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Friday
Feb272015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Look at this thing I ate in New Jersey. Read about it (and more). (CakeSpy)

Art related: what is gouache and how do you use it? (Craftsy)

Cherry-chocolate bombe dessert. You must see this! (Cherry Tea Cakes)

Snickers Poke Cake. Yes, Yes, Yes. (Crazy For Crust)

Gooey filled brownies. OMG. (Handle the Heat)

Chocolate Italian Love Cake. (Chew Nibble Nosh)

Purple sweet potato bao. Adorable! (Everybody Eats Well)

Stippling. What is it? How can you use it to draw cake? Find out here. (Craftsy)

A fun guide to tempering chocolate. (The Guardian)

Expert bakers share their secrets (Good Food AU)

Will the Oscars give Pump Street Bakery (mentioned in an acceptance speech) a sales boost? (Wall Street Journal)

Buckeye brownie cookies. Yes. (Tastes of Lizzy)

Neapolitan seven layer bars. #winning (The Domestic Rebel)

Homemade Vanilla Kreme Donuts a la Dunkin'!. (CakeSpy)

Book of the week: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. Not only is the book beautiful, but the cookie recipes are all 100% solid, and there are some great general baking tips in the book so that you can become a more skilled baker overall. 

Wednesday
Feb252015

Where in the World is CakeSpy This Time? 

Unicorn farm road

If you've been following me on social media lately, you've seen posts from a wide variety of locales, from Asheville, North Carolina to New York City to Litchfield County, Connecticut to...Amarillo, Texas? 

It all might make one start to wonder: where in the world is CakeSpy? Where the heck IS CakeSpy? 

Why don't we catch up so I can tell you where I've been and what I've been doing--and more importantly, eating. 

Before I departed Asheville, I made three very important stops that I feel I should tell you about. The first was to Unicorn Farm Road. I need to tell you: THIS IS A REAL PLACE. One of my yoga school classmates told me about it, and basically I got there as soon as my GPS said I could. 

Unicorn farm road

I wouldn't say that the road matches its name (unless the unicorns are living undercover), but seriously. UNICORN FARM ROAD! 

If that interested you, FYI, there is also a Unicorn Road in Newburyport, Massachusetts (also home of Eat Cake!). Just saying.

After Unicorn Farm Road (can you tell I love saying it?), we hit up Dough, a bakery that had been closed most of January for renovations. Well, it re-opened the day we left, and it had some truly glorious offerings, including their take on a Cronut...

Dough

and a cocoa nib doughnut...

Dough

And many things other than doughnuts, but we didn't try them.

Yumz. We took a few bites but saved some room, because I'd never been to Whit's Frozen Custard before. Yes, it's a chain, but it was a new chain to me. And I'm glad I went there. We got their version of a concrete, which you seriously could have turned over and it wouldn't have dripped out of the cup, it was that thick. I got the cookie dough version, thankyouverymuch. Whit's

Oh, and. It's a bonus fourth thing I did in Asheville, but I got new boots. New Boots

After I departed Asheville, North Carolina (read about what I ate in Asheveille!), me and my family packed up and drove to Richmond, VA to visit an old family friend. Time was at something of a premium there, but we did get a chance to enjoy a fantastic breakfast at Lulu's (red velvet waffle, anyone?), and to pick up some sweet treats at For the Love of Chocolate.

Photo via Lulu's Yelp page

We didn't have time to hit up Dixie Donuts this time, but I can tell you from my previous visits to Richmond, they're worth a visit. 

From Richmond, we backtracked westward, ultimately bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico. But as that drive is impossible to do in one go, we had some pleasant side trips along the way. 

Knoxville

First up was Knoxville, Tennessee. One of my yoga school classmates, Emily, lives there, so we stopped to visit! That's us together, above. We're cute, don't you think? We had lunch at an adorable place called Just Ripe, where they had pecan sorghum pie. We didn't get it, but I was intrigued. Note: Sorghum is big in this area. I was seeing it all over Asheville, too.

Knoxville

After lunch, we went to an adorable chocolate shop called Coffee and Chocolate.

Photo via Coffee and Chocolate's Yelp page

We also couldn't help a quick stop in this adorable gift store called Rala, which sort of reminded me of my old store! They have cute cards by Gemma Corell, pictured below. 

I also saw this, in another gift store. I forget the name of the store, but the unicorn left a lasting impression.

Unicorn, Knoxville

We stopped for a quick dinner in Nashville, and I will tell you, this is my first time having BBQ there! We went to a place charmingly called Peg Leg Porker to partake. They also had locally made fried pies, which we tried...I promise, they tasted better than my picture looks. Fried pie

We also stopped for a coffee at Crema, then were on our way. 

Drive, drive, drive. We stopped in Arkansas so I could take a yoga class, but didn't stop too long otherwise. I didn't eat anything there, but I should let you guys know that I was able to knock Arkanasas off of my "50 states of yoga" list. Along with the trips detailed later, I am up to this point:

More driving, then we had a brief stopover in Oklahoma City to visit Whiskey Cake. I love this restaurant. It's weird because it's oddly chain-y, or it looks like they want to become a national chain, but while it's still a small chain, it's very good. We had (surprise) the whiskey cake.

Photo via Whiskey CakeNo visit to Pinknitzel or Ingrid's Kitchen this time, because then we were on our way to...

Amarillo, Texas. If you've never been to Amarillo, I'm not going to give it a hard sell. But I am going to tell you that if you dig a little, there are some fun bakeries to be found. There's Donut Stop, which is very old school but has good, "like Dunkin' Donuts used to be" sort of donuts. Because it is amusing, I will pause to show you some photos of Porkchop exhibiting curiosity about their donuts for a moment. Donut Stop Donut Stop

As a note, I bought a t-shirt there, which smelled like donuts (really). I didn't want to wash it! But, in case you were worried, I finally did. 

There's also my favorite bakery in Amarillo, Belmar Bakery.

Texas cookies

Belmar Bakery is my favorite probably because it's the same name as the town I grew up in, in New Jersey. It also oddly reminds me of a bakery called Freedman's that was in Belmar forever until last year. But this is in Texas.

Turtle brownie, Belmar Bakery

They have a variety of not-fancy but sweet treats, ranging from kolaches (it's Texas, after all) to cupcakes to brownies. We picked up a nice variety of treats, including brownies, cookies, petits fours, and more. The brownies, in my opinion, were the standouts. 

We also stopped at Braum's, a regional chain which has its last outpost to the west in Amarillo. I love their birthday cake ice cream. 

Braum's

Back in Santa Fe, we were delighted to pick up our favorite cake from Whole Foods (here's my homemade hack of it!). As a note, this one says happy birthday because it is an old photo. My birthday was in August, but you're allowed to send me a present if you like.

Birthday cake

But after about 4 days back in Santa Fe, I was back on the road. I had a trip planned to New York City, Boston, and Connecticut, to try to make some publisher connections. 

So, I got on a midnight plane and the next morning, found myself in cold, cold, cold New York City.

Right after hopping on a red-eye flight, I went straight into Manhattan, to Black Seed Bagels. It was a re-schedule; Arcade Bakery, the initial venue, was closed for the winter break. 

Photo via Black Seed Bagels on Yelp

I walked by the new BAKED location on my way to the meeting, and I can tell you, Baked is good no matter if it's in Tribeca or Brooklyn. 

Photo via BAKED Facebook page

I then got a rental car in New Jersey (it was a lot cheaper), stopped for a cookie with my parents...

Mom's super secret chocolate chip cookies

and drove up to Connecticut. There, I had another meeting but then stayed with some family. To be a good houseguest, I made sure to get them a little cake. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but it was a tiny cake--about 5 inches. This highly adorable cake was purchased at Whole Foods, where they personalized it for me with a heart. Aww!

Little cake from Whole Foods, Danbury

I also had time to stop at Love Heart's Bakery in Litchfield, which I already loved just based on the name, but loved even more once I tasted their English Toffee. 

English Toffee from Love's Heart Bakery, CT

From there, I headed up to the Boston area, where I got to finally meet Andris of Baking Steel, with whom I am collaborating on a project. We talked pizza and steel, then I helped him with a pizza class. 

Photo via Baking Steel

The next morning, I knocked Massachusetts off of my yoga list by taking a class at Dancing Crow Yoga, and then went to a meeting at Redeye Coffee Roasters in Hingham.

Snowy boston

After that, I had a weather advisory so I basically headed back to New Jersey for a visit with my parents. First stop? Hoffman's ice cream. Even on the coldest week of the year, it's a necessary stop for me every time I go to NJ.

Hoffman's Ice cream, nj

My dad had an impressive pastry from Mueller's in Bay Head on the same night, which I thought I would show you. 

Chocolate claw

In NJ, I made sure to hit up some of my favorite places: Kane Brewing Company, Younique Yoga, and Rook Coffee.

Rook coffee and an apple

I also had a standout pastry experience at Simona's Bakery in Sea Girt, NJ. We had gone there because their chocolate blackout cupcake was named one of the best in NJ. Well, we got one of those, but also a Fluffernutter cupcake, which was a melange of peanut butter and marshmallow. Look at it!

Cupcakes from Simona's

And now, look at how it looks in the center.

Fluffernutter cucpake, Simona's

Now, I'm not one to even believe in the existence of "half a cupcake" (just eat the thing! is my opinion), but this cupcake was so large that it really was like two cupcakes, so I separated it into two portions. This means I got to enjoy it over two days. Score!

It was snowy and cold in NJ, so I spent some time doing stippling. You can read about it in this post I did for Craftsy. How to: stippling

I of course also hit up Nature's Corner for one of my favorite Shazaam cookies.

Shazaam cookie

I headed back up to NYC, where I ate some pizza and recorded a podcast with Food Psych by Christy Harrison.

Oh, and I also got to go to City Bakery for some hot chocolate and an expensive marshmallow. Classic! City Bakery

 

I stayed with my friend James, and he made gluten-free pancakes in the morning. I had never tried them before but these were actually quite nice--extra nice since they were made for me by a friend.

GF Pancakes

The next day, I went back to the city for a meeting and the editor had treats from Bouchon. Pinkies ouuuuut!

Ho-ho from Bouchon Bakery

I went back to NJ, feeling like a real live commuter, and spent the night. The next AM, me and my mom went back to the city. We enjoyed the most frigid walk I've ever had, but we had each other's company.

We had a tasty dinner at Benny's Burritos, and I picked up some sweets at Zaro's Bread Basket at Penn Station (which hasn't changed a whole lot since this roundup). 

Black and White Cupcakes

The next day was my last in the city, and this is a good point to ask an important question: is it really a visit to NYC without a cupcake from Amy's Bread? I think not. 

Cupcakes at Amy's Bread in Chelsea Market, NYC

Have you ever tried Dough Doughnuts? Based in Brooklyn, this is a store that cannot be missed. They also sell their doughnuts at Whole Foods locations in Manhattan.

Photo via DOUGH

We got some coffee at Ms Delilah's, an adorable place with biscuits from Balthazar that they will dress up in a number of different ways. 

Once at JFK, I was just happy to have survived the weather, and I was on my way back to Santa Fe. 

Whew! What a few months it has been. I'm ready for a nap!

Happy Sweet Winter, everyone!

Monday
Feb232015

15 Awesome Punk Rock Cakes

If you consult the dictionary, punk rock is "a loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music, popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s". But it was so much more: a way of life, breaking free of the shackles of establishment and societal norms. And it came with some very assertive fashion. I remember being a child of the 80s and thinking the studs, Doc Martens boots, and plaid with zippers all over was sort of scary, but also very cool.

These fifteen awesome punk rock cakes reflect the creativity, fashion, and assertive, unapologetic nature of punk rock. The aesthetic is sometimes far from sweet, but they're all sweet to eat. 

Punk rock! This cake definitely shows a punk rock edge, with a skull and crossbone flag, green flames, and an edgy punk rocker on the top tier. But the piece de resistance? The mohawk topper, which is cleverly configured from black licorice. Cake by Pastry Chef Jodi (no website). 

An Australian bakery made this adorable Lego punk rocker cake for a kid's birthday, but I'd accept this mohawked morsel at any age! Via Sweet Eats

The Clash is immortalized in sweet form in this cake, which features a realistic rendering of what is arguably their most famous album. Via Sylvie's Cake Creations

I love this birthday cake that I found on Photobucket, and think that Olaf, whoever he is, is a lucky fellow. It features the Ramones' logo, with a delicate buttercream piped border. It manages to be cool and cute at the same time. Via Photobucket member hwilkes501.

This cake cleverly adapts a Sex Pistols album cover to be birthday (and kid!) friendly. Via Karli's Cakes.

Here's another variation on the Sex Pistols cake, for someone turning the same age! Via Once Upon a Cake. 

This cake is anti-establishment at its most delicious. Combat boots, beer, and the punk rock battle call of "oi!" adorn the cake, which manages to be adorable in spite of its subject matter. Via Pinterest member Cindy Cortez.

Punk rawk! Many of the classic punk bands are reflected in these delicately decorated cupcakes, but my favorite part is the cupcakes with the hearts which are nestled between punk bands. But...what's with the Pink Floyd? I definitely felt that didn't quite fit in with the others!

Anarchy! Sweet anarchy! This cupcake captures a punk rock mentality with definite sweetness. Photo via Bleeding Heart Bakery, from a post by Cupcakes Take the Cake.

While I'm not sure where this image came from, I love the cake. The industrial Union Jack, formed from studs! The spiky ribbons around the bottom of alternate layers! The leather jacket-look of the crisscrossed layers! This cake is punk, but with panache. 

How fun is this punk rock fashion inspired cake? It's got it all: a mohawk topper, plaid with buckles and zippers, a moto jacket-inspired bottom layer, and even a lining around the edges of Doc Martens boots. Via Party Animals Online.

The best way (ever) to make your teeth go rotten? With a Johnny Rotten caramel crunch cake, featuring a chocolate transfer with the famous punk rocker's visage. Via Flickr member Straight Outta Chocolate.

Chains form the bottom border on this DIY themed cake, which features punk plaid, anarchy symbols, and safety pins to form a punk themed, but very pretty, cake. Via Pinterest member Jessica Mooney

In Arizona, a bakery called Cup n'cake  dreamed up this glam yet punk-themed wedding cake. A classy octagonal base is stacked with round layers, all coated in black fondant, and decked out with metallic studs. The sophisticated layout and white flower make it wedding-appropriate. Via Cup n'cake

I'm not sure exactly why a duck with a mohawk is hilarious, but it is. This cake, by an Albuquerque bakery, features a punk rock baby toy. Via ABC Cake Shop.

Which is your favorite punk rock cake?

Sunday
Feb222015

CakeSpy's Recent Craftsy Posts

How to make tuiles, a fancy French cookie. 

Greek yogurt frosting for cake. SERIOUSLY. (pictured top)

What is gouache paint...and how do you use it?

Cinema and sugar: creative movie-themed cakes.

How to make milk fudge. A traditional Indian sweet, and delicious!

Ever heard of stippling? Here's how to do it. Cupcake art included.

How to fill a doughnut. Important life skill.

DIY Bagels. From a while back but worth re-visiting.

Saturday
Feb212015

Make Tuiles Today

Have you ever made tuiles? These fun and fancy-feeling French cookies (pronounced so they rhyme with "wheels") are actually easy to make, in spite of their delicate, wafer-thin appearance.

Recipe here. 

Saturday
Feb212015

Fixing Common Mistakes in Pen and Ink

If you're drawing with pen and ink, you know that the potential for calamity is high. You could spill ink, mess up a line, or smear fresh ink...and unlike pencil, there's no easy way to erase.

In this post for Craftsy, I address common mistakes in pen and ink and easy solutions. If you're an artist, it's a helpful post!

Read the full post here!

Friday
Feb202015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Please, can someone buy me this plush unicorn bouquet? (Right here)

Curious about the life of a professional fake food maker? (NPR)

How to make tuiles, a fancy French cookie. (Craftsy)

I'm so all about this pistachio cream cake. (My name is yeh)

Cronuts and pretzel croissants: part of a trend that is pervasive and possibly perverse. (The New Yorker)

We owe the restaurant experience as we know it to the French. (Ireland Independent)

Chocolate chip French toast layer cake. OMG. (Sun Diego Eats)

Homemade French burnt peanuts: I'm intrigued. (Baked Chicago)

Since it was recently President's Day: desserts named after US Presidents. (CakeSpy)

Ever heard of Watergate cake? (Craftsy)

Red velvet gooey butter cake. ALSO OMG. (I am baker)

Love this: The first time my daughter told me she hated me, I baked her a cake. (xojane)

Book of the week: Mug Meals: Delicious Microwave Recipes. Technically, this book is not out yet, but I got an advance copy. I have to say, I am completely impressed with all of the delicious-looking meals that come together in a mug in the microwave. Yes, there are cakes. But there's a whole lot more, too, from mango crumble to even lasagna. 

Wednesday
Feb182015

Easy Olive Oil Shortbread Recipe

Chocolate drizzle

In spite of the cartoon treatment above, these cookies are actually quite sophisticated.

They're shortbread, yes, but with an important departure from tradition: they're made with olive oil. Sound weird? Get over it. Because these cookies are so tender, so flavorful, so delicious, that you'll be craving them long after the batch is gone.

Chocolate drizzled olive oil cookies

The olive oil gives them an intriguing taste that more than makes up for the fact that they are delicate--so delicate, in fact, that I like to eat them with ice cream and a spoon. 

A drizzle of chocolate, which is my preferred garnish, helps hold the cookies together, so that they can melt in your mouth--not your hand. 

Chocolate drizzled olive oil cookies

Here's how to make these crave-worthy and conversation-starting cookies.

Olive oil shortbread cookies

Makes about 12

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • pinch salt 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Optional: 2 ounces melted chocolate, for drizzling on top of the finished cookies

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease and line with parchment an 8-inch square pan. 
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch with a pinch of salt. Set to the side.
  3. In a stand mixer or by hand, mix together the sugar and olive oil. It will be just a sandy liquid mixture.
  4. Add the flour mixture in 2-3 increments, mixing gently to combine. If the mixture is too soft, you can add up to 1/4 cup more flour.
  5. Turn the mixture out into your prepared 8-inch square pan, patting the mixture evenly into the pan.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden on the edges and matte on top.
  7. Slice the bars shortly after they are out of the oven, using a very sharp knife. But let them set completely before removing them from the pan.

These are much softer than regular shortbread so handle with care!

If you'd like, drizzle the cookies with melted chocolate (my fave!). 

Have you ever tried shortbread made with olive oil?

Monday
Feb162015

How to Use the Last of the Peanut Butter in the Jar 

Peanut butter jar solution

This is an empty peanut butter jar. But it isn't a bigtime bummer: it's a delicious opportunity.

No more do you have to lament the loss of the last hard-to-remove bits of peanut butter from the jar. Instead, make it a delicious snack: peanut butter hot chocolate. 

Peanut butter jar solution

All you have to do is this.

Gather up:

  • 1 almost-empty jar of peanut butter 
  • Up to 8 ounces of hot chocolate, not piping hot but definitely warm 

And do this:

  1. Pour the hot chocolate into the jar. Shake vigorously. You'll start to see the chocolate melt and absorb the peanut butter as you shake. Peanut butter jar solutionYou may not get every last shred, but you'll get a good amount mixed in.
  2. Once you're satisfied, stop shaking. You can drink it straight from the jar if you want to look all cool, or transfer it to another cup to enjoy. 
  3. Peanut butter jar solution 
    Enjoy! Peanut butter hot chocolate time!
    Peanut butter jar solution

Notes:

Don't do this with low fat peanut butter. In fact, don't buy low fat peanut butter, EVER. 

I suggest "up to 8 ounces" as the liquid amount because this leaves you room to shake the liquid.

Don't like chocolate? I don't know what's wrong with you, but I guess we can share space on the same planet. You could also use warm milk or any soy/rice/nut alternative. 

You're welcome. 

Monday
Feb162015

A Guide to Hairstyle Calamities in Yoga

Yoga hair calamity

 

Listen, I know I mostly talk about sweets here, but I'm willing to take a detour into the land of figuratively sweet every now and again.

And I believe that this is an important subject that calls for some of your time and attention:

A guide to hairstyle calamities in yoga.

If you think yoga is safe, you are wrong. Here is just a sampling of the things that can go terribly wrong with your hair in the average class. 

The ponytail-earring snag.

Yoga hairstyle calamities

Think ponytails are safe? Think again. It's only a matter of time before they snag in your earring or float into your eyes at a pivotal point in a pose.

The bun-head jam

Yoga hairstyle calamities

So why not harness your hair into a bun? Totally great, until you get to poses when you're on your back, and you feel like you have a stale cinnamon roll wedged between your neck and the floor.

The hair-to-finger mangle

Yoga hairstyle calamities

Whether it's flying free or in a long ponytail, chances are high that your hair will get stuck in your hands when you fly up into wheel pose. Ouch!

The "Cousin It"

Yoga hairstyle calamities

Think it's a good idea to wear your hair down? Enjoy the view from your downward facing dog.

The top-knot fish pose buster

Yoga hairstyle calamities

Hey! What about a top-knot? Great idea, until fish pose or headstand comes along. See how either of those works out for you.

The braid slap in the face

Yoga hairstyle calamities

Braids are fraught with calamity. While they give the back of your head a flat profile, if you're in a vigorous class, it's only a matter of time before you slap yourself in the face with that braid, whether it's a single braid or two.

So what hairstyle is right? The world may never know. Perhaps we all need to shave our heads!

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