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Wednesday
Jan212009

1.21.09 Baked Good of the Day: Vegan Russian Teacakes from PCC

Vegan Russian Teacake
I love these cookies. Whether they're called snowballs, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Armenian sugar cookies or whatever--I love them.

I found this variation--the vegan Russian Teacake--at PCC. I can't be sure, but it *might* be from Flying Apron. It was a crumbly and slightly messy cookie, but the sandy, sugary, nutty taste was pure deliciousness. With a touch of salt (so important to sweets!) it was nicely balanced; in fact, I liked this cookie so much I went back for a second one. As for the vegan aspect, to be honest, if it hadn't been labeled as such, I probably would not have known that it lacked dairy; certainly there was nothing lost flavorwise.

Vegan Russian Teacake from PCC in Fremont.

Sunday
Jan182009

Cakewalk Special: Baltimore Picks from B More Sweet

Cupcakes from Perfect Cupcakes, c/o Bmoresweet

Cakespy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe B More Sweet, Baltimore's authority on all things sweet!

Oh, Baltimore, that rascal of a city. While some may be deterred by its abnormally high murder rate, please, don't pass Charm City by--because it really does have a certain je ne sais quoi--among other things, it is the home of John Waters, the birthplace of the Berger Cookie, final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, and of course, home to so many wonderful bakeries. Recently our buddy and Baltimore sweets afficionado friend, Cake Gumshoe B More Sweet put together of her Baltimore picks for us: 

(unless otherwise noted, all photos c/o B More Sweet)

  strawberry/vanilla & chocolate/chocolate cupcake
(photo of Warren Brown cupcakes--from the DC location, but you get the idea-- c/o How to Eat a Cupcake)
Cake Love: Fabulous, with the stupendous Warren Brown at the helm. What's not to love about a former Justice Dept attorney gone renegade baker who got his own TV show? A cool, hip, retro vibe in this sleek store selling old-fashioned cakes and cupcakes as well as vegan treats. Here they're all about the taste - no overwrought hyperventilating decoration goes on at Cake Love. Online at cakelove.com.

 

Charm City Cakes: Duff Goldman of Food TV Network's Ace of Cakes holdeth forth here. It's not a bakery you can walk into, but makes special-event and cakes for occasions. However, Duff and his crew are SO FANTASTIC that I'm sure with prior arrangements you can get yerselves in there. Duff's cakes are awesome. Online at charmcitycakes.com.

as for a cupcake interlude...


Charm City Cupcakes: This is a girlie girlie pink store (think Lily Pulitzer) selling extremely sweet, frosting-laden cupcakes in a variety of rotating flavors. Online at charmcitycupcakes.com.

Perfect Cupcakes, c/o Bmoresweet
Perfect Cupcakes: Catherine Hamilton brings her adorable mobile bakery truck operation to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where in warm-enough weather she sells delicious cupcakes with beautiful minimalist designs (see top photo). Online at perfectcupcakes.com .

 

getting Frenchy...

Patisserie Poupon: For a decadent, TOTALLY awesome traditional French bakery, you can't skip the venerable Patisserie Poupon. How traditional are they? NO REAL WEBSITE! Located at 820 E Baltimore Street, in a kind of iffy, fringe-y location. In other words, authentic. For my money, this is the best patisserie in Baltimore. But go early - the best goodies sell out tres vite. Click here for more info.

 

Bonaparte Bread, C/O bmoresweet
Bonaparte Breads: My heart belongs (also, because I am fickle) to Bonaparte Breads, 903 S. Ann Street, in Fell's Point (itself a fun, funky neighborhood full of bars.) This gleaming little spot is a definite go-to for croissants, plain or flavored. You won't find cupcakes here, but instead all manner of butter-laden French pastries and warming, delicious breads. Click here for more info.

 

what about Italian treats? 
Vaccaro's, c/o Bmoresweet
Vaccaro's Pastry: We are blessed with fantastic Italian bakeries. "Even though it's famous, it's still great" should be the motto for Vaccaro's, with several locations around the city. My favorite is in Canton (yet another hip, trendy neighborhood!) This is the spot for cannoli, Italian cookies, and homemade gelato. Online at vaccarospastry.com.

Piedigrotta Bakery, Baltimore, Photo c/o Bmoresweet
Piedigrotta Bakery: Less famous but equally delicious is Piedigrotta, which is conveniently located next to the hippest bowling alley in Baltimore. And my favorite thing about Piedigrotta is that the baker will waste no time in telling you that he is THE originator of tiramisu. Throughout the history of the world, this baker is the originator of tiramisu. Just ask him! Online at piedigrottabakery.com.

 

And for candies, confections and chocolates? 


Louis J Rheb Creams
(photo c/o rhebcandy.com)
Louis J. Rheb: The unparallelled un-toppable Louis J. Rheb Company, where they still make all the chocolates by hand, don't do any foo-fooey crap, and where the Lucy and Ethel candy factory scene was actually shot! They still make everything in the basement at 3352 Wilkens Avenue. You will never eat a chocolate buttercream from anywhere else in the WORLD, including Switzerland, once you've eaten a Rheb's chocolate buttercream. Online at rhebcandy.com.

 

Cacao Lorenzo
Cacao Lorenzo Chocolatier: I can't overlook Cacao Lorenzo Chocolatier, where the brilliant Larry McGlinchey creates the most elegant, lyrical, amazing chocolates anywhere. Cacao Lorenzo is a small boutique, impeccably clean, and the candies are just stunning. It's not inside Baltimore City proper, but it's in the Baltimore suburbs, and for a chocolate candy lover, well worth the short car ride to get there. Online at cacaolorenzo.com.

Saving the best for last...

 

Dangerously Delicious Pie box, c/o BmoresweetPie from Dangerously Delicious, photo c/o Dangerouspies.com
***Dangerously Delicious Pies: If you were to be given an option only to go to one sweet spot in Baltimore, I'd steer you to Dangerously Delicious Pies, where Rodney Henry makes a pie crust to bring you to your knees. The original Dangerously Delicious is located in trendy Federal Hill, and the tatted rockstar former Marine Rodney holds forth behind the counter of this bright red establishment on all things pie, whether sweet or savory. Dangerously Delicious has a second outpost in equally-hip Hampden, where the restaurant is called Dangerously Delicious Savory House and if you're lucky Rodney's rock band might be playing. I will never make pie again, after eating Dangerously Delicious. At our house we are always looking for an excuse to buy a DD pie. Online at dangerouspies.com.

 

 

Saturday
Jan172009

She's a Brick House: The NYC Brownstone Front Cake

Brownstone front cake
What's in a name? They say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet--but would it be as compelling? 

Take for instance the New York City Brownstone Front Cake. Certainly that's a much more appealing and interesting name than say, "Chocolate Loaf Cake"--and certainly the name is what lured us to learn more about, and bake, this cake. 

New York City Brownstone Front Cake

As Maida Heatter notes above, the Brownstone Cake is not something easily defined: the name has been used to describe cakes of caramel and chocolate, served as loaves or as layer cakes (if you're interested in learning more about its history, click here). But what holds true in each version is that this is a serious, dare we say brick house, of a cake: moist, rich, and very dense. 
Using Maida's recipe as a starting point, we made our own version of the Brownstone cake, in a loaf pan. The result was an almost brownie-like cake. Because it was a large one, we let it stand as a loaf and let each eater choose their own adventure with their slice. It's an easy one to enjoy plain, iced (top picture), a la mode, or completely over the top-chocolatey (below). 

Ridiculously over the top chocolate brownie cake

New York City Brownstone Front Cake (adapted from Maida Heatter)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp. dry instant coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups unsifted unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 3/4 firmly packed cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • *Optional Cakespy additions for added decadence and deliciousness:
  • 2 heaping tablespoons dark chocolate peanut butter--this gave it a richer, deeper dark chocolate color than some other examples of the cake we've seen.
  • 1 generous handful chocolate chips
Directions:
  • Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. You need a loaf pan with a 9-cup capacity (we didn't so we made two loaves using a smaller loaf pans). Butter the pan. (The original recipe calls for a breadcrumb mixture to line the pan but we didn't do that).
  • Chop the chocolate into coarse pieces and place it in a small saucepan off the heat. Add the boiling water and instant coffee. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Maida's note: the mixture is in a saucepan so that if necessary it can be placed over heat until the chocolate is melted). Stir to mix and set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well mixed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla. On low speed add about half of the dry ingredients and beat to mix. Beat in the sour cream and then the remaining dry ingredients. Still on low speed, gradually add the melted chocolate mixture, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating until thoroughly mixed.
  • *At this point, figuring it would be delicious, we also stirred in a generous handful of chocolate chips, and about 2 heaping tablespoons' worth of dark chocolate peanut butter (we used Peanut Butter and Co.'s), in little chunks here and there in the batter.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). 
  • Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until a cake tester gently inserted in the middle comes out dry.
  • Cool the cake in the pan for about fifteen minutes. Then cover with a rack, turn the pan and rack upside down, and remove the pan, leaving the cake upside down to cool on the rack.

Empty pan, baby!Brownstone Front cake deliciousness

Now, this is the point at which we split paths with Maida. Rather than making her suggested Brownstone Icing,  as mentioned above, we left the cake as-is and let each eater choose their own adventure; the most delicious variation was undoubtedly the over-the-top chocolatey slice, on which we slathered on a bit of leftover chocolate buttercream frosting from a recent bout of baking and topped it with Hershey's chocolate syrup; to those who might consider this a bit excessive, it really is quite good lightly iced or even plain as well.

 

*As an added note, those who find this cake of interest may also get some extreme enjoyment out of David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake recipe.

Saturday
Jan172009

1.17.09: Baked Good of the Day: Carolina's Cornetto from Tutta Bella Pizza

Dessert at Tutta Bella Pizza
Our discovery of Carolina's Cornetto was a chance encounter. Waiting at the bar until our table was ready, the barista had accidentally cracked the shell in which this dessert is served, and so gave the damaged one to us for free. Score!

This treat is apparently new on Tutta Bella's roster--it's a rework of the cannoli that used to be on their menu, according to our server. Basically, the shell has changed and the composition has been altered: it's an Italian pizzelle cookie cone filled with a blend of mascarpone, sweet ricotta cream, dried cherries, grated orange peel, pistachios & chocolate.

Once we finished dinner we also got the Tiramisu and the Cantucccci ("little stones")--a
Trio of traditional Italian cookies similar to biscotti--and both of these desserts were certainly respectable, but it was the Cornetto that really stood out to us. Not only was it a sweet (and free) surprise, but it was a perfect size (just a couple of bites) and the contrast of textures and flavors -- crunchy and creamy, slightly sour and sweet--was memorable.

Carolina's Cornetto, Tutta Bella Pizza.

Friday
Jan162009

1.16.09: Baked Good of the Day: Cherry Cobbler Bar from Louisa's Cafe Bakery

Cherry Cobbler Bar from Louisa's Cafe Bakery
All I can say is, whoa. How had I never been to this place before?

Well, it's all about the location. Louisa's Cafe Bakery is on Eastlake Avenue East, and to a car-less person who doesn't enjoy any bike ride with even the slightest hint of an incline, this is kind of like no-man's land. But I had seen their cute logo while riding on the bus, and today I finally made it inside.

Louisa's is a cafe / breakfast and lunch spot, but they also have an extremely respectable bakery case, will all sorts of cookies, cinnamon rolls, mazurkas (!) and brownies and bars. Generally cherry isn't my go-to flavor, but the top crust on the cherry cobbler bar looked too good to pass up. At $3.75 it was an investment, but it weighed about the same as a hardbound copy of War & Peace, so I found it fair.

Even as a liker-rather-than-lover of cherry flavored baked goods, I recognized that this was good stuff. The bar held its shape nicely--no unbecoming ooze here. The cherries were not too sweet, but rather slightly sour, which provided a nice complexity to the flavor. But what really got me was the buttery top and bottom crust--slightly crunchy, with a touch of saltiness and a nice coating of coarse sugar on the top, it was simply wonderful. This bodes well for the rest of their baked goods--next time I'm definitely going for the cinnamon roll.

Cherry Cobbler Bar, from Louisa's Cafe Bakery.

Thursday
Jan152009

Cake Byte: New Cakespy Magnets by iPop!

Cakespy for iPop!
Who needs to stick to their New Year's Resolutions when they can stick these cool magnets to their fridge instead? iPop, a very cool magnet company in Seattle has just released a new line of their patented Clicks® magnets with Cakespy artwork!

The magnets come in two types of packages: 4-packs of four 1-inch magnets, and singly packaged jumbo 2-inch diameter magnets. Not only are the magnets super-strong, but topped with a clear acrylic dome, they're cool to look at too! The magnets come packaged in an attractive clamshell-closure clear acrylic box. A great gift!

Cakespy for iPop!
The Cakespy collection consists of three four-pack Clicks sets (pictured top), which retail for $11.50, and two singly packaged "Big Clicks" (pictured directly above), which retail for $6.50.

 

Thursday
Jan152009

1.15.09: Baked Good of the Day: Raspberry-Almond Tart from Svedala Bakery

Katalan
Last week, I ventured down to the Pike Place Market with the goal of checking out new bakery Svedala Bakery. It's a small stall in the same corridor as Daily Dozen Donut Co., specializing in Swedish pastries none of us had ever even heard of, but wanted to try, such as Mandelfläta (cardamom yeast bread with almond paste), Mazarin (almond tarts) and Dröm Rulle (chocolate sponge cake rolled with vanilla buttercream). You can imagine my horror as I approached at about 9:30 in the morning and they weren't open yet. Seriously, it should be a law that all bakeries open by at least 6 in the morning--or ideally, they'd be open 24 hours.

But reading that their goods were also sold at Whole Foods, today I ventured over to the Westlake location and picked up one of their very pretty Katalan--a Mazarin with a layer of raspberry jam.

Dude, this thing was good. Starting from the bottom, you've got a delicate, buttery crust that wasn't too flaky but was deliciously crumbly and moist; a very thin layer of raspberry then gives way to a thick filling of sweet almond paste, which was all topped off with a sort of raspberry jam icing. It's not a very large pastry--maybe 3 inches in diameter--but it certainly packs a decadent and delicious punch.

Katalan from Svedala Bakery, via Whole Foods Westlake.

Wednesday
Jan142009

1.14.09: Baked Good of the Day: Cookies by Little Rae's Bakery

Alien Cookie in Ballard
Little Rae's has been garnering quite a bit of press for their First Family cookies--and deservedly so, in my opinion--I think they're very well-designed. But are Little Rae's cookies delicious?

I haven't tried the Obama cookies, but I was very impressed by their same-flavor-but-different-shape Alien cookie, which I picked up on a trip to Cafe Bambino in Ballard. I was pleasantly surprised by their subtle flavor and satisfying texture--a touch of crunchiness from the hard icing on the outside, giving way to a soft, just-a-touch crumbly interior. Of course, it didn't hurt to later find out that the bakery is committed to using fresh and natural ingredients--no hard to pronounce ingredients in these cookies. Also, they happen to be one of the few completely nut-free bakeries in the area, if allergies are an issue.

Little Rae's Bakery is a wholesale bakery; their products can be easily found at Metropolitan Market locations and at coffee shops throughout the city.

Tuesday
Jan132009

The Icing on the Cake: An Exploration of Icing, Frosting and Even Glaze

Glaze, Icing, Frosting
There are times in life when we find ourselves confronted with serious questions; in seeking answers, we might just have a defining moment or two. This is one such time: we are now going to discuss the question of icing versus frosting

Is there a difference between the two, and if so, what? Ingredients? Consistency? Or are the terms interchangeable, as in the way some say "pop" and some say "soda"? And going even further...what is a glaze? Here's what we found:
Our first stop, naturally, was the The International Dictionary of Desserts, Pastries, and Confections, which, while noting that there are many different types, ultimately tells us "the term icing is interchangeable with the term frosting". For shame, sweet dictionary--certainly it can't be that simple, can it? 
And so we moved on toNancy Rommelmann's fantastic book Everything You Pretend to Know about Food and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask, which (thank god!) has a whole section entitled "What's the difference between frosting and icing?". The section reads:
Often used interchangeably, frosting and icing are in fact different. Frosting tends to be thick and gooey, with a cream or butter base. It is slathered on cake layers, or applied in fluffy waves. Icing is thinner, sometimes with simply a sugar base, and creates a glaze on cakes and pastry, such as the kind you find on coffee cakes.

This idea is backed up in a Williams-Sonoma release simply entitled Cakes, in which it is noted that icing is "used to coat and/ or fill a cake...similar to a frosting, and the terms are frequently used interchangeably"...but ultimately "an icing is generally thinner and glossier" than frosting, which is "a thick, fluffy mixture, such as buttercream, used to coat the outside of a cake." Of course, the book even goes on to even differentiate a glaze from the two as being "thinner than either a frosting or an icing"...which makes the slope all the more slippery--but does further define the difference between these sweet toppings.

OK--so to review, with pictures:


Cinnamon Roll, Nielsen's, Queen Anne, SeattleTop Pot Doughnut (Purchased at Top Pot Belltown)
GLAZE: Thinnest type of sugar topping, often made with just a sugar base. Usually translucent. Common on cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, and heavier cakes like pound cake that don't need a lot more on top.
Bittersweet, ChicagoMini Flower CakesLe Fournil, SeattleChaos Theory, Chicago
ICING: Thicker than a glaze but not always opaque. Can be made with a sugar base or may also include egg whites, butter or cream. The term "icing" is often used interchangeably with "frosting". Coffee cakes and cookies are often "iced" rather than "frosted".
Magnolia Bakery CupcakesCloseup of Wedding Cake from Layers in Monterey, CAFrostingFrosting the Cupcake
FROSTING: The thickest of the lot, opaque and fluffy; think buttercream frosting on a birthday cake.

Of course, regardless of a picture chart, what became clear during our research is that while there are some ways to discern whether it may be a glaze, icing or frosting atop your sweet treat, it really is a fine line, and one ought not worry unduly about the difference. Because really, whether it's the sweet glaze on your doughnut, the fluffy frosting on your cupcake or the icing on the cake--it's the taste that counts.

 

Tuesday
Jan132009

1.13.09: Baked Good of the Day: Carrot Cake at Mr. Spot's Chai House

Carrot Cake from Mr Spots Chai House
Confession: we'd never even been to Mr. Spot's Chai House until this week. But after a disappointing trip to Cupcake Royale (disappointing because they were out of cupcakes for the day!), we decided to give the Chai House a try. And we found a most gorgeous-looking carrot cake there.

Happily, this carrot cake was delicious as well: exceedingly dense and moist, with fluffy frosting an inch thick all around. Oh yes. Many of the baked goods in their case were not made in-house (Top Pot Doughnuts, etc), so we don't know if the cake was made on the premises (the employee wasn't sure), but regardless of its origins, we're happy to have come across this fine specimen of carrot cake.

Carrot Cake, found at Mr. Spot's Chai House.

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