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Wednesday
Mar032010

Up, Up, and Away: 7-Up Cake for Serious Eats

Up is a sweet film of dreams realized: by tying thousands of balloon to his home, main character Carl Fredricksen sets out to fulfill his lifelong desire to see the great wide world. But when it comes to a cake inspired by the movie, you're going to want all of the charm but none of that floating away business.

While this 7-Up Cake may be infused with the buoyant lemon-lime soda bubbles, it's far from light-as-air. This is actually a rich, decadent pound cake made with five sticks of butter.

Coloring the cake a gentle sky blue and topping it with a fluffy, cloud-like coating of rich coconut frosting lends an air of drama when it's sliced into, and a garnish of lollipops (the "balloons") add a bit of whimsy. So good, it'll disappear into thin air.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Tuesday
Mar022010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sara Leand of Sara Snacker Cookie Company

I don't know much, but I know I love Sara Snacker Cookie Company. Why? Because their menu contains such delights as Vanilla Milkshake cookies, homemade Tootsie Rolls, and chocolate covered Twinkies. Really, I shouldn't have to tell you more than that.

But perhaps you're curious to hear more about the magic that goes on behind the sweet, sweet menu? Well, lucky for you I was able to catch up with owner Sara Leand and learn more about Sara Snacker's sweet goings-on. Here goes:

CakeSpy: First off, I don't want this to be awkward, but as you probably see I already have my bag packed. Can I please come live in your kitchen?

Sara Leand: Sure! Whenever you would like.

(Pause while CakeSpy does a happy dance)

CS: I've got to ask. TV producer turned confectioner/baker--how did that happen?

SL: I’ve loved to bake ever since I was a little girl. In college I used to bake so much for my friends that they talked me into starting my own company, and that became the original incarnation of Sara Snacker Cookie Company. I did that for the last two years of college but had to put it on hold when it began to grow larger then I expected, plus, my roommate constantly kept eating all the inventory!

CS: Indulge me: if you had to describe Sara Snacker's treats in five words or less:

SL: Fun, unique, nostalgic, crave-busting, and yummy!

CS: In addition to a career change, you also relocated from LA to NYC. How does the attitude toward baked goods and sweets differ on the east and west coast?

SL: When I lived on the west coast I was a Hollywood agent for several years. There are no agents that bake, at least not publicly, in Hollywood. So, my baking past was only known to my closest friends. I always had dinner parties and made treats for everyone, but that was as far as it went for a time. Everyone on the east coast loves to talk about food; it is quite different here. When I would tell anyone on the east coast that I liked to bake, they'd give me an order of what to make them right away!

CS: What role do sweets play in a balanced diet?

SL: Everyone deserves a special treat sometime, so why not indulge in something fantastic! I say treats plays an important part in life since they’re essential for good mental health. Sweets keep you sane, as long as you don’t overdo it. :)

CS: Sara Snacker is a relatively new company, but you're an old hat at baking--you actually ran a renegade baking business out of your college dorm room. I definitely need you to tell me more about that--what did you bake, and who did you sell to?

SL: It was great. I sold all over campus as well as at several local shops. I made pretty divine treats — none of which are part of my product line now, but maybe in the future. My best seller was the "Best of Both Worlds"- a brownie and chocolate chip cookie combo.

CS: What's your personal favorite item on the Sara Snacker menu?

SL: That is a tough one! I have so many personal memories tied to each of my products that it’s hard to say. The Chipn’etzels will always be dear to my heart, but I really love the T.W.ookie (a crisp oatmeal cookie with white chocolate chips and a hint of salt) and the Vanilla Milkshake Cookie if I had to narrow it down to just a few.

CS: Got any new products, services or milestones in the works?  

SL: I am always coming up with new products. We launched several new ones recently (including the Vanilla Milkshake Cookie, Lemonade Cookie, and all-natural Animal Cracker Cookies), so I will have some more come springtime. Keep on the lookout, they will be awesome! If you have a special childhood memory that you think would bake up great in a treat, just let me know and I'll work on something for you.

Where can you get Sara Snacker sweets? Right now there is limited availability infancy food stores in the NYC area; however, they can ship anywhere in the USA! Here's a link to their online store; for more information, visit sarasnacker.com.

Tuesday
Mar022010

Bonjour, Delicious: The Praluline from Pralus, Paris

While walking around Paris, pretty much everything you see in shop windows is alluring.

But even amidst all of the beautiful objets d'art and tempting pastries showcased at the street level, there is still something that will stop you in your tracks: the Praluline at Auguste Pralus's shop, a signature brioche which is "Often imitated, but never matched!". 

Curious about this unusual-looking treat, I did a little sleuthing. Turns out it has a rather storied past:

One lovely morning Auguste Pralus places a brioche with pralines in his showcase. Since that special day in 1955, the Praluline has never lost its premier position in each of the showcases in the Pralus pastry shops. 

A rich brioche flavored with pieces of pralines made in-house: Valencia almonds and Piedmont hazelnuts coated in rose sugar and then cracked. The addition of these rosy nut bits adding a unique flavor and texture to make the creation so special!

The Praluline is regularly sent to enthusiasts over the world (USA, Japan, Sweden...) This star of the Maison Pralus has also become a culinary ambassador for the region of Roanne. “marvelous buttery brioche filled with rose pralines” according to the tasty definition of Gille Pudlowski, the Praluline has traversed its local borders to become the uncontested star in all of the Pralus shops (Paris, Annecy, Charlieu…)

and of course, if you're not sold on it yet, the legacy continues, per their website:

For its 50th anniversary, the Praluline is accompanied by a little “sister”: the Pralusienne. Cousin of the Tropezienne which celebrated its half century also in 2005, the Pralusiennne presents a tasty partnership of the Praluline and a delicious crème mousseline with Madagascar Vanilla.

Now, after coming across the Praluline, I did start to see variations on the rose-sugar-praline theme in a lot of patisseries, and I can tell you firsthand that it is a very good combination. 

Want to get your hands on one? I hear a rumor that they'll ship worldwide upon request; it undoubtedly won't be cheap, but you can find out more by contacting them

Or, if you're lucky enough to be in Paris, hit up one of their shops; locations can be found here.

Monday
Mar012010

Egg-stra Special: Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict for Serious Eats

Eggs Benedict is like pleasure overload: savory little stacks of delicious excess, topped with a crowning glory of Hollandaise.

But could this brunch classic be recreated in a totally sweet form?

You bet your bottom silver dollar pancake. It's time to say hello to a new classic: Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict. It combines all of the excess of the savory dish, but in completely sweet form, comprised of stacks made of doughnut, brownie, melty Creme Eggs (complete with oozing yolk!), and a topping of rich frosting, all accompanied by a mound of fried pound cake to give the effect of side potatoes.

It's a sweet egg-stravaganza.

  • 2 Cadbury creme eggs
  • 1 plain cake doughnut
  • 1 brownie, the fudgier the better
  • 1 large slice pound cake, cut into small cubes
  • 1 tablespoon butter, such as Challenge Butter
  • Red sugar sprinkles, to garnish

Prepare your plate. Slice your doughnut in half; place the halves, cut side up, side by side on your plate.

Cut your brownie in half, the way that you would slice a bagel (so that you have two fully sized but thin brownie pieces). Either cut or shape each piece into a circle so that it is slightly smaller in circumference than the doughnut halves. Place the circles on top of the doughnut halves.

Prepare the Creme Eggs. The idea here is to get them lightly melty, but not so much that the yolk oozes out. I found that the best way to do this was to either put them on a sheet of aluminum foil atop a baking sheet and put them in either a toaster oven on high or a preheated moderate oven for about a minute. As soon as the tops of the chocolate eggs starts to get a bit shiny, remove them from heat, and very carefully (so as to not puncture the chocolate and let the yolk ooze out) transfer each egg to the top of your two prepared brownie and doughnut stacks. Top with lightly melty frosting.

Sprinkle each finished stack with red sugar sprinkles; serve immediately.

For the full post and how-to, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Mar012010

Sweet News: CakeSpy is a Nominee in Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards!

Guess what? I was surprised and delighted this morning to learn that CakeSpy is a nominee in Saveur's First Annual Food Blog Awards, in not one, but two categories!

First, it is nominated for Best Baking and Desserts Blog (with, I might mention, an intimidatingly talented crew of sweets bloggers!).

And second, my post on the legendary Salted Peanut Butter Crisps of 1950-55 has been nominated for Best Individual Post. Like, OMG!

It's super sweet to be nominated--and it would be super mega sweet to get your vote, buddies. Click here to vote for me for Best Baking and Desserts Blog, and click here to vote for my Salted Peanut Butter Crisps post! 

And thank you!

Monday
Mar012010

March For Sweetness: Trophy Cupcakes Debuts Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Buttercream for March

Everybody's Irish when there's a cupcake like this around!

That's right: it's March, and that means it's time for some serious sweetness at Trophy Cupcakes, where they've brought back their beloved St. Patrick's Day flavor for the entire month: Chocolate Guiness Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Buttercream frosting on top!

If you suspect that these cupcakes are comprised completely of awesome, you are right. The stout adds a wonderful density to the cake, leaning more toward chocolatey than toward a beer-y flavor; the Irish Cream in the buttercream gives it a little zing--just enough so that you know it's there, but not so much that it drives you to distraction.

Available at all three Trophy Cupcakes locations; for directions and hours, visit their website.

Monday
Mar012010

Sweet Liaisons at Maison Berthillon, Paris


So, in Paris there is this famous old ice cream shop called Berthillon on the Rue Saint Louise en L'ile, which, if you've never been there, is pretty much center-city and just about the Frenchiest little street you'll ever walk down. 

This place is hardly a secret--it's mentioned in all manner of guidebook and website--but that's ok, because awesome like this needs to be shared with the world.

Oh, Berthillon. 

On Dorie Greenspan's list of "The Paris Ten: Must-Tastes", she says

I know ice cream isn't the first food that jumps to mind when you think of Paris, but it would be a true pity if you went all the way to Paris and missed a scoop from Berthillon (31 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, Paris 4).  No one knows how Berthillon does it (and they're not telling), but they make ice cream with the deepest, truest flavors ever churned.  Getting ice cream from the shop is a pleasure - when the shop is open: for reasons unfathomable, Berthillon closes in August, the peak of ice-cream season.  Luckily, many shops sell Berthillon and they're so proud to do so that they post signs on their doors saying it's their scoop of choice.

And after having visited, it's a delight to say that they're not just coasting on their reputation: they get the job (that being making ice cream) done, and they get it done right. The ice creams are unbelievably creamy, and full of rich, deep flavor that is assertively, but not excessively, sweet. The attention to detail is phenomenal--the salted caramel ice cream is flecked with red sea salt; the pistachio is redolent with a rich nuttiness, and studded with actual pistachios; the coconut is an absolute knockout of rich creaminess. The cones even taste good! 

The ice cream may have been cold, but it certainly warmed this spy team's hearts and appetites.

Berthillon, 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, 75004 Paris, France; online at berthillon.fr.

Monday
Mar012010

Seeing Green: Irish Whiskey Maple Cupcakes all March Long at Cupcake Royale

March is in like a Lion at Cupcake Royale, where their flavor of the month is bound to make the masses roar with good cheer: Irish Whiskey Maple Cupcakes!

Here's the 411, direct from Cupcake Royale: 

It’s March 1...and you know what that means: Jameson Irish Whiskey Maple cupcakes are back at Cupcake Royale! In keeping with our mission to make Seattle’s most local cupcake, the March cupcake of the month is made from local ingredients like milk, eggs, and butter from Medowsweet Dairy and specially milled Shepherd’s Grain cake flour from Shepard’s Grain farmers in Eastern Washington.

But don't hesitate--in this spy's experience, the flavor of the month is usually first to disappear from the bakery case on most days! To ensure availability, call ahead.

Available all March long at the four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and contact info, visit www.cupcakeroyale.com. Of course, you can keep up to date with their goings-on at legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com and via Twitter.

Sunday
Feb282010

Shockingly Delicious: Legay Choc, Paris

So, CakeSpy and Company (myself, Mr. Spy, and friends Nicole and Ramon) just packed up and went to Paris for a week (It's OK to be jealous. I would be if the roles were reversed). We rented an apartment in the Marais, and upon meeting with the rental agent who gave us the keys and let us in, the first pressing question about the neighborhood was posed: "Quelle est la meilleur pâtisserie?"

Without skipping a beat, the response was "Legay Choc". Now, this kind of sounded like he was saying "the gay shock", but who am I to argue about a name when there is the promise of delicious pastry ahead?

And within five minutes, we were there. And Legay Choc, as it turned out, was tiny and adorable.

What did we get? So glad you asked.

A croissant, which was buttery, flaky, and tasted just how a croissant should;

a light and fluffy sweet demi baguette of briochelike dough studded with dark chocolate bits;

but the winner of the pastry round? Sans doute, the Roulé Cannelle (it translates to "cinnamon roll". I looked it up). It looks like a palmier, but it is really so much more. The pastry dough is coated in a sweet mixture of caramelized butter, sugar and cinnamon which gives it a tantalizing taste and crunch; it is harmoniously matched by a smattering of raisins which add little bursts of sweetness and soft texture to the mix. 

And as a side note, the employee  was extremely cute and nice--he somehow managed to not wince at my rusty gallic-speak, even when I accidentally pronounced "cannelle" as "canelé", which any French person can tell you is a different thing entirely.

Legay Choc gets a thumbs up, way haute.

Legay Choc, 17, Rue Des Archives, Paris 04; online at legaychoc.fr.

Saturday
Feb272010

Sweet Harmony: Opera Cake From Dalloyau, Paris

Dalloyau in Paris is renowned for their Gateau Opera, and I'm here to tell you why.

But before I do that, how about a little backstory on the baker behind the cake?

Dalloyau was founded in 1802 by Jean-Baptiste Dalloyau. He was no stranger to fancy food--both his father and grandfather had worked in royal kitchens. However, he was a visionary in that he was able to forecast that with the revolution coming and the end of court life, there would be a rising interest in food from the middle and upper classes--and he was there to feed them, with his concept of a "maison de gastronomie" which specialized in takeaway dishes that could be prepared by cooks.

Well, the concept certainly took off, and Dalloyau began to create quite a nice niche for itself. And pastry and sweets were a big part of it--according to the Dalloyau website, in 1883, founder Jean-Baptiste's great grandson, Achille Henri Dalloyau created the first modern ice cream store--and established the pastry union.

And as for the Opera cake? Well, according to an article in Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas,

The elegant opera cake premiered as the Clichy, introduced by Louis Clichy, with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. Years later, the renowned Parisian patisserie Dalloyau reintroduced and popularized it as L'Opera. This classic gateau is composed of exquisitely thin layers of biscuit viennois soaked in coffee syrup and then layered with coffee-flavored buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache. The top of the cake is iced with a very thin chocolate glaze, creating a pleasantly firm texture. This cake is traditionally square or rectangular with the sides of the cake exposed to reveal its tempting layers.

And Dalloyau's storied version is very, very good. The rich coffee flavor infuses every bite, adding a deep, dark layer of flavor to every other piece of it: the biscuit, the chocolate, and the rich, smooth buttercream. Not to get too poetic about it, but this is sort of the kind of dessert that makes you want to close your eyes and say "mmmm" for a very long moment.

Today, Dalloyau today is comprised of over 500 employees, counting amongst their ranks "97 cooks, 100 pastry cooks, chocolate makers, confectioners, 4 ice-cream makers and 4 bakers"--all the better to make more Gateau Opera to share with the world.

Gateau Opera from Dalloyau, available at Dalloyau boutiques and cafes; for more information, visit dalloyau.fr.

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