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Saturday
Jan292011

Taking it to the Sweet: Sidewalk Chalk to Make the World a Sweeter Place

Truth? Seattle can be dreary in the winter. Especially after Christmas, when all of the holiday lights come down. Actually, it is this Spy's firm belief that this is a big part of the reason that coffee and pastries have such a big presence in the Emerald city: we have to keep warm and cheerful somehow.

And today, I decided to make my cold-and-rainy commute to CakeSpy Shop a bit funner by leaving a little sweetness in my wake. Sidewalk chalk in hand, I made the world (and my walk) just a little sweeter, like so:

This utility marking of some sort, originally just an unassuming number five, got an automatic sugary makeover;

a manhole got turned into a cake-hole;

a tagged doorway got a sugar-coating;

...of course, at one point I did have to tell Cuppie that he was a bit behind the times...

Cuppie found a waffle in the urban wilderness;

instead of stop, I said "GO!" to sweetness;

...and though it's not necessarily cake-related, I left an optimistic note of sweetness for whoever might happen upon it:

These sidewalk chalk tributes likely washed away quickly, but talk about a way to brighten up a rainy day!

Saturday
Jan292011

Cake Byte: New Cake Plates and Knives by French Bull

What is it about cake that makes us want to put it on a pedestal...and then hack it up with a knife?

Well, why we could ponder what this says about us psychologically, it's far funner to browse pretty cake accessories on the internet. And these are probably the most fashion-forward that I've come across in a long time: gorgeous new cake plates and knives by French Bull, a company headed up by the very brilliant Jackie Shapiro (who I had the great pleasure of working with in my pre-Cake Gumshoery life, when I worked at iPop!).

Cake murder has never looked so good.

Want to buy them? These cake plates will retail around $30 and the knives will retail around $15--mark your calendars, because they will make their debut in the online French Bull shop on February 15.

 

Friday
Jan282011

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

It's, like, SO Friday. Let's celebrate a sweet weekend ahead, starting with some awesome sugar-stuffed links:

Sweet! Sweetie Pies from MegPies (pictured top) are not only a sweet sentiment, but very cute to boot.

Fun, fun, funfetti: Peabody and I are sympatico: while I was frying some Funfetti Pancakes, she was baking Funfetti Bread Pudding.

Sweet love: I've got a bakery crush on Naeglin's, the oldest bakery in Texas! I'd love to visit this bakery, which has an interesting history and delicious menu! (Thanks Sabrina for the tip!)

Jim's Pancakes: Cute and sweet!

Sweet read: I just read (and truly enjoyed) True Confections: A Novel by Katharine Weber, a novel about a confectionery family business at war with itself. Though the story is fictional, many details about the candymaking industry ring true!

Whoopie! A recipe and sweet tribute, from Bake and Destroy.

Speaking of whoopie pies, this Maine institution offers them in big, bigger, and biggest sizes.

Just donut: a fascinating recipe for doughnuts using instant biscuits.

Biscuit time: the cutest joconde you've ever seen!

Curious about how that book of mine is coming along? Here's a sweet sneak peek on the blog of the photographer, Clare Barboza!

One crafty cupcake: check out what a sweet blogger made with the CakeSpy stamps for Taylored Expressions!

Sweet desktop designs, and cupcake toppers, by artist Anne Bryant (via Diggin Food)

Finally, you just have a few more days to shop for original artwork at Trophy Cupcakes - I am taking down the show at Wallingford on the 31st! Quick, get yourself over there and buy some CakeSpy art!

Thursday
Jan272011

Cake Byte: Valentine Card Assortment!

As you've probably started to suspect, what with the proliferation of heart-shaped boxes full of candy at grocery and drugstores and endcap displays packed with conversation hearts, Valentine's Day is coming.

And undoubtedly, there are some sweet people in your life who are deserving of a sweet note for the occasion.

Happily, there's a new Valentine assortment of cards now available in the online shop! It's a 9-pack of cards, 3 each of the sweetest CakeSpy designs: "Cuppie Love" (greeted with "You're Sweet and I Like You"); Cake Loves Pie (blank inside) and Cookie Loves Milk (blank inside).

As I see it, there are two good reasons to buy these cards:

1. You want them.

2. They will delight the recipients.

See? Win-win. This double happiness can be attained by clicking on over to cakespyshop.com! If you're in Seattle, they can also be purchased at Cupcake Royale locations or at the retail CakeSpy Shop!

Thursday
Jan272011

Ask CakeSpy: How Can I Become a Superstar Dessert Blogger?

Dear CakeSpy,

I recently started a food blog, and I have a question: how do I make my site a sweet success like yours? Cos, you know, I totally want to quit my day job and write about food all day. So how do I garner a following and get famous, quick?

Love, 

Fellow Foodie

- - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Dear Foodie,

Well, I am sure flattered that you think I'm famous. Because, you know, other than the millions of dollars in my bank account, I'm really just like you.

I'm kidding, of course--but this touches on something I am asked all the time: "How do you make money?". Sometimes within five minutes of meeting me. For reals.

But it's ok--I don't find this rude, because I think it is a genuinely interesting thing--how do you turn a food blog into a business, from which you can actually make money?

I don't consider myself an expert, but as someone who makes a (very modest) living from a business based on my blog, let me offer up some of my thoughts.

First off, start your blog because you love it, not to make money or become an international superstar. When I started CakeSpy, I started it as a place to channel my love of baked goods, writing, and illustrating in one place. I thought I would do this while I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life--I never thought that the blog could be the springboard for a business. And I can honestly say that I would still be maintaining the blog even if I didn't make a cent from it, because I genuinely love it.

Think about content first. Because while it's a great goal to get a zillion visitors to your site, they are not going to come back if there's nothing interesting to read. So in my opinion, concentrate on providing great, engaging content first. Once you've gotten some content on your site, start promoting yourself by creating a community--leave comments and get involved in the conversation on other blogs you like, submit your posts to sites like TasteSpotting and FoodGawker, promote them on sites like Reddit or Stumbleupon, link to your posts via Flickr photos (and join like-minded photo groups), and of course update Twitter and Facebook with new posts.

Take nice pictures. It's always nice to click over to a blog and be greeted with a pretty picture, isn't it? However, don't get your panties in a twist over the equipment. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy camera (of course, it's your money, so if you love having gadgets, go for it). My camera cost me less than $100, and I've been using the same one since I started the site, and while my photos aren't professional grade, I think they work just fine to convey the rich and delicious nature of many of the sweets featured on the site. 

Of course, I should give a side note on commenting on other blogs. In my opinion it's best to leave comments on blogs you like and follow--simply spam-commenting on as many blogs as you can to increase people clicking over to your site is not only disrespectful, but kind of annoying. 

And of course, there's that bit about getting links on other blogrolls. I am not speaking for everyone here, just for my own site, but here are my thoughts on the matter. I link to several sites that I enjoy on mine, but in general, you're not going to get a link on my site simply by asking or offering to trade. I generally will link to blogs and sites that I like and think you will too--it rubs me the wrong way to receive requests to add other people's links to my site if I have never heard of them or seen their website before. However, a thoughtful email introducing me to a new website (um, not a copied and pasted "Dear Blogger" email) might eventually result in me linking to the site!

Oh, and I guess I'll come back to that money thing. I'm sure that there are some superstar bloggers who make a zillion dollars through advertising -- I am not one of them. I make a modest amount from monthly advertising, but I will be honest--the majority of my income is from other projects that have come as a result of my work on the blog: freelance writing and illustration assignments, and wholesale and retail orders from my product line, and one of these days, a book advance. It often feels like my income comes in small amounts from various places, rather than coming in monthly paychecks. I will admit, it makes tax time very painful and headache-y. 

OK. So, in a nutshell:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Start creating content that you love. Post stuff that keeps you engaged, and post regularly.
  3. Once you have a few things up, start creating a community with other blogs that you like--follow them, leave comments, link to them.
  4. Start promoting yourself on networking / sharing sites as mentioned above.
  5. Fame and fortune will follow! Or not. But it's ok, because remember: YOU ARE HAVING FUN. 

Hope this helps!

For the love of blog,

CakeSpy

Thursday
Jan272011

Life or Deathcake: Cupcake Royale Brings Back the Deathcake Royale

It's truly the most wonderful time of year in Seattle.

No, not Christmas, jerk: it's time for the yearly debut of the Deathcake Royale.

If this is death by chocolate, then bring on the gurney: this little brickster of a chocolate cake may have a hefty price tag, (at $6.66 it's definitely devilish), but be assured that it's an investment in pure pleasure: gorgeously decadent, comprised of a chocolate trifecta: Royale's chocolate cake, Stumptown Coffee ganache, and Theo Chocolate Decadence. 

Dude. This cake is good. 

This cake is served in a cubelike form designed to be "shared by lovers and loved by haters"; technically, it is meant to be shared, but one couldn't be blamed for downing it solo.

Ready for some Deathcake Royale? Start your calisthenics now, because this baby's making its debut on January 28, and will be available through February 14 at all Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and hours, visit cupcakeroyale.com. You can also stay on top of their sweet news via their blog and their twitter feed.

Thursday
Jan272011

Sweet Giveaway: A Melange of Chocolate Cake and Brownie Mixes from Naturally Nora

Guess what? Today is officially National Chocolate Cake Day (which basically means that every other day is unofficially chocolate cake day, no caps involved).

And to celebrate, Naturally Nora, a manufacturer of all-natural, no-creepy-ingredient cake mixes, has kindly offered up a sweet prize for one lucky reader: a parcel containing a box of their chocolate cake mix, a box of their chocolate frosting mix, and a box of brownie mix. 

Having sampled these sweet mixes for myself during my week of birthday cake making, I can attest that they are highly delicious--and everyone knows that for a quick fix, it's fun to use a mix. (Yes, I just made that up)

How do you put yourself in the running? Simply leave a comment below stating your favorite type of chocolate cake. Perhaps it's German chocolate? Or Black forest? Or a simple chocolate birthday cake with fluffy buttercream frosting? 

The giveaway will close on February 2 at 12pm PST; the winner will be announced shortly after. US Entrants only, please. Oh, and if you can't wait for these mixes, find a retailer near you via the Naturally Nora site; you can also find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Wednesday
Jan262011

Holey Grail: Why Do Doughnuts Have Holes?

If you are a truly devoted doughnut lover, it's likely that this doughy dilemma has come up in your mind: why do doughnuts have holes? 

Turns out, there are a few tales out there. Let's discover them together, shall we?

At least three versions of the story involve a Mr. Hanson Gregory, a seafarer who turned tall-tale-teller in his golden years. According to a 1938 article in The Tuscaloosa News,

it remained for an old New England Sea captain, one Hanson Gregory, from Camden, Maine, to introduce the hole in the doughnut, as we know it today. As an old man he liked to tell his story many times--how as a boy he had been watching his mother frying doughnuts and had noticed that the centers always remained partially uncooked and doughy. 'Mother', he said, "leave a hole in the center." Laughingly, she obliged him and never went back to the old way. Her method was widely copied.

There is also an unlikely, but wholly (holey?) enjoyable, version of the story, also involving Gregory, which goes thusly (according to the Lewiston Evening Journal): "one legend is that he liked to munch fried cakes while steering his craft. One day, in 1847, the seas were rough and he needed both hands to control the rudder. So he slapped several cakes on the spoke of his wheel, making holes."

And third, there is a lighthearted variation on the lightened fried doughnut rounds which states that Gregory purposefully poked a hole in the doughnut to lighten it up "because he had already lost six men overboard due to the heaviness of the doughnuts".

Of course, according to aforementioned Lewiston article, another New Englander, Henry Ellis, of Hyannis, MA, argued there was even a more outlandish story behind the doughnut hole: "An Indian's arrow aimed at a housewife pierced a round of fried cake". The article does not back this up with any evidence, but you know, this could just be further proof that it wasn't all making nice and Thanksgiving in the early US.

Of course, Hanson Gregory's tales get even more street cred based on the fact that he's the only one commemorated as doughnut hole inventor who boasts a historical plaque: it's true. In Rockport, ME, you can find a plaque inscribed with the following: "In commemmoration. This is the birthplace of Captain Hanson Gregory, who first invented the hole in the doughnut in 1847. Erected by his friends, Nov. 2, 1947."

And beyond that, the oldest article I could find on the subject points to Gregory as well (from the Washington Post, March 26, 1916), which I found here:

Old Salt” Doughnut Hole Inventor Tells Just How Discovery Was Made And Stomach of Earths Saved 

Boston, March 25.—The man who invented the hole in the doughnut has been found. He is Capt. Hanson Gregory, at present an inmate in Sailor’s Snug Harbor, at Quincy, Mass. Doughnut cutters have made fortunes for men; millions eat doughnuts for breakfast and feel satisfied. Doctors do not assail the doughnut. And all of this owes its being to Capt. Gregory, who made the doughnut a safe, sane and hygienic food. 

It’s a long story, mates; but as the 85-year-old chap relates it, it’s only too short. Outside the fact that Capt. Gregory is a bit hard of hearing, he’s as sound as new timber. 

He’s a product of Maine; and so Maine can lay claim to the discoverer of the hole in the doughnut, along with the discoverer of new ways to evade the prohibition laws. But Capt. Gregory’s discovery is of real use in the world; millions have risen, and millions more shall rise up, and call him blessed. 

‘Bout ‘47 Was the Date. 
“It was way back—oh, I don’t know just what year—let me see—born in ‘31, shipped when I was 13—well, I guess it was about ‘47, when I was 16, that I was aboard ship and discovered the hole which was later to revolutionize the doughnut industry. 

“I first shipped aboard the Isaac Achorn, three-masted schooner, Capt. Rhodes, in the lime trade.  
Later I joined other crews and other captains, and it was on one of these cruises that I was mawing doughnuts. 

“Now in them days we used to cut the doughnuts into diamond shapes, and also into long strips, bent in half, and then twisted.  I don’t think we called them doughnuts then—they was just ‘fried cakes’ and ‘twisters.’ 

“Well, sir, they used to fry all right around the edges, but when you had the edges done the insides was all raw dough.  And the twisters used to sop up all the grease just where they bent, and they were tough on the digestion.” 

“Pretty d—d tough, too!” profanely agreed one of the dozen pipe-smoking fellows who were all eyes and ears, taking in their comrade’s interview by The Post reporter. 

With a glance at the perfervid interrupter, the discoverer continued: 

“Well, I says to myself, ‘Why wouldn’t a space inside solve the difficulty?’ I thought at first I’d take one of the strips (Col. 2—ed.) and roll it around, then I got an inspiration, a great inspiration. 

“I took the cover off the ship’s tin pepper box, and—I cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!” 

“Were you pleased?” 

“Was Columbus pleased?  Well, sir, them doughnuts was the finest I ever tasted.  No more indigestion—no more greasy sinkers—but just well-done, fried-through doughnuts. 

“That cruise over, I went home to my old mother and father in Camden, Me., where I was born. My father, Hanson Gregory, sr., lived to be 93, and my mother lived to be 79. She was a pretty old lady then. I saw her making doughnuts in the kitchen—I can see her now, and as fine a woman as ever-lived, was my mother. 

Taught Trick to Mother. 
“I says to her: ‘Let me make some doughnuts for you.’ She says all right, so I made her one or two and then showed her how. 

“She then made several panfuls and sent them down to Rockland, just outside Camden. Everybody was delighted and they never made doughnuts any other way except the way I showed my mother. 

“Well, I never took out a patent on it; I don’t suppose any one can patent anything he discovers; I don’t suppose Peary could patent the north pole or Columbus patent America. But I thought I’d get out a doughnut cutter—but somebody got in ahead of me. 

Hole “Cut Out,” His Joke. 
“Of course a hole ain’t so much; but it’s the best part of the doughnut--you’d think so if you had ever tasted the doughnuts we used to eat in ‘31. Of course, lots of people joke about the hole in the doughnut.  I’ve got a joke myself:  Whenever anybody says to me: ‘Where’s the hole in the doughnut?’ I always answer: ‘It’s been cut out!’” and the old chap laughed loud and longat his little sally, while the rest joined in. 

So there he sits—in the Snug Harbor by the sea. And whenever there’s doughnuts on the day’s fare, Capt. Gregory takes a personal pride trying to do what nobody’s succeeded in doing yet—in trying to find the hole in the doughnut. And whenever the old salts rally him about it, he always springs his little joke: 

“The hole’s been cut out, I guess!” to the delight of the whole shipful. 

While Gregory certainly has the flashiest connections to the doughnut hole, I'd just like to offer up a couple more bits of food for thought: 

Some say that the Pennsylvania Dutch were responsible for making the first holey doughnuts in the US, cutting the centers to ensure even frying and easier dunking. 

Another theory that I personally have is that an explanation for the doughnut hole may be twofold: while the ease in even frying certainly makes sense, it also seems that the doughnut was rising in popularity in the US around the same time as the bagel, which were frequently sold on sticks on the Lower East Side of New York City. Could this easy mode of selling have perpetuated the ring around the doughnut?

Oh, and finally, what of the dough from the middle? Interestingly, those little doughnut dots we love so much aren't necessarily cut from the same dough as the doughnut: "commercially made ring doughnuts are not made by cutting out the central portion of the cake but by dropping a ring of dough into hot oil from a specially shaped nozzle. However, soon after ring doughnuts became popular, doughnut sellers began to see the opportunity to market "holes" as if they were the portions cut out to make the ring."

Seeking more holey grail? You might want to check out this article on Barry Popik, this one on Mr. Breakfast, or the fascinating Wikipedia entry. And of course, if you call yourself a doughnut devotee but don't own Donuts: An American Passion by John T. Edge, you really should remedy that immediately. It's a great book.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Cake Byte: Artist Reception with Bunny Lee at CakeSpy Shop on February 10

There isn't much cake in Bunny Lee's artwork, but it sure is sweet! 

She'll be showing a series of original watercolor and pencil pieces at the retail CakeSpy Shop in February--many of them affordably priced under $100 for original artwork!

The artist herself will be on hand for a reception on the Second Thursday--and there will be cake served!

Here are the details:

Artist Reception with Bunny Lee

  • Thursday, February 10
  • at CakeSpy Shop, 415 E Pine St, Seattle WA 98122
  • 5-8 p.m.
  • The art will be up all month!

Shop for other sweet stuff online at cakespyshop.com.

Monday
Jan242011

Have Some Funfetti: Funfetti Pancakes for Serious Eats

Fact: half of the word "pancake" is comprised of the word "cake". Actually, if you want to get really technical, it's slightly more than half.

And in celebration of bringing more cake to the pan, I'd like to present my newest invention: Funfetti Pancakes.

By lightly modifying a typical cake mix, you can make your own DIY pancake mix; the resulting pancakes are light and fluffy, but sweeter (and in this case, more colorful) than the typical griddle fare. Top them with jam, syrup, or even cake frosting for a morning treat that tastes like sweet fun.

For the full entry (and recipe!) visit Serious Eats!

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