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Monday
Jun012009

Very Cherry: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Rainier Cherry Cupcake

 

Rainier Cherry Cupcake, photo c/o Cupcake Royale

The month of June effing rules. School's out, the weather is warm, and there are all sorts of delicious fruits and veggies coming into season. Happily, Cupcake Royale is reaping the benefits of the cherry harvest by making them into sweet cake. Here's the lowdown on their newest flavor of the month, the Rainier Cherry Cupcake:

 

We top our delicious NEW vanilla buttercake with tangy cream cheese frosting, made with chunks of sweet Rainier cherries from Olmsted Orchards, and a little splash of cherry liqueur from Clear Creek Distillery.

Then we top the whole thing off with a sprinkling of organic roasted cocoa nibs from our pals at Theo Chocolate.

Available at Cupcake Royale; for more information and locations, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

CakeSpy Note: You should also check out their new blog for the latest and greatest cupcake news, including updates on their new location in Capitol Hill, set to open in July! Here's the url: legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com!

Sunday
May312009

Sweet in the City: CakeSpy Artwork at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn!

Come visit me at the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair!!
What's awesomer than hanging out in über-hip McCarren Park in Brooklyn on the weekend?

How 'bout hanging out in uber-awesome McCarren Park with a professional Cake Gumshoe?

I (Head Spy Jessie) will be taking part in the annual Renegade Craft Fair this coming weekend in Brooklyn; I hope that I'll see some of your smiling faces! I will be sharing a booth with the awesome Ivey of Bombalurina while I sell some super-sweet artwork, stationery and gift items--and even debut a few new products which I did in collaboration with Eleven Eleven Industries, including CakeSpy checkbook holders, passport covers and more!

Here are the details:
Renegade Craft Fair
June 6 +7 (Saturday and Sunday)
McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, New York

 

For directions and more information, visit the official website!

 

 

Sunday
May312009

CakeSpy Undercover: Curio Confections, Seattle WA

Tartlets at Curio Confections
Don't know about you, but when a new bakery opens in my town, it's a really exciting moment. So when Curio Confections finally opened in Seattle last week, naturally I was on the case. Having done some research on the joint for a DailyCandy feature, I had the pleasure of tasting some of proprietress Maria Friedman's delicious coconut marshmallows, so I was super excited to try more. Considering her baking pedigree--having worked at Trophy Cupcakes and having studied chocolate-making in New Zealand--I knew it was probably going to be good.
Nougat at Curio Confections
They opened for the first time on 10 a.m. last Saturday; I arrived at oh, about 10:08 a.m. They were clearly still in the flurry of opening-day activities; the shelves weren't quite stocked yet, and the register wasn't yet filled with change, and they couldn't yet accept credit cards. Not wanting to disrupt things too much, I picked up a couple of the freshly prepared mini-pies and went on my merry way.

Now, in the raging war between pie and cake, I have no qualms in letting people know that I am firmly on the side of cake. But when I tried these little pies, I may or may not have swooned. They were tiny--about 2 inches in diameter--but boy, were they mighty. The crust was slightly sweet and nearly shortbready, crumbling just enough to add a nice texture but not so much that you were left with a handful of crumbs. The fillings were delicate yet flavorful: the strawberry-rhubarb tasted fresh, like sun-ripened berries rendered awesomer by the addition of thick custardy cream; the blackberry-peach combination was unexpected, but completely awesome, chased with a delicate spicy aftertaste that made dear Mr. Spy wonder how fast he could cram the thing in his mouth. 

Goat's Milk Caramels, Curio Confections
Curio Confections has a cool and unexpected menu, ranging from house-made confections like nougat, marshmallows and even intriguing goat's milk caramels to sweets like scones and pies to even some savory baked goods; they cap it off by serving wine and beer, which is sure to establish it as a cool University District hangout (cos, you know, that's what college kids are into). While it might take a few weeks to get the service and technical stuff up to speed, they're clearly already bringing some serious sweetness to the table.
Curio Confections, 5509 University Ave. NE, (206)420-8493; online at curioconfections.com.

 

Sunday
May312009

Cake Byte: Stanley CupCakes!


Here's some sweet news for lovers of cupcakes and sports:

Detroit’s Cupcake Station and Pittsburgh’s CoCo’s Cupcake Café Compete for the Stanley Cup(cake)!

The Cupcake Station in Birmingham is in their own Stanley Cup(cake) competition with Pittsburgh-based CoCo’s Cupcake Café to see who has the most cupcake loving fans in hockey.

For every Wings or Pens cupcake purchased, a goal is added to the Goals Chalkboard located in each store. At the end of the series, one cupcake bakery will be able to claim the highest scoring, most d edicated, cupcake loving fans in hockey, and will be the rightful winner of The Stanley Cup(cake). Each location will be updating the “opposing” team’s score daily. Plus, the Cupcake Station will be donating a portion of their proceeds to a Red Wings charity!

From now until the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Cupcake Station will be offering special Red Wing cupcakes. Choose from an Octopus cupcake, a “Go Red Wings” cupcake or one in the team colors of Red and White. Why not score a hat trick and try all three?!

CoCo’s custo mers can choose between black and gold cupcakes, ones that spell out “Let’s Go Pens,” or those that show their support for a favorite player.

For more information, check out cupcakestation.com or call 248-593-1903 in Detroit; in Pittsburgh, please visit cocoscupcakecafe.com or 412-361-2625.

Sunday
May312009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Mobile Bakeries and Sweet Food Carts!

Cuppie on Vespa
This week we're going mobile--by pointing out some of the coolest food carts offering sweet stuff across the nation. Some stay put, but some are constantly on the move, traced only by twitter updates. This baker's dozen has captured our attention--catch them if you can (and if you've got a cool one in your town, let us know!):

Cupcake Stop takes the cake in New York City, with mini and regular sized cupcakes. They can be tracked via twitter.

Cupcake Truck in New Haven, CT prides itself on serving cupcakes made from only the finest ingredients; see where they are today on their blog.

 

Crème Brûlée Cart is cracking down on sweetness in San Francisco! They can be tracked via twitter.


Dessert Truck in NYC serves up fancy desserts (a recent menu includes pavlova and bread pudding!) from their mobile bakery at reasonable prices. 

 

HeartsChallenger is a mobile ice cream truck that can be hired in LA, Miami and New York, and any ice cream truck that features unicorns and hearts is right up there on the Spy list!

Hey, Cupcake is taking Austin by storm with sweet cupcakes served out of airstream trailers (and one location sans wheels). The locations are fixed, but still have a mobile charm.

Icycle Tricycle in Los Angeles has not only delicious icy treats, but they come at you with a mission.

Parfait Ice Cream will be bringing gourmet ice cream to the masses--on wheels--later this summer in Seattle.

 

Perfect Cupcakes is making Baltimore (and the world!) a sweeter place with a mobile cupcake delivery unit.

Skillet Street Food in Seattle is a mobile operation which mainly focuses on serving meals, but they also always have a great dessert option or two--a recent menu included lavender shortbread with lemon curd and crème fraiche.  Keep up with their daily goings-on via twitter.

Fresher Than Fresh in Kansas City, MO is serving up some super sweet sno-cones; find where they are now via twitter!

 

Treats Truck in NYC is a CakeSpy favorite for their creative menu and sweet proprietress (read the CakeSpy interview here!). 

Wafels & Dinges in NYC serves up Belgian waffles with a tantalizing variety of sweet (and savory, if you're into that) toppings; they can be tracked online.

 

What's your favorite mobile bakery or street cart?

 

Wednesday
May272009

Triple Threat: The Cookie Cake Pie

Cookie Cake Pie
Cookies, Cakes and Pies are basically the holy trinity of baked goods.

Separately, each is wonderful in its own way. Cookies and milk after school. Birthday cake. Pie at Thanksgiving.

But what if--just what if--all of this awesome could be combined into one singular sensation?

It's time to break out a seriously sweet triple play: the Cookie Cake Pie.
Cookie Cake Pie
I wish I had a more clever moniker for you, but really, the name does say it all: it's a cookie and a cake within a pie. This treat embraces the idea that if some is good, more is wonderful; it weighs more than any I've ever held in my arms, and it packs much more of a sugary punch. Excessive? Perhaps. But everyone who tried it all but licked the plate clean.

Want one of your very own? Here's what you need to do.

Cookie Cake Pie

You'll need:


Cookie Dough
First, prepare one batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. You can leave this in the fridge or to the side while you prepare the rest.

Next, prepare a single pie crust and line it into a pie plate. I considered blind-baking it, but ultimately did not, and I thought it turned out fine.
Cookie dough in pie crust
Place the cookie dough inside of the pie crust and using your fingers or a spoon, spread it so that it evenly coats the bottom of the crust. Mine was about an inch thick; I had enough cookie dough leftover to make about three big cookies, or one massive cookie dough snack.

At this point, you might want to pre-heat the oven. I considered each of the three recipes (pie, cookie and cake) and chose an average of 350 degrees.

Let the cookie-filled pie crust rest for a bit while you mix up some birthday cake. If I'm to be completely honest here, I used Rainbow Chip cake. Yes, from a mix. It just felt right, and it added such a nice color contrast. Don't judge me.
Pouring Cake Batter on Cookie dough in Pie Crust
Pour cake batter directly on top of the cookie dough til the pie crust is about 2/3 filled. The cake will rise, so you want to leave room for it. You will probably have leftover cake batter; why not make some cupcakes?
Let it Bake
Put this monster in the oven and check after about 25 minutes. I kept on checking every 5 minutes and think it ended up baking for about 30-40 minutes total. I took it out when the cake was golden around the edges. As an update, I have tried it again with other mixes and sometimes it takes up to 55 minutes.
Frost, GenerouslyFrost it!
Let cool, and frost generously with buttercream frosting (mine was approximately an inch thick--this is not the time for moderation). Garnish as desired; I thought sprinkles were festive and pretty.

Yum
Finally--and most importantly--enjoy.

 

Tuesday
May262009

In The Mix: A Sweet Giveaway from Gourmet Gift Company!

Giveaway!
It's a funny thing, but somehow the shortest weeks always feel the longest. Perhaps it's the harsh reality of going back to real life after a sweet long weekend?

It's official: you deserve a giveaway.

Gourmet Gift Company has generously offered a $100 gift certificate to one lucky CakeSpy reader! Their website is chock full of sweet gourmet mixes for cakes (including flavors like chocolate, red velvet, vanilla and champagne), cookies, brownies and a variety of other treats. Just think how much sweetness $100 could get you on this site--you could pick up some sweet treats for yourself, and friends too! What a sweet gift-by-mail for a faraway friend or relative these mixes would be! Or, if you're planning a wedding or event, the gift certificate would get you quite a few of their unique customized favors.

To put your name in the running, simply leave a comment on this post and tell which of Gourmet Gift Company's flavors you'd try first!

Sorry, US entrants only this time; this giveaway will be closed on Saturday, May 30 at 12 p.m. PST, and the winner will be chosen at random and announced shortly thereafter.

Saturday
May232009

Seeking Sweetness in South Africa: A Basic Primer

koeksister photo from flickr user Chameleongreen


One of the most interesting aspects of discovering a culture is discovering how--and what--they eat. What flavors are commonly used? What are their native ingredients? What are the regional specialties? And most importantly, what's for dessert?

 

On a recent batch of emails with South African CakeSpy reader Sophie, she not only gave a tip on a shops to pick up cute cupcake pincushions (Delagoa African Arts and Crafts), but also paused to discuss what kind of sweets they like to eat there. Cupcakes, it turns out, haven't hit in the same way they have in the US (yet), but sounds like they've got plenty of other delicious sweets to keep them busy--thanks again to Sophie, who gave the 411 on the dessert scene in South Africa:

With our 11 official languages (and those are just for indigenous languages) and a myriad of other cultures (Chinese, Portuguese, Bulgarian, German and other African nationalities) it is difficult to pin-point what desserts South African as a whole enjoys. So I’m sure you’ll understand if I can only tell you what my own South African culture (Afrikaans) enjoys!

The Afrikaans culture has its roots in the Netherlands and France, as most of our ancestors came from there during the late 1600’s early 1700’s. So many of our desserts show (I think!) similarities to those countries.


But firm favourites are:

 

· Melktert (loosely translated to Milk tart) is especially nice and creamy and it’s a firm favourite on Sundays or at parties; here is a recipe. I have a recipe from my great-grandmother that I’m dying to try still and most Afrikaans families will have recipes for this that go back many generations.

· Malva pudding is a unique South African dessert (it’s to die for!) and it almost tastes like a brandy pudding, but just much, much better. Here is a recipe.

· Koeksisters are a very, very sweet but extremely popular syrupy-coated doughnut in a braided shape and I usually can’t have more than 2 (or 3, or definitely no more than 4!). Read more about them here--also, check out the "Koeksister Monument" here!

· Melkkos (which loosely translates to Milk Food and does not sound all that appetizing) is lovely as a dessert or as a meal, especially on a cold winters’ night. It’s quick and easy and you only need 4 ingredients: milk, flour, butter and cinnamon.

What about cakes, you ask? Well, reports Sophie:


On the cake side I’m actually not to sure what would be “typical Afrikaner” cakes ... I know we love Black forest cake, carrot cake and chocolate cakes but I’ve actually never really thought about what would be the uniquely South African cakes. Now I’ll never rest until I know!

 

Thursday
May212009

Pity The Fool...and the Grunt, Buckle, Slump and Cobbler: An Examination of Fruit Desserts

Jumping into fruit desserts 

Betty, Buckle, Slump, Grunt, Fool. Sounds kind of like a string of words that might describe the before-and-after of a bar fight  or seedy rendez-vous, but really, it's a suite of sweet fruit desserts. But what exactly are they?
For those of you who have ever woken up in a cold sweat, plagued by the mystery of what's up with these desserts and their funny names (it's not just me, right?), here's a little primer on some of the different types including defining characteristics and a recipe link:

Betty (or Brown Betty)
What is it? It all starts with buttered bread crumbs, which are then topped with a fruit-and-spice mixture and baked, often with a brown sugar crumb topping. While apple is probably the most popular fruit filling, it can be made with berries, peaches, or really just about any fruit that you'd like. Choice recipe: Epicurious has an interesting take on this sweet dessert with their Apple Betty Squares.
What's with the name? Alas, as much as I looked, I could not discover the history of its name. I did, however, learn that it's got the best cultural reference of all of the desserts, having been mentioned (if not in a flattering light) in The Catcher in the Rye.
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Birds' Nest Pudding
What is it? Per What's Cooking America, this one is "A pudding containing apples whose cores have been replaced by sugar. The apples placed in a bowl and a crust/batter is poured around it and then baked. It is also called Crow's Nest Pudding." Choice recipe: Why not party like it's 1894 with this recipe?
What's with the name? It's the look of it: the apples are like little eggs to the crust's bird-nest. Sweet.
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Buckle
What is it? According to this article on about.com,
Buckles are baked and are usually made in one or two ways. The first way is that bottom layer is cake-like with the berries mixed in. Then the top layer is crumb-like. The second way is where the cake layer is on the bottom of the pan, the berries are the next layer and the top is the crumble mixture. 
The writeup also mentions that the most popular version of the buckle is blueberry. Choice recipe: Rachel of Coconut  & Lime has never led me astray, so why not try her Blueberry Buckle?
What's with the name? I wasn't able to discover the true meaning, but I like to think it might have something to do with the cakelike bottom buckling under the weight of all the sweet, ripe fruit.
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Charlotte
What is it? The Charlotte seems to be similar to the Betty, but Frenchier: according to Encyclopedia Britannica,
For a fruit charlotte the mold is lined with well-buttered bread, filled with a thick puree of apples, apricots, or other fruit, topped with additional slices of bread, and baked. It is served warm, often with a sauce.
Of course, this is not to be mixed up with Cold Charlotte or Charlotte Malakoff, which you can read about here. Choice recipe: Go to the NY Times for an Apricot and Apple version of the Charlotte.
What's with the name? Some say it takes its name for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
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Clafouti

What is it? According to Wikipedia, it is
a custard-like baked French dessert that is typically made by baking fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a batter, somewhat similar to pancake batter, in a baking dish.
Of course, the article does go on to say that 
When other kinds of fruit, such as plums, prunes, apples, cranberries or blackberries are used instead of cherries, the dish is called a "flognarde" (sometimes spelled "flaugnarde").  
Choice Recipe: Joy of Baking always does a great job--here's their cherry clafouti recipe.
What's with the name? Originally from Limousin, the dish's name comes from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning "to fill up" (implied: "the batter with cherries"). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century.
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Cobbler
What is it? This one is a dessert for biscuit lovers: a thick, biscuity crust, topped with fruit and then another biscuit layer on top--often these top bits are dropped onto the fruit so that they bake in a "cobbled" sort of way. Choice recipe: Paula Deen's peach cobbler, which will probably make you fat.
What's with the name? The definition says it all: those top bits of biscuits form a cobbled little top on the finished dessert, from which it takes its name.
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Crisp

What is it? By most accounts, it seems that the crisp is the same dish as a crumble, separated only by language; though some say that the crumble is more likely to have oats on the topping. See Crumble, below. Choice Recipe: Gosh, this one--with mixed berries and almonds-- looks good.
What's with the name? "Crisp" refers to the lightly crunchy topping once it has been taken out of the oven.
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Crumble

What is it? According to Cookthink, A crumble is a fruit-based dessert with a crumbly topping called a streusel that's a mixture of flour, butter and sugar -- plus optional flavorings like cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon zest or nuts -- that is baked until crisp. The flour, butter and sugar are combined until they form crumbs; some people like to add oats or nuts to the mixture. Choice Recipe: See above, under Crisp.

What's with the name? "Crumble" refers to the topping on so many levels: it's a crumbly streusel which is then crumbled on top to form perfect crumbles. Crumbly deliciousness.
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Fool
What is it? Per the Epicurious food dictionary, England is the home of this old-fashioned but delicious dessert made of cooked, pureed fruit that is strained, chilled and folded into whipped cream. The fruit mixture may be sweetened or not. Fool is traditionally made from gooseberries, though today any fruit may be substituted. Choice recipe: Papaya lime fool gives an old time-y dessert a modern twist.
What's with the name? Per Wikipedia, it is said to be derived from the French verb fouler meaning “to crush” or “to press” (in the context of pressing grapes for wine), though there is some argument about whether this is true or not.

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Grunt
What is it? Similar to a cobbler or slump, the grunt "piles biscuit dough atop stewed fruit"--it is defined by the fact that it is steamed rather than baked. Choice Recipe: A nectarine-cherry grunt sounds awfully good.
What's with the name? Though the fish of the same name is called such because of the grunting sound it makes, no information was to be easily had on the sweet treat's name. Perhaps it's so delicious that piggie-like grunting takes over before it is served? Sounds good to me.
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Pandowdy
What is it? With a pandowdy, the fruit is topped with a rolled piecrust, which is then broken up a bit and this allows the juices from the fruit to bubble through. Choice Recipe: This rhubarb version sounds tantalizing.
What's with the name? As learned in Nancy Rommelmann's wonderful book Everything You Pretend to Know About Food And Are Afraid Someone Will Ask, the process of breaking up the pie crust to let the fruit bubble through is called "dowdying"; bet you can guess where the rest of the name comes from.
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Pavlova

 

What is it? Per What's Cooking America, The Pavlova consists a base made of a meringue crust topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits such as kiwis, strawberries, etc. It is considered a fresh fruit pie with a meringue crust. Choice Recipe: This one looks beautiful and delicious.
What's with the name? This light dessert is named after Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova was considered the greatest ballerina of her time--and of whom it was said "She does not dance; she soars as though on wings." Oh, and now this dessert is also immortalized on stamps!
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Slump

What is it? Though very similar in composition to a grunt, the difference is that a slump is sometimes baked (often upside-down), though steamed variations are out there too. It is sometimes made with pie crust, sometimes biscuit dough. Choice Recipe: How 'bout a blackberry slump?
What's with the name? It seems to refer to the homely look of the dessert; it even gets a nice little pop-culture shout-out, as it seems that Louisa May Alcott lovingly referred to her house as "Apple Slump".
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Sonker
CakeSpy Note: I found this one on What's Cooking America and though it seems little-known, I couldn't resist including it! Here's the WCA Definition:
A sonker is a deep-dish pie or cobbler served in many flavors including strawberry, peach, sweet potato, and cherry. I’ve also read this same dish is called zonker (or sonker) in Surry County, North Carolina. It seems to be a dish unique to North Carolina. The community of Lowgap at the Edwards-Franklin House, hold an annual Sonker Festival. Choice Recipe: Find it on Hallmark's website, along with a more in-depth explanation of this charming dessert.

 

Wednesday
May202009

Sweet Art: Contagious for Illustration Friday

Cupcakes and Bacon with Cocktails
Food trends are a funny thing. From pesto to wrap sandwiches to tiramisu, sometimes a certain dish will capture people's fancy until it is just about beaten into the ground.

For this week's Illustration Friday theme of Contagious, I have chosen to illustrate two of the trendiest foods around: cupcakes and bacon. Sure, some foodie types will argue that they've jumped the shark, but these sweet (and salty) pleasures, which have captured the nation's (and, it seems, world's) attention, still seem to be spreading like wildfire, which leads one to believe that the fever for these foods is still contagious.

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