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Sweet Story: The Tale of L'il Cuppie

Many readers have expressed an interest in learning a little bit more about our little cupcake mascot, so we thought we would publish a bio on the little guy, who we fondly think of as L'il Cuppie.

L'il Cuppie was made from leftover batter from a birthday cake, and has always had a chip on his shoulder about this. Is he a "complete" cupcake? Or an "incomplete" cake? It's truly his internal struggle. As a result, he rebelled as early as his babycake days, and has a tendency to go over the top for attention, occasionally getting himself in trouble (although he always has great adventures in the process!). But don't be fooled by his bluster; at heart, he's a good little cake and can occasionally be caught in moments of extreme sweetness.

What does the future hold for L'il Cuppie? Well, you'll just have to visit cakespy.com to see!


Batter Chatter: Interview with Dian Scott of Cupcake Heaven

Are cupcakes what greet you in heaven, or is heaven a place on earth when eating cupcakes? It's a moot point, a chicken or the egg type of question. But there's no arguing that Cupcake Heaven in Tucson, AZ is serving up something ambrosial to mere mortals: rich and creamy frosting atop perfectly moist cakes are something that will bring an angelic smile to anyone's face. We were able to talk cake (and pie!) with proprietress Dian Scott; here's what we learned about how they like their sweets in Tucson:

Cakespy: How did you get started in cupcakery?
Dian Scott: I've been a baker and cook my entire life and wanted so much to help spread the joy with cupcakes! People light up when they see my cupcakes in their very cool boxes, wrapped with a ribbon! The presentation just "sends" them; then they taste them and are gone!!!

CS: What is your most popular cupcake flavor?
DS: I must confess, it's the chocolate peanut butter; also the best seller.

CS: How frequently do you eat cupcakes?
DS: Again, this is going to be "true cupcake confessions", I have one almost everyday! I don't eat other sweet treats as much as I used to though so I have struck a balance.

CS: What is the most important characteristic of a great cupcake?
DS: Moist! No doubt about it!

CS: What makes a "bad" cupcake (is there such a thing?)?
DS: Yes, unfortunately I have had dry, crumbly ones: "bad cupcake".

CS: What do you think is the best time of day to eat cake?
DS: Anytime, as long as you're awake.

CS: Do you sell anything other than cupcakes? If not, do you think you might in the future?
DS: No, I'm only selling cupcakes from my on-line bakery but I do have the next thing in mind.

CS: Have you ever baked using a cake mix?
DS: When I was a child, never as a professional.

CS: We've heard it said that "Pie is the new cake". How do you feel about this?
DS: I believe it! In fact my next thing will be individual pies!

CS: If you weren't a cupcake maven, what do you think you'd be doing?
DS: Catering. I still do on occasion and my company is called Occasional Catering.

CS: What is next for Cupcake Heaven?
DS: Pies, sweet and savory I think. But for now cupcakes are it!

For more information, visit cupcakeheaven.biz.


Fudge It: Confections by Oh, Fudge!

A company specializing in confectionery and soap kind of sounds like the makings of a sitcom: the inevitable mixed-up orders, hilarity ensuing.

Nonetheless, we took the brave step of buying fudge by Oh Fudge, a Graham, WA-based operation run by Ann Smith, whose Etsy shop is half comprised of fudge, cookies and sweet cake bars; the other half is comprised of Lush-esque cakes of soap which also look strangely delicious. So, were we playing with fire? Was this fudge going to taste like a stern lesson?

Happily, it was more like a reward. The fudge was like a cross between cake frosting and cookie dough, so smooth and rich it would eat just as comfortably from a spoon as with your fingers; the baker tells us the secret to the texture is using cream instead of milk for the fudge (which is loosely based on her grandmother's recipe).

Of course if you do eat it with your fingers, you know what to wash your hands with later.

Available online at wwizebody.etsy.com.


Stick It!: Sweet Things Stickers by Acrylicana

Circa 8th Grade Timeline
Early September: Cover Pre-Algebra book with crisp new book cover.
Mid-September: Write the name of current heartthrob, in loopy cursive writing surrounded by hearts, all over said book cover.
Early October: Brokenhearted, cover all said loopy scrawlings with Lisa Frank Stickers.

In many respects, it's pretty awesome to not be in the 8th grade anymore. But you can still hold on to some of those memories by investing in a set of Sweet Things Stickers by Acrylicana. A bit of a phenom herself, the Detroit-based Acrylicana (aka Mary Winkler) designer is still a student and is--to put it delicately--a few years younger than anyone at Cakespy. But we digress--back to the stickers. The designs are full of life, fun and a Japanese pop-art cuteness: from the winking pop tart to smiling buttered toast and joyful doughnuts, these stickers will bring happiness to any surface, from sealing a letter to a friend to covering up the photographic visage of your unworthy ex.

OK...so maybe you haven't changed all that much.

Available online at acrylicana.etsy.com.


Party On: Cupcake Decorating Parties by One Hour Parties

You've just sent out a perfectly thought-out Evite. And your response? Three "yes", five "no", and fifty "maybe". Did they fail to notice how you cleverly wrote "Yes, I'm Fabulous" for the affirmative RSVP? Well, buck up. Chances are it's not you, it's the fact that you live in Seattle, the flakiest city on earth.

However, even an aloof Seattleite couldn't resist the cosmic pull of a cupcake decorating party done by One Hour Parties. With just 48 hours notice they'll bring over all the fixings: jumbo cupcakes (the batch is half chocolate, half vanilla); tubs of buttercream frosting, several types of sprinkles, plus items you always forget--ie, tablecloth, plastic knives, plates and napkins. For work functions or just groups who just don't like to share, pre-packaged kits are available as well. The cupcakes themselves are a built-in conversation piece as well as nourishment, thus reducing your stress as the host; basically, a cupcake decorating party is a winner no matter how you look at it.

They might even lose that fear of being the first to arrive. Well, let's not go too far.

For more information or to book a party, visit onehourparties.com.

Cakespy Note: Not in Seattle? Well, lucky you because One Hour Parties is setting up partner party companies in various cities; for more information, visit their website.


Murder She Baked: Batter Chatter with Joanne Fluke


Have you ever wondered what Murder She Wrote might have been like if instead of a writer in New England, the series were based on the proprietress of a cookie bakery in small-town Minnesota?


Well, that's okay, Cakespy hadn't either until coming across the writings of Joanne Fluke, whose book series revolves around Hannah Swensen, a bakery owner who just can't stop accidentally stumbling upon murder scenes. Along the way, love triangles, a meddling small-town cast, and the heroine's cat Moishe all play into the stories. Each book has a dessert theme (Sugar Cookie Murder; Key Lime Pie Murder; you get the idea), and the chapters close with recipes from the current plot progression. A marriage intrigue and baked goods, these books are as pleasurable and cozy as crumb cake and coffee (but even more pleasurable with them). Cakespy had the good fortune of catching up with author Joanne Fluke just as she'd handed off her most recent book to the publisher; here's what she had to say:

Cakespy: How did you get into such a specific genre of writing, ie mysteries revolving around the baker Hannah Swensen?
Joanne Fluke: I had already written a number of romance novels and thrillers. I told my editor I wanted to do a cookbook of bar cookies with small town anecdotes. I wanted to call it, "Bar Hopping in Minnesota." He suggested doing it as a culinary cozy mystery series instead. Whammo, Hannah was born.

CS: Do you come up with the signature dessert from each book first and then write the story around it, or the other way around?
JF: Generally I select the title dessert first. Sometimes my editor suggests one based on what he thinks will make a good cover. Actually, I think Hiro Kimura, my cover artist, could turn mud patties into something scrumptious looking.

CS: Do you have a baking background?
JF: I'm a Minnesota mom, the daughter and granddaughter of Minnesota moms. Of course I have a baking background. But I'm a seat-of-the-pants small town baker with no special academic or commercial credentials, if that's what you mean.

CS: Do you come up with your own recipes?
JF: Many of Hannah's recipes are old family favorites, but, yes, I do dream up new ones fairly often. I work hard to make them as simple and yummy as I can. My husband helps by taste testing every experimental batch. He almost turned purple trying blueberry muffins. The dear man never complains about this arduous chore!

CS: Have you ever had any recipes that you couldn't quite get right?
JF: Yes, but let's not talk about it. I'll give you a hint: Watermelon Cookies.

CS: Why do you think it is that the "cream stack" (a Minnesota recipe featured in one of your books) never caught on nationwide?
JF: It didn't?

CS: What is your favorite dessert?
JF: My mother's Chocolate Meringue Pie. (And, no, I don't have the recipe.)

CS: What is your least favorite dessert?
JF: I never met a dessert I didn't like.

CS: Is it strange to hear your novels as books on tape?
JF: I've never listened to one. Folks have told me that Recorded Books does a good job of it.

CS: When will the next Hannah Swensen installment be available in bookstores?
JF: There's a novella included in "Candy Cane Murder" which will be out in early October. I just sent "Carrot Cake Murder" to the publisher. It will be out in March 2008.

Cakespy Note: Want to know more? Visit Joanne Fluke's website for information, recipes and more: murdershebaked.com.


Napoleon of the Stumptown: Portland Coffee Takes Seattle

Stumptown Coffee has opened in Seattle, and it's caused quite a stir in the
city. To some, it's seen as an invasion in an already saturated boutique coffee market: are Caffé Vita, Espresso Vivace, Caffe Ladro and Uptown Espresso really not sufficient? And yet at the same time, there are the coffee enthusiasts who are flocking to the newly-opened Capitol Hill location.

But Cakespy is here to report on something much more important than coffee alone: what's going on in their pastry case?

Well. We're happy to say that Stumptown has embraced their new hometown by stocking their pastry case with lovely carbohydratey treats from Seattle favorites Mighty-O Donuts and Macrina Bakery. Beautiful cake doughnuts, biscuits, dill scones with cream cheese--we have to say, they have a major leg up on nearby Caffé Vita's pastry case, which always looks a little sad.

Oh, and the coffee is pretty good too; their espresso was strong and smoky yet still remarkably smooth; in fact, our only complaint is that they serve their French press coffee from a pump-top dispenser (which, granted, might just be a personal thing).

Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 1115 12th Ave (near Madison St.); second Capitol Hill location opening soon at 1605 Boylston Ave. (at Pine St.); online stumptowncoffee.com.

Stumptown Coffee in Seattle


Who Takes the Cake?: A Cupcake Tasting for the Ages

There's a lot of emphasis put on labels these days. Organic, pre-owned, skinny, punk-rock: you'd be surprised how frequently people will judge something before considering the whole package. People will often choose (or reject) things because of preconceived notions...and even seemingly innocent things like cake can fall prey to this! There are people who shun cake mixes because they're too fake, people who won't try vegan cakes because they're too hippie; at the same time, there are those believe that homemade by nature must always be the best. So who's right? Hard to say, but in a recent cupcake tasting hosted by Cakespy, we tried to challenge some of these notions! Here's the lowdown:

WHAT: A "blind" (though not blindfolded) cupcake tasting including three batches of cupcakes: homemade "regular" cupcakes, vegan cupcakes and from-a-mix cupcakes (below, from left to right in order of description). To try to keep things fair, we made each batch the same flavor combination: vanilla cake with chocolate frosting.
Cakespy Note: There were some inherent variations between the cakes, but we tried to keep them as similar as possible. The homemade dairy cupcake recipe came from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans; the vegan cupcakes recipe came from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero, and Sara Quin; the Mix was courtesy of Betty Crocker.

Each participant was given three cake samples labeled A (homemade "regular"), B (vegan) and C (from-a-mix), as well as a scorecard. Upon tasting each sample, filled in their cards with guesses on which cake was which, and voted on which one they liked best.

WHO: Cupcake testing is serious business, so we assembled an equally serious and eclectic group of tasters:
WHY: To see if people could tell the difference between the three batches; also, to see which ones tasted best.

RESULTS: Well, nobody had any trouble picking out the vegan cakes from the others; of course, their frosting texture was noticeably different and the cake much more dense. Nonetheless, we didn't see anyone who left the vegan portion uneaten, which in itself is very telling! A few people did mix up the homemade and mix-made cupcakes though.

But most importantly, which one tasted best?

The tally came in as follows: Homemade "regular" cupcakes came in first with 4 votes; Mix cupcakes and vegan cupcakes tied for second place with three votes each.

CONCLUSION: When it comes down to it, cake is an innately good thing, fulfilling both mentally and physically. Our testers' comments reflected this very much; while the denser cake was "spongy and satisfying" to one tester, the mix cupcakes brought on memories of "childhood sugar highs", and yet another noted that the dairy homemade cupcakes reminded him of those his mother used to make. Cake is about comfort, and no matter what the label, if it's made with love and enjoyed in good company, it's bound to be a rewarding experience. Awww.


This is Your Brain on Chocolate: Recipe Notecards by Greg Clark

Is he a wannabe boyfriend, or a stalker? Is she a cat enthusiast, or a creepy cat lady? Hey, sometimes cute vs. creepy can be a hard call indeed.

In the case of recipe notecards by Greg Clarke, while the struggle is there (strangely surreal pastry and beverage-headed characters wearing their party best), ultimately cute wins. Strange heads or not they're charming, and the sentiment wins us over: each notecard is imprinted with a chocolate-themed recipe like Triple Chocolate Brownies or Overly Indulgent Cupcakes; they'll make your letters or thank you notes that much sweeter.

While still being just a little bit creepy.


Arriba!: Mini Mexican Wedding Cakes

Pop Quiz! Would you rather eat:

A. a Snowball
B. a Russian Tea Cake
C. a Mini Mexican Wedding Cake

Well, in truth you’d be eating the same thing: all of the above are slight variations on a small, gorgeously crumbly, nut-buttery round cookie finished off with a dusting of sweet powdered sugar. But what a difference a name makes. While there’s nothing wrong per se with a Snowball or Russian Tea Cake, you’ve got to admit that eating a Mini Mexican Wedding Cake sounds like the most fun. Traditionally made only for weddings or special occasions, they’re now an everyday treat thanks to Montlake Mousse, whose 16-ounce containers of the ambrosial treats (freshly made, preservative free) are now available in various Metropolitan Market locations.

But watch out: they have a fiesta-in-your-mouth inducing reaction which naturally makes it impossible to eat just one.

Available at Metropolitan Market; for locations, visit metropolitan-market.com.

Cakespy note: Not in the Seattle area? We also found a great recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes, thanks to Cooks.com!

2 1/2 c. flour
2 sticks butter
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1 c. chopped nuts
Soften butter, cream with flour. Blend in sugar. Add nuts. Form balls the size of walnuts. Bake in 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Yield 4 to 5 dozen.

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