Monday, December 22, 2014

Gigi's Cupcakes

I've recently found there are a great deal of bakeries and cupcakes places in the Tampa Bay area. One of which is the cupcake bakery chain, Gigi's Cupcakes. There are two locations in Tampa, one in South Tampa off South Dale Mabry, and one in Carrollwood, right off North Dale Mabry. I live tremendously close to the Carrollwood shop so I've been taking it for granted, having not visited it since I moved back to Tampa. I always thought I'd find the time to go ahead and stop by, but I never seem to...either I'm too tired from work or I've just paid my bills and have no extra money to spare. Either way, I never found the time or money.

Until now!

After another very long day at work, I decided I deserved a treat and asked a friend to stop by Gigi's on his way home. I knew we would be hanging out later so I thought, here's my chance! Lucky for me, I have some great friends, so I finally got to try the elusive Gigi's Scarlet Red Velvet Cupcake.

Gigi's Cupcakes!
I was so excited to see the box, I almost forgot to take a snap of it! I like that the bakery dresses up the cupcakes like gifts...that's exactly what they feel like at the end of a hard day's work.

Four Cupcakes from Gigi's Cupcakes
The Scarlet Red Velvet looks especially festive. Topped with a white chocolate heart and red sugar crystals, I almost didn't want to ruin it. Almost.

When I took the cupcake out of the box, I noticed that the cupcake was a little hard. When I broke into the cupcake itself, the frosting yeilded and I found it to be smooth and sweet. The frosting was more like a whipped cream frosting, overly sweet and didn't pair well with the cake.

Gigi's Scarlet Red Velvet Cupcake
The cake itself was slightly dry, but it was light and airy. There was a nice hint of chocolate in the cake, which was a nice surprise. Another surprise which wasn't so nice was a cream filling in the cupcake. It was reminiscent of a Boston creme filling for donuts. I was very disappointed by this.

Overall, the cupcake was decent. The amount of frosting was too much for the cake (seriously, enough to feed a small African nation...they should change their name to Gigi's Frosting) and the flavor combinations proved too sweet to stomach. Ultimately, the cream filling ruined the experience for me. It was a sad ending to a very, very long day.

Price: $3.50/cupcake
Cake: dry, light, airy, cream filled
Icing: smooth, sweet, hard, like whipped cream
Decorations: fancy, festive
Overall Rating: 6/10
Website: Gigi's Cupcakes USA

Monday, December 15, 2014

Frostings Etc. - Tampa, Florida

My Christmas present to myself has been a feast of Tampa Bay red velvet cupcakes. I'm trying to cross the local bakeries off my list while I'm still here.

Recently, thanks for one of my Peace Corps buddies, I got to try the a red velvet cupcake from Frostings Etc., a local cupcake bakery in the SoHo district of Tampa. The bakery is in a very hip and chic area of Tampa, definitely a growing neighborhood. The owner and head baker has been at it for about 20 years, but only recently began sharing her cupcake creations to the Tampa Bay area.

My dear friend brought me the red velvet cupcake after a long day's work and when I opened the box, I knew this was going to be a fancy treat. As one can see from the decoration and presentation, the bakery reflects the growing upscale neighborhood its located in. After a long day's work, this was definitely a welcomed treat.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Frostings Etc.
The cupcake itself was delicious. It was soft, moist, and had a nice taste of chocolate, exactly what I needed after work. The cake itself was perfect. The combination of the icing and cake was nearly perfect, except for the icing. While the icing was definitely cream cheese based, it tasted more like a whipped cream type frosting rather than the traditional thick, creamy frosting normally paired with red velvet. That and the addition of textured crumbs were slightly distracting. I felt it was an overly sweet pairing with the cake base, which took away from the overall experience.

Overall though, it held up to its end of the bargain! I'm happy to report that Tampa Bay is filled with wonderful red velvet cupcakes. I can't wait to try the other locations in the Bay area and see how they compare!

Price: $3/cupcake
Cake: moist, airy,
Icing: smooth, sweet, texture of whipped cream
Decorations: elegant
Overall Rating: 8/10
Website: Frostings Etc.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pick Your Poison Cupcake Cafe - Safety Harbor, Florida

After being sick for almost a week, it was nice to make an impromptu trip to Safety Harbor. Initially it was for ice cream, but upon arrival to downtown Safety Harbor, I found the Pick Your Poison Cupcake Cafe and I just had to stop in.

A little back-story on Pick Your Poison Cafe:

"Pick Your Poison Cupcake Cafe is a dream come true. Its existence is based on the decadent simplicity of a cupcake, then that is expanded upon to meet the needs of our clientele and location; thus offering beer and wine in addition to decadent cupcakes, inviting each and every one of our valued customers to come in and pick their favorite poison. Each cupcake has been created and perfected by our bakers using the finest ingredients available. Every sweet and satisfying treat is made by hand and is baked with love, fresh every morning in our store. Our cupcakes are the perfect treat for any occasion, or for no occasion at all!


When I walked in I was welcomed by the wonderful baking smells as well as the always visually appealing cupcake counter. Upon further inspection, not only is Pick You Poison a cupcake cafe, but it's also a bar! What a genius combination! Not only can you get your favorite cupcake flavor, but you can get your favorite beer or wine to pair with it. They also serve Cupcake Vineyards wines.

Red Velvet and Peanut Butter Cupcakes from Pick Your Poison Cupcake Cafe
I was happy to see that the cafe had some red velvets left, so I dove in.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Pick Your Poison Cupcake Cafe
I knew as soon as unwrapped this cupcake, it was going to be a good one. When I took my first bite, not only was I greeted with a moist, light and airy cake, but I tasted the perfect amount of chocolate! Seriously! It was like the cafe was using Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker bake mix! The cream cheese frosting was a perfect combination. The frosting was smooth, sweet, and not too over powering in cream cheese flavor. I could tell this frosting was made with real cream cheese.

Overall, this was the best cupcake I've had yet. The only problem I was with the cupcake was that it almost tasted undercooked. I do believe if I gave this cupcake another go, it may reach the as-yet-unattained 10/10 rating!

So, my journey continues...

Price: $3/cupcake
Cake: moist, light, airy, slightly undercooked
Icing: smooth, sweet, made with real cream cheese
Decorations: simple
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Website: Pick Your Poison Cupcake Cafe

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cakespy - Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Ganache Filling

While on my hunt for the perfect red velvet cake, I happened upon this lovely concoction by the amazing CakeSpy author, Jessie!

Red Velvet Cake Emoticon :) - Photo from CakeSpy
This red velvet cake brings chocolate back with a sweet surprise: in addition to the rich cream cheese frosting used to cover it on the top and sides, it has a deliciously decadent chocolate ganache filling, too. The ganache brings out the cocoa-scented flavor of the cake, and it works in sweet harmony with the cream cheese. It's a beautiful way to unify the flavors of red velvet. 

Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Ganache & Cream Cheese Frosting - Photo by CakeSpy

"Makes 1 9-inch cake

For the cake

  • 2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (not dutch-process), sifted
  • 1 teaspoon concentrated gel food coloring
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • Note: this recipe has been adjusted for high altitude by reducing the sugar by ¼ cup and by increasing the buttermilk by 2 tablespoons. 

Ganache filling 

  • 1/2 pound good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • pinch salt 
  • Cream cheese frosting 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese, softened (do not use low-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease, flour, and line with parchment 2 8-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sifted cocoa, food coloring, and water. Mix together until it forms a thick but lump-free paste. Set to the side.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour and salt. Give them a stir to combine; set to the side.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Mix on medium-high speed for 3 minutes; the mixture should be fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the coloring mix.
  6. Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk, mixing on low speed and scraping the bowl after each addition.
  7. Now, gear yourself up to move quickly for a few minutes. Don’t be tempted to pick up the phone or take a bathroom break.
  8. In a ½ cup size bowl or larger, combine the baking soda and vinegar (it will bubble up--don’t panic, that’s why you used the size cup you did to mix) and add it immediately to the batter. Mix until combined.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and put in the oven.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the edges, and turn the cakes out on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. If the cakes have formed domes, level using a serrated knife.
  12. Make the ganache. In a saucepan, heat the cream on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to discourage scorching on the bottom of the pan. Bring it just barely to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat immediately. Pour on top of the chocolate. Using a wire whisk, mix the chocolate and cream together until they have become smooth, and the chocolate has melted into the cream. It will be the consistency of a thick hot fudge sauce. Stir in the salt, mixing until smooth. Wait until it has come to room temperature (it will solidify more) before using to fill the cake. 
  13. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter until very smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Add the confectioners' sugar one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition and pausing to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. You may not add all of the confectioners' sugar.
  14. Assemble the cake. Place one of the layers with the flattest side up on a serving platter. Coat it generously with a thick layer of ganache. You might not use all of the ganache, but if you have extra I don't think this is a bad thing for your life and snacking for the next day or two. Place the second layer on top, flattest side up again. Now, cover all over with that tasty cream cheese frosting. You might want to apply a crumb coat, but it is not necessary. Do, however, cover the cake very generously.
  15. Store in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature."

This sounds like an amazing adventure! I'm definitely going to take a stab at this during the holidays, it'll be a nice treat for Santa!

Full article: Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Ganache