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Tuesday
Jul282009

Cake Byte: Come Hang Out with CakeSpy at the Urban Craft Uprising!

That's not cool: it's COLD.
Seattle's hot this week. Like, literally. But you can cool down and stay sweet this weekend by coming to hang out with CakeSpy at Seattle's largest indie craft fair, the Urban Craft Uprising!

Anyone who has ever attended the winter show knows just how much cool stuff is on show at this fair, so it's very exciting that they are now hosting an event in the summer, too! Plus, you can stock up on some sweet CakeSpy gear--there will be plenty of new original paintings, new unicorn-cupcake-rainbow tees, stationery (including cupcake-bacon notecards, zombie-cupcake notecards, and more!), bookmarks, and so much more. Plus, I usually bring cookies. Cookies!
Cuppie loves the Sounders!
Please say you'll come visit.

Here are the details:

Saturday and Sunday, August 1 and 2
11 a.m. - 5 p.m. both days
Seattle Center Exhibition Hall (entrance on Mercer Street)


For more information, directions, or to check out the awesome vendor list, visit urbancraftuprising.com.

Tuesday
Jul282009

Sweet Art: Much Ado About Muffin

Much Ado About Muffin
Muffin's soaking up some attention on the red target today! Did he just release a hit single? Star in a popular tv show? Or maybe it's just a breakfast renaissance? In any case, it looks like everything's coming up Muffin!

Just a little sweet word-play to start the day.

Monday
Jul272009

Sweet Art: Idle for Illustration Friday

It's no Idle Threat!
Picture this: Cuppie throws a really sweet soiree that has all of the other baked goods buzzing. But it looks like another pint-sized cake feels like Cuppie is invading its territory! And so, for this week's Illustration Friday theme of Idle, I present the inevitable faceoff: and based on the weapons of shankery and destruction they're toting, I'd say this is no idle threat.

Monday
Jul272009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Photo C/O AMY ATLAS
Here are some of the sweet things that have inspired me lately:

Amy Atlas and Aran of Cannelle et Vanille collaborate, sweetly, with gorgeous pictures (above, used with permission) of an inspiring Moroccan-themed dessert table.

Bakerella's petits-fours might just prompt me to write a love poem.

Savory Sweet Life says "break free of the topless green mermaid": DIY Frappuccinos are deliciously creamy, and won't break the bank.

Control freaks rejoice: at Perfect Flavor, you can choose your own ice cream adventure by designing custom flavors.

Cake By Lorna
Chez Shauna, I tasted the best gluten-free cake I've ever had, made by Lorna Yee. Oh Lorna, how I hope you will post the recipe.

Lara Ferroni combines doughnuts with margaritas with gorgeous and delicious results: say hello to the margarita doughnut.

Megan Seling's interesting article on the dessert explosion (in Seattle and beyond!) and why it must be stopped (yes, I'm quoted in the article!).

Baking Bites recently did a feature on DIY Butterscotch Krimpets. Anyone who grew up in the greater Philadelphia area understands why this is so awesome.

If you haven't been keeping up with the Brownie Bake-Off series on the Al Dente Blog, then now is definitely the time to click over for the decadent Katharine Hepburn Brownie recipe.

RecipeGirl combines cookies and cupcakes to attain a new level of awesome with the Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcake. Oh yes.

If you love cake, and you love cute, you'll probably love Less Apathy More Cake!

Shuna's writeup on plated desserts is pure poetry.

Unexpected cake find: The Rendez-Vous in Seattle is a bar and music venue--but they also have a respectable selection of house-made cakes! Because there's no better combination than cake, booze and music.

Sunday
Jul262009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts Cakes on Demand, Chilliwack, BC


CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Jess.

What luck: my new neighbour is a baker and the owner of Cakes on Demand. Well, I was so very excited when she arrived at my door to welcome me to the neighbourhood with some of her delicious delights! Caitlin was just leaving when she arrived and quickly retreated back inside the house so that she could partake in the cupcakery confections.

 

They all looked so good it was so hard to decide which one to eat first!

 

Caitlin was quick to zoom in on a fluffy coconut one. Her thoughts? Yum.

I decided to try a coffee one as I am a nut about anything coffee. We were both delighted to find that our cupcakes were cream-filled!

I highly recommend Cakes on Demand to anyone needing a cake or cupcake fix.

Cakes on Demand is a special-order cupcake and cake bakery in Chilliwack, BC; for more information or to make an appointment, visit cakesondemand.com.

To read more about Cake Gumshoe Jess's adventures, visit her blog.

 

 

Saturday
Jul252009

Cakewalk Special: Trip Log From A Long, Sweet Weekend in San Francisco

Miette's Old School Cupcake
Like, whoa. We weren't in San Francisco for long--just a long weekend to sell some CakeSpy artwork at the Renegade Craft Fair and visit Cake Gumshoe Bridget, our SF correspondent--but we certainly did get our sweet on during the long weekend. Here's a little log of some of the highlights and delicious discoveries from our trip:

Chocolate tart from La Boulange, San Francisco
Trip Log, Day 1: Shortly after we landed and dropped off our bags chez Cake Gumshoe Bridget in Cole Valley, we hightailed it to La Boulange. Apparently they are a mini-chain and have a few locations throughout the Bay Area, but Bridget assured us that this one was the best location--not only because it was the cutest but because the pastries for all the locations were baked here. We went for the most serious-looking tart in the case: The chocolate ganache. When you put this tart on the table, the aroma of chocolate is redolent in the air--and every bite is just as dreamy, silky and rich as we hoped it would be. Le sigh.

Macarons at Miette
Walking down to the Ferry building, we managed to find an appetite for Miette, the cutest little patisserie around--though it's now under new ownership, no major differences seem apparent as you walk in. We picked up the "Old fashioned" cupcake (pictured top), which is pretty as a picture and like a high-quality hostess cupcake riff.
Interesting cookies at Bluebottle coffeeCuppie on Octavia Street
In the Ferry Building we also saw some intriguing sweets at Bluebottle Coffee (absinthe cookies!) and Frog Hollow (where we tried a sample but didn't actually buy any of their gorgeous fruit pies, tarts or homemade pop-tart-like treats)--but believing in some modicum of moderation, we said "next time". We also had some fun on our walk leaving some sidewalk-chalk Cuppies in our wake.

The day got even awesomer though, when we dropped by the Foodbuzz offices for Friday Happy Hour with the awesome crew, who fixed us some very classy pinkies-out drinks consisting of champagne, fresh peach puree and basil. Yum.

 

A perfect croissant at Tartine
Trip Log, Day 2: We began with a trip to Tartine, a famous bakery about which we've never managed to hear a bad review. Happily, it lived up to all expectations, both on the sweet and savory side: the quiche was like no other I've ever tasted, almost custardy in texture. The croissant had perfect crispy edges which shattered when you bit into it, giving way to soft, buttery, flaky layers. Although the chocolate chip cookie (which was probably 6 inches across, by the way) was crispier than we both generally like, we both had to admit that the flavor--buttery, rich with brown sugar--was impressive.

Spending the morning vending at the Renegade Craft Fair started to give us a respectable appetite, so we were so pleased to have our booth right next to Cynically Delicious, a custom cupcake business; as mentioned in a previous post, they had some seriously sweet (and delightfully tongue-in-cheek), pop-culture reverent cupcakes. Yes.

Cookies N Cream from Frosting Bake Shop
But as anyone knows, three cupcakes are never enough, so we couldn't have been more delighted to receive a surprise visit from Karen Tripp, owner of Frosting Bake Shop in Mill Valley, who came by bearing boxes of delicious cupcakes. We'd sampled their cake bites in the past so it was exciting to graduate to full-sized cupcakes. What really haunted us about these cupcakes was the delicious frosting, which was generously applied but somehow had a lightness about it--the strawberry and cookies n' cream frosting were our favorites.
CakeSpy art at the Renegade Craft Fair
Trip Log, Day 3: After starting out with a very generous breakfast from Reverie, you might think our appetites for sweets might have been dampened, but you would be wrong. After a morning of selling some sweet CakeSpy art and getting a pick-me-up from Cynically Delicious, we explored the craft fair area for some other sweet treats (all the while also browsing some awesome artwork by Mati Rose, Lisa Congdon, Eleven Eleven Industries, Ugly Baby Shower Art and more!).

Date Bar from Greens, San Francisco
Nearby the craft show at the Fort Mason Pavilion Center is a cafe called Greens to Go, and as intensely unsexy as they might sound, their date bars are truly incredible: a firm crust topped with a thick slab of date puree (I know, just trust me on this one!) and all topped with a crumbly, oaty, slightly salted crumb. Not sure if these were made in house or from Artisan Bakers (per their website, some of the pastries do come from there). Once again, just trust me on it: they're good.

A delicious treat from Clairesquares, SF
The day got even better with a surprise visit from Claire Keane, proprietress of Clairesquares--who I have done artwork for many times in the past but never actually met. She's adorable and wonderful, and she came bearing Clairesquares--a decadent and completely addictive confection consisting of a shortbread crust, a thick layer of caramel, all topped with chocolate (she does both milk and dark chocolate). These are no common millionaire's shortbread--Clairesquares are really something else. Excitingly, they're adding to their offerings, too, with deep fried and chocolate covered squares. The original ones are available for purchase online.

Me n' LeighMe and Melisser
Can I also just pause to say that while it didn't involve cake, it was so fantastic to meet so many cool CakeSpy readers and other food writers at the show--including (but not limited to) Leah, Kimberly, Deanna of Occasional Sugar, Sarah, and Melisser of the Urban Housewife? (P.S. isn't that an awesome shirt she's wearing?)

Lemon Bar from La Boulange de Cole
Trip Log, Day 4: Once again we started at La Boulange, picking up some croissants and a most delicious lemon tart, which was sweet and tart at the same time.

 

Heading over to Berkeley, we took a walk through the Gourmet Ghetto, stopping to check out the Cheese Board and marvelling at the original Chez Panisse (kind of like a foodie's equivalent to seeing Mount Rushmore or something).

Salted Caramel cone from Bi-Rite, San Francisco
In the mood for ice cream now, we headed back to the city and over to Bi-Rite; we had heard that either this spot or Humphry Slocombe were the places to hit (alas we did not have time for both!). Bi-Rite actually reminded us a lot of Seattle-based Molly Moon's; they had a lot of the same flavors including Salted Caramel and Strawberry Balsamic. The salted caramel at Bi-Rite was just as it should be: creamy, smooth, and salty-sweet; we also picked up a chocolate chip cookie (just 75 cents!) which was respectable too--once again, a little crispier than we generally prefer but flavorful and delicious. Curiously, they also had a confection for sale called chikki--got to try that next time!
Chocolate chip cookie from Bi-Rite, SF
Heading over to the airport and back to Seattle, we may or may not have indulged in another Clairesquare--but arriving home, little bellies taut with delicious treats, we were happy to reflect that this trip was utterly, completely, totally sweet.

Places Mentioned:

Bi-Rite Creamery, 3692 18th Street, San Francisco, (415)626-5600; online at biritecreamery.com.
Bluebottle Coffee, multiple locations; online at bluebottlecoffee.net.
Clairesquares, available at the following Bay Area retailers or via their online shop.

Cheeseboard Collective, 1512 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; online at cheeseboardcollective.coop.
Cynically Delicious, by custom order; online at cynicallydelicious.com.
Frog Hollow, Ferry Building; online at froghollow.com.
Frosting Bake Shop, 7 E. Blithedale Ave., Mill Valley (415)888-8027; online at frostingbakeshop.com.
Greens to Go, Fort Mason Center; online at greensrestaurant.com.
Humphry Slocombe, 2790 Harrison Street; online at humphryslocombe.com.
La Boulange, multiple locations (we visited 1000 Parnassus Street in Cole Valley); online at laboulangebakery.com.
Miette Patisserie, multiple locations (we visited the one in the Ferry Building); online at miettecakes.com.
Tartine, 600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco (415)487-2600; online at tartinebakery.com.

 

Thursday
Jul232009

Rule of Hum: A Primer on the Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake, Kingfish Cafe
We're going to discuss Hummingbird Cake for a bit, OK?

In case you missed the loving tribute to the cake a while back, here's a sweet little 411 on this decadent treat:

What is it? Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is like carrot cake, but instead of carrots, it has banana and tiny bits of pineapple and pecans--and is generously blanketed with an abundance of rich cream cheese frosting. Or at least that's how I think of it. 

Where does it come from? While there is some evidence that the Hummingbird is a descendant of the Doctor Bird cake from Jamaica, stateside most of us tend to associate the cake with the deep south. And, to that point, it was in the south that we find the first documentation of this bananarama of a confection being called "Hummingbird Cake"--in a 1978 issue of Southern Living (source: foodtimeline.org).

What's with the name? Well, going back to that Jamaica, it turns out that the national bird is the swallow-tail hummingbird, and "Doctor Bird" is a nickname which refers to the bird's coloring, which if you squint really hard could resemble a doctor's coat. But as to why the cake is named after the bird? I'll go with the most poetic (and my favorite) explanation: it's so sweet that people are drawn to it like hummingbirds to nectar.

There's Cake in there, I promise!
Where on earth can the cake in the pictures be obtained? Now, you know that we're all fans of Kingfish Cafe's Red Velvet Cake--but friends, all I can say is that if you happen to go there and they happen to have Hummingbird Cake that day, get it. Theirs is probably one of the best I've ever tasted: rich, moist cake lightly studded with pineapple and nuts and topped with a thick slab of rich cream cheese frosting and a generous dollop of whipped cream for good measure--all drizzled with caramel and chocolate and powdered sugar--and topped with a prettily sliced strawberry. Like, O.M.G. Of course, it didn't hurt that the slice was also about the size of Rhode Island.

Goodbye.
However, if you're not lucky enough to check out their gorgeous Hummingbird cake, I do have a trusted recipe for a generously sized one (a slight riff on this recipe). It's not the same as the Kingfish cake, but it's a respectable cake nonetheless:

 

 

Hummingbird Cake

Cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 oz crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups very ripe bananas


Frosting:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 pounds confectioners sugar (I know, I know)
  • Extra nuts for garnish (if desired)

For the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together into mixing bowl several times. Add eggs and salad oil to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple and the pecans (saving a few to garnish the top of the cake). Stir in the bananas. Spoon the batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes,or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting: Combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar a little at a time (you might not need all of it--it's always easier to add more than to remove it!), beating with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

 

Frost the tops of all 3 layers, stack and then frost sides. Sprinkle top with leftover pecans (or you might want to add more if you like a crunchier cake-top).

 

Thursday
Jul232009

Gimme S'more: Delicious S'more Brownies

S'more brownies by Nicole
Brownies can be a polarizing subject: cakey or fudgy? Frosted or unadorned? Wars haven't been fought over the subject, but I'm pretty sure that punches have probably been thrown.

In a 2007 NY Times article, Julia Moskin wrote that “The ideal modern brownie is simple and unadorned, but rigorously designed (like a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress).” While she has a powerful point here, it's clear that she's never tasted the s'more brownies made by multitalented CakeSpy buddy Nicole (who happens to be a baker, pet shop owner and occasional clothing store employee...how many hours are in her day?). These decadent little chocolatey nuggets get a perfect little slightly salted crunch from lightly crushed graham crackers and an absolutely heavenly texture from the marshmallows. She served these at a recent get together at her house, and they disappeared faster than you could say (in your saddest Oliver voice, natch) "S'more, please".

Luckily Nicole has shared the recipe so that we may all attain this well-accessorized brownie nirvana at home.

 

 

Nicole's S'more Brownies
  • 2 eggs
  • 1c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 c. shortening, melted (CS Note: Not sure how it would affect the recipe to use butter instead here, but I'm not anti-shortening and thought it gave them a nice chewiness).
  • 2 -1 oz squares unsweetened chocolate melted
  • 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. slightly crushed graham crackers
  • 10 large marshmallows, cut in half

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs lightly with a spoon. Stir in sugar, salt and vanilla. add shortening and chocolate. Stir in flour and graham crackers. Do not beat at any time. Spread mixture into 8 inch square pan. Place marshmallow pieces on top of brownies; bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. (Nicole's note: brownies should still be soft; let cool in pan
before cutting.)

 

 

By the way, if you're in the Seattle area, your canine friends can enjoy Nicole's baking too--she sells homemade dog biscuits at her pet store Immortal Dog Pet Supply! Just saying.

 

Wednesday
Jul222009

Cookies by Tea: Delicious Little Picnic-Friendly Morsels

Cookies by Tea
My friend Tea says she's not a baker, but as you can see by these cookies, she's a liar.

She served these little morsels at a recent picnic we had (along with buddies Megan, Scott and Mr. CakeSpy), and they were definitely the star of the show. Though unassuming in size (while the close-up shot may fool you, they are actually about the same size as a jumbo marshmallow), they pack in a lot of flavor: they're chock full of white and milk chocolate chips, nuts and apricots, and very, very buttery. The apricot works especially beautifully, adding a wonderful moisture to the texture as well as a nice flavor complement to the sweet chocolate chips. Honestly, I can't imagine a more perfect picnic cookie. They're compulsively eatable and extremely addictive: just watch out, because it's easy to lose track of how many you've eaten!

Now, I haven't made the cookies myself (yet), but Tea based her recipe on this one, but with minor changes.

Tea's Cookies
  • 1 2/3 cups regular flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, stir in the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until well blended, then add the chips, almonds, and apricots.

3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an unprepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies should be golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks.

4. Enjoy, preferably at a picnic.

 

If you've never visited the Tea & Cookies site, then boy, are you in for a treat: click here! If you have visited before, why not visit again...now?

Tuesday
Jul212009

Tongue in Cheek Sweets: Cupcakes by Cynically Delicious

Cynically Delicious Cupcakes
Now, it shouldn't surprise you that on our recent San Francisco trip, our sightseeing didn't involve Alcatraz, the Fisherman's Wharf or the Golden Gate bridge--it was more of the cookie, cake, ice cream and pie variety.

One of our favorite discoveries? SF-based special-order cupcakery Cynically Delicious, who serendipitously happened to be seated next to us at the Renegade Craft Fair.

Their mission statement is fun:

she's got great taste in shoes...

no offense to your mom, but we probably don't bake like her.

cynically delicious is a boutique cupcakery that combines the joys of food with the fun of art. we don't take ourselves too seriously, but we do use serious ingredients.


Cynically Delicious Flavors
But their cupcakes, wrought with pop-culture references, are even funner. At the show they were serving the "MJ" Michael Jackson tribute (chocolate on the inside, vanilla outside, ordained with his black shoes and white socks); the "Crap Cake" (ghiradelli chocolate cake with cayenne cinnamon frosting with marzipan flies buzzing on top); the "Fuzzy Navel" (peach cake with champagne frosting); and the "Slumdog Selleck" (chai cake with cardamom cream cheese frosting, topped with a Selleck-inspired moustache).


Cynically Delicious Cupcakes
And at just $2 a pop, they were an easy sell. I tried the Slumdog; and while the spicy cake was pleasingly moist and gorgeously complemented by the rich cream cheese frosting, it would be a lie if I didn't admit that it was really the chocolate moustache that "made" the cake. Mr. Spy went for the MJ (after all he's a musician) and raved about the rich chocolate cake, but ultimately got jealous of my mustachioed cake and had to get a Slumdog for himself, and declared it the better flavor.


MJ Cupcakes by Cynically Delicious
The attitude that surrounds these cupcakes is very fun, and it makes the cupcakes a pleasure to eat--we're so glad to have discovered you, Cynically Delicious.
"Crap Cake" by Cynically Delicious
For more information (or if you're in the Bay Area and want to place an order), visit cynicallydelicious.com.

 

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