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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.

 

Tuesday
Jul212009

Totally Sweet and Magical: New CakeSpy Tees Available!

 

New tee!

Might as well burn all of your other tee shirts, because from now on, this is the only one you'll ever need.

 

Yes, it's time to acquaint yourself with the newest CakeSpy t-shirt! It has basically the most magical scene ever: cupcakes, rainbows, unicorns, hearts and shooting stars! This limited edition design is printed on American Apparel black t-shirts; they are hand screen printed in bright, vibrant pink and sparkly metallic silver (please note that American Apparel tees can run a bit small, so please check out the size chart).

Want to feel the magic? Click on over to cakespyshop.com to purchase!

Wednesday
Jul152009

Look To The Cookie: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Timeline

Chocolate Chip Cookie Timeline
Oh, Chocolate Chip Cookie. Ever since you were discovered by accident by Ruth Wakefield in the 1930's, you've taken the nation by storm, claiming our affections and our appetites. But while much has been made of your discovery, pinpointing your progress from regional specialty to worldwide superstar is a little bit harder. And so, dear cookie, in an effort to get to know you better, I've created a timeline in an effort to see where you've been and where you're going. In short, Chocolate Chip Cookie, this is your life:

1930: Ruth Wakefield moves into the Toll House, which was originally constructed in 1709 as a haven for road-weary travelers, where passengers. Here, passengers paid toll, changed horses and ate much-welcomed home-cooked meals”. The 1930s incarnation (sans toll) was quite similar. (Source: verybestbaking.com)

1934: Could this be a wrinkle in the story of the cookie's invention? According to foodtimeline.org, the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook contains a recipe for "Chocolatetown chip cookies" (p. 75) that includes a 12 ounce package of Hershey's Baking Chips. Here's a link to the book.
Cookie Flower
1937: According to verybestbaking.com, this is the year Ruth made the One day, while preparing a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, a favorite recipe dating back to Colonial days, Ruth cut a bar of our NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate into tiny bits and added them to her dough, expecting them to melt.
Instead, the chocolate held its shape and softened to a delicately creamy texture. The resulting creation became very popular at the Inn. Soon, Ruth's recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as other papers in the New England area. Regional sales of the NESTLÉ Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar skyrocketed.

1937-39: Somewhere in this period, Ruth approaches Nestle and they reach an agreement wherein she receives free chocolate or life, and they get to print her recipe on the back of their semi-sweet chocolate bar (at the time, scored chocolate bars were used for the chips in the cookies).

King Cookie
1939: The chocolate chip cookie is featured on the Betty Crocker radio program “Famous Foods from Famous Places”. This propels the cookie from regional treat to national phenomenon. (Source: Betty Crocker's Cooky Book)

Chocolate Chips
It is also this year that in an effort to make the cookies easier to bake, Nestle debuts their Semi-sweet chocolate morsels.

1940’s: The cookie’s popularity is cemented as it is commonly sent in care packages to soldiers during the war years: an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that “when the boys in service are asked about the kind of cookie they’d like to get from home, this kind still rates high…it is not just designed for packing and boxes and shipping; it will be just as welcome to the home folks who frequent your table…and by those who like to find something in that cookie jar when they lift its lid”.

Smart Cookie
1948: According to etymonline.com, the phrase "Smart Cookie" is first documented this year.

1955: General Mills files the first known patent for dry cookie mix.

1957: According to etymonline.com, the phrase "that's how the cookie crumbles" is first documented this year.

1959: Lemon chips (lemon-flavored morsels in the style of chocolate chips) are introduced, and all of a sudden hybrids of chocolate chip cookies involving flavored morsels begin to abound; peanut butter, white chocolate, toffee and more follow. All of a sudden, the chocolate chip cookie's family expands.
Yummy cookies
1963: Chips Ahoy! Makes their supermarket debut.

1966: The original Toll House is sold to a family who tries to turn it into a nightclub; a bakery down the block continues baking the cookies based on the original recipe.

1969: The Cookie Monster (at this point unnamed) makes his debut on the first episode of Sesame Street.

Also this year, Hershey’s introduces their own morsels, the “Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips”
Sweet love
1971: The first Starbucks opens. I don't know about you, but I tend to believe that their bakery offerings were the inspiration for a lot of coffee shop bakery cases, so this would ultimately impact the chocolate chip cookie!

Cookie Shop
1975: Per Wikipedia, a failed agent decides to open what is believed to be the first chocolate chip cookie-specific store: Famous Amos. Today, there is a sign commemorating the first Famous Amos store in Los Angeles, located at West Sunset Boulevard and North Formosa Avenue in Hollywood.

Cookie Crisp
1977: Ralston debuts Cookie Crisp Cereal.

Also this year, the first Mrs. Fields store opens in California and is said to have debuted the first cookie cake.

Also this year, Great American Cookies opens in Atlanta, GA.

Also this year (what an eventful year for cookies!) there is a lawsuit involving chocolate chip cookies which gets settled in NYC.

1979: A large amount of chocolate chip cookie-specific shops start opening in NYC.

Chipwich!
1980: Per Wikipedia, the Chipwich, an ice cream sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies and extra chips rolled on the sides, is invented by Richard LaMotta, a former CBS-TV video engineer.

Tube Cookies?
Also this year, 1980: Procter and Gamble registers the first US patent for shelf-stable cookie dough.

Also this year, Maida Heatter's recipe for the “Big Sur” chocolate chip cookie (Heatter says "These California cookies are 6 inches in diameter --they are the largest homemade chocolate chip cookie I know") hits the mainstream this year and becomes a popular product in bakeries.

Big Sur Cookies
  • 1 1/2 Cups sifted AP Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 2/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/3 Cup granulated Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup quick cooking (not instant) Rolled Oats
  • 6 oz. (1 1/2 cups) Walnuts, cut or broken into medium sized pieces
  • 6 oz. (1 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut aluminum foil to fit cookie sheets.

 

2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, - set aside.

3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and then both of the sugars and beat to mix. Beat in the eggs one at a time. On low spedd, add the sifted dry ingredients and then the rolled oats, scraping the bowl as nessary with a rubber spatula and beating only until mixed.

4. Remove from the mixer and stir in the nuts and morsels.

5. Now work next to the sink or have a large bowl of water handy so you can wet your hands while shaping the cookies, Spread out a piece of wax paper or foil. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to measure the amount of dough for each cookie. form 12 - 15 mounds of the dough , and place them any which way on the foil or wax paper. Wet your hands with cold water, shake off the water but don't dry your hands , pick up a mound of dough, roll it into a ball, flatten it to about 1/2 inch thickness, and place it on the foil. Do not place more than 4 cookies on a 12 x 15 1/2 inch piece of foil or cookie sheet. These spread to gigantic proportions.

6. Bake two sheets at a time for 16 to 18 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back as necessary to ensure even browning. Bake unitl the cookies are well colored; they must not be too pale. Watch these carefully; they might become too dark before you know it.

1983: Though the company started in 1977, this is an important year because Otis Spunkmeyer revamps their previous retail business model and creates a business model wherein they created a fresh-baked cookie program for other foodservice operators. The program included pre-portioned frozen cookie dough, a pre-set convection oven and marketing materials. This innovative program, allowed both big and small food service operators to sell fresh baked cookies (within 18 minutes) in their facilities. Today, Otis Spunkmeyer ready-to-bake cookie dough is the #1 brand in the foodservice industry. (Source: Wikipedia)

Also this year, Blue Chip Cookies is established, and it claims to be the first business to sell the white chocolate chip macadamia cookie.

Cookie Trials and tribulations
1984: The Toll House burns down, under the photograph printed by the New York Times (January 2, 1985 I 12:5) describing the fire that destroyed Ruth Wakefield's kitchen the reads "Wreckage of Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Mass. It was where the chocolate chip cookie was invented."

Chocolate Chip Coconut Pecan Cookies
1987: Cookie wars break out between David’s cookies and Pillsbury over whose ready-to-bake cookie dough products will take center stage in grocery stores.

Cookies Love Milk
1990: City Bakery opens in NYC and grabs the attention of chocolate chip cookie enthusiasts all over.
Cookie Dough Ice Cream
1991: Ben and Jerry’s is credited with bringing chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to the world in a big way this year. It wasn’t too surprising considering the runaway success of cookies n cream, debuted in 1983, though.

1992: Hilary Clinton gets in trouble for saying she’s not one who wants to “stay home and bake cookies”. In an effort to make nice later, she shares her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with Family circle magazine.

1995: Doubletree Hotels begin giving out cookies at check-in. This becomes a popular service for several boutique hotels.

Cookie from Levain
Levain Bakery opens in New York City and brings their mountainous cookies to the masses.

1996: Not sure if they were the ones who invented it, but this is the year that Dunkin Donuts debuted the chocolate chip bagel. This was a beautiful, beautiful combination of carbohydrates and chocolate chips and at least deserves a shout-out.

Chocolate chip cookie dough is a big part of this winning recipe from the Pillsbury Bake-Off (picture from Pillsbury.com):

 

  • 1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • Dash salt, if desired
  • 2/3 cup SMUCKER'S® Caramel Ice Cream Topping
  • 5 tablespoons Pillsbury BEST® all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup Fisher® Chef's Naturals® Chopped Walnuts
  • 1 cup Hershey's® semi-sweet baking chips (6 oz)
Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Stir or knead in oats and salt. Reserve 1/2 cup dough for topping. In ungreased 9-inch square pan, press remaining dough mixture evenly in bottom to form crust.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until dough puffs and appears dry.
In small bowl, mix caramel topping, flour and vanilla until well blended. Sprinkle walnuts and baking chips evenly over crust. Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture. Crumble reserved 1/2 cup dough mixture over caramel.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen bars. Cool completely, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store tightly covered.

 

1997: The chocolate chip cookie is declared the official state cookie of Massachussetts.

Also this year, according to the New York Times, Neiman Marcus puts and end to an urban myth about their shop charging a customer $250 for their chocolate chip cookie. Turns out, they never even sold chocolate chip cookies—but they started to after the myth made the rounds. And they sold well.

Mom's super secret chocolate chip cookies
Also this year, this documentation was made of the baking and eating of the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie at the time (maybe still?).

Also this year, an application filed to patent the chocolate chip cookie pie. I still like the cookie cake pie better.

2008: David Leite’s fascinating New York Times article about seeking perfection in the classic cookie renews interest in the cookie around the world and introduces the idea of letting the dough rest to the masses, as well as the idea of using discs rather than chocolate morsels.

Those Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies from the New York Times

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
  • (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
  • Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

 

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Also this year, CakeSpy teaches you how not to make a chocolate chip cookie.

Is there a sweet moment from the Chocolate Chip Cookie's history that has been missed? Leave a comment and it will be added!

 

Need a Mother's Day gift idea? Send Mom a personalized cookie gift basket with Clever Cookie, where gifts are good enough to eat.

Wednesday
Jul152009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Sprinkles Edible Art in Olympia, WA

Corn on the Cob Cupcakes
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne Cooke. Check out her website here!


At Sprinkles Edible Art in Olympia, your cupcake can be dressed up the way you want. Sprinkles, which is dubbed “an interactive pastry shop” on its business cards, offers the “Edible Art experience” either in a kit to take home or directly in the shop. For $6, you get a cupcake, individual cake, cookie, or brownie, as well as a small container of frosting, three different kinds of sprinkles, and a drink.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
There are dozens of sprinkles of all shapes and colors to choose from, including bear-shaped sprinkles and Christmas-themed sprinkles. Cupcake and frosting flavors cover the basics, such as chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting. Drinks include soda, juice, milk, coffee, and water. Once you order your baked good and gather your sprinkles, you’ll sit at a table with a cupcake-shaped placemat and begin to frost your goodie.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
Now it’s time for the fun part. I found that each tiny container of sprinkles was more than enough to cover the entire cupcake. I added the other sprinkles just for fun, but most fell onto the plate because there wasn’t anything left to stick to! The chocolate cupcake was good and moist, and the cream cheese frosting was delicious.
Chocolate Cupcake from Sprinkles Edible Art
If you’d rather skip the art experience and get straight to the goods, you can. Cupcakes are $1 for small, $2 for large; brownies are $2.25; cake is $5; and cookies are under $1.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
On my second visit to Sprinkles, I opted to try a cupcake without all the jazz. The shop was sporting a new display case, and inside were lemon-filled cupcakes that looked too good to pass up.
Lemon Cupcake, Sprinkles Edible art
Though the cake looks a bit like cornbread, it definitely doesn’t taste like it. The cupcake was a tiny bit crumbly, yet still plenty moist and flavorful. The filling was pure heaven, gooey and sweet—but not overly sugary. It was similar to doughnut jelly filling, rather than the lighter lemon curd found in other lemon-filled cupcakes.
Lemon Cupcake
Sprinkles also hosts live music events and rents its space for any special occasion you can think of, from birthday parties to Pampered Chef parties to cookie swaps. There’s plenty of seating, from tables and chairs to couches surrounding a television. A local photographer’s art hangs on the walls, and there is interesting cupcake art near the entrance, including cupcakes-on-the-cob covered in yellow jelly beans and speared with corn cob holders (CakeSpy Note: this project was also done beautifully on Peabody's blog!)

 

Sprinkles Edible Art is an artistic shop with plenty going on. The people working there are always friendly and inquisitive, making sure your experience goes well. The cupcakes are tasty and the topping choices are abundant. Kid or adult, it’s a fun place to visit!

Sprinkles Edible Art, 316 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA, (360) 350-0712; online at sprinklesedibleart.com.

For more of Roxanne Cooke's work, check out her website here.

Do you want to be a Cake Gumshoe too? Feel free to submit bakery reviews or great baked good related finds (with pictures, please) to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

 

Wednesday
Jul152009

Sweet Art: Hollow For Illustration Friday

Oh Cuppie, you'll just feel hollow in the morning
This week's Illustration Friday theme is Hollow, which got me thinking about a recent evening of drinking and debauchery that Cuppie had. As hindsight is 20/20, he'd like to let you all know that even though it was fun at the time, he just felt hollow in the morning.

Wednesday
Jul152009

Kickin' It: Old School Frozen Custard, Seattle

Old School Custard, Seattle
So, Old School Frozen Custard has opened in what is quickly becoming Seattle's Ice Cream District in Capitol Hill, what with the recent opening of several other arbiters of chilled treats including Molly Moon's Ice Cream and more recently Bluebird Ice Cream. However, you'd be a fool to mistake frozen custard for your everyday softserve. Why? Well, Old School's website does their best to educate, under the heading "What is Frozen Custard?". As they put it:

We know what you're thinking, but you're probably wrong. Frozen custard is not flan, crème brûlée, or something your grandma throws in a pie.


as the narrative goes on, the differences are mainly to be found in two places. First, ingredients: frozen custard not only contains a minimum of 10% butterfat (this is the delectable thing that makes premium ice creams coat your tongue with deliciousness), but it also has 1.4% egg yolk by weight. It's the yolk that separates frozen custard from regular ice cream by adding a "richer, fuller taste and an indescribably silky texture."

 

The second difference is preparation: "The volume of regular ice cream is almost doubled by the air whipped into it during production (called overrun)," --crystals formed during this time can lead to a coarse texture in softserve ice cream. With frozen custard, the mix is continuously fed into and frozen in a barrel, avoiding this extreme aeration and resulting in a denser, creamier finish with 70% less overrun than regular ice cream. It's also served slightly warmer than ice cream: "In contrast to regular ice cream which is served just above freezing, Old School's frozen custard is served 18-20 degrees warmer, which allows for maximum flavor and doesn't freeze your taste buds."


Old School Custard, Seattle
But enough science. As they say, proof is in the pudding, and the expert CakeSpy tasters (Allie, Jason and Danny) agreed: this stuff is good. Old School only offers three flavors daily (vanilla, chocolate and one daily special) but personalization can be attained with a large variety of mix-ins, from brownie bits to nuts, pretzels, caramel and more. The smooth, silky texture of the custard was delightful, and the addition of brownie and fudge was declared a delight; all agreed that the whipped cream, too, was exceptional. 
Overall, the tasters seemed to agree that custard is not for the feint of heart: if you're expecting regular softserve ice cream, the creamy density of this rich treat might be overwhelming. Happily though, this also makes Old School a different enough experience from the other ice cream places that perhaps they can all exist in harmony, ready to cater to all sorts of different frozen-treat cravings. But if it's a seriously decadent dessert experience you're seeking, then maybe it's time to kick it...well, you know.
Old School Frozen Custard, 1316 E. Pike Street, Seattle; online at oldschoolfrozencustard.com.

For an interesting NPR story about frozen custard, click here.


Old School Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

 

Tuesday
Jul142009

Tour de Cupcake: Mapping the Gentrification Frontier, Deliciously

NYC Cuppies
CakeSpy Note: This feature is the result of a tipoff from Cake Gumshoe Kelly Mola--check out her amazing artwork here!

No doubt about it, cupcakes are popular these days. But is it possible that their popularity is indicative of more about our culture than a simple case of sugar lust gone wild?

Yes, according to Kathe Newman, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy Development at Rutgers University, who is organizing the Tour de Cupcake in New York City: cupcakes can also tell the story of gentrification. According to the project's simple site,

NYC has witnessed an extraordinary influx of capital since the early 1990s that has pushed gentrification into the far reaches of the city. We will locate the new gentrification frontier by mapping the location of the plethora of “hip” cupcake-serving bakeries and puppy parlors (dog spas). 

The site links to a Google Map where users are welcome to add shops that they think should be on the tour; in September, this map will be used as a basis for an actual tour around the city during which participants will "map the gentrification frontier, one bite at a time." The tour will be the basis for an academic article to be submitted to the Urban Affairs Review.


Cupcakes at Billy's Bakery in NYCS'mores Cupcakes at Crumbs, 8th St., NYC
What got the project going? According to Dr. Newman in an email, "I am very interested in the process of urban change and how, why, and where it happened in the last decade and a half. I've been mapping the geography of these changes but the data source is always a problem." Which leads to the next point...

 

Cupcakes at Eleni's, Chelsea Market, NYCFauxtess Cupcakes, 71 Irving, NYC
Why cupcakes? Well, as she further noted, "I've noticed that newly gentrifying neighborhoods seem to have one thing in common - a fantastic little place to get cupcakes. I'm always dragging home very pretty little cupcakes for my children while on research trips." This is what prompted her to start a map of cupcake shops and puppy parlors (which do seem to crop up in similar neighborhoods) to see how they compare to more traditionally used data.
Nussbaum & Wu, NYCCupcakes, Little Atlas Cafe, NYC
Of course, cupcakes work for other reasons too: if data is socially produced, what could produce better data than asking people to collaborate in the act of producing it? And as Dr. Newman so aptly puts it, "I want my students to go to cities and learn about urban change. I thought if there were cupcakes involved they would most certainly go!"

Want to get involved? You can add to their Google Map here and check out their website here; anyone is welcome to attend the tour in September.

 

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