Looking for a sweet nothing for the sweet freak in your life? Seek no further: I've assembled a selection of totally sweet things that you should absolutely buy for me--I mean, the baker in your life. From baker's twine in a rainbow of colors to cake stencils to a delightful donut shaped donut maker, you're guaranteed to find a winner.
New York Times Bestseller list? Pshaw. Here's the real deal, a baker's dozen of CakeSpy's favorite pieces of sweet publishing of the year. Fact: most, but not all of these books were released in 2010, but they are the ones that I turned to most throughout the year, and the ones that I would suggest most highly to anyone who cares and / or asks. Listed alphabetically. True: I received some of them as review samples (thanks, various publishers!). But were I to misplace or damage any of these beauties, I'd totally buy 'em again.
- Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. What and why: this a collection of classic desserts from all around the nation, but refined with the signature twist that I've come to expect from their wonderful Brooklyn bakery, Baked. From salt-and-pepper sandwich cookies to two versions of Mississippi Mud pie, this book is a keeper. It does not hurt that the bakers are two extremely adorable gentleman, to boot.
- Betty Crocker's Cooky Book 1963 (1st Edition). What and why: If you are a regular visitor to this site, you know that I have what verges on a mild obsession with this book. It's classic, it's campy, and it's a pleasure to read, look at, and bake from. If possible seek out the first edition version--if it comes with smudges or stained pages from years of use, all the better.
- Betty Crocker's Pie & Pastry Cookbook. What and why: A natural progression from the Cooky Book, this Pie and Pastry cookbook is filled with retro recipes as well as classics, and comes with some great recipes for baking up "old is new again" types of recipes.
- Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful, edited by Barbara Fairchild. What and why: Bon Appetit is consistently a favorite source of mine for delicious dessert recipes and what amounts to pastry porn in terms of pictures, and so naturally I was attracted to this book. It's huge, it's beautiful, and it's full of great recipes. What's not to love?
- Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats by Bakerella. What and why: Easily the cutest new release in 2010, this book is extremely thorough in teaching you how to craft cake pops that look so adorable that you might take pause before taking a big bite. But trust me, you'll power through it, because the decadent treats are delicious, too. I know, because I've gotten to eat ones made by Bakerella herself!
- The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009. What and why: A comprehensive year-by-year review of the best cookies from the magazine's archives, this book reads like a piece of cookie anthropology, and has really stunning, almost textile-inspired photos of the cookies which make turning pages a pleasure.
- Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. What and why: After I received this book to bake from for an upcoming event, I became an instant devotee. It includes a great variety of cookie styles, written by a lady who is obviously a chocolate and baking expert, but at no point do the recipes or writing seem too intricate or fussy to follow along. This book makes me feel like a baking expert by proxy.
- The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook (Commemorative Edition). What and why: Like, whoa. When I received this cookbook, I knew it meant business. It's a binder-style cookbook, and it's incredibly comprehensive (as one would hope the official cookbook from a flour company would be). Some cookbooks are for looking at; this is not one of them, but it is one that will definitely be used. Get a preview of their recipes here.
- The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century edited by Amanda Hesser. What and why: Here's another comprehensive cookbook, which includes fascinating stories along with each recipe. It's a big one too, so when people see it in your kitchen they'll know you're like, really serious. Interesting recipe from it: Semolina Shortbread.
- Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops by Dorie Greenspan. What and why: No, it's not Dorie's most recent release, but it was the one I looked to most this year. I took it to Paris as a more valuable guide than any travel book, and have baked from it extensively. It comes with stories just as charming as the treats.
- Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz. What and why: a stunning collection of dessert recipes from pastry rock star David Lebovitz. This collection includes cookies, cakes, pies, and various confections/sauces/etc, and every single thing I've tried has been incredibly delicious. And as a bonus, Lebovitz's writing is incredibly witty--his cleverness puts him on par as an Oscar Wilde of pastry writing. Most recent recipe enjoyed: peanut butter cookies.
- United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State by Warren Brown. What and why: For one thing, it's a great concept, and it's fun to read about regional recipes in this book by CakeLove owner Warren Brown. It includes a healthy dose of history, and plenty of interesting recipes to discover. As a bonus, it's beautifully designed and very fun to flip through. Recent recipe enjoyed: Hartford Election Day Cake. Note: if you like this book, you may also enjoy another favorite of mine, All American Desserts: 400 Star-Spangled, Razzle-Dazzle Recipes for America's Best Loved Desserts .
- A World of Cake by Krystina Castella. What and why: This book deserves a gold star for hitting all of the points of things I love in a cookbook: beautiful pictures, interesting backstories, plenty of baking lore, and straightforward, unfussy recipes. I strongly suggest this one for any cake enthusiast!
Moms are totally sweet--so why not treat them in kind? Here's a baker's dozen of sweet (some literally, some figuratively) gift ideas for Mother's Day:
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book: One of my all-time favorite cookbooks--I know my mom would be delighted with this, so I imagine yours would be too. A word of advice: definitely go for the spiral-bound version. Available on Amazon.
CakeSpy Artwork and Accessories: Oh, come on, don't act surprised. I have rent to pay now! Plus, your mom would probably love you forever if you bought her something from my shop. Shop online here.
Cake Plates and Pedestals by Juliska: If you're feeling like a big spender this Mother's Day, these breathtaking cake plates and pedestals would probably go over very well. While you're at it, buy me one too, ok? (thanks to my friend Love and Confections for introducing me to these!).
Cookies by Mail from Hey, Sugar!: A delightful recent CakeSpy discovery (via DailyCandy), though this Chicago-based custom order baking company provides a full assortment of baked goods locally, they will ship their cookies in assortments or by the dozen in single flavors (like the alluring-sounding Aloha Cookie "When pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts all mix together in a yummy, creamy snickerdoodle; your taste buds will say Aloha!"). Online at heysugarchicago.com.
Cups of all sizes and colors from Bake it Pretty: That's cupcake cups, of course. And you'll find the greatest variety of cute, pretty, sophisticated and kid-friendly ones here. Some for mom, some for you, some for your friends...
Cute as a Cupcake Baby Onesie by Bored Inc.: Naturally, babies are cute--but they can always be cuter. And that's easily done with these adorable "Cute as a Cupcake" onesies by Bored Inc.! Available here.
Legalize Frostitution Tee from Cupcake Royale: Hipster moms who love baking will adore this tee from Seattle cupcake institution Cupcake Royale. Available here.
Little Red Riding Hood Tea Pot: Tea is totally sweet with treats, and it's sweeter still when served from an incredibly adorable tea pot like this one. Available at Fred Flare.
Retro Aprons by Kitsch'n Glam: These retro-cute halter aprons would make any mom happy, I think. Better yet, get one for yourself too. Available here.
Three Months of Croissants: Do you really need to be told how much cooler this is than a fruit basket of the month club? Each month, a batch of prepared gourmet croissants will be shipped; simply thaw overnight and bake in the morning. The gift that gives back, especially if you plan visits back home around the shipment dates. Available at Williams-Sonoma.
Unique Cake Plates by Once Upon a Pedestal: One of a kind creations to display your sweet treats, made from salvaged plates put on a pedestal! Read the CakeSpy writeup of the company here. Available at Once Upon a Pedestal.
What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson: If mom is a cupcake-maker, this book is a must-have--it's the uber-cute followup to the already uber-cute book Hello, Cupcake! which makes me want to coo every time I look at it. Available on Amazon.
What oh what to get for the sweet-lover who has everything? Here are some of our best bets, in all price ranges!
Small bites: Looking for presents in the $10 and under range? Here are our faves: (clockwise, starting top left) Micro Mini Sweets, $6 at Fred Flare; Yummy breakfast key chains $10 at Fred Flare; Coffee spoon with truffle handle, $8 at Pylones; (For the pet lover) Dog-friendly "cupcake" -- er, pupcake? mix, $9.99 at Petitfourlegs.com; Vintage Cupcake ornament, $9.50 atJennysbakeshop.etsy.com. Buff Monster Ice Cream figurines, $7.95 at Kidrobot.
Medium Bites: If it's a bit more serious than a stocking stuffer, you might want to shell out a few more bucks. Here's where we suggest you do it (clockwise, starting top left): Ivory Dessert-server, $19.99 at Heliotrope Home; Cake bites, $15 at The Sweet Tooth Fairy; Sabuda Pop-Up Cakes Note Cards, $21.95 at MoMAstore; Sift Happens tee, $18 at Bakelove Bakewear; Finger-food plates (perfect for a small cupcake!), $12.50 at Fireworks; Mint Chocolate Cookie Sandwich Gift Box, $32 at Teacake Bakeshop; Globe of Sweets Print, $15 at Justin Richel's Etsy Shop.
Twelve days of Christmas? Why not round it out to a Baker's Dozen? Keep things sweet (literally) with Cakespy's Edible Holiday Gift Guide, featuring thirteen exceptionally delicious--and ship-able-- gift ideas for dessert lovers. The list goes in ascending price range, from the mere morsel to the upper crust. This is the second of two gift guides; for the non-edible gift guide, click here!
Cakespy Note: We have in most cases not listed shipping fees here, which can be substantial; after all, these are perishable items, and for the most part preservative-free. Consider the care and speed with which the pastries must be packed to guarantee freshness; with this in mind, shut up and hand over that credit card.
On the first day, make them dream of a white Christmas with Shoebox Oven's White Chocolate Crunch: white chocolate topped with lightly toasted almonds and sea salt, which pairs equally well with wine or fruit, or just on its own. $11.95 for 11 oz.; available online at shoeboxoven.com.
Cupcakes? Truffles? Cupcake truffles? Give 'em all of the above on the second day, with the adorable Cupcake Truffles by Moonstruck Chocolate. The box includes four cupcake-shaped truffles: German Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Sour Cream Fudge and Strawberry Cheesecake. $12 ea.; available online at moonstruckchocolate.com.
On the third day, it's hip to be square when they're Clairesquares. Derived from classic Irish recipes, these little squares start out with a shortbread crust topped with a thick layer of rich caramel and top it off with a smooth coating of Belgian chocolate. Need we say more? $12.99 for a 5-pack; available online at clairesquares.com.
On the fourth day, give them an A-list moment with Cupcake Mix from Sprinkles, bakers to the rich and famous in LA. They surprised us with how good they tasted; plus, it travels better than trying to ship cupcakes. But the real bonus is the cute little confectioners' "dots" that are known as Sprinkles' signature. $14 ea.; available online at williams-sonoma.com.
On the fifth day, keep those pinkies out with Moelleux by Chicago's Vanille Patisserie, which pair perfectly with coffee or cognac, and come in chocolate-orange, pistachio-cherry, almond-apricot...or, we suggest getting the sampler which mixes an assortment of all three. $17 for a 15-pc. box; available online at vanillepatisserie.com.
On the sixth day, stick it to them with Petrossian's Hot Chocolate on a Stick, with which they'll stir skewered cubes of the finest Belgian chocolate into a cup of milk or cream for a toe-curlingly good hot chocolate experience. $18 for a gift box of 6 cubes; available online at petrossian.com. (Illustration by Cakespy)
On the seventh day, butter them up with Sugar Cookies from Granatus, a company that specializes in sugar cookies made in the traditional Armenian style (it reminds us of Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Tea Cakes): powdery, buttery and an overall delight, available in holiday flavors like Eggnog or Gingerbread, or ethnic flavors like the classic Armenian or Indian (the latter contains cardamom, cinnamon and rosewater). $20 per tin; available online at granatus.com.
Nothing says love like carbohydrates; on the eighth day, say it with the Coffee Cake in a Tin from New York's famous gourmet food store Zabar's, which is dense and full of butter, sour cream, cinnamon and walnuts. They say the cake is so rich and delicious it makes cheating on your diet worthwhile; we say "what diet"? Don't bypass the black and white cookies or the famous babka either. $21.98 ea.; available online at zabars.com.
On the ninth day, make them work for it with a Cookie Tree Kit by Little Laura's Sweets. The kit comes with everything you'll need to make a delicious centerpiece: iced vanilla bean star cookies, gumdrops, a tree topper and icing mix, all of which will form a 14" tree. $22.50 ea.; available online at littlelaurasweets.com.
Keep things cosmopolitan on the tenth day with Lemon Pannetone by Albertengo's. Where traditional panettones are usually studded with raisins and candied citrus, this one is made with candied Sorrento lemons, which give it a wonderful smell and taste. Buttery, soft and lemony, this one won't last long; ideal with espresso. $22.50 ea.; available online at chefshop.com.
On the eleventh day, give them Cookies from Eleni's, which blur the line between cookie and fashion. You could go for classic Christmas or Hanukkah styles, but we favor the full-of-personality "Best in Show" fancy poodles, NYC motifs or jungle animals. $45.50 for 9 cookies; available online at elenis.com.
On the twelfth day, defy Oprah and buy your cupcakes somewhere else: we suggest Teacake Bakeshop's "Winter Wonderland" Cupcakes (three each of Madagascar bourbon vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, chocolate sour cream cake with chocolate buttercream, and ginger cake with cream cheese frosting). It will run you about $70 after shipping costs, but then again you're defying logic and gravity by shipping cupcakes; we guess that warrants a higher cost. 9 cupcakes for $45 (before shipping); available online at teacakebakeshop.com.
And as a holiday bonus to round out the Baker's Dozen? Give them the lasting gift of dessert with Vegan Honey's Vegan Dessert of the Month Club. They'll get a vegan care package each month for three months, brimming with 4-6 servings each of goodies like "Fauxstess" Twinkies or cupcakes, cookies and assorted pastries as seen on their website. The purchaser will receive a jpeg "certificate" which they can send on to the happy recipient. And as we have previously reported, whether you're vegan or not, Vegan Honey's treats are the real deal. $50 for three months of bliss (includes shipping fees); available online at veganhoney.etsy.com.
Twelve days of Christmas? Why not round it out to a Baker's Dozen? Keep things festive with Cakespy's Holiday Gift Guide, featuring thirteen exceptional gift ideas for dessert lovers. The list goes in ascending price range, from the inexpensive (we never say "cheap") to some seriously sweet investments. This is one of two gift guides; the second one, a guide to edible holiday gifts, will follow!
On the second day, go for pie (humble or not, your choice) with a Cutie Pie Plate by designer Jane Jenni. In addition to having a picture of pie and a clever play on words, these 9" plates are also melamine and nearly unbreakable. $7.95 ea.; available online at heliotropehome.com.
On the third day, help them get organized with Recipe Cards by Boygirlparty. No more writing recipes on index paper like a jerk; it's a whole lot funner on cards with bunny and squirrel drawings. Comes in a set of 10. $8 ea.; available online at boygirlparty.com.
On the fourth day, stay warm and sweet with a Lobi Designs Bitten Cupcake Mug, perfect for tea or coffee to accompany an afternoon treat. Since each mug is a re-purposed vintage mug, no two will be quite alike. $10 ea.; available online at lobi.etsy.com.
Five golden rings? Yawn. On the fifth day, keep things rock and roll with the Cookie Chaos Set, comprised of a guitar-shaped cookie cutter and a mini book of recipes like "Max's Kandy Cities" and "Peanut Butter Slackers,". $13.95 ea.; available online at bustboobtique.com.
On the sixth day, give the gift of baking: the Cupcake Book Baking Kit is a perfect starting point for those who just wanna have fun (making cupcakes); includes recipes, baking cups, decorating nozzles, and stencils for designing decorations. $14.95 ea.; available online at patinastores.com.
Show a friend how much you care on the seventh day with a Milk loves Cookies Tee or Hoodie. Artist Jess Fink's design portrays a cookie proclaiming "I love you!" to a carton of milk; just like your friendship, they'll always perfect together. The classic tee is $10; onesies are $15; the hoodie is $35; available online at threadless.com.
On the eighth day, reign it all in with the Candy & Cookies Belt by Bored, Inc. Sweet, Japanese Pop-art style candy and cookies happily dance on the white vinyl belt, which is available in three sizes. $20 ea.; available online at boredinc.net.
On the ninth day, give them something to hold onto with Plush Cakes by Mypapercrane: felted creatures full of personality available shaped like various extremely happy little desserts. $20 will get you a cupcake, cinnamon roll or ice cream sandwich; available online at mypapercrane.com.
Keep things sweet, but fashion-forward, on the tenth day, with the gift of a Jessie Steele Apron, brimming with retro charm in styles like "Peony Stripe", "Snowflake" or (our favorite!) the ultra-Frenchy "Pink Paris". $32 for most styles; available online at wishingfish.com.
On the eleventh day, give the gift of art with Cakespy Original Artwork. Yes, the artwork you've come to love from Cakespy.com is now for sale; what could make a sweeter gift? No prints--these are all the real thing, available framed or unframed. $35 or under; available online at jessieoleson.etsy.com.
On the twelfth day, class it up with a gorgeous MoMA Cake Plate; doilies meet high design with this eye-catching mirrored platter, which measures 4.25 inches high and 11.75 inches in diameter. $65.00 ea.; available online at momastore.org.
And to round out the Baker's Dozen, a real showstopper for the thirteenth day: the Tiffany Cupcake Charm. This charm doesn't mess around: exquisitely formed with 18k yellow gold "frosting", a white gold cupcake cup, and "sprinkles" made of round blue sapphires, round pink sapphires, round tsavorites, this one's sure to make it a happy holiday. $1400 on a 16-inch gold necklace ($1250 for the charm alone); available online at tiffany.com.