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Entries in cakespy mischief (122)

Wednesday
Sep242008

The Sweet 100

Custom request, food pyramid in color
Recently, a website called Very Good Taste started something of an internet fire with a list called "The Omnivore's Hundred", which listed 100 foods which "every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life." We liked the idea, and inspired by the vegan variation on Hannah Kaminsky's site, we thought--why not make our own Sweet 100!? Like the original, our list includes "fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food"--but in our universe, it's all sweet! (In case any of them are foreign to you, links to pictures and recipes are included; also, for any vegans, feel free to go through the list assuming it's a vegan counterpart). How many have you tried? If you'd like, feel free to follow the same guidelines:

1) Copy this list into your site, including the instructions!
2) Bold all of the sweets you've eaten--or make them a different type color.
3) Cross out any of them that you'd never ever eat.
4) Consider anything that is not bold or crossed out your "To Do" List.
5) Optional: Post a comment here linking to your results--or just post a comment letting us know how many you've tried, or what you're going to try next!
  1. Red Velvet Cake
  2. Princess Torte
  3. Whoopie Pie
  4. Apple Pie either topped or baked with sharp cheddar
  5. Beignet
  6. Baklava
  7. Black and white cookie
  8. Seven Layer Bar (also known as the Magic Bar or Hello Dolly bars)
  9. Fried Fruit pie (sometimes called hand pies)
  10. Kringle
  11. Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
  12. Scone with clotted cream
  13. Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy
  14. Halvah
  15. Macarons
  16. Banana pudding with nilla wafers
  17. Bubble tea (with tapioca "pearls")
  18. Dixie Cup
  19. Rice Krispie treats
  20. Alfajores
  21. Blondies
  22. Croquembouche
  23. Girl Scout cookies
  24. Moon cake
  25. Candy Apple
  26. Baked Alaska
  27. Brooklyn Egg Cream
  28. Nanaimo bar
  29. Baba au rhum
  30. King Cake
  31. Sachertorte
  32. Pavlova
  33. Tres Leches Cake
  34. Trifle
  35. Shoofly Pie
  36. Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
  37. Panna Cotta
  38. New York Cheesecake
  39. Napoleon / mille-fueille
  40. Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cake
  41. Anzac biscuits
  42. Pizzelle
  43. Kolache
  44. Buckeyes
  45. Malasadas
  46. Moon Pie
  47. Dutch baby
  48. Boston Cream Pie
  49. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  50. Pralines
  51. Gooey butter cake
  52. Rusks
  53. Daifuku
  54. Green tea cake or cookies
  55. Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
  56. Crème brûlée
  57. Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
  58. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
  59. Jelly Roll
  60. Pop Tarts
  61. Charlotte Russe
  62. An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin)
  63. Hummingbird Cake
  64. Jell-O from a mold
  65. Black forest cake
  66. Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
  67. Kulfi
  68. Linzer torte
  69. Churro
  70. Stollen
  71. Angel Food Cake
  72. Mincemeat pie
  73. Concha
  74. Opera Cake
  75. Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
  76. Pain au chocolat
  77. A piece of Gingerbread House
  78. Cassata
  79. Cannoli
  80. Rainbow cookies
  81. Religieuse
  82. Petits fours
  83. Chocolate Souffle
  84. Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
  85. Rugelach
  86. Hamenstashen
  87. Homemade marshmallows
  88. Rigo Janci
  89. Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
  90. Divinity
  91. Coke or Cola cake
  92. Gateau Basque
  93. S'mores
  94. Figgy Pudding
  95. Bananas foster or other flaming dessert
  96. Joe Froggers
  97. Sables
  98. Millionaire's Shortbread
  99. Animal crackers
  100. Basbousa

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Sweet Trompe l'oeil

A Sweet Trompe l'oeil
We never understood why tourists went to go see the fish being thrown at the Pike Place Market until one day, when walking by, we saw an errant throw, which resulted in a fish hitting an unsuspecting passerby. All of a sudden we understood--now that's funny. Is there anything more rewarding than a little mischievous fun?

And now that you understand our sense of humor a little bit better, we present our project, done for the "24, 24, 24" Foodbuzz launch: A Sweet Trompe Trompe l'oeil.

What's a trompe l'oeil? The phrase, French in origin, roughly translates to "trick of the eye"; it is often used to refer to a work of art rendered such that is tricks the viewer into believing it is something else.


In our case, the trompe l'oeil was not a painting but foodstuffs, created completely out of cake and sweets, made to resemble a fancy restaurant's menu, and served to a group of unsuspecting dinner guests. They came expecting a sumptuous dinner, which of course they got--but what they didn't know was that it was all comprised of cake, cookies and various sweets! Here's what we served and what they thought:

Egg Cream
Let the games begin: Would you care for a drink?
For something with the fizz of champagne but a super-mega dose of sweetness, we decided to serve Egg Creams!
What it is: An egg cream is a treat first discovered during one of our spies' college years in Brooklyn. Contrary to its name, it contains neither egg nor cream. Its name is shrouded in mystery--some say "egg cream" is a slurring of "chocolat et crème", some say the original recipe actually did include eggs; others say it comes from the Yiddish echt (meaning "genuine" or "real", as in "this drink is the genuine creamy article"). But no matter where it comes from, it is very delicious, and must be consumed immediately after making otherwise it will lose its head and separate (probably why there's never been a mass produced version).
How we did it: Here's the recipe we used, care of What's Cooking America: Now, we know that a *true* Egg Cream can only be made with Fox's U-Bet Syrup, but alas--it is not easily found in Seattle, so we settled for...another brand.
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cold whole milk*
  • 1 cup bottled seltzer
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup**
* Skim or 1% milk won't foam as well
** Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup is used in New York.

 

Pour 1/2 inch of cold milk into a tall soda glass. Add seltzer or club soda to within 1 inch of the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).

Very gently pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).

NOTE: Do not let Egg Cream sit for a long period of time-5 minutes or more; it will go flat.

Effectiveness: OK, nobody was fooled by this one, even though we served it out of a repurposed sparkling wine bottle. Also, our crew found the Egg Cream to be...shall we say an acquired taste. Luckily we had some real bubbly on hand to soften the blow.

 

Caviar on toast...made of cake and sprinkles!
A Pinkies-out Appetizer, Perhaps?

At this point, we brought out the appetizers and the bread basket. Let's start with the appetizer.
What it is: "Caviar" made of chocolate sprinkles with crème fraîche (really cream cheese frosting) atop "toast" (cake).
How we did it: Slicing a piece of pound cake, we made sure to use a side piece so that we could get a nice triangle shape; we coated it with a healthy layer of cream cheese frosting for the crème fraîche, and topped it delicately with some chocolate sprinkles (we took care to find the perfect shape--not too oblong--ultimately we found the perfect shape at Seattle's ultimate cake resource, the Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. (they have everything!).
Effectiveness: It worked! While it may not have fooled tasters into believing it was going to be caviar, they did think it would be savory.

Bread and Butter
Well-bread: Time for some carbohydrates!
After enjoying a sweet drink, our guests were presented with the bread basket. Certainly they were ready for some carbs...but a sweet surprise awaited them!

What it is: Various cakes--ranging from cupcake "rolls" garnished with poppyseeds to pound cake (deemed the perfect choice because of its coloring and "crust") with a dab of buttercream "butter".
How we did it: This one was easy; the cupcakes looked like rolls in the basket; the pound cake was just sliced thinly, and the butter(cream) was presented in a butter dish.
Effectiveness: It fooled them! Since we served it at the same time as the "caviar", nobody had yet made the sweet discovery, so they thought this was just "regular" bread. Heh heh.

 

Sweet Salad
The Plot Sweetens: Salad time!

Oh, we're proud of this one.
What it is: A green salad made of "lettuce" made of green mint confectioners chocolate; cookie "tomatoes" and cake "croutons".
How we did it: For the salad, we melted the confectioners chocolate on the stovetop, then spread it in a thick layer on a piece of saran wrap. Fold over saran wrap so that it covers the layer of chocolate; "scrunch up" by hand to spread the chocolate and also to give it a slightly rippled effect. Let cool for about 30 minutes, and remove plastic wrap; voila! Lettuce! ** For more details and pictures, check out this post.
Effectiveness: Once again, nobody was fooled by this one--at least, nobody thought it was real veggies--but nobody was quite certain what it was made from. More importantly though, everyone thought it was pretty much the awesomest salad ever, so we'd consider that a victory.

Steak Cake
Steak CakeCake
A Cake...Steak?
Certainly by this point in the meal everyone's ready for some protein...right? Wrong!
What it is: A cut of steak "cake", made out of a thin slice of spice cake (not for any reason other than we thought it would be a nice flavor variation) covered in rolled fondant and then painted using food coloring; "green beans" comprised of vegan (that is to say, salmonella-free) cookie dough, and a side of "risotto" made of brown rice pudding (made using this recipe for rice pudding.)
How we did it: For the "Steak", we referred to the Confetti Cakes cookbook (check out their blog too!), using its tips for creating a "wood" look on a fondant cake (page 42); we used colors more appropriate to meat, and added a cross-hatch on the top to simulate grill marks. For the green beans, we added four drops of green and one drop of yellow dye to a baseball-sized ball of dough, mixed thoroughly by hand, and rolled out small balls into bean-shapes.
Effectiveness: This main dish was a hit! Serving it to a vegetarian crew, it was easy to pass off as a soy-based meat product, so while nobody thought it was actually meat, tasters dug in expecting a savory soy cutlet or something of the like. Boy, did they have a surprise waiting for them! The green beans were declared a hit (can you really go wrong with cookie dough? far more delicious than marzipan, we think), but the rice pudding was perhaps too sweet (then again, perhaps palates had been numbed by this point?).

Chocolate cake
There's always room for dessert: Cake Time!
What it is: It's a chocolate frosted cake, silly.
How we did it: We made it using this cake and this frosting.
Effectiveness: Our guests were wary by this point, so very little of this cake was eaten (oh well, just more for breakfast!). However, there was at least one plaintive plea for "a piece of celery, some cheese, just anything without sugar, please!". And that, friends, means sweet victory.
Chocolate cake
Thank you to Foodbuzz for giving us the chance to let our creativity run wild on this wonderful experiment and supersweet experience! We're gonna send our dentist charges to you, hope that's OK.

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Seriously Sweet: How to make a Candy Salad!

Sweet Salad

As part of the Cakespy entry in the Foodbuzz “24 Meals, 24 Cities, 24 Blog Posts” worldwide blogging event, we made just about the sweetest salad ever--here's how to make your own!

We used Merckens Green candy wafers, which can be purchased at cakesnthings.com. Originally we thought that using a leaf mold might work for lettuce (you can see some of them on the bottom layer of the salad), but we discovered this method that worked even better:

Step 1: Melt 'em: You may find that one method works better for you than another. We melted them in the microwave, but many swear by the double-boiler method. Check out the different options here.

Step 2: Spread out a long sheet of plastic wrap (12 inches long or so). On one half of the plastic wrap, spread a 1/3 inch thick layer of the melted confection.

Step 3: Fold the unused portion of the plastic wrap over the candy, and smooth down to a desired thickness (not too thin or it will break!).

Step 4: Wrinkle the still-warm candy gently with your fingers, to give little wrinkles and ripples like on lettuce leaves.

Step 5: Let cool for 20-30 minutes or until solid.

Step 6: Gently uncover. Pieces may break off at the ends, but this is ok--lettuce is abnormally shaped after all!

Garnish as desired (with cake cubes for "croutons", red cookies for tomatoes, etc)

How to make a candy salad



Thursday
Aug212008

Ice Dreams: Ruminations on the Ice Cream Cone Cupcake

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Growing up in suburban New Jersey in the late 80's/early 90's, a kid's coolness in school could easily be determined by what treat they brought in for their class party on their birthday.

There were the poor things who brought in a homemade cake. These kids were definitely not awesome--who would spend time baking cake from scratch when they could be watching Full House? Of course, these were probably the tastiest of the treats, but no self-respecting child of the 80's would have admitted it at the time.
Then there were the ones who brought in Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins: artificial, sugary, and a crowd pleaser. Of course, extra points to the parents who got extra chocolate glazed ones. Nobody liked to be the kid left with the last sad-looking crushed unglazed munchkin.
But then--in the hallowed light of major coolness, were the ones who brought in the coveted cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.

Cupcakes baked in ice cream conesOh no!
A phenomenon in the late 80's, it appears these cones are making a comeback. They're cropping up in bakeries and on websites, and though part of us says "too soon!", part of us also thinks "welcome back!". But it got us wondering--what's the deal with these cupcakes? And so we dug out our old Debbie Gibson cassettes and got to some sleuthing and sweet soul searching on the subject:

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones
Why in the world would you bake a cupcake into an ice cream cone?
Um, because it's, like, awesome? In retrospect though, we suspect it's the ease of cleanup that was the main lure: no messy cupcake wrappers hanging around and being dropped on the floor like a waiting banana-peel joke.
Where do they come from?  
We can't say for certain, but we suspect that this was a phenomenon that came from the back of a box of cake mix, since they were usually prepared the same way (with a rainbow-chip funfetti style cake). On a recent hunt in the grocery store, it seems that indeed, the recipe does appear on the back of Betty Crocker's "Party Rainbow Chip Cake Mix". 
Cakespy Note: Additional research has revealed two tidbits: one is that the recipe has also appeared on the back of ice cream cone boxes; the other is that previous to their 80's heyday, the cone-cakes had enjoyed a bit of vogue during the 60's...but once again, the origins are hazy. 

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones
Why are they so awesome?  
You may remember the late 80's as a time of a distinctly synthetic glitz, and we believe that this was part of the ice cream cupcake's coolness. It had the look: it was bright and colorful, but then again, it had a hidden secret. It looked like an ice cream cone! But when you bite into it...it's cake! What can we say, children of the 80's were easily impressed.

Cupcakes
Where can I buy them?  
As previously mentioned, these cupcakes are enjoying a bit of a comeback. We predict that soon you'll be seeing homemade versions cropping up in hip bakeries; we hear you can currently find them at Treats Truck in NYC.
How do I make them?
Some will tell you that the best ones are made from scratch. In terms of taste this may be true, but if you want to make a truly authentic, late 80's / early 90's ice cream cone cupcake, it's all about the mix and as many artificial colors and flavors as possible.

Here's the recipe (and picture, left) we found on the Betty Crocker site. (Cakespy Note: We copied the recipe below as it was posted on the Betty Crocker site; however, when baking them ourselves, we just put the batter directly in the ice cream cones and it worked out fine).


Ingredients:

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® party rainbow chip cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg whites called for on cake mix box
24 flat-bottom ice cream cones

 

 

Directions:
1 to 2 containers Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy frosting (any flavor)
1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
2. Make cake batter as directed on box. Fill each cup 2/3 full of batter (1 heaping tablespoon each). Place ice cream cone upside down on batter in each cup.
3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean (cones may tilt on batter). Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove paper baking cups. Generously frost cake with frosting, and decorate as desired. Store loosely covered.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Follow High Altitude directions on cake mix box. Fill cones about 1/2 full to make 36 to 40 cones. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

 

 

 

Sunday
Aug102008

Tough Cookies: Not the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

How Not to Make Chocolate Chip Cookies
There's been a lot of talk lately about the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Although ingredients and size are important, it seems that one vital step--the one that intrigues us most--in attaining cookie nirvana is letting the dough rest for 36 hours.

But imagine the dismay you'd feel, after those many hours, to see that your oven isn't working? This is what happened to Cake Gumshoe Phil recently--and he cleverly decided to try "baking" them in a frying pan. This got us thinking about the humble chocolate chip cookie. If the method written about in the New York Times is the absolute best one--then what is the worst? We set out with a log of dough to find out.
Here's what we did:
First, we made a batch of cookie dough (Toll House recipe!). After not letting it sit for 24, 36 or really any hours, we did the following:
1. We fried it
2. We toasted it
3. We microwaved it
4. We boiled it
* Cakespy Note: We would have grilled it too, but alas--we have no grill.
Here's how they came out:

Time to Fry some CookiesPan fried Cookies
Pan-fried cookies: As mentioned above, this idea came from Cake Gumshoe Phil. We heated up our frying pan to a medium temperature, and put a thin coating of vegetable oil in the pan to fry our cookies. We heated each side for about three minutes. Though slightly unweildy, they did remain solid enough to flip with a little finessing. Once cooled, these cookies were delicious in a guilty sort of way--slightly crispy on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside. Some might say health risk; we say salmonellicious.

Toaster Oven CookiesToaster Oven Cookies
Toasted Cookies: We put a couple of cookies in our toaster oven. First we tried the convection setting, which pretty much made normal cookies. Boring! We reset to "toast" to see what would happen. The result was decent--crispy on the sides, soft but not underdone in the middle--but they burnt on the top--due to the proximity to the toasting mechanism. Not excellent, but they'd do in a pinch.

MicrowaveMicrowave Cookies
Microwave Cookies: We took this as a chance to also try out the pre-existing microwave settings on our oven. We chose the "potato" setting, which was perhaps a bad choice--it was a six minute cycle but after two minutes we began to hear a strange popping sound and stopped the microwave. The cookie dough had baked...sort of. It was crispy and pockmarked, and unfortunately had fused itself to the plate. We managed to cut off the top part of the cookie, which was crackery, crispy, and as Ralphie from the Simpsons might say "tastes like burning". Most definitely not delicious.

Making MischiefDumplings
Boiled Cookies: The secret to perfect bagels is boiling them before baking, so what about cookies? We tried two batches in our boiling part of the experiment. The first batch was just boiled--we dropped them in boiling water until they rose to the surface (which they did! It took about a minute), for a sort of chocolate chip cookie dumpling. Unfortunately, Mr. Cakespy declared that they tasted "like boogers"--as you can see his is not only a looker but quite the wordsmith.

Cookie BagelsCookie BagelsWeird CookiesCookies
For the second batch, we first boiled and then baked our cookie "dumplings". As a note, as an homage to the bagel-making method, we shaped them like little cookie bagels first, but the shape didn't hold--they just became little dumpling-y rounds again. But we powered through this pitfall and put them in the oven. Once baked, they no longer tasted of booger, but the chewy skin and soft inside which makes a bagel so wonderful did not equal chocolate chip cookie bliss. That having been said though, they weren't terrible--just not awesome.
As for our final thoughts? Well, we wouldn't say we offered any serious challenges to that now-famous NY Times recipe in the taste department. However, we do have a little trouble waiting 36 hours for our cookie dough to set once we've set our mind to baking them--aren't chocolate chip cookies all about fun, simplicity and fairly quick gratification? And so perhaps we didn't suffer a total loss--super delicious or not, we had a lot more fun messing up these cookies than waiting for the dough to set on a perfect batch.

 

 

Thursday
Jul242008

Breadwinner: A Sweet and Carbohydrate-Laden Bread Pudding Challenge

Bread Pudding Faceoff
Bread Pudding. At one time, it was a poor-man's dessert, borne of necessity--a clever use of day-old bread which proved that leftovers didn't have to taste like dull sacrifice.
Bread Pudding ExperimentHowever, these days it's come into vogue, and makes frequent appearances on fancy restaurant menus, dressed to the nines with sauces, seasonings and fancy non-leftover breads made for the sole purpose of the pudding...yes, it appears that bread pudding seems to have all but forgotten its humble beginnings.

Admittedly, we've always loved bread pudding the old fashioned way--but when we saw this recipe for sticky bun bread pudding that the lightbulb really went off--oh, the possibilities! If bread pudding is gonna be a fancy dessert, why not make it super sweet? And so recently we took it upon ourselves to test out a variety of day-old carbohydrates to see which might make a delicious (and perhaps tooth-numbing) sweet treat.

Here are the details:


Bread PuddingsWhat were the flavors? We made six types of pudding, swapping out bread for the following: birthday cake (with frosting), cornbread, frosted doughnuts (raised), lemon bundt cake, sugar cookies, and baklava. As a control, we made one batch of regular bread pudding to make sure everything tasted OK. It did.
What recipe did we use? We used this recipe, found online, making only a few changes--we omitted the cinnamon and nutmeg because we were using baked goods which had different sorts of sweetness that we weren't sure would work with those spices; also, we reduced the sugar from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup, because the items we were adding were far sweeter than bread. It didn't seem to mess up the consistency for us.
Why did we choose these flavors? Some items happened to be around the house; for the rest, we just went to the food store and picked out what struck our fancy.

How did we make them? We prepared each filling in an individual cupcake cup--then we divided the custard-y batter part of the recipe and poured it in equal parts into the cups (heart-shaped, naturally).

 

As for the results?
Cake TimeBirthday Cake Bread Pudding
Birthday Cake Bread Pudding: We used a bit of the leftover cake from our recent love letter to cake in the morning for this one, breaking up one of the leftover mini slices so that it included frosting and sprinkles. We had high hopes for this one, but unfortunately we learned the hard way that birthday cake frosting smothered and baked in a pool of custard comes out...well, a little bit strange. The texture was ever so slightly gritty, and alas, in our opinion, a bit strange and un-delicious.
CornbreadCorn-Bread Pudding

Corn-bread Pudding: This one was surprisingly good, if leaning a bit more toward sweet-and-savory (largely due to the fact that it was not a sweet cornbread we used; combined with the reduced sugar in our pudding mixture, this yielded an end result that was only slightly sweet). When consuming it for breakfast the next morning, a dash of cayenne pepper made for a lively and rich treat, in which the sweetness was more of an aftertaste.
Just DonutDoughnut Bread Pudding
Doughnut Bread Pudding: We chose a raised doughnut, figuring the lighter dough would soak up the pudding ingredients better than a cake doughnut. The result was something like a challah bread pudding, if you've ever tried it, but slightly awesomer because of the chocolate icing, which melted into sweet ribbons within the pudding. A solid bread pudding indeed. 
Nothin Bundt CakeBundt Cake Bread Pudding
Lemon Bundt Cake Bread Pudding: The icing glaze gave that slightly gritty effect again, but in this case it wasn't as strange as in the birthday cake version (perhaps because it wasn't a butter-based frosting?). The result was very rich, but the lemon flavor, which did shine through (especially the next morning) added a nice lightness to the flavor while at the same time adding a layer of depth and complexity to the overall taste. Not the biggest standout, but worth a try.
Sugar CookiesSugar Cookie Bread Pudding
Sugar Cookie Bread Pudding: This one was good, but alas, not great. While this version had a nice texture--ever so slightly chewy without being tough--but was sort of bland because we had left out some of the spices in the recipe. However, perhaps it would have worked better with snickerdoodles or spice cookies.
Baklava, baby!Baklava Bread Pudding
Baklava Bread Pudding: By far and away, Baklava bread pudding was our favorite. It seemed an unlikely candidate, since the phyllo dough layers are already rather soaked with honey, but the added texture and slight crunch proved quite appealing; the combination of the nuts, honey and rich custard were rich as all get-out, but insanely addictive. 

 

Bread PuddingsBread Vs Bread Pudding
As for our thoughts? It's hard to top a classic, that's for sure. But then again, bread pudding has always been a recipe open to many variations, since it's generally up to the baker to decide what type of bread should go into their version. While several of our sweet versions might benefit from some tweaking, they certainly had potential--and what with bread pudding's renaissance as a fancy treat, we wouldn't be surprised to see more variations showing up on menus in elaborate, sweet, and delicious ways--already delicious versions using babka, piecrust, brownies and pancakes are dancing in our heads. But as for the big question...would we make any of these again? Oh, heck yes! 

 

 

Sunday
Jul202008

Cake For Breakfast: Observations on a Forbidden Treat

Wake up for Cake!

Cake for breakfast. The phrase strikes a shiver of happiness in our very souls. We're talking serious cake here--frosted, maybe layered, as in a slice of birthday or wedding cake--or a cupcake would do, of course. It's the ultimate luxury--far more indulgent than any doughnut, far more delicious than any muffin could ever aspire to be. Everyone does it sometimes--and yet, most are covert about this pleasure, only admitting it in a slightly embarrassed way, as if frightened it might be a problem (as you can see from this posting on Apartment Therapy). Well, we say, no more embarrassment! We took it upon ourselves to explore this phenomenon and muse on its appeal--and also came up with a quick list of justifications for why it's just fine to eat cake for breakfast:

Cake time!Cake in the morning.
Cake for breakfast: Theories on its appeal
Proximity: Well, the obvious reason is that it's simply there. It will probably be the first thing in the fridge you see in the morning, and definitely the most festive. Which leads to our next point...
 
Visual Appeal: Really, the sea of beige-toned breakfast choices out there--oatmeal, toast, cereal--doesn't stand a chance against a festively frosted cake. We defy you to eat your toast and be happy knowing full well there's cake in the fridge.
Temperature: In many, but not all, cases, the cake has been stored in the fridge and is most likely cold. To some, this is a detriment. To others (those who truly understand), this is an opportunity for a truly sublime culinary experience. Taking a bite of cold cake, at first one only tastes coldness. But then something happens--a buttery flavor blossoms in the mouth. A wave of creamy sweetness takes over. This may be as close to heaven as one can possibly get while still on earth.

It's 9am. Do you know where your cake is?Cake!
Cake for breakfast: Why you should just do it

It will keep you sane: You can't deprive yourself all of the time. If you wake up craving cake and instead eat something virtuous like oatmeal, it's likely that you'll still be craving the cake all day. This will undoubtedly lead to idly munching various non-cake items throughout the day in an effort to fill the void. Really, you should have just had the cake. So have it!
Of course, if the cake in question is a cupcake, you could always call it a muffin.

It tastes better the next day: Letting the cake sit overnight will allow certain flavors to develop, and some say it tastes better the next day. You've got to see for yourself somehow; why not figure it out first thing in the morning?
Because Bill Cosby Says So: Bill Cosby says it's ok to eat chocolate cake for breakfast--"it has eggs. It has milk. It has wheat. Nutritious!". Coming from the man who made pudding pops part of our everyday language, this is not advice to be taken lightly.
It will give you energy: As Cakespy reader Jessie K says, "cake is good anytime of the day...but having it for breakfast is just a fun sugar rush when you need it most." We concur. Try to get that kind of energy burst from a granola bar.
It pairs well with coffee: Is there anything more beautiful than the symphony of tastes that occurs when cake and coffee are combined?
It will be delicious: 'Nuff said!


 

Thursday
Jul032008

Happy and Sweet: Have the Best 4th of July Ever, From Cakespy

4th of July trompe-l'œil

It's time for a Cakespy Confession: we don't like holidays
The traffic's bad. The crowds are obnoxious. And all of our favorite bakeries are closed for the day. 
Cupcake Burger
However, what we do love is sweet stuff, and causing mischief--and so, in an effort to make the 4th of July more fun, we've concocted some trompe-l'œil treats to make this 4th of July the sweetest one yet! 
Here's what we suggest this Fourth of July:

For the main course, why not try a sweetburger? Ours were made by slicing an unfrosted cupcake in half, and inserting a round of "patty" of chocolatey goodness cut from a brownie, and instead of healthy lettuce, a healthy dollop of vanilla buttercream with a drop of green food dye. We garnished the top of the cupcake "bun" with some chocolate sprinkles, adhered with sugar water. 
Twinkie Hot Dog
If you're not a burger person, perhaps you'd go for a Twinkie "Hot Dog"? (Cakespy Note: Anyone who's seen UHF will appreciate this one, we hope.) We made ours by first slicing a twinkie lengthwise (but leaving it connected at the bottom, so it would resemble a hot dog bun), then inserting sugar cookie halves so that the slightly browned edges showed outward (though we think a log of cookie dough would do as well!). We then covered up the "gap" between cookie halves with a pipe of yellow frosting. So bad, but so good. 


And as for side dishes? Ours are tooth-numbingly sweet, comprising 
4th of July trompe-l'œil
of a Faux-tato Potato Salad--a melange of coconut flakes and white chocolate chips held together with a thick dollop of vanilla buttercream--and, of course, no 4th of July would be complete without some baked beans--Boston Baked Beans, that is, straight from the package. 
Of course, if all else fails, just pour a package or ten of Pop Rocks into a batch of cupcakes and their frosting--just like fireworks in your mouth!
Happy Fourth of July!

 

 

 

Thursday
Jun262008

Papadopoulos Metropolis: A Cookie Adventure in Astoria, Queens

Papadopoulos Cookies
In a faraway place called Greece, there grows a unique and magical tree which yields not lemons, not olives...but cookies. Gorgeous cookies which are straw-like in appearance, and comprised of thin wafer curled around layers of rich creamy filling. They call these the Caprice cookie.


Papadopoulos Cookies
Of course, if you haven't been to Greece to prove our story wrong, you'll know that the next best place to find all things Greek is Astoria, Queens, where these magical cookies are available at various bakeries, packaged under the company name Papadopoulos. True, technically the cookie is called the Caprice, we can't help but lovingly think of them as "the Papadopoulos Cookie"--a fact possibly influenced by our own Cake Gumshoe of the same name, James Papadopoulos. And who better to follow (and talk to) on a mission to discover the Papadopoulos cookie? Head Spy Jessie recently picked his brain on the subject while riding to Queens on the back of his scooter in pursuit of the famed cookie; here's what she learned:
(Cakespy Disclaimer: For full disclosure, no, James is not actually an heir to the Papadopoulos cookie fortune. Or so he says.)

 

 

Cakespy: How does it feel to be the heir to the greatest legacy in the world: the Papadopoulos cookie?
James loves his Papadopoulos CookieJames Papadopoulos: It's humbling, really. When I walk down the street people sometimes stare, but they're always too shy to say anything. I can see it in their eyes, though -- they know.

 

CS: Can you describe what a Papadopoulos cookie is, exactly?
JP: A Papadopoulos cookie is many things (technically when I say "Papadopoulos Cookie" i mean a "Caprice" cookie, Hazelnut or Praline, made by the Papadopoulos cookie company...) but most specifically, it's one of the most delicious, delicate, and memorable cookies I've ever eaten.... seriously. I have different ways of eating them depending on my moods. Usually, I'll take it in my mouth like a cigar, start chewing and feeding it into my mouth until I've got the whole thing eaten in one fell swoop.

Dipping a Papadopoulos cookie in Diet Coke CakeCS: Can you tell us your first Papadopoulos cookie memory?
JP: I think it was when I was around 4 years old, I had eaten the last of the cookies on a hot summer day, and the filling had melted down onto the corrugated paper liner at the bottom of the tin. I realized that there was enough there to equal almost another cookie's worth of filling. It was a happy time, and I ended up covered in chocolate.

CS: What is the largest quantity of Papadopoulos cookies you've ever consumed in one sitting?
JP: I refuse to answer this question. I don't have a problem. You don't know me!!!!!


CS: What is the best thing about Papadopoulos cookies?
JP: When you think the can is almost empty, you look and find that one has broken in half and both halves are still there. Unexpected yum! The best kind!

 

Cookies from QueensCS: Can people who are not of Greek descent really enjoy a Papadopoulos cookie in the same way you can?
JP: Honestly, I don't think we'll ever know. It all goes back to that existentialist question of "are the colors I see the same as the colors you see?". But to answer your question, no.

CS: You cite Hazelnut as being the finest Papadopoulos cookie flavor. What makes it so superior to, say, chocolate or praline?
JP: Well hazelnut and praline are the filling in the chocolate wafer tube. The hazelnut has a much better flavor, in my opinion, to the others. That brings us to the next question though...

CS: Papadopoulos cookies kind of resemble Pirouline cookies. How do they stack up for you, as a Papadopoulos?
JP: Pirouline and other "wannabe" Papadopoulos cookies pale in comparison. They may LOOK the same, but the amount of creme inside, the crumbly texture of the outer cookie shell, the construction, and overall taste of a Papadopoulos cookie is light-years ahead of anything you'll ever come across.

Titan, Astoria, QueensOmonia, some fried and honey soaked dough = delicious 

CS: When we were in search of Papadopoulos cookies, we hit up two Queens bakeries: Titan and Omonia (examples of their other baked goods are pictured respectively above). If you had to suggest just one of the two to our readers, which would you suggest and why?
JP: Well the bakery at Titan is more of a supermarket type bakery. They make a lot of different confections and do it pretty well and at a reasonable price. I'd have no problem getting something for myself from there. Omonia, though, is where I'll go if I want to get something to bring to a friend's house or when Greek family visits -- there's a little more attention to detail, especially when it comes to cremes/ fillings, and even packaging. Luckily for us, however, Papadopoulos cookies are the same no matter where you buy them :)

 

Papadopoulos CookiesCS: Any final words to add on the joy and beauty of the Papadopoulos cookie?
JP: Yeah, I just finished the last one in the tin we bought during our adventure in Queens (seriously.. just now, not kidding). When do we get more?

Postscript: James also added in a later conversation: "There's talk on the internet that Hazelnut and Praline papadopoulos cookies are, in fact, the same thing. Complete and utter #$%&*!#."
Interested in buying the Caprice (Papadopoulos) cookie? Though they seem to taste best when purchased and eaten in Astoria, they are available online; click here to check 'em out. 
Interested in visiting the bakeries mentioned? Titan can be found at 2556 31st St.,
Astoria, NY; (718) 626-7771.
Omonia (pronounced "Ammonia") is located at 3220 Broadway, Astoria, NY; (718) 274-6650 .
Interested in finding out more about what a real, live Papadopoulos does? Check out James' website at jamespapadopoulos.com.

 

 

 

Sunday
Jun082008

Blonde on Blondies: Ballad for the Brownie's Albino Cousin

Bad News Brownies
When we recently polled Cakespy readers on which iconic bar they preferred, the blondie or the brownie, we found the results staggering: out of our respondents, 174 vs 49 preferred the brownie.

Now, we understand why brownies ought to be loved. They're soft. They're gooey. They take to a variety of fillings. But are they really so superior to the blondie? Surely, we figure, once people get to know the honey-hued confection they'll show a little more love--so, we took some time to get to know the blondie better, and share it here, so that our readers can see that while it may not be the same as a brownie, it sure ought to be loved:

Brownies and BlondiesBut first things first. What is a blondie? Generally, a blondie is accepted as a type of brownie--but not so much a brownie flavor, more like an identical cousin. An identical, albino cousin. Generally, it uses vanilla or butterscotch base instead of chocolate, and thus has a lighter hue which gives it its name. In our opinion, the finest blondies will have a texture (though not taste) halfway between a cakey and a fudgy brownie: that is to say, delightfully chewy, rich, and dense.

But whatever you may call a blondie, don't call it a brownie wannabe. For as we discovered on foodtimeline.org:

According to old cookbooks, blonde brownies (also known as "Blondies") predated chocolate brownies, though under different names. The primary ingredients of blondies (brown sugar/molasses and butter) compose butterscotch, a candy that was popular in America in the mid-19th century. Some 19th century American cookbooks contain recipes that combined traditional butterscotch ingredients with flour and a leavening agent (baking powder or soda). Presumably, these recipes would have produced something similar to the blonde brownies we enjoy today.
Bullies!Furthermore, aforementioned recipes are thought to be descendants of gingerbread cakes which dated back to Renaissance times, which eventually evolved to cakes which were baked in shallow pans and included nuts and brown sugar.
Blame the blondie's status as second-class citizen on the genius branding and extreme popularity of brownies when they started to pick up steam as a favored American baked good starting in the early 1900's (learn more about the brownie's history here); for as we also learned from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America,
By the 1950s, butterscotch or vanilla brownies were described as "blonde brownies," underscoring the primacy of chocolate.
Aren't you starting to feel a little bit for the dear blondie now?
Of course, as much as history talks, here are some of our own observations on the finer points of blondies:

 

Blondies, the taste of chocolate chips in: Because of the lack of chocolate in the base, it is our opinion that the addition of chocolate chips is better appreciated in the blondie--while we certainly wouldn't say they detract from a brownie's taste (oh, not at all), the contrasting flavor that they add to the blondie's mellow butterscotch taste is beyond compare, each little chocolatey morsel a pleasant surprise and miniature treasure for the tastebuds.

Oh no!Blondies, lack of frosting atop: With brownies, it seems as though there are two primary types--dense, fudgy, moist brownies, which usually remain unfrosted--and more cakey, slightly fluffier versions, which sometimes have frosting. As much as we love frosting, we have to admit that some frosted brownies make us just a little bit suspicious--like they've got something to hide perhaps? However, we have never before seen a frosted blondie. Naturally, the only conclusion to be drawn is that our dear blondies have nothing to hide. (Cakespy Note: Naturally, when we make some bold statement soon about how everything benefits from the addition of frosting, we expect to be called hypocrites).


Blondies, the color of: Now, don't get us wrong, we love brownies. But regardless of deliciousness, they're not always the cutest-looking treats: dark, lumpy and not very exciting in palette. Not that this stops any of us from enjoying brownies, but we're just saying, the warm golden hue of the humble blondie is definitely more welcoming, and far cuter.
Want to make some awesome blondies? Well, here are some recipes that we love.
If you, like Thursday Night Smackdown, believe that blondies, "should be a brownie counterpart, which means a brownie equal - rich, moist, chewy, flavorful bars, not cookie-like or overly fluffy...the fudgy texture of a brownie sans actual fudge"--then you should check out their great recipe here.
Or perhaps you'd like to explore adding coconut to your blondies? Check out the delicious variation at ReTorte.

MudhenIf it sounds good to you to have blondies that are "denser than chocolate chip cookies, more complex than brownies and in the classic Minimalist style" that you can "customize anywhere from a cranberry almond coconut bar to...gunky atery-cloggers"...then it sounds like you'd better check out this one by Smitten Kitchen.
(Photo Left) If you feel adventurous and want to try a blondie derivation, why not acquaint yourself with the mudhen bar, a sweet which is Southern in origin, a meringue-topped blondie-esque confection that we've recently fallen in love with? 

 

As for our final word? Well, we realize that we may not have turned you into blondie devotees. Certainly brownies are packing in more ways than one: they're classic, they're iconic, they're nostalgic--and, most importantly, they're delicious.
However, we do hope that having learned more about the dear blondie and its plight, you'll give it another chance--because if nothing else, just like it's not easy being green, it can't be easy to be the brownie's albino cousin.


 

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