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Tuesday
May042010

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Interview on Java Cupcake

Photo c/o Java CupcakeCurious about the life of a Spy?

Well, you can get your sweet fix on the inner workings of a professional Cake Gumshoe's mind over at Java Cupcake, where there's a super sweet interview up today. Not only will you be treated to some sweet photos but you'll also be amused by musings such as how maybe, just maybe, the internet was invented for discovering cool new cupcakes.

Check it out here!

Tuesday
May042010

Dish It Up: Dessert Plate Services by The Green Cockatoo

The Green Cockatoo is--there's no way to put it gently--an escort service.

But their product is something that might fascinate you like it does me: they deal in vintage china and porcelain.

They found me through a search on how to make fake cupcakes--and drew me in with the reason why they were seeking the tutorial:

We are in Scotland and rent out vintage china for afternoon tea, weddings and functions. Now we can have fake cakes to show it off when we exhibit at wedding fairs - thank you!

Well, now--if that isn't a sweet and unusual business! I rather like the idea of a Cinderella-esque appearance by the fancy plates, which are then whisked away at the end of the evening, leaving only sweet memories and no dirty dishes!

For more, visit thegreencockatoo.com.

Monday
May032010

Crumb With a Side of Cake: Behemoth Crumb Cake for Serious Eats

When it comes to crumb, I have a theory: if some is good, more is better.

This theory was proven when I discovered something called the Colossal Crumb Cake at New Jersey's Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe. Their version had a ratio of roughly 9 parts crumb to 1 part cake, and it was just as amazing as it sounds (theirs is the one pictured above).

Could it be possible to recreate this magic at home? Well, I certainly wanted to try. Starting with a recipe from Arthur Schwartz, a.k.a. The Food Maven, I tried to make it even better by halving the cake part and tripling the crumb part. The result? A hulking behemoth of crumb, anchored by a little sliver of cake.

For more, plus a recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Friday
Apr302010

Sweet Art: Cocoon for Illustration Friday

Guess what? This week's Illustration Friday theme is Cocoon. And you know what that made me think of? The sweet cocoon of fatty deliciousness that envelops you when you eat the breakfast masterpiece that is Eggs Benedict at Glo's in Seattle. Oh yes. The only thing that could make it better is following it up with a slice of their sour cream coffee cake, served warmed with (unnecessary, but welcome) butter.

This piece will also be on show as part of my upcoming "Scenes from Capitol Hill, Seattle" series at the CakeSpy Shop!

Friday
Apr302010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on American Cupcake, San Francisco

Don't get me wrong: there are many reasons why one should desire to be in San Francisco. It's cool, full of good burritos and fun people watching, and it's gorgeous. However, right now all of those reasons are being put to the side, because my wanderlust is fueled by one thing only: American Cupcake.

Per DailyCandy (where I discovered this wondrous place),

Despite the saccharine name, this is no kid’s birthday party venue. Decidedly 21-and-over fare includes pork sliders with Jack-and-Coke BBQ sauce and champagne cocktails with intriguing names like the Drunken Ballerina.

And if that didn't make you want to book a one-way ticket to the foggy city, let's just take a gander at the sweets menu (copied in its entirety below):

......................

Cupcakes

chocolate / vanilla / black & tan / tan & black / red velvet / lemon / coconut chocolate coconut / butterscotch / chocolate mint / bubblegum / cotton candy red hot / pixie stixTM / chocolate peanut butter / passion fruit

single | flight

Ice Cream or Old Fashioned Sundae

three twins chocolate, vanilla or coffee | all the fixins

Cupcake Split

cupcakes | ice cream | bananas | all the fixins

Mad Tea Party (serves 10) naked cupcakes loaded with ice cream, frosting, and all the fixins

Whoopie Pie

classic chocolate | vanilla | red velvet

Cotton Candy

cone or big bowl

Candy Apple

classic cherry red

Margarita Pie

frozen tequila lime| salted pretzel crust

“Snickers Bar”

soft chocolate cookie | caramel | salted peanuts

Red Velvet Bread Pudding

red velvet cake | housemade custard

Banana Nilla Pudding

banana pudding | nilla wafers | whipped cream

Root Beer Float

root beer | vanilla ice cream

Beer Float

coconut porter | vanilla ice cream

Fried Oreos

(no description necessary)

......................

Aren't you feeling the love, too? American Cupcake is located at 1919 Union Street in San Francisco, and will have its grand opening on May 1 at noon; find out more at americancupcake.com.

Friday
Apr302010

Bring on the Heat: Cupcake Royale Brings Back the Chocolate Scorcher Cupcake for May

Mother May I...have another cupcake?

Yup, it's just about time to turn the calendar page, and you know what that means: a new flavor of the month from Cupcake Royale. This May they're bringing back last year's popular May flavor: the Chocolate Scorcher. Direct from the source, here's the lowdown:

Moist chocolate cake topped with a rich, bold chocolate cream cheese frosting. Made with Theo Spicy Chile Dark Chocolate, this masterful chocolate concoction of sweet meets heat will have your taste buds all fired up with the heat of guajillo chiles, hints of cinnamon, and orange oil.

But you know what? That's not all that's exciting at Cupcake Royale. They're also debuting a new series of classes / workshops about canning and preserving with Amy Pennington, author of the great new book Urban Pantry. Here's the lowdown on that:

Our good pal Amy Pennington just launched her sweet new book, Urban Pantry. You can see the real deal by signing up for one of our Pantry Royale local preserves workshops at our Capitol Hill store. You'll learn how easy it is to can and preserve your fruit and enjoy the local fruit of the season...all year! Skagit Valley Strawberry in February, or perhaps a Caramel Apple in April? We're preserving our own fruits and stocking the pantry in the Cupcake Royale bakery. And with Amy's help, we'll teach you how to do it, too. Sign up here.

The Chocolate Scorcher will be available for the entire month of May at all four locations; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

Tuesday
Apr272010

Cakewalk: A Patisserie for Each Parisian Arrondissement

On a recent trip to Paris, my travel goal was simple: I wanted to try at least one pâtisserie in each of the 20 arrondissements. Happily, I attained my goal and then some, having visited a staggering 35 bakeries in a mere 7 days (I'll leave you to ponder that for a few moments).

My game plan? To try a mix of places I'd heard (and dreamed about) from books, guides, and trusted websites, but to also go to several arrondissements with no particular destination in mind, thereby allowing for some unexpected sweet experiences. And may I highly suggest this as a method of tourism? Not only did we make it to neighborhoods we probably wouldn't have discovered otherwise, but we also ate some seriously sweet stuff at every point along the way!

Here, I've listed at least one pâtisserie visited in each of the 20 arrondissements.

Note: While you may recognize several of these from my report on Serious Eats, I've also expanded and added several other spots to the roundup; enjoy!

1ème 

Cafe Angelina: Our pick here? The hot chocolate. The legendary hot chocolate here, called "L'africaine," is so thick that when sold by the bottle, it doesn't budge even when you turn bottle upside down. When heated, the hot chocolate is extremely thick and velvety, with a rich, dark chocolate flavor that isn't overpoweringly sweet. And it doesn't hurt that it's served up in a grand old tea room in the shadow of the Louvre by austere waitresses in French Maid-esque getups. 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001, 1st Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 42 60 82 00‎

2ème 

Stohrer: For one thing, if a bakery has been around since the 1730s, it's probably doing something right. While Stohrer's chocolate éclair was voted among the best in Paris, I think their coffee-flavored ones are even better: a perfectly piped cloud of choux gives way to an insanely rich coffee-toned cream and icing. 51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002, 2nd Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 42 33 38 20‎; stohrer.fr

3ème 

Pain de Sucre: This gorgeous little shop featured a sweet variety of goods, including baguette-shaped macarons (!), but our victim--er, choice--was the quatre quarts cake, which was rich, buttery, and oh so good. 14, rue rambuteau, 75003, 3rd Arrondissement, Paris, France; patisseriepaindesucre.fr. 

4ème 

Berthillon: You've probably read about this place in a tour guide or seen it on a travel show—I'm here to tell you that you should listen to them. This ice cream is amazingly creamy and flavorful, with a rotating cast of flavors like salted caramel, roasted pistachio, and creamy coconut, and served up in clever two-cupped cones which taste pretty good themselves. 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 43 54 31 61; berthillon.fr

Boulangerie Julien: Oh, bebe. The delicious rhubarb tart here was the stuff of dreams; read a full review here. 24, rue St. Martin, 75004, 4th Arrondissement, Paris, France.

Legay Choc: The first patisserie we visited after landing, and one of our favorite stops. Two words sum it all up: Roulé Cannelle. Read all about it here. 17, Rue Des Archives, Paris 04; online at legaychoc.fr

5ème 

Le Maison Kayser: Now, I had headed to Kayser intent on trying the Tigrés (Tiger Tea Cakes) as featured in Dorie Greenspan's book Paris Sweets (which, by the way, if you don't own, I have to say "You've got to be kidding me". Buy it now). But when I got to the bakery, I couldn't seem to drag myself away from the vision of these little chocolate tarts, served in sweet little squares topped with a disc of white chocolate and some candied hazelnuts. 8, rue monge, 75005, 5th Arrondissement, Paris, France (other locations too) maison-kayser.fr.

6ème 

Pierre Hermé: So I'll admit it: I feel like macarons are often better in theory than in practice. Unless they're done perfectly, they can fall into the traps of being too chewy, too brittle, or too sweet. But if there's a macaron that can make you a believer, I think Pierre Hermé's may be it. Biting into one is like biting into a cloud: the macaron is light as air, and yields perfectly to the generous dab of ganache, which is smooth, rich, and creamy without having a texture that is incongruous with the delicate cookie base. And this dude is somehow able to make crazy flavors like strawberry and wasabi not only work, but work well. 72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006, 6th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 43 54 47 77; pierreherme.com

7ème

La Patisserie des Rêves: I couldn't imagine a sweeter place to pick up Breton specialty Kouign Amann Breton than Dorie Greenspan-approved La Patisserie des Rêves, where large glass domes that resemble huge upside-down wineglasses cover gorgeous cakes arranged in a circle on a main table, and then shelves off to the side have various individually-sized treats. Also noteworthy: their unique brioche. 93 Rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, France‎ (map) 01 42 84 00 82‎; lapatisseriedesreves.com

8ème

Dalloyau: Opera Cake wasn't technically invented at Dalloyau (it's derived from another version of the fancy cake, the Clichy) but it was made famous here. For well over 100 years they've been serving up this slice of heaven, a serious cake comprised of thin layers of biscuit Viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. Various locations in Paris; we visited the one in the 8th; dalloyau.fr

9ème

Ladurée: A religieuse is a pastry supposedly takes its name from its resemblance to a nun's habit, but some hard-core pastry lovers might argue the name stems from its taste (which approaches an absolutely religieuse experience). Ladurée's intriguing Blackcurrant-Violet Religieuse, made up of choux pastry, blackcurrant and violet flavored confectioner's custard, is exquisite--but the violet taste is powerful, and this one is best shared. Various locations in Paris, including one in the 9th, and beyond; laduree.fr

10ème

La Baie des Anges: This place didn't look like much from the outside--and it was raining and we were eager to get into a bakery and get back to our hotel-- but the eclair was surprisingly delicious, fresh even at the end of the day, and redolent with chocolate-y goodness. 23 Rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75010 Paris, France.

11ème

La Bague de Kenza: I was intrigued by the writeup on Chocolate and Zucchini of the rfisse, which she described as "a mix of semolina, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, date, and honey, ground into a marzipan-like, pleasantly grainy paste"; happily, the sweet pastry was freshly made and delicious--vaguely reminding me of my days of serving Basbousa in Brooklyn106 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011, 11th Arrondissement, Paris, France.

12ème

Aux Castelblangeois: Our favored pastry here? The Tartelette aux Fraises. Starting with the fattest, most flavorful strawberries you've ever tasted on top of a rich bed of cream and a flaky pastry crust, this was a sweet tart indeed. 104 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 75012, 12th Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 40 19 93 36

13ème

Boulangerie Pâtisserie Renard: While walking around this neighborhood, which was nearby a hospital and was full of medical students and doctors, we found ourselves in this unassuming little bakery and were happily rewarded with a heavenly pear and chocolate tart. 113 bis, boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75013, 13th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map); 01 44 24 13 49

14ème

Bonjour Bakery: What we indulged in here was something called a chouquette aux marrons. What's that? Well. Imagine an éclair. Now, fill it with rich, unbelievably creamy chestnut filling and top it with sweet vanilla icing. You're getting the idea, and it is delicious. 16 Avenue René Coty, 75014, 14th Arrondissement, Paris, France‎ (map) 01 43 27 70 97‎

15ème

Maeder Véronique: Even blueberries are different in Paris! I didn't actually realize that's what the little berries were on top of this tart until I later looked it up: these were small, piquant, and more tart than mere US blueberries. Studded with pistachios atop a layer of pastry cream, all perched on a sturdy crust, this little tart was basically like heaven. 18 Rue de Lourmel, 75015, 15th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 45 78 89 31

16eme

Lenôtre: Walking into Lenôtre is kind of like walking into Tiffany & Co., only the wares are edible. The brioche, which was light and buttery all at once, was beautifully accentuated by the rose-colored candied nuts (I believe pistachios)—I think I liked their version even better than the famous Praluline, which is similarly flavored, if different in construction. 48, Avenue Victor Hugo, 75016, 16th Arrondissement, Paris, France (map) 01 45 02 21 21; Brioche Pralines Rose, lenotre.fr

17ème

Alain Bernard Artisan: Here is where we devoured the Salambo. Named after a literary character, this choux pastry filled with pastry cream and topped with icing and chocolate sprinkles is much more delicious to gobble than any old book. 6, Place Henri, 75017, 17th Arrondissement, Paris, France, 01 47 57 43 89.

18ème

Berko: An American cupcake shop in Paris! But what made these cupcakes so good? My theory is that it's the butter. France takes it a whole lot more seriously than the U.S., and it shows in these cakes, which are so tantalizingly buttery that really, a small one is sufficient (honestly). Their cake is unbelievably moist, and the frosting...well, it's buttercream (accent on the butter). 31, rue lepic, 75018, 18th Arrondissement, Paris, France. (note: there is also another location in the 4th Arrondissement)

19ème

La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc: This sweet shop seems a bit hidden, but is worth seeking out: we had an apple and raisin tart which, in spite of its name and ingredients, managed to taste buttery enough to make up for the virtuous fruit. 83 rue de Crimée, 75019, 19th Arrondissement, Paris, France.

20ème

Banette: Here, we scored La Figue. This unusual little squat pastry was on show at patisseries all over town, and nearby Pere LaChaise I finally picked one up at Banette, a boulangerie-patisserie with several locations throughout Paris (and, it seems, Montreal as well). Comprised of a fig-and-chocolate mixture topped with a rich green marzipan wrapped in a way to suggest a fig-like form, this was an absolute pleasure to eat. It tastes somewhere between cake and confection. Boulevard de Menilmontant, 75020, 20th Arrondissement, Paris, France; various Banette locations can also be found around Paris; banette.fr

Boulangerie 140: After having read about this place on David Lebovitz, we simply had to give this gem a try. Everything in the case was so obviously made with care that it was hard to decide what to settle on; while the bread was definitely the point of pride here, we tried the pain au chocolat, and were not disappointed. 140, rue de Belleville, 75020; au140.fr.

Tuesday
Apr272010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Ideas for Mother's Day

Clockwise from top left: pedestals by Juliska; onesie by Bored, Inc.; baking cups by Bake it Pretty; cake plates by Once Upon a Pedestal. Links below.Moms are totally sweet--so why not treat them in kind? Here's a baker's dozen of sweet (some literally, some figuratively) gift ideas for Mother's Day:

Betty Crocker's Cooky Book: One of my all-time favorite cookbooks--I know my mom would be delighted with this, so I imagine yours would be too. A word of advice: definitely go for the spiral-bound version. Available on Amazon.

CakeSpy Artwork and Accessories: Oh, come on, don't act surprised. I have rent to pay now! Plus, your mom would probably love you forever if you bought her something from my shop. Shop online here.

Cake Plates and Pedestals by Juliska: If you're feeling like a big spender this Mother's Day, these breathtaking cake plates and pedestals would probably go over very well. While you're at it, buy me one too, ok? (thanks to my friend Love and Confections for introducing me to these!). 

Cookies by Mail from Hey, Sugar!: A delightful recent CakeSpy discovery (via DailyCandy), though this Chicago-based custom order baking company provides a full assortment of baked goods locally, they will ship their cookies in assortments or by the dozen in single flavors (like the alluring-sounding Aloha Cookie "When pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts all mix together in a yummy, creamy snickerdoodle; your taste buds will say Aloha!"). Online at heysugarchicago.com.

Cups of all sizes and colors from Bake it Pretty: That's cupcake cups, of course. And you'll find the greatest variety of cute, pretty, sophisticated and kid-friendly ones here. Some for mom, some for you, some for your friends...

Cute as a Cupcake Baby Onesie by Bored Inc.: Naturally, babies are cute--but they can always be cuter. And that's easily done with these adorable "Cute as a Cupcake" onesies by Bored Inc.! Available here. 

Legalize Frostitution Tee from Cupcake Royale: Hipster moms who love baking will adore this tee from Seattle cupcake institution Cupcake Royale. Available here.

Little Red Riding Hood Tea Pot: Tea is totally sweet with treats, and it's sweeter still when served from an incredibly adorable tea pot like this one. Available at Fred Flare.

Retro Aprons by Kitsch'n Glam: These retro-cute halter aprons would make any mom happy, I think. Better yet, get one for yourself too. Available here. 

Three Months of Croissants: Do you really need to be told how much cooler this is than a fruit basket of the month club? Each month, a batch of prepared gourmet croissants will be shipped; simply thaw overnight and bake in the morning. The gift that gives back, especially if you plan visits back home around the shipment dates. Available at Williams-Sonoma.

Unique Cake Plates by Once Upon a Pedestal: One of a kind creations to display your sweet treats, made from salvaged plates put on a pedestal! Read the CakeSpy writeup of the company here. Available at Once Upon a Pedestal.

Vintage Cookie Jars from Jazze Junque: This site (and in Chicago, storefront too!) is a treasure trove of unique vintage and collectible cookie jars; stock constantly rotating. Available here.

What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson: If mom is a cupcake-maker, this book is a must-have--it's the uber-cute followup to the already uber-cute book Hello, Cupcake! which makes me want to coo every time I look at it. Available on Amazon.  

Monday
Apr262010

Sweet Combo: Chocolate-Filled Pretzel Nuggets for Serious Eats on National Pretzel Day

Guess what? Today is National Pretzel Day. But how to celebrate?

On the one hand the answer is painfully obvious--eat pretzels. But what kind of pretzels? After all, there are so many options: hard or soft, knotted or in stick form? Smothered in mustard or covered in chocolate?

Well, here's a suggestion for those who like plenty of sweet with their salty: chocolate-filled pretzel nuggets. These pillow-like nuggets are sort of like Combos meet chocolate covered pretzel--that is to say, the pinnacle of sweet and salty pretzel perfection.

For more, plus the full recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Friday
Apr232010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk

Undoubtedly you've baked with either Sweetened Condensed or Evaporated Milk, if not both. But what exactly are they? And what's the difference, anyway? Happily, I was able to get the full story directly from the source, when I sat down with a couple of the respective canned dairy products for an interview:

CakeSpy: First off, I'd like to thank my guests, Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk. And I'd like to say, for the record, that no matter what anyone says, I've never considered you dairy misfits.

Sweetened Condensed Milk: Who said that?

Evaporated Milk: I'll kill them! It was Whipping Cream, wasn't it? He's so smug.

CakeSpy: Outta sight! So, to get things started, Sweetened Condensed Milk...what exactly are you?

Sweetened Condensed Milk: Well, since I was googling myself before the interview, I can tell you that I'm "cow's milk from which water has been removed and to which sugar has been added, yielding a very thick, sweet product which when canned can last for years without refrigeration if unopened."

CakeSpy: Wow, that's a long time.

Evaporated Milk: No wonder why you seem so dated.

CakeSpy: Now, now, Evaporated Milk. I'm interested in you too--what is it exactly that you are?

Evaporated Milk: So glad you asked. I'm comprised of dehydrated milk, and am considered a shelf-stable canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk.

CakeSpy: You guys, no offense, but it doesn't sound like you're all that different. What exactly is the difference between you two?

Sweetened Condensed Milk: I've got sugar!

Evaporated Milk: I don't need sugar! I have a very unique flavor and am often used in desserts such as Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie.

Sweetened Condensed Milk: But with my deliciously decadent sugary nature, I'm often used in desserts too--perhaps most notably, or notoriously, in the Magic Cookie Bar.

Evaporated Milk: I thought those were called Hello Dolly Bars.

CakeSpy: Tomato, tomahto.

Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk (in unision): Whaaat?!?

CakeSpy: Nevermind. (pause)

Anyhow, to review, you're both shelf stable canned milk products, but basically Sweetened Condensed Milk has added sugar, and Evaporated milk doesn't. You both have a rich history and a rich texture, and are often used in baking. And no matter what Heavy Cream, Yogurt, or Cream Cheese says about your status as reputable dairy product, I love you both.

Evaporated Milk: Thanks...I think.

Sweetened Condensed Milk: Let's go shank Heavy Cream!

For recipes using Sweetened Condensed Milk, visit the Eagle Brand site; for Evaporated Milk recipes, check out Carnation.

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