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Sunday
Oct252009

Cake Byte: Sweet Cupcakes at the Space Needle Holiday Cards!

Cuppies at the Space Needle Cards!
Here's a shout-out to all of the Seattle sweeties out there: a bonus Cupcakes at the Space Needle holiday card design! It's the newest item in the CakeSpyShop.

Here's the basic info:

This is a boxed set of 10 cards and envelopes. The cards measure 4.25 x 5.5 inches folded. All ten are the same design: sweet little wintry cupcakes at the Space Needle in Seattle! The envelopes are plain white, and empty canvas to draw little snowflakes, hearts and Santa hats on for the recipient!

Inner Greeting: "Sweet holiday wishes"


Cuppies at the Space Needle Cards!Cuppies at the Space Needle Cards!

 

These cards (as well as a bunch of other sweet stuff for the holidays!) are available for purchase at CakeSpyShop.com.

Friday
Oct232009

Sweet Impression: CakeSpy Rubber Stamp Giveaway!

Win a set of stamps!
Like, OMG! Are you ready for a sweet giveaway?

This time, it's a set of Christmas rubber stamps featuring Cuppie in all sorts of sweet wintry scenes! This set of unmounted rubber stamps is a collaboration between CakeSpy and Taylored Expressions, and it comes just in time for either making your own holiday cards...or for giving them to a crafty friend as a holiday present! The set would usually retail for $21.95, but one lucky winner is getting a set for free!

To put your name in the running, just answer the following in the comments section(because it's never to early to start thinking about these important things):

What sweet treat are you most looking forward to this holiday season? 

(Christmas cookies? Pies at Thanksgiving? St. Lucia Buns? Perhaps something else entirely?)
Of course, if you can't wait, you can purchase the stamps here, stay in touch with Taylored Expressions via twitter and their blog, and also check out the inspiration gallery here!
The cake poll will close on Monday, November 2 at 12 p.m. PST!

 

 

 

Friday
Oct232009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sarah Leoni of Coco & Co. Fine Chocolates

Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
My mother claims my first word (other than, you know, ma and pa) was "chocolate". While I have no memory of the incident, why would she lie about something like this?

This is all, of course, to say, that I have had a lifelong relationship with chocolate--as a consumer. And while my tastes may not be so refined that I can calculate cacao percentages upon a single bite, I do know what I like. And I definitely like Coco & Co., a Portland-based chocolate company specializing in a variety of truffles, barks, and mendiants (fancy chocolate medallions). Want to learn more? Here's a brief interview with Sarah Leoni, the owner and head chocolate girl, who developed a deep love of chocolate in Lyon, France:

CakeSpy: What did you do before you started this company?
Sarah Leoni: I've done lots of odds and ends jobs, everything from being a barista to working in a Microbiology lab to teaching French and Italian and most recently as manager of a salon and spa. Each one taught me a little about what I wanted to do with my life and how to start a business.


CS: What took you to Lyon , France?
SL: I had always dreamed of living in Europe, so when I was in school I gravitated towards languages. I studied French and Italian and was able to spend a year abroad in both Italy and France. The majority of that year was in Lyon.
Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
CS: You cite Lyon as the place that really sparked your interest in chocolatemaking. Did you study chocolatemaking there?
SL: If you count eating chocolate all the time, then yes, I studied chocolate there. But no, not formally. I was there to study French language and culture.

 

 

CS: So then, was it just the culture?
SL: In part, I think the inspiration for me to start a business has been there all my life and my love of chocolate was innate. But being in France definitely guided a deeper appreciation for savoring life's pleasures - for taking the time to really enjoy what we eat and drink and do. Also, the chocolateries and the patisseries in France felt like home for me - I could see myself behind their counters. Going into them wasn't just about buying a sweet, it was a way to daydream about the future.  

CS: How has chocolatemaking affected how you look at other chocolate? Has it deepened your appreciation, made you more critical, etc?
SL: Making my own chocolates has made me more critical and more appreciative. I have less tolerance for chocolate that is mass-produced, over-flavored and too sweet. I can notice subtle nuances in chocolate that I couldn't before, so I'm very happy when I find chocolate that is obviously made with care.

Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
CS: What is your ultimate chocolate dream?
SL: In terms of chocolate, my dream is to participate in the growing, harvesting and hands-on production of the cocoa beans. I want to make my own chocolate from bean to bar. I want to see that the people growing the trees are getting paid a living wage - I want to connect with the birth of chocolate, the rich history, the cultures it comes from and the lives it supports.

Photo used w/Permission from Coco & Co
Excited? Well, you should be. If you want more, Coco & Co. will be selling chocolate at the following upcoming events in Portland, OR: 
  • November 7: Hip Happening, from 11am-5pm at the Sellwood Masonic Lodge, 7126 SE Milwaukie
  • November 20: Handmade NW Holiday Market, from 10am-6pm at the World Trade Center Plaza, Downtown Portland
  • November 24th: Moreland Holiday Farmer's Market, from 3PM-7PM at the Boys and Girls Club at 7119 SE Milwaukie 
  • December 6: Handmade NW Formal Holiday Artisans Fair, from 11am-6pm at The Chelsea Ballroom
  • December 13: Crafty Wonderland Super Colossal Holiday Sale, from 11am - 7pm at the Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall D, 777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.

Online shopping is forthcoming; in the meantime, check out what they have to offer (and marvel at the gorgeous photography, largely by Ryan Nowell, at cocoandcochocolates.com.

 

Friday
Oct232009

Trick or Sweet: Ghoulish Cupcakes Recipe from Bredenbeck's Bakery of Philadelphia

Disaster!
Dear Bredenbeck’s Bakery:

I've never met you, but I love you. Why? Because recently you sent me the adorable following recipe / Halloween craft idea: Ghoulish Cupcakes! I'm happy to report that it is as easy in practice as it is in theory, and all parties to which they are served are completely delighted--and satisfied by the taste, as well. It's no trick: these are a real treat!

Sweet regards,

CakeSpy

P.S. To all others--do you want to recreate this magic at home? It's easy. Just do this:

Ghostly Halloween Cupcakes

-recipe kindly donated by Bredenbeck’s Bakery in Philadelphia -

You'll need:

  • A dozen of your favorite cupcakes (I used this recipe)
  • 16 oz. vanilla icing (I used this recipe)
  • 22 oz. (two packages) white chocolate chips or candy coating, plus a generous tablespoon of vegetable shortening (the shortening is my addition)
  • Gel icing

Directions:

  1. Start with your favorite cupcake recipe and bake according to instructions.
  2. Flip your cooled cupcakes upside down, and spoon a dollop of icing on top (of the upturned bottom) to add height
  3. Place the iced cupcakes in the freezer until icing is firm
  4. Melt white chocolate and shortening in a double boiler
  5. Place frozen iced cupcakes on a wire rack
  6. Spoon melted white chocolate or candy coating over top of iced cupcakes, allowing excess to drizzle through wire rack
  7. Create beady eyes and scary faces with black shoestring licorice or gel icing
  8. Enjoy!


Ghostly Cupcakes

 

If you happen to be in Philadelphia, you can also try the original Bredenbeck’s version of these tasty treats. I hear a rumor that for the month of October, customers who say “Boo!” will receive a ghost cupcake for a discounted price.

Care to hear more about the bakery? OK! Here's the 411: A Philadelphia tradition since 1889, Bredenbeck’s Bakery bakes its delicious cookies, cakes, pies and pastries with the finest all-natural ingredients. Located in the heart of Chestnut Hill, Bredenbeck’s is famous for its delicious butter cookies, fancy miniatures and gourmet wedding cakes, all baked on premises. The historic shop is located at 8126 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 215-247-7374 or online at bredenbecks.com.

Friday
Oct232009

Sweet Art: Fast for Illustration Friday

Fast for Illustration Friday
This week's Illustration Friday theme is "Fast", which immediately made me wonder how quickly a cupcake might run a marathon. As evidenced by this illustration, all that buttercream certainly does make for a sugar "rush"!

Wednesday
Oct212009

Big Fun: Tricked Out Treats Using Fun Size Sweets

Big Fun with Little Candy Bars
If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and punch whoever invented the Fun Size candy bar.

Because you know what? They aren't very fun at all. Eating just one is definitely not fun (too small!) and when you inevitably try to satisfy your candy appetite by eating 10-12 of the pint-sized treats, what you feel is basically the opposite of fun.

Can this sticky situation be salvaged in time for Halloween, when Fun Size reigns? In the name of science, I purchased an entire bag of Fun Size Snickers bars and tried in several different ways to put the fun back in Fun Size. I'm happy to report that it was indeed fun, decidedly delicious, and these ideas could easily be translated to other Fun size variations (perhaps not so much on the non-chocolate varieties such as Starburst or Skittles, though I encourage you to choose your own adventures). Ready for some fun? Let's do it:

Fun Size S'moreFun Size S'more
Fun Size S'more: Guess what? Making a s'more with a Fun Size candy bar instead of bar chocolate works fantastically! The caramel oozed in a most satisfying way, and worked in a sort of campfire-meets-rocky road sort of way. (P.S. if you like this, you may also enjoy the S'moreo).

Fun Size Filled CupcakesFun Size Filled Cupcakes
Fun Size Filled CupcakesInside of Cupcake

Fun Size Filled Cupcakes: Make a batch of cupcakes. Fill the cup slightly lower than you generally would with batter, and put a fun-size bar directly in the cup. Bake per the recipe's instructions, and then frost once cooled. It's like a sweet trick (and treat) in the middle of your already awesome cupcake. Score!

Fun Size Frosting Sandwich
Fun Size Frosting Sandwich: Sandwich together two Fun Size bars with a generous smear of buttercream frosting. Ignore any objections or concerns that may arise as a result of friends, arteries, or better judgment, and let the party in your mouth begin.

Fun Size Kebab
Fun Size Kebab: Alternate slices of your Fun Size candy with another small-ish confection, say a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll. Because two small treats make one delicious experience.

Fun Size ShortbreadFun Size Shortbread
Fun Size Shortbread: Kind of like a simplified Millionaire's shortbread. Simply make your favorite shortbread recipe and form as cookies or as bars (I used a mini scone pan, for no particular reason other than that it was clean and around), and before baking cut up an entire Fun Size candy bar on top of each serving. The candy will ooze into the shortbread as it bakes. It doesn't necessarily look pretty, but it tastes fantastic.

Let's be honest with ourselves. We can all eat four.Let's be honest with ourselves. We can all eat four.
Let's be honest with ourselves. We can all eat four.Let's be honest with ourselves. We can all eat four.

"Let's Be Honest With Ourselves" Fun Size Confection: Let's be honest. We've all eaten four Fun-Size candy bars (at least) in one sitting. So why not be honest with yourself by mashing them all together beforehand? Take four bars and align them together on a plate; microwave on high for about 20 seconds. Use a knife to smooth over the chocolate so that they stick together, and dig in while it's still warm. Use a knife and fork and your dignity will remain intact. Sort of.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Now wasn't all that fun?
We're Having Fun!

 

Wednesday
Oct212009

Cake Byte: New Collaboration With All-Mighty!

CakeSpy Collaboration with All-Mighty!
Holy sweetness, Batman!

You can accessorize in the cutest way possible with a brand new suite of custom card and checkbook holders I designed for one of my favorite companies, All-Mighty! The designs incorporate all sorts of cupcakes and sweets hanging out with Boston Terriers in some of the world's most chic places!

Now if these aren't cute, I don't know what is!

To purchase these new items (as well as a bunch of other sweet products!), visit all-mighty.net.

Tuesday
Oct202009

High On Pie: Delicious Fall Offerings from High 5 Pie, Seattle

S'mores pie
Like, OMG. As a huge fan of Seattle's High 5 Pie, Danny and myself were very excited to receive a preview pack of their new fall "flipside" hand pie offerings. Here's what we sampled:

First, the spiced plum walnut flipside, a sweet and spicy pie with a great texture and cozy, spicy flavor;

Then there's the sweet potato pie flipside (below), which is dense and aromatic, and lovely with a dollop of thick whipped cream;
Sweet Potato Hand Pie

and of course the S'mores flipside ( below); while initially we were surprised to slice it in half and discover that the chocolate had mostly sunk to the bottom leaving a hollow pie shell on top, this was quickly turned into an advantage when we heated the halves and stuffed them with vanilla ice cream;
S'more Hand Pie

Though I generally don't go savory, I would be remiss if I didn't give a quick mention to their hearty potato/cheese/dill/veggie flipside, a comforting and homey potpie type of snack...

As well as their rich as all get-out, savory mac n cheese flipside (below). Mac and Cheese in a thick pie shell? Carbohydrate heaven!
Mac and Cheese Hand Pie by High 5 Pie

Though they weren't ready when we sampled them, there will also be caramel pecan and pumpkin pie options available.

Overall thoughts? Suffice it to say it's going to be a very good fall to become fat.

High 5 Pies are available at all Fuel Coffee locations; for more information, visit high5pie.com. Also, keep updated with them via Twitter and their blog, and you can also buy proprietress Dani Cone's awesome book on Northwest coffee culture, Tall Skinny Bitter: Notes from the Center of Coffee Culture.

Tuesday
Oct202009

Chow Bella: What Kind of Sweets Do Italians Eat?

Cuppie in Rome
When I think of Italian sweets, I immediately think of the Little Italy-style bakery, with rows of cookies by the pound, breads stacked in the back, and various cakes and pastries out front. But what kind of sweets do Italians--you know, in actual Italy--really favor? While conversing with Cake Gumshoe Elisa, who is based in Italy, while she noted that "Italy has 20 regions and everyone has its particular baked goods", she dished up some of the things you might expect to see at her Italian dessert table; I've put together a little explanation of what they are (with a little help from Wikipedia). 

CakeSpy Note: Please note, however, that the photos are mostly from my (American) archives, so they should be viewed as a mere reference and might not necessarily look the way they would in Italy!

 

Amaretti: This little cookie is a holiday tradition in Italy (and beyond) which has a delightful story: "In the early 1700s, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple, residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds. These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations."

Brutti ma Buoni: Literally translated as "ugly but good", these craggy little cookies are made using a mixture of nuts, egg whites, liqueur, and a bit of cocoa . You can find a recipe from Mario Batali here.

A Cannoli! In Seattle! From Remo Borracchini
Cannolo alla Siciliana: What we would call a cannoli here in the US (as in, "leave the gun, take the..."). These little sweeties consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese (or alternatively, but less traditionally, sweetened Mascarpone) blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, rosewater or other flavorings.

Dolce Italia, Queens, NYC
 Cassata: The cassata siciliana consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese, candied peel, and a chocolate or vanilla filling similar to cannoli cream. It is covered with a shell of marzipan, pink and green pastel colored icing, and decorative designs. The cassata is finally topped with candied fruit depicting cherries and slices of citrus fruit characteristic of Sicily. 

EATS Market Crostata
Crostata: A crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie. It is traditionally prepared by folding the edges of the dough over the top of the jam/marmalade filling, creating a more "rough" look, rather than a uniform, circular shape and topped with various jams, pastry cream or fresh fruit. A typical central Italian variety replaces jam with ricotta mixed with sugar, cocoa or pieces of chocolate and anisetta; this is called crostata di ricotta. In terms of recipes, doesn't this one from Herbivoracious sound fantastic?

Pandoro (or pan d'oro): This one is fairly similar to panettone in that it is a traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, most popular around Christmas and New Year. What defines it? Well, it is generally more cakey and less fruit-heavy than panettone, and it is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section. And--deliciously enough--"Modern taste sometimes calls for Pandoro to have a hole cut into its bottom and a part of the soft interior to be removed, the cavity is then filled with chantilly cream or vanilla gelato. Cream or gelato can be served as a garnish to pandoro slices." You can find a recipe here.

Panettone: This is another traditional holiday treat. Simply put, it's "a soft, north Italian yeast brioche with candied fruit, usually prepared for Christmas"--but it's steeped in tradition and lore which you can read about here, if you're so inclined; you can find a recipe here.

Tiramisu at Dishes, Grand Central Market
Tiramisù: This treat is not baked, but it sure is delicious, made of savoiardi (otherwise known as lady finger biscuits) dipped in espresso or strong coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, mascarpone, and sugar, and topped with cocoa.

 

Tuesday
Oct202009

Season of Sweetness: The Fall and Winter 2009 Lineup at Essential Baking Company, Seattle

Peppermint Cookies from Essential Baking Co.
The weather may be getting cooler, but in Seattle, Essential Baking Company is clearly going to keep us all warm this winter. Just take a look at their seasonal menu. Like, yum.

The following items will be available all season long, from October 1-December 31: Apple Cranberry Tart, Bourbon Pecan Tart, Individual Raspberry Baked Alaska, Individual White Chocolate Snowman, Black Forest Cake (in 9" or individual servings), Caramel Praline Cheesecake, and Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake.

And later on in the season (from November 20-December 31) you'll be able to find the following: Buche de Noel (12" or individual buchette), sugar cutout Christmas cookies, and Gingerbread men.

But wait, there's more: from November 4-December 31, they will also have the following specialty items on the menu:

Holiday Cakes From Around The World: A sweet suite of three cakes that will "take your tastebuds on a journey around the world: the Creole, South Indian and Mexican falvors each boast a velvety rich texture, regional spices and a hint of liquor for extra holiday cheer."

Stollen from Essential Baking Company
Stollen: A traditional German cake-like bread packed with raisins, dried cranberries, and currants with a hint of orange liqueur. Festively sprinkled with icing sugar.

Peppermint Swirl Cookies: Marbled chocolate and vanilla tea cookies with refreshing peppermint flavor throughout. (pictured top)

Three Wise Loaves: A modern version of gold, frankincense and myrrh, these tea loaves in Cranberry, Pear Ginger and Spice boast a moist, fine crumb. Slice up and serve with a cozy beverage.

To ensure that the location closest to you has the item you want, be sure to call first, because they're bound to sell like...well, you know. For locations and more information, visit essentialbaking.com.

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