Home Home Home Home Home Home Home
CakeSpy

Featured Post:
Of Eating Disorders and Food Blogs

 

 Buy my brilliant books!

Buy my new book!

Buy my first book, too! 

CakeSpy Online Retail!

 

Gallery

Fantastic appliance for cake making on DHgate.com

This area does not yet contain any content.
Craftsy Writer
Thursday
Nov222007

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 a truly lamentable response: this place is a treasure trove of good pastry. So 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 Pl.; (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 Pl., (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. Ste. 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, and very much worth saving room for. 94 Pike St., Ste. 32; (206) 467-7909; online at mattsinthemarket.com.

Mee Sum Pastry: Even though they have savory ingredients like pork and chicken, the hombows are sweet enough that they blur the line between dinner and dessert; but we go there for the 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.

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. Happily, it's available for purchase online too (also check out the web site for some recipe suggestions and where to find Pappardelle's Pasta at Farmer's Market locations throughout the US). 1501 Pike Pl., Ste. 8; (206) 340-4114; online at pappardellesonline.com.

Pike Place Bakery: They have an amazing array of baked goods, from divinity to enormous donuts to exceedingly rich (and exceedingly delicious) iced brownies. Their cakes are big and homey looking, and remind several of our spies of the cakes from neighborhood Italian bakeries from the East Coast. 1501 Pike Pl.; (206) 682-2829; pikeplacebakery.com.

Piroshky Piroshky: The lines stretch long on the weekends in front of this Russian bakery, and why not: the view from their small streetside window is very engaging, with doughy yeast pastries waiting to go in the oven, as well as strangely appetizing and fascinating shellacked samples of what's available inside. But what will really get you is the smell as you walk by: the buttery, cheesy, yeasty air that emanates is very hard to resist. 1901 Pike Pl; (206) 441-6068; online at piroshkybakery.com.

Starbucks: Call them the big bad corporation, but we've always found their drip coffee to be hot, strong and consistent, whereas (it has to be said) at some other coffee locations, your coffee might only be as good as the barista's mood. But don't go here for pastry: they don't have a bakery case, only a small selection of impulse-buy cookies by the register. So do go in for a coffee, but you've got bigger and better cakes to seek. 1912 Pike Pl.; online at starbucks.com.

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. 1514 Pike Pl.; (206) 622-1045.

Honorable Mention: Beecher's Cheese Because this is a pastry blog, we're putting them as honorable mention, but their cheeses are a treasure in their own right; and hey, you need protein to counter that sigar high, so why not get it here? Some days, you can even see the cheese being made in enormous vats, which are visible through large windows. It's hypnotic. 1600 Pike Pl.; (206) 956-1964; online at beechershandmadecheese.com. For more information on the Pike Place Market, visit pikeplacemarket.org.

In United Arab Emirates, emirates airlines is one of the leading airline company of international standard. The discount airline tickets are also provided by the different travel agency dealers who have direct contacts with the airline companies. The indian airlines offers the fantastic services for the national and international passengers. You may get information about spirit airline from the online sources.

Wednesday
Nov212007

Out, Damned Speck!: Cupcake Pendants by Dottyspeck (Via Cakespy Seattle)

At Cakespy, we like to think that we wear our love for cakes like a badge on our sleeve.

However, now we want to wear it like a necklace around our neck, having spied this awesome necklace by Dottyspeck, the company run by Seattle-based metalsmith Kim Williamson. Williamson's work is cute but manages to run more toward sophisticated and slightly tongue in cheek than "cutesy". This pendant, which retails for $68, could just as easily dress up, adding a little bit of fun to a little black dress, as it could dress down, proclaiming your cupcake love in a hoodie and jeans.

Either way, it's going to make life a little sweeter.

Available at Fancy, Fancy 1914 2nd Ave., in Belltown, Seattle. For non-Seattleites, they'll do mail order too; contact them through fancyjewels.com.

Tuesday
Nov202007

Cupcakes of the Future: Cakespy Gives you Million Dollar Ideas for Free!

So you wanna open a cupcake shop? Sure, you and like a zillion other people who want to quit humdrum office jobs for a more interesting lifestyle. With the proliferation of the cupcake as of late, one thing is clear: you’ve got to have a killer concept. Luckily, Cakespy is here to give you a leg up on the competition with our list of concepts for Cupcake Shops of the Future, which are sure to charm the masses and make you heaps of money. You can thank us later...but don’t even think of charging us for cupcakes.

Cupcake Noir: A smoky cake den complete with jazz singer where lost soul types gather and live mysterious lives of intrigue, all over Black Forest cupcakes.

Cuppity Cakes: Bejeweled and fancy cupcakes for all those 10021 and 10028 types; or if you're a literary type, Cupcakes for the Four Hundred.

Cakewalk: Half dedicated to fitness, half dedicated to cupcakes. You need energy to work out. Cupcakes provides energy. A winning combination.

Cupcake Battery: Accent on the batter: a tough bakery with flavors like “bruised banana", "pommes pummeled" and "mauled Madagascar vanilla".

You Take the Cake!™ A touchy-feely, art-therapy style cupcake studio where you can decorate using prefabricated decorations and frostings, kind of like those do-it-yourself pottery places, but with cupcakes.

Pat-a-Cake: A cupcake café / massage parlor. You’ve just had a relaxing massage...a sweet treat afterward would really just be the icing on the cake (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Let them Eat Cupcakes: A Marie Antoinette color scheme and décor, with towers of ornately decorated cupcakes. We simply can’t believe it hasn’t been done yet.

Cakespy Note: If any bakeries do happen to exist which correspond with any of these concepts, our mention is purely coincidental; however, please let us know, because we'll be on the first flight out to see for ourselves!

Interested in buying Cakespy's original cupcake watercolor paintings? Check out our online store at jessieoleson.etsy.com.

Monday
Nov192007

Pie, But Why? The History of Pumpkin Pie as told by Cakespy

Pumpkin pie: as important a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey (perhaps more important to some!). But have you ever paused to wonder...why pie? And why pumpkin in particular?

Well, now you have yet one more thing to be thankful for: in the spirit of the fast-approaching day of consumption, Cakespy did a little sleuthing into the matter. Here’s what we learned, presented in an easy way that won’t hurt your brain (too much). We reviewed various sources for this writeup; some accounts will vary, and we'll be completely honest in telling you we based our writeup on the versions we liked best. Amongst our invaluable sources: The History Channel, Larry Sagers, the Pumpkin Nook, and What's Cooking America.

To consider the history of the pumpkin pie, we choose to look at it in a Sliding Doors, fate / destiny sort of way. First, we’ll go to Europe. Although the origins of the pie stretch way back to ancient Egypt, where an early version of the pastry was made with honey and nuts in bread dough, in our opinion they came into their own during medieval times. Pies (charmingly called “coffins” then) became popular for being both a food and a vessel—easy to transport, hearty and filling. Of course, being baked without a pan at the time, the crust was...well, pretty crusty and inedible. But, it did protect the (usually savory) contents on jousts and voyages to and from the castle. Over the years, the piemaking method improved, and the size of a typical pie increased—they had to be pretty big after all to fit four and twenty blackbirds.

Meanwhile, in what’s going to be the USA one day, pumpkins are a staple for the Native Americans. The outer parts were cut into strips, dried, and made into mats; the innards were roasted by the fire and eaten. A useful little gourd indeed.

But fireworks flew when the pilgrims came stateside; they learned pretty quick that they were going to have to adapt to the local produce, or...well, not eat. Not surprisingly, they didn’t find pumpkin puree by itself to be exceedingly delicious; and so they cleverly removed the seeds from the inside, and added mass amounts of sugar, milk, spices and honey. They would then bake the pumpkin whole in hot fire embers and eat the sweet insides. Yummy.

After that, it didn’t take too long for old-world customs to meet with the new-school produce, and the sweet pumpkin mixture was poured into pie crusts. And to speak to why pies don’t have a top crust? As some would have it (and we like this explanation) foremost to conserve ingredients; they would literally “cut corners” by cutting the crust before baking; this conserving of ingredients is also why pies traditionally became shallower than in the days of yore.

And it is this series of events that led up to the sweet treats served at the first Thanksgiving feasts; the pumpkin pie has been a symbol of not just Thanksgiving, but hearth, home and friendship ever since.

Make your own Thanksgiving joy with a recipe that's worked nicely for us (from Joy of Baking); for an alternate pie crust which sounds completely amazing (though we haven't had a chance to try it ourselves yet), visit the incredibly awesome Cookie Madness.

Cakespy Note: Head Spy Jessie took the header photo, which shows a particularly beautiful specimen of pie as seen at Seattle's Macrina Bakery.

 

Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces

1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water

Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Cakespy Note: we did this all by hand and it was ok.

Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 13 inch (33 cm) circle. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch (23 cm) pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and tuck the overhanging pastry under itself. Use a fork to make a decorative border. Alternatively, you can trim the pastry to the edge of the pie pan. With the remaining pastry make decorative cut-outs (leaves, pumpkins, etc.) and with a little water, attach them around the lip of the pie pan. Refrigerate the pastry, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before pouring in the filling.

Pumpkin Filling:

3 large eggs

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 - 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin

1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt


Make the Pumpkin Filling: In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a large baking pan to catch any spills. Bake the pie for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will still look wet). (A knife inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) from side of pan will come out almost clean.)

Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes one 9 inch (23 cm) pie.

Sunday
Nov182007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Naomi Henderson, budding Australian Cupcake Artist

Cake tastes good--nobody's denying that. But is that to say that it doesn't matter what a cake, cupcake or baked good looks like? Most certainly not. We tend to believe that a lovely presentation really does improve your overall taste experience; this is why we were drawn to the work of Naomi Henderson, an Australian university student whose cake decorating skills go far beyond her young years, and whose aesthetic and sense of whimsy instantly had us instantly enchanted. After drooling over her Flickr page for several weeks, we finally connected with this budding pro; here's what we learned about her mad skills in the kitchen, how she even finds time to bake with four jobs, and what the dessert scene is like in Australia:

Cakespy: You live in Newcastle, Australia. What types of baked goods are popular in bakeries there?
Naomi Henderson: The biggest difference between Australian bakeries and everywhere else is pies. All bakeries in Australia sell hot savoury pies as well as sweet pies and cakes and it makes them very popular at lunch. Vanilla slice, lamingtons, custard tarts, apple pies and muffins are the main types of cakes that they sell here. Most bakeries sell cupcakes but they are
just usually packet mix and dipped fondant icing.

CS: You've been to the US (as I see from your Flickr photos)...how did you find the bakery culture different here?
NH: My cupcake obsession started to snowball after I got back from the US (thinking about it now it's probably what started it) and so I didn't really know how big cupcakes were until I got back. Had I known there were so many everywhere I would have planned my whole trip around visiting cupcake stores! Anyway--so I only went to a couple of cupcake stores in New York that I found by accident and unfortunately they were not that great! The cake and the icing were super oily. As for normal bakeries--I didn't really see many around but in Australia they are everywhere.

CS: In the USA, we have quite a few cupcake-only bakeries. Is that the case in your area?
NH: Newcastle is two hours north of Sydney. In Newcastle there are none! But in Sydney there are a few and the number of cupcake stores around the country is growing. Newcastle tends to follow Sydney trends so hopefully they take off here too.

CS: Do you sell your cakes and cookies commercially? If not, what do you do as a day job?
NH: No, not yet anyway! I currently have 4 jobs! I am studying a Research Masters in Computer Engineering where I program robot dogs to play soccer (I have a scholarship so its like a full time job). Also, I am a manager at a drive-thru pie shop / bakery, university tutor and research assistant! I would love to have my own cupcake business and I do plan to start one in the very near future!

CS: What is your favorite type of dessert?
NH: Pavlova! Yum--do Americans know about pavlova??? If not, oh no! It's like a cake made out of meringue and topped with whipped cream (unsugared), passionfruit, strawberries and any other fruit you want to put on it. Mmm...and it's so easy to make! Here's a recipe that's close to what I make (but use a squeeze of lemon juice instead of vinegar and you have to put strawberries on it too): www.abc.net.au/tv/cookandchef/txt/s1590154.htm

CS: What sort of frosting is it on your cupcakes? Fondant? So many of them have such a unique texture.
NH: I use ready to roll fondant. I'm not sure why mine turns out different though! I knead it really well when I'm putting in colour and then try to smooth it as much as possible after I put it on the cupcake.
.
CS: Do you have any specific bakers, or cookbooks, that inspire you in particular?
NH: I have a bunch of baking, cupcake, cookie and sweet books but my favourite book is Romantic Cakes by Peggy Porschen. I love the colours she uses and her piping!

CS: Are you formally trained in cake decorating?
NH: I've only done a beginner's class where we made flowers, covered a cake and eventually decorated an entire cake, but it's given me enough skills to be able to create most things I want to make.

CS: Do your cakes and cupcakes taste as good as they look?
NH: YES! Even better maybe! They are very fluffy and yum but the problem is that one isn't enough!

CS: What is the next cake project you'd like to take on?
NH: Umm...there are too many! Christmas is coming up so I'm starting to think about that; I'm also trying to design Alice in Wonderland themed cupcakes, and I would like to get more cookie practice so I'm thinking of ice cream, cherry, strawberry, tea pot, tea cup and Pac-man cookies!

Cakespy Note: For some truly delicious cake, cupcake and cookie photos, visit Naomi's Flickr page at this address: www.flickr.com/photos/hello_naomi.

Thursday
Nov152007

Doughnut Stop Believin': A Doughnut Guide to Seattle

Picture this: a drizzly, foggy, and grey day in Seattle. Oh, wait: it's November! We have at least five more months of this to look forward to. But no need to hightail it to the Aurora Bridge quite yet. We know what will cheer you up: sweet, hot, cakey doughnuts. No matter where you are in Seattle, surely one of these places will beckon.

Cakespy Note: Doughnut or Donut? Both are valid in our mind, so we've tailored it to reflect what each establishment calls their version of this holey, wholly delightful treat.

Countryside Donut House: If you like Krispy Kreme's lighter texture, but want more flavor, this is your place; it has an extremely dedicated following and couple of locations, although none directly in the city. 11613 124th Ave NE Ste E at NE 116th St., Kirkland; 21919 66th Ave. W., Mountlake Terrace.

Dahlia Lounge / Lola: Both of these Tom Douglas restaurants, perched on either side of Fourth Avenue at Virginia, have beautiful mini-doughnuts on their menu which are unexpectedly rich and delicious; they're like doughnuts on a higher plain, served with sides like vanilla marscapone and seasonal jam. Call ahead to confirm availability. Dahlia Lounge, 2001 Fourth Ave.; Lola, 2000 Fourth Ave.; both at the corner of Virginia St; online at tomdouglas.com.

Daily Dozen Donut Co.: Watch cute punk rockers dole out cute mini donuts? Yes please. These lilliputian donuts are simple and unpretentious, usually available in plain, cinnamon-sugar or "fancy" with sprinkles--they're best hot, and we'll admit to a certain thrill when they shake the brown takeaway bags open with a snap. 93 Pike St., Pike Place Market (right across from DeLaurenti).


Family Doughnut:
Perched near the freeway exit and next to a 7-11 in Northgate, it's not going to win for ambiance, but the doughnuts are so good, they will frequently sell out early on Sundays. Ridiculously cheap: most doughnuts are under one dollar. Cake Gumshoe Allison suggests the "old fashioned" doughnuts. 2100 N. Northgate Way, Unit S (at Meridian).

Mighty-O Donuts: They're vegan, so basically they're health food, right? Sure, if that's what you need to tell yourself. Get a donut here, vegan or not; they have a delightful denseness which is very comforting on a cool day and lovely with warm (soy) milk. Our favorite is the lemon poppy cake donut, although we hear that they've got killer pumpkin donuts too around this time of year. 2110 N. 55th St.; online at mightyo.com.

Pike Place Bakery: Although they are a full-service bakery, one of their signature products is their "Texas-sized" donuts, which are so big that you wouldn't dare finish one in front of someone (although at home, alone, you might). We recommend the maple donut. 1501 Pike Place; online at pikeplacebakery.com.

Top Pot Doughnuts: It's true; Top Pot supplies doughnuts to Starbucks. Does this lessen quality? Not so, as proven by our recent doughnut experiment. We favor the Belltown location for its coziness and quirky building, but Capitol Hill and Wedgwood both have their loyal followers (hipsters and families, respectively). They have a great variety of flavors; whether it's the chocolate sandcastle or a Homer Simpson-worthy pink frosted cake doughnut, be sure to try an ovaltine latte too; they're amazing. Various locations; online at toppotdoughnuts.com.

Winchell's: Sometimes, we've been known to just go in here and sniff the sweet air, and then leave just as quickly. While we don't think their donuts are the best in Seattle, we wouldn't say they're terrible. And if we have to buy one every once in a while just to preserve that sweet smell along 45th Street...then so be it. 211 NE 45th St.; online at winchells.com.

Bonus Buy: Need a mascot for your tasting adventures? Invest in a felt doughnut made by Seattle-based Sew Dorky. Available at Bluebottle Art Gallery, 415 E. Pine St.; online at bluebottleart.com.

Also: a must-visit for any doughnut/donut lover is theblognut.net. Just go, you'll see.


You may get information about the schedules and timings of the alaskan airlines via its online customer centre. The airline tickets of different countries are offered by the different travel agents. The malaysian airlines offer very feeaible airfares for the customers. The services of turkish airlines are accepted by all global travelers due to fine-quality packages.

Wednesday
Nov142007

Clean and Sweet: Cake-themed Japanese Washcloths and Towels at Fred Flare

You’ve done it again. The siren call of the bakery beckoned. Too many choices, so you bought one of everything: “It will last me all week!”. Two days later, the fridge is empty, your mouth ringed with chocolate. You feel...so...unclean.

Well, wash away your sins in the sweetest way possible: with cake-themed washcloths and towels from Fred Flare! We’re already huge fans of this great online retailer’s products and entire “Stay Cute” mantra, but they’ve put us in a frenzy with these bathroom accessories, which are imported from Japan and adorably packaged to look like cakes. Once unpackaged they resemble cakes no longer; but what a lovely presentation for a gift, no? The washcloths come in the form of the Cake Roll ($10 ea.) in chocolate, strawberry or green tea “flavors” or the Cake Wedge ($8 ea.), available in chocolate or vanilla. Or if you’re really dirty (or hungry, either way) you can invest in the Chocolate Cake Bath Towel ($35), which is deliciously shaped like a full-sized cake. And as an added bonus, the cute strawberries that top each product are actually magnets for your fridge!

They may not taste like cake, but they’re just as sweet.

Available online at fredflare.com.

Tuesday
Nov132007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Paul Verano of the Confectional (Via Cakespy Seattle)

Recently, the staff at an acquaintance's office got in a discussion over whether cheesecake is indeed a cake (just look at the name!), or a pie (it's got a crust!). The discussion became a heated debate, such to the point that they phoned a major cheesecake company's headquarters to find the answer (cake).

Mystery having been solved, we set out to find more about this silky, indulgent treat; who better to turn to than The Confectional, the Pike Place Market purveyor of creatively flavored full-size and mini cheesecakes, as well as adorable chocolate-covered cheesecake truffles? In a recent interview with owner Paul Verano, we learned about what makes a cheesecake great, regional cheesecake preferences, and even got a cheesecake confession:

Cakespy: So. You are part Colombian, living in Seattle, with a cheesecake shop that was realized in Wellington, New Zealand. This all sounds very cosmopolitan! Can you fill in the blanks on how you got started?
Paul Verano: I was born in the US, but lived in Colombia as a child. I've been a baker since I was four years old, well actually my first 'baking' was a no-bake cookie, but that seriously set the ball in motion and I was immediately into the oven with the next thing. In college I would bake massive rich chocolaty cakes that my friends fawned over. I tried out cheesecakes and came up with my Cookies and Mint Chocolate cheesecake straight away. This is on my menu today and remains my all time personal favorite flavor.

For the next several years I would take my cheesecakes to parties and they proved to be extremely popular. Several friends started ordering them for their own parties and for weddings. Eventually, when my partner and I were living in New Zealand our friends there pretty much pushed/encouraged me further than anyone had before into opening a business.

So my first store was in Wellington, New Zealand. We opened in May of 2004. It was delivery only back then. Here in Seattle we opened our first storefront in December of 2006. We are about to celebrate our one-year anniversary in the Pike Place Market.

CS: What made you decide to locate in the Pike Place Market?
PV: When we moved back to Seattle a friend who knows Kurt Dammeier of Beechers, Bennett's Restaurant, etc. suggested we sit down with him and discuss the possibilities of opening a store in Seattle. He immediately loved my product and after our first meeting said we had to look into the Pike Place Market as it would be the perfect venue for my cheesecakes. My partner and I left that meeting and walked across the street to the Pike Place Market offices. On the rental board was a space available which is now our 490 square-foot store. It was very karmic and I'm very happy with how it all transpired.

CS: Do you ever barter lunch for cheesecake with your neighbor vendors?
PV: Absolutely! One of the great things about working in the market is that most vendors will trade or at least have a 'market discount', as we do. The community in the Pike Place Market is fantastic. There is a bit of competitiveness for some vendors, but for the most part everyone is excited to help everyone else out. We are asked constantly where the best of this is, or best of that is. "Where's the first Starbucks?" is the most asked question.

CS: You're called "the Confectional", a clever take on "The Confessional". Do you have any cheesecake confessions to share with us?
PV: Hmmm. A cheesecake confession of my own...well...yes. I actually like the batter of my cheesecakes more than the baked product. But isn't that true for cookie and cake batter, too? You just can't sit down and serve a batch of batter for dessert, now can you? But oh, don't tempt me. I've been known to blow people away with unexpected desserts. Oh, and I can't suggest enough, if you're up to it, warming up my cheesecakes (oven or microwave) and serving them with your favorite ice cream. Oh my word.

CS: We imagine that you get quite a few out of town visitors. Have you noticed any trends in cheesecake preference for people from different parts of the world?
PV: The biggest trend was fully expected after having such a great 'test market' in New Zealand. It's that our most popular flavor is the Raspberry White Chocolate. It's the most popular by DOUBLE the next flavor! For some reason the Kahlua White Chocolate seems to be very popular with the Asian community. And southern Americans often ask where the Amaretto Cheesecake is, (and clearly it's pronounced Ameretta in the south...I love it!). Really, all our cheesecakes seem to sell equally. The only other thing I'll say is that most people that approach our display case are enamored with our 12 main flavors, plus seasonal flavors, and can have a difficult time choosing which one to get. It's amazing how often someone will get an extra cheesecake flavor to try later... a good problem to have!

CS: Where do you get your recipes?
PV: I have created all of my recipes, sometimes from suggestions of flavors and following a hunch and working it out. My cheesecake truffles were invented in my home kitchen just two weeks before opening the store and have proven to be extraordinarily popular, and are pretty much to-die-for. There's also my Colombian Hot Chocolate. A thick European-style drinking chocolate that is designed after my Grandmother's recipe. In Colombia the hot chocolate is about as thin as water, but in my store I get to decide how thick the chocolate is, and I just don't mess around. Not too overpowering, but enough to remind you that chocolate can be a serious happy-inducing pill. We start with melted dark chocolate, organic whole milk, and like my Grandmother's, I have a bit of Colombian coffee and just a hint of her signature spices.

CS: Have there been any great cheesecakes in your past that have inspired your baking efforts?
PV: While there are many incredible cheesecakes, cheesecake makers and cheesecake styles, I find that my personal favorites are the ones that are absolutely naked and most simple. That's why there are three ingredients in my base. As simple as it gets. Then adding the flavors to 'dress them up' is all about balance. It's chemistry at it's tastiest. I'm not sure I have an inspiration from somewhere else. So many recipes are just too sweet. We have a much lower amount of sugar in our recipes than most that I've seen/tasted.

CS: Would you say that your cheesecakes are "New York" style, or "Italian" style? Or something else?
PV: We are closest to a "New York-Style" cheesecake, but I go for a slightly denser, in-your-face version. In fact we call our New York-Style a "Seattle's New York-Style"...that is to say that we Seattleites often consider ourselves a bit 'heartier' than New Yorkers. More rugged in the Northwest, eh? And our crust is a bit of heaven. We use Maria Biscuits from Spain, which make a beautiful crust. Most graham crackers have partially hydrogenated oil, and again we try to keep it as pure a product as we can. Maria biscuits are very simple, elegant and make a great crunchy crust.

CS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cheesecake?
PV: Keep it simple. As pure as you can. Do not over or under mix. And love making it. If you love the making and the baking and pay special attention to detail, they'll taste it!

CS: What is your most popular flavor at the shop?
PV: Raspberry White Chocolate--although, our holiday flavors are definitely winning right now! Those are Pumpkin and the Cranberry White Chocolate...with a hint of Cardamom.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor?
PV: Cookies and Mint Chocolate, but whenever I taste one of the others I get a little bit giddy because they are all so good! My other top favorites are actually our 'richest' cheesecakes, the Coconut Cherry Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Chocolate and the Quadruple Chocolate. See a trend there? Everyone has a different favorite. All our staff have their own faves and are asked often enough that we've listed their favorites on each sign in the display case.

CS: Some people are scared of cheesecake because it is "fattening". Any response to this?
PV: Indeed. For some people it's a viscosity issue and they will simply NEVER like cheesecake. We've actually converted some of these people and now have loyal fans that wouldn't dream of eating a cheesecake before. As for fattening: there's a lot of concern about carb counting vs. fat, etc. What I can tell you is we have a very reasonable sized individual serving that's completely satisfying. That alone is a saving grace, and without consuming a giant American-sized portion of a so-so product. On top of that our Raspberry White Chocolate cheesecake is about 320 calories, which is far less than most of our customers guess. Some flavors a good bit less, and others a bit more calories. I like to remind people that if they're that worried about 320 calories, then after you eat it, go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes, or enjoy the Pike Place Market for an hour, and it's pretty much null and void, no?

CS: In your opinion, what is the best beverage accompaniment for cheesecake?
PV: Coffee, espresso, Earl Grey tea, and if you're enjoying our Mochaccino cheesecake, a nice, full-bodied red is something else. Oh, or a fine chocolate port on the side or drizzled right on our Seattle's New York-Style cheesecake. Whew!

CS: What is next for The Confectional?
PV: Our next goal, after getting through our first full holiday season in the Pike Place Market, will be to work toward opening a commissary baking space, as well as a second location.

The Confectional is located at 1530 Pike Place, in the Pike Place Market (not far from that first Starbucks). For more information, visit theconfectional.com.

Monday
Nov122007

Sincerely Felt: Felt Cupcakes by Cheryl Smith

Nothing is happier than a cupcake. Well, how about one that lasts forever and has no calories?

Impossible you say? Certainly not, if you buy felt cupcakes by Cheryl Smith, an Atlanta-based crafter who has been spreading cuteness in the world through her Etsy wares since 2005. The cupcakes are available in two sizes: regular ( 2 inches high by 2.25 inches wide; $12 each) and mini (2 inches high by 1.25 inches wide; $6 each), and are all hand-stitched, showing an amazing range of clever details which create different "flavors", like discs of felt gathered and twisted to resemble a piped frosting on the "spice" cupcake or seed beads delicately stitched on the "white frosted with sprinkles" cupcake. The result is an adorable gift item for any dessert-loving friend (or maybe just your dessert-loving self).

This is the kind of happiness you can have and hold for a long time.

Available online at cherylasmith.etsy.com.

Sunday
Nov112007

Cake Byte: That Takes the Cake in San Francisco

When a new bakery opens, it always sparks our interest. So when we read about That Takes the Cake's opening in San Francisco, we knew we had to get on the scene with due haste. We assigned our Bay Area Cake Gumshoe Bridget to brave those daunting San Francisco hills and try out their cupcakes; here's what she reported:

Cake Gumshoe Bridget: As I started my trek from Potrero to Fillmore I started questioning if this cupcake was worth the grueling series of steep hills (you know the ones halfway up you stop and look both ways deciding to continue or walk back down, but feel like you rule when you do make it to the top). Well, I fought off the negative thoughts and continued on my mission with a pit stop at Crossroads for some cute shoes (ankle boots)! Anyway I finally get to That Takes the Cake, which was small and that hospital-white clean. Then I saw the mother load-- shelf after shelf of cupcakes! They were all flawlessly decorated, which made my decision even harder. The staff was patient with my indecisive behavior which I think they are probably used to and the one counter girl even explained each cupcake and rated them. When it came to the red velvet she told me they sell out every day well before closing time. My mind was made up and I took it to go, thinking I could take a taste then save the rest for later. Yeah right--2 blocks later that cupcake was so gone. The cake was perfection and the cream cheese frosting was the perfect amount of sweetness. It truly lives up to the bakery's claim of being the reddest red velvet cake you ever had. Also what I thought was pretty there menu changes every day, but of course always having the staples (chocolate/vanilla buttercream, red velvet and devils food cake).

In short, we think it's worth a visit!

That Takes the Cake is located at 2271 Union St., b/t Fillmore and Steiner Sts.; online at saralynnscupakes.com.

© Cakespy, all rights reserved. Powered by Squarespace.