Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unexpected Gifts!

Don't you just love getting something you had no idea was coming your way?

My first teaching job was at Lakenheath Elementary School in England where I taught second grade. This was a school for children of U.S. military families serving overseas. Many students living on the base were able to walk to school which made our community look like a snapshot of what I imagine growing American neighborhoods may have looked in the 50's & 60's. It was great, and I was often the recipient of 'gifts' collected by my students on their way in.

It was a pretty predictable experience of pinecones, seeds and sprigs of mistletoe in the fall and winter months. What I didn't expect in June were bunches of gorgeous, fragrant roses that were clearly snatched from prized vines. Thorny stems didn't stand a chance against the tugs of determined 8 year olds. After a quick reminder that "growing things should be left untouched" I turned and privately smiled as I placed battered stems in cool water. Unexpected gifts are such a treat!

A few weeks ago I received a package that I did not expect and did not order. I immediately knew that it was from Johnny Cupcakes because it was sealed with an over sized sticker bearing his logo: cross bones under a cupcake. I tore into the box quickly, carefully unfolded the designer Johnny Cupcake tissue paper and found the following:

~ 1/2 Dozen stud Johnny Cupcake logo earrings
~ 3 plastic zipped pouches with 1 Johnny Cupcake business card, 1 circa 1991 Teenage Ninja Turtle trading, 1 lapel button and 1 wrapped candy mint
~ (and) 1 sweet note from Johnny
I wrote about Johnny Cupcakes and his amazing entrepreneurial ways on this blog a while back.
As you can see by his note in the photo, he clearly knows how to channel his energy and creative spirit...and promote his business! Be sure to check out his blog, it rocks!
Be sure to check out his 'baked goods' (aka: custom Johnny Cupcakes Tees and other sweet items)
The unexpected can be so much fun!
"Thanks Johnny Cupcakes, wherever you are!" =)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cake Personality

Like fine wine, a cake that is baked from scratch will be very different from flavor to flavor. Some cake recipes will bring elements together that result in a moist, springy texture, while other recipes will merge ingredients resulting in a denser, slightly heavy cake. Surprisingly, some taste buds out there are quick to declare that a cake is only good if it is moist. That may be the call of many, but it is not the declaration of all.

I suspect that with 40 plus years of improved box mixes that include added chemicals designed to lengthen shelf life and keep food items from going rock-hard, much of our society has experienced ultra moist cakes so often that the experience of varied texture may seem foreign. A cake less than 'uber' moist may be unexpected and immediately rejected. Sound familiar?

So how does one ‘break on through to the other side’ and give all forms of cake density a chance?
The next time you are about to take a bite of an unfamiliar, but made from scratch, cake consider the ingredients that make up the cake. Remember, we're talking FROM SCRATCH box or pre-packaged mixes. Box mixes will be moist because the market has the majority of our population pegged and is sticking with a formula that sells.

Consider our Red Velvet cupcake. This is, by far, one of our hottest selling and most requested flavors. There are many recipes for Red Velvet. The recipe I grew up with was my mother's and can be dated back at least 50 years. As much as I love baking a full size cake with her recipe, it is not the recipe I use for my Red Velvet cupcakes in our shop. I use a recipe that I found in Southern Living Magazine many years back. Red Velvet is traditionally a dense cake that contains cocoa and is topped with a cream cheese frosting. Unless requested in a preorder, we top our Red Velvet with our buttercream frosting. I won't go into its history here, but when made from scratch, this cake is a solid slice of yummmm!

If you have only experienced red velvet as a moist cake, then it is likely to have been a box mix cake or made from a batter that has been tweaked to satisfy a moist-cake-only palette. I would encourage you to step back about 80 years, before added chemicals were used to 'keep cake moist' and try a variety of different cakes. You can visit our shop, bake something up yourself, or talk Grams into baking a few cakes this holiday season.

Whether you prefer white cake to chocolate or cream cheese frosting to buttercream, I would encourage you to keep an open mind as you open your mouth for a bite of cake! =)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We ♥ America!

Have a safe, restful and reflective 4th of July weekend!