Friday, July 29, 2011

Pure Michigan

Grand Rapids Michigan produces a monthly publication called "on-the-town".  In the July issue they featured "townie awards" calling out the best_______ in Grand Rapids.  Lucky for me they had a Best Cupcake category.  The winner was Arnie's Bakery and Restaurants.  I was very excited about this because my godson's name is Arnie, Arnold Palmer to be exact.
Arnold Palmer
Well, when we pulled up it wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  It reminded me of a Bob Evans and the crowd looked like the same type you would find at Cracker Barrel.  Lots of grey haired ladies lunching.  Regardless, the article said they were the best cupcakes so we had to give it a shot.  At Arnie's the cupcakes are buy 2, get 2 free.
We ended up with White Chocolate Raspberry, Carrot, Red Velvet, and Chantilly. 
Carrot Cake
I don't really enjoy carrot cake, so I let David give me his "professional" feedback.  He said the cake had a decent texture, the icing wasn't that great, and they forgot the filling. 
White Chocolate Raspberry
The white chocolate raspberry - plain yellow cake which was fine.  Basically tasted like a boxed mix.  The icing was supposed to be white chocolate, but in all honesty it didn't have much flavor at all.  Then there was a raspberry filling.  As you may have read in previous posts, I am not a huge fan of fillings in general.  This had minimal filling and was a squirt of jam shoved in the middle of the cupcake.  I would have preferred a raspberry flavored cupcake with a thick white chocolate icing. 
Red Velvet
Red Velvet - The cake was fairly dry.  Again, the flavoring tasted like it was from a box.  The icing oddly enough was gritty.  Traditionally red velvet is served with a thicker icing like cream cheese, but they went a different route with this one.  I think they were going for a whipped buttercream, but unfortunately the outcome was not pleasant. 

Chantilly - I had never heard of "Chantilly" before, but it is a white cake filled with custard, and has a white icing with chocolate shavings.  I asked what Chantilly meant, and the lady behind the counter told me it was just a pretty name...  Unfortunately, I don't have a solo shot of this one, but you can see it in the group picture up top.  The cake overall was too sweet.  The custard was so weird.  I am indifferent on custard.  If done correctly it is a donut, but I did not like it as a part of this cupcake.  The icing was pretty similar to the others in that it did not have much flavor.

Presentation - I thought overall they looked pretty sloppy and did not have much "shelf appeal".  Creativity - I could give some creativity points to the chantilly cupcake because I have not had one with custard before, but other than that the rest were pretty standard.  Overall happiness - eeesh.  Not very happy.  If this is the best cupcake then Grand Rapids is a little behind on the cupcake phenomenon.  My advice would be to skip Arnie's next time you are in Michigan.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Can't get enough..

Back in Austin and I had to stop at Delish (!  I always think about giving another cupcakery a shot, but I just know how angry I would be if it wasn't as good.  So to keep my sanity while traveling I decided to go back to my favorite place!
Mexican Vanilla
This time I went with the Mexican Vanilla.  This cupcake was the inspiration for the Mexican Vanilla cupcakes I made a few weeks back.  If you aren't familiar it is a mexican vanilla cupcake with a mexican vanilla buttercream icing! If you didn't read my homemade post...yes, mexican vanilla is absolutely different than what you would buy at your local grocery store. 
Lemon Zest
I also decided to try a bite of the lemon zest cupcake.  It was a scorcher in Austin and this sounded quite refreshing.  It is pretty self explanatory - a lemon cake with lemon zest buttercream.  

I started to rank both of these cupcakes on my standard scale, but then got to thinking and decided it was unnecessary.  I have said before that Delish is my favorite cupcakery and both of these cupcakes continued to exceed my expectations.  So, get your rear to Austin and try one!  
On a side note, while there I asked for a bottle of water...they only had Voss.  If you ever saw the movie Grown Ups you would understand why I found this hilarious! 
My last tangent on this post...I also was able to grab dinner at Uchi (  Uchi is a fabulous sushi restaurant on South Lamar.  This is the best Sushi I have ever had.  I am new to the Sushi game as of about 7 months ago, but nothing has compared to my meal at Uchi.  

Go to Austin - Go to Uchi - Go to Delish!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Side Note

I'd like to point out one of my favorite things in Dallas - Central Market.  I am a HUGE fan of Whole Foods, but in Dallas HEB has come up with the Central Market concept which is very similar.  I always like to pop in and try some of their fresh selections.  They also have cool cooking classes every week.

Also they have an amazing gelato bar that I like to hit up on my way out.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Apple Pie??

On my last trip to Dallas I had to get back to Society Bakery (  As mentioned before the smell is just intoxicating when walking in the door.  Then when you arrive you are faced with this case of beautiful cupcakes! 
Now, last time I was in Society Bakery I had to try the banana chocolate chip to compare with Sweet Mandy B's here in Chicago, but noticed they had an apple pie flavor.  I was very intrigued by this as I have never seen an apple pie cupcake. 
Apple Pie: 1)the cake - Just a plain yellow cake - good flavor and consistency.  2) the icing - Vanilla buttercream with Apple Pie filling on top.  So good! Just the right amount of icing to go along with the apples.  It was light and fluffy.  3)Presentation - I like the "rough" presentation.  Large cupcake with a blob of icing and then apple filling plopped on top.  Totally my style.  4)Creativity - VERY creative.  Like I said, I have never seen an Apple Pie cupcake 5)overall happiness - extremely happy!  This was so delicious.  The combination of the cake with the vanilla icing and apple topping reminded me of apple pie a la mode.  Very much enjoyed this cupcake and might try to make it myself when apple season roles around!
While on this trip I had to pick up a gift for someone so I stopped in Creme de la Cookie (  I absolutely fell in love with this place.  It is adorable.  The cookies looked amazing and they had a good variety, but nothing too crazy.  However, my favorite thing about this place was the little gift boxes.  Such a great idea - They were perfect.  I really wish we had one of these shops in Chicago!

Enjoy Texas!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cupcakes & Baseball!

Ah, two of my favorite things!  I am lucky enough to live in very close proximity to Wrigley Field making it quite easy to watch a ball game.  To be clear I am NOT a Cubs fan.  Not even close, but I am a huge fan of the game so I will watch regardless of the teams.  

On the way to Wrigley my friend Katie and I decided to stop for a cupcake at Phoebe's Cupcakes (  Not my first choice, but it was convenient.  They had a decent selection to choose from so after a solid five minutes of back and forth I went with salted caramel and Katie chose Peanut Butter Fudgy Brownie.  
Salted Caramel:  Caramel soaked vanilla cake with caramel butter cream icing topped with sea salt.  1) the cake - awesome.  It had an amazing texture and loved the flavor 2) the icing - so delicious.  Just the right amount and it had a perfect hint of sea salt so that the cake overall was not too sweet which can easily happen with caramel 3)presentation - simple, fine.  4)creativity - not the first salted caramel i have seen, but the sea salt topping was a nice touch 5)overall happiness - unfortunately delighted.  For personal reasons I really did not want to like these cupcakes, but of course they were delicious.  
Peanut Butter Fudgy Brownie:  I almost don't need to rate a cake with that title because you know it will be amazing.  peanut butter. fudgy. brownie. duh.  This was a brownie cheesecake topped with peanut butter italian buttercream.  1)the cake - the actual chocolate cake portion was not my favorite, but added with the cheesecake brought it back to amazingness.  2)PB icing - great!  Some bakeries struggle with a peanut butter icing, but this one was alright in my book.  It was very smooth and not overwhelming.  3) presentation - simple like the caramel - i like that.  4)creativity - pb chocolate is not that creative, but I have yet to see a cheesecake version.  I think it was a nice touch 5) Overall happiness - hate to love it.
Well, Phoebe's gets an official thumbs up from me.  If you are ever in boystown it is recommend.  The flavor we are holding above is Spumoni which is a pistachio cake.  This gets serious creative points, but I am not a fan of nuts so passed on this flavor.  

2 additional touches I enjoyed: dog cupcakes (can't forget about our furry friends) and self serve sprinkles.  
Wrigley Night Game

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy 4th!

What better way to celebrate the 4th than with a batch of cupcakes?  These past couple weeks have been quite crazy for me as I bounced around the country, but the few days I spent in Chicago allowed me to get back in the kitchen.  I decided to get in the spirit of the holiday and whip up a fan favorite - red velvet with cream cheese icing.  For this recipe I turned to one of my favorite food network stars, Mrs. Paula Deen!
Love her! (photo thanks to google)
The cake:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (I used crushed sea salt)
1 tsp cocoa powder (so i used approx 3 tablespoons because 1 tsp seemed so small)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (room temp)
2 large eggs (room temp)
2 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

First, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa.  In a separate bowl beat oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.  Once mixed gradually add the dry ingredients until smooth.  Pour evenly into cupcake holders and toss in the oven.  

Bake for 18 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool for about 2 minutes then remove cupcakes from tray and place on cooling rack.  Let cool completely before icing!

The icing:
8oz cream cheese - softened
1 stick butter - softened
1 tsp vanilla
roughly 3 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Comments:  I still think it could have used a little more cocoa.  The original recipe says to bake 20-22 minutes.  I left mine in slightly over 20 as I wasn't watching them closely and I personally think they were a little dry.  I would start checking at 16 minutes.  On the icing - you will want to mix the first three ingredients and slowly add the powdered sugar.  I kept tasting after each cup to get the sweetness level I preferred.  I probably ended up using close to 4 cups on this batch. 

How great is this Red Velvet Cupcake wine from Whole Foods!?!  A perfect pairing for the holiday.