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Craftsy Writer
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.

Saturday
Jun122010

Nut'n Honey: Honey Peanut Butter Refrigerator Cookies

You probably don't think of peanut butter cookies as a slice-and-bake refrigerator cookie, but you should.

I was immediately intrigued when I discovered this recipe in my beloved Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. And, upon testing out the recipe, ultimately rewarded. These cookies have all of the sweet-and-salty flavor that make peanut butter cookies so deliciously addictive, but with a subtle, mellow dimension from the honey, and a more delicate texture than their classic counterpart. The verdict? These fat, chewy, and lightly crumbly cookies are beyond welcome to co-exist peacefully with the flattened-by-fork tines variety in my cookie jar.

And based on how quickly they disappeared when I put them out at my shop, I'd say that the public agrees. Well, either that, or people will eat anything when it's free.

Note: The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup peanut butter and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts. I split the difference and used a cup-and-a-bit extra of chunky peanut butter--this kind, if you're curious. Also, I used more baking powder than specified in the original recipe.

Honey Peanut Butter Refrigerator Cookies

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

- Makes about 30 cookies -

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey or corn syrup (I used honey)
  • 1 cup (and maybe a spoonful extra) chunky peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Procedure

  1. Mix butter, sugar, honey, peanut butter, and egg thoroughly.
  2. Mix your remaining dry ingredients together, and then stir in bit by bit to your wet ingredient mix. If it is too dry, add a few drops of milk or cream until it is cohesive.
  3. Roll into a couple of logs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 400 F. Cut dough in fat slices (I did about 1/2 inch) and place about 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until lightly brown on the edges. Let cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Friday
Jun112010

Sweet Art: World Pupcakes

When it comes to puns related to the World Cup, what is the best direction to go? World Pup? Nah--not cute enough. World cup-cakes? Nah, still not quite there.

Oh--I've got it: combine them for ultimate cuteness! World Pupcakes!

In honor of that big soccer (to my friends not in the US, that's football) event that starts today!

Friday
Jun112010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Item of the week at CakeSpy Shop: New Giclee print by Julie West!Make the most of your friday by checking out these super sweet links!

Tiramisu that soaks up wine instead of coffee is just fine by me.

Beet cake is divine when topped with "slabs" of cream cheese frosting. 

A carrot cake to dream about, via Mango Power Girl.

What's the next big thing in baking? Modern Baking weighs in.

Where do cupcakes come from? "The Talk" notecards (featuring the image at the top of the post) now available online and at the retail CakeSpy Shop!

Sounds like a sweet getaway to me: 10 sweet factory tours to take in the US!

Sweet news: Treats Truck goes stationary--with a brick and mortar retail location!

Peanut butter, bacon, sugar, and a side of sweet pun: Sir Francis Bacon's bacon peanut brittle! (via The Nibble)

A savory side that is sweet enough for CakeSpy approval: Tom Douglas's Cornbread Pudding recipe from Etta's.

Art of the Tart: If you liked these Pop-Tarts Ice cream sandwiches, you'll probably like all the other over-the-top sweet recipes on the Pop-tarts website.

This granola is acceptable, because it's kind of like a deconstructed cereal cookie. (Molly Wizenberg for Bon Appetit)

Sweet and salty Espresso Nut Brownies: Yum, yum, and yum. (via The Cookbook Chronicles)

Sweet memories: You deserve a grilled cheesecake sandwich!

Wednesday
Jun092010

Shake Me Up Before You Go Go: The Red Velvet Cake Shake

There's a reason why you've never tried a Red Velvet Cake Shake. 

That reason, of course, is that the recipe relies on you having an extra slice of Red Velvet laying around, and as anyone knows, this is a highly unlikely occurrence.

However, after this weekend's Red Velvet Cake tasting, I found myself in such an unlikely situation. And given some time to consider it, a beautiful phrase came to mind: Red Velvet Cake Shake. Could it possibly be as good as it sounded?

The answer, of course, is yes. This shake is basically made of awesome: it has tangy cream cheese frosting, rich, moist cake, and sweet, creamy ice cream--all mixed into one pretty pink parfait.

Of course, if your instinct is to cry "too much", I do have a suggestion: call it a smoothie. No, this doesn't actually alter the recipe, but don't you feel healthier already?

Red Velvet Cake Shake

Ingredients 

  • 1 slice Red Velvet Cake
  • 2 big--and I mean big--scoops of ice cream (I used strawberry; I think that vanilla would also work well)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups milk

Procedure

Put all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until the shake has reached your desired consistency--shorter if you like little bits of cake in your shake, longer if you like a smoother texture. Add more ice cream for a thicker shake, more milk for a thinner one, as needed.

Wednesday
Jun092010

Cake Byte: Sweet New Stationery by justJenn Designs at CakeSpy Shop!

You already know that CakeSpy Shop is a pretty sweet place.

But it just got even sweeter, with new stationery from justJenn Designs!

Now, in case you didn't know, justJenn is kind of like a sweet soul mate to CakeSpy--the author runs a food (mostly sweets!) blog in addition to running a stationery business. Awesome, right?

Here's a sampling of the sweet designs that you'll find at the CakeSpy Shop:

The Magritte-inspired "Cupcake Crumbs" design (pictured top);

A card to help you declare your bacon love;

Robot love;

and of course, one that pretty much says it all: Thanks for Nothing.

There's also a sweet fill-in series!

...and the piece de resistance, a square pin which you can turn to show your allegiance: pie or cake? (you know the right answer).

Buy it all online here!

Tuesday
Jun082010

Sweet Loafing: Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips Recipe from Cake Gumshoes Denise and Steve

When readers Denise and Steve came into my store, they told me that they had been on a 30 mile bike ride that morning. My response was something along the lines of an aghast "on purpose?". But I quickly forgave them for their inherent sportiness, because guess what: they brought me banana bread. With big ol' chunks of chocolate. Even the vaguely healthy applesauce in its construction couldn't cancel out that decadence.

Well, Mr. Spy and I deemed this an ideal breakfast bread, and I eagerly set to recreating the magic in my own kitchen, this time made with butter, chunks of milk chocolate, and a mix of walnuts and pecans. I really don't have to tell you it was delicious, do I?

It's a very easy recipe to personalize and make your own; here's Denise's base recipe so you can choose your own adventure with it.

Oh, and by the way, here's the cute custom painting I did for Denise and Steve while we talked about our favorite pastries!

Dense, Delicious Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

With serious thanks to Denise and Steve

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour, or you can do a mix of 3/4 c white flour and 3/4 c wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (kosher salt is okay too)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c mashed banana (3-4 very ripe, Denise usually uses 4 for extra moist
  • bread!)
  • 1 c sugar (can reduce to 3/4 c, or 1/2 c)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c melted, cooled butter (I use canola oil, or a heaping 1/3 c apple sauce to be really healthy! and do use a little extra apple sauce to keep bread moist)
  • (optional) 2/3 c chopped nuts (I used a mix of pecans or walnuts)
  • 2/3 c chocolate chips for banana chocolate chip bread (Denise lists this as optional--I vote necessary)

Procedure

  1. Mix all of the above together in a big bowl. Don't overmix--just mix until incorporated.
  2. Bake at 325 degrees F for around an hour, check center with toothpick; if toothpick comes out clean, it's done.
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