Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Suburban Sweets

My friend Dave caught wind of the blog and declared that the best cupcakes were located in the burbs of Chicago.  Since I rarely make it out of the city he surprised me one day by bringing me a dozen cupcakes.  Clearly he wanted to make sure I had enough variety to give a fair review!  Luckily the ones on the right are doubled so I technically only sampled 9.  I will also preface this by saying I did not eat 9 cupcakes in 1 sitting!  I tried a small portion of each over 2 days. 
Don't they look amazing?!
The cupcakes came from Baker Boys ( in Highland Park.  I love that it is run by 2 dudes because most bakeries have a lady behind the mixer. 

Peanut Butter Cup
My first choice was Peanut Butter Cup - a chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream frosting.  Cake - good flavor and very moist. Frosting - couldn't taste the peanut butter at all.  If I was blindfolded you could have easily told me that this was just a chocolate cake with plain frosting.  As you can see it was then topped with a peanut butter cup, but I clearly know what that tastes like so I left that part for Dave. 
Banana Chocolate Chip
I then moved on to the banana chocolate chip, which surprisingly has been a favorite flavor over the last couple months.  This was a banana cake with chocolate chips topped with a vanilla/chocolate swirl butter cream frosting.  Cake - AMAZING.  the flavor was great and I loved the chocolate chip banana combo.  Frosting - delish.  They have a great buttercream recipe and I love the vanilla chocolate twist combined with the banana.  I am so glad this one was delicious, because I was slightly nervous after the peanut butter cup. 
Cookies N Cream
Next was Cookies N Cream.  Chocolate cake, filled with pastry cream, topped with a vanilla buttercream frosting and crushed cookies.  Cake - good.  Same as the peanut butter, so not much surprise there.  The custard filling was just ok - not my favorite.  I loved the vanilla buttercream and cookie topping.  Overall I liked it but could have done w/o the filling. 
Peach Cobbler
I followed that with the peach cobbler.  Yellow cake, peaches in the middle, vanilla buttercream, cinnamon crumble topping, and a little dulce de leche on top.  Cake - perfect.  This was a delicious yellow cake and I LOVED the peaches in the center.  Icing - the buttercream combined with the cinnamon crumbles and dulce de leche was outstanding.  The overall combination of this cupcake was perfect.  I had a very difficult time not finishing it off.  
Lemon Meringue
Staying within the fruit category I moved over to the Lemon Meringue.  A vanilla cake filled with lemon curd and topped with a meringue frosting.  Cake - so, for some reason I didn't love the vanilla cake on this one.  I am assuming it is the same recipe used for the Peach Cobbler, but it wasn't as good.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible - just not great.  I enjoyed the lemon curd filling.  It had a good flavor and pulled the whole cake together.  Icing - super fluffy.  I personally think meringues are quite tricky, but this was done right.  Overall I liked all of the flavors mixed together.
Red Velvet
I then moved over to the classics starting with Red Velvet.  It had been awhile since I had a red velvet so I was pretty excited.  Cake - spot on.  The consistency and flavor were great.  People tend to add too much cocoa to red velvet, but these guys know what they are doing.  The cream cheese icing was also really good.  It was the perfect thickness to top this cake. 
Chocolate Chocolate
Cake - had a good flavor, but was slightly dry.  I did have this one on the second day, so I bet it would have been a little better if I tried it right away.  Icing - a little too rich for my personal preference.  This statement might come as a shock, but I am not a huge chocolate lover.  I really don't like dark chocolate and I only like milk chocolate in small doses.  So I would never personally order a choc/choc cupcake but I am glad I had the opportunity to try it.  Now, someone like my father who could eat straight chocolate all day every day would probably love this one. 
Vanilla Vanilla
Last but not least - the vanilla/vanilla.  Cake - Again, it was dry, but that is my fault for the delay in tasting.  It did have a nice buttery flavor that I enjoyed.  Icing - The vanilla buttercream was so good.  It wasn't too sweet which is important when pairing it with the vanilla cake. 

If you are still paying attention that was only 8 cupcakes.  There was also a turtle cupcake in the box, but I hate nuts.  I temporarily let go of my inner selfishness and let my friend Matt have the turtle.  His thoughts "half cupcake, half gooey goodness in the middle".  I will take that as a positive review. 

On a side note I should mention that Dave was intently watching as I took each bite.  I felt as if I was under so much pressure to love each one.  Overall I really enjoyed Baker Boys (good thing or he might have slapped me)!  After looking at the website I am bummed I did not get to try some of their other specialty flavors (apple pie, blueberry pancake, peanut butter & jelly, and pumpkin pie).  Unfortunately, I don't make it out to the suburbs often, so Dave when you read this please bring a second batch (wink). 

If you are in the Chicago area I would absolutely recommend a trip out to Highland Park for these cupcakes.  My top 3 picks are the Peach Cobbler, Banana Chocolate Chip, and Red Velvet.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cupcakes and Baseball!

One of my very best friends, Ms. Erin Butt, came up to visit.  When she asked about my favorite cupcakes in the city I immediately took her to Sweet Mandy B's!
She loves to have a good time!
Walking into Sweet Mandy B's is the toughest part of the journey because you are faced with so many tough choices.  I mean look at this spread...

They just so happened to have a special that I had never seen before..Lemon Raspberry! mmm.  This was perfect because it was a steamy day in Chicago and lemon raspberry seemed quite refreshing.
This cupcake not only looks amazing, but it also tasted amazing!  Per usual the cake had a perfect consistency.  I would have preferred a smidge more lemon flavor.  The icing was a raspberry buttercream.  It was light and fluffy and the flavor was spot on.  I absolutely love Sweet Mandy B's and they knocked it out of the park with this summer flavor.

To make this weekend even better my beloved Reds were in town to play the Cubs!  Erin and I were able to score some great last minute tickets.  Unfortunately, it was a very sad showing and they lost big time.  Even though they didn't get the W it was SO great to be able to watch them play live!
Finally closed out the weekend with this delish turkey burger topped with a corn/avocado/cucumber salsa! So simple and perfect for summer.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet Home Apple Pie

One of my favorite people in all of Chicago decided to up and leave me for bigger and better things.  David Dailey of The Dailey Dish has moved to New York City.  It only made sense to send him off with cupcakes.  Unfortunately, I was traveling the week leading up to his departure so I was not able to actually give him any of the cupcakes.  
Going Away Party

In his honor I decided to make Apple Pie cupcakes.  My reasoning is 2-fold. 1) New York City - Big Apple 2) David is originally from Alabama, when I think of a southern dessert I think of apple pie.  Also, if you remember my post from Society Bakery in Dallas, I absolutely fell in love with their apple pie cupcakes.  So...maybe the reasoning is 3-fold.  

I came across an AMAZING recipe from Annie's Eats (  

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate mixing bowl beat the butter on medium for about a minute until fluffy.  Add sugar and beat until blended (roughly 2 min on medium).  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Mix in vanilla.  Add 1/3 of the dry mix, then 1/2 of the milk, then another 1/3 of dry mix, then the rest of the milk, and finally add the rest of the dry mix.  Be sure that you are blending fully in between each addition.  Once all ingredients are combined divide the batter evenly into cupcake pan and bake for roughly 20 minutes or until the tops bounce back when lightly tapped.  Remove from the oven and place cupcakes on wire racks after a couple minutes so they can cool completely.

While baking the cupcakes, prepare the apple pie filling.

1 tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
2 large granny smith apples

peel, core, and chop the apples into tiny chunks - set aside.  Heat the butter in a medium skillet on med-high heat.  Add the cinnamon and sugar and and cook for a bit until the mixture starts to bubble.  Lower heat to medium and add apples.  Cook the apples for roughly 10 minutes.  Keep stirring the mixture periodically to be sure all apples are coated with the cinnamon and sugar.  Remove from the heat and set in a bowl to cool completely.  

While cupcakes and filling are cooling it is time to mix the icing!

1 stick +2 tbsp unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp heavy whipping cream

Beat butter at medium speed until fluffy.  Add sugar - start blending on lowest speed until sugar is combined so it doesn't fly out of the bowl and all over your kitchen.  Then take the speed up to medium for about a minute.  Add salt, vanilla, and cream.  Beat at medium-high for a couple minutes until all ingredients are combined and the texture is light and fluffy.  

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, carve into the cupcakes cutting a cone shape out of the top.  Leave a rim around the side.  Add the apple pie filling then top with a dollop of icing.  

Lastly, enjoy cause these puppies are delicious!

I decided to whip up a southern meal to go along with these sweet treats.

Some Montgomery Inn ribs (brought back from Cincinnati), Corn on the cob, and homemade mac and cheese!  mmmm deliciousness


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Steel Magnolia-s

Favorite Quote, "If you can't find anything good to say about anybody, come sit by me".  Well, that was not the case for the last stop on my New York road show - Magnolia Bakery (  Magnolia Bakery has several locations throughout Manhattan, but I decided to go to the one located at Rockefeller Center.  I am assuming this is one of their more crowded locations specifically for tourists like myself.  Normally I would avoid the overly touristy spots, but I had just finished brunch a few blocks away at Norma's.  One of my all time favorite restaurants that is a must when I visit New York City!!

It was pretty busy, but I did not want to make the same mistake I made at Two Little Red Hens, so I stepped back and carefully observed the cupcakes until I was confident I was making the right decision!  I went with an orange cupcake with chocolate frosting.
1) cake - I really enjoyed this orange cake.  The flavor and consistency were just right 2) icing - A-MA-ZING.  it was perfect!  I absolutely loved this milk chocolate icing.  This is the icing I dream of being able to make in my own kitchen someday.  I am positive they are using high quality chocolate, so I guess I will need to splurge next time I am in the mood for chocolate icing  3)presentation - simple and perfect. I love a nice little icing swoop 4) creativity - ish.  Overall they had a lot of creative choices, but this particular flavor wasn't all that creative.  I believe I had something similar in San Antonio.  5) Overall happiness - VERY happy.  It was the perfect way to end the New York cupcake hunt!

The rest of the weekend my time was spent with wedding activities.
The BEAUTIFUL reception
View from ceremony

Well that wraps up the big apple!  Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Coffee or Cupcakes

Continuing my cupcake quest in the big city, I headed to the Upper East Side to Two Little Red Hens bakery (  2LRH came in second place for best cupcakes according to Serious Eats ( and is located just down the street from where I was residing for part of my trip so I had to stop in.  It is a teeny bakery just off 2nd Avenue.  When I walked in I was not hit with the aroma of baked goods...instead it was the smell of fresh ground coffee (guilty for going at 8AM).  Now don't get me wrong I love the smell of coffee, but when I walk into a bakery I want to be knocked down by the smell of sugar and chocolate.  After some aggressive nudging I finally made my way to the counter full of delicious baked goods.  
Everything looked delicious!  2LRH was super crowded so I knew I had to make my decision quickly before getting pushed to the side and called a tourist...again.  I decided on 2 minis, the classic american and boston cream.  I ordered to-go since I knew there was no way I would be able to give a full review while being elbowed by people trying to get through and trying to mute out the sounds of the screaming children.  Am I painting a clear enough picture of how pleasant this shop was at 8AM on a weekday? Clearly, I was without caffeine! 
Classic American - yellow cake with vanilla buttercream.  1)the cake was slightly dry.  I should mention that I did not eat the cupcakes right away.  My mom had called as soon as I made the purchase telling me she was on her way in from the airport.  I scurried back to the apartment to meet her and we headed out for some light shopping.  The cupcakes probably sat in the bag for a good 5-6hrs.  So, I will give a little wiggle room on the dryness.  I still think a cupcake should stay moist for several hours if not a day or two.  2)the icing - It was very sweet and had a hint of coffee.  I imagine this was unintentional and that the sugar just absorbed the coffee aroma that was floating through the air.
Boston Cream - 1)the cake was a plain yellow cake, again battling the dryness.  I feel it should have had a filling since it was called a boston cream, but maybe it did in the larger size.  2)the icing - a rich chocolate ganache like frosting with white chocolate shavings.  It was decent, but nothing to write home about.

Individually I found the presentation to be pretty standard, but I did enjoy the look of all the Classic American cupcakes on the plate together.  Would be pretty to present at a party.  Creativity - not much.  They had pretty standard flavors, but the Boston Cream was a unique twist.  Overall happiness - eh.  I wouldn't make it a point to go back, but I also wouldn't purposely avoid it.  If I find myself wandering the UES I would give em another shot.

Looking back I think I made a few key mistakes 1) Picking a Boston Cream.  That is something I would never do in the right mindset.  They are okay as donuts, but I don't think they make for good cupcakes.  Especially over a standard chocolate.  2) Not trying their coffee - the smell was so wonderful yet I still walked directly across the street to Starbucks for my standard iced coffee.  The coffee could have changed my whole perspective on the place 3) not eating right away.  I'd like to think that if I had them right away they would have held a much better consistency.  It does leave me questioning if they bake more throughout the day or if the same cupcakes would have been sitting out on the plate all day until sold??

I was able to end my day with a Yankees game!  
 Was hoping to see Jeter hit 3,000 but I was only able to catch 2,998


Friday, August 12, 2011

Burgers & Cupcakes sans Burger

Continuing my cupcake mission in New York, I came across a great little shop Burgers & Cupcakes (  Sounds like the perfect pairing if you ask me!  Unfortunately, I had just enjoyed a slice of NY pizza, so it was just the cupcake for me.  They didn’t have a huge variety of cupcakes (surprising since it is in the name of the restaurant), but I ended up with a Strawberry Rhubarb cake. 
1)Cake – It was a plain white cake and it was pretty dry 2)Icing – it was hard.  Weird.  I also think it was just plain vanilla 3) Presentation – I thought the cake looked appealing from the case.  I always love when fresh fruit is incorporated 4) Creativity – not that creative.  It was pretty much a plain white cake with a strawberry on top.  5) Overall happiness – disappointed.  I was really hoping for a good cupcake and this was subpar.  The flavor and consistency were both lacking.  Also, the only strawberry part was the actual strawberry??  That or the rest of the cake just didn’t have enough strawberry flavor for me to even taste it.  Hopefully their burgers are better!
This is a pass for me…

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SoHo Delicious

My cousin recently got married in New York.  I decided to take advantage of this event and go up there for an entire week turning it into a little vacation.  This gave me plenty of time to hit up some cupcakeries.  I was initially given a list of close to 40 places in the New York metro area.  I love cupcakes, but 40 is not quite feasible for a 7 day trip.  I was able to make it to 4 based on where I was at the time and if I was in the mood for sweets (which was most of the time).  You will see all of those reviews over the next few posts. 

The first stop I made was at Baked by Melissa( in SoHo.  Unlike most places, these ladies were operating out of a window on the side of a building.  That is one way to battle the rent of NewYork!  As always I like to observe all of the flavors for quite awhile so I end up with the best possible cupcake.  Since they were operating out of a window it really cut down my decision making time.  I felt serious pressure when I arrived at the front of the line.  They had a picture of some of the varieties hanging on the side so I could evaluate while in line, but the pictures unfortunately weren't that appealing. 
These cupcakes are super mini, so I ended up with a flight of 3 - PB&J, S'mores, and Chocolate Chip Pancake. 
PB&J - I can't really separate the icing from the cake, because they were so small.  Literally they are a single bite cupcake.  This was a yellow cake topped with obviously, peanut butter and jelly.  Loved it.  The cake was perfect and it had just the right amount of PB&J.  There wasn't any icing at all.  PB&Js are one of my all time favorite sandwiches, so I absolutely loved having it as a bite size cupcake. 
S'mores - Again, I can't really separate the two, but this was a chocolate cake with chocolate icing topped with marshmallow and graham cracker.  So good!  This was the perfect bite sized combination.  Just the right amount of all ingredients.  It was just like having a real S'mores sans fire. 

Chocolate Chip Pancake - I was with my friend, Mike, and he had this one.  As I mentioned above these are so small, so there is no room for sharing.  He did say it was delicious which I don't doubt since the others were amazing.

I go back and forth on the presentation.  They are so small and cute that I love them, but it is hard to present them in an appealing way.  While at the register I was totally skeptical, but luckily it was a pleasant surprise.  Creativity - very creative.  I have never seen cupcakes SO small before which was great and also the flavors were fairly unique.  Overall happiness - highly satisfied.  I would absolutely return to Baked by Melissa.  The flavors were outstanding and I loved that I could try so many due to their small size.  It is like a tapas take on cupcakes!  These would be perfect to take to a party.

I will definitely go back next time I am in the big apple!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Movin to the country....

gonna eat a lot of peaches.  It never fails - every time I buy peaches I get that song stuck in my head!  It is currently peach season, so I had to take advantage of the fresh produce.  I absolutely love fresh peaches so I figure why not incorporate them into a cupcake.  While in Michigan I passed by a peach stand and picked up a dozen delicious peaches (yes, I got a little carried away).

With so many peaches on hand I decided to try 2 different recipes.  They are incredibly similar, but I could definitely taste a difference.

This first one comes from 52 cupcakes (  It is a peach cupcake with Martha Stewart's marscarpone frosting.
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp grated orange zest
3/4 cup milk
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced and cut into thirds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt
In a separate bowl beat together sugar and butter until they are fully combined.  then add the eggs (one at a time).  Then add the vanilla and orange zest and beat until all ingredients are combined.  Add in a portion of the flour mixture, then a portion of the milk, and keep alternating until all ingredients have been added and the mixture is smooth.  Gently fold in the peaches.  

Divide the batter into the cupcake pan and bake for roughly 20 minutes.  All ovens vary, so the main goal is to make sure the cupcakes spring back if lightly touched or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  

Place the cupcakes on a cooling rack and make sure they are completely cooked before frosting or you'll have a runny mess!

Icing - I thought this was a light and fluffy alternative to a standard cream cheese icing.  Mine didn't turn out the prettiest, but still tasted great.

1 lb marscarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Beat all ingredients together on medium for a couple minutes.  All ingredients should be combined and have a fluffy texture.  Plop on top of your cupcakes and enjoy!

Recipe #2...

This recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen (  Peach cupcake with brown sugar frosting

3 all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large peaches peeled and chopped 

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.  In a seperate bowl mix butter and 2 sugars until combined and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Once blended add in vanilla.  Then add the buttermilk.  Once combined slowly add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time.  Once all ingredients have been added, fold in the peaches.

Divide batter into cupcake pan and bake at 350 degrees for roughly 18 minutes.  Once baked let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack.

Brown Sugar frosting
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together brown sugar, corn starch, and powdered sugar.  Set aside.  In a seperate bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy (roughly 2 minutes).  Add the sugar mixture and the vanilla.  Beat for another 2 minutes or so.  Once the cupcakes are cool, top with frosting and enjoy!

I had quite a few peaches left over after making both cupcake recipes, so I decided to try bourbon peach chicken!  Recipe from

5 peaches - peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 skinless/boneless chicken breasts

Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan - bring to a boil - cover and reduce heat to let simmer for 30 min.  Combine peach mixture, bourbon, brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a blender and blend for 1 min until smooth.  Transfer to 13x9 baking dish and cook at 250 degrees for 2 hours and 15 minutes!  Once ready coat cooked chicken breast and enjoy.  As you can see I paired the chicken with corn on the cob.
After all of that I have to say the second peach cupcake recipe was my favorite.  I think they were some of the best cupcakes I have ever made!  The peaches made the cake so moist and perfect.  I liked both icings a lot, but if I had to choose I would probably go with the brown sugar.  I will definitely be making these again!!  Perfect summer treat!.  


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Battling Michigan

While in Battle Creek Michigan I stopped into Food Dance ( for breakfast.  Food Dance is a restaurant with a market/bakery attached.  After breakfast I was browsing the bakery when I came across these puppies.  
I was a little intimidated upon first glance, but I had to try one.  They had Vanilla/Vanilla and Chocolate/Chocolate - makes it pretty easy on a girl as indecisive as me!  They had one on the top of the counter with a sparkler in it (they wouldn't give me that one).  I loved the idea though..note to self for next 4th of July!  For whatever reason I went with the Chocolate/Chocolate.
1) the cake - not the best flavor.  A little too rich for my liking.  2) the icing - again, didn't love it.  If you can't tell from the picture there was WAY too much on there.  Almost looks like an ice cream cone. 3) Presentation - I did enjoy the look.  I thought they all looked nice in the case.  Unfortunately they looked a little better than they tasted.  4) creativity - not so much 5) overall happiness - not very happy.  This really wasn't a great cupcake.  Will have to pass on trying the vanilla/vanilla.
This cupcake traveled back to Chicago with me, but as you can see it didn't have the best carrier.  If you are going to put that much icing on a cupcake at least order packaging that is big enough!

Now, I won't be going back to Food Dance for their cupcakes, but luckily their market carried a few things that I absolutely love!!
First, Chicago's very own Voges chocolate bars! Pictured above is the best I have had as it combines two of my favorite things - bacon and chocolate.  Sounds crazy, I know.  It is outstanding.  I highly recommend trying one!
Second, Jeni's Ice Cream!  I lived in Columbus, OH for a year (home to Jeni's) and fell in love with this ice cream!  The combinations much like Voges are absolutely ridiculous and surprisingly delicious.  mmm 
Lastly, a book I recently read - Blood, Bones, & Butter.  This is Manhattan Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir.  If you like food and you like to read then I highly recommend this one.  

While the cupcakes weren't worthy of a second tasting, Food Dance had so many things I enjoy so I will be sure to return!


(thanks to google images for some of the pics)