Perfect for making your own holiday cards (the card shown at the top of the post was made using these stamps!) or a wonderful gift for your favorite crafty cupcake, this Holiday Wonder set retails for $21.95 and comes nicely packaged with a beautiful color index sheet. You can also find great project ideas on the Taylored Expressions blog.
Curious about the secret lives of the movers and shakers in the world of cake bakers? Well, look no further: here's a sweet peek into the inner workings of Boofy Cakes, a wonderful custom cake company based in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. What inspires and motivates proprietress Bethany Papciak? Read on:
CakeSpy: What kickstarted your love of cakes and cake decorating?
Bethany Papciak: My earliest memories of cake decorating were when I was a kid. My mom never ordered a cake from the grocery store or bakery. She always let me and my brothers go through the Wilton Yearbooks and choose what cakes we wanted for our birthdays. My mom threw the best themed birthday parties! When I was too old for birthday parties, she let me help her decorate the birthday cakes for my cousins' birthday parties! I then took a job at a local family owned bakery when I was 15, and I worked there for 7 years. I still go back and visit; it's been my home away from home!
CS: Since taking on cake making professionally, has it changed the way you look at baking in general--ie, has it made you more or less critical of other professional baking?
BP: I am critical of professional bakeries because many bakeries charge a small fortune for their items. In the area where I live no one can afford or justify $3-4 for a basic cupcake! The bakery where I worked growing up produced high quality old fashioned baked goods at a reasonable price. The prices were higher than the local grocery store bakeries, but the freshness and quality makes them well worth it. This is something that I apply to my own business. I want to make fun treats that not only look good, but taste good too! And I try to keep it at a reasonable cost. I want my customers to feel that they can afford festive treats for all their occasions, big or small.
CS: You're also an artist and a scrapbooker. Do you feel as if that brings something to your cake making?
BP: When I was in high school I was very involved in the art department. I took all the classes: drawing, painting, sculpting and so on. When I enrolled in a Culinary and Pastry Arts program that my high school offered, I discovered that some of the same techniques I learned in my art classes applied to cake decorating. Then I could apply my love for art to my love for food! I think the art class that benefitted me the most was my ceramics class. Many of the sculpting skills and tools that I used for clay are the same for fondant and gum paste! Making decorative pieces out of fondant is one of my favorite parts of decorating; it reminds me of playing with Play-Doh!
I don't know that scrapbooking brings anything to my cake decorating, but I do know that it means that I spend way too much money on cute cupcake papers and embellishments!
CS: You have a blog--how do you think that plays a role in your business?
BP: The blog is something that I started to work on in my free time. It hasn't reached the point that I'd like it to, but I'm going to be working on developing it more in the near future. The purpose of it is to tell the stories behind my cakes. In my portfolio there are a number of odd cake designs like the PEZ cake and the Google cake. The blog is a great opportunity for me to share my adventures and experiences behind these silly cakes with my customers. My regular customers tell me all the time how they check up on my website to see what new cakes I've been working on and how their children love to sit and look at the pictures!
The blog is also a way for me to share information about events going on in the community. Like fundraisers for our firefighters, and organizations like Easter Seals, Relay for Life, and Care Net.
CS: Tell me a baking tool you couldn't live without.
BP: Most definitely my turntable! It makes icing cakes a breeze!
CS: Tell me about an especially fun cake you've worked on.
BP: I find that cakes I enjoy making the most are actually the ones that aren't for customers! I love having complete freedom in the design! So the most fun I have making cakes are typically the ones for my family. Although there was one cake that I donated to a CareNet baby shower at a local church that falls in to the favorite category. It was a Noah's Ark themed cake and I handmade all of the little animals out of fondant. I had so much fun making it! It has since become one of my most popular cakes.
CS: I feel as if there is a rising trend in "dessert buffets" or cupcakes at weddings or special events...do you think these trends will make the large, centerpiece type of cake go extinct?
BP: I've actually had more cupcake orders for birthdays than for wedding cakes. But I have done both. I can understand why cupcakes and dessert buffets appeal to so many people. In the current economy I think more people are considering having more parties at their homes as opposed to large reception halls. Having small desserts are more convenient when you don't have a service to take care of cutting a wedding cake. Have you ever tried to disassemble a 4 tiered cake and cut it into the proper number of servings? If you've never done it, it can be pretty intimidating! Individual desserts allow the guests to serve themselves. Another great point to individual desserts is that unlike a slice of cake, they still look as attractive once served onto your plate.
While the popularity of cupcakes is rising, I don't believe that they will replace centerpiece cakes. I've noticed that at weddings they still want to hold onto the tradition of cutting the cake. So they just order a smaller tiered cake for cutting and for saving for their anniversary. I've done several cupcakes for birthday parties, but they're still just a small percentage of my orders. I think that the popularity of shows like Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, and the different cake challenge shows will keep centerpiece cakes from dying out.
CS: As a cake maker, what are your feelings on pie?
BP: I don't typically bake pies outside of the holidays. But that doesn't mean I don't like them! My favorite flavor is blueberry. The best slice of pie I've ever had was from a small vegetarian restaurant on the University of Illinois campus called the The Red Herring. It was blueberry mango pie that was absolutely to die for! I'd eat the whole pie if given the opportunity. It's well worth the stomachache!
CS: What is your favorite type of frosting?
BP: My favorite frosting to eat or decorate with? My favorite kind of frosting to decorate with is a basic crusting buttercream. A crusting buttercream gets a real thin layer of crust after being exposed to the air for a few minutes. This is ideal for making certain decorations. It ices smooth on cakes and holds its shape nicely for decorations like roses.
My favorite frosting to eat is a fluff buttercream that I make. Believe it or not, I don't like super sweet desserts. Thats why I love my fluff buttercream! It isn't too sweet and it is light fluffy like clouds! And it doesn't need to be refrigerated like whipped cream. The only downside is that it doesn't ice as smooth and it is too soft to make certain decorations and designs.
CS: If you were to be choosing the dessert for your last meal on earth, what would it be?
BP: I know I said that blueberry was my favorite pie flavor, but I think I would have to choose pecan pie! It's warmth and richness makes it a great comfort food! It brings back wonderful memories of with my family and all the fun I had during the holidays at the bakery where I grew up working.
CS: Do you have any advice or lessons learned that you can pass on to others who might be interested in starting up their own cake businesses?
BP: If you haven't already, work in a bakery. No matter how much you already know, there is always more to be learned. Seeing how another businesses does business is a great way to get started. Pay attention to their lifestyles and the hours they work, make sure it's the lifestyle you thought it would be. The long hours and working weekends and holidays aren’t meant for everyone. Last but not least, love what you do and stand behind your work! It makes waking up in the morning much easier!
If you're in the Chicago area, consider Boofy Cakes for your next special occasion! Even if you're not though, you'll get sweet satisfaction from browsing the cake photos and blog--all online at boofycakes.com.
Whether you've been naughty or nice, there's some sugar and spice for everyone in this sweet suite of stationery, which is ready to ship starting October 10.
Here are the new designs:
Plus the cupcake and robot card pictured top.
Next time you feel compelled to glove-slap somebody, why not do it in sweet style? Well, you can: CakeSpy is giving away a pair of sweet gloves with cupcake pattern trim--a sweet donation from friends at Bitchin' Lifestyle (you may remember the interview with BK's Nadia G. from a while back?).
What do you have to do to enter?
To Enter, click over to the video about Underdog Vegetables on the Bitchin' Kitchen website--a hilarious roundup and appreciative ode to veggies like brussels sprouts and parsnips--and leave a comment on the site. Love veggies? Go ahead and sing their praises. Still not convinced? Then leave a comment talking up your favorite--wait for it--underdog dessert.
Of course, I'd love to see your comments here about what your favorite underdog desserts too. Perhaps you think coconut macaroons need more love? Or maybe oatmeal cookies have stood in chocolate chip's shadow for too long? Sing the praises of your favorite!
What is it about baking cake that always brightens up the darkest day or mood? Surely it's not just the taste, although that certainly doesn't hurt. It's the the full sensory experience: reading a recipe. Gathering and mixing together the ingredients; seeing them come together. Putting the batter in a pan...and that amazing cake-baking aroma while it bakes. By the time the cake is done, eating it is almost secondary (note: almost), as you've already gotten so much satisfaction out of making the finished product.
In Seattle, I couldn't imagine a cozier bakery for a rainy day than Macrina Bakery, so I was thrilled when they sent out their coffee cake recipe in a recent newsletter. Any fruit of your choosing makes a nice complement to the dense butteriness of the cake, which is perfect for breakfast; I used bananas and topped the cake off with a generous dose of chocolate and nuts, which is guaranteed to make the darkest days brighter.
Rainy Day Bundt Cake
- adapted from Macrina Bakery's Fresh Fruit Coffeecake -
Makes 1 Bundt cake
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat--worked nicely with the banana)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups ripe fruit (I used bananas)
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon shortening
- 3 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Oil a 12-cup Bundt pan.
- Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and toss with your hands to combine. Remove 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and set bowl aside.
- In a separate medium bowl, combine fruit and the reserved 1/4 cup of flour mixture. Toss until fruit is evenly coated and set aside. Tossing the fruit in flour helps keep it from sinking to the bottom of the coffeecake _ a true disaster!
- Combine butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment for 5 to 8 minutes on medium speed. The mixture will become smooth and pale in color. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure the first egg is fully mixed into the batter before adding the other. After the second egg is incorporated, add vanilla extract and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix for another 30 seconds to make sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
- Alternately add small amounts of flour mixture and buttermilk to the batter mixing with a wooden spoon just until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Gently fold in the flour coated fruit making sure the fruit is evenly distributed through the batter. Spoon batter into the prepared Bundt pan filling two-thirds of the pan.
- Bake on the center rack of the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Check the center of the coffeecake with a skewer. It will come out clean when the cake is done. Let cool in a pan for 45 minutes.
- Loosen the sides of the cake with a sharp knife. Place a serving plate upside-down on top of the cooled Bundt pan and invert the pan to remove the cake.
- For chocolate topping: melt chocolate and shortening in a double boiler. Pour gently directly on to the cake. Toss some walnuts, powdered sugar, or both, on top if it suits you.
Simply perfection: double vanilla cupcakes, via Simply Recipes.
Dirty but sweet: in Chicago, Sweet Mandy B's has a delicious-looking Dirt Cup.
Milwaukee Cupcake Alert! CakeSpy buddy Sandy, AKA the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen, makes buttercream waves with Iron Cupcake!
Coffee stencils: because your coffee deserves to be as cute as the cake it's served with!
Like, OMG: Cuppie-ish cupcakes! These look delicious, via Coco Cake.
Cereal deliciousness: check out the General Mills Cereal Spooktacular!
Didn't get to attend the BlogHer conference? Read Not Martha's recap, it's as if you were there!
Kicking off the Halloween Candy season: these Marshmallow Witches on Taste of Home are freaking adorable.
Fiadoni: roughly translated, delicious Italian Pocket Pies.
Salty-sweet, make-your-life-complete, chocolate dulce de leche cupcakes, via JustJenn.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Sprinkles offers some of the sweetest cupcakes for the cause the first week of the month.
Are cupcake lovers seeking eternal childhood? Newsweek investigates.
Answer: The back of a Volvo. Naturally. Or should I say, természetesen.
Joking aside though, it's not junk in the trunk of Grand Rapids-based pastrymaker Julianna Mechtler's car: it's a bounty of delicious pastries like walnut, poppy seed and apricot-walnut pastry rolls, cheesy Danish, and various pies and breads. And for 20 years, she's been unloading this deliciousness from the back of her car to a table at the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
Clearly she's been doing something right for all these years: Cake Gumshoes Matthew and Wendy, who first directed me to this Hungarian phenomenon in Grand rapids, state that they "have dreams about" the sour cherry danish, pictured top.
Foodie cartoons? Delicious pastries? It's all enough to make you feel pretty Hungary.
To buy Julianna Mechtler's pastries, visit the Fulton Street Farmers Market, 1145 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 616) 454-4118 (Hours of Operation: 8:00am - 4:00pm Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays May through) Christmas; for more information, visit fultonstreetmarket.org.
While I was recently selling artwork at the world famous Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, I was lucky enough to have a booth located very close to Alliance Bakery. True, I had heard mixed reviews about this place--but after one of my awesome boothmates got (and highly praised) their vaguely Napoleon-looking treat called the "Ellen" (made up of pistachio-cinnamon mousseline with pistachio praline and white chocolate mousse--like, whoa), I knew I had to make a stop. Walking up to the entrance, I wasn't sure quite what to expect: the exterior has old-school neon sign and flamboyantly decorated cakes on display in the front window.
But once you step inside, it's immediately evident that this is a very special place. They have huge, wraparound bakery cases full of all manner of cakes, pastries and cookies, which made the visit fun right away for me, because half the fun is ogling everything and choosing, right?
Ultimately I settled on an intriguing bar cookie: the cranberry walnut bar. I know the combination sounds unusual, but here's the deal. The bar cookie, which is made up of a sweet walnut-y, caramel-y mixture set atop a cookie crust, is very sweet. While bars like this are often delicious, sometimes the sweetness can be so overwhelming that the flavor lacks depth. Here's where the cranberries come in. The little bursts of sweet, acidic tartness cut through the extreme sweetness, rounding out the flavor and adding excitement to every bite (yes! excitement!). It worked beautifully, and made what could have been a run-of-the mill bar cookie very memorable.
Not only was I pleased with the bar cookie, but I am so intrigued by the sweet-and-tart combination that I think I might just add a topping of cranberries the next time I make pecan pie.
Alliance Bakery, 1736 W Division Street (between Hermitage Ave & Wood St), Chicago, IL, (773) 278-0366; online at alliance-bakery.com.
Unicorn Crepes is what I would call a Japanese-style creperie. All crepes come with a free coffee/plum tea/chai with the help of a cute automatic dispenser machine. They also have a to-go menu which is handy for those who want a crepe to go or can't find parking in the always tough to park International District. And they are wrapped nicely in a easy to unwarp cone for mess free eating. I frequently see the owner Jino Yoon there making crepes for his customers. The plastine display menu versions of the crepes are actually how Jino puts the crepes together for real except you get them in that nicely rolled and warped cone. Not only are the prettily displayed but they're quite tasty. It's fun to watch the staff lay out the pieces so perfectly.
My personal favorite crepe is the Anko Custard Whip Crepe (with half the amount of whip, you can request adjustments ). By the way anko is red bean, its a sweet Japanese dessert/filling. But they certainly have a lot of crepes to chose from sweet to savory. If you're feeling adventureous you can try the Okanomiyaki Crepe. Lots of people like the combination of banana and chocolate (or what they call Choco Whip). You won't find Nutella on the menu though. Instead there are options of various fruits drizzled with chocoloate or caramel and paired with custard, pudding, daifuku (think little balls of mochi) or even ice cream!
Unicorn Crepes, 421 6th Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104.
You know that song, Blinded by the Light? Where they say "Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun...but mama, that's where the fun is"?
Well, catchy as the song may be, it's wrong. All the fun--and sweetness--is much better illuminated in these sweet ice cream-shaped "Whippy" lamps by Mixko designers Nahoko Koyama and Alex Garnett. Unfortunately for US citizens they only seem to be available in the UK, but it sure is sweet to dream about them from over the pond.
Lucky enough to be in the UK (or, ready to shell out some serious shipping fees)? Visit this site to purchase.