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Entries in california (14)

Friday
Oct292010

Sweetness by the Bay: 50 Sweet Moments from a California Adventure

Well, well, well. Did you know that a couple weekends ago I went to a totally sweet and magical land called San Francisco? The adventures didn't take place solely within the city limits: I ventured out of the city to Oakland and Santa Cruz as well, and well, I would love to share some of the sweetest moments from my travels with you, because if they made me smile, surely they'll make you smile too.

Ready? Set? Let's go:

  1. First off: finding my artwork at Fireworks in Seatac on my way out! Way to start the journey feeling like a big deal.
  2. First stop after arriving in San Francisco? Oakland! I ventured over to visit CakeSpy customers (and buddies!) Jane and Rick, owners of Good Chemistry Baking, which specializes in baked goods which are devoid of gluten, but full of delicious.
  3. First item tried: chocolate cookie
  4. And a cupcake
  5. ...aaaand, a Lemon bar
  6. The reaction of Anya, who does follow a gluten-free diet, to said baked goods.
  7. Happiness: Dorie Greenspan was reading at Omnivore Books while I was there!
  8. BTW, I would like to mention that while this place (Hometown Donuts) may seem like it has it all--liquor, beer, Chinese food, and (though not visible in this pic) psychic readings--the fact is, when I walked in, they did not have any donuts.
  9. A sweet walk with coffee and an SF-themed Cuppie postcard.
  10. Dessert at Magnolia: chocolate chess pie a la mode. Ohhh yeeeah.
  11. The baked good case at Reverie, where we went for breakfast the next morning.
  12. OMG! NY Style crumb cake, at a hippie health food store on Haight Street!
  13. A visit to the always lovely Miette Patisserie.
  14. Sadly, Paulette was not open when we visited, but we did get to peek in the window.
  15. OMG! We drove by the Its-It Headquarters!
  16. Whale City Bakery!
  17. Chocolate covered potato chip, anyone? From Marinis on the Beach, Santa Cruz.
  18. ...no, clearly the choice is chocolate covered bacon! Also from Marinis. You can tell that Phil is taking his duties as Cake Gumshoe very seriously.
  19. A delicious cookie, from Cafe Delmarette.
  20. This cupcake, also from Cafe Delmarette.
  21. What is it? Not a cannoli. From Hoffman's, Santa Cruz.
  22. A Russian Teacake from Original Sin Desserts, Santa Cruz.
  23. Spied in Santa Cruz: my artwork, at Bookshop Santa Cruz!
  24. A chocolate mint cookie from Pacific Cookie Co, with vibrant green chips.
  25. Pies made from beads, outside of a bead store.
  26. Discovering The Penny Ice Creamery, Santa Cruz.
  27. Bonbons from Penny Ice Creamery
  28. Philip got the fennel ice cream.
  29. Yam (!) ice cream, enjoyed by my incredibly good looking sister, Bridget
  30. Another Russian Teacake from The Buttery
  31. This cake, from The Buttery
  32. Finding my totally sweet buddy Erin in Santa Cruz! (Yes, she's really, really tall. AND I'm really short)
  33. Delicious beverages at 515, Santa Cruz.
  34. The "Goodfellow" from Kelly's French Bakery
  35. This little tart (Olallieberry?) from Kelly's French Bakery
  36. Anjalena roll, Kelly's French Bakery
  37. Pinching deer from a distance in Santa Cruz
  38. From Gayle's Bakery in Capitola: the Christopher Bun.
  39. From Gayle's in Capitola: Potato Chip Cookies
  40. This sign brought me joy.
  41. Finally, I met my Maker.
  42. Cool street art!
  43. California Suncakes! Made for hippies, but enjoyed by CakeSpy.
  44. At the Ferry building, savory macarons (with mushrooms!)
  45. Discovering the California Coffee Cake Company.
  46. Um...getting to visit the Twitter offices!
  47. Cuppie came too.
  48. This sign, which I suspect was put in place when they saw me coming.
  49. Bathroom Cake Graffiti!
  50. General observation: the houses in San Francisco kind of resemble petits fours. Yay!

 For more pictures of pastry adventures past and present in San Francisco, visit my Flickr page!

Thursday
Mar182010

Grande Dane: Danish Delights in Solvang, CA from Cake Gumshoe Gayle

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Gayle Wheatley, a pastry aficionado, writer, and artist based in Los Angeles, who grew up near Solvang, California. You can find her writing at www.culturevixen.com, and her art at www.gaylewheatley.com

You’re not in Denmark anymore…although you’d never know it.

For sweet aficionados this side of the pond, European confectionery delight can be sampled just a hop, skip, and a jaunt from Los Angeles. Without having to fly to Denmark to embark on this culinary journey, one can get their pastry fix in Solvang, California, a Danish village located in Santa Barbara county. Downtown Solvang is no ordinary California city. It’s home to Scandinavian shops, wine bars, and eateries that all architecturally appear to have been plucked out of a picturesque village outside Copenhagen. Yes, Danish flags flap in the wind. Yes, store clerks strutt traditional costumes. And yes, Smorgasbord feasts and aebleskivers (Danish pancakes) beckon from restaurant windows. Solvang even boasts not one—but three—historic windmills!

But the best part of a trip to Solvang are the bakeries. Traditional to the core, Solvang boasts four savory bakeries that serve a delicious array of Danish desserts made with quality ingredients, prepared fresh daily. Perhaps my unsatiated pastry cravings are the result of early years spent working in a Solvang bakery, when once upon a time I had access to unlimited quantities of delicious delicacies, and the full-bodied perfume of Danish sweets used to follow me around. Nowadays I’m on the other side of the pastry counter, but the sweets are just as tempting as ever.

Demystifying the Pastry Counter

When you enter a Solvang bakery, the first rule of thumb is to find your way up to the glowing front counter to have a look at all the fancy sweets you can choose from. What you’ll see can be broken down into the following tasty categories:

Danishes & Puff Pastry: These are the very pastries that coined the term “Danish,” and they are a completely different animal than the zombie variety you’ll find at the local coffee shop. These are filled with a burst of fruit such as blueberry, apricot, cream cheese, raspberry, or apple. You’ll also find bear claws and boats, which are fruit-filled Danishes dusted with powdered sugar. Then there my personal favorites: cinnamon crisps, Danish waffles, and florentines. I can never resist a large swirly cinnamon crisp or a Danish Waffle filled with whipped cream and a squirt of raspberry. Chocolate-dipped florentines are another favorite: a crunchy treat made from crushed almonds sandwiching a mocha buttercream center.

Petit-fours & Mini Sweets Petit-fours: Or miniature dessert cakes, are typically filled with buttercream and a squeeze of fruit puree, then topped with fondant and fancy embellishments sculpted from icing. You’ll also find all kinds of tiny treats from almond-topped pistachio bars to macaroons, to rum balls and chocolate-topped Napoleon hats. But the big stars of the show are the rich and tempting chocolate-crowned eclairs, generously stuffed cream puffs, and delicate multi-layered Napoleons.

Danish Specialties: These are pastries meant to be shared, as you’ll notice by their size, which can easily feed a dozen. These show stoppers include:

 

  • Kringles: pretzel-shaped coffee cake filled with marzipan, custard, and raisins, and sprinkled with sugar and sliced almonds.
  • Butter Rings: Round cakes made with butter, marzipan and custard, topped with frosting in the shape of rings.
  • Strudels: A well-known family classic filled with apricot, raspberry, custard, or perhaps cream cheese, sprinkled with sugar and almonds.
  • Butter cookies: You’ll find buckets upon buckets of these assorted cookies that include favorites such as chocolate chip, lemon, coconut, cinnamon, almond, chocolate marble, and sugar-frosted.

 

Bread: The staple of any bakery, bread completes the pastry counter, offering the only item that won’t satisfy a sweet tooth. But the bread in Solvang’s Danish bakeries is traditional and hearty. The most common loaves you’ll find in Solvang are pumpernickel, onion-cheese, cardamom, and cinnamon-raisin.

Once you’ve selected your Scandinavian specialties of choice, you can either dine in and enjoy your sweets with coffee or tea, or head out for an impromptu picnic in one of Solvang’s parks or courtyards. Either way, you’re sure to treat your taste buds to an old world experience you won’t soon forget.

Places to Sample Danish Delights in Solvang, CA:

Danish Mill Bakery, 1682 Copenhagen, Solvang, CA 93464 (805) 688-5805; online at danishmillbakery.com

Mortensens Danish Bakery, 1588 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463 (805) 688-8373; online at mortensensbakery.com

Olsens Danish Village Bakery, 1529 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463 (805) 688-6314 olsensdanishvillagebakery.com

The Solvang Bakery, 460 Alisal Road, Solvang California 93463 (805) 688-4939; online at solvangbakery.com

Friday
May152009

Sweet Treats: Cake Bites from Frosting Bake Shop

Cake Bites from Frosting Bake Shop
Just for the record, the entire CakeSpy crew would be totally easy to kidnap. All you'd have to say is "hey little Cake Gumshoes...I've got a puppy and some cake in the back of my van!" and we'd be there in a flash.

So naturally, when Karen of Frosting Bake Shop in Mill Valley wanted to send us a sample of her new Cake Bites, we were more than happy to accept the sweet stuff. We love cake truffles--though they have been around for a long time, they've received a new life and lift recently which we credit to Bakerella, and we've been more than happy to embrace the trend.
The cake bites mark Frosting Bake Shop's first foray into the world of shipping baked goods, as a good gift item that keeps a bit better (and is easier to ship) than cupcakes.
The truffles are pretty to look at--little orbs with a tiny "foot" at the bottom--and happily, they are quite delicious too. They're very dense, and as a small-bite dessert goes, they pack a nice punch. Texturewise, the cake inside is very moist as a result from being mixed with buttercream; the chocolate coating seals in this moisture and adds a decadent touch. 
Our parcel included a full sampler of the 12 flavors currently on offer, as well as some new flavors under development. Our favorites were the "Juliana Banana" (velvety-soft cake made with real bananas and mixed with a classic cream cheese frosting, finished with milk chocolate) and the Red Velvet (rich red velvet cake with a hint of Callebaut chocolate blended with vanilla cream cheese frosting, finished in a milk chocolate) from their current list, as well as the soon-to-be-added Snickerdoodle. Overall we tended to like the contrast-y flavors better than the ones that relied on one main flavor for the coating and filling. Some tasters felt that the white chocolate coated ones were "too sweet"--and they were awfully sweet, but nonetheless, none were left at the end of our tasting.  
These bites are a sweet addition indeed--vive the cake truffle revolution!
Cake Bites are available at Frosting Bake Shop, 7 E. Blithedale Avenue, Mill Valley CA.

 

Tuesday
Sep182007

Cakewalk in Carmel Valley and Environs, CA


We couldn't quite figure out what was in the air in Carmel at first. Was it the salt of the ocean? Was it the scent of privilege, since it seems to be the land of hippie women driving expensive BMWs? No, it was none of these. It was the smell of sugar--and lots of it--pervading the sweet air in the Carmel region. Here's what we spied:


Big Sur Bakery: Definitely a destination, this place is a little off the beaten path. The ingredients were fresh and everything was carefully rustic / artisan style; nonetheless, with a view, location and salty air like they have, it works. They offer classes too--a good reason to return!
Highway One, Big Sur; online at bigsurbakery.com.


Carmel Bakery: Mostly known for their wonderfully carbohydrate-laden baked goods, their pretzels wonderfully soft, just this side of doughy (although we'd stick with the savory rather than the sweet ones); their scones lean toward "short"--that is to say, buttery and lovely. Ocean Ave. at Lincoln St., Carmel; online at carmelbakery.com.

Cypress Baking Company (Via Carmel Coffee): Visiting Carmel coffee, Seattle-based Cakespy was a little saddened to see they used pump-top coffee dispensers, which basically guarantee a lukewarm beverage. But a very pleasant surprise awaited us at the pastry case: beautifully formed lemon bars, cakes and cookies which we were informed were from the local Cypress Bakery. Available at Carmel Coffee, various locations; online at carmel-coffee.com. (Cakespy note: Although we did not visit this location, we found that Cypress Baking Company is located at 1267 Broadway Ave., Seaside).

Earthbound Farms: Organic with a capital O, but behind the rows of somber produce (why is it that organic fruit always looks so sad?) there were some delightful baked goods, ranging from the hippie (spelt scones) to the dreamy (rich and velvety carrot cake; dense brownies). 7250 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel; online at ebfarm.com.

Wild Goose Bakery Cafe: Unlike some other places in the Carmel Valley, the rustic feel did not feel put-on or secretly oozing money; it felt like the hippies behind the counter had been there since before it was a hip place. The checkerboard shortbread was a standout; the French-meets-Californian style pastries did not disappoint. 18 East Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley.

And to take a Cake-hop into Monterey:

Layers: They get an honorable mention for providing the cake at a wedding Cakespy attended. Velvety buttercream and tart layers of lemony cake made us wish we had more time to visit the retail location, which we hear boasts a full walk-in bakery. 160 Webster St (b/t Munras Ave. & Hartnell St.), Monterey; online at layerscake.com.

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