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Sunday
Oct262008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy!

Christmas stamp closeup
Economic crisis got you down? Well, we know what will cheer you up--new Holiday Rubber Stamps by Taylored Expressions, featuring Cakespy artwork! Everyone knows that handmade cards are a sweet thing to give and receive, and you just might start feeling better about the economy when surrounded by all this sweetness!! There are three different holiday sets (Season's Sweetings - $21.95; Home Sweet Home - $21.95; Tag Treats - $12.95) , so you can choose your own card or craft-making adventure--or buy all three for a dose of mega-sweetness!
New Christmas Stamps!

New Christmas Rubber Stamps!
Of course, you should also check out the Taylored Expressions blog for ideas and inspirations, and to check out projects that others have made with them!
New Christmas Rubber Stamps!

 

 

Friday
Oct242008

Cake, Carbs and Cream Cheese: A Love Story, Memoir and Iron Cupcake Entry

Bagel and Cream Cheese Cupcake
Letter from the Head Spy

Dear Cakespy Readers,

When people meet me, they're commonly surprised by my small stature. "Do you actually eat cake?" they ask. The answer is yes. Yes, I do--nearly every day. And this month, for an entry to Iron Cupcake, the internet's coolest cupcake competition, it made me reflect upon something that has really shaped my attitude toward eating.

 

When I was in high school, I was overweight--and as a result, always on a diet. Of course, periods of intense deprivation inevitably would end dramatically, with me raiding the freezer for ice cream, cookies, candy, chips...anything. A vicious cycle.

When I was a senior in high school, I came across Geneen Roth's book When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. In it, she recounts how one day she said "enough!" to the yo-yo of constantly starving oneself and asked herself what it was that she really wanted to eat. In her case it was chocolate chip cookies, so she ate them--and only them--every day, every meal, until her body was crying out for a veggie. Over time, what happened was that she learned how to actually listen to her body and respect its desires and needs.
Bagel and Cream cheese cupcake
What was it that I really wanted, I wondered? The answer was immediate, and consisted of two things: cake and bread. And so, for the next several months, I rotated a menu consisting almost completely of bagels with a generous spread of cream cheese, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, and cake--mostly vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting and crumb cake.

Certainly at this point you're saying "but you must have blown up!". Strangely though, it was quite the opposite. I found that once I gave myself permission to eat these things, I was no longer subject to the furtive style of eating wherein I would inevitably cram more cake into my mouth--and after a while, I would sometimes even leave a bite uneaten, if I was no longer hungry (understand that this was a very big deal).
Like Roth, after a few months my body began asking for other things, and I realized that I too had cravings for what had previously tasted of dull suffering in the diet days: carrots, spinach, apples--even brussels sprouts. Paired with moving to New York City for college and subscribing to the walker-friendly lifestyle there, I began to slim down gradually, and in a natural way; I have remained small ever since.

Grilled Cheese Cupcake
While I can't say that I never worry about eating too much sugar, I (as well as the other Cake Gumshoes) live a generally very healthy lifestyle. However, we also do allow ourselves the joy of full-fat, no holds-barred desserts. We have no delusions about these foods being good for our bodies, but we know in our hearts they're good for the soul.
And so in that spirit, here is the Cakespy entry to the Iron Cupcake: Cheese theme. We followed our cake-and-bread theme by making an extra-carby, dense cake, and topped it with a cream cheese frosting--and topped them with our favorite carby icons--including a marzipan "bagel" dipped in poppyseeds and a sweet little "grilled cheese". And so, in closing--Viva la carbohydrate!--and here's to just letting yourself eat cake.

 

Sweetly,
Head Spy Jessie

That's not a cupcake
PS--For those of you who thought there wasn't nearly enough mischief in this post, here's a fun way we messed with some friends (who happen to be vegan): we made "cupcakes" out of a slightly sculpted slice of soy cheese, topped with Tofutti cream cheese "frosting". Muhaha! That cupcake wasn't sweet! Haha, messing with people is funny.

 

 

Wednesday
Oct222008

Bronx Tale: A Day of Sweetness in Morris Park

Bronx Tale: Sweetness in Morris Park
For many, Arthur Avenue is the Italian mecca in the Bronx--affectionately known as the other (some say "true") Little Italy. However, as we recently discovered, it's not the only spot north of Manhattan for sweet Italian goodness. Enter Morris Park, " a roughly rectangular swath of the east Bronx...bordered on the south by Sacket Avenue, on the east by Eastchester Road, on the north by Neill Avenue and on the west by White Plains Road." Now, we'd heard that Morris Park was a good neighborhood for Italian bakeries, but once we saw that even the parking meters were decked out in the colors of the Italian flag (left), we knew it was true. Here's what we enjoyed in Morris Park, the other other Little Italy:

Conti's Pastry, Morris Park, BronxConti's Pastry, Morris Park, BronxMarble Pound Cake, Conti's Pastry, Morris Park, Bronx
Conti's Pastry: Conti's Pastry shop has been churning out sweetness since 1921, and clearly they're doing something right. The smell upon entering this shop was incredible, and the rows of baked goods in the cases were beautifully arranged and appealing. Keeping it simple we opted for the (huge!) marble pound cake. The buttery cake, threaded with bittersweet chocolate, was a dreamy, light and decadent bite all at once. 786 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx; 718-239-9339. Online at contispastryshoppe.com.

 

Doughnut from Enrico's, Morris Park, Bronx
Enrico's: Not far from Conti's, Enrico's Pastry Shop is perhaps a misnomer--while they do have a pastry case, the other items--breads, italian ices, take up a lot more space here. For some reason, the cookies weren't singing to us here--but the filled doughnuts, freshly frosted, were quite good, with no scrimping on the cream filling. 1057 Morris Park Ave., Bronx; (718) 823-7207.


Morris Park Bake shopLemon Cookie, Morris Park Bake ShopLemon Cookie
Morris Park Bake Shop: We've read mixed reviews online, citing that some of the employees aren't very friendly--however, we had a great experience here. The staff was beyond friendly, and more than willing to talk cookie with us. We chose a specialty which is common in New York but rarely seen in Seattle: the anginetti cookie. And oh, was it sugary, tart, sweet, and good. 1007 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY 10462, Morris Park; (718) 892-4968.

 

Morrone Bakery, BronxMorrone Bakery, BronxCannoli in the Bronx

Morrone Bakery: (Cakespy Note: Not to be confused with the late, much-loved Morrone Bakery of East Harlem--though it may be the same family?). They get points off for service (the employee seemed far more interested in text messaging than in talking about the origin of Italian tricolor cookies with us), but really, the attractively displayed and well-lit array of baked goods spoke for themselves. We settled on a cakey tricolor cookie and a few butter cookies. The butter cookies were nicely crumbly; the tricolor cake-cookie held its own--and was certainly a good-looking confection--but wasn't quite as good as the gussied-up version we picked up later the same day at How Sweet It Is in Manhattan. 1946 Williamsbridge Road; Bronx, NY 10461 (718) 828-8111; another location on Arthur Avenue.

 

How to get to Morris Park? We took the 5 train to the Morris Park stop. Check out more about the neighborhood here!

 

 

 

Monday
Oct202008

Cuppie Capers: The Pick-Up Artist

Cuppie Capers: The Pick-up Artist

 

 

 

Sunday
Oct192008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Cordon Bleu Student Jess Abas

Batter chatter: Interview with Jess Abas 

So you wanna quit your job and become a baker. Sure, it sounds glamorous and fun--a world of buttercream and sugar! All sweetness all the time!--but what is it like, you know, before the Food Network tapes start rolling? Recently, we took some time to discuss the life of a budding pastry chef with Jess Abas, who knows what it's like to work (and travel) for pastry--she moved from Tulsa, OK to enroll in the patisserie program at the Scottsdale, AZ outpost of Le Cordon Bleu. From what we see (including a fantastic Cakespy-inspired cake!) she knows her way around a kitchen--and residents of Nashville can rejoice, because upon graduating, she's already secured a position at Sugar Bar, which is slated to open in Spring 2009.

 

Cakespy Note: The photos used are all Jess' creations--they're all ssignments and baking projects!

Cakespy: What made you decide to study patisserie and baking?

Jess Abas: Growing up cooking was always a big part of my family: at the holidays, dinners, etc. My Dad was always involved in the food industry (i.e. working at Sysco, owning a restaurant equipment company, and owning a couple food establishments). Also, my big influence is my Grandmother. When I was younger she was always baking cookies and she always let me help her decorate with sprinkles and whatnot. Food was always an activity I was welcomed to help with and I loved that. That kind of food always reminds people of home, I think. That's why I just had to be a part of it.

 

Meringues by JessCakes by Jess
CS: From what we hear, studying at Le Cordon Bleu is a very intense experience. Is it as hard/competitive as we hear?
JA: This school is definitely intense! They take what would normally take a couple years and condense it into one year (that's for the degree program). It's set up crazy but way worth it once you get to the end. The hardest part about the school is that it moves so fast that you sometimes (a lot) do not have time to perfect all the skills. You learn it, do it a couple times, and then you move on to the next thing. That always frustrates a lot of the students. Being in the this field turns everyone into a perfectionist, I think.

Entreme by Jess AbasCake by Jess
And yes, the school is really competitive. It's like 30 students all studying the same specialty, in one classroom... You always see people sneaking glances at your stuff and wonder what they are thinking. Than, you hear other people's grades and compare your stuff to theirs.
Pastillage by Cakespy reader Jess!
CS: Do you think that attending culinary school has changed the way you look at baked goods / pastries in bakeries or restaurants? More appreciative? More critical?
JA: Going to school has completely changed the way I see everything. It makes me both--more appreciative, in that I know the effort and time someone put in to get that product--and critical, in that now I know they way some things are supposed to taste and look from a classic stand-point. Although, I must say I just love old-fashioned baking (that's the best).

Harlequin Rolls by JessCake by Jess
CS: You currently study in Scottsdale. Are there any pastries or bakeries that simply cannot be missed for visitors?
JA: Scottsdale is great! There are tons of restaurants and little bake shops, everywhere. Definitely, go to one of the school's restaurants. They have one at both campuses.

Breakfast tart by JessPie by Jess
CS: What is your favorite baked good to make?
JA: I love baking anything, really. Pies, cookies, brownies, cakes, anything! As long as it tastes good, Ha! I find myself going back to making pies & cobblers, a lot. It's minimal ingredients, fresh fruit, slow-baked... how could it not be good? And they are great because the ingredients change according to season.

CS: What are your favorite baked goods to eat?
JA: My favorite things to eat? Absolutely everything, haha! I have a sweet tooth, that's for sure. I really love a great cookie with a glass of milk or a slice of pie with some ice cream. You know? The stuff that my Grandma would make.

Crumble by Jess

CS: What is your ultimate goal as a baker?
JA: Oh wow! That's a hard question. My ultimate goal is to attempt to make as much delicious food as possible and try and bring as much joy to the people I am giving it to, as it brings me to bake it. I would love to just feed everyone, feed all the hungry.

 

CS: Do you have any advice for others who may be considering culinary school? Stuff you wish you knew before you started, tips, etc?
JA: If it's what you love to do, whether it be baking or cooking.. Just, go for it! School is a great way to get better and train and hone your skills. It's also a great way to network with other people in the industry. And you have to be committed, it's a tough school, it's a tough field, and it's a tough job. Just love it and do it.

As you can see, Jess is not only sweet but wise too! For more information on Le Cordon Bleu's programs, visit this site; to find out more about Jess' future workplace, visit blog.thesugarbar.com!

 

 

 

Saturday
Oct182008

Cakespy Undercover: Major Mojo at Two Tartes in Seattle

The "Mojo" from Two Tartes
Unless you live in Georgetown, chances are you've never come across Two Tartes, a small bakery / cafe near the old Rainier Brewing factory. In their ads and on their site, they dub themselves as "aggressively uncool"; our first impression was that this must be some type of hipster-speak for "we're so much awesomer than you". On our recent visit though, we learned that the title is apt--all of the employees we encountered were friendly and seemed really into their products.

Walking in on a Tuesday morning, scones and cookies were well-stocked; the rest of the assortment consisted of the odd cupcake or tart, and weren't as appealingly displayed. Asking for advice on a cookie choice, the girl behind the counter listed the varieties. We couldn't help but notice that her voice hushed slightly (in reverence perhaps?) at the mention of the "Mojo", their store specialty--a hefty coconut/chocolate chip/oatmeal cookie which is roughly as big as a salad plate.

Oh, the Mojo. Still slightly warm, the crisp edge of the cookie gave way to chocolatey bits mingled with the chewy oatiness to make some sort of a mouthfeel nirvana; the coconut didn't hit right away but was more of a complementary middle and aftertaste, adding a dimension of richness and depth to the flavor. Oh yeah--this is one good cookie. And at $1.75 for a cookie that could easily be split four ways (really), it's a bargain too.

All in all, a good trip. While we think that maybe they could let go of that aggressive uncool-ness enough to make their displays a little bit more appealing, there's no denying that they know how to make a good cookie.

Two Tartes Bakery, 5629 Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98108; 206-767-8012; online at www.twotartes.com.
Two Tartes Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Oct162008

Letter to the Editor: Mellowcreme Strikes Back

Mellowcreme strikes back!
To Whom It May Concern at "Cakespy":

My name is Mellowcreme Pumpkin and I would like to comment on your recent article "Cake Poll: Fall Treats". In reading through your reader responses I notice that the confection known as "Candy Corn" has attained far more votes than me in the race to determine the superior Halloween Confection. It has brought me to only one conclusion: either this poll has been funded by "Candy Corn" or "Candy Corn" has paid off said readers for a positive response.

Mellowcreme strikes back!
In defense of my superiority, allow me to point out some important issues which I hope will make readers reconsider their vote:

 

  • There's simply no delicate way to state it other than to say Candy Corn is a Conehead. Do you really want to associate yourself with a piece of candy whose claim to fame is a resemblance to a washed-up vintage Saturday Night Live character? 
  • Candy Corn is skinny. They say never trust a skinny chef--I say never trust a skinny candy. Even considering Candy Corn's unbecoming "junk in the trunk", you'd still have to eat at least three of them to equal one of me. 
  • Seeing green: There's a lot of value put on being "green" in society these days. Well, do you see a trace of green on Candy Corn? No way. I'm the only confection in this mixed bag of candies to contain green. You know what that means? I'm practically a vegetable! Clearly I'm the healthiest choice, not to mention I have a more visually pleasing palette. 
  • Mellowcreme strikes back!
  • The press agrees: According to Serious Eats, Candy Corn is "the fruitcake of halloween candy" and one of the 10 worst Halloween candies to give out. While some of you may argue that my ingredient list is the same, I don't see any pictures of Mellowcreme Pumpkins on that list, so clearly I am a confection of a higher caliber. 
  • I've inspired poetry: for a case in point, check out the beautiful poem "Ode to a Mellowcreme Pumpkin" by McPolack, Inc. Here's an excerpt:
Oh, sweet, sweet mellowcreme pumpkin...let's get together tonight in front of the Gilmore Girls
Where I will feast upon you until I very nearly hurl
They don't put nearly enough of you in the Brach's Autumn Mix.
Have you ever seen a poem about Candy Corn? Well, have you? William Wordsworth would surely agree, I am the superior candy.

Mellowcreme strikes back!
I will close by imploring the readers of "Cakespy.com" to reconsider their vote. There is still time to remedy this voting travesty; consider your integrity here. Sure, "Candy Corn" may have dazzled you, what with its showy three colors and unusual shape. But please, look deep in your hearts--and stomachs--because I've got a lot of sweetness to share, if you'll just give me a chance.
Respectfully yours,
M. C. Pumpkin

Mellowcreme strikes back!

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct142008

Everybody Likes (Cookie) Sandwiches: Exploration of a Sweet Trend

Cookie Sandwich, Grandaisy
(Cakespy Note: the title is a shout-out to a favorite food site, Everybody Likes Sandwiches!)


On our recent trip to NYC, one bakery trend in particular stood out for us: the cookie sandwich is showing up in a big way in bakeries. Now, it's not as if this confection is new, or as if it has ever really been out of style (as proven by America's bestselling cookie for years, the Oreo). Certainly we've seen these cookies before; however, never with the proliferation that we witnessed on this visit. What makes this particular cookie sandwich of interest is that while it shares traits with alfajores, macarons, whoopie pies, and of course Oreo cookies, they are not quite the same as any of these cookies. What we saw was generally two generous rounds (3 inches or so across) of a fairly substantial nature, with a generous dollop of filling nestled between.
Here were some of the ones we came across:

Homemade Oreo from Bourbon Street, NYC
At Bourbon Street Southern Gourmet Pantry, for instance, they had the "homemade oreo"--a sandwich cookie made of chocolate wafers filled with a rich vanilla cream. It's a strange feeling to eat a freshly baked version of something that is normally store-bought; it's hard to say if it tastes better or worse--because once it has a title like that, you've got a taste association and expectation in mind. All that philosophizing aside though, we finished it and were smiling when it was gone, which may be the most telling review we can offer.

 

Grandaisy Bakery, 72nd St.Cookie Sandwich, Grandaisy

At Grandaisy Bakery, a few different varieties were available of what they called "panini dolce" (rough translation: sweetwich!)--Nutella, lemon ginger, and chocolate cream cheese. We chose the shortbread cookie sandwich filled with Nutella and dusted with powdered sugar. This cookie sandwich was simply superlative--the buttery cookies mixed with Nutella was such a gorgeous symphony of sweet, slightly salty and richly chocolatey that the only sad part about this cookie was the moment we realized there was none left.

At Magnolia Bakery, they make a "whoopie sandwich cookie" which, like its name implies, leans more toward the cookie end of the spectrum (as opposed to the more pillowy, cakey cookie bits usually used for whoopie pies). Theirs consists of two brown sugar cookies with a dollop of maple cream cheese icing in between. (Photo left courtesy NY Daily News).

 

At Baked, they boast a coffee and chocolate variety, as well as vanilla and chocolate varieties. (Cakespy note: Though it's different than the cookies we're talking about here, it's worth noting that they do also have award-winning pumpkin whoopie pies on offer as well!). The cookie sandwiches are also available at Royale in Manhattan, though some varieties did not warrant Serious Eats' seal of approval.

Treats Truck
And the Treats Truck of course boasts cookie sandwich varieties such as Caramel Creme, Peanut Butter, and Cinnamon. We didn't get to try these, but as a commenter said on Midtown Lunch, "The peanut butter cookie sandwich with peanut butter is quite possibly the greatest thing ever created. I suggest everyone buy anywhere from 1 to 39 of these cookies." Sounds like an ace review to us!

So what gives with the sandwich cookie? Was it a matter of one bakery's success inspiring others? Is it the result of a longing for nostalgic treats paired with a demand for better ingredients and quality?

While we can't answer these questions, we can quote Wayne Brachman from his book "American Desserts: The Best Sweets on Earth"--"sandwich cookies are a marvelous thing. Case in point: The Oreo chocolate sandwich is the most popular cookie in the world and has held that status for nearly a century". Wayne had it right from the start--if sandwich cookies want to make their presence known in bakeries far and wide, we say bring it on.

 

 

 

Monday
Oct132008

Batter Chatter: Interviews with Notable Bakers

Interview with Katy Gunderson, The Yellow Bowl Bakery, Lafayette, IN

Interview with Rose Levy Beranbaum, Author of The Cake Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes

Interview with Carrie Sellman of Half Baked - The Cake Blog

Interview with Brittany Blanchard of Brintini's, Portland OR

Interview with Stephanie Campbell of Cake Fixation, Redmond WA

Interview with Aran of Cannelle Et Vanille

Interview with Matt and Renato of Baked, Brooklyn NY

Inerview with Triy of Cupcake Culture

Interview with Kim Ima, Treats Truck

Interview with Jill Segal, Jilly's Cupcake Bar, St Louis MO

Interview with Melissa Cohen, Metal Sugar Designs

Interview with Sandy Ploy, the Milwaukee Cupcake Queen

Interview with Leslie Fiet of Mini's Cupcakes, SLC, Utah

Interview with Reina Miller of hello, cupcake in Tacoma, WA

Interview with Pink Cake Box of Denville, NJ

Interview with Claudia Saraniecki of Babushka Bakery

Interview with Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery, Las Vegas

Interview with author Joanne Fluke

Interview with Brooks Coulson Nguyen of Dragonfly Cakes

Interview with City Down, NZ Cupcake Queen

Interview with Clare Bateman-King

Interview with Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes

Interview with Elizabeth Gordon of Betsy & Claude

Interview with Evan's Kitchen Ramblings

Interview with Jen Vesper of Layers of Love, Utah

Interview with Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes

Interview with Jess of All Things Cupcake

Interview with Karen Rivera-Gorski of The Painted Cake

Interview with Lovely, Australian Naomi Henderson

Interview with Marlene Goetzeler of Freeport Bakery

Interview with Miette Patisserie

Interview with Paul Verano of The Confectional

Interview with Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals

Interview with Sara Ross of Kickass Cupcakes

Interview with Trilly Nguyen of whiskie bits Bakeshop

Interview with Vegan Baker Lindsey Walsworth of La Dolce Lulu

Saturday
Oct112008

Cake Poll: Fall Treats!

October Cakespy Giveaway!

Sure, the days are getting shorter and cooler, but they're also getting sweeter. Halloween is just around the corner, a sweet kickoff to what promises to be a fall and winter full of pies, puddings and wonderful holiday treats.
And in celebration of all of this sweetness, this month's Cake Poll focuses on fall treats! The lucky winner will receive an original Cakespy watercolor depicting L'il Cuppie being chased by ghosts (pictured top)--looks like they didn't want to share their candy!

How do you enter? Just answer the below questions to be entered in the running! Responses may be entered in the comments section or emailed to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

  • Which do you prefer: candy corn or mellowcreme pumpkins?
  • Fun-size candy bars: do they make you happy or leave you hungry?
  • Trick-or-treaters without costumes: give 'em candy anyway, or turn 'em away?
  • Halloween candy-eating method: eat it as fast as you can, or ration it out to last?
  • Favorite cold-weather beverage: hot apple cider or hot chocolate?
  • Fall pie faceoff: apple or pumpkin?

The fine print: The poll will be closed at 12 p.m PST on Friday, October 17. As usual, the winner will be chosen at random. Entries from the US and beyond are welcome. Your info will never be shared and these questions are solely motivated by our nosy spy tendencies.

 

....and we have a winner! Our winner was JEAN from New Jersey! Jean entered in our comments section and most definitely prefers Candy Corn! While Mellowcreme Pumpkin may not approve, we were more than happy to see the piece of artwork go to such a sweet home! 


 

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