We must cop to a bit of urban snobbery--a common saying aroun CakeSpy headquarters is "bad things happen when you leave the city". However, we humbly admit that we were proven wrong when a couple of us recently took a trek outside of the city to try some of the bakeries on the Eastside of Seattle--that series of towns and cities known for their malls and tech companies. Here's a batch of sweets worth leaving the city for:
Belle Pastry: Upon walking in, the first thing we noticed was the case of baked goods: gorgeous trays of croissants, pastries, cookies and cakes, all bathed in flattering light. The second thing we noticed was the clientele--there were actually French people in the bakery--at least three separate groups that we noticed were parlez-ing francais, and we're pretty sure they weren't just language groups. This is a good sign. The croissant was pretty standout; next time though, we're going for one of the decadent-looking cakes. You know we don't like to play favorites, but we've got to admit we liked this location far better than their newer second location in Ballard. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. 10246 Main Street, Bellevue (425) 289-0015; online at bellepastry.com.
The French Bakery: This place gets a bit of a mixed review. One taster's pain au chocolat was overdone; however, the rich, flaky Napoleon was extremely satisfying and simply oozed cream when bitten into--heaven. So we're willing to admit maybe the croissant thing was a fluke; online reviews, too, seem to be consistently positive. 219 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland (425) 898-4510; online at thefrenchbakery.net.
Hillcrest Bakery: This bakery is a treasure and well worth the trip to Bothell. It has a nordic bent--look no further for Rosettes, Jan Hagel cookies, and speculaas; however, they've also got a bunch of other goodies, ranging from cupcakes, cookies and scones to even, unexpectedly but deliciously, cannoli. Mon. - Fri., 6 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sat. 6 a.m. - 5 p.m.; closed Sundays. 10010 Main Street, Mothell (425) 486-5292; online at hillcrestbakery.com.
Hoffman's Fine Pastries: Amidst the chains in this suburban shopping center, this place is a little oasis of sweetness. The shelves are alluringly stacked with all sorts of baked goods, from confections to cookies to serious cakes; everything we tried (peanut butter bar--pictured top, orange shortbread cookie, princess cake, fudge brownie) was excellent. 226 Park Plaza Center, Kirkland (425) 828-0926; online at hoffmansfinepastries.com.
Honey Bear Bakery: We'd been curious about this place since Brooks Coulson Nguyen had told us it was one of her old favorites, and finally we got a chance to test it out. This is a homey bakery, with plenty of hearty baked goods which seem perfectly suited for rainy days--rich cakes, dense cookies and bars. The chocolate oat bar was a perfect breakfast treat. Located in Third Place Books; online at honeybearbakery.com.
Starry Nights Catering: Though they're not a retail storefront, their cakes are good enough to mention again. Online at starrynightscatering.com.
Sweet Cakes: This sweet little shop has been open for under six months, but it already seems to have a following--during our visit, it we encountered what seemed like a line of regulars. The shop is cupcake heavy, but doesn't subsist solely on the mini cakes; they also have a respectable selection of bars, cookies and whole cakes. We picked up a selection of mini cupcakes; the cake was perfectly respectable, but it was the frosting--rich, buttery, creamy--that really stood out. Tues. - Sat. 9:30 - 8 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.; closed Monday. 128 Park Lane, Kirkland (425) 821-6565; online at sweetcakeskirkland.com.
As a side note, we haven't had time to hit up New York Cupcakes (warning--website has music) since it has gone under new ownership, but have heard good things about their new recipes. Thoughts?
When our friend Megan (who you may know from her ultra-awesome website, Not Martha) recently decided to run away and get married to her boyfriend of 10+ years, we applauded the decision, but with one major reservation: What about the cake? Well, luckily Megan was on the case, and found out some of the secrets of how to have your cake and eat it too while eloping--because no matter how small the wedding, there should always be cake. Here's the report:
We ran off to get married in Vegas and I was afraid we were going to miss out on the cake part of the day until somebody tipped me off to the existence of Freed's Bakery. They made wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, Italian pastries and, much to my delight, sell individual slices of wedding-y cake. There are two locations and I was so distracted by our crazy taxi driver that I cannot remember which one we ended up at. We got our slices of cake to go while our taxi driver was nice enough to wait for us and the bakery included plates, forks and napkins for us. I can highly recommend getting the cake to go and finding a romantic spot to eat it. We had dinner plans later so we ate our cake at the Bellagio at a comfy little table in a hallway which overlooked the pool.
There were a few flavors of cake slices to choose from including carrot cake and a chocolate cake but we ended up two slices of vanilla cake with strawberries, one with buttercream frosting and the other with whipped cream frosting. Both were delicious, and I think this is the best buttercream I have tasted so far. I'm not usually a fan of buttercream as I find it alternately too sweet or gritty or slimy, but this was fantastic. It was whipped light and had a nice balance of butter and sweetness.
We ate our cake near the Jean-Philippe pastry shop in the Bellagio which is amazing. There is a floor to ceiling chocolate fountain that has dark, milk and white chocolate cascading down from pool to pool. (Sadly, it's behind some clear plastic walls so you cannot sneak a taste.) We returned later in the week to try something from Jean-Philippe and split an incredible vanilla and hazelnut eclaire. The plastic utensils at Jean-Philippe had a reflective silver finish which was a lovely touch.
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At CakeSpy, the only thing that rivals the sweetness of the treats we eat is the awesome people we get to meet--bakers, artists, and sugar enthuiasts of all sorts. And I can say that without a doubt, one of the coolest people I've met in recent memory is Tuey. She contacted us a while back after reading about the Cupcake Street Art project--as it turns out, she's been making the world sweeter slowly but surely with monthly cake parties, mostly in Portland, at which she makes a cake and shares it with friends in the park--new friends and good times always ensued.
Next came several batches of quite possibly the best brownies known to man, using the recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.
And then they were made even more awesome by the addition of rosemary whipped cream.
With all of this sweetness in tow, we headed over to Cal Anderson Park on a perfectly sunny Sunday.
And we brought Danny's band, Exohxo, with us--because what party would be complete without music?
As the band began to play, people began to drift over--and from then on, we just let the good times flow. Much cake was consumed, many lucky people received free CakeSpy buttons, and we made a lot of sweet new friends.
At the end of the day, after taking Tuey back to the train for her journey home, we were all exhausted, but happily so: after all, we had all spent the day making the world a much sweeter place.
If you're interested, someone posted videos of the band playing too! Check 'em out here!
Fiery ghost chiles. Theo chocolate. Fragrant spices. Dark chocolate cake. Rich cream cheese.
These tantalizing ingredients combine to form our newest Cupcake of the Month in all it's magnificent, spicy glory. We're thrilled to partner with our local pals Theo Chocolate to bring you a taste of the world's hottest chile, the Ghost chile. Found primarily in the Assam region of India, we're bringing it to you in combination with warm Indian spices, chocolate cream cheese frosting, and our dark chocolate cake Royale.
The Chocolate Scorcher will be available for the entire month of May at all three locations; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com.
Show mom you love her by making up a batch of these gooey and delicious cinnamon rolls: like a warm, sugary hug.
Bake & Destroy's online shop has a plethora of aggressively sweet (and awesome) gift ideas, ranging from cupcake toppers to cool stickers and even hoodies and tees.
Flowers may be cliche, but flower pot cakes? Totally sweet!
Who says chocolates are just for Valentine's Day? With gorgeous touches like gold finishing and creative flavors like beer and bacon, Socola Chocolates are a perfect pick at any time of year.
For the budding writer, an online food writing course centered on how to write a cookbook proposal would be a seriously sweet choice!
You, mom, and everyone in your family would get some joy from this sky-high rhubarb crumb cake.
If you're in Seattle, check out the upcoming Passages Northwest fundraiser and auction on May 3. Not only is it a great cause, but here's just one of the things you can bid on:
Baker for a Day!
If you love pastry, cooking, and are curious about the life of a baker then this auction item is for you! Join Dan Sheehan, one of Grand Central Bakery’s pastry professionals for a morning of food and fun. You are the baker! You’ll be immersed in the smells, sights, and feelings of a bakery, produce beautiful product, and get baking tips from one of Seattle’s best bakeries. Plus, you’ll get to take home your hard earned work in the form of a dozen fresh pastries.
Last week while trolling the Seattle suburbs for baked goods, we came across one that completely caught our fancy at the Hillcrest Bakery in Bothell: the rosette. Displayed in sweet little rows in two shapes (rosettes and butterflies), these cakes were available plain or garnished simply and prettily with powdered sugar.
Dainty yet substantial would be the perfect way to describe these treats, which are actually hollow (see below); while they are light and delicate, they do get a substantive and delicious boost from deep-frying, which gives them a flavor something like funnel cake, but with a tantalizingly crunchy texture.
So what's their story? Well, according to Epicurious.com's food dictionary, the rosette is:
A small fried pastry made by dipping a rosette iron first into a thin, sweet batter, then into hot deep fat. When the mixture turns crisp and golden brown, the rosette is removed from the iron and drained on paper towels. While warm, these pastries are usually sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. A nonsweetened batter may be used to make savory rosettes, which can be sprinkled with salt and served as an appetizer. A rosette iron has a long metal rod with a heatproof handle at one end and various decorative shapes (such as a butterfly, heart, star or flower) that can be attached to the other end.
a pastry shell made by dipping a timbale iron first into a batter, then into deep, hot fat. When the crisp pastry is pushed off the iron and cooled, it can be filled with a sweet or savory mixture.
- 2 slices pound cake (any flavor you like), buttered on the outside
- 1 small slice cheesecake, slivered
2. Put in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
3. After about a minute and a half, gently lift with a spatula to see if it is lightly browned on the bottom. If it is browned to your liking, go ahead and flip; if not, let it brown just a little longer.
4. Once browned to your liking, carefully flip the sandwich. Press down on the top with the spatula to make everything kind of meld. The second side will brown faster than the first one did, so keep a close eye on it.
5. Remove from heat, turn off the heat, slice in half (if you're into that), and enjoy.
When it comes to wedding or fancy occasion cakes, I am sad to admit that I usually don't have very high hopes. Often, the look trumps the taste, which can range from oversweet to too-dry to simply flavorless. This assessment is based on having tasted quite a few wedding cakes in my time--including the five at my own wedding (no, really).
So when the owners of Starry Nights Catering & Events in Kirkland recently invited me over to their commercial kitchen to try out their cakes, I have to confess to feeling slightly wary. They assured me their cake was the best, but doesn't everyone say that? No way were we going to miss the chance to see for ourselves, so Cake Gumshoe Kris and I headed over.
Starry Nights' exterior is fairly nondescript, but inside there is a reception area that is decorated in deep, dramatic blues--inspired by the famous painting which provides the company's namesake. In the back, they have a large commercial kitchen in which we were greeted by a sweet, sugary aroma, and saw cake decorator Melanie working on cakes. So far so good.
They do cakes by custom order--mostly wedding cakes, but they also do party or occasion cakes too. In fact, they were working on the pretty Mother's Day Cake shown at the top of the post when we arrived.
We both tried a tentative forkful. I tried the Elegant Lemon first. Upon taking a bite, the lemon taste hit almost immediately, yet it was not overpowering--neither too sweet nor too tart. The creaminess of the frosting and added hint of raspberry were a perfect complement; the butter dissolved perfectly into the cake as it melted in your mouth. Sweet thoughts swirled in my mind, finally settling on a buttercreamy, sweet conclusion: this is good cake. Looking at Kris, I could tell she agreed. Yum.
We sampled the rest of the flavors, and found that while certainly we each had flavor preferences, it was clear that each and every one of them had a well balanced, not too-sweet flavor, and incredibly moist cake.
In my opinion, the not-so-secret ingredient to their success is that they think of their cakes as things that will be eaten, and not just as centerpieces--and therefore are committed to making cakes that taste good. They tend to shy away from super-sweet fondant and gumpaste in favor of melt-in-your-mouth, subtly sweet fillings and luxuriously buttery frostings; they use quality ingredients and keep things fresh (except in rare cases, cakes are never frozen, and are baked to order). The flavors, while sophisticated, are not complex to the point of distraction.
Well, save the date (and your money, and your appetite) for an upcoming art show of the sweetest proportions as CakeSpy teams up with Seattle's own Trophy Cupcakes! The show will be up all month, but if you want free cupcakes, you'd better come to the opening reception!