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Entries in las vegas (5)

Tuesday
Aug172010

Cake Byte: Sweet Sandwich Fever in Las Vegas!

Guess what? As I recently learned from a Las Vegas PR person, August is both National Sandwich month and National Dessert Month. And happily, he gave me a very detailed lowdown on how some of the top eateries are celebrating--and they sound pretty good, if I do say so myself. These eateries may not be within everyone's range, but it's fun to dream, no?

  • Skybox Sports Bar and Grill at ARIA Resort & Casino is home to Vegas’ Ice Cream Sandwich Lollipops. Delicious and delectable, the dessert features a trio of ice cream flavors, including double chocolate mint, butterscotch-cappuccino and chocolate chip-vanilla, sandwiched between three classic varieties of mouth-watering cookies. The restaurant also serves Burger, Fries and a Shake, a delicious threesome that features a strawberry cheesecake slider with chocolate-dipped potato chips and a malted banana milkshake.
  • James Beard Award-winning chef Hubert Keller has created a delicious twist on the classic American burger at his restaurant Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay.  The Chocolate Burger and Creamy Cheese Cake Burger utilize warm donuts as buns, Nutella or cheesecake as ‘patties’, strawberries as the tomato and passion fruit gelée as cheese. Keller’s creations redefine the taste of typical desserts with culinary precision that only a master chef can provide. 
  • Created by Laurent Tourondel, Bon Appétit’s 2007 Restaurateur of the Year, the Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwich at BLT Burger at The Mirage has re-imagined the concept of dessert. Delivered in strawberry, vanilla or chocolate-hazelnut flavors, this dish delights taste buds with the sweet flavor of the ice cream and the earthy essence of the macaroon.
  • The Ice Cream’wich, a twist on a traditional favorite, can only be found at ‘wichcraft at MGM Grand. Designed by legendary chef and Bravo’s Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, this sweet sensation features Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate, coconut or walnut cookies.
  • The tastiest treat at Aureole at Mandalay Bay, the Grilled Brioche with white truffle infused chocolate ganache, features dark chocolate ganache or pistachio olive oil ice cream in between two delicious pistachio lime biscotti.
  • Keeping with the pool-party trend sweeping through Vegas, WET REPUBLIC, the adults-only ultra-pool located at MGM Grand, offers The Whoopie Pie. With a whipped cream center sandwiched between two pieces of pound cake, this dessert is a perfect treat while having some fun in the sun.
Thursday
Jan282010

Cakewalk: A Sweet Tour of Las Vegas from Cake Gumshoe Nicole

Seeking sweetness in Sin City? Well, hold on to your cupcakes--here is a sweet roundup of Las Vegas cupcakes from Cake Gumshoe Nicole!

CakeSpy Note: This Cakewalk comes from Cake Gumshoe Nicole, commonly known as "Miss Dot" in the blogosphere, loves all things sweet and dotty. She and her husband, Will, constantly strive to maintain the delicate balance between eating all the cupcakes and goodies they want and fending off morbid obesity. You can read all about her everyday adventures on her blog, Saving the World One Cupcake at a Time!

Stop 1: Sugar's Bakery

It took us a bit to find this place--it's not on the strip and so we had to drive about 10-15 minutes to get there. Initially, we were bummed about the distance but we soon found out that there are at least two other cupcake places in the immediate vicinity (reviewed below!) so it was OK.

Our first impression came from their sign--how cute is this?

Inside, it gets even cuter! It has great display cases for their cupcakes and other baked goodies (like cookies and brownies!) plus fun seating and reading for kids and adults alike to enjoy while munching on their baked treasures. For flavors, we finally settled on Lemon Cream, Red Velvet, and German Chocolate (pictured at the top of the post).

Review

The good: They had a nice variety of flavors to choose from, the decorations were thoughtful and creative, and we liked that they sold other baked goods though they advertised themselves as a cupcake shop. We loved their interior decorations, too. Everything was fun, whimsical, and made us want to stay forever.

The not-so-good: Their cupcakes were refrigerated--boo!--which tends to make the cake dry out. Sure enough, after tasting the Red Velvet, we thought both the cake and frosting were dry and unappealing.

Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #2. Definitely worth the drive!

Sugar's on Urbanspoon

Stop 2: Mad Hatter Cupcakes

This is the second cupcake place that we visited in the area that we came to term "Cupcake Alley" because of the (awesome) predominance of cupcake shops. Seriously, there were three all within a 2-mile radius. FANTASTICO. Here's the front of the cupcake shop. Seems pretty cool, right? Oh wait, it gets better. CHECK THIS OUT. WHAT?!?! Did I READ that correctly!? CREATE YOUR [my] OWN CUPCAKES??? OMC I'm sold. They let you choose your cake flavor, filling flavor, frosting flavor, and then your own candy to put on top. They even offer suggestions if you can't decide on your own! This place is like Coldstone for cupcakes. MAKE MY CUPCAKES!! (please!) Yummy cupcake supplies :D Taking in the glory of Mad Hatter Cupcakes. After much thought, we finally chose to make two cupcakes: •HIS: Peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate frosting •HERS: Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and chocolate frosting with m&ms on top

Review

The good: OMG can you say "MOIST"? The cake was so, so nice and moist. Mmm.  The chocolate was so rich--in the words of my husband, "That's a d*mn good chocolate cake." The peanut butter cake was perfect, too. I feel like it can be difficult to capture a good peanut butter taste without creating an overwhelming flavor but Mad Hatter achieved it! Other things we liked: They sell shaved ice, too; they have a great seating area for enjoying your goodies; they provide mini cupcakes as samples (that day they had peanut butter cupcakes with white chocolate frosting); they have single cupcake holders in case you just want to take one for the road; and, of course, they have a punch card for frequent visitors.

The not-so-good: Um...

Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #1. Are you booking your trip to Vegas yet?

Mad Hatter Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Third Stop: Cupcake Lane

First off, fantastic sign! No doubt about it -- this is a cupcake shop! The inside was cute and quaint with curtained windows into the back bakery area. This cupcake shop also had a great selection of cupcakes to choose from. With flavors that had names like Savannah Street (their version of red velvet) or Michigan Avenue (lemon cupcake with lemon frosting), they definitely won the award for more creative names. We chose three cupcakes here, too: (clockwise from left: Lombard Street (their "Hostess Cupcake"), Lake Tahoe Boulevard (their s'more cupcake), and Southfork Ranch (a German chocolate cupcake))

Review

The good: Fun flavor names, creative decorations, and cute to-go boxes for single cupcakes (they used Chinese take-out containers). We also liked that they offered some sugar free cupcakes as well as cupcakes for canine companions.

The not-so-good: Their cupcakes were refrigerated. No no no no no! Pooey. Also, I really (really) hate to say this, but we were totally underwhelmed. We expected a lot given the nifty names and decorations but the cupcakes themselves were totally lacking. Lombard Street tasted like, well, a Hostess cupcake which isn't necessarily bad within itself but if I'm paying $3+ for a cupcake, it better taste amazing, not like something that usually comes wrapped in plastic in a pack of two. Lake Tahoe Boulevard also failed to deliver the nostalgic s'more flavor that I was hoping for.

Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #3. I'd be willing to go back and taste others (they do say that Savannah Street is their best-seller and we didn't taste that one) but I'm not holding my breath for our next visit. If you check out either of the first two you'll already be in the area to visit this one in which case, go ahead. I wouldn't block out time in my day specifically to make the trek, though

Cupcake Lane Bakery on Urbanspoon

Fourth Stop: The Cupcakery

This cupcake shop has three Vegas locations: Two off the strip (which are listed on their site) and one on the strip on the Monte Carlo. We chose to visit the latter. This cupcake shop has a great staff who seems to love cupcakes as much as we do (which is a lot!) We were informed that the above case houses two different kind of cupcakes: on the left, cupcakes whose flavors come from the frosting; on the right, cupcakes whose flavors come from the cake (they had cream cheese frosting).  I'm not going to lie, we were excited about these. Not only were they all pretty and sparkly but they had lots of fun colors and flavors and, well, since it was our last cupcake shop, we decided to go out with a bang. We got six. They're pictured below, from left to right, back to front: Southern Belle (Red Velvet), Gingerbread, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Boston Creme, Tickle-me-Pink (their signature flavor), and Strawberry Shortcake).

Review

The good: Great staff, fun decorations for cupcakes and interior, and great location. We really enjoyed the Gingerbread Cupcake; not only was the cake good but the little decoration on top is really a gingerbread man and boy, is he tasty! Our favorite cupcake, though, was the Peanut Butter Chocolate one. Fantastic peanut butter flavor! Man, two great peanut butter cupcakes in one weekend. I'm in love!

The not-so-good: OK, I really hate to do this, but we were pretty disappointed by the other four. The Tickle-me-Pink (I'm almost positive this is what they called this flavor), their signature flavor, is just vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. You can also get it as a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Here's my thinking: If you're going to do such a simple flavor combination as your signature cupcake, make it amazing! I want it to be the best vanilla (or chocolate) I've ever tasted! After tasting it, I want to feel like all the other vanilla (or chocolate!) cupcakes I've had before were made of deception and lies. Their Strawberry Shortcake cupcake was not made from real strawberries, either, but rather that stomach-churning, fake-me-out chemical strawberry flavor that probably comes from this rather than these. Finally, did you see the carrier we got? Our six little cupcakes were sadly squished into that contained with no separators to protect them from getting all mixed together! I feel like if you advertise selling your cupcakes in combinations of four, six, and twelve, you'd better have holders for each!

Bottom Line: Of the 4 cupcake places we visited, we ranked this one #4. We expected so much from this cupcake shop and were really disappointed by the end of the last cupcake. We were really sad to rank this place last, though, because we really did think we were going to get some yummy cupcakes. I'm not sure if the Monte Carlo location does its baking on-site, though, so maybe we'll chalk up the downfalls to the fact that they weren't fresh...?

Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Sep242009

Cakespy Undercover: A Cake Gumshoe's Thoughts on Retro Bakery, Las Vegas NV

Java Cupcake Guest Post on Retro Bakery, LV
CakeSpy Note: This is a guest blog post from Betsy of Java Cupcake. To get the scoop on what sweet stuff she's been sampling, be sure to visit her site, and keep updated with her twitter feed!

When I spent last week in Las Vegas, NV with my husband, I knew that we needed to stop at Retro Bakery. Boy, it did not disappoint!

Just about 20 minutes from The Strip in Vegas, Retro Bakery is located just off the highway in a quaint little shopping center. I was greeted by a super cute, super friendly bundle of joy named Kari, whom I had messaged via twitter earlier that day to let her know I was coming.

Most importantly though: on to the cupcakes. There were so many delicious cupcakes to choose from--it was very hard to pick. My husband and I decided we'd each pick two.

I chose the Peanut Butter Cup (chocolate cake topped with peanut butter buttercream and dark chocolate shavings) and the Cinnamon Toast (vanilla cake topped with cinnamon buttercream dusted with cinnamon and sugar) while my husband chose the Cotton Candy (vanilla cake topped with pink cotton candy buttercream and blue glitter sugar) and the Creamsicle (vanilla cake topped with a vanilla/orange swirl buttercream).

The tag line on the bakery's business card is "It's All About the Buttercream" and they aren't kidding! The buttercream on these cupcakes was absolutely to die for. Creamy, flavorful, smooth... it just rolled across my tongue with each bite. Each buttercream flavor was distinctly the flavor it said it was going to be--so, for instance, when I bit into the peanut butter, it actually tasted like peanut butter, and surprisingly, the cotton candy buttercream tasted exactly like cotton candy!

As I look back, I wish I had tried one more cupcake with a different base flavor. We had three with vanilla and one chocolate. The chocolate was so delicious... moist and chocolatey; however, I have got to give it to the vanilla because it was by far the best vanilla cupcake I have ever tasted! It was dense, but not mushy, springy and moist, full of flavor and baked to perfection. I could have eaten those vanilla cupcakes alone if the buttercream had not been so heavenly!

So thank you to Kari for being so sweet when we came to visit! And thank you to Retro Bakery for making such delicious cupcakes! I can't wait to get back to Las Vegas to try four more flavors.

Retro Bakery, 7785 N. Durango Dr. #130, Las Vegas (702)586-3740; online at retrobakerylv.com. You can also follow them on Twitter, and if you want more of the inside scoop be sure to read the CakeSpy interview with owner Kari!

Wednesday
Apr292009

CakeSpy Undercover: How To Elope to Las Vegas and Still Have Wedding Cake

Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
When our friend Megan (who you may know from her ultra-awesome website, Not Martha) recently decided to run away and get married to her boyfriend of 10+ years, we applauded the decision, but with one major reservation: What about the cake? Well, luckily Megan was on the case, and found out some of the secrets of how to have your cake and eat it too while eloping--because no matter how small the wedding, there should always be cake. Here's the report:

Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not MarthaCakes from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
We ran off to get married in Vegas and I was afraid we were going to miss out on the cake part of the day until somebody tipped me off to the existence of Freed's Bakery. They made wedding cakes, cupcakes, cookies, Italian pastries and, much to my delight, sell individual slices of wedding-y cake. There are two locations and I was so distracted by our crazy taxi driver that I cannot remember which one we ended up at. We got our slices of cake to go while our taxi driver was nice enough to wait for us and the bakery included plates, forks and napkins for us. I can highly recommend getting the cake to go and finding a romantic spot to eat it. We had dinner plans later so we ate our cake at the Bellagio at a comfy little table in a hallway which overlooked the pool.
Cake from Freeds in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
There were a few flavors of cake slices to choose from including carrot cake and a chocolate cake but we ended up two slices of vanilla cake with strawberries, one with buttercream frosting and the other with whipped cream frosting. Both were delicious, and I think this is the best buttercream I have tasted so far. I'm not usually a fan of buttercream as I find it alternately too sweet or gritty or slimy, but this was fantastic. It was whipped light and had a nice balance of butter and sweetness.
Eclair from Jean Phillipe in Las Vegas, C/O Not Martha
We ate our cake near the Jean-Philippe pastry shop in the Bellagio which is amazing. There is a floor to ceiling chocolate fountain that has dark, milk and white chocolate cascading down from pool to pool. (Sadly, it's behind some clear plastic walls so you cannot sneak a taste.) We returned later in the week to try something from Jean-Philippe and split an incredible vanilla and hazelnut eclaire. The plastic utensils at Jean-Philippe had a reflective silver finish which was a lovely touch.


Custom item for a friend
Congratulations again to Megan and Scott!

 

Tuesday
Feb122008

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery, Las Vegas

The prospect of a new bakery is always exciting to the Cakespy crew...but a new bakery which cleverly marries kitsch, cupcakes and the Atomic Age of the 50's and 60's? That puts us in an absolute fever, as is the case with newly-opened (just this past Sunday!) Retro Bakery in Las Vegas. We had a few moments to talk with proprietress Kari Haskell about her thoughts and feelings on the eve of their opening; here's what we learned about opening day emotions, the truth about pie vs. cake, and why some cakes simply must be served cold:  

Cakespy: First off--how do you feel with the opening just around the corner?
Kari Haskell: It's my adult dream come true (my teenage self had NO idea that I would want to go back to a type of small town living)! I grew up in a small town in Oregon that had a main street (Third St. in McMinnville, OR), and my grandparents owned two business there: a pharmacy and a grill restaurant. I would walk there all the time and pick up $.25 candy or Hallmark cards or whatever. I also wanted to leave that kind of life the SECOND I got out of college (I went to college in a small town too!).
I moved to Southern California and met my husband, Brian, and then we began a life of climbing the ladder of corporate restaurants. Brian was a GM of Red Robin for 8 years and an Assistant GM for BJ's Brewhouse for all of last year. All of this while I stayed home and raised our girls, Abbi (9) and Lucy (2)...while watching him work 12-14 hour shifts five (sometimes six) days a week and sometimes commuting two hours (back in the California days)! We're used to long hours!
Having our commute be three minutes (10 by walking) is fantastic. It's created that small-town feel again that I totally craved after being controlled by a corporate entity for so long!! No one will tell us where we should move to "move up" ever again! That is the MOST exciting part for Brian.
My exciting part? Being the neighborhood bakery that my neighbors and friends can enjoy! Now I know why my grandparents LOVED their work so much. It's so great to be so close, know your customers, and actually be a part of where you live.

CS: Can you tell us a bit about how you decided to open Retro Bakery?
KH: I've been baking since I was a Sophomore in high school, when we had to bake a cake and a pie from scratch. The task at first seemed completely impossible to me. I thought cake only came from a box. After I baked my first pie, I was hooked. I started baking the pies for every holiday every year. I still use the same crust recipe from that Food 101 class. It's truly the BEST, and I've tried them all.
The cake part came later. For some reason, I was intimidated by cake: it could fall; it would be lumpy or sideways...too many variables. Fast forward 14 years, and I meet Kristie Fleisher who is the BEST cook I know. Kristie is always into trying new recipes and new ideas. Last year, she was trying baking cakes from scratch, and she totally inspired me. I started baking cakes in my kitchen, and realized it wasn't as hard as my teenage self thought!
I then noticed that EVERYTHING I was reading in the news or on TV was about cupcakes! That got me thinking about flavors and ideas that could work with cupcakes (cakes were just too big to test on...and cupcakes are WAY cuter!) I started researching ideas of what was out there already (WAY more than I thought!), and I found that my ideas where pretty unique, and tasted good enough to sell! Then I realized that cupcakes were literally taking over the world, and between my baking talent and my husband's restaurant knowledge, we could do this!
We are so lucky to be in a big city like Las Vegas, but even luckier to be in a section of town that is growing so rapidly and doesn't have a lot of established businesses yet. Our neighbors are always hungry for something new, especially if it's a family-owned store!

CS: Can you tell us some of the ways that the "Retro" aspect will be played out in the retail location?
KH: The name Retro Bakery comes from my love of the "Atomic Era" of the 1950s and early 1960s. I have always loved the bold colors, simplicity of design, and "Tupperware Party" quality of life. I used that aesthetic in the bakery decor: clean, simple, bold design. I also try to have "retro" flavors (not necessarily from the '50s...): Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Buttercup, Coffee and Donuts, Peanut Butter and Honey (my favorite sandwich of ALL TIME), and Cinnamon Toast (just to name a few)!

CS: It looks like your focus will be cupcakes, but will you be offering other baked goods at Retro Bakery?
KH: I like to focus on cupcakes because they are so cute and small (and also VERY popular right now), and also because I LOVE them! It's the perfect dessert! I will offer pies year-round by special order, but we will have a "Pie Season" during the holidays when I will exclusively do pies (Double Pecan and Spicy Pumpkin) and only have cupcakes by special order. We can also bake any of our cupcake flavors into 9-inch, double-layer cakes because some people will always want a cake!

CS: You've been trying out some really fun recipes (creamsicle cupcakes, caramel corn cupcakes, etc)--which one are you most excited about?
KH: Honestly, every time I try a flavor, THAT'S my favorite. It's so funny...I'll bake it and say, "OH! Now THIS is my favorite!" I'm most excited about the next one knockin' around in my head...I literally DREAM about flavors, so I have quite a few waiting to be created. My latest, Caramel Corn, was a HUGE hit...so much so, I almost called my menu printer and halted printing, so I could add it to my regular menu! But, we decided that it could wait, and we'll probably have it as one of our "Seasonal Flavors" that will change every month...I'm thinking May or June in honor of baseball season. The cool part is that it's OUR decision to make!

CS: How do you decide which flavors make the cut?
KH: Many tests with my family and friends...I think they may be tired of my shoving cupcakes in their faces!

Cakespy Note: Somehow we doubt that anyone is getting tired of having cupcakes shoved in their faces.

 

 

 

CS: Are there any bakers, cookbooks or websites in particular that inspire you?
KH: My Great Auntie Marm is my baking inspiration. She's been baking bread and goodies for the entire town of McMinnville, OR, for the last 60 years! As far as websites: CAKESPY, of course (Cakespy Note: We did not pay for or bribe Kari in any way to say that. Really. What can we say, the girl's got good taste)! As well as Cupcakes Take the Cake. Both of those have SO many inspirational interviews, flavor ideas, decorating ideas....it TOTALLY sparks my imagination. Also, many people on flickr.com. There are too many to mention...but I look at EVERYONE to see new trends coming or if my stuff can measure up!

CS: What types of pastries are popular in Las Vegas? Any local specialties?
KH: This is a tough question, since I don't actively seek out pastries. I'm a salt-a-holic! I can tell you where the best french fries are (BJ's and Red Robin)!

Las Vegas is truly a divided place: Locals and Tourists. The Strip is full of gourmet pastry chefs making spectacular stuff....but locals really have limited places to find baked goods. I've found Cakes by Ruth, Nothing Bundt Cakes, and Cake World to have the best cakes. I'm sure there are others, but not up in Centennial Hills.

 

CS: Be honest. Which do you like better, pie or cake?
KH: Oooohhhh...you're bad! I'll say pie CRUST and ANY buttercream frosting. I suppose the best thing in the world would be pie crust FILLED with buttercream! I think I may have stumbled upon a new fad! (Cakespy Note: This sounds like pleasure overload to us.)

CS: To you, what is the most important aspect in making a quality baked good?
KH: FLAVOR and MOISTURE. I love making flavors people don't expect for cupcakes, and in this desert climate, it's a constant battle to keep your cakes MOIST!

CS: With regard to cupcakes and cakes, there is some controversy about the temperature at which they should be served. In your opinion, should they be chilled, or room temperature?
KH: I know why some are chilled now! Cream cheese frostings are required to be chilled (Health Department rules!). I prefer room temp and also a day old! Weird, I know. But I like a little crunch in my frosting...and I really don't like cream cheese frosting. This could get me in a lot of trouble!

CS: Out of pure nosiness--when you're not baking, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?
KH: Decorating is my second passion. (I'm totally inspired by Todd Oldham right now!) I also LOVE writing. I totally in love with all things BLOG.


CS: One of your employees, Kristie, is listed as Cake Specialist / Head Cheerleader. We're intrigued. Does this mean she majored in culinary arts and minored in Rockette arts?
KH: She has been my biggest supporter from DAY ONE. She's my go-to if I have cake problems...or mental problems.

 

CS: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice when you were just starting out with this project, what advice would you give?
KH: It's going to cost more than you think! You hear that one all the time, but IT WILL! We were thinking $50K, but that was just us not knowing ANYTHING about city codes, leasing spaces, appliances...now we know! It all adds up QUICKLY!

Are you in the Las Vegas area? Lucky you; Retro Bakery is located at 7785 N. Durango Drive, #130, Las Vegas; online at retrobakerylv.com.

Not in Las Vegas? Happily, you can still catch a sugar high by checking out their blog at buildingabakery.blogspot.com, or by browsing their drool-worthy Flickr photos at flickr.com/photos/retrobakery.


 

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