Friday, September 28, 2012

My Favorite Flavors of Year

I love this time of year! Not just because it's running season or it's cooling down or Christmas is coming or my birthday isn't too far away. I love this time of year because of the foods. You don't see stores selling pumpkin pie in April. There's just something special about sitting inside on a rainy October day drinking hot apple cider. I can't wait to bake with pumpkin, apples, and gingerbread. What are your favorite flavors during the fall?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Orange County Picks "Best Of" 2012

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." Although I wasn't surprised by the #1 pick, I did raise an eyebrow for the others. Make sure to check out my pick at the end.

First Place: Sprinkles Cupcakes
It's hard to compete with such a large, well-known 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 $3.50. One think I really like about Sprinkles is, along with the dozen or so flavors they offer daily, they sell different holiday and season-themed cupcakes throughout the year. I'm looking forward to trying their Salty Caramel available November 2-25. I just wish Sprinkles Ice Cream was available in Orange County too.

Second Place: Casey's Cupcakes
I don't know why I haven't tried them yet, maybe this is the week to do it, but Casey's Cupcakes seems to be a crowd favorite. Going from one location in Riverside to adding three locations in Orange County, this cupcake shop suggests that the cupcake business is doing well. From what I've seen, Casey's Cupcakes are large cupcakes with lots of frosting. I'm always a little weary of large cupcakes because of the fear that size is trying to make up for something else. Orange County seems to like them, so I think it's worth a try.

This shop was bound to be successful just from its location in Old Town Orange Circle. The Perfect Circle is my local shop, as it is only blocks from my house. I love the cream cheese frosting that is preset on top of the red velvet, pumpkin, and banana cupcakes. The owner has appeared on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars twice and even grabbed a win the second time. Mixed reviews from readers and reviewers have left me surprised that The Perfect Circle was one of the top cupcake shops in Orange County. Bad customer service and dry cake don't seem to be holding down The Perfect Circle's popularity. Cupcakes are $3.25 each and run out quickly, so make sure you plan your visit accordingly.

Critic's Choice: The Queen's Bakery
This was the most surprising pick on the list. I reviewed this newly-opened bakery earlier this year after discovering them as contestants on Cupcakes Wars. Although the cupcakes were just ok, the macaroons and cookies were delightful and delicious! The bakery is quite elegant inside and it was perfect for my rainy day review. I would love to go back and check out some of their other treats. As for being a top pick for best cupcake shop in Orange County? I think this critic needs some advice from me.

Cupcake Activist's Pick for Best Cupcakes in Orange County: Sweet & Saucy Shop
Sweet & Saucy Shop opened their second location, to my delight, in Orange County. I could barely wait and checked out the new shop in Crystal Cove the week it opened. I was blown away by the perfectness of every dessert I tried. Of course I loved the cupcakes best, but the macaroons, cake lollipops, cookies, and mini pies are outstanding too. There's no doubt in my mind that Sweet & Saucy shop is the best cupcake shop in Orange County!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop

My search for cupcakes in Maui was coming to an end and I was coming home empty-handed. BUT that doesn't mean I didn't find some other great desserts. I already posted my review for Stillwell's Bakery, but there's still one more place I have to tell you about: Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop.

We must have driven past this place about 10 times while in Maui. Every time I promised my husband that I was getting a pie before we headed back to the mainland. True to my word, we stopped by on the way to the airport.

My first thought after walking through the door was that I blew it by already eating lunch. They sell chicken pot pies! Oh well, I still had some room left for dessert (although I always have room for dessert!).

The pies looked delicious. And the best part is that they came in different sizes! That meant I could get more than one!

I walked out of the shop with a smile on my face and two mini pies: macadamia nut chocolate praline and banana cream. Verdict: so delicious! Both pies are pudding based. The praline crust was excellent and my favorite part of the macadamia nut pie. The flavors were phenomenal, especially the bites with layers of caramel! I could (and would) eat this pie all day. I almost cried when it was gone. My husband picked the banana cream as his favorite, but it was a close call for both of us.

You MUST check out Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop when you're in Maui! And if you do, let me know how the chicken pot pie is. Here's a few more of my favorites photos from our trip. We were sad to come home, but still have the memories.

Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop
820 Olowalu Village Rd.
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
808-662-3600 (currently under construction)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Skate and Cupcakes

My husband likes to skate and I like cupcakes. The perfect date would be a skate session in the Sprinkles parking lot. Let's make it happen.

The Tony Hawk Foundation has teamed up with Sprinkles Cupcakes to raise money through the sale of the Tony Hawk Cinnamon Sugar cupcake. 100% of the proceeds of these cupcakes will go to the Tony Hawk Foundation. These limited-time cupcakes will be sold at all Sprinkles locations from today, September 21 through Sunday, September 23.

I know what I'll be doing this weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Searching for Arizona Cupcakes

If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably noticed the tweets about my crazy workouts. Oh that's because I'm training for my first Ironman! Yes, in just two months I will be racing Ironman Arizona

Two years ago I was at this race cheering for my husband. Now it's my turn and I couldn't be more excited (and scared)! When I was there before, I visited and reviewed Cupcakes of Scottsdale. I was super disappointed in them and don't want a repeat when I go back in November.

So tell me, where should I get cupcakes when I visit? We are staying in Tempe, but can travel to Mesa, Scottsdale, Phoenix area. The Coffee Shop is already on my list. What are the other can't-miss places?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cupcake Nuggets? Genius!

Cupcake Project is on fire lately! Lots of tasty-looking cupcake treats!

At first glance, I thought these were just regular chicken nuggets. So why would they be on a cupcake blog? Cupcake Project has this YUMMY post about cupcake nuggets. Yes, pieces of fried cupcakes to dip in a sauce of your pleasing. She uses raspberry jam, but you could use frosting or lemon curd. I love this idea! 

You can get the recipe and all other info on Cupcake Project. Because now you have to try a fried cupcake nugget immediately!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Guest Review: Scratch Cupcakes

I love doing cupcake reviews! It has to be one of the best "jobs" in the world. As much as I wish I could, I can't visit every cupcake shop in the world by myself. So I love getting help from others. This guest review comes from one of my Twitter friends @krissymmurphy. Read on for the great review. Thanks Krissy!

Hi ya, my name is Krissy and I am a runner, blogger ( and fan of all things sweet! A little over a year ago, I discovered the Cupcake Activist blog after running the Disneyland Half Marathon and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Fortunately for my waistline, many of the reviews on the Cupcake Activist are for cupcake shops that are very far away from me! I live in Charlottesville, VA, and though we do have a few great cupcake stops locally, it wasn’t until a recent Labor Day visit to the Midwest that I felt inclined to compose a formal review – this place is THAT good!

Scratch Cupcakery ( of Cedar Falls, Iowa crafts beautiful and delicious cupcakes 6 days a week and has two stores in the Cedar Valley (Cedar Falls and Waterloo). As the name suggests, all are made from scratch and are sold for just $2 per standard sized cupcake, or $22 for a dozen. 

Of course, we ordered a dozen! After all, we were having a family BBQ, so why not share the sweetness?

Choosing our dozen was difficult, but fun. One of Scratch’s unique selling points is that many of their cupcake flavors are offered in alternative flavor choices. For example, you can order a Cookies and Cream cupcake with a vanilla or chocolate cake base, with the same delicious Oreo-infused frosting…definitely a cool option for picky eaters!

I am usually a big fan of chocolate cupcakes. Okay, well, chocolate anything…but Scratch’s vanilla cake was PERFECT. Light, fluffy and yet, still moist and tasty!

But that didn’t stop hubs from grabbing a very chocolate-y treat ;)

The Peanut Butter Chocolate cupcake was densely rich, with mini chocolate chips imbedded in the cake. The buttercream was thick and creamy - a bit too heavy for my tastes if I were to eat the whole thing… my one bite of this cupcake was perfect!

The real treat at Scratch, though, was this beauty:

 Fruit cupcakes are not usually my first choice but something about this cupcake just SPOKE to me. Perhaps it was the dreamy white buttercream, or maybe the sprinkles (okay, I like sparkly things) but I ordered two of these for our box and staked my claim to it almost immediately.

The middle of this luscious cupcake was filled with kiwi puree – so fresh! This cupcake really showcased Scratch’s ingenuity – and I will never turn down a pink cupcake!!

Of course, the cupcake collection was demolished within 24 hours of purchase (my nephews were big fans of the double chocolate, and my brother in law was more than happy to scarf down the mint chocolate) so no cupcake was left behind!

This cupcake experience showed me that big cities might have the bigger name shops, but small towns really BRING IT when it comes to the tiny confection game, too! So next time you’re slated to visit somewhere ‘off the grid,’ don’t forget to check if there are any cupcake shops to visit; it’ll make any journey that much sweeter! 

Scratch Cupcakery
Cedar Falls, IA
Twitter: @scratchbakery
Facebook: Scratch Bakery

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Stillwell's Bakery

Last month I went on a family trip to Maui. Yes, my family is awesome! This time we went to Maui. I haven't been to Maui since I started this blog, and I haven't personally eaten any cupcakes in Maui. My sister, on the other hand, did a guest post for me two years ago when she found cupcakes at Banyan Tree Deli in Maui. I was excited to try these cupcakes for myself, only to find out that the bakery had closed. Sad.

When I began researching bakeries in Maui, I saw lots of recommendations for Stillwell's Bakery near the airport. It also happened to be on the way to our condo. Yes! I made sure it was our first stop in Maui!

I stopped by Stillwell's Bakery near the end of the day. I was kinda surprised there wasn't much to choose from. I took home a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate eclair. 

After finding some amazing cookies in Kauai two years ago, I was hoping these would be similar, but the cookie was just OK. Not bad, just not outstanding. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The chocolate eclair was pretty special though. The pudding inside was delicious, the chocolate frosting on top was delightful, and the pastry was well-baked. I really enjoyed it. So did the rest of my family (I had to share).

The remainder of our trip was pretty fabulous. Not long after we stopped by Stillwell's, we saw this beautiful rainbow. It was the first of many that appeared that week.

My little guy LOVED hanging out at the beach and pool every day. Who wouldn't? We were in paradise.

Stillwell's Bakery
1740 Ka'humanu Ave.
Wailuku, Maui, HI

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cupcake Project Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes

I love finding recipes for unique cupcake flavors. Cupcake Project recently posted a recipe for Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes with Orange Salted Caramel Buttercream. These sound divine! The cupcakes have to be delicious because they were featured on Paula Dean's website. I have a friend I know would love these (yes Jill, I'm talking about you!)! You can find the recipe from Cupcake Project here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Drunk Cupcakes to get Store in Orange County

One popular trend in the cupcake world is alcohol-infused cupcakes. I've seen and tasted them at almost every cupcake competition I've judged at. Although I'm not an alcohol drinker, I will admit that it fequently adds a great flavor to cupcakes.

A new bakery recently debuted in Orange County that bases their cupcakes on a certain ingredient: alcohol. According to the OC Register, Hapa Cupcakes, which made its public debut this summer, will be opening a cupcake shop in Irvine which will serve alcohol-infused cupcakes. Owners Akemi Lee and Hanayo Martin want their cupcake shop to be "more sexy, more fun."

Currently, Hapa Cupcakes is a custom-order bakery that operates out of a commercial kitchen in Santa Ana. Their top-selling cupcakes are Chocolate Jameson, Cinnamon Cafe Kahlua, and Red Velvet Stiletto, all made with a different type of alcohol. They also sell non-alcohol cupcakes for a lower price. 

One thing to note: their cupcakes are made with 1/24th teaspoon of liquor, just enough to get a small kick, but certainly not enough to get you drunk. Well, maybe if you ate 50 cupcakes!

What do you think of alcohol-infused cupcakes? Are you a fan?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Running While Sick

This past week has been BUSY with being sick, working, baby being sick, trying to take care of sick baby while husband is out of country, more working, and running the Disneyland 1/2 marathon. I was lucky enough to feel well enough to run 13.1 miles, but that was my limit. I spent the rest of the day being sick again. Not a great week.

BUT for the 13.1 miles that I ran, I had a great time. The Disneyland 1/2 marathon is one of my favorite races! So much fun entertainment and you get to run through both theme parks. The highlight of the race is when you get to run the bases at Angels Stadium. It always makes me cry.

Of course I had to dress up for the race. My friends and I dressed up as the Fireside Girls from Phineas and Ferb. If you have kids, you'll know what I'm talking about. My husband, as seen below, did not dress up, as he returned from his trip to Germany just hours before the race started.

Despite being sick all week, I am so thankful I wasn't 27-1/2 weeks pregnant like I was last year when I ran this race.

But now it's time to get back to real life and back to the cupcake world. I'll have some fun posts later this week. Hope you had a great Labor Day weekend like I did.


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