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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.

Friday
Feb122010

Brownie Points: a Simply Divine Brownies Giveaway!

Brownies are a masterpiece of American cookery. This is not opinion--it's fact. They are--to sum it up concisely--a simply divine treat.

Oh--what a perfect time to introduce the treasure of Portland, Maine--Simply Divine Brownies. They boast a retail bake shop, and will ship their brownies nationwide.

And oh, the brownies. At Casa de CakeSpy, we'd been mildly obsessed with these brownies since having discovered the adorable brownies that look like cupcakes, with the other items on the menu--like dense, chewy brownies in a plethora of flavors and sizes--just adding to the obsession.

And now, dear, lucky readers, you too can share this sweet joy.

Yup: Simply Divine has kindly offered a brownie care package for giveaway on this site.

What can you win? A parcel of pure pleasure, including a sampler of 12 assorted brownie flavors, a package of sweet brownie bites (perfect for smaller appetites, or, you know, eating 3 at a time), and one of those adorable aforementioned trompe l'oeil brownies. Not for nothin', but based on my calculations this is a parcel worth over $75, considering shipping and stuff.

Yeah, you wanna win this.

So how do you enter? It's easy. Just answer the following important brownie questions below in the comments section and you'll be entered to win this sweet package of postal bliss! Of course, if you couldn't possibly wait for brownie bliss, you can mos' def check them out online here and check out their blog here!

Fine Print: The giveaway will close on Sunday, February 22 at 12pm PST; the winner will be announced within the next 48 hours. Entrants in the US only, please. Good luck!

  1. What's your type of brownie: chewy, cakey, or fudgy?
  2. Frosting on brownies: yes or no?
  3. Which brownies in the pan do you covet most: edge or middle?

UPDATE: THE WINNER!

We have a winner, friends! It is Pruittiporn from New Haven, CT, who has this to say about the above brownie poll:

1. I oscillate between fudgy and chewy.

2. No - I prefer my brownie add-ons baked in!

3. I prefer edge, but I'm not opposed to the middle either

Friday
Feb122010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Valentine Recipe Ideas

 

Photo Credits, from top left clockwise: My Baking Addiction, Bake at 350, The Food Librarian, Taste of Home. Links to recipes below!Chocolate Cherry Silk Tart recipe from Seattle's Macrina Bakery: what's not to love?

Nanaimo bars are always something to be loved, but these ones are perfect for Valentine's Day!

Conversation heart chocolates, from the always wonderful Chic Cookie Kits.

...aaand, in case you forgot about them, the CakeSpy homemade conversation heart for Serious Eats!

Show your Gluten Free buddies some love with these Valentine's Day gluten free sugar cookies.

Love word games? Love cookies? You'll love these babies by Bake at 350, and so will your valentine!

Cupid's arrow has hit these cupcakes...why not share the love by baking some of your own?

Just cos you love someone doesn't mean you have to share--make these individual heart cakes!

Make perfect chocolate dipped strawberries with these tempering tips from Jacques Torres.

Meringue Swans! Precious!

Don't break dishes on the wall--make this strangely beautiful broken glass jello!

Making sweetie pies like these would win over just about anyone, I think.

Bakerella always offers something sweet for heart day, and this year's no exception: big cookies mean big love.

Friday
Feb122010

What Boys Like: Butch Bakery in NYC

Photo Credit: Butch Bakery, NYCIn my humble opinion, there are few guys who don't enjoy cupcakes--but a lot of them won't admit it because they find it hard to get past the whole...you know, cute thing. 

But I'm sure that they'll rejoice at the prospect of a more metrosexual cupcake-maker: NYC's Butch Bakery. Started by stock market alum David Arrick who took things into his own (manly) hands. Per DailyCandy,

His new venture, Butch Bakery, peddles big, boozy cupcakes with XY-approved patterns like camo, wood grain, and houndstooth. Manly flavors include rum-soaked Madagascar vanilla cake with cola Bavarian cream filling (Rum & Coke), chocolate beer cake with beer-infused buttercream and pretzels (Beer Run), and peanut butter cake with banana Bavarian cream and crumbled bacon.

No store front (yet) but the sweet treats are available for delivery in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

For more information, visit butchbakery.com.

Wednesday
Feb102010

Sweet Hearts: Homemade Conversation Hearts for Serious Eats

Sure, conversation hearts are a sweet gesture. But are you sending the wrong message?

Do you really want, for instance, to say "text me" to someone from whom you'd rather not receive digital missives, or to downplay your serious crush by leaving it at "U R Special"?

Avoid etiquette blunders and tell them how you really feel by making your own personalized homemade conversation hearts. They're surprisingly easy to make, just as sweet as the store bought kind, and you have the freedom to set the tone you want--whether it's sweet, snarky, or confessional.

Find the full writeup and tutorial over at Serious Eats! Oh, and happy freaking Valentine's Day!

Wednesday
Feb102010

Wining and Dining: Red Wine Valentine Cookies from The Hot Cookie

When CakeSpy contributor Sarah of The Hot Cookie sent over the recipe for these cookies, I first saw the light pink hue and sesame seeds in the rolling pictures (below) and thought "sushi cookies!". Well, no, but reading on I learned they were something far more delicious: Red Wine Valentines. Infused with buttery flavor cut with sweet and tart wine, these sweet treats will undoubtedly set the tone for romance--as Sarah wisely says,

Fewer things can be more meaningful than a homemade treat. Whether it's made by your own hands or crafted from an independent bakery, these Red Wine Valentine cookies will spark an interest in your other's eyes.

Here's the recipe:
Red Wine Valentines

Ingredients
  • ½ cup port wine
  • 2 Tbsp. beet juice*
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • Sesame seeds
Procedure
  1. In a small sauce pan bring wine and beet juice to a boil. Once boiling occurs, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20-22 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, orange zest, and cooled wine/beet reduction. Mix until combined.
  4. Mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Add currants.
  5. Divide dough into thirds and roll into logs about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap dough logs with wax paper or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Unwrap dough and roll/press dough into sesame seeds.
  8. Slice log into ¼ inch slices. Place on greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are firm and centers appear undercooked. Let cool on baking sheet.

About the contributor: The Hot Cookie is a small, all-natural cookie company in Indianapolis run by two go-local/pro-green ladies with a thirst for life and a hunger for sweets. All of their two-bite cookies are made in small batches with as many high quality, local, and organic ingredients available.

You can shop here, visit the website here, and keep up to date via their blog!

Wednesday
Feb102010

Seeing Stars: Star Wars Lego Cookies Tutorial

Legos! Star Wars! Cookies! These sweet treats are like veritable galactic minefield of awesome. And now, the force of deliciousness can be with you, too--CakeSpy reader Emily (who writes the wonderful blog Sugar & Meringue and also has a fantastic Etsy shop full of vintage cake finds!) has put together a tutorial on how to make your own!

Curious about Emily? Here's what she has to say about herself: I was born and raised in Nebraska. I grew up in a town with a population of about 650. I like to brag that I was the valedictorian of my class. (I just don't tell anyone there were only 18 people in my class!) Yep… I'm from the sticks.

Components needed:

  • Lego minifigure cookie cutter
  • Several pastry bags
  • Several writing tips- ranging in size from about 1 - 4 & couplers
  • Gel or paste frosting coloring: Ivory, Black, Peach, Copper, Brown & Royal Blue
  • A glass tumbler
  • Lots of bowls
  • A very small/fine artist liner paint brush - buy a new one and use it only for food

Royal Icing (See recipe below)

  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder

Combine all ingredients and beat at medium/high speed until soft peaks form.

Procedure for Lego Cookies

  1. Make rolled sugar cookies using your favorite recipe. Make Royal Icing (you may need 2 bathces) and divide into 6 bowls. Add coloring to each bowl. You will need: white - shirt & pants ivory - vest brown - belt black - details peach - face copper - hair
  2. Next, divide each color in half and put in two separate bowls. (One half will be used for piping and the other half will be used for flooding.) Add water, a tiny bit at a time, to one of the halves so that the icing is the consistency of a thick cake batter. (It should be thin enough so that it will drip from a spoon and smooth itself out, but not watery)
  3. Equip one pastry bag with a #2 or 3 tip. Fill it with the UNTHINNED icing. Equip another bag with a #3 or 4 tip. Put the bag (tip down) in a glass tumbler and cuff the bag over the top of the glass so you can pour in the thinned icing.
  4. Begin by outlining Obi Wan’s vest with the unthinned icing. Then “flood” inside the outline with the thinned icing. You will follow the same procedure for the following steps.
  5. Now… STOP!!!!Now… STOP!!!! At this point you need to let the icing dry completely before going on to the next step so that the colors don’t bleed. You may want to let them dry overnight.
  6. Outline and flood belt with brown. Allow to dry. Then use a #1 tip to pipe on the black details and a #2 tip to pipe the eyes.
  7. Dab a tiny bit of royal blue coloring on some waxed paper and then, with your paint brush, paint the eyes.
  8. Pipe on hair and eyebrows. Outline then flood beard and mustache. When beard and mustache are dry, use paint brush to paint on the black lines with black coloring. Use ivory coloring to paint details on shirt/vest.

Want more? Remember, you can find more of Emily's work at Sugar & Meringue, and be sure to check out her Etsy shop!

Sunday
Feb072010

Sweetie Pie: PiePops and More for Valentine's Day from High 5 Pie

Don't get me wrong, if someone shows up with a big ol' box of chocolates, I'd never refuse them.

But I might just do happy backflips if someone brought me a Valentine's Day parcel full of flipsides, PieJars, Slab Pie (you may know it from the TV) and -- like, OMG--PiePops (yes, those are pie lollipops, in the Luxirare and Bakerella tradition) from Seattle's High 5 Pie.

Per proprietress and her royal Pie-Ness Dani Cone, there's some sweet stuff going on for Valentine's Day--on the menu will be some romantic

heart-shaped flipsides and Piepops! Yep, those are pie-lollipops! And, we're now going to offer our "as seen on tv" Slab Pie by special order, too! Folks can place a special order this week for Valentine's Day (or whenever they want).

Don't know about you, but I'm certainly giving the pie pictures above the look of love.

High 5 Pies are available at all Fuel Coffee locations; for more information, visithigh5pie.com. Also, keep updated with them via Twitter and their blog, and you can also buy proprietress Dani Cone's awesome book on Northwest coffee culture, Tall Skinny Bitter: Notes from the Center of Coffee Culture.

Sunday
Feb072010

Sweet Love: A Bakery and Baking Blog Crush on Cupcakes and Sundry Cupcakery, Toronto

It's happened again. Like a ray of buttercream sunshine straight to the heart, CakeSpy has another bakery crush. This time it's a double dose of delicious, because Cupcakes and Sundry is not only a custom order baking business, but also a delectable baking blog.

So who's behind all of this sweetness? Head baker Stephanie is a teacher by day, baker and blogger by night. What moves her?

I've been in love with cupcakes all of my life. In March 2008, I started making cupcakes as a hobby in my little apartment kitchen. Every week I'd pump out a different flavour for my friends and colleagues to try and to judge. Everyone has their personal favourite; mine strawberry angel food cake (picture on photo page) and a new flavour the peanut butter colossal.

I like to swirl and sprinkle, dip and glaze, fill and layer, pipe and top or just make cupcakes simple and sweet. Birthday, holiday or any occasion cupcakes are a perfect dessert after any meal.

And now that you have the backstory, howsabout the goods?

On the menu, you can build your own cupcakes using various cupcake flavors, fillings and frostings--love that. And oh, what an array of flavors--the chocolate chip cupcookie with cream cheese frosting sounds pretty good to me--or perhaps some vanilla cake with boston cream filling and chocolate frosting for a sort of Boston cream pie shout-out? Oh, you lucky Canadians who can order Cupcakes and Sundry wares!

Of course, for those not in the Toronto area, instant pleasure is available via the Cupcakes and Sundry blog, where you can follow Stephanie's day to day adventures, and you have access to some of the recipes she loves. Don't know about you, but within five minutes I was able to find a bunch of baking ideas I wanted to try--including Snickerdoodle cupcakes, cotton candy cupcakes, coffee and doughnut cupcakes, Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes, macaroons, and -- OMG-- these: 

Yup--Cupcakes and Sundry deserves to be loved.

You can check out Cupcakes and Sundry in several ways: if interested in ordering, visit the order page; if you want to keep up with the baking adventures, visit the blog; if you want some seriously sweet pictures to tempt you, visit the Flickr page.

Saturday
Feb062010

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler: New Orleans King Cake from Sucre

So, recently I was contacted by Sucré (say it: soo-kray), a bakery in New Orleans, inquiring if I'd like them to send me a sample of their king cake. They assured me it was one of the best.

It's ok if you're jealous. This is really kind of an awesome thing to have someone offer.

Needless to say, there wasn't a type point-size large enough on my email to fully convey the powerful "YES" I wanted to send back. But they must have gotten the idea, because a few days later, this was on my doorstep.

(Olive the pug was keenly interested in this parcel.)

There was a pretty box inside...

And then within that...

Behold, the Sucré King Cake. A ring of twisted, buttery dough sweetened with cinnamon and sugar and filled with a whipped cream cheese filling. 

And it sparkles.

Really, I'm not sure if the pictures quite convey it, but this is an exceedingly lovely cake to look at.

And it tastes just as gorgeous as it looks. 

The cake itself has a texture like a cross between brioche and croissant, simultaneously light and rich, and redolent with buttery flavor. The cream cheese filling infuses each bite with a sweet, dense richness which adds a smooth contrast to the buttery flakiness of the exterior. It's all beautifully topped with a layer of thin confectioners' sugar icing which adds just a bit more sweetness and balances out the slight savoriness of the cream cheese filling. One taster said if anything he would have enjoyed a slightly thicker layer of icing, but it's not like he left any of his slice uneaten.

While a great teatime cake, I found it tasted best for breakfast--kind of like a fancy, sparkly danish. It pairs beautifully with a dark, strong coffee.

Now, because I know that receiving something for free can affect one's opinion, I purposefully did not look at the price of the cake and independently polled tasters as to how much they would pay for such a confection before looking up the actual cost. People estimated anywhere from $40  to $60 including shipping, which makes it all the more delightful to say that if you buy a Sucré king cake, it costs only $19.95 plus $9.95 shipping in the US. Honestly, I think that's a pretty great value! Of course, once you get on their site, escaping without purchasing some gorgeous macarons (including Mardi Gras-themed ones! Pictured below), chocolates or confections in addition to your King Cake may prove difficult.

Final word? The Sucré King Cake gets an A+ from CakeSpy. Vive le Roi!

King Cakes and other confections by Sucré can be purchased online at shopsucre.com. If you're in New Orleans, aren't you lucky, because you can experience the magic in person, at their retail shop, at 3025 Magazine Streeet, New Orleans, LA 70115.

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