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Monday
Apr062009

Master-Peeps Theatre: The Art of Messing With Easter Candy

Master-peeps Theatre: Starry night in Peeps

In terms of candy, is Easter the new Halloween? This may be arguable, but there's no doubt that messing with Easter Candy--especially Peeps and Cadbury Creme Eggs, it seems--is au courant. We, of course, are not immune to the lure of this trend: case in point, a CakeSpy fine art take on it can be seen above in our master-peeps recreation of Starry Night.
But what is it about messing with our Easter candy that captivates us so? Just a few theories:
We love it, but we don't actually want to eat it: We love Easter candy. We love the bright, sometimes garish, pastel colors; we love the cartoonlike egg, chick and rabbit imagery. We love the idea of it all--but we don't necessarily want to eat it. Because the fact is, sadly, that most Easter candy is not actually delicious. So perhaps the movement in food installations and art involving easter candy is just another way to celebrate it. All we can say is, Andy Warhol would have loved it.

Peeps S'mores
We're deeply cruel: We're a nation of misguided youth. Growing up with violent video games and movies, our senses have been dulled and we've become callous and violent ourselves. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. And apparently, people also kill peeps.
We've never grown up: As children, we were admonished to "not play with our food". But now that we're grown up (sort of), we can mess with it all we want! We don't have to eat our food, we can draw faces on it, destroy it, make art with it--and the internet is all over it. Booyea!
We're bored at work: Well, doesn't that say it all? In the war between, say, answering customer service emails and watching a peep being killed in over a hundred ways, we think the winner is totally obvious. Which leads into our last theory...

Creme Egg Closeup
It's totally fun and awesome to mess with Easter candy. This is a statement, not a theory. No follow up questions.
If you're totally fascinated with messing with your Easter candy, run, don't walk, over to these web pages for more:
  • Unlikely Words has compiled a comprehensive and fascinating study on Marshmallow Peeps and their place in culture. Read it now!
  • Here today, Goo Tomorrow: Even Cadbury is in on the action, hosting contests and providing bulletin boards for users to enter Creme Egg murders and discuss the lure of the most incredible edible egg.
  • If baking with Easter candy is your bag (or basket, as it were), be sure to check out Baking Bites (there is a side bar with easter ideas on the right hand side of the site) for plenty of creative and delicious-sounding recipes.
  • Last year, we messed with Easter candy in a variety of fun ways: check out our ideas for how to use your leftover easter candy, and our interview with a Cadbury Creme Egg.

 

Thursday
Apr022009

Sweet Nostalgia: Cotton Candy Cupcakes

Carnie Cotton Candy Cupcakes
When a CakeSpy reader recently wrote asking if we had a cotton candy cupcake recipe, the response was immediate: no, but did we ever want to have one. 

Cotton candy is one of those foods that is loaded with nostalgia: the billowy clouds of spun sugar conjure visions of idyllic childhood summers, county fairs and carnivals. Now, we don't want to confuse the experience with the product, (after all, there are more realistic pitfalls to cotton candy, like its saccharine sweetness and the sticky, pastel-colored hands it leaves you with) there's no denying that cotton candy is just a happy sort of food.
So when a recipe wasn't immediately available, we decided to improvise; here's what we came up with--a buttery vanilla cupcake topped with cotton candy-infused pink buttercream frosting, topped with even more cotton candy. Not as if they need to be any sweeter, but the Bella Cupcake Couture wrappers and Carnie Cuppie toppers sure did make them cute. 
The overall result? Tastes like childhood to us.

Cotton Candy Cupcakes
Cotton Candy Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
Yellow Cupcakes (cake recipe only via foodnetwork.com):
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • cupcake liners


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

In a mixer with a whip attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to cream. Gradually add the vanilla and eggs and mix in well. Sift together the dry ingredients; then mix into the butter mixture alternating with the milk. Pour batter into cupcake paper-lined muffin tins filling them 3/4 full. Bake until puffed and firm in the center and light golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool. (Freeze at this point, if necessary.)

Cotton Candy!Cotton Candy Frosting
Cotton Candy Buttercream Frosting (adapted from this recipe)

Makes enough frosting for 24 cupcakes
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups Confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
  • 1 handful cotton candy (we used this prepackaged kind), broken into small pieces, plus another handful for garnish
  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.
  3. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar.
  5. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix thoroughly til it's a desired shade of pink.
  6. Stir in the small pieces of cotton candy, stirring until incorporated. It may melt a little bit into the frosting; this is ok.
  7. Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled. 
  8. Optional topping: tear off chunks of cotton candy and use as garnish; do this last step  immediately before serving, because it will wilt if left out.

 

Thursday
Apr022009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Carrie of Bella Cupcake Couture

Bella Cupcake Couture Interview
In recent years, cupcakes have gone from being simply small cakes to flat-out cultural phenomenon. It seems that a new cupcake shop is opening just about every hour on the hour, and the obsession has spawned not only bakeries but a number of businesses which cater to the cupcake lover (including, um, this website). One natural progression is cupcake accessories--such as the sweet, textile-inspired cupcake wrappers made by local startup Bella Cupcake Couture. We recently got a chance to talk cake with proprietress Carrie Middlemiss--let's learn a bit more about her business and thoughts on the compelling little cakes and their place in culture, shall we?

CakeSpy: Let's start with the basics. Who are you and what is your company / product?
Carrie Middlemiss: I am the owner of Bella Cupcake Couture. We make textile-inspired cupcake wrappers printed with soy inks on recycled paper. Our theme is “Have your cupcake and adore it too.™” Each wrapper has boutique-style design to add a touch of sophistication and elegance to your cupcake for any special occasion; weddings, bridal and baby showers, birthdays, holidays and just because.

CS: What initially attracted you to the cupcake community?
CM: Originally I didn’t realize what an enormous community there was for cupcakes. I had just always loved baking and hadn’t done a lot of internet surfing about it. However, in 2008 when I was inspired at a small business seminar (CRAVEbusiness) I knew online research was important. I became seriously addicted to reading about cupcakes day and night. I came across tons of websites and blogs all dedicated to cupcakes. I read about cupcake tastings, cupcake meet ups, cupcake shops and thought “what a neat group of people!”.
On my next vacation to our friends in Austin I read on Cupcakes Take the Cake blog that a new cupcake shop was opening, so I started to plan my own cupcake tasting tour there. It was soooo much fun! As I went around I also asked each owner what innovation would they like to see invented for the cupcake community. It was all very enlightening.
CS: When we first crossed paths last year, you were thinking about starting a business that had to do with cupcakes, and now here you are with a product and webstore! Can you tell us a bit about how you went from "what should I do" to "I'm gonna do it"?
CM: Yes, back in August I was trying to determine what the product should be. I had a couple strong ideas and the importance to me was it needed to be unique, innovative and a stylish decoration for cupcakes. I wanted it to be something a home baker, cupcake shop owner, bride or mother-to-be or an event planner would find easy and chic enough to use for extra special events.
A month later, my company (a large bank in Washington state) I worked for since high school was bought by another bank. It was a very difficult time for so many of us. Many of us were unsure if we would have jobs and what would come next.
For me, I saw this as the ultimate motivation to get my business started. So I quickly put together strategies for next steps, continued researching day and night and reached out to several in the cupcake community and other women-owned business leaders for advice. I moved as fast as I could on my ideas. Now I have my business up and running as well and I’m loving it!

CS: You're transitioning to the role of small business owner from a role as an employee in a large corporation. What are some of the up and down-sides to this transition?
CM: Since I’m still working for the bank, I know some of my answers may be different in a few months.

Up-sides:
• Creative free-reign
• Ability to incorporate all my passions and strengths into one role.
• Although I work for a large corporation, I work out a relatively small office. So I don’t feel that change will be much of a shift for me; except a darling dog (Baxter, our 4 yr old Yorkie-Maltese) will be allowed in the office.

Down-sides:
• The not knowing of how successful the product will be.
• The long hours which come with running your own business. However when you love doing something you are passionate about, how can you call that work?

CS: What made you decide to settle on cupcake wrappers as your first product?
CM: Many who know me, know I LOVE to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. When tossing around cupcake product ideas, I kept coming back to developing something for that would provide more of a chic look than the cupcake liners they were baked in. Every time I would look at photos of cupcakes, I always envisioned beautiful boutique-style designs around them.

CS: How do people typically use the cupcake wrappers? As a decorative touch for party cupcakes? For presenting them at bakeries? Etc?
CM: A decorative touch for all occasions and to accentuate the décor theme of celebrations. They create a great presentation for a dessert table, cupcake stand or simply as a delicate little favor in a box tied up with a pretty bow. It’s also a great hostess gift for a housewarming; include a favorite cupcake recipe, sanding sugars, sprinkles and these special cupcake wrappers. They are fun, easy and fashionable.

CS: Do you have plans to add other cupcake or baked good accessories to your offerings?
CM: I will be selling 3” x 3” clear boxes to provide a nice presentation of the wrapped cupcakes, new colored cupcake liners for baking in and always keeping ideas open to continue to grow the product line.

CS: In the Seattle area, we've got a wealth of awesome cupcake shops. Which one--and what flavor--do you favor?
CM: Oh this is a very tough one. There are a few shops I haven’t tried yet that I still need to get to. There are three I frequent the most and here is my favorite from each:
New York Cupcakes in Crossroads: Tie between Back in the Day Butterscotch and Candy Store Salted Caramel
Trophy Cupcakes: Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting
Cupcake Royale: Salted Caramel

CS: Where can we buy your products retail? How about wholesale?
CM: Bella Cupcake Couture wrappers can be purchased retail from our website at bellacupcakecouture.com and also now sold at a fabulous boutique near University Village called Curtsy Bella as well as at New York Cupcakes in Bellevue.
For those interested in wholesale, they can visit our website for details or email wholesale@bellacupcakecouture.com for special pricing.

CS: What's next?
CM: I definitely have to thank everyone who provided support, feedback and inspiration to me while beginning this new venture. Including you! ;)

Also I have a few new cupcake wrappers designs I’m really interested in launching later this year. Right now though, I’m focused on fulfilling orders, providing great customer service and collecting feedback on what designs people would like to see.

Ready to suit up your cupcakes with the cutest wrappers around? Visit bellacupcakecouture.com.

Wednesday
Apr012009

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Giant Cuppie
(Cuppie-inspired cake photo c/o Cakes by Destini)


Pamplemousse Preserves has pioneered a wonderful program: the CSP&B. It stands for Community Supported Preserves and Bakery--like a CSA, but with sweets!

Candy will save us all: The New York Times Says so! (Thanks Megan for the tip!)

EpiCute: We. Are. In. Love. Visit the site now!

A lot of you think Bacon in Baked goods is so over, but for those of you who still want it--in cupcakes--here's a field guide.

Planning a Canadian Getaway? We recently spied this comprehensive list of all of the bakeries in Manitoba!

Say hello to the hottest new way to induce heart failure: the sandwich cake.

Homemade Choco Tacos? How did we miss this?
You already know and love Bakerella--duh. But have you seen her newest bunny and sheep pops?

On Twig and Thistle, a totally sweet tutorial on making (and packaging) homemade hand pies.
What's the difference between a Betty, a Buckle, a Slump, Pandowdy and more? Find out here.

Sugar Cookie Bars: Like a sugar cookie, but a bar. Amazing!
Let Me Eat Cake, the newest (and in our opinion, greatest) book by CakeSpy pal Leslie F. Miller is now in stores! buy it here.

 

Wednesday
Apr012009

Guest Blog Post: How To Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

Sweet n Sinful
There's no doubt about it--cake is delicious. Sometimes too delicious--which can wreak havoc on a healthy diet. But is it possible to find a healthy balance while still letting yourself eat some cake? Happily, Courtney Phillips of culinaryschoolguide.org was able to offer some tips. Here's Courtney's guest post:


I know they say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way. Cakes are good, cakes are delicious, cakes are fun; and that’s why we all love cakes. But they also have a downside – being loaded in sugar and calories, they tend to make us fat and unhealthy lumps of flesh (Cakespy Note: fat, unhealthy, and...utterly content). If you’re a cake addict who can’t say no to these baked bits of heaven, and if you’re also concerned about your health, here’s what you need to do when you’re about to bake a cake or go shopping for some:

  • Read the recipes carefully: Choose cakes that feature fresh fruits or vegetables, especially ones that are easily available, where the word “sugarless” is prominent or where a healthier sugar substitute is used in place of sugar, and where you don’t have to add dollops of butter to improve the taste. Replace traditional icing with whipped cream that’s been sweetened a bit, cream cheese or a fruit glaze. Substitute whole wheat flour for the unhealthy white flour that most cakes use. Remember though, not to overcook this cake – since you’re limiting the fat content, baking it for too long could cause it to become dry and tasteless. Also, whipped cream frosting tends to go flat in a while, so be prepared to put on the finishing touches just minutes before the occasion.
  • Don’t buy cake mixes: Contrary to popular belief, cake mixes are not healthy. Yes, it’s harder baking a cake from scratch, but at least you know what’s in it rather than taking your chances with the mix whose ingredients you’re not too sure about.
  • Sponge cake is a safe bet: It’s light, it’s airy, and it has no cream. Of all the cakes in the world, the sponge cake is one of the most delicious and the least fattening. And best of all, it makes a great dessert with some fat-free, low-cal ice cream.
  • Go organic: Cakes that are baked using organic and natural ingredients are healthier than and just as delicious as the traditional ones. You could use whole wheat, oat and barley flours, and agave nectar or similar products instead of sugar. Organic sugar, butter and free range eggs add to the taste and do their bit for the environment too.

With health on your mind and interesting recipes at hand, you can see it’s easy enough to both have your cake and eat it too!

This post was contributed by Courtney Phillips, who writes about Culinary School Rankings. She welcomes your feedback at CourtneyPhillips80 (at) gmail.com.

Sunday
Mar292009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Like a Rolling Scone: A Collection of Rock N Roll Inspired Sweets

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24
When this month's Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event came around, the inspiration came close to home for your dear Cake Gumshoes: we looked at the Seattle music scene to plan a musically-inspired menu of sweets! And so we hooked up with two local bands, Exohexo and Speaker Speaker, and took a collection of sweets inspired by famous rock stars on tour with them around the city, through rehearsals, recording and even a show. Would our theory that baked goods just wanna rock, and rockers just wanna eat baked goods, hold true? Only one way to find out; here are the sweet results.

Rolling Scones
What better way to start (well, that's relative--it was nearly noon) the day than with a baked good homage to one of the most influential rock bands out there--in morning pastry form as not Rolling Stones, but as Rolling Scones. As our musicians quickly discovered, there is no better way to get the day started than with one of these sweet babies under your thumb; complete with the slightest touch of brown sugar, they're a perfect way to get the day going. (see below for Danny warming up with a Keith Richards scone!). These ones will certainly gather no moss.
Danny with a Rolling Scone

Rolling Scones (adapted from this recipe)
  • 2 Cups of Flour
  • 1/4 Cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) of butter
  • 1 Cup of whipping cream
Topping: Decorating markers, chocolate and vanilla frosting; red gel or decorating icing.

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and add to the mixture.
  3. Using your hands, break up the butter into even smaller pieces while tossing with the flour until the largest pieces are no bigger than a pea.
  4. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour the cream into the well.
  5. Using your hands, mix by hand until the dry ingredients are all moistened.
  6. Gather into a ball and place on a lightly floured board.
  7. Knead 10 times, pushing the dough with the heel of your hand and folding over until the dough is smooth.
  8. Pat the ball into a 9-inch circle about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.
  9. Cut into 8 to 12 wedges like a pizza
and to make them Rolling Scones:
  1. Shape into ovals, making sure to pinch the middle to form a little bit of a nose and facial structure.
  2. Brush the top with an egg wash (optional).
  3. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and still slightly moist in the center
  4. Once cool, decorate with a dollop of frosting for hair, and draw in facial features with a food-safe marker as desired.

(Makes 8-12)

 

Rolling Scones

 

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Pink Frosted Floyd Donuts
Of course, no morning would be complete without doughnuts, so we came up with these delicious (and easy!) Pink Floyd glazed doughnuts. These ones were easy--we picked up a few mini doughnuts at local legend Mighty-O and doctored them up a bit to pay homage to their iconic "Animal" album cover.
How can you make these adorable Pink Floyd inspired donuts? It's easy. Piggies
Pink (Frosted) Floyd Donuts
  • Mini Pink Frosted donuts
  • 2 pink jellybeans per donut
  • decorating gel for details
  • Small dab of pink frosting (to use as "glue" for the ears)
In the center of each mini donut, press a jellybean in the center; the frosting should hold it in place. If it doesn't, put a small dot of frosting on the back and it should make it adhere. Cut the second jellybean in half, and using your thumb and forefinger squeeze one end until it forms a triangle. Put a dot of pink frosting on the bottom of the triangle and adhere one to each side of the top of the donut (for pig ears). Using black decoraing gel, make two dots for eyes, two dots on the jellybean nose, and a smiley face for optimal cuteness. (see below for Hiromi, the violinist, getting some sweet energy from one of them!)

 

Hiromi with Pink frosted Floyd donut

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Robert Palmier Girls
Of course, after unloading equipment and warming up a bit, the band was in need of some sweet caloric replenishment--enter the Robert Palmiers. No, Robert Palmer may not be the epitome of an exceedingly influential rock musician, but the kitsch value of his backup band--not to mention the easy pun--made for some delicious snacking.

PalmiersRobert Palmiers

 

 

Robert Palmiers

Ingredients:
  • 2 sheets puff pastry (or more, or less, to your preference)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar per pastry sheet (approx.)
  • Decorating gel in black and red
Preheat oven to 400°F.

 

 

  1. Sprinkle some sugar on a work surface and cover it with a puff pastry square sheet. Then sprinkle more sugar evenly over pastry sheet and roll it out into a 10-inch square with a rolling pin. 
  2. Fold in two opposite sides of the pastry sheet square so that they the sides meet in the center. Fold in same sides of the pastry again.
  3. Fold one half of the pastry over the other. Cut pastry crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Dip cut sides of each piece in sugar and arrange, cut side down, on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with three remaining pastry sheets.
  4. Bake palmiers in batches in middle of oven until golden on bottom, about 12 minutes. Turn over and bake until golden on bottom, 5 to 7 minutes more, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Once cool, decorate with red lips and black "hair" for the full Palmer girl effect.
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Ready for a tangent? We didn't have a chance to make it this time, but doesn't Milli VaNilla Wafer Pudding sound tasty? 
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Otis Redding
And OK--everyone makes mistakes. So we've got to admit from the start there's a reason why the Otis Redding-themed cookies aren't as cleverly titled as the rest. Originally we mistakenly thought (bad gumshoes!) that "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" was a Sam Cooke song--and Sam Cookies sure would have worked. It was only in the 11th hour that we realized it was actually Otis Redding--and so here they are, the O(h so delicious)tis Redding Cookies, served on homemade graham crackers made to simulate the cookies "sitting on the dock of the bay". We chose molasses because that's about how smooth and rich Redding's voice was. Oh well--Jasen, who plays both guitar and drums, didn't seem to mind sampling one during their show.
CookiesSam Cookies
Otis Redding Cookies (note: we adapted this from Epicurious)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. and lightly grease 1 large baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
  3. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy and beat in molasses. Beat in egg until incorporated. Gradually beat in flour mixture and combine well.
  4. In a small shallow bowl put remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Form dough into 2-inch balls and roll in sugar. On baking sheets arrange balls about 4 inches apart and flatten slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
  5. Bake cookies in middle of the oven 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. (Cookies should be soft.) Transfer cookies with a metal spatula to racks to cool.
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As a brief interlude--if you're interested in maintaining that mellow, why not indulge in a Fleetwood Macaroon?
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John Lemon Bars

When a band records, it's important to keep in mind what sound you're going for, and what might be your goals. So of course, we whipped out the inspiration bigtime by bringing out some bar cookies inspired by a former Beatle: the John Lemon Bars. Decorated with his signature self-portrait, these bars added a reminder of how the sour can mix with the sweet in the process: imagine how sweet the result can be. Jason (below) sure seemed to think they came out well. Did they make him a better bass player? We can't say for sure, but it couldn't have hurt.
Note: We used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make the John Lemon Bars

Jason playing bass and eating a John Lemon Bar
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James Brownies
And once they get jamming, and start feeling good? OW! Of course, it's time for some James Brownies. Unfortunately, the likeness was perhaps not the best; working with chocolate syrup from a picture, and trying render it as quickly as possible resulted in some warping--it sort of resembles that portrait that Napoleon Dynamite did of his would-be prom date. But you know what? Nobody really cared, because did these brownies ever OW! Make them feel good.
James Brownies
James Brownies (Adapted from the brownie recipe found on Oprah's website):
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan. (Note: we used a 10x10 pan)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
  4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
  5. In a small dish, microwave the peanut butter for 30 seconds or until melted. Pour into the batter and lightly stir.
  6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares (or large hunks) and serve.
  8. Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies will keep for a few days--or so we hear. We didn't get the chance to find out, they disappeared so fast!

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Cannoli-sa loeb
Perhaps she's not exactly a trailblazer, but there are few in the CakeSpy demographic that don't recall that so-awful-it's-catchy ode to the 90's called "Stay" by Lisa Loeb. Why not pay homage to this nostalgic cheesiness than by immortalizing it as a cheesy treat? In this case, the cheese was ricotta--stuffed inside of fried shells of cannoli deliciousness from one of the few places in Seattle that sells the Italian treat: Remo Borracchini. Decorated with some retro-cool glasses, sweet red "lipstick" and batting eyelashes, this one charmed even the baddest type of rock star. 

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Crosby, Stills Ganache and YUM
We knew that we'd need to make something delicious at this point in the day for the final leg, so it was time to roll out the big one: Crosby Stills Ganache and Yum, a multilayered confection as intricately intertwined as the group for which it was named. Basically it was a riff on this chocolate topped princess cake we made a while back, except we swapped the inside cake for chocolate cake rather than sponge, and used crumbled up Graham (Nash) crackers instead of macaroons. Yum, indeed.
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As a brief tangent, you know what would go well with this cake? Some hot cocoa--with marshmallows. Just like clouds in your coffee, but better.
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Red Velvet Underground Cake
Finally, we've saved our favorite for last. Perhaps it's just our art-school background, but to many of us Cake Gumshoes, the The Velvet Underground is not just an influential band, but the influential band. After all, they've captured the hearts of musicians and artists alike--why not bakers? And so, the Red Velvet Underground Cake was born. We made ours using the famous Cake Man Raven recipe--using plenty of red food coloring for a viscerally red interior, we decorated it with an edible wafer printed with that famous banana; on the outer edges, we lined banana slices across the sides. The crowning glory? A slight touch of white pepper in the topping--now that's what we'd call a white light white heat cream cheese frosting!

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Concert!
Of course, after all this awesome, does anyone have an appetite? Probably not. However, if anyone did, there are plenty of The Pixies' Stix on hand.
Of course, this is all some serious sweetness--but at the end of the day, what did the band have to say? Well, here's a special message.

Cue the chorus of "Pour Some Sugar on me"--repeat and fade! A rock n' roll fanta-sweet indeed! Thank you FoodBuzz for funding our fun times and once again helping us attain an extreme sugar high!

Foodbuzz!

 

Sunday
Mar292009

Sweet Art: Poise for Illustration Friday

Poise: Illustration Friday
poise [pronounced poiz] / noun /  dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession: to show poise in company.

If ever there were a cake to embody the idea of this week's Illustration Friday theme of poise, it's got to be the Princess Cake. Regal and lovely, it's somehow not too showy; while it may not be a cake that is especially easy to make, when it does get made for special occasions, it's delicious enough to appeal to a variety of appetites; it's truly the people's princess (cake).

 

Saturday
Mar282009

Cake Poll: The Winners!

Lamb and Lion Cuppies
Another month has ended, and another Cake Poll is closed. So who won the awesome prizes, including CakeSpy goodies and paper products from 11:11? Here are the three names which were chosen at random from nearly 300 entrants:

The first winner is Rachel, who you probably know from her wonderful site Coconut & Lime, which is chock-full of creative yet accessible, and completely delicious recipes both sweet and savory. And while she's a fan of salted caramel, don't go to her site looking for macaron love--she thinks they're overhyped!

The second winner is Caroline, whose site i am a greedy girl is an inspiring collection of design, fashion and other cool stuff. To highlight some of her responses, she's still not decided on whether bacon in baked goods is over; however, she's pretty decidedly not into designer cake mixes, salted caramel, a proliferation of cupcake shops or savory cupcakes.

The third winner is Cara from Florida, who says bacon is "so over" and isn't so into macarons; however, she is totally into salted caramel and while she's still excited about more cupcake shops opening, she's totally ready for whoopie pies to be the next big thing.

Stay tuned for more giveaways soon!

 

Thursday
Mar262009

Totally Swede: A Loving Look at a Sweet Bun Called Semla

Semla from Svedala
Semla. There are so many things to say about the sweet treat (which we recently scored at local Swedish bakery Svedala), but first let's just get acquainted, shall we?

First, what is it? Delicious, that's what. While there are different variations, what it comes down to is a cardomom-spiced yeast-raised wheat bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. 

What's with the funny name? According to the internet, the word "semla" actually is derived from the Latin similia, which means "fine wheat flour". Apparently in Sweden "semla" can be a catchall phrase for "bun"; therefore it may also be known in Nordic regions as "Fastlagssemla" or "Fastlagsbulle" or "Fettisdagsbulle" (thoughts from readers from these Nordic regions?). But for ease of use, let's stick with Semla.
Semla!

 

Where does it come from? Semla is a pastry which has roots in Finland, Norway, Denmark and Estonia, but is probably most closely linked to Sweden. 

When is it available? Semla is most commonly associated with Shrove Tuesday (we call it "Fat Tuesday") as a fatty and decadent kickoff to that season of deprivation perhaps better known as Lent; however, according to Sweden.se ("the official gateway to Sweden"), the delicious treat "has arguably outgrown its religious symbolism", noting that 

The plump, cream-filled buns traditionally eaten on Tuesdays begin appearing in shops as early as January 1. Fat Tuesday would be more aptly named fat January, February and March.

Semla from Svedala
How is it eaten? Apparently, the traditional way to eat Semla is served in a bowl of hot milk; however, as we were assured by the owner of Svedala Bakery in Seattle, eating it on its own (at room temperature) is really just fine, and as we discovered, even finer with coffee or hot tea. Of course, as we also learned from Sweden.se
in Finland, the bun is sometimes filled with strawberry jam instead of almond paste, and bakeries in Finland usually offer both versions. (Many bakeries distinguish between the two by decorating the traditional bun with almonds on top, whereas the jam-filled version has powdered sugar on top).
Where can I get it? Well, if you're in Seattle and are willing to order enough to warrant her baking a batch, the owner of Svedala would probably make you some; check out their webpage here. 
In Portland, OR, Broder seems like a good place to try--after all, their motto is "Sweden in Portland".
In NYC, a little bird tells me that Semla can be found at Fika Espresso Bar on West 58th Street.
In Sweden, one famous retailer of Semla is Nybergs Hembageri, a cafe which has served the Semla-hungry masses since 1949; during the peak Semla season, they'll make over 350 semlor a day. That's a lotta love (and cardamom)! 
Could I make it myself? Sure, why not? We found this recipe online. If you make some, please be sure to make enough to mail some to the CakeSpy Headquarters.

Semla
Do you have any Semla trivia to share? But of course! Via Wikipedia and Sweden.se:

 

 

  • Sweet Surrender: King Adolf Frederick of Sweden died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off by 14 servings of semla, with bowls of hot milk. Semla was the king's favorite dessert. (CakeSpy Note: One should hope so!)
  • Gimme some sugar: Semla was the sweet chosen to represent Finland in the Café Europe initiative of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, on Europe Day 2006.
  • Swede Fancy: Each Swede eats five semlor per year on average.

 

Wednesday
Mar252009

Cake Poll: Baked Good Trends!

Cake Poll!
Spring has sprung, and it's time for another sweet giveaway! 

There will be three lucky winners who will receive one of the following prize packs, complete with CakeSpy pins (shown below) and awesome stationery items with retro cake imagery donated by the cool company 11:11:
Prize Pack 1: A retro cake design notebook by 11:11; a pack of CakeSpy travel buttons; a Cuppie figurine
Prize Pack 2: A retro petit-four design checkbook holder by 11:11; a pack of CakeSpy travel buttons; a Cuppie figurine.
Prize Pack 3: A retro cake design business card / credit card holder by 11:11; a pack of CakeSpy travel buttons; a Cuppie figurine.

New buttons!
This time, we're talking about baking trends. Weigh in on these important issues! Just enter your responses as a comment below and you'll automatically be put in the running for the super sweet prizes! Three winners will be chosen at random, and the poll is open to entrants everywhere. The Cake Poll will close at 12pm PST on Saturday, March 28.
Here goes:
  1. Bacon in baked goods: so good or so over?
  2. "Designer" cake and baking mixes (for instance, those made by celebrity chefs or famous bakeries)--yay or nay?
  3. Salted caramel: totally sweet or way too...salty?
  4. Cupcake shops opening everywhere: enough is enough, or room for more?
  5. French macarons: delicate delight, or way overhyped?
  6. Chilling dough for perfect cookies: is it worth the wait?
  7. Savory cupcakes (for instance, meat loaf cupcake with mashed potato frosting): yum or yuck?
  8. Whoopie pies as the next big thing: do you agree?

 

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