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Friday
Oct152010

Awesome Overload: 50 Moments from the Sweetest Week Ever

Life is pretty sweet, no doubt about it.

But a couple of weeks ago, when I had the distinct pleasure and honor of attending CupcakeCamp in Newport, OR -- as well as several other sweet occurrences in the days following -- it was a little bit sweeter than usual.

Share the memories with me (that was a command, not a request):

  1. To warm up my belly for a long day of eating cupcakes, I was sure to stop and get a delicious biscuit first, from The Coffee House, a place with a lackluster name but amazing sweets. How far would you travel for a delicious biscuit? Consider a road trip to Newport.
  2. Arriving at the show, I felt so welcome.
  3. OMG! My artwork was on the poster!
  4. Double OMG: I think this is the first time I've ever seen my likeness on a poster. Cake celebrity!
  5. Triple OMG: Look who else is on the poster!Photo credit: Bakerella
  6. This is a big one: I finally got to meet Bakerella.
  7. Bakerella! 
  8. Finally! After all of our sweet back and forth.
  9. And I got to meet her friend "Cupcake Julie", too, who is an absolute delight and inspiration!
  10. I got to hang out with my friend (and CakeSpy sponsor) Carrie of Bella Cupcake Couture fame. This time, she was one of the judges at CupcakeCamp.
  11. I also got to meet Dianna Lopez, who is a professional cake decorator and taught a decorating class in which they used my artwork as inspiration. Cool!
  12. This time, I got to teach a class, showing children (and kids at heart) how to watercolor cupcakes. Of course, there was some confusion about this--I taught them how to do watercolors OF cupcakes, not watercolor ON cupcakes.
  13. I may or may not have felt slight pangs of jealousy when I saw the kids' creations, like this one
  14. And this one
  15. and this one
  16. and this one
  17. and this one
  18. and this one
  19. and this one
  20. and this one
  21. ...and this one too.
  22. And the adults had some nice showings too--here's Julie's (above).
  23. ...and Bakerella's (above).
  24. You'd think that after judging cupcakes at Seattle's CupcakeCamp, I'd be tired of tasting cupcakes 30 at a time. But you're wrong.
  25. There were so many delightful displays of cupcakes, but one of the standouts was definitely by Rocket Queen, whose cupcakes I have enjoyed in the past.
  26. Judging was hard, but someone had to do it, and so I tasted peanut butter filled and frosted cupcakes...
  27. ...and huckleberry cupcakes...
  28. and decorated cupcakes...
  29. and cupcakes for Halloween...
  30. and rainbow cupcakes...
  31. rows and rows of cupcakes...
  32. and cupcakes decorated to look like ice cream sundaes (!)
  33. and cupcakes made by kids (maybe some of the same kids who took my class?)
  34. and vegan cupcakes...
  35. ...and even cupcakes with fish!
  36. ...and wouldn't you believe, I was even asked to AUTOGRAPH something. I felt like a bona fide big deal, people.
  37. After all this awesome, I kind of wanted to take a nap, but I didn't. I powered on over to Portland, where my totally sweet friend Nicole was having a bachelorette weekend. I arrived just in time for cheesecake from Laurelhurst Market (good timing!).
  38. And back at the hotel room, there were cupcakes from Cupcake Royale.
  39. In the morning, we went to Mother's, where I love the biscuits and cookies...
  40. ...before breakfast, we got a cinnamon roll.
  41. ...and after breakfast, we got some chocolate cake (secret ingredient: BEETS! Pictured at top of post)
  42. ...and then after that, while browsing about, I discovered the best bike in the world: Biscuit Bike!
  43. Then, I saw some of my artwork at Presents of Mind!
  44. Back home in Seattle, Bakerella and Julie came to visit my store!
  45. ...and while they were there, I was surprised by a visit from Cake Gumshoe Phuong (here all the way from Boston!)
  46. ...and a visit too from the amazing food writer Rebekah Denn and her adorable new baby daughter, who I have taken to calling "Miss Marshmallow".
  47. All of them (Bakerella, Julie, Phuong, and Rebekah) got to meet Porkchop.
  48. I was also an expert on Questionland that week. Cool!
  49. And later on that week, a visit and little Halloween shindig with the totally awesome Alicia Kachmar.Photo Credit: Bakerella
  50. And finally, a question and answer session and book signing at Williams-Sonoma with Bakerella before we sent her on the rest of her totally sweet tour.

 

Friday
Oct152010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Hello, weekend! It's off to a sweet start, with links like these:

Like push-up pops, only awesomer: Cake Shooters!

Because stuff baked in stuff is awesome: cakes and pies, all at once!

OMG: Cake in a Jar? Yes, Patty. Cake in a Jar. (for Serious Eats!)

Cakesplosion! The God of Cake. (thanks Jason!)

In case you've never heard of it: marvel at the Pretzel Croissant from City Bakery.

Twix Cheesecake Pie. Forget "I love you", these are the three most beautiful words.

Pumpkin Challah? HOLLA!

Cupcakes Take The Cake is turning six! There's gonna be a party! Guess who did the artwork for the invite? Right here. (pictured top)

Fact: I recently enjoyed browsing this collection of dessert quotes.

OMG: Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Muffins, by Joy the Baker.

Double OMG: Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes, also by Joy the Baker. I love you, Joy the Baker.

Dudes, dudettes, have you shopped the totally sweet Jill Labieniec art available at CakeSpy Shop?

Sweet memories: remember when I did this interview with my mom? 

Thursday
Oct142010

Guest Post: How To Make Homemade Sugar Decorations by Nellie Cakes

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Nellie Cakes, a blog written by Nell, a mom who taught herself how to bake so her daughter could have way cooler cupcakes on her birthday than anyone else in school. 

I was originally going to write about how to make your own sanding sugar, which is cool in and of itself, but while I was coloring the sugar for the photos I was going to post I got inspired and decided to make some home made sugar decorations too (finished product pictured top left).

The cupcake is plain old chocolate, the icing is Swiss Meringue buttercream and the flower is completely made out of sugar. It’s a cute little thing, isn’t it? I’ve also decorated a cake with sugar stars and an owl.

To make your own colored sugar, you’ll need a cup of regular granulated sugar, some liquid food coloring and a very tight sealing container. I’m not messing around on this point. If it’s not super air tight you’re going to end up with sugar all over your kitchen and ants may or may not invade your home and eat your kitchen down to the floor beams. If this does happen, I will not be held responsible!

All of your stuff should resemble this:

If your stuff doesn’t resemble this stuff, you have already screwed up too badly to go on. Disregard the rest of the post if you can’t put some sugar in a container.

Next, put a few drops of whatever color you’d like into the bowl. I decided on pink for the flowers, but you can make them any color you’d like. Or you don’t have to make flowers at all. I guess it just depends on what cookie cutters you have. Or what food coloring. Anyway, it should look like this now:

Start out with only a few drops because it’s harder to lighten the sugar than it is to darken it. If you try to lighten it you’ll have a more speckeld effect.

I have to warn you, your colored sugar isn’t going to look like the store bought kind. That stuff has something in it to make it shiney. This stuff will be a little less sparkly, but still very pretty. It works out though, because when you make the sugar decorations, using the store bought stuff makes it harder to get a clean edge on your design. The crystals on the store bought stuff are bigger, which is a pain when you try to put the cookie cutter through it.

Once you have a few drops in, close up the lid nice and tight. You might even want to put the container in a zip lock bag just to be safe. After you’ve made sure it’s on lock down, shake theshit out of it. Really go crazy! The harder you shake it the faster the color will disperse. You have to change the dirrection of your shaking every so often too. The goal of the shaking is to break the ball of wet sugar into a bunch of tiny pieces so the color can be mixed around. Is your arm tired yet? Does it look like this?

If it looks like this, you’re not done. You can either close it back up and shake the shit out of it some more, or you can take a fork and break up the little balls of food coloring, then close it up and shake it some more. When it’s finally finished, it will look like this:

But less wet. The wet comes later.

Isn’t that pretty? I used about 8 drops of the neon grocery store food coloring for this pink.

Now that you have your pretty sugar, it’s time to make the decorations. Get out your trusty 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, some wax paper, something nice and flat (I’m using the bottom of my 1 cup measuring spoon), and tiny cookie cutters of your choice (or random house hold objects like a bottle cap for a circle).

Measure out 1/2 a teaspoon of water for each cup of sugar you colored and pour it into the container. Close it up and shake the shit out of it again. All of the same rules apply. You still want to break that ball of sugar up so the moisture spreads itself around. Once you’re done, it should feel like wet sand. Squish some of it between your fingers. If it holds a shape, you’re good. If it doesn’t, try adding a tiny bit more water, drop by drop and then reshake it until it does.

Once you have some wet sugar, lay out a big piece of wax paper and dump some of the sugar on top of it. Take the flat thing you have and push it down so you have a layer that’s about 1/4 inch. If it’s thicker, that’s ok too. You just want it to feel like it’s packed down.

Take your cookie cutter and press it into the sugar like you’re cutting out cookies but don’t lift it back out! Instead, keep the cookie cutter flat on the surface and drag it to the side, like so:

Keep it on the waxed paper, and start a line of sugar cut outs as far away from your mound of sugar as possible to allow yourself more room. Once you get however many you will need, make a few more. You will end up breaking some, I promise. I know you guys know what a line of these will look like, but here’s a picture of them anyway.

Aren’t they pretty? I made some leaves and yellow dots for the centers, but the flowers look cute without all that too. Here are my leaves and dots:

Once you have a billion of these things cut out, let them sit there for a few hours. The longer the sit there, untouched, the sturdier they’ll be. I left mine over night. If you don’t end up breaking a few of these like I did, they’d make super cute sugar cubes for a little girl’s tea party or a baby shower.

If you made them a really dark color, they will make your coffee look funny. One time, I made WAY too much blue sugar so my husband was forced to put it in his coffee. It looked really gross when it dissolved. Coffee should never look that way.

Anyway, after they’re all set and hard, just push them into the icing on your cake or cupcake, like this:

For the yellow dots, I used a little bit of the icing (not too much! You don’t want it to squish out the sides!) and glued them onto the flowers:

I stuck a couple of the leaves in there, and ta da! Pretty, completely edible decorations! I like how they look home made and perfect at the same time.

Good luck! I’d love to see pictures if you end up making some! You can email them here (and I’ll probably end up posting them)! Happy decorating, and I wish you the best with the herd of ants.

Tuesday
Oct122010

Apple of My Pie: A Brief Look at the History of Apple Pie

Undoubtedly, one of the pleasures of autumn is that classic crusted piece of American cookery, the Apple Pie.

But how American, really, is Apple Pie?

Do you want the short answer or the long answer? How 'bout both?

The short answer: Apple pie is all-American, in the same way that the nation plays host to all sorts of ethnicities and influences: that is to say, a real melting pot.

...and that brings us to the long answer.

To really consider the humble pie's beginnings, we've got to go back--way back. As you learned so long ago on this very site when we discussed the history of Pumpkin pie, it's probably best to look at most American pies starting from the bottom up (that is to say: consider the crust). Per aforementioned writeup:

The origins of the pie stretch way back to ancient Egypt, where an early version of the pastry was made with honey and nuts in bread dough, in our opinion they came into their own during medieval times. Pies (charmingly called “coffins” then) became popular for being both a food and a vessel—easy to transport, hearty and filling. Of course, being baked without a pan at the time, the crust was...well, pretty crusty and inedible. But, it did protect the (usually savory) contents on jousts and voyages to and from the castle. Over the years, the piemaking method improved, and the size of a typical pie increased—they had to be pretty big after all to fit four and twenty blackbirds.

But there was also a pleasant and perhaps unexpected side effect to these advances in baking: the crust also started to taste good (or at least to merit attention). Per What's Cooking America:

It wasn't until the 16th century that cookbooks with pastry ingredients began appearing. Historian believe this was because cookbooks started appearing for the general household and not just for professional cooks.

From the same source, a recipe from 1545 seems to pay attention to details which are meant to yield a tasty crust:

To Make Short Paest for Tarte - Take fyne floure and a cursey of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolckes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.

...OK, so you probably see where I'm going with all of this crusty talk. Basically, while crust was initially seen as a vessel, a method of transport, it basically turned into "Hey, we might just have something here."

Which brings us to the big question: What about apples?

It was my belief that like Pumpkin pie, apple pie didn't make its sweet entry on to the pastry scene til Colonial times in America--after all, in the 1500s and early 1600s, pies in Europe were almost savory. But believe it or not, there is evidence of apple usage in pie form from as early as the mid-1500s (A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, as discovered here)

To make pyes of grene apples - Take your apples and pare them cleane and core them as ye wyll a Quince, then make youre coffyn after this maner, take a lyttle fayre water and half a dyche of butter and a little Saffron, and sette all this upon a chafyngdyshe tyll it be hoate then temper your flower with this sayd licuor, and the whyte of two egges and also make yourcoffyn and ceason your apples with Sinemone,Gynger and Suger ynoughe. Then putte them into your coffin and laye halfe a dyshe of butter above them and so close your coffin, and so bake them.

Nonetheless, it seems that when the concept of Apple Pie made the leap stateside with the Pilgrims, it truly came into its own as a uniquely American treat. Not right away, of course--initially only crabapples could be found, but ultimately the timing of the advent of apples as a US crop seemed to time out nicely with sugar becoming more readily available, and as anyone knows, apple pie is much better when made with sugar. Pies in general were quite popular during the settlers' first lean years in the US, filled with produce from the New World -- this is the time during which pumpkin pie became a "thing", for instance. But the popularity of apple pies and puddings is not a big surprise--after all, apples keep well, and can be dried for use year-round, so it makes sense that they would become a go-to item in the Colonial kitchen.

What's on top?

 So, there is some argument about how to best enjoy apple pie (and we won't even go into family arguments about the pie recipe itself). Double or lattice crust, crumb or streusel topping? A la mode, or with a slice of Sharp cheddar?

Not that you asked, but here's my stance.

While double crust varieties are undoubtedly the oldest and most traditional way of preparing apple pie, I'd like to humbly make a case for crumb. I've always called this variation "Dutch Apple Pie", although it seems that technically "Dutch Apple Pie" tends to refer to copious amounts of cinnamon in the recipe as opposed to the crumb topping. For the purposes of this entry, though--let it be known I am talking about the crumb-topped version, which is often seen in Pennsylvania Dutch country. 

It's hard to understand why anyone who has ever had a crumb-topped apple pie would ever go back to double crust. It's got a delectable crunch! The top crust isn't too hard, and doesn't crack away unevenly with the filling! It's sweet, salty, rich in flavor, and delicious! Please, tell me why I'm wrong about this--I dare you.

In my mind, the only reason you'd ever choose double crust over crumb or streusel topping is if you're eating your pie New England style--with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. That tradition is interesting--as I discovered on Food Timeline,

The practice of combining cheese, fruit, and nuts dates back to ancient times. These were often served at the end of a meal because they were thought to aid in digestion. From the earliest days through the Renaissance, the partaking of these foods was generally considered a priviledge of the wealthy. This practice was continued by wealthy dinners composed of many courses up until the 19th century. Apples and cheesemaking were introduced to the New World by European settlers. These people also brought with them their recipes and love for certain combinations. This explains the popular tradition of apple pie and cheddar cheese in our country.

 

Of course, I'd be remiss at this point to not touch upon what is undoubtedly the most popular accompaniment for apple pie--ice cream. Serving pie "A la mode", or  "in the current style or fashion", means that you're serving it (usually warm) with a big ol' scoop of ice cream on the side. Where does the term come from? Can't say whether it's true or not, but there is a rather sweet story attached to it, via a reprint from Sealtest Magazine, which I discovered via Barry Popik:

We have it that the late Professor Charles Watson Townsend, who lived alone in a Main Street apartment during his later years and dined regularly at the Hotel Cambridge, now known as the Cambridge Hotel, was wholly responsible for the blessed business. 

One day in the mid 90’s, Professor Townsend was seated for dinner at a table when the late Mrs. Berry Hall observed that he was eating ice cream with his apple pie. Just like that she named it “Pie a la Mode”, and we often wondered why, and thereby brought enduring fame to Professor Townsend and the Hotel Cambridge. 

Shortly thereafter the Professor visited New York City, taking with him a yen for his favorite dessert new name and all. At the fashionable Delmonico’s he nonchalantly ordered Pie a la Mode and when the waiter stated that he never heard of such a thing the Professor expressed a great astonishment. 

“Do you mean to tell me that so famous an eating place as Delmonico’s has never heard of Pie a la Mode, when the Hotel Cambridge, up in the village of Cambridge, NY serves it every day? Call the manager at once, I demand as good service here as I get in Cambridge.” 

But no matter whose story you believe, one thing is for sure: apple pie served with ice cream is delicious. Especially when it's crumb-topped pie.

No doubt about it: Apple pie certainly serves up a thought-provoking slice of American history. But as for the final word? I believe that this quote I found on Food Timeline seems to sum it up nicely:

"When you say that something is "as American as apple pie," what you're really saying is that the item came to this country from elsewhere and was transformed into a distinctly American experience." --As American as Apple Pie, John Lehndorff, American Pie Council.

Tuesday
Oct122010

Sweet Giveaway: Win a Copy of Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni!

So, anyone who writes and photographs a doughnut recipe book--oh, Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home, from Sasquatch Books, for instance--is pretty much tops in my book.

But really, as awesome as you might figure such a person to be, author/photographer/doughnut maker Lara Ferroni is even better.

From the day I learned she was working on this project, I couldn't stop myself from constantly saying things like "Doughnut Stop Believing!" or "Just Donut!" whenever I saw her. And--bless her--she never got terse with me or punched me or anything.

And now the book's out! And it's full of amazing doughnut lore, factoids, recipes and mouthwatering photos. Which one to try first--a classic raised doughnut? Or perhaps something more exotic, like a Margarita, Red Velvet, or S'mores Doughnut? Here, preview it all in the promo video:

Well, one lucky reader can choose their own doughnut adventure, because I've got a copy to give away!

How do you put yourself in the running? Simply weigh in on this holey issue in the comments section below:

Doughnuts: Yeast or Cake?

US and Canadian entrants only, please. This giveaway will close one week from today, on Tuesday, October 19th at 12pm PST!

Monday
Oct112010

Fall into Delicious: Pumpkin Cake in a Jar Recipe for Serious Eats

If you really want to see something horrifying this Halloween season, try shipping a cupcake. Trust me, it's not pretty.

However, if you want to share some sweetness with friends and family who may be far away, there is a solution: bake your cakes in jars. Yup, that's right: bake up some delicious pumpkin cake directly in jars for contained, easy-to-ship parcels which can be topped with whipped cream or frosting when they've reached their destination, making for a sweet and thoughtful treat.

Note: You can choose your own adventure when it comes to the size of your jars. I tried a variety, including 8-ounce, pint-sized, and even baby food jars (smaller jars will require less baking time). The key is to choose jars with a fairly wide mouth, so that the cake will be easy to scoop out with a spoon when it's time to eat.

When it comes to frosting or whipped cream topping, I don't suggest topping the cakes before shipping, but you can frost or top them and then put the lids on for short-term transit (for instance, if they're packed in a lunch).

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Oct112010

Sweet Inspiration: Dessert Travels with Cake Gumshoe Nicholas

So, I have a totally sweet customer named Nicholas. He's basically the ideal customer: he comes in and buys stuff, and then tells me all about the delicious sweets he eats when he travels the world. Just looking at his pictures is bound to evoke some seriously sweet wanderlust. Here's where he's been recently:

First, how about some macarons from Per Olsson Choklad & Konditori, in Stockholm? Nicholas picked a very nice duo of Raspberry (pictured at the top of the post) and Licorice (pictured below)--don't you wish you could have been there, too?
But if macarons aren't your thing, he also took another totally sweet shot at Gateau (which he previously reported on) of the bakery case, just to give us all something to dream on.

Sweet armchair travels to all! Rumor has it that Nicholas is off to Turkey next, poor thing--can't wait to see the photos!

Sunday
Oct102010

Sweet Art: Another Andy Warhol Quote, Illustrated With Cupcakes

As Andy Warhol's biggest fan, it appears I can't stop myself from illustrating his quotes in cupcake form. The latest gem? "Everything is more glamorous when you do it in bed, anyway. Even peeling potatoes." Awesome!

Buy it here, check out the other Warhol quotes I've done here.

Sunday
Oct102010

Better Together: Beer Cupcakes With Chocolate Covered Potato Chips Recipe from Bredenbeck's Bakery, Philadelphia

Sweet or salty? Why decide, when you can have both--and beer, too--in one deliciously decadent cupcake parcel? Yup, that's right: Beer Cupcakes. Topped with Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. It's a recipe kindly donated by Bredenbeck's of Philadelphia. Awful or awesome? Maybe a little of both, in the best way possible. Make it happen at home thusly:

Beer Cupcakes Topped With Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 1 cup of Guinness® Draught
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda Pinch of cinnamon

Glaze:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/3 cup Guinness® Draught

Chips:

  • 1⁄2 pound high quality milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 cups ridged potato chips

Procedure

  1. Make the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large sauce pan over low heat, combine Guinness® and butter, stirring until butter melts. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cocoa powder and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Combine with beer mixture. Sift together flour and baking soda, then fold into batter. Pour into greased muffin tin, filling each cup about 2/3. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool in tin for 10 minutes, then remove from tin and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.
  2. Make the glaze. With a mixer, whip cream cheese until smooth. Sift confectioner’s sugar into cream cheese, and beat. Add Guinness®, and beat until smooth. Apply to cupcakes using a flat spatula.
  3. Prepare your garnish. Place 3/4 of the chocolate into a heat safe bowl, and place over the top of a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally until the chocolate has melted, then continue to heat the chocolate to 110F degrees, stirring occasionally. As soon as the chocolate reaches this temperature, remove from heat. Stir in remaining chocolate until melted. Using tongs, dip potato chips one at a time into the chocolate. Place on waxed paper to cool. Once cooled, place atop cupcakes. Enjoy!

Of course, if you have no time—or desire—to bake your own Beer Cupcakes, you can stop into Bredenbeck’s Bakery and try their version! They're also busy baking all your favorite fall confections: pumpkin bread, caramel apple cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon whipped cream, carrot cake, s’mores pie and much, much more.

Saturday
Oct092010

Well-Bread: Hot Raisin Bread Recipe from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest entry from Cara, a co-author of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a blog devoted to "quarter-life" cooking (and the home of the Watermelon Ice Cream Cake). Per the writer, "this article is about the fantastic, nostalgic Hot Raisin Bread that my mom always made me for breakfast when I was growing up. And is it sweet? you may ask. Not only is it sweet, but it's topped with the most delicious crust of butter, sugar, and cinnamon."

My Breakfast of Champions

My mom made us breakfast every single day while we were growing up, before we piled into the car and she dropped us off at school on her way to work. When I say I don't understand people who don't eat breakfast, I say this with the perspective of someone who ate scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, corn muffins, and hot raisin bread every morning, not just someone who ate, you know, a bowl of cereal. Later, in middle and high school, we did sometimes eat just cereal or yogurt and fruit, but even then there were occasions when we'd get the full breakfast treatment.

On one of these days late in high school, my mom made hot raisin bread. She took it out of the oven, I cut myself a wedge, and when I drove my fork down through the cinnamon-sugar crust on top into the biscuit-like interior, I remembered why this was always one of my favorites. It's decadent in the way that Frosted Mini Wheats are decadent--a layer of sugar, in this case cinnamon-sugar and butter, bursts in your mouth, distinguishing the relative plainness of the inside. I was a junior or senior, and we had a field hockey game that afternoon against one of our rivals. The tradition was to dress up in funny outfits on game days, and I can only imagine what Phoebe and I and the rest of our teammates were wearing. Whether it was my breakfast or my outfit, I played one of my best games ever as forward, scoring a hat trick. Three goals. These days, that kind of athleticism feels like it belonged to another person completely.

Anyway, some other parent came up to my mom and was like, "What do you feed her for breakfast?!"

And my mom, I think, answered truthfully, "Well, it's this dish called Hot Raisin Bread..."

I wasn't eating my Wheaties. I was eating my mom's home-cooked food and apparently it did me better than any cereal.

When I baked this recently, I ate it as an afternoon snack. The cinnamon-y scent filled my apartment. I cut a wedge, poured some some tea, and waited for something to happen. Sure I wasn't playing hockey, but wouldn't mom's magic breakfast work in my Brooklyn apartment too? I did some work on the book, researched my summer vacation, and kept on waiting. And waiting. I haven't found out yet if the Hat Trick Raisin Bread does anything for no-longer athletic adults, but it definitely still tastes really good.

Hot Raisin Bread
Makes 1 bread, serves 6-8
from Quick Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas

Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted or soft
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
Procedure
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the flour, powder, salt, raisins, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the oil and milk and mix into a soft dough.
  3. Spread with the butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just golden. Cut into squares and serve hot--this doesn't really weather well, so make it when you plan to eat.
  5. Transfer it to the baking sheet and pat the dough into a rough 8-inch square, about 1/2-inch thick.

Keep up with Cara's baking adventures on Big Girls, Small Kitchen!

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