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Thursday
Feb182010

Cake Byte: CupcakeCamp Seattle is Coming!

Summer camp? Not so much. Bad crafts and bad food = big bummer.

CupcakeCamp, however, is a different story. Because at this camp, everyone's a winner, because they all get cupcakes. It's a franchise which has enjoyed great success in New York and San Francisco, and now, thanks to coordinator Carrie of Bella Cupcake Couture (a CakeSpy sponsor and awesome company in general), it's coming to Seattle! 

So what exactly is CupcakeCamp? Per the website, it is

An event for cupcake lovers: Bake or buy cupcakes to bring -or- just come to eat and help a good cause. Activities include cupcake eating contests, cupcake wrapper decorating, bakers competitions, Hope Heart Institute fundraiser and more.  Best of all … it’s FREE.

Once again, just in case you didn't catch that last part: it's free!

Here are the details:

When: Saturday April 10, 2010 11am-2pm
Where: 415 Westlake, Seattle WA
Why: Because who doesn’t love cupcakes?

Oh, and of course, you've got to love the CakeSpy-designed promotional postcard! (pictured top)

For more details and to see how you can become involved, visit the “About” section on the Cupcake Camp Seattle website!

Tuesday
Feb162010

Cake Byte: CakeSpy is Taking Over a Gallery in Seattle!

It's true, friends: CakeSpy is gonna have a retail shop.

In breaking cake news, I have decided to purchase Seattle's Bluebottle Art Gallery!

Bluebottle Art Gallery is a Capitol Hill landmark, a wonderful source for handmade artwork by a variety of awesome artists.

It will remain a gallery which carries the work of several artists, but in taking it over I will become the gallery's main artist and maintain my studio in the retail space!

The takeover will be official on April 1st.

You can learn more on the Bluebottle site, or from early buzz on the Capitol Hill Seattle and Seattle Metropolitan websites.

I am off now for a vacation planned before this all came about, but there will be more information in the next week or so! 

Tuesday
Feb162010

Amuse Bouchon: The Bouchon Ho Ho, Bouchon Bakery, NYC

It's time to talk about the fanciest Ho Ho you'll ever meet: the Bouchon Bakery Ho Ho.

I'll admit, when I first encountered this $5.25 log of chocolate and buttercream at Bouchon Bakery's Columbus Circle location, I was, to put it mildly, conflicted.

On the one hand: Awesome! It's a Ho Ho! But Fancy!

But on the other hand: Hey! This Ho Ho costs more than $5! What are they trying to pull?

And while tasting it was delightful, it actually made me even more confused.

On the one hand: This is a well made baked good. Each bite is exquisite, obviously made with fine ingredients, redolent with rich, dark chocolate cake, rich buttercream all enrobed in a decadent dark chocolate.

But on the other hand: Somehow it seems with every bite that nostalgia is playing a game with you, because it tastes so right...but isn't all of the wrongness of the original what makes it so wonderful?

Faced with a sweet dilemma, a piece of said fancy Ho Ho was presented to Cake Gumshoe Margie (um, also my mom), whose eyes widened upon the prospect of such a fancy version of a childhood favorite. Her esteemed opinion?

"It's very good...but if anything...it tastes just a little too fancy".

So, where does this leave us?

On the one hand: When we make bad stuff good, there's an appeal that can't be denied, something deeply rooted in nostalgia that appeals to our developed tastes.

But on the other hand: Unfortunately, as it seems, as much as we might want these treats to grow up with us, sometimes we can't get past the fact that the bad is sometimes what makes these treats so good.

Of course, in conclusion, I would like to say that you wouldn't have to twist my arm too hard to buy another one of these deliciously decadent treats--because never has existential musing been so sweet.

What do you think? Is making junk food gourmet a good or a bad thing?

The Bouchon Ho Ho, available at Bouchon Bakery; for locations, visit bouchonbakery.com. Call to ensure availability.

Tuesday
Feb162010

Love in the Mail: Cookies from Abigail's Bake Shop

Homemade Oreo Cookies from Abigail's Bake ShopThe most beautiful words in the English language? Cookie Sampler.

That's what I received recently from Abigail's Bake Shop, a special-order bakery based in Raleigh, NC. Locals can order from a full menu of cakes and pastries; for the rest of us, they'll ship cookies. And oh, those cookies.

The parcel which arrived was packed to the brim with cookies: snickerdoodles, chocolate chip and chocolate chip walnut cookies, peanut butter and peanut butter chocolate cookies, old fashioned sugar cookies, iced heart cookies, homemade oreos, and...cute...a single brownie in the shape of a heart.

Normally a parcel of this magnitude would last several days, but luckily it was in the hands of professionals, and several Cake Gumshoes set to professionally sampling these goods.

The highlights?

The "signature" sugar cookies, which were lightly crumbly on the edges and the just-baked side of cookie dough in the center;

the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which likewise were crumbly on the edges but dense and chewy inside, with a wonderful, well rounded peanut butteriness that was sweet and salty and matched perfectly with peanut butter's bff, chocolate;

and...of course...the homemade oreos.

Now, it can be a hard thing to wrap one's mind around the idea of a "homemade" sweet that is usually store-bought--sometimes, even if it is technically better quality, it comes up lacking because it doesn't have that nostalgic flavor. 

Happily, we had no such problem with these oreos, which came in regular creme-filled and mint creme-filled. The cookies were not extremely oreo-like, but more dense and cakey--this was a very good thing.

And the cream--creme?--actually managed to pull off that sweet, singular paste-like texture of classic oreos, and with a wonderful, sweet and creamy flavor that might just outdo the original.

Oh, Abigail's Bake Shop, what a delight it was to find you.

Ready to order a bushel of cookies for your own household? Thought so. You can find out more (and order online) at abigailsbakeshop.com. Additionally, you can keep up to date via their blog, Facebook and Twitter!

Tuesday
Feb162010

Up In Eclair: Oscar-Inspired Eclairs for Serious Eats

Up in the Air, or as I like to call it, that movie with George Clooney and airplanes, is a bittersweet tale of a dude who leads a largely empty life, traveling around the country for a job where he fires people, never really cultivating any real bonds or finding any real fulfillment.

Oh, George. Clearly, you don't know that so many voids can be filled with delicious eclairs, and so I'd like to present a sweet cinematic pairing: Up in Eclair. In deference to the film, the pastry is light as air and shaped like the planes which permeate the plotline. The lemon filling is sweet with a tinge of sour as a nod to the bittersweet story, and for your eating pleasure, the icing on top brings it all home for a sweet ending.

Check out the full post and recipe over at Serious Eats, part of the Movie Awards Season Recipe Series brought to you by Hyundai

Monday
Feb152010

Sweet and Petite: Mini Empire Bakery, Seattle

The revolution is coming, and it is tiny.

Yes, indeed: Mini Empire Bakery is slowly but surely making Seattle sweeter, one mini pie, cupcake, and "scookie" (scone-cookie) at a time.

Mini Pie Revolution Logo

Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of cakes and pie slices the size of saucers, but there is something nice about pint-sized treats: you can eat four at once and totally feel good about it.

Mr. Spy and I recently attended their debut at Porchlight Coffee in Seattle's Capitol Hill, where they were serving up mini (cupcake-sized) pies in cranberry pear, bourbon pecan, and apple chai flavors (some of which were even vegan). And they're adorable. I mean, just look at this:

Adorable! And though small, the taste was mighty: deliciously flaky crust and thoughtfully, well-spiced fillings that left you wanting more--in a good way. The perfect sort of small bites for an after lunch or dinner treat.

Currently this is a custom-order and wholesale business (oh, and have I mentioned that the bakers are as cute as the goods? Pictured above), but there are undoubtedly big things in store for this small-scale baking operation, with some whisperings about a possible retail bakery. If this is the mini revolution, consider CakeSpy part of the tiny entourage!

For more information, including how to place a special order and retail locations, visit miniempirebakery.com.

Sunday
Feb142010

Sweets for the Sweet: Valentine's Day Cupcake Tutorial from Hello Naomi

Now would be an appropriate time for me to act very high and mighty on the subject of Hello Naomi in a "I discovered her way before the fact" sort of way. After all, she was first featured on CakeSpy over 2 years ago, while she was still a student and baked only as a Flickr-posting hobbyist. But I'm not gonna be like that--I can share.

Of course, awesome like hers couldn't be contained, and now she's moved on to wonderful things including starting her own baking business, and she's also dipped into party planning and works with a company that does invitation design

And happily, she's offered up a sweet tutorial for Valentine's Day Cupcakes. It's not too late to whip up a batch for your sweetie!

Valentines Day Cupcake Tutorial

Makes 12

What you will need:

 

  • 12 vanilla cupcakes (here's Naomi's recipe)
  • 500g ready to roll white icing (fondant)
  • Red gel food dye
  • Blue food dye
  • Circle cutter (the same size as your cupcake tops)
  • 2 size heart cutters
  • Non-stick small rolling pin
  • Plastic mat
  • Pure icing sugar for dusting
  • Water or cake decorating glue w/ small paintbrush

 

 Procedure

  1. Divide the fondant into 4. Using a plastic mat, dye one lot of fondant red, one pink, one blue and leave the other white. Colouring is done by kneeding drops of colour into the fondant until mixed through evenly. Pink is made by using a small amount of the red dye, red is eventually achieved by using a fair amount of dye (using a gel dye is much faster than using liquid dye). Use sifted icing sugar to soak up any moisture from the dye and prevent sticking. Wrap each colour in cling wrap. Wipe mat after each colour.
  2. Roll out the white fondant until aprox ¼ inch thick. Dust icing sugar on the top and bottom if sticking and dust away excess.
  3. Cut out 3x circles using the circle cutter. Using a pallet knife or flat knife lift each circle, lightly wet the back using a paint brush and place onto a cupcake. Smooth the top and edges using the palm of your hand. Wrap excess fondant in cling wrap.
  4. Repeat for 3 pink cupcakes and 6 blue ones.
  5. Once all the cupcakes are covered it is time to decorate them. Roll out the remaining pink fondant and cut out 3 large hearts. Lightly wet the back and place in the middle of 3 blue cupcakes. Roll out the remaining white fondant, cut out 3 large hearts, lightly wet the back and place in the middle of the remaining 3 blue cupcakes.
  6. Roll out the red fondant, cut out 12 hearts, lightly wet the back and place in the middle of each cupcake.
  7. Package them in a cute box with tissue paper, alternating designs, and give them to someone special!

About the contributor: Naomi was studying her PhD in Computer Engineering when she discovered her love of cake decorating. By posting photos onto the photo sharing website flickr under the user name ‘hello naomi’ she quickly became well known for her original designs and demand quickly grew to the point where she decided to start a business in 2009. Since then she has also ventured into party planning, collaborating with Imprintables invitations to form scissors.paper.cake.

Sunday
Feb142010

Sweet Cakes: Naomi Henderson's Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Hello Naomi's Vanilla Cupcake Recipe 

Perfect for use with this tutorial for Valentine's Day Sweetheart Cupcakes!

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (350°F ) . Line a 12 hole cupcake trays with standard size papers.
  2. Sift the flours together and set aside.
  3. Soften butter in the microwave.
  4. Warm the milk in the microwave to luke warm.
  5. Place the softened butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer (med-low speed) for 1 min until smooth.
  6. Beat on med and add the sugar 1/3 at a time beating for a minute between additions. (The fluffier the butter and sugar is, the fluffier and higher your cupcakes will rise)
  7. Add the vanilla seeds or extract and beat though
  8. Add the eggs one at a time mixing on med-low and for a minute in between additions.
  9. Once the eggs are mixed remove mixing bowl from stand and using a wooden spoon mix in 1/3 of the flour. Mix until there are no lumps.
  10. Add 1/2 of the milk and mix until well combined.
  11. Add another 1/3 of the flour, mix until no lumps. Mix through the rest of the milk until well combined and then mix through the rest of the flour until there are no lumps.
  12. Spoon mixture into cupcake papers about 2/3 full using an ice cream scoop. Bake on the middle rack for 18-20 minutes until golden (rotate tray after about 15 min).
  13. Remove from trays and cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes before decorating.
  14. Frost as desired, or according to this awesome tutorial!

Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Saturday
Feb132010

Je t'aDorie: Cookies from Dorie Greenspan's CookieBar Pop Up Shop, NYC

Regret: I did not have time to visit Dorie and Josh Greenspan's pop up shop, CookieBar, in NYC on my recent visit.

However, the earth does seem to balance itself out, and when I visited the Serious Eats offices, they happened to have a box of sweeties from the shop.

What does this mean? I got to try Dorie Greenspan's cookies, that's what it means (ok, ok, she also had some stellar bakers helping with the baking: per Serious Eats, helpers included Johnny IuzziniBradford Thompson, and Megan Fitzroy, along with volunteers fromThe French Culinary Institute.

I had chosen at random, and the one I chose, as it turned out, was the coconut lime cookie. It was a good decision.

Now, let me tell you about eating it. The first thing that hits you? The butter. The rich, tongue-coating buttery flavor.

And then a powerhouse of a sweet duel, from the sugar and the coconut, blossoming in perfect harmony with the butter and then giving a subtle sweet taste, which is then countered by the bright ray of zingy lime sunshine.

And then a small sea of more subtle flavors: the nuttiness of the coconut as an aftertaste, the lightest touch of bitterness (from zest perhaps?).

And finally--finally--the salt. And all Dorie stalkers--er, fans--know how important that is. As she says in Paris Sweets ,

salt is pastry's unsung hero...a pinch is enough to balance the sugar in a tart crust, underscore the flavor in any chocolate dessert, give caramel that certain je ne sais quoi.

In a word: perfection. Or should I say parfait?

Alas, the CookieBar was only open through February 12, but you can read all about it here, or read a comprehensive roundup of the deliciousness that was CookieBar at Serious Eats.

Friday
Feb122010

Cake for a Cause: A Sweet Event with CakeSpy, Electrolux, Kelly Ripa, Cake Boss, Foodbuzz and More!

From Left: Kelly Ripa, CakeSpy, Cake Boss, Kelly, Carlo's Bakery baker, ErikaI don't know how to tell you this...but I'm kind of a big deal.

OK, maybe not--but I sure did feel like one earlier this week when I was lucky enough to be part of the amazing "Kelly's Cake-Off" event in NYC.

What was the deal?

Dig it: So Foodbuzz, where I am a featured publisher and who helps me out with the advertisements you see to the right of the main body of this page, in collaboration with Electrolux's Kelly Confidential program, decided to put on an event in NYC wherein 15 lucky food bloggers would be flown out for an event, Kelly's Cake Off. They put us up in a totally sweet fancy hotel and fed us delicious vittles at the famous (and amazingly delicious) Spotted Pig restaurant. It was all coordinated by the fine folks at Weber Shandwick.

Basically, Kelly's Cake Off consisted of all of us gathering in a very cool space in the same building as the Food Network Studios and the Chelsea Market (also the former Nabisco factory!). We then learned some sweet cake decorating tips from Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken (and oh, you may know him as the Cake Boss from the TV) and Kelly Ripa, and then we were set into 5 teams of three to decorate cakes using fondant, buttercream, and various sugars and glazes (yum). Each team had a different cake: our theme was "Snow Day"--behold this beauty:

Our finished entries were then posted online, and for each vote received, Electrolux will donate $1 toward theOvarian Cancer Research Fund

Basically, this event was a triple threat of awesome. Sweet cake, sweet sponsors, and a super sweet cause. It was incredibly fun too, which certainly doesn't hurt--and oh man, the cake even tasted good! (um, so did the countless other pastries furnished by Carlo's Bakery).

But in case you don't believe me, you can see the video for yourself:

I've got to send my most sincere thanks to all of the awesome bloggersFoodbuzz, the Cake Boss and Carlo's Bakery crew, my amazing team (Erika and Kelly), Electrolux, and Kelly Ripa

How can you be part of the awesome? Go vote for my cake, the "Snow Day". Yes, you've got to sign up using your email address, but I'm totally worth it, am I not? Also, you can vote once a day, and I fully expect you to do so, or I will never talk to you again. And trust me, I will know.

Have I made myself clear? Vote here.

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