Category: commerical cupcake (page 1 of 5)

Checking out Cupcake Wars winner Ava’s Cupcakes

Ava's Cupcakes

After reading The Daily Meal’s take on the 50 best cupcakes in the country, I knew I would need to check out some of these for myself. There weren’t many on the list in New Jersey, but I did notice one bakery that isn’t too far from Ray’s hometown in the north. Since we’d be up there for Christmas, I tempted him with the thought of swinging by Ava’s Cupcakes in Rockaway, NJ for some tasty treats. And to up the curioisty factor, Ava’s Cupcakes was the winner of Cupcake Wars in season 4, episode 8!

The shop is quaint with a lived-in feel to it … very different from a lot of the  minimalist-chic bakeries I’ve been to in larger metro areas. There were at least 15-20 different flavors to chose from that day, which made things difficult because they all looked fantastic. We settled on a 4-pack, paid, and were on our way to Ray’s family Christmas.

When we began our tasting, we started with the banana guava (a winning Cupcake Wars flavor), which had a very simple look, but packed quite the flavor punch! The cake was intensely moist and reminded me of my mom’s banana bread, flavorwise. I could tell that a lot of bananas went into making this cake … no artificial extracts here! The guava filling added to the moisture of the cupcake and went well with the banana.  I appreciated the balanced cake to frosting ratio, and found the frosting to be creamy, though I couldn’t quite place the flavor. Was it vanilla? Was it banana? I’m not sure, but it was good.

Then we moved on to the lemon cupcake, which was one of Ray’s picks. The lemon aroma was wonderful … I think cupcakes should always be aromatic; it really enhances the experience. The cake was a smidge drier than the banana guava, but not in a bad way. It was finished with a lemon pie filling and lemon frosting. This wasn’t our favorite cupcake, but it was definitely on par with a typical lemon cupcake. We just thought it could burst more with flavor.

Next up was the chocolate hazelnut truffle, which I selected because of Ray’s love of hazelnuts (I’m so thoughtful!). This cupcake was also very fragrant and moist, with a good chocolate cake as the base. It was filled with nutella, which we thought was pretty basic, and was topped with a heavenly chocolate hazelnut frosting, hazelnuts, and a chocolate drizzle. If the filling had been a little more creative, then I think this cupcake could have been a contender for our favorite.

We finished with another chocolate cupcake, this time the chocolate pomegranate. The cake and frosting were rich, but not too sweet, which I appreciated. The pomegranate filling, however, wreaked havoc on the cupcake, making it fall apart. That was a little disappointing (I’m not a fan of self-destructing cupcakes), but it was a very flavorful cupcake, and flavor always wins in my book.

Overall, Ava’s Cupcakes is a solid bakery with a wide variety of creative cupcake flavors to choose from. The menu is updated daily, and the bakery also offers savory cupcakes as well as hand pies. Definitely stop in if you’re near Rockaway, and don’t skip the banana guava cupcake!

Mini cupcake joys at Prairie Girl Bakery

Prairie Girl Cupcakes

While in Toronto, the other bakery we visited was Prairie Girl Bakery. The shop is bright, the counter staff are bubbly, and there seems to be a cupcake for everyone, especially with 15 regular flavors and 2 flavors of the week to choose from.

Much like Dlish, Prairie Girl has specific flavors on certain days, as well as 2 treats of the week–flavors that will be available every day that week. Since we were on the move and planning to visit several other places that day, we opted for 2 sizable–in the good way–mini cupcakes. We selected one of the treats of the week, which was a chocolate cake with toffee frosting and toffee bits and then a daily flavor that was a vanilla cake and lemon frosting.

The chocolate toffee cupcake was VERY aromatic, specifically the cake. The frosting was sweet and creamy, with a great smooth texture. I found the vanilla lemon cupcake to be very well balanced, with a bright lemon flavor to the frosting. Both of the cupcakes were perfectly moist, and I think my only criticism was that the minis could have used just a little less frosting.

I also really appreciate the bakery’s “fundamental beliefs about baking,” which is shares on its website:

  • We believe that any type of “mix”, vegetable shortening, “trans fat”, lard, preservatives, artificial flavors and bright food dyes have no place in a knock-your-socks-off cupcake;
  • We believe in daily quality control, both in the kitchen and in the front of the stores, with the goal of baking up and serving the perfect cupcake each and every time; and
  • We believe in never selling our customers “day old” cupcakes. When we have any delicious Prairie Girl cupcakes on our shelves as we close up the store, we give them to our friends at Toronto’s Second Harvest, a charitable organization with a common sense approach to hunger.

So, as the final cupcakes of our trip, I think we did well by stopping in to Prairie Girl. The bakery will definitely be on my “visit again” list.

Taking delight in Toronto’s Dlish cupcakes

Cupcakes from D'Lish in Toronto

[From top left to lower right] Apple Caramel, Maple Walnut, Salted Caramel and Mocha

Though I didn’t want my vacation to be solely about cupcakes, I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t try a few. I managed to try 5 different cupcakes from Buffalo (2 of which I don’t want to talk about because there were some grievous errors with what we purchased), and while in Toronto I did want to try some, but didn’t want to necessarily plan my day around finding bakeries.

Dlish, located on Queen St. West, was an easy decision for us because it’s located on the street we were staying and we’d be passing by it on our way back from Casa Loma. Perfect! The shop interior is simple, clean and Spartanly-modern, with the flavors of the day available in an unrefrigerated case on the main counter. We selected 4 to share with our friend Amanda.

We began the tasting session with the Apple Caramel Cupcake, described as a pure apple cake with pure caramel frosting drizzled with sweet buttery caramel.

The cake was very apply with a touch of cinnamon. The moisture of the cake was good. Ray and Amanda liked the caramel frosting, but felt like it needed a little bit of work. I actually picked up an odd nuttiness in flavor, which caught me off guard.

We moved on to the Maple Walnut, a walnut-studded maple cake with cream cheese frosting. We found the cake to be very walnuty in flavor–without constantly crunching down on nuts–and were impressed. We all thought the cake could use a bit more maple, but the cream cheese frosting hit that excellent balance of sweet and tangy.

I figured the Salted Caramel–a caramel cake topped with caramel frosting and fleur de sel–would be a crowd pleaser, and it was. Unlike the other cakes, this particular cupcake seemed a bit dry, but not bad. Funny enough, this caramel frosting tasted more caramely than the apple caramel (though really, I imagine they would have used the same base recipe for it). However, the salt for this cupcake is only on top, whereas mine, and many others, infuse the caramel frosting with salt. It was interesting to see a different technique, but I think I prefer the full infusion.

We finished our tasting with the Mocha Cupcakes, described as a dark chocolate cake topped with mocha frosting and covered with pure chocolate java flakes. The aroma was heavenly! We all noticed a wonderful coffee flavor from the java flakes, which was a great touch, both in flavor and visual appeal.

While I was a big fan of the Mocha, it seemed that Ray and Amanda were leaning toward the Caramel Apple. Overall, I was pleased with the size of the cupcakes (not huge), the balanced moisture and presentation. We remarked several times that a couple getting married could have ordered these 4 cupcake flavors for a wedding and it would have been beautiful.

If you’re in Toronto, definitely put DLish on your list to visit!

Celebrating Ray’s 32nd birthday at Zillycakes

Ray's birthday cupcake from Zillycakes

Ray turned 32 on Nov. 13, and before we left Buffalo for Toronto I knew that I had to get him over to Zillycakes so he could experience the cupcake bar.

I can’t completely recall what he ordered, but he definitely took advantage of the “make your own cupcake.” I believe his cake was a maple bacon, filled with apricot filling, and possibly topped with salted caramel frosting … yeah, that sounds about right. And the counter girl was sweet enough to put a candle in it.

Rosemary cornbread cake with maple cream cheese frosting

I ordered one of their cupcakes straight off the menu because it sounded interesting. It was a rosemary cornbread cupcake with maple cream cheese frosting, topped with dried rosemary and some yellow sanding sugar. I really liked how the cornbread and rosemary popped–it was a flavor that worked very well together, though I think it’s a cupcake geared towards those with a more adventurous palate.

As I’ve said before, if you’re in Buffalo and love cupcakes, go to Zillycakes!

Skating over for sweets at Swirls Cupcakery

Cupcakes from Swirls, East Aurora
The first cupcakes we enjoyed on our Buffalo/Toronto vacation were at Swirls Cupcakery in East Aurora, one of the cutest little WNY towns! After spending some time skating at the outdoor ice skating rink (well, Rach and Ray were the ones that really skated … I hobbled along in a slighty-panicked fashion, since I hadn’t been up on skates in close to 8 years), we decided go across the street and try some cupcakes.

Swirls opened in 2011, and seems to be a blossoming bakery, even if it is tucked behind the East Aurora main street favorite coffee house Taste (which is also fantastic and features desserts from Butterwood in Buffalo). Fun fact: The cupcakery was founded by Michael Wulf at age 18. Now I just feel old.

Anyway, on to the cupcakes! After chatting with the very knowledgable and friendly counter staff, we selected 3 flavors to share.

We dug into the Caramel Apple cupcake first, which was a seasonal flavor. It was described as a vanilla cake with apple bits, a caramel infused filling and vanilla buttercream topped with caramel. The cake was very fragrant and moist, but could have used a bit more apple (the 3 of us are huge apple fans). The frosting was sweet and vanillay, but not over the top. A nice introduction to the shop.

Next, we tried the Red Velvet cupcake, mainly because I was intrigued when one of the counter girls explain that it was made with a special imported cocoa with a distinct taste. As we all know, I don’t really care for Red Velvet because I don’t see the wow factor. They always tend to taste like “cake” to me. However, in this instance, she was right–I got a really interesting cocoa flavor from the cake. Like the Caramel Apple cupcake, this cake was moist, but I think the cream cheese frosting could have used a bit more tang. Overall, we were impressed. A Red Velvet cupcake with some flavor!

We finished our sampling with the Mocha cupcake, described as a chocolate cake topped with a mocha espresso buttercream. We noticed this one to be a smidge drier than other cakes, but still good. Interestingly, the mocha espresso butter cream was almost a little boozy … the flavor was good, but hard to place. I verified that the cupcakery does not use any alcohol in that particular cupcake, so it left me wondering how they managed the unique floral chocolateyness.

For the first cupcakes on our trip, these were a good start. The shop was cute and well decorated, the staff were friendly and helpful (nothing is worse than a counter person who acts like they have no desire to wait on you, and trust me, I’ve been to a few bakeries like that), and the cupcakes were a nice treat to follow our ice skating. I highly suggest checking out Swirls in East Aurora, NY if you’re in the area!
Swirls Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

Do you agree with The Daily Meal’s top 50 cupcakes in the U.S.?

The Daily Meal list

Earlier this month, The Daily Meal published it’s Top 50 Cupcakes in America list. It was brought to my attention this morning on the train into work when one of our local food trucks, Lucky Old Souls, tweeted the following:

Lucky Old Souls tweet

Now, I love Sweet Box, so I wanted to see who could have possibly beat out Gretchen and her creative confections.

It’s an interesting list, and it definitely made me aware of a few places I should try when I’m in those areas, but I have to say that I really wish they had skipped the A-listers of the cupcake world. Now, yes, I get it, they wanted the top 50 AND they had a very thorough methodology–which I really appreciate from a scientific standpoint. But I also love the “little guy” and think that a smaller shop would benefit more from this kind of publicity. But that’s my humble opinion!

As a bonus, The Daily Meal included a fantastic slide show that features each bakery and the top cupcake flavor selected from the shop. The photos are lovely and really showcase the variety of confections across the country. I don’t want to give away who No. 1 is, but I will share an alphabetical listing of the 90 contenders and their cupcake flavor below. So go to The Daily Meal, read the article, check out their scoring system, and then drool over the slideshow. Then come back and let me know who YOU think should have been included on the list!

  1. Abby Girl Sweets, OH: Lemon-licious
  2. Cake Studio, AK: Chocolate Merlot
  3. Angel Cups, ND: Honey Pear
  4. AnnOlivia’s, MS: Raspberry Delight
  5. Ava’s Cupcakes, NJ: Chocolate Cannoli
  6. Baked, NY: Caramel Apple Cups
  7. Baked by Melissa, NY: Apple Pie a la Mode
  8. Bee Sweet Cupcakes, LA: I Heart Bananas Foster
  9. Bernice’s Bakery, MT: Chocolate Cherry Coke
  10. Big Sugar Bakeshop, CA: Chococcino
  11. Billy’s Bakery, NY: Banana Nutella
  12. Bleu Squid Bakery, CT: Vanilla Chocolate Malted
  13. Blue Smoke Bake Shop, NY: Banana-Pecan with Caramel Buttercream
  14. Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, PA: Aunt Eva Says
  15. Brown’s Bakery, KY: Bourbon Pecan
  16. Buttercup Bake Shop, NY: Lady Baltimore
  17. Buttercup Happycakes, ID: Salted Caramel Chocolate
  18. Buzz Bakery, VA: Coco Loco
  19. Cake Couture, HI: Red Velvet Cheesecake
  20. Cake Crumbs, CO: Cream Cheese on Chocolate
  21. Cake Dreams, MD: Cannoli
  22. Cake Fetish Cupcakes, NM: Scutterbotch
  23. Cakeology, MA: Boston Cream Pie
  24. Charm City Cupcakes, MD: Vanilla Lemon Ginger
  25. Crave Bakeshop, OR: African Yam
  26. Crumbs Bake Shop, NY: Blackbottom Cheesecake Brownie
  27. Crushcakes Cupcakery, CA: Buttermilk Crumb Cake
  28. Cupcake, MN Chocolate Passion Fruit
  29. Cupcake, SC: Bourbon Pecan Pie
  30. Cupcake Heaven, DE: Overstuffed Cannoli
  31. Cupcake Jones, OR: What’s Up Doc?
  32. Cupcake Royale, WA: Tiramisu, Affogato-ized
  33. Cupcakes-A-Go-Go, WI: Red Velvet Pomegranate
  34. Cupcakes on Kavanaugh, AR: White Chocolate Raspberry
  35. Cupcrazed Cakery, SC: Pumpkin Caramel with Cinnamon Buttercream and Candied Pecans
  36. CutieCakes, WY: Lemon-Limoncello
  37. Dessert Club ChikaLicious, NY: Nutella Nutbomb
  38. Dozen Bake Shop, PA: Pumpkin Chai
  39. Georgetown Cupcake, D.C.: Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl
  40. Happy Cakes Bakeshop, CO: Pumpkin Pie
  41. Hello Cupcake, D.C.: Pumpkin Spice
  42. House of Cupcakes, NJ: Fudge Truffle
  43. Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe, CA: Zucchini Carrot with Cream Cheese Frosting
  44. Ice It! Bakery, ME: Filled Coconut Almond Surprise
  45. Isabelle’s Curly Cakes, MA: Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cup
  46. Jilly’s Cupcake Bar and Cafe, MO: French Silk
  47. Jones Bros. Cupcakes, NE: German Chocolate
  48. Kara’s Cupcakes, CA: Fleur de Sel
  49. Leah’s Sweet Treats, TX: Cranberry Chai
  50. Love at First Bite, CA: Razzle Dazzle
  51. Magnolia Bakery, NY: Hummingbird
  52. Magpies Cakes, TN: Just About Decadent
  53. Mind Over Batter, AZ: Caramel Macchiato
  54. Molly’s Cupcakes, IL: Ron Bennington
  55. My Little Cupcake, VT: Vanilla Peach Honey
  56. Nancy’s Fancies, RI: Wedding Cake
  57. Oh My Cupcakes! Gourmet Cupcakery, SD: Stuffed French Toast
  58. Philly Cupcake, PA: Jewish Apple Strudel
  59. Pinkitzel Cupcakes and Candy, OK: Blueberry Chesecake
  60. Polka Dot Bakeshop, NC: Cranberry Orange
  61. Red Velvet Cupcakery, D.C.: Summertime
  62. Robicelli’s, NY: Bourbon Caramel Apple
  63. Saint Cupcake, OR: Salty Captain
  64. Scratch Cupcakery, IA: Raspberry Love
  65. Sift Cupcakery, CA: Battle Royale
  66. Simply Sweet Cupcake Boutique, AL: Maple Bacon
  67. Smallcakes Cupcakery, KS: Caramel Crunch
  68. Society Bakery, TX: Pecan Praline
  69. Sprinkles, CA: Lemon Coconut
  70. Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, NY: Sassy Red Velvet
  71. Suite 106 Cupcakery, CA: Chocolate Salted Toffee
  72. SusieCakes, CA: Mocha
  73. Sweet Mandy B’s, IL: Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Frosting
  74. Sweet! By Good Golly Miss Holly, FL: Tiramisu
  75. Sweetness Bakeshop and Cafe, FL: Guayabera
  76. Swirlz Cupcakes, IL: Twixie
  77. The Atlanta Cupcake Factory, GA: Sugar Cookie Cake with Browned Butter, Rosemary and Pine Nut Frosting
  78. The Cupcakerie, WV: Raspberry Kissed Cocoa
  79. The Cupcakery, NV: Kir Royale
  80. The Flying Cupcake, IN: Zucchini Bikini Buster
  81. The Goodie Girls, CA: Scottie
  82. The Perfect Circle Cupcakery, CA: Perfect Pumpkin
  83. The Sweet Lobby, D.C.: Ginger-White Chocolate
  84. The Sweet Tooth Fairy, UT: Fairy Fetti
  85. Trophy Cupcakes and Party, WA: Chocolate Espresso Bean
  86. Two Little Red Hens, NY: Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Apricot Cream Cheese Frosting
  87. Union General Store, MI: Delish
  88. Vanilla Bake Shop, CA: Blackberry Passion Fruit (filled)
  89. Violet’s Cakes, CA: South Pacific
  90. White Mountain Cupcakery, NH: Boston Cream
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