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Entries in cool products (42)

Saturday
Oct252014

Nutty Good: Candied Walnuts by Old School Favorites

Old School favorites candied walnuts

I get samples of products in the mail sometimes. Some I test out and forget. Others, I feel that I need to tell you about because they make me so incredibly happy.

Here's how it went down. This company called Old School Favorites tells me they'd like to send me some of their products: either their "Szauce", described as "an indulgent gourmet chocolate sauce that's handmade using a blend of Hudson Valley Fresh CreamNorth Fork sea saltMadagascar vanillaValrhona cocoa and organic stone ground Taza Chocolate", or their "Nutsz", described as "premium quality California walnuts blanketed in a sweet shell made from the finest organic New York State maple syrup and a pinch of North Fork sea salt. "

I probably responded with something like "sure, surprise me". And a few weeks later, I received a vacuum-packed bag of nuts. I'm sorry--nutsz.


I opened the pack and tested one out. Old School favorites candied walnuts Good golly, that tasted good. It was softer than most candied walnuts I've tried before, but not like, soggy soft. Maybe I'm not a candy purist, but I actually liked that it didn't threaten to tear the roof of my mouth or break my teeth. The maple flavor was a little different than what you'd expect in a candied nut--it made them a little more complex and cozy-tasting. I loved the salt--for me, something like maple syrup, which is so sweet, needs a little touch of salt to balance it out. I would have added it if they hadn't, so they saved me the trouble. 

Old School favorites candied walnuts

Before the end of the day, I was basically using them on everything: atop ice cream, to make my Nanaimo bars even richer by serving them with a nut or three on the side as garnish, heck, even on a slice of toast with butter and a pinch of sea salt.

Old School favorites candied walnuts

In short: I was impressed. The nuts (sorry, nutsz) are not cheap at $12 plus shipping, but you need a treat every now and again, don't you? And in a world where lattes are regularly over $5 now (when did that happen, btw?) it's not so terrible.

Buy online at the Old School Favorites website.

Thursday
Oct092014

Something I Love: Hahn's Crumb Cake

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you were here right now, you might say: "I wonder why CakeSpy is singing 'Circle of Life' from The Lion King in her outdoor voice right now?". 

Well. I am singing that song because sometimes, life comes full circle in beautiful and delicious ways. Let me tell you about one such instance.

Way back in 2007, when I lived in Seattle and CakeSpy.com was a baby, I came across (and wrote a feature about) Hahn's Crumb Cake. Being a misplaced east coaster in the wild west, I was delighted to come across a company that shipped what is probably my single favorite childhood (and adult, let's be honest) treat. 

Note: if you are confused about what crumb cake is and is not, please check out this post.

Then, several years passed where a lot happened, but none of it involved Hahn's.

And then, suddenly, a few weeks ago, they e-mailed me and asked if they could send me some samples of their cake. I typed my address with haste, lest they change their mind.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

A few weeks after that, a glorious package arrived with a pleasing heft to it. Inside, it was crammed with crumb. Cake, that is. Oh-emm-gee.

Now, I am going to try to be careful with how I say this, because I don't want you to get the wrong idea.

This crumb cake is perfect. But it's not because it's fancy. It's perfect because it's an ideal specimen of a truly quotidien (at least in the NY metro area) foodstuff. 

Hahn's makes a higher quality version than you'll buy at most delis, but it still has that simple, unfussy quality about it that makes crumb cake so great.

Crumb cake does not aspire to be a gourmet food: its goal is to feed you and make you happy.

Lots of butter and brown sugar help ensure that it is able to do its job. The art of the cake is in the crumb: you don't want them too streusel-y. While in my opinion the crumbs simply can't be too big, they can be too hard. You want a crumb that is firm, but that will yield when you bite into it, exuding a buttery-brown-sugar-slightly salty flavor in your mouth. 

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

If you love a classic NY-style crumb cake or have fond memories or thoughts regarding the Entenmann's crumb cake from supermarkets, you will probably love Hahn's crumb cake as much as me.

Hahn's old fashioned crumb cake

The package I got included a classic, chocolate, and raspberry variety. All were good; I say it just depends on your mood. I tend to veer toward the former, because it has confectioners' sugar.

Maybe I like looking like I have a cocaine problem after I eat a slice of crumb cake?

(this may be the first review Hahn's has ever gotten that mentions cocaine. I am proud to be the first.)

So--my review is, buy crumb cake from Hahn's if you want a taste of nostalgia, or if you've never tried a classic crumb cake but would like to do so. 

Enjoy! 

Buy online at crumbcake.net.

Hey! These posts may also be of interest:

Behemoth crumb cakeHow to make crumb cake

Crumb cake shake

 

Saturday
Sep272014

Immaculately Delicious: Immaculate Baking Company Mixes

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

Not so very long ago, Immaculate Baking Company contacted me and asked if I would like to try some samples of their new, fairly virtuous cake mixes. Sure, I said. I love cake mix, it's true.

I was surprised when not long later, a huge box arrived. There was a lot of mix coming my way, I could plainly see.

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

LOTS!

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

And flour, too!

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

Well, I figured I'd best get to baking to see what these cookies were all about. I got mildly bummed out by this: Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

Because truthfully...

But anyhow, I decided to start with cookies. Chocolate cookies, and they were gluten-free to boot. I don't know about you, but I actually get super excited about gluten free chocolate stuff. That means there's less "texture" getting in the way of my chocolate experience. 

So, I added the requisite ingredients (oil, eggs, etc).

Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

I mixed it all, and a nice dough formed. Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

I lined a baking sheet and set it up with rounds of dough. Aren't they beautiful?Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

For no particular reason, I added almonds on top of some of them. Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

I baked 'em up and here's how they looked.Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

The cookies were VERY soft after baking and tough to transfer until a few minutes had passed, but after 30 minutes on a wire rack, they had solidified and were ready to eat. Immaculate Baking Cookie Mix test

The gluten-free chocolate cookies came out very nicely. I loved how they became crispy on the edges but still retained a chewiness on the interior. The taste was assertively but not aggressively chocolate, which made it a nice cookie to combine with other dessert-stuffs: for instance, perfect bookends for an ice cream sandwich. I found that for stand-alone eating the cookies were a nice base, but benefitted from bonus additions: the almonds, and a sprinkling of sea salt, really made them come to life. But I should tell you: I'm a salt freak. It's true:

I also tried out the pancake mix as I was developing a recipe for bacon-filled pancakes, and I can't share that one yet, but I can tell you the mix was really quite good. 

Bacon pancakes

I say that Immaculate Baking Company's mixes are well worth a try--I can't wait to try out the cake mix to make Gooey butter cake!

Check 'em out: Immaculate Baking Company.

Tuesday
Sep162014

Sweet Discovery: Legit Organics Candy Bars

Legit Organics

If you regularly read this website, you should be pretty aware that a long list of ingredients isn't going to scare me off if the foodstuff in question is delicious. Like Pop-Tarts or Snickers bars. My approach is willful ignorance: what I don't read on the label can't hurt me.

All the same, I'm not opposed to a higher quality version of junk food which contains ingredients I can actually pronounce. I've enjoyed myself a homemade Pop-tart and homemade girl scout cookies over the years, and enjoyed every moment of them.

So when Legit Organics contacted me to ask if I'd sample their candy bars, which are fancied-up, organic, non-GMO, sans hydrogenated oil bars with flavor combinations eerily reminicent of some popular store-bought varieties, I said sure.

When I got the box, I eagerly opened it. This was where I encountered what would be the only confusion in the taste experience.

The packaging. 

Legit OrganicsLegit Organics

Don't get me wrong here: I think the design itself of the candy bar wrappers is very nicely done and slick. However, the style looks more like the type of packaging I'd expect on energy bars or protein bars. What do you think?

But I didn't let this moment stop me. I opened up the "Shot Caller" first, which is described as "roasted peanuts. Soft caramel. Airy nougat. Rich milk chocolate. Wholesome organic ingredients. The boss of all candy bars."

Legit Organics

And I have to say...it was pretty darned good. From the get-go it was apparent that this was a superior product to a candy bar you'd buy at the drugstore checkout: the chocolate didn't taste waxy, and the flavors were all clear and well combined. Everything kind of melted together in the mouth, and it made you wonder if maybe this is how candy bars tasted back in the day before everything was chock full of additives. 

Legit Organics

Next up was "Word", described as "Soft salted caramel. Pillowy malted nougat. Rich milk chocolate. Wholesome organic ingredients. Word."

Legit Organics

This bar was my kind of word. To me, malted nougat of the sort featured in a popular candy bar named after musketeers is kind of like crack, and this was a well made version of it. It was a soft nougat which worked beautifully with the thick, flavorful caramel on top. And the chocolate coating around it, once again, was superior in taste to typical candy bars, making it an overall delightful treat. 

Legit Organics promoted the bars as a more virtuous alternative to the crappy Halloween candy out there (I am paraphrasing, here). Well, I'm not one to knock tradition, but if you're looking for something you can feel less bad about sharing during this candy-rich season, I will say that these bars by Legit Organics are a fine option for you. 

Legit Organics

Plus, since they're big bars, you can be the cool house on the block that quickly becomes known as "giving out full bars!" (trust me--I was a kid, not that long ago. That info will travel fast.)

To find out more, visit legitorganics.com.

Thursday
Sep042014

Shoe Bakery: Omigod

Photos via Shoe BakeryPerhaps I'm showing my "(very) minor internet celebrity diva" side in saying this, but here goes: I rarely get so excited about something that I must blog about it immediately. After all, a blog post typically involves a lot of stuff: taking pictures, editing and cropping pictures, checking my spelling, baking a cake or going to a bakery, eating it. Life is pretty hard. 

But this one, I needed to share right away. These goods are sweet, but not to eat: sweets-themed shoes by Shoe Bakery. Oh, and I don't really care if you already think this is old news. It's new to me, and it's my site, nyah nyah nyah.

I love shoes. Shoes and glasses are my accessories of choice. And regarding the former, these ones get me excited, because they involve one of my other major passions: sweets. 

I'm going to mostly shut up now other than to tell you they have heels and flats, all sorts of sizing, and are moderate in price ($70-150 for the most part)...and now, I'll just show you some of the goods. I can't imagine that you won't be as excited as me. 

Find out more, and shop, on shoebakery.com.

 

Monday
Feb182013

Sweet Product: Unicorn Shaped Sprinkle Shaker

Image: thefancy.comOMG, people. I was alerted to this important and life-changing news this morning by my cakey BFF Bakerella: a unicorn-shaped sprinkle shaker exists.

It's available on thefancy.com. As the product info page reveals,

Shower your sweet treat with some sprinkles dusted by the fairytale-like Unicorn Sprinkles Shaker. Holes at the top of the unicorn's body release the sprinkles after you flip it upside down and shake. Multi-coloured sprinkles will scatter over your ice cream, cake or anything that you want to add a sugary and colourful taste to. The mythical unicorn will add a more mystical look to your kitchen as well as adding a magical taste to your food.

I love this thing! The news of its existence, by the way, was broken to me in the most effective way possible: via twitter. Bakerella put it succinctly: "@cakespy," she said, "you must get this!".

Truer words have never been spoken, because yes, I need this thing. And you do too. Here's the link to buy.

Monday
Oct082012

Why You Should Buy Bake it in a Cupcake by Megan Seling

Bake it in a cake book

Why should you buy Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside by Megan Seling of Bake it in a Cake?

Oh, don't be stupid. Why *shouldn't* you buy it? There is really no reason. But in case you insist on being stubborn about it, let me tell you just a few (ten) of the reasons why you must. 

I say so. And when it comes to books about cupcakes and baked goods, I own pretty much all of them, and I know what I am talking about. You trust me.

Buy megan's book!

I am quoted on the back cover. Remember what you read in reason #1, about trusting me? Trusting me means it is also unicorn-approved. But wait, there's more...

I'm not alone in being quoted on the back cover. Also quoted are Dan Savage (yes, that one) and Andrew Zimmern. They also think you should buy the book, btw.

Megan is an amusing writer. Having honed her writing chops at Seattle's The Stranger, she's quick, clever, and witty. You'll enjoy reading her. Her witty repartee will amuse you while you wait for the cupcakes to bake.

Her recipes are very easy to follow! These recipes are user-friendly, which is good for dopes like me who sometimes need reassurance.

Bake it in a cake book

The recipes yield impressive results. Want to knock the socks off of visitors, friends, or co-workers? How 'bout making up some cupcakes with baklava inside, or a cheesecake stuffed with mini pie-stuffed cakes?You'll establish yourself as clever, talented, and internationally savvy.

The cupcakes will make you fat. But happy fat, not sad and lonely fat. They're buttery and delicious!

Because you've never had a book that can literally teach you how to bake love into a cupcake before. Come on! Just look at the cover!

Bake it in a cake book

The recipes are crowd pleasers. You'll be able to find things to serve at dinner parties, but you'll also kind kid-friendly and even cat-friendly things, too!!

Because it's fun! Bake it in a Cake is clever, fun, and cute. What's not to love?

Also, I like Megan. Personally. I mentioned her in my book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life, too!

In case you haven't already, you can buy the book here: Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside

Thursday
Nov172011

Sweet Stuff: Red Envelope Gifts for Bakers

So, recently I was approached by Red Envelope, asking if I'd like to test out some of their holiday wares for consideration on my site.

They sent me a gift card and let me shop. Woohoo!

And here's what I chose:

First, the personalized red mug (pictured top). How cute is this, especially when personalized? I think mine looks rather fetching with the best book in the world (mine) and a cute cupcake from Sweet in Hoboken.

My second choice was the personalized Jessie Steele apron. Since I am fairly petite, I got it in a child's size and had it personalized with "CakeSpy" (not sure if you can see the whole thing behind that magazine). I think I look rather adorable in it. They also have adult sizes, although those are not available for full personalization--just monograms.

Overall, if you're looking for some sweet holiday gift ideas, Red Envelope is going to be a good bet, especially if your recipients love personalized stuff as much as I do.

To shop, visit Red Envelope.

 

Friday
Sep232011

Sweet Find: Scanwiches by Jon Chonko

From Scanwiches by Jon Chonko, published by powerHouse Books.I am absolutely obsessed with the new book Scanwiches by Jon Chonko, published by Powerhouse Books. This book features oddly sexy, almost Damien Hirst-style sandwich cross sections, presented in a high design sort of way and then gives a blurb about the sandwich's specs and place in society. While it is not a recipe book per se, it does feature the "construction" of each sandwich, so it invites readers to create their own versions (or seek out the best in their town). 

But don't take my word for it all; here's the official book description.

Scanwiches takes the sandwich and spreads it out for all to see. There's nothing quaint or humble about its presentation. From full-frontal, cross sections of monsters like the Dagwood and club, to minute, geometric tea sandwiches whose construction looks more like minimalist art than culinary creation, Scanwiches presents unabashed food porn that satiates even the most severe sandwich fetish. A supernova of swirling bread, cheese, meat, and lettuce, suspended in a black, vacuous space, and reproduced at actual size, each sandwich lays imposing, exposed, and tantalizing. Complimented by text revealing the origins and development of each sandwich throughout history, you'll learn to love and lust after these lowbrow delicacies in a whole new way.

From Scanwiches by Jon Chonko, published by powerHouse Books.But why should it be written up on a cake and dessert themed website? Because while there aren't many dessert sandwiches, there are enough to make it of interest to the dessert lover. Profiles on the fluffernutter and on sweet tea sandwiches captured my interest in particular, and I think they would interest you, too. In fact, the tea sandwich has spawned the idea for my next entry on Serious Eats (picture preview below!).

Buy the book Scanwiches here.

Tuesday
May102011

U-Bake, I-Eat: U-Bake Cookies by Grand Central Baking Company

Grand Central Baking, which has retail bakery locations in Seattle (at one of which I got to wake up early and experience the life of an early-morning baker) and Portland, has expanded their repertoire to offer some new U-Bake products, including pie dough, puff pastry, and sweet little ready-to-bake nuggets of delicious cookie dough.

And recently they asked me if I'd like a sample to try out at home.

Hmm, free cookie dough? Count me in, baby.

When I went to pick up my sample, the employee asked which flavor(s) of cookie dough I'd like; I asked her which was the best one. When she hesitated, I said, "Well, tell me which one is your favorite." Much better: "The oatmeal chocolate chip" she said, not missing a beat. Sold!

So brought my little bucket of baby hockey-pucks of ready-to-bake dough home, and set to preheating. I simply placed them on the cookie sheet and baked, and 9-13 minutes later, the picture at the top of the post is what came out of the oven. Well, minus the googly eyes.

A little weird-looking on top, so maybe I'd finesse the dough into balls a little more before baking, but that complaint is purely visual. The cookies were very good--and when I brought a tin of 'em to my friends at Madison Park Greetings (my former employer before I took on full-time Cake Gumshoery), they were quite pleased, too.

U-Bake cookie dough is available at Grand Central Baking locations; visit their website here. Also, you should probably buy their book, The Grand Central Baking Book: Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Pies, and Satisfying Savories from the Pacific Northwest's Celebrated Bakery -- because I have it and can attest that it's got some good recipes.

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