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Tuesday
Jan122010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Rose Levy Beranbaum

Rose Levy Beranbaum wrote the bible on cakes--literally. Her first book, The Cake Bible, originally published in the 1980s, is largely considered a classic and is currently in its 42nd printing (in case you needed to be told, that is a lot of books!). And it's not hard to see why--Rose approaches baking with a chemist's knowledge but an artist's eye, with recipes which yield delicious and beautiful results. And after a number of blockbuster baking books, now she's back to cakes again with the gorgeous volume Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which includes over 100 recipes for all sorts of cakes, ranging from decadent flourless chocolate cakes to the ethereal Golden Lemon Almond cake and so many more. Even non-bakers will find it hard to resist the gorgeous color photos by Ben Fink (some of which are featured here). Ready to learn more about the baker behind the cakes? Let's go:

CakeSpy: What was the first cake you ever remember baking?

Rose Levy Beranbaum: A Duncan Hines chocolate cake from a mix. The instructions just said to grease, not grease and flour and the cake came apart in three pieces so I had to glue it together with canned frosting. It was for my parents' anniversary.

CS: With Valentine's Day coming up, what cakes might you suggest to set
the mood for love?

RLB: Rose Red Velvet, Double Chocolate Valentine, Quail Egg Indulgence Cake.

CS: My mom will probably be mortified that I am saying this, but she recently confessed to me that although she knows it's wrong "because it says so in Rose Levy Beranbaum's book" that she still uses salted butter in her recipes. Can you give any advice as to why she shouldn't do this?

RLB: Salted butter varies in amount of salt. Sometimes being 3 x the amount of salt specified in the recipe.

(CakeSpy Note: Mama Spy, stop making salt lick cakes!)

CS: In the intro of your book, you acknowledge bloggers as a source of inspiration. Has the advent of food blogs changed the way that you work?

RLB: Hugely! My blog has provided a means of connection for people all around the world which quickly and exponentially increases all of our knowledge. I love seeing bloggers¹ renditions of my recipes with new variations and draw inspiration from requests for specific types of cakes such as the Orange Chiffon baked in a pan without a center tube. I am able to have my recipes tested by my assistant who lives in another state and see the results online.

CS: You say that "today, my goal in baking is to translate the chemical into the practical"--can you explain a bit more?

RLB: The Rose Red Velvet is a perfect example to demonstrate how my analysis of the individual components affects the creation of the recipe. Understanding that buttermilk benefits from baking powder rather than being neutralized by baking soda enabled me to eliminate the usual vinegar and still have a nice tang. Understanding the way in which ovens vary and mixing methods all contributing to the outcomes in baking taste and texture.

CS: Tell me about a favorite cake memory of yours.
RLB: There are so many! Research wise: After many years and many tests trying to make a chocolate chiffon cake, when I finally discovered that adding the egg whites to the batter unbeaten and then beating the batter created the perfect cake I was ecstatic. I called my assistant and he still remembers the words I used which were "cake history has been made tonight!" This cake became the base for my German Chocolate Cake and then the base for the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake. I traveled across country to make this cake for my friend chef/restaurateur Daniel Patterson and this version appears in my new book, presented on my mother's milk glass dental plate which used to hold her instruments for dentistry. It is the most stunning photo in the book! (pictured left)

Another favorite memory was my appearance doing the Pinecone Chocolate Cake on the Charlie Rose show. It started off with me being very shy but evolved to my favorite part of the long segment when Charlie said he wanted to go into business with me and would sweep my floors and I suggested we marry so my name could be Rose Rose!

Want more? You can easily lose yourself for hours on the informative and entertaining Real Baking With Rose Levy Beranbaum, which includes recipes, baking tips, discussion groups and so much more; you can also get baking with the Rose-inspired baking group Heavenly Cake Bake-Along, and follow the grande dame of cakery on Twitter and Facebook!

Tuesday
Jan122010

Cake Byte: New Cuppie Love Rubber Stamps by Taylored Expressions!

Love is sweet, but cupcakes are sweeter. And while this brand new set of rubber stamps featuring CakeSpy art by Taylored Expressions are not exactly edible, they're incredibly sugary-sweet: they depict scenes of Cuppie love! This set would be perfect as a Valentine's Day surprise for your sweetie, or buy it to make a sweet card for all of the sweetest people in your life!

This set retails for $21.95 and comes nicely packaged with a beautiful color index sheet; you can purchase it here. You can also find great project ideas on the Taylored Expressions blog and stay in touch with Taylored Expressions via Twitter!

Tuesday
Jan122010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on My Kids' Cookies, Bainbridge Island WA

Cookies are one of those foods fraught with nostalgia--few people can think of freshly baked cookies without sweet memories of the mom, dad, grandma, or neighbor who baked them. And that is the idea behind Bainbridge Island-based My Kids' Cookies, a retail bakery run by Barbara Reininger, who, according to their website,

began baking these fabulous cookies when her children were young. Having a love of chocolate chip cookies, but not able to eat them all, she began to give them away to friends. Her children wanted to share with their friends too, so they created the cookie raffle. They'd pick a friends name and off they'd go to deliver ‘just because’ cookies. More than one of the happy beneficiaries suggested that Barbara begin selling her cookies and the rest is My Kids' Cookies history. Barbara used to bake cookies to get her kids to do their homework. Now she's baking cookies to pay for college.

But not only is the story sweet--so are the cookies. Since they opened in 2007, they have branched out from the chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal varieties to offer a number of other delicious cookies and sweets as well: milk chocolate peanut butter delights and gorgeous slabs of buttery shortbread, as well as some non-cookie goods like brownies, pumpkin muffins and cupcakes--many of which can also be shipped nationwide.

Perhaps the best thing about My Kids' Cookies is that while they have grown, they've still remained very true to their humble beginnings: simple, unfussy, but very good treats that would taste just as good today as they would have after school when you were little. Oh, and they've maintained a great sense of humor, too.

My Kids' Cookies retail bakery is located at 9723 Coppertop Loop NE, #202, Bainbridge Island, WA; a variety of their baked goods can be shipped and are available for purchase online at mykidscookies.com; if you want yet more, you can keep in contact via their blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Monday
Jan112010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Moments in Fiction

Baby, it's cold outside--so why not get all warm and fuzzy-feeling by curling up with a book featuring delicious treats? Here's a baker's dozen of fictional tales which include memorable scenes involving sweets.

Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks: These linked books detail a pivotal time in the life of the main character, who abandons a plastic LA lifestyle and keeps it real by working at a bakery in Seattle. 

Carrot Cake Murder (and basically anything by Joann Fluke): A murder mystery series which focuses on an unlucky baker who has a tendency to come across dead bodies. This series includes recipes that are actually quite good!

Chocolat by Joanne Harris: If this doesn't make you want chocolate, nothing will.

Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser: OK, so this is not fiction, but it really does read like it--and it has a recipe for cake. Win-win!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Who could forget Miss Havisham's mummified wedding cake? 

Heartburn by Nora Ephron: Before there was Sleepless in Seattle, before she directed Julie and Julia, Nora Ephron was one of the first novelists to include recipes in a novel. This one is liberally peppered with all sorts of food, but has a killer Key Lime Pie recipe.

Lady Baltimore by Owen Wister: Owen Wister's tale from whence the cake of the same name sprouted!

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: Sex! Betrayal! Sadness! And best of all, plenty of food (including cake!).

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Two words for you: Maple Snow. What kid didn't want to get in on that action after reading this classic?

Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries by Bharti Kirchner: The title does kind of say it all--this novel details the soul-searching journey of a Seattle baker.

Ruby Bakes a Cake by Susan Hill: This one's for the kids, but even adults will enjoy the sweet illustrations (by my mom, Margie Moore!) accompanying an equally sweet story of Ruby the Raccoon and her journey to make the ultimate sweet treat.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: This wonderfully written novel details several students in a cooking class and the ways in which they lose (and find) themselves in cooking. Includes a great chapter (with valuable baking tips and a recipe!) on cake.

September Fair: A Murder-by-Month Mystery by Jess Lourey: This murder mystery is not about sweets per se, but it takes place at a Minnesota state fair and includes plenty of appetizing descriptors of decadent fair foods (deep fried nut goodie, anyone?).

That's just a baker's dozen of sweet reads--please feel free to comment with your favorites or to leave suggestions!

Monday
Jan112010

Rising Above: Cake Pedestals by Once Upon a Pedestal

Presentation is everything.

What exactly does that mean? Don't put your beautifully frosted and decorated cake on a paper plate, that's what it means.

A great cake pedestal can make your sweet treats even sweeter--and nobody knows this better than Devon of Once Upon a Pedestal. Though by day she is a research at UW ("U-Dub", as anyone who has ever seen Singles knows), she comes from a sweet background: her mother and grandmother both worked in the same bakery when she was growing up, and she herself worked at a bakery for five years. 

But it was reading some of the awesomest blogs out there (Bakerella, Tartelette, etc) that galvanized her action: she realized that she didn't have a creative way to display her goodies. Unable to find a display she liked in shops, she made one herself--a shop soon followed. Constructed using found and vintage objects paired in sometimes unlikely combinations, these pedestals are treasures--like snowflakes (or hand-frosted cupcakes), no two are exactly the same, but each one is precious.

Seriously, wouldn't your next batch of cupcakes--or brownies, or cookies, or even an Opera cake--look beautiful on one of these babies?

Want more? Go ahead and visit the Once Upon a Pedestal shop.

Monday
Jan112010

Batter Up: Deep Fried Cupcakes on a Stick for Serious Eats

This one's dedicated to all of you who made New Year's resolutions to eat healthier: deep fried cupcakes on a stick.

These babies were made for the weekly CakeSpy installment on Serious Eats, inspired by a deep fried candy bar recipe; each little cake was speared on a stick, chilled, then battered up and fried until it reached a perfect golden hue. The resulting taste, which falls somewhere between childhood nostalgia and greasy fair food, is alarmingly addictive.

And hey, if it is in fact a one way ticket to Heart Attack City, at least we had a good run.

For the full scoop plus recipe and tutorial, visit Serious Eats!

 

 

Monday
Jan112010

Sweet Love: A Valentine's Day Bakery Crush on Fields of Cake in Maine

Question: What is love?

Answer: Love is sweet, rich, and full of butter. And this Valentine's Day season, the collective CakeSpy heart has been captured by the sweet treats made by Fields of Cake, a Brunswick, Maine-based custom order baking operation which (joyfully!) is able to ship a select few sugary sweets nationwide.

So what kind of sweets could you get by mail? Here's a roundup:

Red Hots Fudge: White Chocolate Fudge with just enough crushed red hots for a creamy, spicy balance that is out of this world! $6/ 8 ounce box

Red Velvet Whoppidy-Do’s (pictured top): Red Velvet whoopie pies filled with scrumptious Amaretto Buttercream and half dipped in White Chocolate and beautiful edible red glitter. Amazing. $9/ half dozen

Fresh Raspberry Truffles: Fresh Raspberries, filled with a bit of almond paste then dipped in silky dark chocolate. $12/ 8 ounces (note: these are not shippable)

Fresh Strawberry Marshmallows: Beautiful light pink swirled clouds of strawberry sweetness. If you have never tasted a homemade marshmallow, DON’T miss out on this. They are heaven. $9/ dozen

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies: As big as a saucer, with chunks of delicious fine dark chocolate. These cookies are crispy on the edges and soft and chewy in the center made with 3 kinds of sugar and a few of my own secrets. $15/ dozen

Chocolate Toffee Marshmallows: A light delicious vanilla bean marshmallow swirled with fine dark chocolate and chunks of toffee. Insane! $9/ Dozen

Heartbreaker Cupcakes: Chocolate cupcakes, filled with chocolate chunks and smoked sea salt caramel, topped with chocolate ganache and white chocolate buttercream. (shipped cupcakes will be in mason jars) $21/ half dozen

Combo Pack: 4 pieces of Red Hots Fudge, 2 Whoopidy-Do’s, 4 Truffles, 4 of each Marshmallow and 2 Giant cookies. Blissful Excess at it’s best. $18/pack (Note: If you are having the combo pack shipped to you, the truffles will be swapped for either 4 extra pieces of fudge or 4 extra marshmallows, your choice).

Want to order? You can check out the Fields of Cake shop, or contact Head Baker Carrie by email at carrielynnfields@gmail.com or by phone (so old-school!) at (207)449-7982.

Sunday
Jan102010

Accent on the Butter: Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are quite possibly one of the most perfect foods out there, comprised of a dense, chocolatey crust, a dreamy middle layer of custardy buttercream, and a thick slab of chocolate on top as a crowning glory. But what happens when you add peanut butter to all this awesome?

What happens, friends, is that you get an indescribeably rich, irresistible, salty-sweet dessert experience: this is the type of treat that peanut butter cups dream of becoming when they grow up.

Wanna try it out? Here's the recipe.

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

- makes about 36 bite-size bars -

 Adapted from a recipe found on the City of Nanaimo website

Ingredients for bottom layer
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts (or walnuts or almonds work nicely too)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
Ingredients for middle layer
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder or instant vanilla pudding powder
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit this if your peanut butter is salted)
Ingredients for top layer
  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce each)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Procedure

 

  1. Prepare bottom layer. Melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa in a double boiler until fully incorporated, but do not let the mixture come to a boil. Add the beaten egg and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press down firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8-inch pan; try to make the mixture as flat as possible in the pan. Let this cool for about an hour.
  2. Prepare the middle layer. Cream the butter, peanut butter, instant pudding powder, salt, and confectioners' sugar together, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. If it is too thick, you might want to add a small quantity of milk or cream to the mixture, til it is of a spreadable consistency. Spread over bottom layer, once again trying to make the surface as flat as possible. At this point, I like to put the pan in the refrigerator, as it is easier to spread the top layer on when the buttery middle layer is a bit more solid.
  3. Prepare the top layer. Melt chocolate and butter slowly over low heat. Once fully melted and incorporated, remove from heat and allow to solidify to the point where it is thick but still pourable. Pour over second layer as quickly as you can so that the middle layer doesn't begin to melt.
  4. Let the bars cool for at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving.
Friday
Jan082010

Sweet Reunion: Catching up with Dozen Bake Shop, Pittsburgh PA

Sure, you love spying on the sweet spots via CakeSpy's Batter Chatter feature. But what goes on after the sweet interrogations?

It having been about two years since the interview with Dozen Cupcakes in Pittsburgh, it seemed high time to check in and see what's been going on in their sweet universe.

Not only have their wares since been declared Pittsburgh's best cupcakes, but they also opened an exciting second location--Dozen Bake Shop! And that led to locations 3...and 4...and 5! 

A natural follow up to Dozen Cupcakes, the Bake Shop does have some seriously delectable-looking cupcakes...but they also boast a full range of baked goods, ranging from cookies...

to bars (like these oat-fudge bars! OMG!)...

to gobs ("whoopie pies" to a lot of us)...

to an amazing array of layer cakes such as the gorgeous rainbow cake pictured top, or these...


Like, whoa.
As they say, proof is in the pudding--and based on all of the awesome baked goods featured here, Dozen has had no problem continuing to make the world a sweeter place.

Dozen Cupcakes and Dozen Bake Shop are located in Pittsburgh, PA; for more information and locations, visit dozencupcakes.com and dozenbakeshop.com. You can also connect with them via Flickr, Facebook and Twitter!

Friday
Jan082010

Hopeless Quandary: A Quest for the Elusive Peppermint Bark Ice Cream

There are probably worse things than having a craving for a particular sweet which you cannot satisfy.

Unfortunately, nothing comes to mind at the moment.

This is why, when CakeSpy reader Stephanie sent a plaintive plea a few weeks ago inquiring about Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, I couldn't help but feel her pain.

Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, you say? Yes, friends. It exists. It's a rare holiday treat produced by Haagen Daz which includes delicious swirls of the beloved holiday confection. It's so much more than just peppermint--and don't you dare confuse them.

But with such deliciousness as this, why was it so hard to locate?

As Stephanie reported, she visited several retail outlets (grocery stores, big box stores, etc) which advertised the dear dairy stuff--some of which even had it specifically advertised in their freezer aisle--but nary a pint was to be found.

On her urging, I too took up the cause, but to no avail--the sweet stuff seemed to be impossible to find in Seattle (although I did discover this--Take The Cake ice cream!).

But just when she was about to start drafting a strongly worded letter to Haagen Daz, a little lightbulb went off. After all...doesn't Seattle happen to be the home of the only Haagen-Dazs store in the Northwest? As Stephanie reported, "I googled "Haagen-Dazs ice cream" and the store was the first thing on the list, so I called and she said she had it. The pictures show the freezer case at Fred Meyer and the absence of the ice cream, despite the huge picture; the ice cream store owner who packed it for me and the cute thing she wrote on top.

So after all that, how was the ice cream? "It's a lovely ice cream, pepperminty, for sure. The white chocolate flavor is very subtle. I think if snow had a flavor it would be peppermint bark ice cream." Though she notes that one could "probably make an excellent substitute with any good vanilla ice cream and pieces of peppermint bark", ultimately it was worth the quest--"I always look forward to the Ghirardelli peppermint bark that is everywhere this time of year, that's why I was so obsessed with finding the ice cream."

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