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Entries in cakespy undercover (112)

Friday
Sep182009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Common Ground Coffee and Cupcakes, Renton WA

Peppermint Patty Cupcake, Common Ground, Renton
CakeSpy Note: Since it had been a while since I sampled the cupcakes from Common Ground, I was delighted to see a new review on their current offerings via this guest blog post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne Cooke. Check out her website here!

Common Ground Coffee and Cupcakes in Renton offers a variety of interesting cupcake flavors and uses fresh, local ingredients—the perfect recipe for a small downtown cupcakery.

Mini cupcakes cost $1; large are $2; and “Special Occasion” cupcakes cost $2.50 to $3. The shop produces its homemade cupcakes on-site and uses locally produced cream and sweet butter, according to its Web site. Common Ground uses Caffe D'arte in their espresso offerings—and even makes a Caffe D’arte cupcake with latte-flavored frosting. Smoothies and bubble teas are other tasty options, especially the avocado bubble tea.

Inside Common Ground, there’s plenty of seating and even a corner with children’s toys. Though it was usually full, there was never a long wait to order. The décor and atmosphere seemed hip and yet homey. Baristas were friendly and prompt but not pushy. The mini cupcakes sit on a tray near the main display case, where the large cupcakes are presented neatly and labeled clearly.

On my first visit, I went for one of my favorite combinations: chocolate and mint. Once I took a bite of the Peppermint Patty cupcake (pictured top), I savored everything about it. This was one of the most delicious I’ve had. It felt heavy in my hand, and the cake was very dense, moist, and flavorful. The frosting wasn’t too sweet, but instead complemented the cake well, with just the right amount on top. I could have done without the nonpareils, though they look cute.

My second visit took place on a very warm day. I bought a Strawberry Fondue cupcake and “The Smoothie” cupcake to go. Unfortunately, the beautiful strawberry banana frosting on The Smoothie didn’t fare well in my hot car, so I won’t be reviewing it. However, the Strawberry Fondue cake fared just fine. The frosting was a tad too sweet, but the cake was still moist and yummy. On a later trip I noticed real strawberries on these cupcakes—I bet that would have added an extra oomph.

"Sweet Sixteen" Cupcake, Common Ground Cupcakes, Renton
On my final trip to Common Ground, I tried the Sweet Sixteen and Double Dutch. The Sweet Sixteen, covered in pink frosting and flaked coconut, had a great texture, but the frosting was too sweet for me. The white cake was fine, though a bit plain compared to the topping!
"Double Dutch" Cupcake, Common Ground, Renton
Dutch chocolate frosting and chocolate cake—how could you go wrong? Well, I was spoiled by the Peppermint Patty, and so I was slightly disappointed that this cake wasn’t as rich and dense. It was still good and chocolaty, though, with flavorful frosting.

Since this shop offers seasonal cupcake flavors, I plan to go back and check them out this fall. It’s a cute place with nice staff and a wide variety of drink options and cupcake flavors. Hard to resist when it’s only a few miles from your office!

Common Ground Coffee and Cupcakes, 900 South 3rd St., Unit A, Renton; online at commongroundcupcakes.com.

For more of Roxanne Cooke's work, check out her website here.

Do you want to be a Cake Gumshoe too? Feel free to submit bakery reviews or great baked good related finds (with pictures, please) to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

Thursday
Sep172009

Sugar Buzz: Gelato Martinis at Sugarland, Chapel Hill NC

Gelato Martinis at Sugarland, Chapel Hill NC
a sweet dispatch by Cake Gumshoe Shannon Connell

If you’ve never found yourself ordering a scoop of gelato with the phrase, “Shaken, not stirred,” then think twice.

Sugarland, a Chapel Hill-based bakery that’s been featured on Good Morning America has taken to serving up their gelato in the rare form of frozen gelato martinis. The flavors range from twists on classics such as gin and tonic, lemon drop and pina colada to the more inventive, including the Nutty Irishman, a blend of hazelnut gelato, Bailey’s Irish cream and vodka, and the Kiwi Kamikazi, a mix of kiwi gelato, a splash of lime, Midori and vodka.


During my visit to the sweet shop, I sampled Sugarland’s signature Tartini, named for the college town’s beloved Tar Heels. The Tartini is a creamy, blue concoction of lemon, peach, orange and pineapple that goes down cooler and smoother than traditional gelato-free martinis. The flavor was citrusy sweet, and the richly flavored gelato masked the unpleasant taste and burning sensation that can accompany alcoholic sippers.

 

Sugarland mixes up a variety of gelato martini flavors to fit a range of tastes. If you’re in the mood for something sweet and tart, then the Pink Pomegranate is your match. If you’re craving a richer, more decadent drink, then the Chocolate or Mochatini with a base of white chocolate gelato and Godiva liqueur is meant for you.
Sugarland Inside the Bakery
In addition to a bevy of gelato flavors, which can be served up straight (sans alcohol), Sugarland also offers coffee, cupcakes, cakes and other baked goodies made with local, organic products.

Sugarland, 140 East Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 919-929-2100; online at sugarlandchapelhill.com. For more of Shannon Connell’s work, check out her website here.

 

Monday
Sep072009

All You Need is Luv: Cupcake Luv, Kirkland, WA

Seduced by a Peach Cupcake by Cupcake Luv
You know what all of the recent cupcake backlash made me want to do?

Eat a cupcake, that's what.

So I was particularly excited when I happened to discover a new-ish custom cupcake business based in Kirland, WA called Cupcake Luv, which had a booth at the Mercer Island Farmer's Market.
Cupcake Luv
They had a gorgeous array of beautifully decorated cupcakes. They were a bit spendy ($3 for a "regular"; $5 for a "jumbo") but most variations were filled and all of them were beautifully decorated, so it took away a bit of the sting.

I picked up the "Seduced by a Peach" (vanilla butter cake filled with a chunky peach chutney, and finished with buttercream with peach puree); while generally I shy away from fruit flavors (too healthy!), it seemed really fresh and seasonal, and was a flavor I hadn't seen anywhere else.
Inside of Peach Cupcake from Cupcake Luv
The cupcake itself, which was a vanilla cake filled with fresh peach preserves and topped with a peach buttercream, was satisfyingly heavy--a good start. The cake itself was moist and finely crumbed, and nicely complemented by the sweet, creamy frosting. Unfortunately, it was the beautiful decorating that was its ultimate fatal flaw: since the piped frosting was applied directly above the filled part of the cake, it didn't have much to hold on to, and so when the cupcake was bitten into, the frosting tended to flake off and a precious morsel even fell to the ground (just picture it in slow motion: noooooo!).

Construction aside though, it was a pretty delicious cupcake. Just make sure to eat carefully, perhaps even with knife and fork.


Want to feel the Luv? Check out Cupcake Luv's website here; they can also be found at Kirkland's Wednesday and Friday Farmer's Markets; Issaquah and Woodinville's Saturday Farmer's Markets, and Mercer Island's Sunday Farmer's Market. For more information on the Farmer's Markets including locations, visit pugetsoundfresh.com.

 

Friday
Aug072009

CakeSpy Undercover: Chuck's Donuts in Renton, WA

Bear Claw (webbed foot!?) from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
I often say that bad things happen when you leave the city, but when a CakeSpy reader emailed extolling the virtues of Chuck's Donuts in Renton:

While you won't find espresso, cupcakes, or frozen yogurt on the menu, you will find the best maple bars in five counties and a lot of extremely tasty cake donuts with simple fillings. I could eat their chocolate-covered custard-filled donuts until they came out my ears! I grew up on these sugar bombs and many people in my massive family consider them prime bribe material.

...well, let's just say I knew it was time to hit the road.

Chuck's Donuts is a deeply and delightfully unpretentious place. It's perched at the corner of a strip mall off of the highway; the signage and decor are fairly nondescript. But that's OK, because we're here to talk about the donuts.

Bear Claw from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
We tested three to get a full variety: a bear claw, and old fashioned, and a frosted cake donut. The bear claw had a thin sheen of glaze that shattered oh so delicately when bitten into, giving way to a yeasty, sweet dough filled with a buttery cinnamon-sugar mix--the filling was a nice complement to the lightness of the donut.

Chocolate Frosted w/coconut, from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
The cake donut was lightly crispy on the outside, dense, soft and cakey on the inside; the frosting was almost too sweet, but we powered through it--and it should be noted that the coconut added a nice texture too.

Donut from Chuck's Donuts, Renton
But the real start of the show was an old fashioned cake donut which vaguely resembled a potato in size and texure (though as to the technical name, not quite sure), which was filled with jam and lightly glazed; overall, very pleasingly dense and just greasy enough to be satisfying without being gross.

Overall, a great find and definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in Renton; and though we do have a number of great donut shops in the city, I'd even deem it a worthy destination for Seattle donut lovers.

Chuck's Donuts, 5335 N. 4th Street, Renton; click here for more info.
Chuck's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Jul262009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts Cakes on Demand, Chilliwack, BC


CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Jess.

What luck: my new neighbour is a baker and the owner of Cakes on Demand. Well, I was so very excited when she arrived at my door to welcome me to the neighbourhood with some of her delicious delights! Caitlin was just leaving when she arrived and quickly retreated back inside the house so that she could partake in the cupcakery confections.

 

They all looked so good it was so hard to decide which one to eat first!

 

Caitlin was quick to zoom in on a fluffy coconut one. Her thoughts? Yum.

I decided to try a coffee one as I am a nut about anything coffee. We were both delighted to find that our cupcakes were cream-filled!

I highly recommend Cakes on Demand to anyone needing a cake or cupcake fix.

Cakes on Demand is a special-order cupcake and cake bakery in Chilliwack, BC; for more information or to make an appointment, visit cakesondemand.com.

To read more about Cake Gumshoe Jess's adventures, visit her blog.

 

 

Wednesday
Jul152009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Sprinkles Edible Art in Olympia, WA

Corn on the Cob Cupcakes
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne Cooke. Check out her website here!


At Sprinkles Edible Art in Olympia, your cupcake can be dressed up the way you want. Sprinkles, which is dubbed “an interactive pastry shop” on its business cards, offers the “Edible Art experience” either in a kit to take home or directly in the shop. For $6, you get a cupcake, individual cake, cookie, or brownie, as well as a small container of frosting, three different kinds of sprinkles, and a drink.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
There are dozens of sprinkles of all shapes and colors to choose from, including bear-shaped sprinkles and Christmas-themed sprinkles. Cupcake and frosting flavors cover the basics, such as chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting. Drinks include soda, juice, milk, coffee, and water. Once you order your baked good and gather your sprinkles, you’ll sit at a table with a cupcake-shaped placemat and begin to frost your goodie.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
Now it’s time for the fun part. I found that each tiny container of sprinkles was more than enough to cover the entire cupcake. I added the other sprinkles just for fun, but most fell onto the plate because there wasn’t anything left to stick to! The chocolate cupcake was good and moist, and the cream cheese frosting was delicious.
Chocolate Cupcake from Sprinkles Edible Art
If you’d rather skip the art experience and get straight to the goods, you can. Cupcakes are $1 for small, $2 for large; brownies are $2.25; cake is $5; and cookies are under $1.
Sprinkles Edible Art, Olympia
On my second visit to Sprinkles, I opted to try a cupcake without all the jazz. The shop was sporting a new display case, and inside were lemon-filled cupcakes that looked too good to pass up.
Lemon Cupcake, Sprinkles Edible art
Though the cake looks a bit like cornbread, it definitely doesn’t taste like it. The cupcake was a tiny bit crumbly, yet still plenty moist and flavorful. The filling was pure heaven, gooey and sweet—but not overly sugary. It was similar to doughnut jelly filling, rather than the lighter lemon curd found in other lemon-filled cupcakes.
Lemon Cupcake
Sprinkles also hosts live music events and rents its space for any special occasion you can think of, from birthday parties to Pampered Chef parties to cookie swaps. There’s plenty of seating, from tables and chairs to couches surrounding a television. A local photographer’s art hangs on the walls, and there is interesting cupcake art near the entrance, including cupcakes-on-the-cob covered in yellow jelly beans and speared with corn cob holders (CakeSpy Note: this project was also done beautifully on Peabody's blog!)

 

Sprinkles Edible Art is an artistic shop with plenty going on. The people working there are always friendly and inquisitive, making sure your experience goes well. The cupcakes are tasty and the topping choices are abundant. Kid or adult, it’s a fun place to visit!

Sprinkles Edible Art, 316 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA, (360) 350-0712; online at sprinklesedibleart.com.

For more of Roxanne Cooke's work, check out her website here.

Do you want to be a Cake Gumshoe too? Feel free to submit bakery reviews or great baked good related finds (with pictures, please) to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday
Jul142009

CakeSpy Undercover: Amelie's French Bakery, Charlotte, NC

Amelie's Dessert Case
By Cake Gumshoe Shannon Connell


So what’s better than a super-cute French bakery with a variety of delicious home-cooked goodies? One that’s serving up treats around the clock.

 

Stepping into Amelie’s French Bakery and Café was a magical experience. I had high hopes for the bakery, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I was enchanted at first glance by the chic, bohemian environment.
Cafe Food Menu Board at Amelie's, Charlotte NC

True to its name, once you walk through the door, you may feel as though you’ve stumbled into a bit of Paris mixed in with eclectic, shabby chic décor. Funky lampshades, one-of-a-kind chandeliers and toile adorn the cozy café along with Parisian monikers such as wall-hangings of Marie Antoinette, the Mona Lisa and black-and-white pictures of well-known and loved monuments of the City of Lights.

 

The fabulously French ambiance aside, Amelie’s offers a variety of baked sweet tooth cures in addition to an array of tartines, soups and baguette sandwiches. While the Ham and Gruyere Tartine that I sampled was quite good, the pastries and desserts are the real draw.
Chocolate Mousse Cup at Amelie's, Charlotte NC
The Chocolate Mousse Cup was the consensual and uncontested favorite among Amelie’s employees and me. Creamy, rich chocolate mousse was nestled in a delicate chocolate cup and topped with a luscious and tart chocolate-covered strawberry. To top it all off, the strawberry was situated in a pillow of thick and creamy chocolate frosting. A symphony of tastes in harmony, the Chocolate Mousse Cup was a decadent treat sure to cure any chocoholic.

Another delightful Amelie’s dessert that I sampled was the Salted Caramel Brownie, a moist, chewy fudge-like concoction topped with a salty-sweet layer of soft caramel. The only thing that would make this treat even tastier would be if it was served a la mode.

While the chocolate desserts were my favorite, the Blackberry Lemon Torte is not to be underestimated. The torte had an almond and sugar crust topped with alternating layers of lemon and blackberry custard-like soaked sponge cake, combining sweet and tart flavors with a slight almond crunch.

Other Charlotte favorites of this maven haven include croissants, which are made six times on Saturdays to ensure freshness, and petit fours including the signature, award-winning peanut butter, chocolate ganache and feuilletine petit four. I have yet to experience the simple joys of these popular offerings, but I’ll have the opportunity to do so as I know I’ll return to this sweet spot again and again to enjoy the variety of baked treats offered at all hours of day!

Amelie’s French Bakery & Cafe, 2424 N. Davidson St., Charlotte (704) 376-1718; online at ameliesfrenchbakery.com.

For more of Shannon Connell’s work, check out her website here.


Amélie's... A French Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

Sunday
Jul052009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Indulge Cupcakes in Puyallup, WA

Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne Cooke. Check out her website here!

Live life one cupcake at a time.
Keep calm and have a cupcake.
Are you checking out my cupcake?


Inside Indulge Cupcakes in Puyallup, you’ll find a variety of cupcake sayings, as well as a variety of cupcake flavors. Indulging here is simple.

 

Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
The bakers at Indulge have the classics covered: vanilla with chocolate or vanilla buttercream, chocolate with vanilla or chocolate buttercream, and red velvet with vanilla buttercream.

Indulge also offers chocolate chip mint, lemon with lemon cream cheese frosting, cinnamon swirl, caramel macchiato, and orange dreamsicle. The lemon and orange dreamsicle cupcakes have freshly squeezed juice in their batters.

The shop sells a few specialty cupcakes, including carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, coconut with coconut buttercream, cherry chip, and strawberry shortcake.
Regular cupcakes cost $2.80 and specialty cupcakes are $3.75. The rest of the menu is devoted to drinks: espresso, tea, and smoothies. There’s a shelf full of cupcake-themed items, including cards and cupcake-shaped ceramic containers. Indulge also rents its space for events, such as baby showers.


On two separate occasions in June, I visited the downtown Puyallup shop with a friend. On our first visit, it was near closing time, and we ordered the chocolate chip mint and red velvet. Both were a bit dry, but we chalked this up to the late hour. The frosting, while beautifully done, was a bit sugary for our taste buds.
Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
Before leaving, I bought a cherry chip cupcake to go and kept it in my fridge for a few days before tasting it. The cupcake was yellow on the outside and pink on the inside. It was moist and sweet, but not overpowering.

 

Cupcake from Indulge Cupcakes, Puyallup WA

On our second visit, we arrived early in the day and tried the caramel macchiato and carrot cake cupcakes. The caramel macchiato (pictured directly above), featuring a coffee bean on top and caramel syrup swirled over the frosting, had a delicious coffee flavor, but the frosting was still on the too-sweet side. The carrot cake (pictured below), now my favorite at Indulge, was just about perfect. The ratio of cake to frosting was more manageable, the frosting felt smoother and tasted less sugary, and the cake was rich, moist, and flavorful. Plus, it’s just cute!

 

Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke
I’ll definitely be going back to Indulge Cupcakes to try their other cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and to see what other specials they come up with. The people running the shop are always friendly, there’s interesting art on the walls, and their beautiful cupcake creations are fun to try.
Indulge Cupcakes, Photos and Writeup by Roxanne Cooke

Indulge Cupcakes, 207 N. Meridian, Puyallup, 253-904-8234; online at indulgecupcakes.com. For more of Roxanne Cooke's work, check out her website here.


Do you want to be a Cake Gumshoe too? Feel free to submit bakery reviews or great baked good related finds (with pictures, please) to jessieoleson@gmail.com.

 

Monday
Jun292009

Waffle House: Delicious French Waffles at Scandinavian Bakery, Seattle

French Waffles
Upon walking into the Scandinavian Bakery in Ballard, Seattle, you'll notice a few things.

Certainly you'll notice how it looks--sweetly retro--but not in a contrived way, more in a "it's been this way since the day it opened, years ago" sort of way.
Scandinavian Bakery, Ballard
And you'll probably notice how it smells: of sugar, yeast, warm bread and various other wonderful things.

But once you've gotten beyond these surface charms, you may notice a small anomaly in their bakery case: the French Waffle. On the one hand, this seems strange--what business do French Waffles have with the cardamom buns and marzipan cakes? But once you taste them, all is forgiven. Crispy with brown sugar and spices on the outside, they're ever-so-slightly soft on the inside, and filled with a sweet dab of frosting that perfectly offsets the texture of the cookies.
French Waffles
It seems that these filled waferlike sandwich cookies truly are a sort of lovely mixture of cultures: where they vaguely resemble these French Waffle cookies, the sugar-and-spice coating ultimately does have a Nordic feel. 

So though they may waffle between cultural identities, but regardless of their origins, these little waffles are definitely delicious.

Do you know more about these sweet treats and their origins? If so, please comment!

 

French Waffles can be found (call first for availability) at Scandinavian Bakery, 8537 15th Ave. NW, Seattle (206)784-6616. 
Scandinavian Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

Monday
Jun292009

CakeSpy Undercover: A Sampling of Sweets from Budapest

Retes, from Hungary, c/o Diane
A few months ago, CakeSpy buddy (and very talented textiles designer) Diane Kappa made a big move: from Seattle to Budapest. Now that's she's had some time to settle and get to know her surroundings, it's time to dig into the bakery scene in Hungary. What has she been enjoying? Here are some of her favorite sweet treats so far:

The first thing I think of is called a csoko csiga (chocolate snail) It is not really a snail. It is in the shape of a snail and is absolutely delicious! And the funny thing is you can buy them in the subway station. They are about $1 and taste so delightful! Not too sweet but heavy on the cocoa taste.

And you can not forget Retes! It is so tasty!!! You can buy them savory or sweet. Sour cherry, turo (like cottage cheese but drier), apple are my favorite. You can also buy them with cabbage. I attached a photo of an apple retes (top picture)! The photo was taken at a “cukrászda” (sweet shop) called “Lukas” Here are some photos from Lukas:


Lukas, Budapest
Cakes from Hungary
All I can say is, like whoa. Wouldn't you love to be in Budapest right now?


Want more? You can stay updated on Diane's sweet adventures via her blog; while you're spending time on the internet (you junkie!), why not also check out her shop and portfolio?

 

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