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Monday
Mar162009

Sweet Art: Legendary for Illustration Friday

AB FAB Cupcakes: They're Legendary!
This week's Illustration Friday theme is Legendary, and what characters could be more memorable than that snarky British duo Eddy and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous? As cupcakes, their boozy fillings would be nothing short of legendary!

Monday
Mar162009

Cake Byte: CRAVEbusiness SHOP Symposium, Featuring CakeSpy

CRAVEbusiness SHOP Symposium
Running CakeSpy.com is certainly a fun job: drawing pictures of (and writing about) cake and baked goods all day--what could be sweeter? But have you ever wondered exactly how a cake and baked good related website can actually make money? Or how on earth such a niche business can survive in such a harsh economy?

Our Head Spy Jessie is going to be weighing in on the art of selling cupcake-themed products and the life of a professional Cake Gumshoe at the upcoming CRAVEbusiness SHOP Symposium on March 23 at the Seattle Design Center, as part of two of the day's events: "Start-Up Stars: Entrepreneurs Who Are Making it Happen" in which several business owners will talk about building a business in a tough economy, followed by a "Live Think Tank" in which we will talk generally about ideas and thoughts on transforming and building businesses.

Here's a blurb on the mission statement of the Symposium: 

 

 

SHOP Symposium / 09 is dedicated to celebrating, inspiring and educating independent business owners of all stripes. The only conference of its kind, this one-day event teaches practical skills, offers wise encouragement, and builds camaraderie. Whether you sell shoes or facials, travel getaway or graphic design, we invite you to join us. Bring your questions, your frustrations, your fears, and your hopes. Prepare to be inspired.

 

For more information, tickets, and the schedule, visit the official SHOP Symposium website.

 

Monday
Mar162009

Bittersweet News: Seattle P-I's Last Print Edition Runs Tomorrow

Cuppie regarding the P-I Globe in Seattle
This is bittersweet news indeed: we learned today that the Seattle P-I will run its last print edition tomorrow. Although the online version will continue (including CakeSpy Seattle, to the best of our knowledge), we will certainly miss the tactile enjoyment of unfolding a paper along with breakfast coffee (and cake, natch).

The P-I has been so supportive of CakeSpy since the start, having featured our artwork and quotes from our Spies on numerous occasions; rest assured, dear paper, you will be missed!

For sweet Seattle musings, visit CakeSpy Seattle.

Sunday
Mar152009

Twin Peaks: Cake Walk With Me: Cherry Pie and More in North Bend, WA

Cherry Pie, Twede's (The Twin Peaks Diner)
When it comes to pie's place in pop culture, one reference seems to stand out above any other: Agent Dale Cooper's love of good cherry pie and a "damn fine cup of coffee" in the strange little hamlet called Twin Peaks


Twede's CafeLaura Palmer
Twin Peaks, of course, is a fictional town. But many of the show's exterior locations--including the diner in which said pie and coffee were consumed--were filmed in the very real towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend, about a half-hour outside of Seattle. And so it seemed appropriate for a posse of Cake Gumshoes to venture out and sample some of the immortal pie on March 14 (aka "the other pie day"). 

Damn Fine Cherry PieCherry Pie, Twede's (The Twin Peaks Diner)
Twede's Cafe is very aware of its status as cult destination: the tee shirts and exterior proudly proclaim it as the home of the "Twin Peaks Pie". As a dining destination it's not especially memorable (though their Tweetie-bird heavy decor might give you David Lynch-esque nightmares) but their typical diner fare (burgers, sandwiches, fries) is satisfyingly salty and greasy. Of course, anything savory you might order is really just foreplay.
The main event really occurs when they bring out the pie.

Coffee at  Twede'sPies at Twede's (The Twin Peaks Diner)
The double crusted cherry pie is served warm in a dish, topped with whipped cream (or, if you'd like, a la mode). We ordered ours with coffee (naturally). 
The pie itself is...fine. It's not a bad pie, but it's not really an above average pie either. The filling is syrup-sweet, the crust a little too chewy. But somehow, this is not the point. After all, while Agent Dale Cooper rhapsodized about the pie and coffee, it somehow seems clear that the quality is also beside the point: it's more about the ritual, the act of giving oneself a treat--a moment of sweet respite, if you will. And on that point, the pie delivered. After all, taking an adventure with friends and seeking out this sweet treasure on a rainy Saturday--the real reward was the journey itself.

Cherry Pie, Twede's (The Twin Peaks Diner)
Of course, if all of this rambling about the journey strikes you as a little bit new agey-- we hear you. So if you're seeking a damn good pastry, why not head two doors down, to George's Bakery & Deli. Though we hear mixed reviews about their deli fare, the bakery is a gem: we picked up a most delicious frosted cookie, spied some mazurkas, and discovered a cake we'd never seen--the Fyrstekake. And yes--they even had cherry pie.

Frosted cookie from George's Bakery, North Bend, WACherry Pie, George's Bakery, North Bend WA
Twede's Cafe, 137 W. North Bend Way, North Bend, WA, (425) 831-5511; online at twedescafe.com.


Twede's Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Also mentioned: George's Bakery & Deli, 127 W. North Bend Way, North Bend, WA, (425) 888-0632; online at UrbanSpoon.
George's Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Mar112009

Humble Pies: How Many Have You Tried?

Marionberry pie, Irwin's Coffee and Bakery

There's some controversy on the subject of which day National Pie Day ought to be celebrated, either January 23 (as specified by the American Pie Council) or March 14 (as specified by the math geeks of the universe). We've got the perfect solution though: why not celebrate on both days? Certainly there's enough pie love to go around.
With March 14th coming around, we decided to forgo the usual apple, pumpkin or blueberry pie in favor of compiling a list of somewhat lesser-known pies; each is linked to a recipe or page explaining its history. Maybe you'll come across some old favorites or new discoveries. But mostly we're curious...how many have you tried? 
If you're so inclined, feel free to post about it on your site or leave a comment below--if you want to get really fancy, you can specify which ones you've tried by italicizing which ones you've eaten, and link back to this post so everyone can judge--er, see--your responses!
And of course, if you have any other "forgotten" pies that you think we should know about, do tell!

Acorn Pie
Avocado Pie
Bean Pie
Butter Tart Pie
Cactus Pie
Chess Pie

 

Monday
Mar092009

Sugar Crash: An Unusual Introduction to the Cowboy Cookie

Cookie Sandwich
Sometimes a new baked good just comes crashing into your life--full throttle, no apologies, no turning back.

The Cowboy Cookie was such a treat for us--literally.

You see, not so long ago, a car crashed into the house neighboring the CakeSpy Headquarters. No, really. See?
Car Crash!
It crashed right into the kitchen, where said neighbor happened to be at the time of the crash--in the middle of mixing up some cookie batter.
Dough ballsDough
Well, needless to say their oven was not OK, so we found ourselves in the unique position of having inherited a batch of cookie dough, all ready to bake. And so preheat the oven we did, and about half an hour later, we had a fresh batch of cookies. What resulted was a mysterious, yet delicious, cookie. They had oats, but couldn't quite be called an oatmeal cookie; they had chocolate chips, and yet we wouldn't quite call them a chocolate chip cookie. And did we detect a pecan or two?
Cookies
Turns out, they're called Cowboy Cookies--and with their dramatic entrance, they've certainly lassoed our hearts--and with an extra dab of chocolate frosting in between, they're bound to corral the affections of just about any cookie lover.

Stack of cookies
There are a number of varieties of the Cowboy Cookie to be found online, and they're certainly an easy one to personalize to taste; but in case you're curious, this recipe that we found on Martha Stewart seemed very close to the ones that we had:

Cowboy Cookies

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch chunks (1 cup)
  • 3 ounces (3/4 cup) pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Directions

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray, line with parchment, and spray parchment. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Reduce speed to low, and slowly add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in oats, chocolate, pecans, and coconut until combined. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a small spoon, drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.
Bake until edges of cookies begin to brown, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire rack, and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks. Let cool. (Cookies can be stored up to 3 days.)

 

Sunday
Mar082009

Cake Byte: Sweet New Stamps by Taylored Expressions!

New stamps for Taylored Expressions!
It's time to spring ahead--sweetly--with a new batch of rubber stamps created by our own Head Spy Jessie in collaboration with Taylored Expressions! The newest set has Cuppie, that little rascal of a cupcake, getting into all sorts of Easter adventures!

New Stamps for Taylored Expressions!

You can get ideas for projects like the card shown at the top, here; to buy the stamps, which retail for $21.95, visit tayloredexpressions.com!

 

Friday
Mar062009

POM-mier Wonderful: Pomegranate Palmiers

POM-mier
Pomegranates are kind of like the rock star of the antioxidant world. In fact, based on what we read on the POM Wonderful website, there isn't a whole lot they can't do: they improve cardiovascular health, help clear arteries, and might even help you feel more frisky. And happily, pomegranate seeds and juice are pretty delicious, even on their own, so getting all of those benefits need not taste like bitter suffering.

However, when the sweet people at POM (thanks buddies!) offered to send us some of their juice to test out with baking, we wonderered, could there be a way to increase the awesome quotient of this superfood? The answer is yes: by smothering its supreme antioxidancy in butter and sugar.
Palmiers ready to bakePOM juice
So was born the POM-mier, a pomegranate infused and topped palmier. Joking aside, the resulting pastry is a lovely, not too-sweet combination of flavors: the buttery, flaky pastry gets a sweet, tart taste contrast from an infusion of pomegranate between its layers and a topping of pomegranate syrup. Here's how we made them:

Pomegranate palmiersPomegranate Syrup
Pomegranate Palmiers (adapted from a recipe on Epicurious):

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons POM Wonderful juice per pastry sheet
  • 2 sheets puff pastry (or more, or less, to your preference)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar per pastry sheet (approx.)


Preheat oven to 400°F.

 

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. With a pastry brush, gently brush the pomegranate juice across the surface of the puff pastry (this will give the finished pastry the lightest essence of pomegrante).

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.

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.

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. While cooling, top with pomegranate syrup (below).

Pomegranate Syrup (Adapted from the POM Wonderful website):

 

  • 1 cup POM Wonderful Juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Combine juice and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes until reduced to about 3/4 cup, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and cool. (You can store in a tightly closed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months).
With a spoon, gently pour a small amount on top of each finished pastry.

 

Friday
Mar062009

Sweet Art: Intricate for Illustration Friday

Intricate
Have you ever heard of Illustration Friday? Well. If not, the rules are simple:

Illustration Friday is a weekly illustration challenge. A topic is posted every Friday and then participants have all week to come up with their own interpretation.

This week, the theme was "Intricate"--and what could be a sweeter interpretation than a fancy, perhaps ever-so-slightly haughty cupcake in an intricately decorated room?

Have a sweet weekend!

Wednesday
Mar042009

Bread (Pudding) Alone: Pontifications on the Ultimate Carbohydratey Treat

Bread Pudding, Bella Dolce
Just like any proper invasion, it started quietly, gaining momentum until suddenly, it was an unstoppable force. We're speaking of bread pudding of course--suddenly, it's everywhere.

OK, to qualify that statement, it's not as if bread pudding was ever off the radar. It's been around, on both the high and the low end, as long as we can remember. However, it seems that in the past year or so, its popularity has grown enormously--to the point that nearly every bakery, coffee shop and restaurant in Seattle (and even beyond) has a variation. So what gives?
Well, we have some ideas. Wanna hear?

Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding: Why?
First, before we talk about the present, let's consider bread pudding's past. According to this article,
Food historians trace the history of bread pudding to the early 11th and 12th centuries, as frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. In 13th century England, bread pudding was known as “poor man’s pudding,” as it was a popular dish with the lower classes.
Yup--it was a budget-friendly dish then, and it is now. Sure, it's been gussied up--you'll see fancy versions with all sorts of toppings, and creative versions using everything from doughnuts to cinnamon rolls to brioche, but it really does boil down to the idea of giving new life to baked goods which would otherwise be thrown away. 
Even beyond the idea of making smart use of leftovers though, is the fact that bread pudding is also a vastly comforting dish. Warm, custardy and carbohydratey, it's the type of fare that can put you in a blissful carbohydratey coma, forgetting all manner of economic woes. Just look at all of the major food magazines lately--they've all got comfort food on the cover. 
To speak specifically to the proliferance of the sweet treat in Seattle of course, one need only consider the weather during the winter months: we don't know about you, but we couldn't think of a cozier sweet for a cold and rainy day.

Bread Pudding at La TarteGorgeous bread pudding, B&O Espresso
Bread Pudding: How?
Now that we've considered why bread pudding has been so popular lately, let's consider form. For it seems to us that there are two major players in the world of bread pudding, the first a more solid, cakey sort; the second being a more custard-y sort, consisting of the bread floating in a dish of cream. Which one is correct? Well, we wouldn't dare make the final call on that, so we turned to our dear readers to see which variation they preferred. 
While certainly some have a strong preference, it seems that the preference was for some sort of middle ground. Seems that a solid form is important, but it does need some sort of sauce or topping. As one reader said, a hybrid is best: "cakey (but not dry) bread pudding with sauce drizzled over"; and as another aptly echoed, "Nice and soft, but not soupy".

Bread Pudding: What Now?
So what's going to happen next? Well, as it is such an open-ended dish, we'd predict that you look out for more hybrids and creative innovation--often based on updating or taking a creative spin on old classic recipes--and in both sweet and savory variations. Want a peek? Here are just a few of the variations that have intrigued us on the sweet side of things: 
The NY Times' Jelly Doughnut Bread Pudding (Photo above, c/o NYT)
Su Good Sweets' Nutella Bread Pudding
...and of course, you may enjoy checking out the Bread Pudding experiment we ourselves did a few months back.

Bread Pudding(s) at Grand Central, Pioneer Square
Bread Pudding: Where?
Where do Cake Gumshoes get their bread pudding fix? In Seattle, we love the bread pudding at Boat Street Cafe (it's the one that everyone says is "the best"--and well, it's pretty freaking good, served in a rum-butter cream sauce) , B&O Espresso (floating in a dish of custard), Bella Dolce (more solid, served in a cupcake-cup), and Grand Central Baking (also served in a cupcake-cup, but with a delectable chocolate variation). How about in your hometown?

 

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