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Saturday
Feb272010

An Educaketion: An Oscar-inspired Battenberg Cake for Serious Eats

Really, Battenberg Cake is a perfect food analogy for the film An Education.

It starts out with an unlikely pairing—only instead of May-December lovers, it's two cakes, one a light, girly pink; the other a rich, refined Madagascar vanilla (which in my version includes worldly splash of amaretto).

And like the film's main characters, both flavors breathe new life when put together. You get a delicious shot of sweetness from the pink cake paired with the intensity of the amaretto-infused cake. It's beautifully rounded out by a thick slather of preserves (and, if you're feeling decadent, a smear of buttercream frosting), all blanketed in a rich layer of marzipan.

Of course, unlike the film, you don't have to take the bitter with this sweetness. Dramatic, layered with sweet subtleties, and ever-so-British: consider this An Educaketion.

For the full writeup and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Friday
Feb262010

Mac Attack: Macarons at McDonalds in Paris

It may be the home of Le Big Mac, but this Mac Attack has nothing to do with burgers. It's macarons, friends, and for better or worse, if you go to Paris, you can get them at McDonalds. 

Does this mean Laduree and Pierre Herme are in trouble? Is the MacDo Macaron a sort of death knell for the fancy French cookie, a surefire sign that they have jumped the shark?

I can't say for sure as I didn't try them, but when I happened upon this case on my recent Paris trip I couldn't resist capturing the moment.

Photo taken at the McDonalds at the Louvre; it was also featured as the Serious Eats Photo of the Day!

Friday
Feb262010

Sweet Art: Perspective for Illustration Friday

When you think of perspective in art, usually the first inclination is to think of the visual point of view. But sometimes the point of view of the artist is just as interesting: case in point, Frida Kahlo. She was a fearless painter, not afraid of painting her emotions or her unibrow. And I hear that she made a mean pan de muerto as well, so that makes her a-ok in my book.

And it makes her (in cupcake form, natch) a perfect fit for this week's Illustration Friday theme of Perspective. This is a painting I did as a custom request--I think the unibrow is quite becoming on Cuppie.

Friday
Feb262010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Emily of The Divine Cupcake

What happens when a midwife and a sound engineer decide to open a cupcake business? No, it's not the plot line of the latest reality show (although perhaps it should be)--it's the story of The Divine Cupcake, a custom-order cupcake business in Eugene, Oregon which is upgrading to retail storefront set to open on March 5. Want to know more? Here's an interview with proprietress Emily Downing-Moore.

CakeSpy: You are also a midwife. Do you ever offer combo specials--say, delivery and a dozen cupcakes?

Emily Downing-Moore: I wish! Maybe if I was in a small private practice, but as of now I'm in a group practice, delivering around 50-60 babies a month between us, so that would be a lot of cupcakes to coordinate! A lot of our women are also loyal cupcake customers though!

CS: How does it feel to be making the jump from custom order bakery to retail storefront?

EDM: It feels awesome! It's been our dream since we started the business, and we are so excited that its grown to a point where we can make the leap. I'm most excited to be able to offer people a variety of flavors, because up to this point if you ordered from us it was one flavor per dozen.

CS: Are your offerings going to change at all with the transition?

EDM: Yes! We will be able to offer more variety of flavors and we will also be offering Organic espresso, teas and drinking chocolate. We have a huge list of cupcake flavors to start experimenting with now that we have a bigger kitchen! We will also be making specific tea-cupcake and coffee-cupcake menus so people can see what drinks go with specific flavors the best.

CS: Because it's the question that everyone asks me, I'm curious about your response: why cupcakes?

EDM: We get asked this all the time as well! We usually say why not?! Everybody loves cupcakes! We chose them because they are fun to make, and the creativity you can infuse into cupcakes is endless. They are the perfect size dessert, and there is no better feeling than seeing people's face light up with a huge smile when they seem them.

CS: What is the first cake you remember baking?

EDM: Chocolate, of course!

CS: If you had to pick a flavor that you'd say is "very Eugene"...which would it be?

EDM: I asked Eugene what flavor they thought was "very Eugene" and the list was hilarious. I actually meant what flavor off the menu but you should check out the facebook page for all the responses. Hilarious! From that list it looks like I need to make a blackberry & a hazelnut cupcake. If I had to pick one from the current menu, I'd say the Electric Pumpkin. The name catches the eye of everyone, and they always ask me what makes it "electric." You can decide on your own why I might say it's the most "Eugene", but really... there's only food ingredients in it!

CS: Can gluten free cupcakes really be delicious?

EDM: Yes! However, the texture will always be different from a wheat cupcake, so as long as you can eat it without the expectation of that being the same, the flavors are delicious. Lemon is my favorite!

CS: Any special events for opening day?

EDM: Free Cupcakes, Live Music & the Emerald City Roller Girls will be skating around the parking lot.

Want more? Luckily, The Divine Cupcake is all over the interwebz. Check them out on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and on their website. And if you're lucky enough to live in the Eugene area, hit 'em up starting on their opening day, March 5; the retail storefront is located at 1680 W. 11th Avenue in Eugene, OR.

Friday
Feb262010

Cinematic Sweets: Inglourious Custards for Serious Eats

In the film Inglourious Basterds, a group going by the same name is set on taking down an evil regime in a blaze of glory. It's pretty intense.

And should you desire something intensely delicious as you watch, I couldn't imagine a more enjoyable treat than these Inglourious Custards.

These mini custards are an ideal cinematic snack: perfect portions of smooth, creamy vanilla custard in lightly crunchy phyllo cups which act as a vessel (a forgiving one, at that, if your custard hasn't set completely) as well as adding taste and flavor contrast. They're compulsively eatable: in fact, they go down so easily you'll be ready for a sequel in no time.

For the full scoop and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Feb242010

Go Nuts: Peanut Butter Blondies with Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post and recipe from Cake Gumshoe Julia, a 26 old wife, exercise fiend, and baking enthusiast. Her writing can be find at her site, Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body.

 Do you love peanut butter?

Did you know I love peanut butter?

I mean LOVE peanut butter. Not in a romantic way, but in a mouth watering, makes my taste buds sing kinda way. As I am getting older, not old, just older, I'm growing out of the idea that a dessert has to be based around chocolate. I now understand that a freaking amazing, mouth watering, makes you jump in the air with excitement, dessert can be based on something other than chocolate: peanut butter.

Saturday morning I woke up super early with lots of excitement and anticipation about what I would bake that day--and I realized it must be Blondies. And I could add peanut butter and make them extra delicious. I felt content with my decision. And after you make these, you will understand why I was so content. I can't say I am in love with these, because I am in love with my husband (ahh, how romantic of me). But I can say, with confidence, that these are one of my all time favorite desserts.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Recipe adapted from My Kitchen Addiction

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Frosting

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

 Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly until smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter.
  4. Allow to cool while combining the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt – in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the brown sugar and peanut butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  6. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared dry ingredients, and stir to create a thick, smooth batter.
  8. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly to the edges of the pan.
  9. Sprinkle with the milk chocolate chips, lightly pressing them into the batter.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.
  11. Mix all the frosting ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer. Beat for about 2-3 minutes; until all the ingredients are incorporated. Spread onto the cooled blondies.
  12. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Cut into 15 large squares, serve and enjoy with a glass of ice cold milk!

These are rich, dense, and simply delicious!

Tuesday
Feb232010

Cake Byte: Sweet New Products at CakeSpyShop.com!

It's time to let some sweetness into your life. Here's what you should do.

1. Drop whatever you are doing. Ok, maybe not like, literally, especially if you're holding a baby or performing open heart surgery or something (although props to you for being on this website at the same time).

2. Obtain a sweet treat of some sort. If you don't happen to have some delicious peanut butter cookies or avocado cake on hand, hit up your local bakery.

3. Finally--and this is very important--log on to the CakeSpy Shop for some seriously sweet new gear! There are a bunch of new things:

 

4. And yeah, once your purchase is complete (or perhaps while you are browsing the shop), you probably need to watch aforementioned Bakerella video. Again. Here it is:

And hey, if you're in Seattle, get ready for some serious sweetness! CakeSpy is taking over the lease on an art gallery and gift shop in Capitol Hill called Bluebottle Art Gallery. It's about to become a seriously sweet spot to pick up CakeSpy products! Read more here.

Monday
Feb222010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe, Mount Holly, VT

I'm not against a little matchmaking...when the match in question is a bakery.

So when CakeSpy reader Jen wrote saying "have I met a bakery that would be great for you!" I clicked over to their website, and knew that she was right: we were a perfect match. 

That was how my long-distance love affair began with A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe, a sweet bakery in Mount Holly, Vermont. 

Now, I have a few reasons why one should love A Dozen Eggs--sweetly decorated cookies for just about every occasion and interest (say hello to your new go-to source for baseball, female golfing, ballet, birthday, skunk-love, penguin, and butterfly cookies); cupcakes that look pretty and like they have a great frosting-to-cake-ratio; and of course, that New England classic, the Whoopie Pie. Several of the items can be shipped, too.

But of course, from a distance, it's hard to tell how the sweets taste. Just as good as they look, Jen assures us, who, when asked her favorite items from the shop, had this to say:

"Well their cookies are not only impeccably decorated but delicious as well.  So are their homemade marshmallows! And my dogs have enjoyed their pumpkin doggy biscotti.  Too many to list!!"

That's good enough for me. Another bakery match made in heaven!

In Vermont? You can check out A Dozen Eggs yourself at 1871 Route 103 in Mount Holly Vermont; or, some items are also available for nationwide shipping too via their website; online at adozeneggs.com.

Saturday
Feb202010

Cakewalk: A Sweet Trip to Breckenridge, CO With Rainy Day Gal

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Rainy Day Gal (a.k.a. Jenny Miller), a fellow Seattle blogger with a major sweet tooth.

The fam and I are back from a visit, and a ski trip, with Husband's folks in Colorado. High, dry, cold Colorado.

Here's a few things I learned about living at 10,000 feet:

1) You always feel dehydrated, even after downing 3 gallons of water in one day. Yup. I counted.

2) It's dry. Your nose will bleed. Your skin will chap. You feel like you can never breathe quite right. You will look like you have pneumonia when you don't.

3) It's freaking cold. Our first day on the mountain the wind chill was -12. Husband wore one of those embarrasing but effective neoprene face masks. I may have laughed at him a little. And then my throat froze so I stopped.

4) It makes for some fantastic damn skiing. and, finally:

5) It's hard to bake anything correctly. Cupcakes collapse into hockey pucks. Cookies melt right into the baking pan. And a chocolate cake will turn out more like a pan of brownies.

That last part being said, I was curious: how great could bakeries be at this altitude? Even if you make all of the flour, butter, and baking time adjustments, would the baked goods two miles high measure up to those down at sea level? Lucy, my dear ma-in-law and I bundled up and set out on a quest. 

Part 1: The Adventure

Our first stop? Clint's.Our concierge pal Nate tipped us off that they had some rockin carrot cake. And if you've ever met me you know that I could eat my weight in carrot cake any day of the week. It's a cute two-level sort o deal, with sweets and coffee upstairs and the more savory junk downstairs. I think all restaurants should be divided this way. I would always know exactly where to sit. I was a bit taken aback at the pastry case---everything was wrapped in cellophane. I don't know about you, but to me saran wrapped baked goods are a bit drive-thru coffee stand. It then dawned on me that this was a result of the dry atmosphere in this neck o the woods. Those loverly croissants would dry out quicker than a wino in jail if not for that tacky yet effective cellophane. But we weren't here for the pastries, my friends. We were here for the goods.

And this big ol' slab-o-cake (pictured at the top of the post too) did not disappoint. It was perfectly moist, despite all of the obstacles to keep it that way. The cream cheese frosting walked the fine line between too sweet and too cream-cheesey with ease. The side was coated with chopped walnuts, which I adore. It gives it such good crunch and texture, plus cuts the sweetness of the frosting nicely. The frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect. Nothing bugs me more than too little frosting over too much cake. Nate, thank you for bringing this carrot cake into my life. Clint's, kudos for a job well done. With our bellies full of sweet, nutritious (a main ingredient is carrot, after all) cake, we put our jackets back on and ventured to our next destination.

Mary's Mountain Cookies. It's a cute little shop, and by little I mean about 6 feet by 6 feet. They make cookies and nothing else. I always admire that in a bakery--stick with what you're good at. Diversity is overrated. They had the usual suspects: snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter. But they also had intriguing sandwich numbers stacked with buttercream frosting, and these naughty dipped cookies that weighted a quarter pound each (pictured above). Holy fat cookie, Batman.

In the end, we took home three varieties: cranberry white chocolate chip, double fudge white chip, and a "White Out"--two snickerdoodles hugging a hefty dollop of vanilla buttercream. Being that our palates were still sugared-out from carrot cake, we decided to wait for the troops to come back from skiing before sampling these beauties.

Meanwhile, we moved on. Word on the street was that there was a cupcake joint in town that was not to be missed. And I'm always game for a new cupcake joint. But, sadly, it was not our day. Our path was blocked by a man-eating, frosting-throwing, Jaba the Hut-sized Snow Cupcake! It took all of our efforts to dodge his attempts to devour us in his huge, snow-frosting-blob of a mouth. Then we moved on...

 ...and arrived at Breckenridge's own Rocky Mountain Cupcakes. It's a sizeable shop with a rustic, ski-lodge sorta feel. They had quite a few varieties to choose from--all beautiful, perfectly frosted, and topped with something interesting. Ready for some cupcake porn? Here we go. They had flavors including chocolate coconut...

...strawberry snowflake (have you ever seen a cuter cupcake?)...

...key lime...

...chocolate chai...

...butterscotch...

...and the cutest red velvet I've ever laid eyes on. Which ones to pick? We debated a while.

In the end, we settled on strawberry (because it was cute, plus I wanted to know if it actually tasted as pink as it looked), chocolate chai (for my dear ma-in-law, who loves her some chai), key lime (pretty, and an intriguing cupcake flavor), and "Double Diamond" (for husband--double chocolate).

Part 2: The Tasting

We meandered home, and set the bakery boxes on the counter, warmed our toes, and then twiddled our thumbs and waited for the gang to get home so we could sample our loot.

Lu and I drifted off into a warm mid-afternoon nap, dreaming of skiing cookies and snowboarding cupcakes. When we awoke, much to our dismay, one of the cookies was missing. Gone. Finito. Never to be seen or heard from again.

It was, sadly, the double chocolate white chip. The one I had picked out for myself. The one I had been looking forward to all afternoon. Scanning the fam, they all had mysterious chocolate crumbs at the corners of their mouths. Little devils.

Luckily, the other two cookies more than made up for it. The cranberry white chocolate chip was amazing--buttery and soft, crunchy at the edges, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. The "White Out" was absolutely insane: two of the best snickerdoodles I have ever had sandwiched with a vanilla buttercream, emphasis on the cream. It was delicious. It was divine. It weighted about two pounds.

We had no trouble finishing either cookie and moving on to the cupcakes.

The chocolate chai was the obvious winner. Moist, rich chocolate cake covered with a creamy chai-flavored frosting. Totally yummy.

The strawberry? Let's just say it tasted very, very pink. I'll leave it at that. The key lime and the double chocolate were fairly yummy, although both left something to be desired in the cake department. Overall? Decent cupcakes. Not spectacular, not terrible. Middle of the road. Except for the strawberry. That was far off the road in the ditch. But the others? Inventive, pretty and just fine.

The final word? When we go back to Breck next year, I will do two things:

1) Eat my weight in Clint's carrot cake.

2) Sample every cookie Mary's has to offer. They know how to make a seriously yummy cookie, even at 10,000 feet.

Well, I'm off to recover from traveling with an 11-month old, hit the grocery because last night we had to eat bratwursts from 2007, and hopefully put a dent in the mountain of laundry we brought back from the mountain. Thanks to the lovely bakeries of Breckenridge, CO for the delicious treats. I will not thank you, however, for my post-vacation waistline.

Places Mentioned:

Clint's Bakery and Coffee House, 131 S Main St BreckenridgeCO

Mary's Mountain Cookies, 128 South Main St., Breckenridge, CO

Rocky Mountain Cupcakes, Main Street, Breckenridge, CO

For Jenny's full review, visit her website.

Friday
Feb192010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Patisseries I'll Be Visiting in Paris

Guess what? I'm in Paris right now. And to share a bit of the sweetness, here's just a baker's dozen (in no particular order) of the many sweet spots on my must-visit list in the City of Lights!

Laduree, because it's a magical place.

Pierre Herme, because he's kind of like a macaron rock star.

Patisserie des Reves, because Dorie Greenspan says it's great.

Synie's Cupcakes, because I'm curious to see the French take on the American trend.

Hotel du Cadran, because apparently they have a chocolate shop and great macarons on premises!

Dalloyau, because I hear this rumor that they have a killer Opera Cake.

Chistian Constant, because Clotilde Dusoulier says they have a "picture perfect cup of hot chocolate"

Baillardran, because a pastry shop in a train station is intriguing.

Lecureuil, because they are said to have "petits fours that seem right out of a children's book.

U Sputinu, because I'm into "produits tres bons Corses".

Berthillon, because visiting a famous glacier sounds pretty fantastic.

La Grande Epicerie, because I think I could spend many hours just wandering here.

Patisserie au Grand Richelieu, because it looks old and wonderful.

(P.S. Any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments! I'm in Paris all week!)

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