Entries from November 29th, 2011

November 29, 2011

guest post | cupcake taste test | midnite confection’s cupcakery | baltimore, maryland

This is a guest post from fellow cupcake addict Stacy of Cupcake Crusaders. Every Tuesday for the month of November she has named her top five favorite cupcake shops in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Today, she names her #1 cupcakery. Visit Cupcake Crusaders today to see my #1 pick for favorite cupcakery in the Kansas City suburbs!

Located in the neighborhood of Federal Hill — south of Baltimore City’s Downtown and Inner Harbor area – is my selection for my ultimate favorite cupcakery in Baltimore City.

Midnite Confection’s Cupcakery can be found off the historic Charles Street, just steps away from the Cross Street Market. This section of Charles Street is lined with trees, boutique shops and restaurants which make this a perfect location for a cupcake shop. Midnite Confection’s was ranked as the #1 place to get cupcakes on Baltimore Magazine’s 2011 Best of Baltimore. While I didn’t agree with most of its rankings, this place was on the top of our list too.

midnight confection's cupcakery baltimore maryland

{Midnight Confection's Cupcakery is located in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

When Midnite Confection’s hit the cupcake scene in Baltimore, I was impressed by two things. First, because they are situated in the heart of Federal Hill, the busy night life keeps them open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and 8 p.m. on Saturdays while most bakeries and cupcake shops in Baltimore have already closed. This means that if you ever need any cupcakes for a Friday night gathering, you can just drop by and get what you need.

The next thing that impressed me was the story about why this mother and son team started their business. According to their website, Aaron, the son, had a late night sweet tooth and his mother, Sandra, was unable to sleep, so the two of them ended up baking late into the night. The next morning the kitchen was filled with their “midnight confections” which they shared with family and friends. Word began to spread and eventually they were able to open their storefront in Federal Hill.

Midnite Confection’s late night hours were part of the reason for my first visit there. One Friday night, Crusader Elisa and I had plans to attend a local cupcake and wine tasting, but for some reason the event was cancelled. Remembering that Midnite Confection’s would be open until 10 p.m., Elisa and I decided to have our own cupcake and wine night. Together we headed to Federal Hill. When we walked in, we were immediately greeted with a smiling face. I believe this was one of the owners, Aaron. We selected six cupcakes and headed to the wine store across the street. After selecting a red wine, we made our way back to Elisa’s house.

midnight confection's cupcakes baltimore city and wine

{Armed with wine and cupcakes, the Cupcake Crusaders were ready for a relaxing night in, instead of out "on the town" like we initially planned. Cupcake flavors pictured (from top left going clockwise): Midnite (chocolate cake, chocolate chip cream cheese filling, and chocolate buttercream), Sublime-inal (lemon cake and lime buttercream frosting), Black Velvet with cream cheese frosting, Piña Colada, Spice Cake and Playboy (carrot cake and cream cheese frosting. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

All the cupcakes were amazing. Each brought something totally different to the table and were unique and wonderful in their own way.

Since then we’ve had Midnite Confection’s cupcakes time and time again and have rarely been disappointed. It would be impossible for me to recommend just one or two flavors so instead, I’m going to suggest that if you go, get a variety. First, definitely order their daily and/or weekly specials. I’ve tried many of their seasonal flavors ranging from Chocolate Cherry and Gingerbread to Spice Cake and Pina Colada.

midnight confection's baltimore maryland seasonal cupcakes

{Pictured above are two season flavors and a regular flavor. The two seasonal are Chocolate Cherry and Gingerbread. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not normally a fan of fruit-flavored frosting, but the Chocolate Cherry above was a great blend of sweet balanced fruitiness and rich chocolate. The Gingerbread was the perfect seasonal flavor for December (I had both of these in 2010).

Usually they have two to three seasonal flavors, so it would probably be best to order a half-dozen when you visit so you can also include three of their regulars: Playboy, Sublime-inal and Black Velvet.

carrot cake cupcake from midnite confection's in baltimore maryland

{Playboy from Midnite Confection's Cupcakery. This carrot cake cupcake is filled with carrots, a hint of pineapple, a great blend of spices and topped off with creamy cream cheese frosting. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

sublime-inal cupcake midnight confection's baltimore maryland

{Sublime-inal from Midnite Confection's Cupcakery. This lemon cake cupcake is topped with a lime buttercream frosting and combines tartness and sweetness for a perfect summer taste that you can have year around. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

black velvet cupcake midnite confection's baltimore maryland

{Midnite Confection's Cupcakery's signature cupcake, Black Velvet with cream cheese frosting. This cupcake differs from a red velvet because it is more rich and "velvety." Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

Midnite Confection’s is my No. 1 favorite cupcakery in Baltimore City because they offer the full package. Besides their stellar cupcakes and late hours, they have what I think is the best service among the competition. I think Aaron, one of the owners, has always been the one standing behind the counter when I’ve gone there and he’s always willing to chat, laugh or just give a smile. They also utilized their Twitter and Facebook accounts on a daily basis, informing their fans of daily and weekly flavors and occasional store closings.

Midnite Confection’s has everything a No. 1 cupakery should have. And I am proud to have them in my city and hope that anyone visiting or living here will give them a try. If you do stop in, make sure to tell them that the Cupcake Crusaders say hello. :)

Does a cupcakery need to have more than just great cupcakes for you to consider it “one of the best?” If so, what do you think makes a No. 1 cupcakery? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

November 25, 2011

pink friday

Instead of dealing with crowds of shoppers at midnight and the crack of dawn today, I’m heading to my sister-in-law’s spa for a massage and a manicure for Black Friday.

While I could get a festive holiday color, I’m planning to douse my nails in a pop of bubble gum pink — appropriately titled “Pink Friday” — from OPI’s soon-to-be-released Nicki Minaj collection.

nicki minaj OPI pink friday

{OPI sent me samples from the new Nicki Minaj collection, which hits stores in January. Photo Courtesy OPI}

The only thing crazier than Ms. Minaj (and Lady Gaga) is her super-bright nail polish line for 2012. The names of the polishes reflect some of her hit songs…as well as her eccentric sense of style.

OPI nicki minaj nail polish collection

{From left to right: Fly; Did It On Em; Metallic 4 Life; Pink Friday; Save Me; Super Bass Shatter. Photo Courtesy OPI}

I sent the teacher man home with Super Bass Shatter to give to one of his sisters, a Nicki Minaj fan. I’m excited to try the other three colors and two sparkly topcoats in the coming months; nothing beats a bright nail in the dead of winter!

What do you think of the collection? What colors do you like?

Check my Facebook page later today to see how my Pink Friday manicure turned out.

Happy shopping — or chilling, whatever you’re doing this Black Friday.

November 24, 2011

this makes me happy | horne home decor and accessories

Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you lucky enough to spend time at home with your loved ones, enjoy the break (and the grub and drinks!).

I’m relaxing at home with my family in Arkansas this holiday weekend, but I’m missing my teacher man and his family back in Kansas. Thankfully, we can curl up on our respective couches and beds and connect via video chat to say good morning and goodnight.

I dream of the day when I can host a big holiday celebration in my own home. Though that’s a few years off, it doesn’t keep me from looking at beautiful, modern home decor from one of my favorite sites, Horne. Horne always has such gorgeous, well-designed pieces that are just begging me to bring home someday.

Here’s a few things I’m admiring on the site, though I’m thankful to have a warm home, family and friends to spend time with, with or without the cute pieces below.

bistro coffee pot

{What a handsome coffee pot, dontcha think? Photo Courtesy Horne.}

One of my favorite things to do when I go home to see my family is get coffee with my mom. She and I have a fun tradition of heading out to the nearest coffee shop to catch up over hazelnut cappuccinos (her) and vanilla lattes (me). Last year during the holidays, I got her a simple Bodum French press. Once that needs replacing, I may upgrade her to this bistro coffee pot from Horne. She’s worth it.

nos da throw blanket blush donna wilson horne

{I love the colors in this Nos Da Throw/Blanket by Donna Wilson. I think it works for winter and spring. Photo Courtesy Horne}

I have a bin full of throw blankets, but unfortunately, a certain Siamese cat has claimed the blanket bin as her napping territory. Three folded blankets keep my cat comfortable while I freeze on the couch watching Netflix night after night. I’d love to have a gorgeous, warm throw blanket, like this 100 percent wool one from Donna Wilson. It’s out of my price range, but is a decent size (71 inches by 59 inches) and a great material. This beautiful throw will be on my housewarming wish list the day I decide to say goodbye to my landlord and buy a house. So yeah, it will be a while.

horne gold playing card set idea

{This deck of cards is pretty fabulous. I wish it came in platinum, too! Photo Courtesy Horne}

One of my favorite traditions during the holidays is playing games with my family. We almost always play Scrabble, but last year we had a mix of games such as Farkle, Words with Friends on iPad and cards. Horne has this fabulous gold card set that glams up game night a bit without busting your budget — it’s $15! This set would be a good stocking stuffer or hostess gift for the friend who always organizes game night.

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving? What cozy decor makes you feel at home? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section.

November 23, 2011

beauty scoop | eminence lip trio

I have a ridiculous addiction to lip balm. My purse has at least five different tubes in it all times (and in random compartments), and I have a huge bowl of balms on my bathroom shelf.

However, no matter how many balms I collect, there’s just never the perfect one to defeat the brutal damage that cold winter-esque winds and rapidly changing temperatures do on my lips. No matter how much I reapply my balms hour upon hour, I still end up with cracked and dry lips.

This season, I’m armed with a new lip trio that may help keep my lips smooth and moist throughout the crazy weather changes. Eminence sent me its lip trio to try for an upcoming magazine piece I put together on best lip balms. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it — it’s such a treat to exfoliate, mask and balm my lips. Kiss off, old man winter!

eminence lip trio

{Just as you give your face a good scrub, mask and lotion, you should do the same for your lips! The skin is more delicate and sensitive and could use a little extra TLC.}

The first step in the Eminence Lip Trio is a citrus enzyme lip exfoliator. It’s a tingly gel that helps slough away dead skin cells and reveal a more plump pout (at least for about an hour after you apply it). Just leave it on for 10 minutes and let it work its magic! Then dab it off with a damp cloth.

The second step in the Eminence Lip Trio is the lip comfort plumping masque. Made with shea butter and avocado oil, it’s a thicker mask that pumps lots of moisture and peptides into the lips, adding a bit more volume to the lips (again, temporary). Leave this step one for 10 minutes and then dab off with a damp cloth.

The third step in the Eminence Lip Trio is the citrus lip balm. Sunflower seed oil, shea butter and beeswax coat the lips in comforting hydration while a sprinkle of paprika — yes, that paprika — in the balm helps keep the lips looking Angelina-esque after every application.

So, for about 20 minutes on a Sunday and $60 out of your wallet, you can help protect your pout against the elements this winter. I’ve done this treatment twice and loved it both times. It’s the newest addition to my Sunday pampering ritual that I hope proves to be worth the effort as the thermostat continues to drop.

What do you do to keep your kisser calm? Is a lip treatment system a little crazy? What do my beauty addicts out there think? Leave me a comment in the comments section.

November 22, 2011

guest post | cupcake taste test | sweet bakery | baltimore, maryland

This is a guest post from fellow cupcake addict Stacy of Cupcake Crusaders. Every Tuesday for the month of November, check out Stacy’s guest posts as she names her top five favorite cupcake shops in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Visit Cupcake Crusaders every Tuesday in November to see my top five picks for favorite cupcakeries in the Kansas City suburbs!

Before this past spring, Sweet Bakery was located in Ellicott City, a neighboring town to Baltimore City. The other Crusaders and I were very excited when they decided to relocate because this meant they would be much more accessible to us. Now they are located just a “hop, skip and jump” away from Crusader Elisa’s office, which could be a serious threat to our waistlines. Their move also means that they were able to make our “Top 5″ list as our second-favorite cupcake shop inside of Baltimore City.

Our first experience with Sweet Bakery was when it was located on Main Street in downtown Ellicott City. It was in the fall of 2010 and we decided to stop into the bakery our our way to a restaurant also located along Main Street. This restaurant/bar was celebrating  “Oktoberfest,” and Sweet Bakery had a pumpkin spice cupcake; we knew this would go great with the fall seasonal beers we would be sampling.

pumpkin spice cupcake and beer sweet bakery baltimore maryland

{Who says cupcakes and beer don't go together? We think with the right beers and right cupcake flavors they can be a great combination. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

Our first encounter with Sweet Bakery, after their move into Baltimore City, was a just a few months ago. Crusader Elisa and I decided to have a “Cupcake Night” at my house. We chose three places to get cupcakes from and Sweet Bakery was one of those three. Because Elisa is the only Crusader who has visited this new location, I asked her to describe it for us:

“Sweet Bakery is located in the heart of Mt. Vernon on the quaint and charming West Read Street. With a hip barber shop next door and an eclectic antique toy shop across the street, this little bakery fits right into the neighborhood! This location is just a stone’s throw away from Charles Street and its many restaurants, as well as the State Center Metro stop, University of Baltimore and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. A chalkboard has “Today’s Specials” written on it and greets you as you walk into the shop. The cupcakes are in a vintage glass bakery case on glass cake stands;  also found in the case are cannolis, tarts, pastries and larger cakes. With local artwork on the walls, the shop itself couldn’t be more inviting, or perfectly matched for the area.”

sweet bakery baltimore maryland

{Sweet Bakery located at 239 W. Read St. in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

sweet bakery baltimore maryland cupcake display case

{Sweet Bakery offers more than just cupcakes. But when their cupcakes are so good, why get anything else? Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

For our “Cupcake Night” we sampled four flavors, but the best of the night was the red velvet. It was wonderfully soft, moist, fluffy and full of rich flavor. I find that red velvet can sometimes lack flavor or, even worse, taste of food coloring, but not Sweet Bakery’s red velvet.

sweet bakery cupcakes baltimore maryland

{Cupcake selection from Sweet Bakery for our "Cupcake Night" — chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, red velvet, vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and carrot cake. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

Since then, Elisa has dropped by Sweet Bakery many times, but the next time we all had them together was on a girls weekend getaway. She got a variety of different flavors (of course including the red velvet).

sweet bakery cupcake baltimore maryland

{When six girls get together, sweets are a must and these cupcakes from Sweet Bakery were a hit. Flavors included key lime, vanilla vanilla, red velvet, vanilla with chocolate frosting and chocolate chip. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

Again, one of the shining stars was the red velvet.

red velvet cupcake sweet bakery baltimore maryland

{Red Velvet from Sweet Bakery. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

However, the key lime and the vanilla cake with chocolate frosting were also among the favorites.

key lime cupcake sweet bakery baltimore maryland

{Key Lime from Sweet Bakery. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

The key lime had the perfect sweet and tangy combination it needs. Someone also pointed out that it seems to have been made with actual key lime flavor, and not just lime flavor, which is often substituted for key limes.

vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting sweet bakery baltimore maryland

{Vanilla cake with chocolate frosting from Sweet Bakery. Photo Courtesy Cupcake Crusaders}

I was so glad that Elisa selected a flavor with the chocolate frosting because I realized that I hadn’t yet tried it. Boy was it good. Creamy, decadent and not too sweet, just how I like my chocolate frosting.

Sweet Bakery made our No. 2 spot because they consistently put out a good cupcake. The only thing we wish is that they would offer more of a variety. Sometimes they only have four or five to choose from, but at least we know those four or five will be great, and usually they have the red velvet, which is really all anyone needs to try (if you have to pick just one).

Elisa has made it somewhat of a personal mission to find the best red velvet cupcake and she believes that Sweet Bakery has taken first place with their perfectly moist, flavorful cake and cream cheese icing that is a perfect balance of cream cheese and sweetness.

Simply put, it made our list because it is a great bakery that makes fantastic cupcakes. The staff is friendly and helpful and even their coffee is delicious. So, if you get a chance, stop in to browse the art from local artists that hangs on the walls and relax with a cupcake.

Do you like red velvet? Do you have a favorite cupcakery or bakery that you think makes the perfect one? What do you think makes a perfect red velvet cupcake? Let us know your thoughts!

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