It first hit the CakeSpy radar a few months ago when buddy Allison picked one up at the drugstore as a bit of a consolation because they had run out of Cadbury Creme Eggs. Not that it's a new thing, mind you: the Mountain Bar has actually been around since 1915.
The mountain bar is a thing of beauty. Upon opening it, you may remark that it looks not so much like a mountain as a present left under the sofa by a naughty pet. But there's a delicious secret inside, as shown at the top--this is the cherry mountain, but it is also available in the original chocolate-nut flavor as well as a peanut butter filled variety. These are dense and rich little nuggets--definitely not a subtle or sophisticated food, but they will give you a sweet fix, and fast.
But what is even more compelling than their flavor is their story, as discovered on their site:
The MOUNTAIN® Bar was first put on the market by Brown & Haley in 1915 as the "Mount Tacoma Bar". The bar began with a fondant vanilla center...Sitting before individual warm chocolate pots, the dippers would make a puddle of tempered chocolate mixed with freshly ground peanuts. After rolling the center a little bit more, they would take a scoop of the tempered mix, forcing the center into the scoopful of the mixture. Then, with the heel of the hand, the bottom would be smoothed off and deposited on a waxed card. After the bar was made, it was put in a blue, hand-folded box that had a picture of Mount Tacoma (now Mt. Rainier) on it. Today our state of the art machinery turns out 592 MOUNTAIN® Bars per minute under the strictest sanitary conditions.
By 1923 the name of the bar had changed to just plain "MOUNTAIN®" due to the fact that its sales were beginning to spread into regions beyond Tacoma and the name "Mount Tacoma" conflicted with Seattle's name, Mount Rainier, which was beginning to gain ascendancy.
When World War II arrived, Brown & Haley was making as many as 25 different candy bars. With a shortage of sugar, the company decided to concentrate all of its efforts behind the production and marketing of its leading candy bar, the MOUNTAIN® Bar. This had the effect of establishing the brand as a regional favorite. Shortly after that the company decided to change the name of one of its brands from Cherry Bounce to Cherry MOUNTAIN® Bar in order to capitalize on the brand's strength. In 1974, Brown & Haley introduced the Peanut Butter MOUNTAIN® Bar.
Of course, all of this learning may ultimately lead you to the same question being tossed around Chez CakeSpy: is it possible to make the Mountain Bar even more delicious?
- 1 Cherry Mountain Bar (or two, if you're feeling particularly decadent)
- 4 generous scoops vanilla ice cream
- 1/4 cup milk (or more, or less, depending on how thick you like it)
Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If desired, add more milk for a thinner shake, more ice cream for a thicker shake. Enjoy.
Free Cupcakes on Opening Day: Stop by the new Capitol Hill location on opening day (July 22), utter the words “Legalize Frostitution,” and you'll get a free Strawberry 66 babycake while supplies last.
Cake and Art: Distinctive from the other three locations, this one is a conceptually designed space, including one-of-a-kind works of cupcake art (including a 5 foot tall, stained-glass cupcake Royale) and signature Roy McMakin tables.
Going Green (um...the ingredients, not the batter): The new Capitol Hill location, along with its sister Seattle locations, are also celebrating Cupcake Royale’s recent “most local cupcake” status. Cupcake Royale continues to prove their commitment to regional sustainability and local farmers through the premium, local ingredients it uses. Already all-natural and scratch-baked, Cupcake Royale cupcakes are now “More Moisty-er!” thanks to pastry chef Sue McCown’s new recipes, and they are also a minimum of 66% local following a newly forged relationship with Eastern Washington’s Shepherd’s Grain, which will be milling custom cake and pastry flour specifically for Cupcake Royale. This means Cupcake Royale’s milk, butter, flour, sour cream and eggs are all deliciously Washingtonian.
When last week's post about a new online cake and baking-supply shop was put up on the site, a number of readers expressed disappointment in the fact that the new shop seemed to be inspired--perhaps too much so--by another similar retailer. In fact, apparently it's been the subject of hot discussion on some message boards.
It wasn't the fact that they both sold similar items, said one reader, but the fact that the product shots and overall style seemed derivative; according to Susan, while the older retailer "knows that selling baking decor isn't exclusive only to her...the kits and things she makes and the time she puts into designing her product shots and things are sadly being blatantly copied".
The other shop in question did respond that
We were really excited about launching our website after a successful year with Etsy and were completely caught off guard by the reaction...We absolutely never intended to hurt or copy anyone in any way. We felt that our website was a natural extension of what we had already been doing for over a year in our Etsy shop.
The last thing we want is to be confused with our competitors. We have been working dilegently, and will continue to work dilegently to set ourselves apart in this market. We want nothing more than to enjoy our business and inspire our customers to make awesome sweet edible creations.
With more and more bakeries and baked good-related businesses opening, it seems like it is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, what with disputes and sometimes even lawsuits over shop names, cupcake design and more. Even outside of known disputes, there is frequent gossip about who was inspired by whose decor, recipes and overall style.
So is there a line between taking inspiration from others...and infringing on their territory? And if so, where is the line to be drawn?
Combining sweet and savory in desserts is not a new thing--unless you've been living under a rock, you've certainly encountered desserts with savory elements--bacon or honey baked ham cupcakes, chili-infused chocolates and caramels; cakes with a cheesy secret; salted licorice ice cream...the list goes on.
Nonetheless I was intrigued when I came across this corndog dessert. It sounded interesting, yes--but delicious? The inventor of the recipe, a pastry chef who also invented a fried chicken dessert assured me it was tasty; I had heard good things about incorporating corndogs into desserts in the past. I set out to see for myself.
Starting out: For the recipe, I started out with Plinio's recipe mentioned above, but substituted the hot dogs with veggie dogs, and instead of making my own ice cream (too hard!) I simply used store-bought French Vanilla. Before anything else, I made the batter and let it sit for about an hour in the fridge. You can scroll down to the bottom of this post for all of the ingredients.
Let the Experimentation Begin:
Idea 3: Building off of the success of Idea #2, this time I brought back the ice cream ball idea again, but this time put a little dollop of spicy mustard inside of each ball of ice cream and then let them cool for an hour in an extra-cold freezer. Then, I fried up another batch of the corndog-fritters and skewered them on a stick, alternating the fritters and balls of mustard-filled ice cream (note: you might want to let your little corndogs cool for just a little while--if they are still hot, the ice cream will melt a bit too rapidly for you to get them together).
Verdict: Once again, once you can separate yourself from the weird factor of mixing hot dogs and ice cream, it's actually pretty good. I was most suprised by how nicely the spicy mustard worked with the rich vanilla ice cream though: it was a surprisingly addictive combination.
- 3 veggie dogs (or two would be fine if you like smaller pieces--you'll end up with about 20 golfball-sized corndog balls)
- Vanilla Ice cream (if you got a half-gallon, it would be too much, but I'm sure you'll put it to good use).
- Spicy mustard, if desired (I used Gulden's)
- For frying: a stick of butter and as much sugar as you want to sprinkle in with it
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ea egg
1 cup milk
Usually when one thinks of raw foods the images conjured up are very crunchy-granola health foodie sorts of foods, but clearly most people have not been properly introduced to the raw chocolate brownie at Chaco Canyon Cafe.
This is a serious brownie in several ways. Starting with the price--weighing in at $4.95 plus tax, it's a lot of investment for a relatively small amount of brownie. It's noticeably more expensive than their vegan (baked) brownie at $2.25. (Ten points if you can shed some light on that.)
Luckily, you've got Cake Gumshoes who will taste-test for you in the name of research; and so recently the $5.20 or so was forked over in order to sample this uncooked treat.
Now, not to get overly dramatic about it, but this brownie is worth every penny. I'd go so far as to say this may be one of the more perfect desserts I've tried in recent memory. Honestly. And I'm not alone: turns out CakeSpy buddy Tea (who is like, a famous food writer) is also a fan.
The name "brownie" is a misnomer, really. It's really more of a bar cookie, comprised of three distinct layers: a hazelnut-date crust topped with raw cacao and coconut and topped with a generous smattering of hazelnuts. And oh, what joy lies within those three layers. The raw cacao and coconut oil layer is one of the most decadent, melt-in-your mouth fillings I have ever tasted--so creamy, so rich and chocolatey--and yet, somehow, not too sweet. It finds the perfect complement in the tightly packed, nutty crust, which has a perfect amount of salt added (and this can never be underestimated), which really rounds out the sweetness in a most tantalizing way. The added crunch of hazelnuts on top is a nice touch and gives a really pleasing texture contrast to all that creaminess in the middle layer.
This brownie is an absolute delight. It absolutely defies any preconceived notions about vaguely healthy-tasting and ultimately unsatisfying raw desserts: it's one of those truly decadent sweets that makes you want to take a nap afterward. And if you do, you'll pretty much be guaranteed sweet dreams.
Raw Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chaco Canyon Cafe, 4757 12th Avenue NE, Seattle; online at chacocanyoncafe.com.
CakeSpy Note: Looking for a recipe? In looking around online, I found this one which uses walnuts but otherwise seems comparable.
Big news, Seattle: delicious mini cupcakes from Look Cupcake are now going to be sold at The Chocolate Box! Previously only available by special order, this is an exciting new venue for these treats (read the previous CakeSpy writeup about them here!).
Here's the scoop from The Chocolate Box:
Chocolate Box is always looking for new and exciting local tasty treats to offer you. We are very excited to be hosting a potentially new local passionate cake maker, Rhienn Davis. Rhienn's Look cupcakes will make you do a double take because they look fantastic. The flavors will tempt your taste buds to ask for more. This may become an addiction. As our guest this Sunday from 12 to 3, Rhienn will be sampling her cupcakes, and we will be asking your opinion. We want to know what you think. If you like, then we will see Rhienn more in our case and hopefully in your happy tummy.
Now, in case you missed the most important part:
Free. Cupcakes. This Sunday. From 12-3 p.m., at The Chocolate Box!
For the location and more information, visit their site!
A veritable tornado of sweetness is coming your way on July 18th and 19th: I (Head Spy Jessie) will be taking part in the annual Renegade Craft Fair at San Francisco's Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion. I hope that I'll see some of your smiling faces there! I will have all manner of sweet artwork and accessories on sale, including original paintings, stationery and gift items--even some new products which I did in collaboration with Eleven Eleven Industries, including CakeSpy checkbook holders, passport covers and more!
Cynically Delicious, Rock Scissor Paper and RustBelt Fiberwerks.
Here are the details:
San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair
July 18 + 19 at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion (Directions)
11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Well, last month while hanging out with one of my favorite bakers in the world, Matt Lewis (co-owner of Baked in Brooklyn and Charleston, SC--as well as co-author of the best cookbooks of 2008, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and multiple magazine articles--as well as known cupcake defender), I got to find out when we toured a small sampling of some sweet shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
First, we hit up Sweet Revenge in Manhattan to taste-test their namesake cupcake, the Sweet Revenge (pictured above), which is comprised of peanut butter cake, ganache filling and peanut butter buttercream. Now, a cupcake with a description which includes "butter" three times in addition to ganache might sound like too much, but really, it's just enough. It was very sweet, but the slight saltiness of ground peanuts on top really added a nice complement and we had no problem devouring it. For visitors later on in the day (or those who are feeling particularly decadent in the daytime) Sweet Revenge is also offers cupcake and wine/beer pairings too.
Next it was over to Brooklyn, where we first hit up the adorable Almondine where I scored some macarons from their gorgeous bakery case, but not before cooing over every single item in the case and hearing some very good things about their bread.
The macarons had that truly ethereal Frenchie way about them: slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with divinely rich filling; the standout for this little Cake Gumshoe was mos' def the pistachio.
After enjoying the view a bit it was across the street to the Jacques Torres shop and factory, where we not only got a free sample from the newly opened ice cream shop (more decadent peanut buttery goodness!), but also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the chocolatemaking area. Now, you definitely don't need to be told that this is an awesome thing to experience. My only regret is not picking up some of those awesome chocolate-covered cheerios.
After some walking and talking about sweets we split ways (me off to more bakeries, Matt off to continue writing and baking up some brilliant masterpieces), but oh, what a sweet afternoon it was.
Sweet Revenge, 62 Carmine Street, NYC (212)242-2240; online at sweetrevengenyc.com;
These nubbly little jam-filled treats are a very popular vegan choice in Seattle (possibly beyond?). They've been available at Flying Apron (and since they wholesale, also at coffee shops and grocery stores which carry their pastries too) for years, but now there are several other shops and bakeries which also carry variations on this vegan cookie. What accounts for this cookie's popularity in vegan form, though?
Well, for one thing, they're an easy cookie to veganize without sacrificing any flavor. Though many classic recipes for thumbprint cookies include butter, many also use oil; so really, in some cases these cookies are inherently vegan. And to speak specifically to their popularity in the Northwest, they're a dense, oaty cookie, and Seattleites do tend to love those vaguely healthy tasting, granola-y treats.
For me, these cookies have been sort of a gateway drug into the world of vegan confectionery: they're dense and chewy and oaty; sweet but not cloying--the perfect type of cookie to eat for breakfast. Here is just a sampling of some that I've known and loved around town:
The vegan thumbprint cookies at Whole Foods in Seattle are wonderfully spiced and have a nice, slightly crunchy oaty texture.
Want to make your own vegan thumbprint cookies? Here are just a few good-looking recipes online:
- Altered Plates makes a gorgeously dense-looking version;
- The Whole Foods website has a recipe for the ones mentioned above;
- On About.com, vegan thumbprints get their buttery taste from cashews;
- Sweet Beet and Green Bean has an extra-nutty version;
- Aprovechar has a gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free version (yes, there are ingredients left after all that!) which looks amazing.
- Everybody Likes Sandwiches has a delectable-looking chocolate version.