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Thursday
Jul242008

Breadwinner: A Sweet and Carbohydrate-Laden Bread Pudding Challenge

Bread Pudding Faceoff
Bread Pudding. At one time, it was a poor-man's dessert, borne of necessity--a clever use of day-old bread which proved that leftovers didn't have to taste like dull sacrifice.
Bread Pudding ExperimentHowever, these days it's come into vogue, and makes frequent appearances on fancy restaurant menus, dressed to the nines with sauces, seasonings and fancy non-leftover breads made for the sole purpose of the pudding...yes, it appears that bread pudding seems to have all but forgotten its humble beginnings.

Admittedly, we've always loved bread pudding the old fashioned way--but when we saw this recipe for sticky bun bread pudding that the lightbulb really went off--oh, the possibilities! If bread pudding is gonna be a fancy dessert, why not make it super sweet? And so recently we took it upon ourselves to test out a variety of day-old carbohydrates to see which might make a delicious (and perhaps tooth-numbing) sweet treat.

Here are the details:


Bread PuddingsWhat were the flavors? We made six types of pudding, swapping out bread for the following: birthday cake (with frosting), cornbread, frosted doughnuts (raised), lemon bundt cake, sugar cookies, and baklava. As a control, we made one batch of regular bread pudding to make sure everything tasted OK. It did.
What recipe did we use? We used this recipe, found online, making only a few changes--we omitted the cinnamon and nutmeg because we were using baked goods which had different sorts of sweetness that we weren't sure would work with those spices; also, we reduced the sugar from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup, because the items we were adding were far sweeter than bread. It didn't seem to mess up the consistency for us.
Why did we choose these flavors? Some items happened to be around the house; for the rest, we just went to the food store and picked out what struck our fancy.

How did we make them? We prepared each filling in an individual cupcake cup--then we divided the custard-y batter part of the recipe and poured it in equal parts into the cups (heart-shaped, naturally).

 

As for the results?
Cake TimeBirthday Cake Bread Pudding
Birthday Cake Bread Pudding: We used a bit of the leftover cake from our recent love letter to cake in the morning for this one, breaking up one of the leftover mini slices so that it included frosting and sprinkles. We had high hopes for this one, but unfortunately we learned the hard way that birthday cake frosting smothered and baked in a pool of custard comes out...well, a little bit strange. The texture was ever so slightly gritty, and alas, in our opinion, a bit strange and un-delicious.
CornbreadCorn-Bread Pudding

Corn-bread Pudding: This one was surprisingly good, if leaning a bit more toward sweet-and-savory (largely due to the fact that it was not a sweet cornbread we used; combined with the reduced sugar in our pudding mixture, this yielded an end result that was only slightly sweet). When consuming it for breakfast the next morning, a dash of cayenne pepper made for a lively and rich treat, in which the sweetness was more of an aftertaste.
Just DonutDoughnut Bread Pudding
Doughnut Bread Pudding: We chose a raised doughnut, figuring the lighter dough would soak up the pudding ingredients better than a cake doughnut. The result was something like a challah bread pudding, if you've ever tried it, but slightly awesomer because of the chocolate icing, which melted into sweet ribbons within the pudding. A solid bread pudding indeed. 
Nothin Bundt CakeBundt Cake Bread Pudding
Lemon Bundt Cake Bread Pudding: The icing glaze gave that slightly gritty effect again, but in this case it wasn't as strange as in the birthday cake version (perhaps because it wasn't a butter-based frosting?). The result was very rich, but the lemon flavor, which did shine through (especially the next morning) added a nice lightness to the flavor while at the same time adding a layer of depth and complexity to the overall taste. Not the biggest standout, but worth a try.
Sugar CookiesSugar Cookie Bread Pudding
Sugar Cookie Bread Pudding: This one was good, but alas, not great. While this version had a nice texture--ever so slightly chewy without being tough--but was sort of bland because we had left out some of the spices in the recipe. However, perhaps it would have worked better with snickerdoodles or spice cookies.
Baklava, baby!Baklava Bread Pudding
Baklava Bread Pudding: By far and away, Baklava bread pudding was our favorite. It seemed an unlikely candidate, since the phyllo dough layers are already rather soaked with honey, but the added texture and slight crunch proved quite appealing; the combination of the nuts, honey and rich custard were rich as all get-out, but insanely addictive. 

 

Bread PuddingsBread Vs Bread Pudding
As for our thoughts? It's hard to top a classic, that's for sure. But then again, bread pudding has always been a recipe open to many variations, since it's generally up to the baker to decide what type of bread should go into their version. While several of our sweet versions might benefit from some tweaking, they certainly had potential--and what with bread pudding's renaissance as a fancy treat, we wouldn't be surprised to see more variations showing up on menus in elaborate, sweet, and delicious ways--already delicious versions using babka, piecrust, brownies and pancakes are dancing in our heads. But as for the big question...would we make any of these again? Oh, heck yes! 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul222008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Melissa Cohen of Metal Sugar

Metalsugar
Do cupcakes go to heaven after they're eaten? Are they up somewhere, hanging out on cotton candy clouds, looking down at us? 

Well, if they are, they'd be happy to see themselves memorialized on the fantastically sweet jewelry made by Metal Sugar Designs. Owner Melissa Cohen's love of all things sweet and cute certainly shows in her jewelry line, which cupcakes and little anthropomorphic characters play a prominent role. We recently got to talk shop with Melissa; here's what we learned about seeking one's calling, the best cupcakes in New York--and we even got a prized recipe (see bottom):

Cakespy: Can you tell us a little bit about how Metal Sugar came to be?
Melissa Cohen: About two years ago, I found myself in panic mode. I was utterly lost and working in Corporate America, feeling somewhat hopeless about the future and what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like I should KNOW where I was going and what I was doing, but I didn't. I have always thought of myself as a creative person, but I didn't necessarily have an artistic talent, and I really wanted one. I thought about taking some art classes for years and never did, but once I was in freak out mode, it was time to get creative. So, I signed myself up for a jewelry course in the summer of '06, hoping that this would get me in the right direction. I was determined to change the course of my life and discover something I could be passionate about. Shortly after the class started, I made my very first ring (the Puff-Puff). I fell in love with metalsmithing right then and there! I became obsessed and finally got to feel what it was like to be totally passionate about something. I found what I was good at and what could hopefully end up being my full-time hobby/career. Two years later, I'm still obsessed, still passionate about making jewelry, and even more excited about [the] future!

 

SprinklesBaby Cupcakes at Cupcake Royale 

CS: Your designs are very eclectic, but cupcakes in particular seem to make a few appearances in your line. What is it about cupcakes?
MC: Ever since I was little, my mom and I would bake cupcakes in a variety of colors and flavors, topped with delicious cream cheese icing and plenty of rainbow sprinkles. Nothing was better than a warm cupcake out of the oven! As I grew older, this love just got stronger and I found myself making cupcakes anytime I entertained guests. As an homage to my favorite dessert, I decided to make the Cupcake Signet Ring (pictured top). After that, Cuppington was born.

 

Metal Sugar PendantCS: Can you tell us a bit more about the Cuppington pendant? We know there's got to be a story behind that smiling little face (left).
MC: I never quite broke out of that phase of loving Japanese toys and candies from childhood; "Kawaii", as they say. I love anthropomorphic things - inanimate objects with happy faces. I don't know what it is, but I just can't handle it! Cuppington was made after I got a tattoo of a smiling cupcake with my best friends. I knew then that he needed to be part of my jewelry collection.

CS: What are some of your most popular designs?
MC: The Cupcake Signet Ring, Cuppington, the Amoeba-ish Necklace, my Serious Business Ties, and my Bar rings - those are hot right now. I just started making tiny tiny duckie jewelry, too.

CS: You currently live in Brooklyn but hail from Georgia. What baked goods or desserts do you miss from the South?
MC: Being a southern gal, I grew up eating pralines: a Savannah specialty made from brown sugar, cream, and pecans. 

CS: What have been some of your favorite NYC baked good / dessert finds?
MC: I was on the cupcake hunt for almost a year, trying every cupcake in every bakery around NYC. Surprisingly, I never found one that was better than my ole Betty Crocker cake mix with sprinkles. That is, until I met the ladies of Lux Sugar! This wonderful group of bakers make the yummiest, moistest cakes and cupcakes you'll find! Once I had their strawberry cupcake, the hunt was over! Check them out, seriously! Other than that, the Crème Brûlée' at Dumont in Williamsburg is amazing!

CS: What type of sweets hold a special place in your heart?
MC: Cupcakes are definitely my favorite, but a close second is my Mom's Chocolate Delight! (Recipe below).

CS: If interested, how and where can people buy your work?
MC: You can find me on metalsugar.com or on Etsy, as well as various other sites. Because I do custom pieces, I love being contacted through my site. I also LOVE having people check out my jewelry in person, so I try to sell at craft fairs or flea markets in the area often. I'm working on getting into blogging about my work, but I'm not quite there yet-stay tuned!

CS: Any advice for budding jewelry designers or small business owners? Things you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
MC: I'm still fairly new at all of this, but my advice is to take classes. Try something you've been curious about. Explore something new! It changed my life in every possible way. I went from worrying about what I was going to do with my life to being excited about where my creativity could take me. I wish I had known that I had talent sooner, but it's never too late!

CS: What's next for Metal Sugar?
MC: To be honest, I don't really know...You never know with Metal Sugar! One day it's a poop ring and the next it's a classic design that your mother would wear :-) Keep checking my site for the many surprises to come!

Melissa's Mom's Chocolate Delight


Crust: 
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3/4 C chopped pecans

     

    Mix together, pat into 13x9x2 glass pan; Bake at 300* -30 min; let cool.


Middle Layer: 
  • 1 C Cool whip
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 C conf. sugar(powdered sugar)

     

    Mix together, pour over crust.

Top layer:
  • 1 small inst. van. pudding 
  • 1 small inst. choc. pudding
  • 3c. milk
Mix with spoon or whisk to thicken.
Pour over cream cheese mixture.

 

Top with cool whip.


NOTES: 
  • Good idea to purchase the 12 oz size cool whip (Any brand)
  • I prefer the choc fudge flavor pudding and any strength milk will work, from whole milk to 1%. I haven't used skim, but it probably will work, just use a little less.

 

 

 

Sunday
Jul202008

Cake For Breakfast: Observations on a Forbidden Treat

Wake up for Cake!

Cake for breakfast. The phrase strikes a shiver of happiness in our very souls. We're talking serious cake here--frosted, maybe layered, as in a slice of birthday or wedding cake--or a cupcake would do, of course. It's the ultimate luxury--far more indulgent than any doughnut, far more delicious than any muffin could ever aspire to be. Everyone does it sometimes--and yet, most are covert about this pleasure, only admitting it in a slightly embarrassed way, as if frightened it might be a problem (as you can see from this posting on Apartment Therapy). Well, we say, no more embarrassment! We took it upon ourselves to explore this phenomenon and muse on its appeal--and also came up with a quick list of justifications for why it's just fine to eat cake for breakfast:

Cake time!Cake in the morning.
Cake for breakfast: Theories on its appeal
Proximity: Well, the obvious reason is that it's simply there. It will probably be the first thing in the fridge you see in the morning, and definitely the most festive. Which leads to our next point...
 
Visual Appeal: Really, the sea of beige-toned breakfast choices out there--oatmeal, toast, cereal--doesn't stand a chance against a festively frosted cake. We defy you to eat your toast and be happy knowing full well there's cake in the fridge.
Temperature: In many, but not all, cases, the cake has been stored in the fridge and is most likely cold. To some, this is a detriment. To others (those who truly understand), this is an opportunity for a truly sublime culinary experience. Taking a bite of cold cake, at first one only tastes coldness. But then something happens--a buttery flavor blossoms in the mouth. A wave of creamy sweetness takes over. This may be as close to heaven as one can possibly get while still on earth.

It's 9am. Do you know where your cake is?Cake!
Cake for breakfast: Why you should just do it

It will keep you sane: You can't deprive yourself all of the time. If you wake up craving cake and instead eat something virtuous like oatmeal, it's likely that you'll still be craving the cake all day. This will undoubtedly lead to idly munching various non-cake items throughout the day in an effort to fill the void. Really, you should have just had the cake. So have it!
Of course, if the cake in question is a cupcake, you could always call it a muffin.

It tastes better the next day: Letting the cake sit overnight will allow certain flavors to develop, and some say it tastes better the next day. You've got to see for yourself somehow; why not figure it out first thing in the morning?
Because Bill Cosby Says So: Bill Cosby says it's ok to eat chocolate cake for breakfast--"it has eggs. It has milk. It has wheat. Nutritious!". Coming from the man who made pudding pops part of our everyday language, this is not advice to be taken lightly.
It will give you energy: As Cakespy reader Jessie K says, "cake is good anytime of the day...but having it for breakfast is just a fun sugar rush when you need it most." We concur. Try to get that kind of energy burst from a granola bar.
It pairs well with coffee: Is there anything more beautiful than the symphony of tastes that occurs when cake and coffee are combined?
It will be delicious: 'Nuff said!


 

Thursday
Jul172008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy

And Voila! A stenciled Cuppie in Frosting!

All the sweet news fit to print!
First off, if you haven't visited Suspect and Fugitive, you must do so this moment. With a tagline like "Artstuffs with a sell by date," we shouldn't need to say any more--with amazing art pieces which combine mostly food products with pop-culture icons, we are constantly awed and inspired. And we think it's official that you've "made it" when you're featured on the site--as Cakespy was this week! 
Also in the press, we were cited as the Milkwaukee Cupcake Queen's "absolute favorite blog, ever". Wow! High praise from a super sweet lady--and one of the cupcake geniuses (genii?) behind Iron Cupcake. Can't wait to eat cupcakes with you, babe!
Another super-sweet mention came from Shauna James Ahern, who you may know better by her alter-ego, Gluten-Free Girl. Shauna's site is a delicious destination, proving that a restricted diet doesn't have to be a detriment to living and eating well! Cakespy artwork was amongst the first few features on her new Gluten-Free Girl Recommends outpost. Thank you and sugar kisses to Shauna!


In other news, if you missed out on the hipster baked goods tee shirt the first time around, well, lucky you--we did a reprint! You can buy them at jessieoleson.etsy.com! Men's and women's sizes are available--if you don't see your size on the site, just email jessieoleson@gmail.com for more info or to request a size.
Finally, a big huge thank you to everyone who came out to the Cakespy art show at Venue this past weekend in Ballard. It was a full house thanks to all of you--and whether you came for the art or just the free booze and cute bartender, it was a great time for all. Thank you again!
Til next time...xoxo from Cakespy.

 

Tuesday
Jul152008

It's Biscuit, It's Biscuit Time!: Macrina Bakery's Buttermilk Biscuits

Macrina's Buttermilk Biscuits

When talking about bakeries in Seattle, the moment will inevitably come when someone asks us "What do you think about Macrina?." After all, Macrina Bakery is probably one of the more famous bakeries in Seattle: it's won awards, it's been featured in numerous cookbooks and on the Food Network. But it's also a very polarizing subject for locals, who either seem to love or loathe the place.

 

Naysayers will say that they're inconsistent, that the service is slow and sometimes surly, the baked goods dense and exceedingly--perhaps too--rich.

Strangely, those are all the same reasons we love it. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but it feels deeply human and homey somehow. And our very favorite item there? The buttermilk biscuits with fresh preserves.

Now, a Southern purist might be appalled by these biscuits--made with buttermilk, shortening, pastry flour and yeast, they seem to be on a different wavelength than the light-as-air, fluffy White Lily flour and lard sort from days of yore. Due to folding the dough three times before baking, they attain a level of flakiness that seems somehow denser than other biscuits, and works wonderfully with a morning coffee. And at approximately 7:15 a.m. in the morning, shortly after the bakery has opened for the day (we never go right at 7 because the biscuits are never out first-thing), we couldn't imagine anything sweeter than the rows and rows of golden-hued biscuits, still warm, each with a glistening jewel-like dollop of fresh preserves.

As for the haters? Go ahead, keep hating--more biscuits for us.

 

Macrina's Buttermilk BiscuitsMacrina's Buttermilk Biscuits 

In Seattle? Visit Macrina's shop(s--there are three) at 2408 1st Ave. in Belltown 206.448.4032 (and our favorite); at 615 West McGraw Street in Queen Anne, 206.283.5900; and at 19603 Vashon Hwy SW on Vashon Island, 206.567.4133. You can visit them online too at macrinabakery.com.
Not in Seattle? Well, luckily we have the recipe (though if it's more your speed, the recipe for their now famous Sour Cherry Coffee Cake, which was featured on the Food Network's "Road Tasted" show, can be found here). Also, their book is well worth investing in; it can be found here.
Macrina's Buttermilk Biscuits (With a few notes of our own--makes six generous biscuits)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups vegetable shortening, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • egg wash made from 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water
To Garnish: Coarse sugar (use as desired) and 1/2 cup preserves, your favorite type (we like marionberry). The coarse sugar is not a deal breaker but does add a nice crunch; the preserves are absolutely necessary.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Mix with whisk to dissolve yeast, and let sit for five minutes while yeast blooms.
  3. Sift flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to combine. Drop pieces of shortening into bowl. Using pastry cutter or fork, cut in until coarse and crumbly.
  4. Add the yeast-water and buttermilk, and mix with a wooden spoon, but only until it all comes together--do not overmix.
  5. Coat hands with flour and pull dough from bowl on to a floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle, approximately 9 x 5 inches, so the long side is facing you. Dough will be sticky so keep flouring your hands as needed.
  6. To achieve a flaky, layered effect, it's important to give the dough a series of tri-folds: fold into thirds like a letter, folding the left third over the center third first, and then the right third on top. Sprinkle more flour and roll out to a 9 x 5 rectangle again, repeating the tri-fold step twice more (for a total of three tri-folds), ending with a rectangle 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
  7. Cut into six equal rectangles and place on the baking sheet. Brush with your egg wash and sprinkle on raw sugar.
  8. Bake on center rack for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bottom (ours only took 18 minutes to get to the point we liked). Let cool for ten minutes or so, then dent the top with a spoon and fill with a generous dollop of your preserves.

Finally, as a bonus, a couple more photos of other Macrina baked goods:
Cupcakes at Macrina, Belltown, SeattleMacrina BakeryKiwi Topped Cupcakes at Macrina, Belltown, SeattleNice Buns at Macrina, Seattle
Macrina Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

Sunday
Jul132008

French Toast: A Salute to Our Favorite Parisian Things for Bastille Day

Paris, je t'aime
For serious Francophiles, July 14 is the most wonderful time of year: Bastille Day. Well, Bastille Day itself may be a celebration of the anniversary of a très bloody uprising, but we're choosing to celebrate the day in a far less visceral and much sweeter way: by celebrating all of our favorite things Parisian and pastry related! And so, here's a little parade of ten of our favorite Frenchie things, from pastries to places and experiences:

(Cakespy Note: OK, so our list of loves is pretty central to Paris, probably because that's the only place in France we've ever been.)
Part 1: Five French Pastries We Adore

 
1. Religieuse Experience: The first ever pastry we tried in Paris was the Religieuse. An iconic-looking pastry, the Religieuse is apparently named for its resemblance to a nun's habit, although we're not sure if there is any further religious association with its invention. What we do know is that the fancy eclairs, which can be filled with various fillings, are exceedingly delicious and beautiful. Also, for lovers of the religieuse and cupcakes, run, don't walk, for this fantastic wallpaper which we discovered through Chocolate & Zucchini. (Religieuse, pictured left, from Laduree's site). 

2. Debutante Divorcé: The second pastry we tried in France was the Divorcé. Though its name would infer separations, we think it's probably more of a heavenly marriage of flavors: though some variations existed, our favorite was an eclair-ish pastry topped with half-chocolate, half-coffee icing, and then inside the pastry, beneath the chocolate iced section there is coffee cream, and beneath the coffee icing there is chocolate cream. Mon dieu! (Photo left, from a flickr pool).



Luxem-bourgers meet a real BurgerMacarons, Le Panier, Pike Place Market
 
3. Mac Daddy: Naturally, the macaron plays a big role in our French dreams. What could be Frenchier than those sweet little burger-cookies? (For more on the dear treats, check out this previous posting).
Napoleon, Zabar's, NYCNapoleons at La Bergamote
4. Grosses Bises for the Mille-feuille: This pastry is also known as the "Napoleon"--but although it's a mighty little bite, it's said by some that it's not actually named for Monsieur Bonaparte, but instead is named after Naples the city, where it is said to have been invented. What in the world is a mille-feuille though? According to Wikipedia,
The Mille-feuille (French 'thousand sheets'), Napoleon (U.S.), vanilla slice, cream slice or custard slice (Commonwealth countries) is a pastry made of several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream, but sometimes whipped cream, or jam. It is usually glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white and brown (chocolate) strips, and combed. The name is also written as "millefeuille" and "mille feuille".

The St. Honore Pastry
5. Chiboust, a Coup de Coeur: ah, the Gâteau Saint-Honoré. It's a cake "named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré or Honoratus (d. 600 AD), bishop of Amiens"-- but really what gets us excited is the creme filling, named after the pastry chef who invented it circa 1846: "Crème Chiboust, also called Crème Saint-Honoré, is a crème pâtissière (pastry cream) lightened with whipped cream or stiffly beaten egg whites"...this pastry cream is the stuff of dreams, light and rich all at once, not too-sweet; and when contrasted by the perfect pastry crust, not a taste easily forgotten. (Picture shown: individual Saint Honore pastry).

 

 

Part 2: Five Frenchie Things and Places We Adore:
1. Boulangeries et Pâtisseries: As a general cultural note, any country that is advanced enough to have two genres of bakeries is really just fine by us. So what is the difference between the two types of French bakery? A Boulangerie is where you'd got to get your baguette; a Pâtisserie is where you'd go for an eclair or tarte au citron. There can be crossover of course, but in our minds, it's the Boulangerie for carbtastic treats; the Pâtisserie for creamy and chocolatey treats.
Pastries hanging out at Laduree in Paris
2. Lovely Laduree: A simple visit to the Laduree website is like a mini-escape from real life--but a visit in person to one of the venerable Paris teahouses is like going into an Alice in Wonderland world. No, they're certainly not cheap, but can you really put a price on true magic? Multiple locations; online at laduree.fr.
3. Bagels and Brownies: Yes, this is an actual place in Paris. When we came across it, we were...intrigued. Tucked in a side street near the Alliance Française, there was a line out the door every day for this purveyor of American-style treats, including jumbo cookies, blondies, doughnuts and, bien sur, their namesake items. So how was the Parisian take on American baked goods?Heartbreakingly delicious, and most certainly not low-fat. Parfait. Bagels and Brownies, 12, Rue N D des Champs, 75006 Paris, France; +33 1 42 22 44 15‎.

L'Opera
4. Pastries on the Rue de L'U: One of our more memorable experiences was a trip to the Rue de L'Universite, which to any hardcore foodie is not merely a street, but The Street Where Julia Child Lived. As a tribute to the dearly departed Julia, we picked up an Opera cake and ate it (daintily, with a fork) while strolling down the Rue De "Loo" as she called it--we think Julia would have liked the idea of Cake Gumshoes making a pilgrimage to her old 'hood, especially with chocolate and gold leaf smeared on our faces.
5. Markets, Markets, Markets: From the ginormous Le Bon Marche to the enchanting street markets (check out a list here), markets are part of the romance of Paris, and in our opinion they live up to the reputation and then some. Who wouldn't love to be walking down the street with a fresh baguette, tearing off the top for the first bite, like a native? Le sigh.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jul092008

Cakespy Confidential: 72 Glazed and Confused Hours of Cakewalking in Los Angeles

Donut from Randy's, LA

Randy Newman may have had it wrong about short people (Cake Gumshoe Median height: 5'3") but he sure had it right about LA: We love it! Sure, the city is perhaps best known for its contributions to cinema, but it's also host to one of the most eclectic bakery scenes we've ever seen. From donut joints to panaderias to shops with daintily decorated cupcakes, this sprawling city has it all--and on our recent long weekend in the City of Angels, we set out to try as many spots as we could. Armed with suggestions from our friends Chris and Sandy, we headed off into the palm-tree lined sunset and set to our sweet sleuthing.
Cakespy Note: With only 72 hours, clearly we weren't able to visit every sweet spot in the city--our short-people bodies can only stand so much--but please pass on any suggestions or spots we must hit next time!

Taking a bite of LARandy's Donuts
DAY 1: Our first stop, shortly after pulling out of the rental car lot, was the gorgeously iconic Randy's Donuts, which boasts a donut the size of a small house atop a takeaway stand on the side of the highway. Feel like it looks familiar? It's with good reason--check out here to see all the movies and films in which it's played a role. There we indulged in the unlikely but, as we learned, addiction-inducing, honey-wheat flavor combination on our donut (pictured top). So far, so good.

Raw Desserts, Euphoria, Santa Monica
Feeling the urge to eat something un-sweet for the moment, we headed over to Santa Monica, where we settled on Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, an eatery catering to the raw, vegan crowd--not a touch of the food had dairy or had ever been heated above 115 degrees. The food was good, although we must admit that there might be a learning curve to eating raw--the textures on some of the items were a bit dense and dry for our tastes. But all was forgiven when we got to dessert--a trio of (raw) dessert truffles, including a coconut fudge, goji berry, and cookie dough truffle, which were dense, rich, not too-sweet and made us very happy.

Cupcakes, Vanilla Bakeshop, Santa MonicaDulce de Leche Buttercups from La Brea Bakery
Feeling virtuous and...yes, slightly euphoric, we headed back to dairytown--by way of Vanilla Bakeshop, where we tried out a vanilla bean cupcake--and really, perfection is the word that comes to mind. Across the street, Yummy Cupcakes was already closed, so we hit up Whole Foods, where we browsed wares from La Brea Bakery and others. We drifted over to the pier for some roller coasters and recognized the pier right away from Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead--heading back to the hotel, we drifted off to sweet dreams.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Santa MonicaJack N Jill's, Santa Monica
DAY 2: The next day, we started out with LA's coffee chain, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where our Seattle coffee tastes were satisfied, if not wowed, by the coffee. Breakfast was a delight at Jack N Jill's, a cafe which we loved if not completely agreeing with their typestyle choices. As a bonus to breakfast-eaters, an alluring counter display of cupcakes is right by the register--cos we understand that sometimes you need dessert, even after breakfast.
Red Velvet slightly unwrappedCarrot Cupcake moments before eating

That's when the day hit hyper-awesome mode, because that's the point at which we met up with the awesome Jen and Erica of All-Mighty, a company specializing in everything cute, and everything Boston Terrier. Our first stop was Auntie Em's, a cafe which was featured on Bobby Flay's Throwdown. Apparently Bobby's cupcakes won, but you could have fooled us--the red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes we tried were simply superlative, and possibly as large as a baseball mitt. Of course the food wasn't bad either.
Jen gave us a roundabout tour of her city, leading us by Eat My Cupcake in North Hollywood (alas, closed when we dropped by), and then to the very cool neighborhood of Silver Lake, where we hit up the Cheese Shop of Silver Lake (home of Cake Monkey's Frosting Sandwiches!), refueled at Intelligentsia (great floors, great coffee, pastries from Delilah). (As a side note, we nearly died cooing over all of the cuteness and coolness that is present at Giant Robot, a gallery and store with plenty of cake and pastry-themed stickers, stationery items and tees--and, of course, lots of other cool stuff). We were too full at this point, but the cake offerings at Town & Country looked awfully good too.

Erica, me, Danny (aka Mr Cakespy), Jen and StinkyAll-Mighty offices, LA
We also got to tour the All-Mighty offices, which are incredibly awesome--yup, these girls are a serious inspiration.

Cupcake and Movie Shoot!Crumbs Bakery, LA
By the time we left the offices, we cake gumshoes had found our appetites again, and so headed over to Crumbs Bakeshop in Beverly Hills, where we picked up the "Artie Lange", which we were informed by the friendly employees, is what the namesake eats every day for breakfast--four of them, that is. Artie has good taste, but he is also a very big man, and now we know why.

Cupcakes, OP Cafe, Santa MonicaCupcake from Sprinkles, LA
DAY 3: We began our day by hitting up the OP Cafe in Santa Monica, a small and unlikely breakfast and lunch cafe perched across the street from a large office park. We were pleasantly surprised by their gorgeous array of baked goods: the cupcakes were delicately and daintily decorated, and were some of the prettiest we saw on the trip (photo above left).

Heading back to Beverly Hills, we stopped at super-famous Sprinkles before getting our Rodeo Drive on. At $3.25 a pop for a simply frosted cupcake they're pricey--but then again, this is Beverly Hills. We tried a Chai Latte and a Red Velvet cupcake--and were not disappointed (photo above right). Hitting up Rodeo Drive, Head Spy Jessie thought it would be a great idea to be purchased a Tiffany & Co. Cupcake pendant as a present, but he didn't take the bait. Quel dommage!

Joan's on ThirdBob, let me help you!
Next up was Joan's on Third, where we were hoping to find some celebrities along with our cake, but alas there was no Paris Hilton to be seen. However, the bakery department was worth the visit alone: majestic hi-hat cupcakes (above left), gorgeously decorated cakes, and decadent "Bouchon" bites--too good. The bakery manager didn't much care for our taking photos, but we did it anyway when she turned to get our order.

It was at this point that we reasoned that no trip to LA would be complete without a trip to Bob's Big Boy in Burbank--unfortunately, it turned out to be Bob's Big Disappointment--were we at the wrong spot for the huge Big Boy sculpture? This one wasn't that much bigger than a Cake Gumshoe. However, we did help him with his burger (above right).
Next on our list had been Dots Cupcakes in Pasadena, but unfortunately time had gotten away from us and they were already closed. Luckily, we were able to drown our sorrows at Bob's Donut and Coffee before turning in for the night and our early flight back to Seattle.
Just another perfect day...we love LA!
Places mentioned:

 

All-Mighty (Not cake but just as sweet!): Shop online at all-mighty.net.
Auntie Em's Kitchen, 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041, (323) 255-0800; online at auntieemskitchen.com‎.
Bob's Coffee and Donut, 6333 W 3rd St # 450, Los Angeles, CA 90036; (323) 933-8929.

Cake Monkey Bakery (Special order only) 877.640.CAKE (2253); online at cakemonkey.com.
Cheese Store of Silver Lake‎, 3926 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 644-7511; online at cheesestoresl.com‎.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, multiple locations; online at coffeebean.com.
Crumbs Beverly Hills, 9465 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills CA, 90210, (310) 550-9811; online at crumbsbakeshop.com.
Delilah Bakery‎, 1665 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026, (213) 975-9400; online at delilahbakery.com‎.
Dots Cupcakes‎, 400 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 568-3687; online at dotscupcakes.com‎.
Eat My Cupcake, 5227 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601, (818) 509-2910; online at famouscupcakes.com‎.
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea‎, 3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 663-6173; online at intelligentsiacoffee.com‎.
Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, 2301 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90495, (310) 392-9501; online at euphorialovesrawvolution.com.

Jack N Jills, 510 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 656-1501; online at eatatjacknjills.com.‎
Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, (310) 478-1819; online at giantrobot.com‎.
Joan's on Third, 8350 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, (323) 655-2285; online at joansonthird.com‎.

La Brea Bakery, 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA; (323) 939-6813‎.
OP Cafe‎, 3117 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (310) 452-5720; online at theopcafe.com‎.
Randy's Donuts, 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood CA 90301; 310.645.4707; online at randys-donuts.com.
Sprinkles Cupcakes Inc‎, 9635 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (310) 274-8765; online at sprinklescupcakes.com.
Town and Country Bakery & Cafe‎, 3823 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 667-3331; online at towncountry.com‎.
Vanilla Bakeshop, 512 Wilshire Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90401, (310) 458-6644; online at vanillabakeshop.com‎.
Yummy Cupcakes‎, 313 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA; (310) 393-8283‎.
Whole Foods Santa Monica, 2201 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA - (310) 315-0662; online at wholefoods.com.

 

 

Wednesday
Jul092008

Cake Byte: The Results of our Giveaway!

Carnie Cuppies

Show's over, folks--the cake poll is closed, and we've chosen a winner from over 250 responses (the total between comments left and responses emailed!).

And the lucky winner is Maddi from Florida!

Let's learn a bit more about Maddi, shall we?

 

  • Her ideal time for cake-eating is late morning, almost noontime--"It makes a great breakfasty snack!"--and she always enjoys hers with a glass of ice cold milk.
  • As for her cupcake color choice? Pink frosting every time--a girl after our own hearts.
  • As for the part of a sheet cake she likes best? The middle.
  • As for cake a la mode, she's not committing quite yet: "It depends on the cake, but I myself will never turn down a good scoop of vanilla ice cream."
  • As for grocery store cakes, living near a grocer with a particularly good bakery section, she's not opposed--but as for ice cream cakes, "now...those are a a whole different story."
  • When it comes to temperature, she'll take her cake room temperature.
  • As for baking vs. decorating, her favorite part is the decorating: "Despite how labor intensive it is, it's a labor of love!"
  • And finally, when it comes to her special occasions, cakewise it's usually a semi-sweet white cake is the norm for most occasions in my family, but once in a while chocolate will make a comeback.

Congratulations Maddi, and thank you for everyone's responses! We loved learning more about you and your cake references--even though we are not able to respond to every entry, we read every single one!

 

Til next time--stay sweet!

 

 

 

Sunday
Jul062008

{Bitter}Sweet: A Cake Poll and Cakespy Book Giveaway!

Cake Poll and Giveaway!

It's that time again: our monthly cake poll and giveaway! Our giveaway this month is pretty awesome--the winner will receive a copy of our first ever book--an illustrated collection of Cakespy illustrations entitled {Bitter}Sweet: A Study in Contrasts. Each page has a "sweet" scene (cupcakes acting cute!), contrasted with another "bittersweet" image (cupcakes in peril!) on the accompanying page! It's a sweet collection including 32 pages, packed with illustrations in full color--perfect for any lover of cake, illustration, or, you know, both. Learn more about the book here.
Cover for Books I'm making!!!My books!
As for the poll? This time, we've got cake on the brain! It must be the time of year--Cakespy's birthday is coming up on August 1--we already have all sorts of birthday cake visions floating in our mind!
CAKE POLL: CAKE PREFERENCES!
  1. What's the best time of day to eat cake?
  2. What's your favorite beverage to accompany cake?
  3. There's a plate of frosted cupcakes--all the same flavor--but frosted in pink, white, yellow, blue, green, and lavender. Which would you reach for first?
  4. On a sheet cake: Do you prefer and end, middle, or corner piece?
  5. Cake a la mode (with ice cream on the side): simply perfection, or simply too much?
  6. Grocery store birthday cakes: guilty pleasure, or simply never?
  7. Do you like your cake cold, room temperature, or warm?
  8. When baking a cake or cupcakes, which part of the process do you like best: the baking, or the decorating?
  9. What kind of cake do you like to make (or eat) for your most special occasions?
How can you put your name in the running? It's easy! All you need to do is this:
  • To satisfy our nosy tendencies (we are spies, after all), fill out the above Cake Poll! You can leave your responses in the comment section, or send your responses via email to jessieoleson@gmail.com.
  • At 12pm PST on Wednesday, July 9, the Cake Poll will be closed. The winner will be chosen at random, not based on their responses. The prize will then be shipped to the lucky winner within 48 hours, via the most economical method.
  • As for our fine print: The results of this poll will be used for entertainment and Cake Gumshoeing purposes only; we may summarize the results of this poll in upcoming posts. Your private information will not be shared with any outside parties. Also, we've elected to leave the cake poll open to all US Territories, Canada and abroad--so even overseas cake enthusiasts can take part!

 

Sunday
Jul062008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy

Cuppies at Pike Place
Looking to add a little sweetness to your life this July? Well, if you happen to be in Seattle, head over to Ballard--there are not one but two Cakespy Art Shows up this month!

Cupcakes, in acrylicMulti Layer Cake, in AcrylicCupcakes in AcrylicLemon Cake in Acrylic
The first option is Sweet Posie, which is tucked behind Anchor Tattoo near the intersection of Market and 24th--it's one of the tiniest and cutest little cafes we've ever seen, and they have killer Red Velvet Cupcakes. And all through July, they have original Acrylic paintings by our dear Head Spy Jessie! A bit of a change of pace, but the lovely texture of acrylic paint is so tantalizingly like frosting to work with--and it's clear from these delicious paintings! Sweet Posie Cafe, 2315 N.W. Market St. Seattle, WA 98105. Phone: 206-784-0303. Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays; online at sweetposie.com.


Cakespy Art at Venue!Cuppies looking at Magazines
The second option is Venue, an awesome art gallery and retail space just off of Old Ballard Avenue. Cakespy original watercolors (featuring the beloved  and mischievous L'il Cuppie character) are available at Venue's retail store, but this month Cakespy is the featured artist. What does that mean? That means you should get over to Ballard this Saturday evening for the Art Walk--a bunch of the Cakespy crew will be on hand, as will heaps of cupcakes and freely flowing wine! If that doesn't sound like a good time, we don't know what does. Venue, 5408 22nd Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98107; online at venueballard.com.

 

 

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