You can have your cake and eat it too!

Let me preface this post by admitting that I’ve added the inventor of “lycra” to my list of people I thank God for and that the term “muffin top”  has a new meaning for me, particularly since taste testing began in the bakery.   Still, over this past year, I was still surprised by the number of customers who came into the bakery and asked if they could just “stand and smell”.  “Why of course you can” we responded, but this begs the question…”why would you want to just smell fresh-baked deliciousness when you can actually taste it?

This form of question usually resulted in one poor soul, most often a woman, standing by while their companion ordered and indulged in something sweet.  The deprived usually commented, while looking anxious and depressed, “I really want something, but I simply can’t indulge”.  I can almost hear their internal conversation aloud; “should I, maybe just a little, don’t do it , I really want it, no you can’t have it” and so on and so on.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

I’m like a kid in the classroom right now with both arms raised in the air almost screaming…Ooh, Ooh, Ooh!  I know the answer to this.  For most of us, it has to do with deprivation in the desperate attempt to reach or maintain a certain body weight. Let’s address the “elephant in the room”, for some this has everything to do with good health, particularly if they have issues with blood sugar, but for many it is not about being healthy at all.  It is about their negative body image and their desperate attempt to “feel good in their own skin”.  This kind of deprivation usually leads to bingeing, which usually ends with guilt and this vicious cycle begins.

It’s no wonder so many of us, even beginning in the early teenager years, have poor body image.  The messages we all get from magazines, movies and television are totally skewed.

How can any of us get a handle on reality when everything we see from photos of fashion models to actors and even athletes are doctored to “perfection” with computer tricks and the ever popular chemical and surgical enhancements.  According to dosomething.org, did you know…

*Twenty years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less than the average woman.

*The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.

*If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.

*About 7% of 12th grade males have used steroids in order to become more muscular.

*If GI Joe were human, he’d have larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history.

*One out of every four college aged women has an eating disorder.

*It is estimated that 40-50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any point in time.

*Americans spend more than 40 billion dollars a year on dieting and diet-related products – that’s roughly equivalent to the amount the U.S. Federal Government spends on education each year!

*Almost half of all women smokers smoke because they see it as the best way to control their weight. Of these women, 25% will die of a disease caused by smoking.

*In 2007, there were about 11.7 million cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. Ninety one percent of these were performed on women.

*A study found that 53% of thirteen-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.

Isn’t that shocking?  I don’t have all of the answers and I am certainly not suggesting that we all binge on “sweets” with reckless abandon.   Although, that would be great for our business!  I have come to the conclusion, though, that moderation can be part of the solution.  How about we focus on setting goals of being strong, fit and healthy.  How about planning healthy, nutritious meals which can even include dessert.  We can encourage more physical activity.  Remember, diets don’t work because food deprivation causes the body to burn fuel more slowly.

Maybe we order and prepare smaller serving sizes.  For example, if you do indulge in dessert, order or prepare in single serve sizes like cupcakes.  Freeze the remainder and just take out a single serve portion to be enjoyed each day.  When you eat one, savor it as a treat.  Sit down while you eat it, focus on the flavor and texture, put your utensil down between bites.   Give yourself permission to enjoy it.  When we deprive ourselves that’s when the indulgence takes on the “super power”.

Bottom line, I believe we can encourage and remind each other to be the best that we can be.   Love yourself and others for who you and they are and remember, “beauty is only skin deep”.  Physical beauty is superficial.  A pleasing exterior is no guide to a person’s inner beauty or character.   You can “have your cake and eat and enjoy it too!

Advertisements

A “pipe dream” come true…

In the beginning…I lived and operated a cake and cupcake business with my “bff” Lori just outside of Washington, DC.  We were having a blast and contemplating how to grow our business.  The only problem was, I didn’t want to “grow” and commit to a business in that area.

For years, most of my childhood actually, my family vacationed in and around Ocean City.  Several of my family members have moved to Berlin, Maryland and love it.  My kids and I spent the Summers there and so began the dream of one day calling Berlin home.

My sister Shelly and I have long discussed opening a bakery right on Main Street.  You see there is this awkwardly shaped commercial space there that has been home to several businesses and bakeries.  It was just in need of a little TLC in order to be something special.  It could be perfect, Shelly could make her pies and famous cookies and I could continue to  be creative with cakes and cupcakes.  We could “tag team” the rest.

This was only a “pipe dream” until one day our neighbor emailed me a listing of a “bakery for sale” in Berlin.  This had to be the place we had looked at so many times, Berlin is only so big!  We asked our friend and neighbor Jill to join us as the “business brain” of the operation and  BAKED DESSERT CAFE was born.

It would take way too long to detail the amount of thought, work, time and effort that has gone into this “small business”.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a lot.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone of us could have done this alone.  As a matter of fact, we didn’t.   Along the way, our husbands, our children, our parents, Jill’s parents, our talented siblings and the surrounding community has donated their time, talent and support.   We’ve learned so much over this past year, not only about the business, but about ourselves!  I’ll just speak for myself here; I never knew I was such a control freak.

As Spring brings with it the change of season, change too is coming to BAKED in April.  Jill has decided to return to a life with a more flexible schedule.  Shelly and I can be a lot of fun, but not as much fun as playing with grandkids.  We are really going to miss her and her brain!   We intend to pressure her to work with us on festival days and lucky for us she lives right next door so we will still see her smiling face daily.

Shelly is learning the bookkeeping end of the business and I am trying desperately to “come up to speed” with the technology piece.  Filling Jill’s “shoes” won’t be easy.  May God help us both!  We’re taking everything that we’ve learned about our customers, our community, our products and we’re “streamlining” things.  No worries, we are still focused on providing the best all natural desserts, breads and beverages on the planet!  That will never change!

I can’t predict the future, but I hope that we are here, getting everyone “BAKED” at the beach, for many years to come.  I truly believe that the “stars aligned” for us.  To be here, close to family and friends, working with people we love, serving this community; it’s been a “pipe dream” come true.  Our advice…Follow your dreams and then find us and get “BAKED” at the beach!

Is it better for a cupcake to look great or taste great?

Is it better for a cupcake to look great or taste great.  I personally think both, but there’s nothing worse than something looking tasty and tasting terrible.   I mean really, once it reaches your mouth who cares what it looks like?

As a “food lover” and owner of a small bakery, I am acutely aware of the fact that eating is a multi-sensory experience.  Long before we taste something, whether it be savory or sweet, the visual and  olfactory cues can either peak or diminish our desire.   Obviously, our goal at Baked Dessert Cafe is to offer food that looks great and tastes even better.

With the popularity of shows like Ace of Cakes and the availability of sugar clay decorations, along with the ability to photo copy on edible papers, it seems that most are adding these decorative designs to cakes, cupcakes and cookies.  We are no exception.  Fondant is not “natural” neither is the color copied edible image, but if you want something with a custom design, there is no “equal” substitute.  We inform our customers of this “up front”.

Like most, I personally don’t care for the taste of either one.  Most people admit that they peel the fondant decorations off and don’t even eat them. No surprise, they contain loads of artificial flavors and colors.  Enough reason to reduce the use, right?  In addition, adding these decorative details is expensive and adds significantly to the cost of the product.

Shelly and I intend to redirect our focus on creating visually appealing desserts that are decorated “au naturale”.   We have always used fruit/vegetable based coloring, sprinkles, nonparells, along with chocolate shavings, ganache, caramels and curds to decorate our desserts.  We also have added fondant flowers, shells and such to increase the visual appeal.  On special request, we will continue to do so because “what the customer wants is what the customer gets”, but we’re going to get back to our  “old school” style of doing things and we intend to bring our customers along with us.

Pinch me…I’m not Irish, but I love Soda Bread!

Soda breads are a variety of quick bread and are appropriately named since “bread soda”, otherwise known as baking soda, is used as a raising agent rather than yeast.   The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flourbread sodasalt, and buttermilk.  Although, you can get really creative  here and include raisins, seeds, nuts, savory herbs, even oats.  The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. * I have seen some recipes that replace the buttermilk with live yogurt or even stout.  I wanted to go the traditional route and didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I made my own by simply adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or you can use lemon juice per one cup of milk.

You can form the bread loaf into the “traditional” round or flatten it and cook it on a griddle for the “griddle cake” form. Whichever shape your Irish Soda Bread takes it is important to resist the urge to over knead this dough.  Only work it long enough to incorporate the ingredients.  This brings me to the best thing about soda breads and is one of the reasons that they began to appear in the mid-19th century in Europe.  Soda breads are easy and inexpensive to make and they are delicious!  Of course the beginning of the 19th century was also when bicarbonate of soda first became available for use.

There are several stories about the significance of the cross made in the middle of the Irish Soda Bread loaf.  Some say that it is the “sign of the cross” and wards off evil spirits.  Others, that the cut in the top of this loaf assists the cooking process by allowing air circulation which in turn helps the loaf rise better.  Most admit that the  cut is an easy guideline for serving even slices.  What I am certain of is that this bread won’t last long on the dinner table.  It’s fabulous, particularly served warm slathered in butter.

The following recipe makes 2 loafs

7 cups unbleached, unbromated flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

3 cups buttermilk

Sift to combine the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Making a well in the center, add the buttermilk and stir to form dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Form into a log and divide in half to form 2 round loafs.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cut a 1″ deep cross into the top of each loaf and bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Beer in Orange Curd…Yum!

Ok, so you know that we have been experimenting with BEER in our recipes to include in our St. Patty’s day dessert menu.  A “wino” myself, I was uncertain of the outcome including this beverage in things such as cupcakes, caramel and curds, but WOW was I surprised at the outcome!

We assumed that mixing beer with chocolate and in caramel might be a good match, but the recipe that  follows is one for “Orange Beer Curd”.  It was the most surprising!  You just get a hint of the pale ale which when combined with the fresh orange juice is absolutely amazing.  We intend to fill our Madagasgar Bourbon Vanilla cupcakes with it and top them with fresh orange buttercream.  This brings new meaning to getting “BAKED” at the beach.

Orange Beer Filling

  • 1/2 C Capital Special Pilsner
  • 1 1/2 T cornstarch
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 2 t grated orange peel
  • 1/3 C orange juice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 t butter

In the top of a double boiler, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in beer and orange juice. Cook over direct heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear. Add a little hot mixture to the egg yolk, return to double boiler top. Cook over hot water, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes. Stir in peel and butter. Cool before spreading on cake. Makes about 1 cup, enough to fill an 8- or 9-inch 2-layer cake.

Baked Dessert Cafe + Burley Oaks Brewery = Perfection

We were thinking about cupcake flavors for St. Patty’s day and although we will offer the standard “Bailey’s Irish Cream”, we wanted to come up with something truly unique.  Our thoughts turned to chocolate stout recipes which in turn took our attention to Bryan at the soon to open Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin, Maryland.

Even before we started our business, we knew it was important to locally source and partner with surrounding businesses.  I’m not sure why that doesn’t make sense to everyone, but It just make sense to us.  If  one of us is successful, everyone wins because it brings additional “traffic” through our little town!  We regularly promote other Berlin businesses to our customers and they in turn have helped promote us.

Anyway, those were exactly our thoughts when determining what beer we would partner with our Valrhona chocolate cupcakes.  It was enough for us that Bryan is our “business neighbor” and that the exposure would be great for him and then I tasted his beer.  Now, I admit, I’ve never been much of a beer drinker, but his handcrafted microbrew is unlike anything that I have ever tasted.  The pale ale was so smooth with a citrus flavor while the stout was rich with chocolate undertones.  Oh yeah, Bryan also uses local sources for his barley and hops and like us is totally passionate about his work.

The Burley Oak Brewing Company is still under construction and will open soon so you might have to wait a bit to sample and purchase.  In the meantime, we’re busy crafting recipes which feature Bryan’s creations so get a taste of Burley Oak for St. Patty’s Day when you get “BAKED” at the beach.

Sacrificing Sweets?

With “Fat Tuesday” almost over and hundreds, thousands, even millions of Christians preparing to “give something up” in preparation of this  Lenten season, I  wondered what percentage of people will choose to sacrifice sweets during this spiritual time?  If the “bussle” in the bakery today is any indication, I would say that many were in a last minute scramble to feed their sweet tooth before the stroke of midnight.

Of course, that thought sends chills up my spine since  the success of running a small bakery does require that consumers purchase sweets…lots of them   I get it though.  I’ve suffered through my fair share of Lenten seasons deprived of chocolate.  I mean really, if you love sweets, going without for 40 days is a significant sacrifice.

What, or if, you decide to “give something up” during this Lenten season is your own personal choice.  We would simply like to suggest that if you do choose to “give up” sweets, you also consider “giving a sweet” to someone you love or how about a coworker, neighbor, teacher.  For that matter,  show your appreciation to everyone and anyone who has made a positive impact in your life.

At Baked Dessert Cafe we’ve decided to celebrate this season by “giving”.  For the next 40 days we’ll give you 10% off your entire order when you mention this blog post.  Whether you’ve chosen to “give something up”  makes no difference.  If your purchasing for your personal enjoyment or simply bringing joy to another, no matter, just find us and get “BAKED”!

The King of Cakes

With Fat Tuesday right around the corner and several other shops on Main Street celebrating Mardi Gras we decided to join the festivities!  What better way to celebrate with our customers than offering a traditional King Cake.  We began baking and sampling throughout the day.  I know we are on the Eastern Shore and nowhere close to New Orleans, but what amazes us is  how many customers know enough about Mardi Gras and yet have no idea what King Cake is!

The King Cake tradition came to New Orleans with the French settlers and is part of the family celebrations during Mardi Gras.  In the 1870’s the Twelfth Night Revelers held their ball.  Instead of choosing a sacred king to sacrifice, they would place a bean in the King Cake and who ever was served that piece would be the queen of the ball.  This tradition carries on today except that the bean has been replaced with a small porcelain baby.   Whoever gets the baby is suppose to hold the next party.

King Cake is not made with cake batter, although some of the local grocery stores have tried to “pass it off” as one.  King Cake is a sweet yeast dough that is rolled out into a large rectangle, filled with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts, maybe even raisins and then rolled into a log shape, formed into an oval and baked until golden brown.  It’s finished with a sweet sugar glaze and Mardi Gras colored sprinkles.  The following recipe is the one that we use, although we substitute the glaze with our Cream Cheese Buttercream.  Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you, serving King Cake is a fun and delicious way to celebrate the season of Mardi Gras.

Ingredients

  • PASTRY:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  5. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  6. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners’ sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.




To serve or not to serve…

Being a little bakery in a historic seaside resort town, it was no surprise to us that business is slower during the months of January/February.  We’ve had so many locals ask us to offer all natural lunch specials, plus two other Main Street restaurants close for these winter months, that we decided to take “the plunge”.

Shelly and I love to bake and cook, but for the lunch items we turned to our mother, Shirley, for the menu line up.  She has many specialties and is famous for her homemade macaroni and cheese and Pasta Fagioli which is an Italian bean and ham soup loaded with garlic and tomatoes.  We offer mostly soups and decided not to offer sandwiches and we kept the price under $5 advertising that “you can get an affordable all-natural lunch on the go when you get “BAKED” at the beach”.

The response has been great!  Customers who had never come in, stopped by to get lunch and are now regular customers, but we are faced with a dilemma.  Do we continue to serve lunch?  Why not you might ask?  You see, the space is very small, we’re talking 8 – 1/2 feet wide by 90 feet long.   Shelly and I often joke that it’s a good thing we are related because when we’re both working in the kitchen it can get, let’s just say, close.  We’re also coming up on our season of “shear craziness”.   Last Spring/Summer/Fall, we barely had room for the baked goods.  Then there’s the issue of the other restaurants opening for the season.  We’re not really interested in competing for the “lunch crowd”, we were just trying to “fill a void”.

I think the answer is obvious.  We’ll have to talk more about it, but it’s likely that we will continue to focus our energy on creating the best all-natural desserts, baked goods, breads and beverage on the Eastern Shore, even the world, leaving our Main Street neighbors to serve the breakfast and lunch crowd.

Have you ever heard of an Irish Car Bomb cupcake?

Well have you?

Anything cupcake usually catches my eye, but when I read about a cupcake being offered in one of DC’s “cupcakeries” named the “Irish Car Bomb” I was actually taken aback.  Right off of the bat the name offended me.  How could anyone name a beautiful cupcake after an Irish Car Bomb?

Of course, reading further I learned that an Irish Car Bomb is the name of a popular drink which includes both Guinness, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson Whiskey.   By the way, I wasn’t the only one initially offended.  Several posts requested that the name be changed.  Maybe it should just be called an Irish Cupcake Bomb!

According to Wiki…

An Irish Car Bomb is a beer cocktail similar to a boilermaker made with Irish stoutIrish Cream, and Irish whiskey.[1]

The name refers to the drink’s Irish ingredients – typically Guinness stoutBaileys Irish Cream, and Jameson Irish Whiskey – and the car bombings notoriously used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) during the Troubles. The whiskey is floated on top of the Irish Cream in a shot glass, and the shot glass is then dropped into the stout. Once mixed, the drink must be consumed quickly because it will curdle.

There are numerous recipes for the cupcake version.   The following is from the Smitten Kitchen featured on the website of Big City Cooking.  I think it sounds better than the drink, check it out!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Source: Smitten Kitchen

1 c. Guinness
1 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. all purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 c. sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
2/3 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tsp Jameson Whiskey

Baileys Frosting (I doubled this recipe)
3 to 4 c. confections sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tbsp Baileys

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Ganache filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped. Meanwhile, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.