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Saturday
Jan242009

Pie, Oh My: The Most Amazing National Pie Day Celebration Ever

Best Pie Day Ever!
Did you know that January 23rd was National Pie Day?


Now, some may argue that the day to celebrate pie ought to be March 14th.

 

Unfortunately, these math nerds missed out on the cool-kid party we attended last Friday: a no-holds barred, absolute pie love-in, the likes of which we'd never seen.
Pie Day LocationEAT PIE!
It was held at the Salmon Bay Eagles Hall in Ballard, Seattle; while the sign said FOE, the sandwich board definitely let on that PIE meant FRIEND.
Glowing Pie at Pie Celebration
Tees for Sale at Pie day celebrationPrize Table
Inside, a veritable pie nirvana awaited, including music ("American Pie", anyone?) by our new favorite band the Fillings; EAT PIE t-shirts (designed by Christine Larsen); ginormous glowing pie sculptures; a projector screening various pie imagery, and of course, a delightful table of raffle prizes (including Cakespy artwork!).
With Music by "The Fillings"Me and Mary, the Pie Party organizer
The organizer, Mary, and her team (the À la mode girls) all wore the cutest pie-themed headpieces and dresses. (pictured: Head Spy Jessie with Mary)

Coconut Cream PiePecan PieCranberry Walnut PieThe Lemon Chess Pie was quite popular

Pie Buffet, with ice cream for those who prefer a la modePieSpy!
But of course, truly, the Pièce de résistance was the pie buffet: a series of tables set together in a line, it must have been over 30-ish feet long, with every type of pie you could ever dream of, both sweet and savory. We ogled over and sampled sweet varieties such as coconut cream, lemon chess, blueberry, marionberry, bourbon pecan, and more; even though we don't usually foray into savories, the Veggie Frito pie does deserve at least a mention. In a stroke of what can only be described as sheer brilliance, a large tub of vanilla ice cream (donated by Molly Moon) was positioned at the end of the line, a sweet gesture for those who preferred their pie à la mode; nearby, a station with milk and coffee offered accompaniments, but of course the cool and over 21 crowd could go to the adjoining bar area.

Of course, even sweeter than the pie was the mission: proceeds from raffle ticket sales went toward The Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research

Seriously, words cannot really convey the true awesomeness of this Pie Day event.
Peanut Butter Mini Pies
In honor of the day, here is the offering that Head Spy Jessie made to the Pie Buffet: Cup-pies so dense and delicious, they'll knock your socks off (or rot your teeth out, either/or). Though the white chocolate version is shown, we brought the dark chocolate variety to the party.
White or Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup-pies

Crust (to be blind-baked before filling), recipe adapted from Taste of Home:
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Preheat oven to 450. In a bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Roll out to desired thickness (maybe slightly thinner than you would for a regular-sized pie) on a floured surface; either cut with a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter (or just eyeball it and cut with a knife, you can shape it later) to about 2.5 inches across; press into cupcake cups and with fingers, shape to fit (I found this works best with silicone cupcake cups, which are sturdier than paper variations). This amount will make anywhere from 8-12 cup-pies, depending on how thick you like the crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges.
Filling (not baked), adapted from Diana's Desserts:
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate chocolate, coarsely chopped 
OR
  • 8 ounces white chocolate couverture, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter and Co.'s White Chocolate Wonderful)
Microwave chocolate and whipping cream in medium bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring every minute. Beat with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Add the 2 tbsp. of peanut butter; mix well. Spoon into prebaked (already cooled) shells. Refrigerate let cool; refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
Note: You may have extra filling, depending on how thick your crusts are. If so, it's...um...delicious by the spoonful.
For more info on all things pie, visit piecouncil.org, or to get in on the argument over holiday's date, visit The Stranger. Though it's not been active for some time, the Mini Pie Revolution has a lot of cute ideas too.

 

Friday
Jan232009

1.23.09: Baked Good of the Day: The Josephine from Hot Cakes

Piece of cake from Hot Cakes, Ballard Market
Today I made a new discovery: Hot Cakes at the Ballard Farmer's Market. It's a small operation run by Autumn Martin, of Canlis and Theo Chocolate fame; the limited menu consists of just three types of cakes: the "Ari Cole", a ready-to-bake molten chocolate cake which can be baked at home or at the market for you; the "Josephine", an almond-rum financier; and one savory option, the "Dean Martin", a savory consisting of dates, bleu cheese and bacon.

I tried a sample of the "Josephine", which I thought made a very pleasant morsel--buttery, lightly nutty and with a taste of rum which didn't hit me right away, but was rather a pleasant lingering aftertaste. Apparently it's a hot seller at the market, and with good reason--this would be an ideal breakfast or teatime cake, à mon avis.
Hot Cakes
Hot Cakes are available Sundays at the Ballard Farmer's Market; according to the website, they are now available at the Theo Chocolate retail store as well. For more information, visit autumnmartin.com.

Thursday
Jan222009

1.22.09: Baked Good of the Day: Pistachio Cream Puff from Gelatiamo

Pistachio cream puff, Gelatiamo, Downtown
When it comes to cream puffs, I like mine a little bit more dense--that is to say, full of cream filling and generously iced. The delicate ones that have a mere dollop of filling have never been my cup of tea.

I was thrilled to find that Gelatiamo does cream puffs just the way I like them: a delicate pastry filled with luxuriously thick cream, and topped with sweet icing. The pistachio cream puff was subtle and didn't overwhelm; however, I liked the fact that it didn't have the typical chocolate icing ; also, the slight crunch from pistachio bits on top didn't hurt. And in keeping with the "small bite" trend, these cream puffs aren't huge, so are a perfect portion for after lunch or dinner.

Pistachio cream puff, Gelatiamo downtown.

Gelatiamo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Jan212009

Taking it to the Sweet: A Cupcake Street Art Installation

Taking it to the Sweet
Sometimes life sucks. We're talking about the little things that can wear on you in a big way: long commutes; waiting in line; dealing with rude people; being broke.

It was with these stressors in mind that we dreamed up an installation project small in scope but big in touchy-feeliness: we made a batch of fake cupcakes with uplifting phrases attached, and placed them throughout our neighborhood. 
Told you it was touchy-feely.
Here's what we did:
First, we made up a batch of faux cupcakes using plaster of paris. (Cakespy Note: If doing it again we might not use the silicone baking cups though, because they have a built-in fill line which showed up in our finished cakes.)
Fake CakesFake Cakes
Making Fake FrostingFake Cakes

Then we attached little flags to each, with cute sayings.Sweet Sentiments

Then came the fun part: we let 'em loose around town. Here are some of the highlights:

 

Park Bench cake
A park bench got a whole lot sweeter with a cupcake that said "You're super sweet";


People Like You. Really.
On top of a "No Parking" sign, a cupcake declared "People like you. Really";

Remain Calm.
Atop some foliage, stressed passersby are reminded to "Remain Calm";

Eat More Cake!
Perched atop a hydrant, one cupcake urges you to "Eat More Cake";

Relax!
On someone's garden patio, there's a reminder to "Relax!";

Have a very sweet day!
At a bus stop, weary travelers are told to "Have a very sweet day!";

Stay Cute!
Smokers may want to be cool, but this cupcake urges them to "Stay Cute!";

You Deserve a treat.
On an entryway, one cupcake reminds that "You deserve a treat";

The Economy is gonna be OK.
And finally, an ATM got a whimsical upgrade with a cupcake bearing the saying "The economy will be OK".

But on to the big question: Why?

Well, it's not too complicated. You know that we're strange little darlings, we spies. We liked the idea that the novelty of finding such an unusual art object in an unexpected spot might give viewer pause. Perhaps coming across one of these little cupcakes it made them smile, or maybe it annoyed them as a piece of rubbish. Maybe it made them scratch their head and wonder why. But in any instance, the ultimate goal was a repreive--a momentary escape from everyday worries, and a small reminder that yes, life can be strange--but sometimes sweet.
What happened to the cupcakes? Beats us, though if you live in Seattle, you might just find a sweet surprise where you least expect it.

 

Wednesday
Jan212009

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Itzy Bitzy Patisserie design
Mac Attack: Itzy Bitzy Patisserie not only has a sweet logo (see above)--they've got supersweet macarons! If you're in the NYC area, they're available via special order or at Tafu on Lexington Ave.

Does a blog help your baking business? Read one business owner's thoughts here.

Hungary or Bust--this place looks amazing! (thanks for the tip, Deb at Soapylove!)

We think we're in love with Sucre in New Orleans. (via Chocolate Pizza Stiletto Love)
Cupcakes take over Seattle--both Cupcake Royale and Trophy Cupcakes are opening new locations! (via Seattle P-I)

 

Are you an artist who loves to bake in NYC? You've got to apply for the Sweet Tooth of the Tiger's awesome Bakesale Residency program!

These Teddy Bear Cupcakes are so cute, you'll wish it was your first birthday again.

Looking for a mail-order layer cake? Multiple flavors are available to ship at Midway Country Corner.

Build your own customized cakes using this modular alphabet-number cake pan. (via Serious Eats)

Our friend Judi Hendricks' new book is coming out February 10th--her novels always prominently feature delicious food!

 

Wednesday
Jan212009

1.21.09 Baked Good of the Day: Vegan Russian Teacakes from PCC

Vegan Russian Teacake
I love these cookies. Whether they're called snowballs, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Armenian sugar cookies or whatever--I love them.

I found this variation--the vegan Russian Teacake--at PCC. I can't be sure, but it *might* be from Flying Apron. It was a crumbly and slightly messy cookie, but the sandy, sugary, nutty taste was pure deliciousness. With a touch of salt (so important to sweets!) it was nicely balanced; in fact, I liked this cookie so much I went back for a second one. As for the vegan aspect, to be honest, if it hadn't been labeled as such, I probably would not have known that it lacked dairy; certainly there was nothing lost flavorwise.

Vegan Russian Teacake from PCC in Fremont.

Sunday
Jan182009

Cakewalk Special: Baltimore Picks from B More Sweet

Cupcakes from Perfect Cupcakes, c/o Bmoresweet

Cakespy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe B More Sweet, Baltimore's authority on all things sweet!

Oh, Baltimore, that rascal of a city. While some may be deterred by its abnormally high murder rate, please, don't pass Charm City by--because it really does have a certain je ne sais quoi--among other things, it is the home of John Waters, the birthplace of the Berger Cookie, final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, and of course, home to so many wonderful bakeries. Recently our buddy and Baltimore sweets afficionado friend, Cake Gumshoe B More Sweet put together of her Baltimore picks for us: 

(unless otherwise noted, all photos c/o B More Sweet)

  strawberry/vanilla & chocolate/chocolate cupcake
(photo of Warren Brown cupcakes--from the DC location, but you get the idea-- c/o How to Eat a Cupcake)
Cake Love: Fabulous, with the stupendous Warren Brown at the helm. What's not to love about a former Justice Dept attorney gone renegade baker who got his own TV show? A cool, hip, retro vibe in this sleek store selling old-fashioned cakes and cupcakes as well as vegan treats. Here they're all about the taste - no overwrought hyperventilating decoration goes on at Cake Love. Online at cakelove.com.

 

Charm City Cakes: Duff Goldman of Food TV Network's Ace of Cakes holdeth forth here. It's not a bakery you can walk into, but makes special-event and cakes for occasions. However, Duff and his crew are SO FANTASTIC that I'm sure with prior arrangements you can get yerselves in there. Duff's cakes are awesome. Online at charmcitycakes.com.

as for a cupcake interlude...


Charm City Cupcakes: This is a girlie girlie pink store (think Lily Pulitzer) selling extremely sweet, frosting-laden cupcakes in a variety of rotating flavors. Online at charmcitycupcakes.com.

Perfect Cupcakes, c/o Bmoresweet
Perfect Cupcakes: Catherine Hamilton brings her adorable mobile bakery truck operation to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where in warm-enough weather she sells delicious cupcakes with beautiful minimalist designs (see top photo). Online at perfectcupcakes.com .

 

getting Frenchy...

Patisserie Poupon: For a decadent, TOTALLY awesome traditional French bakery, you can't skip the venerable Patisserie Poupon. How traditional are they? NO REAL WEBSITE! Located at 820 E Baltimore Street, in a kind of iffy, fringe-y location. In other words, authentic. For my money, this is the best patisserie in Baltimore. But go early - the best goodies sell out tres vite. Click here for more info.

 

Bonaparte Bread, C/O bmoresweet
Bonaparte Breads: My heart belongs (also, because I am fickle) to Bonaparte Breads, 903 S. Ann Street, in Fell's Point (itself a fun, funky neighborhood full of bars.) This gleaming little spot is a definite go-to for croissants, plain or flavored. You won't find cupcakes here, but instead all manner of butter-laden French pastries and warming, delicious breads. Click here for more info.

 

what about Italian treats? 
Vaccaro's, c/o Bmoresweet
Vaccaro's Pastry: We are blessed with fantastic Italian bakeries. "Even though it's famous, it's still great" should be the motto for Vaccaro's, with several locations around the city. My favorite is in Canton (yet another hip, trendy neighborhood!) This is the spot for cannoli, Italian cookies, and homemade gelato. Online at vaccarospastry.com.

Piedigrotta Bakery, Baltimore, Photo c/o Bmoresweet
Piedigrotta Bakery: Less famous but equally delicious is Piedigrotta, which is conveniently located next to the hippest bowling alley in Baltimore. And my favorite thing about Piedigrotta is that the baker will waste no time in telling you that he is THE originator of tiramisu. Throughout the history of the world, this baker is the originator of tiramisu. Just ask him! Online at piedigrottabakery.com.

 

And for candies, confections and chocolates? 


Louis J Rheb Creams
(photo c/o rhebcandy.com)
Louis J. Rheb: The unparallelled un-toppable Louis J. Rheb Company, where they still make all the chocolates by hand, don't do any foo-fooey crap, and where the Lucy and Ethel candy factory scene was actually shot! They still make everything in the basement at 3352 Wilkens Avenue. You will never eat a chocolate buttercream from anywhere else in the WORLD, including Switzerland, once you've eaten a Rheb's chocolate buttercream. Online at rhebcandy.com.

 

Cacao Lorenzo
Cacao Lorenzo Chocolatier: I can't overlook Cacao Lorenzo Chocolatier, where the brilliant Larry McGlinchey creates the most elegant, lyrical, amazing chocolates anywhere. Cacao Lorenzo is a small boutique, impeccably clean, and the candies are just stunning. It's not inside Baltimore City proper, but it's in the Baltimore suburbs, and for a chocolate candy lover, well worth the short car ride to get there. Online at cacaolorenzo.com.

Saving the best for last...

 

Dangerously Delicious Pie box, c/o BmoresweetPie from Dangerously Delicious, photo c/o Dangerouspies.com
***Dangerously Delicious Pies: If you were to be given an option only to go to one sweet spot in Baltimore, I'd steer you to Dangerously Delicious Pies, where Rodney Henry makes a pie crust to bring you to your knees. The original Dangerously Delicious is located in trendy Federal Hill, and the tatted rockstar former Marine Rodney holds forth behind the counter of this bright red establishment on all things pie, whether sweet or savory. Dangerously Delicious has a second outpost in equally-hip Hampden, where the restaurant is called Dangerously Delicious Savory House and if you're lucky Rodney's rock band might be playing. I will never make pie again, after eating Dangerously Delicious. At our house we are always looking for an excuse to buy a DD pie. Online at dangerouspies.com.

 

 

Saturday
Jan172009

She's a Brick House: The NYC Brownstone Front Cake

Brownstone front cake
What's in a name? They say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet--but would it be as compelling? 

Take for instance the New York City Brownstone Front Cake. Certainly that's a much more appealing and interesting name than say, "Chocolate Loaf Cake"--and certainly the name is what lured us to learn more about, and bake, this cake. 

New York City Brownstone Front Cake

As Maida Heatter notes above, the Brownstone Cake is not something easily defined: the name has been used to describe cakes of caramel and chocolate, served as loaves or as layer cakes (if you're interested in learning more about its history, click here). But what holds true in each version is that this is a serious, dare we say brick house, of a cake: moist, rich, and very dense. 
Using Maida's recipe as a starting point, we made our own version of the Brownstone cake, in a loaf pan. The result was an almost brownie-like cake. Because it was a large one, we let it stand as a loaf and let each eater choose their own adventure with their slice. It's an easy one to enjoy plain, iced (top picture), a la mode, or completely over the top-chocolatey (below). 

Ridiculously over the top chocolate brownie cake

New York City Brownstone Front Cake (adapted from Maida Heatter)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp. dry instant coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups unsifted unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 3/4 firmly packed cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • *Optional Cakespy additions for added decadence and deliciousness:
  • 2 heaping tablespoons dark chocolate peanut butter--this gave it a richer, deeper dark chocolate color than some other examples of the cake we've seen.
  • 1 generous handful chocolate chips
Directions:
  • Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. You need a loaf pan with a 9-cup capacity (we didn't so we made two loaves using a smaller loaf pans). Butter the pan. (The original recipe calls for a breadcrumb mixture to line the pan but we didn't do that).
  • Chop the chocolate into coarse pieces and place it in a small saucepan off the heat. Add the boiling water and instant coffee. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Maida's note: the mixture is in a saucepan so that if necessary it can be placed over heat until the chocolate is melted). Stir to mix and set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well mixed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla. On low speed add about half of the dry ingredients and beat to mix. Beat in the sour cream and then the remaining dry ingredients. Still on low speed, gradually add the melted chocolate mixture, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating until thoroughly mixed.
  • *At this point, figuring it would be delicious, we also stirred in a generous handful of chocolate chips, and about 2 heaping tablespoons' worth of dark chocolate peanut butter (we used Peanut Butter and Co.'s), in little chunks here and there in the batter.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). 
  • Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until a cake tester gently inserted in the middle comes out dry.
  • Cool the cake in the pan for about fifteen minutes. Then cover with a rack, turn the pan and rack upside down, and remove the pan, leaving the cake upside down to cool on the rack.

Empty pan, baby!Brownstone Front cake deliciousness

Now, this is the point at which we split paths with Maida. Rather than making her suggested Brownstone Icing,  as mentioned above, we left the cake as-is and let each eater choose their own adventure; the most delicious variation was undoubtedly the over-the-top chocolatey slice, on which we slathered on a bit of leftover chocolate buttercream frosting from a recent bout of baking and topped it with Hershey's chocolate syrup; to those who might consider this a bit excessive, it really is quite good lightly iced or even plain as well.

 

*As an added note, those who find this cake of interest may also get some extreme enjoyment out of David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake recipe.

Saturday
Jan172009

1.17.09: Baked Good of the Day: Carolina's Cornetto from Tutta Bella Pizza

Dessert at Tutta Bella Pizza
Our discovery of Carolina's Cornetto was a chance encounter. Waiting at the bar until our table was ready, the barista had accidentally cracked the shell in which this dessert is served, and so gave the damaged one to us for free. Score!

This treat is apparently new on Tutta Bella's roster--it's a rework of the cannoli that used to be on their menu, according to our server. Basically, the shell has changed and the composition has been altered: it's an Italian pizzelle cookie cone filled with a blend of mascarpone, sweet ricotta cream, dried cherries, grated orange peel, pistachios & chocolate.

Once we finished dinner we also got the Tiramisu and the Cantucccci ("little stones")--a
Trio of traditional Italian cookies similar to biscotti--and both of these desserts were certainly respectable, but it was the Cornetto that really stood out to us. Not only was it a sweet (and free) surprise, but it was a perfect size (just a couple of bites) and the contrast of textures and flavors -- crunchy and creamy, slightly sour and sweet--was memorable.

Carolina's Cornetto, Tutta Bella Pizza.

Friday
Jan162009

1.16.09: Baked Good of the Day: Cherry Cobbler Bar from Louisa's Cafe Bakery

Cherry Cobbler Bar from Louisa's Cafe Bakery
All I can say is, whoa. How had I never been to this place before?

Well, it's all about the location. Louisa's Cafe Bakery is on Eastlake Avenue East, and to a car-less person who doesn't enjoy any bike ride with even the slightest hint of an incline, this is kind of like no-man's land. But I had seen their cute logo while riding on the bus, and today I finally made it inside.

Louisa's is a cafe / breakfast and lunch spot, but they also have an extremely respectable bakery case, will all sorts of cookies, cinnamon rolls, mazurkas (!) and brownies and bars. Generally cherry isn't my go-to flavor, but the top crust on the cherry cobbler bar looked too good to pass up. At $3.75 it was an investment, but it weighed about the same as a hardbound copy of War & Peace, so I found it fair.

Even as a liker-rather-than-lover of cherry flavored baked goods, I recognized that this was good stuff. The bar held its shape nicely--no unbecoming ooze here. The cherries were not too sweet, but rather slightly sour, which provided a nice complexity to the flavor. But what really got me was the buttery top and bottom crust--slightly crunchy, with a touch of saltiness and a nice coating of coarse sugar on the top, it was simply wonderful. This bodes well for the rest of their baked goods--next time I'm definitely going for the cinnamon roll.

Cherry Cobbler Bar, from Louisa's Cafe Bakery.

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