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Thursday
Jun182009

Sweet Surprise: A Letter from a CakeSpy Reader

North Hill Bakery Cake, C/O Michelle
Not long ago, a CakeSpy reader wrote to me asking for advice on where to get a layer cake for her grandmother's 90th birthday party in the Seattle area; being from out of town, she didn't even know where to begin.

Now, personally I always find making recommendations pretty stressful--what if the other person's taste isn't the same as mine? What if a place that has never let me down has an off day when this person goes? But nonetheless, I bravely suggested a few places, including a Capitol Hill-based bakery whose birthday cakes I've always enjoyed, North Hill Bakery. A few weeks later I received this sweet email; I'm always so happy to hear about such sweet cake experiences!
North Hill Bakery Cake, C/O Michelle

Dear CakeSpy:

Thank you so much for all your help finding a bakery for my
grandmother's 90th birthday party cakes.

I ordered a coconut and a lemon cake from North Hill Bakery.

The were lovely, homemade looking treats that tasted wonderful. The
cake was moist and full of flavor, the frostings were light and
creamy. Everyone's stand-out favorite was the coconut but the lemon
was delightful too -- sweet, tart and very light.

The folks at North Hill were really great, they let us pick up the
cakes before they opened on Sunday and we were able to talk them out
of several lovely pastries as well.

The cakes were so popular that long-time Seattle residents kept asking
where I'd gotten them and pledging to get their next event cakes from
North Hill Bakery.

All in all, the cakes were a hit, I came off like a family hero, and
none of it would have been possible with out some CakeSpy help.

Thanks again.

North Hill Bakery, 518 15th Avenue E, Seattle, WA (206) 325-9007; online at northhillbakery.com.

Tuesday
Jun162009

Ace in the Hole: A Sweet Breakfast Trompe-l'œil

Bagel with cream cheese...or is it?
The bad news: this is not a deliciously chock-full of carbohydrates bagel with cream cheese.

The good news: it's even better. It's a delicious doughnut filled with cream cheese frosting and topped with poppyseeds so as to resemble a deliciously chock-full of carbohydrates bagel with cream cheese.

Now, a variety of reasons for making these could be presented to you, but really, why bother? When breakfast treats collide this sweetly, the awesome speaks for itself.

Want to make some for your own breakfast table? Oh, it's easy, and they're so much fun to serve. Here's what you need to do.
Top Pot Doughnut
Breakfast "Bagels" Made From Doughnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting


Ingredients:
  • Plain cake doughnuts (as many as you'd like); we picked up ours at Top Pot Doughnuts.
  • Vanilla or cream cheese frosting (about the same amount you'd use to top a cupcake for each doughnut; if you need a recipe, try this one or this one)
  • Poppyseeds (or sesame seeds would work too)
  • Butter (about a teaspoon-ful per doughnut)

Directions:
  1. Slice doughnut in half (for some reason it seems to work easiest if you apply the poppyseeds after slicing)
  2. In a small microwave-safe dish, melt about 1 teaspoon-ful of butter per doughnut you'll be making by putting it in the microwave for about 10 seconds. 
  3. Lightly brush the top side with about a teaspoon of melted butter (oh, get over it--they're already fried, anyway)
  4. Immediately sprinkle poppyseeds on top of the buttered side (this will ensure that they stick) and put this half to the side for a moment.
    Frosting!
  5. Apply a generous dollop of room-temperature frosting to the bottom (sans seed) half of the doughnut. It is important that the frosting be room temperature because if it is chilled, when you try to spread it you may break the doughnut apart. Gently spread.
  6. Put the poppyseed-laden piece on top.
  7. Enjoy (coffee works nicely at this point, too).
Bagel and Cream Cheese

 

Tuesday
Jun162009

We Must Increase Our Crust: A High 5 Cutie Pie Feature on DailyCandy

Cutie Pie from High 5 Pies
When I met High 5 Pies, the brainchild of Dani Cone (aka owner of Fuel Coffee) it was most certainly a case of love at first bite. Not only is their crust just how I like it: thick, lightly flaky, and very buttery, but their presentation is wickedly clever and cute.

Pie in a Jar, High 5 Pie
Take for instance their PieJars--pies baked right into a mason jar, which you can then heat and serve directly. It's a perfect gift, and no awkward conversations later about "Hey, can I get my pie plate back?".

My article for DailyCandy on Cutie Pies!

But their newest addition, Cutie Pies--mini pies baked in muffin tins--(which I just wrote a story about for DailyCandy)--will have you reeling from the cuteness. The fillings range from classics, like apple with a delicious crumb topping to unusual but surprisingly delicious combinations like peach, blueberry and clove. And as an added bonus, the high crust-to-filling ratio is tailor-made for crust enthusiasts like me who don't like it when pies are too fruity and virtuous-tasting.
Apple Hand Pies by High 5 Pie, Fuel Coffee
Of course, they've also got regular pies and sweet little hand pies on their menu too; check it out at high5pie.com. The pies are currently available exclusively at Fuel Coffee locations. For more information on the Cutie Pies, read the article I wrote for DailyCandy Seattle!

 

Monday
Jun152009

Hot Dogs for Dessert at Snacks! in Ballard, Seattle

When CakeSpy buddy Megan tipped us off about Snacks!, a new bodega in Ballard opened by Dante (of Dante's Inferno hot dog cart fame), we knew we had to hit it up. But why would Cake Gumshoes want to check out a bodega in an alley behind a bar, you ask?

 

Three words: Sweet. Hot. Dogs. 

No, seriously. Per myballard.com, Dante has "created a 'Chilly Dog' that is a hot dog bun with soft serve ice cream, his idea of an ice cream sandwich (served with a spork.)" OK, so there's not an actual hot dog in it. But still, it's a fun idea...sort of like a choco taco, but with a hot dog bun instead of a chocolate tortilla.
Naturally, we had to head over immediately upon hearing Megan's suggestion. Unfortunately they'd already closed for the night, but they were kind enough to invite us in for a look and even gave us some soft-serve ice cream, which they have in vanilla, chocolate and a combo swirl--sure, it was no Chilly dog, but it sure was delicious.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Snacks! Can't wait to try more of your sweet offerings.
For more information, read the entry on myballard.com.

 

Monday
Jun152009

Sweet Talk with Anne-Marie of SoapQueenTV!

 

Cupcake Bath Bombs!

If you don't think soap is totally sweet, you've clearly never come across Anne-Marie Faiola. Anne-Marie is not only the owner of Bramble Berry (the premier soapmaking supply company) and the host of the brand new online soapmaking tutorial show SoapQueenTV--but she's one of the most dedicated dessert-lovers we've ever come across. And happily, her love of sweets comes across in everything she does--from tutorials on how to make soaps that smell like your favorite dessert using fragrance oils to embedding objects (like a cupcake figurine perhaps?) in your soap to even an upcoming episode on candy-themed soaps!

 

But how else do sugary treats figure into the SoapQueen's life? Here are some of the sweet products, crafts and delicious cakes that inspire Anne-Marie; you might just make some sweet discoveries of your own!

CupcakeSocial is an entire Etsy shop dedicated to just cupcakes - cupcake liners, toppings and more. Take your cupcake making to the whole next level!

The Dieline blog inspires me every day with their picks for best design in everything. This one caught my eye because it was 100% sweet and 100% good design. The perfect marriage.

Cupcake Royale: Seattle is lucky they have the talented Cupcake Royale in their backyard. Anytime I'm even close to Seattle, I go to Cupcake Royale for a glass of milk and my favorite cupcake of all time, Salted Caramel.

A Field Journal: Inspiration for a perfectly sweet birthday party, in an indie sort of way.

Chronicle Books: I love Chronicle Books and was especially excited to see that they carry all sorts of cupcake products, including a cupcake kit, adorable confection-ery labels, and The Cupcake Deck!

100 Layer Cake does features on crafting your wedding, layer by layer with a DIY Spa Day!

The Fancy Flours blog is one of my favorite blogs because it's so beautifully photographed and always inspirational.


SoapyLove is one of the most creative melt and pour soapmakers to hit the 'net and she inspires me with her sweet confectionary soaps (like this and this). Don't they look real?

Bath Bomb Cupcakes: The craft that was spawned from my cupcake addiction! (here's the blog entry on it too!)

 

Sunday
Jun142009

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Products Now Available at Teacake Bake Shop!

Cuppies in Emeryville, at Teacake Bake Shop
Teacake Bake Shop, a Bay Area bakery which boasts three adorable retail locations and a wonderful online store, is definitely a CakeSpy favorite (they've been mentioned a few times in the past!). Why? Well, just take a look at what they sell. Cupcakes! Cookies! More cookies! Brownies!

And now, if you're in California, you can also get CakeSpy notecards, pins and bookmarks at all three retail locations! We're also working on a custom notecard design (shown top) which will be available in the next few weeks.

Yup, it's for sure: the Bay Area just got even sweeter!
Teacake Bake Shop has locations in Emeryville, Lafayette and Corte Madera; for directions and addresses, click here.

 

Saturday
Jun132009

Rhubarb Nirvana: The Rhubarb Strawberry Bar by Parisian Star Desserts

Rhubarb bar from PCC (Parisian Star Desserts)

Rhubarb is a magically versatile vegetables (yes, it's a vegetable). It can be used in a variety of dishes both sweet and savory, and some even claim to like it all on its own (liars).

 

But really, everyone knows that rhubarb is truly at its best when used as an ingredient in sweet desserts. And recently we discovered a really, really good one: the rhubarb-strawberry bar made by Parisian Star Desserts.

Parisian Star is a Seattle-based wholesale dessert company whose desserts live up to their name: fancy, Frenchy desserts that seem ideal for post-dinner party. They are sold at various venues around town, but they have an especially nice showing at PCC's Fremont bakery case, which is where the bar in question caught Mr. CakeSpy's eye.

Now, there are plenty of awesome rhubarb crumb cakes, bars and pies out there. And with its cookielike base and crumb topping, this one didn't look too different from other varieties we'd tried. But this one has a little something special--it sets itself apart with a thick layer of custard, which perfectly mellows out the tart fruit in addition to adding a delightfully rich flavor dimension and density to the bar. As an added bonus, the custardy filling provided a perfect texture contrast to the slightly crunchy topping and firm bottom layer. 
But watch out--though it may look like a bar cookie, all the awesome in the middle does have a tendency to ooze, so this one definitely requires a fork and knife.

 

 

Parisian Star Desserts Rhubarb Strawberry Bar, available at PCC in Fremont; for more information on their desserts and other places to buy, visit parisianstardesserts.com.

 

Friday
Jun122009

Beyond the Lunchbox: When Peanut Butter and Jelly Meet Bar Cookie

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar, Ciao for Now, NYC
No doubt about it, peanut butter and jelly have enjoyed an enduring love affair that is basically the stuff of culinary history. But it's come time for them to abandon the bread and become awesomer than they could ever be as mere elements of a sandwich: it's time that we all pause to greet the peanut butter and jelly bar.

This baby was discovered at Ciao For Now's East Village, NYC location. Ciao for Now is a sweet little bakery specializing in organic treats (many of which are also vegan!). Though their menu does vary day by day, this peanut butter and jelly cookie bar instantly captured my attention on a recent visit. Served in thick, dense wedges, this bar is weighty--but oh so rewarding. It all starts with a thick cookie-like crust on top of which is sandwiched a thick layer of peanut butter and a sliver of jelly, which is then all topped with an oaty-nutty-crumbly topping. It's sort of like a mazurka bar, but with peanut butter.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar, Ciao for Now, NYC
And in my humble opinion? This bar is perfect. The peanut butter adds a decadent richness to the bar, but the jelly adds a slight tart contrast which brings together the savory peanut butter and sweet crumb topping. In fact, the only problem may be the fact that I didn't buy two.

So, in closing? When peanut butter and jelly meet bar cookie, awesomeness and deliciousness ensue. 
Ciao For Now (East Village), 523 E. 12th Street, NYC (212) 677-2616; online at ciaofornow.net.

 

Friday
Jun122009

Taking the Cake: Sweet Cupcake Adventures with Cupcakes Take the Cake

Banana cupcake with Peanut Butter frosting, Butter Lane, NYC
If you love cupcakes, naturally you're already familiar with Cupcakes Take the Cake, the internet's premier place for indulging in your frosting-topped buttercream obsessions. And as you might suspect, the girls behind it--Rachel, Nichelle and Stacie--are just as sweet and awesome as the cakes they feature.

On my recent trip to New York, I was able to meet up with both Rachel and Stacie; some seriously sweet adventures followed.

Renegade Craft Fair, NYC
Rachel dropped by my booth at the Renegade Craft Fair, where she not only brought be cupcakes from Buttercup Bake Shop, but also put together this super sweet video interview.
Butter Lane, NYC
But naturally I needed more time to hang out with these awesome girls, and luckily Stacie and I got to have a cupcake date on Monday.

First we hit up Butter Lane, a relative newcomer to the cupcake scene. They opened their doors just a few months ago; . We chose the banana cake with peanut butter frosting and the cherry-frosted vanilla cupcake, respectively. Their cupcakes are absolutely charming: they are decorated simply, but prettily; similarly, the flavors may not be strange or exotic, but they're very well done; the cake had a wonderful, tender crumb and tasted fresh, even in the early evening. Plus, the staff couldn't be more friendly, which is pretty refreshing in the sometimes cooler-than-thou East Village.

Dessert Club Chikalicious
Next we hit up Dessert Club Chikalicious. Though they're only a few blocks away, their cupcakes are worlds apart style-wise. Whereas Butter Lane's cakes seemed nostalgic and homey, the ones at Chikalicious were topped with a sophisticated looking meringue buttercream; they seemed a little more pinkies out. They were both different, but in this spy's opinion, equally delicious; upon sharing the vanilla chocolate cake with a friend, he remarked that the taste was "like a hostess cupcake, but with the insides on the top...and much better quality."

To sum it all up: Cupcakes Take the Cake is totally awesome, but the girls behind it are even awesomer. Who could ask for a sweeter visit?

Places mentioned:

Butter Lane, 123 E. 7th Street, NYC; online at butterlane.com.
Buttercup Bake Shop, multiple locations; online at
buttercupbakeshop.com.
Dessert Club Chikalicious, 204 E. 10th Street, NYC; online at
dessertclubchikalicious.com.

Thursday
Jun112009

Sweet Art: Craving for Illustration Friday

Cuppie at Ray's on 6th Ave., NYC
This week's Illustration Friday theme is Craving, which seemed very appropriate as I just returned from NYC, where I was able to indulge in my ultimate cravings: cupcakes (from Butter Lane, Sweet Revenge, Chikalicious, Cupcake Cafe...and more) and of course, an enormous and delicious slice from my favorite pizza place, Ray's on 6th Ave. and 11th Street. And so to celebrate this gratification, it seemed apt to submit this illustration of Cuppie enjoying a slice. Cupcakes and pizza, what could be better?

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