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Thursday
May072009

Sugar Mama: An Ode to the Sweetest Mom Ever

Illustration by my amazing mom
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?

Well, as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree--or in this case, the crumb doesn't fall far from the cake.
That is to say--blame it on my mom. 
My mother, Margie Moore, is just about the coolest person there is. Growing up, for every birthday we had an amazing cake. None of this store-bought sheet cake business, no sir--we always had some sort of multi-tiered pink confection that put even wedding cakes to shame--like this one:

Cake from Above
Of course, making cakes like this was a time consuming ordeal, and very trying on the rest of the family as we were unable to indulge right away. So to stave off our sticky fingers, she'd always make a little something extra with the leftover cake batter: a batch of festively frosted cupcakes:

 

Cupcakes in a Row

...now, don't these look familiar? After all, they're the inspiration for a little cupcake character you've come to know and love.


Cup-bunny meets Cuppie

 

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.
Illustration by my amazing mom

Happy Mother's Day to the sweetest mom, like, ever.

To check out Margie Moore's illustration work, visit margiemooreillustration.com. 
For Margie Moore's birthday cake recipe, click here.

 

Wednesday
May062009

Sweet Mystery: CakeSpy Needs Your Help!

Pastry from Hess Bakery, Tacoma
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.

But it's got a secret inside:
Pastry from Hess Bakery, Tacoma

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. 

It is completely decadent and delicious--and officially the newest CakeSpy obsession.

 

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!

And so I appeal to you, dear readers: does anyone know what this baked good is, or where a recipe might be found? 

UPDATE! Per a tip from German CakeSpy reader Iris, I've learned that the pastry in question is actually called Granatsplitter, which translates to "Shrapnel" or "Shell Splinters". Well, it certainly is an explosively delicious treat! This recipe suggests Granatsplitter as a good way to use leftover cake.

Also, we've gotten a recipe! Savvy CakeSpy reader Teresa enlisted the help of a German acquaintance to translate this recipe for the Granatsplitter! 

Granatsplitter Recipe

Dough:
  • 150 gm flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50 gm sugar
  • 2 teaspoons "vanilla sugar"
  • 1 tablespoon Rum
  • 2 tablespoons millk or water
  • 50 gm butter

To be put on the dough:
  • 125 gm coconut-fat
  • 65g powdered sugar
  • 1,5 teaspoons vanilla-sugar
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 75gm chopped almonds (have to be chopped as a pencil, long shaped)

topping:
  • 75g powdered sugar
  • 25g cocoa
  • 2,5 tablespoons hot water
  • 25g melted butter
  1. Mix flour and baking powder and put through a sief on a baking board.
  2. Make a hole in the middle and put sugar, spices and liquids in and part of the flour.
  3. Put the cold fat, cut in pieces, on top of it, cover with flour and form dough.
  4. If it is sticky, refrigerate for a while. Then make a thin dough from a round mold (like for round cookies) and bake 10 minutes at 175-195 degree C.
  5. Let the coconut fat melt and refrigerate. Put powdered sugar through a sief, add vanilla sugar, cocoa (sief) and rum in a bowl and stir bit by bit with egg and handwarm coco-fat. Break half of the cookies in pieces and mix with the almonds in the cocoa-dough. Put this dough hill-shaped on the rest of the cookies.
  6. Topping: put cocoa and powdered sugar through a sief and add water and liquid butter until like liqued chocolate. Put on top of the cookies and refrigerate.

If you're in the Tacoma area, you can get one for yourself (and don't forget to pick up a Pretzel Roll too!) at Hess Bakery, Hess Bakery & Deli • 6108 Mt. Tacoma Drive SW • Lakewood, WA (253)577-5888; online at hessbakery.com.

 

Wednesday
May062009

Cake Byte: Upcoming Art Shows!

Come visit me at the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair!!
This is going to be the sweetest spring and summer...ever! Please come hang out with us at these upcoming events:

Art Show at Trophy Cupcakes: Featuring over 50 paintings of Cuppie the cupcake all around Seattle! Artist reception Wednesday, May 6, 6-8 p.m.; show up all month! For more information visit trophycupcakes.com.

Cuppie loves Schmancy

Art Show at Schmancy: Featuring about 30 new CakeSpy painting featuring cupcakes in the cutest situations imaginable! Artist reception Friday, May 8, 6-9 p.m.; show up all month! For more information visit schmancytoys.com.
Crafty Wonderland: CakeSpy Takes Portland on Mother's Day at Portland's premier craft fair! Come buy last minute artwork for mom on May 10, from 11 a.m - 4 p.m. at the Doug Fir Lounge; for more information, visit craftywonderland.com.

Renegade Craft Fair, Brooklyn: CakeSpy is going to be sweeting it up in the Big Apple at the legendary Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn's McCarren Park! It will be going on June 6+7; for more information, visit renegadecraft.com.

 

Sunday
May032009

Cakewalk: Sweet Excursions East of Seattle

Chocolate Peanut butter bar, Hoffman's Fine Pastries, Kirkland
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:


Belle Pastry: Upon walking in, the first thing we noticed was the case of baked goods: gorgeous trays of croissants, pastries, cookies and cakes, all bathed in flattering light. The second thing we noticed was the clientele--there were actually French people in the bakery--at least three separate groups that we noticed were parlez-ing francais, and we're pretty sure they weren't just language groups. This is a good sign. The croissant was pretty standout; next time though, we're going for one of the decadent-looking cakes. You know we don't like to play favorites, but we've got to admit we liked this location far better than their newer second location in Ballard. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. 10246 Main Street, Bellevue (425) 289-0015; online at bellepastry.com.

 

Napoleon from The French Bakery, Kirkland
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.

John Hail (Jan Hagel) from Hillcrest Bakery
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.

Orange shortbread, Hoffman's Fine Pastries, Kirkland
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.

Chocolate oat bar, Honey Bear Bakery
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.

Cake from Starry Nights Catering, Kirkland
Starry Nights Catering: Though they're not a retail storefront, their cakes are good enough to mention again. Online at starrynightscatering.com.

Cupcakes from Sweet Cakes, Kirkland
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?

 

Wednesday
Apr292009

CakeSpy Undercover: How To Elope to Las Vegas and Still Have Wedding Cake

Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
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:

Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not MarthaCakes from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
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.
Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
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.
Eclair from Jean Phillipe in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
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.


Custom item for a friend
Congratulations again to Megan and Scott!

 

Wednesday
Apr292009

Taking it to the Sweet: A Renegade Cake Party in Seattle

Renegade Cake Party!
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.

So when she asked if we'd be interesting in having a cake party here in Seattle, the answer was swift and decisive: YES.
Cake MakingCake
And so she came up from Portland, and the CakeSpy kitchen was employed to make a plethora of goodies. First on the roster was carrot cake--there were two--in which various goodies were hidden (including a mini Cuppie figurine!), and then we decorated them to look like mountains of sweetness, garnished with little figurines from Archie McPhee.


Hidden in the Cake!Cake!

 

Next came several batches of quite possibly the best brownies known to man, using the recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.
Brownies!

And then they were made even more awesome by the addition of rosemary whipped cream.
Brownies with 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?
Cake Party

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.


Cake Party!Cake Party!
At one point a police officer began to walk over as if to stop the band--but as we have been told by many eyewitnesses, as soon as he began to approach it seemed as if he had thought better of it--after all, we weren't hurting anyone.
Cake!Cake

 

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.


Renegade Cake Party

 

If you're interested, someone posted videos of the band playing too! Check 'em out here!

Tuesday
Apr282009

Some Like it Hot: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Chocolate Scorcher Cupcake

Chocolate Scorcher (Photo used with permission from Cupcake Royale)
It's not summer yet, but Cupcake Royale is bringing on the heat with their new flavor of the month for May: the Chocolate Scorcher. Direct from the source, here's the lowdown:

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.

 

Tuesday
Apr282009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Mother May I...enjoy some sweets? It's almost Mother's Day, so here's a baker's dozen of sweet ideas for Mom (and maybe you, too).

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.


Looking for sweet but calorie-free? Soapylove has the cutest popsicle-themed soaps, like, ever!

The Dough-Nu-Matic Personal Doughnut Maker: buy one for mom, one for yourself.

Flowers may be cliche, but flower pot cakes? Totally sweet!


Speaking of sweet, how about these adorable confectionery-inspired wall decals?

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.


Speaking of chocolates, L.A. Burdick chocolates (and cakes!) are always an appropriate gift--and this Mother's Day, you might even win a prize.

Melt mom's heart with these delicious tarts, from Daphne Baking.

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.

Of course, if you're in Portland, you still have a last-minute chance to pick up CakeSpy artwork on Mother's Day at Crafty Wonderland!

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.

Sunday
Apr262009

A Rosette By Any Other Name: Getting To Know a Sweet Nordic Treat

Rosette, Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA
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.

Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WAHillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA
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.
Rosette, Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA

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. 

They are also cousin (that is to say, there are attachments that can be added to the same handle to make them--see left) to a sort of open-ended pastry family called timbale, which  Epicurious.com tells us is
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.
The rosette cookies, it seems, are typically served in Sweden as a Christmas cookie; however, as discovered on a Rosette wikipedia blurb, in Finland they "may be served at May Day (Vappu) celebrations as an alternative to funnel cakes (tippaleipä)." Clearly they've got the right idea--these little treats are definitely too good to hide away most of the year.
Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA
If you're not near a Swedish bakery (poor thing!) don't despair quite yet--you can make your own at home. The only catch is that they do require specific equipment--those signature delicate shapes are, after all, the result of special molds; however, they're not outrageously priced (here's one set for $23!). However, beyond that they don't seem too difficult to make; according to Diana's Desserts, which also has recipes,  "The trick to making good rosettes is to preheat the iron in the oil, and to be sure not to dip the iron so deeply into the batter that it coats the top of the iron."
Of course, if all that seems too hard, you could always hop the next plane to Sweden. We hear airfare's good right now.

 

Wednesday
Apr222009

Grilled Cheesecake: A Sweet Take on a Classic Sandwich

Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich
With all this talk about the Grilled Cheese Invitational and all of the recipes featured on Good Food lately, I've had grilled cheese on the brain.

Grilled cheese is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. After all, it is sliced bread--with the added awesomeness of cheese and butter. Can it really get any better?
After being hit with what can only be described as a stroke of pure genius, I can definitively say yes. It can get better.
Say hello to the grilled cheesecake sandwich.

Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich
"Is this serious?" you may be asking yourself. 
Oh yes. Made out of slivered cheesecake layered between slices of buttered pound cake, this sandwich is serious all right--as serious as a heart attack. 
Here's how it's done.
Grilled Cheesecake

Buttering the Pound CakeCheesecake
  • 2 slices pound cake (any flavor you like), buttered on the outside
  • 1 small slice cheesecake, slivered

Assembling the Sandwich
1. Assemble the sandwich as follows: one slice pound cake (butter side down), as many slivers as you'd like of cheesecake (we included bits from the crust for added crunch), and the other slice of pound cake, buttered side up. 
Hitting the pan
2. Put in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Flipping it!
3. After about a minute and a half, gently lift with a spatula to see if it is lightly browned on the bottom. If it is browned to your liking, go ahead and flip; if not, let it brown just a little longer.
Bubbly and buttery
4. Once browned to your liking, carefully flip the sandwich. Press down on the top with the spatula to make everything kind of meld. The second side will brown faster than the first one did, so keep a close eye on it.
5. Remove from heat, turn off the heat, slice in half (if you're into that), and enjoy.
Serving note: For those of you who simply can't eat a grilled cheese without soup, I think a bowl of slightly melty strawberry ice cream would complement it quite nicely.

 

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