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!
While most Baltimore City cupcakeries have only been around for a couple years (or less), Charm City Cupcakes was ahead of the “cupcake craze” when it opened six years ago. With three locations now, Charm City Cupcakes is definitely doing something right, and we have happily chosen it as our third favorite cupcakery in Baltimore City.
Crusader Jenn and I first discovered Charm City Cupcakes while it was still in its youth. It advertised a “Mini Cupcake Sale” and our employer said we could head to the shop and pick some up for the office. This was it was before we had our blog and when Charm City Cupcakes only had its flagship location at 326 North Charles Street. There are no photos from this field trip, but we never forgot how much we liked the black bottom cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream. Looking back, this might have been the first time Crusader Jenn or I had a taste of gourmet cupcakes.
My next encounter with Charm City Cupcakes was years later (fall of 2010) when Crusader Elisa surprised me with cupcakes for my bachelorette party. She got a mixed variety including Black Eyed Susan, Vanilla/Vanilla, Almond Raspberry and Chocolate Mint.
We didn’t have a chance to eat them out with the other girls, which was OK with us because it meant we got more to ourselves later that night. This cupcake tasting went just as well as the first, and while we felt the Black Eyed Susan (vanilla cake and frosting with a chocolate filling) and the Vanilla/Vanilla were a little boring, the Chocolate Mint and Almond Raspberry stood out, each with a great blend of well-balanced flavors.
Unfortunately, because the main location wasn’t the most convenient for any of the Crusaders, it would be another year before we indulged in the deliciousness again, but this time from the quaint little shop located at 1340 Smith Avenue in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Baltimore City. I was randomly in that area running an errand on my lunch break when I spotted it. (Actually, I was out hoping to get ice cream, but that shop was closed so I was even more excited than normal to spot a cupcake place).
The nice gentleman working behind the counter asked how I was doing, explained all the flavors to me and waited patiently as I made my decision. This is always really important to me because I think one of the wonderful things about cupcakes is the whole experience. When the employee is a bit of a “Grinch” or even just unwilling to engage in conversation or offer a smile, it makes the experience a little less enjoyable. Let’s face it, if you are selling something that brings smiles to faces, you should be offering one as well. I mean, they are cupcakes. Cupcakes are happy treats. And the man behind the counter did not disappoint.
During this trip, I selected the Mint Chocolate Chip and a Chocolate Turtle. The Mint Chocolate Chip was different than it had been a year ago. Before, it was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a mint filling, but this time it was chocolate cake with a mint frosting and little semi sweet chocolate chips on top.
I’m a big fan of chocolate and mint together, so right away I was really excited about this one. The frosting was light and fluffy and full of minty goodness. It had a chocolate ganache filling, which I wasn’t expecting but was a fantastic addition.
While the Mint Chocolate Chip was everything I was hoping it would be, the Chocolate Turtle was the better of the two.
The chocolate cake was filled with caramel that was nice and gooey, and the chocolate frosting was light and smooth. The pecan/caramel mixture that tops the cupcake was very similar to what you might find on a Cinnabon® pecan sticky bun (I could eat huge bowls of the mixture). This entire cupcake worked well. It was decadent without being overly sweet.
Because the Mt. Washington location is so close to me, I have now been there twice in one month. For my most recent visit, I had received an email about a fundraising event for Breast Cancer Awareness. All you had to do was place an order for a dozen mini cupcakes, and a portion of the proceeds would be donated. I received this email about a week before a weekend getaway with some friends. I knew this would be the perfect treat to bring to a gathering that included six women. I was limited to getting a minimum of six cupcakes per flavor, so I went with two flavors: Chocolate Cannoli and Almond Raspberry.
The group was not unanimous in the choice of favorite cupcake. Some thought that the Chocolate Canoli worked better and that it packed in a lot of flavor while not being too sweet. Others thought that the Almond Raspberry was a perfect blend of nut and fruit and that the sweetness only served to complement those flavors.
When I picked up the cupcakes, I was a little surprised that the cake wasn’t chocolate. Because it was a “Chocolate Cannoli” cupcake, I expected full-on chocolatiness. However, that may have overpowered the cannoli filling that was present as a filling and as a garnish on top of the chocolate frosting. The most important part of this cupcake, the cannoli cream, was everything I want in a cannoli cream. It instantly reminded me of the cannoli cream from Vaccaro’s, an Italian pastry shop in Baltimore, which is perfectly smooth and not gritty like some not-so-great cannolis I’ve tasted before.
Even though the Chocolate Cannoli was the favorite of the majority of the group, I personally preferred the Almond Raspberry. I love almonds and raspberries, and when the two are combined I think it is a harmonious blend that is meant for each other. I typically stay away from fruit-infused frostings because I find that they can sometimes taste like cheap candy, but this frosting seemed like it was made with fresh raspberries, and not some syrupy mixture from a bottle. The other girls thought that it was too sweet though, but maybe because it was just a mini cupcake, I thought it was fine? Or maybe my sweet tooth was in overdrive that day? Either way, I enjoyed every morsel of that bite-sized cake.
Overall, the moist cake, perfect frosting-to-cake ratio and super-convenient location are what placed Charm City Cupcakes on our “Top 5″ list. One of the major letdowns about Charm City Cupcakes, though, which is one of the reasons it’s only number three, involve the social media and marketing efforts. Charm City Cupcakes isn’t using its Facebook page to the full advantage by posting daily, weekly or even monthly flavors and specials. I’d definitely go more if I saw they had a new flavor I wanted to try or had one I knew I already loved. But, if you are looking for a good cupcake — actually, a great cupcake — then you should stop in and see what’s in the display case that day. Even if you don’t know what you’ll be able to get, you won’t be disappointed.
Do you follow cupcakeries on Facebook or Twitter? Would you go get cupcakes just because they mention a flavor that sounds tasty? Or do you only pick up cupcakes for special occasions? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
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