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Craftsy Writer
Thursday
Sep032009

What a Brownie-Noser: A Sweet Recipe from Julia M. Usher's Cookie Swap

Brown(ie) Noser from Julia M. Usher's Book
The Brown(ie) Noser: photo from Cookie Swap by Julia M. Usher used with permission.

 

As promised in the interview with Julia M. Usher, author of Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year (which you can win here!), here's a recipe for decadent butterscotch brownies with caramel and ganache on top!

Caramel Topping
  • 8 ounces caramel candies (about 27 cubes)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4½ teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Butterscotch Brownies

 

 

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3⁄8 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, chopped into
  • tablespoon-size pieces
  • 2¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
  • 2 cups pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • Ganache Glaze (optional)

    • 16 ounces premium semisweet chocolate
    • finely chopped or ground in a food processor
    • 1½ cups heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
    Directions:
    1. Make the Caramel Topping. Unwrap the caramel candies and combine with the cream and butter in a small nonreactive (stainless steel or coated) saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring regularly to prevent scorching, until the caramels and butter are completely melted and the mixture has boiled. Remove from the heat. Stir in the flour, mixing well to break apart any lumps. Add the vanilla extract and set the topping in a warm place so the caramel stays fluid while you prepare the brownie batter.
    2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 10 x 15 x 2-inch glass baking dish (sometimes called a roasting pan, p. 10) with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang around the top edge of the pan. Smooth out any big wrinkles in the foil and then lightly coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
    3. Mix the Butterscotch Brownies. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
    4. Place the butter in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has fully melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, mixing until smooth. (Note: Don’t be surprised if the butter and sugar do not completely come together at this point; some separation is normal.) Cool a few minutes; then add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and rum, if desired. Gradually add the flour mixture, whisking all the while to keep the batter lump free. Stir in the pecans. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and level with a small offset spatula. (The batter will be less than 1 inch thick, but it will bake to about twice its original thickness.)
    5. Drizzle the caramel topping evenly over the batter. (If the caramel has thickened and is difficult to drizzle, gently reheat it.) Marble the top (and break apart any large caramel blobs) by drawing a spatula through both the topping and the batter in a random pattern.
    6. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs on it, and the brownie has pulled away from the edges of the pan, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. (Areas that had larger helpings of caramel topping may sink slightly, but don’t worry; the ganache will completely cover any holes.)
    7. Prepare and apply the Ganache Glaze (optional). Make the glaze only after the brownies have completely cooled. Follow the instructions for Ganache (below).
    8. While the ganache is fluid, pour it evenly over the brownie. Gently tilt or shake the pan so that the ganache completely coats the brownie top. Cover with foil, taking care to keep it from touching the ganache. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, or until the ganache is firm enough to cut cleanly.
    9. Remove the brownies from the pan in one block by gently pulling up on the foil overhang. Place directly on a cutting board. Remove all foil, and trim any uneven edges before cutting into 1½-inch squares. For the neatest cuts, slice the bars while the ganache is firm and wipe the knife clean with a warm, damp cloth between slices. Serve at room temperature.
    Ganache Directions:
    1. Place the chopped (or ground) chocolate in a large bowl so it
    2. forms a shallow layer. Set aside.
    3. Pour the cream into a medium (3-quart) nonreactive (stainless steel or coated) saucepan. Place over medium to medium-high heat and scald the cream. (That is, heat the cream to just below the boiling point. The cream will put off steam, but no bubbles should break on its surface.)
    4. Immediately strain the hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly onto the chocolate. Let the mixture sit 1 to 2 minutes without stirring, and then gently whisk until the chocolate is entirely melted. (If the chocolate does not completely melt, set the bowl over barely simmering water in a double boiler and stir regularly until smooth. Do not overheat, or the ganache may break.) Stir in the corn syrup.
    5. To use the ganache as a glaze, pour it while lukewarm. Alternatively, for piping ganache, pour it into a shallow pan to a ½- to ¾-inch depth, cover, and refrigerate 20 to 25 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally during chilling to maintain a uniform consistency. (Hard, overchilled pieces of ganache should be broken up, as they can easily clog pastry tips when piping.) Chilling time will vary with starting ganache temperature, refrigerator temperature, and depth of the ganache. Watch the ganache closely, as it can quickly overchill and become difficult to pipe.


    For more information about Julia M. Usher, visit her site, become a Facebook fan or follow her on Twitter!

     

    Wednesday
    Sep022009

    Turning Trix: Tricked-Out Trix Treats

    Tricked Out Trix Treats
    It's already been established that Rice Krispies are not the only cereal treat on the sweet circuit. Trix Treats are one of the sweetest alternatives, and certainly one of the prettiest.

    But why stop at simple cereal treats? Having recently found myself with a bit of extra cream cheese frosting, I decided to tempt fate by making a good thing even better, and sandwiched a healthy dollop of frosting between Trix Treat halves. And after tasting the result, which was relentlessly rich and sweet and probably not low-carb, all I can say is that it only serves to reinforce my deep-seeded belief that frosting makes everything better.
    Trix Treats!

    If it's true that you are what you eat, then certainly eaters of these sweet treats are rich, colorful, and absolutely fabulous.

    Tricked-Out Trix Treats

     

    Makes about 12

    Ingredients for Trix Treats:
    • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
    • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
    • 6 cups Trix Cereal
    Ingredients for cream cheese frosting (note: this makes about 3 cups of frosting, so there will be extra. I had made a batch of this frosting for cupcakes and used the leftover frosting for the Trix Treats. I have not tried to halve the recipe, but that could be an option if you don't want extra.)
    • 1 (8)-ounce package of cream cheese, softened (do not substitute low-fat; it just doesn't work the same way)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar (depending on your desired consistency)
    Directions for the Trix Treats:
    1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
    2. Add Trix cereal. Stir until well coated.
    3. Using wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch greased pan. Let cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.
    Directions for cream cheese frosting:
    1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt until the butter is completely incorporated into the cream cheese and it has a smooth consistency. Add the confectioners' sugar cup by cup, stirring after each addition, until it has reached the desired consistency.
    Assembling it all:
    Using a sharp knife, cut squares in half. Apply a liberal dollop of either vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting to the bottom and re-apply the top half. For extra flair, apply rainbow sprinkles to the exposed frosting on the sides to really trick out your treats. Serve immediately.

     

    Wednesday
    Sep022009

    Cake Byte: Totally Sweet Rolling Lego Cookie Cutter


    This is a sweet find from Cake Gumshoe Matt: a Rolling Lego Cookie Cutter! This is not something I want--this is something I need.

    Get the full scoop on cnet.com; to purchase, visit the Lego Online Store.

    Wednesday
    Sep022009

    Cake Byte: September Sweetness at Trophy Cupcakes!

    What's new at Trophy Cupcakes in September? Here's the scoop on their newest flavor:

    Blueberry Pie! Our Vanilla Buttercake with a buttery pie crust on the bottom...then filled with housemade organic blueberry pie filling and topped with Vanilla Bean Buttercream...whoa! Available Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    But that's not the only reason to visit Trophy Cupcakes this month: they also have a wonderful new art show by talented photographer Elizabeth Soule (example shown left)! The show will be up through September in their Wallingford location.

    What are you waiting for? Get yourself over to one of the Trophy Cupcakes locations! For more information, stay connected with Trophy via their site, their Facebook page, or their Twitter feed.

    Tuesday
    Sep012009

    Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

    9.1.09 Links of the week!
    Just a small collection of sweet things that are consuming the CakeSpy collective consciousness this week:

    Circus Animal Cookie Magnets by Cherry Dot!

    Sweet cupcake pendants in a rainbow of colors, via Bmoresweet

    Stuffed Artisan Cannolis slated to open this fall in NYC!

    Gooey Butter Cake...or Neiman Marcus Bars? Sasha Says investigates.

    Common Object Jewelry has sweet jewelry cast from gummi bears (image above) and chocolate chips!

    Caipirinha Truffles via The Cookie Shop? Oh yes! (image above)

    It's Biscuit Time: Sticky Apple Butter Biscuits via The Knead for Bread.

    Cookies? Cocktails? How 'bout both...at the same time? via Edible Crafts (image above).

    Seriously...is Magnolia Bakery taking over the world?

    Jess Thomson presents a cake that is easy to bake and perfect for breakfast.

    Strawberry Bavarois With Chocolate Pashmak. I don't even know what it is, but it sounds ridiculously good!

    All things awesome unite, sweetly, when Savory Sweet Life guest blogs about cupcakes on the Al Dente Blog.

    If you missed my Serious Eats entry on Cupcake Milkshakes inspired by CupShakes, well, here's your reminder to check it out.

    Rice Krispie treats with a special surprise: they're filled with ice cream!

    Tuesday
    Sep012009

    Sweet September: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Blue Mountain Huckleberry Cupcake!

    Photo c/o Cupcake Royale: Blue Mountain Huckleberry Cupcakes
    September is certainly off to a sweet start: just check out the new flavor of the month at Cupcake Royale! Here's the 411:

    We teamed up with the good people over at Foraged & Found to bring you a cupcake bursting with wild huckleberry goodness! Our delicious vanilla buttercake is loaded with the little gems, and we top the whole thing off with a perfectly tart huckleberry buttercream. It doesn't get any fresher than this folks. Straight from the forest and into the oven!

    To obtain one of these cupcakes, you can visit any of the four Cupcake Royale locations all September long; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com; for instant updates, follow them on Twitter!

    Tuesday
    Sep012009

    Sweet Spot: Cakes by One Tough Cookie in NYC

    Engagement cake by One Tough CookieCupcake by One Tough Cookie
    Are you in NYC and in need of a super sweet special occasion cake? Or cupcakes or cookies, for that matter?

    Well, according to CakeSpy reader Marie, One Tough Cookie, an NYC-based special order bakery, is the spot. Here's what she had to say:

    My fiance Gabriel and I were hosting an engagement party in the Hamptons for our friends and family; being an absolute cake and cookie addict I had to get myself a perfect engagement cake. That's when I discovered OneToughCookie (a friend told me about her), who creates delicious, custom made cakes which she decorates with cookies - real works of art!

    I just want to spread the word about her, because by creating my engagement cake she contributed to a perfect day in my life and I will definitely ask her to bake my wedding cake as well (the wedding will be next may...)! I thought you might be interested in her since her cakes are really unique and so tasty...I am absolutely amazed by her work and the cake was a dream!

    Based on the pictures, it looks like a great find! For more information, visit onetoughcookienyc.com (warning: music plays upon opening the page).

    Monday
    Aug312009

    Love Me Tender, Love Me Sweet: Elvis's Banana Pudding

    Elvis's Banana Pudding
    When it comes to Elvis and food, undoubtedly you're going to think of his famous favorite sandwich, comprised of peanut butter, fried bacon, banana, and (depending on who you ask) honey, all nestled between slices of white bread and prepared in a griddle, grilled cheese style.

    I know. With a dish like that associated with your name, you practically don't need to do anything else in life.

    But Elvis did.
    Elvis's Banana Pudding
    Not only did he give us a plethora of musical hits and aforementioned sandwich, but as part of his legacy he also gave us an intensely creamy, meringue-topped banana pudding. Apparently, it was part of the Graceland doctrine that a batch this pudding be prepared nightly; as rumor has it, the King would mash up various pills in it (although if they were a pick-me-up or come-down, I don't know). Of course, I learned this all from the best possible source: a postcard from Graceland from one of my oldest friends.
    Elvis PuddingPostcard about Elvis Pudding

    A banana pudding so craveable immediately had me intrigued, and of course I made up a batch right away. I cut the original recipe in half and omitted the meringue topping (the egg whites can be frozen for later use); it seemed to work out fine, and yielded an unbelievably creamy and rich pudding. While I think I still prefer the Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, this one definitely wins points for its rich history and taste.

    Elvis's Banana Pudding (With Some Liberties Taken)

    • 2 large (or three small) ripe bananas
    • 4 eggs, separated
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 1/8 lb butter
    • 3 cups milk
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
    • About half a box of Nilla Wafers


    Pudding
    1. In a large saucepan, mix together the milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and butter and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens (for me, this was about 25 minutes--but you've got to be watching it the whole time). Add vanilla.
    Elvis's Banana PuddingElvis's Banana Pudding
    2. In a medium (9x13 inch) pyrex pan or similarly sized baking pan, layer the bananas and wafers.

    3. Pour the pudding over the bananas and wafers.
    4. If you want to add the meringue topping: beat the egg whites with 4 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Cover the pudding with the meringue.
    5. With or without meringue, bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
    * As a serving note, it's lovely served in a parfait glass with a thick dollop of whipped cream.

     

    Monday
    Aug312009

    Cake Byte: Learn How To Make a Cupcake Milkshake on Serious Eats

    Cupcake Milkshake Time!
    When cupcakes and ice cream cones collide in the blender, magic occurs: I'm talking about the Cupcake Milkshake here, inspired by Cupcake Shakes (a beautiful new collaboration between Utah-based The Sweet Tooth Fairy and Sammy's Cafe). While I wasn't able to hop a plane to try theirs, I did have success trying out my own version at home. You can find more information about Cupcake MilkShakes here, and you can find the recipe for my variation on Serious Eats!

    Saturday
    Aug292009

    Cake Byte: Renegade Cupcakes and Music in Cal Anderson Park Tomorrow!

    Capitol Hill Cuppies
    Do you like cupcakes? Do you like music? Do you live in Seattle?

    Well, if so, prepare yourself for a healthy batch of awesome: CakeSpy and Exohxo are hitting Seattle's Cal Anderson Park tomorrow for a (shh!) Renegade Cake Party!

    So after you've finished your brunch at Linda's or Glo's, head over to Cal Anderson Park, where there will be cupcakes and some music from local band Exohxo (you may recognize the good-looking singer/guitarist as Mr. CakeSpy). The occasion? Well, we could call it a belated birthday party for Head Spy Jessie -- but do you really need a reason to celebrate?

    Sunday, August 30. 2 p.m. Cal Anderson Park. Capitol Hill, Seattle.

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