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Sunday
Aug092009

More is More: Decadent Poundcake Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Peanut butter cupcakes
There are those people who say that pound cake is a dessert that needs no garnish, rich and decadent as it is on its own. 

I am not one of those people, however, so when I recently prepared the pound cake recipe featured on the absolutely amazing Smitten Kitchen site, while the cakes (which I baked in cupcake-cups) were absolutely delicious, I couldn't help but feel that it was a beginning, not an end: they needed something serious--no delicate fruit toppings here, please--to balance out that lightness.

And what could be more decadent than topping an already-buttery cake with peanut butter buttercream frosting?

Peanut Butter Frosting
Happily, I had just received a sweet sample pack from Superior Nut which included a decadent peanut butter dessert topping (think peanut butter, but sweeter and with the consistency of a thick hot fudge), which was easily incorporated into a batch of buttercream which was then used to frost the baby-poundcakes; it was all topped off with some sea salt and roasted peanut chunks. The result? Astoundingly sweet, rich, and satisfyingly salty cupcakes which prove that while sometimes less is more, sometimes more is best.  

Want a piece of this awesome? Here's how I did it:

Peanut butter cupcakes
Poundcake Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting

 

For the Cake: For a light and versatile poundcake, check out this recipe on Smitten Kitchen; I made my batch with two major changes: first, vanilla extract was used in place of cognac; second, they were baked them as cupcakes instead of one large cake (this reduced the baking time by about 5-7 minutes). It made about 15 cupcakes. Some of them were a little bit short, but extra frosting compensated quite nicely.

For the Frosting: I doctored up a batch of Magnolia Bakery's famous buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 to 6 cups confectioners’ sugar (less than in the original recipe, since the Peanut butter topping was sweetened)
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of Superior Nut's Peanut Butter topping (or, I'm sure you could make due with a similar amount of lightly melted peanut butter or other nut butter, but you might want to add a little more confectioners' sugar)
  • Optional: Sea salt and Roasted Peanut Chunks for garnish

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the sugar and then the cream and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes). After incorporated, add the peanut butter topping to the mix and put back on low speed until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency; you might need to add a little extra sugar but probably not. Do not refrigerate this frosting, or it will become a brick; it can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Finally, enjoy. These cakes were brought to CakeSpy buddy Dave's birthday party, and apparently had the birthday crowd in a sugar coma even the next day.

 

Friday
Aug072009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Life Lessons
Though this article is geared toward caterers, the "How to Plan a Dessert Menu" section is interesting!

Peter Pan Donuts (a CakeSpy favorite!) in Brooklyn, NY has debuted the donut ice cream sandwich. (thanks Lauren!)

Over at BUST Magazine, Ice cream flavors + book titles = a plethora of puns

Rice Krispie Treats filled with ice cream: Pure genius!

Blondie & Brownie's adorable entry to the Threadcakes contest will make you want to coo over the cuteness.

CakeSpy reported on how awesome the new Cupcake Royale location is, and the New York Times agrees!

Learn a life skill: How to carve a watermelon baby carriage.

Nope: still don't think that Whoopie Pies are the next big thing. But Gourmet's Zucchini Whoopie pies sure do look delicious.

Butterfingers, all grown up and in a gorgeous cake.

They're raw. They're balls. They look delicious.

Aran of Cannelle et Vanille has set up an online food styling and photography portfolio. It's delightful.

CakeSpy buddy Nurit tries out Tom Douglas's famous Triple Coconut Cream Pie, with yummy results.

In case you missed it, I'll tell you again: CakeSpy has collaborated with All-Mighty, with adorable results.

Friday
Aug072009

CakeSpy Undercover: Chuck's Donuts in Renton, WA

Bear Claw (webbed foot!?) from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
I often say that bad things happen when you leave the city, but when a CakeSpy reader emailed extolling the virtues of Chuck's Donuts in Renton:

While you won't find espresso, cupcakes, or frozen yogurt on the menu, you will find the best maple bars in five counties and a lot of extremely tasty cake donuts with simple fillings. I could eat their chocolate-covered custard-filled donuts until they came out my ears! I grew up on these sugar bombs and many people in my massive family consider them prime bribe material.

...well, let's just say I knew it was time to hit the road.

Chuck's Donuts is a deeply and delightfully unpretentious place. It's perched at the corner of a strip mall off of the highway; the signage and decor are fairly nondescript. But that's OK, because we're here to talk about the donuts.

Bear Claw from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
We tested three to get a full variety: a bear claw, and old fashioned, and a frosted cake donut. The bear claw had a thin sheen of glaze that shattered oh so delicately when bitten into, giving way to a yeasty, sweet dough filled with a buttery cinnamon-sugar mix--the filling was a nice complement to the lightness of the donut.

Chocolate Frosted w/coconut, from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
The cake donut was lightly crispy on the outside, dense, soft and cakey on the inside; the frosting was almost too sweet, but we powered through it--and it should be noted that the coconut added a nice texture too.

Donut from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
But the real start of the show was an old fashioned cake donut which vaguely resembled a potato in size and texure (though as to the technical name, not quite sure), which was filled with jam and lightly glazed; overall, very pleasingly dense and just greasy enough to be satisfying without being gross.

Overall, a great find and definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in Renton; and though we do have a number of great donut shops in the city, I'd even deem it a worthy destination for Seattle donut lovers.

Chuck's Donuts, 5335 N. 4th Street, Renton; click here for more info.
Chuck's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Aug052009

A Sweet Love Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken: Store-Bought Cakes

Photo c/o Flickr User gearys
No matter how many gorgeous homemade cakes I try, no matter how many fancy pastries I sample, I will always have a lingering love for grocery store-bought birthday cake. 
Cannonball!
I'm not talking about a fancy cake that you might buy at the bakery of an upscale store like Whole Foods. No. I am talking about the garishly frosted, probably not trans fat-free, gonna-leave-a-greasy-slick-on-your-tongue, packed in a plastic cake cover type of store bought cake that you'd see at national grocery store chains.
Grocery Store cakes: I love them.
Now, I realize that on so many levels, they are an inferior product. They are not made with the care that goes into the cakes at most retail bakeries, nor are they made with the same caliber of ingredients. They don't look or taste as good.
Burger Cake

And yet--in spite of these powerful arguments against them--sometimes nothing else will do. So what gives? 

Is it Nostalgia? Perhaps it can be blamed on growing up in the suburbs, where for every birthday party with a homemade cake, there were probably four with store-bought cakes? Perhaps somewhere in that combination of bright frosting in colors never found in nature, that inch-and-a-half slick of waxy-sweet frosting, and soft and spongy cake, it's all about trying to conjure up a simpler and sweeter time in life?


Cupcake Cake at QFC
Or is it Simply Bad Taste? Or are these cakes like the relationship that you know is toxic but you just can't give up, because even while it's so bad, it's also so good? Is confessing a love of store-bought cake simply admitting that deep down, you've got bad (not to mention unrefined) taste?


Or perhaps it's a bit of both: sweet nostalgia and trashy taste? While I can't answer it definitively, I can say one thing for sure: grocery store-bought cake, I just can't quit you (and I don't want to, either).

What about you? Do you have a soft spot in your heart for store-bought cakes, or is CakeSpy simply guilty of bad taste?

 

Wednesday
Aug052009

Cake Byte: CakeSpy for All-Mighty!

CakeSpy for All-Mighty collaboration
Do you love cupcakes? Do you love dogs? Do you love cute?

Well then, my friends, prepare for the triple threat of awesome that is the new CakeSpy / All-Mighty.net collaboration!

All-Mighty is an online shop run by CakeSpy buddies Erica and Jen and their adorable Boston Terriers, Mighty and Stinky! Their shop features all sorts of adorable clothing for humans and their furry friends, and I have collaborated with them on several sets of pins which are now available for purchase in their shop.

First, there's the pack of "Paris Pins", which includes three adorable pins with scenes of Parisian puppies and pastries. They come on a nice thick postcard made of 100% recycled matte paper--and each set comes with a frame-able print on the back.

There's also a pack of "Big Apple Badges" which includes three pins portraying some sweet street scenes from the Big Apple; like the other sets, they come on a nice thick postcard made of 100% recycled matte paper--and each set comes with a frame-able print on the back.

They can be purchased (along with a lot of other cool stuff!) at all-mighty.net!

Tuesday
Aug042009

Babka Kebabs: Glorious Kebabka!

Kebabka
There is a deeply rooted belief here at CakeSpy that just about any food tastes better on a stick. I dare you to think of one that doesn't.

But as Rachel of Coconut & Lime recently lamented via twitter, while many desserts-on-a-stick are adorable and delicious, they can all too often be "too small to be satisfying". 

Happily, there is a food on a stick that will stick with you: delicious chunks of chocolate babka speared kebab style on a skewer--or, as I like to call it, kebabka.

Kebabka!
Now, kebabka is not necessarily a cute food. It's not delicate, and it's not dainty. But it is rich, chocolatey, carbohydratey, and delicious--and when enjoyed several chunks at a time eaten directly off of a stick, it will not leave you hungry.

Here's how you do it.

 

Kebabka (based loosely on this recipe)

  • For the babka
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 (.25-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour


For the topping (I kind of cheated here)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 big bar of chocolate (the jumbo sized ones at the grocery store--I used Hershey's Special dark chocolate)
  • Small amount of whipping cream, just for texture

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until creamy (I saved the egg whites for an egg wash later)
  3. Mix the yeast in warm water with the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. When this mixture thickens, add it to the egg yolks along with the, milk, vanilla and salt.
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well. Slowly add the flour until a soft dough is formed. 
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until dough is no longer sticky.
  6. Cover the dough and allow it to rise in a warm place until it doubles.
  7. When it's looking pretty big, you might want to prepare the filling. To do so, you could put your butter and chocolate (broken up) in a double boiler to melt it, or you could do as I did and microwave it at 10 second intervals until it is melted. Add a touch of heavy cream (if you feel like it; I did) and mix until fully incorporated.
  8. At this point, I put the dough on a floured silicone pastry mat and rolled it flat and long. I cut it into about 15 separate little chunks.
  9. Then I rolled out each little chunk of dough and poured some chocolate filling in each one, then made it into a little roll and put each one into a cupcake cup.
    Mini BabkasRising to the occasion
  10. Allow these little loaves to rise again for about 2 hours.
  11. At this point you can either pour some of the leftover topping on top of the risen dough mounds or just, you know, eat it with a spoon (oh so rich!). 
  12. I used some of the leftover egg whites to lightly brush on top of each little loaf to ensure a pleasing golden tone.
    Mini Chocolate Babka
  13. Place in a preheated 350*F (150*C) oven for 30 minutes or until done. Let cool completely.
    Big plate of kebabkas
  14. Once cool, cut into either halves, or fourths; spear as many chunks as you'd like on kebab skewers, and eat yourself some food on a stick. If desired, serve with whipped cream for dipping (it's good!)

 

Tuesday
Aug042009

Refreshing and Sweet: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Raspberry-Lemonade Cupcake for August

Photo c/o Cupcake Royale, new August flavor!
Cupcake Royale has had a lot going on lately, what with the opening of their beautifully outfitted new location and owner Jody Hall speaking out about Health Care on NPR. But of course we can't forget the cupcakes, and this August they've got a refreshing new flavor: Raspberry Lemonade.

Per their site, the new flavor consists of "fresh, local, organic raspberries from Willie Green's organic farm in the cake, topped with tart and tangy, oh-so-summery lemon cream cheese frosting". I love that the flavor has the raspberries mixed into the cake rather than just as part of the frosting--it sounds so refreshing for the summer heat, but with a welcome bit of richness from the cream cheese frosting.

The new flavor will be available at all four Cupcake Royale locations through August 31st; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com; for instant updates, follow them on Twitter!

Monday
Aug032009

Edi-Mology: Cake

Closeup of Cake
Edi-mology is a new featurette on CakeSpy, designed to explore the etymology and meanings of the terminology behind the baked goods we all love so much. One thing is for sure: this hunger for knowledge can sure give you an appetite for baked goods!

Today's lesson: CAKE

Definition:

Cake: [keyk] noun a sweet, baked, breadlike food, made with or without shortening, and usually containing flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, eggs, and liquid flavoring. (source: dictionary.com)
Baby Cakes at Black Hound
Etymology
This sweet term came to us circa the year 1230 from Old Norse kaka "cake," from the West Germanic "kokon-", from the Proto-Indo-European base "gag-" or "gog-", which meant "something round, lump of something." 
Surprise, surprise: Cake is not related to the Latin coquere ("to cook") as formerly supposed. Replaced its Olde English cognate (cognate = two words that have a common origin), coecel
Originally (until c.1420) it meant "a flat, round loaf of bread." (source: etymoline.com)
Of course, if you're wondering how it made the leap from referring to a flat, round loaf of bread to the delicious confection that we call cake today, here's a little excerpt from Foodtimeline.org:

 

According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes (round ones with icing) were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. This is due to primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar)....The first icing were usually a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and [sometimes] flavorings...It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake as we know it today (made with extra refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast) arrived on the scene...Butter-cream frostings (using butter, cream, confectioners [powdered] sugar and flavorings) began replacing traditional boiled icings in first few decades 20th century. In France, Antonin Careme [1784-1833] is considered THE premier historic chef of the modern pastry/cake world. You will find references to him in French culinary history books.


(Note: if you're interested in more Cake Lore, you might also want to check out Leslie F. Miller's book Let Me Eat Cake) 

First known publication: 
"What man, I trow ye raue, Wolde ye bothe eate your cake and haue your cake?" ["The Proverbs & Epigrams of John Heywood," 1562] (source: etymonline.com)
"What does Cake have that I don't?"
Idioms: 
A piece of cake: something easily done: She thought her first solo flight was a piece of cake.
Take the cake: a. to surpass all others, esp. in some undesirable quality; be extraordinary or unusual: His arrogance takes the cake.
b. to win first prize.
Let them eat cake: this is from Rousseau's "Confessions," in reference to an incident c.1740, when it was already proverbial, long before Marie Antoinette. The "cake" in question was not a confection, but a poor man's food. (source for these idioms: etymonline.com)
(CakeSpy Tip: If you're into idioms, bet you'll love Chocolate & Zucchini's "Edible Idiom" series!)

 

Monday
Aug032009

Taking the Cake: Trophy Cupcakes Announces New Bellevue Location!

Cupcakes at Trophy Cupcakes
It's official, friends: Trophy Cupcakes is expanding! They just announced the upcoming opening of their third location which will be in Bellevue. Here are the details from their Facebook page:

we had not planned on expanding this quickly but when the Bravern in Bellevue invited us to be a part of their amazing collection of shops, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse! With so many die-hard, commuting for Trophy Cupcakes, Eastside customers, how could we say no?!

The new Trophy Cupcakes location will be part of The Shops at the Bravern, an upscale shopping center which is scheduled to open in September. The new Trophy location is tentatively scheduled to open on September 12. Read more on the Trophy Cupcakes Facebook page!

Monday
Aug032009

Tweet All About It: CakeSpy Featured in Seattle Magazine!


Sweet treats and sweet tweets collide in this month's issue of Seattle Magazine, where CakeSpy gets a mention in Rebekah Denn's article about Seattle's food scene and Twitter!

Rebekah, who also writes the incredibly informative (and witty) site Eat All About It, has put together a very interesting article which ponders the phenomenon that is twitter, and how it is being used by foodies in Seattle (and beyond, really). 

And so what is twitter? A place to talk about the newest restaurant dishes? A place to dish about restaurants? Or is the appeal that "Unlike other forms of social media—or, ahem, real life—Twitter offers a six-degrees-of-separation equality between amateurs, professionals and celebrities"?
While the dust may have yet to settle, one thing is pretty clear: it's prompted many readers to tweet all about it! There's even a handy list of some of the coolest Seattle foodies to follow--CakeSpy is on the list (!) along with a seriously talented and entertaining crew including Shauna Ahern, Brian Canlis, Dana Cree, Maggie Dutton, Whitney Ricketts (who just became acquisitions editor at Sasquatch Books!), Traca Savadogo, Seattle Bon Vivant, Becky Selengut, Surly GourmandLorna Yee, and of course, the grande dame of foodery everywhere, Ruth Reichl.
Check out the article here; or, to go right to the list of Seattle foodies that you should mos' def be following, click here! Of course, you should most definitely be following Rebekah via twitter and her site too.

 

 

 

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