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Friday
Aug272010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Laissez les bontemps rouler this weekend, starting with this baker's dozen of seriously sweet links:

A sweet site solely dedicated to Parisian Patisseries, with a sweet roundup of the "17 Best".

Breaking Cake News! CakeSpy was featured on CNN!

Guess what? The top contenders in the Pie Vs. Cake challenge were featured on TV! 

Seeking sweetness? Learn more of the CakeSpy story via this interview on Seattlest!

Peaches and Dreams: The Literate Baker serves up a fun and smart writeup on Peach Cobbler, including a delicious recipe.

Dudes. Dudettes. There are, like, some super sweet giveaways going on right now! Click here and here to enter.

Making S'mores jealous: Heavenly Hash Bars, via King Arthur Flour.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake: perfect morning fare, via Dorie Greenspan.

Nacho typical chips: a chocolate nachos recipe!

Like, whoa: Baked Bombe with Popcorn Ice Cream, Caramel Mud Cake, and Persian Fairy Floss. via Almost Bourdain

Streusel Kuchen: I don't know how to say that properly, but I definitely want to eat it.

As the French would say, Le nom nom nom: Pistachio cupcakes via Two Tiny Kitchens

Sweet memories: How to prepare and ship cupcakes in Mason jars (pictured top)

Thursday
Aug262010

Sweet Giveaway: Win a CakeSpy Mug and Tote!

Are you still drinking your coffee (or tea, or vodka--whatevs) from a nondescript cup like a jerk? 

Well, it's time to upgrade, by winning the sweetest giveaway prize, like, ever: a CakeSpy mug with a conversation-starting image: a cupcake surrounded by empty cupcake wrappers. 

And, because it's CakeSpy's birthday week blitz, you'll win a matching tote bag!

How do you put your name in the running? It's easy. Simply come up with your cleverest caption for the image shown on the tote and mug--leave it as a comment below.

I'll choose my favorite one (and declare a winner!) on next Thursday, September 2 at 12pm PST! US and Canadian entrants only, please.

Tuesday
Aug242010

Sweet Birthday Wishes: Discussing the Tradition and Definition of Birthday Cake

It's August 26th, and you know what that means: it's like, the biggest cake eating day of the year. That is to say...it's CakeSpy founder and Head Spy Jessie's (hi, that's me) birthday. But of course, while you're celebrating by eating slice after slice of sweet, buttercreamy, blissful birthday cake, one question might just come to your mind:

What is birthday cake, exactly?

In my head, it's easy enough to conjure: it is a three tier white cake with pink buttercream frosting and roses and frosting piped in a scalloped pattern on the side. This is the birthday cake (pictured left) I got for many of my formative years growing up in New Jersey--yep, I was a lucky kid, all right.

While people will likely have their own vision of the ideal birthday cake, the vision of what a birthday cake actually is seems universal: cake with lots of frosting, hopefully sprinkles or some sort of topping decoration, and candles.

To prove this point, I asked Twitter followers today (I know, I know) to submit a drawing of a birthday cake--just to see if people did have a classic vision of what a birthday cake looks like. Here were some of the submissions: 

Image by ChubbyCraft 

Image by CupcakeBreath

Image by Edenpest

Image by Baker's Cakes

Don't know about you, but I feel like I noticed two definite themes: festivity and frosting. So regardless of whether you might prefer to eat a rich tiramisu or chocolate torte or even pie (who are you?) for your birthday, there is no denying that the birthday cake is an icon.

But why?

To understand, we're going to have to go way back in time, to ponder the roots of this sweet tradition.

Where do Birthday Cakes come from? 

Per Food Timeline, 

Cakes were eaten to celebrate birthdays long before they were called "birthday cakes." Food historians confirm ancient bakers made cakes (and specially shaped breads) to mark births, weddings, funerals, harvest celebrations, religious observances, and other significant events. Recipes varied according to era, culture, and cuisine. Cakes were usually saved for special occasions because they were made with finest, most expensive ingredients available to the cook. The wealthier one was, the more likely one might consume cake on a more frequent basis.

True to that point, as I discovered on What's Cooking America, there is evidence in several cultures of earlier versions of this celebration cake, ranging from honey cakes made in Ancient Greece to celebrate major occasions (the 50th birthday, for instance, was marked with a cake made from honey, flour, cheese, and olive oil) to cakes that date back to medieval times in England wherein hidden objects were said to give good luck to the finder (a tradition which still exists with the King Cake and Galette des rois) to a tradition dating back to medieval times in Germany wherein a sweetened bread dough was molded into the shape of Jesus in swaddling clothes to commemorate birthdays.

But what holds true in all of these cases is that serving cake for special occasions is something that dates way back--a tradition which has changed and evolved based on ingredient availability and flavor preferences.

So how did we get to the fluffy, buttercream-frosted variety we commonly know in America today? As I discovered in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America: 2-Volume Set (led there by Foodtimeline.org)

Although fruitcakes and rich, yeasted cakes were the traditional English festive cakes, the modern form of birthday cake originated in American kitchens in the mid-nineteenth century. In contrast to their European counterparts, American women were active home bakers, largely because of the abundance of oven fuel in the New World and the sparsity of professional bakers. By the late 1800s, home bakers were spurred further by several innovations. The cast-iron kitchen stove, complete with its own quickly heated oven, became standard equipment in urban middle-class homes. Women in towns had more discretionary time, compared to farm-women, and they had an expanding social life that required formal and informal hospitality. Sugar, butter, spice, and flour costs were dropping. Improved chemical leavening agents, baking powder among them, enabled simpler and faster baking and produced a cake of entirely different flavor and texture. A cake constructed in layers, filled and frosted, became the image of the standard birthday cake. One observer of the early 1900s compared bubbly soap lather to "the fluffiness of a birthday cake" and snowy, frost covered hills to iced birthday cakes

And, as this fascinating passage goes on to share,

Writing on birthday cakes began with professional bakers and caterers, who were proliferating in growing cities. The cakes of the late 1800s were decorated with inscriptions like "Many Happy Returns of the Day" and the celebrant's name, a tradition that continues into the twenty-first century. Sometimes the cake was home-baked but then decorated by a specialist...The phrase "Happy Birthday" did not appear on birthday cake messages until the popularization of the now-ubiquitous song "Happy Birthday to You" (1910). Cookbook authors began to recommend decorating with birth dates and names and offered instruction on how to make colored frostings...By 1958, A.H. Vogel had begun to manufacture preformed cake decorations. Inexpensive letters, numbers, and pictorial images, such as flowers or bow, with matching candleholders were standard supermarket offerings."

Based on all of these small changes that have contributed to the current cake's look, I wonder...what might birthday cakes look like in several hundred years?

Candles

As for the candles on the cake? A couple of schools of thought. As  I discovered on What's Cooking America,

Birthday candles originally were placed on cakes to bring birthday wishes up to God. In ancient times, people prayed over the flames of an open fire. They believed that the smoke carried their thoughts up to the gods. Today, we believe, that if you blow out all your candles in one breath, your wish will come true.

Another source cites that Greeks used to light candles on the cake taken to Artemis to "make it glow like a moon"; and finally, another source speaks of the tradition's ties to German culture:

The tradition of lighting candles for birthdays continued in Europe, where candles were sometimes kept burning all day on a person's birthday, partly as celebration and partly to ward off evil spirits. 
In Germany, one big candle was placed in the middle of the cake. The birthday holiday was known as Kinderfest, a celebration of the holiday but also an occasion to keep careful watch over little ones who were supposedly more vulnerable to evil spirits on that day. The large candle frequently was marked from years one down to 12, and the candle was burned down only enough to mark that year's age.

Of course, no matter how much you want to wonder about the origins of this delicious treat, one thing is for sure: no matter how you slice it, it's a happy occasion to eat whatever kind of cake you want for your birthday. In fact, why not have a second slice?

Tuesday
Aug242010

Sweet Giveaway: Macaron Art!

Guess what? It's that special time of year when CakeSpy's Head Spy Jessie celebrates her birthday. Booyea!

What does that mean for you, though? Well, if you're in Seattle, it means that there will be free birthday cake every day this week (Tue-Sun) at the CakeSpy Shop! First come first served. 

But even if you're not in Seattle you can enter to win some totally sweet stuff! There will be giveaways all week, starting with this super sweet prize pack, perfect for macaron lovers: a miniature original watercolor CakeSpy painting (the original! Not a print!) of macarons and burger hanging out, and the cutest crochet macaron you've ever seen, made by the lovely and amazing Alicia Kachmar! 

Want to put yourself in the running? Simply put your answer to the important baked-good question below in the comments section below. This giveaway will close on Sunday, August 29 at 12 p.m. PST, and the winner will be contacted shortly after. US and Canada entries only this time, please!

Are macarons "the new cupcake"?

Monday
Aug232010

Being Green: Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe for Serious Eats

It's not easy being green.

It is, however, exceedingly easy to eat green, especially when we're talking about zucchini cake. Now, you probably already knew that the abundant late summer fruit (yes, it's a fruit) yields a moist, dense, and delicious quick bread. But please, don't let the story end there—because when you take it into cake territory by adding a thick slathering of chocolate cream cheese frosting, you'll have a far sweeter finish.

The frosting prettily contrasts the color of the cake, and the triple-threat of complementary flavors—tangy cream cheese, rich chocolate, earthy zucchini—makes for a final product that leaves zucchini bread absolutely green with envy.

 

 

For the full entry and recipe, check out Serious Eats!

 

Sunday
Aug222010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Jubilee Cupcakes, Tacoma

Why should you love Jubilee Cupcakes in Tacoma? Well, as I learned on a recent visit, there are plenty of reasons--but I'll just share a few of my favorite things about the sweet new establishment, which specializes in cupcakes and vintage candy.

The Elvis: A hunka hunka burnin' yum, this baby is baked sans bacon, but instead is comprised of banana cake topped with a dreamy cloud of peanut butter buttercream and a chocolate leaf on top--and, surprise!--it's filled with chocolate ganache. This was a very fine cupcake indeed.

They carry CakeSpy cards and mugs!

Cookies and Cream: Their version of the popular flavor combination comes with a beehive hairdo of a buttercream swirl, and mini oreos for garnish. Cute, and with its dark-as-night, moist chocolate cake paired with aforementioned vanilla buttercream, a very sweet eating experience as well. Pictured at the top of the post.

They have chandeliers, and as everybody knows, this makes eating cupcakes a pinkies-out experience.

The frosting is generally piled quite high on the cupcakes. It might get on your nose (as proven by Mr. Spy, above). Some may say that this means there is too much frosting on the cupcakes, but these people are wrong. It means there is just enough.

Not only will you get to eat delicious cupcakes, but you will also learn some candy lore (because everyone loves a good back-story, right?). Here are some highlights:

 

Finally, just look at this box of deliciousness. In the dictionary, this should be the picture next to "Happiness".

See for yourself! Jubilee Cupcakes and Vintage Candy is located at 2510 North Proctor Street, Tacoma, WA; online here.

Jubilee Cupcakes & Vintage Candy on Urbanspoon

Saturday
Aug212010

Sweet Excess: Chocolatey Kitchen Sink Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Question: what happens when you raid your pantry while making cinnamon rolls late at night and top them with every sweet thing you can get your hands on?

Answer: Nothing good. Nothing good at all. It's awful. It's terrible. Here's how you do it at home.

Note: This is best done late at night, when things like this seem like good ideas.

Step 1: Get yourself some cinnamon rolls--you know, the kind from the can that pops when you open it.

Step 2: Set them all in a pie plate or in a baking pan.

Step 3: Raid fridge and pantry for any various sweet leftovers you might have. For me, these happened to be about 1 cup of chocolate fudge frosting, 3 almost-stale brownies, and half a can of chocolate fudge sauce.

Step 4: Put all foraged items on top of the cinnamon rolls (I broke the brownies into little crumbs). Bake as directed on container.

Step 5: Remove from oven. Admire handiwork. Remember the icing that comes with cinnamon rolls. Wonder to self: is it too much? Decide that no, it's not, and pour icing on top of the bubbling mass of a sugar-bomb.

Step 6: Top it all with the rainbow sprinkles that you found in the cupboard while the rolls were baking. Because...well, why not?

Step 7: Enjoy, preferably immediately and in front of bad TV for the ultimate terrible late-night indulgence.

Friday
Aug202010

Upcoming Sweetness: Birthday Week Extravaganza!

 Guess what, sweeties?

Next week (thursday, the 26th, to be exact) is the birthday of CakeSpy founder and Head Spy Jessie! And in typical over-the-top sweet fashion, there will be much celebration and sugar.

Birthday Cake a Day at CakeSpy Shop!

There will be a birthday cake each day at the store next week, Tuesday (the 24th) through Sunday (the 29th)! (closed Monday). What flavors will they be? See for yourself--come and have a slice and say happy birthday! It will be on a first come, first-served basis, so be sure to come by and get your sugar fix while you shop! 

Giveaways!

Since I feel for you poor souls who aren't able to be in Seattle for aforementioned sugarfest, I will be doing an online giveaway every other day next week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Stay tuned! Of course, in the meantime, don't forget to enter this giveaway!

Capitol Hill Summer Sale!

CakeSpy Shop will be participating in the sweetest summer sale in Seattle! Here's the 411:

Come visit Capitol Hill for our huge Summer Sale Thursday, August 26th through Sunday August 29th.  You will find deals, sales and events all weekend long up and down Pike, Pine and Broadway in the heart of Capitol Hill!  Capitol Hill has everything you need for a picnic in the park; shopping for the whole family; breakfast, lunch and dinner; dancing lessons; yoga classes; adult toys; night life fun and more!  Be sure to attend the kick off Mobile City party on Thursday night and then plan on coming back all weekend to walk around Capitol Hill during our Summer Sale and get great deals on everything you need, just a few block away.

This sale will also be a great opportunity to donate to Northwest Harvest--a donation bin for non-perishable food goods will be at CakeSpy Shop!

CakeSpy Shop will be offering offering 10% off all purchases $50 or over for the big sale. This offer is good only by mentioning the sale, and is only valid Thursday through Sunday in the retail shop.

Here's to a super sweet upcoming week!

Friday
Aug202010

Cake Byte: Cupcake Royale to Open New Location in Bellevue!

Break out the fat pants, Bellevue: your fair city is about to get a whole lot sweeter.

That's right: a buttercream wave is riding across the 520 bridge and coming your way, and its name is Cupcake Royale. 

They have officially announced the upcoming opening of their fifth retail location in Bellevue! 

Still waiting on details including location and official opening date, but in the meantime, they are hiring! Get more details here.

Get breaking news via their Twitter feed, or check out their blog here and their website here.

Friday
Aug202010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Thar's 24 layers in that there cake. Link below!Happy Friday! Here's how I suggest you keep your life awesome and your waistline vast this week.

Sweet! Another Cake Vs. Pie roundup!

It may look like a watermelon, but it's even better: watermelon-shaped cake!

Bananas. Foster. French. Toast. Find it here.

And once you make it, don't forget how to eat it right: find a tutorial on French Toast eating here.

Profiteroles to dream on, via Serious Eats.

Sweet and Tart: Citrus Cupcakes, discovered via Cupcakes Take The Cake.

Gelato Secrets Revealed: a sweet writeup on Seattle's D'ambrosio Gelato by Megan Seling.

I Scream...for ice cream Kolachkes! 

Have you bought a painting from the delicious Mike Geno show yet?

Favorite recipe, possibly ever (to read and to eat): Peanut butter and Shredded Mini Wheats.

Sweet mission: BikeLoc is a bike-across-America project which is dedicated to documenting the slow food movement. Potlucks across the US were on the menu--hope they had dessert!

24 Layer Chocolate Cake: A layer for every hour of the day.

Sweet memories: remember when I made the boys from BAKED choose which of their desserts would defeat one another in death battles? 

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