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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.

Friday
Apr232010

Cake Byte: Molly Moon's to Debut Ice Cream Truck This Summer (Via Capitol Hill Seattle Blog)

Photo as seen on Capitol Hill SeattleThe other night, I had a dream that an ice cream truck crashed into a cupcake truck and that a scene of delicious destruction unfolded.

Now, I'm not saying that I wish harm upon anyone, but if my dream were to be a reality, I think it would be super delicious if the ice cream in question were from Seattle ice cream icon Molly Moon's.

And guess what? As I learned from my friends at Capitol Hill Seattle, they're debuting an ice cream truck this summer. As they report it, 

 While we're lucky to have the brick and mortar MM already in the 'hood, the idea of having the truck cruise over to serve the crowds of kiddies in the Volunteer Park wading pool on a hot August afternoon is almost as tasty as a scoop of salted caramel with hot fudge.

Yup--looks like Seattle's about to get even sweeter. For more information on Molly Moon's Ice Cream, visit their website.

Friday
Apr232010

Blue Days, Starry Nights: An Awe-Inspiring Van Gogh Cake

Friends, I want to share with you the most inspiring cake I've seen in some time: the Starry Night Cake that my friend Jenny in Baltimore made for a friend's birthday.

This cake, of course, prompts so many questions--including A) How on earth did she do it? (apparently it took 5 1/2 hours, and I'm not surprised). B) How on earth could they cut into that beauty? C) How did it taste? (I've tasted Jenny's work so I know it was good)...

but most importantly...why doesn't this super-talented girl have her own bakery? Count CakeSpy as an avid fan and customer-in-waiting.

For a gallery of photos of the cake and the eating of, visit Jenny's Facebook page!

Friday
Apr232010

Full of Charm: Lucky Charms Treats Recipe

To tell you what a Lucky Charms Treat is--which basically amounts to a Rice Krispie Treat, but with Lucky Charms--really doesn't do it justice.

Because while this technically tells you what they are, it really doesn't tell you about the strange beauty of seeing how the marshmallow colors run into each other, and the surprise of coming across an extra marshmallowy pocket of flavor while crunching through these super sweet treats (which I made for the Great American Bake Sale).

But perhaps you might get a hint of the magic that is the Lucky Charms Treat if I show you the pan used to make them, which was streaked with marshmallow rainbows after being emptied into the pan to cool:

...or maybe that just sealed your resolve to never, ever go down this road.

But if you'd like to see for yourself, here's the recipe (oh, and if you like messing with cereal treats, you might like this too).

Lucky Charms Treats

Makes about 12

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups Lucky Charms

Procedure

  1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. 
  2. Add cereal; stir until uniformly coated.
  3. Using a buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.
Friday
Apr232010

Chip off the Old Block: A Cookie Monster Guest Recipe from Vero NYC

Cookie by Carol's CookiesStart working up an appetite: Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is coming up on May 15th. And from what I hear, there's a rather unexpected place to score a delicious dessert called The Cookie Monster in NYC: Vero, a wine bar with two locations in the city. As they tell it,

 Despite not being on the menu, the Cookie Monster is one of Vero’s most popular items and devoured by regulars and discovered each night at their two locations in Manhattan.  While this simple dessert may seem each to prepare, each day the cookies are flown fresh from Carol’s Cookies in Chicago, who was voted most popular chocolate chip cookie by People Magazine.

Cookie Monster dessert, photo c/o Vero NYCAnd I tend to believe them--any dessert that calls for ice cream and whipped cream respectively in 4 scoop quantities--in addition to the cookie--is probably going to be pretty good, in my opinion.

However, if you can’t make it in to Vero to try this bite of chocolate chip cookie heaven, Vero was kind enough to share a recipe to recreate the magic at home--of course, the Carol’s Cookie and Vero’s ambience are not included.

Vero's Cookie Monster

Ingredients

  • 1 plate-sized chocolate chip cookie (preferably from Carol’s Cookies in Chicago)
  • 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • 4 scoops of fresh whipped cream 
  • Drizzle of rasberry coulis
  • Drizzle of chocolate coulis
  • ½ cup of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

Procedure

Place warm cookie on plate, top with ice cream and whipped cream; drizzle with raspberry and chocolate coulis and garnish with fresh fruit.

The Cookie Monster is $12, and available for dinner every night at both location, ask for it by name at both Vero locations in Midtown and Uptown; for directions and more info, visit veronyc.com.

Friday
Apr232010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweetly Named Towns in the US

Take me to Sweetieville!Life would be a dream, sweetheart, if you lived someplace with a dessert-related name. Here's a baker's dozen of real places in the US with baking-related names:

Also worth noting? There is, in fact, a Bacon, Delaware and a Ham Lake, Minnesota.

Got any other foodie-type town names to add? Leave a comment!

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