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Entries in cakespy undercover (112)

Tuesday
Jun052012

CakeSpy Undercover: Corina Bakery, Tacoma WA

Honey Lavendar cake

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Roxanne. View more of her work at roxannecooke.com!

Corina Bakery, located between Tacoma’s Theater and Stadium districts, offers a wide assortment of baked goods for a variety of dietary restrictions. The bakery recently celebrated its 4-year anniversary. Happy birthday, Corina!

Corina Display

Among Corina’s many goodies: cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cookies and bars, scones, muffins, and savory goods such as quiche. There are also options for vegan, gluten free, soy free, or low sugar diets. You’ll see most of the goodies in the main display case when you walk in, but don’t forget to look around the corner for the refrigerated display, with puddings, cheesecake, quiche, and more.

Corina cool display

Corina recently moved to a larger space. The shop’s old location was nice and cozy, but lacked seating space. Now there are plenty of places to sit, with lots of beautiful natural light shining in through big windows. Plus, the bakers get a much bigger kitchen!

Because there are so many different sweet treats at Corina, I’ve sampled something new during each visit and selected my favorites to review.

Valhalla brownie Valhalla brownie and tea

Valhalla brownie: Corina serves organic, fair-trade coffee from Tacoma-based Valhalla Coffee Co., and one of their most delicious desserts makes fantastic use of it! The brownie is rich, flavorful, and moist, with just a faint taste of rich coffee flavor. Decadent, for sure, so I couldn’t finish it in one sitting (that’s okay—more for later!).

In addition to Valhalla Coffee, Corina serves tea from Mad Hat, an organic, fair-trade tea purveyor in Tacoma. My go-to is the black lavender tea, pictured above with the Valhalla brownie, but there are many others, including decaf and herbal varieties.

Lavender honey cake (pictured top): This is just one of several different types of specialty cakes Corina offers. So far, it’s my favorite. Dried lavender is baked into a vanilla cake, topped with lemon-honey buttercream, and sprinkled with more dried lavender. I couldn’t stop eating this (gigantic) slice, with just the right amount of sweetness.

Vegan pumpkin loaf

Pumpkin loaf (vegan): The pumpkin loaf apparently goes really well with coffee, but since I’m not a coffee drinker, I didn’t try it. I did, however, eat the entire mini loaf in one sitting. The pumpkin seeds on top provide a contrasty crunch to the soft, moist bread. All in all, it’s a good, flavorful choice if you’re not in the mood for something as sweet as cake or a brownie.

Gluten free vegan pb cookies

Peanut butter cookies (gluten free, vegan): I used to avoid peanut butter cookies. They’re always so dry and crunchy! But not these peanut butter cookies. They’re soft, and yummy, and pair perfectly with a glass of milk. They’re quickly becoming my favorite Corina item.

This is really only a tiny sampling of what Corina has to offer. For prices, bakery hours, and a detailed menu, check out Corina’s website. Or, even better, stop by for a cookie and a cup of tea before catching an indie flick at the Grand Cinema next door!

Corina Bakery, 602 Fawcett Avenue, Tacoma, 253-627-5070; online here.

Monday
May282012

CakeSpy Undercover: Easy Tiger, Austin TX

Danish Krans, Easy Tiger, Austin

Easy, Tiger. It's time to talk about beer, baked goods, and how both intersect so beautifully in Austin, Texas.

At a place called Easy Tiger.

I heard about this place from Katie, who I met in Austin while vending at the Renegade Craft Fair. I think Katie is pretty rad. And she knows my friend Jeff, who once ate a butter duck in Orlando!

Well, Easy Tiger is a very special place. It's gorgeously appointed, kind of hipster-chic, almost like it could be as comfortable in Portland, OR as it was in Austin, on a block populated by more bars than bakeries. It has an enormous, and beautiful, outdoor beer garden, the perfect place to enjoy a pint (or a pastry, or both) on a summer evening. It's really a great place to hang out. But now, it's time to talk pastry.

They have a great variety of pastries, mostly flaky, all delicious. They also have a wall of bread.

But what did I sample?

The Danish Krans. The portion was very generous, something like 1/6 of the ring. The crackly pastry exterior, glazed with what seemed like apricot glaze, which kept it delightfully fresh-tasting even though it was nearly 10pm at the time of acquisition, gave way to a creamy almond interior, which was extremely generous (no air pocket on top! all filling all the time!); overall, the pastry managed to remain interesting bite after bite; it didn't become boring in spite of the size of the serving (which was devoured, btw). Overall, a satisfying, filling, and delicious experience. It made this Spy so curious to return and try the cherry-lime danish, which was highly recommended by the barista (the self-described "Best Barista in Austin...after 7pm". 

Easy tiger, Austin

My overall thoughts? Go to Easy Tiger. You won't regret it.

Easy Tiger, online here. Austin, TX.

Sunday
May062012

CakeSpy Undercover: Philly Cupcake Company, Philadelphia

CUPCAKE from Philly Cupcake

Recently, I went to a place called Philly Cupcake Company. They are a bakery specializing in...well, cupcakes. Duh. Well, they do have a few other sweets too--brownies, cookies, chocolate covered marshmallows and nutter butters, and some homemade dog treats too. They're not new--they've been there for about 3 years--but this was my first time visiting.

And I was there for the cupcakes.

When you walk in, after encountering the store's slightly creepy mascot, you encounter a line of hutches which contain the cupcakes. There's a little velvet rope and you point at what you want and the employees fetch it for you. When there is a line, it strikes me that this could be irritating, but on the day I went, there wasn't a line. 

The menu at Philly Cupcake is eclectic. They have two tiers of cupcakes: "classic" and "fancy". The classics include basic flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, etc., and are $3. The fancy ones are a little more tricked-out (vanilla caramel cupcakes with twix bars; banana cupcakes with banana buttercream and a layer of white chocolate ganache, for example). 

I decided to start out with the basics, and went for vanilla and red velvet. Kind of the cupcake litmus test. The employee was very friendly and gave specific instructions (don't refrigerate or the cake will dry out; enjoy fresh, carry the bag in such a way so your cupcakes don't get mashed, etc). They packed the cupcakes in to-go containers, which is a nice touch.

I must say: overall, I was very impressed. The vanilla cupcake was moist and flecked with vanilla bean; the flavor was not showy but just a very good, simple vanilla. 

But the Red Velvet--I've got to say, it was standout as very good. The cocoa flavor was evident; the cake was extremely moist and rich in flavor, and the cream cheese was delightfully tangy. A fellow taster said the cream cheese frosting was a bit heavy, but I personally thought it was just right. I mean, do you really want your cream cheese frosting to be light and airy? Not me, friend.

Philly Cupcake makes a very nice cupcake--simple and unfussy, but with care taken and nice details (sparkles and pretty decorations on the vanilla; a simple but clean design on the Red Velvet). A nice showing, and I can't wait to return. 

Philly Cupcake Company, 1132 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia; online here.

 

Sunday
Apr222012

Sweet Mouthful: Chocolate Bouchon from Garces Trading Co., Philadelphia

Chocolate Bouchon, Garces Trading Co

What does "Bouchon" mean?

Well, I suppose it depends on how you want to look at it. For instance, if you're a fan of fancy Ho-Hos, you might instantly think of the bakery adjoining the restaurant entitled Bouchon.

If you're still up to date with your high school French, you might say it means "a cork or stopper" as in, "Où est le bouchon pour cette carafe?"

If you like to eat French pastries, you'll know it as a bite-sized, generally quite rich, little mouthful of a treat.

And if you've ever been to Garces Trading Company in Philadelphia, you know that even further, the literal translation is "a small bite of something chocolate that I wish I could eat my weight in". 

Garce's Trading Company is a restaurant, it's true, but they have a highly respectable pastry case. Here's a peek.

Garces trading co

But the first item tried by the Spy was the Bouchon. It was chocolatey. It was gooey in the middle. It was dark and sweet and the type of sweet that sticks to the roof of your mouth and teeth. Chocolate, yes!

Chocolate Bouchon, Garces

It is worth seeking out. If you are in Philadelphia, go to Garces Trading Company, and proceed to the pastry counter. You won't regret it.

Garces Trading Company, 1111 Locust Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Tuesday
Mar202012

CakeSpy Undercover: Metropolitan Bakery, Philadelphia

Photo: Metropolitan Bakery facebook pageI have a big, sweet, carbohydratey crush on Philadelphia's Metropolitan Bakery. Why, you ask?

Well. There are a few reasons.

Metropolitan bakery

First off, they make wonderful bread. This is important. But sometimes, when a bakery excels at baking bread, their sweet treats seem secondary. And I get it--bread is their "thing". But very happily, Metropolitan Bakery doesn't fall into this category.

First, I will address their sticky buns. Like, whoa. Nice and yeasty, but with a pleasing amount of gooey filling, these buns are generously bathed in a caramelly coating and topped with pecans, making for a decadently delicious breakfast treat. I heated mine a little bit, and it sort of tasted like heaven. Really. I think I heard the "Dream Weaver" music playing.

Next, I will address their lemon bars. Now, by appearances only, the lemon bars are fairly average. I don't mean this as an insult. All that I am saying is, how could you know that this unassuming bar holds such a treasure of flavors? Assertively--nearly puckeringly--lemon, these cool and tart bars are anchored by a rich, buttery shortbread crust. Please, let me have another.

Next, I will talk for a moment about their raspberry crumb bars. Once again, not saccharine sweet, and beautifully finished off which a slightly salty, very buttery brown sugar crumb topping. I can see how one could even convince oneself that it's vaguely healthy. 

Metropolitan Bakery

Speaking of vaguely healthy, they also offer something called a Millet Muffin. Now, in general, such a title would not entice me--but wrapped in liner paper that made them look like little flowers, I was intrigued. And I was assured by the counter lady that they were very, very good. "Are they healthy?" I asked. And she said, "Well, not really". That's all I needed--"I'll take it!" I said. And you know what? These muffins are very good. The millet adds a nice, nutty flavor and a wonderfully crunchy flavor which doesn't fall into "crack yo' teeth" territory--but the muffin base is deliciously dense and buttery. I call it a winner. 

And because this stuff contributes to the overall bakery experience, I should say that as an artistic person, their logo, which is inspired by the Paris Metro, pleases me greatly. 

Their menu is pretty extensive, featuring cakes, cookies, Frenchie-stuff like caneles and macarons, and tarts. And everything I have sampled has been quite good. What I am getting at here is: go to this bakery.

Metropolitan Bakery has a few locations in the Philadelphia area; find out more about them on their website.

Sunday
Mar112012

CakeSpy Undercover: Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

For this assignment, I went undercover--and underground--to visit Tiffany's Bakery.

This is an unexpected spot to find delicious treats--for one thing, it is in the basement level of an urban shopping mall. In the food court. It's flanked by places like McDonalds and Auntie Anne's--not exactly where you'd expect to find a scratch-baked, totally awesome bakery.

My trip was doubly delightful in that it was the spot suggested by my friend Margaret, a brilliant editor at Quirk Books. It's amazing, she promised. I didn't need to be told twice.

I was glad it had been suggested, because purely based on looks, the the bakery might not get you right away: the shelving and lighting are fairly generic and utilitarian.

But the crowd surrounding the sweet-smelling bakery is your first indication that you've reached an unexpected goldmine of deliciousness. And clearly they've got a loyal following: they've been baking up sweets for 33 years now!

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

And because we never do anything halfway, we got not one but about a half-dozen of their sweet treats, including a sticky bun, a cookie, a red velvet cupcake, a mini cherry cheese danish, and a "George Washington Slice", a sort of spicy brownie-gingerbread type bar. 

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

And you know what? Everything was very, very good. Standouts for me were the cherry danish and sticky bun, which were lightly yeasty, not too sweet, but pleasingly decadent on both counts. Also very strong was the cookie, which was spicy and flavorful. I personally did not try the cupcake but was assured it was a good specimen. The chewy "George Washington Bar" was like a chewy spice cake meets brownie--interesting, a little different, and I think it would make a great companion to eggnog around the holidays. 

I learned that Tiffany's is known and highly regarded for their generous slices of Strawberry Short Cake - making that my #1 pick for my next visit.

Tiffany's Bakery, Philadelphia

Another nice thing about Tiffany's is that they offer many of their items in two sizes, which I estimated to be "small-medium" and "very large".  The smaller size is perfect for mixing and matching or if you're serving a crew at a brunch or event. Or, you know, if you want to try six pastries in one sitting and convince yourself it's ok because they're "mini".

The final word? Visiting Tiffany's is an adventure, you'll have plenty of good people watching, and the pastries are worth a visit.

Tiffany's Bakery, 9th and Market, Gallery Mall Food Court; online here.

Thursday
Mar082012

CakeSpy Undercover: Sweets at Coal Creek Coffee, Laramie WY

Pie in the sky

Funny thing about crossing the country by automobile: sometimes, it is really hard to find good coffee.

And when I say "it's hard to find good coffee" I mean that sometimes you find yourself praying to the coffee gods to just send you a Starbucks. Please. 

But happily, while passing through Laramie, Wyoming, I had a sweet discovery which satisfied my caffeine needs as well as my sugary desires: Coal Creek Coffee. 

A coffee roaster with a few retail locations, Coal Creek not only has rich, bold coffee, but a delicious selection of sweet treats.

One of the standouts? The Raspberry pie, which was on the menu during the Valentine's day week. The berries were tart, not overly-sweetened, and bursting with flavor. The crust was the perfect rich, buttery, flaky complement, sturdy but not overwhelming. It was an exceedingly pleasant pie. I'd warrant a guess it would be even better with whipped cream or ice cream, but these toppings aren't especially friendly for traveling, so I suppose I will just have to dream about that.

 

. Raspberry Pie

Also in their bakery case? A variety of brownies, cookies, other pies, and bars. These cookies in particular seemed interesting:

Laramie, WY

For more information, visit the Coal Creek Coffee website!

Saturday
Feb252012

Five Reasons Why CakeSpy Loves Bassett's Ice Cream

Bassetts, reading terminal market

In 1861, Lewis Dubois Bassett, a Quaker school teacher and farmer, began making ice cream in his Salem, NJ backyard using a mule-turned churn.

In 1885 he began selling his wares at 5th and Market in Philadelphia; in 1893 he moved shop to the newly-opened Reading Terminal Market.

And the sweet, creamy stuff has been sold there ever since.

Fast forward to the modern-day. Bassetts now churns out ice cream which is sold all over the Philadelphia area and even beyond, but the heart and soul of the company remains at the Reading Terminal Market.

And here are 5 reasons why I love Bassett's:

1. Their ice cream is not fancy, but it is very good. It's proof that when you've got a good process and good ingredients, the product will shine; there isn't much that is gimmicky or trendy about this ice cream, and that's part of why I like it.

2. Gadzooks!  The flavor. What is it? As I learned from their website, 

Bassetts decadent chocolate ice cream with pieces of Brownie Points peanut butter brownies, chocolate chunks and a rich caramel swirl. Gadzooks Original was unveiled at WMMR's Spring Break '06.

3. They are steeped in sweet lore and adventure. Per their website, in 1935, Lewis Junior, who took over the business, "ships 10 quarts of ice cream, packed in dry ice, via freighter from New York through the Panama Canal to the American Embassy in Tokyo. The voyage takes several weeks but the ice cream arrives in perfect condition".

4. Details matter: their waste bin at the Reading Terminal Market is shaped like a big ice cream cone. 

5. Daily specials: on a recent visit, I had a double-header: one scoop of macadamia nut ice cream paired with one scoop of vanilla butterscotch. It was decadent, creamy, and completely dreamy. I loved every moment of that ice cream (pictured top).

Seek out your own reasons to love them; find Bassetts online here.

Thursday
Feb232012

CakeSpy Undercover: Doughnuts and More at Cle Elum Bakery, WA

Cle Elum Bakery

I've been to Cle Elum Bakery in Washington before.

I've tried their tantalizing Torchetti, and lovingly learned about the bakery's history.

But on a recent visit, I had the good fortune of trying a few more goodies: their quiche (savory, I know), as well as several of their doughnuts (cake and a yeast variety with coconut coating) and their divinity.

The quiche (not pictured) was truly outstanding. The crust was just flaky enough, and full of flavor. The filling (vegetables on the day I went) was not at all bland (a common quiche complaint for me)--it was simply bursting with flavor, and required no seasoning whatsoever. It paired beautifully with the dark, rich Caffe Vita coffee which they serve.

Cle Elum Bakery

The doughnuts were divided, in my mind: the cakey varieties were pretty perfect, just greasy enough, and delicious with coffee. The yeast varieties were not quite as memorable in this Spy's opinion, relying more on the toppings for flavor, with a slightly drier interior. 

The divinity was unlike any other I've tried, more like a meltaway cookie. Extremely delicious, melt-in-your mouth, with a tantalizing slight saltiness that will make you want to keep on eating more. 

The bottom line? Cle Elum Bakery is well worth a visit, and not just for the famous Torchetti. Of course, next time I know I have to try the butter horns--or else, says my friend Molly!

For more information, visit the Cle Elum Bakery Facebook page.

Monday
Feb202012

Sweet Surprise: Delicious Pumpkin Cake from a Rest Stop in Council Bluffs, IA

Pumpkin Cake, Council Bluffs

I'm going to file this one under "unexpected deliciousness": pumpkin cake from a Sapp Brothers Travel Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

I found myself in this rest area for the typical reasons: to refuel the vehicle and to use the facilities while road-tripping.

But I spied something unexpected while I was about to exit the building: a display of cakes and cookies, which said that they were homemade. Say what? 

There was Red Velvet Cake, Carrot Cake, and a variety of cookies.

Oh, and Pumpkin cake. Yeah, let's try a piece of that. Well, actually, three: the box came with three thick wedges, each about the size of a butterscotch Krimpet, for $2.99.

Pumpkin Cake, Council Bluffs

And guess what? This cake was genuinely good. Not just good-for-something-purchased-at-a-gas-station, but actually good. The cake was moist and nicely spiced, and the frosting was generous, and very sweet and rich.

Much better than picking up a big gulp and corn nuts on the road, in my humble (and sweet) opinion.

Seek some sweetness for yourself: you can get this cake at Sapp Brothers, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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