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Friday
Apr092010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Online Resources

The internet is so totally sweet. After all, it's the source of awesomeness like CakeSpy! But if you're in the mood to learn something sweet (or savory), here's a baker's dozen foodie sites which I keep bookmarked as great resources:

Amazon's Al Dente Blog: A great source for learning about food news, new products, and clever writing by Rebekah DennTracy Schneider, and Leslie Kelly, among others!

BakeSpace: Connect with bakers and find some seriously sweet recipes on this social networking-for-bakers site.

Betty Crocker's Baking Recipes, Tips, and Ideas: A great resource for tips on not only baking but also technique, preparation, and storage.

Cake Central: Cake photos, message boards, decorating tips, giveaways, and more--the website's name really kind of say it all!

Epicurious Food Glossary: I could get lost in this glossary--and have, in fact, on occasion.

Foodista: Like Wikipedia for recipes. 

King Arthur Flour Blog: I cannot visit this site without learning something.

Kitchen Monki: A clever cooking (and baking) tool which enables you to export your recipes (and those from other users!) to shopping lists. Sweet!

Modern Baking: This site is dedicated to professional bakers, but I find a lot of the articles and features very interesting!

Rose Levy Beranbaum: Real Baking with Rose features recipes, lore, and great baking info--also some interesting message boards.

Saveur's Baking Techniques: Step by step illustrated guides.

Serious Eats: Yes, I freelance for them. But I'd visit this site like a million times a day even if I didn't--it strikes the perfect mix of funny, newsy bits with serious food info.

What's Cooking America History of Cakes: So much awesome on just one site. I could read about the history of cakes (and all sorts of food) all day on this site, easily.

Friday
Mar262010

Cake Byte: Various Sweet Goings-On for CakeSpy

OK, sweeties, if you're not a fan of shameless self-promotion, maybe you should click over to another awesome site (like this one or this one or this one)--because this week's Baker's Dozen is dedicated to CakeSpy, and all of the exciting things going on. But if you're a lover and not a hater, here are just some of the reasons why it's awesome to be me right now:

A feature in Sunset Magazine! Yes, Sunset Magazine (pictured above)! I take no credit for this--it all goes to Rebekah Denn, who has always "gotten" the whole CakeSpy thing (maybe she can explain it to my grandma, bless her soul, who always asks what it is again I do for a living, and always reminds me that when she was young, she walked uphill five miles each way to school--sometimes in the snow--and that there were none of these cupcake shops, but rather bakeries that charged five cents for an entire crumb cake?)

The amazing honor of being nominated in not one but two categories for the Saveur Best of the Food Blogs awards! (and in good company, with the likes of Herbivoracious!)! 

The amazing honor of being nominated in not one but two categories for the Saveur Best of the Food Blogs awards (and in good company, with the likes of Herbivoracious!)! No, this is not a typo--this was exciting enough to put twice! Like, OMG!

An amazing feature on the Conde Nast Traveler Blog (one step closer to the New Yorker! Are you reading this, Françoise Mouly?);

A feature on NW Source about the new shop - that means it's official!

Features on the CHS and Central District News blogs about the new shop and Saveur Nomination, too -- double, triple official! (thanks, jseattle and seadevi!)

An interview on Alphabet Soup with the wonderful Jama Rattigan;

A feature as a Crafty Superstar on Cut Out + Keep;

A great time muraling and cake eating with the coolest girls in Minneapolis;

Delicious roundups of foods both sweet and savory enjoyed in Paris for Serious Eats;

Being part of a panel discussion on how to be a blog queen;

Numerous (!) features on the amazing Not Martha and Bakerella;

Enjoying a delicious tutorial on macaron-making by the inimitable Tartelette (I know, I owe you more info about this one!);

The honor of being part of a great Foodbuzz, Electrolux, Kelly Ripa, and Cake Boss event to raise money and awareness for Ovarian Cancer Research;

Doing artwork for (and being asked to be a cupcake-tasting judge at!) Seattle's first CupcakeCamp!

And yeah, this is very nerdy, but I got an "@" reply on Twitter  from Dorie Greenspan. Dorie Greenspan! My heart was a-twitter (pun intended) about that one for days, people. But then again, her book Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops was what I took to Paris as my guidebook, so it makes sense, doesn't it?

 ...oh, and you know what? I'm also taking over a gallery in Seattle. CakeSpy headquarters will soon be located at 415 E. Pine Street, Seattle--I have purchased Bluebottle Art Gallery! And there's an awesome "meet the new owner" party this Saturday, and an awesome opening with Berkley Illustration on April 8.

OK, it's true, that was way more than a Baker's Dozen! But what can I say--life is sweet. Thank you everyone for helping me making it all happen, and for making it so fun to tell people what my job is when they ask.

Wednesday
Mar242010

CakeSpy's 13 Sweetest Discoveries in Minneapolis and Saint Paul

You may not know this, but Minneapolis and St. Paul are totally sweet. And this isn't meant in a "totally awesome, hip and artistic" sort of way, although that is true too--this is to say that the serious sweet tooth will have plenty to keep busy while visiting the Twin Cities. Here is a baker's dozen of some of the sweetest things (mostly, but not all, edible) which I encountered--both eaten and reported by trusted suggestion--on my too-brief visit:

Art: Cake Eater Bakery

The sweetest art in Minneapolis? The pastry-inhabited mural I did for Cake Eater Bakery, duh! Read about it here. 2929 E 25th Street, Minneapolis; cakeeaterbakery.com.


Cake: Cake Eater Bakery

Noticing a trend? Well, granted, it was where I was muraling, but their cakes are also magical. The "banana split cake"--a tantalizing combination of rich, dense banana cake topped with creamy frosting and chocolate drizzle (pictured top), could probably knock banana bread out flat without looking back; even the vanilla is delicious. Oh, and have I mentioned they make Special K Bars, too? 2929 E 25th Street, Minneapolis; cakeeaterbakery.com.

Boozy Bubble Tea: Jasmine 26

Bubble tea has its merits, but it makes you feel even more buoyant when it's got some buzz. Say hello to Jasmine 26, where their bubble tea has an added somethin': ah, alcohol. It's intoxicating. 8 E. 26th Street, Minneapolis; jasmine26.net.

Buns: Isles Bun & Coffee

 It is with extreme sadness that I confess that I didn't actually visit myself, but based on the trusted feedback of other CakeSpy associates, I am certain I can't leave this establishment, known for making cinnamon rolls not only the size of your head but actually far bigger, it off the list. Just look at the two most popular items on their menu:

  • Cinnamon Buns Our famous Cinnamon Buns made fresh from scratch every day, topped with an unlimited amount of delicious cream cheese frosting.
  • Puppy Dog Tails ™ Named by the nursery school children next door, our cinnamon twists are easy to eat and less intimidating- making them a customer favorite.

Nom nom nom! Isles Bun & Coffee, 28th & Hennepin in Uptown, islesbun.com.

Calorie Free Sweets: Mitrebox Framing Studio

Sometimes you want to have--or share--some sweetness that won't make you fat. (it's ok every now and again to say no to real buttercream. I'll forgive you). For those off days, hit up Mitrebox Framing Studio, where they have a stunning array of sweet gifts and a lot of dessert-themed stationery items. 213 Washington Ave. North, Minneapolis; mitreboxframing.com.

Chocolate: B.T. McElrath

At Minneapolis-based chocolatier B.T. McElrath, one of their signature items is called the "Prairie Dog", which consists of milk chocolate with butter toffee pieces, toasted almonds and sea salt. Really, does more have to be said? Available at various locations; I picked mine up at the Seward Co-Op; online at btmcelrath.com.

Cheesecake Heaven

In a world of cupcakes, Muddy Paws creates custom cheesecakes, and in flavors like Snickers, Honey Vanilla, and Key Lime. I salute you, Muddy Paws. Just gaze at the Snickers cheesecake photo from their website (above), would you? Available at various locations; online at muddypawscheesecake.com.

Ice Cream Experience: Izzy's Ice Cream

Undecided? At Izzy's, they've got you covered: They offer something called "The Izzy Scoop" wherein you get one healthy scoop of ice cream topped with a baby-scoop of the second flavor you'd been debating or wanted to try. There is another word for this: it is called genius. It is adorable too! 2034 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul; izzysicecream.com.

Nanaimo Bars: French Meadow Bakery

A western Canadian treat in the Midwest? Yes, it's true: I was surprised (and delighted) to find one of my favorite treats, Nanaimo Bars, at French Meadows, an organic bakery which serves up soups and sandwiches along with their sweets. Their Nanaimo bar has a perhaps slightly less custardy, but no less buttery, middle layer; the top is chocolate, melt-in-your-mouth bliss, and the bottom crust a sturdy coconut-studded chocolate. Various locations; online at frenchmeadow.com.

Old School Pastries: A Baker's Wife

When a bakery has been in the same spot and doing the same thing for over 50 years, either they're doing something right, or they're connected to the mob. Well, based on the deliciousness factor of the several pastries I sampled from here, including a sticky bun, doughnuts and a fancy-ish pear tart, it's definitely the former that has made this institution beyond reproach. 4200 28th Ave S., Minneapolis; more here.

A Baker's Wife's Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon


Pretzel-Shaped Mystery Pastry: Turtle Bread Company

Turtle Bread Company has an absolutely delectable treat which looks like a pretzel, but tastes like an amalgamation of butter cookie, almond croissant, and sweet pie crust. That is to say, best breakfast ever. Various Minneapolis locations; online at turtlebread.com.


Sandwich Cookies: Cocoa & Fig

Upon hearing that Cocoa & Fig was home to some of the finest macarons in Minneapolis, I had to check it out: but what I ended up getting was the Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich. And oh, what a memorable one it was: cakey cookies sandwiching a sweetly piped dollop of rich cream cheese frosting. Oh, yes. Retail location at Gaviidae Common, Skyway Level, Saks Wing, 651 Nicollet Mall; cocoaandfig.com.

Unexpected Sweetness: Birchwood Cafe 

Right down the street from Cake Eater Bakery was a delicious oasis: Birchwood Cafe. Though most probably know it for their savories (sandwiches and well-made plates of fresh, affordable fare), they boast a pretty mean bakery case too, featuring pies, huge cream puffs, and cookies. 3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; online at birchwoodcafe.com.

Honorable mention (not all sweet, but all totally awesome): The regional specialty often called Jucy Lucy which is a cheese-filled burger (I sampled the version at Shamrock's/The Nook in St. Paul), Fried Cheese Curds (sampled at the same); Dunn Bros. Coffee, and of course, the Doubletree Cookie at the Hotel Minneapolis. Hardly a Minneapolis specialty but they get me every time.

Friday
Mar192010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Moments in Fiction, Volume 2

One batch was not enough: here's another baker's dozen of novels which prominently feature sweet treats! Some are guilty pleasures, some are bittersweet tales--but they all have one thing in common: each one features delicious desserts.

Belle in the Big Apple by Brooke Parkhurst: This novel is kind of like candy--an escapist tale of a southern belle in NYC, and does come with some recipes for sweet treats. 

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs: This novel has a distinct roman a clef feel, with an aging food tv show hostess battling low ratings and radical rating-boosting ideas; half the fun is picking out who the people in the novel are meant to represent; the rest is the fun of the story and the recipes at the end of the novel.

The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler: A coming-of-age story about a bakery owner's daughter who is struggling with her parents' divorce and the trials of growing up...but with plenty of gratuitous cupcake scenes! (CakeSpy Note: read the CS interview with the author here!)

Entertaining Disasters by Nancy Spiller: A reclusive food writer battles personal demons in more ways than one as she plots the ultimate dinner party. Complete with many recipes, including a great Opera cake recipe!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond: An adorable children's book detailing the unforeseen consequences of giving a mouse a cookie. Great illustrations too!

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Honey. Honeycake. You want to read this.

She Flew the Coop by Michael Lee West: This one is described as "a novel concerning life, death, sex, and recipes in Limoges, Louisiana" -- and it includes cakes.

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen: OK, so this one is fact, but reads as if it were fiction: a behind-the-scenes look at a pastry chef's life in some of NYC's fanciest restarants, by the current pastry chef at Dressler.

Sorcery And The Single Girl by Mindy Klasky: No recipes, but this novel about a witch in training with a best friend who owns a bakery has plenty of rich descriptions of sweet desserts.

Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay: A murder mystery...with cupcakes!

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen: Magic and bonbons all rolled into one sweet package in this book.

Sweet Treats: Cupcakes for Two/Blueberry Surprise/Bittersweet Memories & Peppermint Dreams/Cream of the Crop by Various (short story collection): Doesn't the title say it all?

Table Manners by Mia King: In the followup to Good Things, character Deidre McIntosh is on the road to creating her own gourmet cookie line, but with some bumps in the batter--er, along the road. This book has a selection of recipes at the end, too, including some from CakeSpy buddies Peabody and Ivy Chan!

Friday
Mar122010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Chocolate Facts for American Chocolate Week

Guess what? March 14 marks the start of American Chocolate Week. Like you needed a reason to eat chocolate, right? So, inspired by a list sent to me by Ask.com featuring 10 facts about chocolate, I've added to the list so that you've got a baker's dozen of sweet factoids about the dark and dreamy stuff:

Who invented chocolate? While Nestle and Johnny Depp would lobby for Willy Wonka, history awards the honors to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans of Mexico and Central America.

What is the bestselling chocolate bar? Snickers!

How is chocolate made? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are roasted and then ground into a powder. The cocoa powder is then mixed with variations of sugar, milk and cream to make different types of chocolate.

What was CakeSpy's first word? If you believe my mom, the first word I ever uttered, aside from "ma" and "pa" was "chocolate".

Why can’t dogs eat chocolate? The long answer above has something to do with methylxanthines. The short answer involves diarrhea and your new shag carpet.

How can I melt chocolate evenly? Size does matter. Chop the chocolate into uniform pieces to ensure that all the pieces melt at the same speed in a glass bowl over boiling water (double boiler).

Why is fair trade chocolate good for the environment? Fair trade practices can vary in their environment benefits, but it does empower farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

How do I make chocolate mousse? Pretty easily actually - all you need is finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, unsalted butter, coffee, heavy cream, eggs and sugar.

Why is dark chocolate good for you? It is packed with flavoniods that keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. 

Should you eat chocolate after working out? Per Wikipedia, A study from James Madison University, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, showed that post-exercise consumption of lowfat chocolate milk provides equal or possibly superior muscle recovery compared to a high-carbohydrate recovery beverage with the same amount of calories. 

Which came first, the cookie or the chocolate chip? Chocolate chip cookies were invented before the morsels. The cookies were invented in 1933 when Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts added cut-up chunks of a semi-sweet Nestlé chocolate bar to a cookie recipe. The cookies were a huge success, and Wakefield reached an agreement with Nestlé to add her recipe to the chocolate bar's packaging in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Initially, Nestlé included a small chopping tool with the chocolate bars, but in 1939 they started selling the chocolate in chip (or "morsel") form. 

Who doesn't like chocolate? Jesse Breytenbach, who did a graphic novel on the subject. But we'll forgive her, because she's awfully clever.

Chocolate is deadly: In that famous shower scene in Psycho, it's not blood running down the drain--but chocolate syrup. Guess that was easier to get away with when filming in black and white!

Friday
Mar052010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet St. Patrick's Day Recipe Ideas

Photo credits, from top left clockwise: South in Your Mouth, King Arthur Flour, CakeSpy.comSeeing Green: Green Velvet Cupcakes from South in Your Mouth.

You may not be Irish, but pretending to be is fun while eating Bailey's Irish Cream Fudge, via Cookie Madness.

In the most recent issue of Bon Appetit, Andrew McCarthy (yes, the actor!) shares a lightly sweet and delectable Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Speaking of Soda Breadremember when CakeSpy tried to make it awesomer?

How about some Shamrock Chocolate-Mint Brownies, via Wilton?

Even if you don't make it, simply looking at the pictures of this Chocolate Stout Cake via King Arthur Flour is a delight.

This easy Irish Whiskey Cake comes with a warning: "This has significant (uncooked!) alcohol content and is not appropriate for non-drinkers." Translation: good times!

Speaking of beer-based desserts, Peabody, who is a genius, has a recipe for a chocolate stout creme brulee.

What exactly is the difference between Irish and Scottish shortbread? Not sure, but this Irish Shortbread sure does look good.

Little Shamrocks has a sweet collection of Irish dessert recipes, including Irish Cream Pudding Parfaits

It may not be easy being green, but it sure is easy to eat green, when it is in mint ice cream form. Via Blondie and Brownie.

Who could forget this monstrosity of a homemade shamrock shake?

Bakerella's Shamrock Cake Truffles: a St. Patty's classic!

Friday
Feb192010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Patisseries I'll Be Visiting in Paris

Guess what? I'm in Paris right now. And to share a bit of the sweetness, here's just a baker's dozen (in no particular order) of the many sweet spots on my must-visit list in the City of Lights!

Laduree, because it's a magical place.

Pierre Herme, because he's kind of like a macaron rock star.

Patisserie des Reves, because Dorie Greenspan says it's great.

Synie's Cupcakes, because I'm curious to see the French take on the American trend.

Hotel du Cadran, because apparently they have a chocolate shop and great macarons on premises!

Dalloyau, because I hear this rumor that they have a killer Opera Cake.

Chistian Constant, because Clotilde Dusoulier says they have a "picture perfect cup of hot chocolate"

Baillardran, because a pastry shop in a train station is intriguing.

Lecureuil, because they are said to have "petits fours that seem right out of a children's book.

U Sputinu, because I'm into "produits tres bons Corses".

Berthillon, because visiting a famous glacier sounds pretty fantastic.

La Grande Epicerie, because I think I could spend many hours just wandering here.

Patisserie au Grand Richelieu, because it looks old and wonderful.

(P.S. Any suggestions? Leave 'em in the comments! I'm in Paris all week!)

Friday
Feb122010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Valentine Recipe Ideas

 

Photo Credits, from top left clockwise: My Baking Addiction, Bake at 350, The Food Librarian, Taste of Home. Links to recipes below!Chocolate Cherry Silk Tart recipe from Seattle's Macrina Bakery: what's not to love?

Nanaimo bars are always something to be loved, but these ones are perfect for Valentine's Day!

Conversation heart chocolates, from the always wonderful Chic Cookie Kits.

...aaand, in case you forgot about them, the CakeSpy homemade conversation heart for Serious Eats!

Show your Gluten Free buddies some love with these Valentine's Day gluten free sugar cookies.

Love word games? Love cookies? You'll love these babies by Bake at 350, and so will your valentine!

Cupid's arrow has hit these cupcakes...why not share the love by baking some of your own?

Just cos you love someone doesn't mean you have to share--make these individual heart cakes!

Make perfect chocolate dipped strawberries with these tempering tips from Jacques Torres.

Meringue Swans! Precious!

Don't break dishes on the wall--make this strangely beautiful broken glass jello!

Making sweetie pies like these would win over just about anyone, I think.

Bakerella always offers something sweet for heart day, and this year's no exception: big cookies mean big love.

Friday
Feb052010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Recipes from Fellow Foodbuzz Kelly Ripa Event Attendees!

Dudes! So as you know, on Monday I am heading over to NYC to be part of an event with Kelly Ripa, Electrolux and Foodbuzz. Booyea!

I will be accompanied by 14 other talented people with foodie websites, and it seemed appropriate for this week's Friday Links (it's a baker's dozen plus one!) to introduce my cake-lovin' blogger buddies-to-be by sharing a delicious dessert recipe link from each of their sites!

Like, OMG. Wonton Pockets with cardamom crema pasticcera, chocolate and cajeta/dulce de leche. Did you just fall in love with Salty Seattle, too? 

What's easier than pie, but equally delicious? Easy peach cobbler from In Erika's Kitchen! (read the interview she did with me too!)

I can't decide on just one recipe from Nobody Puts Cupcake in a Corner's Iron Cupcake!

This cake will get you all hot and bothered: hot chocolate layer cake from Daydreamer Desserts.

Spain in Iowa will tempt you with this comforting and delicious-looking arroz con leche.

Pie or cake? Why decide: RhodeyGirl Tests has a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cake.

Everyone knows muffins are just cake in disguise--and Carrots N Cake has a recipe for chocolate chip olive oil ones.

Ever think that pecan pie just wasn't rich or decadent enough? Evil Shenanigans has got your back with a recipe for chocolate chip pecan pie.

Caramel macchiato shortbread thumbprints, via The Cooking Photographer. Need I say more?

On Megan's Munchies, these chocolate chippy cakes may be gluten free and vegan, but there's no lack of flavor.

Cannoli Cereal? I like the way you eat breakfast, Graduate Meghann.

You may not know this, but Pecan Tassies are Jimmy Carter's favorite! Still, I like Smoky Mountain Cafe's version better.

Nutella Oatmeal Cookies? Screw you, raisins! These come from My Kitchen Addiction.

Key. Lime. Squares. Thank you, Bake at 350!

Friday
Jan292010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Cookie Links!

Photo credits, from top left clockwise: ClankWorks; Forty-Sixth at Grace; CakeSpy; Chic Cookie Kits

It's Friday, folks. And this week, it's all about the cookie. Here's a baker's dozen of sweet cookie-related links:

What's cuter than a button? How 'bout a cookie that looks like a button? Get your fill of this cuteness at Forty-Sixth at Grace.

Type geek meets baker chic: Helvetica Cookie Cutters by Beverly Hsu (via CraftZine)

These guinea pig cookies are sort of mousy, but nonetheless simply precious.

Hugs and kisses cookies...oh, and just about everything ever posted on Chic Cookie Kits.

...and it would be a shame not to mention Cookie Sensations , possibly the sweetest cookie book you'll ever see, by Meaghan Mountford (author of the aforementioned Chic Cookie Kits blog).

Forget Chess Pie: It's all about these chess cookies, where you can eat the board after you play!

Breakfast of champions: how 'bout some blueberry lemon cornflake cookies? (via Cookie Madness)

Because bacon's not dead yet: more breakfast of champions, by way of bacon-oatmeal-orange juice breakfast cookies.

It's no secret that CakeSpy loves Sara Snacker...but let's just consider those CandyPop cookies one more time.

Craving Cute? Sogo Bakery's Panda shortbread cookies are pretty freaking cute.

At Park 19, behold the Creme Brulee Cookie.

Love all things Lilliputian? Learn how to make your own dollhouse cookies

Need cookie cutters? Cookies in Seattle is just about the sweetest shop ever--no bigger than a closet, but packed full of every type of cookie cutter--and they have a pretty great online shop too!

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