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Entries in bakeries (274)

Monday
Nov092009

CakeSpy Undercover: Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego

Apple Pie, Extraordinary Desserts
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Laurel, a sweets enthusiast and handbag designer! She has also designed custom CakeSpy totes and wristlets which would make great Christmas presents. Just saying.

San Diego Beer Week started a few days ago. Many of the beer and food tastings are in bars, but one of the places participating in the ten day celebration of craft beer is Extraordinary Desserts. I'm a dessert nerd and my husband is a beer nerd; there was no way we couldn't go. We'll have babysitting later on in the week and plan on taking part in another beer-related event or two, but we figured this would be a good one to go try out for an early evening with our son. I didn't realize that Extraordinary Desserts was also a restaurant, with delicious looking sandwiches, appetizers, and even happy hour specials. We were here for the beer-inspired desserts though, so that's what we ordered. My husband had the warm caramelized apple pie with house-made St. Peter's Cream Stout ice cream, and I had the Coconut Porter beer float. Our 16-month-old son had a scoop of their house-made vanilla ice cream.
Float at Extraordinary Desserts
Some friends and I made beer floats once and they weren't nearly as good as this. (They were kind of gross, actually.) The house-made vanilla ice cream that went in my beer float was absolutely divine. It was rich and creamy, and it paired really well with the beer in the float. I've had the Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter that they topped the float with, and it's not especially coconutty, so I appreciated that they also topped the float with toasted coconut flakes to bring out the flavor.

As much as I liked my beer float, my husband's apple pie (pictured top) was hands down the star dessert. The pie crust was flaky and buttery, and there was just a hint of cardamom in it that made it really stand out from ordinary pie crust. It was more like an individual pot pie than a slice from a whole pie, and we could definitely taste the caramel flavor in the apples on top. The ice cream was fabulous as well; the cream stout gave the ice cream an almost hazelnutty flavor, which complemented the pie very well. I could easily eat a whole bowl of the ice cream on its own, and it was all I could do to not lick the plate clean when my husband declared himself too stuffed to go on.
Toddlers love Extraordinary Desserts
Our son also loved his bowl of vanilla ice cream, as you can see. He's clearly thinking about how this ice cream is so much more creamy and velvety than any other ice cream he's ever had, and how strong the vanilla bean flavor is, and how the next time he eats plain old ice cream from somewhere other than Extraordinary Desserts he'll just be thinking about how it's not as good as this ice cream. Our son has a very discerning palate.

We lived down the street from the original location on Hillcrest for two years and somehow never managed to make it in, and boy, do I feel dumb about it now. We'll definitely be visiting again in the future to try some of their regular sweets. If you're interested in visiting Extraordinary Desserts to taste their beer week offerings, make sure you go before November 15, when San Diego Beer Week ends. (And if you happen to go, and you see a crazy mom fighting her toddler for the right to lick the bowl clean, stop by my table and say hi.)


Extraordinary Desserts on Urbanspoon
Extraordinary Desserts has two locations in San Diego, 2929 Fifth Avenue on Hillcrest and 1430 Union Street in Little Italy; online at extraordinarydesserts.com.

Thursday
Oct292009

Fresh Flours: Chocolate Pecan Creme Sandwich Cookies from Dahlia Bakery

Chocolate butter pecan sandwich cookie from Dahlia Bakery
Imagine a chocolate cookie, and then make it about five times more buttery than the one you were imagining--and add some pecans into the mix, too.

Then, sandwich two of them together with a smear of buttery frosting.

You are now beginning to get the idea behind the Chocolate Pecan Creme Sandwich Cookie from Seattle's Dahlia Bakery. This cookie is small--not the typical gargantuan bakery or coffee shop cookie, here--but extremely mighty. I picked one up after a serious lunch at Serious Pie just around the corner, and all I can say is that it was a double whammy of Tom Douglas deliciousness.  The cookie had been suggested by a friend, and while it probably wouldn't have been my first choice purely based on visual appeal, it was definitely a delightful taste surprise. Every bite was rich with chocolate, pecan, and butter--in that order.

This is all to say, if you see this cookie when you visit Dahlia--get one. Or two. Don't forget the coconut cream pie, either.

Dahlia Lounge and Dahlia Bakery are located side by side at 2001 4th Ave., Seattle; check them (and Tom Douglas' other restaurants) out at tomdouglas.com.

Monday
Oct192009

Cupcake City: A Sweet Visit to New York Cupcakes in Bellevue, WA

Little and Big Cupcakes at New York Cupcakes, Bellevue
The first CakeSpy visit to New York Cupcakes in Westlake Center in Seattle was not a sweet one. The display case was kind of sad, the employee was texting the entire time, and the cupcakes themselves were...well, kind of a bummer.

But since then something magical happened: they changed ownership (incidentally, location too), and the transformation is dramatic.

I was lucky enough to visit the revamped New York Cupcakes today with my friend Carrie (proprietress of Bella Cupcake Couture, a CakeSpy sponsor and all around cool company!), and I have to say, I was very impressed. Walking in to the shop, the warmth strikes you immediately: decorated with cute artwork by Everyday is a Holiday and bright pink walls and a classic checkerboard floors, you immediately sense that this is a happy place.

But rarely are sweet shops able to coast on good looks alone, so how about those cupcakes?

We picked up five just to be sure:

The "Manhattan Margarita" (pictured top);

The "Grand Central S'more";
New York Cupcakes, Bellevue

The "Boston Cream Cutie Pie";
Boston Cream Pie cupcake, New York Cupcakes, Bellevue

and a mini "Royal Red Velvet" (also pictured top) for good measure.

What can I say other than that I was very, very impressed? The cake was perfectly moist, with a perfectly tender crumb--especially on the vanilla cake. The texture was light-ish, but assertively buttery enough to make its presence known. The frosting too was quite buttery, but whipped so expertly that it practically seemed to melt in your mouth. The Margarita Cupcake in particular impressed me, with a touch of tart lime flavor beautifully balanced by a rich, buttery and just ever-so-slightly salty buttercream. I did not want this cupcake to end.
New York Cupcakes, Bellevue
The verdict? In my mind, New York Cupcakes has not only redeemed itself, but I'd now consider it a worthy destination.


New York Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

New York Cupcakes, 15600 N.E.8th Ste. A-4 Bellevue, WA, 425.283.5445; online at newyorkcupcakes.com.

 

Saturday
Oct172009

Last Seduction: Chocolate Seduction Cake Recipe from Essential Baking Company

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Several years ago when I was first considering making a move from New York City to Seattle, a friend offered some wise advice to help me make the decision: "before you make any rash decisions, make sure you find a good bakery there." Sage advice indeed.

I didn't exactly follow the advice though. I didn't find one bakery: I found three.

The first three bakeries I visited in Seattle--in order--were Cinnamon Works, Macrina Bakery and Essential Baking. This was basically a triple play of delicious: two weeks later, I lived in Seattle. And all three bakeries have a sweet spot in my heart.

So when one of those first bakeries I ever visited--Essential Baking--offered to share one of their recipes, I knew it was going to be good.

Called "Chocolate Seduction Cake", this flourless cake is pure decadence--redolent with rich chocolate flavor--while still maintaining a delicate crumb which isn't quite brownie or fudge, but definitely cake. It's great all by itself, but it's even better with whipped cream, ice cream, or (best of all) prettily decorated with pink buttercream frosting and decorative sliced almonds (an idea I picked up when I judged a pie contest!).
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Seduction Cake

-adapted from Essential Baking Co. in Seattle -

Serves 8-10 generously

  • 10 ounces Belcolade chocolate (that's the brand Parisian Star uses; a high
  • quality dark chocolate could be subbed)
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ounce cognac
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line 9x9" cake pan with parchment paper and grease
  3. Gently melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler; set aside.
  4. Whip egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add cognac to chocolate and butter mixture and fold very gently into whipped egg yolks and sugar.
  6. Whip egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar and salt until soft peaks form, then fold into the chocolate and egg yolk mixture.
  7. Fill the cake pan 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for about 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  9. If desired, let cool completely and then frost with pink (really, pink is best) vanilla buttercream (I used the one in the latter half of this recipe).

 

Thursday
Oct152009

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Sweet E's Bakery

Sweet E's Bake Shop
I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but occasionally I develop crushes. On bakeries.

And right now, I'm crushing hard on Sweet E's Bake Shop, a Los Angeles-based special order "mini bake shop" that only offers tiny treats--each one is about 2-3 bites. Which, by my math, makes it totally OK to eat about 5-7 of the treats. 

The treats themselves are adorable, ranging from sweetly decorated cupcakes:
Sweet E's Bake Shop
to baby brownies:
Sweet E's Bake ShopBrownies from Sweet E's
to cute cake pops.
Sweet E's Bake Shop Red Velvet Cake PopSweet E's Bake Shop

They also offer something intriguing called "Peanut Butter Blizzard" (pictured below)--a confection which falls somewhere between a brownie and fudge texture-wise, comprised of peanut butter and white chocolate fudge with marshmallows, rice krispies and chocolate chips. Like, yum.
Peanut butter Blizzard

Cupcakes are available for local delivery only, but brownies, cake pops and mini cakes can be shipped; you can find it all at sweetesbakeshop.com.

Thursday
Oct152009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Tee and Cakes, Boulder CO

Why is Tee & Cakes in Boulder, Colorado worth a visit?

Well, first let's talk about the cute factor. Run by a pastry chef and graphic designer duo, Tee & Cakes is "a lifestyle based shop...with the quality and variety"--including sweet gift items and apparel which can be purchased alongside your sweet treats.

But of course, what you really want to know about is the sweets. They've got a full array--cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and pies, (in an impressive variety of flavors including chocolate bourbon pecan, apple, sour cherry, pumpkin, and key lime, to name a few).

Though they are probably best known for their Chocolate Bacon and faux-Hostess Cupcakes, other flavors are worth a try, says Cake Gumshoe Amanda, who says it's her favorite cupcake shop in the area. Her favorite cupcake? A chocolate variety with chocolate frosting--but as she points out, it is not a "typical" frosting, it was all shiny and smooth, and topped with raspberries.

They also do great beverages. I enjoy a hot chocolate with my cupcake in the winter and a frozen lemonade in the summer.

The only downfall? They close at at 6 p.m. most days and are not open on Sundays, so be sure to pick up dessert earlier in the day if you want your sweets after dinner!

Tee & Cakes on Urbanspoon
Tee & Cakes,1932 14th Street, Boulder, Colorado; online at teeandcakes.com.

Wednesday
Oct142009

Raising the Bar: The Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, Ocean Grove NJ

Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, NJ
Technically, the Linzer Torte is a rich nut pastry filled with fine raspberry preserves, criss-crossed with more nut pastry. But really, it's so much more--it's a flavor concept. One that translates beautifully to other types of baked goods: consider the Linzer Cookie, or my favorite, the Linzer Bar.

And now, Baker Boys in New Jersey has taken the concept one step further into delicious territory with their Chocolate Linzer Bar.

This decadent bar starts with a sturdy, shortbread-y crust which is so full of butter that it would be a fantastic cookie all by itself. Then it's made even better with a topping of a thick slab of chocolate mixed with a perfectly tart-sweet smear of raspberry preserves dotted with seeds. Seal it off with even more shortbread-y goodness, in the form of craggy, golden-topped crumbs dotting the surface of the bar, and what have you got? You've got yourself an expanse of deliciousness, that's what. 

What exit? 100. Get yourself to New Jersey!
The Chocolate Linzer Bar from Baker Boys, 69 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ (a second location is in Asbury Park); online at thebakerboys.us. Call ahead for availability.

 

Monday
Oct122009

Beat of a Different Crumb: Colossal Crumb Cake from Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe, NJ

Colossal Crumb Cake
When it comes to crumb cake, the ratio which generally reigns in my homeland of New Jersey tends to be something along the lines of 70/30, crumb to cake. Unfortunately, this has basically ruined all other crumb cake for me: no matter how delicious or well-made it may be, if it isn't crumb heavy, I'm probably not going to approve.

So you can imagine my awe, wonder and delight when I came across the colossal crumb cake (yes, that's the official name) at the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe.

Seriously, this crumb cake is off the hook, with a ratio of roughly 90/10, crumb to cake. One Cake Gumshoe aptly dubbed it "crumb on a cracker"; I call it a modern miracle. This work of crumb cake art has a delicious crispiness on the outside which gives way to a (surprisingly not tooth numbingly sweet) chewy interior; the brown sugar is delightfully balanced with a touch of salt, and the sliver of cake beneath the crumb adds a nice, buttery contrast to the slightly gritty sweetness.

I'm pretty sure they have other things at this bakery; maybe one day I will try them. But for now, I only have one colossal crush.

Colossal crumb cake from the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe, 55 Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ; online at oceangrovebakeshoppe.com.

Thursday
Sep242009

Cakespy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Retro Bakery, Las Vegas NV

Java Cupcake Guest Post on Retro Bakery, LV
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Betsy of Java Cupcake. To get the scoop on what sweet stuff she's been sampling, be sure to visit her site, and keep updated with her twitter feed!

When I spent last week in Las Vegas, NV with my husband, I knew that we needed to stop at Retro Bakery. Boy, it did not disappoint!

Just about 20 minutes from The Strip in Vegas, Retro Bakery is located just off the highway in a quaint little shopping center. I was greeted by a super cute, super friendly bundle of joy named Kari, whom I had messaged via twitter earlier that day to let her know I was coming.

Most importantly though: on to the cupcakes. There were so many delicious cupcakes to choose from--it was very hard to pick. My husband and I decided we'd each pick two.

I chose the Peanut Butter Cup (chocolate cake topped with peanut butter buttercream and dark chocolate shavings) and the Cinnamon Toast (vanilla cake topped with cinnamon buttercream dusted with cinnamon and sugar) while my husband chose the Cotton Candy (vanilla cake topped with pink cotton candy buttercream and blue glitter sugar) and the Creamsicle (vanilla cake topped with a vanilla/orange swirl buttercream).

The tag line on the bakery's business card is "It's All About the Buttercream" and they aren't kidding! The buttercream on these cupcakes was absolutely to die for. Creamy, flavorful, smooth... it just rolled across my tongue with each bite. Each buttercream flavor was distinctly the flavor it said it was going to be--so, for instance, when I bit into the peanut butter, it actually tasted like peanut butter, and surprisingly, the cotton candy buttercream tasted exactly like cotton candy!

As I look back, I wish I had tried one more cupcake with a different base flavor. We had three with vanilla and one chocolate. The chocolate was so delicious... moist and chocolatey; however, I have got to give it to the vanilla because it was by far the best vanilla cupcake I have ever tasted! It was dense, but not mushy, springy and moist, full of flavor and baked to perfection. I could have eaten those vanilla cupcakes alone if the buttercream had not been so heavenly!

So thank you to Kari for being so sweet when we came to visit! And thank you to Retro Bakery for making such delicious cupcakes! I can't wait to get back to Las Vegas to try four more flavors.

Retro Bakery, 7785 N. Durango Dr. #130, Las Vegas (702)586-3740; online at retrobakerylv.com. You can also follow them on Twitter, and if you want more of the inside scoop be sure to read the CakeSpy interview with owner Kari!

Tuesday
Sep222009

Pastry Road Trip: Deliciously Dense Donuts at Wall Drug, South Dakota

Vanilla Frosted Donut, Wall Drug, SD
CakeSpy Note: This month I drove to and from Chicago on a Pastry Road Trip: here's the beginning of several installments detailing the deliciousness I discovered!

Wall Drug is a tourist trap of epic proportions: you've barely entered South Dakota when you start to see billboards proclaiming "Wall Drug--Only 500 Miles!". From that point on, every few miles you'll see another Wall Drug sign or billboard, some advertising products or services, some simply updating you on how much closer you are.
Welcome to Wall Drug (South Dakota)
By the time you've actually reached Wall, South Dakota, you'll be so curious that you've basically got to stop.

Of course, I had a reason beyond mere curiosity: I had heard the donuts were fantastic.
Donut Factory
I pulled into Wall at about 5 p.m. and unfortunately the "Donut Factory" section of Wall Drug had already closed for the day, but there were still fresh donuts (and ice cream and cookies too) available in their cafe. I picked up two cake donuts: maple frosted and vanilla frosted.
Donut in the Hall of Heads, Wall Drug, SD
I offered to share with some of the little critters nearby, but it seemed they had no stomach for donuts.

How to describe these donuts? They were extremely dense--none of that light-as-air business here. The cake was very moist and pleasingly greasy, but tastefully so--it didn't leave an oily slick in your mouth. The frosting was rich and flavorful--the maple had a deep, earthy-sweet flavor and the vanilla was surprisingly thick and rich--and it was soft and held together beautifully (nothing is worse, to me, than donut frostings that are hard and flake off!). To put it in a nutshell, these donuts tasted very old school. In a good way.

Wall Drug, 510 Main Street, Wall, SD; 605-279-2175. Online at walldrug.com.

Bonus! Though I couldn't find their donut recipe, the Food Network does have a pie recipe donated by Wall Drug; check it out here!

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