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Wednesday
Nov112009

Sweet November: Seasonal Flavors at Trophy Cupcakes

Candied Yam Cupcake from Above
Forget the Pumpkin Pie: this November, it's all about the cupcakes! Local cupcake bakery Trophy Cupcakes has two seasonal flavors which will be available all month long starting Saturday, November 14:

First, the Candied Yam Cupcake. This delicious confection starts with cake made using Garnet yams, toasted pecans and traditional fall spices--and then it gets even better with the addition of marshmallow meringue, which is torched for a perfect crispy edge and gooey inside. This cupcake has developed an almost cult-like following since its debut in 2007!

Next, there's the Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcake. Imagine Nutella and chocolate cake having a baby, and you're beginning to get the idea! This cake is dense, decadent, and completely delicious, comprised of chocolate cake, Nutella buttercream, edged in candied hazelnuts.
Of course, due to limited availability of these flavors, be sure to call first to make sure they haven't sold out for the day; for larger orders, be sure to give 48 hours notice.

These two seasonal flavors will be available starting November 14 through the end of the month at all three Trophy Cupcakes locations; for directions and hours, visit their website.

Tuesday
Nov102009

Seeing Stars: Cinnamon Star Holiday Cookie Recipe from Bredenbeck's Bakery of Philadelphia

Cinnamon Stars from Bredenbeck's Bakery, Philadelphia
When I used to work at a greeting card company, we had to work on our Christmas designs as early as February or March. Sometimes, to get ourselves in the mood, we'd bring in Christmas cookies--which tasted just as good in the spring as they had just a few months before. And with that in mind, let me say that I definitely don't consider pre-Thanksgiving too early to break out some delicious cookie recipes. So let's bring it on, starting with this spicy, moist and chewy cinnamon cookie--a recipe for the best-selling holiday cookie at Philadelphia's Bredenbeck's Bakery:

Cinnamon Stars

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (about 8 oz.) hazelnuts or blanched almonds, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp lemon zest, grated
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 large)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • About 1/2 cup additional confectioner’s sugar for rolling

Procedure
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Combine the nuts, cinnamon, and zest. Beat the egg whites at high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the salt, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form, one to two minutes. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until stiff and glossy, five to eight minutes. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the meringue and fold the nut mixture into the remaining meringue.
  2. Place a large sheet of waxed paper on a flat surface, and cover with additional confectioner’s sugar. Place the nut mixture on the sugar, lightly sprinkle with more confectioner’s sugar, top with a second piece of waxed paper, and roll out one-quarter-inch thick. Remove the top piece of waxed paper. Using a cookie cutter dipped in water, cut into two-inch star shapes, or use a knife to cut into diamonds. Re-roll and cut any scraps. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake until set, 10 to 12 minutes. Spread the reserved meringue over the top of the cookies and bake until the tops are lightly colored, about five minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Makes about 36 two-inch cookies.

Care to hear more about the bakery? OK! Here's the 411:  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.

Tuesday
Nov102009

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on BunnieCakes

BunnieCakes
It's time to share the latest CakeSpy bakery crush: BunnieCakes!

This Miami-based custom order vegan bake shop was started by owner Mariana Cortez, borne out of frustration for not being able to find high-quality sweets which she could enjoy with her two young children. Rather than despair (or worse, make them only eat trail mix or something) she started specializes in delicious vegan baked goods, most notably cakes and cupcakes; further experimentation resulted in a line of allergy free vegan goods (no eggs, dairy, gluten/wheat, nuts...and with natural sweeteners) in addition to the vegan offerings.
BunnieCakes
But with flavors like Red Velvet, Blueberry Orange, Key Lime, Banana Chocolate Chip, all topped with decadent frostings, it's pretty clear that while these cakes lack dairy, they do not lack in deliciousness! A sweet find indeed for Florida

You can check out Bunniecakes online, and find a list of Miami-area retailers here.

Monday
Nov092009

CakeSpy Undercover: Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego

Apple Pie, Extraordinary Desserts
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Laurel, a sweets enthusiast and handbag designer! She has also designed custom CakeSpy totes and wristlets which would make great Christmas presents. Just saying.

San Diego Beer Week started a few days ago. Many of the beer and food tastings are in bars, but one of the places participating in the ten day celebration of craft beer is Extraordinary Desserts. I'm a dessert nerd and my husband is a beer nerd; there was no way we couldn't go. We'll have babysitting later on in the week and plan on taking part in another beer-related event or two, but we figured this would be a good one to go try out for an early evening with our son. I didn't realize that Extraordinary Desserts was also a restaurant, with delicious looking sandwiches, appetizers, and even happy hour specials. We were here for the beer-inspired desserts though, so that's what we ordered. My husband had the warm caramelized apple pie with house-made St. Peter's Cream Stout ice cream, and I had the Coconut Porter beer float. Our 16-month-old son had a scoop of their house-made vanilla ice cream.
Float at Extraordinary Desserts
Some friends and I made beer floats once and they weren't nearly as good as this. (They were kind of gross, actually.) The house-made vanilla ice cream that went in my beer float was absolutely divine. It was rich and creamy, and it paired really well with the beer in the float. I've had the Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter that they topped the float with, and it's not especially coconutty, so I appreciated that they also topped the float with toasted coconut flakes to bring out the flavor.

As much as I liked my beer float, my husband's apple pie (pictured top) was hands down the star dessert. The pie crust was flaky and buttery, and there was just a hint of cardamom in it that made it really stand out from ordinary pie crust. It was more like an individual pot pie than a slice from a whole pie, and we could definitely taste the caramel flavor in the apples on top. The ice cream was fabulous as well; the cream stout gave the ice cream an almost hazelnutty flavor, which complemented the pie very well. I could easily eat a whole bowl of the ice cream on its own, and it was all I could do to not lick the plate clean when my husband declared himself too stuffed to go on.
Toddlers love Extraordinary Desserts
Our son also loved his bowl of vanilla ice cream, as you can see. He's clearly thinking about how this ice cream is so much more creamy and velvety than any other ice cream he's ever had, and how strong the vanilla bean flavor is, and how the next time he eats plain old ice cream from somewhere other than Extraordinary Desserts he'll just be thinking about how it's not as good as this ice cream. Our son has a very discerning palate.

We lived down the street from the original location on Hillcrest for two years and somehow never managed to make it in, and boy, do I feel dumb about it now. We'll definitely be visiting again in the future to try some of their regular sweets. If you're interested in visiting Extraordinary Desserts to taste their beer week offerings, make sure you go before November 15, when San Diego Beer Week ends. (And if you happen to go, and you see a crazy mom fighting her toddler for the right to lick the bowl clean, stop by my table and say hi.)


Extraordinary Desserts on Urbanspoon
Extraordinary Desserts has two locations in San Diego, 2929 Fifth Avenue on Hillcrest and 1430 Union Street in Little Italy; online at extraordinarydesserts.com.

Monday
Nov092009

Sweet Bounty: Discovering the Art of the Venetian Table with Cake Gumshoe Megan

Venetian Dessert Table Guest post from Cake Gumshoe Megan
CakeSpy Note: Cake Gumshoe Megan thought she’d seen it all when it came to wedding desserts, but recently she was pleasantly surprised by what can only be described as a sugar smorgasbord.

The backstory: Over the weekend I attended my college roommate’s wedding. With seven bridesmaids, she was peppered with questions all throughout the rehearsal dinner, and most of mine revolved around the food. I’ve been to weddings with good, bad and no food, so I’m always curious what lies ahead.

I needn’t have worried. Beyond the endless finger foods the bridal party ate all day, the cocktail hour - which served more food than some people’s receptions - and then her actual reception, I should have been stuffed to the gills by the time dessert (literally) rolled around. And I actually was, but when the wait staff raced the loaded-down tables onto the dance floor, I had to make room.

Discovering the Venetian Hour: Whether you call it a Viennese or Venetian Hour, the point is decadence. Wikipedia defines a Venetian Hour as a Sicilian tradition in which the bride and groom display “a dazzling array of pastries, fruits, coffees, cakes, presented in great quantity with much celebration.” That’s a big ten-four. The dessert table at my friend’s wedding was a large oval made up of at least eight tables (I was too stunned to count) and involved pyrotechnics (see above photo).

We had our choice between fresh fruit kabobs and a chocolate fountain, an ice cream sundae bar featuring our choice of ice cream flavors as well as five different toppings and whipped cream and/or hot fudge, and then there were the cakes and cookies – tiramisu, diner-style strawberry shortcake, Black Forest, Napoleon, sfogliatelle, zeppole, Italian cookies…I could go on, but the liqueur shots taken out of edible (and yummy) chocolate thimbles made my memory a little fuzzy. I am absolutely not ashamed to admit my groomsman and I circled the tables twice!

Coming to America: While researching this delightful and heretofore unknown tradition, I realized it existed in small pockets of the US in another form. Brought to America by Italians and Eastern Europeans immigrants who settled into the industrial areas of northeastern Ohio and the coalmines of western Pennsylvania, it morphed into the cookie table, a common feature at weddings, showers, birthdays and graduations there.

For the wedding cookie table, the cookies are traditionally prepared by the bride’s female relatives. Each woman can be responsible for up to seven dozen cookies, depending on how many people participate. Communal baking also serves as a time for the women to catch up on each others’ lives.

In a very pleasant turn of events, researching this custom opened my eyes to the presence of it in my own childhood. I have relatives in central Pennsylvania, and every wedding I attended with that part of the family involved a cookie table. I thought it was just my aunt over-baking! I made so many trips to that table, hiding the cookies in my hand so my parents wouldn’t see how much I ate. And my aunt was always sending relatives home after the receptions with napkin-covered plates heaped with cookies of all flavors and types.

The final word: I’ve reached an age where my friends are starting to get married, so I’m going to do my part to bring this tradition to the mainstream. As far as I’m concerned, the more dessert, the better!

Monday
Nov092009

Sweet Bliss: Starbucks-Style Cranberry Bliss Bars for Serious Eats

Starbucks-style cranberry bliss bars
Confession: I get a little thrill every year when Starbucks rolls out their holiday menu, that sugar bomb-laden collection of eggnog and gingerbread lattes, frosted sugar cookies...and especially the Cranberry Bliss Bar. Don't get confused by the fact that "cranberry" is in the title--these are very much the opposite of health food.
Starbucks-style cranberry bliss bars

And this week for my entry over at Serious Eats, I tried a homemade version which I adapted from the Mr. Breakfast website. While the bars don't taste exactly like the 'bucks version, they are very good: dense, moist cake studded with tart cranberries and sweet white chocolate, and a veritable winter wonderland of cream cheese frosting and white chocolate drizzled on top. So sweet, they're bound to bring on a holidaze.

You can check out the full recipe on Serious Eats.

Monday
Nov092009

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Grilled Cheesecake in This Is Why You're Fat!

CakeSpy in the This is Why You're Fat book
It's official, world: CakeSpy is making you fat.

Yup, it's true! CakeSpy contributed a sweet spread to the brand new book This Is Why You're Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks: the Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich! You may remember the so-decadent-it's-deadly recipe from a while back on the site--and now it's immortalized in print!

There are plenty of other so bad but so good recipe ideas in the book--it's definitely worth checking out!

You can also follow This Is Why You're Fat via their website and via Twitter!

Monday
Nov092009

Sweet Art: Blur for Illustration Friday

Blur for Illustration Friday
This week's Illustration Friday theme is Blur, but as you can see Cuppie's completely focused: on his favorite Britpop records by the band Blur, of course! But certainly he's no Charmless Man: who wouldn't want to spend some time enjoying Coffee & TV with Cuppie?

Sunday
Nov082009

Praline Solution: Easy Praline Squares From Amarillo

"Easy Praline Squares"
The bad news: this sweet confection looks like a praline bomb went off on a graham cracker minefield.
The good news: the outcome is extremely delicious.


When Cake Gumshoe Chris recently found a book at a secondhand store full of recipes from food writers from throughout the nation, we knew we had to take some of these recipes for a test spin. This recipe comes c/o Beth Whitley Duke, who was at the time of the book's publication the food editor at the Amarillo Globe-News, who introduced the recipe in this way:
Pralines are a traditional Mexican sweet served to take the fire out of a hot Tex-Mex meal. These easy squares use graham crackers as a base for a praline taste without having to make the actual brown sugar candy.

These sweet little squares truly are, as the recipe indicates, easy as can be--with a wonderful return. During the baking, the brown sugar/butter mixture seeps into the cracker, rendering it crunchy on the edges but slightly chewier inside, and the candy-coating gives the walnuts a completely addictive rich, savory-meets-sweet flavor. Adding milk chocolate, like we did, wasn't necessary, but it sure was good.
Oh, and as a note, if you're curious about the addition of cream of tartar (we were!), I looked it up: according to this site,
while it is best known in our kitchens for giving more volume to beaten egg whites...it is also used to produce a creamier texture in sugary desserts such as candy and frosting, because it inhibits the formation of crystals.
So there you go! But on to the goods. Here's the recipe:
Making the toffee coating
Easy Praline Squares
-Makes about 2 dozen cookies -

 

 

  • Graham crackers
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup walnuts (original recipe called for finely chopped pecans, but the walnuts were heavenly)
  • 1 large bar milk chocolate, such as Lindt, coarsely chopped (optional)
Procedure
  1. Break enough graham crackers into individual rectangles to cover the bottom of a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan.
  2. In a saucepan, bring brown sugar and butter to a boil.
  3. Add cream of tartar and walnuts (or pecans) to the boiling mixture. Pour over graham crackers and spread as evenly as you can (it's a pretty thick mixture so it's best if you only spread one way rather than going back and forth). Scatter the chocolate on top, if you've chosen to add it.
  4. Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the chocolate has gotten melty and the sugar mixture is lightly bubbling. Remove from the pan while still warm.
Graham cracker pralines

 

 

 

Sunday
Nov082009

Mint Condition: Strawberry Raspberry Peppermint Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt!
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Bonnie, a 25 year old graduate student who finds sanity in the kitchen. If it doesn't turn out the first time, try again, and add some cinnamon; it always spices things up. She's on twitter too! Take it away, Bonnie:

That title reveals it all: I wanted to make frozen yogurt but I had random ingredients and just threw them all together. Maybe a better title would be "Mint Fruit Surprise." No. No one likes to be eating a "surprise" because who knows what is in there. It is better, if you can't in your title, to tell your guests what they are eating. Then there is no picking around in the food and leaving a small pile of ingredients on the side of the plate.

Anyway, this frozen yogurt turned out great. My husband ate tons of it, and finished it off last night. It was a huge hit, and it was so pretty. I also used all organic ingredients, and substitututed the sugar for Agave Nectar, so it was Jillian Michaels-approved. I like to pretend sometimes that she is going to come to my house and check up on me in my workout routines or in my eating habits, and frankly if I was caught eating this one, I think she would not only give me a high five, but would ask for a few scoops herself.
Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry-Raspberry Mint Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of non-fat organic frozen yogurt
  • 1 cup of strawberry Keifer {You caught me. I ran out of non-fat yogurt, so I used this Strawberry Keifer. Sometimes my best decisions come out of my mistakes. This added texture and TONS of delicious, natural, flavor.}
  • 1/4 cup of Agave Nectar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Raspberries {However many you have. Eat some while you make it, cause why not?}
  • 1 package of Newman's Own Organic Dark Chocolate Mint cups

Procedure
  1. Place the yogurt (and Keifer), Agave Nectar, milk, and raspberries into a blender. If you want to have raspberry chunks in your yogurt, then wait on the raspberries. I chose to blend them so that the mint chips were the only thing that stuck out in the yogurt. (Note: Agave Nectar is a sugar substitute that is all natural. You can get it at any Whole Food, Trader Joes, or any store of the like. It is 4 times as sweet as regular white sugar, so you only have to use 25% of what you normally would use.)
  2. Pour all the ingredients into your ice cream maker and begin the churching process. Make sure that you freeze the bowl to the full amount. I have messed this up, and the ice cream churns, it's just in liquid form. It will freeze later, and taste the same, but if you are serving it right away then you are at a loss. So make sure you follow the directions. Chop the Mint cups into small pieces, you be the judge here. How much do you want in each scoop? Decide this way, and then proceed. (Note: These are seriously so good. I got them at Whole Foods, and was surprised to find that they have milk chocolate, and peanut butter too. My husband is lucky that we had Peppermint in the pantry, otherwise I would have put the peanut butter ones in here. Don't test me, I would have.)
  3. Like the Pecans in the Carrot Cake Ice Cream, I put the Peppermint pieces in last so that they would not get mashed in the churning process. With any frozen yogurt, the less fat you use, the more icy the yogurt will be. That's ok. Just remember to leave the container out for a few minutes before you scoop it, and shape the scoop on the side of the container so you look like the chef you are! If not, just fake it and cover it in chocolate sauce.

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