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Sunday
Oct142007

No Grey Area: A Lesson in Black and White Cookies

What is a black and white cookie? Well, if you live in the metro New York region, it's part of everyday life: a cakey cookie iced with half-chocolate, half-vanilla fondant icing that is available at almost every bakery and deli. But in other areas of the country, many people have been walking around, living their lives, perhaps not even knowing what black and white cookies even are. Or, even worse, they'll mistakenly think that examples like the below are black and white cookies:


Although they are certainly delicious, cookies that are dipped, dolloped or contain white and dark chocolate chips are simply not black and white cookies.

 

Luckily, although black and whites aren't readily available at bakeries outside of the New York region, you need not panic or stoop to the level of buying pre-packaged grocery store hybrids (in our opinion, usually a sorry excuse for black and white cookies, with icing that flakes off disappointingly). While there are several places to buy online, here are Cakespy's personal picks:

Bing's Bakery: Although on the outskirts of true black and white cookie country, these are the real deal, with soft, chewy fondant icing and a perfect quarter-inch of overlap of the two flavors of frosting in the middle. $15.95 for a half-dozen. 


Rocco's Pastry: If you've ever visited Rocco's Pastry in Greenwich Village, you'll know that it's nearly impossible to walk by their big glass window teeming with cookies like these and not buy anything. Their black and whites are as good as they look. $3 each (jumbo cookies). Available online at roccospastry.com.

William Greenberg Jr. Desserts: These black and whites are the celebrity of the bunch, having recently been featured on the Today Show and praised by Martha Stewart. We think they're worth the hype. $45 for a dozen jumbo cookies; $27 for 18 mini cookies. Available online at wmgreenbergdesserts.com.

Zabar's: Where better to get the perfect New York black and white cookie than the quintessential Upper West Side grocery Zabar's? For many, these are the black and white cookies that set the standard: like their online description says, "black and white and craved all over". 'Nuff said. $7.98 for 10 mini cookies. Available online at zabars.com.

Cakespy Note: For those who are interested in learning more, we strongly suggest checking out The Black and White Cookie Review, a NYC-based blog dedicated to seeking happiness, fulfillment and the perfect black and white cookie. A true kindred spirit indeed. Online at blackandwhitecookiereview.blogspot.com.

Thursday
Oct112007

Pie, Oh My: Pumpkin Pies Available at North Hill Bakery

Some say that the Christmas holidays are the most wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, those people are wrong. Sorry Santa, but this year it's all about October, especially with momentous events like the first pumpkin pies of the year debuting at the North Hill Bakery in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Our Head Spy was on hand to sample some of the very first batch of pies from their ovens (it's hard being a sleuth sometimes) and reports that the owners Tracey Peterson and Margaret Rumpeltes (both veteran Seattle bakers and cooks) certainly know what they're doing: after roasting their own pumpkins to fill a buttery, flaky crust, the pies are topped with fresh whipped cream and spice cookies that act like a mini-top crust and are the perfect complement to the smooth, creamy pie filling (which had not a bit of that jello-y finish that plagues canned-filling pies). The resulting pie is so satisfying, you'll even want to eat it for breakfast (which one of the bakers, Mary, admits to doing from time to time).

But be warned, these pies are a bit like the vibrant leaves of Autumn: in season for only a short time, they won't last forever. So enjoy the season while you can!

Cakespy Note: No one trick-pony here, North Hill Bakery also has a full array of charming treats, fall and otherwise; check out their adorable cookies and dreamy chocolate cake!

Available at the North Hill Bakery, 518 15th Ave. East (b/t E. Republican & E. Mercer Sts); for more information, visit northhillbakery.com.

North Hill Bakery in Seattle

Wednesday
Oct102007

Just Donut: Apple Cider Donuts by Delicious Orchards

What is Fall? More than just dates on the calendar, it's a season of colors, flavors and sensations. Fiery-colored leaves, the taste of hot apple cider, piles of leaves that all but ask to be jumped upon. Blustery days that make your body and soul cry out for sweet, cakey treats.

And what could be a better marriage of seasonal flavors and comforting cake than apple cider donuts?
Happily, Delicious Orchards of Colts Neck, New Jersey, offers these wonderful fall treats online. The orchard and gourmet market, based in Central New Jersey, serves as proof of why it's called the "Garden State" with their beautiful and seasonal selection of gourmet foods and baked goods. These donuts are the stuff of dreams: beautifully spiced and thick, they're perfect with hot coffee or apple cider; we love how they taste after having been heated in the toaster oven for a minute. They come in two variations: plain apple cider, and powdered sugar coated apple cider.

They'll leave you full of happiness--and energy for diving into your neighbors' leaf piles (and running away after).

Available online at deliciousorchardsnjonline.com.

Wednesday
Oct102007

Be Free: Complimentary Babycakes at Cupcake Royale in Seattle


What is better than free cake? Maybe something, but nothing comes to mind immediately.

For this reason, it would be wise to leave work early tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 11th) so that you can be the first in line for the 7 p.m. opening reception of the Derek Charm art show at Cupcake Royale's West Seattle location. Because in addition to seeing some great artwork, you'll also be privy to the limited supply of free harvest babycakes in the new fall flavors: pumpkin, caramel apple and carrot. Free!

West Seattle too far? We understand. Luckily, there's another opening reception at the Ballard location this Saturday (Oct. 13th) at 7 p.m., featuring the artwork of Brad Strain; more artwork, and another chance to cram as many babycakes in your mouth as possible.

Once again: free! Non-Seattleites, our apologies.

For more information and locations, visit cupcakeroyale.com.

Tuesday
Oct092007

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!

Friday
Oct052007

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.

Friday
Oct052007

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.

Thursday
Oct042007

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.

Thursday
Oct042007

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.

Wednesday
Oct032007

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.

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