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Tuesday
Oct262010

Things That Go Wiggle In the Night: Halloween Jell-O Jigglers for Serious Eats

Around Halloween, a lot of attention is given to things that go bump in the night. But for a moment, let's consider things that wobble: the Jell-O Jiggler.

Starting with the classic recipe from the Jell-O website, it's easy to trick out these wiggly, wobbly treats in Halloween shapes for a crowd-pleasing party snack. Of course, I'd advise against handing them out to trick-or-treaters, because there's no bigger bummer than a soggy sack of candy.

For the full entry and tutorial, check out Serious Eats!

Monday
Oct252010

Swiss Miss: Deep-Fried Swiss Rolls on a Stick Recipe

File under "Things you should never do, ever": Deep-frying Swiss Rolls on a Stick.

Oh, who am I kidding--you totally should. Because as I learned when I found myself with a slight excess of fry batter (from when I was deep frying Halloween candy, natch), not only is the deep fried Swiss Roll delicious, and like just about everything, it's even better on a stick.

And now, I'm delighted to share the method by which you can make this magic happen in your very own home.

Oh, and if you enjoy seeing Swiss Rolls being tortured, you might like to revisit the Little Debbie Death Match!

Deep-Fried Swiss Rolls on a Stick

  • 12 Swiss Rolls 
  • 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Procedure

 

  1. Begin by freezing your Swiss rolls: insert the sticks, and place them on a plate or cookie sheet. Freeze them for at least 2 hours, until they are solid and frozen throughout.
  2. When you're nearing the end of the chilling period, start heating the oil for frying. Pour vegetable oil into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan until it is three inches deep (the amount of oil you use will depend on the size of your saucepan). Turn the heat to medium-high, and insert a candy/deep fry thermometer. Heat until the oil reaches 375°F.
  3. While you're waiting for the oil to heat up, prepare your frying station and batter. Place 1/2 cup of flour in a bowl and set aside. Place the remaining cup of flour in a small bowl and mix with the baking powder and salt; add the milk, vinegar, and oil, and whisking the wet ingredients into the dry until you have a relatively lump-free, smooth, thick batter.
  4. Remove the frozen rolls from the freezer. It's go time.
  5. Dredge each roll in flour, covering it completely. Happily, it's helpful that they're on a stick so you won't get batter all over your fingers.
  6. Quickly place the battered Swiss Roll into the heated oil, holding the end of the stick and being careful not to drop it and cause oil to splash up (you might want to wear gloves for safety, 'cos hot oil can HURT, but I lived dangerously and to tell the tale). It will fry up quickly. 
  7. Once the treat has reached an appealing golden hue, remove from the hot oil and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Repeat the battering and frying process with the remaining Swiss Rolls. While frying, be sure to monitor the temperature of the oil and adjust your heat up or down accordingly, as the candy will melt if it is too hot, and it will take too long to fry and become greasy if the heat is too low.
  8. Let cool slightly, but serve while still warm.

 

Saturday
Oct232010

Pitt Stop: The Famous Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl's, Pittsburgh PA

So, anyone who has ever talked to me (like, ever) knows that sooner or later, we're going to start talking about baked goods.

And a couple of years ago I had a great conversation with a young lady from Pittsburgh who told me a beautiful tale about a famous dessert from her town: the Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl's Bakery. Actually, I believe she referred to it as "a torte worth shoving grandma out of the way to get to quicker." Oddly, I didn't ask any follow up questions.

But suffice it to say, the description left an impression, and when a customer in my Seattle store mentioned that he was headed to Pittsburgh for a visit, I left him with a very strong suggestion that he try this torte.

But he did one better: he brought me back a piece. Apparently not only had he bought one of the tortes, but had become hooked: as he confessed, he had eaten a slice that very morning for breakfast (a practice which I support, btw).

The torte itself has an interesting story, as I learned from a Pittsburgh-based dessert enthusiast

It wasn't until the 1970's though, that Prantl's began to serve its most famous item- the Burnt Almond Torte. In the midst of an unusual surplus of almonds, the Almond Board asked bakers to use more almonds in more creative ways. Henry Prantl, an original owner, traveled to California to learn and came back with an idea for a cake which he refined into the ever-delicious Burnt Almond Torte.

Well, Henry did good, and one taste of this torte reveals why it's an enduring legend in the area. It's comprised of Prantl's "famous yellow 'scrap' batter cake, creamy custard, homemade buttercream and loads of secret recipe toasted almonds", and it is very, very good. The cake itself is light, but don't you dare think it's virtuous, because the thick slab of custard contained inside not only keeps the cake moist, but adds a decadent dimension--which is then multiplied by the addition of thick, creamy buttercream and crunchy, toasty almond slivers. They may think that they're doing a good job of keeping the secret to the preparation of these delicious almonds under wraps, but I'm pretty sure I've figured it out: they mix in a heaping handful of crack.

Because this cake really is that addictive--in Mr. Spy's words, it was "an epic dessert".

Thank you Dennis for bringing back a slice for us to sample!

Prantl's Bakery is located in Pittsburgh; visit their site for locations and details. You can also buy a "travel" version of the torte online here, and if you're feeling brave, you might want to give this copycat recipe a try (though I haven't tried it).

Prantl's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Saturday
Oct232010

Cake Byte: Happy National Boston Cream Pie Day from Trophy Cupcakes, and a Sweets Crawl in Seattle

Guess what? I'm headed to Canada (home of the mighty Nanaimo Bar) this weekend. But clearly I've chosen the wrong weekend to flee Seattle, because there's a lot of awesomeness going on! First off, did you know it's National Boston Cream Pie Day? Well, Seattle's Trophy Cupcakes is bringing on the party--as owner Jennifer Shea says:

Happy National Boston Cream Pie Day! Of course Trophy whipped up a cupcake version today...Vanilla Cupcake filled with pastry cream and dipped in Belgian Chocolate Ganache!

Now, if that doesn't sound like a celebration, I don't know what does.

Find them while they last at Trophy Cupcakes locations in the Seattle area!

But wait, there's more! If you're in or around the Capitol Hill neighborhood today, there's also a totally sweet walking tour--The Great Cap Hill SweetTooth Crawl! Although CakeSpy Shop does not actually have cake, it will be a sweet stop on the tour (buy some cards while you digest!). Check out the details here.

Oh, and finally, how cool is this: CakeSpy Shop artist Mike Geno's Challah Painting is on the cover of The Stranger! You can buy the real thing here. 

Friday
Oct222010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Image courtesy mrsprinklesLet's get this weekend off to a sweet start, shall we? Here's a baker's dozen of sweet links to send you hurtling into sugar shock:

Are you in Vancouver? Are you near Vancouver? Can you get there by 11 am tomorrow? The Baker's Market is happening, and CS buddy Jenni will be showcasing her delicious baked goods!

Some like it hot: Watermelon Ghost Pepper candies! (Discovered via TastingTable)

Big Kahuna: The "Hawaiian" Pie is made with chocolate, macadamias, coconut, and rum (and as baker Wendy Sykes says, "It's as healthy as it sounds.")

Trick or Sweet: Did you know that Godiva makes fancy Halloween Treats?

In Cleveland, Jack Frost Donuts makes Candy Bar Donuts (yeast donut, filled with cream, covered with chocolate glaze, sprinkled with crumbled candy bar, and then topped with a nice dollop of mousse). Oh yes.(thank you Anne!)

Still excited: Barack Obama now owns some of my cards! Thanks to Jody from Cupcake Royale for making it happen!

Nanaimo Bars take London by storm (or so they hope!). I say, let Nanaimo Bars take over the world.

OMG: These flowers are edible! Sugar flowers by Wild Orchid Baking.

Um...Bakerella's world takeover (I mean BOOK TOUR) is going amazingly.

Sweet...no, savory! I keep hearing great things about Chicago's Meatloaf Bakery. (thanks Suzette!)

Sweet. Tart. Rich. Cranberry tart with hazelnut crust? Yes please. (via The Kitchn)

Seeking croissant perfection in NYC? Serious Eats has done the legwork for you.

Sweet memories: remember when a car crashed into my house and I ended up getting a great cookie recipe out of the deal?

Thursday
Oct212010

Ask CakeSpy: Transporting Cheesecake on an Airplane?

Dear CakeSpy,

I have a cheesecake question for you! I am traveling across the country and hoping to bring a mini cheesecake with me on the plane for my boyfriend's birthday. Any advice on traveling on a plane with cheesecake? I'm worried about spoilage as well as it being crushed... I could sit with it on my lap the whole ride I suppose. Any tips would be appreciated!

-Cheesecake Traveler

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Traveler,

First off, one important aspect to consider is that you may be your own worst enemy in this situation. I mean, depending on the flight time, the cheesecake might get mighty tempting.

But trusting that you have a very strong will, let's talk turkey. Or...you know, cheesecake. I can't say that this is the best method, but based on consulting some trusted friends and looking deep into my own cake-loving soul, here is what I would do if I were in your shoes. 

  1. First of all, you have to let your cheesecake cool completely after baking it. I do this at room temperature. And since you'll be transporting it, I am going to suggest putting it on a cardboard round (you know, the kind it would be on if you bought it at a supermarket or bakery). I would also suggest cutting out a circle of parchment paper and putting it on top of the cheesecake, and along the perimeter of it. This is because in the next step, you'll put it in plastic wrap, and the parchment will keep the wrap from sticking if it thaws too much.
  2. Like I said, plastic wrap. You need to wrap it very tightly in plastic wrap. 
  3. Next, you're going to freeze it. Like, deep freeze. Overnight. 
  4. On the day of travel, wait til as close to departure as you can to take it out of the freezer. Now, you're going to add a layer of foil, wrapped all the way around the whole (plastic-wrapped) thing. And you're going to put it in a box. Seriously. Find a box that fits it snugly. Or cut a box so that it fits.
  5. Put it in your carry-on, not on a checked bag. Don't you dare. 
  6. Keep it under your seat if possible, to prevent unwanted jostling in the overhead bin. Actually this is preferable to keeping it on your warm little lap too, because you want to prevent it from getting too warm.
  7. Travel safe and godspeed to that dear, dear cheesecake.

Love, CakeSpy

Thursday
Oct212010

Bright Lights, Big City Cupcakes

It's totally awesome when friends go on a trip and send you a postcard. 

But it's a zillion times awesomer when they bring you back cupcakes.

I'm talking, of course, about some of my favorite people in the world, Denise and Nick, who recently went to Vancouver and brought back cupcakes for myself and Mr. Spy.

The cupcakes were from Big City Cupcakes, a business which appears to be taking over Canada, and they were delectable.

Here's a review of the specimens sampled:

First, the Strawberry Cheesecake. Comprised of a strawberry cupcake with a big ol' gob of cheesecake filling baked inside (do you hear that, Bake It In a Cake?), and topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Now, after that description I probably don't even need to tell you it was delicious, but I still will. It weighed roughly as much as a brick, but in like, the best way possible. Rich, creamy, and delectable.

Second, the "Red Carpet"...their version of Red Velvet--described as being "vanilla cake with a hint of chocolate", the cake was very dense and rich--if not very cocoa-y--and it was topped off with basically an ice cream scoop's worth of cream cheese frosting. YES!

Check them out (and find a location!) at bigcitycupcakes.com.

Thursday
Oct212010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Heather Rousseau of SugarHigh Bakery

It's time to go to Michigan. Well, virtually, at least--unless you're lucky enough to live near Frankenmuth, MI, which is where SugarHigh Bakery is located. The gorgeous cakes are enough to inspire a road trip alone, but let's get to know the owner and business a bit more, shall we? Here's the CakeSpy interview with owner Heather Rousseau:
CakeSpy: Since I can't be in Michigan right now, can you give me a quick rundown of what I'd see if I were to walk into your bakery?

Heather Rousseau: Our colors are pink, black, and white and everything is decorated accordingly. I try to include everything and anything I think is "cool." The wall to the right of our entrance is decorated with a mini gallery of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), which you may be familiar with. They are mini works of art with the main requirement being that they are the size of a playing card. I collect cupcake-themed ATCs, so this is where I display my collection.

When you walk into the bakery you will run into our 12-flavor gelato case. We make our gelato in-house, using all fresh fruits and no artificial flavorings. You'll then see one display case holding 30 flavors of cupcakes--jumbo size, because bigger is better.

Next to that case is our case where we have generally about 5 different flavors of cookies and also have chocolates, BIG buckeyes, chocolate covered bacon and other miscellaneous goodies.

CS: What is your first baked good memory?

HR: The first thing that comes to my mind was at my best friends 8th birthday party when I saw my first gourmet cake. Her mom brought in a cake that was ROUND...(not a sheet cake!?) and had ribbon wrapped around the sides. On the top was fresh flowers. I was completely in awe. Even more so when she served the cake and it had a layer of cream cheese and a layer of strawberry filling. I didnt even know it was possible! From then on, I was hooked.

CS: What made you decide to open your own bakery?

HR: I've always wanted to open a bakery. It was always in the back of my mind. Every time I worked somewhere else the entire time I always thought, "I can do it better, I can do it faster, I can do it more efficient, I can sell more, etc. etc. etc." The final push was last year when I was working at a bakery in my home town after I moved back from Chicago and she did not want to decorate the cupcakes - she said, "We will sell them anyway so don't waste your time" That was when I really realized nobody was EVER going to do it the way I wanted to, and doing it myself was the only option.

CS: If you could go back a year, what advice about opening a bakery would you give yourself?

HR: I guess most importantly I would tell myself to delegate tasks. I still struggle with this. I try to do everything myself, and sometimes that causes areas to lack since it doesnt get my undivided attention.

CS: You recently got married. What kind of wedding cake did you have? 

HR: Yeah I did! We actually got married in Riviera Maya, Mexico last August 6th. I actually had two wedding cakes - First cake was at our actual wedding in mexico and our wedding package came with a cake...and it was so guady. It was amusing to us to think that I decorate cakes and we had an ugly cake :) It was two single-layer "tiers" so it was very flat. Maybe 4" tall total. It had no borders, but very large and over sized marzipan "roses" stuck sporadically throughout the entire cake.

Our second cake I made for our reception we had in Michigan. At the time we were living in Chicago (I went to The French Pastry School) and I arrived in town the night before. I got to baking. I made the entire cake tres leches. I had all these plans of design, but my husband and I could not agree on a single design. He wanted very traditional and simple. I wanted something a little loudee - after all, finally I had a blank canvas in front of me that I could do WHATEVER I wanted, try out new techniques, etc. and my husband was being boring.

SO, I settled on the idea of just doing a simple upside down cake. Because we were so rushed, I brought the un-iced cakes to the reception and then started looking around the hall for things I could use to decorate it with...lol There was no plan, but here is what we came up with. Im sure we were a site to see, husband and wife, dressed up, assembling our cake :)

CS: For those interested in pursuing baking as a career, how important do you think it is to attend culinary school?

HR: I think that formal schooling is important depending on what specifically you want to do with baking. Doing what I do - mostly cake decorating, etc. I think art classes would be more beneficial. If you want to work in a fine dining restaurant or in a fancy hotel, then schooling, degrees, training is more important in landing a job. In any baking specialty area, I think on the job training is key and most important above all. I recommend working at as many places as possible, learning as much as possible - even if it means working for free.

CS: In your opinion, what makes a perfect sugar cookie?

HR: I'm definitely not a "cookie-eating" person, so the perfect sugar cookie to me has to taste decent, but most importantly hold its shape when baking, so that when I decorate them, they have nice clean edges and you can tell what the shape is even before icing is added.

CS: Cake gossip alert! At a previous catering job, you created cakes for many a celebrity. Which was the most exciting job and why?

HR: Definitely the most exciting job for me was catering for Semi-Pro that was filmed in Flint, Michigan. That one was the most exciting for me for a number of reasons: one, this was the first movie production that I catered for, so it was all "new" to me; two, this was my first pastry job, and I was getting to make desserts for real live celebrities; three, it was one of the longest jobs we worked on, and four--we were able to interact alot with the cast and crew and I got to meet Will Ferrell & Woody Harrelson among others. 

CS: Are there any types of baked goods or sweets that you would consider regional specialties in your area? 

HR: There are always cherry products and apple products around, so I try my best to incorporate local ingredients as much as possible. Right now I have pumpkin cupcakes from a local farmer, caramel apples and caramel apple cupcakes for sale.

CS: What's next? 

HR: As I sit here typing there is pounding and saws being heard next door to me - we are in the middle of expansion and will be doubling our store. We are going to extend our store front, enlarge our kitchen and begin offering lessons and birthday parties, among other ideas.

In Michigan? Get your sweet self over to SugarHigh Bakery for a visit, they're located at 925 S. Main Street, Suite G1, Frankenmuth, MI!

For more, check out their website and Facebook page! Oh, and you know, follow them on Twitter!

Thursday
Oct212010

Cake Byte: Cupcake Royale's Jody Hall to Meet With President Barack Obama

Today is a very sweet day indeed.

Remember the above design which I did to celebrate President Barack Obama's inauguration? Well, today it will be part of a gift basket given to a very appropriate recipient--Barack Obama himself!

You see, Cupcake Royale's owner, Jody Hall, is meeting with President Obama today, and she'll be giving him some CakeSpy gear in a sweet little gift basket she put together!

Say what, you say? Well. As you may know, a very active supporter of small businesses--and now, she has the opportunity to talk with a VIP -- the VIP -- President Barack Obama!

Per the Cupcake Royale folks:

Today, Jody Hall, owner of Cupcake Royale and a member of the Main Street Alliance of Washington, will participate in a backyard conversation with President Barack Obama and Senator Patty Murray, focusing on women and the economy. Hall will share the story of the successful growth of her business despite the recession.

Of course, there is a delicious way you can help toast this amazing opportunity. In case you didn't know, Cupcake Royale's super popular Salted Caramel cupcake was actually launched in honor of President Obama's inauguration (it's his favorite flavor!), so why not drop  by the closest CR location and enjoy one today in celebration?

As a cupcake enthusiast and small business owner, I'd like to offer a very big congratulations to Jody for helping to make it happen!

Keep updated via Cupcake Royale's twitter account and their website!

Wednesday
Oct202010

Fry, Baby: Deep-Fried Halloween Candy for Serious Eats

It's a funny thing about Halloween candy: it actually makes you hungrier. At least, that's my theory behind how the same person who can't finish off an entire candy bar can easily put away ten "fun size" candy bars or 30 mellowcreme pumpkins in one sitting.

But there's a way to bring a substantial dimension of deliciousness to your Halloween candy: deep-fry it.

That's right. Batter up your Halloween candy and fry it in hot oil, and you've got yourself little nuggets that are beyond decadent, and bound to satisfy—one or two of these morsels is more than enough.

Note: I tried a variety of Halloween candies in this experiment, including candy corn, mellowcreme pumpkins, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, Kit-Kats, and Whoppers. The biggest hit by far was the Peanut butter cups.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

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