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Monday
Jan262015

CakeSpy in New Mexico Magazine!

You guys. I wrote the Valentine's Day food feature for New Mexico Magazine! It's glossy, it's on shelves, and it has ME inside of its tasty pages. OMG!

The article I was assigned to write was about desserts that were found "only in New Mexico". But given the time of year, the desserts also had a Valentine's Day spin! So what you've got in the tasty article are recipes for a flourless chocolate cake with pinon and salty caramel, easy chocolate truffles, a horchata tres leches cake, and--my fave--red chile red velvet cupcakes. 

Really, the article is quite worth a read. You can find the excerpt online here, or (even better) buy the issue in bookstores or (if you're in NM) on shelves...or subscribe!

Sunday
Jan252015

Incredibly Delicious: Congo Bars

Congo bars aren't really all that African. Honestly, they're more like blondies, with the addition of coconut. So how on earth did their tropical name come to be? Well, I can share a few theories. 

1. Coconut is key. This hard-shelled fruit or nut (I'm not actually sure which it is, in spite of this helpful blog post) is most readily found in the tropics. The Congo is a tropical rainforest area in Africa, and coconuts do grow there, among other crops. 

2. "Congo" sounds way cooler than other tropical names. As I mentioned, the Congo is hardly the only area where coconuts grow. Personally, I picture the person who dreamed up the name making a list of tropical places and then eliminating names one by one because they didn't sound quite right. I mean, do "Jamaica bars" or "Phuket bars" sound as cool as "Congo Bars"? I personally think not.

3. Someone wanted to call them "bongo bars" because the sight of them makes your heart beat like a drum, but accidentally misspelled it on the recipe card.

Personally, I'll go with a variation on #2: it just sounds cool. 

Really, though, who cares about why they're called Congo bars? The important stuff is how insanely delicious they are. Congo bars are a gloriously tricked-out version of the classic blondie, characterized by a satin-finish top which gives way to a decadent butterscotch-flavored, brown sugar-rich interior, generously flecked with chocolate morsels, nuts, and coconut. Curious name aside, you'll adore eating these sweet treats.

Recipe here.

Friday
Jan232015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Check me out in New Mexico Magazine! (NM Mag)

Chocolate chip cookie shooters...filled with milk. Yes! (CakeSpy)

A sweet entry about yoga (not sweets) from my yoga school classmate. (Peace, Love, and Kale)

Dark chocolate "detox" bites. If this is what detox looks like, I can stand it. (The View from Grand Island)

Good Food Finder: Please, make this a thing for every state. (Good Food Finder)

Just FYI: Feb 1 is National Baked Alaska Day. Make this one, please. (Canelle et Vanille)

I'm intrigued: 3 ingredient flourless PEANUT BUTTER (not chocolate!) cake. (Kirbie's Cravings)

Sweet potato chips made in the microwave. I approve. (Baked by an Introvert)

Vodka cupcakes: ever heard of such a thing? (The Baking Robot)

HOMEMADE COW TALES. How did I not discover this til now? (Sprinkle Bakes)

Because it's flu season: desserts to eat when you're sick. (CakeSpy)

According to this list, calcium tops the list of ingredients that make you feel happy. Um, milkshake anyone?? (Greatist)

Triple the crumb, less than half the cake. The best: behemoth crumb cake. (Serious Eats)

I love this roundup of edible shot glasses (not just for alcohol - dessert-related too!). (Food Hacks)

Book of the week: Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table. Have you ever read any of Ruth Reichl's brilliant books? If not, this one is my favorite. The woman knows how to write a memoir, and there's food included. Seriously, they are tender and beautiful and worth your time.

Monday
Jan192015

15 Foods that Unicorns Would Definitely Eat

If you've ever had an unexpected unicorn visitor at your home, you've probably wondered: what can I feed this mystical creature? Are unicorns vegan? Do they prefer foods that are pink? Are they gluten-free? What gives?

I tell you, I've looked and looked but there is no mention of such a thing in any Emily Post book.

Even if you haven't faced this magical mystery of social etiquette, you never know when a unicorn might appear in your life.

Don't worry. They're not *all* gluten-free or vegan.

To this I must say, dear readers, I care. I really do. And so whether it's helping you prepare for future unicorn visits or just the possibility of a unicorn appearance, I'd like to share what I've learned from all the unicorns I call friends.

These fifteen scrumptious sweet treats would definitely pass their magical standards, if you ask me. Of course, if you are a human, you can still eat these treats, and they might help you attract unicorn friends. It will also help if you wear these

Fifteen Foods that Unicorns Would Definitely Eat.

You can trust me, because I am pretty sure I'm part unicorn. 

Rainbow cake.

Well, duh, right? There's a recipe for this delectable treat in my first book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life, and also online here

Jell-o pudding cups

Unicorn food

Yep. Unicorns love rainbows. So they're pretty big fans of these rainbow gelatin squares

Funfetti pancakes

"Fun" is part of the name of funfetti, and unicorns love all things fun, especially if they also come with a rainbow color scheme. So you can pretty much rest assured that they will love to carb-o-load on funfetti pancakes

Homemade funfetti cupcakes

Guest post from iheartcuppycakes

As you might have guessed based on the funfetti pancakes, unicorns also adore funfetti cake. Especially cupcakes, because they don't have to share them. Because as giving as they are of magic, they're not so generous with their personal sugar stash. Recipe here

Rainbow donuts

Donut I

Photo via Flickr member Jordanpattern

Unicorns love rainbows. They love doughnuts. But a doughnut with rainbow frosting? You've got yourself a grand slam of a unicorn-pleasing snack. Make DIY rainbow doughnuts by purchasing vanilla frosted doughnuts and "painting" them with food coloring!

Unicorn doughnuts


Well, OK, rainbow doughnuts are not the only type of fried treat you can serve unicorns and receive a standing ovation. You can also serve doughnuts which are shaped like unicorns. All you need is a little time and a unicorn shaped cookie cutter. Oh, and this recipe. You'll have unicorn friends for life if you serve these, I promise. 

Unicorn Pop-Tarts

Unicorn pop tarts

Unicorns love breakfast, in case you hadn't guessed. But they're pretty much over Pop-Tarts, even homemade, because everyone offers them those. But a unicorn-shaped Pop-Tart? You'll have trouble getting them to ever LEAVE!

Rainbow cookies filled with chocolate chip cookie dough

Listen up. You've already gathered that unicorns love rainbows, sweets, and carbs. But to find chocolate chip cookie dough nestled within a rainbow? A unicorn might faint (with pleasure, that is). Recipe here.

Jelly bean pop-tarts

It doesn't have to be Easter for unicorns to enjoy a delicious jelly bean-filled treat. Especially when it combines super-sweet jelly beans with delicious homemade Pop-Tart perfection! You might just get these unicorns to invite over the Easter bunny! Recipe here.

Cupcakes in ice cream cones 

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Unicorns like a little trick with their treat. So they'll be delighted to discover that these colorful cones are not actually ice cream, but cake! 

Rainbow pancakes

rainbow pancakes
Photo via Flickr member globochem

In case you haven't gotten it yet: unicorns love breakfast, and they love carbs. If you're serving pancakes that are NOT funfetti, be sure to add some food coloring to your pancakes. Instant rainbow, instant party!

Candy salad

Sweet Salad

What's better than eating your veggies? Eating candy that looks like veggies. This salad is totally sweet--it's actually made with a melange of tinted candy melts, cookies, and fried cake crumb croutons!

Rainbow cookies

Rainbow cookies

Photo via Flickr member Joyosity

A unicorn would be so psyched to eat these morsels of sweet multicolored joy. Best of all? The recipe is easy.

Rainbow candy bowls

Rainbow candy baskets

I don't know a unicorn who wouldn't be psyched about rainbow candy bowls. They are highly magical.

Rainbow sprinkles

It's easy and it's quick, but if a unicorn arrives and you're in a pinch, this is your ultimate instant hospitality trick. Cover any and everything you serve in rainbow sprinkles. They'll love it, I promise. 

Which food do you think unicorns would like best?

Saturday
Jan172015

CakeSpy's Recent Craftsy Posts

How to make vegan buttercream using coconut oil. I am really proud of this one. 

How to mix skin tones in acrylic. Easy and accessible for all levels!

Guess what? I made a stuffed crust pizza.

How to make congo bars. They are so delicious, you need them in your life! (Pictured top of post)

DIY Bouillon cubes. Worth your time.

Adding dimension to your illustrations. It's easy!

Homemade cookie butter spread!

Keeping it light but flavorful: swaps for healthier baking.

A free buttercream e-guide. Yummm.

How to revive dried-out cake. You're welcome.

My recipes are part of this really fun and thorough breadmaking e-guide.

Friday
Jan162015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Homemade cookie butter! Too much joy!! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

And a perfect use for that DIY cookie butter: white chocolate cookie butter truffles. (The Little Kitchen)

Not-so-basic buttercream decorating e-guide. Awesome resource! (Craftsy)

DIY conversation hearts. It's easy! Really! (CS Archives)

It's savory, but this cheesy, potato-filled flatbread called Bing Bread has me very intrigued. (Bon Appetit)

A super helpful guide to substituting olive oil for butter in baking recipes. (Colavita)

How to make congo bars. YUM. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Perfect marble cake. I want this right now. (I Am Baker)

Cheese straws! Vanilla beans! More! The top 5 food trends, according to the Fancy Food Show. (PR Newswire)

Butterscotch toffee cookies. YUM. (Shugary Sweets)

DIY bouillon cubes. Yumsies. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

What's better than Goo Goo Clusters? Ummm, Goo Goo Cluster S'mores. (Love and Olive Oil)

It looks like salad...but it is CANDY. (Archives

Book of the week: Wolf in Chef's Clothing. This book is hilarious, and written for the single male on the prowl. The recipes are adorable. You'll be charmed by this book, from the era of Mad Men.

Monday
Jan122015

White Chocolate Dessert Cups that Look Like Margarita Glasses

Edible dessert cups

Today, let's forget about everything else and focus on a life skill that will serve you as long as you are breathing and are able to feel delight:

How to make edible dessert cups that look like margarita glasses.

This is a riff on a "How to make edible chocolate dessert cups" post I wrote for Craftsy--whilst I was writing it, I realized that, OMG, the plastic champagne coupes I was using as molds actually kind of resembled margarita glasses, too. So I decided to amp up the association by tinting the chocolate so that it would resemble a margarita in a cup.

Don't try to take a sip: this is solid white chocolate, decorated with a salty (that's real salt--I think dessert loves salt!) rim. While yes, it's fine for out-of-hand eating, I think it's extra special when you fill it with a pudding (how about a margarita pudding?), mousse, or even whipped cream. It's a whimsical and true delight-giving treat. 

How to make a chocolate cup

Makes 4-6 dessert cups

Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) white chocolate morsels
  • flavorings or food colorings of your choice (optional)
  • coarse sugar for the "rims"

Equipment

  • Dollar store champagne coupes with removable bases

1. Divide the chocolate into two portions: 1/4 and 3/4. I found it easier to melt each batch separately; the small portion plain, and the larger portion with green coloring. You can learn how to melt white chocolate here.

2. Separate the removable bases from the cups of your champagne coupes. Start with four of them, and if you still have a good amount of the mixture when you’ve filled all of them, you can use the other two coupes (this will depend on how thickly you apply the candy).

3. Fill each hollow stem with your melted white chocolate mixture, up the stem. Switch to the green chocolate. Now, use a pastry brush or spoon to brush the sides and "bowls" of the cups (author's note: I started with a spoon for filling the stem, and then graduated to a pastry brush to apply chocolate to the sides of the cup). Set the tops back on the bases (they'll remain upright this way), and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, or until set.

4. Once your 10 minutes are up, remove from the refrigerator and give them a generous second coat with the green, putting emphasis on the sides of the cup. Place back in the refrigerator on the bases until set.

5. Remove the tops from the bases; the chocolate should be set to the point where you can set the coupes on their sides while you proceed. Grab those bases, and invert them.

6. Fill each of the bases with most of the remaining melted white mixture, leveling the top. Place them with the coupes in the refrigerator. You should have a little white chocolate left — keep it on hand.

Chocolate bases

7. Once everything is set (that is to say, the chocolate is completely hard and firm), remove from the refrigerator (to keep things cool, remove the coupes and bases one at a time). Gently, using a sharp knife, ease the edges of the plastic from the chocolate. The pieces should come out without too much trouble.

If the plastic cracks or breaks, that’s ok — you only spent a dollar on these! If there is some breakage on your candy cups, don’t panic. You can place the cracked bit in place, and press it together using the remaining white chocolate mixture as “glue”.

Base attached to top

8. Use a little white chocolate or icing along the edge of the top of the cups, and adhere some coarse sugar along the rim.

9. Adhere the bases and cups using the remaining white chocolate as glue. Let them set again in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before filling with the dessert of your choice. If not using immediately, let them rest in the refrigerator until ready to serve your dessert so that any ambient heat doesn't make the base and top separate.

What is your favorite whimsical dessert?

Sunday
Jan112015

Besitos de Coco: Coconut Kisses from Puerto Rico

I'm pretty sure that a cookie in Puerto Rico known as "Besitos de coco" translates as "awesomely ginormous coconut macaroons baked in cupcake tins". I should, of course, note that this is without the aid of a dictionary or translation, it is just what comes from my heart.

Fine. If you want to get all technical, it means "coconut kisses". But these are not a peck on the cheek. They're a big fat kiss, from someone you love, and not your aunt or Grandma. A kiss with a little squeeze. 

Technically, you can make these any size, from fairly small to very large. That's why I left off a count on the recipe, because if you want modest portions you'll get many; if you want jumbo confections, you'll get 12 or so.

Besitos de coco

Adapted from Sandra's Kitchen

  • 5 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk 

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a cupcake tin with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, flour, and salt. Mix to incorporate.
  3. Now, stir in the condensed milk and vanilla. Stir until totally combined (the mixture like a slightly more liquid consistency than rice krispie treats). 
  4. Place a heaping tablespoon of the coconut into each cup, or get fancy and load it into a piping bag with a jumbo star tip like they do in Rincon. 
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until browned and toasty on top. Let cool in the pans completely before removing. These freeze beautifully, or will keep at room temperature in a sealed container for several days. 

Do you like coconut in your sweets?

Friday
Jan092015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Homemade Doughnuts

Unicorn shaped doughnuts. Necessary. (CakeSpy)

Baking a little lighter, but not less delicious. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Totally featured on the James Beard Foundation Blog (ME! ME! ME!)

"The foods you should never eat in 2015". More like TO DO LIST. (Fiscal Times)

Let's toast...the new year plus a week! This pomegranate orange champagne cocktail sounds like the tops. (Grandbaby Cakes)

How to revive dried-out cake. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

In case you missed it: the sweetest moments of CakeSpy in 2014. (CakeSpy)

I usually stop thinking about sweet potato pie after fall. But this version, with a salty pecan crust, has me dreaming of it anew. (Ambitious Kitchen)

Chocolate chip cheesecake bars. Because resolutions are boring. (Cookie Madness)

Because yes, it's already on my mind: the 21 best chocolates to give your valentine. (BuzzFeed)

A people's history of cinnamon imperials. (Candy Blog)

Don't have buttermilk? Don't worry. Easy DIY fixes. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Banana pudding ice cream recipe. Heaventown. (Texan New Yorker)

How to get hated: deadly sins of blogging. (The Perfect Brownie)

Most popular ice cream flavors by state. Awesome! (Community Table)

Book of the week: The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. Maybe you think I'm crazy (probably not if you love sweets)...but this one was a real page turner detailing the historic rivalry between Mars and Hershey. It's a fascinating read.

Monday
Jan052015

Postcards from the Road: January 2015

What in the world has CakeSpy been up to? Well, my friends, quite a bit. In the past few months, I have visited many places, seen many things, and tasted many, many desserts. Let's take a quick tour of the recent past, shall we?

November started very nicely with a trip to Nashville for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Not only did I get to see some old friends and meet some new, but I got to reunite with my boyfriend, the Pillsbury Doughboy! Since I love the photo, I will just show it again, OK?

When I got back, I finished up an article I wrote for New Mexico Magazine, featuring some original dessert recipes. It was awesome to write for a glossy magazine and such a pleasure to work with Candace Walsh, a writer and editor who is also sort of a hero to me. I can't wait for you to see it in print in February. Here's a mysterious little sneak peek:

Photo via Doug Merriam

Doug Merriam, a totally awesome photographer with whom I worked on the story, turned out to be a Very Good Person to meet. We decided to do a swap: photo tips for me, social media tips for him. I've already seen an improvement in my photos, such as this one of microwave fudge...

and I hope you'll enjoy the new photos I take, with not only my new photo skills but also my new camera!! That's right, after 7 years of using a $40 point and shoot for all my photos, I've upgraded to a real camera. It was a big deal to me, as I had never spent more than $40 on a digital camera. I got this one used, and in total with accessories it came to nearly $200. I realize many bloggers may laugh at this, but for me it was a pretty big deal. 

I got involved with my etsy store in a big way, adding new prints. While alas, right now the shop is shut for the month, check it out in February for some awesome new prints and artwork, including this illustration which was comissioned by the James Beard Foundation.

I was hired by a longtime customer to do a new painting for the holidays. The first painting I ever did for her was of a cupcake, a banana, and a John Deere Tractor. Yes, for real.

Custom order

In this painting, the couple is reunited with their tractor...in Scotland. This was a very fun painting to do.

With the holidays drawing close, I started to get all sorts of sweet treats in the mail. I received some dried plums in the mail--apparently, they are not prunes anymore. Names aside, these made some awesome bar cookies when I used them instead of raisins to make the award-winning "H-Bars" recipe from the new book Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More.

This isn't necessarily cake related, but Porkchop the pug got the good news that he had lost five pounds. That little boy was getting sort of fat but he's in good shape now! Here is a picture of me and Porkchop in case you needed some cuteness.

I also got to see several recipes I created for Peanut Butter and Company go live--a delicious salty caramel pie...

and to-die-for peanut butter snowballs. Serious love for these addictive morsels!

I also did my first recipe for Colavita, which came out great: lemon pistachio olive oil tuiles. Pinkies out!

Tuiles

I quickly followed it up with a second recipe for chocolate babka made with olive oil, which also came out splendidly. 

Chocolate babka

I taught a class for kids in Santa Fe, on the important subject of holiday cookie baking. Here's a snapshot from those several hours of adorableness. 

Oh, and I painted my yoga mat. 

As Christmas grew closer, me and my sweetie packed up our bags and headed east. We drove from New Mexico to Connecticut, which meant that I could add a few more states to my map of states where I've done yoga. Here are the US states in which I've done yoga so far:

 

Oh, by the way. In Lawrence, where I stopped to do yoga, I also got to re-visit Sylas and Maddy's in Lawrence, Kansas, which I had previously visited in August on my massive road trip. This is a place worth visiting.

We got to go to the Uprise Bakery in Columbia, MO, and were delightfully surprised by their offerings. From rolls to a cappuccino brownie that looked like a Nanaimo bar to awesome coffee, this place was a wonderful spot.

I need to tell you, though, the big hit of the trip was Terre Haute, IN. We stopped there for the night, and in the morning, we knew we simply had to check out a place called Square Donuts we found online. I mean, how could you not?

Square Donuts

The donuts were a treat, and yes, they were square.

Square Donuts

But even bigger treat was a few blocks away, where we happened upon the Clabber Girl factory! Clabber Girl

I hadn't known they were based in Terre Haute so this was a real surprise. But as we went in, the surprise blossomed into pure delight. They have not only a factory but a full-fledged MUSEUM going on!

Clabber girl

We toured the museum, and then settled in for breakfast in their cafe. They had really awesome biscuits and sweet baked goods, such as the below almond chocolate croissant, which was PACKED with filling. This place was a real treasure and I highly suggest it.

Clabber girl

We powered on through to Connecticut, arriving Christmas eve. I didn't take a picture, but my sweetie's sister in law made a bûche de nöel. Since she is French, like, as in born and raised in France, it was amazing. As you might expect.

The next night we had a quiet dinner with some cakes from the Cheesecake Factory for dessert. Do you believe I've never had one of their desserts? I actually really enjoyed them, especially the key lime cheesecake, yummmmm.

After that, I took the train down to NYC for some time with friends. Me and my friend James watched "Christmas Icetastrophe" which was as terrible as it sounds, and then ate bagels, which were better than anywhere else because they were from NYC. I also got pizza, which is always necessary.

Bagel

I spent part of the next day with my friend Phil, and even picked up one of these at Whole Foods:

...before heading down the shore to my parents' house in NJ. In NJ, I snacked on Shazaam cookies from Nature's Corner...

Shazaam cookie

and took yoga classes at YouNique Yoga in Belmar. Then I got sick and all I could eat for a day was ice cream from Hoffman's (pictured top of post). Actually, can I get sick more often? That was kind of great.

We then packed up our bags again and headed toward Asheville, North Carolina, where I will be spending this month doing a yoga immersion at the Asheville Yoga Center. I'm staying in a cute little log cabin!

So far, Asheville is simply amazing. We had a great first meal at Homegrown, a great follow up breakfast at Green Sage Cafe, and then went back to Homegrown because it was that great.

We've also sampled the goods at French Broad Chocolates and City Bakery...more to come on those. But suffice it to say that this cake pop I stuck in my mouth was very tasty. 

We've hit up a few grocery stores, because for me, there isn't much finer than exploring a new grocery store (not kidding). I got a "brown cow" cheesecake at Fresh Market, and enjoyed it in a no-frills kind of way.

Cheesecake

We also got a bunch of other goodies at Fresh Market and Harris Tweeter, the local grocery chains. What can I say, I love grocery store bakeries. So yes, this happened:

Dessert time

...and this:

Cannoli

I can't wait to see what comes next in 2015!

Happy New Year!

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