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Entries in bakeries (274)

Thursday
Mar292012

Butter Makes it Better: Philadelphia Butter Cake

Philadelphia butter cake

Probably, you already love Philadelphia Butter Cake. I mean, the title includes the words "butter" and "cake", so pretty much no matter where it's from, it's going to be lovable, right? In my opinion, we owe Philadelphia bigtime for giving us (and by "us" I mean, like, everyone in the world) the gift of this cake.

But, you may be wondering, what exactly is it?

Judging by the picture and the name, you might be tempted to think that Philadelphia Butter Cake, a rich, buttery cake with a gooey center, which served in bar form, is similar to Gooey Butter Cake, a St. Louis specialty. But you're not quite right: while they have some similar characteristics, I'd call them more "cousins" than "twins". 

Butter cake!

Likewise, you wouldn't want to confuse it with a simple "Butter Cake", or to expect a buttery yellow cake to be your result--there is really no frosting necessary with the Philadelphia version, and if you baked it expecting a layer cake, you'd be disappointed for sure. 

But let's go back to the Gooey Butter Cake. If you already know what that is, you have an idea of what you'd be up against with the Philadelphia Butter Cake. But the important differences? As I see it,

A. There is yeast in the "crust" part of the cake.

B. There is no cream cheese in the soft and gooey middle section; it is made of butter, more butter, a bit of flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and flavorings. 

C. The top forms a lightly soft crusty texture, which I found more pronounced than with a Gooey Butter Cake. 

The cake is sometimes referred to as "German Butter Cake", which leads me to believe that it is probably an American adaptation of a German cake, adapted in the new world to reflect the ingredients available.

The Philadelphia Butter Cake pictured in this post was obtained at the Flying Monkey Patisserie in the famed Reading Terminal Market, where, when ordering, I said "I'll have the buddah cake. Buddah". You know, to be funny. 

The cake was very, very good. It's so rich that it makes you want to cry, and has a touch of saltiness which complements the sweet, that makes you want to keep eating more and more. Their version had a more shortbread-y crust, so it may not be completely traditional, but it was totally tasty. I want more right now, in fact.

They also carry the cake at Town Crier Bakery and Bredenbeck's (I have tried this version, and it's very good). I also hear there's a fantastic version at Haegle's, which is famous for the stuff.

Here's a great blog post featuring a recipe for Philadelphia Butter Cake, including a step by step tutorial.

Wednesday
Mar212012

Gelat-O-Clock: La Copa Loca, San Francisco

La Copa Loca

Recently, while visiting SpySis in San Francisco (where she manages a fashion boutique), I had a craving for ice cream. This happens often.

Now, I really wanted to visit Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, which had been suggested by Anita Chu.

But when we got there, they had the saddest sign up: "SOLD OUT". What?!?

La Copa Loca

So, we did a quick search on where to find frozen sweets, FAST, and what came up was La Copa Loca, a gelato place in the Mission. I love gelato, so this was very acceptable. 

Now, I should tell you that the selection of flavors was beautiful--surprisingly thorough for a small space, including Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Panna Cotta, Mexican chocolate, chestnut, and more.

I got a combo of deliciousness: French vanilla bean, and pumpkin (a special that day).

The French vanilla was a standout, lightly eggy and very rich, incredibly creamy in that "it-is-gonna-coat-your-mouth-but-that's-a-good-thing-because-you-don't-want-the-flavor-to-end" sort of way. The pumpkin gelato was sweetly spiced and acted as a beautiful complement to the rich vanilla--together, the two flavors were almost like eating the beating heart of pumpkin pie in frozen form, and man, was that a nice experience.

La Copa Loca

Sadly, while SpySis's dog, Hamilton, was eager to be SpyDog, he did not get any gelato. Maybe he'll talk to me again one day.

La Copa Loca Gelato, 3150 22nd street, San Francisco, CA 94110find La Copa Loca on Facebook here.

Tuesday
Mar202012

CakeSpy Undercover: Metropolitan Bakery, Philadelphia

Photo: Metropolitan Bakery facebook pageI have a big, sweet, carbohydratey crush on Philadelphia's Metropolitan Bakery. Why, you ask?

Well. There are a few reasons.

Metropolitan bakery

First off, they make wonderful bread. This is important. But sometimes, when a bakery excels at baking bread, their sweet treats seem secondary. And I get it--bread is their "thing". But very happily, Metropolitan Bakery doesn't fall into this category.

First, I will address their sticky buns. Like, whoa. Nice and yeasty, but with a pleasing amount of gooey filling, these buns are generously bathed in a caramelly coating and topped with pecans, making for a decadently delicious breakfast treat. I heated mine a little bit, and it sort of tasted like heaven. Really. I think I heard the "Dream Weaver" music playing.

Next, I will address their lemon bars. Now, by appearances only, the lemon bars are fairly average. I don't mean this as an insult. All that I am saying is, how could you know that this unassuming bar holds such a treasure of flavors? Assertively--nearly puckeringly--lemon, these cool and tart bars are anchored by a rich, buttery shortbread crust. Please, let me have another.

Next, I will talk for a moment about their raspberry crumb bars. Once again, not saccharine sweet, and beautifully finished off which a slightly salty, very buttery brown sugar crumb topping. I can see how one could even convince oneself that it's vaguely healthy. 

Metropolitan Bakery

Speaking of vaguely healthy, they also offer something called a Millet Muffin. Now, in general, such a title would not entice me--but wrapped in liner paper that made them look like little flowers, I was intrigued. And I was assured by the counter lady that they were very, very good. "Are they healthy?" I asked. And she said, "Well, not really". That's all I needed--"I'll take it!" I said. And you know what? These muffins are very good. The millet adds a nice, nutty flavor and a wonderfully crunchy flavor which doesn't fall into "crack yo' teeth" territory--but the muffin base is deliciously dense and buttery. I call it a winner. 

And because this stuff contributes to the overall bakery experience, I should say that as an artistic person, their logo, which is inspired by the Paris Metro, pleases me greatly. 

Their menu is pretty extensive, featuring cakes, cookies, Frenchie-stuff like caneles and macarons, and tarts. And everything I have sampled has been quite good. What I am getting at here is: go to this bakery.

Metropolitan Bakery has a few locations in the Philadelphia area; find out more about them on their website.

Sunday
Mar112012

CakeSpy Undercover: Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

For this assignment, I went undercover--and underground--to visit Tiffany's Bakery.

This is an unexpected spot to find delicious treats--for one thing, it is in the basement level of an urban shopping mall. In the food court. It's flanked by places like McDonalds and Auntie Anne's--not exactly where you'd expect to find a scratch-baked, totally awesome bakery.

My trip was doubly delightful in that it was the spot suggested by my friend Margaret, a brilliant editor at Quirk Books. It's amazing, she promised. I didn't need to be told twice.

I was glad it had been suggested, because purely based on looks, the the bakery might not get you right away: the shelving and lighting are fairly generic and utilitarian.

But the crowd surrounding the sweet-smelling bakery is your first indication that you've reached an unexpected goldmine of deliciousness. And clearly they've got a loyal following: they've been baking up sweets for 33 years now!

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

And because we never do anything halfway, we got not one but about a half-dozen of their sweet treats, including a sticky bun, a cookie, a red velvet cupcake, a mini cherry cheese danish, and a "George Washington Slice", a sort of spicy brownie-gingerbread type bar. 

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

And you know what? Everything was very, very good. Standouts for me were the cherry danish and sticky bun, which were lightly yeasty, not too sweet, but pleasingly decadent on both counts. Also very strong was the cookie, which was spicy and flavorful. I personally did not try the cupcake but was assured it was a good specimen. The chewy "George Washington Bar" was like a chewy spice cake meets brownie--interesting, a little different, and I think it would make a great companion to eggnog around the holidays. 

I learned that Tiffany's is known and highly regarded for their generous slices of Strawberry Short Cake - making that my #1 pick for my next visit.

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

Another nice thing about Tiffany's is that they offer many of their items in two sizes, which I estimated to be "small-medium" and "very large".  The smaller size is perfect for mixing and matching or if you're serving a crew at a brunch or event. Or, you know, if you want to try six pastries in one sitting and convince yourself it's ok because they're "mini".

The final word? Visiting Tiffany's is an adventure, you'll have plenty of good people watching, and the pastries are worth a visit.

Tiffany's Bakery, 9th and Market, Gallery Mall Food Court; online here.

Thursday
Mar082012

CakeSpy Undercover: Sweets at Coal Creek Coffee, Laramie WY

Pie in the sky

Funny thing about crossing the country by automobile: sometimes, it is really hard to find good coffee.

And when I say "it's hard to find good coffee" I mean that sometimes you find yourself praying to the coffee gods to just send you a Starbucks. Please. 

But happily, while passing through Laramie, Wyoming, I had a sweet discovery which satisfied my caffeine needs as well as my sugary desires: Coal Creek Coffee. 

A coffee roaster with a few retail locations, Coal Creek not only has rich, bold coffee, but a delicious selection of sweet treats.

One of the standouts? The Raspberry pie, which was on the menu during the Valentine's day week. The berries were tart, not overly-sweetened, and bursting with flavor. The crust was the perfect rich, buttery, flaky complement, sturdy but not overwhelming. It was an exceedingly pleasant pie. I'd warrant a guess it would be even better with whipped cream or ice cream, but these toppings aren't especially friendly for traveling, so I suppose I will just have to dream about that.

 

. Raspberry Pie

Also in their bakery case? A variety of brownies, cookies, other pies, and bars. These cookies in particular seemed interesting:

Laramie, WY

For more information, visit the Coal Creek Coffee website!

Sunday
Mar042012

Seeking Sweetness: Daily Snapshot, Frog Cupcakes

CakeSpy Note: if you follow me on facebook or Twitter, you know that I love posting sweet pictures. Sometimes I post a daily feel-good photo on the site, for no particular reason other than to showcase these sweet little nothings, in hopes that they'll make you smile.

Today's feature: frog cupcakes from Belmar, New Jersey. These cupcakes are a tradition that crop up around the time of the town's annual St. Patrick's Day parade (which usually takes place in Belmar before March 17--don't ask me why). They are usually vanilla, with a dollop of pink frosting, topped with green fondant and decorated like frogs. When you take a bite of the head, it's pink inside. It's awful and awesome all at once.

Tuesday
Feb282012

Sweet of the Day: Ice Cream in Pretzel Cones, Miller's Twist, Philadelphia

The best invention, possibly ever: ice cream in pretzel cones. Honestly, the combo is all WIN, no lose. 

I discovered this feat of awesomeness at Miller's Twist, a pretzel-hot-dog-ice-cream vendor in the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. 

After being drawn in by the sign for Butter Brickle ice cream (a flavor you really don't see enough), I noticed that I could get a cake or wafer cone, like a jerk...

or, for a mere $1.25 more, I could get either a waffle, chocolate, cookie, or pretzel cone.

Pretzel Cone! No contest!

The sweet, creamy ice cream against the sturdy, salty-carby-crackery pretzel cone, was basically the best thing ever. It was a sweet and salty combo which called to mind the decadence of french fries and a shake, but was devoid of the greasy sogginess that can occur when you dip your fries. The pretzel cone stood the test of cone consumption time, not collapsing under the weight of the ice cream, and not leaking or getting soggy toward the end. 

Butter brickle in a pretzel cone was a very delicious combo, but to bravely test out another option for you, I returned the next day and got another pretzel cone, this time with peanut butter ripple ice cream.

It was also, I am happy to report, quite delicious. So, to review: if you are in Philadelphia, get yourself to Miller's Twist for a pretzel cone!

Find Miller's Twist on Facebook here.

Sunday
Feb262012

Sweet Discovery: The Cookie Lady, Ogden UT

Cookie Lady of Ogden, Utah

The Cookie Lady of Ogden, Utah, has a new fan: ME.

No, she doesn't run a retail operation, but she sells her sweet wares at coffee shops and gourmet grocers all around the greater Ogden area. I picked up some of her cookies at Grounds For Coffee, a small coffee chain. I was told that the cookies were "really, really good" - so naturally I had to pick up a few. There were oatmeal, chocolate chip, and even vegan varieties.

Cookie Lady of Ogden, Utah

The standout? The chocolate chocolate chip cookie with pecans.

For one thing, the cookie is a nice, decent size. Not too big, but not annoyingly small, it's a mouthful but it won't leave you feeling sick afterward. A good start.

And the cookie itself has a great texture: crispy on the edges, chewy on the inside.

And the flavor brings it home: rich and chocolatey, buttery and well-rounded, with a nice crunch from the pecans, this cookie is clearly made well, made with love, and made in a home-baked tradition. That is to say, it's like grandma's homemade cookies...but better than my grandma's homemade cookies. Plus, the flavor combination is just a little bit unexpected.

Other than Grounds for Coffee locations, I can't tell you where else you might find the cookies in the area, but if you felt like doing your own sleuthing, the company's info is listed on the cookies; you can find their phone number and info here.

 

Thursday
Feb232012

CakeSpy Undercover: Doughnuts and More at Cle Elum Bakery, WA

Cle Elum Bakery

I've been to Cle Elum Bakery in Washington before.

I've tried their tantalizing Torchetti, and lovingly learned about the bakery's history.

But on a recent visit, I had the good fortune of trying a few more goodies: their quiche (savory, I know), as well as several of their doughnuts (cake and a yeast variety with coconut coating) and their divinity.

The quiche (not pictured) was truly outstanding. The crust was just flaky enough, and full of flavor. The filling (vegetables on the day I went) was not at all bland (a common quiche complaint for me)--it was simply bursting with flavor, and required no seasoning whatsoever. It paired beautifully with the dark, rich Caffe Vita coffee which they serve.

Cle Elum Bakery

The doughnuts were divided, in my mind: the cakey varieties were pretty perfect, just greasy enough, and delicious with coffee. The yeast varieties were not quite as memorable in this Spy's opinion, relying more on the toppings for flavor, with a slightly drier interior. 

The divinity was unlike any other I've tried, more like a meltaway cookie. Extremely delicious, melt-in-your mouth, with a tantalizing slight saltiness that will make you want to keep on eating more. 

The bottom line? Cle Elum Bakery is well worth a visit, and not just for the famous Torchetti. Of course, next time I know I have to try the butter horns--or else, says my friend Molly!

For more information, visit the Cle Elum Bakery Facebook page.

Monday
Feb202012

Sweet Surprise: Delicious Pumpkin Cake from a Rest Stop in Council Bluffs, IA

Pumpkin Cake, Council Bluffs

I'm going to file this one under "unexpected deliciousness": pumpkin cake from a Sapp Brothers Travel Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

I found myself in this rest area for the typical reasons: to refuel the vehicle and to use the facilities while road-tripping.

But I spied something unexpected while I was about to exit the building: a display of cakes and cookies, which said that they were homemade. Say what? 

There was Red Velvet Cake, Carrot Cake, and a variety of cookies.

Oh, and Pumpkin cake. Yeah, let's try a piece of that. Well, actually, three: the box came with three thick wedges, each about the size of a butterscotch Krimpet, for $2.99.

Pumpkin Cake, Council Bluffs

And guess what? This cake was genuinely good. Not just good-for-something-purchased-at-a-gas-station, but actually good. The cake was moist and nicely spiced, and the frosting was generous, and very sweet and rich.

Much better than picking up a big gulp and corn nuts on the road, in my humble (and sweet) opinion.

Seek some sweetness for yourself: you can get this cake at Sapp Brothers, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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