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Cakewalk: A Sweet Tour of Sydney, Australia from Cake Gumshoe Dianne

Cakewalk in Sydney!
CakeSpy Note: This is a special guest entry by Cake Gumshoe Dianne, who chronicles her culinary adventures at A Stove With A House Around It. She chronicled her sweet finds during a recent trip to Sydney, Australia ( with thanks for the help of her dear friends and Sydneysiders Kerrie, Greg, Nicole and Matthew Nott for their valuable assistance in researching the piece). Ready for some down-under decadence? Here goes:

I am not Australian. I don’t have an accent, I can’t follow cricket, I won’t stomach Vegemite. Even so, I love that continent like it’s home, and I’m always looking for flimsy and dubious excuses to travel down under yet again. This year, Qantas was having a sale--plus. I knew there were some significantly delicious cake shops and chocolatiers I had to visit. That, my friends, is reason enough to travel anywhere, no matter how long the plane ride.

What follows is a glimpse into a vibrant and varied dessert culture. It seems like every 20 minutes good Australian citizens are stopping their daily routines to have a coffee and a sweet--it is part of their daily routines, at least within my circle of Aussie friends. Here are a few of my favorite Sydney-area bakeries and chocolate makers. Of course, this list is anything but exhaustive, but if you’re planning a trip to Sydney, you would do well to take a break from the gorgeous glittering Harbour to stop (several times per day) for a bite of something sweet.
Adriano Zumbo in Sydney, c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne
Adriano Zumbo
Tucked in a slender and unassuming shop in Balmain’s Darling Street, patissier Adriano Zumbo displays his exquisite and creative pastries in a glass case against the simple backdrop of an attractive exposed-brick wall. It’s kind of like hanging original artwork in a modest, utilitarian space; here, pastries are art. And each work has its own quirky name. We enjoyed “Amanda made the cut 6/11/81,” a perfect white square of milk passion caramel mousse, lime crème, passionfruit marshmallow, coconut crunch and brownie, as well as the more descriptively named “Pine nut millefeuille,” a generous layered combination of pine nut gianduja mousse, dark chocolate crème, pate feulletage and sacher sponge. If my stomach was three sizes larger I definitely would have given “Squeeze” a shot, not only for its artful amalgamation of sticky date pudding, cardamom and 80% chocolate chips but also for its nod – real or imagined – to my husband’s favorite Brit-pop combo. Or the “Return of the killer tomato,” which is an intriguing tomato, chocolate and olive oil upside-down cake.
Adriano Zumbo in Sydney, c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne
Get your pastry-art to go, because just a few steps down the street is Adriano Zumbo’s café. The staff will plate up your patisserie purchase so that you can enjoy it with coffee or tea while you listen to excellent ambient tunes like John Lennon’s “Crippled Inside,” which I was happy to hear as I destroyed my pine nut millefeuille. There’s a fabulous red chandelier, a range of quality reading material and a pleasant outdoor space where you can linger over your “Lukas rides the tube” (macadamia praline mousse, macadamia dacquoise, vanilla Chantilly, pear tartin palette, macadamia feullitine). Trust me; you don’t want to rush through something like that.
Adriano Zumbo in Sydney, c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne
Note: Adriano changes his pastry collection often, so these particular selections might not be available when you visit. But something equally astounding will be.

296 Darling Street, Balmain - Phone: 02 9810 7318; online at adrianzumbo.com.


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Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne, La Renaissance in Sydney, Australia
La Renaissance Patisserie & Café
Behind a weathered door marked number 47 in Sydney’s historic Rocks area is La Renaissance, a first-class French patisserie whose “art cakes” are named, naturally, after French painters. And whose rainbow-hued macarons are beguiling enough to make you abandon your sightseeing and languish on the La Renaissance premises until you’ve sampled at least one of each flavor. We visited on a Sunday morning when the adjacent Rocks Market was in full swing, and La Renaissance’s shaded outdoor café was inviting on its own as a tantalizing retreat from the crowd and the vendors selling everything from wooden kangaroos to knee-length striped terry-cloth shorts. Throw in La Renaissance’s gorgeous pastries and…your sightseeing plans can disappear more quickly than a piece of gateau St. Honore. What was that I heard about a famous opera house?

Truthfully, we did have tickets to a performance at the Opera House later that afternoon, so I indulged in a piece of La Renaissance’s coffee and chocolate opera cake. It seemed appropriate. I also couldn’t pass up the macarons, falling victim to a lovely little green number that was flavored with olive oil and vanilla with white chocolate ganache. I also had a dark chocolate one, because you can’t have just one macaron. I believe that is an old French aphorism, no? The menu says they offer salted caramel macarons, but I didn’t see any in the case that day. A reason to return. My friends ate tiramisu and apple flan while they drank cappuccinos and tried to banish the specter of the wine consumed the night before. Coffee and pastries, especially pastries like these, are especially good for that.


47 Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney - Phone: 02 9241 4878; online at larenaissance.com.au.

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Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Babycakes in Sydney
Baby Cakes by Renee
This is the shop to visit if you want a tiny sweet bite of something while you hoof around Sydney, perhaps on your way to nearby Darling Harbour. On a hilly block of Erskine Street, the shop’s cases are filled with wee cupcakes, small enough that you can try several (many) different flavors without feeling guilty. When we walked in, the very friendly woman behind the counter chatted with us about our holiday as she restocked the baked goods. “We had a rush.” I can see why.
Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Babycakes in Sydney
Even though we had visited at least two bakeries earlier that same day and had just come from a luxurious gourmet Thai lunch, we nevertheless dove straight into three flavors of baby cakes: hazelnut mud, caramel mud and strawberry mud, the latter of which was topped with precious pink frosting and the most adorable and crunchy yellow candy topper. We also bought a chocolate lamington, the iconic Aussie dessert cake rolled in chocolate syrup and coconut. My camera did a whole lot of flirting with the cake-sized cakes, baked in large cupcake-like wrappers and covered sweetly with pretty shades of white and pink icing. In retrospect, I wish I had tried the carrot cake baby cake, as well as the lemon poppyseed. Certainly I could have walked them off on our journey around the shops at Darling Harbour. You live, you learn.

66 Erskine Street, Sydney - Phone: 02 9279 2794; online at babycakes.com.au.

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Abla's in Sydney, C/O Cake Gumshoe Dianne
Abla’s Pastries
Get yourself to the Central train station. Then get yourself on a train traveling west, one that stops at Granville (just a handful of stops). Then get off the train and make your way out of the station to the corner of Railway Parade and Carlton Street to Abla’s Pastries. It looks kind of like a bank, all stone and drab façade. Go in anyway. You will not be sorry.
I have never seen as many baked goods in one place at one time as I did at Abla’s. This Lebanese bakery clearly does great business, judging by the miles of display cases piled high (and I mean high) with baklava and any combination of phyllo, honey, rosewater and nuts. Then there are the overflowing trays of cookies behind the display cases, you know, in case they run out. Then there are the packaged sweets on the windowsills behind the cookies behind the display cases. Then there are the glass shelving units filled with individually wrapped pistachio and nougat treats. And the case of European-style cakes and tarts. And the handmade chocolates. And the wrapped trays of candies and party favors. There is only one word for it: astonishing.

The best news in all of this: Everything we tried was as good as it looked. We shared a pistachio bourma, pine nut baklava, a mamoul biscuit made from semolina and dates, a confection called a karabij that is a nut base topped with a type of meringue. We put together a tray of various treats to take home with us and enjoy later with visiting family from Melbourne. We also ate a fried turnover filled with a sweet cheese or pastry cream, but sadly we were unable to determine exactly which pastry it was. Truly, who could possibly care? When you are sitting next to a tray as big around as an SUV tire stacked higher than your head with baklava, it’s hard not to enjoy whatever’s on your plate.


48-52 Railway Parade, Granville - Phone: 02 9637 8092

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Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Cupcakes on Pitt in Sydney, Australia
Cupcakes on Pitt
I make no attempt to disguise my love for the Cadbury Crunchie, a candy bar comprised of airy sweet honeycomb covered in Cadbury’s delectable milk chocolate. I therefore make no attempt to say I sought out Cupcakes on Pitt for any other reason than the fact that they serve a honeycomb cupcake: chocolate cake with honey icing and a chunk of Crunchie perched on top. Perfection! I learned when we got to the tiny shop just a short walk from the Queen Victoria Building that Crunchies aren’t the only treats making their way onto Cupcakes on Pitt’s baked goods: you’ll find pieces of Cherry Ripe (another Cadbury candy bar), crumbled butter cookies, dried apricots and rocky road ingredients scattered over the cupcakes’ colorful frosting. It’s a lot of flavor and texture to fit into a small cake, but it works. It works well.
Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Cupcakes on Pitt in Sydney, Australia
Of course I had the honeycomb. I also happily consumed a lamington cupcake – with chocolate, jam and coconut – and an amazingly flavorful lemon meringue cupcake, just bursting with citrus and kissed on top by a perfectly browned dollop of meringue. I also tried one of their vanilla macarons, which was large and shattered pleasingly when I took a bite. Even the light rain that started to fall as we tucked into our sweets at one of the sidewalk tables couldn’t dampen our mood. For we were in Sydney, Australia, eating cupcakes. I’ll take that scenario any day of the week.

Shop 2, 323-327 Pitt Street, Sydney - Phone: 02 9264 4644; online at cupcakesonpitt.com.au.

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Josophan's Fine Chocolates c/o Cake Gumshoe Dianne
Josophan’s Fine Chocolates
Yes, I realize that neither Josophan’s Fine Chocolates nor Café Josophan’s is a proper full-scale bakery. But if you find yourself in the Blue Mountains about an hour west of Sydney (and lots of travelers do), stop off the Great Western Highway in the lovely town of Leura and visit Josophan’s. The award-winning chocolates are made by hand in the Blue Mountains and I probably don’t have to mention that they’re as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. In sophisticated combinations like Mayan chili and saffron honey and lime and basil, the chocolates are like jewels beckoning from behind the glass in the tasteful and elegant shop.
Cafe Josophan's
But the real treat is down the street at Café Josophan’s. The desserts are divine: Mexican chocolate cake, crumbly and sweet shortbread biscuits, scones, waffles with Belgian chocolate. We ordered the fresh strawberries and were served a heaping pile of plump, sweet fruit with a pitcher of delicious melted chocolate and fresh whipped cream. We arrived just in time, because around 3:30 the friendly café employees feed scones to the five or six assembled sulphur-crested cockatoos who clearly know where to come for baked goods. The birds were hysterical, peering in plaintively through the windows, stubbornly throwing a plastic “reserved” sign from a tabletop down to the sidewalk, holding their scones in their claws and nibbling away gratefully. The handcrafted chocolates and café desserts are certainly impressive and delightful, but I won’t lie to you: the cockatoos made my afternoon.
In Sydney, even the birds appreciate baked goods
132 Leura Mall, Leura - Phone: 02 4784 2031

Café Josophan’s, 187a Leura Mall, Leura - Phone: 02 4784 3833; online at josophans.com.au.

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C/O Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Pasticceria Papa, Sydney, Australia
Pasticceria Papa
So we did the elegant pastries (Adriano Zumbo). We did the Lebanese pastries (Abla’s). We ate more than our share of tiny cupcakes (Babycakes and Cupcakes on Pitt). We shared scones with birds (Café Josophan’s). What was clearly missing from this dessert tour was a stop at an Italian bakery. Haberfield is located close to Sydney’s Leichhardt neighborhood, the city’s Little Italy. Where Leichhardt is replete with restaurants, Haberfield is home to the Italian bakers and pasta makers and cheese shops. If you start with an empty stomach at one end of the block, I guarantee you it will be full by the time you reach the other. Especially if you stop in Pasticceria Papa, a large dessert and bread bakery that also serves lunch.
C/O Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Pasticceria Papa, Sydney, Australia
The woodwork on the face of the long bakery counter is marred and scuffed – even split here and there – from the feet of the many customers who have bellied up to the case over the years to have a look at the array of Italian cookies, beautifully executed cakes and crusty breads. We were eight of those feet. For lunch we had arancini filled with chicken, tomatoes and cheese, and then shared an overflowing plate of cookies: lemon-almond, amaretti, almond and cherry, perfect strawberry swirl. I think the strawberry might have been my favorite, but it’s hard to tell for sure. We also indulged in a cannoli and eyed the passionfruit cake. This busy corner shop (there was a constant line) also serves ice cream. So come hungry. You won’t have to eat for the next two days.

145 Ramsay Street, Haberfield - Phone: 02 9798 6894

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Photo C/O Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Colonial Bakery in Sydney, Australia
The Colonial Bakery
At the north end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, right near the train station and close to the steps that lead up to the bridge’s pedestrian path, is The Colonial Bakery. Its green and gold sign advertises CAKES & PIES and tray after tray of slices and ANZAC biscuits in the window inspire even the most casual passerby to stop and gaze. If you want something homespun, a dessert that’s traditionally Australian, step inside. If you’re about to walk across the bridge, or if you’ve just finished walking across the bridge, step inside. You’re going to want a snack and The Colonial Bakery has something to suit you.
Photo C/O Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Colonial Bakery in Sydney, Australia
This is not an elegant bakery; this is not impossibly clever pastry on display. These are desserts that your grandmother would have made, if your grandmother grew up in Australia. It was hard to choose among the many varieties of slice, essentially bar cookies cut into very large squares. There was peppermint, chocolate-cherry, chocolate-macadamia, citrus, lemon-pistachio and many more. We eventually settled on a jam-coconut slice and a ginger-pistachio slice. Both were very sweet and very homemade, and the jam-coconut prevailed only because we’re such gigantic coconutphiles. (Though I must say that the bird that was harassing us as we snacked next to the Harbour clearly preferred the ginger-pistachio.) The Colonial Bakery’s speckled passionfruit tarts looked fabulous to me, but I had exceeded my dessert threshold on that particular day. When I return I’ll also try the neenish tart, an Australian creation of pastry, jam and cream covered in two colors of icing. It looks a lot like a Southern Hemisphere black and white cookie. You can also, of course, get yourself a meat pie or a sausage roll at The Colonial Bakery if you’re not in the mood for a sweet.
Photo C/O Cake Gumshoe Dianne, Colonial Bakery in Sydney, Australia
The friendly but shy woman behind the counter was embarrassed to appear in my photos. In between serving the locals who were stopping in for bread rolls and pies, she kept slinking out of the frame. She told me she would just ruin the picture. When I asked for a business card, she handed me the bakery’s phone number and advised me that I could call if I ever wanted to order in advance. I wonder, does she ship to Ohio?

4 Ennis Road, Milsons Point - Phone: 02 9955 3958.

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Want more? Check out all of Dianne's Australian baked good photos here!



Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Sweet E's Bakery

Sweet E's Bake Shop
I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but occasionally I develop crushes. On bakeries.

And right now, I'm crushing hard on Sweet E's Bake Shop, a Los Angeles-based special order "mini bake shop" that only offers tiny treats--each one is about 2-3 bites. Which, by my math, makes it totally OK to eat about 5-7 of the treats. 

The treats themselves are adorable, ranging from sweetly decorated cupcakes:
Sweet E's Bake Shop
to baby brownies:
Sweet E's Bake ShopBrownies from Sweet E's
to cute cake pops.
Sweet E's Bake Shop Red Velvet Cake PopSweet E's Bake Shop

They also offer something intriguing called "Peanut Butter Blizzard" (pictured below)--a confection which falls somewhere between a brownie and fudge texture-wise, comprised of peanut butter and white chocolate fudge with marshmallows, rice krispies and chocolate chips. Like, yum.
Peanut butter Blizzard

Cupcakes are available for local delivery only, but brownies, cake pops and mini cakes can be shipped; you can find it all at sweetesbakeshop.com.


CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Tee and Cakes, Boulder CO

Why is Tee & Cakes in Boulder, Colorado worth a visit?

Well, first let's talk about the cute factor. Run by a pastry chef and graphic designer duo, Tee & Cakes is "a lifestyle based shop...with the quality and variety"--including sweet gift items and apparel which can be purchased alongside your sweet treats.

But of course, what you really want to know about is the sweets. They've got a full array--cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and pies, (in an impressive variety of flavors including chocolate bourbon pecan, apple, sour cherry, pumpkin, and key lime, to name a few).

Though they are probably best known for their Chocolate Bacon and faux-Hostess Cupcakes, other flavors are worth a try, says Cake Gumshoe Amanda, who says it's her favorite cupcake shop in the area. Her favorite cupcake? A chocolate variety with chocolate frosting--but as she points out, it is not a "typical" frosting, it was all shiny and smooth, and topped with raspberries.

They also do great beverages. I enjoy a hot chocolate with my cupcake in the winter and a frozen lemonade in the summer.

The only downfall? They close at at 6 p.m. most days and are not open on Sundays, so be sure to pick up dessert earlier in the day if you want your sweets after dinner!

Tee & Cakes on Urbanspoon
Tee & Cakes,1932 14th Street, Boulder, Colorado; online at teeandcakes.com.


Raising the Bar: The Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, Ocean Grove NJ

Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, NJ
Technically, the Linzer Torte is a rich nut pastry filled with fine raspberry preserves, criss-crossed with more nut pastry. But really, it's so much more--it's a flavor concept. One that translates beautifully to other types of baked goods: consider the Linzer Cookie, or my favorite, the Linzer Bar.

And now, Baker Boys in New Jersey has taken the concept one step further into delicious territory with their Chocolate Linzer Bar.

This decadent bar starts with a sturdy, shortbread-y crust which is so full of butter that it would be a fantastic cookie all by itself. Then it's made even better with a topping of a thick slab of chocolate mixed with a perfectly tart-sweet smear of raspberry preserves dotted with seeds. Seal it off with even more shortbread-y goodness, in the form of craggy, golden-topped crumbs dotting the surface of the bar, and what have you got? You've got yourself an expanse of deliciousness, that's what. 

What exit? 100. Get yourself to New Jersey!
The Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, 69 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ (a second location is in Asbury Park); online at thebakerboys.us. Call ahead for availability.



Cakewalk: Sweet Oktoberfest in Munich From Cake Gumshoe Megan

Prinzregententorte c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

CakeSpy Note: This is a special guest entry by Cake Gumshoe Megan, a home baker who likes to find sweetness in food and in life. She has a good news blog and recently visited friends in Germany for Oktoberfest. In Munich, she found out it's the same wherever you go - good things abound, you just have to look. Here, she chronicles her sweet finds in Munich:

Admit it. If someone says the words “Munich” and “Oktoberfest” to you, images from the movie “Beerfest” come flying into the front of your mind. I for one was completely unaware there was more to Oktoberfest – Wiesn to the locals – than the beer tents. But my trip to visit friends last month proved to me once you get past the beer steins and lederhosen, there are some decidedly sweet cakes and pastries to Munich’s name. And some of them actually taste good with beer! 

Zwetschgenkuchen c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

Thursday, Sept. 24:
Fresh off the airplane (and the car trouble that seems to mark my trips to Munich), I headed to my old roommate’s family apartment to meet his parents and sister. This visit foreshadowed all the sweetness to come. My friend’s mother greeted us with zwetschgenkuchen. Germans today honor the custom of afternoon coffee and cake whenever they can fit it into their schedule, whether in a café or at home. The zwetschgenkuchen, or plum cake, was just what I needed after spending seven hours on a plane going from Boston to Zurich to Munich. Flaky and well-balanced between the tartness of the plums and the sugar sprinkled on top, my friend and I ended up splitting what you see in the picture above. Oops.

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Apfelstrudel c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

Friday, Sept. 25:
Scarfing down a typical Bavarian breakfast of salami, ham, brie, croissants, fruit, bacon, eggs and orange juice (please don’t ask me where I put it all) kept me full until a trip to Olympic Park that afternoon. The promise of the delightful apfelstrudel at Restaurant 181 convinced me to get on a stomach-flutteringly fast elevator, which zoomed myself and two friends to the top of the Olympic Tower for expansive views of Munich. After circling the viewing platform, I headed down a flight of stairs to claim my reward for conquering my fear of heights. Restaurant 181 rotates, giving diners a 360-degree view of the city (if you sit there long enough). You barely notice the motion while eating, but it is a bit disconcerting to go to the bathroom and come back to find your food has moved without you.

The apfelstrudel was totally worth the possible vertigo. Straight out of the oven and plated with homemade whipped cream and a vanilla bean sauce, the dessert practically split itself in advance of my fork. I think I slightly alarmed my friends with the snail’s pace at which I ate and the frequent “mmmmmmm” sounds I made. I did briefly consider licking the plate.


(Restaurant 181 in Olympiaturm, Spiridon-Louis-Ring 7)

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Kaiserschmarren c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

Saturday, Sept. 26:
Today we spent all day at Oktoberfest, and I returned with edible (and photographic) proof there is more to Wiesn than exceedingly drunk people and roller coasters (which is really not a good combination when you think about it…). Café Rischart, a chain restaurant and bakery found all over Munich, sets up a tent at Oktoberfest comparable in size and scope to any brewery tent. Decorated to the hilt and dubbed Castle Kaiserschmarrn, this temporary treat trove has all sorts of cakes and sweets on offer. I was entranced by the delectable desserts on the trays and the walls, but since I was with a pair of guys, I had to make do with some kaiserschmarrn from the Schützen Festzelt tent.
My Schokofruchte c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan
Translated to mean “emperor’s little something,” this may be my favorite German dessert. Kaiserschmarrn is a pancake made of eggs, flour, sugar, salt and milk and baked in butter. While baking you break up the pancake into pieces and add things like raisins, apples and almonds and then serve the hot pancake pieces with compotes of plum, lingonberry, or apple. We topped off the day with lebkuchen hearts (gingerbread decorated with icing sugar) and chocolate-covered fruit slices (schokofrüchte).


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Sachertorte c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

Sunday, Sept. 27:
On a whim, we decided to leave the country today. Salzburg, Austria is only about an hour and a half away from Munich, so my host, a friend in town from Berlin and myself piled into the car and trundled down to the city that Mozart and the Sound of Music built (well, not really, but you know what I mean.) Unfortunately on Sunday Austria shuts down, so most shops and konditorei were closed. That didn’t mean, however, I did not get more than my fair share of yumminess.

eisschokolade c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan
We stopped for lunch at an open-air café in Universitätplatz, where I decided to test my diplomacy skills. Despite having both Café Demel and the Hotel Sacher in town, I decided to try the café’s Sachertorte and was not disappointed. Rich chocolate cake lined with apricot preserves and coated in ganache sated me until a stop at Café Tomaselli after an afternoon of touring Hohensalzburg Castle. Overlooking the old town square, I enjoyed my himbeerkuchen (raspberry cake) and eisschokolade (iced hot chocolate) and my vantage point over a festival featuring pint-sized rides and stalls selling food and hand- or locally made goods.
Himbeerkuchen c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan
(Café Tomaselli, Alter Markt 9)

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Monday, Sept. 28:
In retrospect, my breakfast of prinzregententorte at Café Münchener Freiheit may not have been fortifying enough for the 20-kilometer bike ride that followed, but I regret not a single bite. Prinzregententorte, or Prince Regent’s Torte, is named after Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria in 1886, but beyond that, its history remains cloudy. A mainly Bavarian dessert, the cake consists of at least six thin layers of sponge cake alternating with chocolate buttercream. Mine had a delightful bittersweet chocolate ganache covering which contrasted nicely with the milk chocolate buttercream inside. (pictured top)

(Café Münchener Freiheit, Joseph-Dollinger-Bogen 10)

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Joghurt torte c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

Tuesday, Sept. 29:
My last full day in Munich yielded some pleasant surprises. Breakfast at Bodo’s Conditorei Café presented me with the opportunity to try joghurt-torte. Two vanilla cake layers sandwiched with yogurt whipped with gelatin gave a terrific wobble when the plate was tapped. The slice was topped with a clear sugar lacquer, which held the currants in place even after the cake split and fell over after a few bites.

(Bodo’s Conditorei Café, Herzog-Wilhelm-Straße 29)

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Fidelio torte c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan
Several hours of doing my part to boost the German economy had me ready for a late lunch at the Café Rischart in the Viktualienmarkt. Without really knowing what I was ordering I picked the Fideliotorte off the menu.

Fab. U. Lous.

Shaped a bit like a Swedish Princess Cake, this spongy cake is wrapped in marzipan and topped with raspberries or strawberries in a red gelatin. I assumed I would be able to look this cake up when I returned, but unfortunately the Rischart site, Wikipedia, Google and Bing all failed me. All I can tell you is my slice had a sponge base and was swirled with raspberry crème and fresh raspberries, studded with cacao nibs and was just a mouthful of heaven. This is definitely on my list to try again during my next trip.

(Café Rischart, Viktualienmarkt 2)

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Lebkuchen heart c/o Cake Gumshoe Megan

Final Thoughts: I focused my attention on the konditorei (pastry shops) among the city, but it was very hard not to nip into all the bäckerei (bread bakeries) and chocolate shops I passed on my search for cake. Guess I know what to look for next time!

Keep updated with Megan's adventures via her site.



Beat of a Different Crumb: Colossal Crumb Cake from Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe, NJ

Colossal Crumb Cake
When it comes to crumb cake, the ratio which generally reigns in my homeland of New Jersey tends to be something along the lines of 70/30, crumb to cake. Unfortunately, this has basically ruined all other crumb cake for me: no matter how delicious or well-made it may be, if it isn't crumb heavy, I'm probably not going to approve.

So you can imagine my awe, wonder and delight when I came across the colossal crumb cake (yes, that's the official name) at the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe.

Seriously, this crumb cake is off the hook, with a ratio of roughly 90/10, crumb to cake. One Cake Gumshoe aptly dubbed it "crumb on a cracker"; I call it a modern miracle. This work of crumb cake art has a delicious crispiness on the outside which gives way to a (surprisingly not tooth numbingly sweet) chewy interior; the brown sugar is delightfully balanced with a touch of salt, and the sliver of cake beneath the crumb adds a nice, buttery contrast to the slightly gritty sweetness.

I'm pretty sure they have other things at this bakery; maybe one day I will try them. But for now, I only have one colossal crush.

Colossal crumb cake from the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe, 55 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ; online at oceangrovebakeshoppe.com.


A-Maize-ing: How to Make Candy Corn at Home

Homemade Candy Corn
Where does candy corn come from? Had you asked me a week ago, I would have said "from a bag, of course!". But when my friends at Serious Eats asked me to make a homemade batch for my weekly feature on their site, I quickly embarked on a crash course in DIY confectionery.
Homemade Candy Corn
While commercially produced candy corn is made using hella machinery and takes 4-5 days to make, the at-home version is surprisingly easy (even for candymaking novices like myself!), and far more flavorful than the store-bought type. Oh, and if you are so inclined, you could use the dough to make your own mellowcreme pumpkins too.

Curious? You can check out the full recipe here.



Cakewalk: A Sweet Boston Bakery Guide from Cake Gumshoe Phuong

Boston Cream Pie from the Parker House, Boston c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong
CakeSpy Note: Want the best bakery suggestions? Ask a local! Read on to discover Boston-based Cake Gumshoe Phuong's favorite bakeries in Beantown! You might want to check out her sweet online shop, too!

I love Boston. I’ve lived here all my life. Boston has so much history and many fun activities to do. Most importantly, we have some of the best bakeries around. Follow me and I’ll show you a glimpse of what Boston has to offer and why I’m living a sweet life.

Omni Parker House: Well, I can’t talk about cakes and sweets in Boston without starting with our famous Boston cream pie. This cake (yes, cake!) was invented at the Parker House Hotel in 1855 by French chef M. Sanzian. Today you can still enjoy the cake at its birthplace now known as the Omni Parker House. If you think you’ve had a Boston cream pie before, think again. It is served as a small individual cake; not a slice of a larger one. The moist sponge cake is filled with a scrumptious pastry cream and covered with chocolate fondant icing. It is then finished with a cool spider-web design on top and the sides are covered in toasted almond (pictured top) It is heavenly!

Tip: Don’t forget to look around and enjoy the beautiful details of this historic hotel.

60 School Street, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 227-8600; online at omnihotels.com.

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Photo c/o Phuong - Pastries from Mike's Pastry in Boston
Mike's Pastry: As you are walking around Boston or riding the T, you’ll probably notice many people holding a little white pastry box with blue letters. There’s a reason for it. Mike’s Pastry in the North End is known to have some of the best cannolis around. I really like the classic plain cannoli. The rich cream filling is not too sweet and the handmade shell is always fresh and crisp. Sometimes I don’t go there for the cannolis at all. I love their rainbow cookies and different types of macaroons (pistachio nut, almond, raspberry, etc.). This place is very popular especially at night so be prepared to wait in a long line.

Tip: Some Bostonians will say that Mike’s Pastry is a tourist trap and they will tell you to go to Modern Pastry Shop instead. There’s a constant debate as to which bakery is better. Both are on Hanover Street so my suggestion is to try both or go to the one with the shorter line. I personally haven’t tried Modern yet so I can’t comment.

300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 (617) 742-3050; online at mikespastry.com.

(For those interested in Modern Pastry, it is located at 257 Hanover St.; online at


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Photo c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong - Red Velvet cupcake, Sweet Bakery, Boston
Sweet: This is one of Boston’s few cupcakeries. I’ve followed the cupcake craze for a while now and it’s wonderful for Boston to finally have our own cupcake-only bakery. I love the ultra-girly pink and white décor. They even had My Fair Lady playing on the flatscreen while I was there. I tried the red velvet cupcake and it was good. I adore it because it’s a fun place to have a cupcake with your friends and although I prefer to bake my own, it’s nice to be able to pick up the pretty cupcakes as gifts when I’m in a hurry.

Two locations: 49 Mass Ave, Boston, MA 02115 (617) 247 CAKE; or, Zero Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 547 CAKE; online at sweet-cupcakes.com.

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Finale bakery case, c/o Cake Gumshue Phuong
Finale: This place offers beautiful fancy-looking cakes that are rich and decadent. I love looking at their bakery case. There are rows and rows of perfectly decorated cakes. The ultimate indulgence at Finale is to sit down and enjoy their plated desserts. Try the mini dessert sampler. It has mini versions of their popular desserts such as crème brulee, cheesecake, Boston cream pie, whoppie pies, sorbet, etc. It’s meant to be shared but I can definitely enjoy it all by myself!

Tip: Definitely come for dessert but enjoy your meal elsewhere. The food at Finale is okay. There are better places in Boston for lunch and dinner. Cakes and pastries are available for take-out.


Three locations: One Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 423-3184; another at 1306 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 232-3233; another at 30 Dunster St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (617) 441-9797; online at finaledesserts.com.


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Sponge Cake c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong
Chinatown Picks: Many people might not know this but Chinatown is a great place to get baked goods. The pastries are good and not too sweet. Best of all they cost about a dollar or less a piece. I usually go to Eldo Cake House or Mei Sum Bakery for their layered sponge cake. It is filled with fresh strawberries or peaches and whipped cream. The cake is so light and fresh. You can buy a whole cake or just a slice of it. My favorite “bao” or bun is called “gai mei bao”. This bun is filled with a delicious sweet coconut and butter mixture. You can get this bun at most bakeries in Chinatown but I think Ho Yuen makes the best one. My other favorites are the custard-filled bun, ham and egg bun, hot dog bun, and so much more. Since they are so cheap, buy a bunch and try them all.
Gaimeibao c/o cake gumshoe Phuong

Tip: Service can be rushed and unfriendly depending on how busy they are. Just don’t take it too personally.

Eldo Cake House: 36 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 350-7977.
Mei Sum Bakery: 40 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 357-4050.
Ho Yuen Bakery: 54 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 426-8320.

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Johnny Cupcakes c/o Cake Gumshue Phuong
Johnny Cupcakes: This could be the best prank store in Boston. Many shoppers are surprised to find out that this store doesn’t sell cupcakes at all! Every time I’m in there, there are always a few confused and clearly disappointed customers asking the staff, “So you don’t sell cupcakes?” I wonder if the staff gets tired of answering this question. I can’t blame the customers though. Johnny Cupcakes sells fun baked-goods-themed t-shirts that are displayed in bakery cases and refrigerators. It’s pretty deceiving from afar. You can read the story on how this business got started on their website. It’s pretty awesome. The t-shirts have a huge following because most are limited editions. It’s a great place to pick up something sweet without all the extra calories!

279 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 375-0100; online at johnnycupcakes.com.

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Cupcakes at Flour, Boston c/o Cake Gumshoe PhuongFlour Bakery's Sticky Sticky buns, c/o Cake Gumshoe Phuong
Flour Bakery: Lastly, if you only have time to visit one bakery while you’re in Boston, you have to go to Flour Bakery. To Food Network fans, this is the bakery where the owner, Joanne Chang, beats Bobby Flay in the Sticky Bun Throwdown. Yes, all the rumors about these amazing sticky buns are true. They are so popular that they are usually sold out by lunchtime. If they’re gone by the time you get there, don’t be too disappointed. In my opinion, the sticky buns’ fame really overshadows all the other tasty baked goods. Some of my favorite morning pastries are the blueberry muffin tops which are jam-packed with fresh blueberries and the twice-baked brioche; an almond lover’s dream. For lunchtime, there are even more goodies to pick from: rich brownies, housemade oreos, raspberry crumbs bar, coconut macaroons, cornmeal lime cookies, cupcakes, etc. Try the fresh fruit tart, the lemon-raspberry curd cake, or the triple chocolate mousse cake if you’re in the mood for a fancier dessert. Flour even has their version of the Boston cream pie if you didn’t make it over to the Omni Parker House. You really can’t go wrong with anything from this bakery.

Tip: You can call ahead and reserve the sticky buns. Just make sure you call early in the morning if you’re picking up on the same day. Flour Bakery also serves delicious sandwiches and lunch specials so the line is very long during lunchtime. Avoid the lunch rush if you can. This way you’ll have more time looking at all the wonderful pastries.

CakeSpy Note: You may also like owner Joanne Chang's pop-tart recipe, which was featured on CakeSpy a while back!

Two locations: 12 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02210 (617)-338-4333; or 1595 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 (617)-267-4300; online at flourbakery.com.

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The final word? There are so many other bakeries that I can list but these are my go-to ones. I hope I’ve entice you enough to put Boston on your travel list. It’s great place to visit especially if you have a sweet tooth!



Bake it Pretty: A Super Sweet Giveaway!

Bake it Pretty Giveaway
Probably you already know about Bake it Pretty, the cutest online source for baking decorations, packaging supplies, and other notions. And if you don't already know it, you will love it. But whether this shop is a new discovery or an old friend, one thing will hold true: you want what they are selling. One of everything, please.

And now, you can get a great head start with this super-sweet giveaway: a $50 gift certificate to BakeitPretty.com!

You probably don't need to be told that this is an awesome giveaway.

To put yourself in the running, simply leave a comment below with your answer to the following question:

Which part of making a cake (or any baked good) is the most fun: baking or decorating?

The cake poll is open all week--but be sure to enter before 12 p.m. PST on Friday, October 16! In the meantime, please feel free to click over to bakeitpretty.com to choose what you'd buy with the prize--you might want to check out their blog as well! 

UPDATE: The Cake Poll is closed! Congratulations to the winner, Olivia from Ann Arbor, MI!



Cake Quandary: What Kind of Cupcakes Do Celebrities Eat?

Photo c/o The Cupcakery, Las Vegas: Quentin Tarantino and Fergie Love Cupcakes!
As a loyal reader of In Touch and US Weekly, I have come to depend on their thoughtful writing and vivid photographs. But as thorough and thought-provoking as the articles are, there is one facet of celebrity culture which I have found lacking in these fine publications: what kind of cake do celebrities like to eat?

Happily, The Cupcakery in Las Vegas has got this important subject covered, and recently sent me on some of the inside scoop on what flavors celebrities have enjoyed. Curious? Here is just a sampling of documented celebrity cupcake flavor picks (some with pictures!):

Avril Lavigne chose Tickle Me Pink.
Photo c/o Cupcakery, Las Vegas: Lance Bass Cupcakes
Lance Bass had red velvet with special birthday decorations;
Photo c/o Cupcakery, Las Vegas: Fergie Cupcakes
Fergie had a specialty assortment;
Quentin Tarantino loved the chocolate passion;
Joey Fatone is a red velvet fan;
Boys II Men (so circa 1992!) love red velvet;
Jermaine O’Neil (NBA) digs red velvet;
Pete Wentz (AKA Mr. Ashlee Simpson) is also a fan of the red velvet.

So what does this tell us all? As one associate of The Cupcakery aptly put it, "I guess red velvet is the most popular!". And why wouldn't it be--their version of the classic treat, the Southern Belle, is a red velvet cupcake that's been in the owner's family for decades. Of course, other flavors on the menu, like Orange Julius, Pink Lemonade, Oh My Gosh Ganache and (coming soon) the Elvis sound pretty good too.

Of course, it still doesn't answer the bigger question of why we never actually see celebrities eating cake. But still, it does make for some fun gossip, and the cupcakes do look wonderful.


Want more? Check them out online at thecupcakery.com.


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