Here's some sweet news: there are a bunch of new prints for sale in the CakeSpy online shop!
While I pause to tell you that sweet news, maybe I should point out a few of my personal favorite products in the store.
You could pick up one of these...
or this sweet print...
or maybe this one!
Check out everything on offer at CakeSpyShop.bigcartel.com!
He may not have had nine lives, but József C. Dobos left a many-layered legacy that's considered a symbol of Hungary. It's called Dobos Torte, an elegant caramel-coated cake which, when cut into, becomes even better--because once you get past that eloquent exterior, you'll find several (between 7 and 11) layers of delicate sponge cake sandwiched with a luscious chocolate buttercream.
Sometimes thought of as the Hungarian equivalent to Escoffier, the famous French foodie who was the inventor of, among other dishes, Cherries Jubilee, Dobos was a fancy chef from a long line of fancy chefs. After spending his life in the culinary arts, he settled down in his later years to open a gourmet food shop in Hungary. He created this cake as a pleasurable way to satisfy the need for a dessert that would keep well: refrigeration wasn’t as easy to come by as it is today, and the high ratio of rich frosting to cake ensured that the cake would stay moist for far longer than a plain sponge cake.
But that wasn't the only selling point of the cake: Dobos, a true pastry pilgrim, had discovered buttercream in his travels to France--ooh la la! When he used it in his cake (at a time when most cakes were filled with cooked creams or custards), the sinfully luxuriant, sweet buttercream-filled Dobos Torte stood out. That's right: while the combination of cake with buttercream filling is commonplace today, at the time it was really quite a revolutionary dessert concept!
Mr. Dobos also seemed to be quite the marketing expert for his time: after he grandly introduced his Dobos Torte at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in the 1880s, the cake became a sensation throughout Europe, earning devotees from far and wide. Dobos, like a modern-day pastry rock star, even toured European capitals, introducing the cake to different cities and presenting it in a special, custom-made container. Talk about hyping your brand!
Dobos went to the great meringue in the sky in the 1920s, but his very unique cake has lived on: among the many honors bestowed on him and his creation over the decades, my favorite remains the time when a six-foot-diameter Dobos torte was paraded by pastry chefs through the avenues of Budapest! Dobos torte remains a classic today; look for it when you're traveling the world, visiting fancy hotels, restaurants, and pastry shops.
When it comes to making Mr. Dobos' creation yourself, don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients and instructions: this is definitely a recipe that requires time and attention, but it's not very difficult to prepare, and once it's served, you'll secure a spot as baking royalty among your family and friends. The crowning glory is the caramel top layer, which, when applied, will undoubtedly make you feel as if you are adding the torch to the Statue of Liberty.
Full disclosure? When I made this cake, I made it slightly wrong. Usually the caramel is cut as triangles and then placed at a rakish angle along the cake's top, like this. I made it as a topping layer. You know what? Still tasty, even if not quite 100% traditional. So I have it that way in my tutorial!
Dobos Torte (Printable version here!)
Makes one tall 9-inch layer cake (16 servings)
For the cakes:
- 9 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 8 egg yolks (use the last egg yolk for the buttercream)
- 1/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 1 large lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
For the buttercream:
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For the caramel:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Have ready two 10-inch cardboard circles.
To make the cake, put the egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar. Continue beating just until soft peaks form. Transfer to a large, wide bowl to make later steps (folding, etc) easier.
In another bowl, whisk the 8 egg yolks with the milk, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Fold about ¼ of the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites to lighten the mixture; fold in the rest of the yolks in a second addition. This will keep the mixture from deflating. Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and fold in two additions, making sure that the flour has been completely incorporated.
Measure about 1 cup batter into the prepared pan, then spread and level it, using an offset or rubber spatula. Bake for about 4 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges, with a dull finish on top, and the cake has begun to pull away from the edges of the pan slightly. Remove the cake from the oven, and let sit for a 3 to 4 minutes before removing the layer from the pan with a metal spatula. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners' sugar (this will keep the layers from sticking), and place on a rack to cool.
Clean and grease the pan; repeat this process until all of the batter is used, about 6 times more. As you bake, stack the layers between waxed or parchment paper, and cover with a clean towel. Refrigerate the layers until completely cold, about 2 hours.
To make the buttercream, start by melting the chocolate in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, or in the top of a double boiler. Stir slowly and constantly until the chocolate melts. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and egg yolk on medium-high speed until they reach the ribbon stage (“ribbons” will drip when you hold up a whisk, rather than just drips). Turn off the mixer, but leave the egg mixture in the bowl.
In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to a boil; cook to 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer Take pan off the heat.
Return to the egg mixture. Whisk on low speed,and pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture in a slow but steady stream. Increase the mixing speed and whip the mixture until it is roughly the texture of whipped cream and has cooled to room temperature (the mixing bowl may still feel slightly warm). Add the butter in 3 parts, stirring so that it gets mixed in. Then add the melted chocolate (it should be just slightly warm). Continue to whip until smooth and well blended.
To assemble the cake, start with one layer of cake; set it on one of the 10-inch rounds; cover the top surface with some buttercream ( a slightly overflowing 1/3cup), and then press down with another layer to make a good seal. Repeat this with all but one of the cake layers. Wrap the torte in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours; also wrap and chill the remaining buttercream (you should have about 2 cups left). Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the other cardboard round, and place the last layer on it; wrap and refrigerate.
To make the caramel topping, in a medium saucepan, cook the sugar and water over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.
Unwrap the single cake layer. Carefully pour the caramel over the cake layer and spread it thinly, using a small offset spatula. Don't worry if some of it drips off of the cake while you spread it. Working quickly, use an oiled or buttered sharp knife to indent the top of the caramel into 16 wedges (this will ensure that the caramel doesn't crack when you cut slices). Allow to cool slightly, and then retouch the indents with the knife again. Place the layer onto a countertop dusted with confectioners'sugar, and allow the caramel to cool completely.
Place more buttercream on top of the chilled torte, and top with the caramel round. Frost the sides with the remaining buttercream. Cover loosely, and chill the torte for about an hour before serving; let come to room temperature before serving.
Store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
There are a few things you should know about New Mexico. First off, it is part of the United States. The license plates helpfully point this out: “New Mexico, USA”. Second, it is one of the few states with an Official State Cookie (the biscochito—or is that bizcochito?). Third, it's a fantastic place to get fat, or, as I told one diner manager who looked at me funny when I ordered a sopaipilla and a slice of tres leches cake (no dinner to go with it, thankyouverymuch) a great place “to carb-o-load for a marathon you're never going to run.”
Here's where I've carb-o-loaded and sugar-rushed, and I think you should, too.
Donut Stop Believin'. Santa Fe is not, strictly speaking, a donut town. In fact, there's only one non-chain donut shop in town. But one is all they need, because clearly, Whoo's Donuts are the best. This is where you'd get flavors such as blue corn with strawberry-jalapeno glaze, white chocolate lemon pistachio (pictured above) or salted caramel. You'll pay for them—most doughnuts are $2 or more—but they are so. Freaking. Good.
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Time for Chocolate. If chocolate is more your speed, you're in luck. Check out the "Chocolate Trail of Santa Fe" for a self-guided tour, or just read on. I'd start right after visiting Whoo's Donuts and go next door to ChocolateSmith and get something sweet like a mendiant, some bark, or a truffle. It's owned by the same people who own Whoo's Donuts, and everything, from the salted caramel truffle to the spicy chocolate bark, is made with love and care and is completely tasty.
Not too far away, Kakawa Chocolate House is also a fantastic spot for chocolate, most notably drinking chocolate. They actually create historically accurate drinking chocolates there, in case you've ever been curious what Aztec chocolate tasted like, or what flavor of cocoa Jefferson might have favored. Oh, they also make a nice array of sweets on site, such as this delightful (and large) lemon pistachio macaroon.
C.G. Higgins also does truffles and chocolates, including some unusual flavors.This is more like the old-fashioned confectionery shop in town, but with some more updated flavors. Intrigued by the blue cheese and cherries jubilee truffles, I stuck kind of safe and tried the himalayan sea salt. Sweet. Salty. Yum. They also have a respectable hot chocolate (though in my opinion, that's something you look for at Kakawa). Also, just FYI, you could get some Chile Pecan Brittle here, too.
At Todos Santos Fine Chocolates, you'll find silver, gold, and...chocolate? Believe it. This small-batch chocolatier is noted for making chocolates that resemble milagros, small charm-like offerings to saints in Hispanic folk culture. These are done with edible gold and silver leaf, though, making them tasty offerings to your mouth!
Finally, don't forget CocoPelli: It's off the beaten path, in a mall, but the chocolate is all made by hand. Nice choco-covered fruit and nuts and truffles...and they make cakes and pastries, too! A sweet spot.
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French Connection. For a small city, Santa Fe has a surprisingly large amount of French bakeries. Le yum!
Probably the most famous is Clafoutis, which is always, always crowded. Go there for breakfast, brunch, or lunch for a delightful Croque Monsieur (i'd tell you to get something else, but that's what I've gotten every time and I can't bear to order differently). Or just go to the bakery case and get one of everything. They are somehow able to make macarons at the high altitude, which is a bit of a miracle, and they're good--so are the croissants, the Opera cake, et cetera.
The French Pastry Shop and Creperie makes crepes both sweet and savory, and they also have a counter case full of Frenchie stuff to go. On past expeditions here I have tried their delectable sables and their blissful Montmartre pastry.
Chez Mamou is another French spot in town, and they boast a beautiful array of French pastries. You'll find single-serve mont blancs or almond paste stuffed chocolate cakes, as well as croissants, brioche, and tarts. According to one of the handsome French-speaking gentlemen who work there, however, the best of the bunch are the lemon and apricot tarts. I haven't tried those yet, but have tried the clafoutis, studded with dark cherries and marzipan, and a chocolate almond thing that I'm not 100% sure of the name, but know it was delightful.
The Swiss Bakery might not sound French, but, after all, aren't fancy French pastries referred to as Viennoiserie? So yeah, it's going to come off as French. The best item in the case, according to one of the employees, is the Napoleon. I would tend to agree, although I haven't tried everything there. Just look at that thing. This particular one was stuffed with strawberry and kiwi. I know that might not sound amazing, but it really was.
Also equipped with French pastries is Le Chantilly, a cafe with bakery offerings such as croissants, eclairs, and Napoleons.
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Ice Cream and Frozen Treats After enjoying some of the local spicy and chile-rich dishes, you're probably going to need something cool. I hope someone will challenge this statement with proof of delicious ice cream around town, but as it stands...there really aren't any notable local ice cream shops. At The Station coffee house, they have ice cream from Taos Cow; likewise at CocoPelli (mentioned above).
There is, however, gelato. We'll start with Ecco Coffee and Gelato. A little more milky-icy than some other gelati I've tried, it's nonetheless fantastically flavored stuff. I got the stracciatella and pumpkin, which was serious pumpkin; a friend got the stracciatella with nutella. Yumsies.
Mangiamo Pronto, a casual Italian eatery, also has gelato which is quite good, and they are opening a gelateria next door to expand their currently small but very good offerings.
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Cookies, Cakes, n Pies: For the classic American treats, you have plenty of options too.
Dream Cakes Gourmet Cupcakes has a humble storefront but good gravy are these cupcakes good. Moist , butter-packed cake that makes you want to swoon. If they have it, please try the "Southern Belle". It's a rich pecan cake with cream cheese frosting--pictured above. You will not regret it.
The Chocolate Maven has it all, from cookies, cakes, and pies , to breads. They have a restaurant too, actually, but I've never gotten past the pastries. I've known and loved their Russian Teacake cookies and tarts, cupcakes, have ogled (but I will confess, not tried) their pies, and have truly enjoyed their croissants, which are crispy, light, buttery, and when filled (for instance, with almond paste), they are filled generously.
Dulce, in spite of the name, offers little dulce de leche and mainly, pretty standard American bakery fare. Not that this is a bad thing! Scones, cookies, a very nice Red Velvet cake.
For carb-rich treats and wonderful breads, visit Sage Bakehouse. Dudes, dudettes, this place is pricey. But their bread is pretty amazing, and their cookies and pastries are made with love, care, good flour, and the taste reflects it.
You'll also find some very tasty stuff at Treehouse Pastry and Cafe. It's in an unlikely spot—the mall, across from an abandoned allstate insurance agent, but damn, do they have a fine pastry case. The shortbread cookies were solid, and I hear the cupcakes are a great, but really, the highlight was the chocolate tart. It's both vegan and gluten free, but you don't suffer at all for its lack of ingredients. It has so much to offer flavorwise that you don't really care what's in it—it just tastes SO good. The secret may lie in the crust, which is made of crumbled crushed candied walnuts. It really reminded me of a sweet treat I love from Chaco Canyon raw and vegan cafe in Seattle.
Which leads nicely into more Vegan and / or Gluten Free options.
If you're gluten free and/or vegan, Revolution Bakery has all the classics--cookies, cinnamon rolls, scones, and other tasty carbohydrates, but modified to be safe for your belly, heart and soul.
Body Cafe also has a very nice array of house-baked (or, if you're raw, not-baked) vegan, gluten-free, or raw options for their sweets. Raw truffle, or vegan cheesecake? You'll find it here.
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Non-Bakeries that Have Good Stuff
When I'm in Santa Fe, I love Whole Foods. To be specific, though, I like the one on Cerillos Road, not the one on Cordova Road (I specify this because there are two Whole Foods markets like 2 blocks away from each other). I like them as a grocery store, but I also like the fact that their bakery often has a sort of “best of” selection from area shops. You'll see doughnuts from Whoo's, sweets from Sage Bakehouse and Chocolate Maven, and more. They also do a rather respectable job with their in-house baked goods, in particular their Chocolate Decadence cake, which is better than many restaurant versions I have tried!
A visit to the Farmer's Market is a highly good idea. It's on Tuesday and Saturday. Tuesday is smaller and slower but an easier pace, perfect to check out Cloud Cliff Bakery, ogle at pretty produce, buy some peppers which were being roasted while I watched, and buy this slice of prune-filled pie.
It was made by a lady who just had two types—apricot and prune. The “pies” were rather flat, and reminded me of garibaldi biscuits. Apparently, these are sometimes called Pastelitos Indios and are common with Native American cookery.They also have a farmer's market “cafe” which had Whoos doughnuts and other goodies (some of them gluten free, since it's a big concern in Santa Fe).
If you stop nearby the farmer's market, you'll see a restaurant nearby called The Junction. I didn't eat there but when I walked in to try to sneakily use their restroom, I looked at the menu and the hostess told me that their apple pie was--not joking--some of the best in town. She said that on her birthday, she craved that instead of cake. Well, I'll just say that I took note of that.
Also nearby the farmer's market is The Station, a coffee shop where they not only, as previously mentioned, have ice cream from Taos Creamery, but a beautiful array of pastries made on site. Pick up a slice of almond clementine cake? Don't mind if I do. I also enjoyed how they used coffee ice cubes in their iced drinks. Nice touch.
Not to confuse you, but the Santa Fe Baking Company is not actually a bakery--it's a cafe-restaurant. And, you know, a pretty good one. Their breakfast burrito, for instance, is beloved. But luckily they DO have their own selection of baked-on-site goods, including muffins, scones, brownies, cookies, et cetera.
If you do travel all the way to Santa Fe, you must go to Bobcat Bite, a very famous burger place and beloved by locals and travelers. But save room for dessert, because they make their own cookies there!
Cafe Pasqual's is nationally famous, and with good reason: they offer some delicious eating at their restaurant. But you know what's great? Their desserts. They're house baked and Southwest influenced but also rooted in Americana. For instance, a chocolatey pecan nut pie, which combines pecans, native to the area, and a Kentucky classic? Yes please.
And OMG, the banana coconut cream pie from Jambo Cafe. This is a sort of African-Carribean fusion cuisine restaurant, and everything you eat is so freaking good. But save room for this pie. Please.
Harry's Road House is a popular people-pleasing spot, and they have a nice array of house-made desserts. Including chocolate cream pie, chocolate cake, and cookies and other sweets.
Tesuque Village Market is not a bakery, but they do have some fantastic baked goods. Among the sweeter surprises? Sticky buns that would do a midwest potluck proud.
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Let's Carb-o-load for Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you're in Santa Fe, promise me you'll go to Tecolote Cafe at least once. Blue corn pinon pancakes will make your head spin with their awesome amazingness, and they offer a bakery basket or a tortilla with egg dishes. Go for the basket!
You'll need breakfast more than once while you're in Santa Fe, unless you're only staying for a few hours. Why not try the Tune Up Cafe? In addition to delicious pupusas and all sorts of tasty savory fare (including a popular breakfast side of fried bananas with cream), they also make all their own baked goods, so please, for me, try one of their wedding cake cookies. It will make you look like a cocoaine addict after you eat it, and it's apropos, because I suspect they are crack filled. They are really, really good.
The Pantry is a fantastic spot to get breakfast AND sweet treats. Their pancakes are light and fluffy and worth the visit; their sopaipillas are a fine specimen (see below). They also have their own proprietary tres leches cake, which is baked by an employee's wife. Yum!
OMG El Tesoro. Go for breakfast, stay for the muffins. LOOK AT THAT THING.
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An Unexpected Sweet Spot
Who knows what adventures await you after all of that delightful carb-o-loading? Here's what happened for me. All that breakfast worked up an appetite for a trip to the bookstore. Collected Works is a great bookstore, where they carry my book and Judi's and will probably carry my next book, too. They have a fantastic collection of cookbooks, and while reading about desserts from the area, I got intrigued by a writeup about the fantastic carrot cake at a place called Mission Cafe and Sweet Shop. I decided to walk over.
Well, it's been closed for three years, but it so happened that I walked by the Oldest House in the USA. No kidding! And guess what? They sell baked goods there! The caretaker, Evelyn, baked everything herself. Pick up a brownie, scone, and a couple of biscochitos? Well, OK.
Now, as Evelyn told me, when it comes to biscochitos everyone has their own variation and secret ingredient. She wouldn't tell me hers, but she assured me that she used the vital one: lard. When you make these cookies with butter, they are just not the same. Sorry! She also said that when she was young, biscochitos were most commonly baked in a sort of trefoil form. But today, she bakes hers as stars so that people can refer to them easily, and they won't break as quickly.
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To the uninitiated, a sopaipilla is a pillowy piece of fried dough. It's not technically dessert. It's a fried bread, but it's not a doughnut. It's neutral (or should be), and is served with honey. It's used as a side, to sop up soups, stews, or sauces, and it's just delicious. It's typically served as a side dish in New Mexican cuisine. Occasionally it's an automatic side, but often you have to order. They don't break the bank, though—the most expensive ones I came across were $2 for a basket of 2. Though not a comprehensive list, because there are so many restaurants that offer them, here are some that I've known and loved in Santa Fe.
First up, Horseman's Haven. What an oddball spot. It's in a gas station and kind of looks forbidding from the outside, like a place where bar brawls break out. But inside it's not a dive bar, but instead a family friendly restaurant. And every day at three pm, they start up their fryers to make sopaipillas. Now, it's odd that they only start making them at three. Why? I asked the waiter. It was 2:58 and I had time—there were no exceptions to the rule, apparently. He didn't know. “that's just how it's done here” was the basic response. The sopaipilla here was fresh. A little greasy. With a nice thread of honey served on top, it was a pleasing side to a meal. It definitely made me hungry for more.
The next sopaipilla stop was Tia Sophia's, where the sopaipillas are one of the specialties. Theirs was wonderful: soft but chewy, chewy but not tough. It was like biting into a cloud. If clouds were made of fried dough that you could pour honey on and eat.
Time to continue carb-o-loading, so off to The Pantry Restaurant I went. Here, I tried their sopaipilla, which was very yeasty and slightly sweet. Very different from the other ones I'd tried so far, lighter and less evident that it was fried, but very good.
I was starting to feel a serious sopaipilla jones by this point, so hit up a place called Maria's with my friend Judi, who is a famous author and also has a passion for pastry. In fact, we met in a case involving a pastry. The sopaipillas at Maria's were respectable, but (in my opinion) slightly inferior to the ones at Tia Sophia's. I enjoyed the crispiness of this variety, however. BTW, Maria's specializes in Margaritas. I tried Judi's, but in general margaritas are a one or two sip type of drink for me. Better (for me) was the Margarita cheesecake. We tried that, along with the kahlua cheesecake. It was muy delicious.
When it was time for more sopaipillas, I hit up Tortilla Flats, where they make a yeasted sopaipilla. Nice and lightly crispy, this one was airy on the inside. They only begin frying at 11 am. The manager informed me that this is because the quality is superior when they have ample time to rise, and “we are not making them in the middle of the night!”.
Finally (for now), I have also wholeheartedly enjoyed the sopaipillas on offer at Gabriel's, a restaurant famous for making guacamole tableside. Their sopaipilla was like a delicious pillow, more substantial than some others but perfect for sopping up honey and sauces. I loved it.
Now. I can't say I have been to every single place in Santa Fe, but I firmly believe I've visited a lot of the good ones. And if this writeup doesn't make you hungry for some sweet Southwest adventure, I don't know what's gonna give you an appetite!
The Treats Truck: Spiced Zucchini Cake, Coffee Ice Box Cake
Dessert Truck: Brioche Doughnuts, Goat Cheesecake with Rosemary Caramel Tuille
Miss Softee: Make Your Mark Coffee Cake Ice Cream Sundae, Apple Crumble Pie
Coolhaus: Dirty Mint Ice Cream sandwiches with Double Chocolate Cookies, Browned Butter Bacon Ice Cream Sandwiches with Butterscotch Potato Chip Cookies
Otto Gelato: Banana Tartufo
Big Gay Ice Cream: Salty Pimp Sundae, Wooly's Ice Strawberry Ice, Green Tea Ice, Sea Salt Leche Syrup
Wafels & Dinges: Brussels Waffles Belgian Chocolate Sauce
Van Leeuwen: Ice Cream base with variations
Om nom nom! Go buy the book now: New York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks
YEAH! That is the coolest kind of parcel to receive, let me tell you. How did it happen that I was on the receiving end of such a treasure? Well, let me tell you, I did the best thing ever: I put two children on the job for me! Seriously, it was like having my own personal Oompa Loompas. Two very cool kids that I know were headed to Arizona for vacation. I told them to keep an eye out for cactus candy for me. A couple weeks later I received a parcel containing the above. AWESOME!
But seriously. We need to address something more serious than your jealousy about my awesome mail. It's possible not only that you've never heard of Cactus Candy, but that you've never even considered its existence. It's possible that the possibility of it has never even entered your mind.
And that pains me, sweet friends, because I really think you should know about this stuff. So...for your continuing life learning...
Cactus Candy: A Primer
What is cactus candy? Quite simply, it is candied cactus: pieces of cactus which have been coated and treated with a simple syrup mixture to make it immortal. It sort of resembles pate de fruit or gumdrops (but flat) in texture and look. However, keep an eye on the ingredients. As one candy blogger noted, in a sea of a Cactus Candy flavor assortment, only one flavor (Prickly Pear) actually contained cactus.
Where can I get cactus candy? In Phoenix, there is a cactus candy company. They have a store. They also sell cactus jelly and salsa and the like. But you don't have to visit the store to buy--they also wholesale to a lot of tourist type operations, so you'll see it in the greater Phoenix area. If nowhere else, you'll find it in the airport gift shop.
When is it in season? Well, prickly pear season is late Spring and summer, but really, in candy form, you can enjoy it just about any time.
Why is cactus candy a thing? Cactus is a pretty big deal in Arizona. Prickly pear, as it is called, is in frequent rotation regionally as an ingredient. It is used as a syrup, stand-alone ingredient, beverage component (prickly pear margarita, anyone?). It stands that the candy made from this local ingredient would feature prominently in local cuisine.
How is Cactus Candy Made? I'm not sure how the commercial candy is made, but I have seen recipes for DIY Cactus candy online. It basically goes like this: chop down a cactus, remove thorns and simmer in simple syrup for several days. You weren't busy, were you?
How does it taste? This is a fruit-ish flavor that isn't strongly recognizeable. It almost tastes like a few different fruits you can't quite put your finger on. It's not overwhelming or as signature as, say, lemon. But it's pleasant.
Curious to learn more? Check out cactuscandy.com.
Let's be straight: you're going to need some serious energy if you're going to win the Easter egg hunt. And by "win" I mean hustle past all those nimble little kids for all of the best candy and plastic eggs filled with tasty prizes.
So let's supercharge with a supersweet breakfast for all the power and energy you need, ok?
That perfect dish is, of course, a little something I call Easter Candy Toast. It basically goes like this: you gently toast thick slices of pound cake in the toaster oven. Then, you melt down some Mom Blakeman's pull candy (it's a Kentucky thing, you'll have to order online; if you're in a rush, you can use vanilla taffy or vanilla tootsie rolls, but it won't be quite the same).
Once it's nice and melty, you pour a generous amount right on top of that toasty poundcake. And since it's Eastertime, you'll want to garnish it with some sprinkles and maybe a Cadbury Mini Egg or two.
This, my friends, is what sweet victory tastes like. Because no matter what you are facing on any given day, this will give you such a powerful surge of pure sugar-energy that you will not only be able to perform with flying colors, but you might just stop fearing death.
Just don't come crying to me when the inevitable sugar crash hits. Because I will just tell you to keep the sweetness going by having an Easter Candy taco plate for lunch.
Here's your recipe for destruction--er, perfection.
Easter Candy Toast (printable version here)
"breakfast of champions"
- 4 thick slices of pound cake
- about 1 cup Mom Blakeman's pull candy
- a nice amount of cadbury mini eggs and sprinkles, for garnish
- Toast your pound cake in the toaster oven until it's slightly crispy around the edges. You can do this in the oven too, by setting the oven to 300 and toasting for just a cople minutes, but please don't do it in the toaster. It will stick.
- Set the toasty pound cake to the side by putting two slices on each plate (then it will be ready to eat later) while you melt down your candy. Simply place the pull candy in a medium saucepan and heat on low-medium, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. It won't seem like it wants to melt, but it eventually will.
- Pour the melty candy over the "toast" and garnish immediately with candy and sprinkles. Enjoy while still warm.
It's hard to choose a favorite Easter candy. They're all just so festive and sweet! Bunnies made of chocolate, rainbow arrays of jelly beans, adorably speckled robin's eggs, pretty pastel Easter corn, and of course, Cadbury treats, both small (mini eggs!) and large (Cadbury Creme Eggs!).
But instead of trying to pick a favorite, I decided this year that they're all good enough to share real estate in my mouth. I did this, of course, by putting them ALL into an Easter Candy Pie.
This may beg a simple question: What happens when you put all of your Easter candy in a pie shell and bake it up?
I won't beat around the bush. Here's what happens.
It's surprising that it took me so long to do this, what with the success I had doing something similar with Halloween candy. But seriously--Easter candy is so much more fun! So many more textures, flavors, and colors.
Plus (this is an aside) did you know that Russell Stover makes a Red Velvet chocolate covered Easter Egg candy?
So monstrous when it all melts together. So fascinating to watch the festive candies melt and become gnarled and scary. So gratifying to eat the gooey mound of what was once Easter candy. Together in your mouth, there is a beautiful fusion of sweet textures and tastes: jelly texture from the 'beans, toastiness from the scorched marhmallow chocolates. Is that a bit of coconut you taste, or shrapnel from the shell of a candy egg? Probably both, fused together with melty fondant from the nearby Cadbury creme egg.
Friends, I realize that you might not want to take my word for it and might desire--nay, need--to try this for yourself. And in that case, I am happy to share my recipe with you.
Easter Candy Pie
Serves between 1 and 8, depending on how hungry you are.
- One unbaked pie shell
- Three generous handfuls of Easter Candy (I used a melange of jelly beans, robin's eggs, Russell Stover Easter egg chocolates, and a few other treats)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Take your unbaked pie shell and look at it for a moment. Are you sure you want to do this? Yes, you are.
- Fill the mofo with that Easter candy. You want it to be full, but level (don't get greedy and mound it above the top height of the pie crust. It will get messy).
- Bake at 400 degrees for oh, 20 to 30 minutes. (Note: I did the Halloween candy pie at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. You could do that too, but I was hungry, so I did it this way this time. Don't judge me).
Easter Candy has come a long way. When I was young, it seemed as if it was a matter of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and your choice of creme eggs or mini eggs in terms of treats. Then…along came the peanut butter egg. A delectable nugget of sweetened peanut butter coated in rich chocolate, it rocked my Easter basket and my world. Here’s a homemade version of a store-bought treat, made yet awesomer by incorporating peanut butter in the filling and the topping.
A word of advice? If you’re creating these confections for a crowd, please make a double batch. They’re seriously that simple, that addictive, and that good.