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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.

Thursday
Aug272009

Butter Me Up: The Famous St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

Gooey Butter Cake
Photos and recipe c/o CakeSpy buddy Kerry of Lollicakes.

I first learned of the existence of the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake a while back during the Regional Specialties cake poll. The name alone had me hooked: I had to know more.

But first things first: what is a Gooey Butter Cake, this food that the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission calls "one of St. Louis' popular, quirky foods"? While variations exist, it seems that the most important aspects are a bottom layer of buttery yellow cake and a and a top layer of...well, gooiness: but depending on who you ask, the top layer will consist of either egg and cream cheese, or butter and sugar. But in general, it is served as a coffee cake and not as a dessert cake.

As it turns out though, the foundation of the cake's story is about as soft as its gooey innards: there are varying accounts of who invented it and when.
Gooey Butter cake

Photo credit: Jen V., CakeSpy reader

According to Wikipedia, a legend about the cake's origin is included in Saint Louis Days...Saint Louis Nights, a cookbook published in the mid-1990s by the Junior League of St. Louis:
The cake was supposedly first made by accident in the 1930s by a St. Louis-area German American baker who was trying to make regular cake batter but reversed the proportions of sugar and flour.
But then again, according to What's Cooking America, at least two families take credit for the cake. The first is the Danzer family:

 

In late 1942 or early 1943, Johnny Hoffman of St. Louis Pastries Bakery was working on a Saturday and made what eventually turned out to be Gooey Butter Cake. You're right, it was a mistake! He subsequently called Herman Danzer, my dad, and told him he thought he may have something and asked to come to my dad's shop on Spring & Gravois to see if they could duplicate it.

They worked all Saturday, and through many trials and errors got it pretty good. The final batch they made, my dad suggested they add glycerin to get it really gooey. It worked - whereupon my mom, Melba Danzer, came into the shop from the store to see what these two guys were doing. When she tried it she said "this sure is gooey" subsequently, the name.

And then there's the Koppe family:

 

My father, John Koppe, a St. Louis baker, also developed the Gooey Butter Cake in the early 1940s...he owned and operated Koppe Bakery during World War II on California and Arsenal Streets in South St. Louis. His shop was located on the corner of two major bus lines, so people who were transferring would often stop in while waiting for their bus.

The Gooey Butter Cake was a smash hit with customers. The lines of customers spilled out the door and around the block. This cake was very gooey, rich, and exceptionally delicious! I remember that the goody butter cake is best described as very "GOOEY." You could eat it with a spoon! The top was sprinkled with powdered sugar and the edge was slightly crispy to hold it together - almost like a pudding. It was baked in a square shape and, of course, was light colored, like butter.

But while the cake's origins may be up in the air, one thing's for sure: it's a St. Louis institution. One company, Gooey Louie, specializes in a variety of takes on the Gooey Butter cake, including a variety of different flavors (including a "design-your-own-flavor" feature) as well as individual-serving cakes and tiny "Gooey Butter Bites". Around the St. Louis area it's a common cake to find in bakeries. Though not as common elsewhere, at least one savvy Cake Gumshoe sighted a version of it in a Seattle area Safeway!
Gooey Butter Cake
And happily, another Cake Gumshoe, Kerry of Lollicakes, was brave enough to try out the recipe to see for herself. Here's the recipe she used:

 

The Best St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix (Pillsbury works best) 
  • 4 extra large eggs 
  • 1 stick melted butter 
  • Pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese 
  • 1 box powdered sugar (3 1/2 cups)
  • Crisco or pam for greasing pan
Equipment:
  • 9 X 13 Pan 
  • Mixer 
Directions:

 

BUTTER CAKE MIXTURE:

  1. Get 9 x13 pan and grease with Crisco on the bottom and all sides. 
  2. Put yellow cake mix in mixing bowl. DO NOT FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS ON THE CAKE BOX. Add 2 extra large eggs, 1 stick of melted butter in microwave about 35 seconds, and 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Mix together in mixer. Batter will have a very most feel to it. Take cake batter and spread evenly through 9 x 13 pan so it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. 
  3. Clean off mixers and mixing bowl. 

GOOEY MIXTURE:

 

 

  1. Melt cream cheese in microwave about 45-50 seconds. 
  2. Put 3/4 of the powdered sugar in mixing bowl setting aside about 1/4 of the box for topping to sprinkle on after the cake is baked and cooled. In mixer add 3/4 powdered sugar, melted cream cheese, and 2 extra large eggs. Mix together in mixer. This will have a very GOOEY consistency as this is the gooey part of the cake. Take the Gooey mixture and layer on top of the cake batter mixture in pan. 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Here at sea level we bake it at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the top of the cake is browned (Note: Kerry baked hers for 35 minutes and thought it was perhaps slightly over-baked). You want to make sure the gooey mixture on top of the cake is not too gooey otherwise it will be like a liquid. It is okay if the edges are brown and the top of the cake is lightly browned as well. 
  2. Once cooked remove from oven and let cool about two hours before cutting and adding remaining powdered sugar. Add remaining powdered sugar to coat/cover top of cake, cut like brownies and serve. 

 

Thursday
Aug272009

Sweet Art: Caution for Illustration Friday

Illustration Friday: Caution
This week's Illustration Friday theme is "Caution", and I suggest proceeding with serious caution before crossing the street in this part of town--these look like some tough cookies!

Thursday
Aug272009

Blonde on Blondie: The Blonde Bombshell from TrixieBakes

Blonde Bombshell Blondie by TrixieBakes
CakeSpy Note: This post appears concurrently on CakeSpy Seattle.

Let's talk about TrixieBakes. I had seen them before: I'd walked by their booth at the Madrona Farmer's Market, but had never purchased one of their brownies because at $4 a pop, they weren't exactly cheap. But after reading the DailyCandy feature on the brownies, paired with a reader writing to tell me how amazing they were, I knew I was going to have to fork over the cash.

Since I am one of those few people who prefers blondies to brownies, of course I had to go for the "blonde bombshell", described on their site as

A luscious blondie with an indecent amount of brown sugar and pecans
You can never be too rich or too dense. Ok, that's not really how the saying goes, but it definitely applies to this big blondie.

Doesn't that just give you a shiver of anticipation?

So, I enjoyed the blondie for breakfast the next morning, and I am happy to report that it was a particularly fine specimen of blondiehood: dense, chewy, and full of butterscotch-y flavor. The pecans were a particularly nice touch, adding a slight crunch and flavor contrast.

But getting back to the price. Was it worth it? Well, no doubt about it, $4 is a lot for a brownie or blondie--I think that most will agree on that. But when I reflect on my blondie experience and how decadent and satisfying it was, I do believe I got $4 worth of joy out of the experience. I'm probably not going to indulge too frequently, but maybe that just makes it more special?

TrixieBakes blondies and brownies are available at the Madrona Farmer's Market each friday, 3-7 p.m.; they're also available at Flying Squirrel Pizza Co., 4920 S Genesee St., Seattle and Pauline Patisserie, 2315 NW Market St. Seattle; also online.

Monday
Aug242009

Put a Lid On It: How To Ship Cupcakes in Mason Jars, from Beantownbaker.com

How-to: Cupcakes in Jars, a guest blog post from Beantown baker
Continuing our monthlong celebration of birthdays and all things sweet, Jen from the very sweet site Beantown Baker has dreamed up a thoughtful way to share birthday cake with friends who are far away: cupcakes baked in Mason Jars! Here she goes:

One of the things I love most about baking is sharing my baked goods with other people. Whether it's baking something for a friend who had surgery, got a promotion, or for no reason at all, I get real joy out of baking for other people. Since most of my family is 1000+ miles away, they don't usually get to experience my baked goods. Last fall when we were coming into what I call birthday season, 6 birthdays from Oct-Dec, I really wanted to bake for my family members with birthdays coming up.

Since cupcakes are my favorite thing to bake, I decided to send them cupcakes. I had seen this idea online and decided to give it a shot. I sent cupcakes in a jar to family members across the country. They were all pretty shocked when the packages came. It was fun to get the phone calls from each of them thanking me for the creative way to share my baking with them. My Dad loved it so much, I've been told that he tells everyone about it. As a not-so-subtle hint, he also gave me a box of new jars for my birthday. I think he's expecting more cupcakes in a jar this year for his birthday!
Cupcakes in Jars: Guest Blog from Beantown BakerCupcakes in Jars: Guest Blog from Beantown Baker

How to Make and Ship Cupcakes in Mason Jars

 

You'll need: a batch of cupcakes (Jen's recipe for Funfetti cupcakes with chocolate frosting follows); one half-pint Mason jar per cupcake, plus ribbon for garnish.
  1. Bake cupcakes as directed and allow to cool completely. Remove cupcake liner and cut cupcake in half either vertically or horizontally. Place 1/2 of the cupcake into a sterilized 1/2 pint wide mouth jar. Add frosting to jar. At this point, add some fun extra, such as crushed Oreos or sprinkles. Place the other half the the cupcake in the jar (if you cut the cupcake vertically, it is easier to put both halves in the jar and pipe frosting between the two pieces). 
  2. Frost the cupcake as if it weren't in a jar. Add lid and ring to jar. Decorate with ribbon if you want. Be sure to tell your recipients to slide the lid off the jar as opposed to just pulling it up. Otherwise half of the frosting will stick to the lid.
  3. Mail immediately or place in freezer for a day or two then mail them. I like to freeze them and let the thaw as they are traveling to the unsuspecting recipients.

Cupcakes in Jars: Guest Blog from Beantown Baker
Yellow Funfetti Cupcakes
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line with parchment paper two 8×2-inch pans (These cakes rose over the top of my 2-inch pans - you could very well have a mess on your hands if you try 1.5 inch pans). Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 3 minutes on MEDIUM-HIGH speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Stir in sprinkles.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife or off-set spatula. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Let cool completely in the pans before removing the cakes and frosting.

Chocolate frosting
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar - I used 2 1/2 cups
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: 
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

 

 


Keep updated on all of Jen's sweet adventures on beantownbaker.com!

 

Monday
Aug242009

Plymouth Rocks: The Story of the Jumble for Serious Eats

Jumbles
Have you ever been curious about what the pilgrims ate on the Mayflower? 

Well, you're in for a treat: check out the writeup I did for Serious Eats about the Jumble, one of the first cookies that made it over to the US from the old world. Jumbles originally gained popularity because of the fact that they kept amazingly well on sea voyages (although undoubtedly they became pretty dense and rocklike by the end of the trip!). These days they've evolved into a soft, moist drop cookie with unlimited flavor variations. You can more about one of our nation's oldest cookies--as well as get a delicious recipe for a soft, spicy, frosted version (complete with mini candy rocks as a shout-out to Plymouth Rock!), on Serious Eats!
Jumbles, the Plymouth Rock treat

 

Sunday
Aug232009

This Little Piggy: The Miss Piggy Bacon and Chocolate Chip Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe, Seattle

"Miss Piggy" Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe
Bacon in baked goods. It's hardly a new culinary trick, but it has enjoyed a bit of a vogue in recent years, showing up in everything from chocolates to brownies to cupcakes...and now, chocolate chip cookies.

When I visited Volunteer Park Cafe for the first time the other day with my buddies Neil and Judy, we tried out their "Miss Piggy" cookie--a generously sized chocolate chip cookie studded with bacon bits.

In general, I don't seek out bacon in baked goods, feeling like it's more often a shock-value addition than something intended to really bring out the flavors--but in this case, I did feel as if it actually worked. The bacon was used sparingly, so the taste was more of a whisper than a shout. While our consensus was that perhaps the bacon could have been slightly more crisp to add a texture contrast to the chewy cookie, it was overall a pretty successful use of sweet and savory. And for vegeterians, I'm pretty confident that the same would hold true if the cookie had been made with Morningstar's soy-based bacon.

What do you think about bacon in baked goods? Is it simply a shock-value addition, or are there delicious merits?

The Miss Piggy Cookie, Volunteer Park Cafe (call for availability), 1501 17th Avenue East, Seattle; online at alwaysfreshgoodness.com.

Friday
Aug212009

Sweet Escape: Cake With Nail File from Criminal Crafts

Cake with Nail file by Criminal Crafts
We all need to make a stealthy exit sometimes--so why not add some gateau to your getaway with a super-sweet cake complete with prison-break nail file from Criminal Crafts?

These two-layer cakes are indeed edible, and come in a variety of cake and frosting combinations; they are coated in apricot glaze before shipping to preserve freshness; each cake has a (non-edible) durable 6" metal file (safely wrapped in a parchment paper seal) hidden in the lower layer. Of course, as they specify in their shop, "We’ve never actually tried to make a jail break with one, but seen it done in movies, so we’re fairly certain it should work" -- though refunds are not offered in case it doesn't.

Of course, there is some fine print:

This item is for delivery in the US only and will NOT be shipped directly to prisons, mental health facilities, government offices or HS detention, you’re just going to have to take it in person, and as we’ve spelled it out in delicious dark chocolate, “Good Luck”.

And finally, to sweeten the deal:

As a special offer we’re offering a 20% discount to anyone ordering who is under investigation for tax fraud or if your last name is Madoff. Please convo for more info on felony specials.

Sounds like one sweet escape!

 

CakeSpy Note: The artist in question, Shawn Bowman, is also part of an amazing upcoming event in Portland, OR: The Pie Fight Party! Click here for more information.

Thursday
Aug202009

Sea Biscuit: The Hermit Cookie of 1880-90

Delicious Sandwich Cookie
The late 1800s were a pretty eventful time in the USA: in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge was opened and Lady Liberty was installed; in the West, Billy the Kid and Jesse James bit the dust; the nation also grew, officially adding Washington, Montana and the Dakotas to the Union. And according to Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, the cookie of the decade was the Hermit:

One of our earliest favorites--rich with spices from the Indies, plump with fruits and nuts, Hermits originated in Cape Cod in Clipper Ship days. They went to sea on many a voyage, packed in canisters and tucked in sea chests.


Now, you may be wondering where this morsel got its funny name. There are a few theories uncovered on historycook.com:

 

Some say that the cookies were named because they look like a hermit's brown sack-cloth robe, but the earliest recipes are for white and round cookies. One possible lead is that the Moravians, an ethno-religious group well-known for thin spice cookies in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, were sometimes called "herrnhutter" in German or Dutch, and that might have sounded like "hermits" to an English-speaking cook.


Funny name and hazy origins aside, there's definitely another reason why hermits have lingered in our cookie jars: they're rich, cakey, moist, and satisfying. Adding raisins makes them taste vaguely virtuous, if you're into that--I'm not, so I substituted chocolate chips, and it worked out quite deliciously. They got even better when I sandwiched a slab of cheesecake filling between two of them (I think frosting would also work fantastically).
Hermits
Hermits


- makes about 3 dozen small cookies or 24 large cookies; if you're interested in the cheesecake filling shown in the top photo, you can find the recipe here -
 
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cold coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chocolate (or white chocolate) chips
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  1. Mix butter, sugar and egg thoroughly. Stir in coffee.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together; mix bit by bit into the butter/egg mixture.
  3. Once incorporated, add the chocolate chips and nuts and stir only until incorporated.
  4. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 400 F. 
  6. If you want small cookies, drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto your cookie sheet; if you're not scared of a big cookie, do as I did and use an ice cream scoop. 
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes for small cookies, 12 or so minutes for larger ones, or until there is the slightest crispiness on the bottom (as they have a light brown hue from the coffee, you've got to be careful about this!).

 

Thursday
Aug202009

Cake Byte: The ClaireSquares Mini Debuts!

Custom ClaireSquares piece
As you probably know, me n' Mr. CakeSpy are pretty big fans of ClaireSquares, a San Francisco-based baking company which specializes in a sort of stylized take on Millionaire's Shortbread (they're able to ship them too--you can order here). But they've just introduced an adorable (and exceedingly decadent-sounding) new product: a chocolate-covered mini ClaireSquare! Here's the official announcement:

After six months in the test kitchen, our cutest addition to the Clairesquares family has finally arrived.

We created a bite size square made of Irish styled shortbread and caramel, then drenched it in Belgian chocolate.
The first image shows mini squares passing through a curtain of chocolate; the second image shows Clairesquares' Minis passing out of the chocolate enrober cooling tunnel, ready for eating!

 

Starting on Saturday the 22nd at the San Francisco Street Food Festival, you can sample the sweet treats people have been raving about.


Upcoming Tasting opportunities:

 

 

  • This Saturday, 11am to 7pm on Folsom Street in front of La Cocina
  • Saturday 29th, 10am to 1pm Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, La Cocina booth.
  • Available exclusively at Andronico's Markets starting in September.


For more information, visit clairesquares.com or follow them via Twitter!

 

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