Frosting shots

September 9, 2008

I’m not going to tell you that I’ve never eaten raw cookie dough or indulged in a spoonful of frosting while I was I decorating a cake. Heck, I’ll even admit to once or twice having eaten the frosting off my cupcake and then leaving the cupcake to languish. I’ve broken dietary rules and will again.

What I won’t do, however, is buy a frosting shot. Some dirty little secrets should be reserved for the privacy of your own home.

What do you think? Are frosting shots a gross idea or a genius invention?


A virtual friend with cupcakes

July 30, 2008

“A friend in need is a friend indeed. A friend with cupcakes is better.”

I’m considering making this my epitaph. It’s kind of a twist on “Let them eat cake” but still all my own, don’t you think?

Regardless, those words remind me of one of my favourite blogs: Cakespy, where baking history and facts, butter cream, bakeshop tours and whimsical art come together in a happy little confection.

Check out these favourite Cakespy offerings:

Faceoff: Cupcakes Vs. Muffins
Donut Speak: Sweet talk about the iconic treat’s name
Cake walk in Victoria, BC.

PS: Today is the day that the Daring Bakers (Cakespy and I both belong!) will be posting their latest challenge. I’ve opted out this month for obvious vacation-related reasons but I hope you’ll visit the Daring Baker’s Blogroll and check out the wares produced by the hundreds of other Daring Bakers who are participating.

Gourmet cupcakes in a jar

June 26, 2008

I love cupcakes. Not only is that not news, it doesn’t prove me to be original or unusual either. I’ve discovered that cupcakes are truly a defining icon of our present day society. From the little cakes themselves to whimsical art that animates the cupcake with human characteristics to snazzy t-shirts that let you have your cupcake and be stylin’, too, cupcakes are universally popular.

And just when it seemed like my cupcake love couldn’t deepen, I discover yet another way to enjoy these beguiling little treats: in a jar. “But why?” you ask? Forgive me but I counter with “why not?”

Not only are cupcakes in a jar less messy to eat, they’re portable and they make people smile! Although you can easily make your own (like we did at the Test Kitchen – that’s our handy work above), you also can buy these yummies ready-made.

• In Canada, contact Milsean bakery in Abbotsford, B.C. (I hear their buttercrunch candy is great, too); their birthday cakes, Irish apple cakes and figgy puddings are baked in jars. They’ve been unavailable for the last 6 months due to jar supply issues but are back!

• In the US, Fat Daddy Bakery in Illinois is widely acknowledged as the originator of the cupcake in a jar concept. I haven’t tried their product but the buzz I hear is all good.

Would you eat a cupcake from a jar? Or, perhaps a better question is how many cupcakes in a jar do you think you could eat before you needed to be a person on a couch?

Preplanned memorial meals trend up

May 27, 2008

Five times a year, my son Oliver and I go to the Toronto Children’s Symphony series. Afterwards we head over to Pangaea to have a bite to eat with Martin before heading home for a suburban Saturday night. It’s a great ritual that I hope will ensure he grows up to be a civilized, open minded young man.

Driving home after our last concert, we were listening to CBC Radio One and caught the tail end of a very interesting discussion on Talking Books. Although the subject was The End of The Alphabet, by CS Richardson, the panel’s discussion digressed into a chat about how our aging society has developed a grief culture that views grieving as noble and maybe even a little bit romantic. (You can download the full discussion as an MP3 file for free if you want to hear the whole chat, BTW).

To make a long story short, I was intrigued to learn that many people are pre-planning not only their basic funeral arrangements but also their wakes. While purchasing a burial plot and casket has traditionally been viewed as a selfless act designed to spare your loved ones trouble, this panel asserted that a new aspect of this trend is that these pre-planners derive pleasure while anticipating their own funerals and planning their memorial parties.

This discussion really hit home with me since I have planned my own funeral at least three times over. In fact, pretty much each time I attend a funeral I spend a couple of days afterwards musing (both aloud and silently) about what I’d do the same and what I’d do differently for my own funeral. I always thought it was my controlling nature that led me to these thoughts but now I can blame a cultural movement.

In my imagined memorial plan, the menu is similar to the one I chose for my 40th birthday party (yes, I am such a control freak that I planned my own party): tea sandwiches of all kinds, Eini cupcakes with butter cream frosting, and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for everyone who attends. Although I’d love for everyone to stay long enough to drink their entire bottle at my wake and spend the evening reminiscing about our shared adventures, my mourners can take the wine home to toast me in private if they prefer. I have similar plans for music, flowers, eulogies, and, believe it or not, loot bags.

My husband thinks I’m absolutely cracked and won’t allow me to hint at this subject when he’s around. What do you think? Is it morbid that while I’m healthy as a horse and just entering the second half of my life that I think about my wake? And, should it be important that my wake is the kind of party I’d want to attend myself?

Divorce cake

April 7, 2008

Divorce cake

I track a lot of topics on a day-to-day basis in an effort to sort out coming trends from merely isolated events. Regrettably, many more of the topics I explore fall into the latter category and never make it into my Topline Trends newsletter or here on my blog.

One of the more interesting stories I tracked lately is the topic of divorce cake. I’m not sure what morbid part of me wanted divorce cakes to be on one of the next widespread trends but I tried really hard to prove that they were. Perhaps it’s all rooted in my love of cake or maybe it’s more complicated and requires a therapist. Beats me.

Regardless, a few months ago there was a flurry of online and print articles that said that divorce cakes were trending up. Ex-rock punk wife and beauty queen Shanna Moakler’s elaborate divorce cake turned out to be the impetus for these articles (that’s her in the picture above with the divorce cake she had made for her Las Vegas divorce party).

Intern Chantalle Noschese and I set to researching divorce cakes to see whether divorce cakes were going to become a big thing soon. We searched on google, called high profile bakers and put out APB’s in the food writing and party planning communities. As it turns out, divorces are not in fact being commemorated with cake all that often. We found a few reports here and there and a handful of divorce cake pictures, but the practice isn’t growing.

If you’re motivated to make a divorce cake for yourself or someone else, check out these sites for inspiration:

If you do make a divorce cake, send me a picture. I can add it to my collection. It will come in handy when I do opt for therapy and need to show my shrink what I’m talking about.

I am, in fact, a Daring Baker

March 31, 2008

lemon layer cake

Although I’ve been a professional food writer for many years, writing a blog is relatively new for me. I joined the world of glogging (as the mother on Corner Gas would say) only last October. To be honest, this kind of writing is much different than writing for magazines, newspapers or books. On the one hand, it’s easier to write for a blog since you can write about any old thing without a pushy editor breathing down your neck. On the other hand, it’s difficult to write for this medium in ways that aren’t a problem with other published works. With a blog, you can tell whether people cared about what you wrote based on how many comments each post generates and how many page views your writing receives. (Although book sales also give you a barometer of popularity, it takes months to know if your book is hitting bottom or scaling the best-seller list.) It can be a bit disheartening to be a blogger on the days when fewer than expected people drop by to read or comment.

So, when I heard about an online group that was designed to help blog writers meet and interact in a virtual way, I joined. The group is called the Daring Bakers and although you don’t have to tithe your first born to the group or make any blood pacts, you do have to keep the monthly baking projects double top secret until the agreed upon publishing date.

This month the Daring Baker assignment was to bake a lemon layer cake from one of Dorie Greenspan’s books. That’s my effort above. I made it and served it to my family as our Easter dessert (also on the menu was glazed ham, roasted new potatoes and a frisee and mache salad with grapefruit dressing. It was a yummy spring feast!).

Everyone else in the DB group made the exact same recipe and you can have the fascinating experience of seeing how the appearance of their cakes differ from mine by clicking on the Daring Bakers link in the blogroll and then clicking through to their blogs. It’s amazing how each baker found a way to add his or her own creative expression to what is a very well written and specific recipe.

I’m not sure what will be on the menu for next month’s Daring Baker’s challenge, but you’ll see it here once I’ve had a chance to preheat the oven.

Daring Bakers logo

Gorgeous gourmet cupcakes

January 30, 2008

gourmetcupcakes.jpgCupcakes epitomize the food trends of personalization and portion control. In my last Topline Trends newsletter I wrote about how pull-apart “cupcake cakes” are trending up. These clusters of cupcakes, positioned in beguiling shapes, offer the visual impact of a whole cake but the serving ease of, well, cupcakes.

I’m a huge fan of cupcakes not just for kid’s parties where they are a brilliant choice that allows guests to be served quickly and easily, but also for more swish affairs. At my own 40th birthday I had a cupcake tree laden with gorgeous fluffy white cupcakes generously swathed in pink buttercream frosting. Likewise, cupcakes have become a popular feature at stylish weddings.

Recently the ProChef Smart Brief (an online aggregate newsletter for the foodservice industry conducted a poll where they asked chefs, “Would you consider adding cupcakes to a gourmet menu?” I was on the ‘yes’ side of the argument, as were over 70 per cent of respondents.

To the other 20+ per cent all I have to say is check out an Eini Cupcake— and yes, gentle readers, they taste as good as they look! — and think about revising your (wrong) answer.

Would you serve cupcakes at a formal party? Why or why not?