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Thursday
Jan212010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Coco Cake, Vancouver BC

Photos by Lyndsay Sung and Amy Pelletier

If it were legal to marry a cupcake business, I'd probably propose to Coco Cake in Vancouver.

Why? Well, if you have to ask, you've clearly never checked out the website. Why not go there now?

Probably now you have an idea of why Coco Cake ought to be adored, but just for fun, let's talk about some of the reasons why it's a CakeSpy pick.

Coco Cake is totally sweet: The operation is run by Lyndsay Sung, an "artist and fun-loving baker" whose sense of whimsy is matched by a slight dark humor (bloody hand cupcakes to raise awareness for workplace safety, anyone?) that makes for simply irresistible cakes.

Coco Cake is thoughtful: When asked the open-ended question "why cupcakes?" baker Lyndsay had a thoughtful and thought-provoking response: "I think in an aesthetic sense, cupcakes appeal to me, especially when done artfully and with care and a nice sense of design. I also love vintage-look cakes, old school buttercream techniques, anything well-designed. I hate it when you go into a shop and you can tell someone has frosted their cupcakes so sloppily with no regard or real caring. I really do care about my cupcakes and think about them often on their journeys out into the world!"

Coco Cake is inventive: You've heard of Red Velvet...but how about Brown Velour? It's a Coco Cake original--in Lyndsay's words, "it's a play on the idea of the Red Velvet, because ... don't murder me, world-- but I'm not a fan of the cake part of a red velvet cake, but I love the creamcheese frosting. So Brown Velour is a dark chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla creamcheese frosting. More what I would hope to bite into rather than the bland weird red muffin taste of some red velvet cakes. The name Brown Velour also makes me think of an old lady with lavender hair boogying it up on a dancefloor in a brown velour tracksuit...!

Coco Cake enjoys life balance: Baker Lyndsay makes an adorably sweet cupcake burger. But in truth, she's just as passionate about the savory versions! "I actually love regular burgers and hot dogs as much as I love the cake versions!" she says, adding a tip for visitors to Vancouver: "We have this awesome hot dog stand in Vancouver called Japadog. Japanese style hot dogs, with nori, Japanese mayo, miso, all sorts of yummy/crazy sauces." Life is about balance, and Coco Cake embraces all of the major food groups!

For more, visit cococake.com or keep updated via the Coco Cake blog!

Wednesday
Jan202010

What a Fruitcake: A Retro Graham Cracker Marshmallow Fruitcake, Circa 1950

When it comes to cakes, sometimes the line between awesome and awful can be very fine. 

And then sometimes they race right past the line into awful and never look back. Hey, that is what the delectably snarky Cake Wrecks is built on, isn't it?

That having been said, it's time to talk about the Graham Cracker Fruit Cake

Apparently there was, at one time in the 1950s or 60s, a back-of-the-box sort of graham cracker fruitcake recipe. When a reader recently asked me to help unearth it, I found a few different versions online. But when it came to testing it out, I'll be honest--I went for the one that sounded easiest, consisting of just a few ingredients: marshmallows, milk, graham crackers, maraschino cherries, and pecans.

While it wasn't evidently a wreck from the get-go, it definitely did seem to fall into the category of retro-kitchy desserts that jiggle that perhaps dropped in popularity for a reason. Unfortunately the "fail" signs became highly evident when it was removed from the pan--not only was the jiggle unsettling, but so was the hue which could best be described as "fleshy":

When served at a dinner party, the reactions were polite-- along the lines of "it's not as bad as I thought it would be" or "it's...interesting". But the fact is that it was hard to get past the fleshy tone and jiggling texture--it remained largely uneaten.

Now, I'm not ready to throw in the hat completely on this one--while I realize the recipe chosen wasn't the best, that doesn't mean that there isn't a delicious version out there (and if you've got one, feel free to send it along).

But if you're feeling lucky (or just want to know what to avoid) here's the recipe:

Graham Cracker Ice Box Fruit Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pkg. graham crackers
  • 3 c. pecans (broken into small pieces)
  • 1 / 2 lb maraschino cherries
  • 1 lb. pkg. miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 c. milk

Procedure

  1. Crush graham crackers. Mix with pecans and cherries.
  2. Melt about half of the marshmallows in milk over low heat. Allow mixture to cool.
  3. Stir in crackers, cherries and pecans; mix. Add other half of marshmallows and mix lightly. Pour into an extremely well-greased cake pan (I used a bundt pan) and press firmly.
  4. Refrigerate 4-6 hours. Using a sharp knife, gently ease the cake from the sides of the pan. It should be sort of malleable so you'll be able to feel when it has pulled away from the sides to the point that you can safely flip it. First, turn the plate upside down on top of the bottom of the pan, and then swiftly and confidently flip the whole operation. If the confection comes out perfectly, bask in a moment of well-deserved glory--if it tears and fails massively, don't fret--I've still got plenty of leftovers.

 

Tuesday
Jan192010

Salty and Sweet: Bacon and Cupcake Mugs by CakeSpy

Dudes. Dudettes. Brace yourselves for the awesome: it's time to introduce the newest CakeSpy product, the bacon-and-cupcake mug!

The perfect intersection of sweet and salty, this sweet mug has the imagery to sum up some of coffee's finest complements! And in case you failed to notice, they're also wielding mini cocktail glasses--so pretty much all the bases are covered. Worried that your vegan friends will judge you? Please, don't panic: rest assured that these mugs are not only vegan, but gluten free and calorie-free to boot!

These are classic 11-ounce mugs printed in full color so you get a bright and vibrant hit of sweetness every time you reach for a cup of coffee! 

Pretty much the only mistake you could make is not buying one.

Available at cakespyshop.com. Doughnuts not included (sorry).

Tuesday
Jan192010

Sweetness Down Under: Lamingtons Recipe

CakeSpy Note: This recipe was contributed by Cake Gumshoe Erin, who says "I always make it near Australia Day. It is a great treat and very yummy!" 

Lamingtons

Ingredients for cakes

 

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/4 tea spoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded/desicated coconut (for the topping)

 

Ingredients for Iceing

 

  • 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup boliling water
  • 20 g melted unsalted butter

 

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 160c.
  2. To make icing place all icing ingreadients in a bowl and whisk to combine set aside ( I do this when the slice is in the oven).
  3. Place butter,sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy (use the beaters for this) gradully add the eggs and beat well.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder togeather over butter mixture and mix until well combined. Stir in the milk.
  5. pour into a 20cm X 30cm tin lined with grease proof paper and bake for 20 minutes or untill cooked.
  6. while still warm cut into in squares and poor over the icing (you MUST do this!) sprinkle with the coconut and you have your lammington slice!

 

Tuesday
Jan192010

Sweetness Down Under: ANZAC Biscuits Recipe

ANZAC Biscuits

From CakeSpy Friend Let Them Eat Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 4oz flour
  • 6oz sugar
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

Procedure

  1. Mix together flour, sugar, coconut, & rolled oats.
  2. Melt butter and golden syrup. Dissolve bicarb in boiling water and add to the butter and golden syrup.
  3. Make a well in the centre of flour, stir in the liquid. Place in spoonfuls on cold greased trays.
  4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350F (180C) I would normally make them a bit flatter than those in this picture. That would make them crunchier.

 

Tuesday
Jan192010

Drop It Like It's Hot: The Famous Oatmeal Drop Cookies of 1900-1910

If you had been around on this day 100 years ago, what would life be like?

Well, you'd be fresh off of the 19-aughts, a tremendously eventful decade, marked with the opening of Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School, the first successful flight by the Wright brothers, and the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

But even more importantly--if you had been around 100 years ago, what kind of cookies would you be eating? 

Probably Oatmeal Drop Cookies.

Per Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, this was the cookie of the decade:

Now, oats were hardly a new thing, but they had recently enjoyed some new developments in the US--according to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America by Andrew F. Smith,

In 1877, rolled oats were developed and trademarked by Henry D. Seymour and William Heston, who had established the Quaker Mill Company. The product was baked in cardboard boxes...In 1901, the Quaker Mill Company merged with other mills, and became the Quaker Oats Company. Directions for cooking oatmeal were printed on the outside of the Quaker box. These recipes, in turn, were reprinted in community and other cookbooks, and oatmeal became more popular as a cooking ingredient. During the twentieth century many new oatmeal recipes were published, including ones for soup, cakes, cookies, wafers, drops, maracroons, quick breads and yeast breads, muffins, scones, and pancakes. 

And so began the rise of the mighty oat in American culture.

Now, the original recipe calls for raisins, but figuring that a century of baking advances should allow for some experimentation in the name of deliciousness, I used milk chocolate chunks instead. Guess what? It worked beautifully. No, they might not be exactly the same as the ones enjoyed 100 years ago, but then again they didn't have the internet 100 years ago either--that is to say, sometimes innovation can be a good thing.

Oatmeal Drop Cookies

adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Makes about 36 cookies 

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup milk chocolate (such as Lindt), cut into coarse chunks

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees (original recipe calls for 400, but I found that 350 worked better for me).
  2. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and molasses thoroughly. 
  3. Stir the flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon together; blend in bit by bit with the wet ingredients until incorporated.
  4. Stir in oats, nuts, and chocolate. Use either a cookie scoop or spoon to drop dough by rounded spoonfuls about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. (original recipe calls for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees)

 

Monday
Jan182010

Holey Yum: Doughnut Upside Down Cake for Serious Eats

Trying to improve a classic can be tricky business.

However, when it comes to Pineapple Upside Down Cake, I believe I may have actually done it--by adapting it into a Doughnut Upside Down Cake.

How did I attain this magic? Not through complicated chemistry or advanced algorithms. I simply looked through a classic recipe and replaced every instance of "pineapple" with "doughnut" and replaced shortening and milk with butter and heavy cream, respectively.

The result, scientifically speaking? Holey yum.

For the full entry and recipe, check out Serious Eats!

Monday
Jan182010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Hello Kookie, San Francisco

Love's sweet arrow (or was that the dentist's drill?) has struck CakeSpy's sweet tooth again--and its name is Hello Kookie.

Upon discovering their site through a DailyCandy Kids feature, an immediate sweet crush formed.

Hello Kookie was born when owner Dina couldn't find cute, simple and organic cookies for her son's birthday; teaming up with her buddy Wendy, they decided to create a cookie (or kookie, as they call it) which would be enjoyable for kids--but fun for parents too.

And to that point, their cookies are adorable without being too precious -- rendered in an anime style, these sweets are like beautiful graphics made edible.

But they also take taste seriously: their tagline is "cute...but not too cute to eat."

Currently these cookies are available via special order in the Bay Area; however, orders can also be shipped in the US. For more details, check out their FAQ page or keep updated on their progress via their blog!

 

Sunday
Jan172010

CakeSpy Undercover: Mount Bakery, Bellingham, WA

In Washington, there is a mountain of keen interest to outdoorsy types called Mount Baker.

But to cake gumshoe-ing types, Bellingham's Mount Bakery is a much more palatable proposition.

This place isn't strictly a bakery--it is also a cafe serving breakfast (including a gorgeous Eggs Benedict, if you're into that savory stuff) and lunch items. But we're here to talk about the sweet stuff right now.

On our recent visit, after the requisite period of analyzing the choices, we settled on some solid choices: the black bottom muffin and the Linzer Cookie.

Now, for those who have not been initiated into the black bottom muffin club, they are basically one of the best muffins out there (with a possible rival in the doughnut muffin), in that they don't even pretend to be healthy: they're largely comprised of cream cheese and chocolate. Dense and moist, taster Nicole commented that she was impressed how the cream cheese taste permeated the entire muffin--definitely a decadent treat.

And as for the Linzer Cookie (the cookie version of the famous tart by the same name)--oh, what a cookie.

For one thing, it already wins points because it's a sandwich cookie--and everyone knows that sandwich cookies are basically the best excuse to eat two cookies at once and not be judged.

But it's even better when the cookies are excellent, like these: they're lightly crumbly (not quite as much as a pecan sandy, say, but slightly more than a sugar cookie), extremely buttery, and nicely complemented with a layer of slightly tart preserves and a sweet layer of confectioners' sugar on top.

(Oh, and as a P.S. -- right next door is a cupcake shop which says "coming soon" called Icing on the Cake!)

Mount Bakery, 308 W Champion St, Bellingham, WA 98225; online at mountbakery.com.

Mount Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Jan172010

Sweet Art: Custom Save the Date Cards

What's sweeter than somebody getting married?

The wedding cake, duh!

And what better (and sweeter) way to ramp up for the big day than with CakeSpy Save The Date Cards?

This was a custom commission done by request--the customer submitted a file including the type layout, and I did the rest by adding the cupcake illustration and the decorative border, and getting them printed up on nice, heavy 4x6 cardstock.

Do you have a sweet occasion for which you'd like custom invites or save the dates? Just drop a line! I'm happy to take on custom orders; just let me know what you have in mind and I can look into it for you!

To inquire, contact me here.

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