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What is Tempering? 

If you really want to impress people, start talking about tempering chocolate. And really know what you mean. Need some help with that "actually understand" part? Here, let me educate you. 

Do you need to temper chocolate? It depends. Chocolate chips, chocolate candy coating (which contains some type of wax), or candy coating chips do not require tempering, as they have already been treated. If you are working on very small decorations, or will be painting over chocolate, chances are it is not necessary. However, when gloss is important, tempering is what separates the amateurs and the pros. Tempering is a method of heating and cooling a substance to improve its texture and durability. It’s used for many different substances, including metals. But on the food and cooking front, when you refer to tempering, you’re probably talking about chocolate. When you temper, you first raise the heat, making the chocolate melt, then reduce the heat, letting it cool. When it cools, stable crystals of cocoa butter form. When brought back to a working temperature after this process has occurred, this is what allows the perfect snap on a candy bar, and the impeccably glossy, smooth texture on candies and finished baked goods.


What is White Chocolate? 


Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

An interesting historical look at yogurt. (Detroit News)

"New Coke"? Big flop. (History.com)

Homemade sprinkles. Seriously! Amazing! (Craftsy)


Up Up and Away: Champagne Cake

7-Up cake is good. In fact, it's great. It is a beloved recipe in my first book.

But if you want to romance it up to give to your sweetie on Valentine's Day, you'll have to up the ante. How? By crunking it up with champagne, please.

This is basically 7-up cake with champagne (or sparkling wine, if you're in my income sector). One little substitution that makes a huge, but delicious, difference. Do it. And drink the rest of the champagne from the bottle like the epitome of class I know you are.

INGREDIENTS: 1 1/2 cups butter 3 cups white sugar 5 eggs 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons lemon extract 3/4 cup lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage DIRECTIONS: 1. Cream together the butter and sugar for 20 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time. Add flour, lemon extract and fold in the 7UP ™ soft drink. 2. Pour into a well-greased 12 cup Bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 60 to 75 minutes.


What Sweets to Eat in All 50 States 



Lemon chocolate pie

Hartford election cake


Pepperidge Farm

Stew Leonard


 Something with peaches (the official state fruit) is perfect. "Peaches, a new fruit for the Swedes and Finns [living in Colonial-era Delaware], were grown in orchards, along with cherries and wild plums..."-

Lewes eggnog


Whoopie pies

Wild blueberry pie 



Berger cookies


Boston baked beans

Boston cream pie 


Chocolate chip cookies


Hasty pudding

New Hampshire

Whoopie pies

Orange cake (Portsmouth)

Grape nuts ice cream

New Jersey

Crumb cake

Frog cupcakes

New York

Black and white cookies



Crumb cake

Egg cream

Sponge candy

Apple muffin official state muffin


Butter cake

Shoo-fly pie 

Burnt almond torte 

Whoopie pies

Irish potatoes


Rhode Island 

Coffee cabinet 

Lemon ice 


Maple creemee

Sugar on snow

Ben and Jerrys

Apple pie official state pie





Key lime pie

Cuban bread pudding 


Coca cola

Cola cake


Chess pie 


Banana foster

Bread pudding

King cake


Pecan pie



North Carolina

South Carolina

Benne wafers

Chess pie


Stack cake




Sweet tea

West Virginia

Apple butter 



Chicago popcorn


Hoosier pie

Persimmon pudding


Dutch letter 


Derby pie 


Mackinaw fudge

Door county cherry pie



Blueberry muffin official state muffin


Gooey butter cake












Huckleberry anything


Cinnamon roll and chili


New Mexico



North Dakota


Fried pies 

South Dakota

Cheez whiz toast

Chocolate peanut krispie bar




Fried pies 



Wyoming whopper cookies




Sourdough pancakes 

Nagoonberry chiffon pie

Finnish sweet bread


Cactus candy


Avocado pie 

Morning bun

Date shake 


Shave ice




Pine nuts





Jell-o salad


Aplets and cotlets

Mazurka bars

Pink frosted cookies


Nanaimo bar



Muddy Waters: The Mysterious History of the Brownie

Where do brownies come from?

It's a simple question, but seeking out the answer proves slightly more difficult.  The stories are many and sometimes seemingly conflicting--and so rather than try to find out which one is "real", I instead offer that perhaps the brownie that we know today is a combination of the following events, listed in a timeline format. Brownie, this is your life.

1780: Bakers Chocolate is invented.

1828: Cocoa powder is invented.

In the late 1800s, a couple of perhaps related, perhaps unrelated, things were happening.

1887 In the world of culture, the term "brownies" first popped up as a series of cartoon characters in a book series by Palmer Cox. These cartoon characters are sort of do-good elves who work at night; as to why they were called Brownies, there are a few theories, ranging from a reference to their skin and hair color to a legend that they were led by a hunchback named Brown. Read more in an 1892 article from the Ladies Home Journal.

1893:  “This dessert was created in the kitchen of the Palmer House Hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition when Mrs. Bertha Palmer requested the chef make a “ladies dessert” that would be easier to eat than a piece of pie, and smaller serving than a slice of layer cake, which could be used in box lunches at the Women’s Building at the Fair.” “This recipe is still served today at the Palmer House Hilton on State Street and is one of their most popular confections.”- From Epicurious.com 

1896: A recipe entitled "Brownies" is published in the Boston Cooking scool--for molasses blondie-type confections in individual molds. They'd be closer to what we today call Blondies. Here's that recipe:

Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1896), page 424
Boston, Massachusetts

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup Porto Rico molasses
1 egg, well beaten
7/8 cup flour
1 cup pecan meats cut in piecesBake in small, shallow fancy cake tins, garnishing top of each cake with one-half pecan 

1897: A recipe for "Brownies" appears in a Sears Roebuck catalog. These are closer to the Boston Cooking school version.

1900: The Brownie camera debuts--rumor has it, it was capitalizing on the brownie character from the Palmer Cox books, and that the writer never saw a penny from it.

1901: "Chocolate Brownies" are sold as candies; various newspapers have ads for them during or around 1901. 

1905: In the book Home Cook Book, Practical Recipes by Expert Cooks, this recipe appears:

Brownies (cookies)
¼ lb. [½ cup] butter
¼ lb. [½ cup] granulated sugar
2 eggs
Grated Rind of a Lemon
4 oz. [4 squares] grated chocolate
½ cup milk
pinch of salt
1 lb [3 cups] flour
“Stir briskly together, roll out and cut in brownie or other shapes …”

1906: A new chocolate version of "Brownies" shows up in the new edition of the Boston Cooking School book. This recipe is believed to be the first for a chocolate brownie in a cookbook. I found this recipe in an article in the Chicago Tribune, which notes that "It makes a lower, denser treat than today's thicker, cakelike brownies."

1906 Brownies

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg, unbeaten
2 squares Baker's chocolate, melted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup walnut meats, cut in pieces

Mix ingredients in order given. Line a seven-inch square pan with paraffine paper. Spread mixture evenly in pan and bake in slow oven. As soon as taken from oven turn from pan, remove paper, and cut cake in strips, using a sharp knife. If these directions are not followed, paper will cling to cake, and it will be impossible to cut it in shapely pieces.

1907: The Lowney's Brownie debuts. It was the creation of Maria Willett Howard, who had been trained by Fannie Farmer, and was then employed by the Walter Lowney chocolate company, who adapted the 1906 recipe with an extra egg, creating Lowney's Brownies. According to The Food Timeline, "She then varied the recipe by adding an extra square of chocolate and named the Bangor Brownies. This last recipe apparently started the idea that brownies were invented by housewives in Bangor, Maine."

1908: Duncan Hines is born: this won't affect the brownie just yet, but it will one day.

1912: The Bangor theory is also based on the evidence that there is a recipe for brownies in a 1912 publication,Girl's Welfare Cook Book, but this is several years after Farmer's recipe, making it unlikely that the Bangor version preceded hers.

1915: Brownies (the division of the girl scouts) are invented--originally called Rosebuds.

1916: "Brownies" is first trademarked as a foodstuff by the National Biscuit Company. The trademark on the term "brownies" has since expired and it is

1924: Palmer Cox, creator of the "Brownies" tales, dies.

1929: William Dreyer invents Rocky Road Ice Cream--how long did it take for someone to translate this killer combo into brownie form?

1933: Brownies and brownies come together:

Duncan Hines, yet to enter the brownie and cake mix world, has a suspiciously brownielike recipe in Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving in the Home: Tested Recipes of Unusual Dishes from America's Favorite Eating Places. Sample here: 520. Fudge Squares. Ingredients 1/2 cup butter 2 oz. bitter chocolate or 1/3 cup cocoa plus 1 tablespoon butter...Melt Butter and chocolate 1/2 cup cake flour 1 1/4 cups sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt...Sift twice and add to above 3 eggs--beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla 3/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)...Stir into mixture and bake in 350 F. to 375 F. oven for 25 minutes. ---Duncan Hines, Bowling Green Kentucky, Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving in the Home, Duncan Hines, recipes from the original 1933 edition edited by Louis Hatchett [Mercer University Press:Macon, GA] 2002 (unpaginated).

1941: A New York Times article describes how in New England, brownies are all the rage.

1954: The first ever brownie mix is patented.

1965: Craig Claiborne rights the perception the brownies are only chocolate, in a love letter to the Blondie.

1970s: According to the New York Times,

The 1970s marked the beginning of the chocolate cult; the term “chocoholic” came into vogue, and the “Cathy” comic strip picked up the thread in the 1980s with endless jokes about chocolate cravings, feeding the image of women — especially lonely single women — with a weakness for the stuff.

1975: Katharine Hepburn Brownies

1988: Brownie Cones are trademarked. I couldn't find the official one, but here's a recipe for brownie cones that makes me happy.

1991: Fat Witch Brownies is founded in New York City, specializing in a particularly dense, fudgelike brownie.

1998: Nick Malgieri releases his recipe for "Supernatural Brownies" to the public in his book

Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers

1999: Alice Medrich releases her recipe for "New Classic Brownies" in her book

The Brownie Diet is a Thing.


2000: Brownie Cream Cheese pie takes the cake at the Pillsbury Bake Off

2002: A 3,000 pound brownie.

2005: Moveable Feast's Fudgy Brownies are cited as one of Oprah's "favorite things"

2007: The most expensive brownie in the world can be found at Brulee at this time? $750.

2009: The Original Brownie Whoopie pie is trademarked.

2010: Mary J's Relaxation Brownies, featuring melatonin, debut. Valley of the Dolls Brownies?

Also this year, Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch debuts.

Also this year, Brownie Husband makes brownies sexy and gross and funny.



Chocolate Morsels Versus Chocolate from a Slab

Recently, I was talking to my buddy Andris (not to name drop, but he's the creator of the Baking Steel--and kind of a big deal) about an important subject: pizza. He was telling me this interesting thing about cheese: it makes a difference if you use the pre-shredded kind on your pizza, versus shredding or cutting your own from a block. Why? Because the pre-shreds are kept from caking together with a little cornstarch in the package. As it turns out, this cornstarch can actually affect the baking: it makes the cheese brown faster, giving a false indication of doneness on your pizza. So, for best results, shred yo' own cheese.

All of this was fascinating, of course, because I consider pizza a highly important part of my life. But since I love sweets, too, I found myself wondering: does this apply to chocolate, as well?

As in: does it make a difference if you bake with chocolate morsels versus chocolate from a slab? I'd like to explore this subject, if you'll go along with me.


There are a huge variety of both morsels and slab chocolate types, some of which are mentioned below. To figure out what type of chocolate to buy, this guide to buying chocolate will help you out bigtime. But for my more broad overview, just assume that we're pairing up the same type of morsels and slab chocolate side by side.

Chocolate morsels 

What they are

Chocolate morsels (or chocolate chips) are small Hershey's kiss-shaped bits of chocolate which are most famously used as mix-ins for cookies. Far from just chocolate, the morsels are available in white chocolate, various degrees of chocolate from milk to dark, peanut butter, toffee, and even raspberry. 

What to use them for

Mainly, you want to stick to morsels as a mix-in. Those little morsels are not, technically speaking, designed to melt. They're designed to hold their shape in chocolate chip cookies--that was exactly why the product was developed. This effect is heightened by the fact that they are often treated with wax to make them more firm. So while yes, you can melt them, they might be harder to handle once melted or might set up slightly differently than if you used untreated chocolate. 

Another note about morsels is that their treatment may yield a different burn point: they might get over-toasted too quickly if you substitute them for slab chocolate. The cornstarch used to store them may make them burn too quickly.

Slab chocolate

What it is 

A slab of chocolate which can be coarsely chopped and incorporated into baking recipes. Far from just one type of slab chocolate, this category can include everything from white chocolate to milk chocolate to a myriad of different percentages of dark chocolate. It includes unsweetened (sometimes called "baking") chocolate blocks. I would even go so far as to put some chocolate bars in this category, though this might prompt argument.

What to use them for

slab chocolate is typically the stuff you'll use in recipes where you want melted chocolate (fudge frostings, brownies, etc). It will incorporate rather than being treated as a mix-in.

You can substitute chopped slab chocolate for morsels in recipes, but know that it will melt differently, and that little shards of the chocolate will form straciatella-like nubs of chocolate in cookies (not that this is a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind). 

So, to review:

Chips or morsels, unless untreated with wax and stabilizers, are not going to be your best bet for melting. However, they will hold their shape in cookies, which gives a classic result. 

Slab chocolate, which is chopped and then melted or mixed in to recipes, will yield more melty results in cookies, but will melt more reliably for recipes calling for melted chocolate. 


Make Your Own Fro-Yo

I don't love frozen yogurt. But I do at least like it when it's homemade. And if you're already a frozen yogurt lover, I bet you'll love-love-love this. 

Here's the recipe. 

Homemade frozen yogurt 

Note: an ice cream maker is suggested for this recipe. If using an ice cream maker with an insert, be sure that you’ve let it freeze for 24 hours before starting.

Makes about 6 servings

  • ⅓ cup honey

  • ½ cup sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 quart container plain regular or greek yogurt (I used full-fat greek yogurt)


Use a medium bowl and combine the yogurt, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir until combined.

Chill in the refrigerator, or using an ice bath, until the mixture registers 45 degrees F or slightly lower. This resting time will also allow the sugar to dissolve. 

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours before enjoying.

Making it without an ice cream maker:

This recipe will have a superior texture if made with an ice cream maker. That having been said, if you don’t have one, the recipe is not off limits. Follow these steps once the recipe tells you to transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker:

Gently transfer the mixture into a cold casserole pan where it can lie in a shallow layer. If you chilled the mixture in an ice bath, take care that no drops of water from the bottom of the pan get in the mixture.

Place the pan in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Remove the pan. Chances are, the mixture has begun to “set” along the sides but is wobbly in the middle. Use a spatula to loosen the edges, and a whisk to break up the partially set ice cream. Stir for about a minute, as vigorously as possible without making the mixture fly. You don’t have to worry about over-stirring, but if the ice cream is starting to turn into liquid, it’s time to return the mixture to the freezer.

Return the mixture to the freezer. Repeat the removing and stirring procedure every 20 minutes for 6 cycles. The mixture will be slightly thicker every time. If at any point it is too thick, place the mixture in the refrigerator to soften slightly before stirring, then do the stirring and return to the freezer.

If you’d like to stir in any flavorings such as chocolate morsels or a caramel swirl, do it on one of the last mixings to ensure that it doesn’t get too messy looking. Once the ice cream has completely frozen, your ice cream is ready. Transfer to a freezer-safe container for storage.



CakeSpy's Recent Craftsy Posts

How to draw block letters. Totally awesome!

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Common cooking mistakes...and how to remedy / prevent them!

Awesome doodling ideas. And proof that doodling is good for your brain! 

DIY brown sugar. Technically from a while back but well worth checking out. <3


How to Make Marshmallow Fluff

This is probably the easiest way ever to make marshmallow fluff. Believe it. Ingest it. Love it. 

Find the recipe / tutorial here.

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