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Wednesday
Jun102009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Stephanie of Cake Fixation, Redmond WA

Sushi cake
When Stephanie Campbell emailed to tell us about her cool custom cake business, Cake Fixation, based in Redmond, we knew an interview was in order. Not only does the business name speak clearly to us, but the cakes are stunning, from delicately decorated cupcakes to gorgeous trompe l'oeil confections resembling everything from stuffed animals to sushi (above). Here's a summation of some sweet talk with Stephanie:

CakeSpy: Tell us about your cake fixation. How did it lead to starting a business?
Stephanie Campbell: Being born in and spending most of my life in Dallas, TX my fixation with sugar art didn’t start out with cakes. I was originally drawn into decorating when I made a gingerbread house for a local competition. I ended up taking 2nd place and made it my goal to win the following year.

In preparing for the next gingerbread competition I discovered a local cake decorating supply store where I noticed an upcoming “Raggedy Ann Cake” course being taught by Bronwen Weber. I registered and took the class and have been hooked on cake decorating ever since.
When my husband took a new position within his company and was relocated to Redmond, WA I focused my attention on turning my fixation into a business.

Goddard Graduation
CS: You specialize in custom cakes, but not wedding cakes. Why not?
SC: In addition to my cake decorating duties I am a proud mother of three beautiful children – two of which are toddler twins. Due to family obligations I keep a tight limit on the number of weekly cake orders I accept. Once the twins have graduated to elementary school I plan on expanded my business to include wedding cakes.

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cake?
SC: The popularity of cake decorating TV shows has raised the bar in terms of what people want in a decorated cake. Instead of buttercream cakes with roses, customers want 3D sculpted cakes and funky tiered cakes. The most important aspect of making a great cake is recreating the mental vision the customer is looking for, whether that vision is a cake that looks like a sushi board or a baseball cap.

CS: Do you feel as if baking professionally has changed your attitude toward dessert? If so, how?
SC: Professional baking hasn’t changed my attitude specifically towards desserts but it has changed my attitude in how I view everyday items. I now find myself always thinking of how I can turn something into cake. I will often wonder what would this look like as a sculpted cake or how would I recreate that out of fondant?

CS: How would you describe the dessert scene in Redmond?
SC: Having lived in Redmond for just about a year now I can’t profess to being an area dessert scene expert. However, it does seem that the local (Seattle and the Eastside) cupcake competition is very high while the selection of custom cake bakeries is a little thinner.

CS: How would you rate the popularity of cupcakes vs. whole cakes right now?
SC: Cupcakes are definitely the “in thing” right now and customer demand has forced me to include them in my own repertoire. I do find that cupcakes are usually ordered to compliment an over the top cake centerpiece, instead of on their own. Whether cupcakes will continue to be a high demand item or are just a passing fad I do not know, for now I am enjoying the dreamy goodness of my own southern red velvet cupcake recipe.

Madagascar wm
CS: What has you excited right now?
SC: The idea of expanding my business to the volume that would warrant investing in a fondant sheeter has me giddy. As my hands and wrists scream out in pain after a long day of manipulating fondant I dream of my shining metal savior pressing fondant sheets to perfection.

Want more? If you're ready to schedule a consulation, visit cakefixation.com.

Wednesday
Jun032009

Faking It: How To Pass Off Store Bought Baked Goods as Your Own

How to fake it.
Let's be honest: there are times when you're just not feeling it. Don't worry: we're all tempted to fake it sometimes.

There are many reasons why you might want to pass off purchased baked goods as your own. Maybe you want people to think you're a better baker than you really are. Maybe you're pressed for time or ingredients. Maybe--let's be honest-- you're just plain lazy.

But don't despair. Whatever your reason may be, here are a few tips for faking it, dessert-style: by slightly editing store or bakery-bought baked goods to make them seem homemade. They're quick and easy, and bound to win you accolades--whether you deserve them or not, you lazy jerk.


Make them imperfect!Fry, baby!
Cookies: One of the major challenges with store-bought cookies is that they are so--pardon the pun--cookie-cutter perfect. The solution? Put a pat of butter in a frying pan on medium heat. While it is heating up, take a lightly serrated knife (I used the mini one on the side of a waiter's corkscrew) and gently razor the edges of the cookie to create slight imperfections. Once the butter is lightly bubbling, place cookies in the pan. Leave them in just long enough so that they begin to brown on the bottom. Remove from heat, and with your (very clean) hand, slightly dent the tops and sides to create a slightly "homemade" look. The genius of this method is actually twofold: not only do you get a more homemade look, but the frying also gives them a buttery, freshly-baked aroma.

Shape themThis homemade cookie has a secret 
CakeSpy Note: Depending on the type of cookie, adding frosting on top is also a great added touch. Top with shredded coconut, sprinkles, or whatever you'd like for added authenticity.

Store bought sweet potato piePressing down on crust
Whipped creamSweet Potato Pie
Pie: The problem with a store-bought pie can often be its too-perfect crust and perfectly even filling. What to do? First, you'll want to preheat the oven (I used 300 degrees). Once warm, place the pie in the oven for a short period of time--just about five minutes--until the crust has gotten a little bit soft. Once out of the oven, use the bottom side of a spoon to gently press down on the crust to create slight imperfections. As for that perfect topping? Cover it up! A generous topping of whipped cream, spread in a very homey, imperfect manner and then topped with cinnamon or nutmeg, gives a nice homemade touch.

Creamsicle CupcakesCupcakes
Dip it!Fake it!

 

Cupcakes: The problem with cupcakes that you buy at the supermarket or at a bakery is that they are decorated just a little too beautifully. Though it might hurt you to do it, you're going to have to take them under the knife. Make sure the frosting is soft and doesn't have any crisp edges first, as they will cause weird little chunks in your reconstituted frosting. Using a butter knife, gently redistribute the frosting to look a little more homespun. To look like you tried to do something fancy at home, try dipping the sides into sprinkles. Just like homemade...sort of.

OK, so the ethics of these methods may be...questionable. But hey, it sure is fun to see if you can fool people. And nobody loses when you've got sweet treats!

 

 

CakeSpy Note: Should any of these treats arouse too much curiosity and/or inquiries about recipes, here are suggestions to nip any follow-up questions in the bud:
  • "It's my grandmother's secret recipe!"
  • "I found it on a blog...but forgot to bookmark it!"
  • "I'll email you the recipe!" (this said in a sort of "Check's in the mail", offhanded sort of way)
  • "That's weird--they do taste just like that bakery's (insert baked good here)! Excuse me." (beat a hasty exit)

 

Wednesday
Jun032009

City Sweetness: Bakery Suggestions in New York City?

Hipster Cupcakes hanging out ironically at the Turkey's Nest Tavern in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
One of the coolest things about New York is that it's an ever-changing city. Every time I visit, I marvel at how many new businesses have emerged, how many have shut their doors, and how some old standbys are just holding steady.

So, as you know, I am heading to Brooklyn for the Renegade Craft Fair this weekend, which is  exciting not only because I'll be selling super-sweet artwork but because Treats Truck will be parked nearby for both days of the fair (booyea!).

But where else should I wander on the days before and after the fair? What is your favorite NYC bakery? Suggestions in any borough are welcome; I'm willing to travel for sweets.

Tuesday
Jun022009

Sweet Art: Adapt for Illustration Friday

Adapt for Illustration Friday
What do cupcakes think about movies adapted from popular novels? Well, while they enjoy the film (the male lead's buttercream is sooo dreamy), they tend to think the book was better. This piece was done for Illustration Friday's Adapt theme; for all of the awesome entries, visit illustrationfriday.com.

Tuesday
Jun022009

Sweet Times at Trophy Cupcakes: Art and Cake in June!

Pineapple upside down cupcakes
There are so many reasons to be excited about Seattle's Trophy Cupcakes during the month of June.

First: they're multiplying! Their second location, which is a small but sweet space in the University Village, is slated to open either this Friday or next monday. Having attended a preview soiree last weekend (jealous?), we can attest that it's gonna be awesome.
Yummyache image c/o Jessixa
Second: they've got a sweet new suite of artwork for sale! The CakeSpy show has ended (if you'd like to shop for some of the items from the show, visit the CakeSpy shop!), but there is a new batch of cupcake art up by another awesome Seattle artist, Jessixa Bagley. Cupcakes and Robots are her game (you may remember the CakeSpy feature on her a while back); the artist reception will be this Wednesday, June 3 at 6:00 p.m. at the flagship Wallingford location.

Pineapple upside down cupcakes
Third: They've got a sweet new summer flavor! It's a summery and nostalgic take on a classic: Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes w/ Brown Sugar Buttercream. When you peel off the wrapper, you'll find the pineapple lurking at the bottom of the cake as a little sweet surprise! It will be on show at the artwalk, and regularly available on Fridays.

For more information, visit trophycupcakes.com; for up-to-the-moment info, follow them on twitter!

Monday
Jun012009

Very Cherry: Cupcake Royale Debuts the Rainier Cherry Cupcake

 

Rainier Cherry Cupcake, photo c/o Cupcake Royale

The month of June effing rules. School's out, the weather is warm, and there are all sorts of delicious fruits and veggies coming into season. Happily, Cupcake Royale is reaping the benefits of the cherry harvest by making them into sweet cake. Here's the lowdown on their newest flavor of the month, the Rainier Cherry Cupcake:

 

We top our delicious NEW vanilla buttercake with tangy cream cheese frosting, made with chunks of sweet Rainier cherries from Olmsted Orchards, and a little splash of cherry liqueur from Clear Creek Distillery.

Then we top the whole thing off with a sprinkling of organic roasted cocoa nibs from our pals at Theo Chocolate.

Available at Cupcake Royale; for more information and locations, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

CakeSpy Note: You should also check out their new blog for the latest and greatest cupcake news, including updates on their new location in Capitol Hill, set to open in July! Here's the url: legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com!

Sunday
May312009

Sweet in the City: CakeSpy Artwork at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn!

Come visit me at the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair!!
What's awesomer than hanging out in über-hip McCarren Park in Brooklyn on the weekend?

How 'bout hanging out in uber-awesome McCarren Park with a professional Cake Gumshoe?

I (Head Spy Jessie) will be taking part in the annual Renegade Craft Fair this coming weekend in Brooklyn; I hope that I'll see some of your smiling faces! I will be sharing a booth with the awesome Ivey of Bombalurina while I sell some super-sweet artwork, stationery and gift items--and even debut a few new products which I did in collaboration with Eleven Eleven Industries, including CakeSpy checkbook holders, passport covers and more!

Here are the details:
Renegade Craft Fair
June 6 +7 (Saturday and Sunday)
McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, New York

 

For directions and more information, visit the official website!

 

 

Sunday
May312009

CakeSpy Undercover: Curio Confections, Seattle WA

Tartlets at Curio Confections
Don't know about you, but when a new bakery opens in my town, it's a really exciting moment. So when Curio Confections finally opened in Seattle last week, naturally I was on the case. Having done some research on the joint for a DailyCandy feature, I had the pleasure of tasting some of proprietress Maria Friedman's delicious coconut marshmallows, so I was super excited to try more. Considering her baking pedigree--having worked at Trophy Cupcakes and having studied chocolate-making in New Zealand--I knew it was probably going to be good.
Nougat at Curio Confections
They opened for the first time on 10 a.m. last Saturday; I arrived at oh, about 10:08 a.m. They were clearly still in the flurry of opening-day activities; the shelves weren't quite stocked yet, and the register wasn't yet filled with change, and they couldn't yet accept credit cards. Not wanting to disrupt things too much, I picked up a couple of the freshly prepared mini-pies and went on my merry way.

Now, in the raging war between pie and cake, I have no qualms in letting people know that I am firmly on the side of cake. But when I tried these little pies, I may or may not have swooned. They were tiny--about 2 inches in diameter--but boy, were they mighty. The crust was slightly sweet and nearly shortbready, crumbling just enough to add a nice texture but not so much that you were left with a handful of crumbs. The fillings were delicate yet flavorful: the strawberry-rhubarb tasted fresh, like sun-ripened berries rendered awesomer by the addition of thick custardy cream; the blackberry-peach combination was unexpected, but completely awesome, chased with a delicate spicy aftertaste that made dear Mr. Spy wonder how fast he could cram the thing in his mouth. 

Goat's Milk Caramels, Curio Confections
Curio Confections has a cool and unexpected menu, ranging from house-made confections like nougat, marshmallows and even intriguing goat's milk caramels to sweets like scones and pies to even some savory baked goods; they cap it off by serving wine and beer, which is sure to establish it as a cool University District hangout (cos, you know, that's what college kids are into). While it might take a few weeks to get the service and technical stuff up to speed, they're clearly already bringing some serious sweetness to the table.
Curio Confections, 5509 University Ave. NE, (206)420-8493; online at curioconfections.com.

 

Sunday
May312009

Cake Byte: Stanley CupCakes!


Here's some sweet news for lovers of cupcakes and sports:

Detroit’s Cupcake Station and Pittsburgh’s CoCo’s Cupcake Café Compete for the Stanley Cup(cake)!

The Cupcake Station in Birmingham is in their own Stanley Cup(cake) competition with Pittsburgh-based CoCo’s Cupcake Café to see who has the most cupcake loving fans in hockey.

For every Wings or Pens cupcake purchased, a goal is added to the Goals Chalkboard located in each store. At the end of the series, one cupcake bakery will be able to claim the highest scoring, most d edicated, cupcake loving fans in hockey, and will be the rightful winner of The Stanley Cup(cake). Each location will be updating the “opposing” team’s score daily. Plus, the Cupcake Station will be donating a portion of their proceeds to a Red Wings charity!

From now until the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Cupcake Station will be offering special Red Wing cupcakes. Choose from an Octopus cupcake, a “Go Red Wings” cupcake or one in the team colors of Red and White. Why not score a hat trick and try all three?!

CoCo’s custo mers can choose between black and gold cupcakes, ones that spell out “Let’s Go Pens,” or those that show their support for a favorite player.

For more information, check out cupcakestation.com or call 248-593-1903 in Detroit; in Pittsburgh, please visit cocoscupcakecafe.com or 412-361-2625.

Sunday
May312009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Mobile Bakeries and Sweet Food Carts!

Cuppie on Vespa
This week we're going mobile--by pointing out some of the coolest food carts offering sweet stuff across the nation. Some stay put, but some are constantly on the move, traced only by twitter updates. This baker's dozen has captured our attention--catch them if you can (and if you've got a cool one in your town, let us know!):

Cupcake Stop takes the cake in New York City, with mini and regular sized cupcakes. They can be tracked via twitter.

Cupcake Truck in New Haven, CT prides itself on serving cupcakes made from only the finest ingredients; see where they are today on their blog.

 

Crème Brûlée Cart is cracking down on sweetness in San Francisco! They can be tracked via twitter.


Dessert Truck in NYC serves up fancy desserts (a recent menu includes pavlova and bread pudding!) from their mobile bakery at reasonable prices. 

 

HeartsChallenger is a mobile ice cream truck that can be hired in LA, Miami and New York, and any ice cream truck that features unicorns and hearts is right up there on the Spy list!

Hey, Cupcake is taking Austin by storm with sweet cupcakes served out of airstream trailers (and one location sans wheels). The locations are fixed, but still have a mobile charm.

Icycle Tricycle in Los Angeles has not only delicious icy treats, but they come at you with a mission.

Parfait Ice Cream will be bringing gourmet ice cream to the masses--on wheels--later this summer in Seattle.

 

Perfect Cupcakes is making Baltimore (and the world!) a sweeter place with a mobile cupcake delivery unit.

Skillet Street Food in Seattle is a mobile operation which mainly focuses on serving meals, but they also always have a great dessert option or two--a recent menu included lavender shortbread with lemon curd and crème fraiche.  Keep up with their daily goings-on via twitter.

Fresher Than Fresh in Kansas City, MO is serving up some super sweet sno-cones; find where they are now via twitter!

 

Treats Truck in NYC is a CakeSpy favorite for their creative menu and sweet proprietress (read the CakeSpy interview here!). 

Wafels & Dinges in NYC serves up Belgian waffles with a tantalizing variety of sweet (and savory, if you're into that) toppings; they can be tracked online.

 

What's your favorite mobile bakery or street cart?

 

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