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Entries in cakespy mischief (124)

Sunday
Mar162008

It's Not Easy Being Green: Cakespy Strives to Make Irish Soda Bread Delicious

P for PATRICK, as in the Saint!
Without a doubt, one of the best thing about holidays is the seasonal sweets that come with them: pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, chocolates for Valentine's Day, Cookies of all sorts for Christmas. And yet, for us, St. Patrick's Day has always remained a seasonal void for baked goods--though we've spied some great ideas which we hope will become the new traditions (like this or this), it still seems like the staple is Irish Soda Bread.

But why the bad blood toward the humble bread? Thinking that perhaps understanding would garner appreciation, we researched its history a bit. What we learned was a bit of surprise--not an ancient bread by any means, Irish Soda bread only dates back to the 1840's or so, when Bicarbonate of soda (the bread's yeast-alternative leavening agent) was first introduced to the country, and gained popularity not because of its deliciousness per se, but because it was quick, easy and cheap to make. Traditionally it was not a sweet bread, instead made in a griddle with the most basic of ingredients--flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda (no sugar!). The resulting bread was dense and highly perishable, with a bit of a sour tang (read more about it here!). It is thought that the ingredients which became popular later on--sugar, raisins, carraway seeds--were added to enhance flavor and shelf life. (Also, for some trivia, it appears that while some say the typical slash atop Soda bread rounds is a cross, to ward off the devil; others say the reason for this is much more practical--simply a scoring to make it easier to divide into fourths after baking).

But moreover, it seems to us that while Irish Soda Bread is a tradition, it seems that deliciousness was never at its core. After all, additions had been made to improve the flavor over time...so why not take it a few steps further? We resolved to channel our Irish Heritage and get baking. We found a goodlookin' recipe here (sans raisins, but as you'll see below this was not a problem for us), and put together the ingredients and tried out several variations, segregating each trial in a different panel in our favorite scone pan. Here's what we tried and how it all tasted:

DoughClassic Irish Soda Bread
As a control, we tried at least one variation true to the original recipe; the resulting taste was, as expected, slightly sweet with a slight tang, tasty when just out of the oven, but largely un-exceptional after (Cakespy Note: by saying this we do not mean to talk smack about the recipe itself, but Soda Bread in general).

Green Irish Soda BreadGreen Irish Soda Bread
Our first variation was a test to see if perhaps the bread might be livened up by adding some green dye; however, while we swear some foods will taste better if they're a certain color, it was not true in the case of Irish Soda Bread. However, we would be remiss if we didn't remark on the fact that the green bread was far cuter than its classic counterpart. 

Irish Soda BreadIrish Soda Bread, Sans Raisins, and with Frosting
Next, we tried to add a little sweetness to the mix, by soaking the raisins in sugar water before baking. We'd heard that soaking dried fruit in such a manner can plump it, discouraging dehydration during baking, and indeed, while no different in appearance than the classic recipe, the slightly sweet and far more moist raisins did add a little something. However, to really seal in the flavor, we realized that adding some frosting (green, naturally) might help. It did.

Melty Mint Soda BreadJelly Belly Irish Soda Bread
While also on that sweet path, we sampled some variations on the raisins--one with our beloved melty mints and one with jellybeans--green, naturally. In both cases, the moister texture and added bit of sweetness thanks to the additions was welcome, chasing away the acidity of the salt and baking soda. And, you know, they had a higher quotient of adorableness than the classic bread.

Extreme Irish Soda BreadExtreme Frosted Irish Soda Bread
At this point, we felt like we had something--but it still wasn't completely realized yet. So for our final attempt, we combined all the best aspects of the above experiments into one mighty, some might say extreme Irish soda bread--green food coloring, melty mints, green jelly bellies, and of course green frosting. The result? Well, let's just say this one made us very happy to be Irish.

So, to close? Well, traditions are clearly important--these rituals are part of our society and history. But sometimes, there can be a fine line between maintaining tradition and being scared to try something new. So don't be scared to challenge those old-school traditions--you might just discover a new classic. 
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 

Tuesday
Mar112008

Batter Chatter: Interview with a Cadbury Creme Egg

 

Creme Egg Closeup
To some, the first daffodils or crocuses (crocii?) are the harbinger of spring. For others, changing the clocks and "springing ahead" will indicate the change of seasons. For us at Cakespy, it's all about the Cadbury Creme Egg. From their first timid showing in January, their presence slowly grows as the days get longer, to the point where they're mercilessly taking over end cap displays in the weeks before Easter. If this doesn't say "spring" we don't know what does. But have you ever paused to wonder what's up with that dense little egg-shaped treat? Where did it come from? Whose idea was it? And why, if it's already unrealistically chocolate colored on the outside, do they still simulate the yolk color inside? These things in mind, we sat down with the Cadbury Creme Egg and asked some of these pressing questions:
Cakespy: How are you today?
Cadbury Creme Egg: It's a sweet day indeed! Easter is approaching and business is booming! An estimated 300 million of my brethren will be produced and devoured this year.
CS: Err...yes. Well, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be?
CCE: It was a long and winding road. It all started in 1875, when the Cadbury brothers introduced their first chocolate Easter eggs--my first known ancestors. They were solid chocolate and far different from the creme eggs of today. In 1923 the recipe further evolved with the addition of whipped fondant; through the years experiments were made with marzipan eggs and different recipes, but it it was ultimately me, the soft and gooey fondant egg, that was perfected in 1971 and has been breaking hearts and melting in mouths ever since.

CS: And how is it that you are made?
CCE: Well, it all starts in a half-egg shaped mold, which is then filled with solid white fondant and a dab of yellow fondant to simulate the yolk. The two halves are joined very quickly and then immediately cooled to allow the chocolate to set. The fondant filling, while solid while the eggs are made, is then injected with an enzyme which causes it to liquefy into the gooey substance found in the finished product. The finished eggs fall onto a conveyor belt which transports them to the foiling machines and then to the packing and shipping area.

CS: That enzyme thing is kind of gross.
CCE: I won't deny that. But does it make you want to eat me any less?
CS: (Pauses thoughtfully) Touché.

CS: You originally hail from the UK, but you're all the rage here in America too. Can you tell us a bit about how American Creme Eggs differ from the European counterparts?
CCE: We're bigger in the UK. I mean, literally. Hershey, the US producer of Cadbury Creme Eggs, elected to make us smaller in the US. This was kind of a scandal for a while, what with the initial response from the Cadbury spokespeople that "No we haven't shrunk you've just grown up!"--but yes, it's true. But truly, even if we're a bit smaller in your hand, we're just as big in your heart. Nonetheless, if you want the bigger one, just go over to Canada--the "full-size" ones are available there.

CS: Who came first, you or the mini (candy-coated) egg?
CCE: Well, the mini eggs were introduced in 1967. While I wasn't released in my current form til 1971, I had been a work in progress since before the turn of the century.
CS: Is there any rivalry between you and the mini egg?
CCE: Those little *$%#@s? No, none at all. Why would there be? (Stares stonily).

CS: OK, Moving on. Why is it that your innards are made color-appropriate to a real egg, but we have to suspend our disbelief with the color of your shell?
CCE: (Blinks uncomprehendingly for several moments) Well, smartypants, perhaps you should suspend this interview with me and instead interview my cousin, the Cadbury Dream Egg (white chocolate shell with white chocolate fondant filling)?

CS: How many different variations on the Creme Egg are there in the Cadbury family?
CCE: Well, aside from the aforementioned Cadbury Dream, my relatives include the following:
Mini Creme Eggs (bite-sized Creme Eggs), Caramel Eggs (soft caramel filling), Mini Caramel Eggs (bite-sized Caramel Eggs), Chocolate Creme Eggs (chocolate fondant filling)
Orange Creme Eggs (Creme Eggs with a hint of orange flavor), Mint Creme Eggs (green "yolk" and mint flavor chocolate--would make Dr. Seuss Proud), Dairy Milk with Creme Egg bars, Creme Egg Fondant in a Narrow Cardboard Tube (limited edition), and of course, who could forget Creme Egg ice cream with a fondant sauce in milk chocolateOf course, many of these variations can only be found in the United Kingdom.
CS: A lot of vegans like to read Cakespy. Is there a vegan version of the Creme Egg available?
CCE: While none are sold under the Cadbury imprint, vegans can make their own using the recipe posted on this site.
CS: How do you feel about other novelty eggs inspired by you (Russel Stover, Snickers eggs, etc)?
CCE: Well, Cakespy, I could tell you that the Cadbury Creme Egg outsells every other chocolate bar during the time it's on sale each year. I could tell you that it's the number one brand in the filled egg market, with a market share of over 70% and a brand value of approximately 45 million pounds (UK). But really, isn't proof in the pudding? I'm the most delicious and therefore am not threatened by these inferior eggs. 

CS: You're all the rage between January and Easter. Where do you go the rest of the year?
CCE: While I am only sold for a few months of the year, the demand does call for year-round prep and production. So while you won't see me in stores the rest of the year, I'm very much at work.
CS: Finally, in the UK you have the successful "How do you eat yours?" ad campaign, whereas in the US we have that clucking bunny. What's up with that?
CCE: No idea, that bunny's always freaked me out. Really, I have always identified much more with the UK campaign.

CS: So...how do you eat yours?
CCE: I think this interview is over (looks nervously around).
CS: I think we both know how this is going to end.

Fade to black.


Cakespy Note: We'd be nothing without our sources, and for this interview our sources were:

 

Friday
Feb292008

Well-Bread: A Daring Bakers Challenge, and Seriously Sweet Sandwich Mischief

 

Sandwich Project

Breadmaking is an all-consuming process, both physically--and, in our opinion, emotionally as well. It involves patience (let the dough rise!), attention (is that yeast proofed?), proximity (don't let it rise in drafty spaces !) and yes, even a little tough love (punch the dough!). But when all is said and done, it's worth the effort: one needs only to take a hot, fresh loaf out of the oven and taste a piece, heated as though from within, upon which butter will melt like a fading apparition, to see why breadmakers are so dedicated to their art. The sense of accomplishment a baker feels upon completing successful loaves is simply incomparable--this much much we can attest to, having completed this month's Daring Baker's challenge (Julia Child's French Bread Recipe, suggested by Breadchick Mary and I Like To Cook's Sara).



However, if you're at all like the Cakespy crew, this moment can be short-lived, quickly giving way to thoughts like "How can we turn this bread into a dessert?". After all, the breadmaking process does work up an appetite. But what to make? Bread Pudding? French Toast (or, if you're feeling fancy, pain perdu)?While both are sweet choices indeed, after the physical work of making the bread, both just sounded so...hard. It was then that the answer came to us: why not fry up some sweet sandwiches? Quickly we assembled a grouping of sweet fillings and fried up our loaf, grilled-cheese style, in a griddle; here's how it all came out:


Cake Frosting SandwichCake Frosting Sandwich
Frosting Sandwich: Our first experiment was a cake frosting sandwich. It seemed like a pretty safe bet; after all, bread with butter never fails to satisfy, and this is pretty much sweet butter, right? So we buttered up two slices and spread a thick frosting smear (pink, of course) in-between. The end result was a little runny, but was extremely delicious--the pinch of salt in the bread added a perfect complement to the sweet, creamy frosting. This one could be habit-inducing.


Cookie DoughSandwich Project
Cookie Dough Sandwich: When Atkins Dieters have nightmares, they probably look like this: a soft, rich spoonful of warmed cookie dough sandwiched between freshly baked bread slices, lightly buttered and fried. The resulting combination is a study in sinfulness: carbohydratey, slightly salty, rich, and sweet--all at once. As you might imagine though, moderation is key with this sandwich: a little goes a long way.


<span class=Sandwich
Couverture and Coconut Sandwich: This combination was dreamed up in the grocery store, where these two toppings were sold next to one another in the bulk aisle. It turned out to be a serendipitous pairing indeed--the coconut, which was not sweetened, added the slightest crunch to the velvety melted couverture (not tempered--eek!), as well as offering a nice contrast to the extreme sweetness. As noted above though...small bites of this rich little guy.


More <span class=Sandwich Project
Melty Mint Sandwich: Ah, melty mints, is there a cuter thing in the world than thee? It's impossible to not smile when greeted with this chocolate-chip sized version of nonpareils. But does all of this cuteness mean a tasty sweetwich? As we discovered, the heated chips (which retained their shape for the most part during the frying, protected by the bread) made soft explosions as they melted in your mouth, and the sprinkles added a delightful texture to the mix: pleasuretown, ahoy.



Sandwich ProjectSandwich Project
Tofu Cream cheese, sweet coconut and pear sandwich: Thrown together with what was left in our kitchen, this combination was dense, rich, and lending to the toffutti cream cheese, a bit savory--and overall, deeply satisfying. Though it might have tasted even better on a slightly saltier bread to balance out the sweetness of the coconut (which we'd sugared for this version), all in all, we'd add this one to our lunch box. Vegan, to boot--we even used butter substitute for the frying!

So, adventure over, what have we learned?

The hardest part of this experiment was actually getting past the mental block that sandwiches ought to be savory; there was a certain part of the whole "sweet sandwich" concept that was hard to wrap the mind around. But really, most of the experiments were quite good: the sweet fillings were balanced by the texture and taste of the bread, lending an element of surprise and newness to both elements. Does this mean that fast-food joints ought to consider changing format? Well, perhaps not; in their extreme richness and sweetness, these sweetwiches are probably not a main-ticket item. But as an add-on or impulse item? Well, let's just say that when you start seeing the mini dessert-sandwich revolution picking up speed in chains across the country, remember where you saw it first.


<span class=



 

Sunday
Feb242008

Cake Byte: The Results of our Super-Sweet Giveaway!

 

Fat Cupcake sings
The fat lady has sung; the Cake Poll is closed!

Like, whoa. At 12pm PST, when our Cake Poll closed, we had received a grand total of 138 entrants, a combination of responses via comments and via email. Not only were we thrilled that people were so excited about the sweet prize, but we were super-psyched to see so much cake love and enthusiasm, and to see the role that cake plays in so many different people's lives. Moreover, it was a fascinating experience, and we have learned a bunch of new things, including:

 

 

  • What many of us refer to as Red Velvet Cake is known and loved in some parts of the world as Waldorf Red Cake (or sometimes, Red Waldorf). Why so? Turns out there's a story behind it--allegedly, in the 1960's when dining at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City, a diner was most impressed with the signature red cake and asked for the recipe; several weeks later, she received the recipe in the mail, along with an invoice for between $150 and $350, depending on the source. Royally pissed, she created a chain letter by which to spread the recipe, so that nobody would ever again be billed for it. Urban legend or true tale? That's not for us to say, although we did enjoy the story.
  • While you might enjoy a dry martini, no dry cakes, please: resoundingly, dry cake was the most likely reason for you to consider it a "bad" cake.
  • While you love frosting, you're no junkies: Most entrants preferred 3/4 cake to 1/4 frosting, or 2/3 cake to 1/3 frosting as their ideal cake-to-frosting ratio. Some of you said you don't like frosting, but we don't believe you.

In an effort to make a random and fair choice, we inputted our list to random.org, where we then let technology determine the victor. And so who was it? 

 

The Oscar goes to--er, we mean, the winner is...Becky of East Granby, CT!

We were happy to get to know Becky a bit more through her responses (which we have listed below): 

Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? 

I grew up in Trumbull, Connecticut (southwestern CT) and I now live in East Granby, Connecticut (north central CT).

 

What were some of the special cakes from your childhood?

Special cakes from my childhood include Boston Cream Pie (which my paternal grandmother made once or twice from scratch, but usually she'd just buy one from a bakery), a lamb-shaped cake my mom made for Easter when I was little (sweetened shredded coconut was the lamb's "wool"), and cupcakes that my maternal grandmother made with NO recipe and NO measuring utensils -- just throwing in a little bit of this and that. Those cupcakes always came out perfectly light and sweet. But generally, ANY cake was special when I was a kid; I just love cake!!!

 

Presently, how often do you eat cake or cupcakes?

I eat cake/cupcakes maybe once a week. I'd keep cake lying around even more frequently if I wasn't afraid of weighing 400 pounds!

 

If you were stranded on a desert island and had to live on one type of cake or cupcake for the rest of your life...what type would it be?

My desert island cake would be a dense, moist chocolate cake. I have a recipe for a bittersweet chocolate cake that would probably be a good desert island cake.

 

On cupcakes, what is your ideal ratio of cake to frosting? 

I like cupcake frosting to be a sweet treat just for the top of the cupcake. So maybe only 1/4 frosting.

 

How do you feel about cakes or cupcakes from mixes?

These days, I refuse to bake from a mix. I have been known to say "baking from a mix is not 'baking' at all." Recently I went to the King Arthur Flour baker's store in Vermont, and saw all the wonderful mixes they offer, and I'm planning to try some soon -- so I may change my mind about mixes! If somebody else bakes from a mix, I have no problem eating the results, but I DO NOT want to hear a mix user moaning about how "hard" or "time-consuming" it is to bake.

 

What's the best thing about eating cake or cupcakes? 

The best thing...oh I don't know. It's just...CAKE. Cake is awesome. And cakey. It's one of the best simple pleasures, as far as I'm concerned.

 

Is there such a thing as a bad cake? If so, what makes it bad?

I have had bad cake. Bad cake usually means it is too dry and/or doesn't have enough sugar. I only need one hand to count the number of times I have encountered an inedible cake. It doesn't happen often, but it happens.
Congratulations, Becky! We will be contacting you shortly to find out where to ship your prize!
Thank you to each and every one of you who participated. 

 

Thursday
Feb212008

Cake Byte: A Super Sweet Giveaway and Cake Poll from Cakespy!

If you read this site, it's likely you're already living the sweet life; but today, life is about to get sweeter still. Why so? Well, we've decided to give away a Cakespy original mini watercolor painting to one lucky reader! Like whoa!


How can you put your name in the running? It's easy! All you need to do is this:

 

 

  • To satisfy our nosy tendencies (we are spies, after all), fill out the below Cake Poll! You can leave your responses in the comment section, or send your responses via email to jessieoleson@gmail.com.
  • At 12pm PST on Sunday, February 24, the Cake Poll will be closed. The winner will be chosen at random, not based on their responses. The original will then be shipped to the lucky winner within 48 hours, via the most economical method.
As for our fine print: The results of this poll will be used for entertainment and Cake Gumshoeing purposes only; we may summarize the results of this poll in upcoming posts. Your private information will not be shared with any outside parties. Also, we've elected to leave the cake poll open to all US Territories, Canada and abroad--so even overseas cake enthusiasts can take part! *As for the prize itself, it is the miniature framed painting pictured at the top and to the left; no substitutions are allowed.

And so, without further ado, let us poke at your most intimate cake details (if emailing your answers, please include your name and the best way to contact you if you win!):

  1. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
  2. What were some of the special cakes from your childhood (a Birthday cake? Grandma's German Chocolate? Or perhaps something from the local bakery or supermarket? Anything goes for us as long as it was special to you.)?
  3. Presently, how often do you eat cake or cupcakes? No judgments, we promise.
  4. If you were stranded on a desert island and had to live on one type of cake or cupcake for the rest of your life...what type would it be?
  5. On cupcakes, what is your ideal ratio of cake to frosting? 50/50? 2/3 cake, 1/3 frosting? 3/4 cake, 1/4 frosting? Other?
  6. How do you feel about cakes or cupcakes from mixes?
  7. What's the best thing about eating cake or cupcakes?
  8. Is there a such thing as a bad cake? If so, what makes it bad?
In the meantime, have a very sweet weekend!

 


 

Thursday
Jan312008

Brownies Behaving Badly: Cakespy Challenges a Classic Treat

 

DSC03676

Brownies are an impressively versatile treat; they take well to a variety of different fillings, but never lose their brownie identity. So why is it that the choices are always so...underwhelming at bakeries? Sure, you'll see the standards: fudge brownies, brownies with walnuts, and the occasional peanut butter, or perhaps mint "novelty" brownies, but nothing that really excites the palate. Luckily, we've got your back at Cakespy: recently we put brownies to the test by trying out a variety of very unexpected fillings, ranging from sweet to savory, from bitter to the completely shocking, to see what might work, what might not, and what might perhaps spawn a Brownie Great Awakening. Here are the details of our experiment:

 

Who tasted them?: Me and members of Seattle rock band Speaker Speaker.
What were the flavors?: We elected to make them in a variety of unexpected tastes and textures, and so finally settled on the following: bacon (in our case we used Morningstar farms veggie bacon), Monterey Jack Cheese, Saltines, salted peanuts, Jaffas, mint malt balls, Starburst, and Sour Patch Kids.
How did we make 'em? The recipe was a basic brownie recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. They were made using a mini scone pan from Williams-Sonoma to yield little triangles; the dividers formed a nice barrier between the different types of brownies, thus making it possible to mix in the different fillings by brownie within the same batch. While we worried that perhaps the stronger flavors or smells might infuse the others another while baking, once we began tasting, this did not seem to be a problem.

And as for our expert thoughts?

First, the savories:

 

Bacon(Veggie) Bacon Brownie

(Veggie) Bacon Brownies (above): There have been a lot of bacon-and-sweets recipes going around, and while curious, we suspected that perhaps the recent popularity was largely based on shock value rather than intense tastiness. And while there is no denying that bacon in pastries provides a certain "Omigod" factor, the flavor was surprisingly good; smoky, salty, sweet, and savory, all at the same time. As taster Danny said, "It's like brownie...and then a wave of bacon". Overall, a sweet and salty success!

 

 

Monterey Jack CheeseDSC03682
Monterey Jack Cheese (above): Remnicient of a cream cheese brownie or a chocolate cheesecake but with a spicy, savory undertone, these felt and tasted very rich and satisfying. Think chocolate cheesecake, but a bit more savory. We would definitely make these ones again!

 

Saltines insteadSaltine Brownie

Saltines (above): These ones elicited the largest amount of taste associations, reminding us alternately of chocolate covered pretzels, Nestle crunch bars, and various other chocolate-with-a-crunch sweets. Overall, these went over well, probably the most "normal" tasting of the unusual flavors.

 

 

NutsDSC03683

Salted Peanuts (above): You'll see peanut butter brownies, or walnut brownies...but very rarely whole peanuts. The peanuts provided the familiar flavor of peanut butter, but with a satisfying crunch. The saltiness was rich and gave a very pleasing mouthfeel; a nice variation on an "expected" flavor.

 

And now, moving on to the sweet styles:

 

DSC03657DSC03691

Jaffas (above): They're all the rage in New Zealand (a soft-chocolate covered orange lolly candy), but we'd never heard of them until we interviewed City Down, the Cupcake Queen of New Zealand. Now we're addicted, and they're a very pleasant addition to brownies, a slightly unexpected variation on the now-ubiquitous orange and chocolate pairing.

 

 

StarburstDSC03700

Starburst (above): We placed a Starburst candy jauntily on top of the batter on this one, and guess what: It burned a hole through the brownie! You'd think we might be warned by this unholy-seeming sign but no: we ate that sucker. Our reactions were mixed: some thought they tasted very wrong, but to others, they tasted so right. Go figure.

 

 

Mint MaltballsDSC03694

Mint Malt Balls (above): We tried this to put a new spin on the chocolate-mint thing; while they were pleasant, they weren't really that different than your basic mint brownie, the malt being broken up and covered with batter to the point of having lost its crunch.

 

 

Sour Patch KidsDSC03688

Sour Patch Kids (above): What a surprise these were. None of us expected them to be delicious, but overall the sourness seemed to mix nicely with the brownies, perhaps lending a tartness that cut through the richness a little bit. A little went a long way with this flavor, but it was certainly a worthwhile experiment. Plus, baking them made the coating melt off, so that the candies resembled little jewels, making these the "prettiest" ones by far.

 

So, to sum it up? Brownies are delicious, no doubt about it. But as a treat with such an incredible range, why should we become content with so few choices? As we found in our tasting, some of the most unexpected flavors were very rewarding and surprisingly delicious. So don't be afraid to "mix it up" in your own kitchen; you might just stumble upon a happy accident!

Have you tried out something unexpected with your brownies that turned out well? Let us know!

Cakespy Note: Our apologies for not responding to your comments right away this week; we are out spying in NYC til February 7!

 

DSC03630Business Time

 

 

 

 

The czech airlines is operating in almost 48 countries of the world to serve the passengers. The sun country airlines offer very low rates of airfares for booking flights of different locations of US. The china airlines is one of the premier airline, operating in almost all areas of the world. the southwestern airlines is one of the main airlines of the world, serving the customers of south western countries. The airline restrictions are also called the specific rules and regulations which are applicable according to the specific criteria of airline companies.

Sunday
Jan132008

Cereal Treat Wars: A Rice Krispie Treat Challenge

 

Rice Krispie Treats and More

The Rice Krispie Treat: innocent sweet, or monopolizer of the breakfast treat empire?

 

Recently when we came across the Trix Treats (photo left, thanks to Lara) which were quite the hot ticket at an event at one of our favorite stores, Plaid Pony Vintage, our view of the ubiquitous marshmallowy treat was challenged. Seriously--who do they think they are exactly, those Rice Krispies? Are they really the only cereal that can successfully make no-bake treats? We decided to put this question to the test by making cereal treats out of several types of cereal to see if Rice Krispies really were the best choice. Here are the details of our experiment:

Who, Where, When: The lucky tasters were those in attendance at a New Year's Eve Party chez moi: an eclectic mix of indie rockers, chemists, video game testers, stationery company employees, and even a pizza delivery guy.
What: A tasting of six types of treats, including Rice Krispie, Corn Pops, Froot Loops, Raisin Bran, Shredded Mini Wheat, Frosted Flakes, and Special K.

Why these types of cereal?: They were the types that came in a Kellogg's variety pack; we aren't huge cereal eaters, so this seemed the least wasteful. Plus, those mini boxes are just so cute! No, we're not sponsored by Kellogg's.
How did we do it: They were made in the same method as Rice Krispies treats, just done in
small batches. Once made, we did put little signs on each batch so that tasters would know what types they were eating.
What was our Goal?: To see which treats would prove most compelling, popular and delicious.

 

So, how did each of the treats stack up? We've itemized the tasters' reviews below.


Mini Wheat Treats
Rice Krispies Treats (above): Just about what you'd expect. It was a solid batch, but surprisingly, not too much of a dent had been made by the end of the night. However, many of the tasters confirmed our suspicions that this was more due to the novelty of the other variations, rather than poor quality on the Rice Krispie batch.
Cereal Treats
Corn Pops Treats (above): These ones proved a delightful surprise! These elicited probably the biggest nostalgia response and lively debate (why is the bag made of foil rather than plastic? etc). They were also the first to go: people seemed to like the way that the corn-y sweetness mixed with the marshmallow, and enjoyed the unique, crisp yet airy texture.
Froot Loops Treats
Froot Loops Treats (above): Similarly to the Corn Pops Treats, these went fast. They had a satisfying crunch, but a large part of the appeal was their look: like little marshmallowy rainbows, they were certainly the best-looking of the bunch.
Frosted Flakes Treats
Frosted Flakes (above): Once again, very sweet. And while they physically resembled the Special K treats, but the texture was definitely more soft and less brittle, the sugariness of the flakes having nicely absorbed the buttery marshmallow coating. They were just about gone by the end of the night though, so we guess that all in all, they were grrreeeeaaaat! (sorry).
Raisin Bran Treats
Raisin Bran Treats (above): Not many people were brave enough to give these vaguely healthy treats a try, but everyone who did was pleasantly surprised. The bran lended a nice nuttiness to the flavor, and the raisins kept the texture interesting. The overall taste was not unlike a particularly sugary granola bar.
Frosted Mini Wheat Treats
Shredded Mini Wheat Treats (above): These were not pretty, but they were good. Not for the faint of heart though: with the frosted coating on one side and an allover marshmallow coating, the wheat was a phantom aftertaste to the extreme sweetness.
Special K Treats
Special K (above): These were very brittle--they didn't seem to absorb the coating all too well--but a lot of people professed to enjoy the crunchiness. These were not all finished by the end of the night, but they seemed to intrigue the guests; maybe it's all those weight-loss commercials they've had lately.

 

 

End of the party 2
So, to sum it up? More than anything, we think that it's an issue of texture with these treats; perhaps the reason for the success of Rice Krispie treats is that the namesake cereal's texture absorbs and allows the marshmallow to mix pretty consistently, where other cereals (for instance, the Shredded Wheat) didn't really absorb the coating too much, and looked much more marshmallowy and a little messier than the other ones. While the Froot Loops treats fall into the former category, the bright color of the cereal pieces was able to make up for the ill-absorbed marshmallow mixture.
So does that mean that Rice Krispie Treats remain the cereal treat king? Well, while we will admit that it's definitely a formula that "works", Rice Krispies Treats might have some competition: at the end of the night, not a single Corn Pops or Frosted Flakes treat remained, and only a small piece of Froot Loops treat remained. Apparently these treats had a certain beauty and texture that proved intriguing; a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. And so, to close: watch your back, Rice Krispies.

Have you tried any other cereals that came out excellently? Let us know!

 

 

 

Sunday
Dec302007

Champagne Dreams and Sweet Wishes: An Experiment in Champagne and Dessert Pairing

 

Skittles in Champagne

With a new year upon us, it's time to pause and reflect. A time to resolve to do better next year, to recall the good moments of last year...and of course, a time to imbibe mass quantities of champagne.


And this brings up a very important question: what desserts might go best with your bubbly at a New Year's Eve bash?
In an effort to address this pressing issue, we at Cakespy have done an intensive taste testing, trying out champagne with a variety of party-friendly desserts to see which pairings work best. We tried to choose a range of desserts with different and distinct flavors, ranging from salty-sweet (chocolate covered pretzels) to sweet-but-tart (Skittles) to the truly saccharine (pop-tarts; cupcakes); each one was tried with a few sips of champagne to see how the flavors would mingle. Here's our review:
Cakespy Note: To be completely technical our tasting was done with sparkling wine; nonetheless, "champagne" rolls off the tongue so much nicer, and we think you know what we mean, so that's the word we're using in this writeup. Also, our apologies to any champagne enthusiasts who may be offended that we used the "wrong" type of glass. 

Champagne and Cookie
Champagne with Peanut Butter Cookies: The logic behind the pairing was inspired by the concept of opposites. The tartness of jelly seems to go nicely with peanut butter, so would the tartly acidic champagne do the same with a peanut butter cookie? Unfortunately, in our opinion, no. The flavors seemed to be fighting with one another, and the champagne won the battle, washing out the flavor of the cookie. Bummer.

Truffle and Champagne
Champagne with dark Chocolate Truffles: This combination was surprisingly good; the not too-sweet dark chocolate ganache was an excellent balance to the sharp, bubbly champagne. However, one taster noted that while the combination was good, it was not quite as good as pairing dark chocolate with red wine. 

Cupcakes, What's For Dessert, Spring Lake Heights NJ
Champagne with Vanilla Cupcakes (with vanilla frosting and sprinkles): We thought this combination might be sweet overload, but it turned out to be a very...happy combination. Maybe it was a combination of the sugar, sprinkles and bubbles, but this combo made us giddy.
Skittles in Champagne
Champagne with Skittles: We were split down the middle with this one. Where some thought the combination was entirely too sour, some enjoyed the sweet, tart tastes intermingling. Bonus: this one is extra fun if you put one of the Skittles in the champagne and watch it dance amongst the bubbles. 
Hello, delicious.
Champagne with Brownies: You'd think that we'd love this combo based on liking the dark chocolate and champagne combo, but somehow the brownie just didn't work quite as well. Perhaps it was just too heavy, but the brownie overpowered the champagne and just made it taste sour.
Chocolate covered Pretzel
Champagne with Chocolate Covered Pretzels: To us, this combination was a very good one; the saltiness of the pretzels could stand up to the acidity and strong taste of the champagne, and the chocolate gave a nice, mellow aftertaste. 

Pop-Tarts and Champagne
Champagne with Pop-Tarts: The tastes worked quite nicely on this combo at first, with the shortbready crust and frosted strawberry goodness heightened by the bubbles. However, the aftertaste was a little bit cloying to our oh-so-refined tastes, so we wouldn't rate it one of our favorite combinations.
To sum it all up? While our favorite combinations seemed to be either chocolate covered pretzels with champagne or cupcakes with champagne, like so many things, it really seemed to be a matter of personal taste, and so we welcome you to host your own tasting to see for yourself what combinations work for you! No matter what the results, it's bound to be a sweet and rewarding experience.
In the meantime, here's to a year of experimentation, growth, and much sweetness. 
Happy 2008! 

 

Thursday
Dec202007

How (Not) To Ship a Cupcake: The Results

 

Experiment Roundup

What is the best way to ship a cupcake? How should you definitely not ship a cupcake? In an effort to find the truth, Cakespy recently did a cupcake experiment, shipping four parcels of cupcakes in four different ways to see which would fare best. For a quick review, this is how each of them was packed:

 

Box 1: A cupcake in a padded envelope just by itself, no additional packing material.
Box 2: An individual cupcake packed in the Cup-a-cake carrier with bubble wrap in a box.
Box 3: A cupcake wrapped in tinfoil and surrounded by newsprint, then packed in a box.
Box 4: Four cupcakes (packed this way so they would not slide around) packed in an airtight container, then padded it with newsprint and packed in a box.

 


So we shipped them off, and then we waited. Sure, we had our guesses as to the outcome, and so did you: most readers thought either the Cup-a-Cake or airtight container packages would fare best. But would there be any surprises? Only time would tell. And gratification was ours on Wednesday night, when we found the packages (above) waiting for us at our front door. Upon eagerly opening them, here’s what we found:

 

 

Crushed!

 

Experiment Roundup


Box 1, Packed in Padded Mailer (above): Before opening, we noted that the envelope was suspiciously flat, and bore a tiny grease stain on the top. This did not bode well. Upon opening it, our suspicions proved correct: the cake was crushed. However, we were amazed by how contained it had remained; the frosting was not all over the inside, but had still retained the shape (albeit flat) of a mound of cupcake frosting. It made us think of what might happen if you tried to fry a cupcake grilled-cheese style. We probably wouldn’t eat it, but have to admit this was the most fascinating one to look at.

 

 

Parcel 2: Cup a Cake

 

Parcel 2: Cup a Cake


Box 2, packed in the Cup-a-Cake carrier (above): When we found the packages at our door, we found this one resting on its side. We weren’t too worried; it had felt so secure when we'd packed it. However, upon opening...cupcake carnage! The poor cake had turned sideways in its carrier, and frosting was all over the inside. Nonetheless, once taken out of its plastic prison, although not pretty, we'd still rate it eatable.

 

 

Parcel 3: Tin foil

 

Parcel 3: Tin foil


Box 3, Packed in tinfoil (above): Actually, we were surprised by how well this one held up, considering the pliable nature of tinfoil. When we unpacked it, the bottom of the cup was a little bit scrunched on one side, and the frosting had taken on a look as if it had been decorated by an overzealous kindergartner. All in all though, it had held its shape rather impressively, and was definitely still eatable, if slightly compromised in looks.

 

 

Parcel 4: Airtight container

 

Parcel 4: Airtight container


Box 4, Four packed together in an airtight container (above): These cakes fared surprisingly well, with only a minimal amount of frosting smeared on the sides of the case. It did not appear that any had capsized or shifted too much; being packed together, they had held each other in position, and when taken out of the box, didn’t look so bad at all; we can attest that they were still edible and yummy, in that guilty way that only grocery-store bought cakes can be.

 

*Cakespy Note: Although the photos cannot reflect this, we would be remiss if we did not mention the amazing smell that greeted us upon opening each box. It was sugary, sweet, and not too strong as to be obtrusive: sweet cake aromatherapy.

So, with all said and done, what did we learn from this experiment? To sum it up:

-Cupcakes that have been shipped might not be cute, but do still taste good if shipped and received in a timely manner.
-Shipping Cupcakes in padded mailers, while not necessarily a “good” idea, is strangely fascinating and kind of fun.
-Perhaps there is safety in numbers when shipping cupcakes: judging by the success of the four cupcakes in an airtight container, we think that perhaps the cakes balanced out the weight in addition to anchoring one another in position.
-Whereas we once thought that companies who ship cupcakes charged too much for shipping, we now have a better understanding of why it costs so dearly to deliver cupcakes that look and taste good.

Crushed Cakes

 

Tuesday
Dec182007

Cupcake Experiment: How (Not) to Ship a Cupcake

 

Cupcake #1 in Padded Mailer
Want to buy cupcakes online? It's possible, but it's gonna cost you to ship them. And what if you want just one? Not possible; of the few online retailers who will ship cupcakes, rarely will they sell them in quantities less than 9 or 10. If you ask us, that's a lot of commitment for cupcakes. So, with a goal of figuring out what might be an easier way to ship cupcakes--say, to a buddy for a "thinking of you" present or perhaps a care package to a faraway relative--the Cakespy crew recently did a cupcake shipping experiment, packing and shipping cupcakes in four different ways to see what might work and what definitely would not. Here's the rundown:


Who did it? Mr. and Mrs. Cakespy (a couple of serious troublemakers)

 

What did we do? We shipped 4 parcels containing cupcakes, each packaged in a different way, to see which ones would arrive in the best condition. (Note: To ease our holiday-stressed budget, the cakes were all from an economy-sized box of "Fun Cakes with Buttercreme Icing"--their spelling--from the local QFC grocery store; the cupcakes themselves were of a medium size, so this experiment might not turn out the same with jumbo or mini cupcakes).

Why did we do this? To see how well cupcakes need to be packaged to ship safely...and to see how they arrive if not packed carefully. And, you know, for fun.

Where did we ship the cupcakes? For ease of time and budget, we shipped each package from ourselves to ourselves (so each parcel would remain within the Seattle city limits). The transit time in this case should be just one or two days.

How did we do this? We packed the boxes as follows:

 

Shipping Cupcake #1Cupcake #1 in Padded Mailer


Box 1 (Above): In the first package, we packed a cupcake in a padded envelope just by itself, no additional packing material. Not so sure about this one. Shipped via first class; total cost $1.31.

 

 

Shipping Cupcake #2, in Cup-a-cakeCupcake #2 being packed


Box 2 (Above): This one we have high hopes for; an individual cupcake packed in the Cup-a-cake carrier with bubble wrap all around it, in a box. Shipped via first class, $2.83.

 

 

Shipping Cupcake #3Shipping Cupcake #3


Box 3 (Above): This cupcake was wrapped in tinfoil and surrounded by newsprint, then
packed in a box. Risky, or will it be OK? We wonder. Shipped via first class; total cost $2.49.

 

 

Shipping Cupcakes #4Shipping Cupcakes #4


Box 4 (Above): we tried putting a few cupcakes (to avoid them sliding around) in an airtight container, then padded around it with newsprint. Seemed pretty safe. Shipped via priority mail (it was cheaper); total cost: $4.60.

 

*Note: the shipping method for each box was the most economical, and none of the parcels were marked as fragile or given any special treatment.

And as for the results? Well, at the time of this writing all of the parcels were currently in transit; check back on Friday to see the results! But in the meantime...which one do you think will arrive in the best condition?

 

Ready to Ship

 

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