I remember covering personality tests in class during high school psychology but I don’t remember them ever being this tasty. Burton Cole of Warren, Ohio’s Tribune Chronicle has been taking a look at what our favorite foods can reveal about us in his blog. From cold-shouldered ice cream to the transformative condiments, it can make you feel like you have stepped through Alice’s looking glass when you realize that your favorite tasty treats have a story to tell if you’re willing to listen.
Archive for the 'Interviews' Category
Cupcakes are sweet and kids are cute. So it makes sense that by bringing the two together in the right way you can create a recipe for success, right? That is just what the folks at Susie Films have done in their recent short film, Henry’s Cupcakes. Warning: the following short film may put a smile on your face and a growl in your tummy. Do not watch on an empty stomach. Read the rest of this entry »
This NPR discussion looks at why cupcakes and cupcake shops have become so popular. The explanation is that we are in an economic bubble similar to what the coffee industry went through. Cupcake shops like Magnolia, in NYC, started the trend that quickly caught on. Now cupcake shops are popping up all over the country. The good news is that according to the this discussion, cupcakes are still going strong and we can expect cupcake shops to continue opening up.
Who knew cupcakes have even made its way into the national health care debate? Oh the power of the simple cupcake.
… Hall says something has to be done about the expense of providing health coverage. She says her premiums have increased 20 percent in each of the past few years, and a couple of years ago, they went up 40 percent.
“It’s unsustainable to manage that kind of expense hike, so we are forced to cut our quality of coverage to make it more affordable, and that doesn’t do much for society,” she says.” A lot of small businesses are doing that or cutting insurance altogether.”
Additionally, Jody took part in a White House discussion and gave her perspective about the challenges of health care costs for small businesses.
Chicago vegans know where to go when they need some sugar – take the Damen bus to Belmont and stop when you see the giant neon sign: The Bleeding Heart Bakery. Since 2005, owner and executive pastry chef Michelle Garcia, along with her husband Vinnie and a staff of punky young bakers have been baking up local, sustainable and organic treats for vegans and dairy-eaters alike. I asked Michelle about her experiences both as a former vegan and as a professional chef catering to vegan customers. Her answers proved a point I already knew was true in my heart- vegans are hungry, they have money, and they want to buy your delicious vegan treats. So bakery owners, listen up: get yourself a great vegan recipe book pronto.
Do you remember the first vegan dessert you ever tasted?
That would be the German chocolate cake from Chicago Diner.
If so, what did you think about it?
At the time, I was so excited to be able to have a birthday cake that I didn’t care about how it tasted, so I guess I don’t even remember.
If not, do you think it’s better that you don’t remember it?
*I’m pretty sure the answer is yes, definitely.
Your original location on Chicago Ave was a hit with vegans from day one- what made you decide to offer vegan treats right off the bat?
I had spent half of my life at that point as a vegan, and I knew that the type of bakery we were would attract a lot of vegans. Also, I know that a lot of children are born with egg and milk allergies; I wanted to be sure that all children could have an amazing birthday cake no matter what.
Have you ever had a vegan baker working in one of your shops?
I’ve had several vegan bakers. However, I feel as though most of them were inhibited by old school beliefs about baking vegan.
Did mainly work on your vegan goods, or were they OK with making your non-vegan stuff as well?
Most seemed to turn there noses up at non-vegan goods, which was really frustrating as I was vegan for so long and saw everything as education and knowledge whether I personally believed in it or not.
Would it be difficult for a vegan to properly prepare your other treats without tasting them?
Our basic recipes are very simple and east to follow, if you understand the basic principles behind baking techniques, you should be able to make anything. Also, no one at the bakery minds tasting anything, so there are no excuses.
What do you think the biggest misconception about vegan desserts is?
Most people automatically think vegan means dry, flavorless cardboard and granola-ish.
What do you do with your vegan yummies to de-bunk the misconceptions?
I believe our approach is much different than most. All vegan recipes start as conventional and get tweeked to be vegan. We try very hard not to use traditional flavorless substitutes. When we have to make a substitute, we want it to add something- like bananas.
Is it any more difficult to find vegan organic ingredients than it is to find non-vegan organic ingredients?
Honestly, now a days, it is much easier. But when we first started we had to buy everything retail.
What’s your most popular vegan dessert?
That would be between the banana fudge brownie and the Slash Cupcake. (Devils food cupcake, chocolate frosting and curly chocolate shavings)
Does it seem like the demand for vegan baked goods has increased over the years?
For sure, mostly with little children.
I always hear people say that vegan cakes are dry, what are people doing wrong when they bake?
They are using substitutes such as Ener-G that act as a drying agent. Any kind of starch will do that. Try using a banana or possibly just leaving out the substitutes all together! You could also substitute oil for margarine or Earth Balance.
If Joe Blow off the street were blindfolded and asked to taste two of your chocolate cupcakes- one vegan and one conventional, do you think he could tell the difference?
I know he wouldn’t. We’ve actually done this! The vegan cupcake won every time, so now that’s all we offer!
Do you find that non-vegans are open to trying vegan desserts, or are they scared?
Most seemed to be scared, but love them when they try them accidentally, that happens almost every day – especially with the cupcake.
Do you think it’s important for a modern bakery to offer at least one vegan option?
It’s incredibly important, why alienate people? Were always trying to offer product that spans the board for allergies, we just started offering vegan sugar free options and believe it is so important.
Have you thought about making vegan versions of any of your famous bacon-infused treats, with vegan bacon?
We tried; it’s just not the same. As a vegan I never enjoyed fake meat and I guess that just followed me.
What’s the hardest thing about baking without dairy?
Running out of soymilk! It happens all the time! Even when I double the order. I think we have little vegan gnomes drinking it all.
What about pastry- can you make a vegan croissant?
You can, but margarine gets soft really fast and all the fat leaks out. We did, however, just start making vegan brioche, which rocks!
Is it harder to make dairy-free pastry than it is to bake vegan cakes and cookies?
Not really harder physically- harder mentally, it requires a lot of thought.
Were you ever vegan?
Yes, 7 years straight ad a few others here and there.
What made you go vegan?
I was raised vegetarian for the most part and became an extremist at a very young age. I don’t believe in doing something half way.
Finally, how many vegan cupcakes do you think you sell in a week?
Well, we have recently counted this, it’s 800 I’m the shop and another 200-300 in special orders.
Photos by Bill Lambert
*For the record, Chicago Diner did used to have kind of a gnarly vegan bakery- it has since improved by leaps and bounds.
I have been wanting to interview Vanessa Valencia of A Fanciful Twist from the first moment I saw her work. I finally got the chance to ask her some of my questions.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself? (Name, location, occupation etc):
My name is Vanessa Valencia. I am currently in Catalina Arizona, which is a wacky lil’ town about 30 minutes from Actual Tucson Arizona. I spend most of my time in Catalina because this is where I have a little living space and I have a studio an office, and on the same property, I have a tiny building I use as a wee art gallery and shop (by appointment only and for shows).
We have a little bit of acreage here with trees and wonderful nature, so I get to enjoy a peaceful solace away from the bustling city of Tucson. I have a home in the city of Tucson too, which is a fun place to escape to every so often… I used to spend most of my time in the city, but that has shifted more and more over the last 8 years, to get to the opposite being a fact…
Let’s see, I am an artist, and have been creating with the help of my ever nurturing parents since I was 11 years old. I recently stepped back from my real world job, to be an artist full time. It is excting and exhausting. I end up working every waking hour of the day, but I love it to bits!!
I have shifted my art business to be solely online, and I love that!! Makes things much easier and let’s me be in control of my day.
– I think finding something you love and making a living doing it is truely one of the coolest things ever.
2. How popular are cupcakes in Arizona?
I don’t know about in Arizona as a whole. But I bet they are HUGE!! I can’t imagine who doesn’t love a cupcake??? How could they not ;)
3. I know that you make all kinds of art. Paintings, mixed media, paper dresses, art dolls, jewelry, photography, illustrations, and pottery. Is there anything you can’t do?
Oh yes! I have a whole list of things that I wish I could do, that I wish for when I see a falling star. I rotate them. I have been playing the piano since I was a teensy little girl. And, I wish to all falling stars, that I had a magical singing voice. Wouldn’t that be just awesome.
– That would be awesome. I can picture it now. One thing I know for sure is that your album covers and music videos would surely be like nothing anyone has ever seen before.
4. Where do you get all of the awesome stuff that I see in your photographs?
Do you mean like antiques and such?
– Yes, that is what I meant.
Well, I have been collecting art and antique since I was given my own checkbook and taught ways to make money. Probably since I was 13 years old. I collect only what I love. And, I search far and wide for many of my treasures. I am also lucky to have procured a couple of mega treasures, like an antique life size wooden mermaid ( from religious processions in the Philippines ), from a local antiques dealer… But, I go everywhere and keep my eyes peeled.
Although, my friends would attest to the fact that, I am so totally open to treasure finding, that I am lucky to say ( I hope I don’t jinx myself here) that treasures find me.
And, don’t think I am totally daft, but, I do have dreams of treasures, and where I can find them. And, dare I tell the secret that, I go in search for them at the place of my dream, and they really are there. That is how I found my 3rd piano…And another mandolin last week.
– I think that is very cool. I love your treasures. Now when I am out and about I see something antique or unique I think about you, and if you have it. Some of my dreams have lead me to people, places, or things… so I know what you mean by that too.
5. What is your earliest cupcake memory?
I thought about this one long and hard. And I am 99.9% sure, my first real coherent memory, is from 2nd grade, baking hundreds of them for a bake sale. They were strawberry shortcake cupcakes. And, I sold them in a beautiful bricked schoolyard, with huge trees. It was called Lincoln School and it was on Elm Street. That was my elementary school. Boy, we baked lots of cupcakes in those 5 years. Bake sale extravaganzas, I tell ya.
6. How often do you eat cupcakes and what is your favorite kind?
I have a more salty tooth. But, when I get in a cupcake mood, you can’t hold me back. I work on making less over the top sweet frosting, and having a more delicious scrumptious frosting. My fave one to date, is a sour cream frosting, that is a tiny bit salty… Perfect for balancing the sweetness of the cupcakes. I make cupcakes about once every month and a half. And, the Mister eats tons of them. He loves them. I bake them because they make him happy, and I adore decorating them…
7. What does the future hold for A Fanciful Twist?
Hmm, good question. I suppose, painting and making from here til my own eternity…
– I really look forward to seeing what the future holds for you and watching all of your ideas or visions come to life.
Thank you Vanessa for letting me interview you. It was fun!
I recently interviewed one of my favorite people, Donna from The Cupcakes Club. Some of you may remember that Donna donated some fantastic prizes to our Miss American Cupcake Contest a few months back.