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Thursday
May202010

Oregon Sweetness: Cupcakes from Frills, Seaside OR

My friends Denise and Nick are delightful for oh, so many reasons. I mean, just look at them:

Yeah, adorable, right? And among other awesome traits, they both have the amazing ability to eat their own weight in cake, and they're the people who introduced me to Full Tilt Ice Cream.

But most recently, they've secured real estate in my heart by bringing me cupcakes from Frills in Seaside, Oregon.

Now, I didn't visit in person, so I can't attest to the decor, but I can say for sure that their website does not do these delicious cupcakes justice (they need more pictures!).

Their cupcakes go by pretty names, which makes it a little harder to tell you exactly what I ate. Specimen one was surely the "Violette", their red velvet with cream cheese frosting, which was rich, tangy, and moist just in the right places.

I have forgotten the name of cupcake #2, but it was chocolate cake topped with a rich, buttery frosting and what tasted vaguely like crumbled up Butterfingers on top. This chocolate cake was really something else: deep and dark, moist and fudgy, but not excessively so; the frosting was fairly light but very buttery, and extremely rich in flavor.

One thing that both flavors had in common? Upon reaching the empty cupcake cup, they both prompted the thought "how bad is it, really, to lick the wrapper?"

Frills Cupcakes and Frozen Yogurt, 200 Broadway, Seaside, OR; online at frillscupcakes.com.

Thursday
May202010

Muffin Top: A Massive Banana Skillet Muffin

I have a deep distrust of muffins.

They strike me as a baked good that really wants to be cake, but for some reason feels the need to masquerade under the cover of vague healthiness (the one exception to this, of course, being the doughnut muffin).

However, this all changed for me when I received a totally sweet sample from Katom--a 9-inch pre-seasoned skillet. I love this thing. First off, it's adorable--it's like a baby skillet! But even so, it has a satisfying heft--there's no doubt about it, this baby could be used as a weapon. If you chose to, that is.

But I chose to use it as a weapon of deliciousness, using it to bake one massive banana muffin.

Starting with the banana muffin recipe from the Cupcake Cafe Cookbook , I simply baked the whole batch as one mass in the skillet, and it came out beautifully. It baked perfectly in the skillet, moist and lightly crumbly on the edges, with a wide expanse of craggy crust on top. When cut in thick wedges and served with a healthy smear of lightly melted butter and brown sugar, it is delicious, and so much better than a muffin. In fact, I wouldn't even blame you if you wanted to top it with a smear of cream cheese or peanut butter buttercream frosting.

Ready for this tastiness in your own home? Here's the recipe.

Banana Muffins, Baked in a Skillet

Adapted from Cupcake Cafe Cookbook

You'll need: a skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups very ripe, mashed bananas

Procedure

  1. Grease your skillet.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the walnuts.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix the banana into the egg mixture. Fold in the dry ingredients until just blended. Fill your skillet with the mixture, it should be about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes; they are done when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
Tuesday
May182010

Sweet Obsession: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies Inspired by David Lebovitz

Being a good baker is one thing, but being a baker worthy of stalking is completely another.

I'm talking, of course, about David Lebovitz, who introduces the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies in his new book, Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes, in this way:

Shortly after my first book came out, my phone rang one night a little after 10:30 p.m. A reader had tracked me down to let me know, with urgency, that she loved these cookies, but that they took 10 minutes to bake in her oven instead of the 9 minutes indicated in the recipe.

When in doubt, err on the side of underbaking so your peanut butter cookies remain moist. Take them out when they are still a bit soft, as they'll continue to firm up a bit after cooling. This time, I've given a bit more latitude to the timing so as to avoid any late-night baking-related emergency phone calls.

Though he never quite says it, the message is pretty clear: this baking rock star has serious stalkers--er, groupies.

But were these cookies really stalker-worthy? I had to see for myself.

I've only made one change from the recipe as printed in the book: instead of using regular creamy peanut butter, I've used Peanut Butter and Company's Dark Chocolate Dreams, figuring that if anything, chocolate will make the recipe even better.

The result? A cookie that is very much the dictionary definition of what a peanut butter cookie should be: moist at the center, lightly crumbly just around the edges, with every bite rich in peanut buttery (accent on the butter) goodness.

These cookies will disappear quickly. Worthy of the worship? Well, let's just say you're gonna need the sugar-and-protein burst of energy to stand outside of Mr. Lebovitz's Parisian pad, clutching boombox a la Lloyd Dobler. Just remember whose idea it was to add the chocolate, sweeties.

Peanut Butter Cookies Worth Stalking

Adapted from Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter, or to take my variation, 1 cup Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

Procedure

 

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter on medium speed just until smooth. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. It will be a thick, solid mass of dough.
  3. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least two hours, but up to overnight.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  5. Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Break off pieces of dough and roll them into 1-inch balls (the recipe calls for rolling them in granulated sugar, but I didn't do that. They were fine without this step, in my opinion, especially considering the added sweetness from the chocolate peanut butter).
  7.  Place on prepared (parchment-lined) baking sheets. Leave 3 inches between cookies. Lightly flatten and make a crosshatch pattern on each cookie using the tines of a fork (a spork doesn't work--no follow up questions).
  8. Bake, rotating the sheets midway through baking, until the cookies are dull and lightly browned around the edges but still lightly glossy/undercooked-looking in the middle (as they cool on the sheet they'll finish up). The bake time will be between 9-10 minutes.
  9. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the sheet (they will crumble if you try to remove them right away) and then transfer to a wire rack using a spatula. These cookies will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container, if they last that long.

Want more? You can buy the most excellent book here , or for more recipes and "An American in Paris" type lore, visit David's website and follow him on Twitter!

Monday
May172010

Going Blonde: Blondie-Topped Brownies for Serious Eats

Blondies or brownies?

It's a delicious dilemma: they're both bar cookie classics, one rich in brown sugar, the other redolent of chocolate.

But why should you have to decide? Because they taste so much better when baked together, in layers.

How'd I do it? Well, since brownies generally have a longer bake time, I started out my pan with a batch of brownie batter which I put in the oven for 20 minutes while I put together the blondie batter. Since the half-baked brownies would have gotten messy had I spread the blondie batter on top, I simply spooned the batter as gently as I could right on top and put it back in the oven for about 25 more minutes; the oven's heat did a nice job of spreading the batter for a tasty two-layered treat.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
May172010

Cake Byte: Discover Baked in Seattle

What does a professional cake gumshoe love more than anything? Discovering a new baking business. So when I came across a line of sweets called Baked In Seattle in Ralph's Grocery, I had to learn more.

Turns out, this local wholesale and custom-order bakery offers a vast array of baby cheesecakes and crumbles with flavors and names inspired by the northwest, and while the baked goods can most readily be found at Blue Willow Catering & Luncheonette in West Seattle, they are also available at a handful of other retail shops.

But most interesting of all? Their menu. Eat--er, read all about it:

5" Mini Cheesecakes @ $3.95 each:

Capitol Hill Classic Cheesecake---Anything but plain, this classic two-layer cheesecake sets the gold standard.

Seneca Strawberry Cheesecake---Creamy Northwest strawberry perfection swirls this taste of paradise.

Belltown Blueberry Cheesecake---Wonderfully dark bursts of whole blueberries popping throughout.

Madison Mocha Cheesecake---Creamy coffee and chocolate balance in a chocolate cookie crust.

Cascade Chocolate Chip Cheesecake---Semi-sweet bits of ecstasy in a sweet chocolate cookie crust.

Queen Anne Chocolate Cheesecake---Four layers of chocolate richness for premier indulgence.

Black &Tan Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cheesecake---Perfect combination of peanuts and chocolate sweetness.

Spanish Castle Orange-Spice Cheesecake---Delicate hints of orange balance cinnamon spice.

Pioneer Square Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake---Our seasonal delight swirled with sweet pumpkin.


5" Mini Crumblepies @ $3.95 each:

Empire Way Apple Crumblepie---Granny Smith apples kissed by brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Bainbridge Blueberry Crumblepie---Blueberry brown sugar heaven covered with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Pike Street Peach Crumblepie---Freestone peaches melt into brown sugar bliss with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Northwest Mixed Berry Crumblepie---Marionberries, blueberries, strawberries, and red raspberries in blended perfection with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Georgetown Strawberry Rhubarb Crumblepie---Seasonal strawberry rhubarb country-sweet classic with a crunchy crumbly sweet top.

Rainier Roasted Sweet Potato Pie---Seasonal down-home buttery goodness and a hint of nutmeg.

Cheesecakes and Crumblepies also available in full 8" size for $13.95 by special order (after July 1st, 2010)

For more information, visit the Baked In Seattle website.

Sunday
May162010

Just Say Nougat: Delicious Nougat from Sugar and Spice, Taiwan

The tooth fairy was pretty awesome. You lose a tooth and you get money. Sweet!

But getting older, I've discovered something even better: the Nougat Fairy. That's what I've found in Kairu, a customer/acquaintance who recently graduated to this (even better, in my opinion) title.

The first time I met her was in my store, when she came in and picked up a bacon-and-cupcake mug (good choice!). She was in a hurry as she was headed home to pack for a trip to Taiwan.

The next time I saw her, she was back from her trip, and toting a big ol' sack of what she calls the best nougat from Taiwan, from Sugar & Spice, a bakery with several locations.

And while I can't say I have extensive experience in tasting Taiwanese nougat, I can say that this stuff is very, very good--amazingly creamy, and punctuated by crunchy, roasted nuts which act as the perfect complement to the sweetness. Addictive, even, as evidenced by said big ol' sack, which is now lamentably empty.

Other offerings at Sugar & Spice can be spotty according to aforementioned Nougat Fairy Kairu and websites like A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei; however, this nougat is highly suggested and definitely worth hoarding by the brimming bag in your luggage.

Nougat from Sugar & Spice, Taiwan; online at sugar.com/tw. 

Sunday
May162010

An Educaketion: Seminar on How To Open an Online Cupcake Business

Question: I want to open a special-order cupcake business, but I have so many questions. Is there a class or seminar I could take on the subject?

Answer: Why yes. And it's offered at Simply Cupcakes of Naples, Florida.

It's true, friends: per an email received from said company, there is a place where you can take a seminar in how to open a successful online cupcake business.

I'll be honest: my first inclination was to file all this under "totally unnecessary" and move on. But even though the site does ominously warn that "this may be your last chance to get into the cupcake business" (or what? or what?), there are some valuable things that they cover at the seminar:

 

  • Complying with legal requirements including ways to bake at home.
  • Setting up your business.
  • Your website...how to use it and make the most of it.
  • What it takes to be successful.
  • What equipment and supplies you will need. Discuss the difference between baking in a convection and conventional oven.
  • Calculating your costs.
  • Marketing.
  • Packaging.
  • Defining your market.
  • Getting free publicity
  • Where to buy ingredients, supplies & packaging.
  • A contract awarding your marketing area and outlining the agreement.
  • A discussion on social networking and how to build a Facebook business page

 

Well, I will admit, if you are a newbie to small business, some of this might be pretty helpful. Worth the hefty $4750 price tag attached? Well, that's up to you, although if you've got that much to spare, I might also suggest a quick jaunt to my shop while you're in a sweet n' spendy mood.

Not in Naples? They do Distance Learning programs too.

Learn more at the Simply Cupcakes website.

Saturday
May152010

Bittersweet: A Tale of Donut Despair Diverted in Portland, OR

I want to tell you a sad, sad story about Delicious Donuts in Portland, Oregon.

Based on many accounts, this is the donut place in Portland--"better than Voodoo" was the bold claim of one trusted source.

But I couldn't tell you for myself, because I've never tasted them.

Oh, I've tried. In the past, when showing at the Crafty Wonderland fair in its old location at the Doug Fir Lounge, I had tried to score a doughnut on my way to the fair, but each and every time I was confronted by this sign:

I wasn't too put off though--generally I was heading over there at 11 a.m. or so, and I can understand if a popular shop might be sold out by then. If anything, it heightened the anticipation.

And on a more recent trip to Portland for the Crafty Wonderland spring fair, I was prepared, and got up early on a Sunday morning and headed over to the donut shop, a spring in my step from the sweet prospect of glazed and fried  goodness in my near future a bit before 8 a.m. Cars were parked outside, and I felt hopeful: this was gonna be my day.

But here's what I found:

The only difference? The sign was slightly nicer. But somehow, this provided little comfort.

Sold out of donuts before 8 a.m. on a Sunday? I can understand if you're a popular place, but come on. If you're selling out that early, you need to make more donuts.

Yes, I was facing deep donut despair, but happily this story has a sweet ending: because a mere few hours later I was delighted with a surprise Voodoo Doughnut, thoughtfully delivered by friends Mary and Dave Sheely. Delicious Donuts might be the best, but Voodoo definitley won my sweet affections on this fateful day.Delicious Donuts, 12 Southeast Grand Avenue Portland, OR 97214-1112 - (503) 233-1833.

Voodoo Doughnut, 22 Southwest 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204-2713, (503) 241-4704; online at voodoodoughnut.com.

Saturday
May152010

Stalking Sweetness: Secret Cupcakes by Joe Randazzo in Seattle

CakeSpy's newest Seattle cupcake crush? Joe Randazzo. This adorable baker-student-caterer-overall renaissance guy doesn't have a storefront, but his cupcake presence is definitely growing in the Emerald City, what with his cupcakes soon to be available at PoDog (for what PoDog would undoubtedly refer to as a "post-wiener sweetie") and undoubtedly more accounts to follow.

And happily, he was kind enough to drop by the CakeSpy Shop with a surprise delivery of two of his cupcakes recently; having tasted them, I can attest to their magic and fully endorse his entry on to the Seattle cupcake scene.

So what makes his cupcakes so special?

First off, the cake itself. Chocolate cake can be a strange beast, having a tendency to err toward extremes--either too dry or too moist (moist being good, damp being bad). This cake somehow managed to be moist and buttery without coming off as excessively heavy--this cake is no mere frosting vehicle, it has merits on its own.

And then the frosting. 

As you can see, it has magical, cartoon bubble-heart creating powers.

Joe Randazzo's cupcake frosting is a sophisticated sort, more buttery and less crunchy than a typical American buttercream, but silky and luxuriant and utterly mouth-filling with its rich flavor. It's a subtle sweetness, so I might say that these are more suited for adult palates than say, for a children's birthday party, but that's just fine, because I don't like to share with children, anyway.

Cupcakes by Joe Randazzo, coming soon to Capitol Hill; in the meantime, stay updated with his sweet goings-on via Twitter.

Thursday
May132010

Prettier in Pink: An Updated History on Uncle Seth's Pink Frosted Cookie

It's fun to revisit the past sometimes, isn't it?

It's been a few years since this post about the history of Seattle regional specialty the Pink Frosted Cookie, so just to update you, here's the original post which included the history of the cookie from the official Pinks Original Bakery (formerly Mostly Muffins) site (the company which purchased the cookie's rights and recipe):

Uncle Seth’s Cookie was a concept developed from a passion of fun and feeling good. From the high mountain tops of Bali came the inspiration for the feel good cookie. Danny Brown, the originator and inventor of the Original Pink, also known as an Uncle Seth Cookie, found a kindred spirit in a man named Seth. Seth moved from a crazed urban setting better known as the City, to live his dream of peace in the mountains. The namesake of the Uncle Seth Cookie gave tribute to this man named Seth who changed his life for the sake of fun and happiness. To bring a bit of that passion and fun to light, Danny created a cookie that says eat me because you can. This cookie has a good aura. After nine years of hand rolling this Danish Shortbread, Danny too, decided to head for the hills. Mostly Muffins purchased Uncle Seth’s Cookies in 1996 and Danny was off to live in Hawaii!


Mostly Muffins now proudly carries on the tradition of fun and feeling good by serving the Original Pink to the entire Northwest community. Eat one of the Original Pink Cookies and you can’t help but smile!

But since this writeup, a few of the blanks have been filled in, per an email from a Provo, UT reader:

The Pink Cookies craze actually started in Provo, UT. (Danny's home town). I remember seeing the girls frosting the Pink cookies by hand in a little store front shop just South of the BYU campus. This was in 1983 - 1984 time frame. I lived across the street and I would buy the broken frosted cookies from them for real cheap,  The Pink Cookie craze grew all over Provo and then expanded to others area of Utah county and Salt lake City. 

Danny saw a good business idea and moved to Seattle to start the Pink Cookie craze in Seattle.  When he moved to Hawaii, he helped start a bakery in Halaiwa, on the North shore of Oahu. 

And even further, there is this tale from the Orem, UT-based Granny B, who also claims to have invented the cookie:

Granny B (Blackett) was born on November 08, 1915. She loved making cookies for others, and she loved sitting down with her children and enjoying these fresh-baked goodies. Using prized family recipes, Granny B learned to create the softest and most delicious cookies – cookies that tranformed every-day occasions into delightful celebrations. She would be tickled pink to know how many “celebrations” her Granny B cookies create for folks across the country every day.

Granny B passed on the love of baking delicious cookies to her daughter, Diane. As Diane remembers, “We would spend hours together talking and baking.  It was great fun and where I learned all the little baking secrets”  With Diane in the kitchen, the Blackett family cookies began decorating more events, celebrating more parties, and rewarding and motivating more good behavior from her brothers. The pink cookie became a family recipe for fun.

A magnet on the fridge read, “A balanced diet is a cookie in both hands.”

So, as it seems, the cookie does have a storied past in multiple cities--perhaps this also explains why such delicious variations (not pink frosted, but tastes just as good--even better) can be found in the Provo area!

But why is it that the cookie thrived in Seattle? I'm still sticking to my original theory: it comes down to two things. The first aspect is timing: the cookie got its start being sold in coffee carts just as the coffee business was starting up in earnest in Seattle; naturally, they would appeal for the same reasons that coffee is so popular in the area--the climate just begs for rich treats and coffee during those rainy days that take up oh, eight months of the year. The second and perhaps more important aspect? Duh--The frosting color. there's no secret that pink frosting tastes better than any other color.


Not in the Seattle or Provo area but want a pink frosted cookie? I hear you: similar-looking products can be found online at Granny B's here--or--even better, we found a recipe which is said to yield a very similar taste to the original Uncle Seth's Cookie, right here at allrecipes.com.

 

 

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