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Friday
Nov282008

Shake it Up: The Lovely and Amazing Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

Pumpkin Pie Shake
There's a lot of attention given to Thanksgiving Leftovers. From smashed potato cakes to stuffing fritters to creative recipes that go far beyond the standby turkey sandwich, the leftovers are sometimes even more coveted than the feast itself.

However, never until this year had we ever had to worry about leftover Pumpkin Pie. In general, it gets--wait for it--gobbled up straightaway.
However, this year, having made not one but four different pies (more about that in a few days), we suddenly did find ourselves with leftovers. While steaming milk for coffee this morning, suddenly we had a memory of recently having read about a gorgeous-sounding apple pie shake in John T. Edge's Apple Pie book; why not try it with some pumpkin pie?
Now, we're certain that there are a zillion different variations that you could use, but here's what we did--and man, was it delicious.
  • 6 ounces unsweetened soy milk (we're sure dairy milk would be fine too, this just happened to be what we had)
  • Dash of soy creamer
  • small handful mini marshmallows
  • 1 small slice pumpkin pie (we used one on which the crust measured about 2 inches)
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste
  • Leftover PiePumpkin Pie Shake
  1. In a small saucepan, warm soy milk and creamer; once warm, add marshmallows and continue to warm (but not boil) until marshmallows are fully melted. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or spices to taste.
  2. Place pie slice in blender.
  3. Pour liquid mixture over pie slice, and add ice cubes
  4. Blend until smooth

Pumpkin Pie Shake
Try to drink slowly; inevitably, it will be so delicious that you'll get brain freeze. Wait it out, then repeat. It's sure to give you energy for all that shopping you've got to do.

 


 

 

Friday
Nov282008

Cakespy Undercover: A Sweet Vegan Surprise in Rincon, Puerto Rico

Vegan Baked Goods, Puerto Rico
Rincón is a gorgeous little spot in the northwest of Puerto Rico, known for its amazing weather and surf. Food-wise, you can expect some amazing fare, from tostones and rice and beans to fiery, spicy chicken to delicious concoctions involving rum and coconut. What you might not expect, however, is a mecca for vegan baked goods.

However, the tide is changing, as Cake Gumshoes Margie and Kenny found out on a recent trip, when they attended the Farmer's Market of Rincón. At the market, which takes place the first and third Sundays of every month in the town's main plaza, they happened upon Vanessa, a vegan baker (pictured top), who often takes part in the market.
Downtown Rincon, Puerto Rico

As our Gumshoes report: "We had a carrot muffin made with rice flour. It was the first time I ever had something vegan but it had a good flavor that got better with each bite and left a nice aftertaste."

By the looks of it, these treats were delightfully moist, dense, and rich--we hope they packed some of Vanessa's wares to bring back home.

Interested in finding out more about Rincón? Visit rinconpr.com.

Sunday
Nov232008

Sweet But Dark: Fifty Ways to Kill a Twinkie

Twinkie #8: Teddy Graham Attack
Thanks again to our buddy at Suspect and Fugitive for her help on this adventure!

It's been said that Twinkies could survive a Nuclear Holocaust--and we wouldn't dare challenge the wisdom of The Family Guy. But what about far more mundane, everyday perils? Certainly Twinkies aren't completely indestructable. There's always a means to an end, isn't there? As Paul Simon once said, there must be fifty ways to leave your lover--and so, in what may be considered a perverse twist on this logic, we figured there must also be fifty ways to kill a Twinkie. Ranging from somewhat useful to creative to downright cruel, here they are:


Twinkie #1: Die, Twinkie, Die!Twinkie #1: Dead
1. Step on it. If so desired, do it slowly.

 

Twinkie #2: Dead!Twinkie #2
2. Death by Razr: crush it in a cell phone.

Twinkie #4
3. Put it in a handbag for a week. That sucker doesn't have a chance.

Twinkie #5twinkie side view
4. Put it in the mail. (Note: The first picture is before we sent it --for the recipient's privacy we photographed it before adhering the label-- and the second is after it arrived.)

5. Shank it. 

Twinkie #6
6. Leave it out in the Seattle rain.

Twinkie #7: Listening to Randy Newman
7. Make it listen to Randy Newman on an endless loop.
8. Take it to a fat camp and see how long it lasts.

 

Twinkie #8: Teddy Graham Attack
9. Teddy Graham attack!

Twinkie #9: Assaulted with Boiling waterTwinkie #9: Assaulted with Boiling waterTwinkie #9: Assaulted with Boiling water
10. Pour boiling water on it. Either marvel at, or be repulsed by, the results.

Twinkie #10: In the grate!Twinkie #10: In the grate!
11. Stuff it in a sewer grate.

Twinkie #11: Hurled at the Space Needle
12. Hurl it at the Space Needle. (Note: We wanted to throw it FROM the Space Needle, but fearing arrest and / or heavy fines, we decided to throw it AT the Space Needle.)

Twinkie #12: In the StreetTwinkie #12: Roadkill
13. Make it into roadkill.

Twinkie #13: Being Kind
14. Give it to someone less fortunate (to use it as a punching bag when they see they got a ticket).

Twinkie #14: Impaled!
15. Impale it.

Twinkie #15: Chop it in Tiny Bits
16. Chop it into tiny bits--you know, like mobsters do.

Twinkie #16: Make Croutons
17. Fry cubed Twinkie and make Twinkie Croutons.

Twinkie #17: Make friends eat Croutons
18. Make your friends eat a real salad with Twinkie croutons--hilarity will ensue! (for you).

Twinkie #18: Salt
19. Add salt. It kills slugs, so why not Twinkies, right?

Twinkie #19: Microwave
20. Put it in the microwave. Wonder why the microwave makes the cream filling turn to translucent goo.

Twinkie #20: Go all Damien Hirst on itDamien Hirst Twinkie
21. Go all Damien Hirst on it!

Twinkie Tiramisu
22. Make it into something delicious, like Twinkie tiramisu.

#22: Feed it to a snake
23. Feed it to a snake.

Twinkie #23Twinkie #3
24. Sit on it for an extended period of time.

#41 Put bleach in its coffee
25. Put bleach in its coffee.

#23: Twinkie cut in half
26. Slice it in half and try to see hidden Rorschach-style pictures.

Twinkie Hot Dog
27. Make Twinkie hot dogs!

Twinkie #27: Chair balance
28. Use it to balance a wobbly chair.

Twinkie #28: Heart Attack
29. Give it a Monster Thickburger--a heart attack will surely follow.

Twinkie Mad Science
30. Go all mad science, like these people did.

Twinkie #33: Instant breakfast
31. Make it into an instant breakfast. Screw you, Carnation Instant!

Twinkie #31: Alcohol poisoning
32. Give it alcohol poisoning.

Twinkie #32: Death by literature
33. Use it as a bookend.

#33: Godzilla kills twinkie
34. Leave it to Godzilla's wrath.

35. Dehydrate it.

#35: Give it to a Guinea Pig
36. Give it to a guinea pig.

#36: Skewered Twinkie
37. Skewer it. Twin-kebab, anyone?

#37: Twinkie Sushi
38. Make Twinkie Sushi (Note: This was not originally our idea. Check it out here.)

Twinkie #39: Give it to Mariah Carey
39. Give it to Mariah Carey. That Twinkie's a goner for sure.

40. Submit it to cryogenesis, as these people did.

 

Twinkie Zombie attack!

41. Zombie attack!

 

Frozen Twinkie
42. Freeze it

#43: Death by kitchen fan

43. Put it in the kitchen fan.

 

#45: Doorstop
44. Use it as a doorstop.

#46: Mauled by a unicorn
45. Mauled by Unicorn!

#24: Drop it off a building
46. Drop it off a building. We didn't, but they did.

Twinkie, Mentos, Diet Coke
47. Mentos, Diet Coke, Explode!

#48: Death by Hanging
48. Hang it.

 

#49 Keith Richards and Twinkies
49. Give it to an artist. We gave it to our good friend at Suspect and Fugitive, who made a "Twin-Keith Richards" portrait out of the creme filling. Why? Well, as an homage to their shared infinite shelf life.

Finally, for #50? Oh, you know...eat it. If you dare.

Wednesday
Nov192008

Sky Rockets in Flight: Afternoon Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight
Early on in the novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the characters, Edmund, is enchanted and hypnotized by an unusual food: Turkish Delight

Now we know that everyone is entitled to their opinions and tastes, but we think Edmund could have done better. Truly, we've just never understood the appeal of the sticky confection known as Turkish Delight. Sure, it's got an interesting history--but in we've always found its texture kind of weird, and it's always seemed to have had a bit of an identity crisis (somewhere between candy, jelly, nougat and fruit roll-ups). However, when we recently came across a recipe for "Turkish Delight Frothy", a kind of nonalcoholic hot toddy featuring the confection, we have to admit we were intrigued, and so we gave it a try.

Turkish Delight Frothy
The recipe had a distinct Middle Eastern feel, what with rosewater, honey, pistachios, and cardamom. This got us all excited--we love Middle Eastern pastries which largely rely on said ingredients.  But would it be enough to make Turkish Delight haters into lovers?
The Turkish Delight Frothy definitely has its strong points. It's warm, spicy, sweet and comforting--like a chai tea latte. However, it's worth noting that rather than masking the flavor of the confectionery, the added ingredients actually managed to heighten it--which we imagine, if you're a fan of the stuff, would be--well, delightful. However, as we sipped we realized that maybe, secretly, brattily, we were hoping that the extra stuff might make frothy might taste like something other than its main ingredient. Le sigh. So while we'll likely stick with hot chocolate and chai as our hot beverages of choice, if you are a fan of Turkish Delight, this one might be worth a try.

 

Here's the recipe:

Turkish Delight Frothy

Serves: 2

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 ounces Turkish delight, cut into small cubes, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons rose water
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and Turkish delight. Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture just reaches the boiling point. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer or whisk to beat the cream, rose water, honey and cardamom until just stiff.
  3. Divide the milk mixture between 2 serving cups, then top with the whipped cream. Garnish with additional cubes of Turkish delight and the chopped pistachio nuts.
  4. Serve it with a spoon for eating unmelted (and delicious) lumps of candy at the bottom.

-- Recipe from Louise Pickford's "Hot Drinks" (Ryland, Peters & Small), we found it via the Seattle PI.

 

 

Tuesday
Nov182008

Ask a Gumshoe: Where Can I Find a Cookie of the Month Club?

Cookie Bakers
We get a lot of mail with baked good related questions--and we'll admit it, sometimes we're stumped! But we always try to do our homework--and so here is a new feature in which we will strive to answer these important questions so that others can benefit from our sweet findings too!

This week, we received a message from a Cakespy reader, wondering if there is such a thing as a cookie-of-the-week club. Though we don't know of any cookie of the week clubs, upon searching we did realize that there is a very active culture of cookie of the month clubs out there--the hardest part may be choosing your favorite. Now, we can't say we endorse any of these companies as we've never joined their clubs, but having looked at quite a few, these were the ones that seemed most appetizing, interesting, and user-friendly to us:


Cookie of the Month, Chip N Dough
Who: Chip N Dough
What to expect: 12 jumbo cookies a month; on the first month, your recipient will receive a cookie jar which they can replenish each month with the new batch.
The goods: You can either have them choose an assortment or choose your own flavors; the cookies are fairly traditional, including classics like chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal chocolate chip, and a decadent soft chocolate cookie-brownie hybrid which they call the "Brookie".
The investment: There are a variety of plans. Prices range from $67.95 for a prepaid three month plan to $269.95 for the whole year long. Monthly plans are available too, for $24.95 a month.
Shipping: Not included.
Where to find them: chipndough.com.

Cookies by "My Kids' Cookies"

Who: My Kids' Cookies
What to expect: 12 jumbo cookies each month; customizable packaging options available, and you have freedom to choose the day of the month you'd like to have them shipped to the recipient.
The goods: The monthly selections are set (flavors include classics like Snickerdoodles, Oatmeal Raisin, Milk Chocolate Walnut, and gourmet variations like Oatmeal Cranberry and White Chocolate Macadamia); however, it's possible to specify whether you'd like your selections with or without nuts.
The investment: $315 for the year
Shipping: Included in the cost.
Where to find them: mykidscookies.com.

Solomon's Cookies Carmelitas
Who: Solomon's Gourmet Cookies
What to expect: A set selection of gourmet cookies delivered monthly.
The Goods: They have a set selection, with a limited number of substitutions possible:
  • January - Jelly Cookie
  • February - Chocolate Mint Brownie
  • March - Coconut Bar
  • April - Raspberry Brownie
  • May - Caramelita
  • June - Chocolate Chip Brownie
  • July - Muriel Roth Bar
  • August - Turtle Bar
  • September - Chocolate Filler
  • October - Caramel Brownie
  • November - Banana Bar
  • December - No Nut Assortment
The Investment: A varying scale of plans are available in 3, 6, or 12 month intervals. You can choose either a 12, 18 or 30-count monthly shipment for any of these durations, depending on your budget. on the low end, a three-month plan of a 12-count box of cookies is $50.95 for the entire three months; for big spenders, a 30-count assortment sent every month for 12 months would run $448.95.
Shipping: Not included. They estimate that shipping adds $6.50-$8.50 per shipment.
Where to find them: solomonscookies.com.

 

Allisons GourmetAllisons GourmetAllisons Gourmet
Who: Allisons Gourmet

What to expect: One dozen of the generously sized "flavor of the month" cookie delivered early each month.
The goods: The flavor selections are set but correspond nicely to the seasons; all ingredients are all-natural and organic. Gotta love that.
  • January: Oatmeal Raisin
  • February: Double Chocolate Chunk
  • March: Butterscotch Pecan
  • April: Peanut butter chocolate chip
  • May: Vanilla Almond
  • June: Coconut key lime
  • July: Peanut butter
  • August: Chocolate Hazelnut
  • September: Oatmeal chocolate chunk
  • October: Pumpkin spice
  • November: Cranberry Orange
  • December: Gingerbread Spice
The investment: Two options are available--prepaid or monthly (with a three month minimum). The cost is $35.36 per month.
Shipping: It looks from the site as if some of the shipping is included in the cost, but it may be subject to increase depending where the cookies are being sent.
Where to find them: allisonsgourmet.com.

 

Gotta have Cookies
Who: Gotta Have Cookies

What to expect: A batch of cookies delivered each month to your recipient; a personalized gift message accompanies the first shipment.
The goods: The selections are set:
  • January: Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Squares
  • February: Heart Cut-Out Cookies
  • March: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • April:  Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • May: Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • June: Macadamia and Milk Chocolate Chunk
  • July: Snickerdoodles
  • August: Macadamia and White Chocolate Chip
  • September: M & M Cookies
  • October: Monster Cookies ( Peanut butter, M & M’s, chocolate chips and oatmeal)
  • November: Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip
  • December: Assorted Christmas Cookies: Spritz, Peanut Butter Blossom and the “baker’s choice”.
The investment: The club is set up in 3-month ($89.75), 6-month ($170.05) or 12-month ($321.20) installments. 
Shipping: Not included
Where to find them: gottahavecookies.com.

Monica'sMonica's
Who: Monica's Best Gourmet Cookies
What to expect: One dozen fat (in this case, this is a compliment) cookies delivered each month on a a box "elegantly finished with ribbon".
The goods: The selections by month are set:
  • January - Peanut Butter
  • February - Mocha Chocolate Chip
  • March - The Trio
  • April - Iced Lemon
  • May - Iced Almond
  • June - Assorted
  • July - Iced Orange
  • August - Oatmeal Raisin
  • September - Chocolate Chip
  • October - Pumpkin Chocolate Chip
  • November - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
  • December - Iced Peppermint
The investment: The club is set up in 3-month ($72), 6-month ($145), 9-month ($214) and 12-month ($279) increments.
Shipping: Shipping is included in all aforementioned fees.
Where to find them: monicasbest.com.

Carolina Cookie Co
Who: Carolina Cookie
What to expect: Depending on your investment, either one or two dozen dense cookies per month which are strangely, almost shaped like southern biscuits. 
The goods: The selections by month are set:
  • January: Chunky Chocolate
  • February: Triple Chocolate Pecan
  • March: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut
  • April: Sugar
  • May: Butter Pecan
  • June: Oatmeal Raisin
  • July: Chunky Reeses Peanut Butter
  • August: Oatmeal Cranberry Nut
  • September: Chunky Chocolate Pecan
  • October: Chunky Milk Chocolate
  • November: Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut
  • December: Gingerbread
The investment: The club is set up in 3-month ($53.95 /dz; $75.30/ 2 dz.), 6-month ($106 / dz; $153.70 / 2 dz); 12-month ($201.93 / dz; $293.64 / 2 dz) increments.
Shipping: Price includes standard shipping.
Where to find them: carolinacookie.com.

SnickerDoodles by PlatineChocolateChip Cookies by Platine
Who: Platine Cookies
What to expect: 18 original artisan recipe cookies (and bars) the first week of every month.
The goods: The monthly selections are set:
  • January Platine Signature Cookie
  • February Our Best Brownies
  • March Chocolate Chunk
  • April Snickerdoodles
  • May Chocolate Galore
  • June Milk Chocolate Nut
  • July Oatmeal Raisin
  • August Blondies
  • September Traditional Rugelach
  • October Halloween Candy Craze
  • November Chocolate Gingersnaps
  • December Cranberry Chocolate Chunk
The investment: The club is set up in 3-month ($85), 6-month ($150) and 9-month ($220) increments.
Shipping: Shipping is not included.
Where to find them: platinecookies.com.

Tribeca Treats
Who: Tribeca Treats
What to expect: 1-2 dozen cookies per month (depending on the month's selection).
The goods: The monthly selections are set: 
  • January: Stick to your resolutions (at least until February!) with our fat-free and gluten-free "Spa Cookies". The recipe comes from the famed Golden Door Spa in Southern California.
  • February: Treat yourself or your valentine to heart-shaped raspberry linzer cookies
  • March: Traditional New York black & white cookies, only bite-sized
  • April: Our ever-popular caramel sandwich cookies, in both chocolate and vanilla versions
  • May: For Mother's Day, our fudgy brownies (even better than mom used to make!)
  • June: Peanut butter thumbprint cookies filled with milk chocolate ganache
  • July: Refreshing lime shortbread cookies, with a lime glaze
  • August: Cinnamon buttermilk cookies (if French Toast were a cookie, this is what it would taste like!)
  • September: Rekindle your summer campfire memories with our S'mores cookies
  • October: BOO! our Halloween sugar cookies are a hit with kids and adults
  • November: Chocolate hazelnut cookies are a perfect treat by a toasty fire
  • December: Adorable gingerbread men, just in time for Holiday season
The investment: The club is set up in 6-month ($210) or 12-month ($360) increments.
Shipping: Shipping is included in the cost.
Where to find them: tribecatreats.com.
Carol's Cookies
Who: Carol's Cookies
What to expect: A monthly shipment of 1 dozen enormous cookies with a gift message.
The goods: The monthly selections are set: 
  • January: The No-nutter...a dozen of all of our handmade cookies without the nuts
  • February: Sweets for my Sweet - a dozen of Cinnamon Swirl and Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
  • March: Awww, Nuts! - a dozen of our assorted cookies with nuts
  • April: Specialty Chocolate Month - a dozen of our cookies with rich dark, milk and white chocolate
  • May: The Kitchen Sink - whatever we have in stock is what you get
  • June: Cookie Jar with half of a dozen of our gourmet assortment
  • July: Best Sellers - whatever our best sellers are, you'll be getting our top three
  • August: Fruit of the Month - a dozen of our Oatmeal Raisin and Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies
  • September: Minis - a Small Gift Tin packed full with Carol's Minis
  • October: Choco-holics - anything and everything chocolate this month!
  • November: Tandem Coffee Cups - two of our Carol's Coffee Cups so you have something to dip your cookies into
  • December: Gourmet Assortment - our standard measure for perfection, a dozen of our handmade, assorted cookies
 
The investment: The club is set up in 6-month ($205) or 12-month ($400) increments.
Where to find them: carolscookies.com.

Do you have an opinion on the best cookie of the month club? Leave a comment or send us an email!

 

Monday
Nov172008

Peanutty Buddies: Chocolate Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies from Peanut Butter and Co.

Chocolate peanut butter shortbread cookie stack
When Peanut Butter and Co., a cute little Greenwich Village cafe known for its incredible number of variations on the humble peanut butter sandwich, began distributing their peanut butters nationwide, we were thrilled. We love peanut butter. 


When it came to their book The Peanut Butter & Co. Cookbook: Recipes from the World's Nuttiest Sandwich Shop though, we were a bit skeptical. Honestly, why bother with a cookbook when their stuff tastes so good just eaten directly from the jar? Yes, it's true--we're not above eating a spoonful of "Mighty Maple" (delightfully crunchy) or White Chocolate Wonderful (kind of like a white-chocolate Reese's cup, only all smooth and silky) right from their respective peanut butter jars.

But somewhere between spoonfuls, a glorious thought occurred: What if it tasted even better baked into something? 

And so we consulted the book, and settled on something simple to start: the peanut butter shortbread. While theirs calls for regular peanut butter, we upped the ante by using their Dark Chocolate Dreams variety. These cookies bake for a long time, which allows ample time for the aroma of peanut butter, chocolate, and cookie to permeate the entire house. This is not a bad smell to have permeate your house, by the way. The taste seemed to have three defined layers: upon first bite, one encountered the sandy, slightly salted, buttery bite of the shortbread; then, a moment later, there was the peanut butter; chasing it very closely, a finish of rich, dark chocolatiness. Oh, were they delicious. Here's our adaptation of the recipe:

  • 2 cups flour 
  • 2/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (We used their "Dark Chocolate dreams" variety)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Their recipe says it yields 12 wedges of shortbread, but we did a combination of thinly rolled cookies and simple, small round cookies and got more like 24.

  1. Prehead the oven to 275. Either grease a 9-inch cake pan (if you want wedges) or just grease a regular cookie pan if you're a rule-breaker, like us.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt and set aside.
  3. In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla til fluffy. Continue mixing, adding the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, until fully incorporated.
  4. (a.) If you want classic wedges, at this point press the dough into the prepared cake pan, using a knife to score the surface of the dough into 12 wedge-shaped pieces. Repeatedly press the tips of te tines of a fork around the outer edge of the shortbread, creating four concentric circles of dots. (b.) If you want to go your own way, roll them into little balls and then flatten them slightly (like at the top). We also rolled out a few and tried to use a cookie cutter, but the buttery nature of this dough didn't take to that so well. All the same, we did get a few cute Cuppie-cookies.
  5. Bake for 75 minutes (since we'd broken a rule, we checked it at 60 minutes and ultimately took them out at 65 minutes or so), or until shortbread is a pale golden color (since ours was brownish from the chocolate, we looked for a slight crispness around the edges). If in wedges, allow to cool for 1 hour before cutting. Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Cakespy Note: we should add that while the peanut butters are available online at ilovepeanutbutter.com, the shipping can get pricey; you might want to try your local supermarket. We found that they had them at our local gourmet supermarket in Seattle, so we can only assume they're around the rest of the US too!

Chocolate peanut butter Shortbread cookie

 

 

 

Saturday
Nov152008

Sweet Spot: Dessert Links!

Lamb and Lion Cuppies

Who can wait til March for lions and lambs when they're this cute? Similarly cute are our favorite links this week:
Help the economy: go to the Urban Craft Uprising, Seattle's awesome holiday craft show! Cakespy and many other arbiters of cute will be in attendance!
In Maine and love to bake? Sign up for Iron Cupcake in Maine, which is headed up by Carrie from Fields of Cake!

 

Testing recipes? Follow pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon's wise guide.

 

Bakery owners (or hopeful bakery owners) listen up: The Ten Commandments of Cupcakes. Thanks Lydia for the tip!

Chocolate ravioli: need we say more? (thanks Leslie for the tip)
Sweet accessories we want: the cutest cake and ice-cream air fresheners we've ever seen, at peachypan.com; cupcake pajamas by PJ Salvage (thanks for the tip MPG!); bakery-themed bath products by sassypinkboutique.com!
A marriage made in heaven: Cakespy artwork now available at acupcakery.com!
Still have all your teeth? You won't for long: say hello to Wick's Sugar Pies.
In Seattle? Interested in food culture? Sign up for the Wednesday University evening course, "Food for Thought: The Ethics, Culture and Politics of Eating". We did!
We tried it at the Baked: New Frontiers in Baking book party, and we liked it--Rogue Brewery's chocolate stout.

 

 

Friday
Nov142008

Lost and Found: The Chocolate Topped Princess Cake

Princess Cake
What makes a dessert go extinct? Times changing? Palates and preferences shifting? Dessert chefs retiring? All of the above? 

Whatever the reason, and wherever they may go, there are nonetheless certain desserts that stay alive in people's memories. And during our recent bout of research (read: obsession) with the Princess Cake, we came across one such dessert. The Princess Cake at famed Los Angeles eatery Scandia was not green, and in fact, it even varied a bit from the classic recipe, getting an added crunch from two layers of macaroons in addition to the layers of cake, jam and cream--and an added layer of richness with a layer of chocolate frosting atop the classic marzipan. However, one thing is for certain--this cake was certainly loved. 
While Scandia is no longer around, luckily Cake Gumshoe (and go-to pastry Chef of the Cakespy crew) Chris Jarchow sleuthed out the recipe for Scandia's Princess cake in the gorgeous book Lost Desserts: Delicious Indulgences of the Past Recipes from Legendary and Famous Chefs by Gail Monahan. Together, we took on the massive (and very time-consuming) cake-making project. Here's how we did it:


Princess Cake

Princess Cake (It says it serves 8-10, but we found that a little went a long way and it was more like 15 servings...no, really)
For the Yellow Cakes: 
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the Vanilla Buttercream: 
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Marzipan Icing:
  • 1 cup almond paste
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 large egg plus one egg yolk (or more if needed to make a spreading consistency)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the chocolate icing:
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature and lightly beanten
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Macaroons
To assemble the cake: 
  • 24 almond macaroons--somewhat hard and chewy, not hard and crisp (recipe suggests store-bought but Chris made ours)
  • about 5 tablespoons dark rum (or more, if you're feeling frisky)
  • About 2 cups best-quality raspberry jam
To make the yellow cakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 6 or 8 inch round or square cake pans at least 1 1/2 inches deep. Line the bottoms with parchment paper; butter the paper and dust the paper and pans with flour.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of the milk and the vanilla.
  3. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix for 30 seconds until combined. Add the butter and remaining 6 tablespoons milk. Mix on low speed until uniformly moist. Switch to high speed and mix for 1.5 minutes. Add the egg mixture in three batches, beating 15 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the surfaces with a spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after they are removed from the oven.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen the cakes from the sides of the pan with a small knife and invert the cakes onto the racks. Re-invert and cool completely. Split each cake horizontally into two layers.
To make the vanilla buttercream:
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile combine the sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the syrup comes to a rolling boil and the sugar dissolves, and the entire surface is covered with large bubbles. Immediately pour the syrup into another cool saucepan or metal bowl to stop the cooking. 
  3. Beating constantly, add the syrup to the egg yolks in a slow, steady stream. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the last of the syrup into the yolks and to scrape down the bowl occasionally. Continue to beat until the mixture is completely cool.
  4. Gradually beat in the butter and then the vanilla. Store the buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and beat again before using.
To Make the Marzipan Icing:
  1. Cut the almond paste into small pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mixer with the sugar, the whole egg, and the egg yolk. Beat on medium speed until combined, adding more egg if necessary to make the icing a spreading consistency. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
Frosting
To Make the Chocolate Icing:

 

 

  1. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. When melted, remove from heat and add the confectioners' sugar and hot water. Stir thoroughly; add egg and beat well. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time and beat until thoroughly combined, smooth, and glossy (this took several minutes).

Layering the Princess Cake
To Assemble the cake:
  1.  Lay the macaroons out on a piece of wax paper, flatten them a bit with your hand, and spinkle with 2 tablespoons of the rum. Set aside.
  2. Layer a cake layer on a cake plate and dampen the top with 1 tablespoon of rum. Spread generously with jam and then cover evenly with 12 or so macaroons. 
  3. Spread the underside of a second cake layer with buttercream, about 3/8 inch thick. Place this second layer, buttercream side down, on top of the first layer. Dampen the top with 1 tablespoon of rum. 
  4. Spread the top of this second layer generously with jam (be sure to hold the side of the cake so it doesn't slide around).
  5. Spread the underside of a third cake layer with buttercream, again about 3/8 inch thick, and lay it, buttercream side down, on top of the second layer.
  6. Dampen the top of the third layer with the last tablespoon of the rum, spread generously with jam, and evenly cover the jam with the remaining 12 macaroons.
  7. Spread 3/8 inch of buttercream on the underside of the fourth cake layer and lay it, buttercream side down, on top of the third layer.
  8. Use leftover buttercream sparingly to tidy up the cake: fill gaps on the sides between layers, and just generally smooth things over. Put the cake in the fridge or freezer for at least 15 minutes to harden the buttercream. Note: Ours started to pull a "Leaning tower of Pisa" in the fridge, so it might be a good idea to support it on the side somehow. We eventually put a wooden skewer through the cake to keep it solid).
    Making the Princess Cake
  9. When the buttercream is hard, ice the cake with a layer of marzipan icing. Refrigerate or freeze for about fifteen minutes, again to harden the icing, and then ice a final time with the chocolate icing (we didn't think it was attractive during this time, but it's quite pretty once sliced into--see top!).
    Scandia's Princess Cake
  10. The cake should be kept in the refrigerator until one hour before serving. It can be assembled up to 24 hours in advance and kept well covered and refrigerated. It can also be frozen.
Note: The vanilla buttercream, marzipan, and chocolate icing will keep well in the fridge for several days. To store longer, freeze.

 

 

 

 

Friday
Nov142008

November Cake Poll: The Winners!

November Cake Poll Winners
The holiday season may be just beginning, but this month's Cake Poll is now closed. The entries have been logged, and if we do say so ourselves, you've all given us some fantastic ideas for holiday baking--as well has having introduced us to some sweets we'd never heard of before! In fact, we're even toying with printing up a small booklet of our favorites--stay tuned!

But first things first--who won the sweet stuff?

  • The cupcake tote by Penguinbot goes to lucky winner Rachel G from California! Rachel's dessert choices are classic: for Thanksgiving, she likes apple pie; for Christmas, she enjoys cutout cookies--decorated with frosting and sprinkles, but of course! You can find her cutout cookie recipe here!

  • The second copy will go to reader Emileee, who is clearly after our own hearts with her Christmas cookie preference, the bon-bon. She also definitely opened our eyes to a new dessert with her Thanksgiving preference: the PRETZEL JELL-O DESSERT. Never heard of it, you say? Well, here's the recipe:
PRETZEL JELLO DESSERT

  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 1/2 c. crushed pretzels
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
  • 1 lg. container Cool Whip
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 (6 oz.) pkg. strawberry Jello
  • 1 lg. pkg. frozen strawberries
  1. Mix melted butter, pretzels, and 1/2 cup sugar together and press into 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake 6 minutes at 350 degrees.
  2. Dissolve Jello in 2 cups boiling water and add frozen strawberries. Let gel.
  3. Combine cream cheese, Cool Whip, and 1/2 cup sugar; put on top of crumbs. When Jello is starting to set, pour over cheese layer and refrigerate until firm. It's heavenly!

But we digress. Back to the prizes--who won the rest of the prizes?

  • The first pack of Cakespy Christmas cards goes to reader Mark from NYC! Mark's favorite Thanksgiving-time treat isn't pumpkin pie...it's cake! His birthday falls late in November, so he prefers to take the cake: in his case, vanilla birthday cake with strawberry icing (perhaps like this recipe)! When it comes to Christmas cookies, keep his classic: he'll take sugar-coated gingerbread, please.
  • And finally, it gives us great pleasure to say that the second pack goes to Veggiegirl! We've been avid fans of her blog for some time--she serves up vegan (and a lot of raw) delights of a deliciously moist and decadent nature that even non-veggie people will enjoy. Ms. Veggie prefers pumpkin pie for her Thanksgiving treat (with a dollop of cranberry sauce for a delightful sweet/sour contrast)...and when it comes to Christmas cookies, she's with her fellow winner Mark: gingerbread, baby! 

Thank you to everyone who entered--and who shared their favorite recipes and holiday sweets preferences! And thank you again to the great prize donors, Penguinbot, Hachette Book Group and Cakespyshop.com. Til next month's Cake Poll...stay sweet!

 

Wednesday
Nov122008

Royal Dilemma: Why is the Princess Cake Green?

Why is the Princess Cake Green?
Princess Cake shown is from Miette in San Francisco; photo credit Frankie Frankeny.

Some of you may trouble yourselves mysteries of the natural universe: What is the meaning of life? If a tree falls in the woods, can anybody hear it? Why on earth is Paris Hilton famous?

But we Cake Gumshoes choose to ponder a much bigger (and more delicious) mystery: why is the princess cake green?

First things first though. For those of you not acquainted with the princess cake (or princess torte), we'd like to clarify that we're not talking about the "Princess Cake" that has a severed Barbie doll stacked atop a dome of frilly buttercream (though that one has its moments). No, we're talking about the Princesstårta, a cake which hails from Sweden, where it was invented in the 1930s by cookbook author Jenny Åkerström, who is said to have made it in honor of Sweden's three princesses at the time--Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid. While it's not as common in bakery cases as say, Red Velvet, it's not an exceedingly rare cake either--most urban areas will have at least a couple of bakeries that offer the sweet confection, which is made of alternating layers of light, airy cake, thick pastry cream, and jam, all topped with a sweet jacket of marzipan--often in a dome shape. But perhaps the most striking thing about this cake is how it's nearly always green.
Princess Cake
Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, famed Los Angeles restaurant Scandia offered a chocolate-topped version back in the day (which, with the help of pastry chef Chris Jarchow, we made it recently; see above); some bakeries will offer an off-white or pink version. However, it seems to us that most frequently--or at least frequently enough for us to have noticed-- it's an attractive and very signature pistachio tone of green.

So what gives?

Unfortunately, this proved to be quite the challenge. Here's a summation of our epic journey to discover the truth:

First Stop: The Library

 

First, we hit up the library, where we consulted the serious tome of a book The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg, in which we found the following passage:

"I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I do not have a definite answer as to why is the marzipan on top of a Princess Cake traditionally colored green. This is a question I have been asked time after time, and believe me, I have tried to find out. It would at least make more sense to me if the cake were flavored with mint or pistachio. Princess Cakes are often made with other colours..."

 

Our buddy over at ReTorte referenced Friberg's quote too, adding that "My fancy French pastry books do not even mention Princess cake..my only theory is that, as with a lot of stuff in the pastry world, it's green because of tradition. They do A LOT of stuff just out of tradition, even though it makes no sense otherwise!"


Larsen'sSwedish Cultural Center

 

Princess-ish cake from Larsen's

Second Stop: The Experts
We figured if anyone would know, it would be the good Nordic population of Seattle!
Unfortunately, the mystery only deepened with a call to the Swedish Cultural Center, where they had not a clue as to why the green-hued cake persists; however, they did point us in the direction of Larsen's in Ballard as a spot to pick up a particularly delicious one.
While the employees at Larsen's were friendly, unfortunately they were unable to shed further light upon the cake's color. "Maybe it was the princess' favorite color," one employee muses; "maybe it was the colors of her wedding flowers" adds another, referencing the fact that it's frequently topped with a pink flower.
Last-ditch: The Internet
Just when we were beginning to despair, we found a very informative bulletin board on chowhound.com that answered some of these questions--one user's comments in particular were very helpful. Turns out, the confection's invention may hold the answer.

Original princess cakes
Remember how that cookbook writer invented the recipe for three princesses in the 1930s? Well, as it turns out, "it appears that Åkerström had not one, but three different princess cakes, one for each of the princesses. They were very elaborate cakes, not terribly suited to the home baker. Astrid's cake most closely resembles the princess cake in its current form." (Cakes pictured, above). As it turns out, the article continues, "Annika Larsson, a baker at the Grillska Konditoriet in Stockholm, is credited with combining features from the three cakes and creating the princess cake that has become a tradition--that is to say, the green one. It appeared in Finland not long after it became popular in 1930s Sweden and has remained a traditional cake ever since, particularly for graduation and end of school year parties."
While this doesn't completely answer the question of why the cake is green, it does shed some light on the subject and leave it open to some guesswork. Perhaps when Annika was combining the best aspects of each cake, she simply preferred the green hued one as a matter of personal preference. Perhaps she had a surplus of green dye and it was done for more practical reasons. 
Of course, we like to think maybe it was something truly poetic: perhaps green was a color caught on with the Swedish audience because it represented the hope of spring, like the first gentle blades of grass coming up in the cold, dark winters.
But whatever the reason, one thing is for sure: the Princess cake is certainly iconic, and we certainly feel happy whenever we see the green-hued confection turn up on our table.

 

P.S. Wanna try to make the Princess Cake? A fantastic recipe can be found on Tartelette, as well as some seriously beautiful pictures!

 

 

 

 

 

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