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Mrs. A’s Cupcakes


Salted Caramel, Choco Banana, Nutella, and Mango Shortcake cupcakes from Mrs. A's Cupcakes in Park Ridge, IL

We stumbled upon this family-owned place (Mrs. A’s Cupcakes) while looking for a restaurant in Park Ridge, IL. Ian and I were strolling down the street and I was yammering on about something or other, per usual, when we spotted this place. I stopped in my tracks and without another word, wandered into the shop – like a moth to a flame.

A friendly woman and her daughter (I’m assuming) greeted us. Upon their recommendations, we left with a Red Velvet cake pop (ya know, to eat on our way to dinner), a cookie decorated like a pumpkin and of course, cupcakes – Salted Caramel, Choco Banana, Nutella, and Mango Shortcake.

Our thoughts:

The Salted Caramel consisted of yellow cake with a salted caramel cream cheese buttercream. The cake reminded me of pound cake and was a tad dry. Frosting was decent, but I thought it had more than a “touch of Mediterranean sea salt” – as described on their website.

The Choco Banana left me wanting more chocolate, bananas, and I dunno – chocolate and bananas? It had the same yellow cake as the Salted Caramel. The chocolate frosting was a bit grainy and the only bananas to be found were the dried pieces on top. Meh.

The Nutella held more promise. It consisted of a chocolate cake, which was better than the previous yellow cakes. The top was smeared with a thin layer of Nutella and completed with another layer of Nutella buttercream frosting. Chocolate shavings adorned the top. If someone offered me another one of these, I wouldn’t turn it down.

The Mango Shortcake was the most intriguing of the bunch. The yellow cake was spongy and relatively moist. Between the bottom and rounded top of the cupcake, they slathered a light mango buttercream frosting. The top was sprinkled with powdered sugar. This was the best of them all, besides the cake pop.

This may be blasphemy, but I’ll say it anyway – Red Velvet is one of my least favorite cupcake flavors. Perhaps because I feel it doesn’t commit to a flavor and it requires an unholy amount of red dye to trick us into thinking it’s unique. Srsly, you need a Costco-sized jug of red dye to make these happen. Considering this, I actually enjoyed their Red Velvet cake pop the most of everything. It was fudgy, and had a wonderful cocoa-vanilla flavor. We ate it in the dark so I could ignore the food coloring. That’s how I like to eat a majority of my food, in the dark…without shame.

After dissing Red Velvet cake, I felt the need to read about it on Wikipedia. Hmm.

So yea, this place was alright. I like supporting small businesses.

Be kind to each other.

Rating:  ★★★½☆ 

posted by Rachael in Cupcakes and have No Comments

500 Days of Cupcakes


Summer Crush cupcake from The Cup in St. Louis, MO

It’s official: I’m in love with summer—and cupcakes. I’m itching to pull on my after-Memorial-Day appropriate white pants and enjoy some sweet summer loving with cupcakes. It feels oh so wrong, but oh so right.

Last summer, while visiting some family in St. Louis, we scouted out a cupcake joint called The Cup (Crave the Cup). It was a trendy, decent-sized cupcakery that smelled of sweet, sugary goodness. Their cupcake menu boasts flavors such as confetti, cuppa coffee cake, island dream, and much, much more. In addition, they have seasonal flavors up for consumption during certain months of the year.

When we arrived, they had the Summer Crush cupcake up for grabs. Clearly, we came at the right time. The Summer Crush cupcake consisted of a perfectly moist cake with a burst of tart, orange flavor, completed by a sweet cream filling. The texture, taste, and consistency of the orange buttercream frosting was summerific. Finally, a single orange gummy bear was perched on top of this summer creation. I had died and gone to heaven, where it’s summer all the time, with a little bit of fall.

Following my natural instincts, we also ordered a Peanut Butter Cup. The dark chocolate cake was frosted with peanut butter buttercream and completed with Reese’s® peanut butter cups crumble. If I could live off of Reese’s, I would. It is a well-known fact that Reese’s are an essential part of a “nutritious” diet. The cake wasn’t quite as moist as the Summer Crush, but the flavors were just as delightful.

When I’m in St. Louis again, I’m going back to this place. It deserves repeated visits. Also, the Summer Crush has inspired me to make an Orange Creamsicle cupcake. To be continued…

Partygoer: So, Tom, what is it that you do?
Tom: I, uh, I write greeting cards.
Summer: Tom could be a really great architect if he wanted to be.
Partygoer: That’s unusual, I mean, what made you go from one to the other?
Tom: I guess I just figured, why make something disposable like a building, when you can make something that lasts forever, like a greeting card.

Substitute “bake cupcakes” for “write greeting cards.” Wise words, Tom.

Rating:  ★★★★½ 

posted by Rachael in Cupcakes and have No Comments

A Cupcake Carol

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake from A Taste of Heaven in Chicago

Out of curiosity, I checked when I last posted a cupcake review and the date read September 28, 2011. I cried out in disbelief! Could it really have been that long? I’ve been wearing black ever since this discovery, and now I’m ready to join society again. My lack of posting can be attributed to the all-consuming “Graduate School,” subtitled, “Dissertating is a pain in my arse.” It still is, but I’m back, for better or for worse.

I didn’t write this at Christmas and then forget to post it. Sadly, I’ve written it now, at the end of January. All you judgers don’t be judgin’ and all you haters save your hatin’. At least give me a chance to explain.

Christmas in January exists. Its presence is confirmed by the lingering Christmas lights strewn haphazardly across the local shrubbery, and dried up pine wreaths hanging askew on a neighbor’s door, waiting to be ignited by the unsuspecting front porch smoker. Just yesterday, I saw a manger scene lit in full glory. “Laziness!” the haters exclaim. Perhaps. I like to think of January as the mourning period of Christmas past. Christmas enters as a whirlwind, and leaves us just as quickly with the blissful blinking lights fading in our eyes. Do I paint a sad picture? Well, cheer up! Christmas will be here again 5 years, 0 months, 24 days, 13 hours, 54 minutes ago.

Our Christmas tree is still up and glowing brightly. Let your judgment rain down upon me like soap flakes of shame. I am not worthy of real snow. We have many excuses. “We haven’t had time to take it down.” “We like the glow of the tree in the background while we watch a movie.” “It babysits the dogs while we’re gone.” Poppycock! We desperately cling onto that last bit of Christmas like I imagine grown’d up Linus would have clung to his childhood blankie before being forced to part with it. It’s not just a tree, or a blankie, it’s what it represents.

The tree comes down very soon, but I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I challenge you to do the same. That’s one of my New Year’s resolutions. Another (almost) universal resolution—lose some weight. A majority of us know this can be difficult, especially when you have a sugar addiction. My philosophy—if you’re going to cheat and have something sweet, reach for the real deal. Odds are, the low-cal, low-fat, tasteless garbage that some fools try to pass off as dessert will leave you unsatisfied in the end. Best treat yoself, lest you cheat yoself.

You deserve a taste of heaven. This provides a perfect segue into today’s cupcake review of A Taste of Heaven in Andersonville, Chicago. To find their site, I mistakenly typed tasteofheaven.com into the search engine. It was a naughty site for “cupcakes,” if you know what I mean. If you just came back from checking out the site, you best check yoself, lest you wreck yoself.

A Taste of Heaven (linked to the correct site) is a charming, little Chicago café that provides a surplus of savory and sweet items. I’ve been there three times just to confirm that each time would be as delectable as the last. I’m basically a regular. Cue soap flakes of shame. In my past wanderings to this establishment, I have tasted their Orange Dreamsicle, Boston Cream, and Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes.

On my first visit this past summer, I wisely chose the Orange Dreamsicle cupcake. It consisted of a scrumptious vanilla cake saturated with a creamy, yet tart orange-flavored filling, topped with smooth, orange-flavored buttercream frosting and an orange jelly candy. It should be the official cupcake of Florida. Disney should try to recreate this cupcake, because it is pure tropical magic.

On my second visit this past fall, the Boston Cream cupcake chose me. It’s breakfast for dessert, otherwise known as “bressert.” That is, if you consider a Boston Cream donut as breakfast, and I do. It’s the American way, otherwise known as “the fat country” way. Fatty! Fatty! Fatty! The dense vanilla cake oozed rich vanilla custard. This bressert was complete with a thick chocolate frosting, reminiscent of the chocolate icing that coats the traditional Boston Cream. I consumed it with a cup of coffee and was most satisfied.

On my most recent visit, which will surely not be my last, the server recommended the Chocolate Raspberry cupcake. This bit of heaven consisted of a decadent chocolate cake filled with fresh raspberry preserves, topped with a sweet, but not too sweet ricotta cheese frosting that was dipped in hard chocolate and topped with a ripe, red raspberry. This cupcake was luxurious in every way.

I don’t need to tell you that life is full of stresses. Don’t let them weigh you down. Instead, take a moment to treasure the sweet things.

As Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, everyone!

Rating:  ★★★★★ 

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The Frosting

The Pumpkin Patch cupcake from Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique, Chicago

All work and no cupcakes makes Rachael a dull girl…

I spent last week under house arrest writing my second candidacy exam. One week and 30 pages later, I was hanging on to the last thread of my sanity. Cupcakes are one of the only things that can revive me.

The fall season is upon us and what better way to commemorate the beginning of my favorite season than to reference one of my favorite horror movies of all time, The Shining. The book is great too. I suppose I can think of one better way to celebrate Autumn, fall-flavored cupcakes. Check out my yearly to-do list of fall activities:

  • Eat fall-flavored cupcakes.
  • Drink a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks.
  • Find a pumpkin with an unnaturally long stem.
  • Carve a wicked pumpkin.
  • Play in a pile of leaves.
  • Watch Michigan football.
  • Drink apple cider and eat apple cider donuts.
  • Wet my pants on a haunted house tour.
  • Celebrate my dogs’ birthdays.
  • Play in a pile of leaves bigger than the first.

Some people like to celebrate fall with Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte. More power to them. It is indeed a delicious hot beverage, and on my fall to-do list. However, I decided to jump start football season, crisp weather, and haunted hayrides with a Pumpkin Patch cupcake and cappuccino frosting shot from Sugar Bliss.

Entering the establishment, I sauntered on up to the cupcake bar. When the girl behind the counter asked me what flavors I’d be having, I replied, “The hair of the dog that bit me, miss.” Of course, she had no idea what that meant so I clarified that I wanted a mini Lemon Drop, a mini PB&J, a full-sized Pumpkin Patch, and a shot of cappuccino frosting to wash it all down. Then, those it shall be.

They boxed up my cupcakes and slid the cappuccino shot across the counter. Dana and I tapped our mini paper cups (the kind that school nurses use to hand out ibuprofen) of cappuccino frosting and squeezed the sugary concoction into our mouths. If Sugar Bliss is known for anything, it’s their frosting. Sugary sweet and goes down smooth. I immediately regretted having two cups of coffee prior to my frosting shot. It is possible that Dana regretted it more. I swear I saw some animal hedges move. Sidenote: scientists say that coffee may prevent depression. No wonder I’m such a happy person.

Now, for the cupcakes. The cake of the Lemon Drop was dry and crumbly but it had a pleasantly subtle lemon flavor. The lemon frosting did not disappoint. The mini PB&J was also a tad dry but I enjoyed the burst of jelly filling which complemented the creamy peanut butter frosting. What kind of peanut butter person are you? Chunky or smooth? Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed with the minis.

When I saw the Pumpkin Patch cupcake, similar to when I see a real pumpkin patch, a pillar of light shone down from the sky. The cake was moist and spiced to perfection. The cream cheese frosting was silky, unlike some cream cheese frostings which are thick or fluffy. In my opinion, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the textures. Also, Sugar Bliss has a distinct way of frosting their cupcakes, with precise globs which form a pattern of globs. Sounds pretty, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Then, it was sprinkled with a mix of spices.

Some cupcakes are like people—some shine and some don’t. Though one thing is for sure, Sugar Bliss has THE frosting.

Rating:  ★★★½☆ 

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When Frosting Met Cupcakes


Lemon Cupcake from Sweet Mandy B's in Chicago, and Jake

When life gives you lemons, you’ve got potential for a lemon quote. If Life had a lemonade stand, I imagine it’d look something like this:

Pucker up, today’s flavor is lemon. The end of summer is drawing near. To soften the blow and slow the tears, pick your poison—limoncello, lemon drop shots, electric lemonade, Arnold Palmer, Shandy, etc.—and pair it with a Lemon cupcake from Sweet Mandy B’s. The sweet and sour combo, sans MSG, will be a ray of sunshine in your end-of-summer blues.

Around this same time last year, Dana, Katie, and I visited Sweet Mandy B’s for the first time. In fact, Sweet Mandy B’s was one of the first bakeries we visited on our Chicago cupcake tour. To commemorate a year of consuming calorific cupcakes, I easily convinced my husband to try one of their creations. My excuse: I never wrote a review after trying their cupcakes, so I need a refresher before dishing out my opinion.

With its pastel colors and old fashioned décor, Sweet Mandy B’s is the most charming shop I’ve been to thus far. They pride themselves on old fashioned desserts which may come in the form of baked goods from one side of their shop or a scoop of ice cream from the parlor on the other side. Located in the heart of Lincoln Park, Sweet Mandy B’s main mission is to put a big smile on your face by satisfying your sweet tooth with s’mores, frosting smeared cupcakes, banana pudding with Nilla wafers, whoopie pies, chocolate cookies sandwiching thick vanilla frosting, and more.

On my first visit, I got a Vanilla cupcake with their famous buttercream frosting, French Toast cupcake, and a Pumpkin cupcake. In addition, they threw in a free Chocolate cupcake for good measure. If life hands you lemons, throw them back and yell “I WANTED CHOCOLATE!”

Forgive my sketchy memories from a year ago. Overall, I remember their cake being fluffy and their frosting being thick and creamy. Their desserts will remind you of comfort food from grandma’s kitchen. When I returned this time, I chose their Carrot Cake and Lemon cupcakes. My memory served me well, which I attribute to the countless cupcakes I’ve eaten and gingko biloba vitamins.

Harry: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Sally: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Harry: But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.

The Carrot Cake was a fluffy, well-spiced cake studded with pecans and raisins, frosted with thick cream cheese frosting and topped with pecan pieces. Carrot cake is timeless and seasonless. I’ve never had to fake loving carrot cake.

I’ll have what she’s having.

The Lemon cupcake consisted of a fluffy lemon cake that melted in my mouth. The consistency and flavor of their buttercream frosting is at the top of the frosting charts. If there isn’t such a thing, there should be. The creamy, tart lemon buttercream frosting sent me over the edge.

Sweet Mandy B’s is exactly that, sweet in every way. They’ve got it right…when life gives you lemons, make lemon cupcakes.

I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

Rating:  ★★★★½ 

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Blazing Cupcakes

Strawberries and Cream cupcake from Lovely Confections in Denver, CO

Our road trip out west (as far as Wyoming) is coming to an end. Ian and I are blazing our way back east to Chicago. This country ain’t big enough for the two of us. But really, it is and we are exhausted. We were gone for 7 days and we camped practically the whole time. It’s time for a long shower, and maybe some “welcome home” cupcakes. One cupcake per letter.

I’d add a cupcake with an “!” to make it an even dozen.

After getting cupcakes in Omaha, NE at Cupcake Island, I made it my mission to find other cupcakeries along our route. I kept my ear open to the scuttlebutt and we found our way to two more cupcakeries—Lovely Confections in Denver, CO and Sweet Peaks in Estes Park, CO. We were headed to these areas anyway so it was like killing two birds with one stone. How did this phrase originate? Did people use to kill birds with stones?

Lovely Confections in Denver is run by a lovely woman, Porche. Since 2008, her mission has been to maximize flavor and minimize carbon footprint by using local, organic ingredients. A good mission, indeed! Baking in Denver, she has to take into account the high altitude. Most of us can blissfully ignore the instructions on the Betty Crocker box for baking at a certain altitude. I don’t always have time to bake from scratch. On our way to visit our friend Samantha and her daughter Maya, we swung by to pick up some organic, high-altitude cupcakes. Once again, we arrived 10 minutes prior to closing and had a limited selection.

Porche was very friendly and greeted us immediately. The corner of Lovely Confections is the bakery section and the rest is open with some seating. It was bright and inviting. From the limited selection, we requested the Bees Knees and the Strawberries and Cream cupcakes.

The Bees Knees cupcake consisted of a lavender cake with a honey lemon buttercream, topped with crystal sprinkles. The description intrigued me. I was hesitant about lavender flavored cake but I’m willing to give anything a try. The flavor was subtle and floral. The problem was that the cake was sticking to the wrapper. Ian and I ended up using forks to try and scrape it off in pieces. However, the honey lemon buttercream icing was fantastic. The honey and lemon flavors complemented the lavender cake and the consistency of the frosting was smooth. Fine as cream gravy. Similarly, the Strawberries and Cream cupcake had a cake that would not come off the wrapper. However, the frosting was again amazing. It was like a thick strawberry milkshake, heavy on the strawberries.

Lovely Confections has a great mission and is obviously successful since they’ve been making cupcakes since 2008 and were practically out of cupcakes for the day. Though the flavors caught my attention, the crumbly cake left me wanting. However, the frosting was worth the trip.

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ 

Super Chunk Monk cupcake from Sweet Peaks Bakery in Estes Park, CO

After camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove through Estes Park on the way out of town. We just happened to stop at a Starbuck’s that had a bakery right next store, Sweet Peaks Bakery. Oh, that’s rich! We wandered in and gawked at the selection. They specialize in ”Sweet Treats” including specialty cupcakes, wedding and seasonal cupcakes, gourmet cupcakes, Plain Jane cupcakes, breakfast cupcakes, as well as cakes, pies cookies and more. Um, did I hear cupcakes somewhere in there? The bears didn’t make any cupcakes up in the mountains so I was ready to get my sweets on at Sweet Peaks.

We chose their Lemon Poppyseed and Super Chunk Monk cupcakes. In a hurry, we paid for them and hit the road. Not too long after, I said, “‘Scuse me, while I whip these out.”

The Lemon Poppyseed was chock full of poppyseeds. Enough to make a drug test positive. The cake reminded me of a lemon poppyseed muffin, but unlike a muffin, it was loaded with a tangy lemon filling. And, lots of it. It was then frosted with a thick vanilla buttercream frosting. My only complaint is that the cake was very dry. We got there in the morning, so the cupcakes were probably fresh.

The Super Chonk Monk consisted of a rich chocolate cake frosted with a chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with dried banana pieces, and drizzled with chocolate and caramel. The cake was soft and the banana pieces chewy. The textures and flavors were decadent, but the cake was still too dry for my taste.

Sweet Peaks Bakery is in a prime location with an appropriate name. Their cupcakes had plenty o’ flavor but not enough moisture. I wonder if the altitude could be to blame. Add some moisture and I’d give this place a 4 or 4.5. Plus, they have elegant looking cupcake wrappers and elegant (ahem, crass) is my middle name. Ha!

Goodbye bears.

Rating:  ★★★½☆ 

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Cupcakes of the Caribbean


Key Lime cupcake from Cupcake Island in Omaha, NE

As a last hoorah for summer, Ian and I set sail on a road trip out west to South Dakota to gaze upon the stone faces of Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. Along the way, we’re stopping in a few ports. We first anchored in Omaha, Nebraska to visit our mateys Adam, Kelly, and their wee lass, Teagan. She sure can hold her milk.

As we neared Omaha, we researched cupcake joints on our AyePhone. The compass pointed to Cupcake Island, “Omaha’s First and Only Cupcake Shop.” Since they’ve opened, at least one other cupcakery has set up shop in the Omaha area. Good thing they coined their motto first. We entered the address in our magical map (a.k.a., Jack the GPS) and it spoke to us, “You will arrive four hours prior to sunset (i.e., 4:00pm).” Cupcake Island closes at 4pm on SatARRday. Bloody!

Fortunately, the breeze was with us and Ol’ Gray pulled into their harbor at 3:50pm. They only had two cupcake flavors left—Key Lime and Piña Colada. Exotic. We threw down a gold coin and took them both.

The Piña Colada cupcake consisted of a vanilla cake, frosted with a thin layer of buttercream frosting and topped with shredded coconut pieces. The vanilla cake was dry and the flavor of the buttercream frosting was indistinguishable. Where’s the pineapple? Apparently, the cupcake was supposed to have some rum flavoring as well. I tasted none. Where has all the rum gone?! My favorite part of the cupcake was the tiny umbrella (the ones they put in tropical drinks) perched on top.

The Key Lime cupcake was better. The vanilla cake was moister than the previous cupcake and had a tart, slightly bitter key lime filling. It was topped with a sweet lime buttercream frosting and a lime-shaped gummy candy.

Cupcake Island was made to be a sweet escape. We only tried two flavors so I can’t pass too much judgment. If they were almost sold out by the end of the day, Cupcake Island must satisfy Omaha’s sweet tooth.

If you want to hear about the cupcakeries we tried in Denver and Estes Park, I’ll post something the very next time we make port.

Sidenote: September 19 is National Talk like a Pirate Day. Savvy? Below is a pirate joke for you:

A pirate walked into a bar and he had a steering wheel attached to his crotch.
The bartender asked, “Doesn’t that bother you?”
The pirate replied, “Argh! It drives me nuts!”

Rating:  ★★½☆☆ 

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Snow White and the Seven Cupcakes


Magical Chocolate Butterfinger cupcake from Starring Rolls Café in Hollywood Studios, Disney World

This post is dedicated to one of my dearest friends, Erin “Formerly Tate” Schmerr and her new husband, Daniel. May they have many magical years together!

Disney World, where dreams come true. Ian and I flew on a somewhat magical flight (it was hella early) to Orlando to celebrate our sure-to-be magical three-year anniversary and the more-than-magical marriage of Erin Tate and Daniel Schmerr. Needless to say, magic was in the air.

The theme for the weekend was “Dreams come true!” There were also hand motions to accompany this theme. Try it out. Mickey has a hard time getting those hands up high for “True!

I have a big head and little arms.

In addition, we started a list of “Dream come true!” moments. Oddly, but not so oddly, the list starts out with us seeing a 12 foot tall coke bottle with mist spraying from the oversized cap. Hollywood Studios knows how to quench my thirst. However, it wasn’t actual coke mist. Even where dreams come true, that wouldn’t be such a magical idea.

The second moment came on Star Tours in Hollywood Studios. Erin, the bride-to-be, was selected to be the Rebel spy. That is a once in a lifetime opportunity, friends. I’ve only ever dreamed of being the Rebel spy.

The third and perhaps best “Dream come true!” moment was wearing ponchos and dancing in the daily Florida rain. When we checked the weather forecast for our time in Orlando, it showed the stormy rain cloud for four days straight…and beyond. It rains every freaking day there and Disney makes $8.50 off a poncho that probably costs them only a nickel. You’re just paying for the logo. Best damn $8.50 I ever spent. We danced in our ponchos like there was no tomorrow. All the moving around and water brought us to “Dream come true!” moment #4 where we successfully used the restroom while wearing ponchos. Not as difficult as it seems. Am I sharing too much? No, you can never share too much magic. There were many more magical moments such as reenacting Singin’ in the Rain with actual rain, eating Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, and battling a child in Germany (Epcot) with a foam crown, shield, and knife, but I won’t bore you with the details. Except, the child beat me. For shame.

Before entering Disney’s magical realm, I scouted out cupcake options. Disney is a one-stop shop where you can get tiny Ewoks, ponchos, and cupcakes. Magic Internet, on the computer, which is the fairest cupcake of all?

The Chocolate Butterfinger cupcake from Starring Rolls Café in Hollywood Studios.

Starring Rolls Café, get ready for this star. Upon seeing the bakery tucked in the middle of Hollywood Studios, I assumed the proper position and yelled, “SUPERSTAR!” Molly Shannon style. This little café offers a few lunch entrées such as their Black Forest Ham sandwich but I recommend going for their desserts—cakes, pastries, breads, etc. To complement their sweets, they offer a variety of beverages such as coffee and wine.

The magical Internet told me to choose their Chocolate Butterfinger cupcake. I couldn’t argue with the Internet. I tried once and it told me to 01000110011101010100001101001011 myself. I was offended.

The Chocolate Butterfinger cupcake was a magic wishing cupcake, sans poison. The chocolate cake was full and rich. The cake was filled with a fudgy chocolate and topped with a thick layer of bright white vanilla buttercream frosting. Tons (almost literally) of crumbled Butterfinger completed this monstrous cupcake. Disney’s motto should be: Go big or go home where there’s less magic. I didn’t try any seven cupcakes while in Disney but I’m pretty sure this one counts as seven. It was huge. Ian and I split it but couldn’t even finish it. Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger cupcake. Seriously, though, help me eat this thing.

I couldn’t have wished for a more magical time with Ian or a more magical union between Erin and Dan. Love and magic was everywhere.

Want to know a secret?
Promise not to tell?
We are standing by a wishing well.
Make a wish into the well,
that’s all you have to do.
And if you hear it echoing,
Your wish will soon come true.

Rating:  ★★★★★ 

posted by Rachael in Cupcakes and have Comments (2)

Cupcake of Dreams


Cotton Candy cupcake from Sugar Monkey Cupcakes in Naperville, IL

If you bake them, they will come.

Well, I can’t guarantee they will come, but I know I will. I’m like that cartoon character who smells food and floats on the scent trail to find a pie sitting on a country kitchen windowsill. I’ve always said my sense of smell is by far my most acute sense. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’ve got a nose like a hound dog. It has served me well.

Recently, we followed the scent trail out to Naperville to visit our friends Tori and Logan, and to see what charming Naperville has to offer (e.g., cupcakes and other things). Tori and Logan scouted out a cupcakery beforehand, as if they even needed to. My nose would have led us there.

Before stopping at Sugar Monkey Cupcakes, we traversed downtown Naperville and I was surprised at the wide selection of stores ranging from well-known (Barnes & Noble) to quaint (Country Curtains). Books, curtains, and cupcakes. What more do you need in life?

Sugar Monkey Cupcakes is located in an adorable two story white house with pink window shutters and a little brown awning. They pride themselves on cupcakes made from simple ingredients and no preservatives. Before you go in, make sure you check their website for the daily flavors. They offer their Vanilla, Chocolate, Red Velvet, Cookies & Cream, and S’more cupcakes every day but offer a variety of other flavors on different days of the week. We came on a Saturday. Ah, bless you Saturday flavors.

Inside, their walls are bold white, pink, and brown stripes, and a there are a couple of tables with brightly colored tiled tops. At the time, both were occupied, a good sign. On this special Saturday, we got two of their everyday flavors—S’mores and Cookies & Cream—as well as two of their Saturday flavors—Cotton Candy and Blueberry Cheesecake.

The Cookies & Cream cupcake was a relatively moist Oreo-filled vanilla cake, topped with frosting and an Oreo piece. The kicker is that the frosting tastes like it’s made out of the cream found in the middle of Oreos. Did you ever play that “game” where one person holds one side of the Oreo and your “friend” holds the other side, then you each twist your side in opposite directions to see who ends up with the cream? I say “game” because it’s not much of one. I say “friend” because anyone who wants to take Oreo cream away from me is no friend of mine. I say, play this with enemies! I’m sure you could make this “game” more interesting by having the winner toss a glass of milk in the loser’s face. Nah, I’d enjoy that too much. Cue Maniac by Michael Sembello and have a bucket of milk handy.

The S’more cupcake consisted of a decadent chocolate cake with marshmallow filling and chocolate frosting topped with graham cracker crumbs. As Logan so accurately stated, “The cake tastes like a Hershey bar.” I bet Sugar Monkey Cupcakes is high-fiving over that one. Usually, I’d ask for s’more, but the richness of this particular cupcake makes it a great one to share. Don’t even be asking me to share an actual s’more at the campfire. You will be denied.

Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack… and COTTON CANDY! Cotton candy should not be restricted to county fairs. For the first time in my cupcake adventures, I spotted a Cotton Candy cupcake and I giggled with delight. Just to clarify, this is not the first time I’ve giggled with delight. That happens often, almost as much as chortling. A super moist and chewy vanilla cake formed the base of this creation and the cotton candy-flavored icing sent it into the outfield bleachers. Home run! The icing even had a bit of the typical cotton candy grainy texture. I’m talkin’ the good kind of grainy.

My favorite of all was the Blueberry Cheesecake cupcake which was (surprise) a blueberry cheesecake cupcake complete with a lemon cream cheese frosting. The cake was incredibly dense and laden with blueberries, not dry like a muffin can be. The tart lemon frosting perfectly complemented the sweet blueberries and thick cake. Thank you, sir, may I have another? There’s something about combining blueberries and lemons that creates fireworks in my mouth.

Sugar Monkey Cupcakes is a cute cupcakery in nice Naperville that has tasty treats. Not sure if Naperville has a minor league baseball team, but if they do, grab a Cotton Candy cupcake and go see a game.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Rating:  ★★★★☆ 

posted by Rachael in Cupcakes and have Comments (4)

27 Cupcakes


Cupcakes from Cookie and a Cupcake in Cleveland, OH

Our good friends Nate and Jen got married a couple weeks ago in Cleveland. Congrats, Nate and Jen! We hung out with the newly married couple the day after their wedding. Surprisingly, they’re the ones who invited us to spend their post-wedding day with them. Not that we normally ask newly married couples to hang out with us the day after their wedding, but I wouldn’t put it past us. This post is about our special day together (that is, the day after their wedding) and the things we consumed, and saw.

On our post-wedding day adventure, we started the day by having lunch at Melt Bar and Grilled, a bar (featured on Man vs. Food) that serves every kind of grilled cheese sandwich imaginable. Like a typical quadruple (4 people in a relationship), we ordered four different grilled sandwiches and shared. In case you’re interested (believe me, you should be), we ordered the Hot Italian (grilled salami, honey ham, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted garlic, and provolone), Municipal Stadium Magic (locally made jumbo bratwurst, fresh napa vodka kraut, grilled peppers, and American), The Dude Abides (homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella cheese sticks, rich marinara, provolone, and romano), and their monthly special, a pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich (zesty pork, coleslaw, and of course, cheese).

If you’re ever in Cleveland, check this place out. If you’re feeling really hungry, accept the melt challenge and take on their monster grilled cheese featuring 13 different cheeses, 3 slices of grilled bread, and a pile of hand-cut fries & slaw. I will warn you, as they do, that this is over 5 lbs. of food.

Finish it all without any help or trips to the bathroom and you will be awarded a Melt t-shirt or Melt Pint Glass, a $10 gift card and we’ll immortalize you in our online Melt Challenge Hall of Fame.

You may throw up, but I’m sure it will totally be worth it.

I feel like I found out my favorite love song was written about a sandwich. – Jane

Love songs can be lame. But a love song written about one of these sandwiches would be legen- … wait for it, -dary! Legendary! Give me five!

As if we hadn’t engorged enough cheese, bread, and fixings, we decided to pick up some cupcakes from Cookie and a Cupcake. You know, for the kids. As you can tell, my inner fat kid is coming out in this post. Who am I kidding? This is a blog mainly about cupcakes. My inner fat kid comes out in every post, or rather, every bite of cupcake.

Before we partook of cupcakes, we visited the house in the movie, A Christmas Story, and also met Ian Petrella, the little brother (Randy) from said movie. I say that like it’s an everyday occurrence. Apparently, Ian Petrella lives less than a block away from the house and appears for the numerous daily tours. For him, it is an everyday occurrence. Needless to say, he didn’t seem as amused as I thought he should be when I said, “I can’t put my arms down!”

At the house, we reenacted a few movie scenes such as Ralphie (a.k.a., me) sitting in the bathroom decoding the secret message from Little Orphan Annie with his Little Orphan Annie decoder pin, Ralphie (a.k.a., Nate and Jen) eating soap for saying “fudge,” and the family (a.k.a., all four of us) sitting down for dinner at the Parker kitchen table. Jen and I were mommy’s little piggies!

The piggy part may be a little too close to the truth. When we got back to their place, our grilled cheese sandwiches had digested enough for us to try the eight cupcakes we selected from Cookie and a Cupcake, which is an adorable little shop in a quaint little area of Cleveland, btw. We cut each cupcake in quarters so we could try each flavor. Sticking with my 27 Dresses theme (I only have 8 cupcakes to talk about), here we go:

1. The Signature cupcake. This cupcake is like your favorite black dress, always classic and always comforting. It looked like the cookie monster—blue frosting for the face, white frosting for the eyes, and a tiny cookie for the mouth—and consisted of chocolate cake with vanilla custard filling. The blue buttercream frosting was quite buttery. Like my favorite black dress, this cupcake brought me to a happy place (e.g., watching Sesame Street as a kid).

2. The Peach Cobbler cupcake. A peach-colored poofy dress all the way. Kind of southern, and kind of too poofy. There is such a thing as too much poof (see picture below). The cupcake looked magnificent as it was topped with real peaches and whipped frosting, but I was a little disappointed with the dry vanilla cake. As you can see, poof has never worked for me.

3. The Grasshopper cupcake. I can’t resist comparing this cupcake to a green velvet dress. This cupcake consisted of chocolate cake with mint buttercream frosting and black sprinkles. This is the dress I picture myself wearing if I ever sang a duet with a pianist. Of course, in this scenario, I am lying on the piano. And, of course, I would never want this scenario to play out. Or, would I? Nah, I’ll pass on the mint.

4. Red Velvet cupcake. Watch out for the red dress, ladies. When you wear a red dress, you’re either trying to make someone jealous, get some action, play Mrs. Scarlet from Clue, or all of the above. The red dress can go right, but it can also go oh so wrong. I’ve got a love/hate relationship with red velvet cake. Molly’s Cupcakes stole my heart and ruined it for other cupcakeries. Cookie and a Cupcake did a decent job with their red velvet. Their cake had a bit more cocoa flavoring than vanilla (at least it had flavor) and was frosted with a thick cream cheese frosting.

5. Chocolate cupcake. You’ve had a bad day. Nothing has gone right. Pull out your go-to, feel-sexy dress. The chocolate cake was dark, moist, and dense… like a chocolate forest. I wouldn’t mind living in such a place, eating chocolate and feeling sexy. Sign me up! This sinfully delicious creation was completed with a chocolate buttercream frosting that tasted like mousse.

6. PB Lovers cupcake. It’s girl time and I mean that in more way than one. This is your perky, night-out-on-the-town dress. Not only are the flavors rich and inviting (chocolate cake and peanut butter buttercream), there’s also a bit of fun (peanut butter crunch) sprinkled on top. I am not suggesting you sprinkle actual candy pieces on yourself before going out. You may attract children and/or bears. I can’t decide which is worse.

7. Salted Caramel cupcake. Salty! Modest up top, not so much on the bottom. If you’ve got them, show those legs. Chocolate cake, caramel buttercream frosting, and black salt completed this tasty treat. That salt gets me every time. I’m like, “Oh, I’m eating something sweet.” And, bam! “Salty!”

8. Espresso cupcake. Long and sleek, my friends. Nothing says refined like expensive, freshly roasted coffee beans, or a long, fitted dress. Not everyone can pull this look off, including myself. I came out too short. When I get those knee extensions, I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, this cupcake consisted of chocolate cake, caramel mousse, and espresso buttercream. Everything, including the chocolate-covered coffee bean on top, went down smooth. This was delicious, almost as good as Cupcake Counter’s Mocha cupcake.

I was told Cookie and a Cupcake had phenomenal cake, and for the most part, they did. They kept the same chocolate cake among the several cupcakes with a chocolate cake, but it was a home run kind of cake. When you’ve found something that works, stick with it. This goes for dresses too.

Wrapping up this post, I’d like to also mention that Nate and Jen have texted us pictures of at least three different cupcakes places out west that they’ve visited since being on their honeymoon. They like to include us on everything and that’s why we’ll be friends forever.

Rating:  ★★★★☆ 

posted by Rachael in Cupcakes and have Comments (2)