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Entries in bakeries (274)

Friday
Sep302011

Cake Byte: Trophy Cupcakes Debuts Caramel Apple Cupcakes for October

Image: Trophy Cupcakes

Fall in Washington state can be a depressing prospect: the start of our annual 9 months of rainy winter.

But at least the apples are top-notch. And for the month of October, Trophy Cupcakes and Party is going to be offering up a delicious addition to their menu: Caramel Apple Cupcakes!

Per their most recent email,

More importantly, this new Trophy confection is the perfect dessert for all fall parties, including National Caramel Apple Day on Oct. 21. Imagine the smiles on little ones’ faces when these cupcakes are unveiled at their Halloween or harvest celebrations!

Trophy’s newest cake boasts chopped, organic Granny Smith apples from Washington, warm fall spices, organic cane sugar, and of course, local dairy and eggs. The spiced-apple cake is topped with Trophy’s house-made caramel infused buttercream, and is edged in toasted pecans, and finished with a drizzle of more homemade caramel sauce, a pretzel stem and a green wafer leaf.

“Caramel apples are a childhood favorite of mine and I knew the only way I would be happy with it as a cupcake was if I could really taste both the crisp, tart apples and the buttery caramel,” said Trophy Cupcakes and Party owner, Jennifer Shea. “By hand chopping the apples and making our caramel from scratch, we nailed it! This cupcake is my new favorite and I hope everyone who tries it loves it as much as I do!”

Caramel Apple cupcakes debut tomorrow, Sat., Oct 1, at Trophy Cupcakes and Party retail locations at Wallingford Center, University Village and The Bravern, and will be available for purchase for $4 throughout the month of October. To order Trophy’s Caramel Apple cupcakes, please call 206.632.7020; for locations, visit the Trophy Cupcakes website. 

Sunday
Sep252011

Sweet Chic: The Patisserie at SLS Beverly Hills

Let's spend a few moments to talk about the desserts I sampled at a place called the SLS Beverly Hills.

This is the hotel I stayed at when I went to the Emmy Awards (oh, did I tell you I did that?) and the best part about this quirky, curio-filled hotel is that they have their very own patisserie. Sweet!

In keeping with the hotel's curio closet-gets-Philippe Starcke-ified vibe, the sweet shop has an apothocary-meets-sleek chic feel, but the goodies are delicious business. Desserts can be ordered at the hotel restaurant/bar, or ordered a la carte at the counter.

This spy sampled the Greek Yogurt parfait with macerated apricots, which was a gorgeous surprise, with vanilla-scented house-made yogurt complemented by lovely apricots and honey. Who knew yogurt could be so good? It didn't taste overly breakfast-y, either--they do have a version that they serve in the morning, too, though, albeit with less sweet bells and whistles.

But if you ask me, the real stars were the a la carte items: homemade marshmallows, small “tablet” chocolate bars, bonbons, lollipops, and mini-cookies including financiers, florentines, lava cookies, and more. It made for a magical presentation, and the sweets were all very well-executed small bites, clearly made with fine ingredients, with care given to flavor contrast and sweet presentation.

The SLS Beverly Hills hotel may be too cool for school for some, but a stop to the patisserie even as a walk-in is well worth the trip.

SLS Beverly Hills Patisserie, Los Angeles.

Saturday
Sep242011

CakeSpy Undercover: Sweet Lady Jane, Beverly Hills CA

I want to tell you about my recent visit to a magical place called Sweet Lady Jane.

Now, I first made note of Sweet Lady Jane several years ago, when I saw it featured in a glossy celebrity magazine as the maker of a famous person's wedding cake (I forget who; the cake was what made an impression).

And so when I recently found myself in Los Angeles for the Emmys with Duncan Hines, I made sure to check out this delicious spot in Beverly Hills with a buddy.

Sweetly decorated inside, the bakery cases present some serious eye candy: mile-high meringues, decadent cookies, gorgeous pastries, and—most importantly—cakes. Cakes, cakes, cakes. Of all sorts and sizes, from red velvet cupcakes to chocolate decadence cake to Princess Torte and more. Like, whoa.

Our Spy Selections? Chocolate decadence cake, walnut caramel tart, Red Velvet cupcake, and a sea salt brownie.

My main treat was the Red Velvet cupcake. If I could have hooked myself up to an IV to quicker receive the cream cheese frosting from the Red Velvet cupcake I would—it was my ideal type of frosting, sweet but not saccharine, and lightly tangy from the cream cheese. The cake was flavorful. The cake was good. The cake was great. But I am going to tell you the truth in that for me, it was a vehicle for that frosting.

My next favorite was the tart, which had a nice, creamy filling and delightfully thick caramel finish on top of a shortbready crust.

The chocolate decadence was for chocolate die-hards only, unapologetically chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, and weighing roughly the same as a human baby (and not necessarily a newborn).

I didn't taste the brownie, but was assured that it had a nicely balanced flavor, with the salt providing a flavor contrast and rounding out the chocolatiness of the treat.

Basically, what I am saying here is that if you are in Los Angeles and don't go to Sweet Lady Jane, you are making a grave mistake.

Sweet Lady Jane, Beverly Hills, CA. Online here.

Thursday
Sep222011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Heather Barranco of Dreamcakes, NY and NJ

Cakes are generally dreamy, but Dreamcakes are especially daydream-worthy: gorgeous confections that taste as good as they look, baked and designed by artist and product designer-turned baker Heather Barranco, who creates these cakes for custom clients and sells through the six locations of metro-NYC area gourmet grocer Eden Marketplace and Garden of Eden. Want to learn more about these sweet treats? Read on:

Tell me about the most recent dessert that impressed you (made by you or someone else). The most recent dessert to impress me? How can I pick just one? I'm impressed by the design of elaborate blown sugar work. It reminds me of when I experimented in glass blowing. I would like to learn sugar blowing. For taste, the most amazing dessert is Italian lobster tails with French cream; it's flaky on the outside and creamy on the inside. Like the food critic in the movie Ratatouille, I love any dessert that takes me back to my childhood. As a kid, my favorite cake was a chocolate cake with banana cream and whipped cream. Now, I make this unique cake combination called Chocolate Bananas Foster. It's a grown up, gourmet version of my childhood favorite with fresh bananas and caramel.

You went to Parsons School of Design. What about cake appeals to you as artistic medium? As an artist, I love experimenting in different mediums. An artist feels the need to express one self visually. I find the multiple senses exciting; taste, smell, texture or touch and of course, sight. I've always been obsessed with desserts from a young age. This medium suits me. I find it also appeals to many people because of the various senses involved. It's almost like you are becoming one with the "beauty" of the cake when you taste it. Along with the senses, I love being a part of my clients' joyous occasions. My favorite subject at Parsons outside of design courses was art history. I love being able to incorporate my clients cultural background into the design and flavor of the cake. Being able to design directly for my clients excites me.

When I worked as a product designer, we were always asked to invent new product concepts for a corporation's marketing team. My designs would be sold all over the world but, I would rarely come in contact with the consumer using my design.

What is Dreamcakes' involvement or relationship with Eden Marketplace / Garden of Eden? Eden Marketplace/ Garden of Eden is a chain of 6 gourmet stores in New York/New Jersey. When I approached one of the owners to sub-lease space in their store, he asked to have my products in all their stores. For a number of years, the owners were actually looking for someone to make gourmet specialty cakes and wedding cakes for their customers. Even though I am the owner of Heather Barranco Dreamcakes, I'm definitely a part of their family. My team and I work 4 out of 5 days in the South Orange flagship bakery of Eden Marketplace. One day a week, I meet with clients in the the NYC corporate office. I love working in their store and being able to build my brand as a part of their gourmet offerings.

Why do wedding cakes always taste different than birthday cake, even if they're the same flavor? Wedding cakes generally taste different from the average cake for two reasons. Many wedding cake designers make the cake as a pound cake because it makes the cake more stable; less likely to fall apart when stacked in tiers or during transport. Birthday cakes are made of lighter, airy cakes. Sometimes they are made with whipped cream--a big no-no for a tiered cakes. I've tested so many recipes to get the perfect balance of light and tasty with stable structure. I have actually received many clients commenting on our taste as being more flavorful and moist then other wedding cakes. I won't compromise taste for design, it's all one in the same. The taste, texture and flavors need to be designed as well as the visual beauty.

Your flavor menu is incredibly eclectic. What plays into you deciding to add a new flavor to the menu? I add so many flavors because I want my flavors to appeal to different ethic groups, and various people. My husband is Indian and I've really embraced his culture as well as the Indian style of cooking. This may help to understand some of my flavor choices. I wouldn't be interested in just offering vanilla and chocolate. Like I said, earlier, I like to design the flavor as well as the visual style of the cake. I want people to be able to experiment and try something they've never tasted.

Tell me more about DreamBoxes. Are they like Pandora's box, but opening up a new world of cake deliciousness? DreamBoxes were inspired by print making and lithography. I liked the idea of having uniquely designed cookies that could be collected or gifted. The design would be numbered and then retired.

Tell me the truth. Do you have any junk food guilty pleasures? Sweet or savory? I have so many junk food guilty pleasures that you wouldn't have space in your blog ;) here's a few, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies from Eden Gourmet, German chocolate cake ice cream at Cold Stone as well as Mint Chocolate Chip, ladyfinger blueberry cheesecake, and weird but true, I crave black licorice every time I enter a drug store. My favorite savory foods are Alaskan King Crab, lobster, oysters and my grandmother's tomato salad. I can't stand greasy food.

You have been called a "renowned party-giver". Sweet! Tell me about a memorable party (including the cake). This may surprise you but the best parties I've thrown are all about enjoying the people. When we have big parties for Christmas, baptism, etc. all of my husband's extended family comes from Canada for the weekend at our house. We've had over 35 people sleeping in our house for a party. We stay up late into the night singing, dancing, and playing the tabla (Indian drum). We sleep everywhere in the house, including the screened in porch. As a family, we cook together elaborate meals. I'm around cake all the time lately so I usually want to make other unique desserts for my family functions. Seeing my children happy with their loved ones is important. I like lots of people surrounding me. This is fun to me. 

The day after an event, you have some slightly stale but mostly still good cake. What do you do with the leftovers? If I had a really delicious, day old cake...I would never throw away good food unless it is spoiled or processed junky cake. You can warm stale cake in the microwave to bring back some if it's flavor and moistness. I always have lots of people around. Serve it with some tea and coffee.

What's next? With my background in product design and manufacturing, I would like to eventually build our own line of unique designer kitchen products. We also have some really interesting projects and media in the works, which I can't discuss. I will keep you updated as projects solidify.

Want more? Visit heatherbarranco.com.

Tuesday
Sep202011

Guest Blog Post: Cake Gumshoe Molly Visits Dooher's Bakery, Ontario

Images: Molly AllenCakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Molly. Read her full post here!

Dooher’s Bakery of Campbellford, Ontario, Canada has always been a favorite of mine. Dooher’s opened in 1949 and has flourished with popularity ever since. Everything about Dooher’s is kept within the family and all recipes are made from scratch.

I’ve never stepped foot in a bakery with so many delicious choices. Dooher’s is stock full of breads, buns, biscuits, muffins, cookies, donuts, pies, and sweet pastries. The choices are ridiculous, as you will want to eat one of every single item available.

I had one of their cream puffs, mainly because it has been a must-have for every Dooher’s trip I’ve had since I was little. Those things are incredible. Most cream puffs are made with a puff pastry base, but Dooher’s makes theirs with donuts! Two incredibly fluffy, sweet donuts with a big spoonful of cream in the middle? Aren’t you convinced yet?

For years, my family has come to Dooher’s for their tarts and pies. Their pastry crust is unsurpassed, and their fruit fillings are made from locally grown produce. We picked up a few lemon tarts, which are, by my standards, incredible. Creamy, lemony, tart filling plopped on a flaky crust; no wonder they do such wonderful business.

This time during my visit, Dooher’s had a new treat I had never seen before. The friendly clerk at the counter described it as “a French pastry crust with a custard and raspberry filling, topped with whipped cream.” Whoa. Sure, I had already chosen a large number of treats…but I think that can be considered a necessity. It was flaky, it was creamy, it was sweet, it was tart; all of the best baking adjectives combined into one incredible treat.

Lastly, we took home a bag of Dooher’s Oatmeal Jam cookies. Such a simple treat, but an incredible one at that. These cookies consist of two vanilla-oatmeal cookies with a sweet layer of raspberry jam in the middle. It is really easy to eat the whole bag in one day; a love/hate relationship.

The Dooher family has spread their love of baking throughout Ontario for years. My family have been avid customers for a number of years. Their baked goods are of the best quality. There is no other bakery I have found that can compare to this favorite of mine.

Dooher’s Bakery, 61 Bridge Street, Campbellford, Ontario, Canada

Friday
Sep022011

Sweet States: North Dakota Destinations

Chocolate covered potato chips from Carol Widman'sYou know what's totally sweet? Getting great bakery suggestions. And with my upcoming road trip to Chicago, I'm seeking out the best places from much of sea to shining sea. Happily, Cake Gumshoe Erika, who resides in North Dakota, was kind enough to send me this wonderful list of bakery suggestions for her state! They are listed alphabetically:
The Donut Hole: My favorite place! My father and I used to go every Saturday morning when I was a child and I remember going as though it were yesterday. The store in Fargo closed quite a while ago, however I surprised my dad with a doughnut cake from The Donut Hole last year and I know that he, just like me is looking forward to another cake this year. If you go and you should, I highly recommend the Norwegian Sour Cream doughnut, French Swirl with chocolate and chocolate cookies with chocolate frosting. 1914 North 12th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501.
 
Photo: Nichole's Fine PastryNichole's Fine Pastry: The desserts are really great, especially the seven layer bar. nicholesfinepastry.com
Sweet Dreams Confections: Such great candy, treats and gelato. Also, the owners are the sweetest people ever. sweetdreamsconfections.com
 
Widman's Candy: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips: best combo ever. They are famous and Widman's has the best. carolwidmanscandy.com
Thanks, Erika! If anyone has any other North Dakota suggestions (or suggestions for any state, really), feel free to chime in!
Thursday
Sep012011

Seeking Sweetness: Daily Snapshot, Whisk Bike Rack, Saint Cupcake, Portland OR

CakeSpy Note: if you follow me on facebook or Twitter, you probably know I'm partial to observing (and sometimes adding) sweetness in the natural world and urban landscape. Here's where I post a daily feel-good photo or image, for no particular reason other than to showcase these sweet little nothings, in hopes that they'll make you smile.

This bike rack, outside of the new location of Saint Cupcake in Portland, OR (a stop on CakeSpy's Tour De Sweet Book Tour, btw) is pretty much topping the list of things that are Great in my mind right now.

Thursday
Aug182011

CakeSpy Undercover: Omonoia Greek Bakery, Denver CO

My appetite for Greek pastries was largely formed during my college years, when my BFF, James Papadopoulos, introduced me to the bakeries of Astoria, Queens, where there were cookies that shared his last name and so many other delicious treats to be discovered. 

So naturally, when I came across Omonaia Bakery in Denver, CO, I had to at least walk in and check out the wares. 

What might you expect, walking into this place? For one thing, owners or family (maybe both?) sitting at a table drinking coffee and talking animatedly. For some reason, this always seems to be happening at old-school bakeries, no matter what the ethnicity of the owners. 

For another, lots and lots of sweet treats. Including baba au rhum-looking things:

...cookies of all sorts, like Kourabiedes and Melomacarona:

...and of course, Galaktobouriko:

I went for the honey cookies, and let me tell you, these were tasty little morsels. I actually gnawed on mine as a sort of belated-breakfast-not-quite-lunchtime treat, and it was lightly sweet, scented with honey, lightly but not distractingly crumbly, and perfect to tide me over til feeding time.

A very sweet spot to visit--if you find yourself in Denver, hit them up (they're not far away from Lovely Confections, either!).

Omonoia, 2813 E Colfax, Denver, CO. On Facebook here.

Omonia Bakery on Urbanspoon

Friday
Aug122011

CakeSpy Undercover: The Shoppe, Denver CO

Sometimes, work is hard.

But sometimes, it's not. Actually, work was quite easy on the day it involved visiting and tasting treats from The Shoppe in Denver, Colorado.

The Shoppe's decor reminded me of the short-lived but much loved Chaos Theory in Chicago; a little quirky, a lot fun, with the real showpiece being the sweet treats enclosed in their small but well-stocked baked goods case.

But what to go for?

Tres Leches cupcakes (pictured top) were a must--they looked to be absolutely oozing with sweet dairy deliciousness, and when put on a little plate, they left a little milky ring around the bottom, so saturated were they with the triple-threat of milky nom-ness. Choosing the mini size was a good idea though, because a little went a long way with these deliciously dense treats.

Second up? The Pezzimenti, because, well, that's one I hadn't seen before. Turns out, the Pezzimenti is a banana cupcake filled with Nutella, topped with peanut butter frosting--that is to say, how could it possibly be bad? The cake was quite pleasing but the real star was the double-nutty plus chocolate frosting, which was smooth and rich and I would totally eat it by the spoonful if given the opportunity.

Of course, there are many other tempting flavors, including seasonal specials--for instance, if you were to walk in today, you might find flavors like Peaches and Cream, Colorado Cherry, or the "Michael Jackson" -- described as "A Vanilla cupcake filled with decadent chocolate truffle and topped with both white and dark chocolate frosting".

And with that, I decree that you are in Denver, you should make an effort to visit The Shoppe. They are located at 3103 East Colfax, Denver; online here.

Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Monday
Aug082011

CakeSpy Undercover: Cake Gumshoe Molly Visits Vinman's Bakery, Ellensburg, WA

CakeSpy Note: This is a summary of Cake Gumshoe Molly Allen's recent visit to Vinman's Bakery, in Ellensburg, WA. Molly is a student at the nearby CWU!

Vinman’s, across the street from the the Central Washington University campus, not only provides sweet and savory treats for Ellensburg residents, but also comfort food for the homesick college student.

On a Saturday morning at Vinman's, the options range from sweet and decadent treats to loaves of bread and foccacias. Vinman’s display holds danishes, croissants, muffins, sticky buns, Nanaimo bars, and even freshly made dog biscuits. Their loaves of bread, stacked behind the counter, included sourdough, wheat, and rosemary olive. 

Unfortunately, in sampling their treats, I had to choose wisely; on a college budget, one has to declare limits.

Right away I knew I wanted a bear claw. Bakeries often attempt to shape the dough, which then results in a semi-circle that only somewhat resembles the shape of a claw. Never have I seen a bakery offer this treat with the same shape definition as Vinman's does. Topped with a thin vanilla glaze and slivered almonds, this treat proved itself. The outer part of the treat was crispy, but not tough. The inside, was light and flaky and full of flavor. Though many bakeries often fill their bear claw treats with custard or a fruit spread, Vinman’s keeps this classic treat simple. Filled with a light almond paste, Vinman’s bear claw was one sweet treat.

Among their other tasty options, Vinman’s offers two types of croissants, one with prosciutto and Asiago cheese, and the other with Gruyére cheese. I chose the one with Gruyére, a satisfying decision on my part. Vinman’s croissants weren’t traditionally shaped in a crescent, as most would see at a bakery. But don’t let the rectangle shape deter you; Vinman’s croissants are the perfect balance of light, buttery pastry and savory cheese. The croissant, a hollow, flaky bread, was lined with Gruyére cheese, a sweet and salty cheese.

The lemon bars, stacked and displayed on a pedestal, caught my eye as I made my choices. The bars, consisting of a half inch of pastry crust and a half inch of lemon filling weren’t overly impressive. The ratio between crust and filling wasn’t ideal. Though flavorful and buttery, the crust was dense and overbearing. Many struggle with offering a successful lemon bar filling to their customers, often times the filling can be too sweet or too bland, or too ‘eggy’. Despite the unsatisfactory crust, Vinman’s lemon bar filling was balanced. The lemon was tart and sweet, but not too sweet, and certainly not overpowering. I suppose with this treat, one will just have to weigh the pros and cons.

Lastly, I grabbed a coconut macaroon from the cookie jar. The outside, which was sweet and flaky, tasted perfectly toasted. The inside was smooth and cool, with the perfect amount of coconut for those who love or only sort of like coconut. This macaroon wasn’t too strong or overbearing, and fluffy, as it should be.

Thankfully, since Vinman's is the only local bakery Ellensburg has to offer, I found their treats suitable for another trip in the near future.

Vinman’s Bakery is located at 700 E. University Way in Ellensburg, WA. Online here.

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