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Wednesday
Aug042010

Cake Byte: Two Flavors of the Month at Cupcake Royale

In case you had any doubt about August being the sweetest month ever, well, here's proof:

Cupcake Royale has not one, but two flavors of the month.

Raspberry Lemonade, on the one hand, sounds refreshing, and the perfect mix of sweet and slightly tart.

But if excess and rich chocolatiness are your thing (they're mine), go for the Cherry Chocolate Almond--a triple threat of awesome. 

Both flavors will be available all August long at the four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and contact info, visit www.cupcakeroyale.com. Of course, you can keep up to date with their goings-on at legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com and via Twitter.

Wednesday
Aug042010

Sweet n Sour: Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies Recipe

There are many moments in life to enjoy over-the-top desserts (seriously--just read the responses in the "what would your last-meal dessert be?" giveaway).

But sometimes, you just need a good old-fashioned cookie. Or, as Betty Crocker of the 60's would say, a cooky.

After all, Betty Crocker's Cooky Book is where I found this understated gem of a recipe for Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies. It's listed in the "Heritage Cookies" section of the book, which is where you'll find, as I think of them, the frumpy forefathers of today's cookies. I don't mean this as an insult--I simply mean that while they're not the sexiest-looking cookies, they're substantial enough in flavor that it's no secret why these recipes have stuck around through the years.

This particular recipe yields a cookie that is lightly tangy, and yet somehow fluffy without being "light"--they have a compelling flavor which keeps bringing you back for more. And with a sprinkling of sugar on top, they have a satisfying crunch, too.

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. Mix butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla thoroughly. 
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together; add to the sugar mixture alternately with the sour cream.
  4. The original recipe suggests rolling the dough out, but I simply pinched off pieces and rolled them into approximately 1 1/2-inch diameter balls and placed them on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. 
  5. Place on a greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the sides. Makes about 36-48 cookies.
Wednesday
Aug042010

Sweet Art: Poster Design for CupcakeCamp DC!

What's the sweetest thing going on in DC?

CupcakeCamp DC, naturally! The festival of cupcake awesomeness (which I can attest to, because I attended the Seattle CupcakeCamp!) will be taking place in our Nation's Capitol on September 18th--that's a mere 45 days away, thanks to the counter on their website!

And adding to all that sweetness? They'll be using the above illustration for posters and promotion! Because hip cupcakes riding the metro in DC is totally...well, you know.

For more information, visit the CupcakeCamp DC website!

Tuesday
Aug032010

Ask CakeSpy: Shrinking Cupcakes?

Dear CakeSpy,

I have a technical question for you.  I tried making cupcakes from a Billy's Bakery recipe I found online and the cupcakes separated from the liners. Any idea why this happens?

-Shrinking in NY

P.S. Here's the recipe:

Billy's Bakery Cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
  2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Dear Shrinking,

It's true: not all cups runneth over. But I must confess, and I promise I am not saying this in a "I'm such a great baker" sort of way--I've never actually had it happen, so I wasn't quite sure what might be the cause. Happily, I was able to consult the world's most reliable information source--Twitter, natch!--about the subject, and received many ideas as to what might be the cause.

One thing which several respondents mentioned was humidity as a shrinking factor: it being that you were baking in the summer, in NY, it could be as simple as blaming it on the weather!

Another widely accepted response was that the shrinkage could be due to over-greasing cupcake papers, which can cause separation (even more so depending on the type of paper used).

However I also received some other interesting responses:

As Bakelab, a Los Angeles-based retail bakery and baking school informed, this can often be because of a high amount of sugar in the recipe--and while 2 cups is certainly normal in cupcake recipes, it is a pretty substantial amount. A friend once told me that the sugar in recipes can generally be reduced by up to 1/4 cup without sacrificing the structure of a baked good--she might have been lying to me, but I'm just passing on what I've been told.

Ryan's Baking Blog also pointed me toward this posting on the subject, which notes that often, shrinkage can occur when the cakes are overbaked, but that other culprits may be too little mixture in the pan, over-greased trays, over-beating your batter, or too much liquid.

Unfortunately, all of this doesn't add up to one easy explanation, but it may give you some ideas for next time! Of course, if the cupcakes still tasted good, I say shrink away, since I'm gonna take the wrapper off anyway.

If anyone else has ideas as to what might have caused this to occur, please leave a comment!

Tuesday
Aug032010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Craig McDougall of Frosting Cupcakery, Langley BC

What's sweeter than a cupcake? While I let you ponder that question (really, it gets more complicated the more you think about it), why not read this sweet interview with Craig McDougall, co-owner of Frosting Cupcakery in Langley, BC? 

CakeSpy: What made you decide to start a cupcake shop?

Craig McDougall: My wife Melanie was an at home mom taking care of our 2 little boys Dylan and Cade while I worked for a software company. During the past 8-10 years she has been baking cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and a variety of treats for just about every friend or event we've been asked to attend. Time and time again she would receive words of praise from everyone like "Oh, those are the best..." or "You should sell these...." to our favorite one we kept hearing was "Those are so much better than the ones you can buy at ...". We knew eventually we wanted to open our own business, and the more this kept happening the business idea slowly changed from a cake supply store, to a cake store, to finally a Cupcake Store that we also do custom cakes at.

CS: When people walk into your shop, what is the ideal experience you'd hope for them to have?

CM: When we designed our store, it was important for us to make sure that when people walk into our store they find it fun, cute, exciting, and a little bit trendy. We elected to go with Pink Stripes, Mint Green, and Chocolate Brown for our colors, and when you first walk into our store it reminds people of one of those fun candy stores you walk into down at Disneyland. Just about every response we receive when people walk in is "Oh my goodness, smell those cupcakes. You have such a wonderful shop we love coming here" The ideal experience we hope for is customers to feel welcomed, comfortable, and part of our family. Our motto is a friendly place where you will always find a smile and we truly make sure that every customers requests are met to the best of our ability.

CS: Be honest--has owning a cupcake shop made you tired of eating them?

CM: Yes and no. When you make cupcakes every day it's like anything you are around all the time you don't necessarily crave them daily. That being said, when we first opened we had about 20 flavors and now we are up to over 50 different flavors. So daily we experiment with new flavors and designs so we are always having fun tasting new things and with flavors like Neapolitan, Love Potion, Island Coconut, Berry Explosion, Chocolate Explosion, to name a few the flavors are more than just a vanilla or chocolate cupcake and it would take you forever to try all of them.

CS: Melanie comes from Nanaimo--so please, give me a good reason why I don't see a Nanaimo Bar Cupcake on your menu?

CM: LOL - we here this all the time. We had so many ideas to run with when we first opened the store but we were unsure if it would be a small little mom and pop store, or go big. We went so big when we launched that we now have 6 additional employees that work for us, we've been named the #1 cupcake in Vancouver, we've had celebrities like Greg Neufeld play at our store, and it's been a whirl wind so the only good reason we have at this time is things took off faster than we thought and a lot of our ideas are waiting to be brought to fruition.

CS: What is your most popular flavor?

CM: Our current most popular flavor is Neapolitan as this is the cupcake that we won the awards for. It has been posted and talked about on just about every food magazine and internet site up in Vancouver since we won the cupcake challenge so that's what most people ask for. That being said we have a lot of seasonal cupcake the generate popularity during that time. For example we do a spiders web and boo-nilla around Halloween, raspberry vanilla and berry explosion in the summer when fresh berries are out, and the list goes on and on.

CS: Do you find that men and women prefer different cupcake flavors?

CM: I don't know that I've seen that men or women like different cupcakes per say, but what I do find in our store anyways is couples will come in all the time and buy an assortment of different cupcakes "Look at this one, I'm getting one of those. Oh yeah, grab one of those too..." and then they sit down and do taste testing and share all the flavors together. It's a lot of fun and since we also have mini versions of our cupcakes in our store daily too, it creates even more fun.

CS: What is your response to those who say that cupcakes are a passing fad?

CM: So is the internet, the walkman, and wedding cakes. I personally like to answer that question because a passing fad is ones vision of an item that is stagnant. The walkman has evolved to a diskman, then to an mp3 player, and now the iPod. Anything in life, if you let it go stagnant, becomes a passing fad but if you keep it exciting and fun and continue to evolve as it does, then it can last a life time. There will always be cupcakes, and we work very hard at keeping it fun and fresh. As an example we just launched our ice cream flavor line up of cupcakes Neapolitan, Tiger Tail, Cookies and Cream. The important thing to remember is to always have something new for customers to crave...

CS: What is next for Frosting Cupcakery?

CM: Conquer the world! No, just kidding, but we do plan to open up multiple locations though. We have been asked by several parties if we were interested in franchising but we found some of the local companies around our area are doing that and their product quality has suffered immensely so we do have plans to have multiple locations but they would be an extension of our existing company. We also have a few other tricks up our sleeve that I would rather not let out of the bag quite yet to keep things fun and exciting.

Want more sweetness? Check them out at frostingcupcakery.com.

Tuesday
Aug032010

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Artist Reception at SPL's FriendShop This Thursday!

Reading is totally sweet...I'm pretty sure you already know that.

But it's about to get even sweeter at Seattle's Central Public Library (1000 4th Avenue, Downtown) this Thursday, where I have the great honor of being the featured artist of the month at the FriendShop!

I'll be hanging out at the FriendShop from 1-5 p.m. on Thursday, and will be bringing some one of a kind original paintings, cards, and CakeSpy products with me--it's totally worth skipping class, playing hooky from work, or taking a break from the book you're reading to come and say hi.

Details and the address can be found on the FriendShop website!

Monday
Aug022010

National Brownies at Brunch Month: Mimosa Brownies for Serious Eats

Hold the phone. Hold everything. Did you know that August is National Brownies at Brunch Month?

Don't waste time asking follow-up questions like why this month-long holiday exists—instead, bake up a batch of brunch-friendly Mimosa Brownies. Starting with the Oprah-approved brownie recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, this version gets champagne-and-orange juice makeover for a treat which truly embraces the decadent spirit of both brownies and brunch, all in one delectable unit.

Note: You may notice that the actual amount of champagne (or sparkling wine) is actually quite small, leaving you plenty of bubbly to make actual mimosas to accompany your brownies. As for the use of orange juice concentrate versus orange juice, I found that it offered a bright flavor and better consistency than orange juice.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Saturday
Jul312010

Morning Mix: Peanut Butter Streusel Morning Bread Recipe

Confession: I sometimes, ah, mix it up.

It's true: I'm not adverse to using a mix every now and again. And I kind of have a guilty little spot of love in my heart for Cinnamon Streusel Quick Bread, a recipe made with Betty Crocker's Streusel Muffin Mix. 

It's not that streusel bread would be so hard to make without a mix...but there's something special about this one. What is it that you've hidden in the mix, Betty Crocker?

And as I discovered recently, when you add a generous helping of Mighty Maple peanut butter to the streusel topping, its deliciousness factor is increased, like, tenfold.

So here it is: my dirty little secret, my favorite mix for making a sweet breakfast bread.

Peanut Butter Streusel Morning Bread

-makes about 4 servings, in my house-

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • 1 Box Betty Crocker cinnamon streusel muffin mix
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-6 tablespoons fairly smooth-textured, full fat peanut butter (I love it with Mighty Maple by Peanut Butter and Co.)

 Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease bottom of 9x5-inch loaf pan with shortening, or spray bottom with cooking spray.
  2. In medium bowl, stir Muffin Mix, flour, water, oil and eggs just until blended (batter may be lumpy). Spread batter in pan. 
  3. Melt the peanut butter in the microwave until it is thick but pourable. Mix the streusel topping in, give it a quick stir (it doesn't have to be completely incorporated) and pour it on top of the batter. Don't worry about making your coverage super-even: it's nice to find big chunks of peanut butter here and there.
  4. Bake 38 to 43 minutes or until top is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched. Cool 15 minutes. Run knife around edges of pan before removing; remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing, about 45 minutes.
Friday
Jul302010

CLOSED: Sweet Giveaway: Win a $100 Gift Card For CSN Stores!

We have Corelle to thank for this giveaway, friends.

Yup--you saw that dishware text link. For that, CSN Stores has kindly offered something that is of much interest to cake lovers and bakers: a $100 gift card good to be redeemed at any of their online stores! After reviewing the products available at their Cookware.com website, I find it worth the link, as all sorts of products of interest to bakers and baked-good enthusiasts are available there, including cake pans, cake plates, pastry molds, and my favorite Emile Henry Pie plates!

Want to be entered in the running? OK! Here's what you do: simply leave a comment on this post stating your opinion on this important baked-good subject: if you had to choose your "last meal" dessert, what would it be?

Chocolate cream pie? A banana split? Pop-tart ice cream sandwiches? An entire birthday cake? Inquiring minds need to know! This giveaway will close and a winner will be announced at 12 p.m. PST next Friday, August 6. Entrants only in the US and Canada this time, please!

 

UPDATE: THE WINNER! 

The randomly chosen winner is MEG, who says that "My last meal dessert would have to be the biggest peanut butter cup in the world." Well chosen, Meg! Congratulations!

Friday
Jul302010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

OMG! Baked Alaska Cookies! Photo credit: King Arthur FlourTotally Sweet! Learn more about the brains behind CakeSpy (um, that would be me) via this interview about my art and work.

Don't waffle..Make waffle cones! At home! Stef tells us how.

Baked Alaska Cookies! I'll repeat it: BAKED! ALASKA! COOKIES! Via King Arthur Flour.

In San Francisco, Black Jet Baking Company makes homemade pop-tarts. (via DailyCandy)

Tis the Season...for Mad Men! The weather's hot, but everyone loves Gingerbread Mad Men (or Mad Men cupcakes!)

Eat Your Veggies: It's a pleasure, when they're delivered in Zucchini Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting form.

San Francisco Treats: A list of 50 treats in SF to try before you die (or, "A To Do List").

Cute (and free!) PDF pattern for a cupcake pillow!

Chocolate Heaven: A cool video about Brooklyn's Mast Brothers Chocolate.

KakeLove: Learn some new facts about TastyKake here.

Pretty in Pink: cupcakes that look like sweet, sugary perfection.

Whoopie! Did you know that in NYC, there is a place called Flex Mussels that makes a Deep Fried Whoopie Pie? (who has tried it?)

Oh, Joy: A Sweet roundup of Joy the Baker's visit to Seattle (including her visit to CakeSpy Shop!)

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