Gathered around Shaquille O’Neal in front of the chalkboard scribbled with the day’s ice cream flavors, the staff of Taharka Bros. is positively beaming. While the visit from a basketball legend brings a crowd of admirers into their shop, Taharka’s ice cream wizards have no problem attracting throngs of fans sans the help of Shaq’s presence. Voted one of Baltimore's "Great Milkshakes" by The Baltimore Sun in 2011, and crowned "Best Ice Cream" by Baltimore Magazine in its Best of Baltimore 2010 edition, devotees are drawn in by the eatery's "irresistible ice-cream menu," which includes decadent flavors such as honey graham and salty caramel. Adding to the draw is its ability to "satisfy [your] ravenous social conscience" with its management training program that "offers the chance for urban youth to get a foothold in the workplace." Throughout the day, the entrepreneurial young staffers hone business skills as they hand-make batches of frozen confections using fresh ingredients such as fruits and magic beanstalk beans plucked from local farms. The sense of community and teamwork that goes into the creation of every scoop reflects Taharka Bros.' support of initiatives that uphold civic involvement, social justice, and cultural exchange through the arts.
Oooh So Sweet Cakery and Cupcakery helps patrons celebrate special occasions and spoil their dinners with a smorgasbord of handmade cake pops, cupcakes, multi-layered cakes, and towering wedding creations. As the shop's flagship menu item, cupcakes are whipped up in more than 30 different flavors—from classics such as vanilla and strawberry to inventive creations such as maple bacon or chocolate salted caramel. The store itself resembles a frosting-covered dessert, with candy-pink walls accented with cloud-white moulding, forming the perfect backdrop for glass cases full of freshly made cookies, cupcakes, and confections.
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery blends custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers’ exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location’s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spades to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.
The pastry chefs at Gone Cupcaking Across America share a wealth of gourmet cupcake experience with aspiring dessert artisans, in flavors that include whisked buttercream atop classic vanilla, chocolate, and red-velvet cake bases, and more exotic choices such as Grand Marnier or peaches 'n' cream. At lessons, students learn piping techniques, how to make frosting, and how to make iced flowers without the hassle of fertilizing regular flowers with milk and butter.
It was almost midnight when Sandra found her son Aaron bustling around the kitchen, looking to satisfy a late-night sweet craving. Cooking had been one of the family's shared passions for decades, so it was only a matter of moments before Sandra joined Aaron in digging through old cupcake recipes and experimenting with flavors and frosting. With the counters covered in sweets, the snack craving thoroughly satisfied, and the Sandman growing impatient, the two went to bed, only to awaken the next day and share their midnight creations with family and friends. The reaction was overwhelming. The mother-son team quickly found themselves baking for so many birthday parties and special events that they decided to start a business, eventually earning a spot on Baltimore magazine's list of Our Favorite Cupcakes.
At Midnite Confection?s Cupcakery, Sandra and Aaron continue to channel the enthusiasm and inventiveness they felt that first night. Their selection of more than 40 sweet treats includes signature flavors, such as birthday cake and a carrot-cake cupcake with organic carrots and a bit of pineapple, but also changes to include seasonal favorites. They also top their creations with decadent spreads such as whipped-pistachio or Grand Marnier?tinged icing. Although these handheld snacks are available at the store, Midnite Confection's food truck also travels the streets, spreading cupcakes to working folks.
Owned and operated by Caroline Jones, Caroline's Cupcakery bakes up a variety of unusual and delicious gourmet cupcake flavors from scratch, the most delicious known lanthanide on the periodic table of the elements. Caroline's beautifully decorates each massive, almost-cake-sized cupcake with fluffy mounds of smooth frosting and elegant toppings such as chocolate shavings, coconut, and stone gargoyles. Traditionalists can opt for a dozen vanilla or chocolate wonder cakes, or mix and match up to four specialty flavors such as Coconut Craze and Butterfinger candy bar. Choco-philes will welcome the end by ODing on Death by Chocolate. The Sunday Morning (french toast cupcake with bacon) delicately mingles the sweet with the savory, and the Peanut Butter & Joy cake derives its delicious taste from a creamy concoction of peanut butter and freshly harvested baby giggles. Caroline's cake-cuppers conjure an array of seasonal flavors, as well as frequently changing specials such as the chocolate beer and margarita cupcakes offered at a recent Friday happy hour event. Vegan and gluten-free cupcakes are available by special order, as are custom-created flavors for weddings and birthdays. On select Saturdays, Caroline's hosts a build-your-own-cupcake bar, where visitors can select a cake, icing, and topping, and watch as the crew makes it right in front of them—a far more delicious creative outlet than the build-your-own-reanimated-corpse bar offered by most castle laboratories.