Batter Chatter: Interview With Josie Acosta, Bakery Excel Spreadsheet Guru

Josie Acosta is a bakery Excel spreadsheet guru

Now, I'll just go ahead and tell you here that as someone who runs an internet-based business and blog, I am woefully unaware of the ways of the tech world, so I probably know less about what that actually means than you. But--I knew enough to know it sounded interesting. I've never heard of a bakery Excel spreadsheet guru before, have you?

Josie, who offers her services to bakery or baking business owners via an Etsy page, is happy to expand on her interesting niche of expertise in this interview. Don't worry, non-techies: I'll warm up and cool down with dessert-related questions. Enjoy:

What is your favorite dessert? Anything with Oreos! An Oreo Cookies and Cream Milkshake always hits the spot.

Vanilla or chocolate? Vanilla

Tell me what it means to be an excel spreadsheet guru, and what it has to do with baking, exactly? I am an Industrial Engineer and most of my day is spent creating Microsoft Excel spreadsheets so over the years I have gotten pretty good at it. I use excel to keep track of everything in my life from personal budgets to managing my Etsy and eBay shops! Excel is a great tool for any small business to keep track of their sales, expenses, profit, etc. with options to create charts and graphs to visually see your progress over time.

What are you selling, exactly? An all-inclusive tool to manage your home-based bakery! The model allows you to keep track of your orders, inventory, recipes, and ingredients and makes it easy to quickly price out the cost per serving for your recipes with the Pricing Calculator. Once you enter your current and previous orders, charts are automatically generated to show your performance over time and track your orders by type (Birthday, Wedding, Anniversary, etc.). The model also includes personalized order form and receipt templates for your business! · What gave you the idea to make a bakery spreadsheet? My mom has her own cake business and for years she's been keeping track of her sales on paper. I wanted to make her life a little easier and her business more professional. The model helps her to see in real time what her monthly and annual sales and profit are without her having to spend a fortune on existing cake business management software.

How has your spreadsheet work helped businesses? The spreadsheet was created with a small home-based bakery business in mind. I wanted to provide a quality product for a reasonable price. The model helps small-businesses to keep better records, be more organized, and accurately price your cakes to get the profit you deserve.

What inspires you? The idea that I can make things better! The inventor in me is always looking to create a solution that solves an everyday problem.

What dessert do you dislike (if any)? I’m not a fan of caramel so I typically pass on anything with caramel on it!

What kind of chocolate chip cookies do you prefer? Soft, crispy, chewy, other? Soft! A little undercooked with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

What's next? I would love to create custom excel spreadsheet models for other home-based small businesses like photographers or personal trainers.

To buy this spreadsheet service, visit the Etsy page.

Batter Chatter with Ruth Clemens, Author of Creative Eclairs

As a blogger who has made the jump to published author, I am always happy to welcome others to the club. So I was super excited to hear that Ruth Clemens, baker extraordinaire who blogs at The Pink Whisk, had published a book. And oh, what a book: entitled Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations, this is a necessary volume for eclair lovers. Everyone loves eclairs, therefore you must buy the book. See? Science.

I interviewed Ruth as part of her book tour blog hop; to see the other entries, click here

And now, on to the interview. Let's get some clarity on the world of an eclair book writer! This interview may be of great interest to bloggers who are interested in writing a book, too!

Why are eclairs better than doughnuts?

I can’t tell you that they are (especially as I know your love for doughnuts!) but they are just as good. They share the same good traits in that treating yourself to one or two (or 3, or 4 - who am I kidding?) is thoroughly utterly lovely. You can dress them up to the nines with sprinkles, decorations or glitz, you can keep them simple and understated but they are always packed with mind blowing flavours, filling combinations and textures. There is something for everyone and every occasion, I’ll have one of each please!

Writing a cookbook is a serious process. Here is a two part question regarding that.

a. What was the most difficult part of the process for you?

The hardest part I find is to decide what makes it into the book and what gets cut out – which recipes to develop from an idea into reality. I still go over in my mind the recipes that I didn’t put in and wonder if I made the right decision. I always try to cover recipes for lots of different tastes and not just my own preference so that there’s something to tempt everyone.

b. What was the most fun part of the process for you and why?

The most fun part has got to be getting in the kitchen and turning the ideas on paper into a reality. I love the creativity of playing around with something until it’s just the way you want it. Of course I get frustrated when things won’t do what I want but I tend to park an idea and then come back to it again later. I lose whole days when I get to play in the kitchen, no email, no phone and I just thoroughly enjoy creating a mountain of washing up, before I know it it’s school pick up time, I’ve got flour in my hair and I have to fly to the playground in a mad dash to meet the kids!

What happened to the eclairs after the photo shoots?

Everyone at the shoot was sent home with treat boxes full of all sorts of flavours. The rest (and we were probably dealing with over 100 eclairs each day of the shoot) were boxed up and taken to my boys lacrosse training groups – they soon disappeared and none of them went to waste!

Which recipe from your book would you suggest for the beginning French pastry-maker and why?

It has to be Classic Chocolate Eclairs as a first foray into choux pastry. A simple choux, crème patissiere and a ganache and you have something utterly wonderful. It’s a confidence builder and from there on in EVERYTHING else is achievable.

Not everybody knows that choux is for more than just making eclair shells. What is one of your favorite non-eclair items from the book which uses choux pastry and why?

I love the Pecan Streusel Buns and I have to admit I fear for those buns! They are plain and simple looking and for that I worry that they’ll be overlooked. They are however one of the loveliest tasting buns I’ve ever had and have to admit I make them here time and time again. Now you’re probably thinking that I’m a little bit mad worrying about buns and going over the poor recipes that didn’t make the cut, actually it’s most likely true but I do put my heart and soul into the recipes and my books and can only hope when they make it onto book shelves in bakers homes that they enjoy the recipes and put them to good use. The ultimate accolade is for books to be so well used that the pages are sticking together.

Tell me three things about you that we might not expect if all we knew of you was this book.

1. I’m a normal Mum, running round after the kids, nagging them to do homework/spellings/chores, walking the dog, doing the washing (or getting behind with it more like), shopping, nattering at the school gates all the usual Mum and family stuff with a bit of baking thrown in for good measure.

2. I get things wrong in the kitchen all the time. It’s only through practice and ten tons of it, doing the same thing over and over that I I’ve taught myself to get better and more successful in my baking.

3. You might not expect that in fact my kitchen at home, where all the recipes come to life is in fact the size of a miniature peanut. The longest length of continuous worksurface I have is approx. 60cm long and I share that working space with the kettle, tea, coffee and sugar. I am the master at balancing and impromptu resting spots, creative baking (and juggling) at its finest!

Did you have to go on an eclair diet after writing the book?

Strangely no! I have subjected my family to overdose on various different bakes throughout the past couple of years cake and bread included, just through the repetition that’s required when writing a book. Eclairs they will still hoover up instantly without any complaint and only the odd physical fight over the last one left. When there’s choux being made no-one runs to hide. I was also pretty well organised at squirrelling the testers out to friends and family quick sharp so there was never enough to overface my boys! Fortunately eclairs are now interspersed with other treats otherwise we’d all be ending up the sizes of houses here.

What's next?

For me it’s back to my blog, The Pink Whisk (and the cooking, cleaning washing), writing recipes to share with the baking mad masses and beyond that really who knows! I’d love to get to work on a new book and have some ideas in the pipeline but in the meantime I’m off to make some more washing up…

Buy the book here: Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations. We'll share a recipe from the book next week, too!

Batter Chatter: Citi of Sweets, North Carolina

Citi of Sweets

Oh, hi. You know what kind of city I love? One made of sweets. That's sort of the idea behind Citi of Sweets, a boutique baking business which specializes in homemade treats like whoopie pies, cake truffles, and other decadent goodies. 

Now, it's exciting to share this business with you for two reasons: one, it's always fun to discover a new baking business. Two, they're offering a giveaway! See the bottom of this post for how to enter. 

Please describe your business in 6 words or less? Non-traditional, sweet, fun, creative, challenging and friendly.

Citi of Sweets

What's your personal favorite item on your menu? Ayesha: whoopie pies(strawberry with buttercream) Chanel: Cookies N Cream cake truffles

What made you take the jump from amateur to professional baking? Chanel:It started as just something i wanted to try and i asked my best friend ayesha to help me experiment and it turned out horrible at first the cake was just not staying on the sticks and it was just a chocolate disaster so we left it alone and then we ended up trying again a month or so later and we were way better at it and we started doing them more and getting better and better with practice and time. We then came up with our name and menu and we've been baking ever since we started with our co-workers at our job and we haven't had a bad complaint ever in 2 years. We like being creative and making our customers happy.

What's the best thing to happen to you in the past 48 hours? We went grocery shopping to get more supplies to make more sweets!

Citi of Sweets

Cake or Pie? Cake

If you had to wear one pair of shoes for the rest of my life what would they be? Chanel: Purple Fuzzy Slippers Ayesha: Angry Birds Slippers

What's your favorite non-sweet food? Ayesha: hot wings Chanel: fries

What quality do you most value in others? Honesty

What is your biggest dream? Our biggest dream is to have Citi of Sweets all across the world.

Citi of Sweets

What's your next hope for your business? to open our first storefront in Charlotte.

Now... back to that giveaway! Here's what two lucky winners will receive: 2 Cake Pop Samplers Dozens one to each winner. They will be available for pick up, or shipping. The flavors will be (3) trrriple threat(chocolate) (3) butter pecan, (3) cookies n cream and (3) french vanilla.

Yum! So how to enter? It's easy. Just do this:

1. Simply "like" Citi of Sweets on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

2. Leave a comment on this post (don't worry if it doesn't show up right away, moderation is enabled!) stating your favorite flavor of cake.

I'll choose a winner at random 1 week from today (Saturday, June 23, 12pm PST). To ensure fresh tastiness of the prize, we're only going to allow US entrants on this particular giveaway!

For more, check 'em out online: Citi of Sweets

Batter Chatter: Interview with Mei of Tiny Hands Jewelry, and a Giveaway!

Much sweeter than wearing your heart on your sleeve? Wearing sweets around your neck, or on your finger, or around your wrist! I'm talking about food-themed jewelry of course, and I'm pretty sure that Tiny Hands makes the absolute cutest stuff around. From teeny-tiny waffles with butter to sno-cones (pictured above) to slices of pie to doughnuts and cookies and now, even cupcake rings, these charms are not only adorable, but they are scented, too. What a fantastic way to declare your love of sweets!

Now. I really want to share this great company with you, so I'm going to do two things in this post: first, I'm going to introduce you to the company owner, Mei Pak, via interview. And then second, I'm offering a giveaway! You can scroll to the bottom of the post to figure out how to enter, ok?

Here's the interview:
Please describe your business in 6 words or less. Super cute scented food jewelry!
What is the best thing to happen to you in the past 48 hours? Wow, it's like you're in my mind! My husband and I just bought our FIRST home!! We're so excited - it's the perfect house for us and where we're at in our lives now. We just finished moving in. We're really stressed with the transition, but we're also super happy about our new home!
Can you describe your office (or where you work)? Our new Tiny Hands headquarters has hot pink walls, rainbow colored curtains and a large U-shaped white desk with pink chairs for us to make and ship our food jewelry across the world! What was once a boring built in cabinet, will be a really nice and neat storage space for all our materials and shipping supplies. We removed the doors and installed white curtains so our storage area looks really pretty too! We have some modular Ikea furniture for more organized space as well.
What quality do you most value in others? Kindness -- a year ago I was featured on local TV for the first time. We don't have TV at home so there was no way I could record the show. That weekend I was doing a craft show, and a really sweet older woman said she saw me on TV and had the recording. A few weeks later, I received the tape in the mail! This woman's kindness really touched me and I won't forget what she did for the rest of my life!
If you could instantly conjure up any dessert or sweet in the world at this moment, what would it be? French macarons! There aren't many french bakeries here in the Twin Cities, and I know making macarons can be super tedious!
One of my favorite things about your line is that it's all scented. Have you ever gotten mixed up and given one of your pieces of jewelry the wrong scent? Hmm... if I have I don't remember it! I have everything labeled so it's really hard to screw up!
How do you stay motivated? I love looking at pictures of real food! Pinterest is great for that. When I see a delicious looking cake, I just want to miniaturize it!
Cake for breakfast. Thoughts? Oh, heck yes! Cake for second breakfast too!
In your opinion, do people tend to gravitate toward the jewelry that reflects their food tastes, or do they just choose what they find cutest? I think people pick jewelry they've had a personal connection with. I had a grandma buy a chocolate chip cookie necklace for her granddaughter, who she nicknamed Cookie!

What's the product you're personally most excited about now? Ice cream cone and cupcake rings! Everyone keeps asking for them, and I'm stoked to put them up for sale!
What is a dream you'd love to see realized within the next 10 years? It would be awesome that in the next 10 years, I can open my own restaurant or bakery! I love food and know so many people do too, so I can't think of a better way to share that kind of experience with people.
If you want more info, or to go shopping, visit Tiny Hands online!
And as for that giveaway...want to enter? OK! It's easy. Here's how you enter.
  1. First, choose any item equal or lesser than $30 from the store.
  2. Next, post a link to it, and why you chose that piece, either in the comments section on this post (moderation is enabled!) or post your response on the CakeSpy facebook page.
We'll choose one lucky entrant at random one week from today, (end of day on Wednesday, June 5) and send them their chosen item! Because shipping rates overseas and abroad can be hefty, though, we have to ask that only US entrants participate. 
Good luck!

Batter Chatter: Interview with CB, Recipe Tester for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Curious about the secret life of a recipe tester? Well, lucky you, because I want to introduce you to CB of I Heart Cuppycakes, one of the recipe testers for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. She had the momentous task of testing chocolate chip cookies made in the "old-fashioned" way for the book--let's see what the experience was like, shall we?

How did you feel to be approached about testing recipes for this awesome book? Jessie is one of my idols so when she asked me to test out a recipe for her book I accepted calmly but inside I was screaming "OMGOMGOMG me? YES YES YES!"

What recipe did you test?  Original toll house chocolate chip cookies

Did anything surprise you about the recipe or testing process? The recipe didn't specify what kind of nuts or brown sugar so I used walnuts and dark brown sugar. I also used 8 oz Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate bar. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly as written. I was "this" close to excluding the nuts b/c I'm usually not a fan but this recipe has forever changed my mind about adding nuts and using cut up chocolate instead of chips.

What's the best thing to happen to you in the last 48 hours? I found a dollar in the trashcan. It pays to recycle!

What are your thoughts on cake for breakfast? I'm all over it, like a fat kid.

Can you suggest a polite way to extract myself from conversations with people once they've said "I don't like dessert"? Answer: That's ok! I don't like beets.

Zombie apocalypse! You only have time to grab three objects from your home before running. What are they? Assuming dog and husband can fend for themselves right?... iphone, laptop and Coach purse.

What quality to you most admire in a person? Sense of humor, not taking themselves too seriously

What is your personal mission statement? You only fail if you quit.

What is your favorite US city for eating? San Francisco

What's the best gift you've ever been given? My husband gave me his heart on our wedding day. That's priceless.

If you were able to go back in time and give your 13-year old self a message, what would it be? Don't worry NKOTB will make a comeback!

For more of CB's work, visit I Heart Cuppycakes; to see the delicious recipes post-testing, buy The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kristin Ausk, Recipe Tester for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Pink Frosted cookies

Curious about the secret life of a recipe tester? Learn more about one of the fantastic recipe testers (and overall awesome person) for my new book: Kristin Ausk, owner of So-Cal's beloved Meringue Bake Shop! We'll discuss the recipe testing a bit, but also give you a little more of her back-story, too!

How did you feel to be approached about testing recipes for this awesome book? I was so excited! Very honored. I love trying out new recipes. And love helping out friends. 

What recipe did you test? I tested the pink frosted cookies.

Did anything surprise you about the recipe or testing process? The only thing that surprised me was the amount of flour. I worried they would end up dry. But they were perfect. Absolutely delicious & cakey. The frosting on top was the best. I made a slight alteration to the recipe and added some Princess Cake & Cookie baking emulsion from KAF to the batter along with the vanilla. And I added 1/4 tsp of almond extract to the frosting.

What are your thoughts on cake for breakfast? Yes please. My sweet tooth is really bad in the morning. I am a donuts/muffins/scones/pancakes/cake person. And always with a cup of coffee.

Can you suggest a polite way to extract myself from conversations with people once they've said "I don't like dessert"? I would just throw down whatever is in my hands and shout "i'm out!" and walk away.

What is your favorite US city for eating? I'd have to say Seattle. With San Francisco a close second. But I should add that I haven't been many places. I've never been to NY. Or Austin. Or Nashville. Or St. Louis. Which I hear are great foodie cities too.

For more of Kristin's work, visit the Meringue Bake Shop website. It would also be a good idea to buy my book: The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Baker-Author Gesine Bullock-Prado

Are you a baker? Do you think you're pretty cool? Well, think again. Because Gesine Bullock-Prado wrote the book on cool baking. Actually, she's written several: My Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a TimeSugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar; Pie It Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes, and Other Pastries Reinvented; and now, Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out. I mean, seriously. You should take a few minutes here to buy all of them.

I baked something last week from the most recent book, and man, did it ever go over well. You'll have to wait a few days for that post, because I've been busy painting cupcakes and unicorns. But in the meantime I will show you a picture of one of the cakes from the book that my friend Peabody made. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her picture, especially since I didn't ask. But seriously, isn't this amazing?Image: Peabody

Yes, this cake, baked by Peabody, is one of the recipes featured in Bake It Like You Mean It.

Now, if you, like me, are curious to know more about the baking prodigy behind this creative deliciousness, well, you're in luck. Because Gesine was kind enough to answer a few questions so we could all get to know her better. This should whet your appetite til I can post that recipe!

Interview with Gesine Bullock-Prado

What's the best thing to happen to you in the last 48 hours?  The Dartmouth Women's Tennis team sent me a long sleeved team t-shirt to thank me for making them a cake while they were on the road, competing in LA.  I was away from home too, baking in California for the Bake It publicity tour, and I was already in the groove so I pumped out a checkerboard cake to fuel them away from home.  I really wasn't doing it for the cozy t-shirt, I swear.

What are your thoughts on cake for breakfast?  My thoughts are,"yes please."  And let's not forget that muffins, everyone's favorite morning comestible, are really just cake in paper Spanx.

Can you suggest a polite way to extract myself from conversations with people once they've said "I don't like dessert"?  "I have the number of a wonderful therapist who can help you with that."

Do you have any superstitions?  They usually follow along the lines of the rules of "Fight Club."  So I can't talk about them.

Zombie apocalypse! You only have time to grab three objects from your home before running. What are they?  The husband (I often treat him as an object because he's so pretty), the dogs (they count as a single unit and I might stuff them when they pass, so I'm counting them as objects too) and my flock of chickens and water fowl (also counting them as a single unit and see my dog answer re stuffing).

WITHOUT GOOGLING IT: what is cream of tartar, anyway?  If it's a something to do with pastry AND wine, I'll likely know the answer.  Cream of tartar happens to be and acid derived from a sediment left over from delicious wine fermentation,   I also am a meringue fiend and am friends with all acids that help in denaturing egg whites.  Do I get some wine for knowing the answer?

What quality to you most admire in a person?  Kindness

What is your personal mission statement?  Bake it like you mean it.  I'm not kidding.  I've been using it as a mantra for a kagillion years and it took me that long to realize that I could recycle it for use as a book title.  

What is your favorite US city for eating?  Vermont.  I's not a city but our entire population doesn't match the census numbers in a NYC borough so I think it counts.  I think we should rename the state Cheese City.

If you could choose any person living or dead to bake a cake or treat for, who would it be and why?  Mark Twain.  He loved his pie.  While he was spending an extended period of time in the UK, he wrote fantastic letters to his housekeeper back in the states just listing all the pies he wanted to eat when he got back home.

What's the best gift you've ever given?  A Zojirushi Fuzzy Logic rice maker along with a bundle of Japanese Pub Food cookbooks to my husband.  This was a few years ago and I'm still getting great food out of him on a weekly basis.  

Since you live in Vermont...can you tell me a story about creemees? They are delicious and not meant for the lactose intolerant.  I tolerate lactose beautifully so my stories don't include any danger or hijinks.  

If you were able to go back in time and give your 13-year old self a message, what would it be?  Buy stock in Microsoft & Apple.  


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Don't you love her? Buy the book now: Bake It Like You Mean It: Gorgeous Cakes from Inside Out

Batter Chatter: Interview With Laurie Pfalzer, Food Stylist for The Secret Lives of Baked Goods

Baked Alaska

Talk about a job that sounds delicious and glamorous: food styling for cookbooks! But is it really as non-stop fun as it sounds? This is a question that occurred to me while working with Laurie Pfalzer, the food stylist for my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts. Her job involved a lot of things: a bit of recipe testing and tweaking, lots of kitchen know-how, and the ability to beautify a dessert and keep it safe under bright photo lights. That's a lot to juggle! Here's a behind the scenes look at what goes into her work, both as a food stylist and a baking teacher--and owner of Pastry Craft. The post is punctuated by pictures of desserts from the book--styling by Laurie, photos by the ever-talented Clare Barboza.

If you look back in your own personal history, can you pinpoint the moment you decided to become a baker? Or, can you pinpoint a pivotal moment in which you realized how important baking would be in your life?  Baking has always been a large part of my life because I grew up in a home with fabulous homemade pies, cakes and other baked goods and desserts.My mother is a great baker and she really takes it in stride. She makes it look easy, so I grew up without any fears about baking - unlike some of my students who didn't grow up with that influence and are now trying to learn. As kids, my sisters and I had baking lessons with our mother every summer. (With five kids, you can imagine my mother had a very elaborate summer schedule to keep us all in line and baking and cooking was part of it. I also knew how to break down a chicken before I was 10.) We learned to cream sugar and butter by hand (even though we always had a stand mixer).  All of that said, I guess there wasn't a pivotal moment. Baking was there from the very beginning.

How were you approached to work on the new CakeSpy book? It was quite on the fly. I was teaching a pastry class at Book Larder in Seattle and the editor from Sasquatch Books (who was looking for a pastry chef for your book) happened to see the ad for my class. She contacted me and the rest is history.  I had never really considered doing food styling, although I do some for my own site, Pastry Craft. It was a new experience for me, but a very pleasant one. I would certainly do it again.


Is working as a baker and food stylist for a cookbook really as glamorous as it sounds?  It's certainly fun and intense, but glamorous? No. Like the culinary field, it's a lot of hard work. With foodstyling baked goods, most of the work is done ahead of time and then the desserts are finished just before shooting. As a baker, you learn to plan ahead - prep, then bake, then finish. Baking and pastry is all about time and temperature, so when you're baking and food styling, if you plan well, then things will generally go smoothly.

Pink Frosted cookies

What was the most interesting thing you baked from the new CakeSpy book, and why?  A lot of the recipes were things I had not made before, so that made the entire project interesting. But I have to say that the Smith Island Cake was really "interesting" and a logistical challenge.  The history of the cake is fascinating and it contributes to understanding how the cake is put together. The VERY thin cakes are baked in separate pans and then stacked with the chocolate glaze while still warm. It is one of the more challenging cakes in the book, but I was very pleased with how it turned out. It pays to read the recipe carefully and follow it. Your instructions were right on the mark!

How did it feel to see your beautiful work reflected in the book? It's always a treat for a cook to see their work in a beautiful picture. We often get caught up in the creating of it and don't always take time to step back and appreciate it's beauty. And in a restaurant it's created and then "whoosh!" - it's been picked up by the server and on it's way to the table.  Clare Barboza, the photographer, had a great feel for the style of the book and the desserts we were working with. Her use of light is wonderful. The book exceeded my expectations. I would buy it if I saw it in a store and I'm pretty picky when it comes to purchasing cookbooks.

Better than sex cake

Tell me about one of your baking heroes.  Of current fame, I think David Lebovitz, Dorie Greenspan and Alice Medrich are people I point out often to my students. They both write their recipes clearly with lots of instruction that's helpful to new bakers and they appreciate the fundamentals of baking. For bread, Jeffrey Hamelman, who wrote Bread and who was my mentor when I worked at King Arthur Flour, is a gorgeous baker. The knowledge and care with which he approaches bread (and pastry) is so inspiring. I'm still a big fan of Julia Child (even though she wasn't exclusively a baker) because I appreciate her attitude toward cooking. Like my mother, she took cooking in stride and makes it seem approachable. That is something I am always trying to communicate in my classes.

You bake a lot...but when it's time to enjoy EATING baked goods or desserts, what are some of your favorites?  I love a good croissant and there are several in Seattle. My favorite is made at Cafe Besalu in Ballard which just happens to be right next to my favorite bread bakery in Seattle, Tall Grass Bakery. But we are lucky to have a diverse group of bakeries in Seattle that each have their own influence. I also love pie, but I still haven't found a good fruit pie like it's made at home. Occasionally, I go with friends on a "pastry crawl" to check out new bakeries. It's pretty tough to eat your way through a lot of bakeries in one day!

Lemon meringue pie

Seriously. If pie and cake were to have a knife fight, who do you think would win? I've always been a pie fan, so I gotta say pie would have the edge (sorry for the pun).

Any tips for those looking to get into professional baking you can impart? The first thing I'd say is that there's no free lunch. That's just a quick way to say that it's hard work and it's important going in knowing that. Working in food service means long hours and low pay, so you really need to be committed to hanging in there. If you're a home cook or baker and you want to make it your career, then go for it. But consider that turning a hobby into a career will change the way you look at it - not necessarily a negative change, but a change nonetheless. I always knew I'd take a more unorthodox route after culinary school and I was lucky to establish myself as a baking and pastry instructor. I love my students and I love helping them discover the pastry world.

Laurie at work

What's the next class, baking project, or dessert related event in general that you're excited about?  I'm doing a rhubarb class with Diane LaVonne at Diane's Market Kitchen in Seattle in May that should be a blast. We'll be doing a tasting meal with rhubarb in every course. I'm a huge rhubarb fan (I have 7 rhubarb plants in my garden) and I think there isn't enough attention paid to this vegetable which is actually treated like a fruit. (Did you know Washington State grows more rhubarb than anywhere in the world?) I've been wanting to teach an all-rhubarb class for awhile and I always love being in the kitchen teaching with Diane.

For more about Laurie, visit her website, Pastry Craft! To see her work in my new book, buy it here:The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts, or come see me on tour!


Batter Chatter: Interview with Ashley Foxen of Reality Bites Cupcakes

Reality Bites Cupcakes

Reality Bites, but Cupcakes Are Sweet. Sounds like a wise proverb, but truthfully I just made it up to illustrate the fantastic sweetness with a humorous edge (see trompe l'oeil "pancake" cupcake, above) that goes on in the kitchen (which is then documented on the web) of Ashley Foxen, proprietress of Reality Bites Cupcakes. This sweet blog and small baking business is based in NYC, where Miss Foxen focuses on making the big apple just a little sweeter each day. 

Recently, we decided to learn a bit more about each other by conducting some e-mail interviews. Here is the link to her corresponding interview with me; and now, here are the scintillating questions I asked her, punctuated with images of her sweet cupcake creations:

Reality Bites Cupcakes

First things first. Who-what-where-when-why?

Who: Ashley Foxen

What: Reality Bites Cupcakes

When: Est. September 2012

Why: I found my artsy self in the corporate world, desperately trying to find a way to fulfill my creative needs while working a full time job. For fun, I began baking for coworkers' birthdays, and it all snow balled from there! I hadn't even thought of defining myself as a "food artist" until reading CakeSpy, but I think it's perfect. I have found a way to combine my art background with my deep desire to make people happy.

How: That is a wonderful question! I work out of my apartment, which you may realize cannot be all that big in NYC. But, I have found a way to make it work by both maximizing the use of the space I have (from the counters to the windowsills) and traveling to my family's home in the suburbs for bigger, more complicated projects. Which leads me to mention my sister and mother who have been incredible helps in this whole process. They are the brains and brawn of Reality Bites.

Reality Bites Cupcakes

What (in your opinion) is the finest trompe l'oeil cupcake you've ever made, and why? Hands down, it is the "bagel" cupcakes. They are an original idea, inspired by a food New York does best. These cupcakes even fool me, as I tend to crave the doughy goodness of a real bagel, when seconds earlier I was ready for dessert! They tease the taste buds more so than any other cupcake I have made.

Tell me about a life changing cupcake you've eaten. Oddly enough, I don't think it was a cupcake, but an entire chocolate cake. It was my first birthday, and instead of having to share it with everyone, my mother put the whole cake in front of me. It was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting- plain and simple- and it was all mine. I have never looked so happy as I do in the photos from that day. There is cake everywhere, particularly all over my face, hands and in my hair, but the smile on my face is priceless. How can anything top that? Clearly, I found joy in baked goods at a very young age.

Reality Bites Cupcakes

If you went back 200 years in time, how would you describe the modern-day cupcake craze to our forefathers? This is a tough one. How do you explain to anyone of that time that people wait in line for hours for baked goods? I guess I would explain that the cupcake craze has caused wars in the future- go with a topic they may be familiar with. Claiming one's cupcake territory is important, and while no one has died, Cupcake Wars gets pretty intense!

Reality Bites Cupcakes

What are the biggest differences between the baked goods of NYC and Paris, another place you've lived? I studied abroad in Paris and made a valiant attempt to eat my way through the City of Light. From macaroons (which NYC has since imported) to chocolate croissants, to a crepe with Nutella, I taste tested everything- a few times. There is something about the baked goods of Paris that makes them unlike those anywhere else. Everything tastes so fresh that it somehow becomes guilt free (or so I told myself). Maybe it is because things don't appear to be as mass produced there, but the treats of Paris all feel as if they are made just for you- particularly the crepe vendors on every other street that make them in front of you.  

Reality Bites Cupcakes

What is your biggest dessert dream? A cup of frozen yogurt that does not melt, refills itself, and cannot give me brain freeze.

For more sweetness, visit the Reality Bites Cupcakes website; there's also a twitter feed!

Sweet Interview: Schoolhouse Craft in Seattle

Last year, I was a speaker at the amazing small business conference Schoolhouse Craft in Seattle. Well, I no longer live in Seattle, but I sure do love that conference. It's a fantastic resource for small business owners and those who want to start a small business, full of workshops, panels, and classes designed to help get things going. Ready to buy a ticket for the event this year, Sept 21-23? Click here. And below, get to know the organizer, Kristen Rask:

Schoolhouse Craft, part Deux! How does it feel? It feels good. It is always stressful during this time, getting attendees, making sure the schedule is up and correct, making sure everyone has what they need but I am really excited about the program so that helps!

I'd like to get it out of the way, so let me ask--what kind of sweet treats will be on hand this year? Hahaha yes of course! We have Trophy Cupcakes coming, Half Pint Ice Cream one night and Theo Chocolate. Amoungst other sweet treats I am sure. MailChimp is also sponsoring our happy hour social so that means all drinks and food is on them. How AWESOME IS THAT??

Let me ask--who goes to a conference like this? Who can get something out of it? Man, it ranges from brand new folks who aren't too sure what Twitter is or Blogging to seasoned professionals. I love the range. The common denominator is that the attendees are mostly women. I think we had one guy last year?

What are some of the conference highlights? I think Getting your Crafty Idea Published is a great class! You not only get to hear about the world of publishing BUT at the end of the class you can pitch your book ideas to editors at Sasquatch Books (CakeSpy's publisher!) which has published some amazing books. One of our attendees last year got a book deal. I hope we have another success story again this year. I really think the schedule runs the course so if you are a newbie, classes such as Blogging 101 or Social Marketing for your business will be highly beneficial. Old hats may find Bookkeeping or Wholesaling more of interest. We have it all!

What has changed since the last conference? We did notice that were more newbies at our last conference so this year we really tried to get classes for all ranges. We kinda broke them up into elementary to advanced. I think we have a much larger range this year than last.

If people are coming to the conference from out of town, what do you suggest to do/eat/see in the area for after or before conference hours? Oh man. There is so much to eat: Trophy Cupcakes will be at the event but Jennifer has made such a great place that you should go check out one of her shops as well. The cupcakes are to die for. Salumi is a great place to go if you can get in and like meat. Hot Cakes is awesome in Ballard. I am currently obsessed with Crumble and Flake. So amazing! There is absolutely no shortage of amazing restaurants. Sitka and Spruce is my favorite and if you get the chance, you must eat there! For things to see/do: I think what Seattle is special for is all the great neighborhoods. You could spend hours just walking around the various spots such as Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont, West Seattle, etc. The parks are also so amazing such as Lincoln Park, Denny Blaine, Seward Park, etc. I took my friend to Highland Drive in Queen Anne for a sunset when she was just visiting. That view is amazing and makes me love where I live! We now have The Wheel or whatever they are calling it. If you have a large enough party and it's nice out, it could be a nice view. Kayaking is great here or getting on the water somehow, a ferry ride to Bainbridge is fun and inexpensive. There is a lot to do here.

Sometimes I feel like going to events like this, I get REALLY overwhelmed with all of the ideas and inspirations and don't know what to do with it all! Any tips for getting the most from your conference? Take lots of notes and take breaks when you feel overwhelmed. We have spots where you can just network or relax. I do think it can get overwhelming but I feel so inspired my brain feels like it could explode! And in a good way. You just gotta take the breaks when you feel like your brain might explode in a bad way.

Anything else we should know? I have been in business for 8 years and been doing crafty businesses for 18 and I still learn new things and feel so inspired. It's also a great way to network which is crucial to a successful business.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals, Part 2

Bittersweet Originals

Sometimes it's fun to revisit your past. Recently, I have been updating the CakeSpy archives--erasing broken links, cleaning up old posts, et cetera, to make it easier for readers to navigate the site (you're welcome). But I have also had a chance to revisit some of my old posts! One in particular was one of my first interviews with a baker, with Robin Koelling of Bittersweet Originals, a special-order cake making business based in Kansas. Well, as it turns out, five years later, she's still making cakes! So I thought it would be fun to do a follow up interview and see what's changed for her business in five years. Here's the original interview; below is the new one.

Bittersweet Originals

It's hard to believe that it's been FIVE YEARS since I interviewed you for the first time for CakeSpy. What are three of the biggest changes that have occurred with your business since we last spoke? Oh wow! So many things have changed!  I never imagined BSO would become what it is now! I'm very fortunate that I'm able to do this full time now, which is amazing! Its just so cool to be able to have a part in the important events and occasions in my client's lives and know that what I'm making for them is helping to make it special and memorable. Its really humbling.  There's just something about seeing the expression on a kiddo's face when they see their birthday cake that is just priceless.
I do 3D cakes, wedding cakes, alot of character and themed cakes in addition to cupcakes and cookies.  I've also started doing twists on some of the "classics" I was familiar with when I was little (like red velvet) and I've started making my own cake stands from cool vintage things my husband and I find.

Valentine cookies

What has surprised you about the progress of your business?  I think the thing that has surprised me the most about the progress of my business is how busy I am! When I first started, a few days notice for a birthday cake was fine. Now people schedule with me 4-6 weeks in advance.  I never imagined anyone would call me and say "I want to book this date before anyone else gets it"!
If you could go back to your five years ago self and offer advice from the future, what would you say? If I could go back 5 years and offer myself adivce from the future one thing I would definitely say is "Take chances!"  I recently came across a quote from someone that said, "Never give up on your dream, because someone else is always willing to hire you to work on theirs.".  That's so true!  I started my business knowing what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it, but didn't really have the "how" figured out.  And I'm still learning, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
When we last talked, one of your promotional methods was approaching strangers with marshmallow fondant decorated sugar cookies along with a business card / gift certificate. How has promotion changed for you?
 Promotion now for me is primarily word of mouth, referrals, etc.  My kids' friends all know me as "the mom that makes the cakes"....I don't think some of them even know my name! LOL!


Your most popular cake flavors 5 years ago were white almond sour cream or citrus. Is this still the case, or have new flavor combinations gained popularity? My most popular flavors now are still white almond sour cream, in addition to triple chocolate fudge with peanut butter filling, pink velvet, carrot and a tangy lemon with raspberry or lemon filling. 

Cupcake party

Five years ago, cupcake-wedding cakes were a rising trend. What are some of the rising trends in dessert today, in your opinion? Cupcake wedding cakes are still popular here, but not as much as they were.  I see more brides going back to the traditional tiered cakes here, some very traditionally ornate and others that have that simple elegance.  I think that brides and grooms here are looking at cakes to accompany their wedding cakes that really reflect their personality and interests as opposed to using the traditional sheet cakes as cutting cakes.  Dessert tables have definitely gained in popularity here too, having a variety of cookies, candy, bars, etc. available as well as the cake.
What's the best dessert you've eaten (yours, or made my someone else) recently? I'm still a big cheesecake fan! I think my favorite is one that's made with nutella and carmel :)   I also love ganache....triple chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache...I'm seriously addicted to that one!

Bittersweet originals

Can you tell me about a cake that stands out in recent memory as being particularly a proud cake moment? A cake that stands out to me as one I'm particularly proud of would have to be the wedding cakes.  There's so much that goes into them, (and so much that could go wrong!) so when everything is finally done, assembled and're able to stand back and say "yeah, I really like this!"  I also like doing kiddo's cakes with all the characters and personality.  Several months ago, I made a Cailou cake that I still think is pretty darn cute. :)

Bittersweet Originals

What's next for Bittersweet Originals?  I'd like to expand to a studio definitely and would like to learn more ornate and difficult techniques like working with Sugarveil and spun sugar.  I'd also like to write a cookbook and do some teaching.

Bittersweet Originals


Check out the Bittersweet Originals website here.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Lauren Garcia of Sweetly Unexpected

Sweetly Unexpected

Meet the baker behind the cakes: in this case, 19-year old Lauren Garcia of Sweetly Unexpected, a New Jersey based baking business which currently operates a pop-up shop. But, um, did I mention that in addition to running her baking business, she is a full time student? Curious to learn more about her inspiring story? Read on, sweet friends:

Sweetly Unexpected

Sweetly Unexpected, you have an interesting story. Mind telling me how you got started? I've always loved cupcakes. When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix (still am) and I used to make it with my cousins all the time. At around 16 years old, I started making cupcakes from scratch and it took me about two years to truly get my cupcakes to the standards I want Sweetly Unexpected to uphold and I believe that I've been exceeding those standards each and every day.

Do you think it's possible to have two careers--in your case, student and sweetsmaker--at once? As a full time nursing student, I'm well aware of how hard classes get as I progress with my clinicals. But my passion has and always will be baking. With the dedication I have and the support I receive from not only my family but also my friends, I really don't think there is anything I can't do. I've always been taught to put my 110% into everything I do and I am planning on doing just that for both my careers, even when I become a nurse.

Sweetly unexpected

What do you do for fun if you find yourself with the day (or a few hours) off? Lately I haven't had any time for myself.. but I love being with my fiance when I have time off. We, both, love movies, going out to eat, going on road trips, and hanging out in NYC. But I love love love to watch Cupcake Wars and go visit other bakeries whenever I get a chance -- it's almost like my hobby.


You don't have your own retail storefront but you have a booth in an existing storefront. How exactly does that work? I met the owners of Vesso Bakery and Cafe through close family friends, who have photographed me since I was 15 years old-- They offer European food and some desserts but they didn't offer cupcakes so they were very excited to have me become a part of their business. After partnering up, we agreed that I would set up a booth and sell cupcakes out of their Bakery/Cafe. However, not every week is the same, I rotate cupcake flavors every day as well as make whoopie pies, cake pops, cookies and brownies. Not to mention, we also do Custom Cakes that can be ordered by coming in to Vesso Bakery or calling me and sitting down with me to discuss what their vision is for their cake or special occasion.

Sweetly Unexpected

How do you eat a cupcake? I like to take the bottom part of the cupcake and put it on top of the frosting. Sort of like a whoopie pie. It's just so much fun that way! It's like another DIY whoopie pie.

What are your signature offerings? I truly believe that my cream cheese frosting is Sweetly Unexpected's signature. But as for the cupcake flavors, I think my guava cupcakes topped with a cream cheese frosting is my signature because it describes both my background (Since I'm Cuban) and the creativity behind Sweetly Unexpected.

Sweetly Unexpected

What is your personal favorite item on the menu? I've always loved vanilla everything! So my vanilla cupcake topped with a vanilla buttercream (Vanilla Love Affair) is my favorite. Second, would be the guava cupcake (Paradise Island), which is our most sought out cupcake at Vesso Bakery and Cafe.

Sweetly unexpected

What are three major goals or wishes for the next five years? 1. I want to expand my bakery to an actual storefront -- my ultimate wish. 2. I want to graduate college with honors. 3. I want Sweetly Unexpected to be a huge part of the community and I want to work closely with organizations that help young children.

What is your business philosophy? Sweetly Unexpected's business philosophy is that at Sweetly Unexpected, quality will never be sacrificed for quantity and that with every cupcake you have, your life will get a little bit sweeter. Any words of wisdom for wannabe professional bakers? You will never know how far you will go with your dreams, if you never make the first step. Dream big and stay positive and good will come your way. I'd also like to say, don't get disappointed when things don't come out the way you want it, with baking practice is KEY.

What's next? Sweetly Unexpected Bake Shop recently signed up for the LivingSocial/Chase grant and we qualified for a 250k grant! If we win, we'd love to open up a shop in NJ near NYC. If we don't, we're still hoping to open up a store.

Want more? Visit Sweetly Unexpected online here to learn more.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Amy Dumas, Pro Wrestler

Have you heard of SugarSlam? If not, are you in for some amazing cake-filled awesomeness. It's a yearly event put on by Natalie of Bake & Destroy, where you can flex your baking muscles. This year, according to the websit, "there are two titles up for grabs: SugarSlam 2012 Champion and People’s Choice. Our panel of judges will choose the Champ: Zach LinderAmy Dumas & Justin Howard."

Just be sure to enter SOON, because the deadline is coming up on July 20!

And as part of the festivities, celebrity Amy Dumas (you may know her as the WWE's Lita or as the lead singer of the Luchagors, among other career highlights) agreed to be interviewed on a foodie blog of Natalie's choosing. Well, naturally as a site equally as awesome as her own she chose CakeSpy!

And so here comes the first ever interview with a professional wrestler. It involves cake, promise.

I hear you're a healthy eater. That's perfectly acceptable. But when you indulge, what baked goods or desserts do you enjoy best? I am a healthy eater, but it's only so I can enjoy sweets! Um, how do I narrow it down? What desserts? Yes. All of them. Ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, whatever. Mint chocolate anything, peanut butter chocolate, cinnamon, caramel, coconut, dark chocolate. I love trying out fancy food places in my travels, but I find sometimes fancy desserts miss the mark. You know, like hazelnut infused mango truffle glazed ganache? Fuck that. Give me a donut, or a cupcake or ice cream. 

You've traveled all over the world. Can you tell me about a country or city's food culture that particularly fascinates you? Some of my favorite places to go aren't real big on desserts. I love Central and South America and Japan, but I can't say my most fond memories there revolve around a tres leches cake or some green tea ice cream. Europe has the lock on yummy pastries. However, there is a bakery in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua that has the best cinnamon rolls.  I think they taste better because the bakery is owned by this couple from Chicago who moved to Nicaragua with a surf board and some recipes and made it happen. There are fulfilled dreams in those cinnamon rolls!

As an esteemed judge of SugarSlam, what are you looking for in a winner? The coolest Lita cake ever. Seriously, I am looking for something that looks like someone put some thought into.  If you are making a wrestling related baked good, I can already give you points for not taking yourself too seriously.  Just go for it. I can see voting for a failed experiment and a good write up because they tried. Although I am pretty impressed by the baking whizzes that can make food look like yeah, a Lita cake.... And bonus points if it's vegan. 

Goin Bananas-1

Here's a picture of last year's SugarSlam winner. What are your thoughts on the cake (image above)? BTW, it's entitled "Goin' Bananas" - banana cake filled with banana custard, topped with dark chocolate buttercream, covered in homemade fondant. (she made Gorilla Monsoon's glasses from poured sugar. ) That thing is awesome. First of all, it sounds like it would taste delicious and it's creative. There are not enough Gorilla Monsoon cakes in this world. 

Angry Avocado  

Tell me three foods you couldn't live without (sweet or savory). Wheatgrass (is that a food? I want four then), kale, avocado, and chocolate. 

If a you were ever to be surprised with a pie in the face, what kind of pie would you choose? I would choose a coconut cream pie.  I think it would be light and not as dense as say, a chocolate peanut butter pie, so it would not inflict as much damage and the clean up would be yum.

Pies Vs. Cakes

Dessert face-off: If cake were to have a wrestling match with pie, who would win? Cake is going to win.  It is more structurally sound. Let's just say cake was flinging itself at pie, pie has oozed all over before there was even any impact and then cake absorbed pie like The Blob! Suck it, pie. You have no chance. 

If you were having Pee-Wee herman and a crew of luchadores over for dessert, what would you serve? I am picturing a last supper type of image with Pee-Wee Herman where Jesus would sit (obviously). I think I would do a Smorgasbord, dessert buffet style with everyone of my favorites all over the table. That way, there is something for everyone AND adds variety to the ammunition when I yell FOOD FIGHT!!!!

If you ignore the "Jason", it's actually quite appropriate.

Want more? Here are the important sites to visit: Bake & Destroy, Amy Dumas, SugarSlam.

Batter Chatter: Interview with The Cravory, San Diego

Cravory Cookies 1

About the author: Erin Jackson is obsessed with finding the best cheap and tasty eats in San Diego. Keep up with her other food finds on her San Diego Food blog,
The Cravory is one of San Diego's best cookie bakeries. Not only are the cookies exceptionally good from a technical standpoint (soft, chewy, and moist), they are also some of the most inventive. Like red velvet cake? They've got a cookie version. How about blueberry muffins or oreo milkshakes? They've got that too. There are also savory options like rosemary balsamic and pancakes and bacon -- and those are just some of the signature flavors. 
Every month, The Cravory also dreams up 6 "featured cookies of the month", which are typically even more unusual. This month, they've got mint chip ice cream, blackberry bliss, and chocolate birthday cake (among others). The bakery doesn't have a storefront, so you've got two options to get your paws on them. if you live in San Diego, you can pick them up from select retail locations and farmers' markets (read on to find out where) or you can order cookies online and have them shipped anywhere in the continental USA.
Cookies are available by the dozen, or if you're a serious cookie monster, sign up for the Cookie of the Month Club or go for the Ultimate Box Special, a 50-count assortment of all the signature flavors and some of the newest creations. Another option is to design your own cookies by choosing your dough and mix-ins. 
If you've got willpower issues and the thought of dozens of cookies just lying around presents an issue, you can always freeze them. When you're ready for more, pop the cookies in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or let them defrost on the counter. Cookies can remain frozen in their packing for 3 months, but who are we kidding? They won't last that long.
I spoke with Adam Koven, CEO of The Cravory to find out more about his history with baking, his favorite flavors, and what's in store for summer.

Your bio says you've always been a big fan of cookies. Did you bake when you were growing up, and if so, who taught you? A little bit, I cook more than I bake, but growing up, we always did cookies during the holidays. It's definitely in my genes, my great-grandmother was an amazing baker and she did the old European style baking, so I've definitely been involved with baking my whole life.

How old were you the first time you baked something by yourself, and what did you make?
I was probably 11 or 12. We always did the decorated sugar cookies growing up, which is ironic, because we don't do those at all now. 
Besides ordering them online, where can people find your cookies? On Sunday, we're at the La Jolla and Hillcrest farmers' markets, along with Wednesday evenings in Ocean Beach. As far as local businesses in San Diego, we're the featured dessert at Neighborhood, Craft and Commerce, and Leroy's Kitchen and you can get our cookies at The Deli Llama, and Shell gas station in Hillcrest.
How often do you come up with new flavors? Each month, we come out with 6 brand-new flavors each month, our cookies of the month. We carry 18 flavors online, 12 of those are signature flavors, including everything from sweet to savory. Those are our best-sellers from over the past year, and they don't change too often. We've only changed them once or twice because one of the new cookies really blew everyone's socks off, so we made it a signature flavor. But, every month we come up with 6 new flavors for the website, which get featured at the farmers' markets. The farmers markets are also where we test out new flavors. If they do well, they'll become a cookie of the month later on.
Do you work at the farmers' markets yourself? We try to go to the farmers' markets as often as possible. It's either my partner Nate or myself at the Hillcrest market and we have someone that does the Ocean Beach market and La Jolla for us.
Do you see the same people coming to get the same cookies frequently? We definitely have a very strong following at the farmers markets. It's pretty interesting, everyone that works the market has a different fan base, so to speak, but a lot of regulars come by. The really cool thing we do at the market is change our menu every week, so we have the people who come to see what's new and the people who come for their favorites. One of our favorite customers is only in town every third week or so and she absolutely loves the rosemary balsamic, which is one of the flavors we carry every week, but every time she comes, she buys us out. 


What are some of your favorite flavors that you've dreamed up recently?
My personal favorites right now are the chocolate truffle, even though I'm not a dark chocolate guy at all. That one is just unbelievably addictive and decadent and delicious. Our newest cookie, which was a cookie of the month and is now a signature, is the salted caramel cream cookie -- that one is amazing. And one of my all-time favorites is our original s'mores, which is original dough with milk chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers.
Have you ever tried to make a flavor that didn't quite work? My business partner Derrick is our chef, and he's the one who comes up with all of the recipes and actually goes back to the kitchen and makes the cookies, and I'm actually the cook of the group, I make a BBQ sauce from scratch. Two years ago for Memorial Day Weekend, he stole a bottle of my sauce and decided to make a BBQ cookie with the sauce as a base, along with smoked almonds and BBQ chips. He said "Here's what you have for the market, see if you can sell 'em".  I took a bunch of them to the market and needless to say it wasn't a huge hit, even with the BBQ theme of summer, but it was definitely an interesting attempt to think outside the box.
Can you give us a hint of some of the new flavors you're working on for summer?
We have some amazing summer flavors coming out over the next few months, like cotton candy, apple pie, corn bread with candied bacon, and pink lemonade...the next few months are going to be a lot of fun in terms of flavors.


Batter Chatter: Interview with Joanie of Blossomedge

Totally not kidding. There is a blog out there dedicated to teaching you how to make cookies that look like real flowers. It's called Blossomedge, and it is freaking amazing. These delectable treats are sweet to eat, because while they may look like flowers, they're made with flour. And the website features tutorials on how you can make them, too.

If you don't want to hear more, I'm not sure if I understand you. If you do, well, you're in luck, because I interviewed Joanie, the blogger behind the magical creations. 

How did you get started making faux flowers out of cookies? My love for sugar arts started when I was a young child. I was extremely fascinated by frosting roses. So when I was 9 yrs old, my mom gave me a Wilton cake decorating set along with an instructional booklet. I was thrilled when I made my first rose but what really stuck with me was a photo on the back cover of the book! It was an advertisement for a course on making gumpaste flowers. Being a small childI thought gumpaste flowers were made out of chewing gum and imagined how wonderful they must taste! Years later, I tried to eat one and of course, it tasted terrible. I will never forget the feeling of utter disappointment when I discovered that gumpaste flowers weren’t meant to be eaten but were for decoration only! And that really bothered me…lol  From there on, I was determined to figure out a way to make 3 dimensional flowers edible. Fast forward a few decades now…I figured out a way to make realistic-looking flowers using cookies as the support for the 3 dimensional aspect but I wanted the cookie flowers to taste good as well. As soon as I put regular fondant on the cookies, they tasted bad. So I set out to discover a new way to make fondant that actually tasted good. I tried many different concoctions but nothing ever worked and I was even destroying my saucepans trying to come up with something very unique. I thought maybe there was no other way to make fondant and abandoned my quest for a new fondant… Then one day,  I was making whoopie pies and needed a filling. I was in a rush and didn’t feel like making frosting so I decided to open a can of ready made frosting and  added melted white chocolate to it to see what would happen. It seized and was a disaster – or so I thought.  I was looking at my hard lumpy mess in the bowl while absent-mindedly playing with a chunk of the frosting in my hand  -  and then I realized, it was becoming soft and clay-like. After working with the proportions, I developed Blossom Fondant, an easy to make, creamy-tasting yummy fondant that tastes nothing like any regular fondant out there.  ( Just a side note – it doesn’t work for covering cakes but is perfect for all your cookie decorating needs)   

What is the hardest flower to re-create? I think the most difficult flower to try and recreate in cookie form was the rose. I will be sharing that tutorial later on…   

As someone who combines my loves of illustration, cake, and writing in one blog, I appreciate your combining YOUR loves. Now, tell me: how did you get into them, respectively, the flowers and flour and photography - and how do they come together, for you? I love to photograph flowers. It is probably my favorite hobby besides making my floral cookies. My floral photography and cookies seemed to go hand in hand so I started my blog Blossomedge as a way to share both loves with the public. I also compose piano music. When I made my instructional cookie DVD, I was able to combine my photography, cookie bouquets and music all into one production. It felt wonderful!  I once read that creative people can not be happy unless they are creating something. I totally believe that! It was a very fulfilling experience for me…

How do you incorporate art into your children's lives?  After I make a cookie bouquet, I let my two small children play with the dough and fondant. It’s fun to watch what they come up with. But one day, when my daughter was 3 yrs old, she made a “worm family” out of the fondant. There was daddy worm, mommy worm and baby worm. She played with this little worm family for hours. I went into my office down the hall to work, while listening to her little adventures in the kitchen with her worm family. Later on, it got quiet out there. I was going to go check on her when she came into my office with tears streaming down her cheeks. I asked her what was the matter and she replied through heavy sobs, “Mommy…. I….…I ate my worm family and now they are all gone!” 

What is your favorite floral destination--hawaii for the exotic blooms? England for the lovely gardens? I love the flower gardens of Europe. When I was over there years ago, I was very inspired by the  gardens of  Germany and Austria. 

Tell me something that has surprised you about having your blog.  I guess the thing that has surprised me the most about having a blog is the lack of comments, good or bad. Sometimes I feel as if I am putting out information into a great “void” with no feedback whatsoever… I often wonder  if anyone is reading or enjoying the things I post. 

What's next? Actually, I have just started the “tour” of my floral cookie garden! It is a vastone… I hope to surprise many by the flowers a person can create out of the most simple of popular confections. 

 For more sweet deliciousness, visit the Blossomedge blog.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Susan of Doughmesstic

Nutella and sea salt caramel fudge

Doughmesstic! I don't think I've ever heard word that so succinctly sums up the joy and creative abandon of baking. And the website certainly lives up to one's expections. It's full of delicious recipes, engaging stories, and informative but not fussy tutorials, all designed and dreamed up by Susan Whetzel, a seriously awesome and talented lady. Susan has also branched out to baking for clients and writing books! (CS Note: Buy her book: The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook).

Want to learn more about the blogger behind the baked goods? Here's an interview, punctuated with sweet treats from the site--click on the pictures to find the recipes!

Apple Pie Popovers!Who are you and what do you do? I am Susan Whetzel. Wife, Mom, Blogger, Baker, Getter-Byer. I live in the mountains in Virginia, where I've always lived. I've had my food blog since 2008, after I got bored being a stay-at-home-mom and never actually cooking. It took me about 30 seconds to come up with the name Doughmesstic.

Double Fudge Snickers Brownies

Who taught you how to bake? I would have to say joining Tuesdays With Dorie, the online baking group taught me to bake. I followed along with that group for a LONG time - until I was comfortable mixing things up in the kitchen. I also met a lot of great friends there - some I have been lucky enough to meet in person. I miss those days.

Caramel Topped ShortbreadTell me two of three of your personal favorite blog posts ever? Oh my. That's a toughie. I think one that got a lot of fun attention was the one about going to Martha Stewart's first Pie Competition. I was invited, I went - it was a fiasco! (Here's a link) Another favorite of mine is actually a sad one - writing about my family at Christmas. It was honest, and felt like real writing versus my normal happy-go-lucky recipe posts. (Here's a link)

Who are some of the bakers or bloggers who you love best? I absolutely LOVE my friend Paula of Bell'Alimento, even though she calls me everyday, despite her knowing I hate talking on the phone. I am also thrilled to have made a friend in Brandi of BranAppetit - who actually lives nearby. If not for blogging, I'd have never met her! I could name people all day, but that wouldn't be fair.


If you have a low-inspiration day, how do you keep yourself motivated to bake and blog? That's so hard. But if I am totally unmotivated to bake, all it takes is cleaning the kitchen. Once I see that sucker clean, I get the itch to get in there and do something...which involves two or three days of dirty dishes.

Salted caramel brownies!You've traveled quite a bit. What is one of the places that you thought the sweets were especially awesome? In all of my travels, quite honestly, I think America has the only true SWEETS. In Europe, things just aren't up to the sweet that we are used to. In the Caribbean & South America, it's too hot to think about eating. I did have a divine piece of Chocolate Mousse Cake while sitting on an island in Greece one year for my birthday, and the Riverside Marriott in Bangkok did a MEAN crepe filled with dark chocolate and fresh strawberries.

Neapolitan ice cream: Which do you go for first, strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate? Coming from someone who JUST published a book with over 300 ice cream recipes, you are hurting me a bit with that question...SO much recipe testing! I like Butter Pecan or Mint Chip. :)

What made you decide to take the jump from home baker to baking for clients? It wasn't really a decision - it just happened. I was making cakes for my son, my husband, my family and friends, and posted some pictures on Facebook. I immediately got orders coming in. I am particular about the orders I take these days though - they MUST inspire me. With the blog, I stay super busy, so cakes are my creative outlet. I don't want it to feel like work, so, if the cake has imagination, I am in. If not, I wish them hard feelings.

Cinnamon Roll Gingerbread Loaf!Do you have any advice for bloggers or bakers who are interested to start selling their cakes or baked goods? It's work!! Don't undersell yourself. If people want a cheap cake, send them to WalMart. Remember, you don't NEED to make cake. If you are doing it at a little more than cost, you are going to end up regretting it, and it won't be fun for you at all.

Red Velvet cake: boiled icing, buttercream, or cream cheese frosting? Cream Cheese, no question.

Brown sugar cookie crust Cheesecake!What's next? Currently shopping out a new cookbook, getting ready to overhaul the kitchen (pray for me), gearing up for a year of travel and food blogging conferences, and hopefully making a little more money and a lot more friends. Oh, and finally finding a pair of jeans that stay on my butt. That's a big goal.

For more, visit

Cake Byte: CakeSpy Featured on Martha Stewart's Website

Curious about the life of a Spy? Well, you can find some sweet details--including the secrets of my sweet life, including my baking essentials, secret wish list, and the guilty-pleasure ingredients I cannot live without! 

Hint: the color hot pink, and rainbow-hued food, are included.

To get the full story, check out the sweet interview I did on the Martha Stewart website. Martha and I, by the way, will be hanging out (because obviously we're BFF) at the upcoming Pillsbury Bake-off.

Check out the interview here!

Batter Chatter: Interview with Carmen of C for Cupcake Cupcakery

I love baked goods, and I love people who bake goods. They've always got some sweet wisdom to impart, and new flavor combinations to share.

What follows is an interview with budding baking business C for Cupcake Cupcakery, a southern California based business specializing in...well, you guessed it, cupcakes! But with flavors like Japanese honey and a blog which intersects sweetness and pop culture, this business is anything but cookie-cutter. Read on:

C for Cupcake Cupcakery. How did you make the jump from home baker to commercial baker? I always enjoyed baking, cooking and art. Baking is a magical hobby that somehow marry two things I love the most, food and art, together! I often baked for no reasons at home in the past. One evening, a friend of my husband came over to our house, and he saw me baking some cupcakes. He asked if I am having a party tomorrow. I answered no, just baking for fun. Then, he was joking that I should consider baking for others as a business. After his "joke", I thought of it thoroughly for nights, and totally agreed that I could turn my hobby to business. After preparing myself for years (mastering my recipes and practicing my cupcake decorating skills), I was finally ready to turn myself to a commerical baker to serve others.

Do you still enjoy baking as a hobby, or is it more like work to you now? OF COURSE! I still enjoy baking and still treat it as my ultimate hobby. I still love trying new recipes, bake for fun, and decorating cupcakes when I have ideas popped up in my mind .

If cake balls and cupcakes had a knife fight, who would win? question - I will say cupcakes would still kick cake balls' butts. The reason why I love cupcakes are the feeling of biting in a moist cupcake with fluffy frosting on top. Cake balls cannot fulfill that satisfaction (SORRY! cake balls, but I still love you.)

I need fashion advice. Do you think I could get away with wearing a cupcake dress like Katy Perry? Dear Head Spy, you will look as cute as (or even cuter than) Katy in a cupcake dress, trust me on that!

Tell me more about your "Japanese Honey" flavor. Japanese food is my cardio. Japanese food and its culture have influence my baking and decorating in a big way. I once had this Japanese cake when I was a little kid. Ever since that "encounter", I could not forget the honest flavor of this cake. So I experienced with different recipes to find the perfect flavor I had tasted when I was little. Finally, I successfully created this perfect Japanese honey cupcake. This cake has a very honest taste - a faint honey flavor, a hintful of egg flavor, very light and almost spongy texture.

What is a "bad" cupcake to you? A DRY cupcake with overly sweet frosting is a bad cupcake to me.

Do you think you'll ever open a retail location? Why or why not? That's my dream! I have couple ideas/concepts in mine of what I want my store to be (*secret*); I am working hard to make my dream come true. I want people to view my store as part of the lifestyle.

Pressing dessert question: which do you like best: ice cream, gelato, or frozen custard? Gelato and FroYo are my fave!

If you could only eat one cake/frosting flavor combo for the rest of your life, what would it be? It's quite a challenging question to answer - I would pick my home-made caramel apple cupcake with caramel butter cream frosting; this cupcake reminds me of a big caramel apple but with a soft texture.

Tell me about how pop culture and cupcakes intersect in your life and business. Pop culture is something I see, read and listen everyday. A simple line from a movie, clothes that celebrities wear, or a romantic sit-com are always an inspiration to me. I love to cooperate what I saw, listened, read lately into my cupcake designs.

What's next for C is for Cupcake? We just launched our Etsy shop not too long ago ( My next goal this year is offering matching party supplies, including fondant cupcake toppers/paper cupcake picks, cupcake liners, party decorations (such as banners, paper straws, flags, etc.) to help people to create their perfect party!

Any parting words? I always believe that everything is possible.  Don't ever look down on yourself!  Don't tell yourself you are just an ordinary housewife, a freshly graduated student without a real job, or a single mom...Everything is possible, so DON'T STOP BELIVING!  A drive can make people run very very very...far.

For more sweetness, visit the C for Cupcake website.

Batter Chatter: Interview with Carrie of Fields of Cake

Images: Fields of CakeIt's time to catch up with Fields of Cake. 

Carrie Fields, owner of Fields of Cake, a boutique cake and fudge custom order bakery, is an ace baker and an equally awesome person (I know this because I hung out with her in Maine and then again at the Wilton Headquarters). And recently she relocated from Maine to Montana, so it seemed like a good time to catch up on her sweet adventures and how her business is evolving in its new location. Read on:

Did you drive to Missoula from Maine? If so, did you have any sweet bakery discoveries along the way? We drove from Virginia to Montana after living on Crete for 3 months. We were trying to beat storms so we drove until we couldn't drive anymore then slept and drove some more. I would LOVE to make that trip again just for soul purpose of stuffing my face full of sweet delights from all over the country. Some day. Sigh.

How is Missoula different from Maine, in terms of the sweets scene? Missoula seems SO much more open to the awesomeness of baked goodness in the form of sugar, flour, eggs...There is such a sense of pride in local and scratch made. There are GREAT local chocolatiers here and SEVERAL bakeries I can't WAIT to check out.

Please tell me you've visited Bernice's Bakery, one of my favorites! Don't hate me....I have yet to visit Bernice's though my brother-in-law is planning on taking me on a bakery crawl after my crazy Valentines Day push. He is supposed to be the local expert on ALL the great bakeries. I can't WAIT!

Is Fields of Cake going to change scope at all in its new hometown? The biggest change for me is going to be renting a commercial kitchen. Other than that, it will be same as before, focusing on going beyond what the customer requests and making each order a WOW order. My ultimate goal is to have a store front. But I am patient and know that it will happen when it needs to. I am so excited about the possibilities here. People are so open to new and fun things and ready for what I have to offer. Missoula really is the best.

You are still fulfilling orders even though you are currently in a temporary home before moving on to a more full time place. How on earth are you making that happen? Haa haa. I AM fulfilling orders. I actually am booked through next month. Any person in their "right" mind would not have put out the call for orders but I have not been in my right mind for YEARS and that is what makes my stuff awesome and my life even more awesome. I'm a lucky gal.

What was the most popular treat on your valentine's day menu? Hmmmm, The most ordered this year aside from the combo pack was the Chocolate Dipped Espresso Fudge. Oh Jessie, YOU WILL LOVE IT! Second to that was the Blueberry Pancake Fudge.

What sweet from your menu did YOU enjoy most on Valentine's Day? My Raspberry Truffles are always on my personal menu. Actually ALL of my items. I can't help myself. Maybe I'll make a cake decorated with the left overs!! Ooooo! Yeah, that's it! Wanna come join me?

What's next? That's the great part about life. You never can be certain what is next. I am hoping to be rolling in sugar for a very long time to come. I have job hunting to do to sustain until I get the business going strong. I can't wait to show Missoula what I have to offer.

For more, including recipes for some of the items pictured in this interview, visit!

Batter Chatter: Interview with Kristin of Meringue Bake Shop, Orange County

What's a "Whacky Cake"? Read on.In the modern world, it seems like just about every other person has some sort of a baking business, be it their bread and butter or a little something on the side.

Sadly, a lot of businesses like this fizzle out. But Meringue Bake Shop, located in Orange County, CA and run by baker Kristin Ausk and her husband Lyle, is an inspiring exception. While they don't have a retail storefront (yet), they've been going for four years and have a loyal following at farmer's markets in the area; as they put it, "While our name may have 'shop' in it, we are currently a catering business working out of a commercial kitchen in Fullerton. But we have our eyes set on the future and so our name reflects that."

Until that sweet day, let's learn more about what keeps them going strong, shall we? (Hint: it may or may not include buttered and toasted Pop-Tarts):

How has Meringue Bake Shop changed since you established it four years ago? Hmmm. I honestly don't feel like much has changed. I'm sure a lot has, like we are now at farmers markets and are consistently busy instead of having one or two orders a month but I guess it just feels like business as usual. We have received some great press and accolades from industry experts so that has helped us grow. Occasionally someone will come up to me and be excited to meet me and that kinda freaks me out, but in a good way. That certainly wouldn't have happened a few years ago.

Your world-famous PushCakes seem to have inspired some...for lack of a better word...copycats. How do you deal with people who are a little too "inspired" by your business? Ha well.... I am going to be honest and say that it is challenging for me to deal with. And I am trying to learn to let go and just accept that it's a great idea and so of course people are going to want to make it their own. Look at Bakerella! But it does upset me when someone talks about it as if they came up with pushcakes or use the name I invented and tell me they had no idea. Or purposefully go around and try to "steal my thunder" so to speak by following my press around the internet to tout their version. That's just not nice. And I was bummed when I found out someone is publishing a book about the very idea, someone who isn't even in the business and ultimately will get all the credit for it. But I digress! I really owe its wide spread popularity to you, for doing the first official post about PushCakes here on Cakespy!

Shucks! I'm blushing. OK, so...PushCakes were one of the items that brought your business to the public eye in a big way. How big a part of your business are they today? Right now pushcakes are probably 40% of my business. I'd like to get that to at least 75%. I am working on an online storefront so I can spread the pushcake love all over the states. But since I only do this part time, and a lot on my own, it's going to take longer than I'd like. Plus it's just me and my husband baking, creating and assembling these and we've only got 4 hands between us!

Tell me more about your "whacky cake", that lovely thing with a funny name pictured at the top of this post. The whacky cake is based off an idea I saw in a Donna Hay magazine a year or so ago. My friend Sharon from Cupcakes and Cutlery showed me the cake and told me that I just had to make it my own. I found a company in Australia that is making something with a chocolate mold in the shape of a cake that you break open with a hammer. I believe they call them smash cakes. What makes mine different is that underneath that chocolate dome and layer of delicious candy, you'll find our yummy cake and buttercream. So after eating some sugar, you can eat more sugar! Everyone's happy! So far I've just been making them for kids parties but they would great for marriage proposals, gender reveal parties, milestone birthdays or even for graduations. We can put anything inside the cake as long as it's small.

What flavor would your last-meal cake be? It would have to be a slice of Le Bete Noire. It's a cake made at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego. The cake is comprised of layers of a creamy semi-sweet chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brûlée, chocolate ganache, dark chocolate cakes and moistened with Madagascar vanilla bean syrup.

Pop Tart Vs. Toaster Strudel

Pop-tarts or toaster strudel? DUH! Pop-tarts baby! I eat mine toasted with salted butter and cut into fourths. shhhh

What is, in your opinion, the ideal cake-to-frosting ratio on a cupcake? I personally prefer 1/3 buttercream to 2/3 cake.

Can you name some bakers who truly inspire you? Oh yes. Elisa Strauss, Karen Krasne, Kari Haskell, Carrie Fields, Julie Desmeules, Rosie from Sweetapolita, and you!

If money were no object, what would you love to do next with your business? Open a real shop! One with a case full of cupcakes, cookies, diner cakes, bars and puddings. A pink and white checked floor, tinsel lampshades, turquoise vinyl booths, a cakespy mural in my kitchen, a glitter toilet (yea you heard me!), a space for parties and a retro jukebox playing daft punk, madonna, rodrigo y gabriel, abba, squeeze, and zz top (among others). ;)

For more awesome, visit the Meringue Bake Shop website or find them on Facebook.