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Tuesday
Jan132009

The Icing on the Cake: An Exploration of Icing, Frosting and Even Glaze

Glaze, Icing, Frosting
There are times in life when we find ourselves confronted with serious questions; in seeking answers, we might just have a defining moment or two. This is one such time: we are now going to discuss the question of icing versus frosting

Is there a difference between the two, and if so, what? Ingredients? Consistency? Or are the terms interchangeable, as in the way some say "pop" and some say "soda"? And going even further...what is a glaze? Here's what we found:
Our first stop, naturally, was the The International Dictionary of Desserts, Pastries, and Confections, which, while noting that there are many different types, ultimately tells us "the term icing is interchangeable with the term frosting". For shame, sweet dictionary--certainly it can't be that simple, can it? 
And so we moved on toNancy Rommelmann's fantastic book Everything You Pretend to Know about Food and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask, which (thank god!) has a whole section entitled "What's the difference between frosting and icing?". The section reads:
Often used interchangeably, frosting and icing are in fact different. Frosting tends to be thick and gooey, with a cream or butter base. It is slathered on cake layers, or applied in fluffy waves. Icing is thinner, sometimes with simply a sugar base, and creates a glaze on cakes and pastry, such as the kind you find on coffee cakes.

This idea is backed up in a Williams-Sonoma release simply entitled Cakes, in which it is noted that icing is "used to coat and/ or fill a cake...similar to a frosting, and the terms are frequently used interchangeably"...but ultimately "an icing is generally thinner and glossier" than frosting, which is "a thick, fluffy mixture, such as buttercream, used to coat the outside of a cake." Of course, the book even goes on to even differentiate a glaze from the two as being "thinner than either a frosting or an icing"...which makes the slope all the more slippery--but does further define the difference between these sweet toppings.

OK--so to review, with pictures:


Cinnamon Roll, Nielsen's, Queen Anne, SeattleTop Pot Doughnut (Purchased at Top Pot Belltown)
GLAZE: Thinnest type of sugar topping, often made with just a sugar base. Usually translucent. Common on cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, and heavier cakes like pound cake that don't need a lot more on top.
Bittersweet, ChicagoMini Flower CakesLe Fournil, SeattleChaos Theory, Chicago
ICING: Thicker than a glaze but not always opaque. Can be made with a sugar base or may also include egg whites, butter or cream. The term "icing" is often used interchangeably with "frosting". Coffee cakes and cookies are often "iced" rather than "frosted".
Magnolia Bakery CupcakesCloseup of Wedding Cake from Layers in Monterey, CAFrostingFrosting the Cupcake
FROSTING: The thickest of the lot, opaque and fluffy; think buttercream frosting on a birthday cake.

Of course, regardless of a picture chart, what became clear during our research is that while there are some ways to discern whether it may be a glaze, icing or frosting atop your sweet treat, it really is a fine line, and one ought not worry unduly about the difference. Because really, whether it's the sweet glaze on your doughnut, the fluffy frosting on your cupcake or the icing on the cake--it's the taste that counts.

 

Tuesday
Jan132009

1.13.09: Baked Good of the Day: Carrot Cake at Mr. Spot's Chai House

Carrot Cake from Mr Spots Chai House
Confession: we'd never even been to Mr. Spot's Chai House until this week. But after a disappointing trip to Cupcake Royale (disappointing because they were out of cupcakes for the day!), we decided to give the Chai House a try. And we found a most gorgeous-looking carrot cake there.

Happily, this carrot cake was delicious as well: exceedingly dense and moist, with fluffy frosting an inch thick all around. Oh yes. Many of the baked goods in their case were not made in-house (Top Pot Doughnuts, etc), so we don't know if the cake was made on the premises (the employee wasn't sure), but regardless of its origins, we're happy to have come across this fine specimen of carrot cake.

Carrot Cake, found at Mr. Spot's Chai House.

Monday
Jan122009

1.12.09: Baked Good of the Day: The White Chocolate Macadamia Brownie by Finale's Gourmet Desserts

Macadamia caramel chocolate crumb bar, Seattle
In general I'm not a huge fan of Tully's Coffee, but I have a weakness for the bar cookies made by one of their vendors, Seattle wholesaler Finale's Gourmet Desserts. And one of my favorites is their White Chocolate Macadamia brownie.

Now, the name "brownie" is somewhat misleading, because it really is more cookie-like, comprised of Macadamia nut shortbread with white chocolate and caramel in-between. But names aside, it's ridiculously rich, and exceedingly addictive, what with its crunchy top layer, soft midsection and perfect balance of sweet-and-salty; I still don't care much for Tully's coffee, but I will travel for these bars.

White Chocolate Macadamia brownie by Finale's Gourmet Desserts; they can be found at various Tully's locations throughout the city.

Sunday
Jan112009

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Ococoa Chocolate Peanut butter cups
Need advice on how to burn dessert with panache? Find it here.

Martino's Bakery is famous for their tea cakes, but to us they look like--gasp!--square cupcakes! (via Jess Loves Cupcakes)

Lenôtre est mort--we loved learning more about his life and contributions to the world of pastry.

Gale Gand tells us where to eat sweets in Chicago--but lucky us, we'd already been tipped off about a lot of these places by Natalie of Bake and Destroy and Claudia of Babushka Bakery!

We're impressed by the eclectic array of shippable desserts (including baklava, rice pudding, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes!) we found at foodsoftheweb.com.

These artistan, handmade butter cups (not just peanut butter!) by Ococoa look deliciously indulgent. Pictured top.

 

Did you know that for just $40 you can become a lifetime member of the Pie Council? (Did you even know there was a pie council?) Membership benefits include access to the Pie Times newsletter, manufacturer coupons/offers and discounted entry fees for the Pie Baking Championships.

 

Friday
Jan092009

1.9.09: Baked Good of the Day: Caramel Turtle Brownie from Macrina Bakery, Seattle

Caramel Turtle Brownie from Macrina
I don't know about you, but I don't care for light, cakey brownies--for me, the denser, fudgier, and heavier, the better.

Macrina's Caramel turtle brownies are my kind of brownie. Weighing roughly the same amount as a brick, they're so dense, moist, and fudgy that it's almost impossible to finish the entire thing in one sitting. Almost.

While I generally don't think that toppings or flavorings are necessary with brownies, the caramel-nut combo is a nice complement: the caramel is smooth and slightly salty, providing a nice subtle counter-flavor to the chocolate; the pecans give it a nice added texture.

Of course, after eating one of these brownies you might have to just sit down and rest for a while, but oh, are they worth it.

The Caramel Turtle Brownie is $3.50 at Macrina Bakery.

Thursday
Jan082009

1.8.09: Baked Good of the Day: Galette des Rois at Le Panier, Seattle

Posterior view of the Galette des rois
Christmas may be over, but the Epiphany brought on a whole new season of cakes and goodies, starting with the tres-Frenchie galette des rois. After several attempts to locate one in Seattle (no luck at Belle Epicurean or Le Fournil), I finally found it at Le Panier in the Pike Place Market; and this one was certainly worth the wait.

The galette des rois, while part of the same family tree as the New Orleans King Cake, is not the same--as baking expert Dorie Greenspan so eloquently put it,


"The galette is really very simple, if a little time-consuming to make--it's an almond and pastry-cream filling sandwiched by two rounds of (all-butter) puff pastry dough--but so, so good."

 

Like the King Cake, one of the most important aspects of the galette des rois is the prized porcelain figurine to be found hidden in one of the slices. Luckily enough, I arrived at Le Panier to receive the piece with the little "feve".
Feve from the galette des rois

But prizes aside, this cake is definitely a treat--while it doesn't have the same visual appeal as a frosted cake, it's buttery, flaky, and rich enough to more than make up for it. Or as they say in French, le yum.

Galette des rois, available for a limited time only at Le Panier.

Wednesday
Jan072009

Going Dutch: Say Hallo to the Jan Hagel

Jan Hagel cookies
What can we say about our love affair with Jan Hagel? It just sort of...happened. OK, truth be told, we'd just poured 2 cups of flour into a bowl to make banana bread and realized we had no bananas. After scouring our recipe books for another recipe that might start out with the same amount of flour, we decided to try the Jan Hagel from our beloved Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

As Betty informs us, the Jan Hagel is a cooky of Dutch origin; as the internet informs us, they are also sometimes known as Hollanders, Janhagels, Dutch Almond Cookies, Dutch Hail or Sugar Hail Cookies.
But what may have started out as a fluke has blossomed into an obsession: these cookies, which are thin, crunchy, and very buttery, are also really, really good. But what gives with the name?
As we found out through one site, A Cookie for Every Country, Jan Hagel (yan HAH-ghle) "is Dutch for ‘an unruly mob’ or ‘rabble,’ with hagel in the sense of ‘multitude’ or ‘swarm.’ In the cookie, the rock sugar resembles hail." Another site backs up the hail theory, citing that Jan Hagel is merely translated "John Hail". The recipe we used didn't call for rock sugar, but maybe those little bits of nut could stand in for the "hail"? Also, though we can't find a reason behind it, there is another legend which was interesting, which is that "Jan Hagels are fed to homesick little children in heaven upon their arrival at St. Peter's Gate".
Who could blame the little lost souls--we wouldn't want to leave these cookies behind, either.

Jan Hagel Cookies
Here's the recipe:
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts (we used a mix of walnuts, almonds and cashews--it was delicious)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan, 15 x 10 x 1 or so. Mix butter, sugar and egg yolk. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Blend flour and cinnamon; stir into butter mixture. Pat into pan. Beat water and egg white until frothy; brush over dough; sprinkle with nuts. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until very lightly browned. Cut immediately into finger-like strips. Makes 50 3 x 1 inch strips.

 

Wednesday
Jan072009

1.7.09: Baked Good of the Day: Chocolate Tart from Le Fournil

Chocolate Tart from Le Fournil
Initially, I headed over to Le Fournil hoping for a galette des rois, the traditional French cake served on the Epiphany and for several days after. Alas, not a galette was to be found at this traditional French bakery, but it wasn't a complete wash--I picked up one of their gorgeous-looking chocolate tarts.

The chocolate tart (or, if you're feeling Frenchy, the tarte au chocolat) is comprised of a brebaked sweet pastry shell filled with the most divinely rich chocolate ganache--this stuff is so dense and decadent that it will leave teeth-or-tine marks when broken apart--just like the inside of a decidedly rich truffle. I'd like to say it's suitable for sharing, but I know that personally, I'd rather not, instead opting to eat this in lieu of dinner. How could it be wrong when it feels so right?

The Tarte au chocolat is available at Le Fournil.

Tuesday
Jan062009

Cakespy Undercover: Mr. Cupcakes in Clifton, NJ

Recently, Cake Gumshoe Steph made a delicious new bakery discovery: Mr. Cupcakes of Clifton, NJ. In a world overrun by cupcake bakeries, what sets Mr. Cupcake apart? After sampling a variety of their flavors, here's what she had to say about their cupcakes:

The french toast was my favorite....like a light cinnamony coffee cake with vanilla icing in flavor. I also loved the hot chocolate, red velvet, peanut butterful chocolate, apple krisp & snowball fight. I didn't try the oreo cheesecake or triple chocolate but others said they were insanely good. All of the cakes & were so moist & not heavy at all-some had "tall" fluffy frosting & others had icing that hardens a bit. If you have not been yet, you absolutely have to go next time you are in NJ.....it was crazy good.


Crazy good sounds like high praise to us--looks like New Jersey just got a little bit tastier! 

Mr. Cupcakes is located at 1216 Van Houten Ave., Clifton, NJ; you can find them online at mrcupcakes.com.

 

Tuesday
Jan062009

1.6.09: Baked Good of the Day: Pink Feather Boa Doughnut from Top Pot, Seattle

Pink Feather Boa Doughnut from Top Pot
Top Pot Doughnuts can be a polarizing subject for Seattleites, but I am definitely a fan of their doughnuts, especially the Pink Feather Boa Variety.

The Feather Boa is a dense cake doughnut which is available with pink (vanilla?) or chocolate icing, topped with a generous handful of coconut shreds. It's a happy doughnut to look at, and with a lovely three-part sensation as you bite into it (crunchy coconut, soft frosting, dense cake), a happy one to eat as well.

The Feather Boa, available at all Top Pot locations; for more info, visit toppotdoughnuts.com.

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