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Saturday
Nov102007

Cakewalk in the Pike Place Market


The Pike Place Market: we think you've heard of it. If you've visited Seattle, undoubtedly you dropped by; if you are planning a visit, likely it will be on your agenda. But for locals? The response many Seattleites will give is "oh, I haven't been there for a long time!". This is truly lamentable, because this place is a treasure trove of good pastry. Whether it's your first trip or a return visit at long last, come along with Cakespy for a guide to what's what in the Pike Place Market, listed alphabetically:

Cafe Campagne: This one is a sit-down restaurant, but if you went mid-day we'll bet you could just order dessert. They keep it seasonal; choices might include a tarte tatin, hazelnut crème brûlée, or a dreamy pear clafoutis with walnut ice cream. 1600 Post Alley, (206) 728-2233; online at campagnerestaurant.com.

Chukar Cherry Co.: OK, so we always thought these looked sort of gimmicky and never tried one until someone gave us a free sample...at which point we were converted. These things are good: chocolate covered cherries, nuts and berries, and all preservative-free to boot. They're available for online purchase too. Main Arcade, just north of Athenian/Lowells restaurants; online at chukar.com.

Cinnamon Works: With a bent toward organic and vegan baked goods, the pastries here are large enough to share and they have a great open kitchen so you can watch them work. For us, the standout is their pumpkin cookies, which are really more like scones or small cakes, with a glaze frosting that might make your eyes glaze over with happiness. 1530 Pike Place; (206) 583-0085.

The Confectional: These people know what they're doing. Their cheesecakes (in various sizes as well as truffle versions) are rich, velvety and have an absolutely perfect cheesecake-to-crust ratio. But don't dare leave without trying the spicy Colombian hot chocolate, which is akin to liquid gold. 1530 Pike Place, (206) 282-4422; online at theconfectional.com. (Check out our Batter Chatter interview with owner Paul Verano too!).

Crepe de France: We like it when a pastry can go either sweet or savory, and crepes are just such a dish. Why not have their popular salmon, cream cheese, onion and dill with Bechamel sauce for lunch or dinner, and then try owner Nany Price's favorite for dessert: a sweet crepe filled with fresh strawberries, nutella and whipped cream. 93 Pike St., Ste 4; (206) 624-2196.

The Crumpet Shop: We are always surprised but charmed by the constant state of disarray here: with just a few regular kitchen toasters to complete a mass volume of orders, it's always a jumble...but we love them anyway. Their crumpets are just the way they ought to be, craggy and toasty; scones are buttery, biscuity and delicious, but often sell out well before teatime. 1503 First Ave.; (206) 682-1598.

Daily Dozen Donut Co: Cute punk rockers frying up sweet treats and shaking them with powdered sugar to order...we think that says it all! If it doesn't though, check out our Doughnut Guide to Seattle. 93 Pike St. Suite 7; (206) 467-7769.

DeLaurenti: Their bakery is largely comprised of goodies from good local places (Le Panier, Essential Baking Company, Macrina); however, the cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and butter) and brownies, which are a rich delight, are made in-house every day. 1435 First Ave.; (206) 622-0141; online at delaurenti.com.

La Buona Tavola: Mostly a truffle (not chocolate) cafe, but don't pass it by. It's worth a visit for their gorgeous chestnut spreads: either sweet chestnut cream, or chestnut with almond, honey and hazelnut. They'll brighten up your toast at breakfast for sure. They're available online too! 1524 Pike Pl.; (206) 292-5555; online at trufflecafe.com.

Le Panier: Translated, this means "bread basket"; the bakery was started by a Frenchman who missed his daily baguette and croissant. It's very Frenchy, combining elements of both boulangerie and patisserie: racks of freshly baked loaves flanked by alluring cases of charlotte citron, eclairs, charlotte framboise, macarons and palmiers. 1902 Pike Pl.; (206) 441-3669; online at lepanier.com.

Local Color: When you walk in here, you remember how cool Seattle was in the 90's. Vita Coffee and decent (but not excessively memorable) pastries...but excellent people-watching. Sneak in a cookie from Cinnamon Works and you're golden. 1600 Pike St., (206) 728-1717.

Matt's in the Market: Another sit-down place. We once asked the waiter "what dessert's good here?" and when he said "Oh, the bread pudding", his voice became...softer. Dreamy. And this is a dreamy pudding: custardy and carbohydratey, you'll find room.

Mee Sum Pastry: Their hombows are sweet enough to almost be pastry; but our favorite thing here is their almond cookies of varying sizes, from thumbrint-sized to big-as-your-head. 1526 Pike Pl. at Post Alley; (206) 682-6780.

Mr. D's Greek Delicacies: Sometimes, you want the taste of honey. At those times, go straight to Mr. D's, where they have a classic baklava and greek pastries. They are kept close to the falafel and meats though, so we think they taste better earlier in the day. 1518 Pike Pl.; (206) 622-4881; online at mrdsgreekdelicacies.net.

Pan Africa Cafe: Owned by Mulugeta Abate Yes, this one is a restaurant, but their cornbread is excellent. Plus they offer classes in African cookery.

Pappardelle's Pasta: Pasta for dessert? Okay. Don't miss this homemade pasta stand; one of their bestsellers is their dark chocolate linguine. Make it as you would regular pasta, but then top it with ice cream and strawberries for an unexpectedly sweet treat. 206-340-4114

Pike Place Bakery: They have an amazing array of baked goods. Their cakes are big and remind us of Italian neighborhood bakeries. but we love their divinity , brownies and crumb cakes. 1501 Pike Place; 206.682.2829; pikeplacebakery.com

Piroshky Piroshky: The lines stretch long on the weekends in front of this Russian bakery, owned and operated since 1992 by Oliver and Olga Kotelnikov and why not--you can see the doughy yeast pastries waiting to go in the oven, and the buttery, cheesy smell that emanates is near irresistible.

Starbucks: Call them the big bad corporation, but we've always found their drip coffee to be hot and strong--sometimes that coporate consistency is nice. But don't go here for pastry--they don't have the normal display like most starbucks stores, only the impulse-buy cookies by the register. While we do like their shortbread cookies, it's the Pike Place Market, and you can do better.

Three Girls Bakery: On one visit, Head Spy Jessie asked for "just a chocolate drop", to which the response was "they're not just chocolate drops." How true. The cookies and pastries look like standard fare here, but when you bite into them, they're a step above. There's a reason why they're one of the oldest businesses in the market.

Honorable Mention: Beecher's Cheese Because this is a pastry blog, we're putting them as honorable mention, but their cheeses are a real treasure; and hey, you need protein to counter that sigar high, so why not get it here?

Saturday
Nov102007

Short and Sweet: Cupcake Shortbread Cookies by Teacake Bakeshop

What could be nicer with afternoon tea than a couple of shortbread cookies?

Shortbread cookies decorated to look like cupcakes, that's what.

And now that can be an everyday treat, thanks to the Bay Area-based Teacake Bakeshop, whose vanilla bean shortbread cookies are each decorated with a simple but charming cupcake drawing rendered out of icing. The 1.5" diameter mini-shortbread cookies are a little spendy ($44 for 48) but each one is hand decorated, sweet and buttery; just think of how many people you could make smile with a box of 48 of these happy little treats. Seriously, we're smiling just looking at the pictures!

Just more proof that cupcakes make everything happier.

Available online at teacakebakeshop.com. Or, if you're in the Bay Area, visit their retail store at 5615 Bay Street, Emeryville, CA.

Friday
Nov092007

Batter Chatter: Interview with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes, Pittsburgh

Well, we're just going to come out and say it: it's pretty hard not to like cute guys who like to bake. And if they actually know what they're doing and have a savvy sense of design? All we can say is, magic ensues, such as in the case of Dozen Cupcakes in Pittsburgh. The owners, James Gray and Andrew Twigg have backgrounds in baking and graphic design, respectively; this expertise shows in their dense, buttery and impeccably decorated cakes and adorable shop. Pittsburgh has clearly responded: business has grown so much that a second "Bakeshop" location featuring brunch and other baked goods will open later on this year. Cakespy recently had a chat with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes; here's what we learned about getting buzzed on cupcakes, the dessert scene in Pittsburgh, and the story of the Andy Warhol Cupcake:

Cakespy: What is your most popular cupcake flavor?
James Gray: Cosmo. It is a vanilla butter cake with vodka soaked cranberries, lime buttercream tinted pink and rolled in pink and white sanding sugar. We finish it off with a lime wedge and a couple dried cranberries. People are crazy about it!

CS: Do you sell anything other than cupcakes? If not, do you think you ever will?
JG: We sell only cupcakes here and for now that is all we will sell. There will be more sweet treats in the very near future at another location.

CS: Hey, you're in Pittsburgh. Where is the Andy Warhol Cupcake on your menu?
JG: I started with a Warhol cupcake about a year ago when I first started. It had different vibrant colors of royal icing with little royal pansies in the center. I might bring them back in the future. They were really fun.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor from your menu?
JG: Right now I would have to say the spiced apple cake. Apple cake is simply the dreamiest cake for me. The little bits of apple in the cake are a delight. We frost it with a caramel buttercream and a drizzle of real homemade caramel. I have to be careful when we make them because I could eat a lot of them!

CS: We've heard that "Pie is the new cake". What are your thoughts on this?
JG: I don't think pie will ever take the iconic stand that cupcakes and cake have in this country. Pie is a bit more difficult to make and eat. Although I love some pie!

CS: What in your opinion is the best time of day to eat cake?
JG: I would say between 2-3 o'clock. This is when most people need a little pick me up. And if you can hold out until then, it really makes it that much more exciting.

CS: What are some of the other popular desserts in Pittsburgh?
JG: Biscotti! We have the best biscotti here. And almond torte. These seem to be the faves.

CS: What, if anything, makes a "bad" cupcake?
JG: Oh, easy. Bad frosting. Like using vegetable shorting instead of butter. And a cake that has no flavor and is too spongy. At Dozen are cupcakes are like little cakes. Not traditional cupcakes. The cakes tend to be a little more dense and flavorful. Old Fashioned-style. If it tastes like the cakes grandma used to make then it will be yummy.

CS: Would we get buzzed if we ate your cosmo cupcake?
JG: Unfortunately no! The alcohol is baked out in the process. But we do have buttercreams that have straight liquor in them! If you were a light weight (extremely light) you might feel a little buzz.

CS: You do weddings and sweet sixteen parties. Holy high maintenance! Have you ever had any nightmare customers?
JG: Actually we haven't. Most of the customers who come to us are absolutely great and easy going. We also do everything to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.

CS: Will cupcakes ever go out of style?
JG: Maybe someday. It will be a while though. These things have so much trend factor it's crazy.

CS: What is next for Dozen Cupcakes?
JG: We are working on Dozen Bake Shop. It's our full bakery line with Sunday brunch opening later this year or early next year. We are totally excited to bring a home-style bakery to Pittsburgh. We are opening in the hottest neighborhood in Pittsburgh right now, Lawrenceville. A mini burgeoning Brooklyn! There are lots of independent boutiques and many new restaurants and cafes opening up along Butler Street. I think the reception is going to be off the hook. At least, that's what we are hoping!

Dozen Cupcakes is located at 1707 Murray Ave, Pittsburgh; they are online at dozencupcakes.com.

Thursday
Nov082007

Scents of Humor: Aunt Sadie's Apple and Pumpkin Pie Candles

The line between "full sensory experience" and "sensory assault" can be fine, especially around Thanksgiving. Take the sight of the turkey on the table (ooh) versus the earlier sight of the turkey being stuffed (ew). The taste of pumpkin pie (yum) versus the taste of Aunt Pattie's sugar-free low carb pumpkin pie (yuck). The smell of grandma's homemade stuffing, versus the smell of...grandma.

Time to treat your senses with pie-scented candles by Aunt Sadie's, Inc. This Boston-based company was founded with an actual Aunt (Sadie Denton) in mind, and their products, inspired by her baking and family fêtes, are a throwback to a simpler time. The pie scents, available for the holiday season, are room-filling, spicy and delicious: the baked apple pie has a warm, apple-sugar scent which is more toasty and spicy than "fruity"; the pumpkin pie scent is inviting with a spicy richness that instantly makes a room feel cozy. They even have a "Thanksgiving Dinner" candle, which (shh!) is actually just a pumpkin scent, but why not light it up and see if anyone does indeed smell turkey?

Just a little old-fashioned, olfactory fun for you.

Aunt Sadie's Candles are $16 each and can be found online at auntsadiesinc.com.

Thank you to the kind fellows at Aunt Sadie's for letting us use their images!

Wednesday
Nov072007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Marlene Goetzeler of Freeport Bakery

 

(All photos provided by Freeport Bakery; thank you!)

 

 

We saw this great quote in a recent DailyCandy feature:


"Cupcake baker" has officially replaced "handbag designer” as annoying It profession.

 

And while certainly we love cupcakes, maybe there’s a slight point there—with the vast quantity of cupcake places opening up, it can be hard to know who’s good and who will last. So it was immensely refreshing to come across Freeport Bakery, an institution of a bakery based in Sacramento that’s been serving up sweet treats (not just cupcakes!) since 1987. They’ve been open through various cake and bakery trends, but customers keep on coming back for their European-inspired cakes and tortes; with a new, expanded location coming soon, they’re certainly doing something right. In a recent interview, co-owner Marlene Goetzeler dished on the cakes she's seen come and go, how sweet life is with a German baker husband, and introduced us to the PIMS cake:

Cakespy: How did you get started as a baker?
Marlene Goetzeler: Walter is my husband and partner. He grew up in Bavaria, above his parents' bakery. He came to the US when he was in his twenties to travel and see the states. He had gone to baking school in Germany and worked in bakeries since he was about fourteen. I do the business end (the "not sexy" part, I know...) and he takes care of the baking part.

CS: Do you remember what the first sale was on your first day open, over 20 years ago?
MG: I remember selling my first cake. It was the Fruit Basket.

CS: Where do your recipes come from?
MG: We work with familiar recipes and then add our style to them. Walter brought a lot from Germany. We also have a great and talented staff. We think of things we liked when we were younger and things that we like as adults.

CS: What is your most popular cake flavor?
MG: Has to be the golden buttermilk. Personally, I'm chocolate girl but I can eat that any time.

CS: Have certain cake flavors gone in and out of fashion during the time you've been baking?
MG: I remember Dobash Torte being requested all the time years ago. More than flavors, it's cakes. Like tiramisu. OMG! Trend of all trends. Or chocolate cake with raspberry couli.

CS: What is this PIMS cake we see on your menu? Is there a story behind it?
MG: My head cake decorator (she's been with us 19 years), my manager (she's been with us since '91) my assistant (since '89) and I go away together after the holidays for a few days every year. We eat really good food and laugh a lot. I brought along some PIMS cookies that someone gave me in a Christmas basket. We were drinking wine and eating. I ate one of the
cookies and said we really need to make a cake with these flavors. When we got back into town, Carol, the decorator, took me up on it. It is fantastic.

CS: What is your personal favorite dessert item (doesn't have to be something from your bakery, but it can be)?
MG: Walter makes fantastic homemade vanilla bean ice cream. We bring home some chocolate cake and eat it with the ice cream. Otherwise, I can eat one of our napoleons just about anytime!

CS: What, to you, is the most important factor in making a "good" cake?
MG: From a bakery owner's standpoint? Consistency. A wonderful cake that will taste great today and when you order it a month from now. No recipe changes. No surprises about the flavor. When you cook, you can change a recipe. When you bake you stick to the recipe. From a person who loves baked goods? It has to have fresh ingredients and a really good frosting. (Cakespy Note: We concur about the frosting!)

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake?
MG: Are you kidding? Right now!

CS: What do you think of the cupcake popularity that seems to be sweeping the nation?
MG: I admire the flavor combinations some people are coming up with. They sound fantastic. My grandmother and grandfather came to visit us every Sunday. My grandmother brought a huge shirt-box box full of chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles. We devoured them by Tuesday. We make cupcakes at the bakery with a recipe that is as close as we can get to my memory of my "grandma's cupcakes." And we will keep making them after this wave has passed.

CS: Any future plans for Freeport Bakery?
MG: We recently signed on with a developer to move the bakery to a new location. It's only 1/4 mile away but a much larger location. Our little bakery is bursting at the seams. We have over 50 employees and we are open seven days a week. Too much going on for our little space. We will be able to do more with more space but what that is, is a secret for now.

CS: Do you have any advice for those interested in starting a bakery today?
MG: Work in one. For a long time. Do every job you can. Good luck.

Freeport Bakery recently celebrated its 20th anniversary (!). They are located at 2966 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; online at freeportbakery.com.

Tuesday
Nov062007

Cuppie Capers: Yes We Cake

Yes We Cake

Tuesday
Nov062007

Easy As 1-2-3: ABC Cookie Cutters by Fred

The gingerbread man has got to be up there amongst the most smug of cookies. A perpetual smirk, flashy decorations...even in literature, he's laughing at us: “You can’t catch me, I'm the Gingerbread man!”. Kind of makes you want to teach them a lesson.

Get your comeuppance with Fred’s ABC Cookie Cutters. Released earlier this year, the set is perfect for the forthcoming holiday cookie season: it includes three cookie cutters die cut to look as if a bite has already been taken out of the gingerbread man (and thus, ABC = Already Been Chewed). Not only is it immensely gratifying to see the Gingerbread man isn’t so sassy anymore, but bring these to a family party and watch hilarity ensue: “Did someone already take a bite of these?”. Bet you haven't had this much fun at a family function since Cousin Mark's "coming out" during the holiday season of '02.

Bring on the holidays.

Available online at calliopeboutique.com.

Monday
Nov052007

The Land of Bread and Chocolate: The Bread and Chocolate Bar by Theo Chocolate (Via Cakespy Seattle)

 

What is it about bread and chocolate? Mireille Guiliano (author of French Women Don't Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons) cites them as her biggest weaknesses. For Cakespy? More like biggest pleasures. And we've found a great way for carb lovers to combine these desires into one taste experience: The Bread and Chocolate Bar, a 3400 Phinney Chocolate Factory imprint of Theo Chocolate.

We first learned about this bar while taking the tour of Theo Chocolate on a Sunday afternoon. Well, to be more specific, Mr. Cakespy, Danny, learned about the bar; our head spy Jessie, who couldn't take the heat, had to leave the tour after nearly fainting. Not the chocolate company's fault; she hadn't eaten lunch and that much of a chocolate smell wafting in the air would probably make anyone swoon.

However, the Bread and Chocolate bar was just the thing to bring her back to life: a rich dark chocolate bar with little buttery bits of toasted bread and crunchy cocoa nibs. Sound weird? Well, not really. Just think of it like the crunch of a Nestle Crunch bar, but much, much higher quality. Take a bite, and stop doubting altogether.

Total carb heaven.

These bars, as well as several other flavors and chocolate products, are available for purchase at theochocolate.com, as well as at several nicer grocery stores; you'll recognize the
unique packaging.

Are you in Seattle or visiting soon? Public tours are available seven days a week at 1pm and 3pm, with an additional 11am tour on Saturday and Sunday. The tour is $5 per person ages 5 and older. Reservations are recommended. To make a reservation please call (206) 632-5100.

Sunday
Nov042007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Miette Pâtisserie

Miette means "little crumb" in French, but if you've ever visited a little bakery by that name in San Francisco, you'll know that in English, it means "supremely excellent cake". To us, the cakes are instantly nostalgic, calling to mind cakes from childhood (whether or not Grandma's cake really did look that good or not) and with a joyful, storybook quality about them. And while some may say they're too pretty to eat, we have found that when you do, it's well worth it: the cakes have a fresh, just-heavy enough buttercream and a meltingly tender crumb, all made with the precision of a French Pâtissier. We took some time recently to chat with Caitlin Williams, who co-owns both Miette Pâtisserie and Miette Confiserie along with Megan Ray; here's what we learned about their cakes, the storybooks inspired them, and how the dot-com crash just might have been the best thing to happen to cake lovers in the Bay Area:

Cakespy: We've read that Meg started Miette after being "liberated" from a dot-com job; similarly, Caitlin has a non-baking background. So, Meg and Caitlin, how does the baking world differ from your previous careers?
Miette Cakes: We were both living in San Francisco in the late 1990's and, really, it was hard not to take a job in the dot-com world. It was wild, it was well paid, and I think it was a time for all of us to assess what we were working very hard for and what we would like to be doing instead. It had to be a very clear calling, indeed, because we both went from very glossy (and hard working) worlds to a pretty unglamorous world of blue-collar baking with not much pay. Especially starting where we did...we were a two person operation--from designing the cakes, to decorating the cakes, to prepping the cakes, to doing the dishes, delivering the cakes and selling them. But there isn't a moment where either of us has looked back and wished it had happened any differently!

CS: You mention that your influences include, amongst other things, children's storybooks. Any storybooks in particular?
MC: One of our favorites is a little Family Storytime book called Pantaloon about a black poodle who dreams of being a baker.

CS: What made you decide to open a Confiserie in addition to the Pâtisserie? Is there any crossover, or is it just baked goods at the Pâtisserie, and candies at the Confiserie?
MC: We had thoughts of a new store for a while, but we didn't want to replicate what we had already done. We had been selling these amazing Dragees from France and some really dreamy caramels at the Pâtisserie and that sparked the idea for a really beautiful, upscale candy shop with a lot of candies we had only seen in Europe as well as super yummy favorites made locally and some goodies from our childhood. We found this beautiful space (that needed a TON of work) in a great neighborhood with beautiful tall ceilings and our dreams of a candy shop were solidified! We are lucky to have Meg's husband, Chris, who took that pretty gross little space and made it extraordinarily beautiful. In terms of product, the shops are very complimentary, the Pâtisserie carries a few of our favorite (and appropriate in theme) candies and our Confiserie carries many cupcakes, macarons and cookies.

CS: What is your favorite type of dessert (doesn't have to be something you sell, although it can be!)?
MC: My favorite things we sell are the walnut shortbread and lime meringue tart. But my very favorite desserts to eat are pies (just out of the oven) served a la mode. One of my most vivid pastry memories is from our first trip to France at Pâtisserie Stohrer, a Puit d'Amor - orange custard in a tart shell, beautifully bruleed on top that I ate, about 15 yards away, sitting on a bench on Rue Greneta.

CS: What is your most popular cake?
MC: It's probably our Vanilla Tomboy. It's great because it's the traditional chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream but it has a really great balance in decorating. We strive to make our cakes as absolutely perfect and simple as possible, but often we hear that they are just too perfect to eat! The Tomboy is great because it's super feminine and delicate but you don't have any trouble diving in. It really is our version of a cute girl with the knees torn out of her jeans!

CS: We notice that you have an email entry for candy suggestions on your site. Have you ever ended up developing and selling any candies based on suggestions received?
MC: We have! Very often, it's an item that we already carry or are dying to find, so this is a great communication tool with our customers! We wish there was a way to get all of our candies online, but our stock is too large and varying with seasons and availability. So, we rely on lots of calls from far away places and special packages being delivered to our customers!

CS: You use only organic baking ingredients. In your opinion, do organic versus non-organic baked goods vary in taste?
MC: I don't know if I would say organic versus non-organic is the taste definition, because we've all had an organic apple that still tastes terrible. We strive to use the best ingredients from the people we know. Whether this is the perfect raspberry bought in-season from our friend Howard, the dairy that we use from Straus (our smallest local dairy that can get us the quantities we need), or the eggs that we can sometimes get from Nigel at Eatwell Farms. In the case of the larger ingredients (flour, sugar, etc) we go with organic because in our own way, if we're going to be supporting anyone with our little amount of buying power, we want to be supporting people doing some bit of good for the earth. That, and it's what we always used at home for our friends and family, so it made sense to cook that way for customers.

CS: Have you ever had a recipe or cake that didn't quite work out?
MC: Oh goodness, all the time! Starting out at the farmers market was really great for flushing out what worked and what didn't. We have some amazing customers who were great with feedback and support in helping us narrow our focus and develop the perfect Miette products. there are also a lot of considerations for products we won't do because of our unique location at
the Ferry Building. Our baking is done in Oakland and transported over the Bay Bridge every morning. We have to have products that will hold up in traffic and then on the shelf for the full day. We also have to be good neighbors, there are two other bakeries in the Ferry Building and we all hold a specific niche - we don't want to step on anyone's toes!

CS: You offer the tomboy, the debutante and the princess cake--do you find that people order according to their personality type?
MC: Unfortunately, no! they're all so very different in flavors and, rightfully so, people are choosing based on what will be most popular for their guests. Sometimes I wonder if people even see the connection - when I'm setting up the cake case, I set them up in order of frill: princess,
debutante, tomboy to see if i can get people to see our little wink!

CS: To follow up on that question, which do each of you relate the most to: tomboy, debutante or princess?
MC: The Tomboy! Not too frilly, but still really girly!

CS: What do you think the most important aspect is in making a good cake?
MC: It's definitely possible to mess up good ingredients, but you definitely have a leg up if you're using really great ingredients to bake with.

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake, in your opinion?
MC: With afternoon tea! I could spend my days amongst the very fancy French women sitting for tea and cake at Laduree. There is nothing more indulgent and sophisticated than people who take time mid-day to enjoy a well made sweet and a touch of tea.

CS: Is there such a thing as a "bad" cake or pastry? What makes it bad?
MC: Well, there are so many definitions of bad - taste is incredibly subjective! I try to be very aware of what my taste is and define things as to what is to-my and not-to-my taste. Taste memory is really strong and, as bakers, we find ourselves competing with people's memories of their grandmother's cake or their favorite Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. We just focus on making the things that we think are the best tasting we've ever had - it may not be the best tasting you've ever had, but we feel good about what we're putting out there. But, yes, I've had many pastries both that are not to my liking and that are executed poorly, but having my work
highly scrutinized, I'm sensitive to keeping my opinions to myself and giving second chances!

CS: Any future goals or exciting things coming up for Miette?
MC: Very immediately, we're just trying to get prepared for the holidays! But the biggest project I'm working on is renovating our web store to make it more user friendly and full of things that people are always asking us for (cake plates and candy!). It should be up in time for the holidays (December 1).

CS: Do you have a cookbook or offer any recipes to the general public?
MC: Maybe one day! we've gone through a number of ideas for cookbooks and I think we're narrowing it down. We have had a pretty unique business experience and I think that it would be fun for people to read. We'll see!

Miette Pâtisserie is located in the Ferry Building Marketplace, Shop 10, San Francisco. Miette Confiserie is located at 449 Octavia Boulevard, San Francisco. For more information or to view their fantastic cake gallery, visit miettecakes.com.

All photos © Frankie Frankeny; online at frankenyimages.com.
Miette Cakes in San Francisco

Thursday
Nov012007

Things That Make You Go Hum: The Hummingbird Cake of Baker Boys and More

Hummingbird cake. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is like carrot cake, but instead of carrots, it has banana and tiny bits of pineapple and nuts. Originally from the Deep South, the origin of the name is a bit of a mystery; some say that it's because it's so good it makes you "hum with happiness".

However, we prefer another explanation, that its sweetness causes people to hover around it, like hummingbirds around sweet nectar. Indeed, this is exactly what happened when we first encountered the Hummingbird cake at Baker Boys of Ocean Grove, NJ, a bakery opened earlier this year by the charming Russell Lewis (who cites Billy's Bakery and the Buttercup Bakeshop as inspirations). With dense, moist, subtly spiced banana cake layers and thick, buttery frosting, it was one of those cake slices that is pretty much impossible to stop eating until it's gone--and that will leave you aching for more. We've heard that crack has this effect too, but we digress.

And while the store employee told us that Red Velvet was the most popular flavor, we at Cakespy believe that another cake is going to cause a stir--er, make that a hum, once word gets around.

The Baker Boys is located at 69 Main Ave., Ocean Grove, NJ. 

Cakespy Note: Not in NJ? We feel your pain, so we tried out a Hummingbird cake recipe ourselves, from Whole Foods (we've generally been happy with their recipes). We opted to make it into cupcakes instead; here's the recipe, with a picture of our results.

Hummingbird Cake (from the Whole Foods Website)
  • 3 cups all-purpose, unbleached organic white flour
  • 1 3/4 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large organic eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple with its own juice, (do not drain)
  • 2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
  • 2 cups organic bananas, chopped (about 4 medium)

  • Glaze
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, (use organic if available)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3–4 tablespoons organic low fat milk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spray or oil a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Combine flour with sugar, salt, soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs with the applesauce, oil, vanilla, and pineapple until well combined. Add this egg mixture to the dry ingredients, incorporating all ingredients well. Add the pecans and bananas, mixing well, until all ingredients are combined. Spoon the batter into prepared baking dish. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until done when tested in the center with a toothpick. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar with the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla and the milk, stirring with a wire whisk. The glaze should spread easily. Pour the glaze over the cake and using a rubber spatula, spread evenly across the entire top of the cake. As the glaze sets it hardens a bit.

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