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Saturday
Feb142009

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Featured on Good Food!

Cakespy hearts KCRW!
What a sweet Valentine's Day treat: CakeSpy was featured on KCRW's Good Food! Our Head Spy Jessie was interviewed about her recent cupcake art installation in Seattle by the amazing Evan Kleiman. It was such an honor to be featured on the show--in our opinion, it's one of the best food shows out there!

You can download the show at the Good Food website, and here's a link to the cupcake art installation post.

And of course, don't forget to support KCRW and Good Food!

Wednesday
Feb112009

Cake Poll: Love and Chocolate!

Win it: Cake poll!
How time flies! It's been a while since our last Cake Poll, so we're making up for it by offering a very sweet treat: an original (not a print!) Cakespy watercolor! The watercolor (shown top) will come in a 4x5 inch frame and will go to just one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your responses to the below poll, centered around the star of all February sweetness: chocolate! Here goes:

  1. Chocolates for Valentine's Day: cute or cliché?
  2. The chocolate box: which flavor would you rather leave for others?
  3. Milk chocolate: amateur hour or respectable citizen?
  4. Chocolate in savory foods (mole sauce, etc): awesome, or awful?
  5. Hot chocolate: with or without marshmallows?
  6. Chocolate-flavored or scented body products: ooh, or eww?
  7. What's your favorite chocolate dessert?
The poll is open for anyone (US and international!) to enter; the deadline is 12 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 14. The winner will be announced shortly after! 

 

Wednesday
Feb112009

Sweet Factory: Behind the Scenes at Little Rae's Bakery in Seattle

Glitter Heart Cookie
Recently, our Head Spy Jessie was invited to take a tour of Little Rae's Bakery, a wholesale bakery here in Seattle (and, one of the nation's few completely nut-free bakeries). If you live in the Seattle area, you're undoubtedly familiar with their natural, organic baked goods--they're sold at nicer supermarkets and coffee shops all throughout the city, and even made national headlines with their recent First Family Cookies.

Having grown up fascinated with that spot about how crayons are made on Sesame Street, and as an avid watcher of Unwrapped, there was no doubt about a response--the word "YES!" couldn't be uttered quickly enough.

So, what goes on at a factory of sweetness? Here's what she saw:
Hobart!James with a big cookie/scone machine

First off, everything is big. Big, big, big. From an enormous Hobart mixer to a big machine which divides dough into individual portions, the machinery is heavy-duty (see Little Rae's owner James next to one of the machines for a size comparison).

They're also baked in ginormous ovens, which trays are loaded into and rotate in a circular motion to bake evenly.
JUST out of the big oven!Coming out of the oven

Of course, the most magical part (to me) was the point at which they were out of the oven--when the aroma of fresh, sweet baked goods was rich in the air, and the employees set to frosting and decorating them. Several employees were delegated to these tasks, and moved at warp speed, icing, frosting and adding sprinkles to the cookies. Really, I could have watched them do this all day.
Cookies being frosted and sugaredJust frosted cookies
Professional cookie decoratorsBefore and after cookiesMaple sconesJust frosted scones
Finally, once allowed to dry or set, the baked goods are packaged--all of the packaging has fun pictures of the employees-- and put out for deliveries.
Cookies just packaged!Packaging the cookies
Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't mention that one of the best parts of the tour was the box of free goodies I got at the end of it, including my favorite, their iced shortbread cookies:
Booty from the tour!
Moreover, I was impressed by the fact that even though they are baking these treats in larger quantities, the process isn't really all that different than baking at home--just a lot more sterile (no licking the spoon here!) and with a lot bigger machinery. It was especially exciting to see that even at a larger scale, this company isn't adding anything scary to their baked goods--it's all fresh and organic, and it's clearly a labor of love for owner James, who oversees all daily operations. And of course, having seen the process, it made the cookies all that much more delicious to eat afterward.

Want to learn more about Little Rae's Bakery? Visit their website at littleraesbakery.com. Not in Seattle? Don't despair--you can still enjoy their baked goods via mail order.

 

Saturday
Feb072009

Cakewalk Special: Seeking Sweetness in London with Cake Gumshoe Kirsten

London Cakewalk
(Blondies in the top right, c/o Outsider Tart)

There are so many reasons to love London. The museums. Those charming palace guards. Not to mention English accents--everywhere! And while it's not generally thought of as a baked good mecca, that seems to be changing--as Cake Gumshoe Kirsten (a London resident in the know) reports, there are plenty of sweet places to be found in London, ranging from fancy chocolate shops to arbiters of East-meets-West sweets to--yes--even a few Southern USA-style bakeries. Read on for Kirsten's suggestions for the best places to get a sugary fix in London: 

Hummingbird Bakery, LondonHummingbird interior 
Hummingbird Bakery: Classic American cupcakes have only recently become popular in London, but boy, have they gone done well. The most renowned is Hummingbird Bakery. They’re a short walk from the famous Portobello Rd markets, and make a great spot to recharge your batteries after a serious vintage clothes shopping session. Their red velvet cupcakes are divine. There’s just enough perfectly creamy cream cheese icing and they will kindly give you a fork to eat with if you get a sudden rush of British manners at the sight of these monsters.

They also do cakes (New York style cheesecakes and Chocolate Devil’s food cake are displayed on pretty pastel cake stands) as well as cookies and pies. And no, most Brits still can’t get their heads around eating pumpkin as a dessert.

 

47 Old Brompton Rd (South Kensington Tube)
SW7 3JP
Open 10.30am-7pm daily

133 Portobello Rd (Notting Hill Gate Tube)
W11 2DY
10am-5.30pm Tues-Sat
11am-5pm Sunday
Closed Monday

Yuatcha Dragon
Yuatcha: This is an extremely flash Chinese restaurant in the midst of Soho. Being near my office, one of my favourite lunchtime pastimes is to gaze in at their spectacular patisserie section as I meander past. Their rainbow of macarons are as amazing as the Parisian café Laduree’s, but here you’ll find them in slightly more exotic flavours. Coffee milk chocolate anise, coconut pistachio cinnamon, hibiscus, lychee raspberry and chocolate jasmine are just a few. If you wish to take a box away, expect an artfully wrapped box to be handed over.

Whereas the basement is where you’ll star spot in the evenings, the ground floor of the restaurant has more of a teahouse vibe, making it the perfect place for a fabulous afternoon tea (which comes with dim sum as well as pastries), or just for their spectacular desserts. Along with hand-painted chocolates and truffles, you will spend 10 minutes simply gazing at their intricate works of art.

For me it was a tough choice…would it be the passionella, with milk chocolate biscuit and mousse topped with passionfruit cream and coulis? Perhaps the asian citrus yuzu? Yuzu Kura has a dark chocolate mousse, yuzu jelly, yuzu and a dark chocolate biscuit. Apricot Millefeuille with caramelized puff pastry, lemongrass almond biscuit, apricot compote and coconut cream?

No, for my fellow gum shoe and I, it was the dragon. A diamond angled dark chocolate case with dark chocolate brownie as a base, topped with a spicy dark chocolate ganaches, raspberries and little cubes od raspberry and red pepper coulis. Delicious!

15-17 Broadwick Street
Soho, London W1F 0DL
Tel: 020 7494 8888

Mon-Thurs: 11am-11.30pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-11.45pm
Sun: 11am-10.30pm
(dim sum served from midday)


Paul A YoungYoung Hot Chocolate
Paul A Young: London in winter can be a cold dark place. Which is a perfect reason to indulge in some warming rich real hot chocolate. Paul A Young is a chocolatier who has 2 boutiques in London. His truffles are spectacular, particularly if you are keen to challenge your tastebuds. Marmite is a brown yeasty spread that people on this side of the world spread on their toast for breakfast. You either love it or you hate it…and I couldn’t love Paul’s marmite chocolate truffle more.
But on the day I squelched into Paul’s warm inviting purple store (it was raining cats and dogs outside), it was his hot chocolate and brownies that called. Paul’s hot chocolate is dark, rich, creamy and spiced to your liking. The Mayans used to add spices such as chilli, cinnamon, ginger and pepper to their drinking chocolates, and at Paul’s, you’re able to choose what you’d like to spice up your cup of liquid heaven.
His delightfully sinful brownies have been named ‘the gooiest in Britain’. The moment you take a bite, it all makes sense. They’re available in classic chocolate fudge, stem ginger, simnel (with spiced fruits and marzipan) or my favourite…Pecan.

 

Keep in mind that a lot of shops in the City aren’t open during the weekends, so if you’re after a wonderfully wicked weekend fix, you should head to his Islington store instead. (Angel tube station)

33 Camden Passage,
Islington, London
N1 8EA
(Angel Tube)

Closed Monday-Tuesday
11am-6pm Wed, Thurs, Saturday
11am-7pm Friday
12-5pm Sunday

20 Royal Exchange,
Threadneedle St, London
EC3V 3LP
(Bank tube)

10am-6.30pm Monday-Wednesday, Friday
10am-7pm Thursday
Closed weekends
Also shut for lunch between 2-2.30pm daily.

Mrs. Marengo, LondonMrs. Marengo Cheesecake 

Mrs Marengos: In the heart of London’s media region (Soho), you’ll find a number of vegetarian restaurants. Mrs Marengo’s is a wonderful place for a quick bite- I’m a daily visitor for their wonderful vege soups. But it’s not just the vege delights that make this place a must visit…their front window is always filled with a huge variety of cakes, slices, biscuits, tarts and cupcakes.
The Lemon Meringue pie seems to get bigger every time I pass, and the white chocolate pistachio cheesecake gets me every time!
There’s almost always a couple of gluten free, vegan or wheat free options, including rich dark brownies and chocolate raspberry truffle cake…just perfect with a side of their homemade honey frozen yoghurt. It’s a great little place to pop into when you want to get away from the chaos of Oxford St or the tourist prices of Piccadilly Circus!

 

Open Monday-Friday 8am-6pm (Breakfast 8am-11.30am)
Saturday 12pm-6pm (breakfast 12pm-4pm..for those who like a sleep in!)
0207 287 2544

53 Lexington Street, Soho, London W1F 9AN
Nearest tube:
Oxford Circus Tube Station (0.4 km)
Piccadilly Circus Tube Station (0.4 km)
Tottenham Court Road Tube Station (0.5 km)
Leicester Square Tube Station (0.6 km)

Peanut butter chocolate chip cupcakes from Outsider Tart, LondonOutsider Tart "Pup"Cakes 

Outsider Tart: Run by two business and life partners (both handily called David), this place specializes in classic American sweeties. Mega sweet chunky brownies the size of New York, mega cupcakes in dozens of exotic flavours with loads of whipped buttercream (mmm, chai anyone?) and pies galore!

 

The guys also do a fabulous cake and pie selection (lemon meringue, peach, pecan…and they’re even trying to convert us to sweet potato and pumpkin!)

One of the Davids was raised in the Deep South so has brought his passion for biscuits and scones to Outsider Tart. Here in the UK, we’re used to petite sweet scones with a smattering of jam and clotted cream….but these guys do good ‘ol American ones in every flavour from Chocolate to Chestnut to Cheddar and Dill.

My favourite part of their selection is their ‘Barkery’. That way you can buy a cupcake for yourself, and a ‘Pupcake’ specifically for your dog!

The boys bake their goods from the downstairs area of Profile, a gay bar in Soho. They used to sell their wares at the bar, but due to some issues with the bar’s hours, you usually find them at their stalls in different farmers markets in London.
The markets are a little further afield, but definitely worth checking out!

Every Saturday at Richmond Farmers Market
Heron Square, London TW9
Time: 11am - 3pm

Also, every Sunday at Chiswick Farmers Market
Dukes Meadows, Chiswick W4
Time: 10am - 2pm

 

Thursday
Feb052009

2.5.09: Baked Good of the Day: Birthday Cake from North Hill Bakery

Killed Cake.
When I tell people how much I love North Hill Bakery, I'm constantly surprised that they don't know about this little gem in Capitol Hill. Even residents of the Hill often don't know about it. I think their birthday cakes are spectacular though, and always recommend them to friends.

And I was very happy to see that a friend followed my advice on a recent birthday, buying their "Grandma's Chocolate Cake" but choosing to frost it with raspberry buttercream instead of the regular fudge frosting. Good call--the raspberry was refreshing and a nice contrast against the rich, decadent chocolate cake, and the color was so pretty.

For chocolate lovers, the off-the-menu version of Grandma's Chocolate cake is a study in chocolate excess: that is to say, extremely delicious. A little goes a long way, but oh how enjoyable that little bit can be.

North Hill Bakery, 518 15th Ave E.; online at northhillbakery.com.

Wednesday
Feb042009

Volcanically Delicious: The Lava Cookie

Lava Cookies by Chris
Cookies made by Cake Gumshoe Chris

Confession: we love Shirley Corriher's voice. It's just so...warm and appealing...almost hypnotic. We could listen to her talk about cookies and cakes all day, and then fall asleep to her southern twang reading us recipes at night.


So now you know. 

But certainly she's not just a voice: this chemist-turned-food guru knows how to make one fine cookie. Recently, Cake Gumshoe Chris made a batch of her Lava Cookies (with some small changes) from her book BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, and we can say with little hesitation that they're one of the most delicious cookies we've ever tried. Though the recipe suggests serving them warm for a gooey (lava) inside, we also liked them room temperature, when the exterior was slightly crisp, but the inside soft and fudgy; and with Chris' substitution of trablit for vanilla extract, they had an ever-so-slight coffee kick.

Lava Cookies by Chris
Lava Cookies (please note this is an adaptation--for the original recipe check out this blog post)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp trablit
  • 1 cup spooned and leveled bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Arrange a shelf in the middle of the oven and place a baking stone on it. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Spray several heavy baking sheets with nonstick spray and line with release foil (nonstick side up). Set aside.
  3. In medium saucepan, melt remaining 6 TBL butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand for 1 min., and then stir. If all chocolate is not melted, place pan on very low heat for 1 min, remove, and stir. Let stand for 1 min, remove, and stir. Let stand for 1 min. and continue stirring. Repeat until all chocolate is melted. Set aside.
  4. Min mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, salt, and trablit at high speed with an electric mixer for 2-3 min, or until light and pale yellow. Turn mixer down to low and pour in chocolate.
  5. In medium mixing bowl, combine flour and baking powder, beating well with electric mixer. Stir flour into batter in several batches. Scrape down bowl and across bottom. 
  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 min. Using a 2-inch (#30) ice cream scoop, scoop dough place portions approx. 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time.
  7. Place baking sheet in oven on stone. Bake for exactly 12 min. Cool for 3-5 min. Best sered warm, but you can reheat each cookie in the microwave for 10 seconds for running centers. You can freeze cookies and thaw or microwave as you like.

Wednesday
Feb042009

Cake Byte: Crafty Wonderland in Portland!

Crafty Treats
Hey, Portland Cake Enthusiasts! If you're free on Sunday and looking for something awesome to do, why not come hang out and buy some Cakespy artwork at Crafty Wonderland

Here are the details: 
Date: Sunday, February 8th
Time: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Location: Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside, Portland, OR (Map)
Hope to see you there!

 

Wednesday
Feb042009

2.4.09: Baked Good of the Day: Linzer Tart Cookie from Pauline's Pastry

Linzer cookie from Pauline's in Ballard
Finally, I made it over to Pauline's when they were actually open (their hours are strange--closed Mondays and not open til 12 on some days).

Unfortunately, even when I arrived at 12.30 it looked like the cases hadn't yet been filled--kind of a bummer in such a small place (I like a well-stocked bakery case--part of the fun is looking before you buy, no?). However, the cookies that they did have out looked tempting, so I chose a Linzer tart. It was an adorable fruit-filled cookie sandwich with a sweet heart cutout, and a dusting of powdered sugar on top.

The cookie was buttery and sweet--subtle, but very good. If I had to make one change, I might have put slightly less powdered sugar on top, but this is likely because I'm a messy eater. The jam in the middle was the perfect complement to the rich, buttery cookie. And at $1.25, it was a steal!

I've been told that the cupcakes, scones and tarts are also worth a try--based on what I've tasted, I am definitely interested enough for a return trip!

Pauline's, 2315 NW Market St., Ballard; (206) 588-8098.

Tuesday
Feb032009

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Deathcake Royale
(photo credit C. Fisher Photography)


Deathcake Royale: It's back and better than ever at Seattle's Cupcake Royale, now cupcake-ier than ever! But this kind of awesome can't last--it's only available through Feb. 14!
Cake Balls: The new frontier?

 

Forget Silicon Valley--take us to Macaron Alley!

If this doesn't inspire you, nothing will: the Amy Atlas Lavender Snowflake Dessert Buffet.


We'd never even heard of Semla, but now we desperately want to get our hands on some.

 

Effie's Oatcakes are a simple, but exceedingly delicious little treat.

Nope--that's not cake.

 

If you run a baking business, you've got to know about food allergies. Read this, it could save a life!

Won't you support Good Food, one of Cakespy's favorite radio programs?


Cakespy hearts KCRW!

 

Monday
Feb022009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Chelsea of Kingdom Cake

Kingdom Cake
It's true: cupcake businesses keep on opening...and we keep loving them. Especially when they have awesome names, as in the case of the Bay Area based custom-order cupcakery Kingdom Cake. Of course, a creative menu doesn't hurt--in addition to the usual chocolate and vanilla suspects, theirs also has more adventurous choices like Thai Tea, Pancakes and Bacon and Orange Nutella, plus vegan options--and, curiously enough, a few savories too. We recently caught up with proprietress Chelsea Mead--read on to learn her thoughts on the dark and light sides of cake:

 Cakespy: Where did you get the idea to start Kingdom Cake?
Chelsea Mead: The short answer is: everyone loves cupcakes. They sell themselves. I love watching how happy people get when cupcakes arrive to their occasion, or when they take their first bite. I am in the business of making people happy, and that makes me smile. It never gets old. The realization that I could start a business with cupcakes came after several requests for special orders from friends and coworkers. I started thinking of one fun flavor after another and it slowly became an addiction to perfect more and more recipes. I truly look at it as an art form. Designing new cupcakes makes my heart beat faster. I'd always rather be in the kitchen.
Photo c/o Kingdom CakePhoto c/o Kingdom Cake
CS: Be honest. If we order from Kingdom Cake, will our order be delivered by a knight in shining armor?
CM: Hilarious! I would just love that...I think my customers would adore the dedication to the "Kingdom" theme! Until I can round up all my Knights and purchase a charming carriage with horses, I will be doing most deliveries myself (how boring after all that!).

 

Photo c/o Kingdom Cake
CS: What makes cupcakes so special to you?
CM: How much time do you have? You see, I am into all things art. I am a woman with way too many hobbies. I love to paint and mosaic mostly. I have an art room overflowing with all sorts of unfinished projects. I am so busy moving on to the next thing it's hard to stop and finish a piece of work (especially when I'm juggling the cupcakes). When I started baking, I approached each flavor and each cupcake as an art form. What can I do to make this cupcake look the most fabulous? Making a cupcake look "cute" doesnt always do it for me, the design and placement of toppers really makes it right. Next comes the photo shoot. After the cupcakes are looking divine, then I get to use my fun Sony Cybershot and take really cool photos (my new favorite is a concept is cupcake shadows/silhouettes). Then to top it all off, I get to watch people completely indulge and go into their happy place when it's time to eat. It's the ultimate creative outlet.

CS: We see that you have a flavor called "pancakes and bacon". Can you elaborate a bit about what makes up this cupcake?
CM: The pancakes and bacon theme seems to be pretty popular nowadays so I am looking to redirect the concept of this cupcake. Currently the cupcake is a simple pancake base, with maple frosting, bacon toppers, and a salty maple filling. This is a great cupcake for breakfast (although all cupcakes are suitable for breakfast if you ask me). I am working on a french toast cupcake that I might combine with this, to make more of a "breakfast" theme.
Photo c/o Kingdom Cake
CS: We notice some savory options on your menu. Do you see savory cupcakes as a new and thriving branch of the cupcake phenomenon?
CM: Absolutely. In this cupcake-obsessed world we live in, we are constantly being challenged to do the next coolest thing. The natural progression has lead us to savory cupcakes. People in the business are aware of all of this, then I talk to some of my friends and they aren't even aware that cupcakes are taking over the world! I try mentioning ingredients to them like: bacon, basil, or chili and they say WTF? Keeping up with the trends is part of any business. I am lucky I'm in a business where this just makes it all more fun.

CS: What is your favorite type of cake?
CM: Currently it's a tie between Thai Tea and Basil Lemon Blueberry. Thai Tea frosting is like crack.

Photo c/o Kingdom Cake
CS: Which term do you use: Icing or frosting?
CM: FROSTING, all the way.

CS: Imagine this: you walk in on a loved eating a mass-produced prepackaged cupcake. What do you say to them?
CM: "(SIGH) I am so disappointed."

Photo c/o Kingdom CakePhoto c/o Kingdom Cake
CS: What is next for Kingdom Cake?
CM: My next business venture is vending at the local Bay Area Farmers Markets. Right now I am in the approval process, you should see me popping up slowly in the next month or so. The ultimate goal for Kingdom Cake this year is to open a storefront in the Bay Area. I am also looking into the Seattle Farmers Markets, however this will take a bit more time to work out. I lived in Seattle for 5 years and I look forward to branching out there.

 

Want More? Visit Kingdomcake.com. Even if you're not in the Bay Area though, you can enjoy their cupcakes via Flickr!

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