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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.

 

 

Wednesday
May122010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Pine State Biscuits, Portland, OR

Image c/o Pine State BiscuitsOK, so Pine State Biscuits isn't technically a bakery--you'd be more likely to hit them up for hearty breakfast fare than sweet treats.

But the core of their business is biscuits, and everyone knows that the beauty of the biscuit is its versatility.

And while serious savory eaters might enjoy "The Reggie" (a biscuit with fried chicken, cheese, bacon, and gravy) or the "McIsley" (fried chicken with pickles, mustard, and honey), there are options for the sweet-lover too.

I'm talking simple, but oh-so-pleasurable: Biscuits. With. Seasonal. Fruit. And. Whipped. Cream.

Is there anything more pleasurable than digging into a buttery biscuit topped with rich, sweet cream, complemented by fresh fruit? Maybe, but the list of things less pleasurable is far longer than the list of things more pleasurable, I'd be willing to place a wager on that.

Pine State Biscuits, multiple locations; visit pinestatebiscuits.com for more information.

Wednesday
May122010

Bananarama: The Banana Jumbo Cookie

It's no secret that Betty Crocker's Cooky Book is like, my favorite cookbook ever.But one of the most interesting sections? The one called "Heritage Cookies", which is introduced thusly:

Recipes we know and use today came from 'round the wrold to the thirteen isolated colonies of America. Plain and hearty cookies were the gustatory pleasure of our pioneers...though our tastes may now be trained...to select a fancy frosted cooky...these cookies of our forefathers have won an enduring place in our hearts.

The recipe for the Banana Jumbo comes from this section of the book. And though these humble cookies are flavorful on their own, I had happened to receive a sample of Sassy Sauces in the mail around the same time I made these, and I learned that they are even better with a thick dollop of milk chocolate caramel sauce. And I totally don't consider this disrespecting the original recipe, 'cos you know what? Bet our forefathers would have used the chocolate sauce too, had it been at their disposal.

Banana Jumbos

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large, or 3 small, mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

 Procedure 

  1. Make the cookies. Mix butter, sugar, and eggs thoroughly. 
  2. Stir in the bananas, milk, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, soda, and salt; stir in, bit by bit, until the mixture is fully combined.  
  4. Let the dough chill for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F. 
  6. Using an ice cream scoop, drop rounds of dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies as they will spread a bit. 
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Let cool completely on a wire sheet. Now, they are delicious as-is, but as I found out, they're even better when drizzled with some sort of glaze or frosting. 
Wednesday
May122010

Being Green: Vegan Green Granny Smith Cupcakes Recipe

Just take a look at this Vegan Green Granny Smith Cupcake. Doesn't it look just heavenly?

Unfortunately, an evil cupcake-poacher ate this before I could sample it, but I was assured it was an intensely delicious experience, and happily, the recipe was shared.

If you'd like to taste the magic for yourself, here's the recipe:

Vegan Green Granny Smith Cupcakes

Adapted from Sinfully Sweet Confections

Makes about 30 cupcakes

Ingredients for cakes

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 ounces plain soy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients for Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces vegan cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, softened
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients for Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. Peel and chop apples coarsely.
  3. In a electric mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment mix together the canola oil, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, soy yogurt, vanilla extract, baking soda.
  4. Add flour and sugar; and mix on slow.
  5. In a slow steady stream add apple juice and continue to mix on slow.
  6. Fold in apples, oats, and pecan pieces. Pour into cupcake cups and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Make the frosting. In an electric mixing bowl fitted with a paddle cream together cream cheese and margarine until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar 2 cups at a time, mixing and scraping down the sides. Add vanilla, and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Gently fold in chopped pecans.
  8. Make the streusel topping. Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a medium size bowl add flour, sugar, and margarine. Mix together with a fork to create crumbs. Add pecans and toss. Spread out evenly onto cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Bake until golden brown. Once cooled toss and break up crumbs, use as topping for cream cheese frosting.

 

Wednesday
May122010

Cake Byte: Seriously Sweet Trophy Cupcakes at the CakeSpy Shop Grand Opening!

Well friends, as many of you know, CakeSpy Shop had its grand opening this past Saturday. Hooray!

And one of the sweetest (literally!) parts of the opening was the gorgeous cupcakes donated by Seattle's famous cupcake shop Trophy Cupcakes.

People. They had my artwork printed on them!

Now, I used to think that having my artwork printed on cupcakes was the "I've made it moment" as a cupcake artist.

However, now I see that is false--the real peak of cupcake artist achievement is having artwork of yourself and your husband, as cupcakes, printed on a cupcake. Surrounded by pugs.

And as if all this weren't enough awesome...they tasted just as good as they looked.

P.S. In case you were wondering--yes, there was a moment of wondering "Can I eat this? Can I possibly?". Rest assured that it subsided quickly, and I can attest that in Trophy Cupcake form, my cupcake-self is delicious.

Trophy Cupcakes does custom photo or image cupcakes by request; to find out more, visit trophycupcakes.com.

Tuesday
May112010

Spice Up Your Life: The Wasabi Kit-Kat Bar

Now, I can't say it was an all-out taste test like the recent NPR feature on the unusual Kit-Kat flavors of Japan (thanks Julie!), but we did recently get to sample the unusual Wasabi Kit-Kat Bar.

Said bar was a treat from Danny's associate (and Exohxo violinist) Hiromi, who recently returned from a trip to Japan.

She brought two specimens for our examination: one soy sauce flavored, and one Wasabi flavored.

Sadly, I'm just gonna have to say it: the soy sauce was simply. Not. Good. 

But moving on, the wasabi presented an unexpected delight.

The first flavor that hits you is the sweetness of the candy coating, which tastes mostly like white chocolate--but then gives way to a surprising, and happily not overpowering, spiciness. Without having had the benefit of knowing the flavor, I'm not sure that we would have been able to detect exactly what it was--it didn't have that nasal passage searing quality usually associated with wasabi--but it did offer an intriguing dimension to the sweet candy.

This is all to say, if you're headed to Japan, the wasabi Kit-Kat gets a thumbs-up.

Read more about the Kit-Kat taste test on NPR here; learn more about the Kit-Kat variations available in Japan on Wikipedia.

Tuesday
May112010

Apple of My Pie: A Heavenly Apple Pie by High 5 Pie

I can happily co-exist with people who prefer a double crust on their apple pie.

But that doesn't mean I understand them.

For me, it's all about the crumb topping, and I've found what might be the perfect specimen: the apple pie by High 5 Pie. Proprietress and Pie Lady extraordinaire Dani Cone (also owner of Fuel Coffee...how cool can one person be?) brought me this baby as a sweet treat in honor of my gallery's grand opening the other day, and all I can say is that this is the sort of apple pie that will convert non-believers.

Let's start from the bottom up.

It all starts with a buttery crust which somehow manages to be buttery but not too flaky, sturdy but not too tough.

Moving up, it has a thick layer of apple chunks which would make Cook's Illustrated proud, because there is no shrinkage, and the apples retain a nice crispness around the edges, so that you can actually tell they are apples and not just apple mush.

And finally--the best part for this crumb devotee--is the topping. A generous smattering of fat, crunchy, brown sugary crumbs that might make you want to die with pleasure.

But as if all this wasn't enough, I also received all these samples of Sassy Sauces this week, and so decided to see how the pie might taste when topped with a drizzle of their rum caramel sauce--and I have to say, if this wasn't heaven, then it was definitely a suitable substitute.

What does all of this awesome add up to? My new favorite combination, that's what.

High 5 Pie can be found at Fuel Coffee locations and various other cafes and coffee shops in Seattle, and by special order; for those in other areas of the nation, I officially offer a vaguely sarcastic "sorry" and a suggestion that you book a ticket to Sea-town directly.

Sassy Sauces are readily available for shipment; visit sassysauces.us.

Tuesday
May112010

Sweet and Tart: White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Fudge by Rose City Sweets, Portland OR

As a card carrying member of the White Chocolate Lovers Club, I'd like to introduce you to my newest obsession: 

White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios.

This sweet manna from heaven is produced by the brand new Portland, OR-based confectionery company Rose City Sweets--in fact, they're so new that they just made their public debut last week at Crafty Wonderland, and their online store doesn't even have stock yet (I know, it is pretty mean of me to tell you about them, considering this). But when their store is stocked, you can expect to find small batch fudge, caramels, toffee, and other confections.

But what's so great about this white chocolate-cran-pistachio business?

For one thing, the fudge is unbelievably smooth and creamy--it is not plagued by the gritty candy-sand texture that is a characteristic of inferior fudges--not to mention extremely rich and flavorful. The sweet white chocolate flavor is perfectly accented by the slight savory saltiness of the pistachios, and nicely punctuated with tart bits of cranberry.

Let's just say that the brick of fudge I obtained at aforementioned Crafty Wonderland did not last long, and I predict a very sweet future for Rose City Sweets.

There's nothing in the shop now, but for future reference and shopping, bookmark the Rose City Sweets Etsy page.

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