Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cupcakes from L.A. L.A. Land!

I headed down to L.A. a few weekends ago to hang with a dear friend, Birdy, who is getting hitched in the summer of 2012!!  After a "small" incident at the airport (I forgot my ENTIRE wallet - ID, CC, everything...) it was a great weekend.  Especially since Birdy had scouted a few cupcakery options for us.  We ended up deciding on Vanilla Bake Shop, which is in a cute little outdoor mall where, I believe, a scene was filmed between Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell for "Crazy Stupid Love."

The location wasn't my favorite, though the mall was great.  It just felt a bit too commercial - Brookstone, The Gap and then this cupcakery.  Again, going back to my dream shop, I envision a stand alone Victorian or Craftsman with a porch - and again, somewhere to sit DOWN and enjoy!  Enough with these fast bake cupcakeries!  Bake Shop was a walk up counter, very similar to Sprinkles or Kara's.  I loved the decor, the wall paper, the beautiful cakes lining the walls, and especially, the wide variety of cupcakes we could choose from!  Overall, I would give the decor:

Lucky for me (and for you), I had a strong team of samplers that included Birdy, her fiance Sasha, her mom Kim, her sister Courtney, Emily and of course, me!  More samplers = ..... you got it!  More cupcakes!  Here are the flavors we decided on....

1.  Blackberry Passion Fruit
2.  Old Fashioned
3.  Vanilla Bean
4.  Chocolate Vanilla Bean
5.  Gingerbread Spice
6.  Peppermint Chocolate
7.  Black and White
8. Toasted Coconut
9.  Fleur de Sel
10. Mint Cookie
11. Southern Red Velvet
12. Bittersweet Dark Chocolate

This is what we started with!  (All minis!)

I should say that we got what they call "Cupcake Babies" - AKA, mini cupcakes.  Obviously, too many to go through one by one!  I have my top recommendation, and one that you should definitely just avoid ordering at all costs!

Try 'Em -

Blackberry Passion Fruit - OMG, so good!  Maybe it was all of the fresh fruit, or just the combination of flavors, but this was a definite WINNER!!!

Leave 'Em -

Peppermint Chocolate - YIKES!  How many ways can you use Peppermint Extract?  Uh, too freaking many, as was demonstrated by this cupcake.  It was fire-through-your-nose pepperminty and not pleasant!

The decorations were okay, but I wasn't overly impressed.  I could have used some lighter duty frosting - it was a bit heavy for my taste.

Given that I don't live in LA, I probably wouldn't make the effort to go to this place again.  There are so many lovely places to try, and I really only thoroughly enjoyed that one.  Oh well, better to have loved and lost...

We divided each mini into six pieces - so we demolished 'em...
Overall, it was okay.  Not great, not terrible.  I know there are better spots, though if you are at this mall already, maybe seeing a movie (like we were), certainly stop on by and see if you can get the blackberry passion fruit!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Enjoy" Life - Eat a Cupcake!: SB Cupcake Crawl, Final Stop!

I think in many ways, we saved the best for last.  On our way home, Emily suggested we stop at Enjoy Cupcakes - a place she had looked into 'enjoying' for my bachelorette party last year.  She said it looked really cool, and since we were in no rush to get home, we took a slight detour to Los Olivos.  As soon as we pulled onto the main street, we knew we had struck gold.

Los Olivos is such a quaint little town, sprinkled with historic buildings, kitchy shops with odds and ends, and great eateries.  We immediately started planning our trip for next year, which will certainly involve a stop there - we're sure to find a cute little B&B.  Yes please!  And then - we saw it.

There are no words to describe how amazing, cute, fun and creative this place is.  The Enjoy trailer was parked outside, as the actual cupcakes are sold inside a wine bar.  Two of my favorite things under one roof?  Sure.  I'm getting more ideas for my own bakery.  We went to take a peek at their retro trailer.  I wanted to crawl inside and move in.  How cute is THIS?

The cupcakes are served inside this equally adorable wine shop - love the building, the porch, the outdoor seating, everything.  So welcoming and comfy - yay for Emily's great looking out.  That's why she's one of my top researchers.

When we walked in, there was a teenytiny little counter, almost like a jewelry counter or something, lined with beautiful little mini cupcakes in an array of flavors.  It was fitting that they were displayed in a jewelry case because they looked like little jewels.  Wait until you see these babies.

The cool thing about Enjoy is that they have a lot of wine inspired flavors, and a lot of just really outrageously creative flavors overall.  Em and I chose 6, and they were delivered promptly to us in an egg carton!  What a great idea!  The mini cupcakes were a perfect fit, and I really liked the repurposing of the egg carton.  Brilliant!  I snapped this photo while Em was inside, adding to her copper pot collection at one of the local shops.

And what was inside, ladies and gentlemen.

These were the flavors we ended up with:

OMG Out of This World Flavors

Chocolate Blackberry Syrah

There is something so inviting and decadent about fruit on a cupcake.  Drizzle booze over the fruit?  I'm sold.

Sweet Potato Marshmallow

Do I really need to write anything about this one?  It was very yummy.

Chocolate Cheesecake Swirl

Black and white - just to dress it up a bit, super yummy, nonetheless.

Toffee Vanilla Cake

Crunchy and creamy together - so sweet!

Oreo Chocolate Mousse

Moist chocolate cake with an oreo baked at the bottom!
Lemon Cake with Honey Filled Rasberry                                         This one wasn't my favorite, but I love how pretty it is!

They were all beautiful to look at, naturally decorated, and had a taste to match.  I will definitely be back!!  Much thanks to my loyal research assistant!  

Decorations: Simple, clean, elegant.  Just my style.  
Ambiance - It would have been so cool to walk inside that trailer!  But, since it wasn't really the cupcakery itself, but the wine bar, I would give it a: 

Overall - An amazing little stop.  Cute, kitchy and original.  Loved it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

You'll be "Crush[ed]cakes" if you don't stop here! SB Cupcake Crawl - Stop 2

I am a big fan of Cupcake Wars on The Food Network.  It's fun to see people make cupcakes out of random ingredients (like barley) and see the frenzy in the kitchen.  I also like to try out the cupcakeries featured, whenever possible.

Crushcakes, in Santa Barbara, is one such place.  They were actually on "Wars" twice.  When I saw they were from Santa Barbara, I knew I wanted to try it out.  We actually went to Crushcakes a few years ago, but I wanted to "officially" try it - in the name of the blog, of course.  It has a fun and kind of funky vibe, and offers lots of other good eats in addition to cupcakes (but, why waste tummy space?)  
                                     Love the outside of this - look at the beautiful tile - so SB!
Again, I had my accomplice, Emily, with me to help me decide on flavors.  We ended up deciding on 

I love the displays and the cupcake shaped signs.  I would definitely have that in my bakery.  Maybe with some glitter.  :)
Mini Red Velvet

We knew that we were going to be doing a lot of eating this day, so where there was a mini available, we took it!

I like the whipped and light frosting, and the dainty red sprinkles on the top.  It is also, as you can see, a natural 'red' as red velvets go.  It tasted like a legit red velvet.  Well done.


Whenever possible, I want to taste seasonal specialties.  Right around now, gingerbread, pumpkin and other fall flavors are available and you'd be a fool not to take advantage.  Crushcakes had a gingerbread cupcake available, and we were all about it.  We held it, and squeezed it - hmmm, feels a bit hard.  We'll still give it a try.  We had complete faith in this cupcake.  That is, until we tried it.  It was pretty much hard as rock.  No gracias.  We got one bite deep and then swam right back to shore.  Let's not waste our calories on cardboard!
On the outside, though, it's nice to look at.  :)

Strawberry Lemonade

What a refreshing summery treat - in November!  I'll take it any time.  This was a sweet and tart combination that I would get over and over.  I loved the 1/2 and 1/2 frosting giving you a hint at what's inside.  I am going to have to figure out a recipe for this one!

Overall, I will be going back to Crushcakes just as sure as I will be going back to Santa Barbara.  It's fun, kind of funky and welcoming just like SB!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Crawlin' Through Santa Barbara - Cupcakin' Style!

For the past three years we embark on a Santa Barbara adventure with our wonderful friends, The Roses. The first year was for our engagement pictures, the next for a marathon, and this past year, for a half marathon (Emily and I left our crazy marathon pants behind us!)  Emily wrote about our wonderful tradition here - it's so true.  Traditions are such a great thing, especially ones that you create with your friends.

When the trip was still in its planning stage, I had the idea to embark on a Cupcake Crawl - something Em and I have been thinking about doing in San Francisco.  Sure, SB is a much smaller canvas, but there are still great eats to be eaten!  We plotted out 2 spots and planned much of our day around when we would stop in and enjoy our sweet treats!

On our first night, imagine our delight, when we stumbled upon the uber fun and super whimsical Whodidily Cupcakes!  We were shopping around in the beautiful Paseo Nuevo, an outdoor mall, when we turned the corner, and it appeared before us!

The website describes their cakes as "'Willy Wonkaish' with a dollop of Dr. Seuss."  Never has a more accurate description existed.  You walk in to a brightly colored space, with candy-laden tables, lollipops hanging from the ceiling, a "frost your own cupcake" station replete with a topping bar, and of course - a funky array of crazy flavors and eclectic decorations.  Em and I put our heads together to make the most important decision of the day: which flavors to try...

Dough Dough Bird

I like how the frosting looks like a cocked hat :)

OMG YUM.  Chocolate cake.  Cookie dough center.  Enough said.  I could have done without the bright blue frosting - I am kind of partial to more natural coloring, but whatever.  This was a yummy cupcake.  The cake itself was super moist, and when you got a bite of that cookie dough? good.  I would definitely get this one again.  I might even try to bake it myself!  I also appreciate the fun naming of all of the flavors.  It definitely fits in with the vibe of the place!

Rum a Dum Dum

Bright yellow frosting hints at the overly sweet taste...
Ok, not a huge fan of this one.  But it looked pretty and sounded cute!  Don't be fooled!  It was way too sweet for my taste, and kind of artificial tasting (obviously they aren't against it - please reference blue frosting in previous photo).  It was supposed to be like a pinapple upsidedown cake.  But, to me, it was a flop.  And of all of the flavors, this was the one that had the most left over at the end!


I am a huge fan of pumpkin anything.  Huge.  Big.  The cake is usually really moist, and it just tastes like fall to me.  Love it.  This cupcake was no exception.  Very moist, and the frosting was light as air, drizzled with caramel.  More please!
Overall, I really liked this place.  Certainly not what I would have for my own shop, but super fun and funky all the same.  They even had a space in the back for parties - if I was a kid, I would be all over that.  

The Rum a Dum Dum is what kept this from being a five cupcaker for me.  

So fun and crazy - you can't help 

The bright colors kind of don't sit right with me (though it didn't stop me from eating them...)

Definitely worth a stop if you are in Santa Barbara, if for no other reason than to feel like you visited the castle of Wonka  Seuss for a day :)

Stay tuned for our second Crushcakes!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

China Town Cupcakes!

So, I've been off the blog for a while, sadly, but it's for a good reason!  The Mr. and I are upgrading our digs, and we have been living at my in-laws for a few weeks.  Things have been crazy and I haven't been able to sample, or bake!  I'm going through withdrawals...However, my wonderful friend, Nick, often mentioned in one of my besties blogs that I frequently plug, was recently in China!  And wouldn't you know it, they have cupcakes.  And even better?  He's going to guest blog about his China Town cupcake experience.  Thanks, Nick!!

I recently have found myself in a new job at my company with the awesome perk of traveling! Even though I'v3e only been in this position for a few months, my travels have taken me to many new places all over the world, including China. I was in China for three weeks and upon my way home I had an 11 hour layover in Hong Kong (which is in China, but not really…it’s a long story). Being this my first time in Hong Kong I had to get out of the airport and explore this city that is so well known to the world, but new and exciting to me. After a delicious lunch I took some time to walk around and with perfect timing (call it fate) I stumbled upon SMOOCH.

This place had all sorts of desserts including homemade cupcakes. Being a friend of and self proclaimed researcher for Steph I felt it was my duty to partake in some of these delicious baked goods. Out of the collection of flavors they had I knew I had to try the Oreo and the Red Velvet!


This cupcake pulled me in immediately. The dark color of the cake, the speckled creamy frosting, all topped with a bite size Oreo. The frosting was light and fluffy. It was sweet with a hint of tanginess. The cake was moist and firm. There was a rich cocoa flavor with a bit of nuttiness. Not so much straight chocolate, but that more natural flavor of the bean. I savored every delectable bite!

Flavor:  4/5
Decoration: 3/5

Red Velvet
I was so excited to try the Red Velvet. I’m a big fan of this flavor in general and had high hopes for what this cupcake would bring. This cupcake looked pleasing from the start. Not very red, but still a nicely colored cake. The frosting looked like an elegant ivory. I peeled back the paper and went in for what I hoped would be a flavor explosion. Now, gather around children for some words of advice:
                  “In life, we reach and hope to achieve great heights. It is inevitable though that we will stumble and fall. It may only be slight trip. Or, it can be a complete and utter disaster, tumbling down a large flight of stairs in a knotted ball of body parts, only to reach the bottom in terrible pain. It’s at that point that you realize everyone in the world saw it and the pain of the embarrassment feels worse than the fall.”
The only explosion there was the image of a tasty cupcake going bye-bye! The flavor was very plain (almost non-existent) with only the faintest wisp of cocoa. After the first bite the cake completely fell apart into a crumbly mess. I was fighting just to keep enough together for a good second bite (not that I would have missed much). The frosting, although creamy, lacked any sweetness and really just had more of a sour flavor (as in sour cream). I don’t know, maybe this is what red velvet translates to in Cantonese. IF so, I can do without that translation.
Flavor:  1/5
Decoration: 2/5

In the end, I can’t complain. Sitting on the water’s edge, staring over the harbor to the Kowloon Peninsula, eating baked treats, it’s a place most will never get to enjoy. I savored every bite, the good and the bad, and took in that serene moment of Hong Kong. Based on my limited view, I give Hong Kong’s cupcake scene a solid 3/5. Now, where was that sign for Peaking Duck?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Apple A Day...

In the spirit of going back to school, I decided to make these lovely creations for my AVID class for their birthday celebration!

The cake was Martha Stewart's Apple Spice Cupcake recipe.  So delish and so moist!

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

2 c all purpose floud
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter @ room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs @ room temperature
1 1/2 c unsweetened apple sauce

Preheat to 350 F and line your cupcake tin with your favorite liners!

Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in a medium mixing bowl.

In an electric mixing bowl (fitted with whisk attachment) cream butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  Switch to low and add applesauce and then flour - beat until just combined.

Fill tins to 3/4 with batter and bake for 20 minutes!

I then topped them with red and green fondant, and stuck a pretzel stick right in the middle (as the stem).  Then, a little green leaf, and we had a full fledged apple!  I coated the top of the cupcakes with a very light layer of cream cheese frosting, so that fondant would stick!

This is the first time I have made something with fondant for my AVID students, and they were pretty excited!  They took some of their own pictures :)  They then used them as brain food to study - I love those kids!

You can see the red and green varieties!  An apple a day keep these students ready to learn!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...