Tag Archives: strawberry cupcake

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

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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 / www.theatlantacupcakefactory.com

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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Hello There Cupcake, Nice To Meet You!

29 Jul

Our latest cupcake adventure takes us to “the heart of Georgia”!  Located about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta and smack dab in the middle of the state (hence “the heart…” nickname), is none other than Macon, Georgia.  Allow me to geek out for a moment here.  (Feel free to join me, or skip ahead to the part where we pig out on five cupcakes).  This city of the South is home to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Allman Brothers Band Museum, the Ocmulgee National Monument, over 5,000 National Register of Historic Places-listed structures (including this beauty -wow!); and was once home to Otis Reading, Little Richard, and Oprah’s “Favorite Things” episode (2007).  Another thing going for Macon – Hello There Cupcake!  Which is just what I exclaimed (in my head) when I walked through their doors!  Yup, Macon has got an authentic cupcakery in its midst.  The store is pretty, the cupcakes are pretty, the cupcakes taste good and were a good price – what more could a (cupcake-obsessed) girl ask for?

I was flying solo on this mission, and actually looking quite the opposite of the store’s appearance.  Inside Hello There Cupcake you’ll find glittering chandeliers, chic decor, perfectly “coiffed” cupcakes, and spotless floors and tabletops.  Me, on the other hand, not so coiffed.  I was in town helping a friend paint their house, so I had spots of paint all over me (including my hair) and entirely un-chic apparel.  Alas, Hello There Cupcake still welcomed me through their doors and loaded me up with lovely cupcakes.   Despite the gnarly appetite all that painting created, I was good and only picked out four (our self-designated allotment for each mission) cupcakes.  Well…I was good for about 55 seconds.  I did pick out four cupcakes at first!  They kindly packaged them up for me so I could take them home to eat with Steve, and as they were ringing me up… I caved.  I just had to have the coconut cupcake also!  And in it went, into its own individual box as I grinned mischievously.  Steve would never have to know I strayed and I could stuff that beautiful cupcake in my mouth in sheer delight as I drove home.

Fast forward through my 1.5 hour drive home, a quick scrubbing shower, a little dinner, and we had the following cupcake feast laid out before us!

Lemon Love ~ lemon cake with cream cheese frosting, topped with the cutest little sugar daisy you’ve ever seen!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ~ chocolate chip cake with cookie dough frosting, topped with mini chocolate chip

Strawberry Dream ~ strawberry vanilla cake with strawberry frosting

Turtle ~ chocolate cake with pecans, caramel Italian buttercream with caramel drizzle and pecans on top

Snowball ~ coconut cake with cream cheese frosting, topped with shaved coconut

When I opened our box of goods, I found myself exclaiming yet again “why, hello there cupcake”.  They were just so darn pretty!  Overall, all cupcakes were tasty and fresh (they bake from scratch every morning and never sell a day old cupcake), yet landed on the denser side of the spectrum.  The cake-frosting ratio was skewed only slightly, and for me a tad bit more frosting on my fork is fine in my book.  I didn’t have a stand-out favorite, but enjoyed the Strawberry Dream, the Lemon Love, and the Snowball equally.  Steve awarded Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough best-in-show.  The only downside amongst this spread – the Italian buttercream on the Turtle cupcake.  It wasn’t a favorite in our household.  I didn’t think it was that bad, maybe just a bit bland, but Steve was not pleased with its “watery” consistency.  This might be a delectable that needs to be eaten right away and not sit around for a few hours.

And now, let’s down a stroll along the break down…

HELLO THERE CUPCAKE / 4524 Forsyth Rd. Macon, GA / www.hellotherecupcake.com

1. Price:  $2.50 each  / $27.50 dozen

2. Room temperature: Yes!

3.  Size:  Just a wee bit bigger than standard

4. Vegan or gluten-free options:  Not at the moment they said, so maybe this means it’s in the works.

5. To-go packaging:  Square, pink cardboard box (sans adornment) with standard dividers inside.

6. Milk for sale?:  Indeed!  + coffee, water and Coke products.

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:  Frosting shots for 50 cents!  I’ve heard about this phenomenon and it intrigues me.  How exactly do you shoot frosting?  I can’t imagine it slips right into your mouth.  I can just picture it now – head tilted back, lips wrapped around a shot glass, mouth-watering, and just waiting….and waiting….and waiting for the frosting to eventually fall out.  I may have this all wrong, so I’m now determined to partake in frosting shots next encounter.  I walk on the wild side…sometimes.   In the mean time, any one out there ever given this a go? I’d love to hear about it!  Hello There Cupcake also sells greeting cards, birthday kits (package of 2 candles, matches, a bow, and confetti), t-shirts, and hats.

8.  Ambiance: Minimalism meets glamour.  I gotta give props to whoever designed the store!  The size of the space was just right.  The decor was creative without being clutter and sparkled without being flashy.  I walked in and had that “oooooooh, how pretty!” moment.  There were a few places to sit (yay, no need to eat on the sidewalk)Plus, everything seemed super clean and tidy.

9. Service:  There were two people on staff the day of my visit, so everything seemed to be running ship-shape.  No long line,  cupcakes well stocked, and (like I mention above) the shop was spick and spanBonus: they answered all my questions and gave good recommendations.

10.  Three words to describe the HELLO THERE CUPCAKE experience:

1)  Clean 2) Enchanting 3) Pretty

Even though we don’t have a Top 10 game-changer here, I still look back on my time at Hello There Cupcake fondly.  It was like a Cinderella moment – I went into Hello There Cupcake  looking bedraggled, but eating their cupcakes made me feel pretty.  Now, that’s my kind of fairytale!

Hello There Cupcake on Urbanspoon

p.s. Macon-dwellers (and coming soon to Warner Robins) ~ check out their facebook page to learn more about giveaways and cupcake debuts!

Taste Test Extravaganza!

15 Jun

The other weekend, Steve and I hit the road!  We didn’t cross any borders this time around…unless county borders count.   Our destination – Augusta, GA!  Yup, hometown of Woodrow Wilson, James Brown, this little ol’ golf tournament called the Masters, and last but not least my aunt, uncle and cousins.  Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering,  Hulk Hogan was indeed born here.

I’ve always loved visiting Augusta.  Right along the Savannah River, it’s really rich with history dating back to the early 1700s.  With 9 neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s always something to catch your eye if you’re a preservation geek like me.  And if you also happen to be a cupcake geek like me, do not fear – Augusta has plenty to offer in that department, too!

On my last visit to Augusta (some time this past winter), I noticed a cupcakery on the verge of opening, so Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe went on my radar.   When making plans this time around, my aunt mentioned that she spotted another cupcake shop in town, Sweet Cups!, and a cupcake taste test a la Augusta-style was born!  But it didn’t stop there, oh no!  My aunt then heard from my cousin that a local Mennonite bakery makes amazing cupcakes, so the Lil’ Dutch Bakery was added to the ballot too.  And that’s how the cupcake taste-test-extravaganza came into being.

In the interest of time, my aunt and uncle picked up four cupcakes from the Lil’ Dutch Bakery while Steve and I were en route.  Then after our arrival (and some fortifying lunch), we all headed to Sweet Cups! to select another four cupcakes.  It’s a little, unfussy shop tucked off of Washington Road in an assuming shopping center.  Once inside, we were greeted so warmly by the darling baker herself.  She gave us a run-down of the daily offerings, which included minis (cue the cheering) in almost all of the same flavors as the “big kids”.  After our deliberation, we selected the following four (regular-sized) cupcakes: strawberry, key lime, red velvet, and sweet potato.  Mmmm…that’s some sweet, Southern goodness right there!

Sweet Cups! Cupcakes, Confections & Catering

Next stop – Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe in the Le Pavilion shopping plaza.  The scene inside is quite a change from Sweet Cups! where cupcakes were basically the main attraction.  But at Neapolitan, with both cupcakes and gifts on the agenda, there’s lots to see.  There was also a flat screen TV complete with leather couch seating area, pink & white striped walls, and a drink dispenser dispensing FREE pink lemonade.  Woo hoo, free stuff!  Double bonus points to Neapolitan for 1) giving free stuff and 2) serving a color coordinated beverage (I don’t know why, but that does something for me)!  I also got to chat with the owner, Molly, whose super sweet personality matched the pretty cupcakes on-hand.

All four of us put our heads together again, and selected the following four cupcakes: lemon, peanut butter, salted caramel, and cookies & cream.  And then we left…without our cupcakes.  I guess I was in sensory overload and just spaced out or something.  Luckily, we didn’t get far and the kind woman who rang us up was standing outside with our box o’cupcakes anticipating our return.  That should teach me a lesson for next time…don’t drink the free lemonade 🙂 just kidding, I have no one to blame but myself.

Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe

All loaded back into the sugar-scented vehicle, we headed for home (well, my aunt & uncle’s home).  It was a few hours before dinner and the subsequent cupcake taste test, so my aunt and I had a fun time “photo styling” our cupcake spread.  Check it out!

We made sure the packaging was included in each photo. I'll discuss this element in more detail in "The Breakdown"...

Ok, so fast forward through the arrival of my cousin and his sweet family, playing with my cousin’s cute kids, and a yum yummy family dinner, and you have me frantically (and messily, sorry Uncle L!) cutting up 12 cupcakes into fours and trying to create some sort of system out of it all for a seamless taste test spectacle.   We eventually got all the sweets “plated”, fashioned a blindfold out of my aunt’s pretty blue scarf, and the taste test was underway! (I wish I had photographed the whole scene, especially when the blindfolded taste tester was waiting for me, mouth wide open, to feed them their forkful of cupcake.  The mental pictures I have though make me smile.)

So after five volunteers were subjected to the blind taste test in a controlled environment under scientific eye, we were able to crown the following winners:

Once we concluded the experiment, I jotted down some feedback and then chowed down myself.  I can honestly say there wasn’t a bad cupcake in this bunch.  And something about Sweet Cups! strawberry confection really wooed me – the delicate pink frosting with bits of strawberry, the wonderfully comforting blend of strawberry and vanilla…it’s a darling of a cupcake.  And Sweet Cups! sweet potato cupcake is not to be overlooked. This was one of Steve’s favorites, along with Neapolitan’s peanut butter and salted caramel.

Here are some other comments the gang had to say:

-The cake at Neapolitan was a tad bit on the dry side.

-The Lil’ Dutch Bakery strawberry cupcake tasted like a pop-tart.

-The contest between Lil’ Dutch Bakery’s strawberry cupcake and Sweet Cups’ was neck and neck – it was a close race for those two.

-The Lil’ Dutch Bakery key lime cupcake tasted like lime jello.

-The appearance of the Lil’ Dutch Bakery cupcakes wasn’t much to write home about (along with the packaging), but their deliciousness (and 3 crowned victories) reinforced that whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” philosophy.

*and my little note to self: 12 pieces of 1/4 a cupcake = bad idea.  A cupcake hangover ensued.

Ok, let’s see if I can handle the breakdown x 3

Lil’ Dutch Bakery  / 3830 Washington Road, Augusta, GA /( no website) 706.228.5336

Sweet Cups! Cupcakes, Confections & Catering / 604 Shartom Drive, Augusta, GA / (no website) 706.922.1300

Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe  / 106 Pleasant Home Road 2A, Augusta, GA / http://www.neapolitangifts.com

1. Price:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – $1.59 each (that’s a deal right there, folks!)

Sweet Cups! – $2.50 each /$25 dozen/ minis! – $1.50 each, 3 for $3.75

Neapolitan – $2.75 each / $30 dozen / minis! – $0.75 each, $10 dozen

2. Room temperature:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Yes

Sweet Cups! – Yes

Neapolitan: – Nope, they’re kept cold here

3.  Size:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Cake size = grande (or venti, if we’re talking Starbucks lingo) / Frosting size = poquito

Sweet Cups! – Standard

Neapolitan –  Cake size = standard / Frosting size = piled high

4. Vegan or gluten-free options:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – No, sorry

Sweet Cups! – No dice

Neapolitan – Gluten-free (in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet) is made on an order by order basis – $18 half dozen, $36 dozen

5. To-go packaging:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – All four cupcakes were set on top of a styrofoam plate/tray of sorts and covered with plastic wrap

Sweet Cups! – Pink cardboard box with interior dividers and logo sticker on top

Neapolitan – Brown cardboard box with interior dividers and logo sticker on top

6. Milk for sale?:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Ummm, I’m not sure.  Aunt T, what say you?

Sweet Cups! – Not that I spotted.  They did have bottled beverages on hand like Snapple, Gatorade, sodas, water, and Starbucks frappuccinos

Neapolitan – Couldn’t find here either, but don’t forget there’s free pink lemonade!  Also available – Cokes, water, and Jittery Joe’s coffee (I’m a fan of this coffee since it started in Athens, GA.  plus it’s yummy!)

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – I think lots of baked good abound here, but Aunt T will have to fill in the details…

Sweet Cups! – Cinnamon rolls and slices of red velvet cake

Neapolitan – Cookies, cake pops, plus t-shirts, onesie, bath bombs, and other gifts galore

8.  Ambiance: 

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Not sure, Aunt T & Uncle L picked up our goods.

Sweet Cups! – Unassuming yet welcoming.  Pale green walls, minimal decor, no seating area so plan on cupcake “take-out”

Neapolitan – Vibrant and full of pink!  Like I mention above, there’s a lot to look at – gift items and such.  And plenty of seating (3 tables, 2 sofas) so you could sit and stay awhile (and watch SpongeBob on their tv)

9. Service:  

Lil’ Dutch Bakery – Oh no, can’t answer this one either.  Aunt T, you’re gonna have to be my guest blogger here!

Sweet Cups! – The woman helping us the day of our visit was actually the baker, and she was very kind and fun to talk to.  She seemed to love baking, and I think that shines through in the cupcakes.

Neapolitan – Friendly and especially helpful service (thank you, thank you for coming out to look for us and not throwing out our cupcakes when we accidentally left without them!)

So, I’m sort of skipping #10 here – please don’t shun me!  I’ve just up and run out of steam.  Maybe I need a cupcake

Thanks so much B. Family (Aunt T, Uncle L, P, J, AK, C, and L) for such a fun time, making this happen,  and all your help!


Lil’ Dutch Bakery
Lil' Dutch Bakery on Urbanspoon

Neapolitan
Neapolitan Cupcake & Gift Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Tickled Pink @ Pink Pastry Parlor

26 Mar

Ladies, want to feel like a kid again? If yes, then skip on over to the Pink Pastry Parlor!  (Sorry to discriminate fellas, but there just really isn’t anything manly about this place….which you may have already figured out based on its name.  Oh wait!  I just noticed that there’s an Earthworm cupcake on the menu.  That’s manly, right?)  

While Pink Pastry Parlor is a bakery, with lots and lots of cupcake flavors, they also specialize in princess-themed parties.  I don’t even have kids and found this a neat place -you just can’t help but be happy here!

Once I honed in on the cupcakes, I was blown away by all the flavors to choose from.  I counted 46 varieties on their (online) menu, and had about 34 to choose from on the day of my visit.   The only downside to all that was a pretty severe indecisivity flare-up.  (side note: is indecisivity a legit word? If not, can I take credit for creating it?)  I mean, how awesome do Mississippi Mud, Banana Puddin’, and ButterFinger cupcakes sound?  Plus, they have Strawberry cupcake with either cream cheese or buttercream frosting.  Me and my cream cheese frosting dispassionate-ways thank you Pink Pastry!  I finally selected the following lot:

~Banana Puddin’ ~ Italian Cream ~ Snickers ~ Strawberry (with buttercream frosting!) ~ Red Velvet~Cookie Dough~S’more~Cinn-A-Swirl

That’s a big lot, I know.  So I think I gotta fess up here, that I made two trips to PPP recently.  One time to pick up dessert for dinner with my neighbors, but I didn’t have my camera (drat!) .  I figured I could easily just pop back in later that week since it’s on my way home from work.  So, when I returned days later armed with my camera I couldn’t resist getting some more.  I, seriously, have NO willpower.

All of these cupcakes were good – definitely no bad eggs in the bunch.  And I think everyone in my group thoroughly enjoyed them.  Very fresh, moist cake.  Stellar frosting/cake ratio, for me at least (and if you’re looking at these photos and thinking “those look heavy on the frosting side”, just know that it’s not a dense frosting but has a light, almost whipped texture).  Also, I found their appearance commendable – dainty and fluffy, yet creative and fun.  Some things that really stood out to me – how indulgent the Italian Cream tasted; that the Cinn-A-Swirl wasn’t very cinnamon-y; the fact that Steve liked the Banana Puddin’ when he has always claimed to only like actual bananas and nothing banana flavored;  that the Snicker cupcake really tasted like a Snickers; and how yummy the S’mores was, not to mention cute with that little Teddy Graham on top.

So that’s all she wrote…for that section at least.  Here’s the ol’ break down (note:  I added a new category, Check out #10!)

Pink Pastry Parlor / Spalding Center at 6385 Spalding Dr. Suite C, Norcross GA / www.pinkpastryparlor.com 

  1. Price:  $2 each / $22 dozen

2. Room temperature:  Yup! 

3.  Size:   Petite.  Even though these cupcakes are on the dainty side, I wasn’t left feeling deprived of either cake or frosting.

4. Vegan or gluten-free options:  None to be found on-site or online.

5. To-go packaging:  It depends on how many cupcakes you get – a single cupcake could go in an individual-sized plastic clamshell; three cupcakes go in a larger clamshell; four cupcakes go in the cute pink cardboard box with window and dividers inside.  The only thing I left wanting was a small, paper shopping bag.  Since the clamshell containers didn’t have those braces (for lack of a technical term) inside, putting them in a flat-bottomed bag would decrease their toppling-over odds. 

6. Milk for sale?:  I only spotted bottled water and cans of soda.  But how cute would it be to serve strawberry milk here?!  You know, to keep with the whole pink scheme.

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow: Yes ma’am!  Pick out an “award-winning” brownie, cookie (one of which is called “chunk-in-the-trunk”!),  a scoop of ice cream or pudding.  Then online, you’ll also find a variety of pies, cheesecakes, cobblers and bars.

8.  Ambiance:  Pink!  There are pink walls, pink booths, pink curtains, pink merchandise, pink bakery boxes, etc.  Upon entering, you get the sense that Pink Pasty Parlor is a bona fide, homespun bakery with a fun, girlie side.  Add some splashes of retro and southern sweetness in there and before you know it, you’ve forgotten all your troubles.  Plenty of places to sit and enjoy your sweets, and some young-hearted merchandise to browse when you’re done…like tiaras! 

9. Service:  Southern hospitality is alive and well in Norcross, GA.   I really felt like a valued customer at Pink Pastry Parlor.

10.  Three words to describe the Pink Pastry Parlor experience: (*this is my new category!  What do you think?) 

1)  girlie 

2) festive

3) whimsical

All in all, I was very pleased with my experience at Pink Pastry.  And if my nieces lived in Georgia, I would surely plan a party for them there.  No Top 10 cupcake  just yet, but that may change.  They already made a repeat customer out of me, and like I said it’s on my way home from work.  I’m pretty sure my lack of willpower will yet again get the best of me and I’ll find myself standing in front of their cupcake counter, feeling like a kid all over again.

Pink Pastry Parlor on Urbanspoon

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Starting the New Year on Cloud 9

7 Jan

Something about ringing in the new year brings out the little girl in me.  No matter how old I am these days, I still hope that my celebration will involve at least one of the following:

-confetti

-a sparkly dress

-festive finger foods

This year, my husband and I were invited to feast and count down to 2011 with our cool neighbors.  When I got the invite I was running errands in Roswell and drove past Cloud 9 Frozen Yogurt & Cupcakes.  Ah Ha!  Cupcakes = festive finger food WITH confetti on it!  I went in and purchased four cupcakes…and then counted down to the count down.  I’m not sure people realize how challenging it is for me to 1) to be left alone with cupcakes and 2) to be patient, especially when it comes to eating 🙂  But I did it and the evening turned out to be most enjoyable.  After all was said and done, I was crawling into bed at 1 am, smelling like campfire and frosting – 2011 was off to a great start!

Back to the cupcakes!  We ended up splitting the cupcake in fours, so that we all got to sample each flavor.  Here’s what we thought:

-Birthday Cake (funfetti cake, vanilla buttercream, confetti-like sprinkles): good cupcake, not too sweet and fresh cake.

-Black & White (chocolate cake, vanilla buttercream, more confetti-like sprinkles): same as above

-Strawberry (strawberry cake, strawberry cream cheese frosting): Tasty, fresh cake.  Not overly strawberry-flavored.   But do note, it’s a strawberry cream cheese frosting.  I personally prefer strawberry buttercream, but hey, that’s just me.

-Cookies & Cream (chocolate chip cake, Oreo cream cheese frosting)*:  The unanimous favorite!  The cake was insanely soft and spongy, and the chocolate chips on the bottom were appreciated.  Good stuff here!

*Some readers may remember my post a few months back about my fructose-intolerance.  Well, after I had these cupcakes I had a sneaking suspicion that fructose may have been an ingredient.  Turns out Oreo cookies, in the Cookies & Cream cupcake frosting, have high-fructose corn syrup in them.  Just a heads-up for other fellow fructose-intolerant comrades out there.

Let’s break it down now!

Cloud 9 Frozen Yogurt & Cupcakes / 1195 Woodstock Road (Super Target Shopping Center) / Roswell, GA / www.cloud9roswell.com  

1. Price: $2.75 each / $30 dozen

2. Room temperature:  Yes, these treats are ready to rock n’ roll.

3.  Size:  Standard, a generously sized standard.  Generously frosted too – score! 

4. Vegan or gluten-free options: You can special order gluten-free, but have to get them by the dozen ($30 per dozen).

5. To-go packaging:  Cardboard box with dividers inside and logo on top.

6. Milk for sale?:  It’s not on the menu, but if you ask they might be able to get you a cupful.  On the menu – coffee, hot chocolate, sodas, and water.  They did have the water pitcher and cups out for self-serve water, which I always appreciate.  It’s the little things, you know?

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:   Frozen yogurt -lots of flavors and toppings to choose from.  Plus, they had this “yogurt cake bottom” thing to put at the bottom of your yogurt cup -to get the get the best of both worlds (I’m guessing).  Cloud 9 is really like two shops in one, catering to two hot trends right.

8.  Ambiance:  Airy and fun.  Calming periwinkle blue walls, sleek blue and white seating, modern, cloud-like light fixtures…On one wall, they displayed entries from a cupcake coloring contest, which added charm and a sense of community.

9. Service:  The word dedication pops into my mind.  I first encountered their dedication when I was leaving the art store (in the same shopping center as Cloud 9).  A Cloud 9 employee was coming in with a tray full of mini cupcake samples, and he let me have one!  Then, once inside Cloud 9 the other employee seemed genuinely happy to see and help me.  Plus, the place was spotless.  You can tell that Cloud 9 takes pride in what they do.

*Nice feature – you can order cupcakes on their website (1 dozen minimum) and they can custom create yogurt and cupcake flavors to “enhance any themed event”.

So, to sum it all up I’d say I truly enjoyed my trip to Cloud 9.  Cool decor and excellent customer service.  The cupcakes, although quite tasty, didn’t make the cut for Top 10.  The Cookies & Cream did come pretty darn close to placing though.  It’s still worth a visit; I think kids especially will get a kick out of all the sugary options to choose from!

*Thank you L & L for the fun night, your wonderful hospitality, and the delicious food!

UPDATE (2/2/2010):  So I went back to Cloud 9 after suggestions to try their Red Velvet cupcakes, hearing that it was better than Georgetown Cupcake’s version.  My friend, Beatrix, joined me on this mission to revisit Cloud 9 and we had a grand time sampling new flavors.  While the Red Velvet was good (the cakes was very fresh with a nice flavor, and wasn’t the scary shade of red), I’m afraid that (at this time) Georgetown Cupcake is still my favorite red velvet cupcake maker.   I WILL say, though, the Snowball cupcake we had a Cloud 9 was AWESOME!  A (fresh!) vanilla cake with soft coconut buttercream (just the right amount), topped with shredded coconut.  I want another one…right now…maybe one every day.  With this kind of reaction, I’m thinking this lovely cupcake deserves a spot on the TOP 10!   Beatrix had the Salted Caramel and really enjoyed it, too.  She was licking the wrapper, which I never see her do! 

Cloud 9 Frozen Yogurt and Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Edibles Incredible Lives Up To Its Name!

23 Oct

Over in the Reston Town Center, which is a fun mixed-use development, you’ll find all kinds of things to suit your fancy (I always enjoy Sephora, Anthropologie, and the ice skating rink in the winter).  They’ve got great dining too, even a chic gelato café, so I figured surely there is a cupcakery here!  Two friends had suggested checking out Edibles Incredible, which I’m now thinking is one of Reston’s best…actually a lot of people must be thinking this too, because they were voted Best Bakery, Best Kids Cakes, and Best Chocolate Shop in Northern Virginia Living Magazine (2009)! 

Once I arrived and expressed interest in the cupcakes, the woman working that day handed me their “cupcake menu” where the daily selections were highlighted in yellow.  The overall menu is quite impressive – about 30+ classic and creative flavors like Fluffernutter, Banana Cream Pie, and Tropical Breeze.  On the day of my visit, they probably had about 15 flavors to choose from.  I finally settled on the Black & White and the Strawberry Delight, and headed home to eat with my husband (even though he keeps telling me to stop bringing him cupcakes)!

 

The Black & White consisted of a chocolate pudding cake with butter cream frosting and chocolate sprinkles on top.  The cake was oh so moist, and had an excellent cake/frosting ratio.  The butter cream was light and fluffy, but not too sweet.  This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your sweet tooth level.  For me, a dash more sugar would have been ideal but no biggie.

The Strawberry Delight was comprised of a strawberry cake, a strawberry jam filling, and strawberry butter cream.  I do love strawberry jam (it tastes so good on so many things.  Did you know that strawberry jam is fantastic on chocolate chip cookies?!)!  Now, Steve on the other hand is not a strawberry jam fan.  In fact, he’s pretty much anti-jam.  No P&Js for him, just P.  After I cut the cupcake in half and the jam filling was revealed, he grimaced.  Being the good sport he is, he ate it anyway and we were both surprised by how much he liked it!  I did too, yum yum.  Neither the cake or butter cream were overly sweet so the jam filling plays well with the mix.  Hmmm, I think this would be really good for breakfast – what a way to start the day!

Cool feature – their gourmet desserts can be shipped nationwide!  In addition to wedding cakes, their specialties include dessert buffets!  I, for one, would like to attend more events that feature dessert buffets.  I’m just sayin’!

Let’s break it down now!

Edibles Incredible Desserts / Reston Town Center, 11917 Freedom Drive, Reston VA & Brambleton Town Center, 22855 Brambleton Plaza #103, Brambleton VA / www.ediblesincredible.com

1. Price:  $3.75 and up.  These are on the pricier side of the spectrum, but they’re HUGE!  And they definitely are suitable for sharing .  Split it with someone and you’re looking at $2 per person.

2. Room temperature:  Depends.  Some flavors are in a cold case and others were on a baker’s rack behind the register.  Come to think of it, majority of the flavors were on the baker’s rack so your chances for a ready-to-eat cupcake are good! 

Cold Case

Baker's Rack

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Size: Jumbo!  These are pretty much on par with the Costco cupcakes.

4. Vegan or gluten free options:   There are a few gluten-free items on the menu to choose from (made with their “own proprietary blend of gluten-free flours”) and include Devil’s Food and Ginger Spice cupcakes, triple chocolate chip mint cookies, and chocolate chip cookies.

5. To-go packaging:  Interesting system they have at Edibles – each of my two cupcakes got their own Chinese take-out box.  To get the cupcake in/out – they put a long strip of wax paper underneath the cupcake, and then you pull up on the ends of the strip to lift the cupcake out of the box.  Never encountered this before, but got a kick out of the effective ingenuity.

6. Milk for sale?:  Umm…so,  I forgot to look again.  Darn!  I need an assistant! 

7.  Other treats for non-cupcake enthusiasts you may have in tow:   Oh my, yes!  Fudge, cookies, brownies, pies, cheesecake, pastries, and cakes…speaking of cakes, these looked amazing!   Some of the ones on display were humungous!  I would love to order one for a special occasion (about 25 flavors to choose from).  Their website says that they can do three-dimensional cakes, too.  I don’t think their trying to be the Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss of DC, but if you want a Maserati-shaped cake, they say they can do it!  A “special line” of ice cream is also available at the Brambleton location.

8.  Ambiance:   It’s a little small.  More of a fudge/candy shop atmosphere.  But at the Reston location, you’re really close to the outdoor fountain that has nice outdoor seating around it.

9. Service:  Very helpful!  She patiently helped me through my indecision and suggested the Strawberry Delight.  She steered me right, that’s for sure!

Final verdict:  Make room Top 10 list, the Strawberry Delight is moving in!

Edibles Incredible! on Urbanspoon