Monthly Archives: November 2009

Chocolate Monday: Cupcake Camper

The other day I had a diner date with two of my good friends. We decided on a chain restaurant in a fairly new outdoor shopping mall because we also had theater tickets that night and it was sort of a middle meeting ground for all of us. As usual, I wasn’t really expecting anything interesting or remarkable about dinner. And, as usual, I was right. However, before we even got inside the joint to order, our eyes were assualted  by a vintage airstream camper with a giant cupcake sitting on top. To say it was out of place is the understatement of the decade. For a moment, I thought someone from a carnival had parked it there while running into one of the upscale shops it was blocking. I realized that this was ridiculous as the rather large, plastic cupcake, which had a huge dollup of pink frosting and a ton of sprinkles on top, was obviously a business of sorts.  Being a lover of just about everything sweet, I knew I had to learn more.

I was good, I made it through dinner with only a few casual mentions about the potential of cupcakes for dessert. When the waitress asked if we wanted cheesecake or ice cream to finish off our meal, I smiled and  politely declined. Afterall, I had my sights on something chocolatier.

Instead we braved the cold drizzle to peruse the hand-written menu on the white board posted in front of a little glass window with a small counter. It was set up like a food booth at a local carnival, but it had a certain charm that let me know it was a bit classier than the fried cheese on a stick vendor I drool over each summer. Maybe it was the bright pink Cupcake Camper logo on the front, or the small decorative curtains inside that gave it a little more kitch and charm and a little less backwoods fun fair flair.

There were five cupcakes to choose from and the menu promised that flavors changed daily. There was the jumbo cupcake (a 6 oz. treat that did seem to live up to its name), three classic cupcakes and a special for the day: The Rogue Cupcake, named in honor of Sarah Palin who was stopping at a local bookstore on her book tour.

Now, I’m not a supporter of Palin, but seeing as she got none of the profits from the cupcake and TACA, an autism charity did, I said what the heck and went rogue. It might have been a mistake!

First, it was a HUGE cupcake. Obviously it qualified as a jumbo selection. Since it was accompanied by a charitable donation, it was $4 instead of the usual $3.75 for the jumbo. It was also more cupcake than I should have eaten in one sitting. Not that I let that stop me.

I feel I need to start with the frosting which might have actually been bigger than the cake itself. It was a mountain of pink buttercream icing swirled to a peak and dusted with tiny chocolate shavings. The picture at the top of the page does not do the frosting height justice as I’d already eaten quite a bit of it before I remembered to take the picture. In fact, I had to start just eating the frosting because there was so much of it. I took my fork to it and dug in.

The frosting was very sugary, which came through in the texture. It had a slight crunch to it as many heavily sugared frostings do. I don’t think it was a true buttercream (ie one that used butter in the recipe), but more of a decorator’s buttercream (which usually relies on shortening). The difference in sugar consistancy between the two types of buttercream usually isn’t that significant, but the film the frosting left on the roof of my mouth screamed shortening and not butter. Now, that doesn’t mean it didn’t taste good. In fact, most professional cake makers do use a decorator’s buttercream since it is a stiffer frosting which is easier to design with and holds its form well. The frosting on these cakes held its shape, even after falling over in the box.

I actually thought the frosting was decent. The slight sugar crisp didn’t bother me. The chocolate flecks on the top didn’t really contribute anything to the taste as the sugar from the frosting overpowered them. I do, wish there had been less frosting on the cake. I thought it looked good, but the taste got old. My two friends agreed. One, who generally doesn’t eat frosting at all, pulled all but a bite or two off of hers. The other really didn’t care for the frosting. She was hoping for the taste and texture of a canned frosting, which is usually the butter based buttercream. She was non-plussed by the taste.

I’ve taken several cake decorating classes and am used to this type of buttercream. I find it very edible and even tasty, however, I would have enjoyed a slightly creamier frosting, and less of it.

As for the cake itself, it was a chocolate cake. The cake was moist and a little creamy, but not overly chocolatey. I’m a little spoiled. When I cook any sort of chocolate cake from scratch, I use a Dutch process cocoa which gives my cakes a rich, velvety chocolate taste. This cake tasted like it was made with regular cocoa, which didn’t add as much of a chocolate taste as I like. It did taste like a homemade cake. It had none of that artificial chocolate taste that many boxed cake mixes have. The cake was also very well cooked as it practically melted in my mouth. The last two bites I had of the cake, after I got most of the frosting off, were actually the best. They were top bites and they were very flavorful. I not only got more of a chocolate kick, but I also got a creamy, buttery texture I appreciate in a cake.

I did have to eat the cupcake with a fork because it was so large. And if I had not been worried about it going bad, I probably would have prefered to eat it in more than one sitting. I felt a little sick after I finished it. It was too much of a sugar rush for me. My two friends, who were smart and split the other cake were mixed. One loved it (sans the frosting). The other was rather  indifferent about it. Her exact words were, “Muh, it tastes like a cupcake I could have made.”

Overall, I think the Cupcake Camper went in a bit more for presentation than for tate. They were very pretty to look at, but could have been tastier.

For appearance, I’d give them a 9.5/10

Taste: 7.5/10

Price: 7/10

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva G Collection

A few years ago while I was living in Florida, GodiG collectionva launched their G collection. I saw the picture in the catalog and was entranced. I knew I had to have the beautiful looking chocolates. It didn’t matter that the closest Godiva retailer was 45 minutes away or that 15 chocolates cost a whopping $48, I was on a mission. The only problem was that the nearest Godiva was actually a kiosk that had a limited selection of  their regular line of chocolate. Turns out the closest Godiva store actually selling the special chocolates was at the Mall at Millenia, over 90 minutes away.

But, like I said, I was on a mission, so my husband (then my fiancee) and I set off. Since we were already going so far out of our way, we decided to swing by Universal Studios for a few hours, catch a movie and then walk around the giant mall. Minutes after entering the door, we realized Godiva was probably the only shop we’d be able to afford anything in. We were right, but that was fine with me. While I had fun walking around, my only goal was to get a G collection, and I did.

I don’t remember much about the specific flavors. I mean it was 5 years ago. I remember that I liked most of them though. About three years ago, I once again saw an ad for the G collection. This time it promised two new flavors, so I once again had to try. I had moved and was only 5 minutes from a boutique, but yet again, it was not one of the stores scheduled to get the collection. This time I resorted to mail order. I waited with great anticipation for my delicious treats. The second time around, I was a bit disappointed. I think I had built it up a bit too much in my head.

Now, just a little while ago, I saw the ad again. This time though, it was on sale for almost half price and since I’m a member of the Godiva frequent buyer club, shipping was free. I couldn’t resist.

The collection hadn’t changed since the last time I’d bought one. And like anything, there were hits and misses for me. I guess I’ll break it up into my bottom 5, the middle 5 and top 5. Let’s start at the bottom.

My least favorites in this collection are the wild Bolivian dark chocolate, rootbeer, Vermont maple walnut, Bananas Foster and Mexican hot chocolate. This is in part because I’m not a huge fan of some of the flavors. The dark Bolivian piece is basically a dark chocolate ganache, and I just don’t care much for dark chocolate unless it is paired with a really tart filling. This one was creamy and not as bitter or harsh as most dark chocolate pieces, but still a bit too bitter for me. The Mexican piece was very festive to look at and not as spicy as I feared. It left just a little burn after I finished it, but it was a bit too bitter for me. In all fairness to the rootbeer piece, I don’t like rootbeer. The vanilla and white chocolate do help to mellow the rootbeer flavor, but just not enough for me. The same is true for the banana piece. I love bananas, but do not like anything with artificial banana flavor, so this one just isn’t for me. Finally, the maple piece was just too overwhelming to me. The maple was drippy, hard to eat in bites and just too overpowering.

My middle tier includes the caramel macchiato, praline crunch, pb & j, Tasmanian honey and Tahiatian vanilla. I didn’t expect to like the macchiato piece. I am not a fan of coffee at all. I don’t like the smell and abhor the taste. However, this piece, which had a really neat copper, metalic sparkly airbrush look, it tasted far more of caramel than of coffee, which made it tolerable to me. The praline crunch tasted like the majority of Godiva’s regular pieces. It was definitely crunchy, but not exactly in a good way. It tasted a little wierd in my mouth. The pb & jwas surprisingly good. I’m not a fan of the actual sandwich, so I didn’t expec to like this one. However, the peanut butter is quite creamy. It mixed well with the strawberry jam inside. I may hate the real thing, but with a fine chocolate shell, I find it tasty. As with most honey pieces, this one just wasn’t tangy or sweet enough for me. I really like the honeycomb pattern on top, but honey is just not sweet enough to be paired with dark chocolate. I think in milk chocolate, I would have enjoyed this one much more. Finally, the vanilla piece was ok. It had a distinctive taste that reminded me a bit more of coconut than of vanilla. It was creamy, but not overly vanilla flavored, which threw me a little.

My favorites from this collection include the passion orange, tart raspberry, salted caramel, apple pie and lemon drop pieces. The passion piece is probably the pretties (and the biggest) piece. It is shaped like a large heart with lovely shades of orange all over it. It has a very vanilla taste. I love the little flecks of vanilla bean inside it and the white chocolate is a great pairing. There is only a hint of orange, but it has a nice custardy texture. Raspberry is always one of my favorite flavors. I admit I felt a bit cheated with this piece because Godiva’s raspberry cordial is one of the most amazing candies I’ve ever put in my mind. I think I expected a bit much. But, to do justice to this piece, it is quite good. It’s nice and tart. This is the flavor I don’t mind being paired with dark chocolate. It makes it even better. The caramel wasn’t really anything fancy, but that’s ok, I like caramel. It was a bit of a runny caramel with a slightly smokey flavor, but I enjoyed it. The apple pie does taste like apple pie filling. The white chocolate shell is a bit overpowering, but I think it’s the best choice for the apple filling.

My favorite piece, hands down though, is the lemon drop. It also has a white chocolate shell, but it is so thin, it’s hardly important. What is, is the taste. It reminds me a bit of the key lime truffle Godiva makes, except it isn’t tempered with dark chocolate. It is tart like an actual lemon drop. While still a truffle-like consistancy is fairly solid, so it tastes like a giant tart ball of creamy lemon happiness. Discounted, the collection is worth it just for these last five pieces.

Honestly, if the collection wasn’t on sale, I wouldn’t have bought it again. Many of the pieces are quite tasty, but similar tastes can be found in several of their regular truffles at a fraction of the cost. For those who like fancy chocolates and haven’t tried it yet, I do suggest it, but like I said, only if you get it on sale.

Appearance: 10/10

Taste: 6/10 (the top 5 are 9/10)

Value: 5/10 (very pricey, but if on sale, I’d say a 6/10)

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