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Friday
Dec192008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Amanda of Wish-Cake

Wish-Cake 

 Generally, we associate food delivery with gastronomic treats of the savory, often greasy, persuasion: pizza or Chinese takeaway. However, a Philadelphia-based cupcake maker Amanda Schirk is challenging everything we thought we knew about takeaway, with Wish-Cake, a cupcake delivery service. Though started with children's parties in mind, the business has quickly grown with requests for "care package" cupcakes to be delivered to college students, as well as sweet delivieries to businesses and corporate clients. What can we say, everyone loves a cupcake. Here's what we learned during an interview with Amanda:

Vanilla Cake Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-Cake
Cakespy: How did you come up with the idea for Wish-Cake?
Amanda Schirk: The original idea for Wish-Cake was created from a conversation between my mom and I. We started talking about cupcakes and my love for baking them. Many of the parents we knew were too busy or didn't have the opportunity to make cupcakes for their child's birthday celebration at school. So, for the launch of wish-cake.com, my goal was to help those busy parents by baking fresh, beautiful cupcakes and delivering them right to their child's school. I never expected the number of requests for cupcake deliveries to colleges and business offices, to grown children from their Moms or friends. I guess, you're never too old for cupcakes!

 

CS: Why did you decide to focus on cupcakes only with your delivery business?
AS: Cupcakes are my favorite thing to bake! They're cute and tasty and most people have a hard time saying "no" to them. Each one is a small cakewith different frosting and decorating potential. I like the potential each cupcake holds as well as seeing the faces of those folks who receive them. They're fun to bake and fun to deliver!
Eggnog Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-CakeWorm-and-Dirt Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-Cake
CS: What is your favorite part about running Wish-Cake?
AS: There are so many wonderful things about running a cupcake business, and I appreciate the variety in running the business. If I had to pick one thing, I would say that it is definitely the amount of joy the cupcakes bring to the recipient upon delivery. I find it amazing to see children, men and women light up when they receive them. Seeing their faces makes the job worthwhile, and makes it more rewarding. I enjoy the fact that Wish-Cake gives me the opportunity to express my creativity in different ways, and it's nice to have different kinds of outlets for that creativity such as the things that have been done to make our web site, the pictures and all the things go along with our cupcakes.

CS: What are some of the most challenging parts about running Wish-Cake?
AS: There are so many complex tasks in running a business. I had to go through a lot of steps in order to plan and launch the business. I found I had to deal with more technology and red-tape than I expected when I first started. There have been times when I wished I could just bake cupcakes instead of having to do paperwork. It wasn't easy, and my life has been changed completely by choosing to run my own business, but I wouldn't change a thing. I'm very glad we stuck with everything. Wish-Cake has been a great opportunity.

Pumpkin Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-Cake
CS: How did you decide on / narrow down your menu choices?
AS: It was hard! However, the menu was created with children in mind. Kids are some of the most diverse people on the planet, however, when it comes to cupcakes most want chocolate or vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream or vanilla buttercream frosting. (Very basic!) Of course we've had several requests for more complex cupcakes for children too. I wanted to offer a variety of choices so everyone could be happy. Before wish-cake.com launched I baked some of my mom's cake recipes to make sure they were conducive to cupcake baking. After gathering facts I decided on offering more variety that vanilla and chocolate, however, I didn't want to offer gourmet cupcakes. (like those with lavender cake). That's not what wish-cake.com is about. Our website allows personal cupcake customization by the customer. We also created some possible cupcake combinations that would help people understand the process. Those are the cupcakes that have photos on the site. Both ways to create cupcakes (build your own or suggesed flavor with photo on the site) have been very popular.
Vanilla-Vanilla, photo c/o Wish-CakeChocolate frosted Vanilla Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-Cake
CS: What's your personal favorite flavor on the menu?
AS: That's too hard - I can't pick! If I ABSOLUTELY had to choose a favorite it would be banana with chocolate chips mixed in and vanilla buttercream frosting. That's our Hannah Banana cupcake, named after a niece who loves banana as much as I do. Or if I'm in a mood for something different I might use the build your own option.
Vanilla Cake, blue frosting, photo c/o Wish-Cake
CS: You have a build-your-own cupcake option on your site. Have you ever had any really unusual requests?
AS: Surprisingly, no! So far people seem to be very serious about the cupcakes they order.

CS: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect in making a great cupcake?
AS: That's an easy one for me. I need a great cake recipe (baking from scratch - no mixes) and fresh ingredients. The cake is the foundation for a good cupcake and from that point the creativity flies.

CS: Aside from cupcakes, what are some of your other favorite desserts?
AS: I'm a sucker for ice cream, most anything banana-flavored, or anything with whipped cream on top. And although they're not really a dessert sometimes I crave cinnamon buns!
Chocolate Chocolate Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-CakeCandy Cane Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-Cake
CS: The Cupcake Club sounds like our kind of club. Can you tell us more about it?
AS: Sure! The Cupcake Club was created for customers who want to give the wonderful gift of cupcakes 12 months or 6 months out of the year. Wish-Cake offers featured cupcakes with flavors or designs that fit the season, such as January's White Chocolate Snowball, February's Chocolate Passion, March's Green Monster, April's Baseball, May's Pink Petals, June's Pineapple Coconut, July's Red-White-and-Blue, August's Cotton Candy, September's Back-to-School Apple, October's Candy Corn, November's Pumpkin Spice, and December's Candy Cane. Once the purchaser signs up for Wish-Cake's Cupcake Club, he/she will receive an announcement (via email) each month listing the two featured flavors for the upcoming month. The purchaser can choose either of the two flavors - or they can choose to build their own. The Cupcake Club makes a great gift for someone very special.
Cookie Dough Cupcake photo c/o Wish-CakeSnowman Cupcake, photo c/o Wish-Cake
CS: What's next for Wish-cake?
AS: We're just getting started and we have high hopes for the year ahead. We still have a lot of great ideas. We're also looking for ways that we can give back to the community. So today for instance, we participated with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and supported their annual bake-sale with a variety of different cupcakes that we donated to the cause. That was something nice we could do that ties in well with our original mission. If one of our cupcakes can bring a smile to a kid's face no matter where they are, then we know we are doing something worthwhile. As far as what might be coming...all I can say is to stay tuned. We'll continue to add new things to our menu and look for ways to delight our customers. If we have big news, we'll be sure the readers of Cakespy are in the loop!

In the Philadelphia area? Get your fix by ordering Wish-Cake cupcakes for your next occasion; even if you're far away from PA, you can still enjoy their lovely photos.

 

Tuesday
Dec162008

Tele-Graham Crackers: Sweet Treats in the Mail

Tele-Graham Crackers

Though Cakespy Headquarters is based in Seattle, we're originally from a magical place known as New Jersey; as such, at this time of year, we really start to miss friends and family back East. And while certainly a holiday card is a sweet gesture, this year, if we may put modesty aside for a moment, we had an idea that is really pure genius: the Tele-Graham Cracker. These sweet little treats in the mail give a shout-out to a lost art of communication and offer sweet (or not so sweet) greetings for the holiday season.
What do you need to make them? We made ours into little sandwiches, using Honey Maid Cinnamon Graham Crackers and cream cheese frosting; for the outside messages, we used gel frosting (and we're gonna be honest here, we bought the little gel writers). 
How do you make them? Oh please, it's easy. Split a graham cracker in half; frost one side and adhere the top layer to form a little sandwich. Using your gel writer, write in the message of your choice.
May we make suggestions? We tried to personalize them for various friends in various places and states; for a friend who has promised to pay a visit but hasn't in four years, a "Visit Soon" Tele-Graham was in order;
Visit soon!Feel better

 

 

for Rakka, who has been experiencing some aches and pains, a slightly mangled "Feel Better" Tele-Graham complete with injured Teddy Graham seemed appropriate;

Suck it Tele-Graham Cracker
for the friend who disappeared after we loaned him 50 bucks, we made an extra-special treat (kidding); 

Mr. Cakespy loves pugsURAQT
For Mr. Cakespy, our own live-in Chia Pet, "URAQT" seemed to fit the bill;

Tele-Graham Crackers
and as general greetings for family and friends go, you can't miss with "Miss You" or "Love You" . 

Tele-Graham CrackersTele-Graham Crackers
How to Pack them Up? We packed ours up using waxed paper, with an outer layer of tissue paper to buffer the edges and protect the little Tele-Grahams. We then packed them in perfectly-sized kraft jewelry boxes purchased from U-Line, taped the edges and simply addressed and sent. Will they arrive OK? Only time will tell, but certainly the sweet sentiment will be appreciated. 

Cuppie has a moment

 

Monday
Dec152008

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Chontrale Runs On Dunkin'

They say it's the most wonderful time of the year, but we say it's the sweetest. Same difference, we suppose. Anyway, here are our favorite sweet links as of late:


Winter Wonderland: Bergdorf Goodman's chocolate castle is fanciful and sweet.


Oscar-worthy: we'd never seen Kirsten Lepore's sweet film before Cakespy reader Allyn pointed it out, but we're so glad we found it. (Warning: video with sound plays when you click through)

Vegan Angel Food Cake: Is it really possible? The Mistress of Cakes says so.

Why we're going to move to Chicago one day: Cakespy's gotten so much Bake+Destroy love lately, it's sick. In a good way.

Cigare Afficionado: We love the dainty and delicious cigare cookies by Yoku Moku.

America Runs on Dunkin', but we'd rather have this cake by Destini than doughnuts any day (picture top).


In Chicago, The Meatloaf Bakery: It looks like rows of loaf cakes and cupcakes, but there's no sweet surprise here: they're all made of meatloaf. We're alternately intrigued, and tempted to throw up in our mouths, by this one. (Photo left)

Love Cream Puffs? Looking for a sweet investment opportunity? Beard Papa's is looking for franchisees domestically and abroad. 

We have to admit, we're charmed by those cookies they give you at Doubletree Hotels. Little did we know, they're available by the tin at Christie Cookies.

Do you know the Muffin Man? Who cares, when you can get friendly with Marshmallow Men?

Friday
Dec122008

Faking It: Cakespy's Favorite Faux Cakes

Decor Central
When Baking up Chaos asked us to do a guest spot showcasing some of our favorite bakers, we got all excited: we love bakers!

But quickly, the excitement turned to despair: how to choose? Perhaps we love too many bakers. Perhaps this is a problem.

However, another opportunity then occurred: why not showcase our favorite FAKE bakers? Because yes, we confess: we have a John Waters-like obsession with fake food. Here are our for-reals faux favorites:

Artreverie
Artreverie: This is an awesome, Atlanta-based ceramics company headed by the amazing Heather Cunningham. We first came across her work at Babycakes in NYC, where her work is prominently featured in their window. Now, creating a lifelike likeness in ceramic is not an easy thing to do, but Heather does it with ease--her cupcakes actually look real. Delectable, but not delicious...and yet why does that glaze look so tempting? They're available from time to time on her Etsy shop.

Fake cake from Decor Central
Decor Central: Have you ever seen anything more festive than this coconut cupcake? Well, guess what--it's fake! What a fun way to decorate your home...or mess with friends and family?

Fake-Foods.com
Fake-Foods.com: Like, oh my god. These people even supply fake foods to Unwrapped! While their pastry offerings are mediocre on the site, what intrigues us here is the prospect of getting a replica made of the dessert of your choice (as featured on our recent gift guide). How cool is that?

Leelee's creationsLeelee's creations
Leelee's Creations: This is like heaven for lovers of fake food--from cupcakes to layer cakes to savory foods too, they've got it all. Their web images are not great, but their product delivers.

My Pink Boutique
My Pink Boutique
: If Marie Antoinette opened a shop specializing in faux patisserie, it would probably look like this. Gorgeous faux cupcakes, petits-fours, and more are on show here!

Zimmerman's Marketplace
Zimmerman Marketplace: Simple but lovely, their fake cakes (especially this faux vanilla buttercream cupcake!) strike our fancy.

Incidentally, when you think faux cakes are you thinking of cakes of the likes of which strippers might pop out? If so, here's a tutorial.
Stay sweet!

 

 

 

Friday
Dec122008

Cakespy Undercover: A CakeKraft Cupcake Tasting in Philadelphia

CakeKraft Tasting

Recently, we were contacted by CakeKraft, a Philadelphia-based special order bakery, about taste-testing some of their products. Now, you know we're not ones to turn away free sweets, so we bravely accepted this offer. While they offer treats with dairy, what intrigued our Philadelphia-based Gumshoes JoAnna and Brett were the vegan offerings. Here's JoAnna's account of tasting the goods:

CakeKraft TastingCakeKraft Tasting
Philadelphia is a land of vegans with limited dessert choices*. Michelle Poole has been working hard at CakeKraft to bring non-vegan, vegan and gluten free options to the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Cakespy asked me and my boyfriend Brett to taste test two varieties of vegan cupcakes -- Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Pumpkin-Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting.

The Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with the Chocolate Ganache each came with a decorative, white candy heart atop the cupcake. The chocolate cupcake had a good texture striking the right balance between cakey and fluffy with a deep, rich taste. The Chocolate Ganache frosting makes this cupcake sing; it's everything the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World ganache promised you but where that failed CakeKraft delivers. I am not a frosting gal but I could eat a whole vat-full.

Not to be outdone, the Pumpkin-Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting had the more enjoyable texture of the two we tried. The cake was moist and had just the right size of carrot chunks. As an added bonus, my omni sister gave the thumbs up to this vegan treat. I look forward to finding CakeKraft cupcakes around the city. Thanks, CakeKraft!

*To this sweet tooth, all lands are short on dessert.

------------------------------------------------------------

 

Are you in the Philadelphia-metro area? Visit CakeKraft.com to find out more about their cakes and services. If you own a restaurant or cafe, wholesale orders are available too; visit the site for more details.

Of course, even if you're not in the Philadelphia area, you can still enjoy their gallery of cakes here.

 

Thursday
Dec112008

It's All About the Cookie: Another Impromptu Giveaway!

Cookie Giveaway
This time of year, there's one thing on our mind above all other things: cookies. It's true: we're totally not above raiding Santa's secret stash in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.

And what better way to celebrate this than by having another bonus giveaway (in addition to our monthly Cake Poll, which we'll still have later on this month)?
My Kids Cookies
Gift Box, My Kids CookiesCards
Since nothing's better than a care package by mail, My Kids' Cookies has generously offered to donate a semi-sweet chocolate chip cookie gift box. Sweet! Nestled in a bed of white tissue paper, this delectable semi-sweet treat is bound to make your day far more delicious. But wait, there's more: to sweeten the deal, the lucky winner will also receive a pack of Cakespy notecards (from the Cakespy shop) too!

To enter (US only this time, please!), just leave a comment before 12pm PST on Monday, December 15th, weighing in on this important issue:
What, in your opinion, makes up the ideal chocolate chip cookie?

 

Tuesday
Dec092008

The Life of a Spy: Cakespy Interview at Taste of Home!

A really huge Cuppie, and me
Curious about the life of a professional Cake Gumshoe? Why not check out the interview I did for Taste of Home's website--and check out pictures of me with a humongous Cuppie! Is it just me, or does he look--well...kind of hungry?

P.S. -- Cuppie gets to sound off during the interview too (thanks to the fantastic interviewer)--what a snarky little fellow he is!

Read it here!

Monday
Dec082008

Sweet Stuff: Cakespy's Gift Guide!

What oh what to get for the sweet-lover who has everything? Here are some of our best bets, in all price ranges!

Cakespy Tells You what to buy
Small bites: Looking for presents in the $10 and under range? Here are our faves: (clockwise, starting top left) Micro Mini Sweets, $6 at Fred Flare; Yummy breakfast key chains $10 at Fred Flare; Coffee spoon with truffle handle, $8 at Pylones; (For the pet lover) Dog-friendly "cupcake" -- er, pupcake? mix, $9.99 at Petitfourlegs.com; Vintage Cupcake ornament, $9.50 atJennysbakeshop.etsy.com. Buff Monster Ice Cream figurines, $7.95 at Kidrobot.

Cakespy Tells You what to buy
Medium Bites: If it's a bit more serious than a stocking stuffer, you might want to shell out a few more bucks. Here's where we suggest you do it (clockwise, starting top left): Ivory Dessert-server, $19.99 at Heliotrope Home; Cake bites, $15 at The Sweet Tooth Fairy; Sabuda Pop-Up Cakes Note Cards, $21.95 at MoMAstore; Sift Happens tee, $18 at Bakelove Bakewear; Finger-food plates (perfect for a small cupcake!), $12.50 at Fireworks; Mint Chocolate Cookie Sandwich Gift Box, $32 at Teacake Bakeshop; Globe of Sweets Print, $15 at Justin Richel's Etsy Shop.


Cakespy Tells You what to buy
Big Bites: Economy or not, baby's gotta get a sweet present. Here's what we covet (from top left, clockwise): Individual cupcake stand, $60 at Fred Flare; a Fake Lemon Meringue pie with which to mess with people, $60 for pie and slice at Leelee's Creations (or, if you're as smitten with fake food as we are, why not commission a custom replica of your resident baker's signature treat, at fake-foods.com?) a ginormous triple-scoop cone decoration, $47.77 at Great Big Stuff; also, for a home baker considering the jump to opening their own bakery, why not check out Vocation Vacations--live the life of a baker, cupcake maker, or chocolatier for a few days, spending time with an expert "mentor" and learning the trade--starting at $950 and up. Pricey, but hey, can you say tax deduction?
Happy Holiday Shopping! Love, Cakespy

 

Friday
Dec052008

Hats Off: A Loving Look at Two Chapeau-Inspired Baked Goods

Napoleons Hat
It's a funny thing about hats. Some people can "do" hats--some most definitely cannot. The beret that looks jaunty and artistic on one may have a mushroom-head effect on another. The straw hat that looks so breezy on carefree on one person...well, you get the point. However, baked goods made to look like (or inspired by) hats seem to work a little bit more universally. Now, we could really go wild on this theme--from Pilgrims' Hats to Southern Belles to Nuns Habits, a lot of hat-pastry connections have been made over the years. But for now, let's just focus on two, with respective histories as rich as their sweet buttery cookie crusts:

Stop! Hamenstashen Time!
Hamentashen: These tricorner cookies are folded over on the top  so as to reveal just a small, alluring bit of the filling within, usually poppyseed, apricot or prune. Don't let those flavors put you off: really, they're very good, almost like a danish but with a cookie crust. As for the hat that inspired it all? According to Wikipedia, the name hamantash (המן־טאַש), is a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. Apparently, 

a likely source of the name is a corruption of the Yiddish word מאן־טאשן (montashn) or the German word mohntaschen, both meaning poppyseed-filled pouches; over time, this name was transformed to hamantashen, likely by association with Haman. In Israel, they are called אוזני המן (Oznei Haman), Hebrew for "Haman's ears" where children are taught these tasty pastries are the ears of Haman that fell off at his execution.
However, ears aren't necessarily the most appetizing cookie inspiration, which is probably why 
some Hebrew schools teach that Hamentashen are made in the shape of Haman's hat. There's even a song to go along with it (sung to the tune of "Carnival of Venice"):

My hat it has three corners.
Three corners has my hat.
And had it not three corners,
It wouldn't be my hat.

 

Napoleon Hat
Napoleonhattar (Napoleon's Hat): We first came across this cookie at local Swedish bakery Larsen's; while we can't say why the Swedes saw fit to name a cookie after the petite ruler's signature hat, we can guess that it dates back to their involvement in the Napoleonic Wars. More important than the roots though, is the joy that this cookie has brought to our lives. Larsen's version was fully covered on top, with an outer cookie crust and almond paste-innards that approached the chewy consistency that one might expect in the center of a coconut macaroon. As an added bonus, theirs was chocolate-dipped on the bottom for extra decadence. We located a recipe in the Sunset Magazine archives, but theirs more closely resembles Hamentashen (at least visually).

Recipe Links:
Hamentashen: You can find recipes at jewishappleseed.org or this one looks good too!


Napoleon's Hats: Does anyone have a good recipe for them? We could only find a few; you could try the one we found in Sunset Magazine, or you could try this one. We couldn't find a recipe for chocolate-dipped ones, but probably you could do it the same way you'd do chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons.

 

Friday
Dec052008

Taking the Cake (Plate): The Winner of the La Plates Giveaway!

Custom order
Time's up: the race for the Cakespy Plate by La Plates has finished!

So whose name was chosen at random? (Oh, the anticipation!)

The winner is Niffer, who gave the matter of what sweet to eat off of the plate some serious thought:

With the holidays there is an onslaught of sweets. But I'd go for a cinnamon roll in the morning all gooey and buttery. Between the sugar and the bright pink it would be sure to wake me up!

We like the way you think, Niffer. Congratulations!

Check back later in the month for the regularly scheduled Cake Poll, and maybe a few extra giveaways in the interim!

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