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Wednesday
May262010

Great Pear-ing: Brown Sugar Ginger Cream Cake with Five Spice Pecans and Caramelized Pears

With my first attempt at baking from the new book Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison, I managed to do something rather unlikely: I made a dessert which contained absolutely no fruit, seasonal or otherwise.

What I did, of course, was I flipped right to the back of the book where there is a section entitled "cakes to go with fruit"--and I chose the most rich and delicious-sounding one, the Brown Sugar-Ginger Cream Cake, which was described as having a "poundcake-like personality". Sold! I baked it up, using part almond flour for fun (it made the texture slightly more coarse, I think, but not in such a bad way), and it came out beautifully.

But how to top it? Flipping to another section of the book, I came across a recipe for Candied Five-Spice Pecans, suggested as a great accompaniment to ripe pears; they sounded good, so I made a batch and put them on top of the cake, completely ignoring that pesky and vaguely healthy-sounding pear part. And oh, are they divine on top of the buttery, rich cake.

But ultimately I realized it wouldn't necessarily be honoring the book's, ah, entire mission, to not include fruit, so I sliced up a ripe Washington pear in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, stirring frequently over medium heat until the liquid had reduced and the pear had been battered into sweet, buttery submission.

And you know what? The fruit made it even better, and made me feel a whole lot better about eating it for breakfast (It has fruit! And nuts! It's practically health food!)

Here's how you do it at home. 

Brown Sugar Ginger Cream Cake with Five Spice Pecans and Caramelized Pears

For the cake

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (you could use cake or all purpose flour here instead, the original recipe called for 3/4 cup each AP and cake flour, respectively)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the five spice pecans

  • 1 cup pecan halves or pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspon five-spice powder

For the caramelized pears 

  • 1 large ripe pear, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Procedure 

  1. Butter and flour a loaf pan. Line the bottom and ends with parchment paper (it will make your life so much easier). Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; whisk together. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat the eggs till foamy, then add the cream, sugar, and flavorings. Beat until you have what resembles a soft whipped cream. Pour the mixture into the center of the flour mixture and whisk together just until well combined and lump-free. Scrape batter into the pan and even it out.
  4. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes (original recipe called for 50-60 minutes, but I think using the almond flour might have altered the baking time).
  5. Let cool for about half an hour in the pan before loosening the sides with a knife and turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. Prepare the candied five-spice pecans. Adjust the oven to 300 F. Toast pecans until they are fragrant, about 15-20 minutes. Turn them at about 10 minutes to ensure that they brown evenly.
  7. Heat your butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add your pecans, and sprinkle the sugar on top. Stir and cook until the sugar melts and covers the nuts. Remove them to a bowl and toss with the five-spice powder. Gently put them on top of the cake (it's ok if the cake is still warm); they will crisp up a bit as they cool.
  8. Go ahead and use the same skillet and melt some more butter over medium heat; add your slivered pear pieces, and once you've turned the slices once or twice and they're a bit wilty around the edges, add the sugar. Continue to heat until the juices have begun to reduce and the mixture is thick and caramel-y. Serve on top of cake slices.
Wednesday
May262010

Cake Byte: Suspect and Fugitive Art Show and Presale!

Dudes. Dudettes. Are you ready for some serious awesome?

Well, I want to tell you about the artist of the month for June at CakeSpy Shop: Kris Garland! Where pop culture meets punny food art, you'll find Kris's work, culminated in this show entitled "Suspect & Fugitive".

Here's the 411:

"Suspect and Fugitive" is a companion show to the 365 blog (suspectandfugitive.com) of the same name. All pieces in the series are composed of suspect (questionable) and fugitive (nonarchival) materials. Kris Garland, the artist behind the blog, has been making nonarchival pieces since 1996 when she learned that she enjoyed silk screening with nail polish. She has since moved on to working with food items as that is what she typically keeps in the fridge.

Happily, though the works in this collection are made in part with food, they're made to last, on archival paper and framed!

Now, there will be an artist reception in the store on Thursday, June 10, from 5-8 p.m.--but if you want a preview of the awesome, check it out--here is a preview (and pre-sale) for several of the items that will be on show!

The show will be up all month at CakeSpy Shop's retail location at 415 East Pine Street, Seattle WA 98122; open Tue-Sun, 12-7 pm.

OK, here's the info on the art!

"Country Time Liz Lemonade", Tina Fey as Liz Lemon made from pink Country Time lemonade and acrylic on paper, 11"x15", $175 (pictured above).

"Beety White", Betty White made from beet juice on paper, 11"x15", $175

"Berry Tyler Moore", Mary Tyler Moore made from raspberries, strawberries and acrylic on paper, 15"x 22", $200

"Blue Ball", Lucille Ball made from blue food dye and acrylic on paper, 15"x 22", $200

"Dill Bert", Bert made from dill and watercolor on paper, 15"x 22", $200

"Coffee Coffy", Pam Grier as Coffy made from coffee on paper, 15"x22", $200

"Tropical Ponch", Eric Estrada as Ponch made from tropical punch Kool Aid and acrylic on paper, 11"x 15", $175

"Frankenwine", Frankenstein made from cabernet sauvignon on paper, 11" x 15", $175

"Soy Boy", Bat Boy made from soy sauce on paper, 11" x 13.5", $175

"Cinnamona Lisa", Mona Lisa made from cinnamon and watercolor on paper, 11" x 15".

Wednesday
May262010

Small But Mighty: Vegan Truffles by The Smallest Bite

In general, I love desserts that incorporate great quality and massive quantity. But in my more refined moments, even I can admit that sometimes, small bites can be exquisite.

Such is the case with truffles by The Smallest Bite, a Rhode Island-based chocolate company run by Season James (perhaps identical cousin to Autumn Martin, who does chocolate in Seattle?) who recently sent me a parcel of pint-sized sweets for me to sample. 

The Smallest Bite specializes in organic, vegan truffles which are made with all natural, free trade ingredients. All of this may sound very granola, but the taste is anything but: these are deep, dark, and incredibly rich. They create said truffles in a collection of flavors which include the original (a bittersweet chocolate), a toasted coconut and pistachio variety, and the one we tried--the blackberry pretzel.

Now, I didn't sample the other flavors, but I am nonetheless pretty sure that blackberry pretzel must be the best. The blackberry provides a tart, subtle undertone, and the pretzel provides a delicious saltiness: both taste profiles are made even better by the extreme chocolatiness of the truffle.

The only catch with my parcel from The Smallest Bite seemed to be the packaging: my parcel arrived with the truffles overturned and the little candy cups overturned; in spite of this dissaray, however, the goods themselves were not damaged, and I was assured that this had not been a problem with shipments.

Want some for yourself? Order online at thesmallestbite.com.

Wednesday
May262010

Get Sconed: A Delightfully Carbohydratey Treat from Heavenly Pastry and Cake, Seattle

Scones are, in general, not to be trusted.

Oh, they look great in the bakery case, in all of their buttery, carbohydratey glory, often prettily glistening with various glazes or topped with fat granules of sugar.

But in general I tend to agree with America's Test Kitchen when it comes to the flavor reality: as they put it, "scones served in a typical coffeehouse are so dry and leaden that they seem like a ploy to get people to buy more coffee to wash them down."

But when I recently encountered the jam-filled variety at the Heavenly Pastry & Cake booth at the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market, I had a glimmer of hope. For one thing, it looked more biscuit-y than many American bakery varieties--it seemed more like a British scone (or at least a cousin to my favorite Grand Central Baking treat, the Jammer).

Happily, these scones tasted just as good as they looked: the texture was somewhere between cakey and biscuity, yielding but not  falling into the crumbly or spongy pitfalls that often plague lesser scones. The raspberry filling offered a nice texture and taste contrast to the butteriness of the main event, and almost (but not quite) made them taste healthy. 

Heavenly Pastry & Cake says on their menu of their scones that "we give these humble pastries the respect, and flavor, you deserve"--and after having tasted, I tend to agree.

P.S. Though they're not sweet, the pretzels ought not be missed, either.

Heavenly Pastry & Cake, retail storefront coming soon in West Seattle; they can also be found at several area Farmer's Markets. For more information, visit heavenlypastry.com.

Tuesday
May252010

Sweet (and Savory) Art: Paintings Mike Geno

Now, my first inclination is to say that Mike Geno's artwork is totally sweet: after all, he does have a great breadth of work comprised of thoughtful, painterly renderings of doughnuts, cakes both homemade and packaged (including Tastykakes!), and various candies.

But I wouldn't want to overlook his fine work focused on beef, bacon, and steak, either.

So what motivates this series of foodie-based art? Per the artist's website,

This series of food still life paintings is directly related to my obsessive enjoyment of food and how that enjoyment connects me to a larger community. More specifically these paintings are all ready-to-eat subjects that are presented in a range of displays including abstraction through decorative groupings as well as a more traditional single object presentation. I am interested in exploring, through paint, the attractive qualities of various food items that we are sold in the consumer culture we exist in. 

Of course, as the artist continues, "My intention is to address the subject in this context rather than monumentalize it and also to avoid the pitfalls of the over-traveled path of traditional food still life painting."

Ultimately, Mike's goal is "to be absurdly successful, perhaps less poor and the envy of all the right people"--and, I daresay, able to afford to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants to eat it. And it's a delight to travel this carb, protein, and sugar-heavy world through his work.

Paintings and prints by Mike Geno are available here, and will soon be available at the CakeSpy retail shop.

Monday
May242010

Sweet Banana Manna: Banana Cream Pie in a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Crust for Serious Eats

Please, please stop using banana bread as the final resting place for your ripe bananas. Because there's a much sweeter option: namely, banana cream pie. In a chocolate peanut butter cookie crust.

This concoction combines the classic idea of combining rich, creamy banana pudding with cookies, but in a far more decadent way. Rather than the classic Nilla wafer pairing, this pie capitalizes on the fact that both peanut butter and chocolate taste excellent with bananas—and brings all these harmonious flavors together, in one delicious place.

When topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream, this is not merely the stuff that dreams are made of, but the stuff of waking fantasy as well.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
May242010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Smitten Bake Shop, Bay Area CA

When sweetness and cuteness are combined, what can I say? CakeSpy is absolutely smitten.

And the most recent crush? Smitten Bake Shop, in the East SF Bay Area. They don't have a retail storefront--in fact, they barely have a website--but they sure do have plenty of sweetness. As their website says, "our website may not be up and running yet, but our ovens are!". They are currently available for custom orders.

Per an email from co-owner Lisa, here's the story:

I do the baking and my partner Debra handles the biz and financial side. I bake out of a restaurant on Mondays when they're closed, but as we're getting busier, are looking high and low for a place with more flexibility/hours. We were surprisingly (happily) buried in Mother's Day orders, especially for our "Love You" sour cream heart cookies, and looking very forward to having a permanent home soon so we can be ready for the holidays.

Till then, find out more at their work-in-progress site, smittenbakeshop.com.

Sunday
May232010

Cake Byte: New Art up at CakeSpy Shop!

So, sweeties, I have some bad news.

The original "Scenes from Capitol Hill" series of mini paintings I did for CakeSpy Shop is nearly 75% sold out! That means you missed out on many sweet original paintings, including the three pictured below, which are all now owned by people other than you:

But you should know that I'd never say something mean like "sucks to be you"--especially since happily, I have good news, too. I've done some replacement pieces which are now up in the gallery, including, but not limited to:

But if original art isn't your thing and you want some sweet stationery, why not check out these totally sweet new Toasties Getting Toasty while toasting marshmallows notecards?

And believe it or not, that's not all. There's even more awesome coming to CakeSpy Shop next month: a show featuring work by Kris Garland entitled Suspect + Fugitive! It features pop culture icons made from...well, largely food! For instance, "Dill Bert"--that is, Bert, made of Dill--pictured below left.

Here's the 411 on the upcoming show:

"Suspect and Fugitive" is a companion show to the 365 blog 
(suspectandfugitive.com) of the same name. All pieces in the 
series are composed of suspect (questionable) and fugitive 
(nonarchival) materials. Kris Garland, the artist behind the 
blog, has been making nonarchival pieces since 1996 when 
she learned that she enjoyed silk screening with nail polish. 
She has since moved on to working with food items as that 
is what she typically keeps in the fridge.

Artist reception: Thursday, June 10, 2010, 5-8 p.m. at 415 E. Pine St., Seattle WA 98122.

The items still left in the Capitol Hill Series are available online here; the Suspect and Fugitive artwork (and cards and prints) will be available in the store starting June 1!

CakeSpy Shop + Bluebottle Art Gallery, 415 E. Pine St., Seattle; open Tue-Sun, 12-7 p.m.

Saturday
May222010

Morning Glory: The Lovely and Amazing Morning Bun

It's time to talk about the Morning Bun, that beautiful American adaptation of French breakfast pastries.

First off, what is this thing? As Carey Jones put it so beautifully on Serious Eats,

In my mind, the morning bun is the perfect synthesis of the classic croissant and the irresistible sticky bun. Call it a croissant in cinnamon roll clothing. It’s made of a buttery croissant dough, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (and often walnuts or pecans), then rolled into spirals. Each one is baked in a muffin tin, and when the morning buns rise, they spill up and out of their little slots. Kept in close quarters, the bottom stays a bit doughy, like a sticky bun interior, while the top lifts into an appealingly flaky, cinnamon-speckled dome.

Legend (that being lore from a CakeSpy Shop customer Katie's friend) has it that this bit of sweet manna originated in the Midwest US, perhaps the result of French settlers trying to recreate a piece of home with the ingredients and supplies they had readily available? It is listed on the Wisconsin Food Hall of Fame, at any rate.

But regardless of where it came from, one thing is certain--these beautiful buns are just as tasty as they look, and if you see one at your local bakery, you should grab one. Of course, making a trek to Tartine for one based on the picture above wouldn't be out of the question, either (and while you're in the Bay Area, hit up La Farine, too!).

For more lore and love on the subject of the Morning Bun (and recipes/bakery suggestions too!), you might like to read Serious Eats, Pink Stripes, and Apartment Therapy.

Saturday
May222010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Brooklyn Treat Shoppe, Brooklyn NY

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, at least one of them from the above photo is yum.

And it should serve to tell you pretty much why Brooklyn Treat Shoppe is CakeSpy's latest Bakery Crush!

This dessert catering company (read: no retail storefront at the moment), as the name might imply, is based in the borough of Brooklyn, and they specialize in sweets: cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other sweets, some of which don't start with the letter "c". They also do "cake art", including this sweet treat which vaguely resembles a cartoon version of the Seagram building (in the sweetest way possible!):Testimonials are loving: "to die for" and "what dreams are made of" are basically the tone of fans. Yup--chef Toniann Salvato sure does have a sweet future, based on what I see!

Check out the official Brooklyn Treat Shoppe website here; follow them on Twitter here.

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