Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New! Nostalgia Cupcakes

Everyone get excited, because there is a new cupcake bakery coming to town! And you're going to love it! I had the pleasure of meeting Nostalgia Cupcakes owner Sharon White and tasting some of her delicious treats. But before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about this new and fabulous cupcakery.

Nostalgia Cupcakes is set to open around Labor Day in historic Annapolis, Maryland. The shop will be located at 188 Main Street, Suite 102, which is walking distance to the city dock. And what a good location! You can pick up your cupcake and walk off those calories as you stroll along those quaint Annapolis streets. And when you do pick up that cupcake, you're going to have a lot to choose from! Sharon has over 20 varieties of standard flavors on the menu, with flavors like Coconutcake, Old Fashioned Spicecake, Banananut, Carrotcake, PB&J, and Lemoncello!

In addition to her standard flavors, Sharon also has 8 varieties of premium (alcohol-based) flavors which will not be on the daily menu but will be available for order. I love this idea, it's like having a special drink menu at a nice restaurant! Some of the premium flavors include Mardi Gras, a champagne infused Yellow Cake filled with orange curd and topped with a champagne buttercream, and Something Blue, a cognac-laced yellow cake filled with vanilla-bean mousse-tinted blue-and topped with cognac buttercream! Sounds pretty tasty, huh? There is a minimum order of 5 dozen for these delectable flavors.

Speaking of delectable flavors, lets get back to the good stuff. I had the privilege of tasting 4 different flavors, Gold Rush Carrotcake, Southern Red Velvetcake, Caramel Macchiatocake, and Rum Jungle.

These lovely little creations you see above would be the Southern Red Velvet. And let me just say, wow. This is without a doubt the best Red Velvet I have had so far. Rich in flavor, crumbly and just the perfect consistency...not too heavy but not too light, just how a Red Velvet Cupcake should taste. And that cream cheese buttercream...words do not do justice. Rich and smooth and full of sweet flavor, this is one of the best cream cheese icings I have ever tried. Before I had tasted this cupcake I had decided to share the second one with friends, but after that first bite, no way was I letting the other one go! I saved it for later :)

This little guy is the Caramel Macchiatocake. Sharon hoped that I would like this one, mentioning it is a work in progress, but I don't know what she has left to do with it because it's perfect! A delicious white cake with a savory caramel filling, topped with rich and tasty mocha buttercream, I couldn't get enough of this one. One of my friends who was tasting the cupcakes with me is a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato addict, and he loved this cupcake.

Now if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that Carrot Cake is my all-time favorite flavor. When I cut the cupcake in half before taking a bite, one side fell away exposing a sumptuous center rich in gold tones and scattered with spices. While one of the most attractive carrot cakes I've ever seen, this cupcake is more than just a pretty face. The culmination of spices, carrots, raisen's, and whatever else Sharon has thrown in there is a celebration for the tastebuds. Topped with that heavenly cream cheese buttercream from earlier, this is one delicious carrot cake.

This little trio represents the Rum Jungle flavor from Nostalgia Cupcakes' premium menu. I thought the rum soaked yellow cake was delicious, though I must admit I thought the swiss meringue buttercream could have used a little more flavor. It probably didn't help the meringue that I held the cupcakes in my lap for 45 minutes while I sat outside in the 80 degree heat talking to Sharon. While the other cupcakes were able to handle the heat, meringue is a little more fragile. So maybe the melty factor messed with the flavor.

My overall review? Divine, delleicious, delightful, say it any way you want, these cupcakes are wonderful! Sharon makes everything from scratch, right down to the Vanilla she uses in some of her recipes, and you can taste the special attention in each of her creations. And speaking of creations, Sharon also bakes cookies, brownies, wedding cakes, grooms cakes, & other special event cakes, and even homemade marshmallows!

If you live in or around Annapolis, are driving to/from Ocean City, looking for something to do on the weekend, or just really like cupcakes, you've got to make a trip to Nostalgia once the shop opens! I'm thinking my Meetup Group might be able to take a little excursion out that way in a couple of months! Would anyone be up for it?

I had a chance to ask Sharon some questions about herself and her bakery. Read what she had to say below!

Nostalgia Cupcakes Interview

1. What inspired you to start Nostalgia Cupcakes?
Turning 41 and knowing that there was more to my life than just my day-to-day job. My husband and I were never blessed with children and I finally found a comfortable place where I accepted that it will never happen (without pursing adoption). Then I looked at my day job and wondered: Is this it? Surely this is not how I want to spend the rest of my (albeight childless) life!

2. How long have you been baking and decorating?
I started baking VERY early! My mom, who was the oldest girl of 16 children, is fantastic in the kitchen. My sisters inherited her cooking ability and I got the sweet-tooth, which she freely and willingly let me indulge. I took my first Wilton class over 10 years ago, and then continued taking classes in all aspects of baking and cake decorating throughout the years.

3. How did you muster up the courage to quit the day job and start baking full time?
By getting frustrated with someone who originally agreed to let me rent their commercial kitchen. My original plan was to start slowly and work on a consistent client base around my day job. When that fell through, I said forget it, I’m not going to count on anyone else to build my business and when I looked around at all the options, I realized that I could do this on my own terms, in my own space..

4. You currently have over 20 varieties of standard flavors, along with 8 premium flavors. That’s a lot! Will you be adding more flavors in the future?
LOL, I know that’s a lot, and I come up with more flavor ideas every day! But no, I won’t put anything else permanent on the menu. I will have seasonal options that will be available during holidays.

5. So what is your favorite flavor of cupcake?
Believe it or not, something not even on my current menu! A sweet potato cupcake with brown sugar buttercream and toasted marshmallows. Yumm! I’ll probably try it out on my seasonal menu around Thanksgiving time and see if others like it as much as I do.

6. What do you think makes Nostalgia Cupcakes stand out from the competition?
I’m a decorator first, a baker second and a cupcake shop owner third. I think a lot of people who own shops start out the other way around. I believe in the art of baking from scratch and playing with different flavor profiles. Plus, my premium line I think is a different approach. It will offer flavors with liqueurs, alcohol, true butter buttercreams, better quality flour, eggs, and butter.

7. What made you choose the Annapolis area to open up shop?
My husband and I love visiting Annapolis. We considered getting married there and would visit almost every weekend when we lived in Bowie. It holds a special place in my heart!
8. Any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t take no for an answer! I seriously would have given up if it wasn’t for some people who believed in me. I had a lot of nay-sayers from the weirdest places, but strangely enough, a lot of support from some weird places too.
9. Do you have anything special planned for the Grand Opening?
I’m tossing around a lot of ideas and it all depends on when it will actually happen! Right now I’m still knee deep in the lengthy permit process, so I haven’t narrowed down anything specific. When I do, I’ll be sure to let you know!

10. Anything else you’d like to add?
Even though cupcakes are small, they are still a medium to decorate beautifully and should taste as good as they look. Some of the other cupcakes I’ve sampled are barely a step above grocery store cupcakes with bland flavors or super-sweet greasy frosting. Take the time to learn how to make your products better, never stop taking constructive criticism, ask your customers what they want, and have FUN!

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