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Entries in pittsburgh (4)

Wednesday
May042011

Cake Byte: Dozen Bake Shop and Burgatory Bar Collaborate on Cupcake Shakes

In Pittsburgh, a small miracle has taken place.

A deep, dark, secret love between a cupcake shop (Dozen Bake Shop) and a burger bar (Burgatory Bar) has resulted in the sweetest baby you'll ever meet: the Cupcake Shake!

Now, the cake shake isn't necessarily a new thing. The CupShake in Utah inspired CakeSpy's own CupShake recipe on Serious Eats a while back. But this is not to take away from the awesomeness of another CupShake entering the world of sweet treats. In fact, this is news to be celebrated.

And with flavor combinations like the Chocolate Stout Cupcake Shake, it is strong motivation to get your sweet self to Pittsburgh, STAT!

Cupcake Milkshakes, available at Burgatory Bar, Pittsburgh.

Sunday
May012011

Cakewalk: Two Sweet Pittsburgh Bakery Visits with Cake Gumshoe Lauren

CakeSpy Note: You know what rules? Getting bakery tips from readers. Here's a great round-up of sweet spots that I know I'll be trying next time I'm in Pittsburgh, thanks to Cake Gumshoe Lauren H.!

I’m sure that there are many excellent ways to spend a rainy February weekend in Pittsburgh, but my favorite so far is most definitely exploring the city’s bakeries. While we weren’t there long enough to try too many places, my husband and I had a lovely time at the two places that we did visit (which we might have visited more than once), and I wanted to share them with other Cakespy readers who might be looking for sweets during their next trip to Pittsburgh!

Our first Pittsburgh stop was Dozen Bake Shop. I found a link to their website on Cakespy and wanted to be sure to visit! Dozen has two locations in Pittsburgh, one in Lawrenceville and one near the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon campuses in Oakland. We dropped by both; while the Lawrenceville location has seating and a more “café” feel, the Oakland location just seemed cozier for some reason!

Dozen has a daily cupcake menu, and I’m proud (ashamed?) to say that my husband and I managed to try the majority of the daily specials during our two days in Pittsburgh. The six cupcakes that took part in our taste test (pictured above, clockwise from the top left) were Mostess (basically a much tastier Hostess cupcake), Almond Dream, Milk Chocolate, Elvis (banana cake filled with chocolate buttercream and topped with peanut butter frosting), East End Chocolate Stout, and Red Velvet. Though all but one of the cupcakes were hits, the highlight was definitely the Almond Dream – I’ll be making my way to Dozen for another as soon as I arrive in Pittsburgh next time! The one miss was the East End Chocolate Stout: we were definitely not a fan of beer + cupcake + Irish cream frosting!  

We also indulged in some of Dozen’s non-cupcake sweets in the form of an incredible cinnamon bun, which I actually think my husband would rank above the cupcakes as his favorite Dozen treat.   

While Dozen was lovely, however, the highlight of our bakery stops was La Gourmandine Bakery, which is the best bakery that I’ve visited in any city for quite some time! The bakery has been open less than a year and is run by a French couple who relocated to Pittsburgh and decided to open a traditional French bakery there.   

The bakery is small and cozy, with just a few tables, but there was quite a Saturday morning line when we were there, despite its size and relative newness – and with good reason! As the photos above show, La Gourmandine has a spectacular selection of French pastries and breads, and the best part is that everything tastes even better than it looks!  

We indulged in (left to right) a coffee éclair, apple tart, and chocolate éclair. All three were beyond incredible, and the only thing that kept me from returning to purchase a box of coffee éclairs to take home with us the next day was the fact that La Gourmandine is closed on Sundays.  

If possible, La Gourmandine’s bread was even better than the pastries – we brought home a traditional baguette and a pain au cereal and could not stop raving about them (or eating them!) In short, pretty much everything about La Gourmandine was lovely and delightful – and tasted absolutely amazing! We’re planning another trip to Pittsburgh soon, and I’m fighting the urge to count down the days until we can visit the bakery to pick up another baguette and multiple coffee éclairs!

Hopefully this short walk will inspire other Cakespy readers to check out these bakeries next time they’re in Pittsburgh – and keep them full of sweets during their visit!

Places mentioned:

Dozen Bake Shop online at http://dozenbakeshop.com/

La Gourmandine Bakery online at http://www.lagourmandinebakery.com/

Saturday
Oct232010

Pitt Stop: The Famous Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl's, Pittsburgh PA

So, anyone who has ever talked to me (like, ever) knows that sooner or later, we're going to start talking about baked goods.

And a couple of years ago I had a great conversation with a young lady from Pittsburgh who told me a beautiful tale about a famous dessert from her town: the Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl's Bakery. Actually, I believe she referred to it as "a torte worth shoving grandma out of the way to get to quicker." Oddly, I didn't ask any follow up questions.

But suffice it to say, the description left an impression, and when a customer in my Seattle store mentioned that he was headed to Pittsburgh for a visit, I left him with a very strong suggestion that he try this torte.

But he did one better: he brought me back a piece. Apparently not only had he bought one of the tortes, but had become hooked: as he confessed, he had eaten a slice that very morning for breakfast (a practice which I support, btw).

The torte itself has an interesting story, as I learned from a Pittsburgh-based dessert enthusiast

It wasn't until the 1970's though, that Prantl's began to serve its most famous item- the Burnt Almond Torte. In the midst of an unusual surplus of almonds, the Almond Board asked bakers to use more almonds in more creative ways. Henry Prantl, an original owner, traveled to California to learn and came back with an idea for a cake which he refined into the ever-delicious Burnt Almond Torte.

Well, Henry did good, and one taste of this torte reveals why it's an enduring legend in the area. It's comprised of Prantl's "famous yellow 'scrap' batter cake, creamy custard, homemade buttercream and loads of secret recipe toasted almonds", and it is very, very good. The cake itself is light, but don't you dare think it's virtuous, because the thick slab of custard contained inside not only keeps the cake moist, but adds a decadent dimension--which is then multiplied by the addition of thick, creamy buttercream and crunchy, toasty almond slivers. They may think that they're doing a good job of keeping the secret to the preparation of these delicious almonds under wraps, but I'm pretty sure I've figured it out: they mix in a heaping handful of crack.

Because this cake really is that addictive--in Mr. Spy's words, it was "an epic dessert".

Thank you Dennis for bringing back a slice for us to sample!

Prantl's Bakery is located in Pittsburgh; visit their site for locations and details. You can also buy a "travel" version of the torte online here, and if you're feeling brave, you might want to give this copycat recipe a try (though I haven't tried it).

Prantl's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Friday
Nov092007

Batter Chatter: Interview with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes, Pittsburgh

Well, we're just going to come out and say it: it's pretty hard not to like cute guys who like to bake. And if they actually know what they're doing and have a savvy sense of design? All we can say is, magic ensues, such as in the case of Dozen Cupcakes in Pittsburgh. The owners, James Gray and Andrew Twigg have backgrounds in baking and graphic design, respectively; this expertise shows in their dense, buttery and impeccably decorated cakes and adorable shop. Pittsburgh has clearly responded: business has grown so much that a second "Bakeshop" location featuring brunch and other baked goods will open later on this year. Cakespy recently had a chat with James Gray of Dozen Cupcakes; here's what we learned about getting buzzed on cupcakes, the dessert scene in Pittsburgh, and the story of the Andy Warhol Cupcake:

Cakespy: What is your most popular cupcake flavor?
James Gray: Cosmo. It is a vanilla butter cake with vodka soaked cranberries, lime buttercream tinted pink and rolled in pink and white sanding sugar. We finish it off with a lime wedge and a couple dried cranberries. People are crazy about it!

CS: Do you sell anything other than cupcakes? If not, do you think you ever will?
JG: We sell only cupcakes here and for now that is all we will sell. There will be more sweet treats in the very near future at another location.

CS: Hey, you're in Pittsburgh. Where is the Andy Warhol Cupcake on your menu?
JG: I started with a Warhol cupcake about a year ago when I first started. It had different vibrant colors of royal icing with little royal pansies in the center. I might bring them back in the future. They were really fun.

CS: What is your personal favorite flavor from your menu?
JG: Right now I would have to say the spiced apple cake. Apple cake is simply the dreamiest cake for me. The little bits of apple in the cake are a delight. We frost it with a caramel buttercream and a drizzle of real homemade caramel. I have to be careful when we make them because I could eat a lot of them!

CS: We've heard that "Pie is the new cake". What are your thoughts on this?
JG: I don't think pie will ever take the iconic stand that cupcakes and cake have in this country. Pie is a bit more difficult to make and eat. Although I love some pie!

CS: What in your opinion is the best time of day to eat cake?
JG: I would say between 2-3 o'clock. This is when most people need a little pick me up. And if you can hold out until then, it really makes it that much more exciting.

CS: What are some of the other popular desserts in Pittsburgh?
JG: Biscotti! We have the best biscotti here. And almond torte. These seem to be the faves.

CS: What, if anything, makes a "bad" cupcake?
JG: Oh, easy. Bad frosting. Like using vegetable shorting instead of butter. And a cake that has no flavor and is too spongy. At Dozen are cupcakes are like little cakes. Not traditional cupcakes. The cakes tend to be a little more dense and flavorful. Old Fashioned-style. If it tastes like the cakes grandma used to make then it will be yummy.

CS: Would we get buzzed if we ate your cosmo cupcake?
JG: Unfortunately no! The alcohol is baked out in the process. But we do have buttercreams that have straight liquor in them! If you were a light weight (extremely light) you might feel a little buzz.

CS: You do weddings and sweet sixteen parties. Holy high maintenance! Have you ever had any nightmare customers?
JG: Actually we haven't. Most of the customers who come to us are absolutely great and easy going. We also do everything to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible.

CS: Will cupcakes ever go out of style?
JG: Maybe someday. It will be a while though. These things have so much trend factor it's crazy.

CS: What is next for Dozen Cupcakes?
JG: We are working on Dozen Bake Shop. It's our full bakery line with Sunday brunch opening later this year or early next year. We are totally excited to bring a home-style bakery to Pittsburgh. We are opening in the hottest neighborhood in Pittsburgh right now, Lawrenceville. A mini burgeoning Brooklyn! There are lots of independent boutiques and many new restaurants and cafes opening up along Butler Street. I think the reception is going to be off the hook. At least, that's what we are hoping!

Dozen Cupcakes is located at 1707 Murray Ave, Pittsburgh; they are online at dozencupcakes.com.

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