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Thursday
Dec032009

Cake Byte: Cuppie At the Milwaukee Art Museum!

MAM After Dark
Cuppie has made it to the big time: he's officially been acknowledged by the Milwaukee Art Museum!

OK, granted, it's a very tiny image, but hey: we've got to start somewhere, right? Next stop, solo show at MoMA!

Cuppie was used as a promotional image for the Milwaukee Art Museum's MAM After Dark: A Very Red Velvet Holiday event, which is also brought to you by the lovely and amazing Sandy Ploy of Iron Cupcake. For more information on the Andy Warhol-meets-cupcakes event, visit their site!

Thursday
Dec032009

Cookie Love: Red and Green Christmas Cookies

Red and Green Christmas Cookies
What do black and white cookies wear to holiday parties? Festive red and green frosting, of course! This fun take on the classic New York treat starts with the classic cakey drop cookie, but instead of the traditional fondant, I went for a more rich (and in my opinion, more delicious!) combo of colored buttercreams for the top. This was also a great choice because Challenge Dairy was kind enough to send me a bunch of coupons for free butter to bake with (say what you will, but I will always accept candy from strangers and free butter)! They were intended for a party, but they didn't last long enough!
Red and Green CookiesYum

The recipe can also be found on my latest entry for Serious Eats!

Red and Green Christmas Cookies

- makes 8 to 12 cookies, depending on size -

For the cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
For the frosting:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter--I used Challenge Dairy's unsalted butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar (you may not use all of it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • red and green food coloring
  1. Make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; in a separate small bowl, stir together buttermilk and vanilla.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed (scraping down side of bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until smooth (the texture is somewhere between cake batter and drop cookie batter).
  3. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, put mounds of batter about 3 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you use a cookie scoop, you will probably get about 12 medium-sized cookies; if you use an ice cream scoop, which is generally a bit bigger, you will get about 8 big cookies. Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack and let cool until they are room temperature.
  4. While the cookies cool, make the frosting. In an electric mixer, cream the butter, adding the vanilla, and then the confectioners' sugar, bit by bit, until it has reached your desired consistency. Separate your frosting into two separate dishes. Combine the frosting in each dish with food coloring (I used about 10 drops of green and 10 drops of red for strong, vibrant colors) until fully combined.
  5. To frost, first turn the cookies over—you will actually frost the flat bottom side. Frost the cookies one side at a time. I found that I could get a sharper line down the middle if I started frosting from the outside in, finishing with a stroke down the center. When adding the second color of frosting, the key is to make sure you frost the part where the two colors touch last, frosting the dividing line in one smooth stroke (no backtracking or you will drag the other color of frosting back with you!).
  6. Serve immediately; store at room temperature in an airtight container. I found that these tasted best either the day made or the next day.

Wednesday
Dec022009

Say Cheesecake: Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl and Gingersnap Crust Recipe

Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake
Leftover pumpkin pie? Not a chance. But if you stockpiled pumpkin puree like it was going out of style this Thanksgiving season (you're not alone!), then it is time to use some of your stash to make a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl. CakeSpy buddy Nick recently served Mr. Spy and I this cake and let me say, our socks were knocked not only off but clear out of the park. Adapted from a 1993 Bon Appetit recipe, this cheesecake is like a meeting of Thanksgiving and Christmas flavors, including pumpkin in the filling and spicy gingersnaps in the crust--throw in about two pounds of cream cheese, and nirvana ensues. Nick's summation? "the crust is made of gingersnaps and pecans and butter, the cheesecake is made fairly traditional with about a cup and half of pumpkin bits and I used cinnamon and 'pumpkin pie spice', the frosting top is part of the cheese cake mix in it's early stage when it's just cream cheese and sugar, and to finish it off I used a spiced rum caramel drizzle on top." (Note: the recipe below just includes the regular caramel swirl)
Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl
- 10 servings -

Crust:
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
9 TBS whipping cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice

4 large eggs
1 tablespoon (about) purchased caramel sauce
1 cup sour cream

  1. For Crust: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Finely grind ground cookies, pecans and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture on to bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.
  2. For Filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Transfer 3/4 cup mixture to small bowl; cover tightly and refrigerate to use for topping. Add pumpkin, 4 tablespoons whipping cream, ground cinnamon and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. 
  3. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Bring remaining 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture to room temperature. Add remaining 5 tablespoons whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Press down firmly on edges of cheesecake to even thickness. Pour cream cheese mixture over cheesecake, spreading evenly. Spoon caramel sauce in lines over cream cheese mixture. Using tip of knife, swirl caramel sauce into cream cheese mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
  5. Release pan sides from cheesecake. Spoon sour cream into pastry bag fitted with small star tip (do not stir before using). Pipe decorative border around cheesecake and serve. Nick's Note: I did not do the sour cream border, found it to be excessive and kind of weird to the whole thing.

Wednesday
Dec022009

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Goody Goodie Cream and Sugar


Photo via Goody Goodie Cream & Sugar

What inspires love?

I'll tell you what inspires love: Goody Goodie Cream & Sugar, a San Francisco cookie company which I discovered recently via DailyCandy. Turns out they use a very important filling-to-dough ratio in their cookies: four to one. As in, you'll have a mouth full of fillings, and they won't be from the dentist.

And with flavors like "The Circus" (a perfectly sweet and salty mix of candy popcorn and semisweet chocolates) or "Coconut Five-O" (semisweet chocolates and coconut galore!) to macaroons which promise to make you a believer, they've certainly hooked me. The cookies are available at various retail locations in the SF area, and I know I will be seeking them out the next time I am there!

Oh, Goody Goodie: I've never met you, but I love you.

For more information, visit goodygoodie.com.

Tuesday
Dec012009

Sweet Art: Cuppie Meets Gingerbread Man

Cuppie is feeling the holiday spirit; Gingerbread man is not.
It's December, and you know what that means: it's the Month of the Cookie. And Cuppie is wasting no time getting down to business! Unfortunately, while Cuppie is feeling the holiday spirit, it looks like Mr. Gingerbread is feeling something else entirely.

Tuesday
Dec012009

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Gourmet Library


I don't know about you, but I love looking at online bake shops. Even if I don't order, I get a lot of flavor ideas (and things to dream about!).

My current online crush? Gourmet Library, a site dedicated to food: including videos, stories--and an online shop!--which I discovered via Thrillist. They have a comprehensive Cakes and Confections section, which includes goodies like Almond Pan Cantuccio,Chocolate Dipped figs, Almond-filled Speculaas, Stroopwafels, and more! I especially love how each product has a video where the employees discuss the product.

Check it out at gourmetlibrary.com!

Monday
Nov302009

Sweet December: Cupcake Royale's Holiday Cupcake Roster

Figgy Pudding Cupcake, Cupcake Royale
So what if it's not technically December yet? Cupcake Royale has their holiday flavors out already in full force!

Here's what you'll find there this month:

Figgy Pudding: A rich and fudgy chocolate chunk fig cake topped with a light and fluffy, old-fashioned brandied chocolate buttercream. Puts a whole new spin on "bring us some figgy pudding"!

Eggnog: Featuring real eggnog buttercream from local dairy farmers, swirled on top of a vanilla butter cake. Topped with holiday sprinkles and freshly ground nutmeg.

Candy Cane: A wintry peppermint buttercream swirled top either vanilla or chocolate cake, topped with a sweet starlight mint.

and of course, they decorate their Red Velvet Cupcakes (it's a new recipe!) with a sweet holiday sparkle at this time of year.

Available all autumn long at the four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and contact info, visit www.cupcakeroyale.com. Of course, you can keep up to date with their goings-on at legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com.

Monday
Nov302009

Sweet Seconds: Thanksgiving Leftover Cranberry Nut Bars for Serious Eats

Thanksgiving Leftover Cranberry nut Squares for Serious Eats

The year's biggest eating weekend is over (sigh). But there's definitely some sweet eating to be had from the little leftovers left, as proven by these cranberry nut squares. This is a revamped version of a pecan bar but composed instead with leftover cranberry sauce and the mixed nuts that played a supporting role in so many Thanksgiving recipes. The result is surprisingly addictive: sweet, salty, tart, and buttery, all at once.

Not only will you enjoy eating them, but you'll also feel a sense of accomplishment at finishing some of the slower-moving Thanksgiving leftovers.
Thanksgiving Leftover Cranberry nut Squares for Serious Eats
You can find the full recipe at Serious Eats!

Sunday
Nov292009

Cake Byte: Cyber Monday Sale at CakeSpyShop.com!

Le Shopping
Do you need some sweet treats for the holidays? How about some holiday cards, or perhaps a sweet cupcake ornament? It's all available--plus so much more--on CakeSpyShop.com! And through Monday, November 30, you can get some sweet savings! Use code CSHOL when checking out and you'll get 20% off everything!

Now that's a totally sweet deal! Season's Sweetings!

Friday
Nov272009

Winter Wonderland: A Sweet Dispatch from the National Gingerbread House Competition

Gingerbread Houses
Have you ever been curious about the nation's gingerbread elite? Even if you weren't, bet you are now. Here, Cake Gumshoe Shannon reports on the scene at the National Gingerbread Competition:

A peppermint forest, a sprinkle laden path, sugary turrets and beams of brown baked gingerbread. This is the stuff that children’s dreams are made of, as are the incredible and edible works of art entered in this year’s famous National Gingerbread House Competition put on by The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.
Gingerbread Windmill
After months of baking and building, gingerbread architects and purveyors of icing of all ages from across the country have witnessed the judging of their mouth-watering creations. Winning entries are now on display throughout the historic hotel until January 3.

While the name of the contest may conjure pictures of a child’s dilapidated yet endearing four-sided gingerbread home made from a store-bought kit, you’ll find much more among this spicy and sweet collection of entirely edible concoctions.
A marshmallow-laden igloo. A zoo of tasty lions and tigers with caramel cages. A Dutch windwill with spokes of pretzels and chocolate. A cuckoo clock with almond pinecone weights. A castle with a gingerbread princess. Next to a mandate of gingerbread as a building block, imagination is the most important rule of this contest.

Some of my most favorite entries are the most out-of-box inventions such as a festive Egyptian pyramid draped with frosted boughs and holly atop a sugary sweet desert neighbored by a crystal blue sea with a magical sailboat. The base of the boat is made of ice cream cones and is topped by a mast of ruby red licorice and a sail of yellow fruit roll-up.

Then there is the gingerbread house that models a posh Mediterranean villa with a terracotta roof, manicured gardens, a tiled patio and glistening blue fountains that mimic running water, or the gingerbread woven picnic basket filled with fruit and a parade of ants atop an iced picnic blanket.

The grand prize winner of this year’s contest perhaps bends all notions of gingerbread houses with a stunning copper and gold gilded bird cage with two brilliant snow white turtle doves. The base of the bird cage is encircled with perfectly shaped pears and leaves that seem to glow with reflected light (pictured top).
Gingerbread Picnic Basket
Certainly too beautiful to eat, it’s not hard to see on first glance, why this entry brought home the contest’s ultimate prize, which includes a $3,000 prize check, a two-night club floor stay at The Grove Park Inn, dinner for two, daily breakfast for two and a prize package from Chef Nicholas Lodge including a two-day class at the Nicholas Lodge School in Atlanta, Georgia, not to mention major bragging rights at the next neighborhood cookout or potluck.

While the top winners are interesting to see as a collection, each individual gingerbread creation has a story to tell that’s reflected in the incredible attention to detail and hours of work invested. To hear the stories behind the gingerbread, visit The Grove Park Inn and take part in the “Stories of Gingerbread” guided tours.

The Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave., Asheville, NC 1-800-438-5800; Gingerbread Hotline 1-800-413-5778; online at groveparkinn.com.

For more of Shannon Connell’s work, check out her website.

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