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Wednesday
Apr292009

CakeSpy Undercover: How To Elope to Las Vegas and Still Have Wedding Cake

Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
When our friend Megan (who you may know from her ultra-awesome website, Not Martha) recently decided to run away and get married to her boyfriend of 10+ years, we applauded the decision, but with one major reservation: What about the cake? Well, luckily Megan was on the case, and found out some of the secrets of how to have your cake and eat it too while eloping--because no matter how small the wedding, there should always be cake. Here's the report:

Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not MarthaCakes from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
We ran off to get married in Vegas and I was afraid we were going to miss out on the cake part of the day until somebody tipped me off to the existence of Freed's Bakery. They made wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, Italian pastries and, much to my delight, sell individual slices of wedding-y cake. There are two locations and I was so distracted by our crazy taxi driver that I cannot remember which one we ended up at. We got our slices of cake to go while our taxi driver was nice enough to wait for us and the bakery included plates, forks and napkins for us. I can highly recommend getting the cake to go and finding a romantic spot to eat it. We had dinner plans later so we ate our cake at the Bellagio at a comfy little table in a hallway which overlooked the pool.
Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
There were a few flavors of cake slices to choose from including carrot cake and a chocolate cake but we ended up two slices of vanilla cake with strawberries, one with buttercream frosting and the other with whipped cream frosting. Both were delicious, and I think this is the best buttercream I have tasted so far. I'm not usually a fan of buttercream as I find it alternately too sweet or gritty or slimy, but this was fantastic. It was whipped light and had a nice balance of butter and sweetness.
Eclair from Jean Phillipe in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
We ate our cake near the Jean-Philippe pastry shop in the Bellagio which is amazing. There is a floor to ceiling chocolate fountain that has dark, milk and white chocolate cascading down from pool to pool. (Sadly, it's behind some clear plastic walls so you cannot sneak a taste.) We returned later in the week to try something from Jean-Philippe and split an incredible vanilla and hazelnut eclaire. The plastic utensils at Jean-Philippe had a reflective silver finish which was a lovely touch.


Custom item for a friend
Congratulations again to Megan and Scott!

 

Wednesday
Apr292009

Taking it to the Sweet: A Renegade Cake Party in Seattle

Renegade Cake Party!
At CakeSpy, the only thing that rivals the sweetness of the treats we eat is the awesome people we get to meet--bakers, artists, and sugar enthuiasts of all sorts. And I can say that without a doubt, one of the coolest people I've met in recent memory is Tuey. She contacted us a while back after reading about the Cupcake Street Art project--as it turns out, she's been making the world sweeter slowly but surely with monthly cake parties, mostly in Portland, at which she makes a cake and shares it with friends in the park--new friends and good times always ensued.

So when she asked if we'd be interesting in having a cake party here in Seattle, the answer was swift and decisive: YES.
Cake MakingCake
And so she came up from Portland, and the CakeSpy kitchen was employed to make a plethora of goodies. First on the roster was carrot cake--there were two--in which various goodies were hidden (including a mini Cuppie figurine!), and then we decorated them to look like mountains of sweetness, garnished with little figurines from Archie McPhee.


Hidden in the Cake!Cake!

 

Next came several batches of quite possibly the best brownies known to man, using the recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.
Brownies!

And then they were made even more awesome by the addition of rosemary whipped cream.
Brownies with Rosemary Whipped Cream

With all of this sweetness in tow, we headed over to Cal Anderson Park on a perfectly sunny Sunday.

And we brought Danny's band, Exohxo, with us--because what party would be complete without music?
Cake Party

As the band began to play, people began to drift over--and from then on, we just let the good times flow. Much cake was consumed, many lucky people received free CakeSpy buttons, and we made a lot of sweet new friends.


Cake Party!Cake Party!
At one point a police officer began to walk over as if to stop the band--but as we have been told by many eyewitnesses, as soon as he began to approach it seemed as if he had thought better of it--after all, we weren't hurting anyone.
Cake!Cake

 

At the end of the day, after taking Tuey back to the train for her journey home, we were all exhausted, but happily so: after all, we had all spent the day making the world a much sweeter place.


Renegade Cake Party

 

If you're interested, someone posted videos of the band playing too! Check 'em out here!

Tuesday
Apr282009

Some Like it Hot: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Chocolate Scorcher Cupcake

Chocolate Scorcher (Photo used with permission from Cupcake Royale)
It's not summer yet, but Cupcake Royale is bringing on the heat with their new flavor of the month for May: the Chocolate Scorcher. Direct from the source, here's the lowdown:

Fiery ghost chiles. Theo chocolate. Fragrant spices. Dark chocolate cake. Rich cream cheese.

These tantalizing ingredients combine to form our newest Cupcake of the Month in all it's magnificent, spicy glory. We're thrilled to partner with our local pals Theo Chocolate to bring you a taste of the world's hottest chile, the Ghost chile. Found primarily in the Assam region of India, we're bringing it to you in combination with warm Indian spices, chocolate cream cheese frosting, and our dark chocolate cake Royale.

The Chocolate Scorcher will be available for the entire month of May at all three locations; for more information, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

 

Tuesday
Apr282009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Mother May I...enjoy some sweets? It's almost Mother's Day, so here's a baker's dozen of sweet ideas for Mom (and maybe you, too).

Show mom you love her by making up a batch of these gooey and delicious cinnamon rolls: like a warm, sugary hug.

Bake & Destroy's online shop has a plethora of aggressively sweet (and awesome) gift ideas, ranging from cupcake toppers to cool stickers and even hoodies and tees.


Looking for sweet but calorie-free? Soapylove has the cutest popsicle-themed soaps, like, ever!

The Dough-Nu-Matic Personal Doughnut Maker: buy one for mom, one for yourself.

Flowers may be cliche, but flower pot cakes? Totally sweet!


Speaking of sweet, how about these adorable confectionery-inspired wall decals?

Who says chocolates are just for Valentine's Day? With gorgeous touches like gold finishing and creative flavors like beer and bacon, Socola Chocolates are a perfect pick at any time of year.


Speaking of chocolates, L.A. Burdick chocolates (and cakes!) are always an appropriate gift--and this Mother's Day, you might even win a prize.

Melt mom's heart with these delicious tarts, from Daphne Baking.

For the budding writer, an online food writing course centered on how to write a cookbook proposal would be a seriously sweet choice!

You, mom, and everyone in your family would get some joy from this sky-high rhubarb crumb cake.

Of course, if you're in Portland, you still have a last-minute chance to pick up CakeSpy artwork on Mother's Day at Crafty Wonderland!

If you're in Seattle, check out the upcoming Passages Northwest fundraiser and auction on May 3. Not only is it a great cause, but here's just one of the things you can bid on:

Baker for a Day!
If you love pastry, cooking, and are curious about the life of a baker then this auction item is for you! Join Dan Sheehan, one of Grand Central Bakery’s pastry professionals for a morning of food and fun. You are the baker! You’ll be immersed in the smells, sights, and feelings of a bakery, produce beautiful product, and get baking tips from one of Seattle’s best bakeries. Plus, you’ll get to take home your hard earned work in the form of a dozen fresh pastries.

Sunday
Apr262009

A Rosette By Any Other Name: Getting To Know a Sweet Nordic Treat

Rosette, Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA
Last week while trolling the Seattle suburbs for baked goods, we came across one that completely caught our fancy at the Hillcrest Bakery in Bothell: the rosette. Displayed in sweet little rows in two shapes (rosettes and butterflies), these cakes were available plain or garnished simply and prettily with powdered sugar.

Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WAHillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA
Dainty yet substantial would be the perfect way to describe these treats, which are actually hollow (see below); while they are light and delicate, they do get a substantive and delicious boost from deep-frying, which gives them a flavor something like funnel cake, but with a tantalizingly crunchy texture.
Rosette, Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA

So what's their story? Well, according to Epicurious.com's food dictionary, the rosette is:

A small fried pastry made by dipping a rosette iron first into a thin, sweet batter, then into hot deep fat. When the mixture turns crisp and golden brown, the rosette is removed from the iron and drained on paper towels. While warm, these pastries are usually sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. A nonsweetened batter may be used to make savory rosettes, which can be sprinkled with salt and served as an appetizer. A rosette iron has a long metal rod with a heatproof handle at one end and various decorative shapes (such as a butterfly, heart, star or flower) that can be attached to the other end. 

They are also cousin (that is to say, there are attachments that can be added to the same handle to make them--see left) to a sort of open-ended pastry family called timbale, which  Epicurious.com tells us is
a pastry shell made by dipping a timbale iron first into a batter, then into deep, hot fat. When the crisp pastry is pushed off the iron and cooled, it can be filled with a sweet or savory mixture.
The rosette cookies, it seems, are typically served in Sweden as a Christmas cookie; however, as discovered on a Rosette wikipedia blurb, in Finland they "may be served at May Day (Vappu) celebrations as an alternative to funnel cakes (tippaleipä)." Clearly they've got the right idea--these little treats are definitely too good to hide away most of the year.
Hillcrest Bakery, Bothell, WA
If you're not near a Swedish bakery (poor thing!) don't despair quite yet--you can make your own at home. The only catch is that they do require specific equipment--those signature delicate shapes are, after all, the result of special molds; however, they're not outrageously priced (here's one set for $23!). However, beyond that they don't seem too difficult to make; according to Diana's Desserts, which also has recipes,  "The trick to making good rosettes is to preheat the iron in the oil, and to be sure not to dip the iron so deeply into the batter that it coats the top of the iron."
Of course, if all that seems too hard, you could always hop the next plane to Sweden. We hear airfare's good right now.

 

Wednesday
Apr222009

Grilled Cheesecake: A Sweet Take on a Classic Sandwich

Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich
With all this talk about the Grilled Cheese Invitational and all of the recipes featured on Good Food lately, I've had grilled cheese on the brain.

Grilled cheese is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. After all, it is sliced bread--with the added awesomeness of cheese and butter. Can it really get any better?
After being hit with what can only be described as a stroke of pure genius, I can definitively say yes. It can get better.
Say hello to the grilled cheesecake sandwich.

Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich
"Is this serious?" you may be asking yourself. 
Oh yes. Made out of slivered cheesecake layered between slices of buttered pound cake, this sandwich is serious all right--as serious as a heart attack. 
Here's how it's done.
Grilled Cheesecake

Buttering the Pound CakeCheesecake
  • 2 slices pound cake (any flavor you like), buttered on the outside
  • 1 small slice cheesecake, slivered

Assembling the Sandwich
1. Assemble the sandwich as follows: one slice pound cake (butter side down), as many slivers as you'd like of cheesecake (we included bits from the crust for added crunch), and the other slice of pound cake, buttered side up. 
Hitting the pan
2. Put in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Flipping it!
3. After about a minute and a half, gently lift with a spatula to see if it is lightly browned on the bottom. If it is browned to your liking, go ahead and flip; if not, let it brown just a little longer.
Bubbly and buttery
4. Once browned to your liking, carefully flip the sandwich. Press down on the top with the spatula to make everything kind of meld. The second side will brown faster than the first one did, so keep a close eye on it.
5. Remove from heat, turn off the heat, slice in half (if you're into that), and enjoy.
Serving note: For those of you who simply can't eat a grilled cheese without soup, I think a bowl of slightly melty strawberry ice cream would complement it quite nicely.

 

Wednesday
Apr222009

Sweet Days and Starry Nights: Delicious Cake in Kirkland, WA

Starry Nights Cake Tasting
When it comes to wedding or fancy occasion cakes, I am sad to admit that I usually don't have very high hopes. Often, the look trumps the taste, which can range from oversweet to too-dry to simply flavorless. This assessment is based on having tasted quite a few wedding cakes in my time--including the five at my own wedding (no, really).

So when the owners of Starry Nights Catering & Events in Kirkland recently invited me over to their commercial kitchen to try out their cakes, I have to confess to feeling slightly wary. They assured me their cake was the best, but doesn't everyone say that? No way were we going to miss the chance to see for ourselves, so Cake Gumshoe Kris and I headed over.

Starry Nights Catering, Kirkland
Starry Nights' exterior is fairly nondescript, but inside there is a reception area that is decorated in deep, dramatic blues--inspired by the famous painting which provides the company's namesake. In the back, they have a large commercial kitchen in which we were greeted by a sweet, sugary aroma, and saw cake decorator Melanie working on cakes. So far so good.
Melanie working on a cake

 

They do cakes by custom order--mostly wedding cakes, but they also do party or occasion cakes too. In fact, they were working on the pretty Mother's Day Cake shown at the top of the post when we arrived.

Tray of cakes from the tasting
After looking around a bit, Matt brought out the cakes. He presented us with a plate of several different options, including their two bestsellers, the Elegant Lemon (handmade lemon mousse filling, vanilla chiffon cake, raspberry jam, topped with lemon curd) and the Signature Chocolate Truffle Cake (chocolate fudge cake layered with bittersweet Belgian chocolate mousse), along with an assortment of other flavors like the Sevilla (a creamsicle-esque confection) and the surprisingly not-too-Christmas-y North Pole (a peppermint bark-inspired cake with alternating chocolate and vanilla chiffon layers, filled with white chocolate peppermint Bavarian cream mousse and candy cane chunks).

 

We both tried a tentative forkful. I tried the Elegant Lemon first. Upon taking a bite, the lemon taste hit almost immediately, yet it was not overpowering--neither too sweet nor too tart. The creaminess of the frosting and added hint of raspberry were a perfect complement; the butter dissolved perfectly into the cake as it melted in your mouth. Sweet thoughts swirled in my mind, finally settling on a buttercreamy, sweet conclusion: this is good cake. Looking at Kris, I could tell she agreed. Yum.
Yum
We sampled the rest of the flavors, and found that while certainly we each had flavor preferences, it was clear that each and every one of them had a well balanced, not too-sweet flavor, and incredibly moist cake.

So what's their secret? 
Cake decorating stuffAt work making the cakes!
In my opinion, the not-so-secret ingredient to their success is that they think of their cakes as things that will be eaten, and not just as centerpieces--and therefore are committed to making cakes that taste good. They tend to shy away from super-sweet fondant and gumpaste in favor of melt-in-your-mouth, subtly sweet fillings and luxuriously buttery frostings; they use quality ingredients and keep things fresh (except in rare cases, cakes are never frozen, and are baked to order). The flavors, while sophisticated, are not complex to the point of distraction. 
They're crowd pleasers too; we got to take home a cake, which we shared with friends, who all but licked the plates clean.

Cake from Starry Nights Catering, Kirkland
As for the cake's moistness, though? A simple sugar solution guarantees that the cake will have an achingly tender crumb when it is served.
Overall, we were most impressed with Starry Nights' cakes--we'd absolutely recommend them for weddings and events.

 

For more information or to schedule a cake consultation, visit starrynightscatering.com. Check out their flavors here; you can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Wednesday
Apr222009

Save the Date: CakeSpy Art Show at Trophy Cupcakes!

Cuppie comes to Trophy!
Ready for some serious sweetness, people?

Well, save the date (and your money, and your appetite) for an upcoming art show of the sweetest proportions as CakeSpy teams up with Seattle's own Trophy Cupcakes! The show will be up all month, but if you want free cupcakes, you'd better come to the opening reception!


Cupcakes at Trophy Cupcakes
Here are the details:
Date: Wednesday, May 6th (the Wallingford Art Walk)
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Location: Trophy Cupcakes, 1815 N. 45th Street, Seattle (at the Wallingford Center); online at trophycupcakes.com
Etc: This is an open house reception as part of the Wallingford Art Walk. Children are welcome. There will be a limited supply of free cupcakes.

Hipster Cuppies at Linda's, Capitol Hill, Seattle
About the Show: The theme of the show is "Cuppie Takes Seattle", and it will feature over 50 original paintings featuring Cuppie the cupcake mugging in front of all sorts of Seattle landmarks! From cuppies hanging out by famous icons like the Space Needle to more "locals-only" subject matter like hipster cupcakes hanging out in Capitol Hill or cupcakes admiring the Fremont Troll, there's bound to be enough sweetness to go around. 

 

Monday
Apr202009

Sweet Art: Impossibility for Illustration Friday

Impossibility
You may think that David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop is a book of recipes, but you would be incorrect. You know what it is? Ice Cream Pornography. And it is this idea that inspired an ice cream red light district illustration for this week's Illustration Friday, where the theme is Impossibility. After all, how is it that a dessert that is so cold can inspire such heated desire? Naturellement, Monsieur Lebovitz's book makes a cameo in the piece.

Monday
Apr202009

Ice-ing on the Cake: A Different Kind of Ice Cream Cupcake

Filled Cupcake
Recently, I was posed with an interesting reader inquiry: "Have you ever made cupcakes using ice cream instead of milk in the recipe?"

Well, no. The thought had never actually occurred. But you can bet that shortly after being asked, I found myself in the freezer aisle of the local grocery.

So what happens when you make cupcakes with ice cream?


First, I chose a cupcake recipe by Amy Sedaris. It's copied below as it appeared in her wonderful book, but "milk" is replaced with "ice cream" in the appropriate spots.

 

 

Amy Sedaris's Vanilla Cupcakes Made with Ice Cream
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups slightly melted (still cold) ice cream (this was milk in the original recipe)
Turn oven on to 375 degrees F.

 

Put butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in sugar and beat well. Add 2 eggs. I like to crack the eggs on the side of the bowl while it is moving, which can be really stupid. I like to take chances. Yes, I have had to throw away my batter because I lost eggshells in the mix. Yes, it was a waste of food and yes, I know how expensive butter is, but what can I say? I'm a daredevil. Mix well. Add: vanilla, baking powder, salt, flour, and ice cream. Beat until it looks like it is supposed to and pour into individual baking cups, until they are about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Should produce 24 cupcakes; I get 18 because I'm doing something wrong, although my cupcakes were voted second best in the city by New York Magazine.

--------------------------------

Ice cream cupcakes baking

When the cupcakes were baking, they looked just fine--they were rising nicely, and if anything the only thing that clued us in that they were different was a slight glossiness to the texture of the top of the cake.

Looking good...
When they came out of the oven, they still looked good...

Fallen cupcakes
But then something started to happen--they began to slowly collapse, like fallen souffles. Oh no!

When cooled, we took them out of the silicone baking liners, and found that not only were they fallen, but these cakes were seriously dense. They seemed to weigh more than a cupcake should, and had a texture that was more like a scone or cakey cookie than a light and fluffy cupcake.
Fallen cupcake

Luckily, our friend Dan the Baker had just given us a jar of delicious bourbon caramel sauce (what's in it we have no idea, but it is good), and so instead of frosting the cupcakes, we filled each indentation with a generous spoonful. This seemed appropriate in more ways than one--not only did it cleverly disguise the fallen cupcakes, but it tasted a little like an ice cream topping. A nice, thick hot fudge sauce or butterscotch sauce would probably work just as well.

Filled Cupcake
The ice cream cupcakes were pretty good as a baked good, but it was hard to actually think of them as cupcakes, since they had such a different texture and density--it's almost as if they needed their own category, resting somewhere between cookie and cake. Replacing the milk with ice cream definitely does change the character of the finished product (don't ask me why in terms of chemistry, please--I went to art school)--so proceed with caution!

 

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