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Monday
Jul062009

Under My Thumb: A Loving Look at the Vegan Thumbprint Cookie

Vegan Apricot Thumbprint from Zoka
Can we talk about vegan thumbprint cookies for a moment?

These nubbly little jam-filled treats are a very popular vegan choice in Seattle (possibly beyond?). They've been available at Flying Apron (and since they wholesale, also at coffee shops and grocery stores which carry their pastries too) for years, but now there are several other shops and bakeries which also carry variations on this vegan cookie. What accounts for this cookie's popularity in vegan form, though?

Well, for one thing, they're an easy cookie to veganize without sacrificing any flavor. Though many classic recipes for thumbprint cookies include butter, many also use oil; so really, in some cases these cookies are inherently vegan. And to speak specifically to their popularity in the Northwest, they're a dense, oaty cookie, and Seattleites do tend to love those vaguely healthy tasting, granola-y treats.

For me, these cookies have been sort of a gateway drug into the world of vegan confectionery: they're dense and chewy and oaty; sweet but not cloying--the perfect type of cookie to eat for breakfast. Here is just a sampling of some that I've known and loved around town: 


Vegan Apricot Thumbprint from Zoka
The vegan thumbprints at Zoka Coffee are generously sized, generously dolloped with jam (apricot and I believe raspberry), and are wonderfully nutty.
The thumbprints at Flying Apron bakery (not pictured) are not only vegan but gluten-free too; they are made with a mixture of rice and garbanzo flour which gives them a nice flavor complexity; they're finished with a sweet apricot jam.

Vegan Thumbprint cookies
The vegan thumbprint cookies at Whole Foods in Seattle are wonderfully spiced and have a nice, slightly crunchy oaty texture. 

 

Vegan Thumbprint Cookie

The vegan thumbprints at PCC in Seattle are the chewiest of the lot, but plenty dense and flavorful--I especially love these ones for breakfast.


Want to make your own vegan thumbprint cookies? Here are just a few good-looking recipes online:

Do you have a great recipe to share or know of a good spot for vegan thumbprints not mentioned here? Leave a comment!

 

Sunday
Jul052009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Indulge Cupcakes in Puyallup, WA

Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne Cooke. Check out her website here!

Live life one cupcake at a time.
Keep calm and have a cupcake.
Are you checking out my cupcake?


Inside Indulge Cupcakes in Puyallup, you’ll find a variety of cupcake sayings, as well as a variety of cupcake flavors. Indulging here is simple.

 

Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
The bakers at Indulge have the classics covered: vanilla with chocolate or vanilla buttercream, chocolate with vanilla or chocolate buttercream, and red velvet with vanilla buttercream.

Indulge also offers chocolate chip mint, lemon with lemon cream cheese frosting, cinnamon swirl, caramel macchiato, and orange dreamsicle. The lemon and orange dreamsicle cupcakes have freshly squeezed juice in their batters.

The shop sells a few specialty cupcakes, including carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, coconut with coconut buttercream, cherry chip, and strawberry shortcake.
Regular cupcakes cost $2.80 and specialty cupcakes are $3.75. The rest of the menu is devoted to drinks: espresso, tea, and smoothies. There’s a shelf full of cupcake-themed items, including cards and cupcake-shaped ceramic containers. Indulge also rents its space for events, such as baby showers.


On two separate occasions in June, I visited the downtown Puyallup shop with a friend. On our first visit, it was near closing time, and we ordered the chocolate chip mint and red velvet. Both were a bit dry, but we chalked this up to the late hour. The frosting, while beautifully done, was a bit sugary for our taste buds.
Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
Before leaving, I bought a cherry chip cupcake to go and kept it in my fridge for a few days before tasting it. The cupcake was yellow on the outside and pink on the inside. It was moist and sweet, but not overpowering.

 

Cupcake from Indulge Cupcakes, Puyallup WA

On our second visit, we arrived early in the day and tried the caramel macchiato and carrot cake cupcakes. The caramel macchiato (pictured directly above), featuring a coffee bean on top and caramel syrup swirled over the frosting, had a delicious coffee flavor, but the frosting was still on the too-sweet side. The carrot cake (pictured below), now my favorite at Indulge, was just about perfect. The ratio of cake to frosting was more manageable, the frosting felt smoother and tasted less sugary, and the cake was rich, moist, and flavorful. Plus, it’s just cute!

 

Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
I’ll definitely be going back to Indulge Cupcakes to try their other cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and to see what other specials they come up with. The people running the shop are always friendly, there’s interesting art on the walls, and their beautiful cupcake creations are fun to try.
Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke

Indulge Cupcakes, 207 N. Meridian, Puyallup, 253-904-8234; online at indulgecupcakes.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.

 

Friday
Jul032009

Snap, Crackle and Pop Rocks: Explosively Delicious Fourth of July Cookies

 

Pop Rocks Cookies: Tastes Like America.

Sure, you can make red, white and blue treats for the 4th of July. But how can you really American 'em up for the holiday?

 

You need to add explosions.
Pop RocksPop Rocks

Like a summer blockbuster movie, these cookies are chock full of explosions: they're both infused and garnished liberally with Pop Rocks. This not only makes them crackle like fireworks but also pays homage to that other all-consuming american obsession: truly trashy candy (and I say this in the most loving way possible).

So--are you ready to make your fourth of July extreme?

Here's how you do it.

Pop Rocks Sugar Cookies (based on this recipe from the King Arthur Flour site)

1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) butter
2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, to taste
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar till smooth. Add the buttermilk and vanilla, again beating till well-combined. The mixture may look a bit curdled; that's OK.

Add the nutmeg, flour, baking soda and salt to the wet ingredients, and beat until the mixture forms a cohesive dough.
Red, White, blue.
Divide into three parts, mixing one part with blue food coloring (a lot!), one part with red (also a lot) and leave one part plain. This way, you can have a mix of red, white and blue.
Pop Rocks Cookies
At this point, you'll want to break into those Pop Rocks. I put a nice little handful of red (strawberry) and blue (raspberry) into the corresponding balls of dough (you could do a mix in the white dough).

Drop the dough in round blobs onto a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. They should be a bit bigger than a ping-pong ball, a bit smaller than a golf ball. Using a cookie scoop (or, if you have one, a small ice cream scoop, one that will hold about 2 level tablespoons of liquid) makes this task extremely simple. Leave about 2 inches between the dough balls, as they'll spread as they bake.

Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for about 12-14 minutes, or when they are just starting to brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack. While you're waiting for them to cool, you'll want to take a small bowl and mix the leftover pop rocks with whatever red, white and blue sprinkles you've got around. Once cool, either top with a generous dollop of frosting (I used cream cheese, below) or put a dollop between two cookies for a sandwich. If you've just frosted the top of the cookie, apply sprinkle mixture to the top or dip it into the bowl if the frosting consistency allows for it; for the sandwiches, you can dip the sides in the bowl so that they pick up the sprinkle mixture.
Sprinkles on the sandwiches

Cream Cheese Frosting (from Slashfood)

Beat 8 oz. cold cream cheese (not rock solid, but it means you can use it straight out of the refrigerator) with 5 Tbsp. softened butter and 2 tsp. vanilla until combined. Gradually add 2 c. powdered sugar that has been sifted after measuring. Continue to add more sifted powdered sugar until you reach a consistency and sweetness that fits your taste.

Sprinkles
Sprinkle mixture

I used two half-pouches of Pop Rocks (what was left after I folded some into the dough) and a mix of some other red, white and blue sprinkles I happened to have around.


Pop Rocks Cookies
Mmm, tastes like America.

 

Friday
Jul032009

Sweet Art: Shaky for Illustration Friday


This week's Illustration Friday theme is Shaky, which got me thinking about the strained relationships between other baked goods and trendy cupcakes. How do other sweets feel about the little cakes' popularity?

Could Cuppie be on shaky ground with these tough cookies?

Update: Reader Response! Meaghan of The Decorated Cookie and Edible Crafts has made a sweet commentary on the issue of cupcakes' popularity! Read about it here.

Wednesday
Jul012009

Cake Poll: Baking Vs. Eating Preferences

Cake Poll Time!
It's July, and high time for a sweet giveaway! This time, Carolyn's Kitchen, a very cool company which designs retro-inspired aprons and kitchen accessories, has kindly donated one of their fashionable aqua cupcake aprons (retail value $42!) for the giveaway. I hope I don't need to tell you that this is a totally awesome prize.

How do you put your name in the running? It's easy. Just satisfy my curiosity about sweet preferences. Is what you like to bake the same as what you like to eat? Or are they different? Just answer the following in the comments section below and you'll be entered in the running!

*Please note this giveaway is only open to US Residents. The Cake Poll will close on Monday, July 6 at 12 p.m. PST, and the winner will be contacted for their size/address/info shortly thereafter. If you'd like to shop at Carolyn's Kitchen in the meantime, click here!

 

  • What is your favorite baked good or dessert to make?
  • What is your favorite baked good or dessert to eat?

Good luck!

CAKE POLL UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER! Christina of the lovely and amazing blog She Runs, She Eats was chosen at random from over 350 entrants (between emailed responses and comments). Thank you to everyone who entered!

 

Wednesday
Jul012009

Berry Delicious: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Strawberry 66 for July!

 

Strawberry 66 from Cupcake Royale, photo c/o Cupcake Royale

Let's get excited about Cupcake Royale. Why? Well, beyond the obvious (they are a shop that sells cupcakes), here are two very exciting reasons this month:

 

#1: Their new flavor for July, the Strawberry 66. Why 66? Well, it's made with 66% local ingredients. That is no small feat! So not only is it sweet, it's a great way to support local farmers and vendors. Here's their description:

Sweet and summery strawberry buttercream swirled atop our delicious, NEW More Moisty-er! vanilla buttercake. Made with strawberries from Skagit Sun Farms, eggs and dairy from Meadowsweet, and flour from Shepherd's Grain, this cupcake is 66% Washingtonian! It's like an old-fashioned strawberry shortcake. Only better.

#2: Their long-awaited Capitol Hill location is set to open this month! Also per their newsletter:

You've waited, anticipated, and salivated. Now, the wait is over. The cupcakes are coming to Capitol Hill. We open this month at 1111 E Pike, just in time for Block Party! Watch our blog for updates. And we'll see you on the Hill!

Looks like this summer is going to be totally sweet!

To obtain one of those delicious Strawberry 66 cupcakes, you can visit any of the three (soon to be four!) Cupcake Royale locations all July long; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com; for instant updates, follow them on Twitter!

Wednesday
Jul012009

Cake Byte: Threadcakes Contest!


When awesome t-shirt designs meet cake, the result is awesome deliciousness!

Yup: it's time for the second Annual Threadcakes Amazing Cake Contest, in which you can enter a cake design inspired by an awesome Threadless tee, and you might just win some amazing prizes!

It's bound to be good, what with judges from the Ace of Cakes, Baking Bites,  Bake or Break and Cake Journal (just to name a few!).

For full details and to enter, visit their official entry page!

Wednesday
Jul012009

Cake Byte: Layer Cake Shop Opens!

Update: Based on reader responses to this post I have followed up here--please weigh in!

It's a funny thing about baking supply shops. They always feel so cramped and dark to me--rarely do they seem as bright and happy as the cakes the supplies are used to make.

So it was a delightful surprise to receive an email announcing a new online retailer, Layer Cake Shop, which specializes in all manner of supplies for making sweets, from specialty cupcake cups to cookie cutters; a dazzling spectrum of food colorings and sprinkles and other decorations; they even have a respectable selection of packaging supplies, and even cute little DIY kits which make great gifts. Everything is beautifully and brightly displayed in this online boutique; it's definitely one to bookmark.

Yup: the internet just got even sweeter!

Layer Cake Shop, online at layercakeshop.com.

Update: Based on reader responses to this post I have followed up here--please weigh in!

Tuesday
Jun302009

Cinema and Sugar: Movies To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Adapt for Illustration Friday
Sometimes, simply eating baked goods isn't enough. You just want to live, breathe and exist in a warm shell of pastry or cake. But not, you know, in a creepy way.

How better to feed your obsession than by enjoying movies which prominently feature sweet treats? Grab your milk duds, dim the lights and dig in:

(Note: This list is not necessarily comprehensive; feel free to leave a comment with any movies that you think should be added!)

 

American Pie: Of course, this one features what is probably the most infamous pie scene in cinema.

 Animal House: As one CakeSpy reader put it, "I love the food fight scene. Watching Bluto load his tray up with donuts and jello..."
 Babette's Feast: Who cares what else they eat, "the grand finale dessert is 'Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacée' (rum sponge cake with figs and glacéed fruits). Numerous rare wines, including Clos de Vougeot, along with various champagnes and spirits, complete the menu."
The Bakery Girl of Monceau: A film in which the hero engages in "pastries and flirting with the salesgirl, a law student (Barbet Schroeder) surrenders to his appetites as he hangs out at a bakery."
Because I Said So: Featuring Mandy Moore as a baker who is secure in the kitchen but unsure about love.
Big Night: This movie mainly features savory foods, but the timpano is carbohydratey enought to warrant a mention.
Blood & Donuts: In which a vampire falls for a woman working in a donut shop. 
Buffalo 66: A heart-shaped cookie figures into the plot in this movie.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: In oh, so many ways.
Chocolat: If chocolate is your dessert weapon of choice, you simply must see this movie. In fact, I can't believe you haven't already.
Dear Lemon Lima: A brand-new film which just made its debut at the LA Film Festival, which prominently features cupcake artwork...by CakeSpy!
The Devil Wears Prada: No, food isn't in the foreground of this film, but Anne Hathaway's character does try to make nice with that dreamy Adrian Grenier by bringing him a cupcake.
Down To You: Not sure how dessert figures into this one, but I heard a rumor that it does.
Fried Green Tomatoes: What is your favorite book, movie and food? Fried Green Tomatoes may be the answer to all three, but I'll take some chocolate or a southern layer cake (but please, keep the saran wrap away) any day. But as a side note, can you believe this recipe for caramel fried green tomatoes and ice cream?
The Gingerbread Man: As buddy Megan says, "It's a terrible, terrible movie. But entertaining!"
The Great New Wonderful: According to one sweet CakeSpy reader, this one "had Edie Falco and Maggie Gylenhaal as cake designers but they weren't very happy..."
The Godfather: "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli". Beautiful!
Hoodwinked: This one was suggested by Mary--that Goody Bandit must be captured!
The Ice Cream Man: OK, so the ice cream man in question is a serial killer. He does drive the right truck! And he's Ron Howard's brother!
Just Desserts: In which a cake (and its baker) are completely enchanting to the protagonist.
Like Water For Chocolate: The wedding cake made with character Tita's tears was delicious, but made people cry over loves long lost.
Manhattan: This one is worth watching for so many reasons, but as one CakeSpy reader pointed out, dessert (milkshakes, to be exact) is a big reason!
Marie Antoinette: Cake porn, featuring sweets by French legend Laduree. Enough said.
Matilda: Basically the cake-eating scene is the sweet equivalent to the egg-eating scene in Cool Hand Luke.
Mermaids: This one got an Oscar, and I'm pretty sure it was for the marshmallow kebabs prominently featured during the movie.
Million Dollar Baby: The real money shot was at the end, when Clint Eastwood's character eats pie in the final scene.
Mostly Martha: Although you'll have to wait til the credits for the sweet stuff, says Viv, it's worth the wait.
No Reservations: According to a CakeSpy reader, the US version of Mostly Martha definitely has some good looking tiramisu featured on-screen.
The Perfect Man: According to one CakeSpy reader, this film with Heather Locklear is "awful, but she decorates cakes."
Run Fatboy Run: In this one, according to Carrie, the "love interest is a bakery sweet shoppe owner".
Serendipity: A sweet romantic comedy which has scenes in the NY Sweets-shop from which the film takes its name.
Simply Irresistible: In which a witchy Sarah Michelle Gellar enchants the dessert (and the rest of the food too).
Simpsons Movie: Of course, Homer is never far from his beloved pink frosted and festively sprinkled donuts.
Stand By Me: This one features a pie-eating contest.
Steel Magnolias: That armadillo cake did more for Red Velvet than it could ever know!
Stranger Than Fiction: If Will Ferrell's character presenting Maggie Gyllenhaal's renegade baker with a bouquet of "flours" doesn't make you melt like buttercream in sunshine, then you're probably dead.
Sweeney Todd: They make pies, but you probably don't want to eat them. Way too savory.
True Grit: In which "corn something or other Rooster Cogburn was eating on the trail"
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me: The prelude to Dale Cooper and all that damn fine pie.
Varsity Blues: The cheerleader tries to be all sexy by dressing up like an ice cream sundae! That's priceless!
Waitress: Pie, pie, and more pie!
Wayne's World: I wish I could hang out with Wayne and Garth at Stan Mikita Donuts.
When Harry Met Sally: The most famous food scene is at Katz's in this movie, but there are many other sweet cinematic nuggets including conversations about (and over) pie.

 

Got one to add? Leave a comment!

 

Tuesday
Jun302009

Rosemary's Babka: Devilishly Delicious Mini Chocolate Babka in Seattle

Mini Chocolate Babka
The other day while wandering around Ballard, I happened to walk into Great Harvest Bread and in doing so, unwittingly submitted to my destiny: The Mini Chocolate Babka.

Baked in a muffin tin, this two-pronged treat is a mini monstrosity, so ugly it's sort of cute. Because of its small size, the chocolate-to-pastry ratio is upped dramatically, making it amazingly buttery and rich; in spite of said richness, it's amazingly how quickly and easily it manages to get in your belly.
Mini Chocolate Babka
As the sign in the shop said, this mini version of a classic holiday bread is "too good to save for once a year"--and I tend to agree. Even if it is the devil in disguise.

Mini Chocolate Babka (call for availability!) from Great Harvest Bread Company, 2218 NW Market Street, Seattle, (206) 706-3434; online at greatharvestsea.com.

Not in Seattle? No need to panic. This recipe for chocolate babka sounds like just about the most delicious thing ever, and I bet it could be divided into muffin cups for mini portions.

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