Home Home Home Home Home Home Home
CakeSpy

 Buy my brilliant books!

Buy my new book!

Buy my first book, too!

 

CakeSpy Online Retail!

 

 

Gallery

Craftsy Writer

Entries in Chicago (14)

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.

Sunday
Jul012012

Baked Good of the Day: Boston Cream Cupcake, Molly's Cupcakes, Chicago

Boston Cream Cupcake, Molly's Cupcakes

Sometimes, you just need a cupcake. 

Yesterday, I found myself in such a situation. I was taking a long walk in Chicago following my introduction to the Verizon Wireless Savvy Gourmets program, in which basically they gave me and a bit over a baker's dozen more foodie writer types a free device (the Android "Xyboard" in this case--since it was gifted to me, they've asked me to say “Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Gourmets program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.”) to test out with our various writing/blog activities. Having tested out the device, I had already found it to be very nice for updating my website while traveling--not as cumbersome as a laptop, but with more functionality than my phone. This made me happy. 

So I was brainstorming the other ways in which this device might improve my life when I realized, "I am hungry". This happens sometimes. But lo and behold, there was Molly's Cupcakes! I haven't been to Molly's in ages, and thought it would be a great moment to try them out again. After all, a lot has happened since my last personal visit to this cute-as-a-button Chicago cupcakery and since my friend Ryan's visit. They've opened a new location in New York, for one; several of the flavor offerings were new (to me) on my visit, too.

Molly's Cupcakes, chicago

Sashaying past the cookie dough and cake batter varieties, I settled on the Boston Cream Cupcake, a vanilla cupcake filled with custard and topped with a beautifully piped chocolate ganache.

Molly's cupcakes, chicago

The cupcake weighed in at $4.11, which felt slightly like a slap in the face (somehow that post-tax 11 cents above the four dollar mark just seemed a little excessive), but I really, really wanted this cupcake, so I proceeded. 

As weighty as the cost was, the cupcake was, as well. It was a solid little brick of cream-filled magic, a respectable buttery vanilla cake beautifully complemented by a turn-your-teeth-chocolatey rich ganache (oh please why can't you just hook me up to a vat of it and inject it?) and a vanilla bean-flecked custard that made me want to coo with happiness when I got my first bite with all of the flavors combined.

Molly's cupcakes, chicago

Sometimes it's nice to revisit bakeries from our past, and this one rewarded me with deliciousness. Though the cupcake was pricey, ultimately I have no regrets. And were I to go back in time, I'd do it all over again.

Molly's Cupcakes, locations in Chicago and New York; online here.

 

Tuesday
Sep272011

Sweet and Epic Pastry Road Trip to Chicago

Guess what? I recently took a long drive. A really, really long drive. All the way from Seattle to Chicago. From the Rainy City to the Windy City. Across much of America, that great, big country.

And I ate a lot of sweet stuff along the way. While the driving schedule was fairly tight (I had to make it to Chicago in time for the Renegade Craft Fair), and I wasn't able to stop at every bakery I wanted to based on the hours I was passing through various cities, I did manage to put away my fair share of sweet treats; here are some of the highlights. Let's go:

Washington

Mary Lou's Milk Bottle, Spokane WAThe first stop? Mary Lou's Milk Bottle in Spokane. What could be sweeter than stopping for a shake at an establishment shaped like a milk bottle? The huckleberry shake was delicious here, perhaps slightly thinner than I would have liked, but the flavor and pretty hue made up for it in my mind.

Last time I road-tripped, I also stopped at Rocket Bakery, which some say makes the best pink frosted cookie in the state.

Idaho

Sadly, La Vie en Rose was closed by the time I rolled into Coeur D'alene, but next time!

Observation at an Idaho rest area: This is where I started to notice that we were seriously entering Huckleberry Country. Even the rest area had an end cap display devoted to the berry, including sweets like Huckleberry gummi bears. This trend would continue through Montana and Wyoming.

Montana

Missoula: 

Bernice's Bakery, MissoulaTime for some morning sweets!

Le Petit Outre was the first stop, for coffee and sweets, including a cranberry bread (not cake, I know, but quite good!) and cookies. And caneles.

Poppyseed cake from Bernice's Bakery, MissoulaNext up was Bernice's Bakery, where croissants and a slice of poppyseed cake were obtained. Of note: Poppyseed Cakes are apparently big business in Montana, and I have even heard a rumor that this is where they were invented (who knows? Do you?). I asked a local, who had an interesting theory on their popularity. She she said that drug use is big in the state, and that the poppyseeds might be popular because of the purported high they offer. I'm not sure if I'm convinced about that, but I thought it was an interesting thought.

Recommended by a hotel concierge was Black Cat Bake Shop, renowned for their chocolate eclairs.

Bozeman:

On the Rise, Bozeman MTFor morning treats, you must hit up either Sweetpea Bakery or On the Rise. This trip it was On the Rise, for a weighty oat bar, a tart, and a rich quiche (not sweet!). The reverence for carbohydrates is clear here, with buttery crust and deliciousness abounding. But on to lunch...

Burger Bob's, BozemanShake o'clock! At Burger Bob's, largely thought of as the city's best burger joint, the chocolate shake was made with vanilla ice cream and rendered “chocolate” with syrup—perhaps not ideal for chocolate shake die-hards, but I thought it was pretty good.Burger Bob's, Bozeman

Billings:

Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings, MTIf you have time to go nowhere else, you MUST hit up Caramel Cookie Waffles in Billings, Montana. Owned by a cute-as-pie couple, this place is THE supplier of caramel-filled dutch waffle cookies, and they do a good job. But wait, there's more!

Chocolate chip cheesecake from Caramel Cookie WafflesThey make a mean cheesecake (which they will top with chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, thankyouverymuch), oatmeal cookies, huckleberry caramels, and—wait for it—they even had NANAIMO BARS!

Nanaimo Bar from Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings MTThis made me feel right at home, and theirs have a delicious secret: instead of graham cracker crumbs for the base, they use the crumbs from their waffle cookies. Nom! Yum! Awesome!

...but that's not all that Montana had to offer.

Durango Restaurant rest area, MontanaAnother thing I love about Montana is that their huckleberry reverence is so clear in every eatery. Even a casino rest area had delicious huckleberry ice cream, though their shake maker was broken (what?!?). Last time I went on a pastry road trip, I had a fantastic Huckleberry bar at a rest area, too.

Wyoming

Sheridan, WY: Sadly I didn't get a chance to stop there, but I want to give a shout-out to Java Moon because it was so highly recommended by a reader. Next time!

In Sundance, WY, I spied this. I was sad to answer "no" at the moment the question was posed to me.

 

South Dakota

Krispie bar from South DakotaWhat would a stop to South Dakota be without a krispie bar or Special K Bar? I picked this one up at a gas station. Too delicious. But moving on to Wall, and Wall Drug...

Wall:

Wall Drug, South DakotaIf you have never been to Wall Drug, well then, consider it a must. Their doughnuts are pretty dreamy.

Wall Drug, South DakotaSo is the pie.Available for purchase at Wall Drug, SD

The ice cream was not as special as the baked goods to me, but still respectable. They also have fudge. Including a flavor called Tiger Butter. What's Tiger Butter? Oh:

Rapid City:

Guess what? I also got a speeding ticket in—wait for it—RAPID CITY, South Dakota. The police officer became my new best friend as we both have the same birthday, but he still gave me the ticket. Vive l'aventure, sweeties!

Mitchell:

A stop in Mitchell, South Dakota provided a sweet retreat: not only did I get a glimpse of the Corn Palace, but I also got to stop for some tasty vittles at what I was assured was the best breakfast in town, at the VFW Hall.

 The biscuits were simple but perfect morning fare, and the cookies and pie were down-home tasty.Buttered biscuit from Mitchell, SD

Down the street, highly-recommended Daylight Donuts had already sold out of treats, but I do hope I'll get to try them out one day: also disappointed were a husband-and-his-pregnant wife, the latter having a massive doughnut craving. Very cute, and clearly these are craveable doughnuts if the shop sells out so early!

Minnesota

Because I was booking it across the state to get to Chicago in time, I didn't have much time to stop and visit Cake Eater Bakery, and sadly the Minnesota State Fair was already over.

In Rochester, I had previously visited Daube's, and would have loved to have visited again.

Spied somewhere in MinnesotaI forget where in Minnesota, but I saw this display of fruit...puddings? They were called parfaits. It reminded me of retro cookbook pictures, but this was the real deal.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin: is there anything it can't do? It's got amazing dairy, delicious meat products, and plenty of sweet treats.

Carrot cake from Mauston Rest Area, WisconsinOne of the standouts, for me, was unexpected: the Mauston Rest area. This truck rest stop surprised me with a full-service bakery full of amazing (and huge!) treats. The carrot cake was seriously one of the highlights of my trip: moist and flavorful cake, with sweet-sweet-sweet cream cheese frosting with the perfect lightly-gritty sugar consistency to balance out the cake. It was divine. They also had all sorts of other goodies, including these enormous pig and cow cookies - the scale really isn't evident from this photo, but rest assured each one was as large as your head and half of someone else's head too.

Madison:

Obviously I needed to drive by Ella's Deli, but didn't stop this time. Sometimes when time is tight I like to hit up a local grocery store--sometimes they have baked goods from a bunch of local bakeries. And I had some good luck at the Willy Street Co-Op, where they had baked goods made on site, such as strawberry crumb bars:

Willy Street Co-Op, Madison WI...as well as sweets from local bakers Larsen Bakery, Batch Bakehouse (who made the monkey bread pastry pictured below), Greenbush Bakery, and East Side Ovens.Batch Bakehouse, Madison WI

Illinois

Reaching Illinois, a waffle was obtained at the Country Kitchen restaurant. Waffles don't hum to me frequently, but this one did, and I was rewarded by a pecan-filled and covered waffle. I was a little put off by the fact that the pecans on top, which were dry, but adding butter and syrup to the waffle made it into something really special.

In Chicago, once I made it to the Renegade Craft Fair, a mandatory stop was made at the Alliance Bakery, where I always enjoy a little something. Sadly no trip to the Angel Food bakery was in my cards what with the time restraints, but I can't wait to visit on my upcoming book tour! I wish I could have gone to every place on this list though.

Happily, Black Dog Gelato had a stand just up the street at the fair, so I finally got to sample some of their stuff. You will not be disappointed if you go.

Another sweet find was Puffs of Doom, a cream puff maker of epic proportions. The portions themselves are modest but the rewards are huge: filled with cream and creative fillings of both sweet and savory persuasions. 

Sweet and savory treats were obtained at Milk and Honey cafe, where pastries are made in-house and everything I have ever tried there is delicious.

A big highlight? Natalie of Bake & Destroy brought me one of her crack-filled Peanut butter pillow cookies, which kept me buzzing with happiness all day. Another huge highlight was a delivery of Vegan chocolate snickerdoodles by my pal Bunny Knuckles, who knows how to make me smile.

Vegan chocolate Snickerdoodles by Bunny Knuckles; heart cookie from Artemio BakeryI tried out some heart-shaped cookies from Artemio Bakery, which were sugary and crumbly and quite satisfactory.

My bff customer Margaret stopped by, and then the fair started and I sold so many copies of my book that I think I might be a bestselling author now.

I also had the extreme and exquisite pleasure of eating at a restaurant called Moto. This place made me want to say “golly” I was so delighted the whole time I was there. And for dessert, they had made a sweet surprise: cookies with a CUPPIE image transfer on top! I kind of freaked out, in a good way. They also let me tour the kitchen, which I thought was oh-so-kind of them. It reminded me of Scott of Seattle Food Geek, who would fit in gorgeously there.

Frozen Custard from Niko's GyrosAn unexpectedly wonderful treat was the custard at Niko's Gyros. I also had the extreme pleasure of visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park; my curiosity having been piqued after reading Loving Frank: A Novel, I also visited the once-home of Mameh Cheney.

Nearby, Petersen's Ice cream was serving up ice cream pies, as well as pints, scoops, and shakes. I saw a lady lose her scoop from the top of the cone while I was there, and it really made my heart hurt.

Prelimary sketches were made at the home of Michelle of Bleeding Heart Bakery—I'm gonna finish that when I go back for my book tour. But can I just tell you a bit about her newest location? Brunch is King there, and they have a doughnut breakfast sandwich and all sorts of crazy-delicious treats. If you live in Chicago, why are you not there right now, friend?

For more of my pastry traveling adventures, click here.

Tuesday
Sep202011

Sweet Love: Frozen Custard from Niko's Gyros, Chicago

Dear Frozen Custard,

Let's make one thing clear. I wasn't seeking you out, but I am so glad I found you. Because sometimes, delight comes from the most unexpected places.

Case in point: whilst heading to do some preliminary mural-sketching chez Michelle of Bleeding Heart Bakery (also a stop on the Tour De Sweet book tour, btw) while stopping for directions, you presented yourself as a bona fide Frozen Custard Opportunity at an establishment called Niko's Gyros. I know, I know. Custard at a Gyro place? 

But here's the thing. You, dear custard, while not what I thought I was seeking (I seriously thought I was looking for directions!) were just what I wanted. While not pinkies-out fare you were somehow perfect: white as snow, rich as Scrooge McDuck, and as thick as a brick—a delicious, sugary, melty brick. A generous scoop of you, dear custard, was not only an ideal mid-day treat, but finding you in such an unexpected spot made it an especially sweet delight.

Love, CakeSpy

Frozen custard from Niko's Gyros, 2775 N. Elston Ave., Chicago.

Thursday
Jan062011

Cake Byte: Chimney Cakes Opens in Chicago

Images from the Chimney Island Yelp pageHow to stay warm during the cold Chicago winter? Well. You could hunker down by a fireplace...or you could hit up newly-opened Chimney Cake Island!

Per CakeSpy reader Amy:

A bakery selling something called 'chimney cakes' opened up around the corner from me recently. Chimney Cake Island. I couldn't find any mention of the chimney cake on your site so I thought I'd pass the word along. Apparently chimney cakes are Romanian (?). I plan to stop into the shop this weekend.

Well, Amy, you are right about the cakes being associated with Eastern Europe. As I found out on that handy-dandy site Wikipedia,

Kürtőskalács or kürtős kalács is a Hungarian pastry also known as chimney cake or stove cake or Hungarian wedding cake. It is baked on a tapered cylindrical spit over an open fire. Originally from Transylvania, it is famous as Hungary's oldest pastry. Kürtőskalács is sold in bakeries, pastry shops and even street vendors are selling them on street corners, carnivals and fairs.

Kürtőskalács consists of a thin yeast pastry ribbon wound around a wooden cylinder, heavily sprinkled with sugar, thus becoming a helix shaped cylindrical pastry or a pastry roll that sometimes tapers very slightly towards the end. The pastry is baked on a hand-turned, tapered, wooden spit, rolled slowly on the wooden cylinder above an open fire. The dough is yeast-raised, flavored with sweet spices, the most common being cinnamon, topped with walnuts or almonds, and sugar. The sugar is caramelized on the kürtöskalács surface, creating a sweet, crispy crust.

In Chicago? Please report back with your thoughts on this intriguing new bakery! Find them online at chimneycakeisland.com!

Thursday
Nov042010

Tour de Sweet: A Chicago Cupcake Run With Ryan's Baking Blog

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post chronicling a very sweet visit to Chicago from Cake Gumshoe Ryan, whose sweet adventures can be followed via his great site, Ryan's Baking Blog! All of the text, photos, and opinions reflected below are his--read on, and enjoy! 

I'm in Chicago until Friday (then I leave for San Francisco) and was super excited to grab some delicious cupcakes. I've had a few bakeries recommended to me and I tried out a bunch so far. Chicago

Molly's Cupcakes 2536 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

I only have one picture for this section (photo pictured top), I wasn't sure if they wanted me sitting there photographing the whole store and everything so I just focused on the cupcake. I also didn't ask if I could photograph so I was trying to be sneaky (well, as sneaky as you can be with a big DSLR camera). This is a Chocolate Decadence cupcake. They have a ton of flavors ranging from this to peanut butter nutella, minty mash-up, peach cobbler, and so much more. This cupcake was amazing. Probably the best chocolate cupcake I've had. Honestly though, I think this one was meant to share. It is a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, chocolate ganache on top PLUS chocolate frosting with chocolate shavings. It is a lot of chocolate and every element is so good. The cake was super moist, the mousse was smooth and chocolatey, the frosting and ganache were perfect. The shop itself is great. It is pretty large and cafe style. They have a bar you can sit at that has SWINGS. Yes, like playground swings for you to sit on to enjoy your cupcake. They also have a bunch of tables and seats to sit at, some people were working on things and a few people were having conversations. It was a really comfortable atmosphere and the staff was really nice. If all that wasn't enough to convince you to go, they have a "sprinkle station". It was a counter with shakers filled with different kinds of sprinkles, like little stars and moons or dinosaurs, that you could top your cupcake with. I thought this was a great idea. I really can't recommend this shop enough, if I lived in Chicago I'd be here every day. They are also open super early and super late. Sunday-Thursday they are open til 10pm and on Friday and Saturday til midnight.

Bleeding Heart Bakery 1955 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657

I came here twice actually, unfortunately the first time I forgot my camera.

This is a terrible picture and does not do this cupcake any justice. Like I said, I forgot my camera and had to use my blackberry. I had the Veruca Salt cupcake (above), a salted caramel cupcake with caramel filling and FOUR kinds of salt. It was amazing. The cake was dense in all the right ways, the caramel filling was delicious, the frosting was so smooth, and the salt added a ton of great flavor. My friend had a "Take A Hike" Scone, which was pretty much a trail mix scone, and he loved it. They also have a variety of vegan cupcakes in a lot of flavors. The staff was super nice and helpful, my friend had a ton of questions about the different items and the girl working knew everything.

I came back a second time to try a red velvet and I remembered my camera. I love how it was decorated and it was super delicious, a traditional red velvet. The frosting was super smooth and creamy, I don't have any complaints. The bakery has a very punk rock feel which I thought was great. They were playing punk music, had a ton of local flyers up and do a lot of community building and clearly care about the people that live in Chicago. The tables were cut out like cupcakes, there was a couch and coffee table by the front window, and they had pretty awesome shirts for sale (if I had more money to spend I definitely would have gotten one or five). They definitely make you feel comfortable. That is a big thing that I liked about both this bakery and Molly's Cupcakes. I felt like I should sit down and enjoy my cupcake there, it was a relaxing environment and very welcoming.

Sweet Mandy B's 1208 West Webster Avenue Chicago, IL 60614

Sweet Mandy B's is a bakery in Lincoln Park with a lot of pastel colors. Their frostings were all tinted light pink or light blue or another pastel and the shop had a cozy feel to it. It's has another section for an ice cream shop and that is where the seating is. It was hectic in there so I got my cupcake to go.

They had the normal flavors as well as orange and lemon and this french toast cupcake. It's cinnamon cake with maple frosting. This cake was made well, super soft and a strong (but not overwhelming) cinnamon taste. The frosting was a perfect consistency and it was just the right amount. It tasted exactly like french toast. They also offer a ton of cookies as well as cakes, puddings, and ice cream. It was easy to see why they had so many customers.

Sprinkles 50 E Walton St, Chicago, IL 60611

Everyone knows about Sprinkles. The first cupcake-exclusive bakery to hit the world. They opened in 2004 and have enjoyed a ton of success. Many of their cupcakes sport the signature dot that many people have come to recognize as Sprinkles. This was the cupcake shop I was most excited about for the obvious reason: it was the first cupcake shop and EVERYONE talks about Sprinkles. I planned on going twice during my trip to sample various flavors because of how much I've heard but I don't think I'll be going back, not even to try the famous red velvet everyone talks about.

This is the key lime cupcake, a summer exclusive flavor. The frosting has a STRONG key lime flavor and the cake has a more subtle but noticeable flavor to it. Both were delicious. The cake was extremely soft and fluffy, perfectly moist, and overall delicious. I was satisfied. This is the milk chocolate cupcake: chocolate cake with milk chocolate cream cheese frosting. I think the frosting really killed this cupcake for me. Maybe I'm just not a huge fan of cream cheese frosting but it wasn't that chocolatey. I wanted that candy-bar-milk-chocolate taste and I just didn't find it. This cupcake wasn't that pretty compared to the key lime I had. The cake itself was pretty good but it felt kind of doughy in my mouth. It makes me believe the Sprinkles cupcake craze is about decent cupcakes and a lot of branding. They aren't bad cupcakes by any means, but not the best I've had. The store itself has a very modern look to it. I really like modern design, especially in homes, but I like cozy cupcake shops. Mismatched furniture, comfy seats, someplace you can sit down and feel comfortable. Sprinkles only had four or five stools and a lot more customers than that, it didn't seem like they encouraged you to sit and stay.

More Cupcakes 1 East Delaware Place, Chicago, IL 60611

More cupcakes is a small cupcake shop in downtown Chicago. Literally small. It's a tiny shop without any chairs and a small table to stand and eat at. The cupcakes are displayed in a big glass box thing. It was a little confusing and the labels were tiny, I also couldn't tell what flavors they had that day..maybe they had all of them? I had a black and white cupcake, a vanilla and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and covered in chocolate shavings. I originally wanted a white velvet but wasn't sure if they had it (I only saw the display one). The cupcakes are taller than normal cupcakes and this one had a lot of frosting. It took three or four bites to get to the actual cake part and it was awkward to eat because of it's height. The cake was a little dry too.

They also had mini cupcake samples, I grabbed the chocolate passionfruit, chocolate cake with passionfruit frosting. I've never had passionfruit before and it turns out I don't actually like it. The man in front of me did sneak an extra sample so they must have been good. Not all the cupcakes had a ton of frosting so maybe some of the others are better. I started feeling a little sick by the end of mine though. As much as I hate to say it, I wouldn't go back there.

(CakeSpy Note: I should say that I too have visited More Cupcakes, and had a much better experience than Ryan; like so many things, it could have just been his visit, or different tastes. Any reader thoughts?)

In Closing

If you are in Chicago, go to Bleeding Heart Bakery and Molly's Cupcakes. If you're in the Lincoln Park area, go to Sweet Mandy B's. Try Sprinkles, maybe you'll like it more than I did, it ended up being more of a "cupcake history" kind of thing for me. And finally, if you're a frosting fiend, go to More. Or get one of their cupcakes without a ton of frosting.

Don't forget to keep up with Ryan's sweet adventures at Ryan's Baking Blog!

Tuesday
Sep142010

Sweet Notes: Little Love Letters to Chicago, from CakeSpy

So, if you read this site, like, ever, you probably know that the guiding principle of CakeSpy is that I am seeking sweetness in everyday life, and hopefully leaving the world a sweeter place with my work. I know, so cheesy you could die, right?

Well, don't die yet. First, check out these sweet little love-notes I left around Chicago, with hopes that they would sweeten the day(s) of those who found them:

First, Floriole. I was thrilled to hear that these dudes had opened up a retail spot, because I had been delighted by a canelé I picked up at their Farmer's Market booth 2 years ago.

Alas, Floriole was ferme on Lundi! Sacre bleu! Well, I left them a little something to find when they were ouvert again, to let them know I cared. A note, nestled between their outdoor tables, to be discovered by an employee in the morning! (picture of note is at the top of the post)

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Second, while browsing some delightful secondhand clothes at The Buffalo Exchange, I thought I might add to the "treasure hunt" aspect of thrifting by hiding a treasure in a handbag for sale.

Of course, anyone who buys an Andy Warhol handbag has good taste, and they should be rewarded, right?

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Third, I was struck by the beauty of this gorgeously appointed...storage space? So I left a little note nestled in by the toes of this Egyptian dude. Call it a footnote!

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Well, after all of this walking around, some caffeination was in order, and what better spot for a Seattleite to hit up for strong coffee than Intelligentsia? And to say thank you for the totally sweet latte, a totally sweet little note was left on the counter.

Thanks for the totally sweet times, Chicago! Love ya, miss ya! 2 good + 2 be = 4 gotten! (Note: A full bakery roundup to come)

Thursday
Oct082009

Batter Chatter: Interview with Bethany Papciak of Boofy Cakes

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
Curious about the secret lives of the movers and shakers in the world of cake bakers? Well, look no further: here's a sweet peek into the inner workings of Boofy Cakes, a wonderful custom cake company based in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. What inspires and motivates proprietress Bethany Papciak? Read on:

CakeSpy: What kickstarted your love of cakes and cake decorating?
Bethany Papciak: My earliest memories of cake decorating were when I was a kid. My mom never ordered a cake from the grocery store or bakery. She always let me and my brothers go through the Wilton Yearbooks and choose what cakes we wanted for our birthdays. My mom threw the best themed birthday parties! When I was too old for birthday parties, she let me help her decorate the birthday cakes for my cousins' birthday parties! I then took a job at a local family owned bakery when I was 15, and I worked there for 7 years. I still go back and visit; it's been my home away from home!

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: Since taking on cake making professionally, has it changed the way you look at baking in general--ie, has it made you more or less critical of other professional baking?
BP: I am critical of professional bakeries because many bakeries charge a small fortune for their items. In the area where I live no one can afford or justify $3-4 for a basic cupcake! The bakery where I worked growing up produced high quality old fashioned baked goods at a reasonable price. The prices were higher than the local grocery store bakeries, but the freshness and quality makes them well worth it. This is something that I apply to my own business. I want to make fun treats that not only look good, but taste good too! And I try to keep it at a reasonable cost. I want my customers to feel that they can afford festive treats for all their occasions, big or small.

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: You're also an artist and a scrapbooker. Do you feel as if that brings something to your cake making?
BP: When I was in high school I was very involved in the art department. I took all the classes: drawing, painting, sculpting and so on. When I enrolled in a Culinary and Pastry Arts program that my high school offered, I discovered that some of the same techniques I learned in my art classes applied to cake decorating. Then I could apply my love for art to my love for food! I think the art class that benefitted me the most was my ceramics class. Many of the sculpting skills and tools that I used for clay are the same for fondant and gum paste! Making decorative pieces out of fondant is one of my favorite parts of decorating; it reminds me of playing with Play-Doh!

I don't know that scrapbooking brings anything to my cake decorating, but I do know that it means that I spend way too much money on cute cupcake papers and embellishments!

CS: You have a blog--how do you think that plays a role in your business?
BP: The blog is something that I started to work on in my free time. It hasn't reached the point that I'd like it to, but I'm going to be working on developing it more in the near future. The purpose of it is to tell the stories behind my cakes. In my portfolio there are a number of odd cake designs like the PEZ cake and the Google cake. The blog is a great opportunity for me to share my adventures and experiences behind these silly cakes with my customers. My regular customers tell me all the time how they check up on my website to see what new cakes I've been working on and how their children love to sit and look at the pictures!

The blog is also a way for me to share information about events going on in the community. Like fundraisers for our firefighters, and organizations like Easter Seals, Relay for Life, and Care Net.

CS: Tell me a baking tool you couldn't live without.
BP: Most definitely my turntable! It makes icing cakes a breeze!

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: Tell me about an especially fun cake you've worked on.
BP: I find that cakes I enjoy making the most are actually the ones that aren't for customers! I love having complete freedom in the design! So the most fun I have making cakes are typically the ones for my family. Although there was one cake that I donated to a CareNet baby shower at a local church that falls in to the favorite category. It was a Noah's Ark themed cake and I handmade all of the little animals out of fondant. I had so much fun making it! It has since become one of my most popular cakes.

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: I feel as if there is a rising trend in "dessert buffets" or cupcakes at weddings or special events...do you think these trends will make the large, centerpiece type of cake go extinct?
BP: I've actually had more cupcake orders for birthdays than for wedding cakes. But I have done both. I can understand why cupcakes and dessert buffets appeal to so many people. In the current economy I think more people are considering having more parties at their homes as opposed to large reception halls. Having small desserts are more convenient when you don't have a service to take care of cutting a wedding cake. Have you ever tried to disassemble a 4 tiered cake and cut it into the proper number of servings? If you've never done it, it can be pretty intimidating! Individual desserts allow the guests to serve themselves. Another great point to individual desserts is that unlike a slice of cake, they still look as attractive once served onto your plate.

While the popularity of cupcakes is rising, I don't believe that they will replace centerpiece cakes. I've noticed that at weddings they still want to hold onto the tradition of cutting the cake. So they just order a smaller tiered cake for cutting and for saving for their anniversary. I've done several cupcakes for birthday parties, but they're still just a small percentage of my orders. I think that the popularity of shows like Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, and the different cake challenge shows will keep centerpiece cakes from dying out.

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: As a cake maker, what are your feelings on pie?
BP: I don't typically bake pies outside of the holidays. But that doesn't mean I don't like them! My favorite flavor is blueberry. The best slice of pie I've ever had was from a small vegetarian restaurant on the University of Illinois campus called the The Red Herring. It was blueberry mango pie that was absolutely to die for! I'd eat the whole pie if given the opportunity. It's well worth the stomachache!

Photo c/o Boofy CakesPhoto c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: What is your favorite type of frosting?
BP: My favorite frosting to eat or decorate with? My favorite kind of frosting to decorate with is a basic crusting buttercream. A crusting buttercream gets a real thin layer of crust after being exposed to the air for a few minutes. This is ideal for making certain decorations. It ices smooth on cakes and holds its shape nicely for decorations like roses.

My favorite frosting to eat is a fluff buttercream that I make. Believe it or not, I don't like super sweet desserts. Thats why I love my fluff buttercream! It isn't too sweet and it is light fluffy like clouds! And it doesn't need to be refrigerated like whipped cream. The only downside is that it doesn't ice as smooth and it is too soft to make certain decorations and designs.

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: If you were to be choosing the dessert for your last meal on earth, what would it be?
BP: I know I said that blueberry was my favorite pie flavor, but I think I would have to choose pecan pie! It's warmth and richness makes it a great comfort food! It brings back wonderful memories of with my family and all the fun I had during the holidays at the bakery where I grew up working.

Photo c/o Boofy Cakes
CS: Do you have any advice or lessons learned that you can pass on to others who might be interested in starting up their own cake businesses?
BP: If you haven't already, work in a bakery. No matter how much you already know, there is always more to be learned. Seeing how another businesses does business is a great way to get started. Pay attention to their lifestyles and the hours they work, make sure it's the lifestyle you thought it would be. The long hours and working weekends and holidays aren’t meant for everyone. Last but not least, love what you do and stand behind your work! It makes waking up in the morning much easier!

If you're in the Chicago area, consider Boofy Cakes for your next special occasion! Even if you're not though, you'll get sweet satisfaction from browsing the cake photos and blog--all online at boofycakes.com.

Thursday
Oct012009

Pastry Road Trip: The Sweet and Tart Cranberry Walnut Bar from Alliance Bakery, Chicago

Cranberry walnut bar, Alliance Bakery, Chicago
While I was recently selling artwork at the world famous Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, I was lucky enough to have a booth located very close to Alliance Bakery. True, I had heard mixed reviews about this place--but after one of my awesome boothmates got (and highly praised) their vaguely Napoleon-looking treat called the "Ellen" (made up of pistachio-cinnamon mousseline with pistachio praline and white chocolate mousse--like, whoa), I knew I had to make a stop. Walking up to the entrance, I wasn't sure quite what to expect: the exterior has old-school neon sign and flamboyantly decorated cakes on display in the front window.
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
But once you step inside, it's immediately evident that this is a very special place. They have huge, wraparound bakery cases full of all manner of cakes, pastries and cookies, which made the visit fun right away for me, because half the fun is ogling everything and choosing, right?
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
Alliance Bakery, ChicagoAlliance Bakery, Chicago
Ultimately I settled on an intriguing bar cookie: the cranberry walnut bar. I know the combination sounds unusual, but here's the deal. The bar cookie, which is made up of a sweet walnut-y, caramel-y mixture set atop a cookie crust, is very sweet. While bars like this are often  delicious, sometimes the sweetness can be so overwhelming that the flavor lacks depth. Here's where the cranberries come in. The little bursts of sweet, acidic tartness cut through the extreme sweetness, rounding out the flavor and adding excitement to every bite (yes! excitement!). It worked beautifully, and made what could have been a run-of-the mill bar cookie very memorable.

Not only was I pleased with the bar cookie, but I am so intrigued by the sweet-and-tart combination that I think I might just add a topping of cranberries the next time I make pecan pie.

Alliance Bakery, 1736 W Division Street (between Hermitage Ave & Wood St), Chicago, IL, (773) 278-0366; online at alliance-bakery.com.
Alliance Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Sep062009

Sweetness in Chicago: CakeSpy at the Renegade Craft Fair!

Cuppie Love in Chicago
Get excited, Chicago. Your city is about to get even sweeter.

A veritable tornado of sweetness is coming your way on September 12th and 13th: I (Head Spy Jessie) will be taking part in the annual Renegade Craft Fair! But I won't be alone: there will be a veritable cupcake posse on board as Rachel from Cupcakes Take the Cake, Sandy from Iron Cupcake and Sheela of Miel y Leche Catering (home of the Elvis Cupcake!) all converge in the fair city of Chicago as well!



I'll be sharing a booth with the lovely and amazing Abbey Christine (check out her awesome work here, or see her work pictured left--why yes, that is a Peewee Herman finger puppet!).
On Sunday, there will even be a Cupcake Meetup at Molly's Cupcakes (coordinated by Cupcakes Take the Cake), followed by a group jaunt over to the craft fair to visit my booth!

 

I hope that I'll see some of your smiling faces there! I will have all manner of sweet artwork and accessories on sale, including original paintings, stationery and gift items--even some new products which I did in collaboration with Eleven Eleven Industries, including CakeSpy checkbook holders, passport covers and more!


Here are the details (or, for more info, visit their site!):
Renegade Chicago!

Oh, and did I mention the most important part? I will actually be driving to the fair from Seattle...making a pastry road trip of the journey! Look out for updates on sweets from Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota and more while I work my way over to Chicago! And of course, feel free to pass on any suggestions along the way.

 

© Cakespy, all rights reserved. Powered by Squarespace.