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Cakewalk: A Tour de Cookie in Phoenix from Cake Gumshoe Janelle


CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Janelle, a freelance lifestyle and food writer living in Phoenix, Arizona.  She also is the face behind the newly born blog The Deutsch Girl.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, we have all the things any fifth largest city should have: sports teams, fabulous restaurants, golf courses galore, and great weather for most of the year please both locals and tourists alike. But one thing that is rarely talked about is our sweet shops. Sure, we don’t have a Magnolia Bakery, Tartine, or even a Milk Bar putting Phoenix on the map.  But just because we don’t have any (yet) famous spots doesn’t mean we are lacking in promise.


I set out to find a few hidden gems in the Central Phoenix area and was not disappointed.  Focusing on the always comforting bakery item, the cookie, I toured four locations and ate way too many cookies in my quest for the best.  

Stop 1: Barb's Bakery

The first of my four stops was the one closest to my house.  In a small unassuming building between a Mexican food restaurant and an old check-cashing store sits Barb’s Bakery. When I walked in at 11 a.m., I noticed the large display case was lacking in the cookie department.  Cakes and petit-fours still remained, but there were very few trays of cookies left.  At first I was mad at myself for not arriving earlier, but I was glad their cookies were popular and I’d selected the right place.  Greeted by a rotund and very jolly man behind the counter, I was relieved to see that both their frosted cookies and butter cookies were still available.  I chose one frosted and three butter cookies rolled in sprinkles.  My total came to $2.  Nice to know my first purchase wasn’t going to break the bank!   

The frosted cookie was the perfect combination of cookie and frosting.  The thick cookie was firm enough to hold up to an equally thick layer of icing, but still had a soft center.  Unlike some other frosted cookies, these will not break anyone’s two front teeth.  The icing was the perfect amount of sweet -- I easily could have made it through the entire cookie without feeling like I was on a sugar roller coaster. The butter cookies were the primo mix of crunch minus crumbs.  The butter flavor was prominent without the fake taste that comes with some commercial bakeries.  The sheer sight of the sprinkles excited my stomach so much that one poor cookie soul didn’t quite make it home. Overall Score: 4 out of 5 cookies 

Barb’s Bakery, 2929 N. 24th St., Phoenix  602.957.4422; online at barbsbakery.com.    

Barb's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Stop 2: Tammie Coe Cakes

My next stop was in an upper section of newly revitalized downtown Phoenix.  Located in a new complex with shops on the bottom and living space above sits Tammie Coe Cakes.  You may have heard this name before, as she’s quite famous for her fondant draped wedding cakes.  However, this small café, which is an outlet for their much larger permanent bakery, focuses on tasty bite-sized treats instead of larger cakes. While there is no seating inside, there are quite a few tables just outside the door with large umbrellas to shade customers from the bright Phoenix sun.  After staring at the small but stuffed and beautifully decorated display cases, I chose a double chocolate and a snickerdoodle.  At $2.50 each, they were on the pricey side, but each cookie could have been a small meal. On the way out, I took notice of the Half Price Happy Hour sign.  Half price bakery goods after 4 p.m. every day: how can one go wrong?

When I got home, I was eager to try both of the cookies.  I consider Tammie Coe to be the most famous baker in town, so I had high hopes as I dug the monstrous cookies out of their precious logo-stamped brown bags.  Alas, I was a bit disappointed.  Something wasn’t quite right with the double chocolate. The edges were too hard, almost as if an inattentive baker left them in a minute too long. The flavor was good, not too sweet for a double chocolate cookie, which is often the case. Once I got to the inside, it was much softer. For those who like a crispy edge, and a soft center, this might be the place for you. Next, the snickerdoodle.  I chose it because it was the oddest snickerdoodle I’d ever seen.  Instead of being rolled in cinnamon and sugar, as I think all snickerdoodles should be, it had only a light dusting of refined sugar.  The cookie appeared to have bits of crumble topping baked into the cookie.  While flavorful, it did not have that traditional cinnamon sugar flavor. Do I think that Tammie Coe should be passing it off as a snickerdoodle? Definitely not. Would I buy it again? Probably, yes. Overall Score: 3 out of 5 cookies  

Tammie Coe Cakes, 610 East Roosevelt #145, Phoenix,   602.253.082; online at tammiecoecakes.com.

Tammie Coe Cakes on Urbanspoon

Stop 3: Urban Cookies

After my brief stop downtown, I headed north to Urban Cookies, housed in a very small freestanding building. This makes sense because they used to be a mail order company, owned by a husband and wife team.  The great thing about Urban Cookies is that they still have a huge mail-order clientele, so anyone who’s not in the Phoenix area can enjoy these sweet treats too!  As soon as I stepped foot in the door, my nose became overwhelmed with the smell of brown sugar and chocolate.  In addition to the four kinds of cookies, Urban Cookies has a special cookie of the month, as well as Ollie Cakes, cupcakes that can only be enjoyed in-store.  Personal experience has shown me cupcakes are not an easily mailed item, so really, I don’t blame them for using them to entice people to their store.   The biggest thing that sets Urban Cookies apart is that they use lots of organic ingredients. They say that on average, 85 percent of each cookie’s ingredients are organic, and they use only local eggs.

The one and only time I was here prior, I tried the Simple Urban cookie.  I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks, so I had to try it again.  This particular cookie is 76 percent organic, made with milk chocolate chunks instead of the usual semi-sweet.  I can honestly say this cookie was just as good the second time as it was the first.  I gave some to my dad, who’s a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, and he said it might have been the best he’d ever had.  It doesn’t look like anything special on paper, nothing unusual sticks out when you read the ingredient list, but somehow they turn those ingredients into a masterpiece.  The second cookie I bought was the Urban Tropic.  I had wanted to try this one last time, but decided for my first trip, the cookie they were best known for was the better choice.  This cookie is 94 percent organic and includes sun-dried pineapple and toasted unsweetened coconut, both organic, of course.  For a non-chocolate cookie, this one really hit the spot.  It was sweet, but not overly sweet, and reminded me of being on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Another great thing about both cookies, besides being perfectly chewy and baked just right, is the price. Normally $1.99 each, they were  on sale for $1.79 a piece. It’s a relief to find a large organic cookie that’s not outrageously expensive. Overall Score: 5 out of 5 cookies

Urban Cookies, 4711 N. 7th St., Phoenix  602. 451.4335; online at urbancookies.com.

Urban Cookies on Urbanspoon

Stop 4: Karsh's Bakery

The last stop on my tour de bakeries was Karsh’s Bakery.  I was excited to try this place, because it’s known in the Phoenix area as the premiere Jewish bakery. Unlike the other three bakeries, this one doesn’t have any curb appeal.  In fact, it sits in the corner of a retail shopping center with a simple, unassuming corner sign.  This must not be a deterrent, because Karsh’s has been around since the 1960’s and most certainly knows its stuff.  In addition to being certified Kosher by the Phoenix Vaad HaKashruth Kא, Karsh’s offers a huge selection of both pareve (non-dairy) and dairy goods. My eyes, and stomach, were immediately drawn to an entire case dedicated to cookies.  Because they offer both non-dairy and dairy items, I couldn’t truly rate anything unless I tried at least one of each. 

It took me at least five minutes to make a decision, but I never felt rushed by the pleasant gentlemen behind the counter.  I decided to go with a small black and white cookie, as well as a Chinese almond cookie that was labeled pareve.  The black and white was an obvious choice, especially at $1.50, but the thought of a Chinese cookie in a Jewish bakery made me grin so I went with it.  The black and white was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had.  The cookie was the classic cake-like texture, and the frosting was superb.  The only thing that I didn’t like was my own poor decision to get the smaller version!  The Chinese almond cookie was a simple almond with all the right flavors, including a nice half-dollar size drop of chocolate on top.  It measured at least 5 inches across, which made the price of $2.95 more than acceptable, and I kept breaking off small pieces until it was gone. I didn’t even notice the lack of dairy, so kudos to them for winning over a gallon-a-week milk drinker.  I’ll be going back soon to try the breads, and to grab the larger black and white. Overall Score: 4 out of 5 cookies

Karsh’s Bakery,  5555 North 7th St., #116 Cinema Park Plaza, Phoenix  602.264.4874; online at karshsbakery.com.

Karsh's Bakery on Urbanspoon

The Final Word? In the end I really enjoyed all of the different shops.  There is nothing cookie cutter (pun intended) about any of them. Perhaps next time I’ll go for cakes, or even the ever-popular cupcakes.  In the meantime, I’m delighted to see for myself that while our bakeries might not be world-renowned, they more than satisfy and deserve some local, and even national, recognition.  


Cake Byte: Two New Cake Molds You Need

It's no secret that CakeSpy loves Fred, that arbiter of creative and cute products like the ABC Cookie Cutters and the "Peace" of cake mold.

And now they've done it again, with two fantastic new cake molds, both of which can be purchased at WeeCanShop, who kindly alerted me to their existence: the Cakewich Sandwich Cake mold, pictured above, which is described thusly:

The best thing since sliced bread… is cake!  Our silicone Cakewich Sandwich Cake Mold is shaped like a big hunk of white bread - just bake and slice to make double-decker sandwich cakes with yummy fillings.  Be creative and create a raspberry-vanilla Reuben or even a chocolate-butter-creme Sloppy Joe...  Use your favorite cake recipe or try the recipe and assembly instructions that we've included for our Famous PB&J Pound Cake! 

and then there's also the TeaCupcakes mold, which has this description:

Bake and serve your cupcakes right in these teacup-shaped silicone molds and delight your tea party guests! We’ve included four reusable, food-safe silicone baking cups complete with saucers for a most elegant presentation. TeaCupCakes are 100%-pure silicone and phthalate-free plastic. 

Yup, that's right. You don't want these--you need them. Buy them at WeeCanShop.


Sweet Treats, Sweet Cause: Great American Bake Sale in Seattle

Sweet treats are delicious, but you know what? Sometimes it's even sweeter to give back. And so it is with sweet delight that I announce that I (along with a cast of awesome Seattle bakers and bloggers) will be contributing to the Great American Bake Sale next weekend!

Here are details from the press release:

Some two dozen local food bloggers recruited by "Frantic Foodie" Keren Brown will bake cookies for the Great American Bake Sale next weekend. Proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, the culinary industry's fundraiser to help end childhood hunger. 

The sale by Seattle food bloggers—one of dozens nationwide—will take place at the Metropolitan Market Uptown on Lower Queen Anne on Saturday morning, April 17th, from 10 AM until noon.

Among the bloggers donating baked goods are Jessie Oleson of Cakespy.com, Shauna James Ahern from GlutenFreeGirl.Blogspot and many other well-known bloggers. Each participant will have two dozen cookies (and their recipes) for sale at the event.  For a complete list of the food bloggers participating, click here.

"Readers and fans will have the opportunity to taste the baked goods from their favorite food blogs", "We're thrilled that Metropolitan Market Uptown is offering us the space for this fund-raising event," Brown, said.

The national effort to involve bloggers in the Great American Bake Sale was spearheaded by Gaby Dalkin, a personal chef in Los Angeles and author of a blog called WhatsGabyCooking.com. 

All funds raised through the event support Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America by helping fund after-school and summer nutrition programs. “Summer is an especially difficult time, because the children facing hunger in America, nearly 17 million children, will no longer have access to the school-based meals they rely on,” said Bill Shore, executive director of Share Our Strength.

Attend the sale! It will take place on Saturday, April 17th, 2010 10 AM to Noon at Metropolitan Market Uptown 100 Mercer St., Seattle (Free parking while at the store).


I'd Crumble For You: Blackout Crumb Bars Recipe

So. There may be something that makes me happier than a good bar cookie, but just at the moment, nothing is coming to mind.

That having been said, let's discuss the Blackout Crumb Bar, a recipe I discovered on the inside label of Love N Bake's "Chocolate Schmear" filling. 

But first things first. What is this chocolate schmear business? I came into this bounty not long ago when aforementioned company sent me a sample. It comes in a can sort of like almond paste that you'll find in the grocery store baking aisle--only it's chocolate. It's got this incredibly thick texture, and in the name of science I felt it necessary to take a spoonful before baking with it (it tastes good on its own. Whew!).

But it has found its perfect vehicle with the Chocolate Blackout Crumb Bar. Kind of like a cross between crumb cake and fudge bar cookies, these babies are dense, chocolate, crumbly and buttery--that is to say, pretty delicious. And while it's a slight stretch, I still think these bars are a very appropriate way to celebrate National Coffee Cake Day.

Chocolate Blackout Crumb Bars

Adapted from Love N Bake


  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt (original recipe calls for just 1/4 teaspoon but I like salt)
  • 1 can (minus a spoonful or two) Love'n Bake Chocolate "Schmear" Filling


Grease a 9-inch square pan with butter and line with parchment paper. Set aside. Beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in the flour, sugar and salt until well mixed. Reserve ½ cup of the crumb mixture. With floured hands press the remaining crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven until edges are golden brown, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Spread the baked crust with the "Schmear" Chocolate Filling. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the chocolate. Continue baking the pastry until the crumbs have browned approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack then cut into bars.


Sweet Art: Dip for Illustration Friday

Not to alarm you, but I'm pretty sure Cuppie just double-dipped. Not cool, Cuppie.

Done for this week's Illustration Friday theme of Dip.


Cake Byte: The Saveur Blog Awards Winners!

Dudes, dudettes. So, remember how I was nominated for the Saveur Blog Awards, in not one but two categories?

Well, turns out I pulled a Susan Lucci: I didn't win either. But you know what? It's really hard to feel bad about this when such an awesome collection of sweet (and savory) dudes and dudettes did win the awards.

Plus, I am kind of feeling like I win at life lately, what with a new retail gallery in the super-cool Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle (it was even mentioned on DailyCandy!) which will have its grand opening party on May 8 (oh please, please come to it if you're in Seattle!!).

Here's the full roster of winners from aforementioned Saveur awards:


David Lebovitz


Good Wine Under $20


Smitten Kitchen


Homesick Texan


La Tartine Gourmande


Cafe Fernando


Smitten Kitchen


Food Wishes


Apartment Therapy: The Kitchn

...thanks again to Saveur for nominating sweet, sweet CakeSpy!


Cake Byte: Safeco Field Debuts Cupcakes at Baseball Game Concessions

You know what this photo means? 

It means that I now officially like baseball.

OK, let me back up. In case you haven't heard, Seattle's Safeco Field (home of the baseball team the Seattle Mariners) has just revamped their concessions menu and will be offering several food options beyond the expected nachos and cheez whiz and hot dogs (although, as they were quick to specify, "Not to worry, garlic fries, Ivar’s clam chowder and hot dogs are still available, but for the more adventuresome palate, Centerplate, the exclusive caterer for Safeco Field, offers fans a variety of new offerings."). It's an ambitious new menu, including crab cakes, pasta, and organic smoothies.

And cupcakes.

There will be house-made cupcakes and caramel apples, as well as chocolate dipped Rice Krispie treats, and cookies from Hope's Country Fresh Cookies.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the preview event at which they let some of us newsy types taste this array of awesome (alas I was held up in a meeting about floors for my new gallery!), but from what I hear, these cupcakes are "huge and good". Concise, but alluring, no?

Check out the cupcakes at Safeco Field when you go see the Seattle Mariners; for more information on upcoming games, visit the official Mariners site.


Sweet Seconds: Leftover Easter Candy Cookies for Serious Eats

In my mind, Easter candy falls into one of two categories. There are the show pieces—the chocolate bunny, Cadbury Creme eggs, and those addictive Reese's peanut butter eggs, for instance—which tend to disappear rapidly. And then there's the filler—the jelly beans, the Peeps, and those little malted eggs, which look pretty in the basket but aren't consumed quite as quickly.

But I feel for the filler, really I do, and so I tried my hand at designing a desirable delivery vehicle for these assorted pastel leftovers: the Leftover Easter Candy Cookie. I started out with a basic drop cookie recipe and added in a cup of assorted leftovers, including Easter corn, jelly beans, cut-up Peeps, and malted egg candies.

To read the full entry and find the recipe, visit Serious Eats!


Stock Up on Delicious: Economic Crunch Cookies by Sugar Bakery and Cafe, Seattle

The phrase "economic crunch" is pretty common these days, and usually it does not have a positive connotation.

However, at Sugar Bakery + Cafe in Seattle, the economic crunch is delicious.

"Economic Crunch Cookies" as they call them, are of one of the tastiest cookies I've sampled in a while: a crunchy sugar cookie made with almonds, toffee, chocolate, coconut, all of which is coated in coarse, sparkly sugar.

They are crunchy, savory, sweet, lightly salty, and chewy, all at once: this is to say, basically, they hit all the bases of what makes a cookie awesome...simultaneously. 

Or, as owner Stephanie Crocker (no relation to Betty), so aptly puts it: "They are like crack cookies so watch out…".

To taste the crunch for yourself, visit Sugar Bakery + Cafe at 1014 Madison Street, Seattle (be sure to call ahead to ensure availability of the cookies); or check 'em out online at sugarbakerycafe.com.


Sweet April: Trophy Cupcakes Debuts Three Flavors This Month


April is officially going to be the awesomest month ever: Trophy Cupcakes has not one but three special flavors!

Want to know more? OK. Per their newsletter:

Three new flavors start this month! Tiger Tails, our coconut cupcake topped with raspberry buttercream, rolled in coconut and drizzled with raspberry sauce! Peanut Butter and Jelly (one of our most requested flavors) is back from a little vacation. PB&J is our Vanilla Butter Cake filled with Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam then topped with swirled Peanut Butter and Strawberry Buttercreams. Last but not least, Salted Caramel is our Valrhona Chocolate Cake topped with Caramel Buttercream drizzled with house-made caramel and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Total yum, right?

Here's the schedule of availability for the three flavors:

Tiger Tails: Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays 
PB&J: Tuesdays and Thursdays 
Salted Caramel: Fridays and Saturdays

For locations and more information, visit trophycupcakes.com.

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