Naysayers will say that they're inconsistent, that the service is slow and sometimes surly, the baked goods dense and exceedingly--perhaps too--rich.
Strangely, those are all the same reasons we love it. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but it feels deeply human and homey somehow. And our very favorite item there? The buttermilk biscuits with fresh preserves.
Now, a Southern purist might be appalled by these biscuits--made with buttermilk, shortening, pastry flour and yeast, they seem to be on a different wavelength than the light-as-air, fluffy White Lily flour and lard sort from days of yore. Due to folding the dough three times before baking, they attain a level of flakiness that seems somehow denser than other biscuits, and works wonderfully with a morning coffee. And at approximately 7:15 a.m. in the morning, shortly after the bakery has opened for the day (we never go right at 7 because the biscuits are never out first-thing), we couldn't imagine anything sweeter than the rows and rows of golden-hued biscuits, still warm, each with a glistening jewel-like dollop of fresh preserves.
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- 3 cups pastry flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups vegetable shortening, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk
- egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Mix with whisk to dissolve yeast, and let sit for five minutes while yeast blooms.
- Sift flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to combine. Drop pieces of shortening into bowl. Using pastry cutter or fork, cut in until coarse and crumbly.
- Add the yeast-water and buttermilk, and mix with a wooden spoon, but only until it all comes together--do not overmix.
- Coat hands with flour and pull dough from bowl on to a floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle, approximately 9 x 5 inches, so the long side is facing you. Dough will be sticky so keep flouring your hands as needed.
- To achieve a flaky, layered effect, it's important to give the dough a series of tri-folds: fold into thirds like a letter, folding the left third over the center third first, and then the right third on top. Sprinkle more flour and roll out to a 9 x 5 rectangle again, repeating the tri-fold step twice more (for a total of three tri-folds), ending with a rectangle 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
- Cut into six equal rectangles and place on the baking sheet. Brush with your egg wash and sprinkle on raw sugar.
- Bake on center rack for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom (ours only took 18 minutes to get to the point we liked). Let cool for ten minutes or so, then dent the top with a spoon and fill with a generous dollop of your preserves.
For serious Francophiles, July 14 is the most wonderful time of year: Bastille Day. Well, Bastille Day itself may be a celebration of the anniversary of a très bloody uprising, but we're choosing to celebrate the day in a far less visceral and much sweeter way: by celebrating all of our favorite things Parisian and pastry related! And so, here's a little parade of ten of our favorite Frenchie things, from pastries to places and experiences:
The Mille-feuille (French 'thousand sheets'), Napoleon (U.S.), vanilla slice, cream slice or custard slice (Commonwealth countries) is a pastry made of several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. It is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. The name is also written as "millefeuille" and "mille feuille".
2. Lovely Laduree: A simple visit to the Laduree website is like a mini-escape from real life--but a visit in person to one of the venerable Paris teahouses is like going into an Alice in Wonderland world. No, they're certainly not cheap, but can you really put a price on true magic? Multiple locations; online at laduree.fr.
All-Mighty (Not cake but just as sweet!): Shop online at all-mighty.net.
Auntie Em's Kitchen, 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041, (323) 255-0800; online at auntieemskitchen.com.
Bob's Coffee and Donut, 6333 W 3rd St # 450, Los Angeles, CA 90036; (323) 933-8929.
Crumbs Beverly Hills, 9465 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills CA, 90210, (310) 550-9811; online at crumbsbakeshop.com.
Delilah Bakery, 1665 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026, (213) 975-9400; online at delilahbakery.com.
Dots Cupcakes, 400 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 568-3687; online at dotscupcakes.com.
Eat My Cupcake, 5227 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601, (818) 509-2910; online at famouscupcakes.com.
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, 3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 663-6173; online at intelligentsiacoffee.com.
Jack N Jills, 510 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 656-1501; online at eatatjacknjills.com.
Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 478-1819; online at giantrobot.com.
Joan's on Third, 8350 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, (323) 655-2285; online at joansonthird.com.
OP Cafe, 3117 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (310) 452-5720; online at theopcafe.com.
Randy's Donuts, 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood CA 90301; 310.645.4707; online at randys-donuts.com.
Sprinkles Cupcakes Inc, 9635 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (310) 274-8765; online at sprinklescupcakes.com.
Town and Country Bakery & Cafe, 3823 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 667-3331; online at towncountry.com.
Vanilla Bakeshop, 512 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 458-6644; online at vanillabakeshop.com.
Yummy Cupcakes, 313 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA; (310) 393-8283.
Whole Foods Santa Monica, 2201 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA - (310) 315-0662; online at wholefoods.com.
Show's over, folks--the cake poll is closed, and we've chosen a winner from over 250 responses (the total between comments left and responses emailed!).
And the lucky winner is Maddi from Florida!
Let's learn a bit more about Maddi, shall we?
- Her ideal time for cake-eating is late morning, almost noontime--"It makes a great breakfasty snack!"--and she always enjoys hers with a glass of ice cold milk.
- As for her cupcake color choice? Pink frosting every time--a girl after our own hearts.
- As for the part of a sheet cake she likes best? The middle.
- As for cake a la mode, she's not committing quite yet: "It depends on the cake, but I myself will never turn down a good scoop of vanilla ice cream."
- As for grocery store cakes, living near a grocer with a particularly good bakery section, she's not opposed--but as for ice cream cakes, "now...those are a a whole different story."
- When it comes to temperature, she'll take her cake room temperature.
- As for baking vs. decorating, her favorite part is the decorating: "Despite how labor intensive it is, it's a labor of love!"
- And finally, when it comes to her special occasions, cakewise it's usually a semi-sweet white cake is the norm for most occasions in my family, but once in a while chocolate will make a comeback.
Congratulations Maddi, and thank you for everyone's responses! We loved learning more about you and your cake references--even though we are not able to respond to every entry, we read every single one!
Til next time--stay sweet!
- What's the best time of day to eat cake?
- What's your favorite beverage to accompany cake?
- There's a plate of frosted cupcakes--all the same flavor--but frosted in pink, white, yellow, blue, green, and lavender. Which would you reach for first?
- On a sheet cake: Do you prefer and end, middle, or corner piece?
- Cake a la mode (with ice cream on the side): simply perfection, or simply too much?
- Grocery store birthday cakes: guilty pleasure, or simply never?
- Do you like your cake cold, room temperature, or warm?
- When baking a cake or cupcakes, which part of the process do you like best: the baking, or the decorating?
- What kind of cake do you like to make (or eat) for your most special occasions?
- To satisfy our nosy tendencies (we are spies, after all), fill out the above Cake Poll! You can leave your responses in the comment section, or send your responses via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- At 12pm PST on Wednesday, July 9, the Cake Poll will be closed. The winner will be chosen at random, not based on their responses. The prize will then be shipped to the lucky winner within 48 hours, via the most economical method.
- As for our fine print: The results of this poll will be used for entertainment and Cake Gumshoeing purposes only; we may summarize the results of this poll in upcoming posts. Your private information will not be shared with any outside parties. Also, we've elected to leave the cake poll open to all US Territories, Canada and abroad--so even overseas cake enthusiasts can take part!
The first option is Sweet Posie, which is tucked behind Anchor Tattoo near the intersection of Market and 24th--it's one of the tiniest and cutest little cafes we've ever seen, and they have killer Red Velvet Cupcakes. And all through July, they have original Acrylic paintings by our dear Head Spy Jessie! A bit of a change of pace, but the lovely texture of acrylic paint is so tantalizingly like frosting to work with--and it's clear from these delicious paintings! Sweet Posie Cafe, 2315 N.W. Market St. Seattle, WA 98105. Phone: 206-784-0303. Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays; online at sweetposie.com.
As many of you know, Cakespy recently went on the road--our own Head Spy Jessie went to Brooklyn, New York to vend Cakespy artwork, tees, notecards and more at the Renegade Craft Fair, a highly regarded indie craft and design fair. However, we're far from professionals: it was first time we'd ever done a fair like this, and as such there were naturally definite highs and lows--and some serious lessons learned. And so, in no particular order, here are some of the things we learned, both negative and positive:
People are Strange: One response to the Cakespy booth? "I like pie better than cake. In fact, I have always preferred pie, even in the womb. I was a pie-gote (ie, a pie-zygote)." You know what though? He still bought a tee shirt. So maybe strange but awesome.
Balthazar doesn't suck: Would you believe that we'd never tried super-famous Balthazar's goodies before this trip? We'd always kind of found them snobby from afar and never given them a fair chance. But we finally broke down with one of their scones, and were pleasantly surprised: this baby was buttery, moist, crumbly and...well, pretty good.
Don't go for another round: When going for drinks the night before the fair starts, reject the urge to have one final round. Trust us. But if you do, at least in your carbohydrate-starved state the next morning, you can feel comforted by the fact that...
New York Bagels really are the best: They say it's the water, but in our opinion even a Seattle bakery which imported a NY-style water filtration system can't quite create the same deliciousness as a New York bagel. Our all-time NYC favorites? Absolute Bagels, Murray's Bagels (remind us to tell you about the time we saw Tim Robbins there!), Pick-A-Bagel (only the one on 23rd and 3rd), and Bagelsmith in Brooklyn (Cakespy Note: Alas, in spite of every review, like, ever, we only like-don't-love H&H Bagels).
SPF 70 sunblock is opaque: With most sunblocks, you can apply them to your skin, and while white when applied, they will dry clear. Not so with SPF 70. This stuff is more like a shellac--albeit, an opaque white shellac, as our Head Spy Jessie found out the hard way, spending much of day one covered in the white, streaky stuff (apologies to anyone who was frightened off).
People are so talented: Even if they weren't selling baked good related products, we have a collective design crush on several of the other vendors, including Foxy & Winston, Sian Keegan, My Paper Crane, and so many more!
Craft Fairs are delicious: This must have been the most delicious craft fair we've ever been to, what with "food court" surroundings provided by Treats Truck (think ice cream truck, but with baked goods!) and Mr. Softee.
Dressler is delicious: One of the more delicious experiences while in the city was when Head Spy Jessie had dinner with the Redacted Recipes crew; we went to Dressler, a cool Williamsburg restaurant where everything, from the watermelon-ricotta salad to the showstopping Caramel Trio dessert (a trinity of awesome including salted caramel ice cream, caramel panna cotta and a buttery caramel nut tart), was absolutely wonderful. Highly recommended!