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Tuesday
Feb242009

Comeback Candy: Valentine's Day Chocolate Redux

Peeps do not like our mangly easter bunny
It's a hard thing indeed, to realize that you're past you're prime. Where once you were the toast of the town, now you're yesterday's news: washed up, aging, without many prospects for the future.

But what if--just what if--you could have one more shot at the big time?
No, we're not talking about you, Mickey Rourke (although seriously--what's happened to you since Diner?). We're talking about Valentine's Day Candy. Just a week and a half  ago it was the star of the sweet world--now, half eaten boxes of chocolates are being discarded, and what boxes are left are relegated to sad sales bins, prices slashed.
You're all washed up, valentine's day candy!
But we know everyone loves a comeback--and so we decided to try to breathe some new life into those leftover chocolates to give them one last hurrah and to bring them up to date with the current sweet scene: and so, we made them into an Easter Bunny.
Here's what we did.

Leftover Valentine's Day ChocolateMelting Candy
First, we took all of our leftover Valentine's Day chocolates--you know, those weird flavors that are always left--can't say for sure, but think they were vanilla fondant, strawberry cream, and some sort of almond marzipan-filled. We put them in a water bath to melt them.

Messing with leftover Valentine's Day CandySweethearts are stalker-y.
Of course, having a brilliant idea in the middle of this, we poured in all of our leftover Sweethearts (side note: when did Sweethearts start sounding so stalker-creepy?).
Unfortunately, these sweethearts are pretty much indestructible, so rather than melting they more just became sugary lumps.
Since we didn't have a rabbit-shaped mold, we then sort of bent a mitten cookie cutter into a vaguely bunny-shaped blob, and poured the chocolate slurry into it.

Messing with leftover chocolateMangly easter bunny
Once it was solid but still malleable, we removed the cookie cutter and added an extra few dabs to form bunny ears. 
Then, we let it all cool down and set overnight.

Decorating Mangly the Easter bunny
In the morning, we touched it up with some bunnylike features rendered in decorating gel frosting. And then we decided to name it. "Easter Bunny" didn't seem quite appropriate, so we settled on "Mangly". Because certainly, this mangled little bunny had a face only a mother could love.
Feeling rather self-satisfied with having helped breathe new life into Valentine's Day candy and fairly holier-than-thou about having a small carbon footprint, we decided to see what other Easter Candy thought of their new peer.

Not a love match.
Unfortunately, they didn't seem to get along. Maybe they're just jealous.

Peep eats ManglyOh noes!
Or maybe they see Mangly the leftover-candy Easter Bunny for what he is: a has-been who is desperately grasping for one more moment in the spotlight. 
And if this is so, then perhaps it's time to face the fact that there's a season for everything, and unfortunately, the season of Valentine's Day candy has, sadly, passed.

Peep says "Kill!"
Hey, at least we tried. But now, we say bring on the Cadbury Creme eggs and chocolate bunnies!

 

Monday
Feb232009

Cakespy Undercover: Macaron Fever at Honoré in Seattle

Macarons from Honore, photo c/o Kim
Seeking Parisian-style macarons in Seattle? We'd been hearing some great things about Honoré in Ballard, so recently our Cake Gumshoe Kim went to see for herself. Here are her thoughts:

I wanted some macaroons--so I went to Honoré and bought 5! I've now tested all the flavors I got. Granted, these are the first macaroons I've ever had so I don't have much to compare them to, but I have to say they were amazing! They were everything I hoped they would be.
Macarons from Honore, photo c/o KimMacarons from Honore, photo c/o Kim
I chose lavender, coffee, pistachio and another one which I think was chocolate/coconut/salted caramel. They had about 10 flavors in all and i wished I could have got one of each, but unfortunately I was on a budget! I'm a sucker for all things lavender flavored - I had a feeling those would be my favorite so I bought two. I was right! The lavender flavor was just right, they were topped with little flowers, and had a delicious creamy chocolate filling which I didn't expect. The coffee one had a rich coffee flavor which was very satisfying. The pistachio flavor was very nutty and tasted just like pistachios... except sweet! Lastly, I finished off the mysterious chocolate/coconut/salted caramel this morning. It was so good! I could definitely taste the salted caramel, and there were little bits of coconut inside the cookie.

So to sum it up - they were all good, and all different. I want to go back and try more flavors!

On another note about Honoré's general awesomeness - the girl working the counter was so nice. She listed off all 10 or so macaroon flavors to me, sweetly, without an eye roll in sight! We also got a croissant which was very good, and they had a bunch of other pastries that looked really yummy.

Honoré is open Wed.–Sun.; 1413 NW 70th St.; 206.706.4035.

 

Honoré Artisan Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

Sunday
Feb222009

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Flossing is now awesome
Flossing is now officially awesome, thanks to Archie McPhee's cupcake floss. (Thanks Jill and Maika for the tip!)


Check out this gorgeous Starry Night-inspired cake!

Gummi Bear Battalion: whimsical and fun food art.
Vegan wasabi fudge? We're intrigued.
Serious Eats weighs in on the phenomenon of enticing food smells.
Avocado...pie? Who would have thought it would sound so good?
They're known for their King Cake, but Haydel also makes another sweet treat: Roman Chewing Candy.
It's certainly not cheap, but we were exited to find a place that will ship a Hummingbird Cake.
Kelly Confidential: a virtual bakesale for a cause.
Chet and Dot makes cute cake-shaped pincushions.

 

Thursday
Feb192009

Holey Yum: Donut Pies

Donut Pies!

Donuts play nice, don't they? They're so open to collaboration. There's donut bread pudding. Donut burgers. Donut muffins. Donut soup.

And now, Donut Pie. Don't be fooled by the photo at the top: these are no typical donuts. They're in fact little morsels of pie crust, with filling rolled inside of them and then fried. While they're certainly not health food, they certainly are delicious: crispy, not too-sweet, easy to make, and completely open to improvisation with flavor. Here's how we made them:

Donut Pie
Donut Pies
  1. First, choose your favorite pie crust recipe (we used this one). We made the equivalent of a single pie crust, and the yield was about 15 mini Donut Pies.
  2. Next, decide what your filling would be. For our filling, we mixed one ripe banana, a small amount (1/4 cup, adding more to desired thickness) of heavy whipping cream, and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and two pinches of cinnamon. We mashed it until it was incorporated, but still a little bit lumpy. You can fill them with just about anything you'd use in a pie though. Let your filling sit to the side.
  3. Roll out your pie crust, and then score into strips. The strips should be about 2.5 inches wide, but as long or as short as you'd like. The length will determine how large the donut's circumfrence will be, so if you like mini donuts, keep them shorter.
  4. Donut Pies
  5. Lengthwise, spoon a small amount of filling in each strip. Be sure to leave a small gap of space at the top and bottom of the strip.
  6. Donut Pies
  7. Fold the crust over the filling lengthwise, so that you have a long, narrow, filled "log" of pie crust with filling inside.
  8. Donut Pies
  9. Form into a circle.
  10. Donut Pies
  11. Since we don't have a deep fryer, we then filled a frying pan on  with about 2 cups of canola oil, set to high heat, and once hot gently placed the donuts several at a time into the fryer, frying each side about 3-4 minutes or until golden.
  12. Donut Pies
  13. Gently remove from frying pan and place on paper towels to blot excess oil.
  14. Donut Pie
  15. Garnish as desired: with additional fruit topping (as above), whipped cream, ice cream, or for a more donutty look, chocolate icing (as seen on the chocolate topped ones) and sprinkles or swirls. Yum.
Donut Pies

Wednesday
Feb182009

A Sweet Proposal: Love, CakeSpy and Marriage

Proposal series
A note from Head Spy Jessie:

By profession, I am an illustrator specializing in portraits of anthropomorphic cupcakes. As such, I'm sure you can imagine the delightfully unusual requests for custom artwork I've gotten: cupcakes and a client's pet being chased by the Sta-Puft marshmallow man; an aggressive cupcake brawl; horror-movie inspired cupcakes--the list goes on and on. 
But last week, I delivered one of my sweetest commissions to date: a series of four paintings to be used as part of a marriage proposal
The first painting showed the happy couple flying into San Francisco for the weekend (shown top);
The second painting showed them having dinner at a fancy restaurant overlooking the Bay Bridge;

Proposal series

The third one showed them in a photobooth at the Musee Mecanique, where the photos coming out showed the actual proposal going on;

Proposal series

And finally, the happy couple back at home and enjoying some pizza at their regular place.

Post-proposal
The artwork was delivered on Friday, and the proposal happened over Valentine's Day weekend; of course (duh!) she said yes, and the couple couldn't be happier. 
I live in a saccharine world for sure--but this one really made me melt like a puddle of ice cream on hot pie. It was such a pleasure to be part of such a sweet moment.

 

Tuesday
Feb172009

Looking Good: Sweet Treats from Look Cupcake in Seattle

A surprise package from Look Cupcake
Last week, something magical happened: upon returning home to the Cakespy Headquarters after running some errands, we found the most gorgeous box of cupcakes on our porch. Magic!

The parcel was from Seattle's newest custom-order cupcake business, Look Cupcake. Based out of a commercial kitchen on Lower Queen Anne, owner Rhienn Davis takes a unique slant on the cupcake trend by looking inwardly--literally--by specializing in gourmet, filled cupcakes.

Look Cupcake
Our assortment included three flavors: the Feather Boa (coconut cream cake, mojito cheesecake filling, vanilla buttercream, coconut garnish); the La Nina de Chocolate Diablo (spiced mexican chocolate cake with kahlua especial swiss meringue buttercream); and the A Formal Affair (vanilla cake, bittersweet ganache filling and whipped truffle frosting).

These cupcakes were--to put it mildly--crazy delicious. But even more than the fillings, what impressed us was the frosting. Silky, buttery and absolutely luxurious, it seemed different a lot of other cupcake-frostings we've tried. What gives? 

Sweet Surprise from Look Cupcake!Sweet Surprise from Look Cupcake!
Turns out, they were topped with what is known as Swiss Meringue Buttercream (and in the case of the chocolate frosting, ganache whipped in, which only added to that luxurious texture).
So what is Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Happily, Rhienn (aka the "Cliff Clavin of buttercream") was able to explain:

 

The difference between meringue buttercreams (there are several - Italian, Swiss, French - every European country thinks they know best, apparently,) and regular "American style" buttercream (what we think of as a more "crunchy" frosting) is as follows:

 

  • American buttercream is just butter (sometimes a little cream cheese) and TONS of powdered sugar mixed together. The result is that intense, super sweet, sometimes a little gritty, frosting. I make a great one with fresh ginger grated into it. Mmmm!
  • (Pick your European country) Meringue buttercream is made by dissolving a relatively small amount of granulated sugar into egg whites, whipping it into a meringue and then adding the butter. They're smoother, creamier and less over the top sweet. They also stand up better in heat, which is awesome for those of us that do seven million weddings in the dog days of summer.
So there you go--unexpected free cupcakes, and an unexpected lesson on various different types of frosting: we'd call that a sweet treat, indeed.
For more information, visit lookcupcake.com.

 

Sunday
Feb152009

Pie, A La Mode: A Campaign to Make Pie Cooler

A La Mode, a Pie Gossip Magazine
Every so often, someone will make that grand, sweeping statement: "Pie is the New Cake". Usually, this is someone who owns or is related to the owner of a pie-related business. Unfortunately, in a world which supports cupcake shops opening roughly every five minutes, pie has simply failed to have the same effect in the baked-good market.

So what's the problem? Clearly, it's a lack of media attention. After all, what did Heidi get for Posh on her birthday? What does Katie pick up for a sweet afternoon snack with Suri? Sorry, pie--but cupcakes are most definitely taking that cake.

But we feel for you pie lovers--really, we do. And so, in an effort to lend a helping hand in getting pie the attention it deserves, may we humbly suggest the following tried-and-true tabloid methods to be applied for pie promotion? Here goes:

Stir up some controversy:


A La Mode, a Pie Gossip magazine

 

Get people thinking about the issues that touch pies' lives:


A La Mode, a Pie Gossip magazine

 

Dish about fashion faux pas:


A La Mode, a Pie Gossip magazine

 

But of course--in spite of everything, don't forget to show how pies really are just like us:


A La Mode, a Pie Gossip magazine

 

 

Scandalized? Well, they say there's no such thing as bad press; surely these sweet tips are the first step in making pie the true cream of the crop--or at least shaking off some of that wholesome crusty image.

 

Saturday
Feb142009

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Featured on Good Food!

Cakespy hearts KCRW!
What a sweet Valentine's Day treat: CakeSpy was featured on KCRW's Good Food! Our Head Spy Jessie was interviewed about her recent cupcake art installation in Seattle by the amazing Evan Kleiman. It was such an honor to be featured on the show--in our opinion, it's one of the best food shows out there!

You can download the show at the Good Food website, and here's a link to the cupcake art installation post.

And of course, don't forget to support KCRW and Good Food!

Wednesday
Feb112009

Cake Poll: Love and Chocolate!

Win it: Cake poll!
How time flies! It's been a while since our last Cake Poll, so we're making up for it by offering a very sweet treat: an original (not a print!) Cakespy watercolor! The watercolor (shown top) will come in a 4x5 inch frame and will go to just one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your responses to the below poll, centered around the star of all February sweetness: chocolate! Here goes:

  1. Chocolates for Valentine's Day: cute or cliché?
  2. The chocolate box: which flavor would you rather leave for others?
  3. Milk chocolate: amateur hour or respectable citizen?
  4. Chocolate in savory foods (mole sauce, etc): awesome, or awful?
  5. Hot chocolate: with or without marshmallows?
  6. Chocolate-flavored or scented body products: ooh, or eww?
  7. What's your favorite chocolate dessert?
The poll is open for anyone (US and international!) to enter; the deadline is 12 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 14. The winner will be announced shortly after! 

 

Wednesday
Feb112009

Sweet Factory: Behind the Scenes at Little Rae's Bakery in Seattle

Glitter Heart Cookie
Recently, our Head Spy Jessie was invited to take a tour of Little Rae's Bakery, a wholesale bakery here in Seattle (and, one of the nation's few completely nut-free bakeries). If you live in the Seattle area, you're undoubtedly familiar with their natural, organic baked goods--they're sold at nicer supermarkets and coffee shops all throughout the city, and even made national headlines with their recent First Family Cookies.

Having grown up fascinated with that spot about how crayons are made on Sesame Street, and as an avid watcher of Unwrapped, there was no doubt about a response--the word "YES!" couldn't be uttered quickly enough.

So, what goes on at a factory of sweetness? Here's what she saw:
Hobart!James with a big cookie/scone machine

First off, everything is big. Big, big, big. From an enormous Hobart mixer to a big machine which divides dough into individual portions, the machinery is heavy-duty (see Little Rae's owner James next to one of the machines for a size comparison).

They're also baked in ginormous ovens, which trays are loaded into and rotate in a circular motion to bake evenly.
JUST out of the big oven!Coming out of the oven

Of course, the most magical part (to me) was the point at which they were out of the oven--when the aroma of fresh, sweet baked goods was rich in the air, and the employees set to frosting and decorating them. Several employees were delegated to these tasks, and moved at warp speed, icing, frosting and adding sprinkles to the cookies. Really, I could have watched them do this all day.
Cookies being frosted and sugaredJust frosted cookies
Professional cookie decoratorsBefore and after cookiesMaple sconesJust frosted scones
Finally, once allowed to dry or set, the baked goods are packaged--all of the packaging has fun pictures of the employees-- and put out for deliveries.
Cookies just packaged!Packaging the cookies
Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't mention that one of the best parts of the tour was the box of free goodies I got at the end of it, including my favorite, their iced shortbread cookies:
Booty from the tour!
Moreover, I was impressed by the fact that even though they are baking these treats in larger quantities, the process isn't really all that different than baking at home--just a lot more sterile (no licking the spoon here!) and with a lot bigger machinery. It was especially exciting to see that even at a larger scale, this company isn't adding anything scary to their baked goods--it's all fresh and organic, and it's clearly a labor of love for owner James, who oversees all daily operations. And of course, having seen the process, it made the cookies all that much more delicious to eat afterward.

Want to learn more about Little Rae's Bakery? Visit their website at littleraesbakery.com. Not in Seattle? Don't despair--you can still enjoy their baked goods via mail order.

 

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