Hey, before you get all high and mighty and act shocked, just think about it this way--cupcakes need a snack too.
Or, as Chris Farley would say, "Lay off me, I'm starving!"
Hey, before you get all high and mighty and act shocked, just think about it this way--cupcakes need a snack too.
Or, as Chris Farley would say, "Lay off me, I'm starving!"
Some lament the fact that in 2.0 world, we're too focused on ourselves and disconnected as a society. You know, together but alone, that whole thing.
What's the sweetest way to come back together? How 'bout over cupcakes? I have this little theory that the popularity of cupcake shops and cafes across our sweet nation just might have something to do with the fact that they create a sense of community, as well as enjoying delicious treats.
Of course, if things come to the point where the cupcakes are all focused (which happens to be the theme of Illustration Friday this week) on their own Facebook pages and bliggity-blogs and become disconnected...well, then we're all in trouble.
Are you curious about the super secret life of a sugar sleuth?
Shame on you.
Just kidding. Want to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at CakeSpy.com? Check out this interview with Head Spy Jessie on the sweet site In Erika's Kitchen!
The writer, Erika, will be part of an upcoming event in NYC, wherein food bloggers get to decorate cakes with Kelly Ripa on behalf of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Foodbuzz and Electrolux are bringing it all together--booyea!
Seeking sweetness in Sin City? Well, hold on to your cupcakes--here is a sweet roundup of Las Vegas cupcakes from Cake Gumshoe Nicole!
CakeSpy Note: This Cakewalk comes from Cake Gumshoe Nicole, commonly known as "Miss Dot" in the blogosphere, loves all things sweet and dotty. She and her husband, Will, constantly strive to maintain the delicate balance between eating all the cupcakes and goodies they want and fending off morbid obesity. You can read all about her everyday adventures on her blog, Saving the World One Cupcake at a Time!
Stop 1: Sugar's Bakery
It took us a bit to find this place--it's not on the strip and so we had to drive about 10-15 minutes to get there. Initially, we were bummed about the distance but we soon found out that there are at least two other cupcake places in the immediate vicinity (reviewed below!) so it was OK.
Our first impression came from their sign--how cute is this?
Inside, it gets even cuter! It has great display cases for their cupcakes and other baked goodies (like cookies and brownies!) plus fun seating and reading for kids and adults alike to enjoy while munching on their baked treasures. For flavors, we finally settled on Lemon Cream, Red Velvet, and German Chocolate (pictured at the top of the post).
The good: They had a nice variety of flavors to choose from, the decorations were thoughtful and creative, and we liked that they sold other baked goods though they advertised themselves as a cupcake shop. We loved their interior decorations, too. Everything was fun, whimsical, and made us want to stay forever.
The not-so-good: Their cupcakes were refrigerated--boo!--which tends to make the cake dry out. Sure enough, after tasting the Red Velvet, we thought both the cake and frosting were dry and unappealing.
Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #2. Definitely worth the drive!
Stop 2: Mad Hatter Cupcakes
This is the second cupcake place that we visited in the area that we came to term "Cupcake Alley" because of the (awesome) predominance of cupcake shops. Seriously, there were three all within a 2-mile radius. FANTASTICO. Here's the front of the cupcake shop. Seems pretty cool, right? Oh wait, it gets better. CHECK THIS OUT. WHAT?!?! Did I READ that correctly!? CREATE YOUR [my] OWN CUPCAKES??? OMC I'm sold. They let you choose your cake flavor, filling flavor, frosting flavor, and then your own candy to put on top. They even offer suggestions if you can't decide on your own! This place is like Coldstone for cupcakes. MAKE MY CUPCAKES!! (please!) Yummy cupcake supplies :D Taking in the glory of Mad Hatter Cupcakes. After much thought, we finally chose to make two cupcakes: •HIS: Peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate frosting •HERS: Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and chocolate frosting with m&ms on top
The good: OMG can you say "MOIST"? The cake was so, so nice and moist. Mmm. The chocolate was so rich--in the words of my husband, "That's a d*mn good chocolate cake." The peanut butter cake was perfect, too. I feel like it can be difficult to capture a good peanut butter taste without creating an overwhelming flavor but Mad Hatter achieved it! Other things we liked: They sell shaved ice, too; they have a great seating area for enjoying your goodies; they provide mini cupcakes as samples (that day they had peanut butter cupcakes with white chocolate frosting); they have single cupcake holders in case you just want to take one for the road; and, of course, they have a punch card for frequent visitors.
The not-so-good: Um...
Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #1. Are you booking your trip to Vegas yet?
Third Stop: Cupcake Lane
First off, fantastic sign! No doubt about it -- this is a cupcake shop! The inside was cute and quaint with curtained windows into the back bakery area. This cupcake shop also had a great selection of cupcakes to choose from. With flavors that had names like Savannah Street (their version of red velvet) or Michigan Avenue (lemon cupcake with lemon frosting), they definitely won the award for more creative names. We chose three cupcakes here, too: (clockwise from left: Lombard Street (their "Hostess Cupcake"), Lake Tahoe Boulevard (their s'more cupcake), and Southfork Ranch (a German chocolate cupcake))
The good: Fun flavor names, creative decorations, and cute to-go boxes for single cupcakes (they used Chinese take-out containers). We also liked that they offered some sugar free cupcakes as well as cupcakes for canine companions.
The not-so-good: Their cupcakes were refrigerated. No no no no no! Pooey. Also, I really (really) hate to say this, but we were totally underwhelmed. We expected a lot given the nifty names and decorations but the cupcakes themselves were totally lacking. Lombard Street tasted like, well, a Hostess cupcake which isn't necessarily bad within itself but if I'm paying $3+ for a cupcake, it better taste amazing, not like something that usually comes wrapped in plastic in a pack of two. Lake Tahoe Boulevard also failed to deliver the nostalgic s'more flavor that I was hoping for.
Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #3. I'd be willing to go back and taste others (they do say that Savannah Street is their best-seller and we didn't taste that one) but I'm not holding my breath for our next visit. If you check out either of the first two you'll already be in the area to visit this one in which case, go ahead. I wouldn't block out time in my day specifically to make the trek, though
Fourth Stop: The Cupcakery
This cupcake shop has three Vegas locations: Two off the strip (which are listed on their site) and one on the strip on the Monte Carlo. We chose to visit the latter. This cupcake shop has a great staff who seems to love cupcakes as much as we do (which is a lot!) We were informed that the above case houses two different kind of cupcakes: on the left, cupcakes whose flavors come from the frosting; on the right, cupcakes whose flavors come from the cake (they had cream cheese frosting). I'm not going to lie, we were excited about these. Not only were they all pretty and sparkly but they had lots of fun colors and flavors and, well, since it was our last cupcake shop, we decided to go out with a bang. We got six. They're pictured below, from left to right, back to front: Southern Belle (Red Velvet), Gingerbread, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Boston Creme, Tickle-me-Pink (their signature flavor), and Strawberry Shortcake).
The good: Great staff, fun decorations for cupcakes and interior, and great location. We really enjoyed the Gingerbread Cupcake; not only was the cake good but the little decoration on top is really a gingerbread man and boy, is he tasty! Our favorite cupcake, though, was the Peanut Butter Chocolate one. Fantastic peanut butter flavor! Man, two great peanut butter cupcakes in one weekend. I'm in love!
The not-so-good: OK, I really hate to do this, but we were pretty disappointed by the other four. The Tickle-me-Pink (I'm almost positive this is what they called this flavor), their signature flavor, is just vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. You can also get it as a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Here's my thinking: If you're going to do such a simple flavor combination as your signature cupcake, make it amazing! I want it to be the best vanilla (or chocolate) I've ever tasted! After tasting it, I want to feel like all the other vanilla (or chocolate!) cupcakes I've had before were made of deception and lies. Their Strawberry Shortcake cupcake was not made from real strawberries, either, but rather that stomach-churning, fake-me-out chemical strawberry flavor that probably comes from this rather than these. Finally, did you see the carrier we got? Our six little cupcakes were sadly squished into that contained with no separators to protect them from getting all mixed together! I feel like if you advertise selling your cupcakes in combinations of four, six, and twelve, you'd better have holders for each!
Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #4. We expected so much from this cupcake shop and were really disappointed by the end of the last cupcake. We were really sad to rank this place last, though, because we really did think we were going to get some yummy cupcakes. I'm not sure if the Monte Carlo location does its baking on-site, though, so maybe we'll chalk up the downfalls to the fact that they weren't fresh...?
Brownies. Pie. Relegated to separate quadrants of the baked good world, always on separate shelves in bakery cases.
But why, when they're so much better together?
And so, in the spirit of sweet unity, I've baked what may in fact be a masterpiece: the Brownie Pie.
Comprised of a chocolate graham crust, rich, fudgy brownie filling, and topped off with a copious amount of luxuriant cocoa buttercream frosting and a festive array of malt balls, this baby weighs about the same as (if not more than) a newborn. Of course, it's a good thing it's not actually a baby--otherwise you might be coming closer to understanding why some species eat their young.
One may be tempted to call this beast of a baked good "too much", but based on how quickly it disappeared at a Pie Day party, I'm inclined to say it's "just enough".
Brownie Pie. Now, instead of asking what's been keeping these treats apart for so long, it's time to ask--what are you waiting for?
Here's how to make it.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Cream butter; add cocoa, mixing well. Add milk and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Slowly beat in confectioners' sugar until it has reached your desired spreading consistency. Spread immediately.
Totally sweet: a guest recipe from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, author of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes!
Per Lidia: This recalls for me the chocolate-and-bread sandwiches that sometimes were my lunch, and always a special treat. And it is another inventive way surplus is used in Umbrian cuisine, with leftover country bread serving as the foundation of an elegant layered dessert. Though it is soaked with chocolate and espresso sauce and buried in whipped cream, the bread doesn't disintegrate, and provides a pleasing textural contrast in every heavenly spoonful.
Chocolate Bread Parfait
Pane di Cioccolato al Cucchiaio
A large rimmed tray or baking sheet, such as a half-sheet pan (12 by 18 inches); a spouted measuring cup, 1 pint or larger; 6 parfait glasses or wineglasses, preferably balloon-shaped
©2010 Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, authors of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes
Looky here: another Seattle Valentine's Day special! This byte of sweetness comes straight from Rhienn at Look Cupcake, a boutique cupcake catering business in Seattle:
As you may have guessed, we get booked up quickly for Valentine's Day. We'd hate to leave any of our loyal followers out in the cold (no sleeping in the doghouse for you!)... so we're giving you first dibs on Valentine's Day orders. Here's the deal:
We're baking up a special batch of our La Nina de Chocolate Diablo cupcakes (Mexican spiced chocolate cake, Kahlua Especial buttercream), complete with custom flaming heart decoration. Your sweetheart will receive a dozen of these hot little numbers and a beautiful card with a message from you, all boxed up with a gorgeous bow and hand delivered right to their door.
And here's the extra sweet part: Only for recipients of this email - we're offering this package for $30. Delivery in the Seattle/Bellevue metro area is included! To receive the special pricing, please call or email to place your order by Friday, 1/29/2010.
Now that sounds totally sweet! You can take advantage of the deal by placing your order--for contact information, visit lookcupcake.com.
What happens when a former TV producer switches gears and decides to start producing sweet treats?
You get spectacular productions of sweetness, that's what happens.
Say hello to Sara Snacker Cookie Company, "a milk and cookies company" run by Sara Leand, who left behind the world of creating and producing shows for the likes of TLC, E!, and Lifetime to start creating get-fat-now treats which meld old-school nostalgia with new-school creativity and awesomeness.
Some of the menu's highlights?
The Chipn'etzel Cookie is their signature product, a kitchen sink-type cookie which combines many of the best snack foods--pretzels and potato chips--into one delicious cookie. There are variations which include dark and white chocolate drizzles, in case the original isn't rich enough for you.
The CandyPop Cookie is one of those cookies which makes children shiver with joy and dentists quiver with fear: a cookie with lollipop bits baked inside, topped with a gumball center.
Chocolate Dipped Twinkies and Devil Dogs: Want to get fat in an extremely enjoyable way? How 'bout eating one (or three) of these Twinkies enrobed in thick white chocolate or a Devil Dog smothered in deep, dark chocolate? Goodness gracious--somewhere Paula Deen is shedding a tear over these babies.
Homemade versions of classic cookies and candies: Homemade animal crackers (you can actually tell what animals they are!) and Tootsie Rolls that "won't break your teeth"--yes please!
Yup: this is what love looks like.
Where can you get Sara Snacker sweets? Right now there is limited availability in fancy food stores in the NYC area; however, they can ship anywhere in the USA! Here's a link to their online store; for more information, visit sarasnacker.com.
Happy Australia Day! Or, to those not down under...ah, happy Tuesday?
Geography aside, why don't we all celebrate by getting to know a few popular Australian treats? Here's a triple threat of Aussie treats which all happen to be named after people. And they couldn't be easier to remember: just think of them by their anagram, P.A.L, and know that when or where you may find yourself in Australia, with these three treats you'll always have a friend.
Pavlova: This lovely and light fruit and meringue dessert is named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881–1931), famous Russian ballerina; both Australia and New Zealand have claimed to be the places of invention, though it looks good for Australia in my opinion, as it is their national cake and all. One thing is for sure though: the ballerina only shared a "light as air" similarity with the dessert; I've heard it is unlikely she ever partook. Here's a recipe.
Anzac Biscuits: OK, so they're not necessarily named after one person, but an army of persons. ANZAC is an acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Corps; according to this site, the crunchy ANZAC biscuit was made by women on the home front and sent across the sea to their soldiers. Originally named "Soliders’ Biscuits" and containing just flour, sugar, milk powder and water, these simple biscuits were made to endure the journey at sea. Now the biscuits are more of a treat with the addition of butter, golden syrup and desiccated coconut. CakeSpy friend Marianne (owner of Let them Eat Cupcakes) shared this recipe.
Lamingtons: Per Joy of Baking, Lamingtons are very popular in Australia and consist of a small square of white cake (sponge, butter, or pound) that is dipped in a sweet chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut. I suspect Lord Lamington (Governor of Queensland from 1896 - 190l), their namesake, might be surprised at how popular these cakes have become. As for a recipe--joy upon joy, Australian CakeSpy reader Erin has contributed her favourite (we're spelling Australian style today) recipe.
Note: Want more? Here are some links to a few other Australian desserts which may interest you:
...and of course, if you want some serious deliciousness, look back at Cake Gumshoe Diane's Cakewalk in Sydney!