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Entries in batter chatter (100)

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.

Sunday
Aug282011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Tracy of Simply Sweet Cake Pops

Cake Pops, are like, so in. There are amazing books about them, and they're doing extremely well in bakeries. So when I met Tracy, a totally sweet cake pop maker based in Kansas City, MO, with a custom-order cake pop business called Simply Sweet Cake Pops, I was excited to get the sweet scoop on her business:

True or false: Everything tastes better on a stick. I'd have to say true! Not only is cake on a stick yummier, corn dogs aren't too bad either.

What got you started in the illustrious world of cake-pop making? Back in 2006 I had a cake bite for the first time at a church Christmas dinner. It was love at first bite. I got the recipe and began making them for family and friends. At first I was more interested in creating different flavor combinations but after a while I jumped on the cake pop band wagon and began placing sticks in my cake bites. That opened up a whole new world of opportunities.

What, or who, keeps you inspired? I love to create. I really enjoy the challenge of making cake pops with my own hands. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. It is so rewarding to see the smile on a customers face when they see the cake pops they ordered for the first time. My boys (ages 1 and 3) are cake pop addicts. I enjoy making cake pops for them too but someday we will probably have to start a cake pops anonymous group.

You live in Kansas City, MO. What are some of the sweet treats that can't be missed for travelers passing through your great town? That's an easy one. The Corner Cafe. They have these amazing cinnamon rolls that are big enough to feed four people (or just me at four different meals -so good I won't share!) I hear they have great pecan sticky buns too.

Why do you think cake pops are so popular right now? First of all, cake pops are delicious. Second of all, cake pops are so versatile. You see cake pops at children's parties but you also see cake pops at weddings. Of course, they are one of the newest trends to hit bakeries but I think they'll remain popular for a long time.

What exactly is cherry chip cake? I feel like I don't see that one on too many menus, but it's on yours. A cherry chip cake starts out like a classic white cake... but chopped maraschino cherries are added to the batter. Just a bit of the cherry juice is added as well to give it that extra dash of flavor.

What is your personal favorite of your flavors? I really like my Chocolate Caramel Bliss. It's a rich chocolate cake with swirls of caramel, dipped in chocolate.

You also make some "risque" cake pops. Are these a big part of your business? Not until recently actually and I've only have a few orders for them. They've kind of been a secret but I guess the secret is out now!

On that note, I've got to ask. Your "boob cake" pops are extremely...ah, realistic. How do you attain the perfect nipple-texture? Well, thank you. Without giving away all of my secrets...it's all chocolate. I "painted" them on in multiple layers.

What is your next big goal or hope for your business? I would love to open a store front. As of right now I offer nationwide shipping and local pick up only.

For more, visit the Simply Sweet Cake Pops website!

Friday
Jul292011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Courtney of Bananappeal, San Francisco

Images c/o BananappealEverybody has a story, but some are more interesting than others. For instance...a baking business centered on the deliciousness of bananas, that all started when the proprietress slipped on a banana peel? Yup, believe it. I was able to catch up with Courtney, the talented and hilarious banana-whisperer behind the San Francisco-based boutique baking business Bananappeal, who dished on her sweet story:

Tell me, baby, what's your story? I have been a baker ever since I was a little girl growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. In high school I started my own catering company with my best friend. We worked weekends and employed our friends to help out for bigger events and actually had a pretty great following for 4 years. After high school, I attended Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, NY. Although Cornell gave me a hospitality business background, I still wanted to go to pastry school and I enrolled in Napa Valley's Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Afterwards, I was homesick for my college friends who mostly all ended up in NYC working in restaurants. I moved to NYC and took a job working the pastry line at Danny Meyers' restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. Needless to say, I quickly got burnt out working the line there and found myself missing California, specifically Napa. I moved back to Napa in 2008 and took a position as concierge at a boutique luxury resort called Auberge Du Soleil. I actually got paid to drink wine and eat out so I could acquire knowledge to share with hotel guests. After a year and a half, I left Napa to take a job working for Food Network's Tyler Florence and moved to San Francisco, where I currently reside. It was not long before I got the itch to bake again and I decided to start my own company.

I've got to ask, even though everyone else probably does (sorry). Why bananas? Soon after moving to San Francisco, I was walking my shaggy Old English Sheepdog, Wrigley, through Golden Gate Park when I slipped on a banana peel....no really, when I decided to start my own baking business, I knew I had to differentiate myself from other competitors. I have always loved bananas and whenever I dined out, I always found myself saying "This dessert would be so much better if it had bananas in it!" Also, I feel as though bananas are very under-appreciated. After all, they are available year round, they are inexpensive, and for the most part, they are thought of as unglamorous fruit! I want to change that with Bananappeal. Bananas are delicious and they marry well with so many other flavors. Bananas deserve more credit. RESPECT THE BANANA!

Have you ever tried a banana flavor combination that didn't work out? Honestly, I have yet to encounter a flavor combination that hasn't worked well with bananas. If you think it will taste well with bananas, I find that it most often does.

What is your most popular product so far? There is something about the Banana Salted Caramel Frosted Cake that keeps people coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths...

What is the difference between banana bread and banana cake? I think that experts will provide varying answers to this one, but I can speak based on my recipe for my banana cake only. In my experience, banana bread is typically denser and has a firmer crumb while banana cake is more tender (usually because banana breads use flour that has a higher protein content). Also, there is the obvious difference in that banana bread is typically baked in a loaf pan while MY banana cakes are all baked in vintage inspired mason jars.

Do you ever listen to Bananarama while baking? Duh! "Cruel Summer" plays on repeat on my playlist while I bake dressed in my banana suit and I have dance parties in my kitchen. Sometimes my baking gets interrupted though because I have to take a call on my banana phone.

One of your taglines is "giving bananas the credit they deserve." Do you feel that bananas are under-appreciated? Hell yes! See above.

Tell me your thoughts on plantains, because they look like bananas. The only plantains I eat are fried (commonly called tostones) and come alongside mofongo. Spoiler Alert: plantains are NOT a substitute for bananas, especially in baking applications.

If a banana-genie appeared and was prepared to grant three wishes for your business, what would they be right now? 1. A rotating banana for the roof of my delivery van (a.k.a. the Banana Van). This was originally in my business plan, but I had to let go of the dream because it didn't fit in my tiny start-up budget! 2. A pair of elves with tiny, tiny hands to help me *hand tie* all of the twine around my jars. Yes, I spend a LOT of time tying twine. Say that 10 times fast. 3. For Oprah Winfrey to start her show up again, try my cakes, and shreek, "I love Bananappeeeeeeeaaaaaaallllll!!!!!!" and then watch as her guests squeal from excitement as Oprah employees distribute samples throughout the audience. Best. Day. Ever.

Want more? The website, www.bananappeal.com, is still in the oven baking! In the meantime, please find them on Facebook.

Saturday
Jul232011

Batter Chatter: Cake Pop Chat With Freeport Bakery of Sacramento

Cake Pops: they're so hot right now. But what does the trend look like from a bakery owner's point of view? I found out by chatting to Marlene of Sacramento's famous Freeport Bakery, a longtime bakery owner who has found adding the pops to be a sweet surprise, business-wise:

What made you decide to offer cake pops? Did you know that the original cake pops have been made for hundreds of years in bakeries all over the world? They were called rum balls. The bakers would use fresh cake scraps, add a little frosting to get them to stick together and a dash of rum. The weren't called cake pops, of course. That didn't happen until someone thought to put a stick in them. What a great idea! It's a cake pop. We toyed with the idea for a while. When our sales staff got excited about them, we gave it the green light. Good decision!

Were you initially hesitant to offer them? A little. We usually are not trend jumpers. We stay current but don't hop from one thing to the next. When realized that we could be really creative with flavors we decided to jump in.

To make your cake pops, do you use cake scraps from layer cakes, or do you bake cake specifically for the pops? What began as a use for cake scraps, has become our "custard croissant" gift. We started using day old croissants, filling them with custard and almond slivers. Then we re-baked them (doesn't work right with fresh croissants, too soft). They got so popular we were baking more and more of them to make the custard croissants. So yes, we are now baking more cakes for cake pops.

Has the response to cake pops in your retail bakery been surprising to you? Yes and no. I didn't think they would be this popular. But if you can get great flavors at a reasonable price point, how could they not be so popular?

Who is buying cake pops? Individuals just buying one or two, or larger orders for parties, etc? Everyone! We are selling them for birthdays, bridal showers, and just ones and twos while people are picking up something else. We were lucky enough to get asked by the west coast promoters of the new Harry Potter movie to do a tie in with a contest. We made BertieBott's Firepops. A chocolate cake pop with red chili powder rolled in chocolate and Graham cracker "dirt." We had facebook contests running for about a week. It was a huge success. The mint chip and tiramisu seem to be the best selling ones this week.

Do you see them as a growing part of your bakery's business? For now. I think they are hot, a good price point and fun. So as long as we can come up with great flavors and our customers buy them, it's good.

For more information on Freeport Bakery, find them online here.

Tuesday
Jul192011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Diane of Dainty Cakes Bakery, Nevada

There are few things I like better than discovering a new bakery. So when I received an email from Diane of Dainty Cakes Bakery in Henderson, Nevada, saying she enjoyed the site and hoped I'd drop by if I happened to find myself in the area, it was my greatest sadness that I couldn't hop a plane and visit that very day.

However, I was able to learn more of the story behind her sweet little bakeshop; let's learn together, shall we?

Since we can't be at your bakery right now (boo!) would you be kind enough to describe: what do you hope people experience when walking in your bakery? We have tried to keep the atmosphere warm and inviting, much like that of a French bakery. Our customers come in and spend a lot of time here, meeting with friends, conducting an interview, or getting a little work done. We try to convey the message that it's not just about the money.

Are you formally trained as a baker? I am not formally trained in baking, but have spent a lot of time studying technique on my own and perfecting the recipes that I have developed. As you may know, Las Vegas is home to a lot of professionally trained chefs. Many have visited our little shop, and return with their families for the breads, or the Red Velvet Cupcakes, etc. I was even asked by one of them to join a Freech Chef's Association. He wasn't discouraged when I informed him that I was neither French, nor a professionall-trained chef. All kidding aside, I spent two years fine-tuning recipes while we were searching for a suitable location.

What made you decide to take the leap into opening a retail bakery? I am a college graduate and worked as an Insurance Adjuster for 25 year. It was a terrible, high-stress field where I dealt on a daily basis with unhappy, dishonest people. Even though it payed well, I grew to hate it! I felt like I needed a change. Baking had always been a way for me to release stress, and something I enjoyed. So, I decided to take the next step.

How did you decide on the bakery's name? We had a pretty good idea for the type of atmosphere we wanted to create for our bakery. Next, we needed a name that reflected that atmoshere ant the type of product we wanted to produce. Initially, we wanted to offer primarily cupcakes. We very soon realized that our clientele wanted a full service bakery, so we gave them what they were asking for. Dainty Cakes was a name that had not been reserved (several have since appeared in other states since our establishment), and was well-suited for cupcakes. Our specialty has become a variety of small dainty 4" cakes ideal for a light desert or small birthday celebration. The name also has an air of elegance.

Do you still enjoy baking at home, or does it seem like "work"? I do most of the baking in our bakery myself, even though I have a small staff. While I still enjoy baking, I do' have a lot of free time for baking at home.

What menu items tend to be most popular during the hot summer months? Our customers love the pastries- Eclairs, Napoleons, Creme Puffs, and our special fruit tarts. Fruit tarts are definitly a favorite! Our signature lemon or our chocolate chip cookies are also very popular.

I was impressed by the number of bundt cakes on your menu; you rarely see them on bakery menus in Seattle. Would you say bundt cakes are popular regionally, or is that a specialty of yours? We are constantly experimenting with our recipes. There are business in the area that sell only bundt cakes, and are very successful. We focus on making the freshest, most flavorful bundt cakes available. Bundt cakes are very popular during the holidays as gifts. We make a lot of them.

What advice might you give people who have dreams of opening a retail bakery one day? This is not a profession for the faint of heart. As with any small business, it is a huge amount of work a bakery business is also very physically challenging- long hours, strenuous work, a very demanding clientele, and a lot of competition. They should make sure that they are willing to make the commitment and stick with it.

What's your personal favorite dessert or baked good? I am not a huge sugar person. I really like the fruit tarts, though- short-bread crust, a light vanilla custard, and topped with fresh colorful seasonal fruit (strawberries, kiwi, raspberries, and blackberries). Not too sweet! We make an 8" version too.

What's next for Dainty Cakes? We really focus on becoming a local favorite without the negativity that comes with competitive atmosphere created by some of the other local bakeries. We feel that our product speaks for itself. The reputation is largely "word-of-mouth" and will follow. We have already enjoyed a surprising amount of notariety. I think we were the only business offering King Cakes for Mardi Gras, and the local media spotlighted our product.

Thank you for looking into our business. We hope that if you are ever in the Las Vegas area you will stop in and see us!!!

For more information, visit daintycakesbakery.com!

Thursday
Jun162011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Katy Acheson of Mesdames Des Macarons

Mesdames des Macarons. With a name like that, you are probably halfway in love with the Cape Cod-based boutique (custom-order) bakery already, but you'll fall even deeper in love when you discover their sweet treats--macarons in creative colors, flavors, and formulations (consider the Macadeiro, a mashup of a macaron and Brigadeiro!). Want to find out more? Here's an interview with one of the owners, Katy Acheson:

What dessert do you think is overrated? Jell-o is an acceptable lunch dessert when you're in 3rd grade, but it doesn't cut it for an after dinner treat in my book (no matter how much cool whip you put on it).

What's your favorite non-sweet food? Scallops, bacon, filet mignon... scallops and filet mignon wrapped in bacon!

What's your favorite non-macaron sweet treat? Definitely jelly beans.

Don't you hate the question "are macarons the new cupcake"? Where I am, not enough people know what a macaron is to be asking that question yet. I'm sure someday I will grow to hate the question though.

Um...Are macarons the new cupcake? In my house they are. In the rest of America? I think the future is in small, single-serving desserts, in which case both macarons and cupcakes can share the throne.

What is your favorite flavor on your menu? I make a Rose and White Chocolate macaron that I adore. But I think the one flavor I can't control myself around is the Matcha (Green Tea) macaron.

Is it just me or are macarons extremely fussy to make? Very fussy. In particular, the French method of making the batter, although less complicated, is less reliable than the Italian method of boiling sugar to mix with the almond and egg whites. I prefer the texture of the French method, so I put up with making adjustments for things like humidity and the quality of my eggs. Every batch is a new learning experience, and I never stop researching other bakers'efforts to gain a better understanding of these little delights.

What are your favorite famous French macarons? You know, I haven't had that many macarons that weren't made in my own kitchen. I've been to a few places in New York, one place in Philly, and a little shop in York (the old one in England). Paris is still on my must-visit list, but out of the two biggies -- Laduree and Pierre Herme -- I like the look of the Laduree macarons and try to emulate their look in my own product.

If you were faced with only a vending machine for food, what would you choose to snack on? I usually go for Swedish fish or Pop-tarts, kinda gross, but a girl's gotta eat.

If a genie appeared and you could choose any direction or future for your business, what would it be right this instant? What I want right now is a little shop where people passing by can come in and experience something completely new and delicious, and fans of the macaron can rely on a good fix--a place to be supplied with their special events. It's asking a bit much of this one-wish genie too, but can I also have a cute little apron with macarons all over it?

Find Mesdames des Macarons online here, and on Facebook here.

Saturday
Jun042011

Batter Chatter: Interview With Jennifer Morin of Cupcake D'Lish

Problem: you are near, but not in, Seattle, and want a cupcake. STAT! Well, instead of driving all the way to Seattle like a jerk, you can now pick up a dozen cupcakes right on your home turf via Cupcake D'Lish, a new custom-order cupcakery. But since everything tastes better with a backstory, let's have a little interviewsy with the baker who makes the magic, Jennifer Morin:

Cupcake D'Lish. Tell me baby, what's your story? It all just came to me one day out of the blue that I really needed to find a useful outlet to vent my artistic talent through! I tried different things and baking just seemed to stick! Honestly I was excited about baking because I would be able to decorate. The cake part would come with time.

Cake or Pie? Definitely cake.

Pants or Skirt? Skirt (steak) that is!

Yes or No? Always yes. I only use no on my kiddos!

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Vanilla……it just goes with everything! Don’t let my husband read that.

Tell me about how you and your husband are working together on this business: what do both of you (respectively) bring to the table? My husband and I work very differently towards Cupcake D’ Lish. I am the artist and baker; he is my #1 taster.

What is the last delicious thing you ate? The last delicious thing I ate was my organic vanilla stuffed vanilla cookie.

Any plans to open a retail location? We plan to open a retail cupcakery in the near future. Definitely on the Eastside.

Please, tell us something I might not know about or expect of you. Surprise us. I don’t like chocolate. (CS Note: But kindly, she will make it for the rest of us.)

What is next for you and your business? Our business has been growing by leaps and bounds with larger catering requests and the addition of another Farmer’s Market in North Bend. We are working our way towards opening a retail location.

Find Cupcake D'Lish online here and on Facebook here.

Sunday
May082011

Batter Chatter: A Sweet Mother's Day Interview with SpyMom Margie Moore

A collaboration done by SpyMom and MeYeah, it's mother's day. And as such, I thought it would be fun for you to learn more about how my super-famous and awesome mom, Margie Moore, and her influence on my cake-obsessed life (not to mention her influence on my deep distrust of muffins, which are really just ugly cake). Here goes:

A book illustrated by SpyMomMost people know you as Margie Moore, children's book illustrator, but I know you as Margie Moore, baker extraordinaire. And in honor of Mother's Day, I'd like to share your sweeter side. 

To start, please, can you tell the story of my first word as a baby?

You were a smart little girl so it was not that much of a surprise that during that time when you were trying to formulate words, the first truly recognizable word that came out was....."chaaalllle". Why we knew you meant chocolate was because we were having a family dinner party and of course there was a nice big chocolate cake ready in the kitchen.

You have a heartbreaking story of losing the perfect cake slice at a childhood birthday party. Can you tell us that story?

Even now, the memory of that moment still pains me! Let’s put it this way, my mother was not a baker. But for my 7th birthday party, she got it into her head to make a sheet cake that looked like a big flying saucer. That is the old Jersey term for a Black & White. Well, my mother nailed this one. All I wanted to get to was the cake that day. So after the Happy Birthday song, my mother carefully cut my chosen perfect piece from the center side of the cake. White cake with a clear line of half chocolate buttercream frosting and half vanilla buttercream....I can still remember my surprise that she even agreed to cut me such a big piece in the first place! And I can still see it on my plate in front of me. Pure bliss. But for some unremembered reason, I got up from the table holding my plate with the piece of cake to throw something in the trash, and all I can think is I must have been in a hurry to get back to the table, which is why not only did the intended item go in the trash, but my coveted piece of cake toppled over into the trash too. Gone. No chance of salvage. Painful. Next I remember my mother showing me there was still another piece with the same half chocolate half vanilla combination, but it was not the same. It did not have the perfect creamy peaks of snow like white frosting and rich chocolate next to it....just not the same.

When you truly want to treat yourself, what sweet treat do you indulge in?

The top treat in my world is good chocolates.

A cake with SpyMom's artwork on it!You are someone who appreciates both the taste and the visual of a wonderful cake. Tell me, what are some of your favorite treats to look at? Do you also like to eat them?

There is no match for a beautiful cake with buttercream flowers. And then well done pastries and hand dipped chocolates. And yes, I love to eat them.

What baked good (or flavor) could you just live without? Why?

Muffins. Enough said.

Who are some of the people, cookbooks, or bakeries that inspire your baking?

Cookbooks from the 1930’s and 40’s have great basic recipes and even better presentation photos of baked goods, the newer cookbooks have better information on how to be successful with baking. My most worn out cookbook is my Fanny Farmer Cookbook that I bought in a candy shop 36 years ago. The recipes in that book reminded me the old fashioned Sunday dinner meals and desserts and I love to recreate that feeling. The flavors of the finished recipes are very pleasing too.

A cake baked and decorated by SpyMomTell me one of your proudest baking moments.

The first time I made a three tier cake, decorated with buttercream roses and decorative swags. Heaven!

More art by SpyMomAnd, since it seems to be the subject of the moment: pie or cake?

Cake.

SpyMom and CakeSpyFor more Margie Moore awesome, visit her website here, or shop for books she's illustrated here. Her artwork is also featured on the cover of BabyBug Magazine (on Newsstands everywhere!) this month!

Sunday
Apr242011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Jana Rosenlieb of The Cake Diva

Dude, that's a cake! Photo: Barbie Hull PhotographyLast week at CupcakeCamp Seattle 2011, I met a new friend: Jana Rosenlieb, aka The Cake Diva. She impressed me instantly in two ways: number one, she was adorable (see pictures below if you don't believe me), and number two, she was toting the most intricately constructed Fremont Troll inspired cupcake masterpiece. I loved her already, and so will you, after reading this interview:

So. Cake Diva. Tell me baby, what's your story? I grew up helping my Grandma Yancey (My Mom’s Mom). She made extra money Baking cakes, and catering. I was her helper. I licked beaters and grabbed eggs from the fridge. My Grandma was born and raised Amish. Everyone loved her cakes, and… well all of her cooking!
When she was finished baking, and cleaning up.  She would let me mix up crazy concoctions. I would mix eggs, flour, and sugar, salt and pepper. You name it! I would always try to get my Papa to eat it but he would refuse. He’d always ask “you trying to kill me girl?” My Grandma Yancey, my Mom and my Grandma Phifer (my Dad’s Mom) all taught me what I know. My Grandma Phifer was born and raised in Mississippi. She and my Grandpa also had their own catering business in Ohio before I was born.

I love baking and always have. My First apartment did not even have a stove or an oven. I had a hot plate and sunbeam fry skillet. But I had this great floor to ceiling tiled bathroom that steamed up better than any sauna. So I made coffee cake. I scrubbed my tub and filled it with hot water and filled this large bowl up with water so it wouldn’t float away and took my bread dough in to let it rise shut the door. I then baked the coffee cake in my sunbeam fry skillet. If you place a small rack inside and turn up the heat it acts like a tiny oven. Who knew tight? When it was finished that coffee cake was the fluffiest, and flakey coffee cake I had ever had. My Mom and Dad still talk about it.

About a year ago I was laid off. So I started rethinking what I was going to do next. So I decided to try cake baking for extra money like my Grandma. I started spreading the word that I bake. I bake for friends and friends of friends for “donation” for supplies.

I also entered last years “Cupcake Camp Seattle” and placed 2nd in the ‘Healthiest category’ with my “Vegan White Chocolate Mocha Cupcake”. In a vegan white chocolate Starbuck’s like cup.

Cake or pie? Cake always but then again I have never been known to turn down a great slice of pie!

Pants or skirts? Skirts! My sweet and very handsome husband is all REI and granola… and I am all Diva and skirts. He rolls his eyes at me and just says I love you!

Yes or no? Yes most likely….

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Hmmm...Chocolate covered Strawberries!

What aspect of cake makes you channel your inner diva? Ohh man so many aspects. The smooth velvety texture, the sweet yummy melt in your mouth goodness. There are endless possibilities, all the different recipes, and the artistry. I think quite possibly Congress could settle many debates, if only cake was served at the meetings. Cake indicates fun and parties. Who can argue while eating something so delectable? Perhaps it is because they did not have “Cake Diva Cake”!

What is the last delicious thing you ate? I ate one of my Vegan Gluten-free Chocolate Stout cupcakes. They had a whiskey ganache filling and were topped with a homemade Vegan Bailey’s style Irish Cream, butter cream frosting.  (That sounds a bit pompous huh…sorry) but I had not had the chance to taste it before leaving for Cupcake Camp. Well not this particular batch anyway. So when I got home. I was cleaning and grabbed one and was like this is awesome HAHAH.
Seriously though. We went to Vegas in February. I ate gnocchi with a marinara/ bolognese (which is marinara and fettuccini alfredo love child) sauce made with a white wine reduction, and imported Italian mascarpone cheese and it was topped with baby arugula. The flavors just danced in your mouth!  Man I am getting hungry!

Any plans to open a retail location? Yes, eventually! I would love to have a retail location or café style dessert place! I want to build clientele but it’s hard when you don’t have a commercial kitchen. Yet you need a commercial kitchen to build clientele but with out the clientele you cannot afford the commercial kitchen…AHHH… catch 22!

Please, tell us something I might not know about or expect of you. Surprise us. My son and I wrote 2 children’s books. It was something we did just to pass the time during the summer. I illustrated them, and he and I co-authored them. They are called “The Adventures of Angel and Mr. Kitty” depicted after our own crazy cats. They are available on Amazon.com or our website- www.angelandmrkitty.com

What is next for you and your business? I want to continue growing my clientele and get a commercial kitchen space. I want to be a household name. Maybe I will even have my own cooking show someday. I want people to dream about the Cake Diva! You know that song “Georgia on My Mind” and the lyrics say-

I said Georgia,
Ooh Georgia, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Well I want those lyrics to go something like this.

I said Cake Diva,
Ohhh Cake Diva, one piece I find
Just a sweet, sweet slice keeps Cake Diva on my mind

...but before the music fades out, be sure to visit The Cake Diva online here! And on Facebook here!

Tuesday
Apr192011

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sweet Artist Phuong Diep

So, you already know Cake Gumshoe Phuong as an ace reporter on the ways of sweet things to eat in Boston--she's reported on several Beantown bakeries in the past.
But what you might not know is that she's an artist too--a photographer specializing in photos that reflect her love of dessert, travel, and all things sweet and cute, under the name Little Random Happiness (there's a blog, btw). Want to hear more? Thought so. Interview time:
So, Little Random Happiness. Tell me baby, what's your story? I’ve always wanted to start my own business but can never pinpoint on what it should be. I love too many things…photography, baking, making jewelry, and anything else that might be striking my fancy. After working as a Marketing Project Manager for a few years, I decided to save up, quit my job, and travel before taking the plunge at starting a business. I really wanted to open a small bakery but had no experience in that field so I decided to work for one. I was fortunate enough to work for Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery. (Btw, if you haven’t bought her book yet, please do! It’s awesome!) I learned so much by working there. It really helped me understand the business. Unfortunately the right location hasn’t showed up yet so my bakery plan is on hold.

In the meantime, I finally started a blog this year and really love being able to share all the photos I’ve taken over the years. My photos really reflect my love for traveling, desserts, and cute things. They always make me smile. On a whim, I decided to apply to sell my photos at Boston’s SoWa open market this year and was accepted! I’m so thrilled! I used to go there and thought how wonderful it is to be able to do what you love and at the same time make a little bit of income. This will keep me busy for now :)

Cake or pie? Definitely cake! I can never resist a slice of cake. Plus, they get to dress up in pretty frosting.

Pants or skirts? Pants are so much more versatile.

Yes or no? Maybe? It’s nice to have a little bit of time to think before giving a definite answer!

Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Vanilla…sometimes the simplest flavor is the hardest to execute and get right because it’s so subtle. That or I’m just trying to cover up how boring I am...

What product in your store are you most excited about right now? I love all of my photos but my absolute favorite right now has to be Mr. Mustachio and his tourist friend. I took it when I was in Paris last year and love how it came out. It’s almost too cute to look at.

What is the last delicious thing you ate? I’ve been obsessed with macarons every since my first trip to Paris. I seek them out everywhere. Recently I decided to try and make them myself. After a few batches, I’m proud to say that I no longer need to buy macarons until I go to Paris again :)

Any plans to start selling in stores? Not yet but I would love to if the right opportunity arises.

Please, tell us something I might not know about or expect of you. Surprise us. I am known for my sweet tooth but sometimes I do lose it. It doesn’t happen a lot but I could go for months without having a sweet treat (gasp!). When it comes back though, it comes back with a vengeance.

What is next for you and your business? I will be at SoWa open market throughout the summer. Please stop by if you are in Boston. It’s such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon; browsing and looking at all the wonderful things being sold by different talented vendors. My photos are also on sale at etsy. I will continue to search for a bakery location and promise to let you know if there is any good news!

 

Find Phuong's blog here.

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