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Entries in interviews (13)

Friday
Mar212014

Batter Chatter with Ruth Clemens, Author of Creative Eclairs

As a blogger who has made the jump to published author, I am always happy to welcome others to the club. So I was super excited to hear that Ruth Clemens, baker extraordinaire who blogs at The Pink Whisk, had published a book. And oh, what a book: entitled Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations, this is a necessary volume for eclair lovers. Everyone loves eclairs, therefore you must buy the book. See? Science.

I interviewed Ruth as part of her book tour blog hop; to see the other entries, click here

And now, on to the interview. Let's get some clarity on the world of an eclair book writer! This interview may be of great interest to bloggers who are interested in writing a book, too!

Why are eclairs better than doughnuts?

I can’t tell you that they are (especially as I know your love for doughnuts!) but they are just as good. They share the same good traits in that treating yourself to one or two (or 3, or 4 - who am I kidding?) is thoroughly utterly lovely. You can dress them up to the nines with sprinkles, decorations or glitz, you can keep them simple and understated but they are always packed with mind blowing flavours, filling combinations and textures. There is something for everyone and every occasion, I’ll have one of each please!

Writing a cookbook is a serious process. Here is a two part question regarding that.

a. What was the most difficult part of the process for you?

The hardest part I find is to decide what makes it into the book and what gets cut out – which recipes to develop from an idea into reality. I still go over in my mind the recipes that I didn’t put in and wonder if I made the right decision. I always try to cover recipes for lots of different tastes and not just my own preference so that there’s something to tempt everyone.

b. What was the most fun part of the process for you and why?

The most fun part has got to be getting in the kitchen and turning the ideas on paper into a reality. I love the creativity of playing around with something until it’s just the way you want it. Of course I get frustrated when things won’t do what I want but I tend to park an idea and then come back to it again later. I lose whole days when I get to play in the kitchen, no email, no phone and I just thoroughly enjoy creating a mountain of washing up, before I know it it’s school pick up time, I’ve got flour in my hair and I have to fly to the playground in a mad dash to meet the kids!

What happened to the eclairs after the photo shoots?

Everyone at the shoot was sent home with treat boxes full of all sorts of flavours. The rest (and we were probably dealing with over 100 eclairs each day of the shoot) were boxed up and taken to my boys lacrosse training groups – they soon disappeared and none of them went to waste!

Which recipe from your book would you suggest for the beginning French pastry-maker and why?

It has to be Classic Chocolate Eclairs as a first foray into choux pastry. A simple choux, crème patissiere and a ganache and you have something utterly wonderful. It’s a confidence builder and from there on in EVERYTHING else is achievable.

Not everybody knows that choux is for more than just making eclair shells. What is one of your favorite non-eclair items from the book which uses choux pastry and why?

I love the Pecan Streusel Buns and I have to admit I fear for those buns! They are plain and simple looking and for that I worry that they’ll be overlooked. They are however one of the loveliest tasting buns I’ve ever had and have to admit I make them here time and time again. Now you’re probably thinking that I’m a little bit mad worrying about buns and going over the poor recipes that didn’t make the cut, actually it’s most likely true but I do put my heart and soul into the recipes and my books and can only hope when they make it onto book shelves in bakers homes that they enjoy the recipes and put them to good use. The ultimate accolade is for books to be so well used that the pages are sticking together.

Tell me three things about you that we might not expect if all we knew of you was this book.

1. I’m a normal Mum, running round after the kids, nagging them to do homework/spellings/chores, walking the dog, doing the washing (or getting behind with it more like), shopping, nattering at the school gates all the usual Mum and family stuff with a bit of baking thrown in for good measure.

2. I get things wrong in the kitchen all the time. It’s only through practice and ten tons of it, doing the same thing over and over that I I’ve taught myself to get better and more successful in my baking.

3. You might not expect that in fact my kitchen at home, where all the recipes come to life is in fact the size of a miniature peanut. The longest length of continuous worksurface I have is approx. 60cm long and I share that working space with the kettle, tea, coffee and sugar. I am the master at balancing and impromptu resting spots, creative baking (and juggling) at its finest!

Did you have to go on an eclair diet after writing the book?

Strangely no! I have subjected my family to overdose on various different bakes throughout the past couple of years cake and bread included, just through the repetition that’s required when writing a book. Eclairs they will still hoover up instantly without any complaint and only the odd physical fight over the last one left. When there’s choux being made no-one runs to hide. I was also pretty well organised at squirrelling the testers out to friends and family quick sharp so there was never enough to overface my boys! Fortunately eclairs are now interspersed with other treats otherwise we’d all be ending up the sizes of houses here.

What's next?

For me it’s back to my blog, The Pink Whisk (and the cooking, cleaning washing), writing recipes to share with the baking mad masses and beyond that really who knows! I’d love to get to work on a new book and have some ideas in the pipeline but in the meantime I’m off to make some more washing up…

Buy the book here: Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations. We'll share a recipe from the book next week, too!

Saturday
Jun152013

Batter Chatter: Citi of Sweets, North Carolina

Citi of Sweets

Oh, hi. You know what kind of city I love? One made of sweets. That's sort of the idea behind Citi of Sweets, a boutique baking business which specializes in homemade treats like whoopie pies, cake truffles, and other decadent goodies. 

Now, it's exciting to share this business with you for two reasons: one, it's always fun to discover a new baking business. Two, they're offering a giveaway! See the bottom of this post for how to enter. 

Please describe your business in 6 words or less? Non-traditional, sweet, fun, creative, challenging and friendly.

Citi of Sweets

What's your personal favorite item on your menu? Ayesha: whoopie pies(strawberry with buttercream) Chanel: Cookies N Cream cake truffles

What made you take the jump from amateur to professional baking? Chanel:It started as just something i wanted to try and i asked my best friend ayesha to help me experiment and it turned out horrible at first the cake was just not staying on the sticks and it was just a chocolate disaster so we left it alone and then we ended up trying again a month or so later and we were way better at it and we started doing them more and getting better and better with practice and time. We then came up with our name and menu and we've been baking ever since we started with our co-workers at our job and we haven't had a bad complaint ever in 2 years. We like being creative and making our customers happy.

What's the best thing to happen to you in the past 48 hours? We went grocery shopping to get more supplies to make more sweets!

Citi of Sweets

Cake or Pie? Cake

If you had to wear one pair of shoes for the rest of my life what would they be? Chanel: Purple Fuzzy Slippers Ayesha: Angry Birds Slippers

What's your favorite non-sweet food? Ayesha: hot wings Chanel: fries

What quality do you most value in others? Honesty

What is your biggest dream? Our biggest dream is to have Citi of Sweets all across the world.

Citi of Sweets

What's your next hope for your business? to open our first storefront in Charlotte.

Now... back to that giveaway! Here's what two lucky winners will receive: 2 Cake Pop Samplers Dozens one to each winner. They will be available for pick up, or shipping. The flavors will be (3) trrriple threat(chocolate) (3) butter pecan, (3) cookies n cream and (3) french vanilla.

Yum! So how to enter? It's easy. Just do this:

1. Simply "like" Citi of Sweets on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

2. Leave a comment on this post (don't worry if it doesn't show up right away, moderation is enabled!) stating your favorite flavor of cake.

I'll choose a winner at random 1 week from today (Saturday, June 23, 12pm PST). To ensure fresh tastiness of the prize, we're only going to allow US entrants on this particular giveaway!

For more, check 'em out online: Citi of Sweets

Sunday
May052013

Batter Chatter: Interview with CB, Recipe Tester for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Curious about the secret life of a recipe tester? Well, lucky you, because I want to introduce you to CB of I Heart Cuppycakes, one of the recipe testers for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. She had the momentous task of testing chocolate chip cookies made in the "old-fashioned" way for the book--let's see what the experience was like, shall we?

How did you feel to be approached about testing recipes for this awesome book? Jessie is one of my idols so when she asked me to test out a recipe for her book I accepted calmly but inside I was screaming "OMGOMGOMG me? YES YES YES!"

What recipe did you test?  Original toll house chocolate chip cookies

Did anything surprise you about the recipe or testing process? The recipe didn't specify what kind of nuts or brown sugar so I used walnuts and dark brown sugar. I also used 8 oz Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bar. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly as written. I was "this" close to excluding the nuts b/c I'm usually not a fan but this recipe has forever changed my mind about adding nuts and using cut up chocolate instead of chips.

What's the best thing to happen to you in the last 48 hours? I found a dollar in the trashcan. It pays to recycle!

What are your thoughts on cake for breakfast? I'm all over it, like a fat kid.

Can you suggest a polite way to extract myself from conversations with people once they've said "I don't like dessert"? Answer: That's ok! I don't like beets.

Zombie apocalypse! You only have time to grab three objects from your home before running. What are they? Assuming dog and husband can fend for themselves right?... iphone, laptop and Coach purse.

What quality to you most admire in a person? Sense of humor, not taking themselves too seriously

What is your personal mission statement? You only fail if you quit.

What is your favorite US city for eating? San Francisco

What's the best gift you've ever been given? My husband gave me his heart on our wedding day. That's priceless.

If you were able to go back in time and give your 13-year old self a message, what would it be? Don't worry NKOTB will make a comeback!

For more of CB's work, visit I Heart Cuppycakes; to see the delicious recipes post-testing, buy The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.

Sunday
Apr212013

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kristin Ausk, Recipe Tester for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Pink Frosted cookies


Curious about the secret life of a recipe tester? Learn more about one of the fantastic recipe testers (and overall awesome person) for my new book: Kristin Ausk, owner of So-Cal's beloved Meringue Bake Shop! We'll discuss the recipe testing a bit, but also give you a little more of her back-story, too!



How did you feel to be approached about testing recipes for this awesome book? I was so excited! Very honored. I love trying out new recipes. And love helping out friends. 


What recipe did you test? I tested the pink frosted cookies.


Did anything surprise you about the recipe or testing process? The only thing that surprised me was the amount of flour. I worried they would end up dry. But they were perfect. Absolutely delicious & cakey. The frosting on top was the best. I made a slight alteration to the recipe and added some Princess Cake & Cookie baking emulsion from KAF to the batter along with the vanilla. And I added 1/4 tsp of almond extract to the frosting.


What are your thoughts on cake for breakfast? Yes please. My sweet tooth is really bad in the morning. I am a donuts/muffins/scones/pancakes/cake person. And always with a cup of coffee.


Can you suggest a polite way to extract myself from conversations with people once they've said "I don't like dessert"? I would just throw down whatever is in my hands and shout "i'm out!" and walk away.



What is your favorite US city for eating? I'd have to say Seattle. With San Francisco a close second. But I should add that I haven't been many places. I've never been to NY. Or Austin. Or Nashville. Or St. Louis. Which I hear are great foodie cities too.


For more of Kristin's work, visit the Meringue Bake Shop website. It would also be a good idea to buy my book: The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.

Wednesday
Apr172013

Batter Chatter: Interview with Baker-Author Gesine Bullock-Prado

Are you a baker? Do you think you're pretty cool? Well, think again. Because Gesine Bullock-Prado wrote the book on cool baking. Actually, she's written several: My Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a TimeSugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar; Pie It Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes, and Other Pastries Reinvented; and now, Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out. I mean, seriously. You should take a few minutes here to buy all of them.

I baked something last week from the most recent book, and man, did it ever go over well. You'll have to wait a few days for that post, because I've been busy painting cupcakes and unicorns. But in the meantime I will show you a picture of one of the cakes from the book that my friend Peabody made. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her picture, especially since I didn't ask. But seriously, isn't this amazing?Image: Peabody

Yes, this cake, baked by Peabody, is one of the recipes featured in Bake It Like You Mean It.

Now, if you, like me, are curious to know more about the baking prodigy behind this creative deliciousness, well, you're in luck. Because Gesine was kind enough to answer a few questions so we could all get to know her better. This should whet your appetite til I can post that recipe!

Interview with Gesine Bullock-Prado

What's the best thing to happen to you in the last 48 hours?  The Dartmouth Women's Tennis team sent me a long sleeved team t-shirt to thank me for making them a cake while they were on the road, competing in LA.  I was away from home too, baking in California for the Bake It publicity tour, and I was already in the groove so I pumped out a checkerboard cake to fuel them away from home.  I really wasn't doing it for the cozy t-shirt, I swear.

What are your thoughts on cake for breakfast?  My thoughts are,"yes please."  And let's not forget that muffins, everyone's favorite morning comestible, are really just cake in paper Spanx.

Can you suggest a polite way to extract myself from conversations with people once they've said "I don't like dessert"?  "I have the number of a wonderful therapist who can help you with that."

Do you have any superstitions?  They usually follow along the lines of the rules of "Fight Club."  So I can't talk about them.

Zombie apocalypse! You only have time to grab three objects from your home before running. What are they?  The husband (I often treat him as an object because he's so pretty), the dogs (they count as a single unit and I might stuff them when they pass, so I'm counting them as objects too) and my flock of chickens and water fowl (also counting them as a single unit and see my dog answer re stuffing).

WITHOUT GOOGLING IT: what is cream of tartar, anyway?  If it's a something to do with pastry AND wine, I'll likely know the answer.  Cream of tartar happens to be and acid derived from a sediment left over from delicious wine fermentation,   I also am a meringue fiend and am friends with all acids that help in denaturing egg whites.  Do I get some wine for knowing the answer?



What quality to you most admire in a person?  Kindness

What is your personal mission statement?  Bake it like you mean it.  I'm not kidding.  I've been using it as a mantra for a kagillion years and it took me that long to realize that I could recycle it for use as a book title.  

What is your favorite US city for eating?  Vermont.  I's not a city but our entire population doesn't match the census numbers in a NYC borough so I think it counts.  I think we should rename the state Cheese City.

If you could choose any person living or dead to bake a cake or treat for, who would it be and why?  Mark Twain.  He loved his pie.  While he was spending an extended period of time in the UK, he wrote fantastic letters to his housekeeper back in the states just listing all the pies he wanted to eat when he got back home.

What's the best gift you've ever given?  A Zojirushi Fuzzy Logic rice maker along with a bundle of Japanese Pub Food cookbooks to my husband.  This was a few years ago and I'm still getting great food out of him on a weekly basis.  

Since you live in Vermont...can you tell me a story about creemees? They are delicious and not meant for the lactose intolerant.  I tolerate lactose beautifully so my stories don't include any danger or hijinks.  

If you were able to go back in time and give your 13-year old self a message, what would it be?  Buy stock in Microsoft & Apple.  

 

- - - - -

Don't you love her? Buy the book now: Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out

Monday
Apr152013

Batter Chatter: Interview With Laurie Pfalzer, Food Stylist for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Baked Alaska

Talk about a job that sounds delicious and glamorous: food styling for cookbooks! But is it really as non-stop fun as it sounds? This is a question that occurred to me while working with Laurie Pfalzer, the food stylist for my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. Her job involved a lot of things: a bit of recipe testing and tweaking, lots of kitchen know-how, and the ability to beautify a dessert and keep it safe under bright photo lights. That's a lot to juggle! Here's a behind the scenes look at what goes into her work, both as a food stylist and a baking teacher--and owner of Pastry Craft. The post is punctuated by pictures of desserts from the book--styling by Laurie, photos by the ever-talented Clare Barboza.

If you look back in your own personal history, can you pinpoint the moment you decided to become a baker? Or, can you pinpoint a pivotal moment in which you realized how important baking would be in your life?  Baking has always been a large part of my life because I grew up in a home with fabulous homemade pies, cakes and other baked goods and desserts.My mother is a great baker and she really takes it in stride. She makes it look easy, so I grew up without any fears about baking - unlike some of my students who didn't grow up with that influence and are now trying to learn. As kids, my sisters and I had baking lessons with our mother every summer. (With five kids, you can imagine my mother had a very elaborate summer schedule to keep us all in line and baking and cooking was part of it. I also knew how to break down a chicken before I was 10.) We learned to cream sugar and butter by hand (even though we always had a stand mixer).  All of that said, I guess there wasn't a pivotal moment. Baking was there from the very beginning.

How were you approached to work on the new CakeSpy book? It was quite on the fly. I was teaching a pastry class at Book Larder in Seattle and the editor from Sasquatch Books (who was looking for a pastry chef for your book) happened to see the ad for my class. She contacted me and the rest is history.  I had never really considered doing food styling, although I do some for my own site, Pastry Craft. It was a new experience for me, but a very pleasant one. I would certainly do it again.

 

Is working as a baker and food stylist for a cookbook really as glamorous as it sounds?  It's certainly fun and intense, but glamorous? No. Like the culinary field, it's a lot of hard work. With foodstyling baked goods, most of the work is done ahead of time and then the desserts are finished just before shooting. As a baker, you learn to plan ahead - prep, then bake, then finish. Baking and pastry is all about time and temperature, so when you're baking and food styling, if you plan well, then things will generally go smoothly.

Pink Frosted cookies

What was the most interesting thing you baked from the new CakeSpy book, and why?  A lot of the recipes were things I had not made before, so that made the entire project interesting. But I have to say that the Smith Island Cake was really "interesting" and a logistical challenge.  The history of the cake is fascinating and it contributes to understanding how the cake is put together. The VERY thin cakes are baked in separate pans and then stacked with the chocolate glaze while still warm. It is one of the more challenging cakes in the book, but I was very pleased with how it turned out. It pays to read the recipe carefully and follow it. Your instructions were right on the mark!

How did it feel to see your beautiful work reflected in the book? It's always a treat for a cook to see their work in a beautiful picture. We often get caught up in the creating of it and don't always take time to step back and appreciate it's beauty. And in a restaurant it's created and then "whoosh!" - it's been picked up by the server and on it's way to the table.  Clare Barboza, the photographer, had a great feel for the style of the book and the desserts we were working with. Her use of light is wonderful. The book exceeded my expectations. I would buy it if I saw it in a store and I'm pretty picky when it comes to purchasing cookbooks.

Better than sex cake

Tell me about one of your baking heroes.  Of current fame, I think David Lebovitz, Dorie Greenspan and Alice Medrich are people I point out often to my students. They both write their recipes clearly with lots of instruction that's helpful to new bakers and they appreciate the fundamentals of baking. For bread, Jeffrey Hamelman, who wrote Bread and who was my mentor when I worked at King Arthur Flour, is a gorgeous baker. The knowledge and care with which he approaches bread (and pastry) is so inspiring. I'm still a big fan of Julia Child (even though she wasn't exclusively a baker) because I appreciate her attitude toward cooking. Like my mother, she took cooking in stride and makes it seem approachable. That is something I am always trying to communicate in my classes.

You bake a lot...but when it's time to enjoy EATING baked goods or desserts, what are some of your favorites?  I love a good croissant and there are several in Seattle. My favorite is made at Cafe Besalu in Ballard which just happens to be right next to my favorite bread bakery in Seattle, Tall Grass Bakery. But we are lucky to have a diverse group of bakeries in Seattle that each have their own influence. I also love pie, but I still haven't found a good fruit pie like it's made at home. Occasionally, I go with friends on a "pastry crawl" to check out new bakeries. It's pretty tough to eat your way through a lot of bakeries in one day!

Lemon meringue pie

Seriously. If pie and cake were to have a knife fight, who do you think would win? I've always been a pie fan, so I gotta say pie would have the edge (sorry for the pun).

Any tips for those looking to get into professional baking you can impart? The first thing I'd say is that there's no free lunch. That's just a quick way to say that it's hard work and it's important going in knowing that. Working in food service means long hours and low pay, so you really need to be committed to hanging in there. If you're a home cook or baker and you want to make it your career, then go for it. But consider that turning a hobby into a career will change the way you look at it - not necessarily a negative change, but a change nonetheless. I always knew I'd take a more unorthodox route after culinary school and I was lucky to establish myself as a baking and pastry instructor. I love my students and I love helping them discover the pastry world.

Laurie at work

What's the next class, baking project, or dessert related event in general that you're excited about?  I'm doing a rhubarb class with Diane LaVonne at Diane's Market Kitchen in Seattle in May that should be a blast. We'll be doing a tasting meal with rhubarb in every course. I'm a huge rhubarb fan (I have 7 rhubarb plants in my garden) and I think there isn't enough attention paid to this vegetable which is actually treated like a fruit. (Did you know Washington State grows more rhubarb than anywhere in the world?) I've been wanting to teach an all-rhubarb class for awhile and I always love being in the kitchen teaching with Diane.

For more about Laurie, visit her website, Pastry Craft! To see her work in my new book, buy it here:The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts, or come see me on tour!

 

Thursday
Jan172013

Batter Chatter: Interview with Ashley Foxen of Reality Bites Cupcakes

Reality Bites Cupcakes

Reality Bites, but Cupcakes Are Sweet. Sounds like a wise proverb, but truthfully I just made it up to illustrate the fantastic sweetness with a humorous edge (see trompe l'oeil "pancake" cupcake, above) that goes on in the kitchen (which is then documented on the web) of Ashley Foxen, proprietress of Reality Bites Cupcakes. This sweet blog and small baking business is based in NYC, where Miss Foxen focuses on making the big apple just a little sweeter each day. 

Recently, we decided to learn a bit more about each other by conducting some e-mail interviews. Here is the link to her corresponding interview with me; and now, here are the scintillating questions I asked her, punctuated with images of her sweet cupcake creations:

Reality Bites Cupcakes

First things first. Who-what-where-when-why?

Who: Ashley Foxen

What: Reality Bites Cupcakes

When: Est. September 2012

Why: I found my artsy self in the corporate world, desperately trying to find a way to fulfill my creative needs while working a full time job. For fun, I began baking for coworkers' birthdays, and it all snow balled from there! I hadn't even thought of defining myself as a "food artist" until reading CakeSpy, but I think it's perfect. I have found a way to combine my art background with my deep desire to make people happy.

How: That is a wonderful question! I work out of my apartment, which you may realize cannot be all that big in NYC. But, I have found a way to make it work by both maximizing the use of the space I have (from the counters to the windowsills) and traveling to my family's home in the suburbs for bigger, more complicated projects. Which leads me to mention my sister and mother who have been incredible helps in this whole process. They are the brains and brawn of Reality Bites.

Reality Bites Cupcakes

What (in your opinion) is the finest trompe l'oeil cupcake you've ever made, and why? Hands down, it is the "bagel" cupcakes. They are an original idea, inspired by a food New York does best. These cupcakes even fool me, as I tend to crave the doughy goodness of a real bagel, when seconds earlier I was ready for dessert! They tease the taste buds more so than any other cupcake I have made.

Tell me about a life changing cupcake you've eaten. Oddly enough, I don't think it was a cupcake, but an entire chocolate cake. It was my first birthday, and instead of having to share it with everyone, my mother put the whole cake in front of me. It was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting- plain and simple- and it was all mine. I have never looked so happy as I do in the photos from that day. There is cake everywhere, particularly all over my face, hands and in my hair, but the smile on my face is priceless. How can anything top that? Clearly, I found joy in baked goods at a very young age.

Reality Bites Cupcakes

If you went back 200 years in time, how would you describe the modern-day cupcake craze to our forefathers? This is a tough one. How do you explain to anyone of that time that people wait in line for hours for baked goods? I guess I would explain that the cupcake craze has caused wars in the future- go with a topic they may be familiar with. Claiming one's cupcake territory is important, and while no one has died, Cupcake Wars gets pretty intense!

Reality Bites Cupcakes

What are the biggest differences between the baked goods of NYC and Paris, another place you've lived? I studied abroad in Paris and made a valiant attempt to eat my way through the City of Light. From macaroons (which NYC has since imported) to chocolate croissants, to a crepe with Nutella, I taste tested everything- a few times. There is something about the baked goods of Paris that makes them unlike those anywhere else. Everything tastes so fresh that it somehow becomes guilt free (or so I told myself). Maybe it is because things don't appear to be as mass produced there, but the treats of Paris all feel as if they are made just for you- particularly the crepe vendors on every other street that make them in front of you.  

Reality Bites Cupcakes

What is your biggest dessert dream? A cup of frozen yogurt that does not melt, refills itself, and cannot give me brain freeze.

For more sweetness, visit the Reality Bites Cupcakes website; there's also a twitter feed!

Thursday
Jul052012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Lauren Garcia of Sweetly Unexpected

Sweetly Unexpected

Meet the baker behind the cakes: in this case, 19-year old Lauren Garcia of Sweetly Unexpected, a New Jersey based baking business which currently operates a pop-up shop. But, um, did I mention that in addition to running her baking business, she is a full time student? Curious to learn more about her inspiring story? Read on, sweet friends:

Sweetly Unexpected

Sweetly Unexpected, you have an interesting story. Mind telling me how you got started? I've always loved cupcakes. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix (still am) and I used to make it with my cousins all the time. At around 16 years old, I started making cupcakes from scratch and it took me about two years to truly get my cupcakes to the standards I want Sweetly Unexpected to uphold and I believe that I've been exceeding those standards each and every day.

Do you think it's possible to have two careers--in your case, student and sweetsmaker--at once? As a full time nursing student, I'm well aware of how hard classes get as I progress with my clinicals. But my passion has and always will be baking. With the dedication I have and the support I receive from not only my family but also my friends, I really don't think there is anything I can't do. I've always been taught to put my 110% into everything I do and I am planning on doing just that for both my careers, even when I become a nurse.

Sweetly unexpected

What do you do for fun if you find yourself with the day (or a few hours) off? Lately I haven't had any time for myself.. but I love being with my fiance when I have time off. We, both, love movies, going out to eat, going on road trips, and hanging out in NYC. But I love love love to watch Cupcake Wars and go visit other bakeries whenever I get a chance -- it's almost like my hobby.

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You don't have your own retail storefront but you have a booth in an existing storefront. How exactly does that work? I met the owners of Vesso Bakery and Cafe through close family friends, who have photographed me since I was 15 years old-- redstudios.tv). They offer European food and some desserts but they didn't offer cupcakes so they were very excited to have me become a part of their business. After partnering up, we agreed that I would set up a booth and sell cupcakes out of their Bakery/Cafe. However, not every week is the same, I rotate cupcake flavors every day as well as make whoopie pies, cake pops, cookies and brownies. Not to mention, we also do Custom Cakes that can be ordered by coming in to Vesso Bakery or calling me and sitting down with me to discuss what their vision is for their cake or special occasion.

Sweetly Unexpected

How do you eat a cupcake? I like to take the bottom part of the cupcake and put it on top of the frosting. Sort of like a whoopie pie. It's just so much fun that way! It's like another DIY whoopie pie.

What are your signature offerings? I truly believe that my cream cheese frosting is Sweetly Unexpected's signature. But as for the cupcake flavors, I think my guava cupcakes topped with a cream cheese frosting is my signature because it describes both my background (Since I'm Cuban) and the creativity behind Sweetly Unexpected.

Sweetly Unexpected

What is your personal favorite item on the menu? I've always loved vanilla everything! So my vanilla cupcake topped with a vanilla buttercream (Vanilla Love Affair) is my favorite. Second, would be the guava cupcake (Paradise Island), which is our most sought out cupcake at Vesso Bakery and Cafe.

Sweetly unexpected

What are three major goals or wishes for the next five years? 1. I want to expand my bakery to an actual storefront -- my ultimate wish. 2. I want to graduate college with honors. 3. I want Sweetly Unexpected to be a huge part of the community and I want to work closely with organizations that help young children.

What is your business philosophy? Sweetly Unexpected's business philosophy is that at Sweetly Unexpected, quality will never be sacrificed for quantity and that with every cupcake you have, your life will get a little bit sweeter. Any words of wisdom for wannabe professional bakers? You will never know how far you will go with your dreams, if you never make the first step. Dream big and stay positive and good will come your way. I'd also like to say, don't get disappointed when things don't come out the way you want it, with baking practice is KEY.

What's next? Sweetly Unexpected Bake Shop recently signed up for the LivingSocial/Chase grant and we qualified for a 250k grant! If we win, we'd love to open up a shop in NJ near NYC. If we don't, we're still hoping to open up a store.

Want more? Visit Sweetly Unexpected online here to learn more.

Sunday
Jul012012

Batter Chatter: Interview with Amy Dumas, Pro Wrestler

Have you heard of SugarSlam? If not, are you in for some amazing cake-filled awesomeness. It's a yearly event put on by Natalie of Bake & Destroy, where you can flex your baking muscles. This year, according to the websit, "there are two titles up for grabs: SugarSlam 2012 Champion and People’s Choice. Our panel of judges will choose the Champ: Zach LinderAmy Dumas & Justin Howard."

Just be sure to enter SOON, because the deadline is coming up on July 20!

And as part of the festivities, celebrity Amy Dumas (you may know her as the WWE's Lita or as the lead singer of the Luchagors, among other career highlights) agreed to be interviewed on a foodie blog of Natalie's choosing. Well, naturally as a site equally as awesome as her own she chose CakeSpy!

And so here comes the first ever interview with a professional wrestler. It involves cake, promise.

I hear you're a healthy eater. That's perfectly acceptable. But when you indulge, what baked goods or desserts do you enjoy best? I am a healthy eater, but it's only so I can enjoy sweets! Um, how do I narrow it down? What desserts? Yes. All of them. Ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, whatever. Mint chocolate anything, peanut butter chocolate, cinnamon, caramel, coconut, dark chocolate. I love trying out fancy food places in my travels, but I find sometimes fancy desserts miss the mark. You know, like hazelnut infused mango truffle glazed ganache? Fuck that. Give me a donut, or a cupcake or ice cream. 

You've traveled all over the world. Can you tell me about a country or city's food culture that particularly fascinates you? Some of my favorite places to go aren't real big on desserts. I love Central and South America and Japan, but I can't say my most fond memories there revolve around a tres leches cake or some green tea ice cream. Europe has the lock on yummy pastries. However, there is a bakery in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua that has the best cinnamon rolls.  I think they taste better because the bakery is owned by this couple from Chicago who moved to Nicaragua with a surf board and some recipes and made it happen. There are fulfilled dreams in those cinnamon rolls!

As an esteemed judge of SugarSlam, what are you looking for in a winner? The coolest Lita cake ever. Seriously, I am looking for something that looks like someone put some thought into.  If you are making a wrestling related baked good, I can already give you points for not taking yourself too seriously.  Just go for it. I can see voting for a failed experiment and a good write up because they tried. Although I am pretty impressed by the baking whizzes that can make food look like anything.....so yeah, a Lita cake.... And bonus points if it's vegan. 

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Here's a picture of last year's SugarSlam winner. What are your thoughts on the cake (image above)? BTW, it's entitled "Goin' Bananas" - banana cake filled with banana custard, topped with dark chocolate buttercream, covered in homemade fondant. (she made Gorilla Monsoon's glasses from poured sugar. ) That thing is awesome. First of all, it sounds like it would taste delicious and it's creative. There are not enough Gorilla Monsoon cakes in this world. 

Angry Avocado  

Tell me three foods you couldn't live without (sweet or savory). Wheatgrass (is that a food? I want four then), kale, avocado, and chocolate. 

If a you were ever to be surprised with a pie in the face, what kind of pie would you choose? I would choose a coconut cream pie.  I think it would be light and not as dense as say, a chocolate peanut butter pie, so it would not inflict as much damage and the clean up would be yum.

Pies Vs. Cakes

Dessert face-off: If cake were to have a wrestling match with pie, who would win? Cake is going to win.  It is more structurally sound. Let's just say cake was flinging itself at pie, pie has oozed all over before there was even any impact and then cake absorbed pie like The Blob! Suck it, pie. You have no chance. 

If you were having Pee-Wee herman and a crew of luchadores over for dessert, what would you serve? I am picturing a last supper type of image with Pee-Wee Herman where Jesus would sit (obviously). I think I would do a Smorgasbord, dessert buffet style with everyone of my favorites all over the table. That way, there is something for everyone AND adds variety to the ammunition when I yell FOOD FIGHT!!!!

If you ignore the "Jason", it's actually quite appropriate.

Want more? Here are the important sites to visit: Bake & Destroy, Amy Dumas, SugarSlam.

Friday
Jun012012

Batter Chatter: Interview with The Cravory, San Diego

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About the author: Erin Jackson is obsessed with finding the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego. Keep up with her other food finds on her San Diego Food blog, EJeats.com
The Cravory is one of San Diego's best cookie bakeries. Not only are the cookies exceptionally good from a technical standpoint (soft, chewy, and moist), they are also some of the most inventive. Like red velvet cake? They've got a cookie version. How about blueberry muffins or oreo milkshakes? They've got that too. There are also savory options like rosemary balsamic and pancakes and bacon -- and those are just some of the signature flavors. 
Every month, The Cravory also dreams up 6 "featured cookies of the month", which are typically even more unusual. This month, they've got mint chip ice cream, blackberry bliss, and chocolate birthday cake (among others). The bakery doesn't have a storefront, so you've got two options to get your paws on them. if you live in San Diego, you can pick them up from select retail locations and farmers' markets (read on to find out where) or you can order cookies online and have them shipped anywhere in the continental USA.
Cookies are available by the dozen, or if you're a serious cookie monster, sign up for the Cookie of the Month Club or go for the Ultimate Box Special, a 50-count assortment of all the signature flavors and some of the newest creations. Another option is to design your own cookies by choosing your dough and mix-ins. 
If you've got willpower issues and the thought of dozens of cookies just lying around presents an issue, you can always freeze them. When you're ready for more, pop the cookies in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or let them defrost on the counter. Cookies can remain frozen in their packing for 3 months, but who are we kidding? They won't last that long.
 
I spoke with Adam Koven, CEO of The Cravory to find out more about his history with baking, his favorite flavors, and what's in store for summer.

Your bio says you've always been a big fan of cookies. Did you bake when you were growing up, and if so, who taught you? A little bit, I cook more than I bake, but growing up, we always did cookies during the holidays. It's definitely in my genes, my great-grandmother was an amazing baker and she did the old European style baking, so I've definitely been involved with baking my whole life.

How old were you the first time you baked something by yourself, and what did you make?
I was probably 11 or 12. We always did the decorated sugar cookies growing up, which is ironic, because we don't do those at all now. 
Besides ordering them online, where can people find your cookies? On Sunday, we're at the La Jolla and Hillcrest farmers' markets, along with Wednesday evenings in Ocean Beach. As far as local businesses in San Diego, we're the featured dessert at Neighborhood, Craft and Commerce, and Leroy's Kitchen and you can get our cookies at The Deli Llama, and Shell gas station in Hillcrest.
How often do you come up with new flavors? Each month, we come out with 6 brand-new flavors each month, our cookies of the month. We carry 18 flavors online, 12 of those are signature flavors, including everything from sweet to savory. Those are our best-sellers from over the past year, and they don't change too often. We've only changed them once or twice because one of the new cookies really blew everyone's socks off, so we made it a signature flavor. But, every month we come up with 6 new flavors for the website, which get featured at the farmers' markets. The farmers markets are also where we test out new flavors. If they do well, they'll become a cookie of the month later on.
Do you work at the farmers' markets yourself? We try to go to the farmers' markets as often as possible. It's either my partner Nate or myself at the Hillcrest market and we have someone that does the Ocean Beach market and La Jolla for us.
Do you see the same people coming to get the same cookies frequently? We definitely have a very strong following at the farmers markets. It's pretty interesting, everyone that works the market has a different fan base, so to speak, but a lot of regulars come by. The really cool thing we do at the market is change our menu every week, so we have the people who come to see what's new and the people who come for their favorites. One of our favorite customers is only in town every third week or so and she absolutely loves the rosemary balsamic, which is one of the flavors we carry every week, but every time she comes, she buys us out. 

 

What are some of your favorite flavors that you've dreamed up recently?
My personal favorites right now are the chocolate truffle, even though I'm not a dark chocolate guy at all. That one is just unbelievably addictive and decadent and delicious. Our newest cookie, which was a cookie of the month and is now a signature, is the salted caramel cream cookie -- that one is amazing. And one of my all-time favorites is our original s'mores, which is original dough with milk chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers.
Have you ever tried to make a flavor that didn't quite work? My business partner Derrick is our chef, and he's the one who comes up with all of the recipes and actually goes back to the kitchen and makes the cookies, and I'm actually the cook of the group, I make a BBQ sauce from scratch. Two years ago for Memorial Day Weekend, he stole a bottle of my sauce and decided to make a BBQ cookie with the sauce as a base, along with smoked almonds and BBQ chips. He said "Here's what you have for the market, see if you can sell 'em".  I took a bunch of them to the market and needless to say it wasn't a huge hit, even with the BBQ theme of summer, but it was definitely an interesting attempt to think outside the box.
Can you give us a hint of some of the new flavors you're working on for summer?
We have some amazing summer flavors coming out over the next few months, like cotton candy, apple pie, corn bread with candied bacon, and pink lemonade...the next few months are going to be a lot of fun in terms of flavors.

 

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