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:
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: 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-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 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: 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!
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:
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.
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)?
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!
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!
What oh what to get for the sweet-lover who has everything? Here are some of our best bets, in all price ranges!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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!
Sweet news flash for all Seattleites! If you're in town and feel like hanging out with some Cake Gumshoes and maybe buying some awesome Christmas presents, drop by and see us at the two upcoming craft shows: