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Wednesday
Apr212010

Cake Byte: Mother's Day Treats at Essential Baking Company, Seattle

Seeking something sweet for mom in Seattle? Here's the newest batch of sweet treats available at Essential Baking. Per an email from their PR company:

The Essential Baking Company says hats off to all our wonderful mothers this Mothers Day with delicious desserts and breads!

Delight Mom on her special day with orange Bavarian cream and chocolate mousse enrobed in dark chocolate ganache on a buttery pecan shortbread cookie. Mom’s Hat gets its finishing flourish from a white chocolate flower and ribbon of marzipan. Available now through June 15.

Also available, Pane Fiore, Italian for bread flower, is two gifts in one just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s edible, as well as decorative, so you can skip the flowers and give Mom a tastier bouquet. This mildly sweet bread has a soft, moist crumb with a hint of vanilla. The dough is hand-formed in a braided design that blossoms into a flower shape, with a sprinkling of rock sugar on top to mimic the flower’s seeds. Available April 21 – May 11

Mom’s Hat and Pane Fiore will be available at select grocery stores in the greater Seattle area and The Essential Bakery Cafés in Wallingford, Madison and the new Georgetown bakery. The Mom’s Hat retails at The Essential Bakery cafes for $5.95 and Pane Fiore at $6.00

For more information, visit essentialbaking.com.

Monday
Apr192010

Sweet Combination: Whoopie Pie Cupcakes, Inspired by Audrey

Whoopie pies are not the next cupcake...or are they?

At the recent CupcakeCamp Seattle event, one cupcake submission (by talented amateur baker Audrey M. of Seattle's Babeland) made my eyes go wider than any other: the whoopie pie cupcake. Here it was: cold, hard proof that both are improved when combined. Yes!

Needless to say it was love at first bite, and I rushed home to try and recreate the magic in my own kitchen. I whipped up a batch of whoopie pie batter (using butter instead of the traditional shortening) and baked about two-thirds of it in cupcake cups, and the rest as regular whoopie pie cookies, and then sandwiched it all together with a generous dab of fluffy frosting.

The conclusion? Whoopie pies and cupcakes are definitely better together.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Apr192010

Lucky Charms: Lollipops by This Charming Candy

Photos c/o This Charming CandyLollipops are an inherently happy food. They're the reward at the end of childhood doctor visits or trips to the bank--a small and innocent nugget of sweetness on a stick. 

But even happier is when they actually taste good. So it was very delightful to receive a tip about This Charming Candy by Melanie of Starry Nights Catering (featured on CakeSpy a while back), who has this to say about them: "They do amazing handmade lollipops featuring crazy-good flavor combinations like coconut-caramel and coffee-hazelnut. They have flavors to appeal to both kids and adults, and man do I love them!"

Certainly above and beyond the average lollipop, these handcrafted hard candies are made in small batches in the Seattle area. Not only are they visually stunning, almost like little confectionery stained glass objets d'art, but they come in a dazzling array of creative flavors such as Vanilla cardamom, Salted caramel, Pistachio-marshmallow, Nutmeg creme, and Honey Jasmine.

Special flavor collections--paired by seasonal flavors or themes, like the "Twilight"-inspired collection of "bloodsuckers" (above) are also available, as are Lollipop of the month subscriptions.

And--just saying--they have Birthday Cake flavored lollipops. Birthday! Cake! Flavored! Lollipops!

But really, I've said enough. At this point, I'm surprised you're still even reading this--don't be a sucker, go order some!

Find out more about This Charming Candy on their website; buy enough lollipops to make your mouth happy for a long time at their online store!

Sunday
Apr182010

Beyond a Baker's Dozen: A Roundup of Cake Truffle Companies

Cake bites made by Bakerella for CakeSpy!Whether they're on a stick or just rolled as truffles, one thing is for certain: Cake Balls are taking over the world (for which I credit, and thank, Bakerella!). Here's a collection of companies selling them online and in their stores:

(note: got one to add? leave a comment!)

Audrey Kate Rae cake truffles come in flavors like red velvet coated in Tiffany blue--yes! Read more here. (Thanks Suzette for the tip!)

Butterfly Cake Bites come in pina colada, banana split, and creamsicle-inspired flavors. Oh yes.

Cacao Sweets and Treats in the Chicago area makes sweet cake truffles in a variety of flavors, and will also provide custom packaging options. Oh, and their shop also features white chocolate bacon peanut butter cups, just FYI.

Cake Balls is probably my favorite company name ever. Of course, the fact that they sell a delectable-sounding Birthday Cake truffle makes me even more delighted!

Cake Bug provides custom truffles with build-your-own flavors--I think I could go for the lime-coconut combination!

Cake Pop Company in Springfield, MO features pops of all sorts, but their most exciting new item is the Askinosie Chocolate Cake Pop, which is described by the owner as "are a combination of my own Mother’s recipe for chocolate cake and Single Origin Natural Cocoa Powder-San Jose DeTambo, Ecuador from Askinosie Chocolate, covered in Askinosie 77% Davao, Philippines Dark Chocolate. It is a dense and rich cake."

Cocoa Bakery and Cafe in Jersey City, NJ makes cake truffles--including banana cake truffles.

Confection Concoctions in Spanaway features cake pops and cake truffles; read the CakeSpy interview with owner Laura here!

Crunchy Jewels is a cake truffle company in NYC, and they make something called a Vietnamese Coffee Cake Ball. Yum.

David Burke Cake Pops makes pops both sweet and savory of all types, but their Cheesecake pops have me intrigued.

Dessert.Net offers what they call "addictive cake balls"--in collections of complementary flavors.

Fab Favors offers traditional flavors and specialty flavors such as peanut butter banana and Key Lime.

Frosting Bake Shop in Mill Valley offers extremely delicious cake bites.

Honey and Bee in San Diego works by special order to create cake truffles in flavors like toffee, green tea, and an intriguing Imperial Chocolate Porter.

Just a Bite Cake Pops in Orange County, CA specializes in sweets on a stick, with the usual suspects (vanilla, chocolate, red velvet) and also a line of more gourmet flavors, including toasted coconut, carrot cake, and more.

Krissy's Cake Balls features a German Chocolate cake ball. They're in Kentucky, but they do mail order (whew).

Little Miss Sweet Tooth Dollies in Coral Gables, FL features cake truffles in flavors like the delicious-sounding "Drag Queen", comprised of pistachio cake, buttercream frosting, covered in vanilla coating.

Lollicake Bake Shop makes cute cake pops and truffles, sometimes in the shapes of characters like Elmo. Awww.

Lux Bakery and Cafe in Austin makes cake balls in flavors like chocolate chip and green tea. It's also worth noting that they have something on their menu called the "Nanaimo Cup" which sounds like the best kind of cup there is.

Mad Cravings from Oregon may not have the most user-friendly site, but they do have cake balls in flavors like peach champagne and key lime pie, and they also offer gluten-free versions.

Sarandipity Sweets in Georgia makes cute cake pops shaped like cupcakes, apples, and more.

Skipping Stones makes adorable cupcake-shaped cake truffles, and their online shop boasts a variety of other goodies like pie lollipops, homemade graham crackers, and more!

Stacy's Cakes of Irvine specializes in cake truffles in creative custom flavors.

Sweet E's in Los Angeles makes sweet pops covered in rainbow sprinkles--because everything tastes better with sprinkles.

Sweet Tooth Fairy in Provo, UT features something they call "CakeBites" which are a CakeSpy (and Rachael Ray!) favorite. 

Tart Bakery in Dallas has cake balls for sale in a variety of flavors.

Very Vera truffles are available at Saks Fifth Avenue, and are described as "Sweet two-bite decadences are rolled up into balls, then dipped in chocolate and various toppings including pecans, almonds, walnuts, coconut flakes and graham cracker crumbs; a festive dessert presentation."

With Love Bakery in Plano offers cake balls in a delectable array of flavors like s'mores, candy bar, and coconut cake. This makes me love them.

Sunday
Apr182010

Sweet Sneak Peek: Good Chemistry Baking, Coming Soon in Oakland, CA

You know what I love? Seeing people make it happen. And right now, one of my biggest inspirations is Jane O'Hara, proprietress of the soon-to-be-opened gluten-free bakery, Good Chemistry Baking (don't you just love the name?), in Oakland. I met Jane last year when showing at the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco, back when the bakery concept was still preheating in her mind. After talking extensively about eating sweet on a gluten-free diet, we kept in contact through the year, and now I'm delighted to say that her bakery is going to be open soon in the Bay Area!

Direct from the source, here's a sneak peek at the awesomeness that will soon be open in Oakland (with some seriously tempting photos from Michael Behen): 

Good Chemistry Baking: Opening Memorial Day weekend in Oakland, CA! 
 
Good Chemistry Baking is a new, dedicated gluten-free bakery featuring treats made with many local and organic ingredients. Owner and baker Jane O'Hara makes a variety of baked goods from scratch each day; menu items will include muffins, scones, lemon bars, cupcakes, cookies, breads, pizza by-the-slice and more.  The bakery will serve organic and fair-trade coffee from Minneapolis-based Peace Coffee and certified gluten-free teas from The Republic of Tea. Oh, and they may or may not be featuring artwork by that cupcake artist called CakeSpy (I'm kidding. They really will be.)
 

More details:

Good Chemistry Baking
'celebrating the gluten-free good life'
3249 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
510.350.7190
www.goodchemistrybaking.com (website coming soon!) 
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

Saturday
Apr172010

Flash in the Pain: Pain au Chocolat from Bakery Nouveau, West Seattle

You just try and tell me that isn't the loveliest and most hypnotic thing you've ever seen.

Oh, ok, we can look at it from another angle. If you insist.

OK. One more.

This buttery stunner is the pain au chocolat from Bakery Nouveau (you know, the one owned by the guy who won the thing), and it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

Now, usually I'm not a fan of croissants that have a crispy, shardlike texture on the outside--my greedy nature is saddened by the thought that I might lose a crumb of the outer croissant while eating. But happily, this one wasn't so much shardlike as it was lightly crispy yet yielding to a soft center--it felt almost like you could taste every ethereal layer of light pastry at once, and they were all very buttery. And then there was the chocolate, lightly bitter and a dark, rich complement to the lightness of the pastry.

Nothing pain-ful about this sweet treat. Well, except for the name, which I suggest they change to pleasure au chocolat, toute suite. 

Oh, and speaking of chocolate, according to Lorna Yee, next on the list to try at Nouveau is the chocolate cake.

Pain au chocolat from Bakery Nouveau, 4737 California Ave. SW, West Seattle; online at bakerynouveau.com.

Saturday
Apr172010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Laura Liscano of Confection Concoctions

Everything tastes better on a stick. And nobody knows this better than Laura Liscano, owner of Spanaway, WA-based Confection Concoctions, a special-order sweets company specializing in cake pops and truffles (which have, by the way, officially been declared a "faddy food"). So why not learn more about the art of making cake on a stick--and how she got from a Bakerella-inspired moment of baking to a business venture:

CakeSpy: Why is it that everything tastes better on a stick?

Laura Liscano: I think it brings us "grown ups" back to a happy place in our childhood where things like lollipops, corn dogs and popsicles would usually be associated with fun times.

CS: Tell me more. How did you get your start as an arbiter of sweet treats, mostly on sticks? 

LL: I discovered Bakerella's super cute Cupcake Pop through Martha Stewart one day and decided I would make a bouquet for my neighbor/friend. They took me FOREVER but I was hooked! She asked me to make some for her to give to someone else which is when I started to get creative and put my own spin on them. I've always had a creative side and this allows me to tap into that.

CS: Currently you offer cake pops, cake truffles, and decorated cookies. Any plans for other products in the future?

LL: I made some yummy cupcakes for my daughter's classroom yesterday and am making some for a bridal shower this weekend. Other than that, I think I would rather be great at a few things than "ok" at a bunch of things. I would love to start playing around with sugar; mostly for my own personal growth though.

CS: What's your personal favorite sweet on a stick that you've made?

LL: I really love the original designs that I have come up with. Like the Cake Slice and the intricate 2-tier Square pops with the Zebra Stripes and the Cherry Blossoms. It makes me feel like I'm somewhat unique and not just copying others' ideas.

CS: You say that Cake Balls and pops are the new cupcake. Could you kindly back this up with cold hard proof?

LL: LOL. It's hard to maintain that after attending Cupcake Camp but what I mean is cupcakes are all the rage right now and Cupcake Boutiques are popping up everywhere. And while cupcakes will always be a classic, I think they will run their course and Cake Pops will be next in line to be the "in" thing.

CS: You currently work by special order only. Do you plan on ever opening a retail shop?

LL: I can picture my Cake Pop Shop in my head right now! A lot of stars would have to align for that to happen though. With the economy the way it is; I think it would be a risky move, especially when there are still so many people that dont even know what a cake pop is yet. I hope to continue to move forward and eventually get to that point.

CS: What's your most popular flavor?

LL: Red Velvet with Cream Cheese icing for sure! Its funny because I grew up in the South and have always known about Red Velvet but up here in the NW, it seems like its a new trend and folks out here are loving it!

CS: For fun: what is your favorite dessert to eat (vs. to make)?

LL: I love a good old-fashioned cobbler with vanilla ice cream. It doesnt have to be pretty and is super easy to make. For the stuff I create, I must admit I thoroughly enjoy the decorating part vs the actual baking when it comes to cakepops, cookies and cupcakes. Although I make sure that they taste great, I am a perfectionist with the appearance. I thrive off of the positive reaction of my customers when I deliver a bouquet to them. Thats what keeps me going!

CS: What's next?

LL: Right now I am taking it day by day and letting the business growth determine my path. I am starting to do wedding favors and corporate events in addition to the bouquets so that is exciting. I'm greatful to have discovered this new passion and I hope that I can continue to grow what started as a thank-you gift into something that can help support my family for many years.

Want more fun that you can shake a stick at? Keep updated with Confection Concoctions via their website and Facebook!

Friday
Apr162010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Cool Companies Specializing in Sweet Stuff

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: Say It With Cookie Cake, Caroline's Desserts, High 5 Pie, Granville Whoopie PiesWhat does this baker's dozen of cool companies have in common? A sweet vision. Here's a batch of new businesses to discover:

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck serves larger than life cones and frozen treats with personality to match.

Cake Balls, while unfortunately having nothing to do with a "Space Balls" remake with an entirely cake-based cast, does nonetheless sell some decadently delicious little cake bites.

Caroline's Desserts specializes in pinkies-out, fancy versions of the classic Rice Krispie treat.

Cake & Shake: This street cart in NYC basically sells all the best things in the world.

Crème Brûlée Cart is keeping San Franciscans on their toes, twittering their location and flavors daily. I'd totally follow their beckon call to score some chocolate peanut butter cup creme brulee.

Granville Whoopie Pies specializes in...well, you guessed it--but in unique flavors like black forest cherry, lemon poppyseed, and buckeye. Nom.

High 5 Pie is the brainchild of Dani Cone, owner of Fuel Coffee, whom I suspect is a genius, what with products like PieJars, pie pops and mac and cheese hand pies.

Hotlix is a company that specializes in lollipops with bugs inside. Yup, you heard that right.

Las Paletas in Nashville, as you can see from the Yelp reviews, sells "popsicles, and only popsicles" - in flavors like hot chocolate and chili, mexican caramel, peanut butter, raspberry and lime, honeydew, cantaloupe, tamarind, cucumber with chili, elderflower and more.  

Led Zeppole specializes in zeppoles, and has a name that makes me laugh every time I see it.

Say It With Cookie Cake is an Austin-based special order baking company specializing in items like cookie-cakes which say "Bite Me" or "Suck It" and other sweet snarkiness. 

Sweetfields Inc. specializes in flowers...that you can eat!

Sweet Revolution Caramels in San Francisco makes maple honey caramels that might make you want to emancipate yourself from all other candies. 

Wednesday
Apr142010

Sweetest Day Ever: 50 Awesome Moments at CupcakeCamp Seattle

So, last week was CupcakeCamp Seattle, sponsored by Bella Cupcake Couture. As you may know, I was lucky enough to be the one who did the artwork for the poster and branding of the festival--but what you may not know is that I was even double-triple-fourteen times luckier, because in addition to participating artistically, I was also a VIP attendee--one of the judges, along with serious celebrities as Kelley Moore, Melody Biringer of Crave, Keren Brown, Jackie of CakeCentral (!!!), and more!

So. To try and narrow it down to 10, a Baker's Dozen, or even 25 awesome moments would be pretty much impossible, so instead I'm opting to share 50 awesome moments (in no particular order) from CupcakeCamp Seattle. It was a packed event and they ran out of cupcakes, so some people unfortunately were turned away--but I'm sure that next year it will be even bigger and better. 

  1. My artwork on the signpost outside. The first thing I saw made me feel like a serious VIP!
  2. Salted caramel cupcakes from Cupcake Royale. This is one of the most famous cupcakes I know, and it Lives. Up. To. The. Hype.
  3. The "Little Miss Tipsy" Cupcake by New York Cupcakes. Limoncello and Raspberry Vodka Cupcakes. Dude, I feel a (sugar) buzz just looking at them.
  4. This beautiful spread from Bella Bella Cupcakes (top picture).
  5. Strawberry Pop Rocks Cupcakes! These were a winner in the Amateur Baker category, for most unique ingredient. They tasted delicious (but I already knew that Pop Rocks are a great ingredient in baked goods!)
  6. Brown butter bliss cupcakes - with homemade marshmallows. Yes!
  7. The cupcake-eating contest. 
  8. The fact that the winner of the cupcake eating contest was wearing a necklace comprised of a doughnut on chain links.
  9. Root beer float cupcakes.
  10. The crowd. Now, I know that people who didn't get in were pissed off, but it seriously made me so happy to see so many people excited about cake.
  11. I got to meet Lyndsey of Kitchen DoughDough! 
  12. Pear Cupcakes. They sparkled, both figuratively and literally. Once again by Bella Bella!  
  13. The "Unhappy Hipster" cupcake by Rocket Queen Cupcakes. This is funny.
  14. This spread by Tacoma's Celebrity Cake Studio.
  15. My fellow judge Melody (oh, you may know her as the famous founder of Crave). Can't you tell how happy she is?
  16. Vegan cupcakes that looked like starbucks mochas! Aww! By the Cake Diva (read more here).
  17. Biting into said vegan cupcakes and finding even more awesome inside.
  18. And on the flipside: So. Many. Bacon. Cupcakes.
  19. Java Cupcake's "Tree Hugger Apple" cupcakes--like snickerdoodle met apple cinnamon, with cinnamon buttercream and caramel. Om nom nom.
  20. Seeing how enthusiastic all of the eaters were (look at those full plates!)
  21. Tiger tails from Trophy Cupcakes! 
  22. A beautiful array from Wink Cupcakes. 
  23. The "Sustainable Granola" cupcake masterpiece by Bella Bella Cupcakes--a Seattle-themed composition featuring fondant sandals with socks!  
  24. The "Velvet Elvis", probably one of the more delicious bacon entries--banana cake, chocolate chips, and peanut butter  frosting with bacon. Yes.
  25. Discovering Immortal Bakery (not to be confused with Immortal Dog Pet Supply and Bakery), who brought several delicious cupcake variations including banana with honey and cinnamon, marionberry, and maple bacon!
  26. These cupcakes, made by a 7 year old. I definitely was not this capable at age 7. I am probably not now either!
  27. Running into Natalie, who has done guest posts on CakeSpy!
  28. The "Baklava Honey Bees" Cupcake --it was all nestled in phyllo dough! Yeah!
  29. Parsnip cake? It's been done before, sure, but I'd never tasted it. It was better than a lot of other vegetable cakes I've tried. By Heidi Phillips.
  30. Several creative entries from Spitfire Grill--of all things, a Belltown sports bar. Their pastry chef, Kimm Moore, deserves kudos for her creativity: the "Kimm-chi" cupcake, made of carrot, zucchini and kimchi with ginger frosting; the "Mocha Me Up" with hazelnut biscotti on top of a mocha ganache centered cupcake, and more!
  31. War of Pigs, a bacon-themed cupcake from Rocket Queen Cupcakes.
  32. Seeing my artwork on the judge name tags.
  33. Being able to wear a judge name tag and act like I was going backstage like in Wayne's World at all times.
  34. The Organic Washington Caramel Apple cupcake by The Radical Cupcake. 
  35. The "Uptight Seattleite" cupcake--a work of art!
  36. A cupcake with ferry on top by Captivating Creations--adorable!
  37. Whoopie Pie Cupcakes by Audrey of Babeland! 
  38. My fellow judge Keren Brown, who not only is probably the coolest mom in the world and the organizer of FoodPortunity, but has a sparkling wit and can eat a cupcake like nobody's business.
  39. This cupcake was made by a 10 year old. 10!
  40. Chocolate stout cupcakes which were amazingly decadent. I wish I remembered who made them!
  41. My fellow judge Jackie of Cake Central, who #1 is like a cake celebrity but #2 didn't bat an eyelash when I asked a question that most would find ridiculous: "So what is exciting in the world of cake decorating these days?"
  42. A "heart happy" carrot cake made with cranberry walnut carrot cake with avocado frosting--it did not taste like deprivation at all. It was awesome!
  43. ...and on the opposite end of the spectrum, the "Heart Attack" cupcake, comprised of chocolate chipotle cupcakes with dark chili ganache and lime cream cheese frosting. Made by Michelle Morris of the Hope Heart Institute.
  44. Cake pops (including this adorable cake slice cake pop!) by Confection Concoctions, my new hero!
  45. My fellow judge Kelley Moore, who is kind of a big deal. And completely awesome and funny and cool!
  46. I don't know if you can see this, but another of the entrants in the cupcake eating contest was wearing a t-shirt with a unicorn which is pooping cupcakes. This made me so happy.
  47. Cupcake shooters!
  48. It being my job to eat these.
  49. Chocolate milk to go along with my cupcakes.
  50. The utterly amazing organizer, Carrie Middlemiss, who is not only the owner of Bella Cupcake Couture, a CakeSpy sponsor, and unbelievable multitasker, but generally an awesome person too. Read all about her thoughts on CupcakeCamp Seattle on her blog! 
Wednesday
Apr142010

Cake Byte: Discover the Vancouver Baker's Market

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: Yaletown Brownies, WhoopieDeeDoo, Sweet Thea Cake Company, Sweet Naturally BakeryForget the Farmer's Market, and get yourself to Canada, where they have something even better: the Vancouver Baker's Market.

Per the website,

Inspired by traditional farmers markets in Vancouver, this market is even better since it is indoors with lots of free parking too. 

You’ll find talented budding, professional or home bakers selling fresh artisanal breads, soft German pretzels, butter croissants, chocolate croissants, cupcakes, yummy cookies, hand made chocolates, brownies, Belgian Liege waffles,  vegan cupcakes, mini bundt cakes, muffins, gluten-free baked goods and much more!         

And by the looks of it, they've got a great collection of bakers who show regularly, including Sweet Thea Cake CompanyWhoopieDeeDoo Sweet ShopSweets ETC, Baked Bennys, Yaletown Brownies, Sweet Naturally Bakery, and so many more.

This all has your Seattle-based CakeSpy team thinking...road trip, anyone?

The Baker's Market takes place at 408 E. Kent Ave. South, Vancouver BC, on Saturdays 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. through May 8. For more information, visit bakersmarket.com!

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