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Entries in ask cakespy (11)

Tuesday
Jun122012

Ask CakeSpy: Hot-Weather Cupcake Frosting Solutions

Source: seriouseats.com via Cake on Pinterest

 

Dear CakeSpy,

I am in dire need of a recipe for frosting for cupcakes that wont melt in California summer heat.I don`t want to use shortening. Ick. The party will be outside at a park and it's in June. Can you help?
 

 Love, Toasty in California

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Dear Toasty,

Unfortunately, while my favorite buttercream frosting recipes are delicious, they are not delightful in the height of summer heat. You kind of want to stay away from a typical American style buttercream or a cream cheese frosting, unless you're going to serve them for immediate consumption or have a shady place or cooler to keep them. Sorry!

However, that doesn't mean your life must be devoid of frosting. You've just got to explore some other options. I hit up the best crowd-sourcing tool I know (um, Twitter) and got some suggestions for you.

Here are some ideas:

Source: cakespy.com via Cake on Pinterest

 

A toasted marshmallow frosting would work nicely on a hot day (disregard the Thanksgiving picture, it's just to give an idea of what it could look like!)

Seven minute frosting will hold up better than buttercream on a hot day, too.

 

Swiss or German meringue buttercream (swiss meringue, pictured above) are going to work better, as well. 

You could try enrobing a regular buttercream frosting in a chocolate shell, sort of like a mallomar--but while these might hold for a little while, you are going to want to devour them quickly. 

Although strictly speaking I'm not a huge fan of unfrosted cupcakes, what about filling the cupcakes with buttercream, and then topping them with a crumb topping or a glaze? 

You could also make doughnut muffin type cakes: make cupcakes, brush them all-over with butter, and dust with cinnamon and sugar. Lots of sugar. 

You could deep-fry your cupcakes on a stick. 

One word: CAKESICLES!

Got more ideas, readers? This isn't necessarily my area of expertise, so these ideas largely came from you. Tell me more--leave a comment!

Thursday
May032012

Ask CakeSpy: Smarties Candy Baking Ideas?

Source: easybaked.net via Cake on Pinterest

 

Dear Cakespy,

So, there's this guy I like, and his favorite candies are Smarties.  I mean really, I like Smarties...but as a favorite candy?  Thankfully he has other redeeming qualities.

I have been trying to find a way to incorporate these little sugar saucers into a recipe but I'm drawing a blank. When I Google it, I get lots of recipes for the British version of Smarties, which is much closer to an M&M.

Do you have any ideas?

Sincerely,
Get Smartie

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Dear Smartie,

I will have to confess, when you sent me this message I had to look up what Smarties were. I really did! I was mixing them up with Swee-Tarts, which are quite different.

I first ended up on the official Smarties Blog, which yielded a recipe for rock candy, but no recipes including the candy! I then browsed the company history and after several minutes realized I was really just procrastinating.

Then I did what you did and found a bunch of recipes for the UK, more M&M-esque Smarty candies.

Le sigh.

And then I realized that I still had the best tool possible: MY IMAGINATION. And here are my ideas. I came up with 8 so you can't accuse me of not really thinking about it.

1. Mash up the candies, like, mortar and pestle style, and combine with a little milk or cream to form a delicious Smarties glaze--perfect for topping sugar cookies, pound cake, or as a glaze for homemade pop-tarts.

2. Make a Smarties Cream pie. Much like I made this much lauded (but really lovable) Conversation heart cream pie, but with Smarties. 

3. Forget a recipe and make him an AIRPLANE!

4. Take a handful of Smarties. Take 2 big scoops of ice cream. A little milk. Put in the blender, and you've got yourself a shake!

5. Press them into the frosting on a layer cake for a crunchy surprise with each delicious bite. 

6. Why not try one of the recipes featuring the "other" Smarties candy, but try with the american kind? You'll only know what an American Smarties cookie tastes like if you try. 

7. I found a recipe for a Necco Wafer Gingerbread House. Could you revise it to be a Smarties House?

8. Once again, forget baking and do this.

Hope this helps get you started.

Love, 

CakeSpy

Tuesday
Oct252011

Ask CakeSpy: Baker's Block

Dear CakeSpy,

First of all i'm only 16, but i'm a big fan of CakeSpy ( I'm asking for the book during Christmas!) But what i wanted was some ideas for pies I make pies a lot, but lately i guess you could say i have...hmm...bakers block. And I know you were the person to ask about this so if you could please help me overcome the terrible bakers block.

Love, 

Uninspired Baker

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Dear Uninspired, 

First off, let me commend you for your fine Christmas present request, but I respectfully request that you ask for about 20 more copies. One is not enough, and it is conveniently available at Urban Outfitters, a very cool store.

But on to the business at hand: this awful Baker's Block. 

Inspiration can be a fleeting thing, and the closest thing I can think of is the crippling disease known as "Writer's block". There is a Sylvia Plath quote on that subject: "everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

How does this apply? Well, the doubt of wondering "will I ever create anything great again? Will I ever derive joy from it?" can be difficult. But taking a cue from Ms. Plath, I tend to think that "everything in life is bakeable if you have the guts to do it and the imagination to improvise." 

That is to say--while it is a very personal thing, for me personally, I like to try something I have never done before to get myself out of a baking rut. It can be as simple as buying a type of baking mix at the store I've never tried before, or as difficult as trying my hand at an intricate cake like the chocolate frosted princess cake. 

But I also hit up some readers for their suggestions, and here were some of their methods for breaking out of baker's block:

Alithea says "I make either Nanaimo Bars or Compost cookies...or I just browse here."

Pastry Child says, "I usually go with a no-fail recipe...something I've made a million times...chocolate chip cookies, usually."

Michelle says, "Bake your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but make three subtle changes and you'll have a few fun favorite!"

Jess says, "I make oatmeal cookies with an assortment of add-ins!"

...so as you can see, there are all sorts of methods of regaining your baking inspiration. But the most important aspect is simply getting in the kitchen: personally, I think that the aromas of baking and the smiling faces of friends and family as they begin to anticipate your latest delicious creation will bring the inspiration right on back.

Got a tried-and-true method for breaking the curse of baker's block? Leave a comment here or on the CakeSpy facebook page!

 

Friday
Aug052011

Ask CakeSpy: Clever Baking Business Name?

Dear CakeSpy,

May I start by saying how much I LOVE reading your blog! It does however make me very envious of the deliciously calorific treats that you have on offer over in the US! I am a Food Technology teacher in the UK (in fact as I write this I have 20 or so 12 year-olds designing the most Willy Wonka style cakes possible!) and baking is my ultimate passion! I have a 6 week summer holiday coming up and I plan to start a cake stall at my local farmers market and craft/vintage fairs. I have my macaron, cupcake, pecan pie and carrot cake recipes down to a T (even if I say so myself!) however I'm struggling with how to come up with an imaginative nameand/or logo. Was just wondering if you had any tips for a newbie?!!

Love,

Nameless Baker

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Dear Nameless Baker,

I have thoughts on this. Ready? Let's go.

Please indicate that you are a baking business. It will make you easier to find and it will make it easier for people to know what you do. This doesn't have to be as cut and dry as calling your business "(your name here) Bakery", but, for instance, if you call your business "Acorn", and I try to Google it, it is going to be very hard to find your baking business. 

Don't be cookie-cutter. As Carrie of Bella Cupcake Couture said, "I believe in being creative, having a one of a kind name (no copies), think of the brand you want to portray and test out on friends and potential clients." Her business does this well; it indicates a boutique, cupcake-related product, is unique but not too strange or hard to pronounce, and allows her to add other related products to her line without having to alter her mission statement or company name.

Family Names are Always Safe, if sometimes boring. Freedman's Bakery, Olsen's Bakery, DelPonte's Bakery, et cetera. They get the job done. Of course, the cool factor is upped if you also have a cool name: case in point, Molly Moon's Ice Cream. Molly Moon is the owner's actual name.

Be Punny...sometimes. Personally, I love when a business name is also a clever pun. Some are not as much fans--one reader said "It gets stale fast"...but I tend to think that Jill Lightner of Edible Seattle said it best: "avoid puns that will be embarrassing every time you answer the phone."

You can be cute, but please don't be cutesy. As one responder said when I asked about this important subject on Twitter, "please don't replace the letter "s" with the letter "z" when referring to cakes and cupcakes. Just a little pet peeve of mine. I know it's supposed to be "kute", but it's really not."

Consider Shock Value, but Beware the Consequences. Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and Kickass Cupcakes are examples of this--the names will get attention. Just be sure you have a great product to back it up, because there will be haters on names like these.

OK, but this having been said, I also have a few observations on some trends that seem to work.

Magic Formula: Object + Product = Business name! With most things in life, there is no magic formula. However, with naming bakeries, there are some. Examples: Victrola Coffee, Rocket Donuts, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Bluebird Ice Cream, etc.

Variations: Can substitute Geographical Indication + Product (Charm City Cakes, Pearl Bakery, North Hill Bakery) , or Flower Name + The Word Bakery (Magnolia Bakery, Dahlia Bakery, Sweet Pea Bakery)

Choose a word that has to do with the end product. Flour Bakery, Butter Bakery, Sugar Bakery, and Wooden Spoon Bakery are all cute bakery names (that are, sadly, taken), but you might be able to take inspiration from your tools of the trade.

Allow yourself room to grow. I remember, growing up, there was a business in New Jersey called "Just Coats". Well, after a couple of years they realized that to have a year-round business model, they would have to rethink, and their sign was awkwardly altered to say "Just Coats 'n Swimwear". So, if you have a cupcake business, say, don't be afraid to reflect that in your business title, but consider something like local business Trophy Cupcakes, which is officially branded "Trophy Cupcakes & Party" - they have some freedom to branch out into events and the like while still having a very specific, targeted product.

As for the logo? When it comes to the logo, I tend to think that simple works best--think of how recognizable the Target bullseye is--they don't even have to put the name of their store in their ads anymore. Simple line images that are easy to reproduce on t-shirts, tote bags, and business cards will serve you well. DO hire a graphic designer, and a good one--it is worth it.

Oh, and most importantly: Never Use Comic Sans. Unless you're a kindergarten teacher, this typestyle is never the answer.

Love, CakeSpy

P.S. Readers, please share your thoughts!

Thursday
Jul212011

Ask CakeSpy: How Do I Get Started Working at a Bakery?

Dear CakeSpy,

At the moment I am working in the Advertising world, but have found myself baking more and more and loving it more and more so thought the baking path might be for me! I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions. Do you recommend culinary education? Or is interning / assisting is the way to get started? Any tips or suggestions you would have would be greatly appreciated. 

Love,

Dream-Baker

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Dear Dream-Baker:

Well, I must confess I was at a slight loss when I received your excellent question, because while I have worked in a baking capacity, developing recipes and writing about baked goods, I have never actually worked at a commercial bakery, and it really is a different beast. But don't panic, because I did something very intelligent: I consulted baking experts to get their thoughts.

Here are some thoughts from a professional baker in Seattle, who I think puts it beautifully:

At the bakery, we have tried taking on interns who have not gone to cooking school, but we have learned, the hard way again, that as much as we want to help them grow, they end up being less of an asset than a liability. So we no longer accept interns unless they have gone to pastry school. Baking is such a specialized art that takes a lot of practice to master, and even graduates from cooking school need additional experience. So since most "home cooks" would be starting from scratch (excuse my pun), it would be a challenge. I think a lot of bakeries around town share my same sentiment, although I was able to get a job baking at a catering company just by doing a working interview. I think I was the exception to the rule.

So, I believe the education is a good investment, but the important thing to keep in mind is not to go too crazy in paying for the most expensive school. Meet the chefs of the schools you are thinking of attending. You'll get a sense whether you'll be able to learn from them. 

Baking is seen as such a glamorous profession, but really, it's mostly digging in the trenches. It's hard work, requiring intense focus and concentration at all times for long periods of time. You have to work fast or you won't make any money at it, and even when you do, it won't be much. But that is some of the glory that comes with the territory.

Hope this helps!

Love, CakeSpy

Tuesday
May242011

Taste The Magic: Rainbow Cookies Stuffed With Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Recipe

Recently, I received this cry for help via email from reader Anne:

Dear CakeSpy,

I have a big problem.  Sunday is my 30th birthday and as is tradition, we will have a Bake-Off! Birthday Bake-Off is pretty much the greatest idea I have ever had: maximum dessert variety and no having to awkwardly stare off into space while people sing happy birthday and all I'm thinking is how we are wasting precious seconds that could be used for eating frosting.  But, the dilemma.  I have no idea what to make this year.  Now that there are internets, there are just TOO MANY awesome recipes and I can't decide on one.  You are the connoisseur of carbs - what would YOU make??


-Clueless in Cleveland

Now, Clueless in Cleveland, I will tell you, I thought about this for a long time. I went outside and took a walk, knowing that the answer would come to me. And then it did:As a majestic unicorn whizzed by, I thought to myself: "It must involve rainbows, and magic."

And from then on, the answer was easy:

1. Take the most colorful recipe I could think of, which is definitely Rainbow Cookies (now, to get the recipe I'm going to have to urge you to buy my book, because that's where the recipe is, but I'll tell you now that it's not so very different from these cookies).

2. Add magic. And how better and more reliably can one add magic than by adding cookie dough to the mix?

And so, with that sweet epiphany in mind, allow me to present the new Best Thing Ever:

Rainbow Cookies Stuffed With Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. 

Here's how you do it.

You'll need:

  • 1 batch rainbow cookie dough (similar enough to this recipe that you could make it work by tinting the dough many colors)
  • 1/2 batch chocolate chip cookie dough (bake the rest normally, or use it to stuff cupcakes, you follow your bliss)

Note: if you are uneasy about the cookie dough not baking fully and the whole egg thing, use a chocolate chip cookie dough that does not use eggs, or that uses egg replacer.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. So, you've got your rainbow cookie dough all ready to go. Now, slice it into fairly thin coins--like, 1/8 inch thick. Lay them on your prepared baking sheet with about 1 inch in between rounds (they won't spread too much).
  3. On the center of each round, place a small dollop of chocolate chip cookie dough.
  4. Place a second coin of rainbow cookie dough on top. If it cracks between color segments, use your fingers to smooth it back into place. Gently press the sides down so your chocolate chip cookie dough doesn't ooze out.
  5. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until rainbow cookies have a dull finish on top. 
  6. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Tuesday
Apr262011

Ask CakeSpy: What's the Best Knife for Cutting a Cheesecake?

Dear CakeSpy,

What is the best knife for cutting a cheesecake?

Love,

Cheesecake Hacker in MA (also a talented artist!)

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Dear Hacker,

Perhaps you're trying to flummox me with a trick question, you tricksy little hobbit? Because the truth is, the best knife to ensure perfect slices of cheesecake isn't a knife at all--it's dental floss!

This is a little trick I picked up in Kim Severson's The New Alaska Cookbook: Recipes from the Last Frontier's Best Chefs, (btw she's also the author of another book I suggest, Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life) , where the headnote to a recipe for Apricot Cheesecake read "An easy way to cut cheesecake? Dental Floss."

Well, it's true! Simply glide the (unscented, please) floss right through for perfect slices every time.

Of course, if you don't have floss around (I'm totally telling your dentist!), you'll be best-off with a knife if you run it through warm water then dry before slicing in confident, even strokes (don't hack!), and keep a paper towel close by to clean off between slices.

But even if your slices are messy, they will still be delicious, and a mountain of whipped cream or fresh fruit will usually cover up any slicing sins.

Love, CakeSpy

Saturday
Nov132010

Cookie Capers: Fixing Botched-Up Butter in Batter

Uh-oh. You accidentally added too much butter to your cookies.

On the one hand: Awesome! Butter is delicious!

On the other hand: Oh crap. Flat-as-a-pancake cookies. Serious bummer.

Well, suffice it to say that this comes from experience. I seem to be chronically incapable of adding 1.5 sticks of butter to anything--it's always the full 2 sticks for me. But when I recently came across this problem when pulling out my first batch of the delicious-sounding chocolate chip cookies from the gorgeous Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook (after an "oh sh*t" sort of moment, since we're being honest), I was buoyed with courage from having recently received another brilliant book, entitled How to Repair Food , and decided that I would try to improvise.

Now, this wasn't highly technical, but I thought to myself: "OK, so I added too much butter. What if I added some extra flour?".

And so I added half a cup of flour, mixing only until incorporated.

And while I can't say that it is a definitive fix, you know what? In this case...it kind of worked. The cookies were not only perfectly palatable, but delightfully delectable--perhaps not as pretty as the original recipe, but I even felt comfortable sharing them.

...of course, that having been said, the recipe I'm sharing is for the "official" version, not my extra-buttery one.

...and also, of course, if you do add too much butter and have pancake-cookies, just sandwich them with frosting. You'd be amazed how much it fixes things.

Delicious (non-messed-with) Chocolate Chip Cookies

As originally published in Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, room temperature (don't add 2 sticks like I did)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla, and cinnamon on medium speed, making sure to stop and scrape the bowl down. This will take 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix on medium-low speed until combined.
  4. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl; add all at once to the batter. Mix the dough together on low speed until combined, making sure to stop and scrape the bowl down so that the flour is all incorporated.
  5. Fold the chocolate chips or chunks into the dough with a spoon or spatula.
  6. Flatten the dough in a shallow pan and freeze for 20 minutes.
  7. Coat 2 cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment. With an ice cream scoop (for BIG cookies) or a teaspoon for baby-sized cookies, scoop cookies onto sheet. Be sure to leave about 2 inches around each cookie. You'll get either 12-14 big, or 24-30 small, cookies. Bake for 12-14 minutes for smaller cookies, 15-17 minutes for larger cookies, until golden and set on top.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
Thursday
Oct212010

Ask CakeSpy: Transporting Cheesecake on an Airplane?

Dear CakeSpy,

I have a cheesecake question for you! I am traveling across the country and hoping to bring a mini cheesecake with me on the plane for my boyfriend's birthday. Any advice on traveling on a plane with cheesecake? I'm worried about spoilage as well as it being crushed... I could sit with it on my lap the whole ride I suppose. Any tips would be appreciated!

-Cheesecake Traveler

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Dear Traveler,

First off, one important aspect to consider is that you may be your own worst enemy in this situation. I mean, depending on the flight time, the cheesecake might get mighty tempting.

But trusting that you have a very strong will, let's talk turkey. Or...you know, cheesecake. I can't say that this is the best method, but based on consulting some trusted friends and looking deep into my own cake-loving soul, here is what I would do if I were in your shoes. 

  1. First of all, you have to let your cheesecake cool completely after baking it. I do this at room temperature. And since you'll be transporting it, I am going to suggest putting it on a cardboard round (you know, the kind it would be on if you bought it at a supermarket or bakery). I would also suggest cutting out a circle of parchment paper and putting it on top of the cheesecake, and along the perimeter of it. This is because in the next step, you'll put it in plastic wrap, and the parchment will keep the wrap from sticking if it thaws too much.
  2. Like I said, plastic wrap. You need to wrap it very tightly in plastic wrap. 
  3. Next, you're going to freeze it. Like, deep freeze. Overnight. 
  4. On the day of travel, wait til as close to departure as you can to take it out of the freezer. Now, you're going to add a layer of foil, wrapped all the way around the whole (plastic-wrapped) thing. And you're going to put it in a box. Seriously. Find a box that fits it snugly. Or cut a box so that it fits.
  5. Put it in your carry-on, not on a checked bag. Don't you dare. 
  6. Keep it under your seat if possible, to prevent unwanted jostling in the overhead bin. Actually this is preferable to keeping it on your warm little lap too, because you want to prevent it from getting too warm.
  7. Travel safe and godspeed to that dear, dear cheesecake.

Love, CakeSpy

Tuesday
Sep072010

Ask CakeSpy: What Cupcakes Should I Try in NYC?

Dear CakeSpy,

Living in New Jersey, I have access to all of the great cupcakeries in NYC, but choosing which one to visit on a day trip is a rather daunting prospect. I'm rather curious about Crumbs, especially as I hear they have a s'mores cupcake, but don't want to make the wrong decision. What to do?

Sincerely,

Buttercream Daydreamer in Belmar

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Dear Buttercream Daydreamer,

When I think New York, I think bright lights, big city, and huge cupcake presence. When I lived in New York as a college student, there were two main choices: Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village (largely credited with kick-starting the cupcake trend) and the Cupcake Cafe in Hell's Kitchen (which has since relocated down the street; I preferred the old location). At that time, I have to confess that while I liked both, my affections leaned slightly toward Cupcake Cafe, which offered up cupcakes with extremely buttery and not extremely sweet frosting. They were a bit more of an acquired taste, but I probably could have eaten my weight in them.

These days, it seems like there are more and more amazing cupcake bakeries every time I have gone back. While I don't feel as if I am qualified to weigh in on the best, I am going to suggest that you check out this very throrough roundup of "The Best Cupcakes in New York City" on Serious Eats.

To cross-reference this post, I went ahead and did some research on some of the ones that offer s'mores flavors. From the "12 best bakeries list", I have put an asterisk next to the shops which offer a s'mores cupcake flavor specifically listed on their menu (however, be sure to call for availability).

Buttercup Bake Shop
Sweet Revenge 
Robicelli's
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
Tribeca Treats*
Tonnie's Minis
Amy's Bread
Kumquat Cupcakery
Spot
Chickalicious Dessert Bar*
Two Little Red Hens
Baked

Finally, my thoughts on Crumbs. I have been there a few times. My experience: the first time I visited I had a cupcake that was a fairly dry affair which had initially turned me off toward them, but after several positive reviews, I gave them another try. To my delight, on several succeeding visits I have had perfectly delightful cupcakes there which didn't suffer from dry cake disorder and were, on the contrary, quite moist and flavorful. Flavors I have tried: Vanilla/vanilla, Baba Booey, Artie Lange (favorite!), and Half Baked.

So while I don't have a single answer to the "what cupcake should I try" question, I hope I've left you feeling better equipped to tackle this delicious day trip.

Always sweetly,

CakeSpy

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