Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is Imitation Vanilla OK to Use?

Serious Eats posted a video from America's Test Kitchen asking the question, "Is imitation vanilla ok to use?" Check out the video here and tell me what you think.

I personally use imitation vanilla because of the huge price difference. But maybe my desserts would taste so much better with real vanilla extract.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More of Morsels

I seriously can't get enough of the food truck craze. I don't know what it is that makes them so special, but I love it. And I'm loving that they are getting together to do meet-ups. More incentive for me to not cook dinner every night.

I stopped by a meet-up a few weeks ago to get some tacos from Dos Chinos, one of my new favorite food trucks. Morsels Baking Company was there and I got to try another flavor of cupcake. This time it was Chocolate Coconut. I inhaled it. So good!

A few of my friends got the dessert shots. Well, you can tell by the looks on their faces if they liked them or not.

You can follow Morsels Baking Company on twitter (@bakerytruck).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Little Hobgoblin Sundaes

Fall is here and I'm so happy!

Fall means the start of great holiday baking. Fun Halloween treats and pumpkin desserts are my favorite parts. I'll be featuring my favorite new desserts finds over the next few months (then it's onto Thanksgiving and Christmas!!).

Cheeky Kitchen posted photos, a recipe, and instructions for Little Hobgoblin Sundaes. They caught my eye because I thought they were cupcakes.

These fun treats are made with chocolate chunk cookies, dipped in chocolate, dipped in green and yellow swirled Trix, topped with vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with chocolate, and topped with a "goblin-covered cherry."

You can find more photos and the recipe on Cheeky Kitchen's website. Happy early Halloween baking!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guest Review: Banyan Tree Deli and Bakery

My lucky sister got to go to Hawaii twice this year: to Kauai with my family and to Maui with her husband's family. While in Maui she found a bakery that sells cupcakes! How much luck can one person have?!

Banyan Tree Deli & Bakery is located in Lahaina on the island of Maui. They sell fresh sandwiches (no preservatives), muffins, and of course cupcakes! My sister spoke with the owner who was very friendly and he let her takes some photos. Most cupcake shops freak out when you pull out a camera. I don't know what most of them are trying to hide. Maybe it's just the owner's carefree Hawaiian spirit.

There were three different flavors of cupcake available that day. Surprisingly, they weren't boring flavors like chocolate or vanilla (that's not fun when those are your only options). Red velvet, coconut-mango fudge brownie cupcake, and passion orange guava. The cupcakes were $3.75 each.

My sister picked two flavors: passion orange guava and coconut-mango fudge brownie. She said the frosting was amazing on both cupcakes. The passion orange guava cupcake was her favorite though. She said it was moist, light, and wonderful.

The fudge brownie cupcake was more like a brownie. She said it was a little dry and not as good. She mentioned that the owner told her that this cupcake is made to be similar to a brownie, so it makes sense that it wasn't as light and moist as the other cupcake. Brownies are more dense.

I hope that I am in Maui sometime in the near future so I can try these cupcakes myself. They look delicious!

Banyan Tree Deli & Bakery
626 Front Street
Lahaina, HI 96761

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Best of Orange County 2010

Each year the Orange County Register puts out a publication called "The Best of Orange County." It is derived from a survey where residents of Orange County vote for the Best (blank) in Orange County. The publication was delivered today and of course the first category I looked at was "Best Cupcakes." For the first time ever, I am happy with the results.

First Place: Sprinkles Cupcakes
It's hard to compete with such a large brand. But it's even harder to compete with Sprinkles when they are so good. Along with their great tasting cupcakes, Sprinkles gives you the experience of a gourmet cupcake. They make their cupcakes feel special and well worth the price tag of $3.25. One thing I really like about Sprinkles is along with the dozen or so flavors they offer every day, they sell different holiday and season-themed cupcakes throughout the year. I can't wait to try their Salty Caramel available November 5-14.

Second Place: Susiecakes
I've proclaimed Susiecakes as one of my favorite cupcake shops. They offer very simple, very delicious cupcakes. My favorite part about their cupcakes is the dallop of frosting hidden in the middle of the cupcake. Yum! Their cupcakes sell for $3.00 each. Susiecakes doesn't just sell cupcakes, they have many other delicious desserts too. I love their chocolate chip cookies and have been eyeing all of their cakes for a while. You won't be disappointed!

Third Place: Divine Desserts
I'm so happy that they made it on the list. Divine Desserts sells great cupcakes and deserves to be recognized for that. I got the grand tour of Divine Desserts last year. I was blown away by their flavors, their service, their presentation, and of course their taste. My favorite cupcake of the day: Red Velvet. I know this is cliche, but there's something special about Divine Desserts' Red Velvet. They wouldn't tell me what it was, you will just have to try it yourself. Their cupcakes sell for $3.00 each.

Although I have viewed "The Best of Orange County" publication as useless in the past, I am very satisfied with the results. It was hard to take a publication serious that named The Olive Garden as Best Italian Restaurant. Maybe Orange County is starting to get it though. You can view all of the results of "The Best of Orange County" here. Tell me if you agree or disagree with any of the picks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge

Each month Sweetest Kitchen hosts a Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. This month the theme was Childhood Memories. Since the theme wasn't an ingredient, all of the cupcakes are completely different and gave us some unique flavors.

Grandma's Pickle-Burger Cupcake
from Angela's Images and More
This is a savory cupcake that does contain pickles and pickle juice.

Tiger Cupcakes
from Jarod and Liz
Chocolate and orange cupcake with crunchy marshmallow top

You can check out all of the cupcakes that were submitted on Sweetest Kitchen's website. Voting ends September 26 so make sure you pick your favorites.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cupcake-Stuffed Cupcakes

I thought I had seen it all.

This week, Cakespy's weekly piece on Serious Eats features cupcake-stuffed cupcakes. That's cupcakes baked inside regular-sized cupcakes. And surprisingly, Jessie of Cakespy said "the baby-cakes, sealed by the moisture of the cake batter, don't dry out, whereas the baked bit of frosting lightly spreads, browns, and adds a rich crunch, making for an overall taste and visual contrast which can't be beat."

Sounds like a fun, new idea for cupcakes. You can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to Make Hi Hat Cupcakes

Some of you may be wondering, what is a hi hat cupcake? Hi hat cupcakes remind me of a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. The frosting is a marshmallow meringue, which is piled on high on top of the cupcake. Then the frosting is dipped and coated with chocolate. Sounds delicious, but how easy/hard is it to make?

Bakerella posts a short tutorial on how to make hi hat cupcakes. I think it's funny that she says she was "nervous to make them. They scare me. I knew for sure I would screw them up and end up with a melted mess." Remember, Bakerella is the one who invented Cake Pops. She has nothing to fear in baking. Check out her post here.

Photos: Bakerella

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Jennifer Stonebarger Designs

I was contacted by Jennifer of Jennifer Stonebarger Designs a few weeks ago asking me if I'd like to sample her cupcakes. Umm...yes!! I didn't need to think twice about that.

If I hadn't been so busy at Cupcake Camp OC, I might have had the chance to meet her there. Instead, I got to taste one of her cupcakes that was entered in the Professional category. I remember her Maple Bacon cupcake because it was one of my favorites. So when she offered to bake some other flavors for me, I was more than happy to oblige.

Jennifer Stonebarger Designs is a custom-order bakery for cakes and cupcakes. Jennifer loves making cakes because it is a great creative outlet for her and she loves the "MacGyver" part of the project: how to build the cake, how to get the right fondant effect, experimenting with different materials, etc. Jennifer is quite talented creatively, as you can see from the photos on her blog.

But enough about cakes, let's talk about her cupcakes! All of Jennifer's cupcakes are made with a variation of her bundt cake recipes. Her chocolate chocolate chip recipe is a family recipe and one of her most popular requests. My husband and I sampled every one of the cupcakes provided. What a wonderful job I have!

Snickerdoodle with Vanilla Buttercream &
Red Velvet with Cream Cheese frosting

Chocolate Chocolate Chip with Chocolate Buttercream &
Chocolate Chocolate Chip with Vanilla Buttercream

Cookies & Cream with Chocolate Buttercream &
Cookies & Cream with Vanilla Buttercream

Coconut Cream with Vanilla Buttercream &
Coconut Lime with Vanilla Buttercream

Vanilla Raspberry with Vanilla Buttercream &
Lemon with Vanilla Buttercream

Margarita with Vanilla Buttercream &
Champagne Orange with Vanilla Buttercream

My thoughts: Jennifer knew that I am super picky about frosting from reading my previous reviews. I mean, it's true....I think the frosting makes the cupcake. So when I took my first bite of Jennifer's cupcake, I breathed a sigh of relief. The frosting was great! Not super sweet, not light & whipped, but just the way I like it.

Jennifer's cupcakes were excellent. The cake was moist, the frosting was tasty, they looked pretty, and they tasted great. My favorite one was the Coconut Cream with Vanilla Frosting. This cupcake had a surprise cream filling on the inside, which I always love.

Also worth noting, the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet had just the right amount of tanginess, something that a lot of red velvets lack.

Her cupcakes start at $25 per dozen and mini cupcakes are $20 for two dozen. She also does custom-order cakes, cookies, and cookie pops. You can contact her for more info on pricing.

Jennifer is teaching some cupcake decorating class through Adult Education at Saddleback Valley Unified. They are listed under "Fifteen and Fun" series or "Culinary Arts." You can find more info at:

Jennifer Stonebarger Designs

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wedding cupcakes

I LOVE it when cupcakes get to be part of a wedding day.

I don't know the bride or groom, but I wish I did so I could have attended. The wedding took place at a family-owned 150 year-old barn in Northern California. The day was planned by Cosmopolitan Events and the photography was by Schnack Studios.

I don't know where the cupcakes are from, but they are the perfect touch to an absolutely beautiful wedding.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Top Chef Just Desserts

I've been a fan of Top Chef since Season One. The only thing better than watching people make great food is eating great food. I was super excited when I heard they were doing a spin-off called Top Chef Just Desserts!

Well, the show premieres tonight and word on the street is they have to bake CUPCAKES!! As if I needed another reason to tune-in. Gayle Simmons (from the original Top Chef) is the host. The three judges are Johnny Iuzzini, Hubert Keller, and Dannielle Kyrillos.

Top Chef Just Desserts premieres tonight, Wednesday, September 15 at 11/10c on Bravo. Can't wait to hear what you think about it.


I'm a fan of everything sweet! So when Monique dropped by some mini bundt cakes for me to try, it's no surprise that I LOVED them!

Monique is a baker who, like me, noticed that there really aren't any bakeries in north Orange County. She decided that she needed to bring baked goodies to her community. Starting Thursday September 16, Monique will be selling her delicious bundt cakes and other goodies at Avalon Bagels to Burgers in Yorba Linda.

Avalon-Cakes By Monique will be offering 10" bundt cakes, cupcakes, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, and cookies. I have personally tried seven flavors of her bundt cakes and they are delicious! I shared my spoils with family and friends and we all agreed that her bundts are so moist and yummy. Make sure you stop by and give them a try!

Avalon Bagels to Burgers
16961 E. Imperial Hwy.
Yorba Linda, CA 92886

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm still recovering from my sugar high of last night's Just Spotted: OC Blog Awards Party! Joe's Italian Ice, cupcakes from Meringue Bake Shop, cookies from The Scoop on Cookies, and a drink bar from Izze Beverages. But besides the food I had a great time meeting new people and having fun at Pretend City.

The most surprising part of the night was when Kelly announced the winners and said my blog won the category of "Best Cooking & Baking Blog." Wow, I couldn't believe it! Thank you to all of my readers who voted for me! I feel so loved! I absolutely LOVE writing The Cupcake Activist and hope to continue to bring cupcake happiness to your lives.

Stay tuned...I'll be posting the other winners and photos from the night.

Candy Bar Cupcakes

I haven't figured out if I would love all of the delicious candy bars on top of a tasty cupcake or if it would be too much.

These Candy Bar Cupcakes from Fahrenheit 350 are made with a peanut butter chocolate ganache frosting and topped with 4-8 of your favorite candy bars. They suggest Twix, Payday, Reese's, Snickers, Rolo's, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, KitKat, Nestle's Crunch, and M&M's.

What do you think? Great idea or too much good stuff?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coca-Cola: Tastes of the World

Last weekend we hung out in Las Vegas, killing some time as we waited for traffic to die down. Since my husband and I had our two nieces with us, we wanted to do something that they would enjoy too. Thank goodness we came across M&M's World and the Coca-Cola Store.

Both stores mainly consisted of M&M's and Coca-Cola products for sale. But surprisingly, the most exciting part of the whole weekend was found in the Coca-Cola store drink bar.

For just $7, you get 16 cups of 16 flavors of beverages that Coca-Cola sells around the world. These are flavors that are not available in the United States.

We decided to make a taste-testing game out of the drinks. Each of the four of us would take a sip and then rate the drink (0-10 scale) based on taste. We didn't look at the flavors beforehand so we could be completely surprised.

Most of the drinks were carbonated, but there were a few that were juices. Some of the flavors resembled ones that we have here, but others were completely foreign. Sunfill Mint from India tasted just like mouthwash. Vegitabeta from Japan was simliar to V-8 splash juice. Inca Cola from Peru tasted like bubblegum. It was one of our favorites.

Our least favorite was a drink called Beverly and it was from Italy. Although we tried to keep a straight face after tasting each drink, we all made the same disgusted face after trying Beverly. It earned a total score of 1 (out of 40). I read a few other reviews on Yelp and here are a few of my favorite comments about Beverly:

"The Beverly tasted like socks."
"I think a part of me died when I drank this..."
"...tastes like battery acid."
"I imagine it is what panic tastes like."

Out top three drinks were as follows:

3rd place (30 points)- Inca Cola from Peru

2nd place (31 points) - Smart Watermelon from China

And our winner, with 35 points was - Bibo Pine Nut from South Africa.
Although it sounds like the drink might taste like pine nuts, it was actually a pineapple coconut beverage. It was delicious!

Totally worth the money and I would definitely do it again. They also have a sample tray of eight kinds of Coke floats. Might be worth trying next time.

The Coca-Cola Store
3785 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Voting is almost over

Voting for the Just Spotted OC Blog Awards ends Sunday night! If you enjoy this blog, please take a moment to vote. I've been nominated under TWO categories, so make sure you vote for both Food & Restaurant AND Cooking & Baking. Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to School Cupcakes

I love having creative friends. I can just steal their ideas and it looks like I'm creative myself! My friend Kelly posted these "Apple of my eye" cupcakes yesterday. They look difficult to make, but actually sound so easy to make. But then again, she always makes difficult things sound easy. "One boxed cake mix, red cupcake liners, red sprinkles, red food coloring infused frosting, a few tootsie rolls." Perfect for back to school.

Just a few days left to vote for the You've Just Been Spotted 2010 OC Blog Awards. I've been nominated in TWO categories! Vote for me in the "Food & Restaurant Blogs" category AND the "Cooking & Baking Blogs" category. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cupcake Camp Inland Empire


There may be no sweeter way to help join the fight against breast cancer than to participate in the inaugural CupcakeCamp Inland Empire! An event for cupcake lovers to bake or buy cupcakes to bring -or- just come to eat and help a good cause. Why? Because who doesn’t love cupcakes!

On November 7, 2010 1pm-4pm, the event’s Official Sponsor, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, will open its doors to cupcake enthusiasts from around the Inland Empire. The event will bring together local cupcake companies and the public to showcase their products as well as raise money for the Inland Empire Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, which is dedicated to combating breast cancer on every front. Imagine life without breast cancer...

CupcakeCamp Inland Empire is a gathering born from the desire for people to share and celebrate cupcakes, community and creativity in an open environment. And, what better place to have this celebration, than at one of the Inland Empire's historic landmarks, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside. From its modest beginnings as a 12-room adobe boarding house to its current stature consisting of 239 guest rooms, the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has been the keystone of Downtown Riverside since 1876. For more information about the location, visit

There are many different ways to participate in CupcakeCamp Inland Empire: bake or buy cupcakes to donate, come and eat cupcakes, help raise money for a great cause. Charity never tasted sweeter! This year's activities will include a cake auction, baker’s competition, raffles and more. The competition will be judged by Special Guest Judges. For more details, visit There, you will be able to RSVP for the event, register your cupcakes and/or cake donations, enter the baker’s competition, or if you can't attend, you can donate to the cause online.

For sponsorship opportunities and more information, please email: For more information about the Inland Empire Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, visit

Don't forget to vote for the "You've Just Been Spotted: 2010 Orange County Blog Awards". I've been nominated in TWO cateogries: Food & Restaurant Blogs AND Cooking & Baking Blogs. Make sure you vote for both here. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You've Just Been Spotted: 2010 Orange County Blog Awards

Voting has begun for the "You've Just Been Spotted: 2010 Orange County Blog Awards." Just click on the button below to get to the Just Spotted website. Click on the link in the post to get to the voting website.

This is so exciting! The Cupcake Activist blog has been nominated under TWO categories this year! Thank you for the nominations in the "Food and Restaurant Blog" category AND the "Cooking & Baking Blog" category! Make sure to vote for both. Check out the other nominations and categories. You may find a few that you like too!

And while you're at it, you can also vote for Team Sparkle in the "Homemade" category and my good friend Carrie (This Mama Makes Stuff) in the "Creative Blog" category. Thanks!

Voting ends Sunday night (September 12th) at midnight. Make sure you get your votes in!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dessert Burgers at Mandalay Bay

I don't even remember where I first heard about the Burger Bar, but I certainly didn't plan on getting to do a review. The Burger Bar is a restaurant inside Mandalay Bar in Las Vegas. When I heard about their dessert burgers, I planned on writing a short post about them. But last weekend fate brought me to Las Vegas and I knew I had to visit the Burger Bar.

Sometimes I forget how big Las Vegas hotels are. The Mandalay Bay has an entire mall in it. Tons of restaurants and stores. The Burger Bar looks like a typical restaurant, but it definitely was not. The burgers were fantastic!

But the items that caught my attention were the dessert burgers. What exactly is a dessert burger? Well, it looks like a hamburger, but tastes like a dessert. There are actually two types of dessert burgers at the Burger Bar: Nutella Dessert Burger and Cheesecake Dessert Burger. Since there were six of us, we had to try both.

The Nutella Dessert Burger is made with Nutella mousse (hamburger patty), kiwi (pickles), strawberries (tomatoes), mint (lettuce), passion fruit gelatin (mustard), and a donut for the buns.

The Cheesecake Dessert Burger has cheesecake as the patty, strawberries (tomatoes), pineapple slices (mustard), and a donut for buns.

Two burgers were not enough for the six of us. We scraped the plates clean. We were split on which dessert burger was better. It doesn't really matter because you'll have to try both anyway. Well worth the $5.95 for each.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time for Apples!

I am a HUGE apple lover. I seriously eat an apple every day at lunch. My favorite kind are Pink Ladies.

Apples are synonymous with the month of September. So it seems appropriate that the flavor of the month at SusieCakes is apple. Their offerings include:

Apple Spice Cupcake with cream cheese frosting
Double Crust Apple Pie
Sourcream Apple Cheesecake

September also means the start of the school year. SusieCakes is offering a School "Snack Pack": two mini chocolate chip cookies bagged & ready for the lunchbox.

Kids K-8 can get a free cookie or cupcake by bringing in an assignment with an "A." Available for the whole month of September.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cupcake Costume

It seems like I was just in Hawaii setting off fireworks, yet there are signs everywhere of back-to-school, Halloween, and dare I say Christmas! Ahhhh! It really is true that sign flies the older you get.

Pottery Barn Kids has their Halloween costumes up on their website already and the Cupcake Costume is so adorable. Having a super adorable girl wearing the costume doesn't hurt the image either. The Cupcake Costume is $59 and available in sizes 2T-3T, 4-6, and 7-8. Don't forget the matching Cupcake Treat Bag!


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