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Tuesday
Aug262008

C'est Bon: The Famous Bonbon Cookies of 1955-1960

Bonbon cookies
1955-1960 was certainly an eventful series of years. Sputnik I was launched; Alaska and Hawaii were proclaimed the 49th and 50th states; Truman Capote published the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, which would later be made into a film by the same name.

And during these years, there was one cookie that spoke to the times more than any other: the Bonbon Cookie. At least that's what Betty Crocker says. And other than the fact that she's not actually...well, real, she's never led us astray. According to her Cooky Book (1963), the treats are described as being real trailblazers on the cookie frontier:


Bonbon Cookies from Betty Crocker

 

"candy-like cookies in vogue--women were fascinated by these beautiful and delicious cookies which were baked as cookies, served and eaten as candies. Excitement over Bonbons brought more candy-cookies, Toffee squares and Cream Filberts, for example"


And if that doesn't pique your interest, the photos in the book will (above)--in pastel tones worthy of Marie Antoinette's court, these are without a doubt cookies for ladies, a pinkies-out affair. We had to make them. Turns out, they're amazingly easy--and rather delicious.
 
Chocolate innardsBonbon Cookies being made
A few notes:
  • They are rather on the sweet side--so for those who like a less-sweet cookie, you might want to leave off the frosting, or opt for a more savory filling for the cookies, such as chopped nuts or unsweetened coconut; we used chocolate chips, but then again we're not scared of sweet cookies.
  • In keeping with the spirit of this dainty cookie and the era from which it harkens, we elected to make ours Tiffany Blue, garnishing them with white sugar pellets in white to offer the same color palette as that iconic box with its white bow. We found that adding a drop or so of green with two or three drops of blue food coloring reached the signature tone nicely.
  • To attain the desired round Bonbon shape, we used a small ice cream scoop to spoon out our dough; while in the scoop we inserted 2-3 chocolate chips, pressed them down, and then reformed the dough over it to secure the filling.
Here's the recipe:

Bonbon Cookies in Tiffany Blue
Bonbon Cookies
Created by Mrs. Joseph J. Wallace, Whitehall, Montana

For the Cookies:
  • 1/2 c. soft butter 
  • 3/4 c. sifted confectioners sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • food coloring if desired 
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
Possible fillings: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut, cherries...choose your own adventure!
For the Icing:
  • Mix 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, 2 tbsp cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and food coloring (if desired).
Heat oven to 350. Mix butter, sugar, vanilla and food coloring (if using), thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend in flour and salt. If dough is dry, add 1 to 2 Tbsp. cream. Wrap a level Tablespoon of dough around filling.. Place 1" apart on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 min. Cool; dip tops of cookies in frosting; decorate with another topping if desired. Makes 20-25 cookies.
Tuesday
Aug262008

Cuppie Capers: Faceoff

"Faceoff"

 

 

 

Sunday
Aug242008

Best Birthday Ever: The Cakespy Birthday Bash at Cupcake Royale

Royale with Cheese
As many of you know, August is a special month for Cakespy.com: it marks the website's anniversary, as well as Head Spy Jessie's Birthday. And so to celebrate both of these milestones, we hosted a kick*ss celebration at Seattle's own Cupcake Royale, at their flagship Ballard location. Here's a love note from the dear Head Spy summing up the events:

Cupcake Royale has always held a special place in my heart. Their first shop opened its doors shortly after I moved to Seattle from New York City; in my first few months on the West Coast, it soothed my incredible homesickness for all of the great cupcake shops I had left behind. They've grown a lot in these four years, and now boast three locations in the Seattle area; during that time I've grown too--I've gone from working at a refrigerator magnet company to running my own business, and have been able to achieve so much growth, both artistically and personally, through running Cakespy.com. This in mind, their flagship Ballard location seemed like the perfect venue for a celebration. The Cupcake Royale crew was very amenable to our request, even offering to debut their super-secret September flavor a little bit early in Cakespy's honor!

The Royale with Cheese and Strawberry Cupcakes from Cupcake RoyaleDSC00344
Of course, I put myself toward my task of Cupcake hostess with the dedication of an Olympiad. I worked myself into shape by eating Cupcake Royale cupcakes for breakfast nearly every day the week before the party. This was easy to do--perhaps too easy--because Metropolitan Market, which is right across the street from Cakespy headquarters, now carries their cupcakes in their bakery. And the frosting on their August flavor of the month, the Skagit Valley Strawberry cupcake, is simply amazing.

The Royale with CheeseMe and Janis!
And man, do those Cupcake Royale kids know how to party. The September flavor turned out to be the Royale with Cheese (pictured at top). What is a Royale with Cheese, you ask? Well, aside from an homage to Pulp Fiction, it's a gorgeously decadent chocolate cupcake topped with a cream cheese frosting which added the perfect rich complement to the sweet cake. Now, I will usually go for vanilla against chocolate cake any day, but even I recognized that this cake was something special. I was told the baker had just changed the recipe for their chocolate cake--apparently the secret ingredient is crack, because based on what was left after the party--an array of empty cupcake wrappers--they were deemed delicious and highly addictive by all in attendance.

Me and Jamie and friend!Cakespy Buddies!
As for the event itself? The party was like a who's who of complete awesomeness: the crowd included members of local bands Speaker Speaker and Huma; the talented and amazing writer Megan Seling; artist Kris Garland; esteemed foodies Peabody, Mango Power Girl, Frantic Foodie, Winewall, and Ronald Holden; Cake Gumshoe (and cookie-maker to Remedy Teas) Chris Jarchow; chocolatier Ivy Chan; Cakespy readers and buddies Janis, Katrina, Tasha, Ingrid, Amalia, Cynthia, Jamie and Carrie...just to name a few! If not there physically, certainly I knew that my buddies at Cupcakes Take the Cake were certainly there in spirit!

Awesomest Birthday Present EVER!
Of course, there were a few surprises in store, the sweetest of which were a special birthday cake provided by Cupcake Royale (white cake, strawberry buttercream filling, and chocolate frosting!), the wonderful cupcake drawings and art pieces done by all of the awesome guests.

Birthday Cake!Mr. Cakespy enjoying his Royale with Cheese
And as if it couldn't get any better, after leaving Cupcake Royale we even got to play a few rounds of my favorite game from childhood (and still), skee-ball!--at the nearby King's Hardware.
Yes indeed, this was the best birthday ever! Thank you so much for making Cakespy.com's first year a super sweet one!
An extra special thank you to Cupcake Royale for providing the perfect venue for a perfectly sweet party! And even if you're not in Seattle, you can still enjoy their sweetness from afar via cupcakeroyale.com.

 

Sunday
Aug242008

Cakespy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe Review of Frosting Bake Shop, Mill Valley, CA

Spy Cake
Cakespy Undercover: From time to time, our Cake Gumshoes venture out into the wild to try out new bakeries in various parts of the country. Of course, they always report back to Cakespy headquarters on what they've eaten! Most recently, Cake Gumshoe Barbara and a friend spent time in Mill Valley, CA, where they sampled the cupcakes at Frosting Bakeshop. Here's what they had to say:

[It's a] very interesting store because they can't bake on the premises so they have a kitchen several miles away. The shop was very stark but the cupcakes were displayed on glass domed, tall, miniature cake plates by flavor and then the boxed cupcakes were lined up behind which made them the total focal point of the shop. Each cupcake is presented in its own hot pink box about the same as the Chinese take-out boxes (not exactly eco-friendly and I am surprised that the residents of Mill Valley who are very eco aware that they don't say something.) All of that aside we had two very tasty cupcakes.

One was a lemon twist. The other was a black and white.

We shared so that we could give our own opinions; here is what we decided (being a good gumshoe I had my notebook and pen!):

Lemon Twist - The cake was just OK, a little crumbly but then it just served as the "plate" for the incredible frosting. The frosting was more tart than sweet, very zesty and very creaming, we wouldn't have been surprised if marshmallows were an ingredient. The cupcake was topped with a very cute little sugar flower.

Then there was the Black and White....fabulous dark chocolate cake, very moist with super texture and must have had very tiny dark chocolate chips in the batter. The white icing was excellent, very fluffy and creamy but very light. I was happy that it was not a buttery flavor, just light vanilla. The cupcake was topped with dark semi-sweet chocolate crystals. Divine!!!

Intrigued by Barbara's sleuthing? Check 'em out: Frosting Bake Shop, 7 E. Blithedale Ave. Mill Valley, CA; 415-888-8027; online at frostingbakeshop.com.

*as a note, Frosting Bake Shop is a mecca for seeing green: They just introduced two vegan cupcakes and are working on a gluten free recipe. Also, all of the construction extras--including fixtures--are reclaimed; their pink boxes can be recycled; and, they donate their day old cakes to food shelters, and all local deliveries will soon be done by bicycle!

Thursday
Aug212008

Ice Dreams: Ruminations on the Ice Cream Cone Cupcake

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Growing up in suburban New Jersey in the late 80's/early 90's, a kid's coolness in school could easily be determined by what treat they brought in for their class party on their birthday.

There were the poor things who brought in a homemade cake. These kids were definitely not awesome--who would spend time baking cake from scratch when they could be watching Full House? Of course, these were probably the tastiest of the treats, but no self-respecting child of the 80's would have admitted it at the time.
Then there were the ones who brought in Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins: artificial, sugary, and a crowd pleaser. Of course, extra points to the parents who got extra chocolate glazed ones. Nobody liked to be the kid left with the last sad-looking crushed unglazed munchkin.
But then--in the hallowed light of major coolness, were the ones who brought in the coveted cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.

Cupcakes baked in ice cream conesOh no!
A phenomenon in the late 80's, it appears these cones are making a comeback. They're cropping up in bakeries and on websites, and though part of us says "too soon!", part of us also thinks "welcome back!". But it got us wondering--what's the deal with these cupcakes? And so we dug out our old Debbie Gibson cassettes and got to some sleuthing and sweet soul searching on the subject:

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones
Why in the world would you bake a cupcake into an ice cream cone?
Um, because it's, like, awesome? In retrospect though, we suspect it's the ease of cleanup that was the main lure: no messy cupcake wrappers hanging around and being dropped on the floor like a waiting banana-peel joke.
Where do they come from?  
We can't say for certain, but we suspect that this was a phenomenon that came from the back of a box of cake mix, since they were usually prepared the same way (with a rainbow-chip funfetti style cake). On a recent hunt in the grocery store, it seems that indeed, the recipe does appear on the back of Betty Crocker's "Party Rainbow Chip Cake Mix". 
Cakespy Note: Additional research has revealed two tidbits: one is that the recipe has also appeared on the back of ice cream cone boxes; the other is that previous to their 80's heyday, the cone-cakes had enjoyed a bit of vogue during the 60's...but once again, the origins are hazy. 

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones
Why are they so awesome?  
You may remember the late 80's as a time of a distinctly synthetic glitz, and we believe that this was part of the ice cream cupcake's coolness. It had the look: it was bright and colorful, but then again, it had a hidden secret. It looked like an ice cream cone! But when you bite into it...it's cake! What can we say, children of the 80's were easily impressed.

Cupcakes
Where can I buy them?  
As previously mentioned, these cupcakes are enjoying a bit of a comeback. We predict that soon you'll be seeing homemade versions cropping up in hip bakeries; we hear you can currently find them at Treats Truck in NYC.
How do I make them?
Some will tell you that the best ones are made from scratch. In terms of taste this may be true, but if you want to make a truly authentic, late 80's / early 90's ice cream cone cupcake, it's all about the mix and as many artificial colors and flavors as possible.

Here's the recipe (and picture, left) we found on the Betty Crocker site. (Cakespy Note: We copied the recipe below as it was posted on the Betty Crocker site; however, when baking them ourselves, we just put the batter directly in the ice cream cones and it worked out fine).


Ingredients:

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® party rainbow chip cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg whites called for on cake mix box
24 flat-bottom ice cream cones

 

 

Directions:
1 to 2 containers Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy frosting (any flavor)
1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
2. Make cake batter as directed on box. Fill each cup 2/3 full of batter (1 heaping tablespoon each). Place ice cream cone upside down on batter in each cup.
3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean (cones may tilt on batter). Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove paper baking cups. Generously frost cake with frosting, and decorate as desired. Store loosely covered.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Follow High Altitude directions on cake mix box. Fill cones about 1/2 full to make 36 to 40 cones. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

 

 

 

Thursday
Aug212008

Cuppie Capers: The Talk

Vertical format

 

 

 

Tuesday
Aug192008

Cuppie Capers: Cuppie Goes to the Spa

Cuppie adventure

Tuesday
Aug192008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy

Sprinkles
All the sweet news that's fit to print! Here are just a few morsels we had to share:

  • Cakespy Cupcake Party! Are you in Seattle? Are you free this Saturday? Well, come on down to Cakespy's Cupcake Party at Cupcake Royale! The fete is a combined celebration of Cakespy.com's 1 year anniversary and Head Spy Jessie's 27th birthday. It's an open house from 6-9 p.m. at Cupcake Royale's Ballard location, and a limited supply of free cupcakes will be on hand. As a bonus, the kind people at Cupcake Royale will be debuting their super secret September flavor a little early--and oh, is it a good one!--in our honor! It's kind of, you know, making us feel like a big deal.
  • Email Subscriptions: We are in the process of changing our email newsletter to be sent out once a week rather than every time there is a new post. We'll still be updating the site 2-3 times per week, but you'll receive it in one weekly email. We apologize if you receive more than one update per week as we figure out the technological side of things.
  • New Feature! We're adding a new comic strip feature to the site, which will crop up a few times a week. The strip is entitled "Cuppie Capers" and it's about the ongoing adventures of everyone's favorite mischievous little cupcake, L'il Cuppie. Today marks the first strip! Woo!
  • Iron Cupcake: A fantastic new online phenomenon! We have not entered one this month since we're one of the prize donors, but check out all of the fantastic Chili Pepper entries here!

 

Saturday
Aug162008

Not Joe Mamma's Cookies: Legend of the Joe Frogger

Joe Frogger
We love the Seattle Public Library. Not only is it a feat of architecture (designed by Rem Koolhaas) and a fantastic place for people-watching, but we find some of the best literary gems there (including arguably the best cookbook ever-- Cooking in WetLeather, a biker cookbook with the tag "Ride Safe, Eat Dangerously"--but we digress.)

Proper Joe FroggerLove Cookie
Our most recent discovery though was the first edition print of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, which, packed as it is with recipes and little historical tidbits, led us to the legend of the Joe Frogger.



What is a Joe Frogger? According to Betty, they are "famous molasses cookies made long ago by old Uncle Joe of Marblehead, Mass. The cookies are as plump and dark as the little frogs that lived in the pond near Joe's cottage." Not too sweet, and with a crisp texture, they are a solid cookie indeed (picture of a "proper" Joe Frogger above left--we've taken liberties with the shapes of the others in this writeup).

But a little bit of further digging revealed a life as rich in history as the cookie is plentiful in molasses. Joe Brown, aka "Black Joe", was born in Massachusetts 1750 to a black mother and Native American father--a time when most wealthy Marblehead families still owned several slaves. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find much about his youth, but it is speculated that by the time he reached manhood he "must have been gainfully employed for his name does not appear as one of the black "drifters" forced out of Marblehead in 1788, when...Town Meeting ordered all former slaves to find work or leave". 
Joe clearly had it going on though--he married a woman 22 years his junior, Lucretia Brown, and he even bought property in the area, a house on Gingerbread Hill (!). It was a lengendary spot, converted to a rooming house which was one of the few places in town where whites and blacks mixed freely. And oh, did it have a colorful reputation (from Marblehead Magazine)--
according to Marblehead Historian Joseph Robinson, "a more uncouth assemblage of ruffians could not be found anywhere." It would not be surprising if the term "Down bucket!" originated here, that fearful Marblehead expression warning those below that the contents of the chamber pot where about to be flung out a bedroom window.
Just thinking about these antics makes us hungry--and that's where the famous molasses cookies come into the picture--they were the tavern's signature food item.
Joe Froggers
But the Joe Froggers themselves were only named after Black Joe--they were not actually his invention. The cookie was apparently dreamed up by his wife Lucretia (aka "Aunty Crese"). The cookies, which keep for long periods, were named for her husband and the amphibians who lived in the pond by the house; because they keep for a long time, the cookies were an ideal choice for travel and were frequently taken on fishing trips and even longer sea voyages. There was also a lesser-known variation, the "Sir Switchels" which were popular too, described as a "thirst-quenching blend of water and molasses, which a touch of vinegar to cut the sweetness."

Cuppie has identity crisisCuppie is a cookie?
Unfortunately it's better to be the one the cookie's named after rather than the namer--while Black Joe has an impressive gravestone and is a part of Marblehead lore, Lucretia's resting place is not known (though apparently she does get a mention in the novel The Hearth and Eagle by Anya Seton. )

 

 

But perhaps the Marblehead Magazine sums it up best: 

 

Still, as long as frogs continue to hatch in Marblehead ponds and the aroma of gingerbread fills Marblehead kitchens, the lives of Black Joe and Aunty 'Crese will be as sweetly remembered as the taste of their warm Joe Frogger.


We used Betty Crocker's version (which is vegan!); it can be found below, or in the Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. 

 

Joe Froggers


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Cup Shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups Gold Medal Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice

Directions: Mix well shortening and sugar. Stir in molasses and water. Measure flour by sifting. Stir dry ingredients together; blend into shortening mixture. Chill dough several hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on floured board. Cut in 3-inch circles. Sprinkle with sugar. Place no a well-greased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on baking sheet a few minutes before removing to prevent breaking. Store in covered cookie jar. Makes 3 to 4 doz. cookies. Note: if you use self-rising flour, omit salt and soda.
Two additional notes: A few questions have come up as a result of this article. The first one is, are Joe Froggers delicious? Well. They're an old school cookie, very spicy and molasses-y, and not too sweet. We'll admit it openly though--we liked ours better with a dab of frosting on top.

The second question is "Why does Cuppie look so sad?". Well, you see, he's having a moment of identity crisis--"am I a cookie...or a cupcake?". It's a poignant moment indeed, speaking to all of those who have ever felt like the proverbial square peg.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Aug132008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Jill Segal of Jilly's Cupcake Bar of St. Louis

Cupcakes from Jilly's Cupcake Bar, St. Louis MO
Did you know that the St. Louis arch is just as wide as it is tall? Funny how you never hear anyone saying "look at how wide that arch is!".

But we digress. As amazed as we are by the architecture, we'd be lying if we said we weren't more curious about the cake scene in St. Louis. Recently, we got a chance to catch up with Jill Segal, the proprietress of Jilly's Cupcake Bar, a fashionable cupcakery and bakery in the city where it's "all within reach"--here's what we learned:

 

Cakespy: What made you want to open a cupcake shop?
Jill Segal: I was reading an article in TIME Magazine, August 2006, at my dentist's office and the article was about the success of Magnolia Bakery in NY because of Sarah Jessica Parker and Sprinkles in LA [because of] Oprah featuring them. I was SO excited [about] a cupcake shop in St. Louis! I asked the receptionist to make a copy and she gave me the magazine. At the time, my career had been in advertising, so I ran back home (not really) to pull of research on bakeries, coffee houses....That gave me the initial idea.

CS: How has the experience of owning a cupcake bakery been different than you might have anticipated?
JS: I had contacted Elizabeth Faulkner from Citizen Cupcake in San Francisco and she told me it was really hard. She was SO right! Trying to find pastry bakers and designers with AMAZING skills was and has been a long journey. But I can say that we've had our moments, but believe now that our cupcakes are the most moist, decedent, delicious cupcakes found anywhere!

Cupcakes from Jilly's Cupcake Bar, St. Louis MO
CS: In your opinion, what makes a cupcake life-altering?
JS: The best ingredients, for caramel we only use Dulche de Leche, it is a Spanish caramel that is milkier (is that a word?) plus creamier and softer, our Carmelita is......first you'll moan, and then....Also, our cake is sooooooo moist, our "stuffing"--whatever we stuff inside--they're past decedent, they are life-altering.....our fudge ganache, the way we whip and whip and whip our butter cream until it's like soft clouds of love in your mouth.

(Cakespy Note: Is anybody else thinking of that "I'll have what she's having" moment from When Harry Met Sally right now?)

 

Cupcakes from Jilly's Cupcake Bar, St. Louis MO
CS: We see mention of a "topping bar" on your site. How does the topping bar work?
JS: The clients can choose from baby junior mints, to health bar...it's set up in a "Bar" container (like the ones at a "Bar" that holds olives, lemon twists,...cute huh.)

CS: It seems like there must be a story behind the "cupcake clusters" on your menu--can you tell us how they came to be?
JS: We bake everyday, so at the end of the day if we have extra cakes we bake them to a crouton....you know the rest!

CS: What's your favorite item on the menu?
JS: The Carmelita! We also did a seasonal cupcake that I crave...vanilla cake, stuffed with a pumpkin mousse and topped off with chocolate & pumpkin buttercream! OMG!

Custom Cake with Cupcakes on top from Jilly's Cupcake Bar, St. LouisCS: You're based in St. Louis, Missouri. We're keenly interested in regional specialties--what are some regional specialties in your area? 
JS: Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis thing...

Cakespy Note: What exactly is a Gooey Butter Cake? According to Wikipedia,

Gooey butter cake is a type of cake traditionally made in the U.S. city of St. Louis, Missouri, with a bottom layer of buttery yellow cake and a top layer of either egg and cream cheese, or butter and sugar. It is generally served as a type of coffee cake and not as a dessert cake. It is believed to have originated around 1943.

A legend about the cake's origin is included in Saint Louis Days, Saint Louis Nights, a cookbook published in the mid-1990s by the Junior League of St. Louis. The cake was supposedly first made by accident in the 1930s by a St. Louis-area German American baker who was trying to make regular cake batter but reversed the proportions of sugar and flour.

 

Cupcake from Jilly's Cupcake Bar, St. Louis MOCS: Some say that "pie is the new cake". What is your response to this bold statement?
JS: We had baby pies that we sold and did great. I don't think it's the new cake, but a preference for certain people...

CS: What's next for Jilly's Cupcake Bar?
JS: Franchising...

Are you in St. Louis? Why not visit and try them for yourself? Jilly's Cupcake Bar, 8509 Delmar Blvd. (Delmar @ I-170), St. Louis, MO; (314) 993-Jilly (5455). Hours of operation: Mon-Fri., 10 a.m. - 7 p.m; Saturday, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. 

If you're not in St. Louis, don't despair--online ordering will be available soon; in the meantime you can ogle the menu and pictures online at jillyscupcakebar.com.

A note from our sponsor

I asked the live receptionist to make a copy and she gave me the magazine.

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