Tag Archives: cupcakes

Jan
20
2012
Photo Friday: Guinness (Cupcakes) for Jesus*

The Event: Iron Chef Potluck (ingredient: “spirits”)

The Recipe: Guinness Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Ganache Filling and Baileys Buttercream

The Verdict: while I announced the following on Twitter pre-baking… “Baking cupcakes filled w/whiskey ganache & topped w/Baileys buttercream. In other words, cupcakes I’m 98% sure I won’t eat. #5YearOldPalate” …I ended up eating…uh, several.

Cake: Loved. Delicious and moist and not Guinness-ey.

Frosting: Liked. A little grainy and definitely Baileys-ey, but sweet enough that I could eat it anyway.

Filling: Not good. The ganache set up too hard (heh-heh) to be a cupcake filling. It was like a solid truffle in the middle of the cupcake and made the cupcakes difficult to eat. I gave my fillings to Dave.

The New Obsession: Developing a signature cupcake recipe. Stay tuned!

*The silly memory these cupcakes bring to mind: Years ago, Dave and I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia with friends from college. They were insane. John Boy (don’t ask) kept insisting that the guys drink only Guinness and Guinness-based drinks all night. When everyone else tired of Guinness, John Boy encouraged them to keep drinking it by exclaiming: “Guinness for Jesus!” I laughed so much my face hurt.

Nov
21
2011
Cupcake Maker, Thy Name is Oven

The future of the corner bakery is at risk. The cupcake craze, in particular, has peaked. Baking at home will never be the same.

You may be curious how I know these things. Well, Sunday I saw this George Foreman cupcake grill at Wegmans and then I knew.

This is a game changer, people. Cupcake-making technology is now available to the home baker!

As you may know, I really enjoy a good cupcake. But who can be bothered to make cupcakes at home? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time.

But now, we have a machine that easily molds batter into cupcake shape. Come on, we’ve all been there…you prepare your cupcake batter and painstakingly hand-mold it into a cupcake shape only to have the batter ooze all over your counter when you let go to form the next one. There had to be a better way!

I also never understood how the professionals got that baked consistency. No matter how long I let my cupcake batter sit, the cupcakes never had the freshly baked quality I love so much in a cupcake. Obviously the professionals knew something I didn’t.

Enter the innovative manufacturing company, Select Brands Inc.

They produce small appliances that allow us to “bring the corner bakery into our own kitchen.” Good news for us, bad news for the corner bakery.

I know what you’re thinking. “OK, so the cupcake maker solves my cupcake making needs. But what if I need to make 4 tiny pies?”

Oh yeah, baby.

Surely they can’t have figured out the pie pop?

Think again! Also, pie pop? Huh?  

While Select Brands is working hard to solve all of the most difficult challenges faced by home bakers (one self-contained, kitchen-cluttering baked-good maker at a time), they are being left behind in one area. Are you interested in making eight, and only eight, pre-cut brownies, in a machine that does nothing else? Well, Select Brands can’t help you.

But Bella Cucina offers this problem-solving innovation…because pouring brownie batter in a 9×13 pan and then having to cut them into squares ourselves is beyond most of us.

I love the one Amazon review of this product so, so much. Kelli provides a thorough review of this little uni-tasking machine and concludes, “After trying this device, I could just as easily have turned on the oven & baked a full batch in a pan faster. Frosted them when cool & cut them.”

Whoa! What is this oven thing of which she writes?

Kelli also laments the difficulty of cleaning her brownie maker. Pshaw! As a happy customer rhapsodized in a review of the revolutionary whoopie pie maker, “Are you kidding? For the price this is fabulous.” At these prices ($29.99, but currently on sale at Amazon for $19.99!), why clean them? They’re practically disposable, just buy a new one for each batch!

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This post was inspired by this week’s Studio 30 Plus prompt:

“And then I knew…”

I made two batter, everything but the kitchen sink brownies (I threw Twix bars in them!) over the weekend for National Family Pajama Night. Recipe, photos, and review coming soon. If only I’d had the brownie maker (then I could have wasted over half of the batter! A picture of me, Dave, and (poor tortured) Chuck in our PJs will be this week’s Photo Friday.

Jul
29
2011
Photo Friday: Cupcakes I Didn’t Eat

Dave and I went to a members-only celebration for the Kids’ Farm at the National Zoo last Sunday morning. We like the zoo, but it was supposed to be 8 million degrees that day and Kids’ Farm implied many, many children. But there would also be free Georgetown Cupcakes. We have our priorities.

We stood in a long line, sweating. We got a free peach, a buy one get one free card from Chipotle, a cookie from Firehook, and…Georgetown Cupcake ran out of cupcakes TWO PEOPLE AHEAD OF US. This wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t watched a grown man take his free cupcake, use the wrapper to scrape off all the frosting, and then eat only the cupcake. Dude, if you don’t want it, give the damn thing to me. Freak.

We went to 2Amy’s for lunch after (finally got to try their donuts, they were just OK, not sweet enough for me). We got there a few minutes before they opened so we stopped by a little cupcake place across the street while we waited. They were kind enough to let me take a picture. Even though the cupcakes looked very good, we managed not to buy any. I thought we’d go back for some after lunch, but we were too full. Maybe next time…here is the only good picture I took all day and the closest I got to a cupcake.

 

Mar
9
2011
Cupcakes Part The Last (!)

The cupcake eating must and will stop…on Ash Wednesday, which is technically today, so I need to get my latest reviews posted now. The last thing I’m going to need while trying not to eat cupcakes is to write a cupcake review.

We tried Bake Shop in Arlington a couple of weeks ago. The reviews I’d read were quite favorable, and it’s local and not part of a chain so I wanted to like it, but this place didn’t do it for us. The cupcakes were small, I’m talking tiny. They weighed a bit over 2 ounces. I got red velvet, since that’s my head to head comparison flavor. Bake Shop doesn’t frost its red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I think I would have been OK with this had the buttercream been really good, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t sweet enough, it tasted like barely sweetened butter and the texture of the frosting was unpleasant–very greasy feeling,  like whipped butter. Dave didn’t think his toffee cupcake was anything special either. For people who don’t like things sweet, these might be the cupcakes for you. We are not those people. The cupcakes there were cute though…

I knew that there was an Arlington location of Crumbs from New York City, but we hadn’t tried it yet. During a recent staff meeting at work, I learned that there was also a location very close to my office. This was information I really didn’t need. I lasted one day with that knowledge before stopping by. I got a “fluffernutter” cupcake that day and ate the whole thing but should have stopped at half. It was good, but so sweet. I love sweets and have never really tasted anything too sweet, but this was close. These are about as far removed from Bake Shop as I can imagine, and strangely I didn’t love the cupcakes from either shop. Here is a photo of the cupcake I ate after lunch at work (stooping to new lows, eating dessert with lunch!).

Dave surprised me one night with Crumbs’ red velvet and I couldn’t even finish it. It was overpoweringly sweet and half was more than enough. These cupcakes aren’t really horrible, but they are huge, taste processed rather than homemade, and are so sweet that they burned my throat about half way through. They are just too much. I also thought about shipping these cupcakes to my nephew for his birthday because they seemed like a treat a teenager might enjoy. But the cost to ship 6 Crumbs cupcakes is $58. You can buy a dozen from Georgetown Cupcake and ship them for less than that. Insanity. Here is me being artsy with my macro lens on the Crumbs red velvet.

Finally, the long-awaited Sprinkles opened in Georgetown on Thursday of last week. They even sent me an email about the opening…how did they know? By Sunday, I was shaking like a junkie with the need to try them. So Dave and I drove to Georgetown in the rain. Even with rain and the new Sprinkles competition, the line outside Georgetown Cupcake was as long as I’ve ever seen it, so we didn’t bother to get their cupcakes for a head to head. We’ve eaten enough Georgetown Cupcake to do this from memory.

There was a short line at Sprinkles, and it seemed like a place that had only recently opened. Even though there was what seemed like a reasonable number of customers, it was chaotic. Everyone was very pleasant, but there were a lot of people behind the counter and too many of them dealt with us. It was very confusing. Also, some flavors are available in sprinkled versus non-sprinkled versions and Dave hates sprinkles. Luckily I told the girl who waited on us this fact, because it sounded like the default would have been sprinkled. So I saved myself listening to some whining.

I got a red velvet and a carrot. Dave got a chocolate with dark chocolate frosting and a vanilla with milk chocolate frosting, which was the closest available to his usual flavor (vanilla with dark chocolate frosting). Sprinkles cupcakes are bigger than Georgetown’s, with the important and annoying caveat that Sprinkles does not appear to be very careful about portioning their batter. The dark chocolate cupcake was noticeably smaller than the other three (one of the things below is not like the other…).

Here are the weights:

red velvet:  4.8 oz.

milk chocolate:  4.6 oz.

carrot:  5.0 oz.

dark chocolate:  3.4 oz.

I think the dark chocolate discrepancy is unacceptable.

When I removed the red velvet, I noticed a greasy feel to the cupcake liner (see the picture of the bottom of the box after I’ve removed the red velvet and notice the grease mark the cupcake left behind). That didn’t seem good to me. I was also worried based on the look of the cupcakes that there wouldn’t be enough frosting but the look was deceiving as once I bit into the red velvet there was clearly enough frosting. The circle decorations on the top of the cupcakes look nice but are hard as a rock and don’t taste good, unlike the fondant decorations on Georgetown’s cupcakes which are softer and taste fine.

I liked the flavor of the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet a lot. The cake was very moist and flavorful as well. The cake was pretty delicate, almost like a boxed cake, and didn’t seem to want to hold up the frosting once I’d eaten about half. The carrot cake was moist as well. It was very spiced and flavorful and I liked that it didn’t have any fruit in it, just nuts and carrots. The cream cheese frosting was flavored quite heavily with cinnamon, which I didn’t like at first but grew on me. This cake also had a delicate feel and crumb and a somewhat greasy feel. This one actually left a film on my teeth which I could have done without. Here is a picture of the frosting depth on the red velvet.

I realize that these comments might make it sound like I didn’t like Sprinkles, but that’s not accurate. I did like them, but they reminded me of boxed cake mix (which I happen to like). The resemblance, both visual and texture-wise, of the cupcakes to boxed cake made me start to think that Sprinkles must use oil rather than butter. That would also explain the difference between Sprinkles and Georgetown in taste and texture, since I know Georgetown uses butter. But then I found a review of Sprinkles red velvet cupcake mix and the directions clearly call for butter, not oil. So much for that theory.

Dave didn’t like his vanilla cupcake. He said the cake was tough. He let me have a bite and I loved the flavor of the cupcake (I much prefer milk chocolate to dark, so this cupcake was right up my alley), but I could see his point about the cake part, as it did have a tougher crumb than either of my flavors. He much prefers the Georgetown (and Baked & Wired) version of that flavor. He really liked the dark chocolate cupcake, although he said it was as good as the chocolate cake I always make for his birthday (from the can of Hershey’s cocoa), and given the price of these cupcakes, maybe the cake should be better than what I can do at home. In terms of the delicateness of the cake, the dark chocolate split in two when Dave tried to take the cupcake out of its liner.

Dave says we should stick to Georgetown and Baked & Wired. I think I want to give Sprinkles another chance (perhaps next week, when they offer “green velvet” for St. Patrick’s Day…what? green is my favorite color!). It’s weird how all three of our favorite cupcake places are so close to each other. When I looked up the location of Sprinkles on Sunday, I noticed that Georgetown Cupcake, Sprinkles, and Baked & Wired were situated in a sinister looking compass-like shape on the map. I guess the Masons are behind the D.C. cupcake trend too.

Feb
19
2011
Gluttony (Cupcake) Wars, or It Wasn’t That Hard to Eat 5 Cupcakes

Hey, have you heard about the cupcake craze that is sweeping the nation?

Oh, you have? Well, I didn’t have a blog when it started, so now you’re just going to have to bear with me as I write about it.

I’m of two minds on this boutique cupcake bakery thing. Part of me realizes how insane it is to stand in a long line to purchase a tiny dessert that is somehow 500 calories and 3 dollars. I can hear my Dad saying “We can make cupcakes at home.”

But then there’s the other part of me, the part that says, “Dad, this is just a small indulgence in a life so full of obligation. And Dad, sure we could make our own cupcakes and save money, but then we’d have a dozen cupcakes sitting around the house when we just want 1 (or 4, but who’s counting). And they’d all be the same flavor. Don’t you want variety, Dad? Don’t be such a “stara baba” (wow, that’s rude Polish for “old lady,” and I had to look up how to spell it and can’t believe that’s right).

Since the cupcake-loving part usually wins this argument, several times a year, I end up standing in a ridiculously long line at Georgetown Cupcake (my reigning favorite since 2008) while the scroogey-Dad side of me engages in self-loathing, muttering “why am I doing this?”

For awhile, my plan was to try as many of the crop of cupcakeries (?!?) in the area as possible. I’m a researcher, I like to be thorough in my gathering of evidence. I’ve tried: Baltimore Cupcake Company, Buzz, Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcakery, and Lavender Moon Cupcakery, and while they weren’t bad (well, the chocolate frosting at Baltimore Cupcake Co inexplicably tasted like maraschino cherry, which wasn’t good), none of them inspired me to go back for a second try.

In the middle of all of those, we went to Georgetown Cupcake. We waited a few months after they opened before visiting because I figured after a while the hubbub would die down (uh yeah, good call…). Maybe I just got hoodwinked by the popularity and the tony location and the adorably perfect cuteness of the cupcakes and the packaging, but these cupcakes tasted really really good to me. Like worth going back and standing in that line again good…moist cake that wasn’t too delicate and a generous allotment of frosting (I’m a frosting girl). Since then, all of my cupcake reviews use Georgetown as my benchmark. Are they good enough compared with Georgetown to warrant going back there instead of Georgetown? They didn’t even have to be better, given the annoyance of getting to the overcrowded-no parking available Georgetown area and that god damn line, they just had to be good enough. None were.

Then the Washington Post ran a “Cupcake Wars” series and declared Georgetown Cupcake the overwhelming winner. After confirming what I had already suspected, that I’d already found the best, my cupcake tastings came to a halt. Now we occasionally brave the traffic and crowds to partake in Georgetown Cupcake. Tip: if you are ever in Bethesda, the location there is much less crowded. Sometimes my running group meets in Bethesda and I ironically end my run with a stop to buy cupcakes.

I will admit to a lingering curiosity about another bakery in Georgetown–Baked & Wired. I kept hearing great things about it, that it was better than Georgetown Cupcake. Baked & Wired’s average rating on Yelp is higher than Georgetown Cupcake’s too. But I just couldn’t commit to going there. I don’t go to Georgetown all that often, so if I’m bothering to go there, I go to Georgetown Cupcake. Then some new friends did their own tasting and told me that Baked & Wired was better. OK, OK, you’ve twisted my arm people, I’ll try Baked & Wired.

Valentine’s Day weekend, my running group met in Georgetown, so I decided to pick up some cupcakes from Baked & Wired. The bakery was charming, they had a wide variety of different cupcake flavors (along with other baked goods), and there was NO line. Already promising. I bought four cupcakes: two to mirror what Dave and I usually get at Georgetown for comparison purposes (red velvet for me and vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting for Dave) and two wild-card flavors.

When the cashier handed me the box, I was stunned. It was HEAVY. Even when you buy a dozen at Georgetown, the box is light as a feather. Promising…

I never intended to do more than get some cupcakes at Baked & Wired. I figured we’d eaten enough Georgetown Cupcake that we didn’t need to do a side-by-side tasting. But Georgetown Cupcake was essentially on the way to the car. Maybe the line wouldn’t be long so early in the day? I could just quickly walk by and see how the line was looking. If the line wasn’t long, wouldn’t it make sense, wouldn’t it be the rigorous thing to do to get the red velvet and vanilla chocolate from Georgetown as well? What’s two more cupcakes? I could write about this on my blog! Don’t tell me I’m not committed to my craft.

That’s how I came to be standing in a line outside Georgetown Cupcake about 15 deep holding a Baked & Wired box and wearing only my running gear (it was a bit cold). I carefully placed my running gloves over the “Baked & Wired” sticker and hoped no one would notice. Even though I already had four massive cupcakes, I started wondering what the free secret flavor of the day was. I don’t have a smartphone so I had no way of checking. I asked the cute tourists in front of me if they could check (hey, it got them free cupcakes too!). “Chocolate Chip” they said…hmmm, it’s free, maybe I should get three cupcakes instead of only two? Once I got inside, I realized that one of the monthly flavors was strawberry lava fudge, one of my favorites. OK, I’ll just get four, they are small, one is free, and it’s for the good of the baking sciences (adding “s” to science makes it more “science-y”).

The person who boxed my cupcakes offered me a bag (Baked & Wired didn’t by the way, even though their box of cupcakes weighed 100 pounds) and then nicely offered to put my other box in the bag too. I sheepishly handed her the Baked & Wired box and hoped she wouldn’t say anything (hey, it could’ve been filled with hand pies!).

Her: “Baked & Wired, huh?…the competition, I don’t know if I can put those in our bag.” She said this with a smile.

Me: “Thanks, I’m sure I’ll like yours better.”

But after seeing (and carrying!) Baked & Wired’s cupcakes, I wasn’t so sure. I was really starting to think I’d like the Baked & Wired better and quite frankly, I wanted to like the Baked & Wired better (no line!, larger!, no ridiculous clearly dramatized “reality” show!).

I immediately fell in love with the appearance of the Baked & Wired cupcakes and was impressed by their size. I’m never satisfied with one Georgetown Cupcake, they are way the hell too small. Here are some pictures of the cupcakes. Note that I somehow ended up with 5 Baked & Wired cupcakes, even though I had only ordered 4. I only paid for 4, so each bakery ended up giving me one for free, although only Georgetown did it intentionally!


Here are some numbers (importance of data, blah, blah, blah, just eat the cupcakes already).

COST (per cupcake, ignoring free cupcakes):
Baked & Wired: $3.85
Georgetown Cupcake:  $~3.03

WEIGHT
Baked & Wired:  about 5 oz.
Georgetown Cupcake:  about 3.5 oz.

So as the Washington Post pointed out, Baked & Wired is cheaper by weight.

Comparable flavors (head to head)

The proof was in the eating. Dave is pickier about cupcakes in that he doesn’t care for many different flavors. He loves Georgetown’s vanilla & chocolate, which is their vanilla cupcake with stiff (heh, heh) chocolate frosting. Strangely enough, this is one of only two cupcake flavors I’ve tried there and haven’t liked. I like fluffy, light, and creamy frosting. The chocolate is just too much and it’s dense. But Dave loves it. Every time he tries another flavor, I ask him what he thinks and he says “It’s OK, but not as good as the vanilla & chocolate.” Dave had this to say about the Baked & Wired version (vanilla with chocolate satin frosting): “pretty fucking tasty.” When I pressed him to compare the two bakeries, he said he would be pretty hard pressed to pick which was better. So that was pretty high praise given how much he loves the Georgetown version.

As for my head to head flavor (red velvet), I was disappointed in Baked & Wired. The cake part wasn’t dry per se, but it didn’t really taste like anything. So the fact that there was so much cake and relatively little frosting was not good. It was also hard to eat, I couldn’t get a bite of the whole thing, I had to break part of the bottom off first. The frosting was good, there was a nice balance between the taste of cream cheese and sweetness. But there wasn’t enough of it. Oh, and you wouldn’t think the three little red dot sprinkles would be worth writing about one way or another, but they tasted noticeably bad, like cough medicine. Overall, it wasn’t a bad cupcake, but I didn’t really want to finish it, which is a bad sign when one of my main complaints about my favorite cupcakes is how small they are.

I ate the Georgetown red velvet right after even though I wasn’t that jazzed to eat more cupcake and while I definitely liked it better than Baked & Wired, I noticed that the cake part of the Georgetown red velvet didn’t taste like much either. It’s the frosting that wins it–it’s so fluffy and sweet and there’s enough of it to mask the fact that the cake isn’t flavorful. The texture of the Georgetown cake was better as well. It actually felt velvety, whereas the Baked & Wired was more dense and like regular cake.

Random flavors (no head to head)

In retrospect, I realized that Baked & Wired’s Razmanian Devil (lemon cake with raspberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting) wasn’t so much of a wild card flavor. Georgetown Cupcake has a lemon berry flavor that I’ve had before and remember quite vividly HATING (this flavor and Dave’s favorite flavor–the frosting really–are the only flavors I’ve had there that I’ve disliked). I actually wondered if I’d gotten a bad cupcake that day because the lemon berry (I think it was the electric pink frosting) tasted like poison. So while I didn’t really love the Baked & Wired lemon raspberry, it kicked the shit out of Georgetown’s because it didn’t taste like they were trying to kill me. The Baked & Wired Razmanian Devil tasted like a cross between the lemon pound cake at Starbucks and a jelly donut. Not a bad combination, but I don’t think I’d get it again.

I had a bite of Dave’s wild card flavor from Baked & Wired (Texas sheetcake) and from that one bite thought it might have been the best of the ones I got there. I would prefer a little less cinnamon, but the cake was moist and the frosting was sweet and not too overpoweringly chocolaty. Dave gave his usual assessment of any new cupcake flavor (“OK, but not as good as the vanilla & chocolate”). So he preferred his wild card flavor from Georgetown, which was the free secret flavor of the day (chocolate chip). It’s essentially the same thing as his favorite cupcake only with chocolate chips baked in.

My wild card flavor from Georgetown Cupcake was strawberry lava fudge. I adore their lava fudge cupcakes. My favorite is the one with peanut butter frosting, but the strawberry isn’t far off. And that’s all I’m going to say about that one because if I discuss how they are packed with fudge, I’m going to go all Beavis and Butthead on you.

Even though I was kind of disappointed in Baked & Wired, I can see going back to try some different flavors before making up my mind. Unfortunately, the madness doesn’t stop there as there are still more cupcake options. Sprinkles is opening a DC location soon. Then there’s Bake Shop in Clarendon yet to try, as well as a cupcake truck that sounds interesting (and stops near my office weekly…).

UPDATED 2/22 to say that cupcakes are a sickness. Dave and I went to the zoo yesterday since we both had the day off. Georgetown is on the way home from the zoo, so of course it made sense to get more cupcakes. The line at Georgetown Cupcake was probably 40 deep out the door and it was raining. So we went to Baked & Wired. Their strawberry cupcake is absolutely lovely. The cake was extremely moist and flavorful. The frosting was sweet and pink and perfect. So so good. So score one for Baked & Wired.