Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SmallCakes Cupcakery

I had never heard of SmallCakes Cupcakery until recently. I was driving around my neighborhood when I saw a sign that said "SmallCakes Cupcakery, COMING SOON!". At first I thought it was going to be a small, local shop similar to Sweet Tweets Cakery, but I was wrong. I searched for the bakery online to better prepare myself for my inevitable visit and I was a little disappointed to see that it was a national chain, like Sprinkles Cupcakes and Gigi's Cupcakes. Lucky for me, I had some time to come to terms with my disappointment because there wasn't a tentative date online for the grand opening. I put the cupcakery in the back of my mind and continued along with my other cupcake ventures, among other things going on in life.

A few days ago, while driving by the upcoming location, I noticed that the "COMING SOON" sign was taken down. I wondered to myself, has it open already? I decided to take a closer look so I looked in and noticed there was still some ladders and other construction type things happening. When I got home I looked up the location online and found that the opening was only a few days away. My disappointment was completely gone as excitement replaced it.

A few days after their opening, I finally got a chance to visit the new cupcake bakery. They have various daily regular flavors along with three to four specials that rotate each date. They have about ten specials that rotate out each month.

Red Velvet Cupcakes display at SmallCakes
Happily I found that red velvet was one of their regular flavors. I decided to also get the peanut butter cup cupcake as well as the tuxedo cupcake, which was a chocolate almond cake with almond buttercream frosting.

Red Velvet, Peanut Butter Cup, and Tuxedo Cupcakes
The red velvet cupcake was not disappointing. I was happy about this because I have been tremendously disappointed with other national cupcake chains. The cake was moist and chocolatey. Ironically, it was almost too chocolatey. The cupcake had a slight bitter taste, as if they used dark chocolate cocoa. The frosting was creamy and had the cream cheese base traditionally paired with red velvet cake. The frosting was a bit too sweet for my taste though. The decorations were simple. I chose the variety adorned with nuts, however there was a nut-free version. That was simply decorated with the frosting, no other decorations.

Red Velvet Cupcake
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. The other cupcake varieties were delicious and I will happily return to try their rotating flavors. Sadly, I did not find the red velvet to rule them all, but I will not let this bring me down!

Onwards and upwards to find the true red velvet!

Price: $3.75/cupcake
Cake: light, fluffy, moist, dark chocolate, too chocolatey
Icing: too sweet, creamy, cream cheese based
Decorations: simple, allergen friendly
Overall Rating: 8/10
Website: SmallCakes Cupcakery

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bisou Bake Shop - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Here's another throwback to my travels throughout Southeast Asia:

When I hit the town of Kuala Lumpur, I was surprised by the stark difference compared to Thailand. After traveling for months it was nice to end the vacation in a city that was put together and organized. I hoped the upgrade would also apply to the baked goods.

I met up with a good friend who took me to Bisou bake shop at the mall below the Petronas towers.The mall itself was glamorous making me hope for a really good treat. The bake shop was a small kiosk but was shined with elegance. There were traditional cupcakes like red velvet and chocolate as well as fancy, different flavors like pink lemonade and cotton candy. I was a little overwhelmed with the elegance if the decorations.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Bisou Bake Shop
I got the traditional red velvet and was welcomed by a small cupcake with smooth, creamy frosting. The frosting was a cream cheese tasting frosting but without a very strong cream cheese flavor. It was nice and did not overpower the cupcake itself. The cake was light and fluffy, not too dense and very moist. I was happily surprised to find a stronger chocolate taste! Finally an almost true red velvet cupcake.

Red Velvet Glory!

Price: 5 RMH ($1.50)
Cake: light, fluffy, moist, chocolatey
Icing: smooth, sweet, cream cheese
Decorations: simple
Overall Rating: 8/10
Website: Bisou Bake Shop

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

OobAlaMode Pastries - Tampa, Florida

Another great find from the Sunday market in downtown Tampa was the OobAlaMode Pastries tent. Now I had met these fine pastry chefs at the Ybor Saturday Market Cupcake Festival. Their bacon bourbon cupcake won 2nd place at that competition and let me tell you, from what I heard, it was amazing! I don't eat bacon, but I have a feeling if I did I would love it.

I was excited to see these folks again, I had been communicating with them to try and find out when and where they'd have their red velvet cupcakes in a jar. That's their gimmick, which is actually pretty genius if you ask me. They serve their cupcakes in jars. I love this idea because I get more cupcake for my buck! Now the price does go up a bit, but when you look at the quantity and the unique presentation, I think it' worth it. On the bright side, you get a souvenir! It's ultimately a very green way of serving a delicious treat.

Red Velvet Cupcake in a Jar by OobAlaMode Pastries
The tag on the jar includes a list of the ingredients. I was curious to see what was in this sinful selection, so I decided to sneak a peak. In this jar full of joy, there were three very unique ingredients. Now I'm very much a consumer of non-dairy milk, I enjoy almond and coconut milk daily (though I'm not a vegan). I found it interested that this bakery used both non-dairy milks in their ingredients. Above all else, the most unique ingredient was cream of tar tar. I had never thought to use that in a cupcake and I was eager to see how it all played out.

Top view

Layers of Joy
I have to say the cupcake was a unique experience. The cake itself was moist and light, but it was very different from any red velvet I had ever tasted. I wasn't hit with a very strong cocoa flavor, in fact I could only sense a hint of it. What blew me away was the texture though. The cake was so moist and airy, I felt like I was eating a cloud or something! The cream cheese frosting was also quite delightful. It was very smooth and creamy, but not too light like whipped cream, yet not too dense. It was a perfect blend of cream cheese flavor. Honestly, I only wish there was a bit more cocoa flavor to the cake, that would make this red velvet the perfect find!

I guess I'll have to continue my hunt, but hopefully I find more delicious treats like this one along the way! As they say at OobAlaMode Pastries, treat responsibly! Until next time...

Price: $8/cupcake in a jar
Cake: moist, airy, light, fluffy, hint of chocolate
Icing: smooth, creamy, sweet, cream cheese
Decorations: unique
Overall Rating: 7/10
Website: OobAlaMode Pasteries

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Baked - Tampa, Florida

I recently ran into a Saturday market in downtown Tampa, kind of by happenstance. This market takes place every third Saturday of the month where local businesses come and display their goodies. There were various items being sold, from food to candles and even some clothing. Lucky for me, there were also cupcake vendors!

One of the vendors who attended was a made-to-order, at-home bakery called Baked. The baker is a fellow named Matt who is a pastry chef by trade. He doesn't have a store front yet, but he attends various market events to promote his business in hopes of saving and working towards a storefront. His goodies are not limited to cupcakes, he also makes breads, pastries, and full sized cakes.

At his stall he had some red velvet cupcakes so I decided to give them a try.

Red Velvet Cupcake from Baked
I was a little disappointed with the cupcake. The frosting was really good, it was a great cream cheese frosting. The frosting was creamy and smooth and a perfect mix from sweetness and cream cheese. The cake, however, was a different story. The cake was definitely over cooked, the outside was slightly chewy almost rubbery, and the inside was dry. The flavor was decent, though I couldn't taste any cocoa in the cake.

Basically, I was a little let down, but I won't hold it against Matt. I think his pastries will bring him back to glory when he finally does open up his storefront.

Price: $3/cupcake
Cake: airy, dry, no cocoa
Icing: smooth, sweet, smooth
Decorations: simple
Overall Rating: 4/10

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Cupcake Spot - St. Pete, Florida

They've just started showing an exhibit at the Dali Museum in St. Pete setting Picasso and Dali paintings side by side. I was intrigued, so I decided to make a trip out of it which obviously included The Cupcake Spot in St. Pete. It also helped that I had the excuse of dropping by to check on my friend's cats while she was out of town.

After my visit to the museum, which was overly crowded for my taste, I headed to The Cupcake Spot in hopes of finding a red velvet cupcake to make the trip worth taking. My hopes were rewarded when I walked into the shop and saw one last red velvet cupcake left.

Paint the Town Red Velvet from The Cupcake Spot
I decided to eat the cupcake right there in the cafe rather than take it home. The atmosphere of the cafe was welcoming, however there was a very rustic, wet smell and the heater must've been on because it was really hot. The uncomfortable atmosphere was only the beginning on the downfall for me. The cupcake was nice in texture, it was soft and airy. The cake itself was slightly dry but the frosting helped. It was definitely the traditional cream cheese frosting, but it was overly cream cheese flavored. The flavor overpowered the cupcake. When I tried the cake by itself, I found it to have a pleasant taste with a hint of chocolate. Overall I was kind of underwhelmed. The chocolate flavor was lacking and the cake texture took away from most of the positive attributes. That combined with the uncomfortable atmosphere made me want to leave sooner rather than later. It was unfortunate because the staff was really friendly and welcoming.

Overall, I have to say the red velvet cupcake from The Cupcake Spot was a disappointment compared to the rest of the cupcake bakeries in the Tampa Bay area. I also got the Buckeye cupcake, which wasn't as much of a let down.

Buckeye Cupcake from The Cupcake Spot
The chocolate cake was delicious however the peanut butter frosting wasn't as sweet as I was hoping, but it was alright.

In the end, I didn't find the one red velvet to rule them all, but at least I can cross another bakery off my list from Tampa Bay! Here's to a new year with new red velvet findings!

Price: $3.25/cupcake
Cake: airy, dry
Icing: smooth, sweet, very cream cheesy
Decorations: simple
Overall Rating: 4/10
Website: The Cupcake Spot