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Entries in bakeries (273)

Sunday
Nov252012

Southern Belle Cupcake from Dream Cakes Gourmet Cupcakes, Santa Fe

Dream Cakes, Santa Fe

Sometimes, a cupcake makes you want to purr. 

This is an experience I had recently (as in, there are probably still cake crumbs on my shirt) at a place called Dream Cakes Cupcakes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

The retail space is small, tucked in a mall just off of the city's Plaza (downtown area). It is somewhat unassuming when you walk in, and the prices are somewhat hefty--$4.50 per cupcake. 

But the cupcakes are serious fatties--I don't like sharing cupcakes (at all) but here's one that I'd consider cutting in half and saving part 2 for later (sort of like...sharing with my future self). Because it's not quite 2 times the size of a regular cupcake, but 1.6 times the size of a regular cupcake. 

This picture (from their facebook page) may not portray the size, but it will show you the unusual square-ish shape they have.

Here's the menu.

Menu, Dream Cakes

The menu is pretty immense, about 50 flavors, but only certain ones are available daily. Generally, those will include their two bestsellers, the Chocolate-chocolate cupcake (I forget the name) and the "Armadillo"--the red velvet. I wanted to get the "Santa Fe" - a cornbread cupcake with green chile topped with a honey buttercream--but alas they were out for the day. The friendly man behind the register removed that flavor from the daily menu after he realized this cupcake was not in attendance.

He did give me a frosting shooter to soothe my broken heart.

So I went for my second choice--the "Southern Belle", a pecan cupcake with praline filling topped with cream cheese frosting. 

Looking into the Chinese takeout-style container (filled with cupcake!) this is what I saw. The man behind the counter (one of the owners) commented that he thought it was the prettiest of their cupcakes, and I agree that it was quite a looker. I didn't want to shut the lid for fear of disrupting the frosting.

Dream Cakes, Santa Fe

I dug in to the container, using a fork. 

And after one bite, I wanted to go back and demand that they stop stuffing their cupcakes with crack, because that's just illegal.

Dream Cakes, Santa Fe

OK, so the cupcakes are not stuffed with crack. But this one had an unmistakably buttery, rich vanilla birthday cake-y flavor, studded with delicious, sweet-salty praline gobs. It was good enough based on these merits, but add the cream cheese frosting and you have a combo that can make CakeSpy swoon.

I'll confess: based on the tiny interior and the prices and location, I had been slightly wary about this place as a tourist trap. But now that I have been, I must say that I am very impressed, and I am looking forward to going back and trying at least a baker's dozen more flavors.

66 E. San Francisco Street, Santa Fe NM; find out more info here.

Thursday
Nov152012

CakeSpy Undercover: Sara Sara Cupcakes, Oklahoma City

Apricot ricotta cupcake

You know me: I love a good cupcake.

But you know what I also love? A good cupcake shop that can also kindly suggest other bakeries in the area. I think it's a very good way to be! 

That's just what happened while visiting Pinkitzel in Oklahoma City, where they said that nearby, Sara Sara Cupcakes did some fine work. 

So over I went. I took a couple minutes to browse a very cute store next door, Shop Good before entering the cupcake den. 

It's an interesting configuration - the cupcake shop is actually in a house. It makes you feel like you're going into someone's cupcake house! 

Sara sara

The cupcake counter had a nice array of cakes in a variety of flavors. You can check out their full menu here, but here's some of what I saw. 

Sara sara Sara sara sara sara

After much debate, I chose the Apricot Ricotta Cupcake, which had ricotta in the cake batter, and cream cheese frosting.

Apricot Ricotta cupcake

Isn't it pretty?

Cupcake

NOM! This was a very large, and very tasty cupcake. I will tell the truth, I didn't get a *ton* of ricotta flavor, the cream cheese frosting kind of masked it--but that is a comment, not a complaint, because cream cheese frosting is one of my favorite things, and I think it should be a food group. The cake was tender and moist and assertively dense, which suited me just fine. The apricot bits on the top were a very nice way to round out the tanginess of the cream cheese. 

A very nice cupcake stop indeed--I'll happily visit again next time I'm in OKC!

7 NW 9th Street, Oklahoma City; online here.

Sunday
Nov112012

CakeSpy Undercover: Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

Mexican Wedding Cookie, Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

When a place has a name like Chocolate Maven, you'd probably expect the walls and fixtures to be made of chocolate, not to mention every single thing for sale. 

But you're not entirely right. 

Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

While Santa Fe's Chocolate Maven does have a highly respectable offering of chocolate goodies, it's got a whole lot more than just chocolate going on. It's a bakery / cafe / tea shop / restaurant. They have a counter in the front filled with fresh bread and baked goods, ranging from breakfast type items to cakes and pies. And cupcakes!

Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

In the back, it's a restaurant, where they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For sweets lovers, the brunch (chocolate almond crepes! Peach compote French Toast!), High Tea (Champagne Tea for two: two types of finger sandwiches, chocolate-dipped strawberries, two glasses of champagne!) and dessert menus in particular will probably be of interest. 

Mexican Wedding Cookie, Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

When it comes to the baked goods, I haven't sampled extensively, but I have enjoyed what I have tried (um, none of it with chocolate). First, the mexican wedding cake. This is absolutely one of my favorite types of cookies: soft, crumbly, luxuriantly buttery, and nutty to boot. The Maven's version was a very nice size--not teeny tiny, but with a nice heft to it. The flavor was just perfect--the buttery nuttiness rendered completely addictive with the addition of sweet confectioners' sugar. 

Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

The cherry tart was also highly pleasant - with a rich, crumbly crust which acted as the tasty bed for a dollop of custard topped with sweet cherries. I felt like chocolate shavings would have been a nice addition to this dessert, but this thought didn't in any way keep any part of the tart from being devoured. 

Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

Chocolate Maven has won a ton of awards over the years, and I can see why. They do sweet stuff right.  And you know what? I really can't wait to get back here to try some of the other things on the menu, like hazelnut cheesecake or an almond fudge brownie, or the Mayan chile hot chocolate, or the Mocha Mousse Petit Four Grande with Caramel Sauce (try saying that five times fast!). 

Chocolate Maven, 821 W. San Mateo Road, Santa Fe NM; online here.

Sunday
Nov042012

CakeSpy Undercover: Grandma's Cookies, St Charles MO

Grandma's cookies

I need to tell you about a place called Grandma's Cookies.

At this magical place in a charming suburb of St Louis, MO, they specialize in--well, cookies.

But here's the thing. The cookies are only about 60 cents each! Well, less than 70 cents each. I forget exactly how much. And they're a pretty good size. In a world where cookies are regularly up to and sometimes even exceed $3.00, this made me like them from the get-go.

Grandma's cookies

And after reviewing the offerings, the unique formation of the chocolate chip cookies made me like them even more. The chocolate chip cookies almost looked like little sun hats: A cookie base, with a cookie lump on top. Oddly, none of the other cookie flavors shared this formation, they were just kind of flat cookies. I'm sure they were good but I zeroed in on the cool (and more bulky) looking chocolate chip cookie. 

Grandma's Cookies, St Charles MO

Look at how it looks in my hand!

Grandma's cookies

Alternate view!

Grandma's cookies

And look how it looks bitten into!

Grandma's cookies

Dude, this cookie was good. And not just "good for 60 cents" good. It was genuinely good. The unique formation gave it a particularly chewy and nearly gooey center, but the edges were crispy. The chocolate chips were ably met by the brown sugary buttery cookie base, and when they came together in my mouth, I felt a moment of pure magic.

A very good cookie indeed. If you find yourself in this charming part of the world, please go there. And buy a baker's dozen of these cookies. It won't even cost that much!

Grandma's Cookies, 401 S. Main Street, St. Charles MO; online here.

P.S. Like the pictures in this post? I took them on my new Intuition phone, part of the Midwest Savvy Gourmets program from Verizon!  Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Gourmets program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Saturday
Nov032012

Coming up Flours: Bloom Baking Company, Kansas City MO

PB Krispie chocolate bar

Recently I found myself in Kansas City, MO, for about an hour. What to do? Go to a bakery, natch!

So after asking around, I learned that a fantastic one stop wonder of a place to get food, both sweet and savory, and maybe pick up a unicorn figurine, would be the historic City Market (est. 1857). OK! 

Bloom baking co

Nestled in the market was Bloom Baking Company. I was so glad to see them. I spent a long time ogling their cases. They had homemade bread, which was fantastic, but unfortunately I didn't think it would travel well.

Bloom baking co

Nor did I think their specialty--bread pudding--would. Although I got to sample it and it was very good.

Bloom baking co

So after being tempted by many goodies, including a pecan cranberry tart, pumpkin roll, macarons, cupcakes, lovely croissants and frenchy things, cookies, and so on, I settled on two items.

PB Krispie chocolate bar

First up: the chocolate peanut butter crispy treat. I had to get this, as it reminded me of another favorite Midwest treat, the Special K Bar. Gosh, was this thing good. The peanut butter and chocolate were the dominant flavors, and they were done very well. The crispiness of the treat mixture below made it almost alarmingly addictive. I wanted to eat my weight in it. Like a candy bar, but fancier and better. Such a good treat that embraces fancy and lowbrow all at once.

Bloom baking co

Next up: the flourless chocolate cake. When bought by the slice, it's made even better by being coated in chocolate, a brilliant trick which both makes it more decadent and keeps the cake moist. It was a very chocolatey treat. One of those ones that coats your mouth with chocolate. You might want to smack me for saying it, but probably of the two treats this was my lesser favorite. There is a personal preference that plays into this, though. When it comes to chocolate desserts, I generally prefer them as chocolate with another flavor. The traveling buddy I was with, however, is a choco-choco-choco sort, so it was perfect. So there you have it: if you're a chocolate blackout sort, this one is perfect for you. 

Chocolate covered cake

All in all, I found this a most pleasing stop during my hour in Kansas City (alas, the vendors did not have any unicorn figurines); I spent the rest of my hour eating, looking at vendors, driving by the Hallmark Headquarters...and then I was gone!

Bloom baking co

Bloom Baking Company, 15 e. 3rd Street, Kansas City; online here.

Thursday
Nov012012

Sweet Morning Carbohydrates at Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe NM

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

At Tecolote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico, they serve "great breakfast, no toast".

Now, I know. You're thinking...what's wrong with toast? Certainly it's a likeable foodstuff.

But as I found out on a recent visit, after taking a bite or two of what they do offer here, you won't even care why they don't serve toast, because you won't miss it.

First off, the "bakery basket". When you order an egg breakfast, you get a choice of tortillas or "bakery basket" as a side when you order. I want to urge you to NOT BE A FOOL. Because while tortillas are undeniably tasty, the bakery basket is the way to go here. This is what you can expect (and this is for one person):

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

The sweetest basket, with muffins and biscuits! On the day of my visit, it was blueberry, corn-jalapeno, and pumpkin muffins, and a biscuit. This could change on the day of your visit, but I promise it will be tasty.

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

But on to breakfast. If there is even a small part of you that has an interest in pancakes, you must order a pancake here. They are delicious. They are huge--salad plate sized--so one is perfect, especially if you add fruit or an egg or something on the side. Yes, if you look at the top picture you will see I ordered an egg. I know this is a big deal because it proves that I ate something other than sweets. Don't worry, I didn't eat anything else that wasn't sugar-coated all day.

I got the Atolé Piñon pancake. To translate, this is a blue cornmeal pine nut pancake. And was it ever good. The slight grit of the cornmeal gave the pancake an interesting texture and wonderful natural sweetness, and the mellow, rich pockets of toasted pine nut gave it a nice crunch every now and again. Topped with (warmed!) syrup and butter, this was a thing of sweet beauty to behold and to then store in my stomach. It was a warming and hearty and pretty much perfect pancake. 

They also had "Tollhouse" pancakes -- with chocolate chips and nuts. 

Now. Tecolote has sweet French Toast offerings too (I didn't ask why it was ok to have "no toast" but French Toast was OK): on the day of my visit, there were various fruit and chocolate and nut options. Tasty town!

Basically what I am saying here is that if you do not go to Tecolote Cafe as soon as possible, you are doing yourself a great disservice. 

Tecolote Cafe, 1203 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, NM. Online here.

Tuesday
Sep112012

An Open Love Letter to Capogiro Gelato, Philadelphia 

Unicorn and gelato

I am sort of embarrassed that I have not yet written about Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia.

I first came in contact with the ambrosial gelato experience that is Capogiro about a year ago, when I was in Philadelphia for my book tour for CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life . I asked that designed-for-crowd-sourcing tool known as Twitter where the best gelato in the city could be found. The refrain echoed resoundingly: CAPOGIRO. Wonderfully, there was a location not far from 30th street station, my point of entry into the city. 

Gelato from Capogiro, Philadelphia

I walked from the station to their location on 20th street, where I tried two flavors: Lancaster pumpkin with walnut gelato.

Oh. My. God. 

This is some of the best gelato I have ever tasted, and I have tasted a lot, let me tell you. The pumpkin was mellow and sweet, and the walnut tasted rich and smooth, with an aftertaste that reminded me of lightly salted butter (god, is that ever a good thing). The overall experience was made even more magical because of the fact that I was hoping for a mere gelato fix, but ended up having one of my most exquisite gelato experiences to date. What a wonderful suprise. 

I was in Philadelphia for 2 days on that visit, and I visited Capogiro about 3 more times (you do the math). While I'd say the pumpkin and walnut combo was still the best one-two punch, I had several other very good experiences, including macadamia with dulce de leche; chocolate malt with marshmallow; burnt sugar with cashew.

Pistachio and burnt sugar gelato, Capogiro

When I returned to Philadelphia this year to reside in the fair city for a while, it became my personal mission to try every flavor in their case. 

Gelato from Capogiro, Philadelphia

One of the things I've loved best about discovering Capogiro is their creatively curated case: the flavors vary by day, so you have a chance to curate your own flavor experience each time you go. From the classics (vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, stracciatella, pistachio) to some more exotic (candied black cherry, burnt sugar, bananas foster, marshmallow) and then seasonal (peach; pumpkin, etc, when in season) Well, while I wouldn't say I've hit every flavor, I have done a very good job. 

Not that you asked, but my personal favorite flavors (the ones I have to get every time I go) are the following. I'll mix up what I pair them with, but I will always choose one of the following as my first flavor when I go. Don't get mad at me if they don't have the one you're crushing on when you visit, though!

-Sorrento Walnut: I think they secretly lace this flavor with crack, because it's just so good. Also very good: cashew, macadamia, hazelnut, pistachio. But the walnut is my smooth jam when it comes to a nutty gelato.

-Burnt Sugar: It's dark and toasty in flavor yet so smooth and creamy in texture; richly interesting.

-Philly Cream cheese: Gilding the lily? Perhaps, but it's like the gelato equivalent of cream cheese frosting. Pair it with a fruit gelato (I loved it with the peaches and cream, when in season)

-Cioccolato Scuro: If I am in the mood for a deep, dark, rich chocolate that WILL stick to my teeth and imbue my soul with pure chocolate happiness, this is the flavor to go with. If you're brave, pair it with something like chocolate hazelnut for a chocolatey one-two punch. Om nom. I've also really enjoyed it with the avocado gelato - live a little and try it.

-Marshmallow: I know, I know, this one is kind of the dark horse, because I wouldn't classify myself as a marshmallow lover. But it's a smooth, rich flavor that is perfect when matched with either a chocolate variety or a nutty or caramelly variety; it really just works. Trust me on it.

Capogiro, I love you. You've made my time in Philadelphia so much sweeter, creamier, and richer (in more ways than one). You've inspired my creativity and flavor profile skills, and even if I don't stay in Philadelphia forever, I will remain your loyal customer every time I return!

 Capogiro, multiple locations in Philadelphia; online here.

Sunday
Sep092012

CakeSpy Undercover: Belle Cakery, Philadelphia

Lemon cake, belle Cakery, Philadelphia

Today was a beautiful day and so I decided to take a long walk and eat cake. I know, a fantastic idea, right?

And one of the bakeries on my list was the darling little shop called Belle Cakery in the East Passyunk area of Philadelphia (it's pretty hip there). It's mainly a custom-order cake shop but they have a well-curated selection of sweets in the front, and a few tables for seating. And when I say "a few" I mean more than three people is a crowd in this store. 

Belle Cakery, Philadelphia

I went with a friend so we got a few things to try. What to get? After all, we had many options.

Belle Cakery, Philadelphia

We kept it pretty simple. One pricey dessert, one cheap one.

First up, the oatmeal cranberry cookie. A steal at just 50 cents!

Oatmeal cranberry cookie, belle cakery, philadelphia

It was a highly pleasing cookie. I have been quite fond of the oat-and-cranberry combo since making "Cranzac Biscuits", and this cookie was a fine illustration of how delightful these flavors taste together. A buttery cookie that was crisp on the edges and chewy inside got a little liveliness from zingy cranberries, which brought the brown sugary-ness to life. A nice twist on a classic.

Belle Cakery, Philadelphia

Next up, the pretty as a picture lemon poppyseed "Sunshine" cake. Visually it was fun in construction--a mini Dr. Seuss cake. It was extremely lemony--in a good way, not so tart it made you pucker but not so sweet that it hurt your teeth. It boasted a robust, custardy feel in the lemon sections; the poppyseed cake section was more like the complement to this part rather than the main event. Moreover, a delight. The employee said that it was his favorite dessert, like, ever, and that sold us--and he didn't steer us wrong. It was a very good cakelet-thing. At $6, it was spendy, but money well spent--a playful, fun dessert that was more exciting and exotic than a mere lemon cupcake. 

Sunshine cake

Belle Cakery, 1437 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia; online here.

Saturday
Sep082012

Quesitos de Guayabas from Snow Bakery, Rincon, Puerto Rico

Quesito de guayaba, Snow Bakery, Rincon, Puerto rico

Ever heard of something sweet called "quesito"? It's ok, neither had I – and I am a professional.

The name translates roughly to—cute alert--”little cheese”. I told you it was cute! But what is it, exactly?

Well, to the uninitiated, a quesito is kind of like the tropical version of a cheese danish. But it is not quite a cheese danish itself. Differences? First, the pastry part is a little flakier. In recipes I found, it looks like it is typically a puff pastry.

Second, the shape. It's not a big flat round saucer; it's kind of cigar-shaped. This doesn't seem to be absolute, though; some versions that I saw were folded over, with two kissing ends meeting in the middle, and exposed ends. It's filled with a sweet cream cheese. And the most popular variation, by what I saw in the Rincon, Puerto Rico area, was the quesito de guayaba – the guava and cheese filled quesito. Here's an example of another one, from The Noshery.

 

This is a highly pleasant pastry, I must tell you. The flaky exterior gives way to a soft and slightly gooey interior, and there's a beautiful moment when you reach the unique middle texture where the gooey fillings have baked into, and beautifully altered, the texture of the pastry. I wish I could live in that moment. Or at least make it last longer than part of a bite.

The melding of the flavors is also quite nice—the buttery flakiness of the pastry, the sweet richness of the cheese, the mellow sweetness of the guava. It makes for an absolutely perfect complement for the small, potent cafe con leche that the panaderias all seem to serve in Rincon.

The Snow Bakery did a very nice job at the quesito de guayaba, and I sure hope to repeat the experience at a later date. In the meantime, if you're not Puerto Rico-bound any time soon, try out a recipe for them here.

For directions to Panaderia Snow Bakery, click here.

Thursday
Sep062012

Sweet Story: How the Kouing Aman became the Queen of Salt Lake City

Kouing Aman, Les Madeleines

CakeSpy Note: Believe it or not, there's a sweet spot in Salt Lake City where the delightful French treat known as Kouing Aman (pronounce it "queen ahmann" in your Frenchiest voice, please) reigns supreme. It's at a bakery called Les Madeleines, where pastry chef Romina Rasmussen's version has won fans far and wide (even Oprah is said to be a fan!). But how did this happen? Here's the story of How the Kouing Aman became the Queen, written by the Queen of Kouing Aman herself, bakery owner Romina!

I wish I could tell you a story of one of my adventures that took me to Brittany, France where I discovered this hidden gem of a pastry.

It’s not as exciting as that. I discovered the Kouing Aman (or kouign aman) in a trade magazine. I like to stay up on what’s going on in the industry and was intrigued by an article I happened upon. I didn’t even make it right away. I put it aside to make it when I had time. Eventually, I gently nudged a regular customer to order some so I would have to make time. She did, and nothing has ever been the same.

The instructions wouldn’t work at this altitude (in Salt Lake City), so I adjusted the ingredients and technique. It took several batches to get them just right, but not so many that I wanted to give up.

At first I added them to our rotation of special viennoiserie, just once a week. At that point we were still undiscovered, so I only made eight at a time. Just eight! No one knew what they were. No one could say it. I didn’t expect it to go well.

Kouing Aman, Les Madeleines

The first few weeks I sampled a few out and it was unanimous love at first bite. The third week I got “in trouble” with a guest for running out, as she had driven a long way. The following it was because I'd put them out on the wrong day of the week. I ended up adding another day.

By the sixth week I was making them every day and people were making excuses as to why they were eating them so often – you know sick friends in the hospital and other such tales. We quickly nicknamed them “crack” and cautioned guests about their waistlines if they ate 2-3 per day. I once saw it almost come to blows over the last one between two ladies.

No matter how many I made, they’d sell out. I started limiting them to six/day without advanced orders. But this only made everyone want them more. At this point I was making way more than eight/day.

Eventually The Food Network found us and featured the Kouing Aman on Road Tasted with the Neelys and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We started shipping them, and now I can say they’ve made it to all 50 states. Being on The Food Network was a business changing endorsement that I am very grateful for.

Kouing

CakeSpy Note: May we pause for a moment to observe that the box says "by giving BUTTER, you give your HEART"...? LOVE it!

Eight years later, the Kouing Aman isn't such a secret. You can get them in a handful of bakeries (four in Salt Lake and counting) in several major cities. Most recently they’ve been featured in O The Oprah Magazine and were named Food & Wine's top pastry of 2012. They're destined to become a classic.

Pastry Chef Romina, making Kouing Aman, Les Madeleines

To purchase Kouing Aman or to plan a bakery visit to Salt Lake City yourself, visit the Les Madeleines website!

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