People frequently ask me what inspired me to start CakeSpy.com. What in the world could have contributed to such a deep interest (bordering on obsession) in cake that someone would devote their life to eating, researching, writing about, and illustrating it?
But wait--there's more. My mom is not merely a sugar enabler--she's also a renowned children's book illustrator. And yes--cake and sweets often play a role in her illustrative work, in books such as Ruby Bakes a Cake, A Horse's Tale: A Colonial Williamsburg Adventure, Bear of My Heart and many more.
Happy Mother's Day to the sweetest mom, like, ever.
There's no delicate way to put it: this pastry, purchased at Hess Bakery in Tacoma, kind of looks like a mound of poop. A delicately swirled mound of poop, mind you.
What makes up this mountain of yum? Well, what you've got is a bottom layer of yellow cake, topped with a mound of cake crumbs mixed with buttercream, which is then topped by a cascade of rich chocolate which is firm but yielding (not crunchy) when you bite into it.
However, what is unclear is the confection's story and name. It being that it was purchased from a German bakery, it likely has Teutonic roots; the bakery employee I spoke to called it a "granachebitter" -- but I am spelling this phonetically as she was not sure how it was spelled and the baker was not around to field questions. It's possible that I mis-heard and the first part was "ganache" (which seems like it would make sense), but I am not sure!
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:
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.
Paid Advertisement Link: Wedding Packages in Vegas!
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.