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Saturday
Oct112014

Free Drawing and Illustration E-Guides on Craftsy

Have you ever thought "I'd love to learn how to draw and paint JUST LIKE CAKESPY"...?

I'll take that as a yes.

Well, if so, you're in luck, because Craftsy has just debuted two very cool new E-guides on illustration and art which prominently feature my work. Did I mention they are free?

Click here for the "Botanical Illustrations" E-guide

Click here for the "Illustration Basics for Beginners" E-guide

Enjoy!

Saturday
Oct112014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Cinnamon Roll-Pear Bread Pudding

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. I will focus on sweets! You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events). 

What a fantastic pear-ing! Cinnamon rolls are a fantastic medium for baking bread pudding, but have you ever tried it with a ripe, juicy pear?

Elizabeth Albert of Highland Park, Illinois, did just that and it's put her in the running to win a million dollars at the Bake-Off, so perhaps it's something you should try (how about this weekend?).

Cinnamon Roll-Pear Bread Pudding

  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 45 Min
  • Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can Pillsbury refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing (8 rolls)
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 firm ripe pears (1 lb), peeled, thinly sliced

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Grease bottom and side of 8-inch round cake pan with 1 teaspoon of the butter. Bake cinnamon rolls in pan as directed on can; reserve icing. Cool 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch square pan with 1 teaspoon of the butter.
  2. Meanwhile in medium bowl, beat sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup water, the eggs, vanilla and nutmeg with whisk until well blended.
  3. With serrated knife, cut each cinnamon roll in half, forming 2 layers. Place layers, cut sides up, in bottom of square pan, overlapping as necessary. Drop remaining butter by 1/4 teaspoons over rolls. Pour half of the egg mixture evenly over rolls and butter; layer pear slices over rolls. Pour remaining egg mixture over pears.
  4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until edges are golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Top each serving with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the reserved icing.
Saturday
Oct112014

Mini to Maxi: Cakes, That is

Photo: CraftsyEver wondered how to take a mini cake design to a full-scale cake production? This post is full of inspiration for how small cakes can inform and inspire your cake decorating. Full post here!

Friday
Oct102014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Apple cider doughnuts. Tis the season! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Here it is, world: the official Cronut recipe, from Dominique Ansel (Good Morning America)

Chocolate-peppermint birthday cake. You'll want to eat this thing. (Naptime Chef)

Dessert-ify your nails! (ModCloth--thanks Pam!)

What's an Asian Pear? Find out, and also score a recipe for Asian pear bread. (Ninja Baking)

Strawberry and cream cake. SERIOUSLY. (Shauna Sever)

Hooray for tres leches! Here's a beautiful recipe. (WannaB Gourmet)

Yums: apple crostada! (The Cultural Dish)

Tips for using fresh flowers in cake decorating (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Food ingredient marketing? I had fun poking around this site. (Food Ingredient Marketing)

Tips for drawing clothing on your characters in illustration (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Lovely and proper Scottish shortbread (Food52)

I'm sorry, are you still baking your brownies in a pan? Try 'em in a pumpkin! (The Perfect Brownie)

Magical princess cupcakes. (CakeSpy archives)

Wok and Roll: tips for making perfect stir-fry (not sweet, I know, but I wrote the article for Craftsy!)

Can we talk about the awesomeness of this bad-ass unicorn tee? (Plasticland--thanks Ren!)

Princess Leia cupcakes. (JustJenn Recipes)

Praline bread pudding with caramel-pecan sauce. Reminds me of New Orleans, in the best way. (Bake or Break)

Book of the week: Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes From Our Kitchen. Because I have visited the bakery behind this cookbook, which is located in Los Angeles, and everything I ate was delicious. Since I don't live in Santa Monica, I would like to be able to replicate the goods on a daily basis, please.

Friday
Oct102014

Giveaway: Cupcake Royale Cupcake Mix Kit

UPDATE: THE WINNER! Giveaway has closed!

I have chosen a winner at random: Jasmine!

How does she eat a cupcake? Like so: "Oh dear! I love to rip off the top and eat them together that way."

Congratulations, Jasmine!


One of the things that I miss most about Seattle is the easy access to Cupcake Royale. This cupcake bakery, which opened just around the time I moved to Seattle, has really expanded over the years, adding location after location and then changing my entire life (for the better) when they debuted their ice cream line.

 

Over the eight years I lived in Seattle, I had a lot of good times at Cupcake Royale, from my birthday party to book signings to many a trip just to snack. 

Yes, I miss Cupcake Royale. But I no longer have to cry every day I'm away from it, because now they are offering a cupcake mix! That's right: we can all have the Seattle cupcake experience, sans rain, with Cupcake Royale baking mix! It even comes with sprinkles.

I'm so excited about this new product launch that I'm offering a giveaway of a cupcake mix kit to one lucky reader! 

How can you enter? It's easy. All you have to do is answer the below question in the comments. I'll choose a winner one week from today (10/17) and Cupcake Royale will send the mix out to whoever I choose at random. While you wait for me to choose a winner, if you feel like it, you can follow CCR on Twitter and Facebook, too (though not necessary for entry). 

OK, here we go! Here's the question to answer to enter:

How do you eat a cupcake? 

Friday
Oct102014

Tips for Creating Custom Artwork for Clients

Are you thinking about taking artistic commissions? Well, read this post before you do, because you'll learn a whole bunch of helpful stuff I only WISH I knew way back when I started doing custom artwork! Full post here.

Thursday
Oct092014

Tips for Making the Perfect Stir-Fry

Photo: CraftsyI know--this is not sweet. But you have to eat something before dessert, right? I wrote this great roundup of tips for making the perfect stir fry. Read it and EAT! Full post here.

Thursday
Oct092014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Countdown: Bacon and Date Cinnamon Roll Strata

CakeSpy Note: OMG! It's getting to be that time of year again. The Pillsbury Bake-Off is coming in November! Since I so deeply loved attending the 45th Bake-Off as well as the 46th Bake-Off, I thought I would get you excited the 47th one early by sharing all of the sweet recipes in the running. You can follow them by clicking the bakeoff tag below to see the recipes posted so far (as well as recipes from previous Bake-Off events).
 

Bacon might not make everything better, but the list of things it does improve is far longer than the list of things it doesn't. 

Still following? Good. It's time to explore a recipe which illustrates the above: Bacon and Date Cinnamon Roll Strata. This oeuvre was dreamed up by Rita Hattrup of San Rafael, California, and promises to make your next brunch extremely memorable.

Bacon and Date Cinnamon Roll Strata

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 45 Min
  • Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 can Pillsbury Grands! Flaky Supreme refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing (5 rolls)
  • 1/2 lb thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates (from 8-oz box)
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (from 8-oz package)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Bake cinnamon rolls as directed on can; reserve icing. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp; drain on paper towels. Brush about 1 teaspoon bacon drippings over bottom and side of 11x7-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish.
  3. Cut cinnamon rolls into 1-inch cubes. Place half of the cinnamon roll cubes in baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the dates and half of the bacon. Top evenly with cream cheese cubes. Repeat with remaining cinnamon roll cubes, dates and bacon.
  4. In large bowl, beat milk, eggs, almond extract and reserved icing with whisk until well blended. Pour over cinnamon roll mixture. Lightly press cinnamon roll cubes into egg mixture to moisten. Let stand 20 minutes.
  5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until center still jiggles slightly when moved and top is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Thursday
Oct092014

Something I Love: Hahn's Crumb Cake

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you were here right now, you might say: "I wonder why CakeSpy is singing 'Circle of Life' from The Lion King in her outdoor voice right now?". 

Well. I am singing that song because sometimes, life comes full circle in beautiful and delicious ways. Let me tell you about one such instance.

Way back in 2007, when I lived in Seattle and CakeSpy.com was a baby, I came across (and wrote a feature about) Hahn's Crumb Cake. Being a misplaced east coaster in the wild west, I was delighted to come across a company that shipped what is probably my single favorite childhood (and adult, let's be honest) treat. 

Note: if you are confused about what crumb cake is and is not, please check out this post.

Then, several years passed where a lot happened, but none of it involved Hahn's.

And then, suddenly, a few weeks ago, they e-mailed me and asked if they could send me some samples of their cake. I typed my address with haste, lest they change their mind.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

A few weeks after that, a glorious package arrived with a pleasing heft to it. Inside, it was crammed with crumb. Cake, that is. Oh-emm-gee.

Now, I am going to try to be careful with how I say this, because I don't want you to get the wrong idea.

This crumb cake is perfect. But it's not because it's fancy. It's perfect because it's an ideal specimen of a truly quotidien (at least in the NY metro area) foodstuff. 

Hahn's makes a higher quality version than you'll buy at most delis, but it still has that simple, unfussy quality about it that makes crumb cake so great.

Crumb cake does not aspire to be a gourmet food: its goal is to feed you and make you happy.

Lots of butter and brown sugar help ensure that it is able to do its job. The art of the cake is in the crumb: you don't want them too streusel-y. While in my opinion the crumbs simply can't be too big, they can be too hard. You want a crumb that is firm, but that will yield when you bite into it, exuding a buttery-brown-sugar-slightly salty flavor in your mouth. 

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you love a classic NY-style crumb cake or have fond memories or thoughts regarding the Entenmann's crumb cake from supermarkets, you will probably love Hahn's crumb cake as much as me.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

The package I got included a classic, chocolate, and raspberry variety. All were good; I say it just depends on your mood. I tend to veer toward the former, because it has confectioners' sugar.

Maybe I like looking like I have a cocaine problem after I eat a slice of crumb cake?

(this may be the first review Hahn's has ever gotten that mentions cocaine. I am proud to be the first.)

So--my review is, buy crumb cake from Hahn's if you want a taste of nostalgia, or if you've never tried a classic crumb cake but would like to do so. 

Enjoy! 

Buy online at crumbcake.net.

Hey! These posts may also be of interest:

Behemoth crumb cakeHow to make crumb cake

Crumb cake shake

 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Ghost Cutout Cookies: Doctored Cookie Mix

Photo: PillsburyI was super psyched when Pillsbury sent me their latest batch of Halloween-themed crafts, because while I'm sure it wasn't their primary goal, they actually ended up answering a question I've had for a long time:

Can you doctor refrigerated sugar cookie dough to make cutout cookies?

I've long wished it was so, because it would be so easy to test out decorating ideas if you could whip up a quick batch of cookies from a tube. But typically, the ones you buy spread too much to hold their shape.

In this clever recipe, the sugar cookie dough is fortified with additional flour to help them hold their shape, which then makes them the perfect canvas for decorating--around this time of year, these ghost designs are an awfully clever and cute use!

Here's the recipe.

Ghost Cutout Cookies

Courtesy Pillsbury

Ingredients

  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 container (1 lb) vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
  • Black decorating icing, as desired

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, break up cookie dough; thoroughly work in flour. Work with half of dough at a time, refrigerating remaining dough until needed.
  2. On work surface sprinkled with flour, roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut with floured 2 1/2- to 3-inch ghost-shaped cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
  3. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and edges just begin to brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in small microwavable bowl, microwave frosting uncovered on High 10 to 15 seconds or until easier to smooth onto cookie.
  4. Frost and decorate cookies with black icing as desired, using photo as a guide.
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