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Monday
Apr122010

Sublime: The Lime Cornmeal Cookie from Amy's Bread, NYC

Today I'd like to tell you about the subtle but sublime pleasure that is the Lime Cornmeal Cookie from Amy's Bread in NYC.

This cookie isn't flashy in appearance--it's actually rather unassuming. It would be easy to pass it up for something more classic like chocolate chip or oatmeal, or for something sexier like the double chocolate pecan.

But if you do opt for it, you're in for a sweet reward.

The crumb is lightly coarse and gritty-textured from the cornmeal, but a healthy amount of butter somehow keeps it tender and cohesive (happily, it doesn't crumble apart like its cousin cornbread likes to), and the sugar and lime add sweet and tart hints that perhaps don't sing, but definitely hum, in a very pleasing way. 

A lightly sweet cookie like this is refreshing and hearty all at once--and the cornbread almost makes it feel healthy. At least healthy enough that I'd consider it a completely appropriate breakfast cookie.

Amy's Bread has three NYC locations; visit their website, amysbread.com, to find out more. If you're not in NYC, the recipe for this cookie can be found in the book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery.

Sunday
Apr112010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Stefanie Gaxiola of Red Velvet Stefanie

Red Velvet has certainly enjoyed a surge in popularity in the past few years--as well it should, due to its high deliciousness factor. But when it comes to red velvet lovers, Stefanie Gaxiola, aka "Red Velvet Stefanie", may just take the cake. Not only is she the award-winning mastermind behind The Cheesecake Factory's bestselling Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake™, but she also develops and sells specialty cake mixes--red velvet being the keystone of the line, natch--online at her Red Velvet Stefanie website. Care to get a closer look at this international (red) velvet superstar? Well, you're in luck: here's an interview.

CakeSpy: First off: what is the last baked good you ate?

Stefanie Gaxiola: One of my Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting. It was amazing!

CS: OK, down to business. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start this company/what is your background / etc?

SG: I am a 25 year-old baking enthusiast, baking since the age of 5. With 20 years of experience under my belt, I felt it was about time to break into the baking industry with a bang! I have the highest dreams and aspirations of anyone I know; I literally, eat, breathe and sleep baking. All of my experience has been self taught or, I learned through my mother. I have not attended culinary school but, I am currently making plans to do so in the very near future. Baking as much as I do, I try to find short cuts for myself. So, my boyfriend and I decided, why not pre-package all of my dry ingredients so that when I bake everything is ready to go, minus the wet ingredients. So, we created our very first cupcake mix! What better way to go to the top of the baking world than with a Red Velvet Cupcake mix? I have googled, shopped and searched for Red Velvet Cupcake mixes and, to my disappointment, there is a very small selection to choose from. As my boyfriend, Jason Heard researched all of the guidelines on business and selling of baking goods, I spent extra time in the kitchen perfecting my mix. One empty box and bag of sugar at a time, Stefanie's Gourmet Red Velvet Cupcake Kit was complete and ready for sale. Within the first hour my website was up and running, we had sold several kits. When I saw that, I knew we really had something good on our hands. Stefanie's Gourmet Red Velvet Cupcake Kit is currently only for sale from my website, www.redvelvetstefanie.com. I am also happy to announce that we have recently introduced cupcake catering to Red Velvet Stefanie, one of our first big events will be catering Coachella Music Festival next weekend. Also new to our website, cupcake apparel, Cupcake mix of the Month Club, downloadable recipe guides  and custom cupcake stands! We are so excited!

CS: What is included in the cupcake kit?

SG: Stefanie's Gourmet Red Velvet Cupcake Kit includes: All dry ingredients for the cupcakes and frosting and 20 baking liners.

CS: What is it about Red Velvet cake that makes it so special to you?

SG: Red Velvet cake is truly my all time favorite dessert. The combination of light chocolate, extra moist cake and sweet and creamy Cream Cheese frosting makes me smile. Every time I take a bite, it makes me feel like a kid again; I get excited, bubbly and light up.

CS: It says on your site that you are the creator of the Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake....please, tell us more!

SG: I am the concept creator of the top selling cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory® named Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake™. I entered The Cheesecake Factory's "What's your Flavor?" contest. The idea was to find a new recipe concept for their menu. As soon as I heard about the contest, I knew Red Velvet was  going to be my entry and, that I was going to win with it! Moist layers of Red Velvet Cake and The Cheesecake Factory’s ® Original Cheesecake covered with cream cheese frosting. On April 1, 2009, America had voted and The Cheesecake Factory named Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake the winner! The moment I saw my name on The Cheesecake Factory's website, I knew this was going to change my life.

CS: Some people have an idea that cake mixes are "bad" -- what is your response to this?

SG: Definitely not true! Before I went pro in the baking world, The Cake Mix Doctor's collection of cook books were my baking Bibles. Anne Byrn, the amazing author behind these books has done an amazing job at bring cake mixes to the next level. As for my cupcake mix, they are all made to order.. The ingredients are the finest and freshest I can find so, each and every confection you will get out of my kit will be 100%, fresh, light, fluffy and sinfully delicious!

Photo from the Red Velvet Stefanie Facebook pageCS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cake (or cupcake)?

SG: Oh my goodness, so much goes into baking a perfect cake! Here is a list of the most important that I utilize in my baking:

-Preheat the oven to the correct temperature and, let the oven heat up for at least 20 minutes so it can reach the temperature.  

-Let ingredients such as eggs, butter, milk, cream cheese, sour cream, etc. reach room temperature before you use them in your baking.

-Sift all dry ingredients, except for cocoa powder. Sifting really makes all the difference in the world, it's a pain but you have to do it!

-Make sure not to overmix the cake batter, it will turn out dry.

-It is important to rotate the cake pans at least once, halfway through the baking time to make sure, they are evenly cooked.

-Make sure to time your baking. If the package recommends a 20 to 22 minute baking time, check after 20 minutes. you do not want to over-bake your cake. Also, if you can smell the cake throughout your house early, check on the cake. If you can smell it, it is probably done!

-Always let your cakes cool on a baking rack.

-Wait until the cakes are completely cool to frost if you don't, the frosting will run right off.

CS: What is next for Red Velvet Stefanie?

SG: After seeing the quick success of my Gourmet Red Velvet Cupcake Kits, I started working on more. Red Velvet Cookie Mix and Red Velvet Brownie Mix are among the next to come out. Red Velvet is so hot right now, I figured I would stick with that. Other than that, I am looking to apply to Culinary School and continue with my cupcake catering so I can eventually open a store front. Red Velvet Wedding Cake is the most requested catering menu item from my friends, family and fans. So, stay tuned for my unique version of Stefanie's Red Velvet Wedding cake, you will truly be amazed!

For more information, or to get your hands on some of that delicious red velvet mix, visit redvelvetstefanie.com.

Sunday
Apr112010

Sweet Video: Tina Fey's Brownie Husband Skit on SNL

Fact: this video made me want to die laughing. As seen on Saturday Night Live on April 10th, 2010.

Saturday
Apr102010

Sweet Video: Cupcake Eating Contest at CupcakeCamp Seattle

So, as many of you know, I had the great honor of being a judge at the totally awesome CupcakeCamp Seattle (coordinated by CakeSpy sponsor Bella Cupcake Couture) today. Now, there will be more coverage of these monumentally delicious experience, but to whet your appetite, I'll start by posting this video of the cupcake-eating contest which capped the sweetest day ever. My apologies for the poor video quality, but I still think that you get an idea of the fascination and fervor which came along with this sugar-frenzied contest.

Saturday
Apr102010

Cutting Edge: The Cricut Cake Debuts

Like, OMG! The Cricut Cake is now available! 

...ok, I'll admit it, when I first heard about it, I wasn't exactly sure why I should be excited--but then again, I wasn't sure exactly what a Cricut was. However, thanks to the power of the internet, I found out that the Cricut actually started out as a scrapbooking tool--it is a kind of printer on which you can create customized die cuts and designs on command. Actually it's kind of cool--check out a video of how it works here.

So now you have an idea of why it's such a big deal that they've made a food-safe version of the machine: what an excellent tool for cake decorating!

Here's the 411 from the HSN press release:

The Cricut Cake is an easy-to-use personal electronic cutter designed to cut gum paste, fondant and other edible materials, while providing precise, professional-looking results every time.  Accompanied by the Cricut Cake Basics cartridge, featuring hundreds of images for cake decorating, the Cricut Cake is designed to work with pre-existing Cricut cartridges as well as Provo Craft's Gypsy and Cricut Design Studio software. The wide array of shapes, fonts and designs found on compatible cartridges makes the Cricut Cake perfect for all culinary decorating occasions, including birthdays, graduations, weddings and holidays.

The machine is similar in design to the existing Cricut cutting machine; however, specific modifications have been made; stainless steel dials, trim, cutting blade and roller, to make it safe for use with food. Additionally, the keypad features a full silicone cover to protect the screen and allow for easy clean-up.

Of course, this awesome doesn't come cheap--the Cricut cake (which comes with bundle including a 12x12 food safe mat, cartridge skirt, cleaning brush, blade cleaning basket, Cake Basics cartridge, the Elegant Cake cartridge as well as icing sheets) retails for a hefty $429.95. But can a price really be put on a beautiful cake? Well, apparently yes--but you know what I mean. If you're interested, you can be updated on the initial offering at HSN.

Saturday
Apr102010

Simple Pleasures: Simply Desserts in Fremont, Seattle

Something I always love is hearing what other people's favorite bakeries are--it gives me a unique perspective on a place, including sometimes steering me toward trying particular flavors or pastries I might not have tried otherwise. According to CakeSpy reader Anne, who you can follow on twitter, Fremont's Simply Desserts is her go-to source:

Tucked in Fremont by the Fremont Bridge and Adobe, this tiny shop cooks up an amazing variety of delicious cakes with high quality ingredients. What sets them apart in my opinion is that they don’t ruin their cakes with refrigeration and it makes a big difference. Rich frosting stays soft. Cake stays moist. My personal favorites are Bittersweet Hazelnut and White Chocolate Strawberry. I usually buy it to go because the place seats around 14 and it is always jam-packed, even at 10 PM on a Friday night. The bakers/cutters are sweet girls and it must be a pretty good job because a couple of them have worked there as long as I’ve been patronizing the shop, around 5 years. 

Simply Desserts, 3421 Fremont Ave North Seattle, WA 98103 206.633.2671; online at simplydessertsseattle.com.

Friday
Apr092010

Slice of Heaven: A Tip for Delicious Vanilla Slice in Melbourne, Australia

Vanilla slice photo c/o Flickr user StickyPix, used with Creative Commons Permission

What is David Jones?

No, it's not a former Monkee trying to be all mature.

It's a shop in Australia, per Wikipedia, "colloquially known as DJs, is an Australian retailer. Its primary business is an Australia-wide chain of premium department stores."

And as I learned from some uber-cute Australian customers who happened into my burgeoning gallery (at 415 E. Pine Street, Capitol Hill, Seattle, since you asked) the other day, their Foodhall is also the source for some of Melbourne's best Vanilla Slice.

Vanilla slice, for those of you who may not familiar, is not dissimilar to our stateside Napoleon or the French "Mille Feuille"--per Wikipedia, it is "filled with vanilla custard. It usually has only a top and bottom pastry layer. The sweet is often dusted with icing sugar, or topped with a plain or passionfruit flavoured icing."

Of course, for those of you who (like me) aren't free to run over to David Jones at the earliest convenience, there is a pretty good-looking recipe on Nigella Lawson's website.

Vive la Vanilla Slice!

For more information on David Jones, visit their site; for more information on the various incarnations of the Vanilla Slice, Mille Feuille, and Napoleon, visit Wikipedia!

Friday
Apr092010

Cake Byte: CupcakeCamp Seattle is Tomorrow!

CakeSpy Note: Just a reminder: CupcakeCamp Seattle is tomorrow! In case you missed the news post about it a while back, here it is again:

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!

And, there will be a cupcake eating contest.

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 theCupcake Camp Seattle website!

Friday
Apr092010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Online Resources

The internet is so totally sweet. After all, it's the source of awesomeness like CakeSpy! But if you're in the mood to learn something sweet (or savory), here's a baker's dozen foodie sites which I keep bookmarked as great resources:

Amazon's Al Dente Blog: A great source for learning about food news, new products, and clever writing by Rebekah DennTracy Schneider, and Leslie Kelly, among others!

BakeSpace: Connect with bakers and find some seriously sweet recipes on this social networking-for-bakers site.

Betty Crocker's Baking Recipes, Tips, and Ideas: A great resource for tips on not only baking but also technique, preparation, and storage.

Cake Central: Cake photos, message boards, decorating tips, giveaways, and more--the website's name really kind of say it all!

Epicurious Food Glossary: I could get lost in this glossary--and have, in fact, on occasion.

Foodista: Like Wikipedia for recipes. 

King Arthur Flour Blog: I cannot visit this site without learning something.

Kitchen Monki: A clever cooking (and baking) tool which enables you to export your recipes (and those from other users!) to shopping lists. Sweet!

Modern Baking: This site is dedicated to professional bakers, but I find a lot of the articles and features very interesting!

Rose Levy Beranbaum: Real Baking with Rose features recipes, lore, and great baking info--also some interesting message boards.

Saveur's Baking Techniques: Step by step illustrated guides.

Serious Eats: Yes, I freelance for them. But I'd visit this site like a million times a day even if I didn't--it strikes the perfect mix of funny, newsy bits with serious food info.

What's Cooking America History of Cakes: So much awesome on just one site. I could read about the history of cakes (and all sorts of food) all day on this site, easily.

Thursday
Apr082010

Cake Byte: Essential Baking Opens a New Georgetown Cafe, with Freebies!

 

Photo c/o K. Morales for CakeSpy's Carrot Cake Roundup in SeattleA new bakery is always something to celebrate--but even more so when it's right here in Seattle and I can go visit right away!

So I was super excited to receive a note that the The Essential Baking Company (where I got the recipe for this cake!) has opened a new location in Georgetown (home to Calamity Jane's, one of my favorite breakfast places, btw). Here are the details:

The Georgetown Café is located at 5601 1st Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98108. To celebrate the opening, EBC will have two special offerings for customers:

Friday, April 9: Indulge in a free taste of EBC’s signature fudge brownie – a cult favorite that is rich, chewy, and brimming with chocolate.

Friday, April 16: Wake up with a complimentary cup of EBC’s own freshly roasted Baker’s Blend drip coffee.

Both offers are one per customer, while supplies last.

What are you waiting for? Get over to Essential's Georgetown location at 5601 1st Ave. South, Seattle WA 98108!

 

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