For this week's Illustration Friday theme of Contagious, I have chosen to illustrate two of the trendiest foods around: cupcakes and bacon. Sure, some foodie types will argue that they've jumped the shark, but these sweet (and salty) pleasures, which have captured the nation's (and, it seems, world's) attention, still seem to be spreading like wildfire, which leads one to believe that the fever for these foods is still contagious.
With Seattle's brand new Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co. offering an attention-grabbing Tomato Soup cake, it seemed appropriate to talk a little bit about the background of this unusual confection.
How long has it been around? foodtimeline.org, Tomato Soup Cake, which is also known as "Mystery Cake" or "Tomato Soup Spice Cake", was perhaps first mentioned in 1928 in a Los Angeles Times snippet about cooking classes--however, in 1932 the same paper had a more official mention of the cake, including a recipe.
How do I make Tomato Soup Cake? Here's a recipe from the venerable foodie M.F.K. Fisher, from her classic How to Cook a Wolf:
- 3 tablespoons butter or shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon soda
- 1 can tomato soup
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, ginger, cloves mixed
- 1 1/2 cups raisins, nuts, chopped figs, what you will
When it comes to eating cupcakes, the methods of eating them are as eclectic as the creative flavors that can be found at the nation's wonderful cupcakeries. But regardless of the method--from inverting and eating sandwich-style to carefully nibbling so as to ensure a bite of cake and frosting in every bite--it's clear that CakeSpy readers take the art of cake eating seriously.
Just for the record, the entire CakeSpy crew would be totally easy to kidnap. All you'd have to say is "hey little Cake Gumshoes...I've got a puppy and some cake in the back of my van!" and we'd be there in a flash.
After having conversed and emailed with Yellow Leaf Cupcake Company's co-owner Mike Hein for the DailyCandy article I wrote, I naturally had to hit them up on their opening day. I arrived at a little after 8 a.m., and was informed that I was their sixth customer--ever. Sweet!
Yellow Leaf has a sweet story--owners Mike Hein and Tony Portugal both quit their office jobs and set to visiting cupcake shops all across America before opening their own shop in Belltown. The shop itself is sweet, with warm yellow walls. Their menu is homey but still eclectic-- standout flavors include their signature, the Tomato Soup Cupcake with cocoa Italian buttercream.
I picked up three flavors: the Tomato Soup (natch), the Black Forest and (upon Mike's suggestion) the coconut. The cupcakes are a little spendy--$9.69 including tax for three--and are not overwhelmingly large, but have a satisfying weight. They package them in clear plastic containers, which may not be as pretty as a pink box, but they do keep the cupcakes safe.
Truth: I don't often eat fancy food. It's true--perhaps it comes from a lack of culture (I am from New Jersey, after all), but usually I'd rather have a really good brownie or chocolate chip cookie instead of an ile flottante or a dessert served with a reduction of anything.
But I must say that after a recent visit to the Four Seasons in Seattle for a special event, I was most impressed by the fancy--but delicious--desserts by pastry chef Ryan Witcher. He's worked at some pretty fancy places and his skill is apparent, but he is completely friendly and accessible. His personality shows through in the desserts, which are pinkies-out fancy but with tongue in cheek touches like a Parisian-style macaron flavored like a snickers bar, or truffle "pops" fancied up with strawberry and basil. But enough talk--let's get to the sweetness:
Though these items were made for a special event and might not be on the menu daily, you can sample pastry chef Ryan Witcher's creations at ART Restaurant, 99 Union Street, Seattle; online at artrestaurantseattle.com.
Photo c/o Justjennrants.blogspot.com
It seems that after the recent list of doughnut links, some additional commentary is necessary on the subject of the doughnut-cupcake combination.
And they've entered in a big way, with all sorts of delicious variations. Here are just a few:
- On JustJenn Rants & Raves, the blog of a stationery designer and baking enthusiast, Jenn made a batch of insanely cute doughnut-topped cupcakes--while she says that they came out just as she had hoped, she does admit that ultimately
I do think pastry on pastry is a bit over the top - I feel like I've just made the turducken of desserts.Of course, there is no mention of anyone declining a bite of these sweet treats.
- On the lovely and amazing Bake & Destroy, Natalie made probably the best use ever of the new Starbucks VIA instant coffee by mixing it into the cupcakes and buttercream, and then topping it all off with a powdered sugar doughnut for a dizzying rush of sugar and a satisfying mixture of textures and tastes.
- Of course, if you like the doughnut muffin style, on Elle's New England Kitchen, the doughnut muffin gets a sweet makeover with the addition of frosting and sprinkles--um, Elle, we think that means it's a doughnut cupcake now. And oh, so deliciously so.
- In that vein, at Retro Bakery in Las Vegas, they they have not one, not two...but three doughnut cupcake varieties on their menu: the "Glazed Donut" (Vanilla cake drenched in donut glaze), the "Sprinkled Donut" (Vanilla cake dipped in chocolate fudge ganache and rainbow jimmies) and "Coffee and Donuts" (Vanilla cake covered in donut glaze and topped with a dollop of coffee buttercream). Oh yes.
Musing over methods of snack-eating is practically an American pastime. There have been ad campaigns centered on how people eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups; there have been studies on the characteristics associated with various methods of Oreo-eating.
- an original framed piece of CakeSpy artwork: Cupcakes and Zombies!
- a set of Bella Cupcake Couture cupcake liners
- a box of CakeSpy notecards
- a brand-new (hot off the press!) mini notebook featuring Cupcakes at CBGB!
- a pack of cupcake lip balm
Cupcake Royale: Seattle's first cupcake shop is opening their fourth retail location in Capitol Hill. Combined with the added deliciousness of Oddfellows' bakery case and the newly opened Molly Moon Ice Cream a block away, Cupcake Royale's entrance on the scene is really establishing Capitol Hill as a sweet mecca. Coming this summer; online at cupcakeroyale.com (you can also keep updated via their blog).
Curio Confections: When a Trophy Cupcakes alum branches out and opens a baking business, you know it's going to be good. No conflict of interest here--there are no cupcakes on the menu at this University District sweetshop, but plenty of pies both sweet and savory, fancy marshmallows, and even goats' milk caramels. Scheduled to open May 23; online at curioconfections.com.
The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co.: Seattle's newest cupcake shop, located in Belltown, will feature mostly cupcakes but a small array of morning pastries as well; though they will have coffee, fancy tea will be their beverage focus; they'll also have suggested "pairings" for tea and cupcakes. Wonder which tea would go with their much-anticipated signature Tomato Soup cupcake (AnTea Warhol perhaps)? Scheduled for a soft opening on May 15; online at theyellowleafcupcake.com.