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Tuesday
Nov042008

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Sweetiepie in Norwich Notes

Golly, the internet is a sweet place! Here are the places we've been getting our fix this week:
Did you really need another reason to just get out there and vote? How about free sweets? A huge number of bakeries, doughnut joints and ice cream shops are offering either free, discounted or special goodies today in celebration of the big event--Cupcake Royale (Seattle), Retro Bakery (Las Vegas), Ben + Jerry's (all over), Cupcake Jones (Portland), and so many more!

 

Bmoresweet bakes cupcakes for her candidate. Delicious!

Cards from Bethany's shop!
So sweet: new silkscreened cards from Bethany Schlegel Art + Design.

Grown-up candy bars that we're in love with at bonbonbar.com.

We definitely need more event planners like Amy Atlas: she does dessert parties!

After reading about them in Vogue and Coolhunting, all we can say is when, when will you open, oh soon-to-be darling of Greenwich Village, Sweetiepie? When we went by last month, all we saw was construction!

How to serve dainty desserts? How 'bout on sweet monogrammed plates by LA Plates? We love the solid pink style!

It was about time this little-known dessert hit the mainstream: say hello to StickyToffeePuddingCompany.com! (via the Nibble)

 

 

Monday
Nov032008

Cakespy Undercover: Seeting Sweetness in and around Ames, Iowa

Dutch Oven Bakery, IowaBabies love baked goods, Iowa

Recently our own Cake Gumshoe Barbara took a trip to Ames, Iowa, and along with her pint-sized assistant--shown above--left a trail of sugar crumbs in her wake. Here's what she tasted: 
While she was visiting Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University, Cake Gumshoe Barbara went in search of cupcakes because all university towns must have cupcakes! Sadly, when we arrived at noon the sugar starved students had bought all the cupcakes for the day so we were introduced to the Dutch Oven Bakery's specialty...Dutch Letters. This was an outstanding find, light flaky pastry surrounding a delicious almond paste and all coated in cinnamon and sugar. This treat was brought to Iowa by the Dutch settlers who knew a good treat and kept it. Even the youngest university student (see above for our Cake Gumshoe's young yet esteemed assistant) found this delectable and used his two new teeth to gnaw on it!

 

The Dutch Oven Bakery, 219 Duff, Ames, Iowa, (515)232-9244; online at dutchovenbakeryiowa.com(Note: The bag in the photo says Boone, (not Daniel's hometown) but that is the other location. Boone is only a few miles from Ames.)

Our Cake Gumshoe and her assistant moved on to the local home of great seasonal favorites at the Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge, Iowa. Now as Cakespy knows, this Gumshoe has spent her life seeking out the perfect Apple Cider Donut and she thought it lived at Delicious Orchards in New Jersey, but another award winner was found! These donuts have all of the requirements of a great apple cider donut, they were light and spongy with great texture, covered with cinnamon and sugar and WARM!!! They are well worth the trip to Iowa! (As a note, said Gumshoe is on Weight Watchers and held off at only eating three.) My little assistant got his baby nibble and smacked his lips for more. He was only enticed away by taking him out to the pumpkin patch!

Center Grove Orchards, 32835 610th Ave., Cambridge, Iowa, 1-888-2-APPLE-I; online at centergroveorchard.com.

 

 

 

Friday
Oct312008

The Horror: When Bad Things Happen to Good Candy

Killed them dead
It's been proven in horror movies again and again: when you dabble in mad science, there will be casualties. Suddenly, people and things change into something else...something evil. Case in point: Frankenstein; Night of the Living Dead; Pet Semetary.

It was in this state of mind that we decided to go all mad science on a bowl of Halloween candy. Our weapon of destruction? The Microwave. We microwaved various Halloween treats in 30-second increments to see which would last the longest--and which ones would succumb easily and quickly to their fate, by popping or exploding or bubbling up. Why did we do this? Well, why do we watch horror movies? Morbid curiosity, the desire to feel alive...and you know, for entertainment.

Here are the scary results:

Snickers Pumpkin HeadSnickers Pumpkin head--killed!

Victim 1: The Snickers Halloween Ghost. The Snickers ghost had a frightening little face, which made it all the more apt when his inner filling exploded after about a minute and a half and his smile was cut in half. "Oh" he seems to be saying, "it smarts!". Overall though, this was a pretty clean and quick goodbye.

 

Tootsie RollsTootsie Rolls
Dead Tootsie Rolls

Victim 2: Tootsie Rolls. We chose a grouping of three 'rolls, including lime, the little-seen vanilla and the classic chocolate (that is what it's supposed to be flavored, right?). It took about 2 minutes, but they dissolved into a very satisfying goo, the green portion of which was not unlike the slime we remember from the You Can't Do That On Television days.  

Buzzard NestBuzzard Nest
Six Minutes
Victim 3: Russel Stover Buzzard Nest. We weren't quite sure how this one quite worked as a Halloween treat--we suspect it was leftover Easter chicks' nests repurposed for the fall--but whatever reasoning behind it, the fact is that this candy simply would not die. At two minutes, it had barely broken a sweat; at three, four and five minutes, still nothing. It wasn't until minute six that the chocolate even began to melt away a little bit and the candy coating on the jellybeans began to give way. While we admire how long this candy held on, we're not sure if we would ever wanna put it in our bodies.

DotsDead Dots
Victim 4: Dots. What are the odds that our box would have ONLY red (and one orange) candy? These ones didn't look like they were going to break down, until minute three, when a small popping sound could be heard. Though they were still solid, when prodded with a fork they kind of exploded open into a visually satisfying, viscous jelly-mass. Mmm, undead Dots.

Tootsie PopsKilled them dead
Victim 5: Tootsie Pops. How many licks does it take to get to the center? Who cares, when you can see how many minutes it takes to melt them into oblivion? It took about 2 minutes til the Orange pop was toast. Strangely, the grape pop still seemed to be holding its ground even while the orange candy began bubbling up and turning orange. Freaky.

It's the same as the regular sampler!Sampler ChocolatesDead!Sampler--Dead!

 

 

Victim 6: The Whitman Sampler. The Whitman Halloween sampler is a lie: it's just wrapped in different paper! After discovering this we didn't feel at all bad about melting them. After just about a minute they were starting to sweat--at two minutes, they had all exploded, leaking sweet fillings all over the plate. Rest in Peace, fair Whitman Sampler.

Reese's CupMelty
Victim 7: Reese's Peanut butter Cup. In retrospect, this was the most beautiful demise of all: after about a minute and thirty seconds, the chocolate was beginning to melt; by two and a half minutes, it had melted into an elegant, accordionesque pattern, and still actually looked appetizing. Would you judge if we admitted we split this one and did in fact eat it?
The Final Word: OK, OK, so we should say that we don't necessarily suggest that you try this at home. However, we're glad that we were able to conduct this experiment--now that it's done, we feel as if learned a few things about Halloween Candy--and, you know, the dark parts of our souls. 
Happy Halloween!

 

 

Wednesday
Oct292008

One Smart Cookie: Love at First Bite with Carol's Cookies

Carol's Cookies
Our love affair with Carol's Cookies began in an unlikely way.

It all began when the Starbucks (a local company, you may have heard of them) marketing people sent us a coupon to try out their new Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Not prone to turning away free stuff, we ventured over to the 'Bucks, where we sampled the goods. The hot chocolate has a nice flavor--with the slightest salty aftertaste to balance the sweetness--but it's rich as all get-out, and gave a delirious sugar-high after about 6 of the 12 ounces of a small--er, "Tall". Unable to sit still and draw cupcakes after that jolt, our spy ended up taking a long walk and idly looking at the Whole Foods bakery case: it was there that Cakespy encountered the $2.99, 8-ounce (yes, we weighed it) chocolate-walnut deliciousness made by Chicago-based Carol's Cookies. Clearly, it was time to prolong that sugar high.


Carol's Cookies
Our first thought was that these were similar to the large cookies made by Levain, but upon the first bite it was clear that the resemblance was only visual--their textures and flavors, while both delicious, were very different. Whereas Levain's cookies have a delicious crunchiness to the texture,  Carol's cookies are a dream to cookie-dough lovers: lightly crisped on the exterior, giving way to a so-good-it-tingles soft, gooey interior, with pockets of caramel-y brown sugar, studded--but not saturated--with chocolate chips and nuts. The rich flavor is chased by the slightest bit of nuttiness (perhaps due to their use of wheat flour?) and a baby-bit of saltiness. 
And if they hadn't already won us over with their flavor, the indulgent cookie enhancement ideas on the site sealed the deal--once we saw their suggestion for the Breakfast of Champions--"Break up an Oatmeal Raisin with Pecans Cookie and add your favorite milk for a great way to start your day"--we knew we'd discovered a kindred spirit. 
Intrigued? Carol's Cookies are available at Whole Foods locations all over the US.

 

 

Wednesday
Oct292008

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Fred's Peace of Cake
The internet is a sweet place: here's what we're in love with this week!

Have yourself a peace of cake: invest in Fred's new peace-sign shaped cake pan! Not only will you have a cool-looking cake, but you'll be helping give back: a portion of proceeds will be used to contribute to nonprofit organizations dedicated to peaceful resolution of conflict. It can also be purchased here! (We love Fred!)
Did you enjoy our sweet trompe-l'œil a while back? Well, you'll get a kick out of Feeding Maybelle's complementary post: savory foods made to look like sweets, including meat loaf smothered in mashed potatoes and made to look like Baked Alaska and a savory bean layer cake.
I didn't make these but I wish I had
Coco Cake makes the cutest petits-fours ever. Period.
A retail bakery dedicated to the Black and White Cookie? Yes please. Open your next store in Seattle though!
Not new, but we just discovered (and are alternately fascinated and disgusted by) the Krispy Kreme Burger. Sweet surprise, or heart attack on a plate? Perhaps a little of both?
Did you know that September was National Biscuit Month? Better late than never--we love the cinnamon-and-sugar smothered  variety at Callie's Biscuits from Charleston.
Chefshop.com sells Goat's Milk Dulce de Leche, and offers this sweet legend: 
It is said that Dulce de Leche was first created on a battlefield in Argentina in 1829. The story goes that two opposing generals were to meet to sign a war-ending treaty. While a serving woman was making sweetened milk ("La Lechada") for one of the generals, there was a scuffle and she forgot about the heating milk. When she finally remembered the milk, it had cooked down to a jelly-like consistency, turned a dark brown, and was absolutely delicious. Dulce de Leche was born, and was enjoyed by the brave and very hungry soldiers.

 

Fact or fiction? Either way, a wonderful story about a sweet treat that can't be beat. 

Til next time, stay sweet!

 

 

Monday
Oct272008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Matt and Renato of Baked, Brooklyn NY

Batter Chatter with Baked
(Cakespy Note: Many of the photos in this interview are c/o the Baked website, and were taken by Tina Rupp and Brian Kennedy).


In case you're not familar, this is Baked, a sweet little spot in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

 

Baked exterior

These are Renato and Matt, the adorable owners.


Renato and Matt, Baked
And these are some of their baked goods. 
Coconut cupcakes from Baked
Cake, baked
Malted Cake, Baked

If it's not already clear why we love Baked and its bakers, then please scroll back and review the photos again (and smack yourself while you're at it). Yes, we love Baked--and so it should be no surprise that we also love their brand new cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, which includes recipes for a great variety of their gorgeously decadent, down-home-with-a-gourmet-touch baked goods, as well as the sweet stories behind them. 
Recently we caught up with them when they passed through Seattle on their book tour. Knowing that they've been doing a lot of interviews, we decided to conduct ours a little bit differently--putting them on the spot by having their own baked goods conduct a picto-interview. In a sort of rorschach-type manner, they were presented the following images and asked to react. 
Baked Faceoff
Question one was presented by the Baked Brownie and the Bakedbar.

Matt: Almost always theBaked Brownie--I love the Bakedbar...I mean, they're both our children...but I think the Baked Brownie is a little tougher.
Renato: A little meaner.
Matt: Yes...a little meaner.
Cakespy: So that's it. Sophie's Choice--you win, Baked Brownie.

Baked Good Response: Bakedbar bows head in shame, little coconut bits drooping sadly.

 

Sweet n Salty Cake
Question two addressed the buzz about the bakery case's heartthrob, the Sweet & Salty Cake (dark chocolate cake infused with a salty caramel, caramel chocolate ganache and topped with fleur de sel.).


Renato: It's a classic combination that nobody really thinks about--that sweet and salty combination, with dark chocolate, caramel, fleur de sel, it comes together in this way that makes all other desserts bow down to it.
Matt: It's an obsessive dessert, that's for sure.
Renato: When people bite into it, you see their face just...melt.
Cakespy: And then it's just a journey to see how fast they can cram it into their mouth.

Baked good response: Sweet & Salty says "Please, ladies and gentlemen...there's enough of me to go around!"

 

muffin
Question three addresses a serious cake issue--cupcakes vs. muffins--is the banana espresso chocolate chip muffin in their book really just cake in disguise?


Matt: Oh, absolutely. There's no doubt about it. The best muffin is just a cake in disguise.
Renato: It's kind of like a naked cake--there's just no frosting.

Baked Good response: "I've been living a lie!"

 

Headpiece faceoff
Question four addressed headpieces: whose is awesomer, the meringue topped tart, or their logo-mascot deer?


Renato: My answer is the mascot...we use him everywhere--on tote bags, buttons, tee-shirts...
Matt: Is it possible they could be equally awesome?
Renato: I do love lemon, but I'm gonna go with the stag.
Matt: I'm gonna go equal.
Cakespy: I'll try to be diplomatic here: while the stag's antlers may be slightly more awesome, the lemon meringue is likely more delicious. (Matt and Renato seem to like that).

Baked Good Response: Tart says "What does stag have that I don't?"

 

Tricolor cookiesBaked Tricolor Cookies
Question five tackled the Baked take on the tricolor cookie, which is different from the traditional Italian-flag coloring. It begs the question--would theirs get beat up in Little Italy? 


Renato: Probably.
Matt: Probably.
Renato: Ours are very delicate--they're made in small batches, with a circular cutter--those other ones are mass produced, and so would overpower them by sheer number.
Cakespy: So we'll keep them in their corner of Brooklyn--out of Bensonhurst.
Baked Good Response: "I'm a delicate flower--keep me away from those thug-cookies!"

velvet
Question six was posed by the Red-Hot Velvet cake: "Am I the sexiest cake in the case?"

Matt: Oh yeah. Everyone wants a piece of that red velvet. It's just that deep scarlet red, with a little bit of cinnamon in the buttercream...you just can't go wrong. I think that a lot of red velvet cakes look like the crazy aunt--but this is the sexy nymph.
Renato: If you watch Mad Men...this cake is Joan.
Baked Good Response: "You know you want me."

 

German Chocolate Cake
Chocolate chip cookies, Baked
Question seven came to us from German Chocolate cake, the underdog of the bakery case--always a solid choice, but so rarely the #1 choice. He asks in a winsome manner, "Which one of us would you take with you on a desert island?". We can tell he hopes it's him.

Matt: I don't know if I would take German Chocolate...but I would definitely send him notes back home.
Renato: I'd want more buttercream.
Matt: We're indulgent to a fault.
Renato: I'd put a letter in a bottle in hopes that it would get back to him.
Matt: Yeah, we'd definitely send letters and money.
But what would you choose?
Matt: I'd choose the Baked brownie. I'm a brownie fan, and that's the reason to be for me.
Renato: I'd take the chocolate chip cookie, because I could eat that every day and not get tired of it.

Baked Good Response: Cue the "Debbie Downer" music.

Wanna get Baked? Check out their site at bakednyc.com. We also highly suggest their book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking!

 

 

 

Sunday
Oct262008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy!

Christmas stamp closeup
Economic crisis got you down? Well, we know what will cheer you up--new Holiday Rubber Stamps by Taylored Expressions, featuring Cakespy artwork! Everyone knows that handmade cards are a sweet thing to give and receive, and you just might start feeling better about the economy when surrounded by all this sweetness!! There are three different holiday sets (Season's Sweetings - $21.95; Home Sweet Home - $21.95; Tag Treats - $12.95) , so you can choose your own card or craft-making adventure--or buy all three for a dose of mega-sweetness!
New Christmas Stamps!

New Christmas Rubber Stamps!
Of course, you should also check out the Taylored Expressions blog for ideas and inspirations, and to check out projects that others have made with them!
New Christmas Rubber Stamps!

 

 

Friday
Oct242008

Cake, Carbs and Cream Cheese: A Love Story, Memoir and Iron Cupcake Entry

Bagel and Cream Cheese Cupcake
Letter from the Head Spy

Dear Cakespy Readers,

When people meet me, they're commonly surprised by my small stature. "Do you actually eat cake?" they ask. The answer is yes. Yes, I do--nearly every day. And this month, for an entry to Iron Cupcake, the internet's coolest cupcake competition, it made me reflect upon something that has really shaped my attitude toward eating.

 

When I was in high school, I was overweight--and as a result, always on a diet. Of course, periods of intense deprivation inevitably would end dramatically, with me raiding the freezer for ice cream, cookies, candy, chips...anything. A vicious cycle.

When I was a senior in high school, I came across Geneen Roth's book When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. In it, she recounts how one day she said "enough!" to the yo-yo of constantly starving oneself and asked herself what it was that she really wanted to eat. In her case it was chocolate chip cookies, so she ate them--and only them--every day, every meal, until her body was crying out for a veggie. Over time, what happened was that she learned how to actually listen to her body and respect its desires and needs.
Bagel and Cream cheese cupcake
What was it that I really wanted, I wondered? The answer was immediate, and consisted of two things: cake and bread. And so, for the next several months, I rotated a menu consisting almost completely of bagels with a generous spread of cream cheese, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, and cake--mostly vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting and crumb cake.

Certainly at this point you're saying "but you must have blown up!". Strangely though, it was quite the opposite. I found that once I gave myself permission to eat these things, I was no longer subject to the furtive style of eating wherein I would inevitably cram more cake into my mouth--and after a while, I would sometimes even leave a bite uneaten, if I was no longer hungry (understand that this was a very big deal).
Like Roth, after a few months my body began asking for other things, and I realized that I too had cravings for what had previously tasted of dull suffering in the diet days: carrots, spinach, apples--even brussels sprouts. Paired with moving to New York City for college and subscribing to the walker-friendly lifestyle there, I began to slim down gradually, and in a natural way; I have remained small ever since.

Grilled Cheese Cupcake
While I can't say that I never worry about eating too much sugar, I (as well as the other Cake Gumshoes) live a generally very healthy lifestyle. However, we also do allow ourselves the joy of full-fat, no holds-barred desserts. We have no delusions about these foods being good for our bodies, but we know in our hearts they're good for the soul.
And so in that spirit, here is the Cakespy entry to the Iron Cupcake: Cheese theme. We followed our cake-and-bread theme by making an extra-carby, dense cake, and topped it with a cream cheese frosting--and topped them with our favorite carby icons--including a marzipan "bagel" dipped in poppyseeds and a sweet little "grilled cheese". And so, in closing--Viva la carbohydrate!--and here's to just letting yourself eat cake.

 

Sweetly,
Head Spy Jessie

That's not a cupcake
PS--For those of you who thought there wasn't nearly enough mischief in this post, here's a fun way we messed with some friends (who happen to be vegan): we made "cupcakes" out of a slightly sculpted slice of soy cheese, topped with Tofutti cream cheese "frosting". Muhaha! That cupcake wasn't sweet! Haha, messing with people is funny.

 

 

Wednesday
Oct222008

Bronx Tale: A Day of Sweetness in Morris Park

Bronx Tale: Sweetness in Morris Park
For many, Arthur Avenue is the Italian mecca in the Bronx--affectionately known as the other (some say "true") Little Italy. However, as we recently discovered, it's not the only spot north of Manhattan for sweet Italian goodness. Enter Morris Park, " a roughly rectangular swath of the east Bronx...bordered on the south by Sacket Avenue, on the east by Eastchester Road, on the north by Neill Avenue and on the west by White Plains Road." Now, we'd heard that Morris Park was a good neighborhood for Italian bakeries, but once we saw that even the parking meters were decked out in the colors of the Italian flag (left), we knew it was true. Here's what we enjoyed in Morris Park, the other other Little Italy:

Conti's Pastry, Morris Park, BronxConti's Pastry, Morris Park, BronxMarble Pound Cake, Conti's Pastry, Morris Park, Bronx
Conti's Pastry: Conti's Pastry shop has been churning out sweetness since 1921, and clearly they're doing something right. The smell upon entering this shop was incredible, and the rows of baked goods in the cases were beautifully arranged and appealing. Keeping it simple we opted for the (huge!) marble pound cake. The buttery cake, threaded with bittersweet chocolate, was a dreamy, light and decadent bite all at once. 786 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx; 718-239-9339. Online at contispastryshoppe.com.

 

Doughnut from Enrico's, Morris Park, Bronx
Enrico's: Not far from Conti's, Enrico's Pastry Shop is perhaps a misnomer--while they do have a pastry case, the other items--breads, italian ices, take up a lot more space here. For some reason, the cookies weren't singing to us here--but the filled doughnuts, freshly frosted, were quite good, with no scrimping on the cream filling. 1057 Morris Park Ave., Bronx; (718) 823-7207.


Morris Park Bake shopLemon Cookie, Morris Park Bake ShopLemon Cookie
Morris Park Bake Shop: We've read mixed reviews online, citing that some of the employees aren't very friendly--however, we had a great experience here. The staff was beyond friendly, and more than willing to talk cookie with us. We chose a specialty which is common in New York but rarely seen in Seattle: the anginetti cookie. And oh, was it sugary, tart, sweet, and good. 1007 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY 10462, Morris Park; (718) 892-4968.

 

Morrone Bakery, BronxMorrone Bakery, BronxCannoli in the Bronx

Morrone Bakery: (Cakespy Note: Not to be confused with the late, much-loved Morrone Bakery of East Harlem--though it may be the same family?). They get points off for service (the employee seemed far more interested in text messaging than in talking about the origin of Italian tricolor cookies with us), but really, the attractively displayed and well-lit array of baked goods spoke for themselves. We settled on a cakey tricolor cookie and a few butter cookies. The butter cookies were nicely crumbly; the tricolor cake-cookie held its own--and was certainly a good-looking confection--but wasn't quite as good as the gussied-up version we picked up later the same day at How Sweet It Is in Manhattan. 1946 Williamsbridge Road; Bronx, NY 10461 (718) 828-8111; another location on Arthur Avenue.

 

How to get to Morris Park? We took the 5 train to the Morris Park stop. Check out more about the neighborhood here!

 

 

 

Monday
Oct202008

Cuppie Capers: The Pick-Up Artist

Cuppie Capers: The Pick-up Artist

 

 

 

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