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Sunday
Aug082010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondies: Delicious Blondies from Oddfellows Cafe, Seattle

In Seattle, there is a place called Oddfellows, and it is classified as both a cafe and bar. What does that mean, exactly?

Well, basically it means that you can belly up to the bar and get a delicious bar cookie to go along with your beverage. And my newest obsession? The Oddfellows Blondie.

This butterscotch-chip and nut-studded bar cookie is a bit of brown sugary, buttery bliss--pleasingly dense without being leaden, assertively but not aggressively sweet, soft and chewy, but firm enough that it doesn't crumble. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if there was a blondie to make brownie devotees question their allegiance, this might be it.

Oddfellows has a rotating selection in their bakery case; call first to ensure availability. But even if they don't have these, they're bound to have something good. You can find them at 1525 10th Avenue (b/t Pike and Pine), Seattle; online here.

Friday
Aug062010

Cake Byte: Prepare Yourself for the Sweetest Week Ever

Which team are you on?You'd better load up on Mimosa Brownies at brunch this weekend, 'cos you're gonna need your energy. Here's what's coming up at CakeSpy Shop this week!

First off, a thanks for the super-sweet shout-out on Seattle Picks: CakeSpy Shop was awarded the coveted #1 pick spot on the list this week! Super sweet!

All week long: pick up these totally sweet new Cupcake and Unicorn cards, and the Team Pie and Team Cake pins I had made up for the below event...

Monday, August 9: Cake Vs. Pie Party at CakeSpy Shop! A smackdown of the sweetest variety! Several bakers will be bringing pies and cakes, respectively, which will be judged by expert tasters and awarded on various criteria (texture, taste, crumb, etc). Prize donors include Art of the PieCupcake RoyaleEdible SeattleChef Shop & more!Though the event is no longer accepting bakers, tasters are welcome! Though the shop is usually not open on Mondays, this event will kick off at 7 pm. Come and get it, and shop for something sweet while you're at it! 415 E. Pine Street (near Summit), Seattle WA 98122.

Thursday, August 12: Open late for the Capitol Hill Art Walk! Like, OMG: awesome overload! You'll be treated to the sweet and savory oil paintings of Mike Geno, who may or may not be related to Wayne Thiebaud. The work will be up all August long, but on Thursday I'll stay open late and even make some cookies so that you can check it out in style. 415 E. Pine Street (near Summit), Seattle WA 98122--artwalk is 5-8 p.m. (or til you've spent all your money on awesome art)

Saturday, August 14: CCE! The Conference for Creative Entrepreneurs will be taking place August 13-15, and I'll be moderating a panel on Guerilla Marketing for Small Business on Saturday! I will be joined by awesome panelists Nicole of Immortal Dog, Diane of Street Treats, and Becky of Sunday Drive Designs!

Here's to a sweet week!

Friday
Aug062010

Sweet Art: A Series of Custom Paintings for the Staff of Cake Central Magazine!

So, if you are an avid cake-baker, chances are you've heard of a little publication and website called Cake Central.

Wait, who are we kidding--of course you have! It's like, kind of a big deal in the cake world. And not only have I had the good fortune to have been featured in their magazine--but now I have the extreme pleasure of saying that I have supplied artwork for the offices of several staffers!

Yup: I was commissioned to do custom artwork for several of the Cake Central employees--for each employee, I was given a brief description and full creative license to create a unique piece for each.

I did one for Jackie, the editor, who loves all things girly (shown top);

one for Leanne, cake maker and decorator extraordinaire;

one for Heath, avid follower of baseball and lover of all things Tiki;

one for Jackie T., a cake-loving fitness buff (I know, study in contrasts, right?);

one for Andy, a card playin' fella;

one for Misty, a photographer;

and one for Deanna, who loves Diet Coke, her pets, and music.

It was possibly the most fun custom job ever--and what a thrill to be hired by such a big deal in the cake world!

Check out Cake Central's website for more awesomeness. Oh, and, like, follow them on Twitter.

Friday
Aug062010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Are you a geek? Are you an Apple lover? Do you love cake? This one's for you.

If you've known and loved Salted Caramel...say hello to your newest friend, Salted Butterscotch Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup S'mores Blondies: Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.

Sugar sweet: a breakdown of various types of sweeteners and what, exactly, they are.

Mennonite Moms can cook: Soft white cookies with frosting sound pretty amazing.

Did you know you can make Drake's Cakes Funny Bones at home? Here's a review of how, and whether it's worth the time.

Did this ever catch on? Cactus and chicken wing ice cream.

How to make cookie cutters at home!

Good for Brownies at Brunch Month: the "Breakfast Witch" by Fat Witch Brownies.

Eat your veggies: Zucchini whoopie pies!

Speaking of zucchini, have you ever considered it as a delicious addition to Rocky Road Bars?

Taste the rainbow: I don't know why I'm so attracted to these mini gelato spoons, but I am.

Sweet memories: remember these Rolling Scones?

Thursday
Aug052010

Pie in the Sky: Blueberry Pie Recipe from Macrina Bakery

What with Monday's Pie Vs. Cake Showdown coming up, I was pretty excited to discover that this month's newsletter from Macrina Bakery included a blueberry pie recipe! Yielding a not-too-sweet filling with a very buttery crust, this one might just be prize material!

As they put it in the newsletter, "Few things in life are as wonderful as homemade blueberry pie. It is heaven on earth! I recommend using slightly tart organic blueberries whenever possible."

Photo credit: Macrina Bakery

Classic Blueberry Pie

Makes one double-crust 9-inch pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups (3-1/2 pints) organic blueberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 recipe Flaky Pie Dough (see recipe), chilled
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water
  • Coarse raw sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Procedure

  1. Sort through the blueberries, removing any stems and leaves. Gently rinse the berries and lay them out on paper towels to air dry.
  2. Combine 3-1/2 cups of the blueberries, granulated sugar, brown sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla extract and flour in a medium saucepan. Mix with a spoon. Cook over medium heat until the fruit juices have been released and the mixture has thickened, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the mixture from burning. Pour the cooked fruit into a large stainless steel bowl and add the remaining blueberries. Stir with a spoon and set aside until the fruit has cooled to room temperature.
  3. Divide the chilled pie dough into 2 pieces, making one piece slightly larger than the other. Coat your hands with flour and shape the larger piece of dough into a ball. Working on a floured surface, flatten the ball slightly, then roll it into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Fit the rolled dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the edges of the dough to leave a 1-inch overhang around the pan. Roll out the remaining piece of dough 1/8-inch thick and trim it into a 10-inch circle. Set aside. This will be the top crust.
  4. Pour the cooled fruit into the pie shell and dot with butter. Brush the top side of the overhanging dough with a little egg wash. Lift the top crust onto the pie, folding it in half to make it easier to accurately position. Lift the overhanging dough onto the top crust and crimp with your fingers. Mark the crimped edges with a fork, then brush all of the crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse raw sugar and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife cut 4 slits in the center of the crust. Bake pie for 50 to 55 minutes. The crust will be golden brown and the fruit will be bubbling in the center of the pie. Let cool for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
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.

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