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Sunday
Jun062010

Sweet Surrender: A Red Velvet Smackdown and Tasting with Lorna Yee and Jackie Baisa at CakeSpy Shop

It began, as so many excellent things do, on Twitter.

Upon rhapsodizing about the most excellent Red Velvet Cake from Seattle's Kingfish Cafe, Lorna Yee responded with what can only be described as fighting words: "My red velvet cake is better". 

Now, as Red Velvet challengers go, Lorna Yee is a formidable one: her recipe comes from her recently published book, The Newlywed Kitchen (which contains this recipe for Chocolate Mudslide cookies, btw), has received rave reviews.

The only way to figure out this battle? A Red Velvet Smackdown, natch! 

With the Kingfish Red Velvet Cake in one corner, and Lorna's Red Velvet in the other, we set up a tasting at CakeSpy Shop, with talented photographer Jackie Baisa to document every sweet minute. Of course, cute husbands Danny (aka Mr. CakeSpy) and Henry were on hand to help out.

Lorna was also kind enough to bring a large batch of cupcakes to share with customers at the shop. She ran out of red food coloring at a certain point, so a lucky few actually got Blue Velvet Cupcakes.

So how did these ladies in red stack up?

Well, on the one hand you've got the Kingfish Cafe Red Velvet, which is something of a Seattle standard. It's dense, it's sweet, it's rich...but depending on what day you buy it, sometimes it can be a little dry. Still, I wouldn't kick it out of bed for leaving delicious little crumbs.

But then you've got Lorna's triple-threat of awesome. Equally dense and rich, this is nonetheless a very different cake, with pronounced contrasting flavors: a very tangy and only lightly sweet, very cream cheese-y frosting and a rich, extremely moist cocoa-infused cake. All of the tasters, who were cut generous slices, zeroed right in on the compelling flavor contrast, and were more than happy to wax poetic about the sweet subtleties in flavor--but perhaps even more telling, everybody cleaned their plate. 

Lorna Yee and very cool kid IrisSimilarly, customers who came in and sampled the cupcakes were thrilled with their sweet treats, and Lorna not only sold through her stock of books but also raided nearby Elliott Bay Books for more.

The final word? You should still order the cake if you go to Kingfish, but for your next special occasion, bake the one from Lorna's book. People will remember and love you for it.Jackie Baisa, Lorna Yee, CakeSpy

Want to see more awesome photos of this event? Visit Baisa Fotograferie (photos coming soon!)

For Lorna's Triple Red Velvet Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, visit her site, The Cookbook Chronicles!

Sunday
Jun062010

Cold Times at Hot Licks, Fairbanks Alaska

Photo c/o Flickr user mikeczyzewskiPop Quiz: you're looking for something delicious and sweet to eat in Fairbanks, Alaska. Where do you go?

According to a CakeSpy reader, the place you go is Hot Licks. Why so? 

Well, for one thing, it's an ice cream place that starts out with a great story. Per their website:

Hot Licks began in 1986 as a joint venture between two brothers, Geoff and Adam Wool. Hot Licks was their response to the conclusion that there was no super premium ice cream in Alaska. The two brothers had recently arrived from Boston at a time when the resurgence of old fashioned, high quality, batch made, ice cream was at its peak. Adam came to Fairbanks to complete his requirements for a physics degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Geoff came to work as a Special Education teacher. They thought that in their spare time they could work together to bring quality ice cream to Fairbanks.

What started out as a lark became an overnight college town sensation. Adam, an accomplished jazz drummer, organized the Hot Licks Jazz Band and Hot Licks Homemade Ice Cream was synonymous for the best ice cream and the hottest jazz around. In addition to ice cream, Hot Licks made soups, fresh baked breads, and cinnamon rolls, all from scratch. They were known in Fairbanks as the home of the four basic food groups: Soup, Bread, Ice Cream, and Coffee.

But of course, while a story always helps, it's the ice cream itself that keeps people coming back. Made in small batches using no artificial ingredients or stabilizers, the menu really does speak for itself, what with a dazzling array of flavors--which, in addition to the usual suspects, includes such unexpected delights as Apple Pie (made with apple pie filling and broken waffle cones), Torrone (nougat, honey, almonds, bitter-sweet chocolate, and citrus peel in vanilla ice cream), and S'more (chocolate chips, marshmallows and Graham crackers).

Hot Licks has several locations in the Fairbanks area; for more information, visit hotlicks.net.

Saturday
Jun052010

Pucker Up: Delicious Lemon Meringue Cupcake Recipe from Cake Gumshoe Megan Seling

On the occasion of her recent birthday, Megan Seling provided a dessert spread of epic proportions at her party.

And while usually I would object that the birthday girl shouldn't have to lift a finger on her special day, opting to simply eat cakes that others have made, I have to admit that as a guest, I was kind of glad that she did. Because it was a most delicious spread.

And the highlight of the table? In my humble spy's opinion, the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. Made of a light cake filled with lightly tart and very flavorful lemon curd, these cakes were capped with a punk rocker hairstyle of a meringue topping which tasted just as good as it looked.

And happily, she was willing to share the recipe, which she got here, which I am now passing on to you. You're welcome. It can also be found in the book Cake Art.

Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 large egg whites

Lemon Curd

  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 10 large egg yolks

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar

Procedure

Prepare the Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare pans with cupcake liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, and half the sugar together into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer and reserve. In another large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks, oil, water, vanilla, and zest. Mix with a handheld mixer or whip attachment until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolk mixture gradually to the dry ingredients, mixing with a handheld mixer or whip attachment on medium speed until a paste forms. When a paste has formed, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and continue adding the remainder of the yolk mixture until it is all incorporated. Beat for an additional 2 minutes on medium speed. In a separate mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, whip the egg whites with a clean whip attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar while beating the egg whites and continue to beat until medium peaks form. Gently blend one-third of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake at 375°F until the top of the cupcakes spring back to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling before decorating.

Prepare Lemon Curd. Combine half of the butter, half of the sugar, the lemon juice, and zest and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, blend the egg yolks with the remaining sugar. Temper the mixture by gradually adding about one-third of the lemon juice mixture, stirring constantly with a whip. Return the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the whisk leaves a trail in the curd. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining butter. Strain the curd into a shallow container or bowl. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd. Cool over an ice bath. Store the curd, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Prepare Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Put the egg whites and sugar in the clean, grease-free bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and stir together until the sugar is blended into the egg whites. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir frequently until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches 140°F. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and beat on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and has a stiff peak.

Finish the cupcakes. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip two-thirds full with lemon curd. Insert the tip as far as it will go inside the center of the cupcake and apply gentle pressure. Try not to squeeze too hard or lemon curd will squirt out the top of the cupcake. Stop filling once you see any lemon curd around the base of the tip. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes. Clean the piping bag and tip and fill it two-thirds full with Swiss meringue. Pipe a large pearl of meringue on top of each cupcake. Use the back of a spoon to lift up areas of the meringue, creating spikes. Lightly toast the meringue with a kitchen torch or under the broiler until the tips of the meringue are golden brown.

Saturday
Jun052010

Have a Ball: Kimball Popcorn Balls from South Dakota

When I recently had some customers in my store who were visiting from South Dakota, it didn't take long for me to steer the conversation to something very near and dear to my heart: the Special K Bar I fell in love with in Sioux Falls last year. But after several minutes of waxing poetic about said treat, I turned it over to them: enough about me, what sweets do you like to eat?

Happily, said customers were more than happy to introduce me to a South Dakota sweet specialty: the Kimball Popcorn Ball. This is a sweet confection not unlike a rice krispie treat, but made with popcorn--and, you know, in ball form. Sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, all at once, these are addictive little morsels that live up to their motto: "just try one...you'll want another!".

And the legend is interesting too. On the "about us" page on their website, they quote a passage about the origins of the popcorn ball (from the book America Eats)

There is a legend that the popcorn ball is actually a product of the Nebraska weather. It supposedly invented itself during the "Year of the Striped Weather" which came between the years of the "Big Rain" and the "Great Heat" where the weather was both hot and rainy. There was a mile strip of scorching sunshine and then a mile strip of rain. On one farm, there were both kinds of weather. The sun shone on this cornfield until the corn began to pop, while the rain washed the syrup out of the sugarcane. The field was on a hill and the cornfield was in a valley. They syrup flowed down the hill into the popped corn and rolled it into great balls with some of them hundreds of feet high and looked like big tennis balls at a distance. You never see any of them now because the grasshoppers ate them all up in one day on July 21, 1874.

before explaining how they got involved in the game:

We wanted to demonstrate that arguably the best popcorn balls are made right here in the heart of small-town America – Kimball, South Dakota. Our unique recipe has evolved into two deliciously inviting variations: original and honey (made with South Dakota honey). 

And for that, Kimball Popcorn Balls, CakeSpy salutes you.

Discover Kimball Popcorn balls here (site includes online ordering). Incidentally, if you're curious about other South Dakota specialties, check out South Dakota Flavor!

Thursday
Jun032010

Beyond A Baker's Dozen: Sweet Links for National Doughnut Day

Upon first glance, these Doughnut Seeds might appear to simply be cereal cleverly packaged for sale for a tidy little profit.

But you're so wrong, because oh, the places these doughnut seeds could go. In honor of National Doughnut Day, here are several things to which doughnut seeds can aspire:

They could become delicious doughnut pies:
They could become athletic heros (just donut!):

Or maybe Trompe l'oeil bagel-and-cream cheese doughnuts:
They could become Red Velvet Cake doughnuts:
They could become any number of these clever donuts:
Or maybe they'd grow into doughnut lookalike cookies:
They could grow up to be the inspiration for portraits:
They could become German chocolate cake doughnuts:
They could become the anchor for some delicious Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict:
Or perhaps a doughnut burger:
Or maybe even a wedding cake substitute:
They could become the hopeless quandary:

They could be a saving grace at a Texas airport:
They could be the crowning glory on a Doughnut Upside Down cake:
They could become the sweetest thing for 500 miles around in South Dakota:
They could make cupcakes even better.
They could be the subject of a tell-all, such as the amazing book Donuts: An American Passion by John T. Edge (which I think everyone should read!) 
They could be a Los Angeles landmark...

Or they could be written up in fancy doughnut day articles on MSN.

So there you have it--who knows what could happen when you plant these sweet seeds?

Wednesday
Jun022010

Sweet Excess: Glazed Cinnamon Rolls Stuffed With Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Just in case you'd ever wondered: as it turns out, stuffing cinnamon rolls with chocolate chip cookie dough really does make them more delicious.

I know this because yesterday, finding myself with a free coupon for some Pillsbury Sweet Rolls, I went to the store and picked up a pack of Orange Cinnamon Rolls with which I set to experimenting. Now, I'm not adverse to enjoying these sweeties in their natural state, but while preparing some cookie dough for my annual Memorial Day Cookie Cake Pie, it occurred to me that stuffing them with cookie dough might just make them even better.

And you know what? They were amazing: gooey, high-fat, high-carb heaven. But don't worry if you're counting calories: I'm pretty sure that the orange glaze made them healthier.

Here's how you do it at home.

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls Stuffed with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 package Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with glaze (I used orange sweet rolls)
  • 1 teaspoon chocolate chip cookie dough per cinnamon roll (if uneasy about if it will cook thoroughly, use an egg-free version)

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Unwrap the roll of cinnamon rolls until you get that jarring "pop" that means the feast has been unleashed.
  3. Separate the rolls, and unroll each one gently.
  4. Roll each teaspoon of cookie dough into a thin log (use floured hands), slightly thinner than the thickness of the unrolled cinnamon roll.
  5. Place the log of dough on top of the unrolled cinnamon roll, and gently re-roll. Repeat with the rest of the rolls.
  6. Place the rolls in a lightly greased pie plate (it keeps it all contained) and bake according to the package directions, 15 minutes or so.
  7. Once the rolls are out of the oven, gently heat the glaze in the microwave for about 10 seconds, or until pourable. Liberally glaze your cinnamon rolls with it.
  8. Enjoy.

 

Wednesday
Jun022010

Put the Lime in the Coconut: Cupcake Royale Debuts Toasted Coconut Lime Cupcakes for June!

Goodbye forever, May 2010! Hello June, and hello to Cupcake Royale's new flavor of the month: Toasted Coconut Lime. As they put it:

Yeah, we did it. We put the lime in the coconut and baked it all up. Moist coconut cake gets a tart and tangy swirl of real lime buttercream. We finish it off with toasted coconut for a truly tasty tropical treat!

And knowing that June is a big month for dads and grads, they kindly offer some life-lesson cupcake tips for grads:

 

1.  If you are giving a speech at your graduation, hide a cupcake under someone's chair. At some point, that person will find the cupcake and begin cheering wildly. Hopefully this happens either during or immediately after your speech.

2. If you are still a little miffed about a certain bad grade, give that instructor a cupcake...better yet, a 2-pack! They won't change your grade, but at least they'll know that deep down, you're really a swell kid after all.

3. If your parents are still speaking to you after all the senseless things you've done and all their money you've spent over the past four years, give them cupcakes. This one really goes without saying, whether you are graduating from college or kindergarten.

4. If you are throwing a graduation party, going to a graduation party, or just like graduation parties, order tons of cupcakes from Cupcake Royale. Literally, TONS.

5. Finally, you're graduating! Give yourself a cupcake already, and congratulations from Cupcake Royale! We believe the children are our future, and we believe those children should eat cupcakes.

The Toasted Coconut Lime cupcake will be available for the entire month of June at all four locations; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

 

Tuesday
Jun012010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kimm Moore, Pastry Chef at Spitfire Grill, Seattle

When I attended CupcakeCamp Seattle a couple of months ago, I encountered a sweet surprise: several creative cupcake entries from an unexpected source: Kimm Moore, the pastry chef at Spitfire Grill. Why such a surprise? Well, for one thing, I didn't even know that they had a pastry chef--after all, it's a sports bar! Not exactly a place that you'd expect delicious pastries. But these were very tasty cakes, friends. I simply had to learn more--here's a sweet interview with Kimm!

CakeSpy: Tell me how you got involved in the pastry arts.

Kimm Moore: I have been cooking and baking professionally for about 5 years now. Growing up, I knew I wanted to career that is active, creative, fun, precise, and help people look at food differently. I love the pastry arts because it lets me be creative with food/desserts.

CS: How did you become the pastry chef at the Spitfire Grill, which identifies as "a gathering space for sports"?

KM: I have been working, at Spitfire - Microsoft main campus location, for almost one year. Yes, we do identify ourselves as a "casual sports bar" but we do much more. We hold private parties, banquets for morale events, inside and outside catering events, and dessert banquets. I am the pastry chef, but also a line cook. I started as a line cook, then showed my bosses all the pastry work in my past. I wanted to help Spitfire grow, pastry-wise.

CS: What kind of desserts can be found on your menu?

KM: From a basic brownie sundae to my homemade pound cake bread pudding. I also do banquet dessert items, which can include mini cupcakes, lemon tarts, caramel tarts, and chocolate rum mousse cups. We do receive orders for special items, which I am happy to make.

CS: Do you have a lot of creative license in the kitchen, to design new desserts?

KM: To an extent. There are "set" items on the menu, which regular people like to see, but I love to get creative with banquet dessert items.

CS: At CupcakeCamp Seattle, you brought an amazingly creative roster of cupcakes to the event. Any chance we could get any of those at your work?

KM: Yes! I love making and creating new cupcakes also. If someone wants a special request cupcake, I am sure to do it!

CS: What is your favorite dessert to make?

KM: As simple as it sounds, I love to make cookies. They are a sweet item everyone loves and has favorite. You can get very creative and artistic with cookies...or just make a simple batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Also, there is some "science" to different mixing methods, for cookies, which I love.

CS: What is your favorite dessert to eat?

KM: There is something child-like about eating a good quality ice-cream, or gelato, in a waffle cone. Frozen desserts are in a world of their own, and I tend to favor those. I have a weakness for semi-freddos.

CS: Pie and cake are alone in a dark alley with switchblades. Who's going to come out the victor in this battle?

KM: Pie and cake are similar to cupcakes, because all have a "home-like" appeal to the masses. I believe pie will come out as a winner. Pie tends to be "lighter" versus cake. I like what High 5 Pie is doing around Seattle, bring more people aware of "good" pie. I love baking pie, too. I went to a National Pie Baking Contest, in Kissimee, Florida, and has a blast meeting with fellow pie bakers from across the country.

CS: If I were to ask something obnoxious like "do you see any emerging trends in the world of pastry?" what would you have to say?

KM: Honestly I see: beer in desserts, small bite banquet desserts, and healthy, especially gluten-free and vegan, desserts/baked goods.

CS: What is one of your proudest baking moments?

KM: When I was a bread baker, for COBS BREAD, our bakery's Country Grain bread placed 1st in a bread baking contest in Canada. I felt like waking up at 2 am everyday, for work, FINALLY paid off! I also, felt very proud at Cupcake Camp and meeting fellow cupcake bakers and lovers. I always feel happy and confident when someone says they love my work! What are some of your ultimate goals as a baker? As a baker, I want to change how people look at pastry items and how good ingredients equals a better product. You do not need to buy prepackaged cookies or take 'n' bake cookie dough, you can make your own cookies with good ingredients. Some people tend to "skimp" on baking ingredients which makes a less quality product. I also want people to eat better, healthier baked goods. I love baking healthy, gluten-free, and vegan items. I give them to people to taste, and they say "Wow! Can't even taste a difference!"

You can taste Kimm's desserts at The Spitfire Grill!

Tuesday
Jun012010

Biscuit Time: Easy Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy

Ever since I heard that it was one of Dolly Parton's favorite things to eat, I've been obsessed with the very idea of biscuits and chocolate gravy. So when I recently made Biscuits with Sugar Butter from the new Rosanna Bowles Cookbook , I took advantage of the moment and saved a few biscuits so that I could try this sweet dish for myself.

Although there are plenty of recipes out there for chocolate gravy (isn't life wonderful?), I decided to go the easy route and used the bittersweet chocolate topping from Sassy Sauces. When lightly heated and generously poured on top of the biscuits in a viscous, chocolatey mess, it might not have made for a beautiful dish to serve, but it sure was delicious. I'm sure that the hot fudge sauce of your choosing would work beautifully as well, if you're not inclined to make the gravy yourself.

For the Paula Deen version of this dish, you can find a recipe here; for my version, combine the biscuit recipe from this posting with a big ol' jar of warm bittersweet chocolate sauce by Sassy Sauces (it's tasty), or a generous heaping of your favorite (preferably very thick) hot fudge sauce. Top with some shredded coconut or sprinkles if you're feeling festive.

Monday
May312010

Hip to Be Square: Square Cupcakes at Columbia City Bakery, Seattle

Like, OMG! A square cupcake!

Wait, wait. Before you accuse me of being too easily impressed, allow me to assure you that this cake, from Seattle's famous Columbia City Bakery, has more going for it than just an unexpected shape: it's also a deliciously decadent and dense carrot cake. Proving that sometimes subtle sweetness is all you need, this cake derives much of its flavor and sweetness from the natural flavor of the carrots, which are then made even better when paired with a rich, buttery, cream cheesy frosting piped into a cute nubbly texture. Add a few nuts on top for crunch, and you've got yourself a winner.

It's so hip to be square, when you're a cupcake.

Square cupcakes (!), available at Columbia City Bakery, 4865 Rainier Ave S., Seattle; online here.

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