Overall, not our favorite cupcakes, but in this world where we find so much else to be annoyed with, we fully acknowledge there really isn’t any such thing as a bad cupcake.  There may be some bad ideas – like icing that tastes like Crisco or gumballs – but a cupcake is fundamentally a good thing.
  • One last note from Schmoo – she pointed out that all were so engaged in enjoying the cupcakes that nary a crumb slipped under the picnic table where she was being most vigilant.  Perhaps a testament to the tastiness of the treat.

My personal favorite out of the bunch was the Vanilla Vanilla (vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream) – it was simple and true.  Steve preferred the Chocolate Fudge (chocolate cupcake filled with fudge with vanilla buttercream).  That Crisco Cupcake really had us scratching our heads (I’m assuming this was the Chocolate Salted Caramel by photo matching with the Lenox Cupcakes online menu).  The frosting didn’t have a single flavor to it.  My theory was that it was a display cupcake (because it sure was pretty) that accidentally got added to our lot. The remaining treats were enjoyed but didn’t knock our socks off (after knocking on our door, hehe) but scored high for appearance.

My only suggestion would be to include a flavor guide within the box of cupcakes – knowledge is power.   Overall, the Cupcakes Express delivery sure made for a fun and memorable experience with our friends.  Just think, you too can spread this joy on to your loved ones.  What do you think?  Sound like something you’d like to try?  Don’t see your city on their website?  Which city should they add to their network next?  Any other good delivery gift ideas?

I want to send a great big thank you to Cupcakes Express for arranging this experience and allowing me the opportunity to check out your cool new serviceWishing you all the best as you grow and spread joy!

Thank you, thank you Beatrix, Manny & Schmoo – for receiving the delivery and facilitating all that it entailed.  Not to mention excellent park selection, company, and cupcake feedback!

Wholey Moly Whole Foods!

22 Sep

You might find yourself exclaiming this very same statement after encountering Whole Foods’ cupcakes,  for one or all of the following reasons:

1) They’re expensive – $3.49 a pop

2) They’re huge.  Like, there’s no possible way I could smoosh the whole thing in my mouth  (because, you know, I like to have that option)

3) They’re scrumdiddlyumptious! (name that movie…)

After my little identity crisis last month, I finally got my act together and marched into my local Whole Foods with downright determination.  I was gonna eat a cupcake gosh darn it and eat it good.

There were 11 flavors available, along with 7 characters (like Elmo, Spongebob, a cow, and I think the pig from Angry Birds) to choose from.   I paced the counter, back and forth back and forth, so many times that (I believe he was) the baker came out to offer assistance.  He gave a detailed run-down of each flavor, and with his help I able to narrow down my selection to the two flavors exclusive to the Merchant’s Walk (Marietta, GA) Whole Foods – the Peanut Butter cupcake and the Cookie Dough cupcake.  A few more minutes passed and my mind was made – the hefty Cookie Dough stud of a cupcake was coming home with me!

So...I got a vanilla mini cupcake also. I couldn't resist it's cuteness!

Back at home, I cozied up on the couch with my plate o’ cupcake in one hand and an eager fork in the other.  I had a good felling about this.  Took one bite and swooooooned – this cupcake was divine!  The cake was fresh, chocolately, moist and sweet.  Then the frosting was oh so lovable – soft and sugary.  And I think that actual cookie dough mixed into buttercream is genius.  Nearing the end of my little, cupcake love affair, I realized I was doing something unusual – I was taking teeny tiny forkfuls, almost crumb-size bites.  It was so good that I guess I was just doing whatever necessary to prolong the sweet experience.  Word to the wise – this cupcake is literally sweet!  I’m pretty sure eating the cupcake in full (I split mine with Steve) would result in a cupcake hangover.  And trust me, those are not cool.

Let’s break it down now…(btw, I’ve added a new category to the list.  I hope you like it!)

Whole Foods (Merchant’s Walk) / 1311 Johnson Ferry Road NE Marietta, GA /

1. Price: $3.49.  That’s pricey, no doubt about it.  But, it’s jumbo-sized and prime for sharing.  Also, some are filled so you get a lot for your money.

2. Room temperature:  No, their specialty cupcakes (jumbo-sized and character cupcakes) are kept in a cold case.  They do however have room temperature, pre-packaged “Two Bite” cupcakes ready and willing whenever you are.

3.  Size:  JUMBO !  This may be Numero Uno in the jumbo cupcake category.  Well, except for Big Papi over at Trader Joe’s.

4. Cake to Frosting Ratio (<—new category!): While I stress the jumbo size, I must say this ratio is still commendable.  I probably had just a wee bit of frosting left unaccompanied.  But that’s okay with me – if it’s good frosting, I’ll take my frosting straight up (still waiting the day to try a frosting shot…)!

5. Vegan or gluten-free options:  Single ($2.99) and packs of 4 ($7.99) gluten-free cupcakes are on-hand.  The day of my visit,  these were of the “blondie chocolate chip” variety.  Not sure if this flavor is standard or rotates.  If you find out, let me know!

6. To-go packaging:  Interesting little plastic cup with lid.  You know the things they put a McDonald’s sundae in?  It’s kind of like that, but upside down.  It definitely prevents the cupcake from toppling over and messing up the cupcake’s “do”, which can really bum me out.  But extracting the cupcake still got kinda messy.  It’d be awesome if they’d employ the same technique of Edibles Incredible, where they put a long skinny strip of parchment paper underneath and along the sides of the cupcake so you can then pull up on the ends of the strip to lift it out.

7. Milk for sale?:  Oh yes, there’s so much milk for sale!  And every other delicious beverage you can imagine!  You know, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Whole Foods doesn’t sell Coke and Pepsi products.  So if those were the tasty beverages you were imagining – I’m sorry!

8.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:  Oh yes, so many treats!  You can make a night out out of Whole Foods (remember when I mentioned that grocery stores do it for me? Crazy, but true!)  But seriously, you can go and load up a plate full of yummy variety from their hot bar and salad bar, get some freshly squeezed juice with a splash of wheatgrassthen pick out your well-deserved (since you drank wheatgrass) jumbo cupcake!  Oh yeah, and then you can get some groceries, nice-smelling soap, and a pair of Tom’s shoes if you fancy.  Whole Foods = my idea of a fun date.

Pretty cakes on-hand, too!

9.  Ambiance:  The Merchant’s Walk Whole Foods to is just about a month old, so every thing is still shiny and new.  Most of the Whole Foods I’ve been to, though, have a pleasant ambiance – breezy and hip.  Plus, there’s indoor and outdoor seating that says “hey neighbor, why don’t you stop and stay awhile!”.

10. Service:  Excellent!  I wasn’t left waiting, they let me take pictures and ask random questions as well as pace back and forth in front of their counter.  And then the baker came out and provided me with all sorts of helpful information, too.  Happy customer right here.

Fresh ingredients + unprocessed sugar = less guilt 🙂

11.  Three words to describe the Whole Foods Bakery experience:

1)  Invigorating 2) Neighborly 3) Licking-my-plate-delicious

To sum it all up, I really loved that Cookie Dough cupcake.  And really want to find a spot for it on the Top 10.  It’s just getting so hard now with all the amazing cupcakes that have come before it and captured my heart & taste buds.  Give me a little more time to think it through and I’ll find a righteous spot for it!

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Atlanta Cupcake Factory Forces Me To Break Out The Dictionary

2 Sep

And by “break out the dictionary”, I mean break out the online dictionary (watch out, we can get brainy up in here).  The reasoning behind my dictionary search – to examine the meaning of “factory”.  You see, when I first heard the name “Atlanta Cupcake Factory”, I envisioned this massively old brick building.  That carried a rich and quirky history, like the largest paper clip manufacturer this side of the Atlantic or something.  And now the  industrial, architectural beast of a building was re-purposed to the sweet tune of mass cupcake production.  Can you picture it?  I imagined buying a ticket that got you a tour of the facility.  We’d wear hairnets and white lab coats as we strolled the factory floors and watch freshly baked cupcakes stream down a conveyer belt.  Puffs of colorful frosting would magically drop from some mechanical arm as the cupcakes merrily rolled on by.  We’d get high on the scent of sugar, sample dollops of frosting, then conclude our tour with the all-you-can-eat-cupcake-buffet in the building’s cafeteria.   I see myself emerging the factory at sunset with crumbs in my hair and bellybutton, wearing  a gift shop t-shirt proclaiming “Cupcakes Are The New Paperclips!”.

So, you can understand my surprise when my friend Beatrix first pointed out the Atlanta Cupcake Factory tucked into a small strip of shops called Highland Row.

It’s really charming, but factory it is not.  At least not the factory-type I pictured.  Hence, the need for an official “factory” definition.  Here we go – according to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, a factory =

1. a station where factors reside and trade

2. a building or set of buildings with facilities for manufacturing

3. the seat of some kind of production

So even though their website states that they are “dedicated to handcrafted, small-batch wholesome baking”, Atlanta Cupcake Factory is still the seat of some kind of (–>cupcake) production.  So I guess it’s legit.  I’m just gonna chalk up this whole tangent to my wild imagination, and not a fail in elementary education.  (But now that it’s out there, don’t you think this country needs my visionary cupcake factory!  Surely there’s a sleepy old plant out there some where, just prime for the picking, that we can bestow this sweet endeavor upon.  Let’s make it happen America!)

In terms of the actual Atlanta Cupcake Factory –  it’s a bigwig in the Atlanta cupcake arena and is certainly worth a go-see.  It’s been recommended by Southern Living, has won Creative Loafing’s “Best of” award in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and made National Geographic Traveler’s “25 Cupcakeries We Love” list (um, how have I not seen this list until now?!  I’m so ashamed, I only have like 9 of the cupcakeries from this list on my radar.  This is not a good day for Cupcake Crusader.).

Stepping into the 5-year old, family-owned and operated Atlanta Cupcake Factory is like slipping into a little cupcake-feathered nest with tons of homespun appeal.  At first, you might be caught off guard by the tight quarters but you’ll soon be enveloped by the cozy and intimate vibe to even notice.  There were about 12 flavors to choose from during my Friday afternoon visit with Beatrix (but their online menu sets the mouth-a-watering with lots of flavors like Banana Brown Sugar, Sugar Cookie Vanilla Peach, Strawberry Lemonade, and Chocolate Dolce de Leche.)  Beatrix had her heart set on a Vanilla Salted Caramel (an ACF top-seller) and I went with the Fresh Strawberry…and the Chocolate Almond Raspberry for good measure!  We sat outside with Beatrix’s loveable pup, Schmoo, and enjoyed our sugary sweets!

Since I admire and respect Beatrix’s opinion greatly, I asked her to type up her critique (like we had done here after our visit to Belly General Store).  So without further ado, please join me in welcoming back the words of Beatrix!

The thing I like best about the ACF is that their cupcakes actually taste like their name – i.e. strawberry truly tastes like strawberry, etc.  Some cupcakes really just taste like straight sugar, regardless of what flavoring they profess.  But ACF seems quite genuine.  Another funny anecdote to relate is how much joy they brought my 89 year old grandmother when I took them down for an Easter celebration.  She took that double chocolate cupcake from the box and proceeded to get chocolate frosting all over her from head to tow.  She looked a lot like a kid eating their first birthday cake when all was done.  And Schmoo (the loveable pup I mentioned earlier) dutifully sat under her wheelchair in expectation of the cake crumbs from heaven.

I wholeheartedly agree with Beatrix in that the cupcake flavors are not misleading, but immediately identifiable and rich.  Both Beatrix and I delighted in the bursting freshness of the raspberry puree atop the Chocolate Almond Raspberry.   I instantly detected the warm caramel flavor faintly contrasted by a pinch of salt in my bite of Beatrix’s  Salted Caramel cupcake.  And the Fresh Strawberry, oh now that was a darling of a cupcake.  One of those make-you-feel-like-a-(very lucky!)-kid-again kind of cupcakes.  Maybe a Top 10 contender, I told Beatrix (still deliberating in that department).   Overall – fresh cakes all around (ACF uses no oil and bakes on-site everyday) and standard cake/frosting ratio.

Phew, apologies for my chattiness today (or is it always?)!  But at least it was educational, no?  Let me get to a brief break down and get you on your way!

Atlanta Cupcake Factory / 624 N. Highlands Ave.  Atlanta, GA /

1. Price: $2.50 each

2. Room temperature: Yes!

3.  Size:  Standard

4. Vegan or gluten-free options:  No

5. To-go packaging:  Plastic clamshell.  Ours came in a six-seater.  It’s effective, but I’m not a huge fan of plastic.

6. Milk for sale?:  Yes, along with Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, H2O, coffee, and cinnamon coffee.

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: Homemade rice crispy bars (including fruity pebble and chocolate salted caramel varieties) and chocolate espresso brownies.  Oh yeah, you can also buy cute handmade aprons for $30.

8.  Ambiance: It’s a small space with a vintage feel, fun art, and nostalgic flair.  Plus it had two of my favorite elements in a cupcakery – hardwood floors and lots of natural lighting.  No where to sit inside though.  Two patio tables and bench available outside (which is dog friendly!).

9. Service:  Welcoming and down-to-earth.

10.  Three words to describe the Atlanta Cupcake Factory experience (once I got over my reality check):

1) Flavorful 2) Cozy 3) Artsy

Just for fun, here’s a shot of Beatrix’s Pekingese either 1) eagerly anticipating Beatrix’s exit from ACF or 2) longing for her very own cupcake.  I tell ya, that dog has a special place in my heart (and just happens to be my god-dog :))!  Thank you Beatrix and Schmoo for being such trusty crusade companions!

Atlanta Cupcake Factory on Urbanspoon

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