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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!

 

Thursday
Apr082010

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

Totally sweet! Taylored Expressions has released some new stamps with CakeSpy imagery--this time, why not stamp something sweet to show your appreciation for a great teacher?

Here's the scoop, from the Taylored Expressions newsletter:

Cuppie is back in three brand new A La Carte images from Jessie Oleson! This is the first time we've offered Cuppies in the single image option and we think you'll find them irresistible! Pick up one, two or all three. Not only can you incorporate these adorable images into cards for your kids' teachers, but it's a great opportunity to get your kids involved too!

P.S. How cute is this: customer Melissa Sauls had a wonderful idea when she stamped a Cuppie card and had her son color it in for his teacher! (pictured left)

See all three A la Carte Cuppie stamps by clicking here; you'll also want to hop over the TE Gallery to see all the sweet samples by the Baker's Dozen!

Thursday
Apr082010

Cakewalk: A Tour de Cookie in Phoenix from Cake Gumshoe Janelle

 

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Janelle, a freelance lifestyle and food writer living in Phoenix, Arizona.  She also is the face behind the newly born blog The Deutsch Girl.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, we have all the things any fifth largest city should have: sports teams, fabulous restaurants, golf courses galore, and great weather for most of the year please both locals and tourists alike. But one thing that is rarely talked about is our sweet shops. Sure, we don’t have a Magnolia Bakery, Tartine, or even a Milk Bar putting Phoenix on the map.  But just because we don’t have any (yet) famous spots doesn’t mean we are lacking in promise.

 

I set out to find a few hidden gems in the Central Phoenix area and was not disappointed.  Focusing on the always comforting bakery item, the cookie, I toured four locations and ate way too many cookies in my quest for the best.  

Stop 1: Barb's Bakery

The first of my four stops was the one closest to my house.  In a small unassuming building between a Mexican food restaurant and an old check-cashing store sits Barb’s Bakery. When I walked in at 11 a.m., I noticed the large display case was lacking in the cookie department.  Cakes and petit-fours still remained, but there were very few trays of cookies left.  At first I was mad at myself for not arriving earlier, but I was glad their cookies were popular and I’d selected the right place.  Greeted by a rotund and very jolly man behind the counter, I was relieved to see that both their frosted cookies and butter cookies were still available.  I chose one frosted and three butter cookies rolled in sprinkles.  My total came to $2.  Nice to know my first purchase wasn’t going to break the bank!   

The frosted cookie was the perfect combination of cookie and frosting.  The thick cookie was firm enough to hold up to an equally thick layer of icing, but still had a soft center.  Unlike some other frosted cookies, these will not break anyone’s two front teeth.  The icing was the perfect amount of sweet -- I easily could have made it through the entire cookie without feeling like I was on a sugar roller coaster. The butter cookies were the primo mix of crunch minus crumbs.  The butter flavor was prominent without the fake taste that comes with some commercial bakeries.  The sheer sight of the sprinkles excited my stomach so much that one poor cookie soul didn’t quite make it home. Overall Score: 4 out of 5 cookies 

Barb’s Bakery, 2929 N. 24th St., Phoenix  602.957.4422; online at barbsbakery.com.    

Barb's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Stop 2: Tammie Coe Cakes

My next stop was in an upper section of newly revitalized downtown Phoenix.  Located in a new complex with shops on the bottom and living space above sits Tammie Coe Cakes.  You may have heard this name before, as she’s quite famous for her fondant draped wedding cakes.  However, this small café, which is an outlet for their much larger permanent bakery, focuses on tasty bite-sized treats instead of larger cakes. While there is no seating inside, there are quite a few tables just outside the door with large umbrellas to shade customers from the bright Phoenix sun.  After staring at the small but stuffed and beautifully decorated display cases, I chose a double chocolate and a snickerdoodle.  At $2.50 each, they were on the pricey side, but each cookie could have been a small meal. On the way out, I took notice of the Half Price Happy Hour sign.  Half price bakery goods after 4 p.m. every day: how can one go wrong?

When I got home, I was eager to try both of the cookies.  I consider Tammie Coe to be the most famous baker in town, so I had high hopes as I dug the monstrous cookies out of their precious logo-stamped brown bags.  Alas, I was a bit disappointed.  Something wasn’t quite right with the double chocolate. The edges were too hard, almost as if an inattentive baker left them in a minute too long. The flavor was good, not too sweet for a double chocolate cookie, which is often the case. Once I got to the inside, it was much softer. For those who like a crispy edge, and a soft center, this might be the place for you. Next, the snickerdoodle.  I chose it because it was the oddest snickerdoodle I’d ever seen.  Instead of being rolled in cinnamon and sugar, as I think all snickerdoodles should be, it had only a light dusting of refined sugar.  The cookie appeared to have bits of crumble topping baked into the cookie.  While flavorful, it did not have that traditional cinnamon sugar flavor. Do I think that Tammie Coe should be passing it off as a snickerdoodle? Definitely not. Would I buy it again? Probably, yes. Overall Score: 3 out of 5 cookies  

Tammie Coe Cakes, 610 East Roosevelt #145, Phoenix,   602.253.082; online at tammiecoecakes.com.

Tammie Coe Cakes on Urbanspoon

Stop 3: Urban Cookies

After my brief stop downtown, I headed north to Urban Cookies, housed in a very small freestanding building. This makes sense because they used to be a mail order company, owned by a husband and wife team.  The great thing about Urban Cookies is that they still have a huge mail-order clientele, so anyone who’s not in the Phoenix area can enjoy these sweet treats too!  As soon as I stepped foot in the door, my nose became overwhelmed with the smell of brown sugar and chocolate.  In addition to the four kinds of cookies, Urban Cookies has a special cookie of the month, as well as Ollie Cakes, cupcakes that can only be enjoyed in-store.  Personal experience has shown me cupcakes are not an easily mailed item, so really, I don’t blame them for using them to entice people to their store.   The biggest thing that sets Urban Cookies apart is that they use lots of organic ingredients. They say that on average, 85 percent of each cookie’s ingredients are organic, and they use only local eggs.

The one and only time I was here prior, I tried the Simple Urban cookie.  I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks, so I had to try it again.  This particular cookie is 76 percent organic, made with milk chocolate chunks instead of the usual semi-sweet.  I can honestly say this cookie was just as good the second time as it was the first.  I gave some to my dad, who’s a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, and he said it might have been the best he’d ever had.  It doesn’t look like anything special on paper, nothing unusual sticks out when you read the ingredient list, but somehow they turn those ingredients into a masterpiece.  The second cookie I bought was the Urban Tropic.  I had wanted to try this one last time, but decided for my first trip, the cookie they were best known for was the better choice.  This cookie is 94 percent organic and includes sun-dried pineapple and toasted unsweetened coconut, both organic, of course.  For a non-chocolate cookie, this one really hit the spot.  It was sweet, but not overly sweet, and reminded me of being on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Another great thing about both cookies, besides being perfectly chewy and baked just right, is the price. Normally $1.99 each, they were  on sale for $1.79 a piece. It’s a relief to find a large organic cookie that’s not outrageously expensive. Overall Score: 5 out of 5 cookies

Urban Cookies, 4711 N. 7th St., Phoenix  602. 451.4335; online at urbancookies.com.

Urban Cookies on Urbanspoon

Stop 4: Karsh's Bakery

The last stop on my tour de bakeries was Karsh’s Bakery.  I was excited to try this place, because it’s known in the Phoenix area as the premiere Jewish bakery. Unlike the other three bakeries, this one doesn’t have any curb appeal.  In fact, it sits in the corner of a retail shopping center with a simple, unassuming corner sign.  This must not be a deterrent, because Karsh’s has been around since the 1960’s and most certainly knows its stuff.  In addition to being certified Kosher by the Phoenix Vaad HaKashruth Kא, Karsh’s offers a huge selection of both pareve (non-dairy) and dairy goods. My eyes, and stomach, were immediately drawn to an entire case dedicated to cookies.  Because they offer both non-dairy and dairy items, I couldn’t truly rate anything unless I tried at least one of each. 

It took me at least five minutes to make a decision, but I never felt rushed by the pleasant gentlemen behind the counter.  I decided to go with a small black and white cookie, as well as a Chinese almond cookie that was labeled pareve.  The black and white was an obvious choice, especially at $1.50, but the thought of a Chinese cookie in a Jewish bakery made me grin so I went with it.  The black and white was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had.  The cookie was the classic cake-like texture, and the frosting was superb.  The only thing that I didn’t like was my own poor decision to get the smaller version!  The Chinese almond cookie was a simple almond with all the right flavors, including a nice half-dollar size drop of chocolate on top.  It measured at least 5 inches across, which made the price of $2.95 more than acceptable, and I kept breaking off small pieces until it was gone. I didn’t even notice the lack of dairy, so kudos to them for winning over a gallon-a-week milk drinker.  I’ll be going back soon to try the breads, and to grab the larger black and white. Overall Score: 4 out of 5 cookies

Karsh’s Bakery,  5555 North 7th St., #116 Cinema Park Plaza, Phoenix  602.264.4874; online at karshsbakery.com.

Karsh's Bakery on Urbanspoon

The Final Word? In the end I really enjoyed all of the different shops.  There is nothing cookie cutter (pun intended) about any of them. Perhaps next time I’ll go for cakes, or even the ever-popular cupcakes.  In the meantime, I’m delighted to see for myself that while our bakeries might not be world-renowned, they more than satisfy and deserve some local, and even national, recognition.  

Thursday
Apr082010

Cake Byte: Two New Cake Molds You Need

It's no secret that CakeSpy loves Fred, that arbiter of creative and cute products like the ABC Cookie Cutters and the "Peace" of cake mold.

And now they've done it again, with two fantastic new cake molds, both of which can be purchased at WeeCanShop, who kindly alerted me to their existence: the Cakewich Sandwich Cake mold, pictured above, which is described thusly:

The best thing since sliced bread… is cake!  Our silicone Cakewich Sandwich Cake Mold is shaped like a big hunk of white bread - just bake and slice to make double-decker sandwich cakes with yummy fillings.  Be creative and create a raspberry-vanilla Reuben or even a chocolate-butter-creme Sloppy Joe...  Use your favorite cake recipe or try the recipe and assembly instructions that we've included for our Famous PB&J Pound Cake! 

and then there's also the TeaCupcakes mold, which has this description:

Bake and serve your cupcakes right in these teacup-shaped silicone molds and delight your tea party guests! We’ve included four reusable, food-safe silicone baking cups complete with saucers for a most elegant presentation. TeaCupCakes are 100%-pure silicone and phthalate-free plastic. 

Yup, that's right. You don't want these--you need them. Buy them at WeeCanShop.

Thursday
Apr082010

Sweet Treats, Sweet Cause: Great American Bake Sale in Seattle

Sweet treats are delicious, but you know what? Sometimes it's even sweeter to give back. And so it is with sweet delight that I announce that I (along with a cast of awesome Seattle bakers and bloggers) will be contributing to the Great American Bake Sale next weekend!

Here are details from the press release:

Some two dozen local food bloggers recruited by "Frantic Foodie" Keren Brown will bake cookies for the Great American Bake Sale next weekend. Proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, the culinary industry's fundraiser to help end childhood hunger. 

The sale by Seattle food bloggers—one of dozens nationwide—will take place at the Metropolitan Market Uptown on Lower Queen Anne on Saturday morning, April 17th, from 10 AM until noon.

Among the bloggers donating baked goods are Jessie Oleson of Cakespy.com, Shauna James Ahern from GlutenFreeGirl.Blogspot and many other well-known bloggers. Each participant will have two dozen cookies (and their recipes) for sale at the event.  For a complete list of the food bloggers participating, click here.

"Readers and fans will have the opportunity to taste the baked goods from their favorite food blogs", "We're thrilled that Metropolitan Market Uptown is offering us the space for this fund-raising event," Brown, said.

The national effort to involve bloggers in the Great American Bake Sale was spearheaded by Gaby Dalkin, a personal chef in Los Angeles and author of a blog called WhatsGabyCooking.com. 

All funds raised through the event support Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America by helping fund after-school and summer nutrition programs. “Summer is an especially difficult time, because the children facing hunger in America, nearly 17 million children, will no longer have access to the school-based meals they rely on,” said Bill Shore, executive director of Share Our Strength.

Attend the sale! It will take place on Saturday, April 17th, 2010 10 AM to Noon at Metropolitan Market Uptown 100 Mercer St., Seattle (Free parking while at the store).

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