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Monday
May172010

Cake Byte: Discover Baked in Seattle

What does a professional cake gumshoe love more than anything? Discovering a new baking business. So when I came across a line of sweets called Baked In Seattle in Ralph's Grocery, I had to learn more.

Turns out, this local wholesale and custom-order bakery offers a vast array of baby cheesecakes and crumbles with flavors and names inspired by the northwest, and while the baked goods can most readily be found at Blue Willow Catering & Luncheonette in West Seattle, they are also available at a handful of other retail shops.

But most interesting of all? Their menu. Eat--er, read all about it:

5" Mini Cheesecakes @ $3.95 each:

Capitol Hill Classic Cheesecake---Anything but plain, this classic two-layer cheesecake sets the gold standard.

Seneca Strawberry Cheesecake---Creamy Northwest strawberry perfection swirls this taste of paradise.

Belltown Blueberry Cheesecake---Wonderfully dark bursts of whole blueberries popping throughout.

Madison Mocha Cheesecake---Creamy coffee and chocolate balance in a chocolate cookie crust.

Cascade Chocolate Chip Cheesecake---Semi-sweet bits of ecstasy in a sweet chocolate cookie crust.

Queen Anne Chocolate Cheesecake---Four layers of chocolate richness for premier indulgence.

Black &Tan Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cheesecake---Perfect combination of peanuts and chocolate sweetness.

Spanish Castle Orange-Spice Cheesecake---Delicate hints of orange balance cinnamon spice.

Pioneer Square Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake---Our seasonal delight swirled with sweet pumpkin.


5" Mini Crumblepies @ $3.95 each:

Empire Way Apple Crumblepie---Granny Smith apples kissed by brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Bainbridge Blueberry Crumblepie---Blueberry brown sugar heaven covered with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Pike Street Peach Crumblepie---Freestone peaches melt into brown sugar bliss with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Northwest Mixed Berry Crumblepie---Marionberries, blueberries, strawberries, and red raspberries in blended perfection with a crunchy, crumbly sweet top.

Georgetown Strawberry Rhubarb Crumblepie---Seasonal strawberry rhubarb country-sweet classic with a crunchy crumbly sweet top.

Rainier Roasted Sweet Potato Pie---Seasonal down-home buttery goodness and a hint of nutmeg.

Cheesecakes and Crumblepies also available in full 8" size for $13.95 by special order (after July 1st, 2010)

For more information, visit the Baked In Seattle website.

Sunday
May162010

Just Say Nougat: Delicious Nougat from Sugar and Spice, Taiwan

The tooth fairy was pretty awesome. You lose a tooth and you get money. Sweet!

But getting older, I've discovered something even better: the Nougat Fairy. That's what I've found in Kairu, a customer/acquaintance who recently graduated to this (even better, in my opinion) title.

The first time I met her was in my store, when she came in and picked up a bacon-and-cupcake mug (good choice!). She was in a hurry as she was headed home to pack for a trip to Taiwan.

The next time I saw her, she was back from her trip, and toting a big ol' sack of what she calls the best nougat from Taiwan, from Sugar & Spice, a bakery with several locations.

And while I can't say I have extensive experience in tasting Taiwanese nougat, I can say that this stuff is very, very good--amazingly creamy, and punctuated by crunchy, roasted nuts which act as the perfect complement to the sweetness. Addictive, even, as evidenced by said big ol' sack, which is now lamentably empty.

Other offerings at Sugar & Spice can be spotty according to aforementioned Nougat Fairy Kairu and websites like A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei; however, this nougat is highly suggested and definitely worth hoarding by the brimming bag in your luggage.

Nougat from Sugar & Spice, Taiwan; online at sugar.com/tw. 

Sunday
May162010

An Educaketion: Seminar on How To Open an Online Cupcake Business

Question: I want to open a special-order cupcake business, but I have so many questions. Is there a class or seminar I could take on the subject?

Answer: Why yes. And it's offered at Simply Cupcakes of Naples, Florida.

It's true, friends: per an email received from said company, there is a place where you can take a seminar in how to open a successful online cupcake business.

I'll be honest: my first inclination was to file all this under "totally unnecessary" and move on. But even though the site does ominously warn that "this may be your last chance to get into the cupcake business" (or what? or what?), there are some valuable things that they cover at the seminar:

 

  • Complying with legal requirements including ways to bake at home.
  • Setting up your business.
  • Your website...how to use it and make the most of it.
  • What it takes to be successful.
  • What equipment and supplies you will need. Discuss the difference between baking in a convection and conventional oven.
  • Calculating your costs.
  • Marketing.
  • Packaging.
  • Defining your market.
  • Getting free publicity
  • Where to buy ingredients, supplies & packaging.
  • A contract awarding your marketing area and outlining the agreement.
  • A discussion on social networking and how to build a Facebook business page

 

Well, I will admit, if you are a newbie to small business, some of this might be pretty helpful. Worth the hefty $4750 price tag attached? Well, that's up to you, although if you've got that much to spare, I might also suggest a quick jaunt to my shop while you're in a sweet n' spendy mood.

Not in Naples? They do Distance Learning programs too.

Learn more at the Simply Cupcakes website.

Saturday
May152010

Bittersweet: A Tale of Donut Despair Diverted in Portland, OR

I want to tell you a sad, sad story about Delicious Donuts in Portland, Oregon.

Based on many accounts, this is the donut place in Portland--"better than Voodoo" was the bold claim of one trusted source.

But I couldn't tell you for myself, because I've never tasted them.

Oh, I've tried. In the past, when showing at the Crafty Wonderland fair in its old location at the Doug Fir Lounge, I had tried to score a doughnut on my way to the fair, but each and every time I was confronted by this sign:

I wasn't too put off though--generally I was heading over there at 11 a.m. or so, and I can understand if a popular shop might be sold out by then. If anything, it heightened the anticipation.

And on a more recent trip to Portland for the Crafty Wonderland spring fair, I was prepared, and got up early on a Sunday morning and headed over to the donut shop, a spring in my step from the sweet prospect of glazed and fried  goodness in my near future a bit before 8 a.m. Cars were parked outside, and I felt hopeful: this was gonna be my day.

But here's what I found:

The only difference? The sign was slightly nicer. But somehow, this provided little comfort.

Sold out of donuts before 8 a.m. on a Sunday? I can understand if you're a popular place, but come on. If you're selling out that early, you need to make more donuts.

Yes, I was facing deep donut despair, but happily this story has a sweet ending: because a mere few hours later I was delighted with a surprise Voodoo Doughnut, thoughtfully delivered by friends Mary and Dave Sheely. Delicious Donuts might be the best, but Voodoo definitley won my sweet affections on this fateful day.Delicious Donuts, 12 Southeast Grand Avenue Portland, OR 97214-1112 - (503) 233-1833.

Voodoo Doughnut, 22 Southwest 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204-2713, (503) 241-4704; online at voodoodoughnut.com.

Saturday
May152010

Stalking Sweetness: Secret Cupcakes by Joe Randazzo in Seattle

CakeSpy's newest Seattle cupcake crush? Joe Randazzo. This adorable baker-student-caterer-overall renaissance guy doesn't have a storefront, but his cupcake presence is definitely growing in the Emerald City, what with his cupcakes soon to be available at PoDog (for what PoDog would undoubtedly refer to as a "post-wiener sweetie") and undoubtedly more accounts to follow.

And happily, he was kind enough to drop by the CakeSpy Shop with a surprise delivery of two of his cupcakes recently; having tasted them, I can attest to their magic and fully endorse his entry on to the Seattle cupcake scene.

So what makes his cupcakes so special?

First off, the cake itself. Chocolate cake can be a strange beast, having a tendency to err toward extremes--either too dry or too moist (moist being good, damp being bad). This cake somehow managed to be moist and buttery without coming off as excessively heavy--this cake is no mere frosting vehicle, it has merits on its own.

And then the frosting. 

As you can see, it has magical, cartoon bubble-heart creating powers.

Joe Randazzo's cupcake frosting is a sophisticated sort, more buttery and less crunchy than a typical American buttercream, but silky and luxuriant and utterly mouth-filling with its rich flavor. It's a subtle sweetness, so I might say that these are more suited for adult palates than say, for a children's birthday party, but that's just fine, because I don't like to share with children, anyway.

Cupcakes by Joe Randazzo, coming soon to Capitol Hill; in the meantime, stay updated with his sweet goings-on via Twitter.

Thursday
May132010

Prettier in Pink: An Updated History on Uncle Seth's Pink Frosted Cookie

It's fun to revisit the past sometimes, isn't it?

It's been a few years since this post about the history of Seattle regional specialty the Pink Frosted Cookie, so just to update you, here's the original post which included the history of the cookie from the official Pinks Original Bakery (formerly Mostly Muffins) site (the company which purchased the cookie's rights and recipe):

Uncle Seth’s Cookie was a concept developed from a passion of fun and feeling good. From the high mountain tops of Bali came the inspiration for the feel good cookie. Danny Brown, the originator and inventor of the Original Pink, also known as an Uncle Seth Cookie, found a kindred spirit in a man named Seth. Seth moved from a crazed urban setting better known as the City, to live his dream of peace in the mountains. The namesake of the Uncle Seth Cookie gave tribute to this man named Seth who changed his life for the sake of fun and happiness. To bring a bit of that passion and fun to light, Danny created a cookie that says eat me because you can. This cookie has a good aura. After nine years of hand rolling this Danish Shortbread, Danny too, decided to head for the hills. Mostly Muffins purchased Uncle Seth’s Cookies in 1996 and Danny was off to live in Hawaii!


Mostly Muffins now proudly carries on the tradition of fun and feeling good by serving the Original Pink to the entire Northwest community. Eat one of the Original Pink Cookies and you can’t help but smile!

But since this writeup, a few of the blanks have been filled in, per an email from a Provo, UT reader:

The Pink Cookies craze actually started in Provo, UT. (Danny's home town). I remember seeing the girls frosting the Pink cookies by hand in a little store front shop just South of the BYU campus. This was in 1983 - 1984 time frame. I lived across the street and I would buy the broken frosted cookies from them for real cheap,  The Pink Cookie craze grew all over Provo and then expanded to others area of Utah county and Salt lake City. 

Danny saw a good business idea and moved to Seattle to start the Pink Cookie craze in Seattle.  When he moved to Hawaii, he helped start a bakery in Halaiwa, on the North shore of Oahu. 

And even further, there is this tale from the Orem, UT-based Granny B, who also claims to have invented the cookie:

Granny B (Blackett) was born on November 08, 1915. She loved making cookies for others, and she loved sitting down with her children and enjoying these fresh-baked goodies. Using prized family recipes, Granny B learned to create the softest and most delicious cookies – cookies that tranformed every-day occasions into delightful celebrations. She would be tickled pink to know how many “celebrations” her Granny B cookies create for folks across the country every day.

Granny B passed on the love of baking delicious cookies to her daughter, Diane. As Diane remembers, “We would spend hours together talking and baking.  It was great fun and where I learned all the little baking secrets”  With Diane in the kitchen, the Blackett family cookies began decorating more events, celebrating more parties, and rewarding and motivating more good behavior from her brothers. The pink cookie became a family recipe for fun.

A magnet on the fridge read, “A balanced diet is a cookie in both hands.”

So, as it seems, the cookie does have a storied past in multiple cities--perhaps this also explains why such delicious variations (not pink frosted, but tastes just as good--even better) can be found in the Provo area!

But why is it that the cookie thrived in Seattle? I'm still sticking to my original theory: it comes down to two things. The first aspect is timing: the cookie got its start being sold in coffee carts just as the coffee business was starting up in earnest in Seattle; naturally, they would appeal for the same reasons that coffee is so popular in the area--the climate just begs for rich treats and coffee during those rainy days that take up oh, eight months of the year. The second and perhaps more important aspect? Duh--The frosting color. there's no secret that pink frosting tastes better than any other color.


Not in the Seattle or Provo area but want a pink frosted cookie? I hear you: similar-looking products can be found online at Granny B's here--or--even better, we found a recipe which is said to yield a very similar taste to the original Uncle Seth's Cookie, right here at allrecipes.com.

 

 

Wednesday
May122010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Pine State Biscuits, Portland, OR

Image c/o Pine State BiscuitsOK, so Pine State Biscuits isn't technically a bakery--you'd be more likely to hit them up for hearty breakfast fare than sweet treats.

But the core of their business is biscuits, and everyone knows that the beauty of the biscuit is its versatility.

And while serious savory eaters might enjoy "The Reggie" (a biscuit with fried chicken, cheese, bacon, and gravy) or the "McIsley" (fried chicken with pickles, mustard, and honey), there are options for the sweet-lover too.

I'm talking simple, but oh-so-pleasurable: Biscuits. With. Seasonal. Fruit. And. Whipped. Cream.

Is there anything more pleasurable than digging into a buttery biscuit topped with rich, sweet cream, complemented by fresh fruit? Maybe, but the list of things less pleasurable is far longer than the list of things more pleasurable, I'd be willing to place a wager on that.

Pine State Biscuits, multiple locations; visit pinestatebiscuits.com for more information.

Wednesday
May122010

Bananarama: The Banana Jumbo Cookie

It's no secret that Betty Crocker's Cooky Book is like, my favorite cookbook ever.But one of the most interesting sections? The one called "Heritage Cookies", which is introduced thusly:

Recipes we know and use today came from 'round the wrold to the thirteen isolated colonies of America. Plain and hearty cookies were the gustatory pleasure of our pioneers...though our tastes may now be trained...to select a fancy frosted cooky...these cookies of our forefathers have won an enduring place in our hearts.

The recipe for the Banana Jumbo comes from this section of the book. And though these humble cookies are flavorful on their own, I had happened to receive a sample of Sassy Sauces in the mail around the same time I made these, and I learned that they are even better with a thick dollop of milk chocolate caramel sauce. And I totally don't consider this disrespecting the original recipe, 'cos you know what? Bet our forefathers would have used the chocolate sauce too, had it been at their disposal.

Banana Jumbos

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large, or 3 small, mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

 Procedure 

  1. Make the cookies. Mix butter, sugar, and eggs thoroughly. 
  2. Stir in the bananas, milk, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, soda, and salt; stir in, bit by bit, until the mixture is fully combined.  
  4. Let the dough chill for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F. 
  6. Using an ice cream scoop, drop rounds of dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies as they will spread a bit. 
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Let cool completely on a wire sheet. Now, they are delicious as-is, but as I found out, they're even better when drizzled with some sort of glaze or frosting. 
Wednesday
May122010

Being Green: Vegan Green Granny Smith Cupcakes Recipe

Just take a look at this Vegan Green Granny Smith Cupcake. Doesn't it look just heavenly?

Unfortunately, an evil cupcake-poacher ate this before I could sample it, but I was assured it was an intensely delicious experience, and happily, the recipe was shared.

If you'd like to taste the magic for yourself, here's the recipe:

Vegan Green Granny Smith Cupcakes

Adapted from Sinfully Sweet Confections

Makes about 30 cupcakes

Ingredients for cakes

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 ounces plain soy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients for Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces vegan cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, softened
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients for Brown Sugar Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. Peel and chop apples coarsely.
  3. In a electric mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment mix together the canola oil, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, soy yogurt, vanilla extract, baking soda.
  4. Add flour and sugar; and mix on slow.
  5. In a slow steady stream add apple juice and continue to mix on slow.
  6. Fold in apples, oats, and pecan pieces. Pour into cupcake cups and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Make the frosting. In an electric mixing bowl fitted with a paddle cream together cream cheese and margarine until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar 2 cups at a time, mixing and scraping down the sides. Add vanilla, and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Gently fold in chopped pecans.
  8. Make the streusel topping. Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a medium size bowl add flour, sugar, and margarine. Mix together with a fork to create crumbs. Add pecans and toss. Spread out evenly onto cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Bake until golden brown. Once cooled toss and break up crumbs, use as topping for cream cheese frosting.

 

Wednesday
May122010

Cake Byte: Seriously Sweet Trophy Cupcakes at the CakeSpy Shop Grand Opening!

Well friends, as many of you know, CakeSpy Shop had its grand opening this past Saturday. Hooray!

And one of the sweetest (literally!) parts of the opening was the gorgeous cupcakes donated by Seattle's famous cupcake shop Trophy Cupcakes.

People. They had my artwork printed on them!

Now, I used to think that having my artwork printed on cupcakes was the "I've made it moment" as a cupcake artist.

However, now I see that is false--the real peak of cupcake artist achievement is having artwork of yourself and your husband, as cupcakes, printed on a cupcake. Surrounded by pugs.

And as if all this weren't enough awesome...they tasted just as good as they looked.

P.S. In case you were wondering--yes, there was a moment of wondering "Can I eat this? Can I possibly?". Rest assured that it subsided quickly, and I can attest that in Trophy Cupcake form, my cupcake-self is delicious.

Trophy Cupcakes does custom photo or image cupcakes by request; to find out more, visit trophycupcakes.com.

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