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Thursday
Jun172010

Cake Byte: Threadcakes Contest is Back!

When cool and clever apparel design and cakes meet, the results are totally sweet.

This is all to say: the Threadcakes Contest is back!

What is this, you may be asking? Well, per the website,

Threadcakes is a fun, online cake-baking contest run by Chris Cardinal and Threadless.com, where bakers like you (and non-bakers like me) turn their favorite Threadless designs into amazing cakes! (Lovingly hosted by Synapse Studios.) 

For instance, the above cake was inspired by the t-shirt design to the left. Awesome, right?

What it basically amounts to is a cool cake contest for bakers--or, if you're not so artistically inclined, a really fun place to browse cakes that other people have made.

For the rules and to learn how to enter, visit the site; for previous winning entries, click here.

Wednesday
Jun162010

Wild Oats: Oatsies Recipe From Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Pop Quiz: when faced with the prospect of imminent Oatsies, the proper reaction is:

A. Panic--you must run from this menace!

B. Dread--you're definitely going to need to visit the doctor.

C. A world-weary sigh--you don't need this today.

D. Delight--you're faced with the prospect of a delicious treat!

Of course, anyone who knows Oatsies knows that the answer is D: you are faced with the prospect of a delicious treat. But for those who may not be in the know, let me share with you what exactly what an oatsie is, from my BFF cookbook, Betty Crocker's Cooky Book:

A delicious caramel-like oat confection topped with chocolate. Shared with us by Charlotte Johnson of our staff, who makes them often for her college-student son and daughter.

And a most sincere thanks to Ms. Johnson, wherever she may be, for these are indeed a treat to be treasured: sweet, lightly salty, nutty, oaty, caramelly, and extremely addictive.

Oatsies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup (recipe calls for dark; I used light because it is what I had)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate pieces (I used these nice fat chips)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Mix oats and sugar in a large, heatproof bowl (you'll need to pour a hot mixture over it soon).
  3. Melt butter; add syrup, salt, and vanilla. Pour over the oats and sugar; mix well.
  4. Pat mixture into a greased square pan (I used 8x8-inches).
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes--do not overbake! (How do you know it's done? It will be lightly bubbling on the sides)
  6. Melt chocolate and spread on top--or, if you're like me and don't read directions thoroughly, just sprinkle on the chocolate pieces and let them melt on the still-hot mixture.
  7. Sprinkle nuts on top of this, and let cool (or, again, like me, don't follow the directions and eat immediately. Messy, but tasty). You'll need a pretty sharp knife to cut these, as they're pretty sticky. Happily, I have a sharp and fancy knife called the "Jessica" (like me!) with which I can do these things.
Wednesday
Jun162010

CLOSED: Sweet Giveaway: Win a Love n Bake Sampler Pack!

Free stuff is the best--especially when it's sweet and delicious and when it has the potential to make you very, very, happily, fat.

This is all to say: how about a giveaway? Love n Bake, a manufacturer of what I can attest are completely delicious fillings for baking, has kindly offered a sampler pack of some of their most popular products for one lucky winner! It consists of a can each of almond filling, chocolate "schmear" filling (which one would use to make Blackout Crumb bars!), hazelnut praline filling, and almond paste. 

So, first things first. This giveaway is only open in the US--but other than that, entry is open! How do you get yourself in the running? Simply leave a comment letting me know what baking project you'd try first with these sweet fillings (don't worry, you won't be judged on originality--this is just to satisfy this spy's curiosity. Oh, and if you need ideas, get some on the Love n Bake blog). The giveway will close next Friday, June 25, at 12 pm PST, and a winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

So here goes: What sweet recipe would these fillings inspire you to try?

Update: the winner! We have a winner! Katie, who is going to put her prize to good use: "I would use the chocolate on mini chocolate chip cheesecake bites." Nom! Find Katie online here.

Wednesday
Jun162010

Lovely Leche: Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

When I encountered the recipe for Dulce de Leche Cheesecake bars in last month's issue of Bon Appetit, my eyes got really big and I think I probably said something like "Whoa".

After a brief moment of despair at having no graham crackers or cream cheese in the house, I found myself wondering "could this work with peanut butter and Reese's Puffs cereal instead?". And so I made said substitutions, and found myself with a pretty tasty treat. They could have chilled longer to set, but friends had no problem dealing with the dulce de leche ooze.

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground Reese's Puffs cereal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

 

  • 1 16-ounce jar peanut butter (preferably smooth, full-fat)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup purchased dulce de leche
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Glaze

 

  • 2/3 cup purchased dulce de leche
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) heavy whipping cream
  • (optional) a spoonful of hot fudge sauce

 

Procedure

 

  1. Make the Crust. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray (I used an 8x8-inch pan for fat, thick bars). Mix cereal crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add melted butter; stir until coated. Transfer crumb mixture to pan. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on rack.
  2. Make the Filling. Blend peanut butter and sugar in a stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, processing 3 to 5 seconds to blend between additions. Add dulce de leche and vanilla; process until blended, about 10 seconds. Spread batter evenly over cooled crust. Bake until just set in center and edges are puffed and slightly cracked, about 38 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.
  3. Make the Glaze. Heat dulce de leche, 3 tablespoons cream and chocolate sauce (if using) in microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if too thick to pour (amount of cream needed will depend on brand of dulce de leche). Pour glaze over cooled baked mixture; spread evenly. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour (glaze will not be firm). Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled. Sprinkle bars with fleur de sel.

 

Tuesday
Jun152010

Cake Byte: New Magnets by iPop!

What is that force pulling you to CakeSpy Shop?

The new magnets I just designed for iPop, natch.

There are several new magnet designs available both online and at the CakeSpy retail shop (and, if you're a retailer, you can order them wholesale directly from iPop), including:

A 2-inch jumbo magnet featuring Cuppie Love;

a 2-inch jumbo magnet featuring Cuppie the artist (pictured top);

a 5-pack of half-inch miscellaneous cupcakes;

and a 4-pack of 1-inch magnets featuring pie, cake, cupcake, and cookie!

 

...of course, the other super cute designs are still available too!

CakeSpy for iPop Clicks magnets, available here!

Tuesday
Jun152010

Belle of the Ball: Coconut Belles from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book

At first glance, Coconut Belles don't look like anything out of the ordinary: they look like a pleasing, if unremarkable, bar cookie.

But don't be fooled. The Coconut Belle one coy little cookie bar. I found them in the "family favorites" section of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, where this cryptic introduction drew me in:

Since this cooky is better the second day than the day it is baked, you must bake them yesterday to enjoy them today.

True to the intro, these cookies taste good just out of the oven, but become something else entirely when left to their own flavor-melding devices overnight: delicately scented with citrus and redolent of rich coconut, these cookies taste far more compelling than their appearance might imply.

Of course, if you bake them around midnight, does that mean they were baked close enough to yesterday to enjoy today? Customers at the store will see.

Coconut Belles

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract (I used lemon juice)
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. Mix butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, lemon, and cream thoroughly.
  3. Measure flour and mix with salt and baking powder; stir into wet mixture.
  4. Blend in the coconut and peel.
  5. Spread in a lightly greased pan (I used 8x8-inch). If desired, sprinkle extra coconut on top.
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. While warm, cut into bars. Serve cooled (the next day is best).
Monday
Jun142010

Seeing Red: Cocoa Red Velvet Strawberry Shortcake for Serious Eats

So, today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day. How are you celebrating?

My suggestion? Don your Strawberry Shortcake cartoon character tee from the 1980s, work up an appetite, and make a big batch of Red Velvet Strawberry Shortcake.

The biscuits in this version take a flavor (and, if desired, color) cue from the classic Southern cake, making use of buttermilk, cocoa and red food coloring, which lends a subtle sweetness which works wonderfully with freshly made whipped cream and strawberries, and makes for a very pretty presentation.

Read more--and find the recipe--on Serious Eats!

Monday
Jun142010

Whiskey Me Away: Chocolate Whiskey Cake from Columbia City Bakery

It's always five o'clock somewhere, but really, any hour that you devour the chocolate whiskey cake from Columbia City Bakery is a happy hour indeed.

This loaf cake is actually pretty simple: it starts with a dark as night, exceedingly dense and rich chocolate cake, which is then topped with a crowning glory of sweet-but-with-a-bite whiskey-espresso icing glaze.

Something happens when these flavors come together: the chocolate, the whiskey, the sugary glaze with a buzz of espresso: it might just make you tipsy with pleasure overload.

Oh, is this ever a happy cake.

Chocolate Whiskey cake from Columbia City Bakery, 4865 Rainier Ave. South, Seattle; also frequently available at the Broadway Farmer's Market; find out more online at columbiacitybakery.com.

Sunday
Jun132010

Ding Dong, Man: A Sweet Peek at a Classic Treat

Recently I came across an unexpected surprise at Seattle's Bauhaus Coffee: individually foil-wrapped Ding Dongs for just $1 each. Naturally this was a source of excitement--it's always exciting to find a homemade version of junk food!

Well, upon inquiring further, it turns out that the pastries themselves are nothing of serious note: per the employee I spoke to, they are, in fact, just the commercially made Hostess variety, re-packaged in foil.

However, while one might argue that this is simply a crafty way of re-packaging a 50 cent treat and charging more for it, as it turns out, this way of displaying them is actually quite authentic. Per Wikipedia:

Ding Dong is a chocolate cake that is sold by Hostess Brands. It is round with a flat top and bottom, about three inches in diameter and a little more than an inch high, similar in shape to a hockey puck. A white creamy filling is injected into the center, and a thin coating of chocolate glaze covers the entire cake. The cake was originally wrapped in a square of thick aluminum foil, enabling it to be carried in lunches without melting the chocolate glaze.

The page also goes on to discuss a bit more about the treat:

The Ding Dong is similar to other cream-filled cakes, such as Arcade Vachon's Jos. Louis introduced before 1934 and still in production. Hostess began marketing their Ding Dong in 1967. The name was given to coincide with a television ad campaign featuring a ringing bell. The company marketed the snacks on the East Coast as Big Wheels, to avoid confusion with the Ring Ding, a similar (and pre-existing) treat by Drake's Cakes. The names were consolidated in 1987, when a short-lived merger of Drake's with Hostess' parent company (then Continental Baking Company) briefly resolved the Ring Ding/Ding Dong conflict. When the merged company broke up, however, Hostess was forced to cease, once again, using the Ding Dongs name in areas where Ring Dings were available. The compromise sound-alike name King Dons lasted untilInterstate Bakeries Corporation, which had recently merged with Hostess' parent company, bought Drake's in 1998. The Hostess product is now sold under the name Ding Dongs throughout the United States. However, the snack is still sold as the King Don in Canada.

and to confirm the bit about the name, I also consulted the official Hostess page:

The name Ding Dong came from the chiming bells used in Hostess' first television commercials and you'll be singing a happy tune every time you polish off a package.  Nibble them slowly, like a king or queen, and savor the creamy goodness of every morsel, or bite right into that creamy center and get a mouthful of chocolate goodness.

Of course, the official page also introduced me to a game I'd never heard of: Ding Dong Ditch, which "involves knocking on the front door (or ringing the doorbell of) a victim, then running away before the door can be answered." Who knew? They even have a video of it in action, with celebrities. Here you go:

For more, check out the official Ding Dong page on the Hostess website!

Sunday
Jun132010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Sugar Couture

What happens when a documentary film producer decides to become a pastry chef?

You get delicious desserts of cinematic proportions!

This is the story behind Penny Stankiewicz, owner of Sugar Couture in NYC. What started out as taking a pastry course as a bit of a lark has turned into a full fledged custom dessert business with some serious clients: Sugar Couture has fattened up stars like Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Wyclef Jean, Hugh Jackman, Adele, Hayley Duff, Russel Simmons, Betsey Johnson and Donna Karan at various events. Not that I'm starstruck or anything.

And I can see why the stars flock to these sweet treats: with gorgeous cakes like the ones pictured (and yes, the one to the left does have braces), which come in flavors like "ultra rich butter" and "deep chocolate" (can't you just taste them?) and a signature mini Boston Creme Pie, I am a bit in love myself.

If you're in the NYC area, you can get ahold of some of Sugar Couture's desserts by custom order; for a behind the scenes look, check out the blog.

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