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Friday
Oct032008

Cuppie Capers: Pastry Politics

Pastry politics

 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep302008

Sweet Surprise: Red Velvet Cuppie Truffles from Bakerella!

Sweet treats from Bakerella!
Today we received a sweet and completely unexpected gift in the mail from our favorite domestic goddess, Bakerella: mouthwatering red velvet cake truffles...decorated to look like our own Cakespy mascot, L'il Cuppie! Seems that Mlle. Bakerella must have enjoyed her Iron Cupcake prize, a custom piece depicting her exciting segment a few months ago on the Martha Stewart Show:

Martha and Bakerella
Because this was certainly a wonderful thank-you to receive! And upon opening the parcel full of cheery red-topped Cuppies, we realized that Bakerella had caught all of the little guy's mischievous expressions. One thing's for certain--the moment we left the kitchen they got up to all sorts of mischief. Let's see what we were up to, shall we?

This little Cuppie made a big mess...
This little Cuppie caused mischief

 

This little Cuppie learned to draw...
This little Cuppie got creative...

This little Cuppie went for the good stuff...
This little Cuppie has expensive taste

This little Cuppie liked what he saw...
This little Cuppie likes what he sees

This little Cuppie found Jesus...This little Cuppie found Jesus

This little Cuppie met some pigs...
This little Cuppie made new friends...

This little Cuppie saw the Space Needle (but got a little melted by the sun)...
This little Cuppie saw the Space Needle

This little Cuppie does not like skinny chicks...
This little Cuppie does not like skinny chicks

This little Cuppie got worried...and uh-oh, we haven't seen him since.
Sweet treats from Bakerella!

This little Cuppie got greedy...and ended up all alone.
Sweet treats from Bakerella!

 

Wanna make 'em? You can find the recipe for Easy Cupcake Bites at Bakerella.com!

Of course you also might like to see her sweet review of our friendship and the project here!

 

 

Sunday
Sep282008

American Pie: Recipe for a Quick Fix

Not apple pie
Apple pie is an enduring symbol of America. Why? Well, there are more reasons than we can go into right now--but if you're curious, we highly recommend Apple Pie: An American Story by John T. Edge.

But what happens when apples are scarce or prohibitively expensive, as during the rations of World War II?

You do another all-American thing: find a quick fix! During those war years, that fix was making a mock "apple" pie filled with a slurry of (inexpensive) Ritz crackers, sugar syrup and lemon rind. Ready to throw up in your mouth a little? Well, hold it in, because while not as good as "real" apple pie, it's strangely passable if you close your eyes and think really hard about apples while chewing.

And when we made this pie recently, we decided to go a little further on the mock concept. In celebration of what seems to be a New England-centered (or does it perhaps root from the Midwest?) preference for eating pie with a wedge of sharp cheddar, we made our mock pie using cheese-sandwich Ritz crackers. Here's a shot of it in progress (before adding the sugar syrup and top crust):


Pie filling
So how did this concoction taste?
Well. It smelled amazing while baking and once out of the oven.  The crust was tantalizing. Taste-wise, however, this regional specialty didn't really translate to the chemical counterpart. The cheese remained somewhat gravelly in texture and didn't really ooze throughout the way we'd hoped; instead, it remained in grainy, salty, cheesy deposits which acted more like landmines than sweet surprises on the palate.

I'm not apple!
Of course, perhaps the most insulting part of this story is that living in Washington state, we're currently experiencing a bounty of delicious (real) apples--and next time we'll try to remember the saying of another great american icon Marvin Gaye, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby". Because friends don't let friends eat fake pie.
Sucker!

 

Ritz Mock Apple Pie (from backofthebox.com)

The classic pie, featuring Ritz crackers baked in a golden crust,
is perfect for the holidays.

Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie
36 RITZ Crackers, coarsely broken (about 1 3/4 cups crumbs) --we used the mini cheese-filled sandwich crackers
1 3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Place
cracker crumbs in prepared crust; set aside.

2. Heat water, sugar and cream of tartar to a boil in saucepan
over high heat; simmer for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and peel;
cool.

3. Pour syrup over cracker crumbs. Dot with margarine or butter;
sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out remaining pastry; place over pie.
Trim, seal and flute edges. Slit top crust to allow steam to escape.

4. Bake at 425 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is crisp
and golden. Cool completely.

Makes 10 servings

Preparation Time: 45 mins.
Cook Time: 30 mins.
Cooling Time: 3 hrs.
Total Time: 4 hrs. 15 mins.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep282008

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Holiday Cards!!
There's a lot of sweet stuff on the internet--but these are some sweet things we've got to share!

It's never too early to get started--get your Christmas greeting cards at cakespyshop.com!

Where in the world is the closest bakery? Contribute by adding your favorites to the Cakespy Bakery Map on Google! We're slowly but surely updating it with places we've visited. If we did this right (fingers crossed) anyone can contribute!

Wanna be the big cheese? Deck yourself out with the cheesecake head.

"Cupcakes" a more popular search term than "financial crisis"...maybe that's what got us into this mess?

Adorable halloween-themed felt cupcakes by Merry Moon Designs.

 

A reason to go vegan: PETA urges Ben & Jerry's to use human milk.

 

In Baltimore, a mobile cupcakery emerges with Perfect Cupcakes.
Celebrate Banned Books Week, sweetly, with Haphazard Gourmet Girls.

 

Sandwich Cookie Smackdown: Not Martha does a taste test with Oreos, Hydrox and Newman-O's.

 


 

 

 

Wednesday
Sep242008

The Sweet 100

Custom request, food pyramid in color
Recently, a website called Very Good Taste started something of an internet fire with a list called "The Omnivore's Hundred", which listed 100 foods which "every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life." We liked the idea, and inspired by the vegan variation on Hannah Kaminsky's site, we thought--why not make our own Sweet 100!? Like the original, our list includes "fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food"--but in our universe, it's all sweet! (In case any of them are foreign to you, links to pictures and recipes are included; also, for any vegans, feel free to go through the list assuming it's a vegan counterpart). How many have you tried? If you'd like, feel free to follow the same guidelines:

1) Copy this list into your site, including the instructions!
2) Bold all of the sweets you've eaten--or make them a different type color.
3) Cross out any of them that you'd never ever eat.
4) Consider anything that is not bold or crossed out your "To Do" List.
5) Optional: Post a comment here linking to your results--or just post a comment letting us know how many you've tried, or what you're going to try next!
  1. Red Velvet Cake
  2. Princess Torte
  3. Whoopie Pie
  4. Apple Pie either topped or baked with sharp cheddar
  5. Beignet
  6. Baklava
  7. Black and white cookie
  8. Seven Layer Bar (also known as the Magic Bar or Hello Dolly bars)
  9. Fried Fruit pie (sometimes called hand pies)
  10. Kringle
  11. Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
  12. Scone with clotted cream
  13. Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy
  14. Halvah
  15. Macarons
  16. Banana pudding with nilla wafers
  17. Bubble tea (with tapioca "pearls")
  18. Dixie Cup
  19. Rice Krispie treats
  20. Alfajores
  21. Blondies
  22. Croquembouche
  23. Girl Scout cookies
  24. Moon cake
  25. Candy Apple
  26. Baked Alaska
  27. Brooklyn Egg Cream
  28. Nanaimo bar
  29. Baba au rhum
  30. King Cake
  31. Sachertorte
  32. Pavlova
  33. Tres Leches Cake
  34. Trifle
  35. Shoofly Pie
  36. Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
  37. Panna Cotta
  38. New York Cheesecake
  39. Napoleon / mille-fueille
  40. Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cake
  41. Anzac biscuits
  42. Pizzelle
  43. Kolache
  44. Buckeyes
  45. Malasadas
  46. Moon Pie
  47. Dutch baby
  48. Boston Cream Pie
  49. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  50. Pralines
  51. Gooey butter cake
  52. Rusks
  53. Daifuku
  54. Green tea cake or cookies
  55. Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
  56. Crème brûlée
  57. Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
  58. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
  59. Jelly Roll
  60. Pop Tarts
  61. Charlotte Russe
  62. An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin)
  63. Hummingbird Cake
  64. Jell-O from a mold
  65. Black forest cake
  66. Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
  67. Kulfi
  68. Linzer torte
  69. Churro
  70. Stollen
  71. Angel Food Cake
  72. Mincemeat pie
  73. Concha
  74. Opera Cake
  75. Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
  76. Pain au chocolat
  77. A piece of Gingerbread House
  78. Cassata
  79. Cannoli
  80. Rainbow cookies
  81. Religieuse
  82. Petits fours
  83. Chocolate Souffle
  84. Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
  85. Rugelach
  86. Hamenstashen
  87. Homemade marshmallows
  88. Rigo Janci
  89. Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
  90. Divinity
  91. Coke or Cola cake
  92. Gateau Basque
  93. S'mores
  94. Figgy Pudding
  95. Bananas foster or other flaming dessert
  96. Joe Froggers
  97. Sables
  98. Millionaire's Shortbread
  99. Animal crackers
  100. Basbousa

 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep232008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Melisser of Sugar Beat Sweets

Batter Chatter with Sugar Beat Sweets
At Cakespy, we're constantly impressed with the leaps and bounds being made in the world of vegan baking. What was once a category of brick-dense, vaguely healthy-tasting fare has really come a long way, what with groundbreaking cookbooks and recipes by the likes of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Hannah Kaminsky, and inspiring sites like Have Cake Will Travel, Veggie Girl and Walking the Vegan Line. Whether going dairy-free for ethical or health reasons (or both), there's a stunning array of baked goods out there which will satisfy nonvegan appetites as well. And for residents of San Francisco, there's a huge reason to get excited about vegan baked goods: Melissa Elliott, who many of you know as Melisser from her blog, The Urban Housewife, has started a wholesale (check out retail locations here) and special order baking business called Sugar Beat Sweets, which focuses on providing locally sourced, organic, vegan baked goods. Swoon. Here's what she has to say about the new business:

Cakespy: First off, we hear that some refer to you as "San Francisco's Sexiest Vegan". (OK, by "some" we mean ourselves, though we, like, know everyone else is thinking it too). What is your response to this?
Sugar Beat Sweets: Ooh geez, well.. thank you? I can think of some damn sexy vegans out there (Morrissey, Joaquin Phoenix, Chrissie Hynde, my husband!), so I'm honored to even be considered in the ranks.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: You've been active in the food community through your blog, The Urban Housewife for a while now--what made you want to take the step toward opening your own retail/wholesale business?
SBS: It's no secret, I love to bake. I've always taken pleasure in baking for others & I found myself disillusioned with my career, daydreaming about being in a kitchen instead. I started making custom cakes for people & a local cafe while I weighed my options, then decided to go for it. Additionally, I wasn't happy with the lack of vegan dessert options in San Francisco. I wanted to give local vegans more choices & show people in general that vegan baked goods can be high quality, artisan treats that anyone can enjoy.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview 

CS: How did you decide on the name Sugar Beat Sweets?
SBS: It's so tough to name a bakery, I think I annoyed everyone I know with names! I like sugar, of course & I'm also inspired by music, so I came up with "beat", which can represent music & something you do in cake making, somehow it all came together & "Sugar Beat Sweets" was born.

 

CS: How has running a commercial bakery as opposed to baking from your own kitchen changed your attitude toward baking?
SBS: I'm not sure my attitude towards baking has changed. I still want to produce desserts that you'd never know were vegan with a focus on high quality, organic, & local ingredients. I just have to approach things a bit differently, as I'm now working in large scale with the recipes I've developed & I don't get to eat the results!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: It looks like you're primarily offering cupcakes and cakes for the moment. Do you or will you be offering any other choices?
SBS: I'm considering expanding my offerings in the future. For festivals & events, I'll have whoopie pies & other goodies, but the main focus is cupcakes & cakes right now.

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: In our experience, a lot of non-vegans approach vegan baked goods warily, or with the attitude that they won't like them because they're "different". Do you have any response to this?
SBS: There's definitely a stigma attached to vegan baked goods. People seem to think it's going to taste "healthy", be dry & flavorless, or have tofu & sprouts hidden in it. While the vegan baked goods of 10+ years ago may have left a bit to be desired, now there's plenty of sweets & treats that taste just like their dairy counterparts, but without the use of animal products! We've come a long way, baby! Just look at "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, I know a lot of non- vegans who own & love the book. I see a lot of cupcake blogs singing its praises.

CS: On your site, your cakes are listed as being frosted with "buttercream". But it's all vegan--what is vegan buttercream?
SBS: Well, "butter-substitute-cream" doesn't sound so hot! I use a soybean oil based butter substitute that functions just like butter, so you have the same fluffy frosting that everyone else is making, without the cholesterol!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: Are there any developments or products you'd love to see in the world of vegan baking?
SBS: Easy to make marshmallows, meringue, & angel food cake would be nice. That being said, the vegan world has made leaps & bounds, especially in recent years, so I don't feel deprived in any way, shape, or form. There's amazing, motivated vegan chefs & foodies who are working to develop vegan versions of just about any treat you can think of, so I have faith that we'll have all those things shortly. In fact, I know of a few people on the verge of all three of those things!

CS: What sites, books, restaurants/cafes or people keep you inspired?
SBS: I read a lot of vegan blogs, there's so many great ones out there, people are really working to get veganism to the masses & they're making mouthwatering food, so it's always inspiring. I browse Flickr a bit & the typical cupcake compilation sites to see what's new & hot in the baking world. Cakespy is on my blog feed & is always teaching me about new pastries! (Cakespy Note: We did not bribe Melisser in any way to say that. Like, seriously.) I love Bake & Destroy, of course! Natalie is a dreamboat & her hoodie is in my daily wardrobe. Restaurants using local produce, organic ingredients, & vegan fine dining spots inspire me, like Millennium in San Francisco & Candle 79 in New York City. Basically, people who are passionate about what they are doing, especially those who are doing what's best for the animals & the world!

CS: You're based in San Francisco, and you know how we're interested in regional specialties. What are some of the best in your area--i.e, the things you can only find there, or that you miss when you're away?
SBS: Sourdough bread! I love a good loaf of freshly baked bread with a crusty exterior & tender center. In all my travels, I buy the local bread & I'm always wishing I was eating San Francisco Sourdough instead!

Photo c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy InterviewPhoto c/o Sugar Beat Sweets for Cakespy Interview
CS: What's next?
SBS: Well, one never knows, but my current plan is to keep blogging at theUrbanHousewife.com, churning out Sugar Beat Sweets artisan cupcakes & cakes for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area, & maybe doing some more video segments, like the one I did for Everyday Dish! I feel very blessed to have a fun & ever changing life, so I'm willing to see where it takes me!

Are you in the San Francisco area? Place your order today (do it!) at sugarbeatsweets.com.

 

Or, find them at these retail locations:

Rainbow Grocery- 1745 Folsom @ 14th Street / Other Avenues- 3930 Judah Street @ 44th Avenue / Real Food Co.- 2140 Polk @ Broadway / Urban Bread- 3901 18th St @ Sanchez / Mojo Bicycle Cafe- 639-A Divisadero St @ Hayes / Harvest Urban Market- 191 8th St @ Howard

Even if you're not in the area, enjoy the photos here and keep up with Melisser's adventures via theurbanhousewife.com!

 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep232008

Cuppie Capers: The 80's

The 80's

 

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Sweet Trompe l'oeil

A Sweet Trompe l'oeil
We never understood why tourists went to go see the fish being thrown at the Pike Place Market until one day, when walking by, we saw an errant throw, which resulted in a fish hitting an unsuspecting passerby. All of a sudden we understood--now that's funny. Is there anything more rewarding than a little mischievous fun?

And now that you understand our sense of humor a little bit better, we present our project, done for the "24, 24, 24" Foodbuzz launch: A Sweet Trompe Trompe l'oeil.

What's a trompe l'oeil? The phrase, French in origin, roughly translates to "trick of the eye"; it is often used to refer to a work of art rendered such that is tricks the viewer into believing it is something else.


In our case, the trompe l'oeil was not a painting but foodstuffs, created completely out of cake and sweets, made to resemble a fancy restaurant's menu, and served to a group of unsuspecting dinner guests. They came expecting a sumptuous dinner, which of course they got--but what they didn't know was that it was all comprised of cake, cookies and various sweets! Here's what we served and what they thought:

Egg Cream
Let the games begin: Would you care for a drink?
For something with the fizz of champagne but a super-mega dose of sweetness, we decided to serve Egg Creams!
What it is: An egg cream is a treat first discovered during one of our spies' college years in Brooklyn. Contrary to its name, it contains neither egg nor cream. Its name is shrouded in mystery--some say "egg cream" is a slurring of "chocolat et crème", some say the original recipe actually did include eggs; others say it comes from the Yiddish echt (meaning "genuine" or "real", as in "this drink is the genuine creamy article"). But no matter where it comes from, it is very delicious, and must be consumed immediately after making otherwise it will lose its head and separate (probably why there's never been a mass produced version).
How we did it: Here's the recipe we used, care of What's Cooking America: Now, we know that a *true* Egg Cream can only be made with Fox's U-Bet Syrup, but alas--it is not easily found in Seattle, so we settled for...another brand.
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cold whole milk*
  • 1 cup bottled seltzer
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup**
* Skim or 1% milk won't foam as well
** Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup is used in New York.

 

Pour 1/2 inch of cold milk into a tall soda glass. Add seltzer or club soda to within 1 inch of the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).

Very gently pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).

NOTE: Do not let Egg Cream sit for a long period of time-5 minutes or more; it will go flat.

Effectiveness: OK, nobody was fooled by this one, even though we served it out of a repurposed sparkling wine bottle. Also, our crew found the Egg Cream to be...shall we say an acquired taste. Luckily we had some real bubbly on hand to soften the blow.

 

Caviar on toast...made of cake and sprinkles!
A Pinkies-out Appetizer, Perhaps?

At this point, we brought out the appetizers and the bread basket. Let's start with the appetizer.
What it is: "Caviar" made of chocolate sprinkles with crème fraîche (really cream cheese frosting) atop "toast" (cake).
How we did it: Slicing a piece of pound cake, we made sure to use a side piece so that we could get a nice triangle shape; we coated it with a healthy layer of cream cheese frosting for the crème fraîche, and topped it delicately with some chocolate sprinkles (we took care to find the perfect shape--not too oblong--ultimately we found the perfect shape at Seattle's ultimate cake resource, the Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. (they have everything!).
Effectiveness: It worked! While it may not have fooled tasters into believing it was going to be caviar, they did think it would be savory.

Bread and Butter
Well-bread: Time for some carbohydrates!
After enjoying a sweet drink, our guests were presented with the bread basket. Certainly they were ready for some carbs...but a sweet surprise awaited them!

What it is: Various cakes--ranging from cupcake "rolls" garnished with poppyseeds to pound cake (deemed the perfect choice because of its coloring and "crust") with a dab of buttercream "butter".
How we did it: This one was easy; the cupcakes looked like rolls in the basket; the pound cake was just sliced thinly, and the butter(cream) was presented in a butter dish.
Effectiveness: It fooled them! Since we served it at the same time as the "caviar", nobody had yet made the sweet discovery, so they thought this was just "regular" bread. Heh heh.

 

Sweet Salad
The Plot Sweetens: Salad time!

Oh, we're proud of this one.
What it is: A green salad made of "lettuce" made of green mint confectioners chocolate; cookie "tomatoes" and cake "croutons".
How we did it: For the salad, we melted the confectioners chocolate on the stovetop, then spread it in a thick layer on a piece of saran wrap. Fold over saran wrap so that it covers the layer of chocolate; "scrunch up" by hand to spread the chocolate and also to give it a slightly rippled effect. Let cool for about 30 minutes, and remove plastic wrap; voila! Lettuce! ** For more details and pictures, check out this post.
Effectiveness: Once again, nobody was fooled by this one--at least, nobody thought it was real veggies--but nobody was quite certain what it was made from. More importantly though, everyone thought it was pretty much the awesomest salad ever, so we'd consider that a victory.

Steak Cake
Steak CakeCake
A Cake...Steak?
Certainly by this point in the meal everyone's ready for some protein...right? Wrong!
What it is: A cut of steak "cake", made out of a thin slice of spice cake (not for any reason other than we thought it would be a nice flavor variation) covered in rolled fondant and then painted using food coloring; "green beans" comprised of vegan (that is to say, salmonella-free) cookie dough, and a side of "risotto" made of brown rice pudding (made using this recipe for rice pudding.)
How we did it: For the "Steak", we referred to the Confetti Cakes cookbook (check out their blog too!), using its tips for creating a "wood" look on a fondant cake (page 42); we used colors more appropriate to meat, and added a cross-hatch on the top to simulate grill marks. For the green beans, we added four drops of green and one drop of yellow dye to a baseball-sized ball of dough, mixed thoroughly by hand, and rolled out small balls into bean-shapes.
Effectiveness: This main dish was a hit! Serving it to a vegetarian crew, it was easy to pass off as a soy-based meat product, so while nobody thought it was actually meat, tasters dug in expecting a savory soy cutlet or something of the like. Boy, did they have a surprise waiting for them! The green beans were declared a hit (can you really go wrong with cookie dough? far more delicious than marzipan, we think), but the rice pudding was perhaps too sweet (then again, perhaps palates had been numbed by this point?).

Chocolate cake
There's always room for dessert: Cake Time!
What it is: It's a chocolate frosted cake, silly.
How we did it: We made it using this cake and this frosting.
Effectiveness: Our guests were wary by this point, so very little of this cake was eaten (oh well, just more for breakfast!). However, there was at least one plaintive plea for "a piece of celery, some cheese, just anything without sugar, please!". And that, friends, means sweet victory.
Chocolate cake
Thank you to Foodbuzz for giving us the chance to let our creativity run wild on this wonderful experiment and supersweet experience! We're gonna send our dentist charges to you, hope that's OK.

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Seriously Sweet: How to make a Candy Salad!

Sweet Salad

As part of the Cakespy entry in the Foodbuzz “24 Meals, 24 Cities, 24 Blog Posts” worldwide blogging event, we made just about the sweetest salad ever--here's how to make your own!

We used Merckens Green candy wafers, which can be purchased at cakesnthings.com. Originally we thought that using a leaf mold might work for lettuce (you can see some of them on the bottom layer of the salad), but we discovered this method that worked even better:

Step 1: Melt 'em: You may find that one method works better for you than another. We melted them in the microwave, but many swear by the double-boiler method. Check out the different options here.

Step 2: Spread out a long sheet of plastic wrap (12 inches long or so). On one half of the plastic wrap, spread a 1/3 inch thick layer of the melted confection.

Step 3: Fold the unused portion of the plastic wrap over the candy, and smooth down to a desired thickness (not too thin or it will break!).

Step 4: Wrinkle the still-warm candy gently with your fingers, to give little wrinkles and ripples like on lettuce leaves.

Step 5: Let cool for 20-30 minutes or until solid.

Step 6: Gently uncover. Pieces may break off at the ends, but this is ok--lettuce is abnormally shaped after all!

Garnish as desired (with cake cubes for "croutons", red cookies for tomatoes, etc)

How to make a candy salad



Wednesday
Sep172008

Cakewalk Special: a Whirlwind Sugar Rush in the Windy City

Canele, Floriole Bakery, Chicago
The most important lesson learned spending 48 hours in Chicago?

48 hours are not nearly enough to taste all of the fantastic baked goods the city has to offer. Nonetheless, we were armed with suggestions from friends Natalie (of Bake and Destroy), Sandy (the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen) and Claudia Saraniecki--and so we tried our damndest to try all we could in our short time in this gorgeous city. No, we didn't try every bakery--but we certainly did try some good ones:

Ice Cream Cone Cookies, BittersweetChocolate flecked Sable cookie, Bittersweet
Bittersweet Pastry Shop: This pastry shop feels a bit like a Parisian pâtisserie has gotten an American makeover: gorgeous cases full of French treats (sables, tarts, croissants) existing peacefully side by side with American standards (cupcakes, cobblers, muffins). The sables, which were made in a slightly more rustic way than we've seen, were perfect--that is to say, full of butter and completely delicious. Hours: Tues-Fri, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 1114 W Belmont Ave., (773) 929-1100; online at bittersweetpastry.com.

Bleeding HeartCookiesBleeding HeartBleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart Bakery: This small space packs a punch--an amazingly extensive array of cookies, cakes, tarts, bars and more inhabit their cases, with a large variety of vegan choices.It also seems to be a popular spot for kids--on a brief visit, no less than four groups of parents with strollers or small children came in. Having already picked up some cake at nearby Chaos Theory, we settled on a vegan Earl Grey shortbread cookie here, curious to see how that (dairy-heavy) recipe might translate. In one spy's opinion, though it didn't taste like other shortbreads, this was a gorgeous cookie: crumbly, with a subtle tea flavor that managed to avoid being bitter, and a slight saltiness in the afterbite. This is all to say--yum. Hours: Tues-Sat, 6 a.m. - 7 p.m; Sun, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; closed Monday. 1955 W Belmont Ave., (773) 327-6934; online at thebleedingheartbakery.com.

Red velvet from Bombon Americano, ChicagoVanilla-chocolate from Bombon Americano
Bombon Americano: This was an extra-special spot because it's here that Head Spy Jessie met Natalie of Bake & Destroy fame! This place is a treasure in a neighborhood full of chain restaurants, with a well-stocked bakery case full of tarts, cupcakes and other assorted treats. We enjoyed a black and white (vanilla-chocolate) and red velvet cupcake respectively--the cake was moist and flavorful, but even more impressive was the silky buttercream, which seemed somehow light and decadent all at once. Hours: Mon-Sat, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Sunday. 1000 N. Clark St., (312) 787-7717; online at bombonamericano.com.

Chaos Theory, ChicagoChaos Theory, ChicagoChaos Theory, ChicagoCAKE
Chaos Theory: Approaching from the opposite side of the street, the first thing you'll see is a huge, light-up, hot pink sign that says "CAKE". If that doesn't bode well, what does? Chaos Theory is the newest retail spot opened by Michelle Garcia of Bleeding Heart Bakery fame, and walking into the shop is like walking into an alternate universe--neon-toned chairs at funky, mismatched tables, cool graffiti and artwork on the walls, and cake--and cookies, and truffles with Jesus motifs. If this is another planet, we want to stay here: take us to your leader. PS-Desiree, who was working during the Cakespy visit, was awesome! 2961 N. Lincoln Ave., (773) 281-2353; online at chaostheorycakes.com.

Floriole (pictured top): A surprise find! Floriole runs a booth at the Lincoln Park Farmers market, which is where we came across them closing up for the day. Luckily, we were able to snag a Canelé de bordeaux before they shut down completely. What's that, you wonder? Who cares? It's soaked in alcohol and vanilla, and it's a beautiful little bite. 2119 N. Rockwell St., (773) 252-0095, or see there Farmer's Market schedule here; online at floriolebakery.com.

Brownie from Letizia'sLetizia's
Letizia's Natural Bakery: Heavy, rich, decadent, and huge--that pretty much sums up Letizia's. But most importantly, delicious. Sure, it's all natural and organic--but does that make up for the fact that the average pastry here weighs about a pound? Probably not, but with rows of slablike brownies, cookie sandwiches with enough ganache to feed a village, and tiramisu that might make your head spin, you might just stop caring. In fact, our only complaint here was that when we asked the employee what his favorite treat was, he said "I don't care for sweets". Sacrilege! Luckily he came around and described some of the most popular treats for us. Good boy. Hours: Weekdays, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; Weekends, 6:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m. 2122 W Division St., (773) 342-1011; online at superyummy.com.

Molly's Cupcakes, ChicagoMolly's Cupcakes, Chicago

Molly's Cupcakes: Prepare for cuteness overload as you enter the cheerful orange-and-teal entryway. They have a sprinkle bar! And swings for seating! Even their story is adorable! While some salty old types might be cynical in the face of all this cuteness, not us. The carrot cake was moist, and we tried something a little different and went for the brown butter frosting instead of the classic cream cheese. It was good, but made us realize how much we enjoy that creamy tang--so we'd likely go for the cream cheese next time. A nice array of cookies, brownies, and even ice cream too; overall, a solid stop and a really fun shop to visit. Hours: Mon, 12 p.m.-10 p.m; Tue-Thurs, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 8 a.m.-12 a.m.; Sun, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. 2536 N Clark St, (773) 883-7220; online at mollyscupcakes.com.

More Cupcakes: This spot opened the day after our departure, but it intrigues us--read more here. Any reader input? Online at morecupcakes.com.

SwirlzSwirlz
Swirlz: The cupcakes here are a little spendy ($3.50 each), but they're impeccably decorated and a bit larger than the average cupcake, so consider it a wash. If we were to make one complaint, and really, it's not so much a complaint as the ramblings of starry eyed dreamer, it would be that though these are good cupcakes--the cake was moist, the frosting was buttery--it somehow felt strange eating such pretty cakes that tasted so relatively normal. Don't let that stop you from going though--all things considered, they're a good normal, and the staff was all super-friendly. Hours: Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Sunday. 705 W. Belden, (773) 404-CAKE; online at swirlzcupcakes.com.

Twisted Sister Bakery, Chicago
Twisted Sister: Oh, thumbprint cookie from Twisted Sister. How delicious you were. If only we had you again, we'd take you to the park, we'd whisper sweet nothings in your buttery, nutty little ear...compliment your delicate dollop of sweet jam...and then eat you! Again! ...This is to say...we love the cookies at Twisted Sister. The cakes didn't look so bad either, though we didn't get a chance to try anything else. Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. 1543 N. Wells St., (312) 932-1128; online at twistedsisterbakery.com.


Bombon Americano
Oh Chicago...we miss you already! (Cupcakes, Bombon Americano)



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