In 2012, my New Year's Resolution was "get fat by eating cake".
Don't act surprised. I mean, after all, you didn't think it was going to be "go on a diet" or "lose weight"...did you?
Now. As difficult a resolution as this was to keep, I think I did pretty okay. But don't just take my word for it--see for yourself! For your viewing enjoyment, I've put together 50 enjoyable snippets detailing some of the most delectable things I ate.
Consider this a look back at CakeSpy's most delicious year yet. These are listed in no particular order; when it comes to sweets, I think we all win; they're really just listed roughly in order of when I ate them in the year. Enjoy!
1. "Valentine" Pie at Coal Creek Coffee, Laramie, WY. Memorable for its melange of tart berries during a cold and dreary time of year, this pie still sings to me whenever I look at its picture.
2. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie with Pecans by the Cookie Lady, Ogden UT: Nobody knows who exactly this lady is. Ok, that's a lie. She's a lady who bakes cookies and delivers them to local coffee shops and cafes, and I am so glad she does, because they're crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and packed with delicious cookie flavor.
3. Caramel Cluster, Caramel Shop, Ocean, NJ: Sometimes simple and old fashioned is king. This confection from an old-school chocolate ship in Ocean, NJ, probably won't appeal to the "only dark-dark-chocolate" devotees, but to sweet tooths hungry for a taste of nostalgia (like me), this is a sticky-sweet and slightly crunchy fix.
4 White Chocolate and Chocolate Cheesecake(s), La Rosa Cafe, Los Angeles. When I was in Los Angeles, I asked the hotel clerk if she had a suggestion for breakfast. She suggested their continental breakfast. When I gave her a "hell no" look, she suggested La Rosa. I'm so glad she did. They had killer omelettes, and after a conversation with the owner about my love of desserts, I learned that they also have killer cheesecake. Even consumed at 9.30 in the morning, I managed to make a dent.
5. The "Southern Belle" Cupcake from Dream Cakes, Santa Fe NM: this was a highly memorable cupcake for me. You can read the full story here, but rest assured, it was one of those cakes that makes you feel very happy to be alive.
6. Bassetts Ice Cream, Philadelphia: I made Philadelphia my new home base this year, and one of the best parts of this relocation was my proximity to Bassetts Ice Cream, established in 1861 and still doin' it right. My favorite flavor of the moment is the Peanut Butter Swirl, but really, everything is good--almost too good.
7. Twinkie Milkshake, Lunchbox Laboratory, Seattle: Really, doesn't the name speak for itself?
9. Pumpkin Ice Cream with Wet Walnuts, Hoffman's Ice Cream, Spring Lake, NJ: I love Hoffman's always and forever, but in the early fall, I love them even more, because they bring out their much-loved Pumpkin ice cream, which is beautiful to behold and creamy and spicy on the tongue. Add some wet walnuts and you have yourself heaven in a cup (or cone, but the nuts tend to get messy in a cone).
10. Salted Caramel Tart, Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM: This is one expensive tart (I believe it was about $7) but gosh-darn was it tasty. Salty caramel. Rich chocolate. Crumbly crust. I want another right now.
11. Crumb Cake, Coastal Kitchen, Seattle, WA: At this magical eatery (famous for breakfast), they will offer you toast or crumb cake with your breakfast or brunch. Don't be a fool. Get the cake. See photo. The End.
12. Historically Accurate Drinking Chocolate, Kakawa, Santa Fe, NM: Ever been curious about what Aztec drinking chocolate tasted like? Or the type of chocolate favored in Marie Antoinette's time? You can find out here, where they have a rotating menu of "elixirs"--thick, rich drinking chocolate inspired by different historical periods.
13. Conversation Heart Nanaimo Bars (made by me): Because they tasted just as sweet as they look, and because eating them will make you AND your valentine smile, I guarantee it.
14. Kouign Amann from Crumble and Flake, Seattle: Think croissant, but with a firmer texture and more caramelly taste. You have a beginning, but that's not the full story. For the full, as-addictive-as-crack experience, you've got to visit this charming patisserie in Seattle, toute suite!
15. Rainbow Cake (made by me): Do I really need to give a reason for this?
16. SpyMom's Soda Bread: SpyMom's a great baker, and this soda bread is a fine specimen of her work. Tenderly-crumbed and buttery as any quick bread I've ever tasted, this one is a fantastic breakfast or snack bread that will make you feel just a little Irish while eating it.
17. Butter Brickle in a Pretzel cone from Miller's Twist, Philadelphia: I do not know exactly how to express my deep love of the pretzel cone. It's sturdy and salty and the perfect foil to ice cream of just about any sort, but I favor Butter Brickle or Butter Pecan. They can be purchased in stores, but I find them tasty at Miller's Twist in Philadelphia.
18. Duck Cookie, Peabody Hotel, Orlando (where I stayed for the Pillsbury Bake-Off): I won't lie, much of my love for this cookie was based on its look--the Peabody has this whole duck thing going on. But the cookie was actually quite good: the base nice and buttery, kept moist and soft by the preserves on top (apricot I think), and it was all held--and brought--together with a half-coating of dark chocolate. Yum.
19. Butter cake, Flying Monkey Patisserie, Philadelphia: This isn't the most traditional butter cake, but it's without a doubt one of the tastiest I have ever tried. It's gooey. It's buttery. It's so rich it makes your taste buds sing. I actually feel like my whole body vibrates with happiness after I eat a slice. Get some.
20. Lemon Cupcake, Whipped Bake Shop, Philadelphia: If you need a cupcake that tastes like sunshine on a cold and dreary day, this is the one. Tart yet sweet, it's a ray of sweetness that made me smile bigtime.
21. A trio of ice creams (buttermilk, red velvet, gingerbread) in Des Moines, Iowa: Golly gee, I forget the name of this restaurant! But I went there on my way cross country when moving from Seattle to Philadelphia. And the ice cream, which I do recall they made in house, was pretty awesome. The buttermilk in particular was tangy and enticing. Nice and zingy. Anyone know where this might have been?
22. Mom Blakeman's Creamed Pull Candy, Kentucky: One of the finest candies there is, and definitely one of the most rich and creamy. Read more here.
23 Cadbury Creme Egg Salad Sandwiches: Yes, I did this. And they were way tastier than they had any right to be. Win!
24. Almond Croissant, La Boulange, San Francisco: It was a big year for La Boulange, being purchased by Starbucks and all. But I didn't really think about that when I visited their Cole Valley location. I mostly thought about how delicious the almond-overload croissant (a generous smear of almond cream on the inside, a delicious crunchy almond armor on the outside) was to eat.
25. Chocolate Chip walnut cookies from Famous 4th Street Deli, Philadelphia: These cookies are perfect. Like an idealized version of a nostalgic chocolate chip cookie, but with the slightest crunch lending to walnuts in the batter. A perfect "crust". A great cookie indeed.
26. Magic Cookie Bar, Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos, CA: Just look at that picture, please. Coconut haters need not apply.
27. Cannoli from Isgro, Philadelphia: A fine cannoli indeed, with a crispy shell and a perfectly dreamy cream filling. Stick with the plain versus the fancier variations.
28. SpyMom's Blueberry Pie: It's simple. It's perfect. It loves ice cream.
29. "Brownie Supremes" (made by Compton): He won't share this recipe, so it's cruel to post a picture, but these rich, fudgy brownies, topped with a Cadbury Creme Egg tasting topping, are so good I want to cry when I eat them.
30. Peach Brulee from Bantam Bread Co, Connecticut: Creme Brulee, but peachy keen. What a delightful treat! Read more here.
31. Ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus, NYC: Artisinal ice cream sandwiches that you can "build" (choose your cookies, choose your ice cream) with edible napkins besides? A total win.
32. Do-Rite Donuts, Chicago: These donuts, as the name implies, will do you right. A great basic donut with some fancy variations available at the store, this is a great place to get a holey fix.
33. Boston Cream Cupcake, Molly's Cupcakes, Chicago: I was wary of the high price tag (over $4 after tax) but wow, was this a nice cupcake. The perfectly tender crumb, with a thoroughly buttery taste and light vanilla scent, was made even better by a thick custard flecked with vanilla bean hidden inside, all crowned with a rich, fudgy frosting. Though I might complain, I would pay $4-plus again for this.
34. Watermelon Cake (made by me): The cake was simple enough, but what made it a truly memorable experience was the cute factor. Everyone cooed about this dessert more than they usually do, so I considered it a hit.
35. Mount Beacon Bar, Homespun Foods, Beacon NY: The East coast counterpart of the Mazurka bar, and like a taste of baked good history. A very good, sturdy bar cookie with just enough sweetness and butter to keep it from being health food.
36. Chocolate Chubbies Cookies from Sarabeth's, NYC: Want a cookie that tastes like a brownie, cookie, and slab o'mousse having a sexy threesome in your mouth? Look no further. Read more here.
37. Frosting Cake (made by me): One of my proudest experiments yet, and surprisingly delicious: the result of what happens when you mix the frosting right into a batch of cake mix batter before baking.
38. Frozen Hot Chocolate, Jacques Torres: Don't make a big fuss over it, but I like theirs more than a famous version served elsewhere in NYC.
39. Hummingbird cake (made by me): Hummingbird cake is one of my absolute favorite foods-- I gravitate toward it like a hummingbird to sweet nectar. This version is like a more sophisticated version of banana bread, with a delicate crumb, and with a ton of frosting. I loved every bite.
40 Danish Krans from Easy Tiger, Austin: When I went to Austin, I was told that I must go to this bakery-slash-bratwurst joint-slash beer garden. Well, OK. And I wasn't disappointed. Turns out, Easy Tiger does all three things quite well. The Danish Krans was a standout.
41. Chocolate Covered Cake on a stick (made by me): This dish was a success before I even made it--the name says it all, doesn't it? But it tasted even better once it was done.
42. Pumpkin Bread Stuffed with Cookie Dough (made by me): Tastes like fall...but with cookie dough. This was a very tasty Fall treat that beautifully straddled a delicious line between breakfast-y quick bread and decadent dessert.
43. Federal Donuts, Philadelphia: Doughnuts fried to order? You had me at hello. But they're excellent in flavor as well as awesome for being super-fresh, and they'll coat them with a variety of different sugar and spice mixtures of your choosing.
44. Lemon Cake, Belle Cakery, Philadelphia: Another cake that tasted like sunshine, but this version was a beautiful and sleek tower, studded with poppyseeds that made it interesting visually, delightful texturally, and thoroughly enjoyable to the palate.
45. Chocolate Tart, Treehouse Pastry, Santa Fe NM: A dessert this luscious, this rich, this thick with chocolate...and vegan and gluten-free, to boot? Believe it. Available at a bakery in a MALL, too. Made with a nut crust and the slightest bit of rasperry to add dimension to the chocolate, this dessert may not have butter or eggs or gluten, but you seriously don't miss them. Seriously.
46. Biscuits, Morning Glory Diner, Philadelphia: With the texture of a crumb cake but the sturdiness of a biscuit, and only lightly sweet, these biscuits are hard to describe, but a joy to put in your mouth. The long line on weekends servest as proof.
47. Streusel Bar, Ingrid's Kitchen, Oklahoma City: As you can see by my writeup of this establishment, I really enjoyed Ingrid's. But my favorite thing by far was the Streusel bar, which was like a sort of light crumb cake meets gooey butter cake. Oh goodness was it good.
48. Pistachio Lemon White Chocolate Donut, Whoo's Donuts, Santa Fe NM: This is my new favorite donut in the world. The crisp edge, the flavorful dough, the slight zing of the lemon which acts as counterpart to the sweet white chocolate glaze, and then the saltiness of the pistachios--I am so sad I can't have these every day. It's not a weight thing, it's a geography thing. I would, if I lived in Santa Fe.
49. Gooey Butter Danish, Federhofer's, St. Louis: This was one of my favorite bakery finds of the year, for sure. Old school but totally solid, I loved just about everything I tried from this place. But because it was a bit unusual, the item that is going to make this list is the Gooey Butter Danish, which takes the best parts of both gooey butter cake and a danish, and puts them together with confectioners' sugar on top. Hooray!
50. Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies (made by me): This was a sweet finish to the year: I found an old recipe of my mom's that had been hibernating since my childhood. Being able to make a batch of these for my family not only made us all a little fatter and jollier, but made our holiday sweeter in a loving, nostalgic way, as well.
Whew! As I put together that list, dear readers, it occurred to me that I've engaged in a lot of traveling, eating, writing, and general awesomeness this year. What a wonderful feeling! And with that, I offer up my resolution for the coming year:
"Eat something sweet every day". Hope that one is easier to stick to than the last one. Hooray!
Happy New Year, everyone--Season's Sweetings, and here's to a highly delicious 2013 ahead!