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Wednesday
Jul152009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Sprinkles Edible Art in Olympia, WA

Corn on the Cob Cupcakes
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne Cooke. Check out her website here!


At Sprinkles Edible Art in Olympia, your cupcake can be dressed up the way you want. Sprinkles, which is dubbed “an interactive pastry shop” on its business cards, offers the “Edible Art experience” either in a kit to take home or directly in the shop. For $6, you get a cupcake, individual cake, cookie, or brownie, as well as a small container of frosting, three different kinds of sprinkles, and a drink.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
There are dozens of sprinkles of all shapes and colors to choose from, including bear-shaped sprinkles and Christmas-themed sprinkles. Cupcake and frosting flavors cover the basics, such as chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting. Drinks include soda, juice, milk, coffee, and water. Once you order your baked good and gather your sprinkles, you’ll sit at a table with a cupcake-shaped placemat and begin to frost your goodie.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
Now it’s time for the fun part. I found that each tiny container of sprinkles was more than enough to cover the entire cupcake. I added the other sprinkles just for fun, but most fell onto the plate because there wasn’t anything left to stick to! The chocolate cupcake was good and moist, and the cream cheese frosting was delicious.
Chocolate Cupcake from Sprinkles Edible Art
If you’d rather skip the art experience and get straight to the goods, you can. Cupcakes are $1 for small, $2 for large; brownies are $2.25; cake is $5; and cookies are under $1.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
On my second visit to Sprinkles, I opted to try a cupcake without all the jazz. The shop was sporting a new display case, and inside were lemon-filled cupcakes that looked too good to pass up.
Lemon Cupcake, Sprinkles Edible art
Though the cake looks a bit like cornbread, it definitely doesn’t taste like it. The cupcake was a tiny bit crumbly, yet still plenty moist and flavorful. The filling was pure heaven, gooey and sweet—but not overly sugary. It was similar to doughnut jelly filling, rather than the lighter lemon curd found in other lemon-filled cupcakes.
Lemon Cupcake
Sprinkles also hosts live music events and rents its space for any special occasion you can think of, from birthday parties to Pampered Chef parties to cookie swaps. There’s plenty of seating, from tables and chairs to couches surrounding a television. A local photographer’s art hangs on the walls, and there is interesting cupcake art near the entrance, including cupcakes-on-the-cob covered in yellow jelly beans and speared with corn cob holders (CakeSpy Note: this project was also done beautifully on Peabody's blog!)

 

Sprinkles Edible Art is an artistic shop with plenty going on. The people working there are always friendly and inquisitive, making sure your experience goes well. The cupcakes are tasty and the topping choices are abundant. Kid or adult, it’s a fun place to visit!

Sprinkles Edible Art, 316 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA, (360) 350-0712; online at sprinklesedibleart.com.

For more of Roxanne Cooke's work, check out her website here.

Do you want to be a Cake Gumshoe too? Feel free to submit bakery reviews or great baked good related finds (with pictures, please) to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

 

Wednesday
Jul152009

Sweet Art: Hollow For Illustration Friday

Oh Cuppie, you'll just feel hollow in the morning
This week's Illustration Friday theme is Hollow, which got me thinking about a recent evening of drinking and debauchery that Cuppie had. As hindsight is 20/20, he'd like to let you all know that even though it was fun at the time, he just felt hollow in the morning.

Wednesday
Jul152009

Kickin' It: Old School Frozen Custard, Seattle

Old School Custard, Seattle
So, Old School Frozen Custard has opened in what is quickly becoming Seattle's Ice Cream District in Capitol Hill, what with the recent opening of several other arbiters of chilled treats including Molly Moon's Ice Cream and more recently Bluebird Ice Cream. However, you'd be a fool to mistake frozen custard for your everyday softserve. Why? Well, Old School's website does their best to educate, under the heading "What is Frozen Custard?". As they put it:

We know what you're thinking, but you're probably wrong. Frozen custard is not flan, crème brûlée, or something your grandma throws in a pie.


as the narrative goes on, the differences are mainly to be found in two places. First, ingredients: frozen custard not only contains a minimum of 10% butterfat (this is the delectable thing that makes premium ice creams coat your tongue with deliciousness), but it also has 1.4% egg yolk by weight. It's the yolk that separates frozen custard from regular ice cream by adding a "richer, fuller taste and an indescribably silky texture."

 

The second difference is preparation: "The volume of regular ice cream is almost doubled by the air whipped into it during production (called overrun)," --crystals formed during this time can lead to a coarse texture in softserve ice cream. With frozen custard, the mix is continuously fed into and frozen in a barrel, avoiding this extreme aeration and resulting in a denser, creamier finish with 70% less overrun than regular ice cream. It's also served slightly warmer than ice cream: "In contrast to regular ice cream which is served just above freezing, Old School's frozen custard is served 18-20 degrees warmer, which allows for maximum flavor and doesn't freeze your taste buds."


Old School Custard, Seattle
But enough science. As they say, proof is in the pudding, and the expert CakeSpy tasters (Allie, Jason and Danny) agreed: this stuff is good. Old School only offers three flavors daily (vanilla, chocolate and one daily special) but personalization can be attained with a large variety of mix-ins, from brownie bits to nuts, pretzels, caramel and more. The smooth, silky texture of the custard was delightful, and the addition of brownie and fudge was declared a delight; all agreed that the whipped cream, too, was exceptional. 
Overall, the tasters seemed to agree that custard is not for the feint of heart: if you're expecting regular softserve ice cream, the creamy density of this rich treat might be overwhelming. Happily though, this also makes Old School a different enough experience from the other ice cream places that perhaps they can all exist in harmony, ready to cater to all sorts of different frozen-treat cravings. But if it's a seriously decadent dessert experience you're seeking, then maybe it's time to kick it...well, you know.
Old School Frozen Custard, 1316 E. Pike Street, Seattle; online at oldschoolfrozencustard.com.

For an interesting NPR story about frozen custard, click here.


Old School Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

 

Tuesday
Jul142009

Tour de Cupcake: Mapping the Gentrification Frontier, Deliciously

NYC Cuppies
CakeSpy Note: This feature is the result of a tipoff from Cake Gumshoe Kelly Mola--check out her amazing artwork here!

No doubt about it, cupcakes are popular these days. But is it possible that their popularity is indicative of more about our culture than a simple case of sugar lust gone wild?

Yes, according to Kathe Newman, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy Development at Rutgers University, who is organizing the Tour de Cupcake in New York City: cupcakes can also tell the story of gentrification. According to the project's simple site,

NYC has witnessed an extraordinary influx of capital since the early 1990s that has pushed gentrification into the far reaches of the city. We will locate the new gentrification frontier by mapping the location of the plethora of “hip” cupcake-serving bakeries and puppy parlors (dog spas). 

The site links to a Google Map where users are welcome to add shops that they think should be on the tour; in September, this map will be used as a basis for an actual tour around the city during which participants will "map the gentrification frontier, one bite at a time." The tour will be the basis for an academic article to be submitted to the Urban Affairs Review.


Cupcakes at Billy's Bakery in NYCS'mores Cupcakes at Crumbs, 8th St., NYC
What got the project going? According to Dr. Newman in an email, "I am very interested in the process of urban change and how, why, and where it happened in the last decade and a half. I've been mapping the geography of these changes but the data source is always a problem." Which leads to the next point...

 

Cupcakes at Eleni's, Chelsea Market, NYCFauxtess Cupcakes, 71 Irving, NYC
Why cupcakes? Well, as she further noted, "I've noticed that newly gentrifying neighborhoods seem to have one thing in common - a fantastic little place to get cupcakes. I'm always dragging home very pretty little cupcakes for my children while on research trips." This is what prompted her to start a map of cupcake shops and puppy parlors (which do seem to crop up in similar neighborhoods) to see how they compare to more traditionally used data.
Nussbaum & Wu, NYCCupcakes, Little Atlas Cafe, NYC
Of course, cupcakes work for other reasons too: if data is socially produced, what could produce better data than asking people to collaborate in the act of producing it? And as Dr. Newman so aptly puts it, "I want my students to go to cities and learn about urban change. I thought if there were cupcakes involved they would most certainly go!"

Want to get involved? You can add to their Google Map here and check out their website here; anyone is welcome to attend the tour in September.

 

Tuesday
Jul142009

CakeSpy Undercover: Amelie's French Bakery, Charlotte, NC

Amelie's Dessert Case
By Cake Gumshoe Shannon Connell


So what’s better than a super-cute French bakery with a variety of delicious home-cooked goodies? One that’s serving up treats around the clock.

 

Stepping into Amelie’s French Bakery and Café was a magical experience. I had high hopes for the bakery, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I was enchanted at first glance by the chic, bohemian environment.
Cafe Food Menu Board at Amelie's, Charlotte NC

True to its name, once you walk through the door, you may feel as though you’ve stumbled into a bit of Paris mixed in with eclectic, shabby chic décor. Funky lampshades, one-of-a-kind chandeliers and toile adorn the cozy café along with Parisian monikers such as wall-hangings of Marie Antoinette, the Mona Lisa and black-and-white pictures of well-known and loved monuments of the City of Lights.

 

The fabulously French ambiance aside, Amelie’s offers a variety of baked sweet tooth cures in addition to an array of tartines, soups and baguette sandwiches. While the Ham and Gruyere Tartine that I sampled was quite good, the pastries and desserts are the real draw.
Chocolate Mousse Cup at Amelie's, Charlotte NC
The Chocolate Mousse Cup was the consensual and uncontested favorite among Amelie’s employees and me. Creamy, rich chocolate mousse was nestled in a delicate chocolate cup and topped with a luscious and tart chocolate-covered strawberry. To top it all off, the strawberry was situated in a pillow of thick and creamy chocolate frosting. A symphony of tastes in harmony, the Chocolate Mousse Cup was a decadent treat sure to cure any chocoholic.

Another delightful Amelie’s dessert that I sampled was the Salted Caramel Brownie, a moist, chewy fudge-like concoction topped with a salty-sweet layer of soft caramel. The only thing that would make this treat even tastier would be if it was served a la mode.

While the chocolate desserts were my favorite, the Blackberry Lemon Torte is not to be underestimated. The torte had an almond and sugar crust topped with alternating layers of lemon and blackberry custard-like soaked sponge cake, combining sweet and tart flavors with a slight almond crunch.

Other Charlotte favorites of this maven haven include croissants, which are made six times on Saturdays to ensure freshness, and petit fours including the signature, award-winning peanut butter, chocolate ganache and feuilletine petit four. I have yet to experience the simple joys of these popular offerings, but I’ll have the opportunity to do so as I know I’ll return to this sweet spot again and again to enjoy the variety of baked treats offered at all hours of day!

Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe, 2424 N. Davidson St., Charlotte (704) 376-1718; online at ameliesfrenchbakery.com.

For more of Shannon Connell’s work, check out her website here.


Amélie's... A French Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

Monday
Jul132009

Dead Men Doughn't Bite: An Epic Donut Battle in NYC

Coffee and Donut
As discovered via the New York Times, today in NYC, mass hysteria broke out as Tim Hortons opened its first locations in the city, in 12 locations which had previously been Dunkin' Donuts locations. The doughnut wars had begun.

While the NY Times article (which focused on Dunkin' vs. Tim Hortons) resolved that neither company's doughnuts were noticeably more delicious and concluded that "mass-produced doughnuts are achieving total global mediocrity", the subject has clearly brought out some strong feelings in doughnut fans.

While I had previously thought that the ultimate US Donut battle was between Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme, apparently Tim Hortons is a new challenger in the ring.

Personally I'm a DD fan for life--probably the result of having grown up on the Jersey Shore, where there are so many locations that their pink-and-orange logo seems etched into my childhood memories--but I realize that this is probably nostalgia, rather than doughnut quality, speaking.

But it does bring up an important point: which of these kingpins of the doughnut industry do you prefer, and why? Or if you can't stand any of them...why not?

Monday
Jul132009

Cake Byte: Sweet Giveaway!


Lyndsey at Kitchen Dough Dough has a sweet dream: to be on the Ellen show! In support, she's hosting a super sweet giveaway on her site. So...run, don't walk, your little internet-clicking fingers over to Kitchen Dough Dough, where you can win some CakeSpy artwork!

Sunday
Jul122009

Candy Mountain: The Story of the Mountain Bar, An All-Terrain Treat

Cherry Mountain Bar
Have you ever heard of the mountain bar?

It first hit the CakeSpy radar a few months ago when buddy Allison picked one up at the drugstore as a bit of a consolation because they had run out of Cadbury Creme Eggs. Not that it's a new thing, mind you: the Mountain Bar has actually been around since 1915.
Mountain BarMountain bar
The mountain bar is a thing of beauty. Upon opening it, you may remark that it looks not so much like a mountain as a present left under the sofa by a naughty pet. But there's a delicious secret inside, as shown at the top--this is the cherry mountain, but it is also available in the original chocolate-nut flavor as well as a peanut butter filled variety. These are dense and rich little nuggets--definitely not a subtle or sophisticated food, but they will give you a sweet fix, and fast.
Mountain Bar

But what is even more compelling than their flavor is their story, as discovered on their site:

The MOUNTAIN® Bar was first put on the market by Brown & Haley in 1915 as the "Mount Tacoma Bar". The bar began with a fondant vanilla center...Sitting before individual warm chocolate pots, the dippers would make a puddle of tempered chocolate mixed with freshly ground peanuts. After rolling the center a little bit more, they would take a scoop of the tempered mix, forcing the center into the scoopful of the mixture. Then, with the heel of the hand, the bottom would be smoothed off and deposited on a waxed card. After the bar was made, it was put in a blue, hand-folded box that had a picture of Mount Tacoma (now Mt. Rainier) on it. Today our state of the art machinery turns out 592 MOUNTAIN® Bars per minute under the strictest sanitary conditions.

By 1923 the name of the bar had changed to just plain "MOUNTAIN®" due to the fact that its sales were beginning to spread into regions beyond Tacoma and the name "Mount Tacoma" conflicted with Seattle's name, Mount Rainier, which was beginning to gain ascendancy.

When World War II arrived, Brown & Haley was making as many as 25 different candy bars. With a shortage of sugar, the company decided to concentrate all of its efforts behind the production and marketing of its leading candy bar, the MOUNTAIN® Bar. This had the effect of establishing the brand as a regional favorite. Shortly after that the company decided to change the name of one of its brands from Cherry Bounce to Cherry MOUNTAIN® Bar in order to capitalize on the brand's strength. In 1974, Brown & Haley introduced the Peanut Butter MOUNTAIN® Bar.


Of course, all of this learning may ultimately lead you to the same question being tossed around Chez CakeSpy: is it possible to make the Mountain Bar even more delicious?

 

The answer is yes: just add ice cream. For an amazingly rich and decadent treat, why not try the Mountain Milkshake?
Milkshake time!
Cherry Mountain Milkshake

Serves 2

  • 1 Cherry Mountain Bar (or two, if you're feeling particularly decadent)
  • 4 generous scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup milk (or more, or less, depending on how thick you like it)


Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If desired, add more milk for a thinner shake, more ice cream for a thicker shake. Enjoy.

Milkshake!

 

Saturday
Jul112009

Cake Byte: Why You Should Be Excited About Cupcake Royale's New Location

Cupcake Royale's new location in Seattle!
So, Cupcake Royale is coming to Capitol Hill. Naturally, this in and of itself is cause for celebration. But why should you be extra-super excited? Well, let's review:

Free Cupcakes on Opening Day: Stop by the new Capitol Hill location on opening day (July 22), utter the words “Legalize Frostitution,” and you'll get a free Strawberry 66 babycake while supplies last.


Cake Meets Architecture: The decor of this location is bound to be gorgeous, having been assembled with a dream team of artisans and architects, including: Domestic Architecture, led by Roy McMakin (artist and longtime neighbor/customer of Cupcake Royale in Madrona); Dovetail Construction (which recently completed Molly Moon’s and Oddfellows); Sterling Voss; Big Leaf Manufacturing; and glass artist Greg Lundgren (owner of Hideout, and Stranger Genius award winner for Vital 5). The space is housed within the first commercial building by internationally acclaimed architect Tom Kundig.

Cake and Art: Distinctive from the other three locations, this one is a conceptually designed space, including one-of-a-kind works of cupcake art (including a 5 foot tall, stained-glass cupcake Royale) and signature Roy McMakin tables. 
Party On: Expect a semi-private party area, bistro tables and chairs, a community table, and a bakery peepshow picture window exposing back-of-the-house operations. 

Going Green (um...the ingredients, not the batter): The new Capitol Hill location, along with its sister Seattle locations, are also celebrating Cupcake Royale’s recent “most local cupcake” status. Cupcake Royale continues to prove their commitment to regional sustainability and local farmers through the premium, local ingredients it uses. Already all-natural and scratch-baked, Cupcake Royale cupcakes are now “More Moisty-er!” thanks to pastry chef Sue McCown’s new recipes, and they are also a minimum of 66% local following a newly forged relationship with Eastern Washington’s Shepherd’s Grain, which will be milling custom cake and pastry flour specifically for Cupcake Royale. This means Cupcake Royale’s milk, butter, flour, sour cream and eggs are all deliciously Washingtonian.
Late-night snacking: The new location's hours will be 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. 
Want to visit? The new Capitol Hill Cupcake Royale café and bakery is located at 1111 E Pike Street and opens for business on July 22, 2009. For more information, visit their site; keep updated on their daily goings-on via their blog and twitter.

 

Wednesday
Jul082009

Bittersweet: Where's the Line Between Inspiration and Infringement?

Drawing the line
When last week's post about a new online cake and baking-supply shop was put up on the site, a number of readers expressed disappointment in the fact that the new shop seemed to be inspired--perhaps too much so--by another similar retailer. In fact, apparently it's been the subject of hot discussion on some message boards.

It wasn't the fact that they both sold similar items, said one reader, but the fact that the product shots and overall style seemed derivative; according to Susan, while the older retailer "knows that selling baking decor isn't exclusive only to her...the kits and things she makes and the time she puts into designing her product shots and things are sadly being blatantly copied".

The other shop in question did respond that

We were really excited about launching our website after a successful year with Etsy and were completely caught off guard by the reaction...We absolutely never intended to hurt or copy anyone in any way. We felt that our website was a natural extension of what we had already been doing for over a year in our Etsy shop.

The last thing we want is to be confused with our competitors. We have been working dilegently, and will continue to work dilegently to set ourselves apart in this market. We want nothing more than to enjoy our business and inspire our customers to make awesome sweet edible creations.

With more and more bakeries and baked good-related businesses opening, it seems like it is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, what with disputes and sometimes even lawsuits over shop names, cupcake design and more. Even outside of known disputes, there is frequent gossip about who was inspired by whose decor, recipes and overall style.

So is there a line between taking inspiration from others...and infringing on their territory? And if so, where is the line to be drawn?

What do you think?

 

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