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Entries in Cakewalk (121)

Monday
Jun092014

The Ultimate Guide to New Mexico Sweets

In case you didn’t know it, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in New Mexico since last year. I didn’t know much about New Mexico before I came aside from the fact that it was, in fact, in the USA (apparently a leg up on some other US residents who don’t even know that!). One of the most impressive things to me about New Mexico is not its dramatic sunsets or majestic mountains or even the fact that it’s where that sandy desert Boyz II Men Video was filmed, but its unique desserts. I thought it would be interesting to give you an in-depth look at the desserts of the “land of enchantment”, including a little cultural context and a look at the ingredients which are commonly used in dessert here.


New Mexico: a brief culinary background

Many believe that the dramatic, sweeping sunsets and ruggedly beautiful landscape of New Mexico, which has inspired artists for centuries, is the reason behind the state motto “the land of enchantment”. Not to put down Georgia O’Keeffe and company, but I do respectfully submit that the cuisine is equal if not greater in terms of enchantment level.

New Mexico’s sun-baked soil and chilly desert nights provide a unique growing climate. While many crops are grown in the state, the short growing season, dry climate, and temperature variances lead to extremely concentrated flavors. Whether it’s a red-hot chile or a supersweet apple, the flavors are alive.

The colorful and zesty nature of the cuisine is certainly evident in its enchiladas and famous green chile cheeseburgers, but it carries over to the dessert course, too. They’re not afraid to embrace flavor in their dessert: let’s say New Mexico was doing chile-infused chocolates way before it was trendy.

What you have in New Mexico is a unique mash-up of cultural cuisines. Initially settled by Native Americans, colonized by the Spanish, home to many Northern seeking Mexicans, and now home to many aging hippies. Each contingent has made distinct contributions to the cuisine of the area, which shows traces of each of the aforementioned sources but is not quite any of them--New Mexican cuisine is a thing all its own. This is true of the desserts, too. Gluten-free wild blue corn pudding with Mexican spices? It wouldn’t be unheard-of.

It’s important to remember that the Native Americans were there first, and the mentality of using what the earth provides still certainly pervades the culture, including that of dessert. Early sweets would be likely to employ ingredients that were simply there: eggs, corn, honey, lard, spices, and milk--in the earliest days, goat milk, but as the industrial revolution came about, dairy from cows, too.

The influence of the Spanish and Mediterranean explorers added cooking methods and ingredients that would not have been around otherwise, making for a fusion of Spanish recipes with native ingredients: that’s where we get such dishes as bunuelos, biscochitos, and natillas.

As a side note on Native American sweets, this is one of the most difficult parts of the dessert scene to pinpoint, as many of these treats are baked at home rather than as offerings in a commercial setting. I did my best, as you will see below. 

Some of the cuisine in New Mexico can be confused with the food of Mexico, because both can tend to earthy and rich in flavor. In New Mexico, the cuisine is particularly chile reverent, and the fiery pods are used even in desserts such as New Mexican apple pie with green chile or brownies scented with red chile.

Since the 1900s, New Mexico has been a hamlet for artists of all types. This has brought an air of sophistication to the state’s dining, which has over the years led to city and hipster type interpretations using locally harvested ingredients. Trendy doughnut shops featuring blue corn and chile on their (gluten free) holey treats? Hey, it could happen.

Key ingredients

Pinon chocolate decadence

Here’s a look at some of the key ingredients which are used in New Mexico sweets. Not all of the ingredients are exclusive to the area, but you’re very likely to see them play a role in the sweets of the region. They can also give a deeper look at the way ingredients may play into desserts, giving a local flavor to even desserts or sweets such as cookies, cakes, or doughnuts. For instance, a doughnut is not a regional treat in New Mexico, but a blue corn doughnut could be unique to the area.

Blue Corn


Blue corn? Yep. This is a variety of maize which is grown in New Mexico. Mild, nutty, and lightly sweet in flavor, perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic is its color, which is indeed an indigo hue. The cornmeal is a frequent part of sweet recipes, making its presence known in quick breads, doughnuts, pancakes, and bundt cakes.

Chile

To say that chile is a vital part of New Mexican cuisine would be an understatement. Beyond condiment, chiles are sold directly from roasters on the side of the road, and are present in just about every meal. The big question is red or green? Or “christmas” - both? They are added to desserts too, including Pumpkin Green Chile pie, Red Chile Brownies, and a famous apple pie with green chile.

Cinnamon

The importance of cinnamon in New Mexico desserts cannot be underestimated. It is the dash of something that makes natillas sing; it is the extra spice that makes biscochitos warm and fuzzy in your mouth.

Chocolate

Everyone knows that Spanish explorers loved drinking chocolate (at least, that was an interesting tidbit I remembered from History class). Chocolate remains a rich tradition in the area, with traditional drinking chocolates readily available and a wide variety of locally made chocolate available. In Santa Fe, there’s even a self guided “chocolate trail” including a number of fine local purveyors.

Dairy

One of the state’s largest sources of income is through its dairy products. This translates into the dessert arena, where many dairy-rich desserts can be found regularly at restaurants. It wouldn’t be New Mexico without flan or tres leches cake (or both) on the menu.

Piñon

You may call it a pine nut, but in New Mexico, this is not reserved as an ingredient for pesto. It’s a way of life, with the scent of piñon roasting a part of the landscape and street vendors advertising the new batch. Though fairly expensive as an ingredient, it’s not unlikely to see it used in desserts, such as chocolates, pancakes, or ice cream.

Peanuts

The conditions for growing Valencia peanuts--characterized by three or more small kernels to a pod and a bright red skin--are a small, sweet peanut which can be roasted or boiled. If the baker is using local ingredients, these unique peanuts contribute a slightly different peanutty flavor in New Mexican sweets.

Pecans

Pecans for pie

Although we usually will think of Louisiana when we think Pecans, it’s one of New Mexico’s top agricultural crops. This makes pecan based desserts a stronghold, whether it’s a rich pecan pie, pecan-studded cookies, or a rich caramel turtle chocolate cake.

Piloncillo

This is a type of unrefined cane sugar which resembles brown sugar in color, but has more similarity flavor-wise to palm sugar. It is purchased as a cone, which can be shaved or cut.

Pistachio

Grown in the desert, pistachios are actually one of New Mexico’s top harvests. Though a popular ingredient globally in dessert, its presence is prominent in New Mexico desserts, from lemon pistachio white chocolate doughnuts to delicious and unique pistachio brittles.

Prickly Pear

Nicknamed “indian fig”, the prickly pear is the sweet-tart reddish fruit from a cactus which grows in the dry areas of the southwest (prominently in New Mexico and Arizona). It is a key ingredient in imbibements such as margaritas, as well as in dessert course treats such as sorbets, ice creams, and sauces.

Sweet Specialties of New Mexico

These are the treats you’ll see often enough to take notice in New Mexico. Some are unique to the area, and others simply proliferate in a big enough way to bear mention.

Apple pie with green chile

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

In New England, there is a saying that “apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.” In New Mexico, it’s green chile that adds a little spice to the life of apple pie. It’s a commonly seen specialty in restaurants and cafes, and a recipe has even been shared in the Smithsonian.

Arroz dulce or Arroz con leche

Photo via Wikipedia commons

You’ll recognize this dish if you see it: it’s rice pudding. The version favored in New Mexico has a distinctly Mexican inspired flavor; it’s almost like the pudding version of horchata. It’s made with milk, sometimes raisins, and always spiced with cinnamon.

Atole

Corn is the base of this traditional beverage of Mexico and Central America. Corn flour is combined over heat with water, piloncillo, cinnamon, vanilla and optional chocolate or fruit to make an earthy, hot beverage which is commonly served as an accompaniment to tamales during the holiday season. 

Biscochitos

Biscochito, Golden Crown

As the Official State Cookie of New Mexico, this delicately flaky anise-scented cookie demands civic respect. There are variations on the recipe: sometimes they’re made as circles, sometimes as diamonds, sometimes trefoils. The spelling is sometimes of debate, too: you’ll see them as biscochito or bizcochito (see lore, below). But most old-school bakers will agree on at least one thing: the secret to the melt-in-your-mouth texture, which simply cannot be substituted without sacrificing authenticity, is lard.

Blue corn pancakes

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Using blue corn in pancakes is a trend which is generally credited to Tecolote Cafe, whose atole pinon pancakes have been featured on the Food Network and beyond. It has spread far and wide, though, and is a frequent occurrence on breakfast menus.

Buñuelos

Photo via Wikipedia commons

These lightly sweetened doughnut-esque fried bits of dough are not unique to New Mexico; you’ll find variations of them as widely flung as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. In New Mexico, you’ll often see a version which seems like a relative of the sopaipilla; the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. They are typically sweetened with sugar and cinnamon; sometimes, a sugar cane glaze is employed for maximum deliciousness.

Capirotada

Greer Garson's capirotada (7)

Photo via Flickr member Joel Kramer

This variation of bread pudding is characterized by its addition of cheese and spices--a cinnamon-rich mixture which makes it sort of like bread pudding meets cheesecake with a dash of horchata. There’s no part of the equation that is wrong.

Chile chocolate


Chocolates scented with chile are an everyday occurrence in New Mexico. All chocolate shops will stock some variation on the theme, whether it’s straight-up dark chocolate with ancho chile or a more involved confection with pinon, caramel, and chile. Brownies will also commonly contain chile.

Chongos

Chongos photo via Wikipedia Commons

Apparently “chongo” is a Spanish term used similarly to the term “chignon” which is referred to a particular twist of women’s hair. Certainly there is a twist involved in the dessert, which is made with cheese curds which are “twisted” and served with a sweet syrup.

Dulce de calabaza

Calabaza para preparar dulce de calabaza tradicional del día de muertos en México

Pumpkin is treated with a method somewhat similar to making candied citrus to make this unique confection. It’s candy-like on the outside yet remains soft on the inside, making it a singular dessert. You won’t so much find it at bakeries as you will as a snack at flea markets, or if you’re lucky, someone’s grandma made it for you.

Dulces membrillo

Dulces membrillo via Wikipedia commons

From the Spanish by way of Portugal, Dulce de membrillo is made of quince fruit, sugar and water, cooked over a slow fire. It is sweet and mildly tart, and similar in consistency, flavor and use to guava cheese or guava paste. It is sold in squares or blocks, then cut into thin slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches, plain or with cheese, often served for breakfast or as a snack, with manchego cheese or mató cheese. It is very often used to stuff pastries.

Empanadas dulces / empanaditas

Sweet Empanadas, Sweetheart Coffee

Hand pies stuffed with all manner of sweet fillings are a common sight in New Mexico. Typical fillings include dates, apples, peaches, or quince. They can be small or quite large. 

Flan


You know flan: a decadent cooked caramel cream custard which is popular in a variety of cultures. Perhaps owing to the combination of dairy production and Mexican and Spanish influence in the state, flan is extremely popular in New Mexico. It's as standard on dessert menus as chocolate cake.

Fry Bread

Mmm... fry bread with honey and cinnamon

Also called Navajo fry bread, this is a staple that comes with a sad story. After being ousted from their land, Native Americans had to make due with what they had. Government supplies of staples were often rancid; making due with the minimal ingredients they had, fry bread was born. It has become a sacred tradition, and some say “it is to be consumed by the people until the earth has again become purified.”

Horchata

Juan More Taco - Lunch

You'll see your fair share of horchata in New Mexico. This beverage made from soaked ground rice comes across as “milky” but it’s typically not made with actual dairy. It’s typically sweetened with sugar and scented with cinnamon. It’s a common street vendor beverage and is a common beverage offering at restaurants in New Mexico.

Hot chocolate

Kakawa

Sure, you can find the Starbucks or Swiss Miss types of hot chocolate in New Mexico. But you can also find a more exotic and luxuriant Mexican/Spanish style of drinking chocolate. According to cuisine expert Gwyneth Doland, “Both hot chocolate and atole are traditional accompaniments to tamales. Mexican hot chocolate is far, far superior to the American version. First, they make it from real chocolate. Then, they spice it up with canela, vanilla and sometimes a kick of chile. If you can’t find ancho chile powder, try regular old red chile powder; just don’t use a powder that contains anything except ground chile peppers.” 

Jamincillo

Have you ever heard of milk fudge? Or perhaps penuche? If so, you have an idea of what jamincillo is; if not, let me explain. It’s made with milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and pecans. The first four ingredients are heated and lightly caramelized; once they reach a level of firmness, they are either rolled or pressed into a pan to form confections.

Marquesote


This is a simple and classic sweet in Mexican and Salvadorean traditions. Made with yeast, it’s sweeter than a typical bread, and with a more delicate crumb owing to cornstarch, but less sweet than a cake (so it is often called “Mexican cake bread” which seems to tell it like it is). It can be served simply, with confectioners’ sugar as a breakfast item, or gussied up with fruit or syrups. You'll often see variations on this type of cake bread in the panaderias which are so common in New Mexico. 

Mexican wedding cakes

Mexican Wedding Cookie, Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

They exist under many names and in many different cultures: Russian teacakes, snowballs, kourabiedes, Armenian sugar cookies.

They’re extremely popular in New Mexico; bakeries and restaurants always seem to stock them. Variations will include Bocaditos de miel de abeja (honey drops) and yemas de nueces (nuts and yolks, referring to some key ingredients).

Molletes

Molletes are better known as a sort of open faced breakfast sandwich, but there is a lesser-known dessert version. Sometimes referred to as molletes de coco, these are sweet buns filled with a sweet mixture, usually a creamy custard. They can be appointed and garnished with rum, coconut, icing, and pumpkin seeds.

Natillas

Photo via Wikipedia commons

In my opinion, the best way to describe natillas is to call it “rice pudding, but without the rice.” It is a relative to the French îlles flottantes, or floating islands. Cooked on the stovetop, natillas have more milk and fewer eggs than their French cousin, which makes it thinner and creamier.

Paletas

Papaya Paleta from La Newyorkina, NYC

To call paletas “ice pops” would be a disservice and an understatement. Far from the frozen sugar water sticks of color, paletas are rich in flavor, made with fresh juices. They’re extremely vibrant both color and flavor-wise. They’re a popular item in the summer in New Mexico.

Panaderia fare

Conchas, pan de huevo, marranitos, bigotes: all of your favorite pan dulce favorites from Mexican panaderias can easily be found in New Mexico.

Panocha

Photo via Wikipedia commons

Panocha is a pudding made from ground sprouted wheat and piloncillo. It is traditionally eaten during Lent. The sprouted-wheat flour itself is called "panocha flour". But listen to me right now. Do not google images for it, because you'll learn that it's also slang for something else. 

Pastellitas Indios

Pastelito

Almost like a garibaldi biscuit, this pastry is like a pie that has been flattened on purpose: it has dried fruit condensed to a sticky-sweet filling between flat pastry crust. It's way better than it sounds. 

Sopaipilla

A signature New Mexican treat, this is not necessarily sweet. Literally “little pillow”, this fried bread is typically served with honey, which is why I give it honorary sweet status. It’s served alongside savory meals, though, but I consider it sort of like a sweet respite during a savory meal.

Tamales

True, they’re more famous for being a savory dish, especially popular around the holidays. But here's a secret: give them a sweet filling and they’re a dessert! You’ll find fruit-filled varieties throughout the state, with fillings ranging from cheese to fruits.  

A particularly interesting variety of tamale is called kneeldown bread. Also called Navajo tamales, this is a sort of sweet tamale, but don’t be misled by the name. Made from corn, fat, and water, it derives its sweetness naturally, from corn, but is baked hard, like a cracker, and sometimes stored all winter long. It’s named for the prone position assumed to make it.

Tres Leches Cake

Literally “three milks”, this cake is beloved all over, but has a strong presence in New Mexico--along with flan, it's as ubiquitous as chocolate cake on dessert menus. The style can vary, but if you ask me, a good one is made with a spongey cake to absorb all of the milk, and is so saturated that it almost sops a bit when cut into. 

Pastry profiles

A sampling of regionally famous and interesting desserts I've sampled or heard about from trusted sources in New Mexico. I believe that these desserts are unique in that they all offer a distinct sense of place while you're in the Land of Enchantment.

Atole Piñon Pancakes, Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Though the restaurant is closed for the moment (they lost their lease and are looking for a new spot), their pancakes are legendary. As wide as a salad plate and satisfyingly thick, one pancake really will do. It’s flecked with plenty of blue corn and studded with piñon.

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

Apple Pie with Green Chile and piñon, Daily Pie Cafe, Pie Town

This is probably the most famous pie in New Mexico, as it is the only one I can think of which has been featured in the Smithsonian. A thick double crust plays house to spicy apple slices flecked with green chile and pinon.

Blue Corn Doughnuts, Whoos Donuts, Santa Fe

Whoo's Donuts

Picture a cake doughnut. Now, change everything: make it with blue corn to give it an ever so slightly gritty texture and nutty flavor, and top it with a sticky sweet raspberry jam spiced with a whisper, not a shout, of jalapeno. It sounds a bit much but truly, it’s a thing of delicious beauty.

Caramel Pinon Ice Cream, Taos Cow, Taos

If you like dulce de leche ice cream, chances are you’ll love this creamy, mellow yet sophisticated flavor. Caramel ice cream gets a rich expansion of flavor thanks to a smattering of pinon nuts, which round out the flavor and make it more interesting.

Chocolate Pecan Pie, Cafe Pasqual’s

Cafe Pasqual's, Holiday Pie Mania, Santa FE

Pecan pie is great, but like a great many things, it is improved by chocolate. The name may not insinuate its greatness, but one taste of this sweet and flavor-filled pie will make you a believer. It’s a beloved dessert at a beloved restaurant.

Custard empanadas, Leo’s Bakery, Las Cruces

Fruit empanadas are one thing. But fruit and custard? Amazing! The custard empanadas are a popular and interesting item to try at Leo's Bakery in Las Cruces. 

Eclairs, Charlie’s Spic N Span Cafe, Las Vegas

A giant cream puff sign will put you in a pastry mood even before you walk in the door, but the eclairs are what keep the crowds coming. Technically, these are not eclairs, but large, elongated cream puffs with chocolate icing...but really, who’s complaining?

Fruit filled burritos, Michael’s Kitchen, Taos

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. But sweet, not savory.

Ice cream sundaes from Vanilla Moose Ice Cream, Aztec

Vanilla Moose, Aztec

To call the owner of Vanilla Moose “zany” would be an understatement. She concocts a mile-long list of mini sundaes with any number of toppings from pretzels to pineapple upside down cake, and serves them with a smile. Free mini cones for babies and dogs.

New Mexican wedding cake, Mary and Tito’s, Albuquerque

Mexican wedding cake

I know I just spent all this time explaining that Mexican wedding cakes are actually cookies, but this exceptional cake happens to have almost the same name as the cookie but actually be a cake. Confused? Don't be. Focus on the cake, which is really quite incredible. I'd describe it as being like hummingbird cake, but without the bananas. 

Peanut mexican wedding cakes, Glenn’s Bakery, Gallup

Typically, mexican wedding cakes are made with almonds or pecans, but this interesting version makes use of New Mexico's peanut bounty. Not many cookies feature peanuts--they all seem to have peanut butter--but these make a case for more peanut usage in cookies. 

Pinon biscochitos, El Meze restaurant, El Prado

Looking for a fancy version of the state's down-home official cookie? Look no further. Delicately flavored with pinon, the biscochitos at El Meze restaurant, owned by famed NM food historian Fred Miller, are really something else.

“Potato” ice cream, Cowgirl Cafe, Santa Fe

Photo via Trip Advisor

There’s no actual potato in this dessert, which is named for its looks rather than its flavor. Ice cream is rolled in cocoa and presented as a baked potato, down to trompe l’oeil pat of butter. It’s a favorite with children, but beloved by adults, too.

SPAT (pinon caramel truffle), Chocolatesmith, Santa Fe

Named for the shoe covers favored by turn-of-the-century dandies (I don't really see the resemblance but I can let it go), these chocolates are rich in caramel and slightly salty pinon. They're a unique treat at a purveyor which features many New Mexican ingredients in their delicious chocolates. 

Tres leches cake, The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe

Pantry restaurant

The Pantry restaurant is famous for breakfast in Santa Fe, but here's a little known fact: one of the employees' wives makes their tres leches cake in small batches at home and supplies the restaurant. This cake tastes like love, and oozes milky goodness when the tines of your fork hit the cake.

Lore and interesting bits from New Mexico

The curious case of the biscochito

Pretty much everyone I've emailed or spoken to spells the state cookie "biscochito". But we're all doing it wrong: the official word is that it's "Bizcochito". As I learned here

In 1989 New Mexico House Bill 406 declared the bizcochito as New Mexico's Official State Cookie.  The battle over the state cookie was not about adopting it but how to spell it.  Several lawmakers got on the House floor to press for the "s" or"z".  Eventually the Senate returned it as "bizcochito".  To this day the Senate version prevails, but as we all know, it's the taste that gives a biscochito the name, no matter how you wish to say it. 

Pastry Pilgrimage: Pie Town

 Pie Town

Pie Town is located in a relatively remote part of southern New Mexico, and is very much the small frontier town. When I went there, I was told jokingly that its name is inspired by the fact that the town is "exactly 3.14 miles from the middle of nowhere."

As the legend goes, the town gets its name from an enterprising local who began to sell sundries and snacks, notably pies, to travelers passing through. Without much else to discern the town, it began to be referred to as "Pie Town". The name caught on, and has held strong.

Interestingly, pie has not been a constant in the town that bears its name. There have been long stretches when no pies, or worse, not very good pies, have been sold.

Today, two of the small handful of retail businesses in Pie Town are pie related: the Good Pie Cafe and the Pie-O-Neer. The former is only open seasonally, so you'll have to wait until spring to sample their pies; as the Pie-O-Neer advises, "our days and hours change like the weather"—that is to say, call ahead if you're planning a trip to try them out.

A recipe for the road

It would be inhuman to close without at least one recipe, right? So here's a recipe for some biscochitos!

Pinon Biscochitos - from Fred and Annette of El Meze Restaurant

Ingredients

 

  • 1 cup butter; softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp anise seed; finely ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups pinon nuts; finely ground
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup water

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 375 degrees. 
  2. Cream butter and shortening together with mixer or in food processor. Add sugar and anise seed and blend until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. 
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, ground nuts and salt together. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until smooth. 
  4. Add enough water to form a stiff cookie dough. Chill dough for 1 hour or longer.
  5.  Cut chilled dough into 6 pieces (keeping pieces in the refrigerator until ready to use). On floured surface, roll out cookie dough until 1/8” thick. Cut out with 1-1/2” round cookie cutter. Press pinon nuts on top of each cookie. Sprinkle heavy with raw sugar. 
  6. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Cookies need to soft brown color, not white.

Well, that was a totally sweet tour of New Mexico sweets, sweeties! If you have anything to add or thing I got something wrong, please feel free to chime in to make this guide even better!

Monday
Jun102013

Secret Lives Tour, Part Two

Anthropologie signing

Part two of my book tour supporting The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts is now complete! Philadelphia and Chicago...you were great!

Now, if you're curious about what happened on the first leg, check out this post; for still-upcoming dates, look at the left side bar of this site! 

Now, let me tell you about what I saw, what I did, and very importantly, what I ate on leg 2 of the tour, in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago.

First, I headed down to New Jersey. I didn't have an event here but I was staying with my parents, and using their kitchen to bake treats for the Anthropologie book signing in Philadelphia. I made three batches of Katharine Hepburn Brownies from the book. I had a little assembly line going!

Philadelphia - Anthropologie

Philadelphia - Anthropologie

Oh, yum. Then, we packed up the car and went to Philadelphia. I was greeted by this sign...I felt pretty cool...

Anthropologie signing

Here I am getting out of the car and getting ready to share brownies and fun!

Anthropologie signing

Wow, what an amazing event! Not only was it excellently attended, but there were brownies and prosecco. Lots of prosecco.

Anthropologie signing

The crowd was enthusiastic and we had a lot of fun!

Anthropologie signing

Here I am with my big sister Kelly.Anthropologie signing

I also got some unexpected treats at the signing. Bredenbeck's sent over some cookies just for me...

Anthropologie

and (big hero moment!) Zoe (there's an umlaut in her name, but I can't find the symbol on my computer) from Whipped Bakeshop came, too! For an example of how awesome she is, just look at one of her cakes:

and Ginny of LivyLu's Gourmet brought some treats, too!

Cookies

This was a signing that just made me feel great to be alive. Thank you, Anthropologie!

Anthropologie signing

Let's just say I slept well that night, and it was a good thing, because I had to get up pretty bright and early to head to Chicago!

On my way to the airport, I had a surprisingly tasty (considering its healthy status!) cookie called the "Shazaam", purchased in Spring Lake Heights.

Shazaam cookie

Next stop...Chicago! My reading was actually in Vernon Hills, but I had some time to spend in the Windy City beforehand. I made good use of it.

I popped in an Anthropologie store in Chicago...and guess what they had? My book! yay!

Chicago - Anthropologie

My first stop for sweets in Chicago was Glazed and Infused. You can read more about my visit there if you read this post, but suffice it to say I left fat and happy and SO excited to have finally met my (until now, online-only) friend James. 

Glazed and Infused

Next, I headed over to Swirlz Cupcakes. Wow, Pam of Swirlz is so supportive! She had a little altar to me out to make me smile and share my work with her customers! AND she was kind enough to donate cupcakes for my event later that day.

Swirlz Cupcakes

Here's a picture of me with owner Pam!

Me and Pam of Swirlz

Before I headed to Vernon Hills, I simply had to drop by to say hi to my friend Stephanie, owner of Angel Food Bakery. She has the same birthday as me, and she bakes cupcakes. What's not to love? We chatted and I picked up a few treats, including a brownie and a flourless chocolate cake. For later.

Angel Food Bakery

Then I headed to the Aspen Drive Library! I was greeted by this beautiful sign:

Vernon hills signing

And then got to unpacking the sweets from Swirlz!

Vernon Hills, IL

HERE'S WHAT WAS IN THE BAG. OMG ALL CAPS NEEDED.Vernon Hills, IL

Putting together this stand was easier said than done, but we figured it out (yes, it took more people than just me).

Vernon Hills, IL

I had a great talk with a large audience at the library, and Lake Forest Book Store was on hand to sell copies of my book. Here I am doing my reading--don't I look like a kindergarten teacher?

An especially meaningful guest was my friend Sandy, who drove all the way from Milkwaukee. I miss this girl! We were able to have dinner and catch up. <3

Now, I know you're concerned that I'm getting enough calories, so I am happy to tell you that I was able to make one more sweet stop before I left the next morning, to pick up a cinnamon glazed old-fashioned doughnut at Do-Rite Donuts. Whew!

Do-rite donuts

Do-Rite Donuts

By the way, it wasn't til that night that I got to one of my other goodies from Angel Food Bakery, the brownie. Hold on to your hats, sweeties. It might look like just a brownie, but it is nothing ordinary once it's in your mouth. It's fudge-filled chocolate overload decadence awesometown, the experience of eating this brownie. I think they're some of the best in the nation!

Angel Food Bakery Brownie

Whew! So glad to have had these awesome tour times, but I'm happy to be home, too! See you next time, sweeties!

Places Mentioned:

Anthropologie, multiple locations; online here.

Bredenbeck's, 8126 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia; online here.

LivyLu's Gourmet; online here.

Whipped Bakeshop, 636 Belgrade Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Nature's Corner Natural Market, 2407 Hwy 71, Spring Lake Heights NJ; online here.

Glazed and Infused, multiple locations in Chicago; online here.

Swirlz Cupcakes, 705 W. Belden, Chicago; online here.

Angel Food Bakery, 1636 Montrose, Chicago; online here.

Aspen Drive Library, Vernon Hills, IL; online here.

Lake Forest Bookstore; online here.

Do-Rite Donuts, 50 W. Randolph Street, Chicago; online here.

Saturday
Jun012013

Glazed and Infused, Chicago

Glazed and Infused

The best way to become dazed and confused? By sugar and carb-o-loading on all things Glazed & Infused. This is a new-ish boutique doughnut chain in Chicago, and it has a sweet story for me, personally. 

Way back, when I started CakeSpy.com, I started to connect myself to the bakery pulse of the USA. And one of my favorite bakery discoveries was Dozen Bake Shop, an adorable bakery chainlet in Pittsburgh. I even did an interview with then-owner, James Gray.

Well, this adorable fellow made quite an impression on me, and we kept in contact through the years, though we'd never met in person. Then, fast forward several years. James has sold his bakery in Pittsburgh and moved to Chicago, where he is the manager and a partner in a doughnut shop chainlet called Glazed and Infused. I happen to be visiting Chicago for my book tour. Finally, we get to meet!! We are adorable!!

Naturally, we had a chat over some doughnuts. So, since I believe that everything tastes better with a backstory, I'll tell you a bit about the shop's history first.

It's owned by a restaurant company called Francesca's, which owns several restaurants in Chicago and beyond. But this was the company's first foray into morning sweets. This made James a great fit for the company, as he has experience with pastry and sweets retail, which is, as he puts it mildly, "very different" than restaurants.

They've quickly grown to five locations, and on the date of our meeting, James was headed out to scout location #6. Spreading beyond Chicago is a definite possibility, with an idea of bringing high quality doughnuts to the masses in a friendly and accessible way. 

In Chicago, the doughnuts have a healthy and loving following. In chatting with a customer who works nearby, he said that Glazed and Infused is his little "treat for myself" for walking to work, you know, to balance out all that exercise. On Yelp, one customer says, "If you want to feel like you're licking the floor in heaven, go to Glazed and Infused!", giving it a very high star rating. I must admit, I don't know exactly what that means, but I like the sound of it.

Looking at the variety of doughnuts available, your head might start to spin. They're prettily arranged, and the flavors are mostly standard fare but with a little twist--think, a bismarck doughnut stuffed with locally made blueberry jam, or instead of bavarian cream doughnut, a Creme Brulee Doughnut.

I, of course, got hooked up with a whole box of them. YEAH!  

Glazed and Infused

What you've got in this picture is (from top left, going clockwise) an old-fashioned glazed, coffee glazed, creme brulee, "Bar Snack", Bismark featuring blueberries, and chocolate toffee (featuring Terry's Toffee, made in Chicago!). 

Glazed and Infused

Curious about that "bar snack" doughnut? Well, it includes basically all of the little junk foodie snacks you might find in little bowls at a bar--pretzels, peanuts, chips, and then some M&M's (why not?). It makes for a salty-sweet guilty pleasure of a treat. 

To start my doughnut eating quest immediately, though, I went for the Banana Cream Cheese, which is composed of banana cake with cream cheese frosting, salted caramel drizzle & candied walnuts. It sounded a lot like Hummingbird Cake, so I was totally in!

Glazed and Infused

Yum, dudes! The nicely banana-scented cake was soft and gooey owing to that caramelly glaze, definitely easier to eat with a fork. The cream cheese frosting was decadent and smooth and lightly tangy, and those crunchy walnuts added the perfect texture contrast. 

This doughnut made me a very happy spy. See?

Glazed and Infused

Overall, I was very impressed with the doughnuts. What is a fairly large operation already has managed to maintain great quality in their doughnuts, and I love that they've tweaked the classics just enough to make them special, but not so much that they are too weird or inaccessible to please a crowd.

So, there you have it. If you're in Chicago, I highly suggest you give Glazed & Infused a try!

Glazed & Infused, multiple locations; find them, and more info, at goglazed.com.

Tuesday
Feb122013

United States of Ice Cream

United States of Ice Cream

Ice Cream. Who can resist its sweet, creamy siren call on a summer night? Or day? Or...if we're being honest here, any day, regardless of time of year? 

In my opinion, ice cream is a taste of pure happiness. And while that happiness is universal, precise preferences can be regional. Everyone has a favorite spot. For some, it's the ice cream shop in the town where they grew up; for others, it's the swanky scoop shop they discovered as a mature adult; for some, it was a chance encounter: love at first lick while on vacation or visiting relatives or the like.

But collectively, I believe that we can all share in this sweetness, and so I hit up basically everyone I knew and asked where they'd suggest getting a cone or a cup, a scoop or a sundae. And I dutifully logged every single response. Consider this the soft-serve of that labor: a highly informal guide to where to get ice cream in the US. Don't be disappointed if I missed a spot you'd suggest: instead, chime in. I'm happy to add suggestions that come in via email or as comments. Just please no nationwide chains (regional is fine). Also, while I am happy to mention regional brands, I am primarily looking for places with retail locations. 

Got it? Good. Let's go. It's a sweet trip. 

Ate it!

Alabama

Durbin Farms in Clanton (Lisa O., who says "peach ice cream and more!")

Sweet Advantages in Selma (Cindy Lou's Cupcakes, etc)

Honorary Mention (not actually ice cream): Steel City Pops (Minde M-B, who says "100 percent natural homemade gourmet and delicious")

Sundae to the rescue!

Alaska

Hot Licks, Fairbanks

Arizona

The Sugar Bowl, Scottsdale (Emily S., who says "Very historic and very delicious")

Sweet Republic, Scottsdale (Randi S., who says "has amazing flavors")

Arkansas

Loblobby Creamery, Little Rock (Deede M.)

Yarnell's (Mini Empire baker Christy; "But I heard rumors they were going out of business")

Ice cream in SF

California

Bi-Rite, San Francisco (many people, but the first to mention it was @

Dandy Don's (Like the self-confidence, !)

Dewar's Ice Cream & Fine Candies, Bakersfield (Donna L.)

Flavor Brigade, Oakland (@tartoakland)

Humphrey Slocombe, San Francisco ()

Ici, Berkeley (famed pastry chef Dana Cree says "best in the country!")

Kind Kreme (Ben C. says "makes some amazing vegan flavors")

Loard's (@tartoakland)

Penny Ice Creamery, Santa Cruz (Erin Hunter)

Scoops (says Jesse LeDoux, who proclaims it "best in the world"!)

Sketch, Oakland (Mari Osuna)

Tucker's, Alameda (@tartoakland)

Colorado

Liks (Mary P.)

Little Man, Denver (Mary P.)

Sweet Action Ice Cream (@dnsvm and Church of Cupcakes)

Connecticut

Rich's Ice Cream, Oxford (Heather L.)

Salem Valley Farms

Shady Glen, Manchester, CT: Classic 50's throwback (Dan Sheehan)

Sweet Claude's, Cheshire (Blondie & Brownie)

UConn Dairy Bar, Storrs, CT: Fresh from University cows, made by scientists or something, very seasonal flavors. (Dan Sheehan)

Delaware

Delaware

Woodside Farm Creamery (Amie F.)

Florida

Jaxsons, for the "homemade ice cream and home of the kitchen sink." (Kim M-F)

Georgia

Leopold's, Savannah (Kim M.)

Morelli's, Atlanta (Candy W.)

Hawaii

Tasaka Guri Guri Shop in Kahului on Maui (Jennifer H.)

Photo: Vanessa V., on YelpIdaho

Rainey Creek Country Store, Swan Valley (Erin J., who informed me they sell SQUARE ice cream, pictured above)

Sub Zero Ice Cream, various locations in Idaho and beyond

Illinois

Black Dog Gelato, Chicago (famed pastry chef Dana Cree)

Margie's Candies, Chicago

Ollie's Frozen Custard, Sycamore (Emily B.)

Ruth and Phil's Gourmet Ice Cream, Chicago

Scooter's Frozen Custard, Chicago (Sarah K-M)

Indiana


Iowa

Whitey's (with locations in Iowa and Illinois, per Lindsey P.)

Kansas

Sylas & Maddy's, Lawrence (Courtney J.)

Kentucky

Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen, Louisville (Casey S-P)

Louisiana

Creole Creamery, New Orleans (Krystle S., who says "Bananas foster ice cream! Homemade Waffle cones! And it's right in the old McKenzie's bakery shop on Prytania. It's a must-stop.")

Eskamoe's Frozen Custard in both Monroe, West Monroe, and Ruston, LA ("is pretty awesome." - Christina R.)

Maine

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream Co. (Blondie & Brownie)

Red's Dairy Freeze, South Portland(Brittany, who says "They have amazing non traditional soft serve flavors.")

Round Top (Blondie & Brownie)

Maryland

The Dairy, University of Maryland, College Park (Says Brittany: "Allegedly has a higher fat content than allowed by law because it is only sold on campus.")

Takahara Bros, Baltimore (Jenny D.)

Massachusetts

Sweet fact: I was told by reader Mary Parker "Did you know they eat more ice cream in Boston, per capita, than anywhere else? Toscanini's, Rancatore's, and Christina's lead the bunch (though they are all technically Cambridge et al.)" .

Four Seas on Cape Cod ("is the greatest ice cream!" says )

Johnson's Drive In, Groton (Wendy M.)

Picco (Jen M.)

Polar Cave, Cape Cod

Rancatore's

Sully's (@)

Toscanini's, Cambridge (Jen M.)

Honorary Mention (in stores only): Batch (Jen M.)

Love cones

Michigan

Hudsonville (Pam P. and Kimberly CupcakeBoss)

Michigan State University Dairy Store (Laurie E.)

Ray's (Pam P.) 

Minnesota

Sebastian Joe's, Minneapolis (James Norton)

Mississippi

Mississippi Ice Cream Factory, Brookhaven

This little piggie had ice cream

Missouri:

Andy's Frozen Custard, Columbia (locations in TX, AR, and IL too, but the biggest concentration in MO) (@

Glacé in kansas city (@jonesingfor)

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (ReTrailer)

Mountain cone

Montana

Chocolate Moose, Bozeman (Lindsey H.)

The Big Dipper (Lindsey H. and Carrie S., who adds They also do " random acts of community" where they will just show up in random spots where they know there will be a crowd and serve ice cream for free for whoever wants it. They keep out a tip jar and choose a charity to donate all of the jar to. Awesome place.)

Nebraska

Goodrich dairy, Omaha (they have locations in the area, but mostly Nebraska) (Tracy Z.) 

Ted and Wally's

UNL Dairy Store

Ice cream in vegas

Nevada

Luv it Frozen Custard, Las Vegas (Julie B-H)

New Hampshire

Annabel's, Portsmouth (Blondie & Brownie)

Arnie's Place, Concord (Wendy M.)

The Back Room

Beech Hill Farm, Hopkinton (Jennifer V.)

Bishops Ice Cream, Littleton (Louise W.)

Granite State Candy Shoppe and Ice Cream (Wendy M.)

Sawyer's Dairy Bar (Wendy M.)

Ice Cream by the shore

New Jersey

Applegate Farm, Montclair (Cait)

The Bent Spoon (Elizabeth S.)

Denville Dairy, Denville (@)

Halo Farms, Trenton (Kathleen L)

Hoffman's

Kohr's

Ryan's, Shrewsbury (Terri W.)

Van Dyke's, Ridgewood (Regina J.)

Zita's Ice Cream, New Providence (Jennifer N.)

New Mexico:

Taos Cow, Taos

NYC ice cream

New York

Abbott's Frozen Custard (Courtney N.)

Ample Hills, Brooklyn (David V.)

Anderson's Frozen Custard, Buffalo (Kara A.)

Gifford's Ice Cream (Nancy A.)

Herrell's, Huntington (Danielle J.)

Itgens in Valley stream (Linda K-S, who says "written up everywhere")

Ji and Jo, NYC (Beccy R.)

Lake Effect Ice Cream

Martha's Dandee Creme, Queensbury (Josh of Bluebird Microcreamery)

Max & Mina's, Queens (Kelly Mola)

Van Leeuwen, Brooklyn (Mariah E.)

Victory Garden (J. Benjamin)

North Carolina

Mapleview Dairy Farm ("hands down" says  and @BLDGbloc agrees)

 

This little piggie had ice cream

North Dakota

Pride Dairy

Ohio

Graeter's (Diane Kappa and Elizabeth Gordon)

Aglamesis Brothers; Dojo Gelato; & Madisono's Gelato & Sorbet.

East Coast Original Frozen Custard!! A classic from the days of Euclid Beach Amusement Park! (Kelly F.)

Handel's (Sara D-P)

Honey Hut Ice Cream, Cleveland (Stephanie Z.)

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Mitchell's (Diane Ketler)

Sweet Moses, Cleveland

Ice cream in oklahoma

Oklahoma:

Braum's, various locations

Freckles Frozen Custard, Tulsa (Becca S., who says "the golden driller in particular --- it has an 'oil' pool of hut fudge in it!")

The Custard Factory (formerly Rusty's), Norman (Ashley B.)

Portland ice cream

Oregon:

K R Drive Inn (Lisa O.)

Ruby Jewel (@lizaface)

Salt & Straw (@sockittomesocks)

Tillamook (Java Cupcake)

Regional Brand to try: Umpqua Dairy Ice cream - Roseburg, Oregon

Love cone

Pennsylvania

Bassetts, Philadelphia

Dave and Andy's, Pittsburgh (Joe)

Gerenser's Exotic Ice Cream, New Hope

Landhope Dairy in Kennett Square, PA (Jill Lightner)

oWowCow, 2 locations (Audrey O.)

Rakestraw's, Mechanicsburg (Stacy M., who says "you *have* to try the Teaberry!")

Tanner Bros. Dairy in Ivyland Pa (Kathleen L.)

Rhode Island

Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland, RI (Kim S.)

The Original Vanilla Bean, Matunuck, RI: crazy, fun, delicious flavors. (Dan Sheehan)

Gray's Ice Cream, Tiverton, RI: fancy flavors (Dan Sheehan)

South Carolina

Kilwin's Chocolate and Ice Cream, Charleston

South Dakota

Dairy Bar at SDSU at Brookings ( says "amazing ice cream & they also invented cookies and cream ice cream." - read more here)

Tennessee cone

Tennessee

Mayfield Dairy (Carol H.)

Sheridan's Frozen Custard (Erin)

Texas:

Longhorn with ice cream

Note: "Texas is Blue Bell Country," says Anna Ginsberg, author of The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life

Amy's Ice Creams (@charmingred)

Utah

Utah State University. (Erin J., who says "Rich, creamy, thick ice cream. Aggies all the way!")

Vermont

Burlington Bay Cafe (Gina H., who says "Maple Creemees!")

Mountain Creamery, Woodstock

Virginia

Bev's Homemade Ice Cream, Richmond 

Dairy Godmother, Alexandria

Seattle ice cream

Washington

Bluebird Microcreamery (did you know I did a mural in their bathroom?)

Cupcake Royale (Sara Jane Elisabeth)

Elevated Ice Cream, Port Townsend ()

Ferdinand's, Washington State University (Jama W.)

Full Tilt Ice Cream (Jill Lightner )

Mallard Ice Cream, Bellingham

Molly Moon's, Seattle (multiple people, but the first was @vanadiumzest!)

Olympic Mountain, Shelton (Linda W.)

West Virginia

Brake's Dairy King in Buckhannon (Beth J.)

Wisconsin

Babcock Hall (James Norton, who notes "although frozen custard is the real cult favorite in the Dairy State (a big vote for Michael's)". Don't worry James, I have included custard, too!) 

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream (@epistemophilia) of note: Signage outside says, "You want nutrition, eat carrots."

Kopp's

Michael's (James Norton)

Purple Door Ice Cream, Milwaukee (MKE Cupcake Queen)

Wyoming

Farson Mercantile

Moo's Gourmet Ice Cream, Jackson Hole

Wednesday
Aug222012

Cakewalk (Mostly Carytown) in Richmond, VA

Dixie Donuts

Richmond, Virginia is a fantastic place to get fat. And be very happy doing so. From barbecue to stick-to-your-ribs southern fare, they've got savory down--but they seal the deal with plenty of delicious desserts, too. 

I recently spent a day (yes, just one) in Richmond, and if I do say so myself, I made quite a bakery dent in the bakery scene, especially in the pedestrian-friendly Carytown neighborhood. Care to read about where I went and what I ate? Yeah, knew it. 

First up, in the morning, was TaZa for some coffee. But lo and behold, they had a bakery case and chocolates too! We picked up a couple of donuts made by Dixie Donuts (a glazed old fashioned and "French Toast", pictured top), as well as a few walnut creams from Chocolates by Kelly. The donuts were small, but extremely good quality; they had that wonderful "airy yet decadent" taste, like fancied-up Krispy Kreme donuts.

Chocolates by Kelly

Next up was breakfast at The Village, where they have a nice dessert menu, but since it was breakfast, I played it safe and just sampled a shake. Chocolate-almond with chocolate ice cream, thank you very much! It was a very good shake. Also of note: if you get an egg dish, one of the optional sides (instead of hash browns) is fried apples. They're like eating the innards of an apple pie on the side of your plate. What a beautiful thing.

The Village, Richmond

Asking for directions next door at Ipanema Cafe, I noticed that they had vegan blondies. I didn't get one, but I thought I should mention it to the vegans, because these looked pretty good up close.Blondies

It was time to hit Carytown. Carytown is clearly the "arty" section of town. You can tell by artful touches such as this rainbow-colored brick. 

Rainbow!

I like me a good rainbow-colored brick, but I like it even better with a unicorn, don't you?

Magical!

 

And they have a ton of bakeries there. Dixie Donuts, it turns out, has a retail outlet! But I'd already tried their donuts so I just peeked inside. It's very cute. Go there.Dixie Donuts

Next up: Bev's Ice Cream. Bev's is a nice place to get some ice cream - so I hear. But because I was on the move, I got some fudge to go. Nice and smooth, no "chocolate sand" here. I enjoyed it, and wish I had had a bigger appetite at the time so I could have gotten some ice cream too. 

Bev's Ice Cream

Just up the street was Carytown Cupcakes. Carytown Cupcakes

After reading about them on Cupcakes Take the Cake, I knew this was a destination. Things that made me happy at Carytown Cupcakes? Let's see. For one, they had hummingbird cake on the "classic" (readily available) menu, and theirs was a particularly toothsome variety. Also pretty awesome: they have monthly rotating specials -- for instance, during my time there, they had "pie-inspired" flavors, such as "Strawberry Pie"--a vanilla cupcake with a Graham cracker crust, filled with cream cheese icing and topped with glazed strawberries.

 

Near Carytown Cupcakes is a cute little gift store called World of Mirth, where they sell my book. They're out of stock at the moment though. Reminder: buy my book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life.

Luckily, I wasn't tired of cupcakes, cos just up the block is Baby Cakes. Banana cake with cream cheese frosting. Caramel apple spice. Dark chocolate cake with pecan cream cheese frosting. Blueberry cake with blueberry buttercream. Chocolate toffee crunch. These are just a few of the reasons I was enticed to visit this little cupcake shop. Online, I read some mixed reviews about this place, but I found the cupcakes pleasant, if not life-changing. 

Source: babycakesva.com via Cake on Pinterest

 

I walked by a coffee shop that had watermelon-shaped cookies in celebration of the upcoming Watermelon Festival.

Coffee shop in Carytown

Apparently this is a big deal there, but I was gone by the time it happened! Here's a promo: Watermelon Fest

Next up was Jean Jacques Bakery, a sort of Frenchie spot. I felt enticed from the very moment I saw this on the outside window:

.Jean Jacques Bakery Jean Jacques Bakery

A nice lunch-and-morning pastry type of place, with French leanings (but American standards on offer, too). I got a croissant, figuring it was a good litmus test of a bakery: it was flaky and buttery and good. Interestingly, though, I learned in retrospect that they are known for their cinnamon rolls: per their website, "People who never liked danish love this danish! The cheese danish filing is made with cream cheese, eggs and sugar - just like the best cheesecakes. And our cinnamon buns are a huge craze in Carytown. Freshly baked and warm smelling everyday." Dommage! Next time I shall try you, Cinnamon Roll!

Next door was a chocolate place, but I didn't go in. I can only do so much, people! Chocolate

Well. It started raining, and I took shelter under a supermarket awning, and then lo and behold, there was another bakery! Since I hadn't gone in the chocolate place, I went in here. It was called Williams Bakery. It was cute, and felt like it had been there for a while. Turns out it's one of a few locations they have in the Richmond area.

Williams bakery

I got a doughnut. It was less than a dollar, it was old-fashioned, delightfully but overly oily, and pretty perfect.

Williams bakery

Lucille's bakery, richmond VA

On the way out of town, we hit Lucille's Bakery, not quite in Carytown, but close. You can read more about that bakery visit here. 

Across from Lucille's, you'll see this place--for if you've ever wondered where extracts are made!

Sauer

Driving away toward the highway, you'll see this as you exit town: a fantastic parting view! A commercial bakery which once made Girl Scout Cookies!

Interbake

Places Mentioned: 

Babycakes, 3324 W Cary Street, Richmond

Bev's Homemade Ice Cream, 2911 W Cary St RichmondVA 23221. 

Carytown Cupcakes, 3111 W Cary Street, Richmond

CF Sauer Extracts, online here

Chocolates by Kelly, find retail locations on the site.

Dixie Donuts, 2901 W Cary Street, Richmond

Ipanema Vegetarian Cafe, 917 Grace Street, Richmond

Jean Jacques Bakery, 3138 W Cary Street, Richmond

Lucille's Bakery, 719 N Meadow Street, Richmond

TaZa Coffee

The Village, 1001 Grace Street, Richmond

Williams Bakery, 3544 W Cary Street, Richmond

Friday
Mar302012

The Inimitable Experience of Attending the Pillsbury Bake-Off

You guys...not to show off, BUT...I got to go to the Pillsbury Bake-Off this year in Orlando.

What's the Pillsbury Bake-Off, you ask?

Well. It's a baking contest run by Pillsbury, celebrating home cooks, which has been run since 1949. Cooks can't be professionals, and must employ Pillsbury products in the finished products. When it first started, the prized was $50,000--nothing to sneeze at.

Today, it's even bigger: One. Million. Dollars. 

Along with my friend Rachel (you may know her as Coconut & Lime), I was invited to attend this awesome-fest in its home at the Peabody Hotel of Orlando. 

And now,  I will tell you about the experience of going to the Bake-off (you can also view a video of the experience as put out by Pillsbury, here).

First, a week before,  I received a packet in the mail. It included a program, a booklet with all of the recipes of the finalists, and general info.

On Saturday, March 23, I took a flight to Orlando. When I arrived, there was a fellow holding a sign that said "J. Oleson". I said "Hey, that's my name!" and he told me to get into his car. Sadly, he offered me no candy. But he did give me a ride to the hotel. And when I arrived, I stopped and got some ice cream before checking in. I also learned of a regional specialty: coconut patties!

Ice cream

Coconut patties

When I got to the hotel, I ran into Brigitte Nguyen (oh, you know, I met her while I was on book tour for my amazing book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life) who complimented my Hello Kitty jeans and told me she was a judge. A JUDGE! Serious business.

I ate this.

I was there with a group of other "press" people, including magazine and newspaper writers, news people, writers for grocery store publications, and a sprinkling of bloggy types.

That night, we had a really great dinner at a place called Luma on Park. We ate a bunch of delicious savory stuff to warm up for the real highlight, rosemary panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and black pepper sable cookies for dessert. They paired it very nicely with a dessert wine called "Sweet Bliss", which made me smile thinking of my dessert wine tasting with Jameson Fink.

Sweet!

The next day, Sunday, we were delivered breakfast in bed. It included yogurt, topped with an edible wafer with the bake-off logo. Also: I don't want to alarm you, but at the Peabody Hotel, which has a storied past with ducks, they mold their butter to look like little ducks.

BUTTER DUCKS!

After cooing at the ducks for like 2 hours, I attended something called the Food News Seminar. This was an action-packed day of learning. The first part of the day I learned that family meals matter (I already knew this, because it's the best way to warm up an appetite for dessert), that flavor trends include healthy substitutes, international flavors.

I took very good notes, especially on the size of the silverware we used to sample the flavor trend tastes.

Adorable!

I take good notes.

Then we had lunch, which included more butter ducks (!) and some panna cotta. There was other stuff too, but I think you know what I care about.

(hint: butter ducks)

Photo: Julie DeilyJeff, a newspaper writer in Tampa, really loved the butter ducks. Like, he ate an entire one loved them. Related: I like Jeff.

After lunch, we got to meet several of the higher ups at various Martha Stewart publications. They talked about Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. You know, internet stuff.

After that, we got treated to a delicious pitch for the new line of ranges by GE. They were smart, because instead of just telling us about them, they demonstrated them with a famous chef who then fed us, then they gave us his book. Now that's a smart way to make me like a stove. I want one--if you'd like, please buy me one. I'll totally owe you.

Panna cotta

After that, we had a short break then met for more food--at a restaurant owned by Emeril Lagasse. Guess who was there too--Martha Stewart! That is kind of like having dinner with the Queen, made by the King. 

Now, since you couldn't be there, I'll show you a picture of what it was like when I met Martha Stewart. So glad someone caught this on camera, but it kind of made me regret eating all those butter ducks the day before.

But back the dinner! There was not one dessert, but three. Coconut Creme Brulee, Kahlua Chocolate Cake, and Fresh Apple Strudel. The whipped cream had little candied apple peel bits in it. Thank you, Martha, Emeril, and Pillsbury!

But you know what...after we got back, we discovered that they had another treat I hadn't yet seen at the hotel: duck cookies. They were butter cookies topped with preserves, then piped with more butter cookie dough, then dipped in chocolate. Score!

Bake off

After this, we all waddled off to bed (not unlike a butter duck would). 

Photo: Julie DeilyThe following day--Monday--was the Bake-Off! OMG! We got to see 100 bakers at work, simultaneously creating their delicious treats. 

I got to meet all of the contestants whose recipes I'd been covering on this very site. They were all incredibly sweet. A few even recognized me! One, Joanne, even had a unicorn story for me. I like her.

A few of them hugged me, and then one guy even elbow-bumped me. I felt so cool. His name is Brett, and here were some of his thoughts on the contest and his entry:

Then, I saw the most beautiful sight I've ever seen (and I have seen butter ducks, people!): THE PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY. 

We absolutely had a moment. A beautiful moment. It's pictured at the top of this post.

After that, we got to taste some yummy stuff. At first, when we arrived on the floor, there had been these signs up:

...but then, miraculously, they changed to this:

Please sample

Bake off

After they were done baking, the entries were all lined up on a delectable table (it was protected by a velvet rope).

Bake off

And then, we had a dinner and dance party at the hotel. The Pillsbury Doughboy was in attendance.

Bake off

I also observed that they had a fancy opera cake at the Peabody, with chocolate ducks(!) on top, painted with edible silver paint. Fancy!

The next morning--Tuesday--we got to attend a live recording of the Martha Stewart Show. How cool is this: they actually built a set in the Peabody Hotel (home of the butter duck) just for the show. It was pretty good-looking.

And then Martha announced the winners! 

and guess who the grand prize went to...

it was something sweet...

PUMPKIN RAVIOLI WITH SALTED CARAMEL WHIPPED CREAM!

Oh, what a tasty treat these were. Made by one of the cutest contestants, everyone was very happy to see this deserving dish win the million dollar prize, and I personally felt glad that it went to a dessert. 

Pumpkin ravioli

After that, we got to attend a little press conference and talk about how awesome the entries were, and to learn more about the winners.

I'm very happy to know that the winner's children will have a nice college nest egg now.

But I'm even happier that I have a million dollar recipe in my repertoire!

oh, and I made sure to get more ice cream before I left. You know, to detox after all those butter ducks (butter ducks!).

More ice cream

When I got home, my pug, Porkchop, was quite pleased to see me.IMAG0178

Thanks so much to Pillsbury for having me as a guest--it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Til the next Bake-Off, stay sweet!

Sunday
Mar252012

Cakewalk: A Day of Cake Eating With Molly Allen and Joy the Baker

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Last week, something incredible happened.

I got to eat a ton of cake.

But unlike most days that I eat a ton of cake, on one very special day (March 17, in fact) I got to eat cake all day with Molly Allen, who runs the website CakeFYI.com and is a contributor for Best Friends for Frosting, and with Joy the Baker, overall Big Important Foodie Person and a sweet fan of CakeSpy Shop. She had won an all expenses paid trip to Seattle after the "So You Wanna be a CakeSpy?" contest!

It was a contest to support my amazing book.

Now, I should say thanks in advance to Molly because some of the photos below are hers. Thanks!

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I had solicted some suggestions for where to take Molly, but I also had a few favorites in mind--especially considering that she is a fan of red velvet cake.

I can sense that you're getting bored of all of these words and starting to wonder where the cake is, so why don't I tell you what we ate now, ok?

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First, since it was St. Patrick's day, we stopped at Nielsen's Bakery in Queen Anne. This little gem is the home of the snitter, fine cinnamon rolls, and most notably, something called the Potato. As Molly put it, "A sweet potato. A pastry puff filled with custard and whip cream, then topped with marzipan and cocoa powder." NOM!

Next, we hit up Pinkabella Cupcakes in Queen Anne. This store has gone through some management changes (it used to be Wink Cupcakes) but it had been highly suggested by a Sasquatch Staffer as a great place for Red Velvet. I took a moment to ask Molly what makes a great red velvet cake:

 

Oh, and I should assure you: of course we brought our magical ponies.

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The Pinkabella cake was highly respectable: a great cake-crumb, moist and flavorful, and a surprisingly light frosting--though I like a thicker and weightier frosting personally, the flavor was very good.

Next, I took her to Trophy Cupcakes. After all, Molly clearly needed a Neapolitan cupcake after her winning recipe, and it's overall a magical place to visit. So we got a few flavors, including the Neapolitan and a "green velvet", the St. Patrick's day version of Red Velvet.

I should also tell you, we brought our ponies here.

As usual, Trophy was delicious. If you've never been there, I have a question: what's wrong with you? 

They were super-sweet at Trophy, and knowing that Molly and I would be hanging out with Joy the Baker soon, they sent us on our way with a cupcake for her, too! AND some to share with the guests. Thanks, Trophy!

Next, we went over to Ballard and picked up some gelato at D'ambrosio. This time, I tried the caramel-fig and the nougat. It did not disappoint--this place is awesome.

Next, we made a quick drive-by at Bakery Nouveau, where the floors are paved in butter and the walls are made of sugar. Not really, but I hope that gave you the idea that this palace of pastry is stuffed with delicious. We got a few sweets including a croissant, and cheated a bit and got some savories too. But we had to get going quick, because it was time for...Joy The Baker!

Joy was passing through town on book tour and stopped at CakeSpy Shop. It was packed--naturally! Here we are together, looking cute. Hey, how'd they get so tall?OK. So after hanging out at the signing for a while, we headed up to our final destination for the day of the pastry: Cupcake Royale. Also made of magic, we picked up a Tiramisu, Red Velvet, and Lemon Pistachio. Yum.

And, you might be wondering: how awesome are we? About this awesome:

At this point, we declared "oink oink" and gave up for the day - but oh, what a MAGICAL day it was.

So, as you may have noticed, Molly tasted a lot of Red Velvet on this glorious, sugar-filled day. At the end of the day, she said that she had a favorite. Can you guess what it was, based on the pictures above? Here's a quick roundup of tasting notes:

Red Velvet Tasting

  • Pinkabella: A standout cake, a lighter than expected but very good frosting.
  • Trophy: A delicate cocoa flavor, lovely frosting, cute decorations.
  • Cupcake Royale: A firmer and less moist cake style, decadent and denser frosting.

If you've been to these shops, which is your favorite? I'll do another post to let you know which one she chose in the next day or two!

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.

Sunday
Nov062011

CakeSpy Undercover: Cake Gumshoe Molly Visits The Gingerbread Factory, Leavenworth WA

Gingerbread Factory, leavenworth

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Molly, a student at Central Washington University, pursuing a degree in English as well as a Professional Writing Certificate. Amongst the reading of great literature and the writing of papers, Molly spends all of her free time baking, visiting bakeries, and writing about all of the sweet things she finds along the way!

Recently, I visited The Gingerbread House. This place was absolutely adorable, with a gingerbread mail box, and a rolling pin built into the door. As you walk inside, and ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg fills your nose, and you can see the bakers working in the kitchen. This small shop offers customers a view from “behind the scenes” as the mixers, counters, and ovens, are right behind the display case.

Gingerbread Factory, Leavenworth

The cookies, gingerbread and sugar, are incredibly cute. Each is decorated individually with various colors, in shapes such as maple leaves, reindeer, trains, and skates.

Overall, considering this and my other sweet bakery visits in town, I would consider Leavenworth to be an oasis of sweets. This isn’t a town many would live in, but the visits sure are tasty! If you ever have a chance, please, get in your car (or fly) and visit this tasty little town.

The Gingerbread Factory can be found online here.

Sunday
Oct092011

CakeSpy Undercover: Retro Bakery, Las Vegas

I totally got lucky in Las Vegas.

Am I talking about slot machines? No. No, I am not.

I am talking about the trip I made to Retro Bakery, away from the glitz of the Strip, a buttercream oasis in the Centennial Hills neighborhood.

Now, to say "trip" may not be quite sufficient, because it was more like a Pastry Pilgrimage, involving two bus transfers and about an hour of transit either way (the other alternative was taking a cab, which I was advised would be "well over $50"). But it was so worth it, because once I got there, I was enthusiastically greeted by owner Kari Haskell, who I've known since the beginning of her business over three years ago (read the interview from way back when here!) who is about my height but somehow has about triple the amount of energy...

...and I was also greeted by this amazing spread of cupcakes and cakes and cookies.

Where to start?

Howsabout with a butterscotch cupcake, which I had been informed could "not be missed". I basically made eating this cupcake a race of "how quickly can you get into my belly?". Nobody challenged me to this race, but still, I think I won.

Poor cupcake. It trusted me so much (see picture, top).

and here's what I did to it.

...and then there were the cookies. Oh, the cookies! After eating the better part of a chocolate chip cookie, a white chocolate chip cookie, and a frosted sugar cookie with rainbow sprinkles, I wondered: what would happen if I combined all these cookies to form one super-cookie? What would happen? The answer:

...but don't worry. I was a gracious guest; I left Kari with a bunch of CakeSpy pins and a signed copy of my book!And the rest of the cupcakes I purchased kept me company all through the rest of my journey back to the hotel and then on the flight back to Seattle.

Thank you, Retro Bakery, for making Las Vegas magical!

Retro Bakery, 7785 N. Durango Drive, #130, Las Vegas; online here.

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