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Monday
Feb222010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe, Mount Holly, VT

I'm not against a little matchmaking...when the match in question is a bakery.

So when CakeSpy reader Jen wrote saying "have I met a bakery that would be great for you!" I clicked over to their website, and knew that she was right: we were a perfect match. 

That was how my long-distance love affair began with A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe, a sweet bakery in Mount Holly, Vermont. 

Now, I have a few reasons why one should love A Dozen Eggs--sweetly decorated cookies for just about every occasion and interest (say hello to your new go-to source for baseball, female golfing, ballet, birthday, skunk-love, penguin, and butterfly cookies); cupcakes that look pretty and like they have a great frosting-to-cake-ratio; and of course, that New England classic, the Whoopie Pie. Several of the items can be shipped, too.

But of course, from a distance, it's hard to tell how the sweets taste. Just as good as they look, Jen assures us, who, when asked her favorite items from the shop, had this to say:

"Well their cookies are not only impeccably decorated but delicious as well.  So are their homemade marshmallows! And my dogs have enjoyed their pumpkin doggy biscotti.  Too many to list!!"

That's good enough for me. Another bakery match made in heaven!

In Vermont? You can check out A Dozen Eggs yourself at 1871 Route 103 in Mount Holly Vermont; or, some items are also available for nationwide shipping too via their website; online at adozeneggs.com.

Saturday
Feb202010

Cakewalk: A Sweet Trip to Breckenridge, CO With Rainy Day Gal

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Rainy Day Gal (a.k.a. Jenny Miller), a fellow Seattle blogger with a major sweet tooth.

The fam and I are back from a visit, and a ski trip, with Husband's folks in Colorado. High, dry, cold Colorado.

Here's a few things I learned about living at 10,000 feet:

1) You always feel dehydrated, even after downing 3 gallons of water in one day. Yup. I counted.

2) It's dry. Your nose will bleed. Your skin will chap. You feel like you can never breathe quite right. You will look like you have pneumonia when you don't.

3) It's freaking cold. Our first day on the mountain the wind chill was -12. Husband wore one of those embarrasing but effective neoprene face masks. I may have laughed at him a little. And then my throat froze so I stopped.

4) It makes for some fantastic damn skiing. and, finally:

5) It's hard to bake anything correctly. Cupcakes collapse into hockey pucks. Cookies melt right into the baking pan. And a chocolate cake will turn out more like a pan of brownies.

That last part being said, I was curious: how great could bakeries be at this altitude? Even if you make all of the flour, butter, and baking time adjustments, would the baked goods two miles high measure up to those down at sea level? Lucy, my dear ma-in-law and I bundled up and set out on a quest. 

Part 1: The Adventure

Our first stop? Clint's.Our concierge pal Nate tipped us off that they had some rockin carrot cake. And if you've ever met me you know that I could eat my weight in carrot cake any day of the week. It's a cute two-level sort o deal, with sweets and coffee upstairs and the more savory junk downstairs. I think all restaurants should be divided this way. I would always know exactly where to sit. I was a bit taken aback at the pastry case---everything was wrapped in cellophane. I don't know about you, but to me saran wrapped baked goods are a bit drive-thru coffee stand. It then dawned on me that this was a result of the dry atmosphere in this neck o the woods. Those loverly croissants would dry out quicker than a wino in jail if not for that tacky yet effective cellophane. But we weren't here for the pastries, my friends. We were here for the goods.

And this big ol' slab-o-cake (pictured at the top of the post too) did not disappoint. It was perfectly moist, despite all of the obstacles to keep it that way. The cream cheese frosting walked the fine line between too sweet and too cream-cheesey with ease. The side was coated with chopped walnuts, which I adore. It gives it such good crunch and texture, plus cuts the sweetness of the frosting nicely. The frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect. Nothing bugs me more than too little frosting over too much cake. Nate, thank you for bringing this carrot cake into my life. Clint's, kudos for a job well done. With our bellies full of sweet, nutritious (a main ingredient is carrot, after all) cake, we put our jackets back on and ventured to our next destination.

Mary's Mountain Cookies. It's a cute little shop, and by little I mean about 6 feet by 6 feet. They make cookies and nothing else. I always admire that in a bakery--stick with what you're good at. Diversity is overrated. They had the usual suspects: snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter. But they also had intriguing sandwich numbers stacked with buttercream frosting, and these naughty dipped cookies that weighted a quarter pound each (pictured above). Holy fat cookie, Batman.

In the end, we took home three varieties: cranberry white chocolate chip, double fudge white chip, and a "White Out"--two snickerdoodles hugging a hefty dollop of vanilla buttercream. Being that our palates were still sugared-out from carrot cake, we decided to wait for the troops to come back from skiing before sampling these beauties.

Meanwhile, we moved on. Word on the street was that there was a cupcake joint in town that was not to be missed. And I'm always game for a new cupcake joint. But, sadly, it was not our day. Our path was blocked by a man-eating, frosting-throwing, Jaba the Hut-sized Snow Cupcake! It took all of our efforts to dodge his attempts to devour us in his huge, snow-frosting-blob of a mouth. Then we moved on...

 ...and arrived at Breckenridge's own Rocky Mountain Cupcakes. It's a sizeable shop with a rustic, ski-lodge sorta feel. They had quite a few varieties to choose from--all beautiful, perfectly frosted, and topped with something interesting. Ready for some cupcake porn? Here we go. They had flavors including chocolate coconut...

...strawberry snowflake (have you ever seen a cuter cupcake?)...

...key lime...

...chocolate chai...

...butterscotch...

...and the cutest red velvet I've ever laid eyes on. Which ones to pick? We debated a while.

In the end, we settled on strawberry (because it was cute, plus I wanted to know if it actually tasted as pink as it looked), chocolate chai (for my dear ma-in-law, who loves her some chai), key lime (pretty, and an intriguing cupcake flavor), and "Double Diamond" (for husband--double chocolate).

Part 2: The Tasting

We meandered home, and set the bakery boxes on the counter, warmed our toes, and then twiddled our thumbs and waited for the gang to get home so we could sample our loot.

Lu and I drifted off into a warm mid-afternoon nap, dreaming of skiing cookies and snowboarding cupcakes. When we awoke, much to our dismay, one of the cookies was missing. Gone. Finito. Never to be seen or heard from again.

It was, sadly, the double chocolate white chip. The one I had picked out for myself. The one I had been looking forward to all afternoon. Scanning the fam, they all had mysterious chocolate crumbs at the corners of their mouths. Little devils.

Luckily, the other two cookies more than made up for it. The cranberry white chocolate chip was amazing--buttery and soft, crunchy at the edges, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. The "White Out" was absolutely insane: two of the best snickerdoodles I have ever had sandwiched with a vanilla buttercream, emphasis on the cream. It was delicious. It was divine. It weighted about two pounds.

We had no trouble finishing either cookie and moving on to the cupcakes.

The chocolate chai was the obvious winner. Moist, rich chocolate cake covered with a creamy chai-flavored frosting. Totally yummy.

The strawberry? Let's just say it tasted very, very pink. I'll leave it at that. The key lime and the double chocolate were fairly yummy, although both left something to be desired in the cake department. Overall? Decent cupcakes. Not spectacular, not terrible. Middle of the road. Except for the strawberry. That was far off the road in the ditch. But the others? Inventive, pretty and just fine.

The final word? When we go back to Breck next year, I will do two things:

1) Eat my weight in Clint's carrot cake.

2) Sample every cookie Mary's has to offer. They know how to make a seriously yummy cookie, even at 10,000 feet.

Well, I'm off to recover from traveling with an 11-month old, hit the grocery because last night we had to eat bratwursts from 2007, and hopefully put a dent in the mountain of laundry we brought back from the mountain. Thanks to the lovely bakeries of Breckenridge, CO for the delicious treats. I will not thank you, however, for my post-vacation waistline.

Places Mentioned:

Clint's Bakery and Coffee House, 131 S Main St BreckenridgeCO

Mary's Mountain Cookies, 128 South Main St., Breckenridge, CO

Rocky Mountain Cupcakes, Main Street, Breckenridge, CO

For Jenny's full review, visit her website.

Friday
Feb192010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Patisseries I'll Be Visiting in Paris

Guess what? I'm in Paris right now. And to share a bit of the sweetness, here's just a baker's dozen (in no particular order) of the many sweet spots on my must-visit list in the City of Lights!

Laduree, because it's a magical place.

Pierre Herme, because he's kind of like a macaron rock star.

Patisserie des Reves, because Dorie Greenspan says it's great.

Synie's Cupcakes, because I'm curious to see the French take on the American trend.

Hotel du Cadran, because apparently they have a chocolate shop and great macarons on premises!

Dalloyau, because I hear this rumor that they have a killer Opera Cake.

Chistian Constant, because Clotilde Dusoulier says they have a "picture perfect cup of hot chocolate"

Baillardran, because a pastry shop in a train station is intriguing.

Lecureuil, because they are said to have "petits fours that seem right out of a children's book.

U Sputinu, because I'm into "produits tres bons Corses".

Berthillon, because visiting a famous glacier sounds pretty fantastic.

La Grande Epicerie, because I think I could spend many hours just wandering here.

Patisserie au Grand Richelieu, because it looks old and wonderful.

(P.S. Any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments! I'm in Paris all week!)

Thursday
Feb182010

Ringing It In: Olympic Ring Cookies for Serious Eats

The Olympics: a time to celebrate the infinite abilities of the human body and spirit.

Of course, if you're more of an armchair athlete, you'll be happy to have plenty of cookies to keep you company while watching those sporty types do their thing.

While my original hope was to link the cookies together in the tradition of Betty Crocker's Magic Rings, it didn't quite work out; however, when trimmed while still warm and fitted together, they form a lovely Olympic ring, served as a unit that is basically an excuse to eat five delicious cookies at once. And with cookies like this--lightly chewy in the center, crisp on the edges, and full of butter-sweet flavor, you may just find yourself going at these like it's an Olympic sport.

For the full post and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Thursday
Feb182010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Deluxe Cakes and Pastries, Iowa City

Dear Deluxe Cakes & Pastries in Iowa City,

I've never met you, but I love you.

I realize that this may seem sudden, and I may be coming on strong.

But there are several reasons why I've decided we're soul mates. Care to hear?

Your cakes. Like this one, a 4-layer cake consisting of dark chocolate soaked in coffee syrup and layered with milk chocolate mousse and raspberry. If it tastes a third as good as it looks, I could die happy after eating this.

Your cupcakes. You have cupcakes in a delicious range of flavors, and you decorate them so sweetly. Who doesn't love a cupcake that looks like a bunny is diving into it (shown top)? I'd eat this for Easter...and beyond.

Your Doughnuts. Every Saturday morning, you fry fresh yeast doughnuts. I would get up early for these. Really, I would.

Your Petits Fours. Petits fours are by nature an adorable thing, but yours are especially cute, and I've never had a carrot cake or red velvet petit four. Needless to say, I would like to change this.

Your Tiramisu. Really, I think the picture speaks for itself.

In closing, Deluxe Cakes & Pastries, I would like to say that should you decide to relocate to Seattle, I would very much appreciate it. But if that's not possible, I look forward to stalking--er, visiting--you on my next pastry road trip.

Want more? If you're in Iowa City, you can visit Deluxe Cakes & Pastries at 812 S. Summit Street, Iowa City; even if you're not in Iowa, I bet you'd get a thrill out of checking out their website at deluxecakesandpastries.com or visiting their blog at deluxebakery.blogspot.com.

Thursday
Feb182010

Cake Byte: CupcakeCamp Seattle is Coming!

Summer camp? Not so much. Bad crafts and bad food = big bummer.

CupcakeCamp, however, is a different story. Because at this camp, everyone's a winner, because they all get cupcakes. It's a franchise which has enjoyed great success in New York and San Francisco, and now, thanks to coordinator Carrie of Bella Cupcake Couture (a CakeSpy sponsor and awesome company in general), it's coming to Seattle! 

So what exactly is CupcakeCamp? Per the website, it is

An event for cupcake lovers: Bake or buy cupcakes to bring -or- just come to eat and help a good cause. Activities include cupcake eating contests, cupcake wrapper decorating, bakers competitions, Hope Heart Institute fundraiser and more.  Best of all … it’s FREE.

Once again, just in case you didn't catch that last part: it's free!

Here are the details:

When: Saturday April 10, 2010 11am-2pm
Where: 415 Westlake, Seattle WA
Why: Because who doesn’t love cupcakes?

Oh, and of course, you've got to love the CakeSpy-designed promotional postcard! (pictured top)

For more details and to see how you can become involved, visit the “About” section on the Cupcake Camp Seattle website!

Tuesday
Feb162010

Cake Byte: CakeSpy is Taking Over a Gallery in Seattle!

It's true, friends: CakeSpy is gonna have a retail shop.

In breaking cake news, I have decided to purchase Seattle's Bluebottle Art Gallery!

Bluebottle Art Gallery is a Capitol Hill landmark, a wonderful source for handmade artwork by a variety of awesome artists.

It will remain a gallery which carries the work of several artists, but in taking it over I will become the gallery's main artist and maintain my studio in the retail space!

The takeover will be official on April 1st.

You can learn more on the Bluebottle site, or from early buzz on the Capitol Hill Seattle and Seattle Metropolitan websites.

I am off now for a vacation planned before this all came about, but there will be more information in the next week or so! 

Tuesday
Feb162010

Amuse Bouchon: The Bouchon Ho Ho, Bouchon Bakery, NYC

It's time to talk about the fanciest Ho Ho you'll ever meet: the Bouchon Bakery Ho Ho.

I'll admit, when I first encountered this $5.25 log of chocolate and buttercream at Bouchon Bakery's Columbus Circle location, I was, to put it mildly, conflicted.

On the one hand: Awesome! It's a Ho Ho! But Fancy!

But on the other hand: Hey! This Ho Ho costs more than $5! What are they trying to pull?

And while tasting it was delightful, it actually made me even more confused.

On the one hand: This is a well made baked good. Each bite is exquisite, obviously made with fine ingredients, redolent with rich, dark chocolate cake, rich buttercream all enrobed in a decadent dark chocolate.

But on the other hand: Somehow it seems with every bite that nostalgia is playing a game with you, because it tastes so right...but isn't all of the wrongness of the original what makes it so wonderful?

Faced with a sweet dilemma, a piece of said fancy Ho Ho was presented to Cake Gumshoe Margie (um, also my mom), whose eyes widened upon the prospect of such a fancy version of a childhood favorite. Her esteemed opinion?

"It's very good...but if anything...it tastes just a little too fancy".

So, where does this leave us?

On the one hand: When we make bad stuff good, there's an appeal that can't be denied, something deeply rooted in nostalgia that appeals to our developed tastes.

But on the other hand: Unfortunately, as it seems, as much as we might want these treats to grow up with us, sometimes we can't get past the fact that the bad is sometimes what makes these treats so good.

Of course, in conclusion, I would like to say that you wouldn't have to twist my arm too hard to buy another one of these deliciously decadent treats--because never has existential musing been so sweet.

What do you think? Is making junk food gourmet a good or a bad thing?

The Bouchon Ho Ho, available at Bouchon Bakery; for locations, visit bouchonbakery.com. Call to ensure availability.

Tuesday
Feb162010

Love in the Mail: Cookies from Abigail's Bake Shop

Homemade Oreo Cookies from Abigail's Bake ShopThe most beautiful words in the English language? Cookie Sampler.

That's what I received recently from Abigail's Bake Shop, a special-order bakery based in Raleigh, NC. Locals can order from a full menu of cakes and pastries; for the rest of us, they'll ship cookies. And oh, those cookies.

The parcel which arrived was packed to the brim with cookies: snickerdoodles, chocolate chip and chocolate chip walnut cookies, peanut butter and peanut butter chocolate cookies, old fashioned sugar cookies, iced heart cookies, homemade oreos, and...cute...a single brownie in the shape of a heart.

Normally a parcel of this magnitude would last several days, but luckily it was in the hands of professionals, and several Cake Gumshoes set to professionally sampling these goods.

The highlights?

The "signature" sugar cookies, which were lightly crumbly on the edges and the just-baked side of cookie dough in the center;

the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which likewise were crumbly on the edges but dense and chewy inside, with a wonderful, well rounded peanut butteriness that was sweet and salty and matched perfectly with peanut butter's bff, chocolate;

and...of course...the homemade oreos.

Now, it can be a hard thing to wrap one's mind around the idea of a "homemade" sweet that is usually store-bought--sometimes, even if it is technically better quality, it comes up lacking because it doesn't have that nostalgic flavor. 

Happily, we had no such problem with these oreos, which came in regular creme-filled and mint creme-filled. The cookies were not extremely oreo-like, but more dense and cakey--this was a very good thing.

And the cream--creme?--actually managed to pull off that sweet, singular paste-like texture of classic oreos, and with a wonderful, sweet and creamy flavor that might just outdo the original.

Oh, Abigail's Bake Shop, what a delight it was to find you.

Ready to order a bushel of cookies for your own household? Thought so. You can find out more (and order online) at abigailsbakeshop.com. Additionally, you can keep up to date via their blog, Facebook and Twitter!

Tuesday
Feb162010

Up In Eclair: Oscar-Inspired Eclairs for Serious Eats

Up in the Air, or as I like to call it, that movie with George Clooney and airplanes, is a bittersweet tale of a dude who leads a largely empty life, traveling around the country for a job where he fires people, never really cultivating any real bonds or finding any real fulfillment.

Oh, George. Clearly, you don't know that so many voids can be filled with delicious eclairs, and so I'd like to present a sweet cinematic pairing: Up in Eclair. In deference to the film, the pastry is light as air and shaped like the planes which permeate the plotline. The lemon filling is sweet with a tinge of sour as a nod to the bittersweet story, and for your eating pleasure, the icing on top brings it all home for a sweet ending.

Check out the full post and recipe over at Serious Eats, part of the Movie Awards Season Recipe Series brought to you by Hyundai

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