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Friday
Jul022010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet 4th of July Links

Happy Birthday, America. Let's celebrate by getting fat together! Here are some great ways to do it:

Explosively delicious: Pop Rocks cookies!

...but if it's hot, cool it down with Pop Rocks Ice cream!

Ice Dreams: a dozen masterpieces of ice cream sandwichery from Epicurious.

America the Sweet: Hartford Election Day Cake from United Cakes of America.

Totally sweet trompe l'oeuil: hot dog and hamburger style!

Red, White, and Blueberry: A pretty (tasty) cheesecake tart via Martha Stewart.

Strawberries are more American (and more delicious) when stuffed with cream cheese and Pecans. (thanks, Paula Deen!)

Dessert Nachos: heaven on a plate?

Seeing red isn't so bad, when it's Red Velvet Strawberry Shortcake.

Peachy Keen: Country peach pie sounds like a sweet treat!

Raise your eat flag high with this American Flag Cake, which I discovered via Serious Eats.

Got extra cake? No worries, cool it down in Cake Shake form!

These sweets aren't for eating, but aren't these 4th of July Donut Cufflinks cute? 

Thursday
Jul012010

CLOSED: United We Bake: A Totally Sweet United Cakes of America Giveaway!

America's about to get sweeter.

That's right, friends--it's time for a totally sweet giveaway!

This time, it's a super-exciting one: three lucky winners are going to win a copy of the delightful new book by Warren Brown (you may know him as the kind-of-a-big-deal owner of the Mid-Atlantic sweet empire CakeLove), United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State, in which you'll be treated to many, many delicious cake recipes inspired by different regions of the USA.

How do you get yourself in the running? 

It's easy. Just share your favorite regional cake recipe! It can be from the state or region you're in currently, or perhaps the place you grew up, or maybe just a place that has special meaning for you. Be sure to specify the region and why it has special meaning for you! You can either link to the recipe, or simply copy and paste the entire recipe in the comment section. 

The fine print: the giveaway will be open through next Friday, July 9th, at 12pm PST; the winners will be announced as soon as they have been contacted and their information has been confirmed (usually within a day or so). US residents only this time, please! Oh, and P.S. if you can't wait for a sneak peek of the book, check out some extras (videos, how-tos) here; and check out the recipe for Hartford Election Day Cupcakes I tried from the book here!

Thursday
Jul012010

Sweet Summer: The Strawberry 66 is Back at Cupcake Royale for July!

Strawberry 66 from Cupcake Royale, photo c/o Cupcake Royale

Let's get excited about Cupcake Royale. Why? It's that wonderful moment in time (the month of July) when they sell their made-locally, loved-globally treat, the Strawberry 66 Cupcake, made with "Sweet, ripe, super fresh strawberries from Skagit Sun Farms in an oh-so-summery buttercream atop a moist vanilla buttercake. Reminiscent of strawberry shortcake".

Why 66? Well, it's made with 66% local ingredients. That is no small feat! So not only is it sweet, it's a great way to support local farmers and vendors. Why does this matter? Well, according to owner Jody Hall,

I really believe in a sustainable business model - and local is one aspect of this ideal.  The 3 components of sustainability are environmental impact, economic viability, and impact on people.  With our effort to support local, independent businesses, we're hitting all three.  Because we're buying local products, we have a lighter environmental impact.  Impact is even lighter when we support the sustainable efforts of others as well. For example, our flour is sustainably grown with "no-till" farming methods that preserve topsoil, and our sugar is organic evaporated cane juice and has a much lighter impact in its processing.  

Looks like this summer is going to be totally sweet!

To obtain one of those delicious Strawberry 66 cupcakes, you can visit any of the four Cupcake Royale locations all July long; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com; for instant updates, follow them on Twitter!

Wednesday
Jun302010

Strawberry Blondies: Decadently Delicious Ice Cream Sandwiches

What's better than a blondie?

How about a peanut butter blondie?

And even better than that...how about two layers of peanut butter blondie sandwiched around sweet, rich, strawberry ice cream?

Forget blonde. Forget brunette. One bite of this confection and you'll only see strawberry blond(ie).

Starting out with my favorite blondie recipe (from the absolutely wonderful book All American Desserts by Judith M. Fertig) made awesomer with a decadent dose of creamy peanut butter, the addition of ice cream is hardly necessary, but it sure is welcome: the strawberry flavor with the peanut butter give an echo to the classic peanut butter and jelly pairing, but this end result is far sweeter--the perfect summery indulgence.

Here's how you make the magic happen in your own kitchen.

Strawberry Blondie Ice Cream Sandwiches

- Makes 12-24, depending on how big you want 'em -

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter (I used Mighty Maple)
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • To fill: 1-2 pints (depends how hungry you are) strawberry ice cream--do yourself and buy a good kind.

Procedure

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Lightly grease and parchment-line a 9x13 or 8x8-inch pan (I used 8x8 for fat, thick blondies).
  2. It's time to make the blondie batter. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in the pecans or walnuts (or no nuts, if you don't want 'em) and set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat the melted butter and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture, bit by bit, mixing well after each addition. I added in the peanut butter last, mixing until incorporated. The batter was super thick; spread it into your pan.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean when inserted in the center. If anything, it's better (taste-wise) to err on slightly under-baked.
  5. Let cool completely. Cut into squares.
  6. Cut each square in half lengthwise and place a dollop of strawberry ice cream on top of the bottom half. Put the top half on top of the ice cream to form a sandwich. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and lightly flatten with hands to make the ice cream flush with the blondie layer. Chill in the freezer for several hours before serving. Eat immediately after removing from the freezer.

 

Tuesday
Jun292010

Mac Attack: Chocolate Peanut Butter Macaroons Recipe

Macaroons don't really get much attention these days--these slightly frumpy, lumpy coconut cookies receive far less attention than their glamorous cousin, the macaron.

But there's a variation which ought to make you take notice: the Chocolate Peanut Butter Macaroon. The result of some kitchen experimenting when I was testing out a recipe for Angel Food Cake Macaroons from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns , this was a decidedly happy outcome, resulting in a cookie which is chewy, moist, and incredibly rich. So rich that adding frosting is excessive, though? Not a chance. Sandwiched with some leftover frosting from my Hartford Election Day cupcakes, these macaroons even approach being cute--but more importantly, they're an absolute dream to eat.

Note: While I used a cake mix recipe for the macaroons, I have a feeling that adding the peanut butter and cocoa to just about any plain coconut macaroon recipe would probably work out fine.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Macaroons Recipe

Adapted from Angel Food Macaroons from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns

- Makes about 48 small cookies -

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) Angel Food Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth, or lightly grainy textures, work best--don't use chunky. Or low fat)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • You'll need: Parchment paper, for lining baking sheets

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Place the cake mix, water, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl; mix in your electric mixer on low speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat for one more minute. 
  3. Add your peanut butter and cocoa powder and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  4. Fold in the coconut.
  5. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on your prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the macaroons until they are set and just browned lightly on the edges--about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper with macaroons on top onto a wire rack to cool for five minutes. Using a small metal spatula, remove the macaroons from the paper. You can re-use the parchment paper if you still have any dough left over as the macaroons will come off quite cleanly.
  7. If desired, once cooled, turn over frost the bottom (flat side) of half of the macaroons and sandwich together with a second one. I used the leftover frosting from this recipe, and man, was it good.
Tuesday
Jun292010

Cake Byte: The Essential Baking Company wins top honors in Francophile Fruit Tart Contest

Sweet news from Seattle's Essential Baking Company:

With an Aprium Raspberry Tart topped with a chorus line of high kicking cookie cancan dancers, The Essential Baking Company brought the Moulin Rouge to Seattle and took home the top prize in yesterday’s 2nd Annual Francophile Fruit Tart Contest, sponsored by the French American Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest.

Represented by assistant dessert chef Jennifer Volk, EBC’s Parisian-themed entry in the contest features fresh apriums, an apricot-plum hybrid, and raspberries baked on almond financier cake in a buttery tart shell, topped with apricot glaze and the cookie cancan dancers.

After placing second by only a slight margin in the 2009 competition, EBC came back strong this year to win it all. Judging criteria included: use of seasonal products, creativity with the Parisian theme, visual artistry and appearance, technical skill, and flavor and texture.

Congratulations to Essential Baking!

Monday
Jun282010

Look to the Cookie Sandwich: Black and White Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

Paul Simon once sang that "everything looks worse in black and white". Clearly, the guy had never sampled a black and white ice cream sandwich cookie. 

Now, technically the black and white cookie isn't a cookie at all, but a cake--a drop cake, to be exact. So you know what that means? This is basically a trinity of awesome: cakey cookies, sweet frosting, and creamy, rich ice cream. 

And due to its technical cake status, it's what I've decided to enter as my entry in the TLC Cake Crew's first challenge! Curious to hear more?

And once baked, cooled, and stacked, these babies make you remember what summer desserts are all about: pure, unadulterated joy.

In fact, there's only one thing about this black and white treat that might give you pause: if you choose to alternate the alignment of the frosting and ice cream flavors, which side do you eat first?

For the full entry and recipe (including cookies adapted from David Lebovitz's newest book, Ready for Dessert), visit Serious Eats! But for the reader's digest version, here are the instructions for assembly--have one scoop of vanilla, and one of chocolate ice cream, ready for each sandwich.

Assembly of Black and White Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

(makes about 12 sandwiches using the recipe linked above)

Get out your ice cream, and let it sit outside of the freezer for 10 minutes or so to soften a bit before assembling. I used a carton of Neapolitan ice cream so that I could grab spoonfuls right along the chocolate-vanilla line to sandwich between my cookies. Turn one of the unfrosted cookies so that the flat side is up; place a nice-sized scoop of vanilla-chocolate ice cream directly on top. Using a spoon, lightly flatten the top of the scoop to make room for the rounded bottom of the cookie that you'll be placing on top. Place the frosted cookie on top, and gently press down so that the sandwich comes together. Using a butter knife, gently smooth the sides of the ice cream so that it is flush with the edges of the cookie.

Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and store in the freezer for at least one hour to allow the ice cream to set. Enjoy immediately upon removing from the freezer.

Saturday
Jun262010

Big Fun: An Enormous, and Delicious, Cinnamon Roll

Have you ever wondered "what would happen if you baked a package of pop-n-bake cinnamon rolls as one long, continuously huge cinnamon roll?".

If so, you're not alone. And happily, I have the answer: it's basically the easiest way ever to make a big pile of awesome. And, ah, you know, work your way toward morbid obesity.

The finished product vaguely resembles a cross-section of a very old tree--but in this case, each ring in its spiral is a layer of delicous.

Now, I'm not quite sure if these pictures really convey scale. If you need a realistic idea of the scale of this thing, consider the size of a football player's head, in a helmet, and you'll be getting the idea.

A Very Large Cinnamon Roll

Serves 1-8, depending on how hungry you are

Ingredients

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place one of the rolls in the center of a large, lightly buttered baking pan (either 9x9 or 9x13-inch). Unroll the next one and continue it in a spiral around the first one; repeat with the succeeding rolls until you have one long, continuous snail of a cinnamon roll.
  3. Bake 25-29 minutes or until browned.
  4. Spread with the provided icing.
  5. Enjoy. 
Saturday
Jun262010

Cake Byte: Urban Craft Uprising, Summer 2010 Edition!

OK, sweeties. If you're in Seattle, it's time for some serious awesome. If you're not in Seattle, it's time for a road (or plane!) trip. 

Yup, that's right. It's time for the Urban Craft Uprising, Summer 2010 Edition. Oh, and I did the offical artwork for it this time. Awesome, right?

It's back, bigger and badder than ever, including an array of amazing vendors (including CakeSpy, This Charming Candy, Secret Stash Sea Salts, Mucho Design, and so many more!)--and, have I mentioned that is on the same day as the Mobile Chowdown? Like, hello awesome!

Here are the details:

Urban Craft Uprising

July 10 & 11, 2010 (Sat. and Sun.)

Seattle Center

For more details, visit the official website!

Saturday
Jun262010

Executive Sweetness: The Cake Committee of New York

File under "Best Thing, Possibly Ever": The Cake Committee.

I know, I know. You love it already. But what is it, exactly?

Per Charlotte Druckman in the T Magazine in the NY Times, it all began when

Last summer, Peter Ting, a London-based ceramist, gathered friends (mostly artists or design-world recruits), all of whom had one thing in common: a love of baking. The group began hosting Thames-side teas for which each member would whip-up a “little” something. Invited guests would be asked to pay a relatively minor cover charge, which granted them unlimited access to the parade of desserts. The “caterers” would pocket none of the proceeds to cover their baking costs. Instead, 100 percent of the funds went to whichever local charity the Cake Committee deemed fit for the occasion. As silly and quirky as the enterprise sounds, these sweet salons draw a swank bunch, and are known to raise about $1,500 each. One year in, the Committee has satellites across the world, from Maine to Singapore and, as of Thursday night, New York City.

Although organizers referred to the event as a "helping-hands, at-home operation" nonetheless, the New York chapter didn't feature traditional homespun bakesale fare, opting instead for luscious cuatro leches cakes, nut-filled Italian wedding cake, and strawberry coconut cake.

When all was said and done, the $20-entry for all you can eat dessert ended up making over $1400 for sweet causes, and will be split between the Friends of the French Culinary Institute, which raises money for need-based scholarships to the FCI, and The Center, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community organization in the West Village.

Of course, altruism aside, the author ultimately concludes that it's a sweet deal for attendees too:

On the way out, over-indulgers smirked guiltily while the weary bakers were already talking about which cakes they’d bring to the committee’s next meeting, in September. After all, Schwan mused, “What is life but happiness, cake and love? After a night of cake, you wake up and realize, irony is very passé.”

All of which begs the question: when are you going to start your own chapter? Here's to making the world a sweeter place.

For the full article, visit the T Magazine page.

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