Monday, November 23, 2009


The most appealing items to me at the church bake sale on Sunday were some cupcakes that were brownie on the bottom and white cake on top. The fudge frosting held up to handling better than butter cream (or even But-R-Creme) would have. Whoever made them wisely broke one open to reveal their chocolaty goodness. My wife and I split one of those and one of something that would best be described as a graham cracker praline. The cupcakes were so good, they made me wish I had bought more.

The sale is part of the annual Harvest of Blessings at All Saints Church. In addition to the food, they sell religious items from the Paraclete, some handmade crafts, Boy Scout popcorn and the like.

There were two marshmallow treats that I was able to resist. The chocolate-peanut butter mallow bars were sold by the plate, not individually. The marshmallow snowmen were cute but the little fellas looked squished from all the handling required to assemble them. Even if the chef wore gloves, I would still prefer a gentler touch.

We also saw some kid-friendly sugar cookies decorated as turkeys and some actual pralines labeled with the important disclaimer that they contain pecans. Oh really?

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

mallow inn

Middleburg is in the heart of Virginia's "hunt country." Riders on horseback and their hounds hunt foxes the way they did in the cartoons we watched as kids. On Sunday, my wife and I met some relatives for a delicious brunch at the Hunter's Head Tavern in nearby Upperville. I had heard that the restaurant's owner was not a fan of fox hunting and designed a logo in which the fox gets the upper hand. There's even a comical mounted head near the bar.

If I had been eating alone, I probably would have gone to a shop called Mello Out, despite their inability to spell marshmallow. They specialize in handmade marshmellos [sic] but have other menu items too. I would have ordered the Adam's Apple, which is apple, peanut butter, bacon and honey on brioche.

My wife and I did stop in to get a package of their marshmallows. Our friend Maureen from Fox Chase Farm was with us. While we were there, the staff was taking some Cosmic Cupcakes out of the refrigerator and putting them on display for the day. Fortunately for us, the frosting on one of the cupcakes had gotten stuck to the container. Since it was unsuitable for sale, the manager gave it to the three of us to split. The frosting was rich and tasty and the cake was exceptionally moist. It was the best cupcake I have had in quite some time.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Fox Chase Farm was festooned with pink on Saturday for the first Ride for the Cure Virginia. It was one of only a few such events in the country and was the most successful. Susan G. Komen For the Cure will receive over $100,000 in proceeds. My friend Maureen, who bought the farm ten years ago, asked me to make announcements before and during the Ride.

The festivities started with the singing of the National Anthem by Angela Knight. She wore all purple with a sash that read "Mrs. Haymarket." She makes appearances on behalf of the Mrs. Virginia organization when she's not performing as a lyric coloratura with the Washington National Opera or singing her own Christian music in concert.

Several breast cancer survivors walked around the outdoor performance arena while Michael Bicoy of the U.S. Army Chorus sang "You'll Never Walk Alone." The hard part of performing that song is making the audience momentarily forget about Jerry Lewis. Bicoy succeeded easily.

One of the riders was Greta Kreuz from WJLA-TV. She took over the emcee role during the catered dinner under a fancy white tent. I sat at a table with Olympian Joe Fargis, who is revered among the Middleburg horse set. The dessert cupcakes were decorated with pink ribbons.

Most of the donations came from the riders and their sponsors. More money was raised with a silent auction set up around the perimeter of the dinner tent. Three celebrities I know donated items to the silent auction. Thanks go to Jimmy Kimmel, Susan Olsen and Richard Cheese. Everyone seemed pleased that the winner of $4000 in the 50/50 raffle was the guy who hauls the manure off the farm each week.

A crew from the PBS show "Equitrekking" shot video and conducted interviews with some of the participants. They posted a three minute story on YouTube.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, September 20, 2009

frosting shot?

Have cupcakes jumped the shark? The New York Times predicted a cupcake crash a year ago, comparing them to the brief, big-city popularity of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Several other publications, including Newsweek, are saying that the cupcake fad is about to fade. The intensely pro-cupcake blog, Cupcakes Take the Cake, alerted me to the latest round of naysayers. At least The Philadelphia Inquirer says the "trend has outlasted expectations."

The recent popularity of cupcakes is credited to the product placement of Magnolia Bakery on "Sex and the City" and the opening of the cupcakes-only Sprinkles in Los Angeles. Here in scenic East Tennessee, it takes a little longer for trends to reach us. One would assume that the same delay applies to the end of the cycle.

Based on two hours last week, I would say that the cupcake bubble has definitely not burst in Knoxville. I observed a nearly constant stream of customers going into The Cupcakery while I was doing a remote broadcast from Massage Envy on Thursday. As I told my sales manager, The Cupcakery has the best looking cupcakes even if other places have better tasting treats. I'll attempt to prove it with some repeat photos from previous blog entries.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, August 28, 2009

floor plans

The ceremonial ribbon was cut at the new Academy Ballroom this afternoon. The dance studio has completed the move from desolate Downtown West to ritzy Western Plaza, which is close to Sequoyah Hills. The handsome new space allows for beginner and advanced classes to happen simultaneously in separate rooms.

The event was attended mostly by members of the Knoxville Chamber and by several dance instructors, who are independent contractors rather than employees of the studio. Among the refreshments offered were some key lime cupcakes, which were provided by Rhonda Becker. They had a very limey flavor, which I thought could have been in honor of studio owner Richard Bull, a good Englishman.

Jeremy Norris and Emily Loyless asked me to consider repeating (again) my comedic rumba routine with Emily at their Rocky Top Dance Challenge on September 19 at the Knoxville Marriott. That would give me only three weeks to practice. I am going to think about doing it though, because the event is a benefit for Family Promise of Knoxville, a great local charity.

My wife and I plan to attend the Grand Opening party at the new Academy Ballroom on Saturday night. They'll have drinks, hors d'oeuvres and live music. Dancing to live music is a challenge to me. I still have trouble finding the beat, as my wife discovered when we went to a few Brad Walker Orchestra shows at the Kerbela Temple. While the waltz and rumba have a basic box step that is in my comfort zone, it is the foxtrot and swing that I will mostly encounter in real world situations. Heather Tang promised to help me with some basic foxtrot steps at the party. We'll see if I can actually get the hang of it or not.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

preparation r

A sticker on the packages of cupcakes at Sam's Club seemed weird to me. Rather than buttercream icing, the cakes and cupcakes are decorated with something called But-R-Creme.

Either some of the packages could have qualified for Fail Blog or I did not recognize what white chocolate looks like nowadays.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, July 24, 2009

in this corner

When you're looking for a great cupcake, the first place that comes to mind is probably a bakery like Magpies or a specialty shop like The Cupcakery. Another contender has emerged in the most unlikely of places; a little shack on Middlebrook Pike called Two Sisters Sandwiches & Sweets.

I happened to stop by Two Sisters on their first day of business. Shortly before my vacation, a nice write-up by Carly Harrington reminded me it had been a while since I promised Ruby and Dixie that I would return. The opportunity presented itself yesterday. The sisters told me they will soon have a new signpost. They also plan to paint the gray cinder block exterior with a brighter color.

I got a great pulled chicken sandwich for only $2.50. For dessert, I chose a banana cupcake with chocolate icing. The sisters insisted that I also try one of their Death by Chocolate cupcakes, saying it was their best. Another customer swore by their Red Velvet cupcakes. There's no place to eat at the shack, so I took the food home for lunch. The cupcakes got knocked around a bit when the bag fell over in my car but still tasted great.

Banana cake has always been a favorite flavor of mine and I would definitely order one of the cupcakes again. However, the ladies were right about Death by Chocolate. I cut it up and shared it with my son, who agreed that it was outstanding. The frosting was perfect, the cake was moist and the chocolate chips interspersed throughout were a nice surprise.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, July 19, 2009

cupcake break

There is no way I could try every sweet treat that I saw on our trip. But I like window shopping for cupcakes even if I don't get to taste them. Here are some we saw at Hershey's Chocolate World on the second day of our trip...

...and some we saw at the Blue Duck Bakery Café in Southampton on the eighth day of the trip.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, June 22, 2009

the mixable one

Bacardi Rum Cake has been on my mind for quite some time. I hinted to my wife that I wanted one as Thanksgiving, Christmas and other celebrations approached. We ended up making gooey butter cakes and other treats instead. I finally dropped enough hints that my wife agreed to make one that we could have for both Father's Day and my birthday. The biggest hint was when I brought home some rum on Saturday.

Because I couldn't find my wife's recipe card, I printed a 1978 recipe that I found on the Internet and took it to a nearby package store. I had to ask the clerk what happened to Bacardi Dark Rum. He pointed me toward a shelf with Bacardi Gold, as it is now called. I also had to ask which size bottle had at least a cup of fluid because they were all measured in milliliters. Fortunately he had a book which told us that 200 ml was only 6.8 ounces. Not enough. That's why I ended up with a 375 ml bottle and almost 5 ounces left over. When he asked to see my I.D. to verify that I was the person on my credit card, I asked if I could pretend I was being carded because of my youthful appearance.

The official Bacardi Rum Cake starts with a layer of chopped pecans at the bottom of a tube or Bundt pan. The cake is served upside down with the nuts on top. My son doesn't like nuts, so we talked about leaving them off one area of the cake. I thought about it overnight and decided we should try making cupcakes instead. It would be easier to omit pecans from some cupcakes and not the others.

According to the package of Butter Recipe Golden cake mix, the cooking time for cupcakes is about half that of the full size cake. The tops were perfect but when we flipped them over, some of the bottom nuts looked like they were a little overcooked. I should have looked online for cooking tips and rotated the pan. Most of the rum flavor and the kick comes from the glaze, which is made from butter, sugar, water and rum. Before adding the rum, we used some of the glaze to top the nut-free cakes. The non-alcoholic glaze turned into an opaque paste. It did not soak into the cakes, like the high-octane stuff did.

To dress up the cupcakes, we added a dollop of Betty Crocker buttercream frosting. We experimented with some right side up and some upside down. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about my family's history with Bacardi Rum Cakes. In the meantime, feast your eyes on these.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, May 15, 2009

can you do a dollar?

The staff at East Tennessee Children's Hospital makes sure that Marc and Kim and I have an abundance of food and treats during the annual Star 102.1 Radiothon, which started yesterday and continues today from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It's tough to exercise any self-control when local businesses show up with even more food that I love. If the good-looking treats from The Cupcakery had arrived before I had already eaten a piece of a staff member's birthday cake and a few Godiva chocolates, I would have grabbed one of the chocolatey ones. The bird's nest looked pretty nice too. So instead of eating a cupcake, I feasted my eyes by photographing them.

A highlight of yesterday's broadcast was the presentation of the proceeds from "Star 102.1's Dancing With the Knoxville Stars." To mark the occasion, professional dancers Emily Loyless and Jeremy Norris did what they do best to the tune of "Poker Face."

Lori Tucker, Mark Nagi and Terry Morrow handed over the big check. Later in the day, Beth Haynes, Russell Biven and John Becker came by to help ask for donations. You can phone in your pledge at (865) 656-KIDS or donate online via my fundraising page.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button