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Sunday
Jan062008

Home, Sweet Home (Literally): Interior Design by Cakespy

 

iPop
Deck the halls? That's so last year. In 2008, resolve to let more sweetness in your life by decking the walls--and fridge, and your whole house or apartment for that matter---out in dessert-related finery. Not only will these ideas make everyday life a whole lot sweeter, but they're also calorie-free for the (*cough* nevergonnalast) resolution dieters out there.


For your walls: These cupcake plaques by Serious Gnome will brighten up any wall in your house, sans doute. We want one for every room; not only are they gorgeous, but we're fascinated by the painstaking process involved in making them: each piece is designed, cast and hand-finished right in the Serious Gnome studios (rare these days!). Visit their website to learn more about the process and to browse their other (alas, non-cake related, but still cool) styles. $85 each; available online at seriousgnome.com

 

 



For your fridge: Cake and dessert related refrigerator magnets are like a preview of what's in the fridge! Our own Head Spy Jessie is the art director of this company (no, she doesn't get paid extra for putting them in here), so naturally there are a lot of cake related designs, including dessert-themed magnets by Julia Rothman, Stacey Asato and even Mrs. Cakespy herself. $11.50 for a set of 4 one-inch magnets, $6.50 for one "Big" magnet; various styles available online at ipopshop.com; cakes shown to the left currently only available by calling 800.638.9622.

For your bedroom: You'll be guaranteed sweet dreams if you rest your little head on one of these pillows: cookie pillows by Pancake Dinner are perfect for naps or as throw pillows ($20; available online at thepaperdoll.net); for bigger appetites or a longer sleep, artist Bethany Schlegel does cozy, fluffy screen printed ice cream ones ($34 ea.).

 

For the kitchen: While technically calorie-free in and of themselves, we will admit that these cupcake toppers by Bake+Destroy! are perhaps at their best when perched atop freshly baked little cupcakes. Call us diet-saboteurs if you will; call us enablers...both very true. But seriously, how could you resist these toppers, available in styles like Holy Elvis (left), Shark Attack, Gnomes and more? $6 ea., or $3 for a DIY kit.


We'd say that 2008 is going to be one sweet year.
For more information or to pass on more awesome ways to deck your home out in sweetness, please email us!

 

Thursday
Jan032008

Cakewalk in the Chelsea Market, NYC

 

Cookies at Eleni's in Chelsea Market, NYC

If pressed to choose one building to be stuck in overnight in a Mannequin-esque sort of way, the Chelsea Market wouldn't be a bad spot. Residing in what used to be the National Biscuit Company (you may know them as Nabisco, makers of all sorts of items from Saltines to Animal Crackers to Oreos), this is a strangely unassuming building from the outside, opening up into a gorgeous urban market including flower shops, boutiques...and bakeries, lots of bakeries. On our recent trip back east, we spent quite a bit of time in this historic building residing on Ninth and Tenth Avenues between 15th and 16th Streets; here were some of our favorite spots:

Cakespy Note: The address for all of the retail spaces at the Chelsea Market is 75 Ninth Avenue; thus, we have not labeled the addresses individually below.

Amy's Bread: We love Amy's Bread in so, so many ways, but most of all for their perfect pink-frosted yellow cake which is available by the slice most days. We're proud to say that we've tried it in all three locations (this one, Bleecker Street, and Hell's Kitchen), and each is excellent. Their other pastries are no slouch either; even Zagat has called out their excellence. (212) 462-4338; online at amysbread.com.

 

 

Chelsea Market Baskets: A great find--chock full of wonderful Scottish shortbread and "oaties", fancy little imported marzipan cakes and other gourmet treats from the likes of Ditty's Home Bakery, Cookie it Up and Frank's Luxury Biscuits. We fell for the Nancy's Fudge Cups at first bite; the Leonidas truffles looked wonderful. As a bonus to non-NYC residents, they do ship a lot of cookies and less perishable items nationwide! (212) 727-1111; online at chelseamarketbaskets.com.

Eleni's: Cookies, and cakes, and cupcakes--oh my! This is an extremely cool place, with white exposed brick walls and extremely photogenic baked goods (see top photo). Sure, cookies will top $4, but hey, rent's pretty high in Chelsea. Negative points for telling us to stop taking photos though, although we resisted the urge to say "don't you know who we are?". Kidding. (888) 435-3647; online at elenis.com.

Fat Witch Bakery: Somewhere between fudge, and a brownie, is the Fat Witch Brownie: extremely dense, rich, fudgy and excellent. Don't make the mistake of trying to eat one of these dry though--they cry out for a glass of milk (perhaps at the Ronnybrook Farm Dairy? see below) as accompaniment. Happily, these can be shipped nationwide; check out their online store! (212) 807-1335; online at fatwitch.com.

Milk Bar @ Ronnybrook Farm Dairy: Holy Cow (sorry, couldn't resist). Places like this make you marvel at how creamy and good something so simple as milk can taste. The milkshakes are close-your-eyes-with-pleasure good; they have a full lunch menu too, full of appetizing dishes to warm you up for dessert. (212) 741-6455; online at ronnybrook.com.

Ruthy's: A solid offering of cakes and treats, although we wish they didn't put those novelty cookies and cakes on display right as you walk in; the stuff inside (rugelach, cakes, etc) looked so much nicer. (212) 463-8800; online at ruthys.com.
Sarabeth's: We much prefer this outpost to the famous Upper East Side location, in which we've never felt quite "pinkies out" enough. Still, killer jam (you may recognize the name; they sell their jam at Williams-Sonoma stores), and their weekend specials, including pumpkin waffles with sour cream, raisins and maple syrup, are awe-inspiring. (212) 989-2424; online at sarabeths.com.

For more information about the Chelsea Market, visit chelseamarket.com. Got any other Chelsea Market spots to suggest? Email us!

 

Tuesday
Jan012008

Cakewalk in Bruce Springsteen Country (Central NJ Shore)

 

Cupcakes in a row at Baker Boys in Ocean Grove, NJ
There exists, in a pocket of the central New Jersey Coast, an area that we'll refer to as "Bruce Springsteen Country"--an area which includes the namesake of his album "Greetings from Asbury Park", and stretches between Monmouth and Ocean Counties. And while everyone is fiercely proud of their hometown boy, there is so much more on offer here than just the possibility of a Boss sighting: it's also home to some of the most memorable black and white cookies, crumb cake and pastries we've ever tasted. On a recent visit, we sampled a number of the local bakeries; and while we didn't see Bruce along the way, we did spy (and taste) all sorts of other good things:
America's Cup Coffee Co.: This place looked pretty chain-y from the outside, but what an unexpectedly sweet surprise to find a beautiful display of alluring homemade biscotti. It was toasty, crunchy and satisfying. The coffee was just-OK, but the biscotti made our visit worthwhile. 633 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park; (732) 988-2000.

The Baker Boys: The New Jersey coast's answer to NYC's Billy's Bakery, their pastries stand alone, with a meltingly delicious apricot bar, moist cupcakes with jaunty peaks of frosting, and awesome cookies. Pastry chef Carol is pretty much our NJ idol. 69 Main Ave., Ocean Grove. Check out their brand-new location in Asbury Park's Convention Hall too! 69 Main Ave., Ocean Grove; (732) 361-8839. 
Bella Sogno: Make like Tony Soprano at this traditional Italian-style bakery in Bradley Beach, adjoining an espresso joint filled with an assortment of "Jersey" characters. The cookies are our pick here, from the buttery lemon twists to the "Chinese Cookie", whose name we've never quite understood but we love the taste. 600 Main Street., Bradley Beach; (732) 869-
0700.

Chez Cakespy: OK, so this isn't a bakery or even open to the public, but we couldn't resist sharing one of the true highlights of our trip, a three-tiered chocolate cake with pink buttercream frosting made by Cake Gumshoe Margie, which was unbelievably rich and perfect. The occasion was happy too: a 6-month wedding anniversary cake for Mr. and Mrs. Cakespy. Sigh. Cake Gumshoes Margie and Kenny's House, West Belmar.

Delicious Orchards: A bit off the shore path but worth the drive, Delicious Orchards is a gorgeous farm market featuring Apple Cider Donuts (available online) and great pies; though we hear their crumb cake leaves something to be desired. 36 State Rte. 34 So., Colts Neck; (732) 462-1989. Online at deliciousorchardsnj.com.

Dunkin' Donuts: They say that America Runs on Dunkin', and we don't know where this is more clearly illustrated than in New Jersey (anyone who's seen the line there at 8am will know). No, their donuts are not the best we've ever had, but there's just something about Dunkin' Donuts; being based on the West Coast, we'd be remiss if we didn't pay homage. Various locations; online at dunkindonuts.com.

Espresso Mio: They don't make it in house, but their crumb cake was gorgeous, with the perfect crumb-to-cake ratio (roughly two thirds crumb, one third cake) and a heavenly dusting of powdered sugar.
Their scones, which looked quite good, are made in-house. Bonus: their coffee stood up to Seattle-based Mr. and Mrs. Cakespy's standards too! 1005 1/2 Main St., Belmar; (732) 280-9001.


Freedman's Bakery: Walk right past the cakes and go for a black and white cookie here: they're perfect. The texture of the cookie and consistency of the frosting simply cannot be beat, in our book. Make like Jerry Seinfeld and see if you can get black and white in every bite. 803 Main St., Belmar; (732) 681-2334.
Hoffman's Ice Cream: This place rules the dairy arena with rich, flavorful homemade ice cream. We have a guilty place in our hearts for the bubblegum ice cream, which, if pressed to describe how it tastes, we would have to say "pink". 569 Church Street, Spring Lake; (732) 974-2253.

The Macaroon Shop: The Cakespy crew is split on this one: Head Spy Jessie likes their crumb cake; Cake Gumshoes Bridget and Kenny prefer the namesake macaroons; Cake Gumshoe Margie doesn't care for their goods at all. Mr. Cakespy just eats what we tell him to eat. See for yourself! 107 Main St., Avon-By-The-Sea; (732) 776-6363. Online at themacaroonshop.com.

Mueller's Bakery: Gorgeous cookies, and a wonderful neighborhood to walk around in during the summer. Their crumb cake and black and white cookies are our picks. 80 Bridge Ave., Bay Head; (732) 892-0442. Online at muellersbakery.com.

Pianconnes Deli and Bakery: Ogle at the cases upon cases of deli and bakery treats: butter cookies, Italian pastries, and cakes. Don't go in a rush though; service can be slow, and lines are often long. It's worth the wait. 804 Main St., Bradley Beach; (732) 775-4780.

What's For Dessert: The service can be gruff, but their cakes and pastries more than make up for it. Perfect shortbread cookies, cupcakes, and a gorgeous crumb cake all await you in a tantalizingly scented sanitary white bakery. 2407 State Rte. 71, Spring Lake Heights; (732) 974-3003.

Wish You Were Here: Half souvenir shop, half cafe, this is an absolute treasure, with cookies like you wish your mama made, beautiful brownies, and creatively flavored homemade truffles in flavors like mango-habanero and peanut butter and jelly. 612 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park; (732) 774-1601.

Got any other hot NJ tips? Email us!

 

Sunday
Dec302007

Champagne Dreams and Sweet Wishes: An Experiment in Champagne and Dessert Pairing

 

Skittles in Champagne

With a new year upon us, it's time to pause and reflect. A time to resolve to do better next year, to recall the good moments of last year...and of course, a time to imbibe mass quantities of champagne.


And this brings up a very important question: what desserts might go best with your bubbly at a New Year's Eve bash?
In an effort to address this pressing issue, we at Cakespy have done an intensive taste testing, trying out champagne with a variety of party-friendly desserts to see which pairings work best. We tried to choose a range of desserts with different and distinct flavors, ranging from salty-sweet (chocolate covered pretzels) to sweet-but-tart (Skittles) to the truly saccharine (pop-tarts; cupcakes); each one was tried with a few sips of champagne to see how the flavors would mingle. Here's our review:
Cakespy Note: To be completely technical our tasting was done with sparkling wine; nonetheless, "champagne" rolls off the tongue so much nicer, and we think you know what we mean, so that's the word we're using in this writeup. Also, our apologies to any champagne enthusiasts who may be offended that we used the "wrong" type of glass. 

Champagne and Cookie
Champagne with Peanut Butter Cookies: The logic behind the pairing was inspired by the concept of opposites. The tartness of jelly seems to go nicely with peanut butter, so would the tartly acidic champagne do the same with a peanut butter cookie? Unfortunately, in our opinion, no. The flavors seemed to be fighting with one another, and the champagne won the battle, washing out the flavor of the cookie. Bummer.

Truffle and Champagne
Champagne with dark Chocolate Truffles: This combination was surprisingly good; the not too-sweet dark chocolate ganache was an excellent balance to the sharp, bubbly champagne. However, one taster noted that while the combination was good, it was not quite as good as pairing dark chocolate with red wine. 

Cupcakes, What's For Dessert, Spring Lake Heights NJ
Champagne with Vanilla Cupcakes (with vanilla frosting and sprinkles): We thought this combination might be sweet overload, but it turned out to be a very...happy combination. Maybe it was a combination of the sugar, sprinkles and bubbles, but this combo made us giddy.
Skittles in Champagne
Champagne with Skittles: We were split down the middle with this one. Where some thought the combination was entirely too sour, some enjoyed the sweet, tart tastes intermingling. Bonus: this one is extra fun if you put one of the Skittles in the champagne and watch it dance amongst the bubbles. 
Hello, delicious.
Champagne with Brownies: You'd think that we'd love this combo based on liking the dark chocolate and champagne combo, but somehow the brownie just didn't work quite as well. Perhaps it was just too heavy, but the brownie overpowered the champagne and just made it taste sour.
Chocolate covered Pretzel
Champagne with Chocolate Covered Pretzels: To us, this combination was a very good one; the saltiness of the pretzels could stand up to the acidity and strong taste of the champagne, and the chocolate gave a nice, mellow aftertaste. 

Pop-Tarts and Champagne
Champagne with Pop-Tarts: The tastes worked quite nicely on this combo at first, with the shortbready crust and frosted strawberry goodness heightened by the bubbles. However, the aftertaste was a little bit cloying to our oh-so-refined tastes, so we wouldn't rate it one of our favorite combinations.
To sum it all up? While our favorite combinations seemed to be either chocolate covered pretzels with champagne or cupcakes with champagne, like so many things, it really seemed to be a matter of personal taste, and so we welcome you to host your own tasting to see for yourself what combinations work for you! No matter what the results, it's bound to be a sweet and rewarding experience.
In the meantime, here's to a year of experimentation, growth, and much sweetness. 
Happy 2008! 

 

Thursday
Dec272007

Vive la Second Banana: An Ode to Magnolia Bakery's #2 Dessert

It's got to be hard being the #2 dessert at the Magnolia Bakery. We imagine it's sort of like having a really famous sibling (who knows the name of the Olsen twins' other sister, for crying out loud?). This is the plight of the Banana Pudding at Magnolia Bakery; delicious as it is, what is its place really, with those famous cupcakes in the spotlight? At Cakespy we feel its pain, and want to give this sweet dessert a long-deserved moment in the spotlight. And so here, we offer this sweet ballad to Magnolia's #2 treat:
Dearest Banana pudding,

How do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

We love the way you hang out in the bakery case, slightly chilled and a little aloof...don't you know that playing hard to get just makes us want you more?

We love your inviting, pale yellow hue. 

We love the symphony of textures that you award us with in each spoonful: the rich, creamy pudding, with cakey Nilla wafer bits which have become soft and absorbed the banana flavor; the ever so slight hint of a crunch that some of the Nilla wafers still retain.

We love your sugary, heady banana scent. 

We love your little white takeout cup, like a takeaway coffee to the unknowing, but bearing a much sweeter and richer treat. 

In fact, dear pudding, the only part we don't like is coming to the last spoonful; you always leave us wanting more.

Oh, banana pudding! For you, we'd gladly wait on that line all night until the cupcake bouncer deigned to let us in; even more happily, we'd breeze right by those ubiquitous little frosted treats, making a straight path toward you, sweet, wonderful you. 

Eternal love and sweetness,

Cakespy

Cupcake Eating Cake


To try this ambrosial treat, visit the Magnolia Bakery at 401 Bleecker St., New York City; online at magnoliabakery.com.
Cakespy Note: Not in NYC? Happily, the Magnolia Bakery's Cookbook, More From Magnolia by Allysa Torey, contains the recipe. Although it takes a while to prepare due to letting the mixture set at various stages, it's extremely easy to make; we've copied the recipe as it appears in the book (below).
Magnolia's Famous Banana Pudding
I started making this pudding when I was in my early twenties and cooking at a Tex-Mex restaurant and bar. Customers loved it, so when we opened the bakery many years later, it seemed like a great idea to serve it there. It remains the second most popular dessert (after the cupcakes) at the bakery.
Ingredients:
-1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
-1 1/2 cups ice cold water
-1 (3.4oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix (they like the Jell-O Brand)
-3 cups heavy cream
-1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)
-4 cups sliced ripe bananas
Directions:
-In a small bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about one minute. Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more. Cover and refrigerated for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing. It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set. 
-In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
-To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity. Arrange one third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, then one-third of the bananas and one-third of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours--or up to 8 hours, but no longer--before serving.

 

Tuesday
Dec252007

Batter Chatter: Interview with Karen Rivera-Gorski of The Painted Cake in NJ

For the Cakespy Crew, the holidays mean New Jersey. For us, it's the NJ Shore (Belmar to be exact), where Head Spy Jessie (Mrs. Cakespy), Mr. Cakespy, Cake Gumshoes Bridget, Kenny and Margie converge for the end of December. And what better way to celebrate New Jersey than through interviewing a skilled NJ baker? Happily, we recently discovered the work of the amazingly skilled Karen Rivera-Gorski, proprietress of The Painted Cake, a custom cake studio based in Northern NJ which specializes in beautiful custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies. We were wowed by Karen's sugar decoration savvy, and were eager to learn more; here's what we discovered in a recent interview:

 

 

Cakespy: You trained in Pastry Arts, but it looks like you didn't go out on your own right away. Can you tell us the story of how The Painted Cake got started?
Karen Rivera-Gorski: After pastry school, I apprenticed at trendy NYC bakeries and studied with well-known sugar artists for a couple years. I started developing my own vision for a custom-cake studio, and began experimenting with different recipes before I created The Painted Cake’s cake menu. The top priority for me when I was developing the menu was taste; cakes have to taste as good as they look! When I found myself fulfilling a lot of cake requests through referrals and word of mouth, I knew it was time to venture out on my own.

 

CS: How did you come up with the name for your bakery?
KRG: I was working on a cake one day, and the name just popped into my head! I thought “The Painted Cake” conveyed the type of custom design work we do.

CS: You do some really involved, lovely fondant cakes. How long does it take to make a specialty cake like for instance the Yankee’s cap and shirt cake?
KRG: The time it takes to complete a specialty cake always depends on the size and design. The Yankee cake currently featured on our website took approximately 20 hours to complete. The actual baking of our cakes is the last step of the cake making process; however, detailed sugar decorations are often made well in advance as they can sometimes take days to complete!

CS: You do not currently have a retail space; you primarily work by special order. Do you think you would ever be interested in having a retail location?
KRG: We would consider a retail bakery only when we felt it would not compromise the high quality of our ingredients or attention to every detail of our cakes. Right now, we are lucky to be able to provide a level of quality and service that differentiates us from many bakeries.

CS: It looks like wedding cakes are your specialty. For what other types of occasions have you provided cakes or desserts?
KRG: We love making wedding cakes, but The Painted Cake specializes in custom-designed cakes for all occasions. We receive many requests for birthdays, bridal showers, baby showers, graduations, and corporate events.

CS: What is your most popular cake flavor?
KRG: That’s a tough question; it’s a tie between our Valrhona Chocolate cake with chocolate raspberry ganache and chocolate mousse buttercream and our moist Red Velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

CS: You've worked in Michigan and NYC. How were the dessert scenes in those places different from NJ?
KRG: I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1999 and I loved living in Ann Arbor. I didn’t work in pastry at that time, but I can say that Michigan did not seem to be as cupcake- crazed as the East coast! Zingerman’s cafe in Ann Arbor is a foodie’s dream. Luckily, they have an amazing mail-order business, so anyone in the country can enjoy their goodies!


Cakespy Note: Click on the link above, you won't regret it.

 

CS: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one type of dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KRG: Valrhona chocolate cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache and home-made marshmallow frosting.

CS: Have you ever had a cake get crushed in transit or any emergency? If so, what did you do?
KRG: Luckily, we have never had a cake disaster en route to an event; however, we always bring an “emergency cake kit” complete with extra icing and sugar decorations as a back-up!

CS: What is the best time of day to eat cake?
KRG: Whenever you can take a few minutes to enjoy a really good piece of cake after your busy day is the best time!

CS: What is your favorite beverage accompaniment with cake?
KRG: Hands down, Gloria Jeans coffee with cream and sugar.

CS: Cupcakes are ridiculously popular! Do you think they'll ever go out of style?
KRG: Definitely not! Cupcakes are here to stay.

CS: What are some of your favorite cookbooks, or who are some bakers who inspire you?
KRG: The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, is certainly a staple for all bakers. I am really inspired by Tish Boyle’s recipes and writing style (e.g., The Cake Book). In addition to being an extremely talented food writer and recipe creator, she is also the Editor- in- Chief of Chocolatier Magazine - a wonderful magazine for the professional pastry chef or the passionate home chef!

CS: Any advice for bakers just getting started?
KRG: Baking as a profession takes LOTS of hard work and long hours; but if you have a strong passion for baking, it makes it all worth it. Being a pastry chef is a wonderful and rewarding career.

CS: What is next for The Painted Cake?
KRG: We hope to have more podcasts available on our website in 2008 that will focus on cake demonstrations and providing baking and decorating tips! Stay tuned...


 

Sunday
Dec232007

Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star: The Story of a Lunchbox Icon

We'd say that once it has made a cameo in a Weird Al movie, been spoofed on The Family Guy and been the subject of an entire cookbook, a baked good has pretty much carved out its place as a cultural icon.

We are talking, of course, about the Twinkie.

What is it about Twinkies? Quite literally, they’re a strange, vaguely neon-toned yellow oblong cream-filled sponge cake with a very long list of ingredients...and yet, they've had a place in our lunchboxes and our hearts since as long as we can remember.

But how did this all happen? The Cakespy crew did some sleuthing:

We’ll begin our story in the early 1930s, in Illinois, at the site of the Continental Baking Company (owners of Hostess and Wonder Bread, which we think you’ve heard of). It was here, in the post-depression era, that industrious bakery manager James (“Jimmy”) Dewar noticed that a machine used for strawberry shortcakes (Hostess Little Shortbread Fingers...seen them around lately?) was going unused during the non-strawberry season, and so repurposed the pans to make a sponge cake filled with a banana cream filling. As lore would have it, he got the idea for the name when driving by a billboard advertising “Twinkle toe shoes”, which he shortened to “Twinkies”. In later years during WW2, due to banana shortages, the cream was changed to vanilla.

It wasn't till the 60's and 70's though, that they secured their place as a lunchbox legend. During this time two major things happened: first, their recipe changed. The original (preservative-free)Twinkies’ shelf life was a mere 2 days, and as much as they tried to replenish, it proved much cheaper to replace the natural fats in the pastry with longer shelf-life chemical ones. Contrary to popular belief though, Twinkies don’t last forever; the suggested shelf life these days is 25 days, although recently one 30 year-old one was recently found in Maine (that one was described as intact but “brittle"). The second thing was that they came up with the character Twinkie the Kid, based on a character from Howdy Doody. So how did these two seemingly unrelated things prove pivotal to the Twinkie? Well, the new recipe allowed them to be the perfect lunch box treat, and the Twinkie the Kid character made Twinkies something that kids wanted in their lunchboxes.

The rest, as they say, is history. While changes have come around (bringing back the original banana flavor; attempts at new flavors), it is still that basic cream-filled Twinkie that remains. While the Cakespy crew rarely eats Twinkies from the package anymore--that whole preservative thing--we do love the combination of flavors in Twinkies, and so are loving the new crop of Twinkie-flavored cupcakes and freshly baked gourmet desserts inspired by the classic treats. If like us you'd like a fresher and better-for-your-body alternative (hey, it's all relative), you may find that Vegan or homemade Twinkies are a much more palatable choice.

 

Here are some resources:

-For a great Vegan Twinkies Recipe, visit shmooedfood.blogspot.com.
-For a homemade Twinkie recipe, visit recipezaar.com.
-For a gourmet Twinkie cupcake recipe, check out reinsrecipes.blogspot.com.

-For a Twinkie Cake recipe from the Twinkie Cookbook, visit cookiemadness.net.

 

 

Cakespy Note: this history would not have been possible without the help of some wonderful resources, including: Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettinger, kitchenproject.com, wikipedia.org and howstuffworks.com.

 

Thursday
Dec202007

How (Not) To Ship a Cupcake: The Results

 

Experiment Roundup

What is the best way to ship a cupcake? How should you definitely not ship a cupcake? In an effort to find the truth, Cakespy recently did a cupcake experiment, shipping four parcels of cupcakes in four different ways to see which would fare best. For a quick review, this is how each of them was packed:

 

Box 1: A cupcake in a padded envelope just by itself, no additional packing material.
Box 2: An individual cupcake packed in the Cup-a-cake carrier with bubble wrap in a box.
Box 3: A cupcake wrapped in tinfoil and surrounded by newsprint, then packed in a box.
Box 4: Four cupcakes (packed this way so they would not slide around) packed in an airtight container, then padded it with newsprint and packed in a box.

 


So we shipped them off, and then we waited. Sure, we had our guesses as to the outcome, and so did you: most readers thought either the Cup-a-Cake or airtight container packages would fare best. But would there be any surprises? Only time would tell. And gratification was ours on Wednesday night, when we found the packages (above) waiting for us at our front door. Upon eagerly opening them, here’s what we found:

 

 

Crushed!

 

Experiment Roundup


Box 1, Packed in Padded Mailer (above): Before opening, we noted that the envelope was suspiciously flat, and bore a tiny grease stain on the top. This did not bode well. Upon opening it, our suspicions proved correct: the cake was crushed. However, we were amazed by how contained it had remained; the frosting was not all over the inside, but had still retained the shape (albeit flat) of a mound of cupcake frosting. It made us think of what might happen if you tried to fry a cupcake grilled-cheese style. We probably wouldn’t eat it, but have to admit this was the most fascinating one to look at.

 

 

Parcel 2: Cup a Cake

 

Parcel 2: Cup a Cake


Box 2, packed in the Cup-a-Cake carrier (above): When we found the packages at our door, we found this one resting on its side. We weren’t too worried; it had felt so secure when we'd packed it. However, upon opening...cupcake carnage! The poor cake had turned sideways in its carrier, and frosting was all over the inside. Nonetheless, once taken out of its plastic prison, although not pretty, we'd still rate it eatable.

 

 

Parcel 3: Tin foil

 

Parcel 3: Tin foil


Box 3, Packed in tinfoil (above): Actually, we were surprised by how well this one held up, considering the pliable nature of tinfoil. When we unpacked it, the bottom of the cup was a little bit scrunched on one side, and the frosting had taken on a look as if it had been decorated by an overzealous kindergartner. All in all though, it had held its shape rather impressively, and was definitely still eatable, if slightly compromised in looks.

 

 

Parcel 4: Airtight container

 

Parcel 4: Airtight container


Box 4, Four packed together in an airtight container (above): These cakes fared surprisingly well, with only a minimal amount of frosting smeared on the sides of the case. It did not appear that any had capsized or shifted too much; being packed together, they had held each other in position, and when taken out of the box, didn’t look so bad at all; we can attest that they were still edible and yummy, in that guilty way that only grocery-store bought cakes can be.

 

*Cakespy Note: Although the photos cannot reflect this, we would be remiss if we did not mention the amazing smell that greeted us upon opening each box. It was sugary, sweet, and not too strong as to be obtrusive: sweet cake aromatherapy.

So, with all said and done, what did we learn from this experiment? To sum it up:

-Cupcakes that have been shipped might not be cute, but do still taste good if shipped and received in a timely manner.
-Shipping Cupcakes in padded mailers, while not necessarily a “good” idea, is strangely fascinating and kind of fun.
-Perhaps there is safety in numbers when shipping cupcakes: judging by the success of the four cupcakes in an airtight container, we think that perhaps the cakes balanced out the weight in addition to anchoring one another in position.
-Whereas we once thought that companies who ship cupcakes charged too much for shipping, we now have a better understanding of why it costs so dearly to deliver cupcakes that look and taste good.

Crushed Cakes

 

Wednesday
Dec192007

Beautiful Fusion: Columbia City Bakery's Doughnut Muffin

 

Recently, we took a journey to the Columbia City Bakery. Though we'd tried their pastries at some of the various coffee shops which they supply in the Seattle area, we wanted to see the source.

 

Now, anyone who has ever taken the bus from Queen Anne to Columbia City will understand that not just any pastry would be worth the trip. But what made it all worthwhile was our newest obsession: the Doughnut Muffin.

What is a doughnut muffin exactly? In terms of appearance, it looks more like a muffin than a doughnut, but without a cup. But instead of the slightly craggy muffin-top, this one was smooth and more cake-like, and coated with a cinnamon-sugar coating that did kind of resemble that of an old-fashioned doughnut. Its surface had a slight sheen, which made us wonder if it was fried (it's not; it's coated with a layer of butter which gives it that dewy, just-kissed-by-a-fryer look). The texture is not unlike a cake doughnut, but with a denseness that speaks more to the muffin side of things.

But most importantly, what does a doughnut muffin taste like? Well. Upon first bite, Mr. Cakespy's first words were "it tastes like a muffin...and a doughnut...all at once!". To us, this is a beautiful fusion: for one beautiful moment, as the buttery coating, crunchy cinnamon-sugar topping and cakey inside melt together in your mouth, everything else disappears.

Doughnut Muffins can be found at the Columbia City Bakery (call ahead for availability), 4865 Rainier Avenue South, Seattle; (206) 723-6023.

Happily, non-Seattleites need not despair! We located a wonderful variation on the doughnut muffin recipe (inspired in part by the above ones!) on one of our favorite Seattle foodie blogs, Orangette. Click here to see the post and recipe!


Columbia City Bakery in Seattle

 

 

 

Tuesday
Dec182007

Cupcake Experiment: How (Not) to Ship a Cupcake

 

Cupcake #1 in Padded Mailer
Want to buy cupcakes online? It's possible, but it's gonna cost you to ship them. And what if you want just one? Not possible; of the few online retailers who will ship cupcakes, rarely will they sell them in quantities less than 9 or 10. If you ask us, that's a lot of commitment for cupcakes. So, with a goal of figuring out what might be an easier way to ship cupcakes--say, to a buddy for a "thinking of you" present or perhaps a care package to a faraway relative--the Cakespy crew recently did a cupcake shipping experiment, packing and shipping cupcakes in four different ways to see what might work and what definitely would not. Here's the rundown:


Who did it? Mr. and Mrs. Cakespy (a couple of serious troublemakers)

 

What did we do? We shipped 4 parcels containing cupcakes, each packaged in a different way, to see which ones would arrive in the best condition. (Note: To ease our holiday-stressed budget, the cakes were all from an economy-sized box of "Fun Cakes with Buttercreme Icing"--their spelling--from the local QFC grocery store; the cupcakes themselves were of a medium size, so this experiment might not turn out the same with jumbo or mini cupcakes).

Why did we do this? To see how well cupcakes need to be packaged to ship safely...and to see how they arrive if not packed carefully. And, you know, for fun.

Where did we ship the cupcakes? For ease of time and budget, we shipped each package from ourselves to ourselves (so each parcel would remain within the Seattle city limits). The transit time in this case should be just one or two days.

How did we do this? We packed the boxes as follows:

 

Shipping Cupcake #1Cupcake #1 in Padded Mailer


Box 1 (Above): In the first package, we packed a cupcake in a padded envelope just by itself, no additional packing material. Not so sure about this one. Shipped via first class; total cost $1.31.

 

 

Shipping Cupcake #2, in Cup-a-cakeCupcake #2 being packed


Box 2 (Above): This one we have high hopes for; an individual cupcake packed in the Cup-a-cake carrier with bubble wrap all around it, in a box. Shipped via first class, $2.83.

 

 

Shipping Cupcake #3Shipping Cupcake #3


Box 3 (Above): This cupcake was wrapped in tinfoil and surrounded by newsprint, then
packed in a box. Risky, or will it be OK? We wonder. Shipped via first class; total cost $2.49.

 

 

Shipping Cupcakes #4Shipping Cupcakes #4


Box 4 (Above): we tried putting a few cupcakes (to avoid them sliding around) in an airtight container, then padded around it with newsprint. Seemed pretty safe. Shipped via priority mail (it was cheaper); total cost: $4.60.

 

*Note: the shipping method for each box was the most economical, and none of the parcels were marked as fragile or given any special treatment.

And as for the results? Well, at the time of this writing all of the parcels were currently in transit; check back on Friday to see the results! But in the meantime...which one do you think will arrive in the best condition?

 

Ready to Ship

 

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