Home Home Home Home Home Home Home
CakeSpy

Featured:

 

How a rainbow cake is really made
Unicorn Love: the Eating Disorder Recovery Blog

 

 Buy my brilliant books!

Buy my new book!

Buy my first book, too! 

CakeSpy Online Retail!

 

Archives
Gallery

Fantastic appliance for cake making on DHgate.com

everyrecipe.co.nz

Craftsy Writer
Thursday
Mar272008

Cakewalk in Queen Anne, Seattle

Cinnamon Roll, Nielsen's, Queen Anne, Seattle
Queen Anne is a neighborhood in Seattle which is defined by a few things: its killer views, its killer "Counterbalance" hill, and of course, the fact that it is the neighborhood in which the Cakespy Headquarters is located. And what a sweet 'hood to call home: from the lower part of the hill with its Danish-inspired pastries, to the top of the hill, where doughnuts and carbohydrates reign, there are plenty of places to get your dessert on in Queen Anne. Here are some of our personal favorites:


Caffe Ladro: Though mostly known for its coffee, Ladro is an established bakery in its own right: they have their own commercial bakery in West Seattle, at which baked goods are made daily for all of their Seattle locations. Ranging from dense vegan oat bars with a tart rhubarb layer to buttery scones and a gorgeously crumbly cardamom coffee cake, it's worth a visit even for non coffee drinkers. Two Queen Anne Locations: 600 Queen Anne Ave. No., and 2205 Queen Anne Ave. No.; online at caffeladro.com.
Crow: Though we don't frequently feature restaurants (we don't feel as comfortable talking about the meal before dessert), this one is an exception. When Head Spy Jessie moved to Seattle on a whim and found herself jobless, she waited tables at Crow in lower Queen Anne. Though no longer waiting tables there, we all still enjoy their house-made desserts which will range seasonally--offerings might include a house-made strawberry ice cream, rustic cobbler à la mode or a sinfully rich chocolate cake. We like to sit at the bar where it's OK to order dessert only! 823 5th Ave. No., (206) 283-8800.
Eat Local: Desserts made with no artificial sweeteners, no refined sugar, and all-local ingredients? Sounds suspect, we know, but as proven by our recent week-long Eat Local Challenge, sometimes local is a good thing: ranging from the surprisingly light honey-lemon cheesecake to crumbly shortbread and toe-curlingly delicious chocolate decadence in their "takeaway" dessert case, Eat Local offers some treasures on Upper Queen Anne. 2400 Queen Anne Ave. No., (206) 328-3663; online at eatlocalonline.com.

El Diablo Coffee Co.: Aside from serving a spicy mocha made with Mexican chocolate that would make even a black coffee drinker a believer, they've got some killer desserts--Tres Leches Cake, Red Velvet, and a rotating cast of tarts, pots de creme, and other delectable treats. The desserts are supplied by another Seattle Bakery, Bella Dolce, but the ambiance is far better at El Diablo, with a warm, lived-in interior and cute hipster employees. 1811 Queen Anne Avenue N.,  (206) 285-0693; online at eldiablocoffee.com.

Macrina Bakery: Macrina can be a strange beast, inspiring either fierce love or instense disdain amongst Seattleites. It's an acquired taste for certain--their cakes aren't as sweet as some of their other commercial counterparts,  and their "short" scones do tend to crumble differently than the sweet ones you'd find at say, Starbucks. And to put it bluntly, their coffee is...not good. But while our Cakespy crew doesn't love everything at Macrina, the good stuff is truly, genuinely good: rich cupcakes that blur the line between cake and truffle; beautiful iced shortbread, and perfect buttermilk biscuits with jam in the morning. Queen Anne Location, 615 W McGraw St., (206) 283-5900; online at macrinabakery.com.


Metropolitan Market: Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and Metro Market is that place for us. Located one block away from Cakespy Headquarters, this is the place that fuels our immediate sugar needs, with a surprisingly good on-site bakery, and also a large selection of pastries, ranging from local bakers like Alki Bakery, EATS Market, Essential Baking, Macrina--to baked goods and pastries from the likes of Poilâne Bakery and Cheesecake from Junior's in NYC. Swoon. Two Queen Anne Locations: 100 Mercer Street, and 1908 Queen Anne Ave. No.; online at metropolitan-market.com.
Morfey's Cake Shoppe: True, Morfey's is a special-order cake bakery (alas, no rows of cake slices or cupcakes for those just walking by), but is certainly worth mentioning. They've been around forever, and it shows, with light-as-air cakes topped with whipped buttercream frosting which invoke instant taste nostalgia. Just walking inside will give you a buzz--with just a tiny meeting area in front of the large commercial ovens, the air is thick with the smell of cakes baking. 110 Denny Way, (206) 283-8557; online at morfeyscake.com.


Nielsen's Pastries: Though this one can be hard to hit due to their bankers hours (7:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. Mondays,  7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. the rest of the week, 8:00 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday, and closed on Sunday ). Nonetheless, if you find yourself here during a trip or if you're local taking a "mental health day" from work, it's worth a visit, with rich, cream filled pastries, Danish specialties and cookies like mom made--but better. Our picks are the oozy, glazey, fantastic cinnamon rolls (picture top), and the "Potato"--think of a creamy, rich, custardy eclair, then top it with a marzipan jacket and a dusting of cocoa. One Sweet Potato indeed. 520 2nd Ave W, (206) 282-3004; online at nielsenspastries.com

Pasta + Co.: When you see the the gorgeous pasta displays and splendid array of olive oils just keep on walking--they'll only divert you from the wonderful (made in-house!) lemon tarts, as well as creamy, dreamy cupcakes and sweets supplied by excellent local baker T.M. Dessert Works. 2109 Queen Anne Ave. No., (206) 283-1182; online at pastaco.com
QFC: Yes, QFC is a grocery store chain and part of the Kroger family. But we're not scared to admit that their bakery has what in our opinion is a surprisingly toothsome and tasty nanaimo bar. You'll also always be able to find a pink frosted cookie here, but not much else in their baked goods case is worth a mention in our opinion. Queen Anne Location, 500 Mercer St., (206) 352-4020; online at qfconline.com.
Teacup: This bulk tea shop is a mecca for tea lovers, ranging from tame Northwest Mint to exotic (and expensive) Pu'Erh blends and exquisite green teas. However, tea isn't the only thing that keeps us coming back--we also love their tiny tea cookies and homemade scones--supplied by Blue Dog Baking; biscotti from Dilettante is also on hand. 2207 Queen Anne Ave No.,
(206) 283-5931; online at seattleteacup.com.

Top Pot Doughnuts: Continuing their slow but steady quest in taking over the doughnut world, Top Pot just opened a new location on Upper Queen Anne, which can be teeming with families on the weekends, but is rather pleasant on weekday afternoons. While we won't say they're the best we've ever tasted, they are very, solidly good, and very dependable; also, their displays, with doughnuts like the "Pink Feather Boa", never fail to brighten our mood. But if you prefer Mighty-O's vegan donuts, they have them across the street at Caffe Fiore325 West Galer St, (206) 728-1986; online at toppotdoughnuts.com.

Uptown Espresso: Like Ladro, Uptown Espresso's baked goods are their own creations. While we can take or leave their scones, we've had very good experiences with their iced "loaf" cakes (try the pumpkin if it's available) and with their buttery, shortbready sugar cookies. Good Americano too--in the mornings, barista Kelly (on the right side) always makes us smile. 525 Queen Anne Ave No., (206) 285-5663; online at uptownespresso.net.

 

Tuesday
Mar252008

Food For Thought: Sweet Books and some Batter Chatter with Food Illustrator Jesse Breytenbach

What is food, exactly? Nourishment and fuel, to be certain--but as a human race, our relationship with it goes so, so much deeper than that. Sugar in particular can elicit the strangest conflict within us, alternately a BFF, coloring our world in curlicues, hearts and rainbows--or an enemy, eager to pummel us into submission with its intense temptation ("I can't believe I ate the whole thing!"). It can be a strange relationship indeed, and recently we've been impressed by two books in particular which touch on this subject.

The first, which we received as an advance review copy from Crown Press, is The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with our Favorite Treats by Joanne Chen. While we have received advance copies of books in the past which have left us unimpressed, this one caught our attention from the get-go. In the book, Chen goes on the ultimate sweet quest, doing her homework by examining the science of sweet in food labs across the nation--melding this information beautifully with commentary on our more intuitive emotional and cultural reactions to dessert. She also examines dessert trends and what shapes them (um, Oprah?). It's a fascinating read, and is available in all those major book stores now!


The second book which caught our fancy was one passed on by Cake Gumshoe Heather Moore (you may know her from her popular design site Skinny LaMinx): I Don't Like Chocolate by Jesse Breytenbach. The book, which was printed in South Africa but is available online, is a beautifully drawn graphic novel, assembling 90+pages of vignettes which sometimes cheekily but always cleverly address our complex relationship with food. We had the luck of talking sweet with the illustrator herself; here's what she had to say about life, love and sweetness:

 

Cakespy: First off--we're curious. What did you have for breakfast today?
Jesse Breytenbach: Coffee! I tend to skip breakfast and have something at tea-time, around 10:30, instead, because there’s nothing to eat in the house until I’ve gone to the shops.

CS: You recently released a book entitled I Don't Like Chocolate. Can you tell us a little bit about the book's concept and how it came about?
JB: Michelle Matthews, who was the publishing manager at Oshun Books contacted me out of the blue to ask whether I wanted to do a graphic novel. We knew from the start how long the book would be, so I had to come up with content to fill it. I thought it would be fun to try to do ‘chick-lit’ in comic form, and to produce a book to interest people who don’t normally read comics, particularly as Oshun isn’t a comics publisher. I picked a topic that could provide me with enough material to fill 90+ pages: food. I’ve always been fascinated and amused by people’s strong and emotional reactions to food – I’ve lived in plenty of communes, so I’ve seen a lot….


It’s a book of short stories, based around a central character, and all on the topic of food – her experiences, thoughts and feelings about food. I found eventually that I was writing a book about a person, this central character, finding out more and more about her as I put her in different situations. Sometimes her personality suggested stories as well.

 

The title came to me quite early on, and I never thought of changing it, because it seemed too good. People react to it with surprise and sometimes horror. It’s quite interesting how anti-social something as trivial as personal taste can be perceived to be. But even with her ‘different’ stance, most readers seem to find some common ground with her.

CS: Are you formally trained in art and/or writing? Or self taught?
JB: I’m trained as a print maker. I started drawing comics during my Fine Art d
egree. Since then I’v
e had a few jobs drawing comic strips, but also carried on doing my own stories in my spare time, never expecting to be published. I contributed to various anthologies, and when I had a number of my own comics drawn, and some spare cash, I printed up 100 copies and gave them away to friends. Michelle saw one of these, I think, and remembered my name when she wanted to publish a graphic novel.

 

The training came from actually printing the comics, and thus being able to see them at a remove, and immediately seeing all the ways I could improve.

CS: How does it feel to see your own book in bookstore shelves and for sale online?
JB: Very strange. It doesn’t feel like mine, but I do feel proud and excited. It’s like seeing a friend’s book for sale.

CS: What food stories within the book were the most intriguing to work on?
JB: I liked doing the three “I Don’t Like Chocolate” stories in the book, as they’re among the longest. (A lot of the stories are one or two pages long, really just jokes with a punchline.) It was a challenge, but fun as well, to work out the timing of dialogue and have a lot of characters interacting with each other.

CS: Are there any artists or writers in particular who inspire you?
JB: Dan Clowes, the Hernandez Brothers, Marjane Satrapi in comics. I’m more often inspired by music…. I’ll hear a song and know that I want to draw a comic that does what the song does…. it’s very direct and indirect inspiration at the same time. And it’s not something I’ve ever managed to do, but it’s a starting point.

CS: Are you a full-time writer / illustrator, or do you work a 'day job'?
JB: I’m pretty much a full-time illustrator.

CS: Do you like chocolate?
JB: Ummm…. yes, sort of. I don’t dislike it, but I can leave a slab half-eaten for weeks. There’s some chocolate in my kitchen cupboard that’s probably too old to eat by now.

CS: What is your favorite dessert to eat?
JB: Fruit! Watermelon, peaches, berries… sorbet is good too. And Crème Brulee. And anything with honey. Ok, fruit sorbet with honey.

CS: What is your favorite dessert to draw?
JB: The frillier and fussier, the better. Almost completely the opposite of the kind I like to eat.

CS: How would you describe your personal relationship with dessert?
JB: I like small portions, just a taste, really. Most servings in restaurants are too much for me. But I do like leftover dessert for breakfast. Particularly trifle.

CS: How would you describe your heroine's relationship with dessert?
JB: Embarrassingly similar to mine.

CS: How was the experience of releasing a book different than you might have expected?
JB: It took a lot longer than I thought it would to get the book done, and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be! I didn’t expect to be able to look back and see how much I’d learnt, which is a very pleasant surprise. I got a lot more out of the whole experience than just a book.

CS: Any advice for artists / illustrators who are interested in breaking into the publishing world?
JB: Hard to say, because South Africa doesn’t have a comics publishing industry, so my advice wouldn’t necessarily apply to countries that do. But I think what does work is to do a lot of work, particularly your own work, and contribute to any anthologies, websites etc that you can find. Print your own and give them away if you have to, just to get your work out. The more you do the better you’ll get, and you’ll improve even more if you know that other people are going to see your comics. Just keeping them in a folder under your bed isn’t going to get you work.

CS: What is your next project (or goal, if more applicable)?
JB: Although I said ‘Never Again!’ when I finished the book, I do have some new ideas that might not stop bothering me. But right now I want to spend a bit of time making “I Don’t Like Chocolate” merchandise, using some of the images from the book that were incidental to the stories but could be fun to explore a bit further. I really just want to make some tangible objects for a change. And I realized the limitations of my drawing skills, doing this comic, so I want to spend some time just practicing drawing.

Want to learn more? Check out Jesse's blog at jezzeblog.blogspot.com. Ready to buy? Smart decision. 


Finally, feeling like you'd kill for a cupcake after reading about all this sweetness? Well then, we'll close this post out with one of Head Spy Jessie's recent illustrations, done as a custom commission for a very cool cupcake enthusiast and owner of the website Cupcaketastrophe. Enjoy!

Custom order--crime scene cupcakes

 

 

 

Sunday
Mar232008

Hoppy Easter: Cakespy's Suggestions for Utilizing Easter Candy Leftovers

Peeps S'mores
Easter Day. A time for family, celebration, tradition...and candy. Oh, so much pastel candy.

But if you're anything like us, by noon the eggs have all been hunted, easter baskets have been doled out, and most of the good stuff (like the Cadbury Creme Eggs) is long gone. This is the moment of truth--is it time to break the ears off of that pristine chocolate bunny? Or should you bide your time by nibbling on the filler candy (you know, the Peeps, the jellybeans, those strange Brach's treats--all those candies the ones that look great in the basket but that few actually like to eat)? Luckily, we're going to make it easy on you this year by providing several ideas on how to make the most of that filler candy--treats so tasty, you might just forget all about that bunny (unless that is, it's tricked out like this):

Easter TrifleEaster Trifle

Idea 1: Easter Leftover Trifle.We assembled an impromptu trifle, using layers of muffin-crumbs (hot cross bun crumbs or cookie crumbs would work beautifully as well, we think), cake frosting, jellybeans and robin's eggs, topping it off with a happy Peep garnish. The result was crunchy, chewy, gooey, soft, tender, and amazingly sweet--all at once. Straddling the line between candy nirvana and instant heart attack, this concoction is surely a keeper.

 

Peeps S'moresJust out of the microwave
Idea 2: Peeps S'mores. Everyone loves putting Peeps in the microwave for entertainment (right?), but why not end up with something delicious for all that time and energy? We assembled the classic s'more ingredients substituting a pink rabbit peep for marshmallow, and popped the sweet stack in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once Mr. Peep had de-flated into a gooey marshmallowey mass, we enjoyed a sweet treat indeed; the sugar coating on the peep lent a wonderfully satisfying, slightly gritty texture to the finished product. (Cakespy Note: It was only today, after completing our own Peep S'more project that we learned there's a whole book dedicated to messing with Peeps! While it saddens us that we didn't think of it first, we are so happy this book exists.)

Cereal TreatsEaster Cereal

Idea 3: DIY Sweet Cereal. Many cereals are thinly masked breakfast-candy anyway, so why not pair your Easter candy to a vaguely healthy cereal for added flavor and delight? We added some of those strange Brach's candies (shaped like chicks and bunnies, though they look sort of evil to us) to a bowl of heart-healthy Corn Flakes, and lo and behold, we instantly had something on par with Alpha-Bits with marshmallows or Lucky Charms. The colors that remained in the milk after eating were simply incredible.
Robins Egg Malted Milkshake
Idea 4: Robin's Egg Malted Milkshake. Malted milkshakes are great, duh--so why not make your own using malt-flavored Robin's Egg Candies? We grabbed a hearty handful of the pastel treats and blended it with a few ice cubes and some soy milk; the result was a nostalgia-inducing, soda-shop worthy treat. Garnished with the last Peep in our 4-pack, it was pretty cute too.

Peep wants Treats! 
Idea 5: If all else fails? Well, they say a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down--why not load up a heaping spoonful of frosting and jam it full of as many easter candies as you can? You might gross out people in your immediate vicinity, but hey--you've got to follow your own Easter bliss. Just don't forget to share with Peep!

 

Hoppy--er, Happy Easter!


 

Thursday
Mar202008

Green, But Sweet: Cakespy Eats Local (Sweets) For a Week

Eat Local's Flapjack bar with a happy Clementine
There's been a lot of talk lately about companies being environmentally conscious, and making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. But what's a carbon footprint, exactly? No, it's not an unfortunate choice in footwear--rather, it's defined as the measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, and measured in units of carbon dioxide. Basically, a leaving a big footprint is bad news--and in Seattle, that granola-fueled place that we call home, it's very much affecting the food industry, with companies striving to use more local ingredients and contract with more local vendors, while also trying to use less material and less of our nonrenewable resources in their production.

And while certainly these are noble goals, we had to wonder--is this local food--to be more specific--are these local desserts, any good? In an effort to find out, we recently hit up Eat Local, a new-ish company at the top of Queen Anne, which is something of a poster child for the movement, selling ready-made meals which are made locally, using local, organic ingredients (read more about their mission here). We stocked up on several of their most popular desserts with some help from their uber-friendly owner Greg Conner, who along with a team of enthusiastic employees, was very helpful and more than willing to share their vision for a green earth with us. Leaving the store with a bag (canvas, not plastic, naturally) full of goodies, we already knew we felt good about supporting the store...but would we love the desserts? While on the one hand the desserts are dreamed up by a pastry chef we love, North Hill Bakery's Tracey Peterson, we're not scared to admit that we were a little nervous that the desserts were made with only natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup and agave nectar, evaporated cane juice)--hey, we like sugar. But for one working week we gave it a go, cakewalking through their dessert-case; here's what we tasted:


Monday: Flapjack Bar and Apple Crisp. We figured we'd start out the week virtuous, starting with the British-inspired Flapjack bar, a hearty and dense oat bar. Paired with a happy clementine (clementine not from Eat Local; but it made a cute photo, above), this made a very sweet start to the week, filling our spies with enough vim and vigor to take on the Queen Anne counterbalance by foot (damn!).
By the end of the day, the apple crisp (sufficient for two) was an
almost-healthy finish to the day after dinner, with crisp, buttery crumbs and a rustic, hearty filling of thick-cut apple slices within. (Cakespy Note: We suggest letting the crisp sit for a half hour after baking to allow
it to "set"--the texture will reward you for it. Of course this is largely conjecture, as we are saying this without actually having waited ourselves. As a result it was a little soupy--we blame ourselves--but still tasted good).

 

Tuesday: The Highland Brownie. Having eaten all of that fruit the previous day, it was time to pull out something a little more serious, so we went for the Highland Brownie, featuring Washington Walnuts. It elicited this remark from Mr. Cakespy: "This is not just a brownie. This is a brownie experience". And with a dense, nearly fudgy texture, it indeed was no mere mortal of a brownie--this was the type of brownie that inspires sonnets, if not epic poems. Highly recommended.

Wednesday: Honey Lemon Cheesecake. We went into this dessert experience cautiously. Indeed, honey, lemon and cheesecake all by themselves can be strong flavors--was it really to be a flavor love match? We were pleasantly surprised--the natural sweeteners really worked in this dessert's favor, allowing the tangy, creamy cheese and tart lemon to shine, and resulting in a surprise hit for these Cake Gumshoes. We would certainly buy this one again.


Thursday: Rugelach. With many of our spies hailing from the East Coast, where rugelach reigns, we were curious to see how the West Coast (organic) version would stack up. While it lacked the sinful salty-buttery-omigod-richness of the rugelach from our East Coast Memories, this was nonetheless a respectable cookie, flavorful and probably much better for our bodies and souls than the ones we have known in the past. Curiously though, we loved this better the next morning, as a breakfast treat, than we had as an after-dinner dessert. Go figure.


Friday: Chocolate Decadence. It was difficult to save this for last, but we were glad we did. Have you ever tasted Decadence? Well. If yes, perhaps you'll know what we mean when we say it's a dangerous dessert indeed. A bad one can leave you feeling heavy, sluggish and induce promises of treadmills and daily yoga; a good one fills you with a sort of take-over-the-world euphoria, elated, simultaneously energized and relaxed--and completely fulfilled. Happily, this one was the latter, with a smooth as silk, velvety texture, an overwhelming chocolatey mouthfeel and absolutely
pleasurable (or perhaps we could coin a new word, pleasure-full) aftertaste. Oh yes.
So, week finished, how did we feel? Truth be told, we felt pretty freakin' good. Not only do we love this movement and what it does for the environment, but it turns out that even self-proclaimed sugar freaks can love natural and organic desserts--while we liked some better than others, at no point did we feel like we were settling. Indeed, we couldn't imagine a sweeter way to help save the earth.
If you're in the Seattle area, consider yourself tres lucky--you can visit Eat Local yourself! They're located at 2400 Queen Anne Ave. No., (206) EAT-FOOD; online at eatlocalonline.com. Even if you're not in Queen Anne, they're available by for home delivery from Everett to Olympia via spud.com. (Cakespy Tip: Use promo code: Eatlocal8 to save $25 with your first deliveries.)

Eat Local in Seattle

 

Thursday
Mar202008

Cake Byte: Sweet News from Cakespy

Sold!
What an incredibly sweet week! Here's some of the stuff going on at Cakespy:

Whoa! Our Soda Bread Smackdown was featured as the Photo of the Day on Serious Eats. It was also remarked upon at Green Gourmet Giraffe, Cookies in Heaven, and the wonderful Walking the Vegan Line. Some were disgusted, some were amused, but it seems that overall many feel passionately about Irish Soda Bread. Cool!

Seems you liked our interview with (and later, devouring of) the Cadbury Creme Egg (this means either you really get our sense of humor, or you're really some sick puppies)--it got shout-outs on ReTorte, Bathbodysupply.com, The Girl Tastes! (So much sugar, so little time!), Soap Queen, and Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. Sweet!

Finally, Head Spy Jessie just enjoyed a wonderfully sweet art opening at hello, cupcake in Tacoma. It was a sweet event indeed, not only marking their first time participating in the Tacoma Artwalk (and becoming part of Tacoma's wonderful developing art scene), with over 20 new original Cakespy paintings on show, but also a moment to unveil their newest sweet creation, the Almond Roca Cupcake. Having tasted said new flavor, perhaps they should change their name to hello, delicious, we wonder?
DSC06200

Tuesday
Mar182008

Batter Chatter: Interview with a Pro and an Apprentice at Pink Cake Box of Denville, NJ

At Cakespy, we love a good "small world" moment. So what a delight it was to learn that a custom cake bakery whose work we've been admiring for a while -- Denville, NJ based Pink Cake Box , which specializes in sculptural cakes which range from sleek and elegant to whimsical, but are always amazing--actually employs one of Cake Gumshoe Bridget's former high school classmates, Christine Lindstrom (much better than another now-famous alumni of the same high school), who is just beginning a career in cake artistry. Curious to see how the business works from that angle, we interviewed both the owner of Pink Cake Box, Anne Heap, to see what it's like to run a cake business--and then Christine, to get the lowdown on what it's like to be just starting out in the business. Here's what we learned, from both sides:

Part 1: Interview with Professional Cake Baker Anne Heap, owner of Pink Cake Box

Cakespy: You mention that growing up, your mother was a great source of baking inspiration. What recipes or cakes were special in your childhood?  
Anne Heap: On Christmas Eve, we would always make a Bûche de Noël (a Yule log) . Our recipe consists of vanilla genoise, that is rolled as soon as it comes out of the oven in a cheese cloth. We then fill it with coffee whipped cream and frost it in dark chocolate frosting. My brother and I would fight over making (and eating) the marzipan mushrooms!

 

CS: You left a job in advertising to pursue your dream of baking.
AH: Yes!

CS: How did this decision come about?

AH: While working in advertising, I started selling cookies and brownies to a local gourmet shop. They sold really well - so I decided to sign up for an amateur class at the French Culinary Institute. When I went for a tour, I fell in love, signed up for the professional pastry arts program....and quit my job the next week! It was definitely a leap - but I'm so happy that I did!


CS: Is Pink Cake box open to the public, or by appointment only?
AH: We're by appointment only. Customers come in for tastings and consultations.

 

CS: How is running a cake business different than you might have expected? 

AH: I imagined it wouldn't be easy...but I never dreamed that I would work 100 hour weeks as often as I do! There is so much work to do in a day that doesn't even involve cake - like bookkeeping, advertising, etc. I also never expected to have quite as much fun as I do have. Every customer brings something new to the table, which keeps our creativity running high.

CS: How has running a cake business changed how you look at cake?
AH: I don't look at it as dessert anymore - that's for sure! It's much more than that....a centerpiece, a sculpture...a piece of art.

 

CS: Other than cake, what other types of goodies do you make at Pink Cake Box?  

AH: Cupcakes, wedding cupcake stands and cookies mostly. Every once in a awhile a bride will convince us to make truffles or other chocolates for favors.

 

CS: You've done some pretty unusual themes--like the "Rescue me" wedding cake (photo left) we read about on your blog recently. Is this a trend--brides feeling more freedom to have a more "fun" cake?  

AH: We're noticing a lot more stories being told with cake. One couple had us add a paw print to the side of their wedding cake because they met walking their dogs. Another couple asked us to create a Scrabble themed wedding cake because they played it online with each other while the groom was stationed in Iraq. It's very fun for to get to know the couple and then make a cake that really reflects who they are.

CS:
What are your most popular flavors these days?

AH: Red velvet with lemon cream cheese filling, chocolate fudge cake with raspberry chambord filling and vanilla cake with hazelnut frangelico are three of our most popular flavors for weddings. Chocolate with oreos and cream or peanut butter fillings are really popular as well.
CS: What is the most important aspect in making a great cake?
AH: The most basic and yet integral part is baking a good cake. It's so important that the cake and filling taste delicious - so our recipe development is crucial. Using quality products like Vermont butter and Belgian chocolate is also important.

 

CS: Here's something we've always wondered: is your "cake" handwriting when you letter a cake different than your regular handwriting (on paper etc)?
AH: My cake handwriting is the same as my regular handwriting...when I'm trying to write neatly :) When I'm writing quickly - I can' t even read my own writing sometimes!

and about you and for fun...

CS: Is cake ruined for you as a dessert since you make it so often? Or do you still enjoy eating it?
AH: No it is definitely not ruined. My favorite is red velvet - so I take a little nibble quite often!

CS: What is your favorite type of dessert?
AH: Cookies. Warm and gooey right out of the oven. Especially chocolate chip.

CS: Has there ever been a dessert that you tried to make but couldn't get right? What type?
AH: I don't think there is....but maybe I'm not adventurous enough :)

CS: Be honest. If you had to choose between pie and cake, and could only eat one or the other for the rest of your life, which would it be?
AH: Hands down cake. If I wanted fruit for dessert, I'd eat an apple. :)

and to cap it all off...

CS: Any advice for those wanting to pursue their own dreams and start a cake business?
AH: I'd recommend getting an internship or job at a cake shop to see the daily ongoings and what life is like owning a cake business. After that, I'd suggest doing some cakes for friends and family to get started. You can read my post on How to Get Started in a Baking Career for more info.

CS: What is next for Pink Cake Box?
AH: That's a great question! If only I knew! We'd like to start some decorating classes.....and possibly branch into retail. We'll keep you posted!

-------------------------

Part 2: Interview with Cake Apprentice Christine

Cakespy: You started at Pink Cake Box fairly recently. What is your job description and responsibilities?
Christine Lindstrom: At first I started out as an intern over the summer, which involved tasks that one would imagine an intern would do - I did dishes, I cut up the fifty pound block of butter, and learned the basic recipes.. etc. As time went on, having a background in fine art, I started to help decorating. I'm only at Pink Cake Box part time right now while I'm finishing my undergraduate degree in fine art at Monmouth University, so I'm mostly there on weekends. There are always so many random things to get done when I'm there, so I suppose I don't have my own set of responsibilities, but I do get to show off my artistic skill pretty often. It is definitely always a team effort though. When I'm there we're either putting the finishing touches on cakes, cupcakes or cookies before they get shipped out, or starting to make sugar pieces to go on orders for the weeks ahead. It can get pretty crazy!

CS: Have you always had an interest in culinary arts?

CL: Actually, sometimes I think that fate has twisted and turned its way around enough that I've always ended up in it! I've always loved to bake and cook. My Easy-Bake Oven was one of my very favorite toys (obviously). But one of my most significant memories is from when I first got to high school. I was set on taking a home-economics class just because of the baking. Instead of getting a spot in that class, I was placed in a crafts class! At the time I was so upset, but I could do nothing about it (being a measly freshman), so I just stuck with the crafts class. Surprisingly enough, that very class made me realize my love of art! I ended up taking many many art classes, applying to art schools, going to Savannah College of Art and Design for a year, and eventually ending up back home in good ol' New Jersey at Monmouth University as a fine art major. As I was approaching my last year of college I really needed to start to think of a way to make a living with all this creativity I had honed... and one day (while watching the Food Network haha) it hit me - I could make art on CAKE! So really, the accidents in my life have ended me up right where I had started with that Easy-Bake love. : )

 


CS: How is working at a commercial bakery different than you might have expected? Or, is there anything about it that might surprise us?

CL: I guess at first I was nervous about commercial kitchen etiquette and I was always afraid I was going to spill something or not measure things correctly, but as time has gone on, I've taken on the habits of the professionals. I never knew how precisely things have to be measured and just how clean everything must be kept. It's not really much different than baking at home, but I have noticed that I've turned into such a clean freak even in my own kitchen and my art studio! Besides the obvious need for cleanliness with food, I've realized that a neat work space makes your mind feel so much better. Something that did surprise me when I started working there was the weighing of even the cupcake batter! Every single cupcake is the exact same size!!

 

CS: What is the best part of working at a cake bakery?

CL: The best part for me is knowing that I get to be a piece of the happy events in people's lives. It is such a fulfilling feeling to know that they will always remember the things we make for them. My own parents still remember their wedding cake after 26 years of marriage! (Ironically enough, their cake was the wrong flavor! This job was my destiny before I was even a thought in their heads). Cakespy Note: Clearly!

CS: Would you say that you eat cake more, or less, now that you work there?
CL: Oh my gosh. Cake has become one of the major food groups! I didn't even used to LIKE cake. I would just make desserts to show off my creative side. But now that I work at Pink Cake Box, I really can't live a week without it. Our cake is just so darn good that I seriously can't resist!! I have a cupcake next to me as I type this. There will need to be an intervention after I graduate and I'm there more often!

 

CS: What was one of the most fun jobs you've worked on at Pink Cake Box?

CL: There are always a lot of fun things for me to do. I think my favorite job was when I made a sugar sculpture of someone's dog for a groom's cake. Anne is always really great about letting me be free to interpret what customers request. We understand each other very well and it's great working for someone who is creative too. This particular cake was a replica of a train and the couple wanted their dog to be incorporated in some way. I had a picture of their dog, Rupert, Anne and I discussed how big he should be and off I went. I just remember feeling like I was making art with different materials. It's assignments like that that make me feel like I'm really a sugar artist.

 

CS: What, to you, is the coolest part of cake making?
CL: I always think it's amazing how much structure and planning goes into every cake. Back when I was starting to bake on my own, I had no idea how much goes into these beautiful creations that cake designers put out there. It was always so intimidating and exhausting to me because I would try to do everything all at once. When it comes down to it though, the most daunting projects 

aren't as complicated as they seem once you simplify it all down into planned out steps. I think it's really neat that all the chaos - of the cake itself, the height, the colors and designs - get summed up into a nice little package at the end of the day. It's all about cake philosophy - seeing cake differently!

 

and about you and for fun:

CS: What are you doing when you're not decorating and making cakes?

CL: Well, right now I'm still in school, so making artwork takes up most of my free time. I'm always sketching, taking photos, sculpting or painting. Sometimes things can carry over to cake and vice versa. I feel like I live several different lives right now but they keep overlapping. It can get overwhelming at times, but I mostly just enjoy the momentum I'm picking up with all the opportunities I have ahead of me. Every now and then I turn on the Food Network to ease my mind too : )

 

CS: What are some of your favorite desserts? 

CL: I absolutely love tiramisu lately. Truffles rank up there as a lovely little after dinner, dessert-like item too, (I love the exotic flavored ones most of all). My tastes change quite often because I live for trying new things. Life is too short! I want to try it all!

 

CS: What is your least favorite dessert? 

CL: One thing that has never struck my fancy would be licorice flavored anything. So... I want to try it all except for the licorice flavored desserts of the world. (haha)

 

CS: Red Velvet and Carrot cake are facing off in a barroom brawl. Who's gonna win?

CL: Red Velvet hands DOWN! Vegetables are not as good as massive amounts of food coloring! Haha but seriously, if anyone hasn't tried red velvet cake, it is truly amazing. The subtle chocolatey goodness is magical.

 

and to cap it off...

CS: What are some of your ultimate baking dreams or goals?

CL: Being fresh to the baking scene, I think I will probably stick around to watch and help Pink Cake Box grow... as long as I don't become a famous painter anytime soon ; ) So, as corny as this will sound, Anne's dreams are my dreams. She's doing a way better job then I could probably ever do! She is my Yoda.

 

CS: But more immediately...what are you hoping for in your easter basket? 

CL: I wait for my Jelly Belly's all year!!

Are you in the Denville area? Lucky you! Why not seek out your next special occasion cake at their studio (by appointment only please)?  Pink Cake Box, 18 E. Main St., Ste 101, Denville; online at
pinkcakebox.com.

 

Not in the NJ area? Well, make like these Cake Gumshoes and keep updated via their blog and beautiful photos on Flickr.

 

Sunday
Mar162008

It's Not Easy Being Green: Cakespy Strives to Make Irish Soda Bread Delicious

P for PATRICK, as in the Saint!
Without a doubt, one of the best thing about holidays is the seasonal sweets that come with them: pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, chocolates for Valentine's Day, Cookies of all sorts for Christmas. And yet, for us, St. Patrick's Day has always remained a seasonal void for baked goods--though we've spied some great ideas which we hope will become the new traditions (like this or this), it still seems like the staple is Irish Soda Bread.

But why the bad blood toward the humble bread? Thinking that perhaps understanding would garner appreciation, we researched its history a bit. What we learned was a bit of surprise--not an ancient bread by any means, Irish Soda bread only dates back to the 1840's or so, when Bicarbonate of soda (the bread's yeast-alternative leavening agent) was first introduced to the country, and gained popularity not because of its deliciousness per se, but because it was quick, easy and cheap to make. Traditionally it was not a sweet bread, instead made in a griddle with the most basic of ingredients--flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda (no sugar!). The resulting bread was dense and highly perishable, with a bit of a sour tang (read more about it here!). It is thought that the ingredients which became popular later on--sugar, raisins, carraway seeds--were added to enhance flavor and shelf life. (Also, for some trivia, it appears that while some say the typical slash atop Soda bread rounds is a cross, to ward off the devil; others say the reason for this is much more practical--simply a scoring to make it easier to divide into fourths after baking).

But moreover, it seems to us that while Irish Soda Bread is a tradition, it seems that deliciousness was never at its core. After all, additions had been made to improve the flavor over time...so why not take it a few steps further? We resolved to channel our Irish Heritage and get baking. We found a goodlookin' recipe here (sans raisins, but as you'll see below this was not a problem for us), and put together the ingredients and tried out several variations, segregating each trial in a different panel in our favorite scone pan. Here's what we tried and how it all tasted:

DoughClassic Irish Soda Bread
As a control, we tried at least one variation true to the original recipe; the resulting taste was, as expected, slightly sweet with a slight tang, tasty when just out of the oven, but largely un-exceptional after (Cakespy Note: by saying this we do not mean to talk smack about the recipe itself, but Soda Bread in general).

Green Irish Soda BreadGreen Irish Soda Bread
Our first variation was a test to see if perhaps the bread might be livened up by adding some green dye; however, while we swear some foods will taste better if they're a certain color, it was not true in the case of Irish Soda Bread. However, we would be remiss if we didn't remark on the fact that the green bread was far cuter than its classic counterpart. 

Irish Soda BreadIrish Soda Bread, Sans Raisins, and with Frosting
Next, we tried to add a little sweetness to the mix, by soaking the raisins in sugar water before baking. We'd heard that soaking dried fruit in such a manner can plump it, discouraging dehydration during baking, and indeed, while no different in appearance than the classic recipe, the slightly sweet and far more moist raisins did add a little something. However, to really seal in the flavor, we realized that adding some frosting (green, naturally) might help. It did.

Melty Mint Soda BreadJelly Belly Irish Soda Bread
While also on that sweet path, we sampled some variations on the raisins--one with our beloved melty mints and one with jellybeans--green, naturally. In both cases, the moister texture and added bit of sweetness thanks to the additions was welcome, chasing away the acidity of the salt and baking soda. And, you know, they had a higher quotient of adorableness than the classic bread.

Extreme Irish Soda BreadExtreme Frosted Irish Soda Bread
At this point, we felt like we had something--but it still wasn't completely realized yet. So for our final attempt, we combined all the best aspects of the above experiments into one mighty, some might say extreme Irish soda bread--green food coloring, melty mints, green jelly bellies, and of course green frosting. The result? Well, let's just say this one made us very happy to be Irish.

So, to close? Well, traditions are clearly important--these rituals are part of our society and history. But sometimes, there can be a fine line between maintaining tradition and being scared to try something new. So don't be scared to challenge those old-school traditions--you might just discover a new classic. 
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 

Thursday
Mar132008

Sweet Stuff: Cool Cake Finds from Cakespy

Hipster pastries waiting for the L Train
Some say that the hours between 9 and 5 on the weekdays are for dedicating yourself to your career. Hours between which one ought to tirelessly performs tasks, answer inquiries with a smile, and work toward that "life's purpose".

However, there are others who call these hours "prime time for scouting cool stuff on the internet"--and man, have we spied some cool stuff lately!

The first find, thanks to Cake Gumshoe Kimberly, is the newly released Batter Finger by Fred. Fred is a company we frequently look to for inspiration and cool products--and this is no exception. A functional spatula, it makes a clever play on how we're all really scraping the bowl clean (you know, when nobody's looking)--but provides a safe alternative to using your fingers, you heathen, you. Don't miss their heart-shaped measuring spoons either! Batter Finger, $7.99;



The second thing we're lusting after this week is the cheeky, punky yet still sugar-sweet pendants by Stoopidgerl. We first came across her work through her flickr page, and have become obsessed with her creations: rendered with real sugar and candy, they're finished with resin that makes them look positively candy-coated. And this brand of sweetness won't leave you with a sugar hangover later. Left, Sugar Skull Pendant, $20; available online.

 


The third one is so hot it's not even in stores yet--adorable cupcake sculptures by Bonnie B Pottery! Bonnie, a talented artist who has also worked as a professional baker, has baked up batches of these tiny rattle / sculptures which we hope will soon be surfacing on her Etsy store. Made with tiny clay balls inside, they make the happiest little sound when you shake them. Keep them in your pocket as a sweet talisman, or place it on a shelf or windowsill as an objet d'art; ours always makes us smile. Available by special order; contact Bonnie via bonniebpottery.etsy.com.

This one may be old news for savvy Seattleites, but hold tight, sweetsters across the nation: back by popular demand, Cupcake Royale has relaunched their beloved "Legalize Frostitution" tee-- we love the new heather grey-and-pink color combination! Better still, they're done on supersoft American Apparel tees. And while we could rhapsodize at greater length, perhaps their website says it best: "Sass it up. Sass it up good." $16; available at Cupcake Royale.

 

Thursday
Mar132008

Mini Cake Byte: A Bit of Sweet News From Cakespy

Mini Pie Revolution Logo

Some say that pie is the new cake--and while we do love cake, we must admit those mini pies sure are cute! Why not see what all this revolution is about at the Mini Pie Revolution Headquarters--featuring a new logo designed by our own Head Spy Jessie!

Tuesday
Mar112008

Batter Chatter: Interview with a Cadbury Creme Egg

 

Creme Egg Closeup
To some, the first daffodils or crocuses (crocii?) are the harbinger of spring. For others, changing the clocks and "springing ahead" will indicate the change of seasons. For us at Cakespy, it's all about the Cadbury Creme Egg. From their first timid showing in January, their presence slowly grows as the days get longer, to the point where they're mercilessly taking over end cap displays in the weeks before Easter. If this doesn't say "spring" we don't know what does. But have you ever paused to wonder what's up with that dense little egg-shaped treat? Where did it come from? Whose idea was it? And why, if it's already unrealistically chocolate colored on the outside, do they still simulate the yolk color inside? These things in mind, we sat down with the Cadbury Creme Egg and asked some of these pressing questions:
Cakespy: How are you today?
Cadbury Creme Egg: It's a sweet day indeed! Easter is approaching and business is booming! An estimated 300 million of my brethren will be produced and devoured this year.
CS: Err...yes. Well, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be?
CCE: It was a long and winding road. It all started in 1875, when the Cadbury brothers introduced their first chocolate Easter eggs--my first known ancestors. They were solid chocolate and far different from the creme eggs of today. In 1923 the recipe further evolved with the addition of whipped fondant; through the years experiments were made with marzipan eggs and different recipes, but it it was ultimately me, the soft and gooey fondant egg, that was perfected in 1971 and has been breaking hearts and melting in mouths ever since.

CS: And how is it that you are made?
CCE: Well, it all starts in a half-egg shaped mold, which is then filled with solid white fondant and a dab of yellow fondant to simulate the yolk. The two halves are joined very quickly and then immediately cooled to allow the chocolate to set. The fondant filling, while solid while the eggs are made, is then injected with an enzyme which causes it to liquefy into the gooey substance found in the finished product. The finished eggs fall onto a conveyor belt which transports them to the foiling machines and then to the packing and shipping area.

CS: That enzyme thing is kind of gross.
CCE: I won't deny that. But does it make you want to eat me any less?
CS: (Pauses thoughtfully) Touché.

CS: You originally hail from the UK, but you're all the rage here in America too. Can you tell us a bit about how American Creme Eggs differ from the European counterparts?
CCE: We're bigger in the UK. I mean, literally. Hershey, the US producer of Cadbury Creme Eggs, elected to make us smaller in the US. This was kind of a scandal for a while, what with the initial response from the Cadbury spokespeople that "No we haven't shrunk you've just grown up!"--but yes, it's true. But truly, even if we're a bit smaller in your hand, we're just as big in your heart. Nonetheless, if you want the bigger one, just go over to Canada--the "full-size" ones are available there.

CS: Who came first, you or the mini (candy-coated) egg?
CCE: Well, the mini eggs were introduced in 1967. While I wasn't released in my current form til 1971, I had been a work in progress since before the turn of the century.
CS: Is there any rivalry between you and the mini egg?
CCE: Those little *$%#@s? No, none at all. Why would there be? (Stares stonily).

CS: OK, Moving on. Why is it that your innards are made color-appropriate to a real egg, but we have to suspend our disbelief with the color of your shell?
CCE: (Blinks uncomprehendingly for several moments) Well, smartypants, perhaps you should suspend this interview with me and instead interview my cousin, the Cadbury Dream Egg (white chocolate shell with white chocolate fondant filling)?

CS: How many different variations on the Creme Egg are there in the Cadbury family?
CCE: Well, aside from the aforementioned Cadbury Dream, my relatives include the following:
Mini Creme Eggs (bite-sized Creme Eggs), Caramel Eggs (soft caramel filling), Mini Caramel Eggs (bite-sized Caramel Eggs), Chocolate Creme Eggs (chocolate fondant filling)
Orange Creme Eggs (Creme Eggs with a hint of orange flavor), Mint Creme Eggs (green "yolk" and mint flavor chocolate--would make Dr. Seuss Proud), Dairy Milk with Creme Egg bars, Creme Egg Fondant in a Narrow Cardboard Tube (limited edition), and of course, who could forget Creme Egg ice cream with a fondant sauce in milk chocolateOf course, many of these variations can only be found in the United Kingdom.
CS: A lot of vegans like to read Cakespy. Is there a vegan version of the Creme Egg available?
CCE: While none are sold under the Cadbury imprint, vegans can make their own using the recipe posted on this site.
CS: How do you feel about other novelty eggs inspired by you (Russel Stover, Snickers eggs, etc)?
CCE: Well, Cakespy, I could tell you that the Cadbury Creme Egg outsells every other chocolate bar during the time it's on sale each year. I could tell you that it's the number one brand in the filled egg market, with a market share of over 70% and a brand value of approximately 45 million pounds (UK). But really, isn't proof in the pudding? I'm the most delicious and therefore am not threatened by these inferior eggs. 

CS: You're all the rage between January and Easter. Where do you go the rest of the year?
CCE: While I am only sold for a few months of the year, the demand does call for year-round prep and production. So while you won't see me in stores the rest of the year, I'm very much at work.
CS: Finally, in the UK you have the successful "How do you eat yours?" ad campaign, whereas in the US we have that clucking bunny. What's up with that?
CCE: No idea, that bunny's always freaked me out. Really, I have always identified much more with the UK campaign.

CS: So...how do you eat yours?
CCE: I think this interview is over (looks nervously around).
CS: I think we both know how this is going to end.

Fade to black.


Cakespy Note: We'd be nothing without our sources, and for this interview our sources were:

 

© Cakespy, all rights reserved. Powered by Squarespace.