Monthly Archives: June 2010

Interview with “Booze Cakes” Authors Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone

This interview may be considered treasonous by pie people, but please forgive me because I’m not talking just any cakes–I’m talking Booze Cakes. Mint Julep Cupcakes! Salty-sweet Honey Spice Beer Cake! Piña Colada Cake! Jägermeister-powered Deutsch German Chocolate Cake! This new Quirk Books cookbook by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone is a good time.

Krystina Castella

Krystina Castella enjoys creating books and products that inspire play. She is especially obsessed with playing in the kitchen and sharing recipes with others that are tasty and beautiful. Krystina is the author of Crazy about Cupcakes (Sterling 2006), Crazy about Cookies (Sterling 2010), Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone (Quirk Books, 2008) A World of Cake (Storey Publishing, 2010) and co-author of Booze Cakes (Quirk Books, 2010). She is also co-author/ photographer of the children’s book Discovering Nature’s Alphabet (Heyday 2006). She lives and works near Los Angeles as a writer, industrial designer, and professor at Art Center College of Design.

Terry Lee Stone

Terry Lee Stone is a design management consultant and writer who loves all aspects of design — whether the delivery media is paper, screens, cake, or yarn. She has worked with top U.S. design firms. For over 12 years she taught the business of design at the California Institute of the Arts, Art Center College of Design, and Otis College of Art and Design. She is the author of several books on graphic design, but Booze Cakes is her first cookbook. Active in the graphic design industry, she has written for design magazines; served on the Board of Directors of the AIGA; and has presented lectures and workshops for numerous creative organizations. She also blogs daily about her knitting obsession at Terry lives with her husband and their pugs in the Studio City section of Los Angeles, in the Brady Bunch’s old neighborhood.


Gina:  Whose idea was Booze Cakes? Can you pinpoint the moment of inspiration?

Terry: Krystina and I both were both teaching at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA, and she was a consistent guest lecturer in my class. After several terms of hearing her talk about her cool cookbook projects, I knew I wanted to work with her. So while making my mom’s 1970s-era Harvey Wallbanger Cake one night, it hit me that the world really needed was a Renaissance in boozy baking. And I knew Krystina and I were just the people to kick it off with a book.

Krystina: When I wrote Crazy About Cupcakes (Sterling Publishing), I developed “Cocktail Cupcakes” and did a lot of experimenting with booze and cake recipes. My inspiration was thinking about a dessert party like a cocktail party. I was learning tons more about the history of alcohol infused cakes and baking while writing my soon to be released book A World of Cake (Storey Publishing). I expanded on this experimentation with Booze Cakes.

Gina:  How did the two of you come to collaborate on the book?

Krystina: As Terry said, we met teaching at Art Center College of Design. I have been a professor of there for 18 years. I teach Industrial design and materials explorations. Terry is a graphic designer and had been teaching creative business for many years both at Art Center and CalArts. Terry knew I was a cookbook author and approached me with the idea to do a cookbook called Booze Cakes. I told her I loved the title and we began collaborating.

Terry: I knew it was a “go” when she broke out laughing at the title!

Jelly Cake Shots

Gina:  What was your creative process like?

Terry: One of the interesting things about our development process was that we linked up new combinations of alcohol type + baking style + physical structure of the cakes. Since we’re both designers and very visual people, we sort of instinctively combined tastes and shapes first.

Krystina: We created an outline for the book including the chapter topics and then had frequent meetings at my house to brainstorm recipe ideas. We each chose recipes to test and expand on and reported back to each other with the results. Our favorites were chosen for the book.

Terry: We each had our “To-Do List” in terms of the cakes. When we swapped recipes, I think it really inspired us on to push our ideas further. It was always a bit of a surprise to see how the other person took the concept and ran with it. Very fun.

Gina:  You don’t mention professional culinary training in your bios. How did you each learn to bake?

Krystina: I have been cooking, baking and developing recipes all of my life. When I sold my manufacturing company in 2000 I had much more free time on my hands and immersed myself into educating myself through reading about baking technique, fine tuning and developing new recipes. I took a great class at UCLA on writing cookbooks and took several other non-fiction writing classes. I developed a process and approach to baking and cooking that is very much like how I approach to design giving my recipes an easy to approach attitude and playful personalities. I have since written 5 cookbooks and when you are testing recipes to include in a cookbook you fine-tune each recipe by baking it over and over.  That is the best culinary training you can get. I have made thousands of cakes, cupcakes, popsicles and cookies over the last few years.

Terry: I’m really just a designer who loves to cook. Initially I learned baking from my mother and Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook For Boys and Girls. A seminal work, right?

From there, I indulged my sweet tooth and refined my skills by reading many books, practicing, and lots and lots of trial and error! Happily, even my mistakes and cake wrecks are usually pretty yummy. My philosophy is basically: “Have fun, it’s just cake.”

Gina:  Did you call on recipe testers to fact check your boozy creations to ensure they’d work for readers?

Krystina: We each did our own testing. I had my students taste test them after class.  I teach grad students so they are all over 21. After the final recipes were selected Quirk had a recipe tester make sure they were AOK.

Terry: My friends ate lots of cake and rated each one, plus I had some of them try making the recipes as well. Our editor, Margaret McGuire, also made and tested cakes, then shared her baking experiences.

Gina:  Who took the photos and where? The art direction is beautiful.

Krystina: Thank you. Quirk Books designer Jenny Kraemer designed and art directed the book. Our editor collaborated with us, Jenny, and photographer Daniel Kukla (who happens to be a dedicated home baker himself). Together, they managed to shoot pictures of more than forty boozy cakes within a few days.

The photographs have a very cozy, homey quality because they were actually taken in the homes of Jenny and Margaret (and their generous friends’ homes) in Philadelphia and New York. They found lovely vintage cake plates, cocktail glasses, tablecloths, and linens that matched the book’s color scheme at the flea market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In fact, the book’s color scheme is inspired by the retro palette of Mad Men and the fashionable era of classic booze cakes that Betty Draper might’ve baked. And they didn’t fake it: All the confections in the photographs were baked from scratch.

German Black Forest Cupcakes

Gina:  I was surprised to read that it’s a misconception that alcohol burns off entirely when cooked. Can you talk about the techniques that give cakes more or less kick?

Krystina: The kick comes from adding the alcohol to the batter before baking. More kick comes from soaking the cake in alcohol after it is baked- and adding alcohol to the frosting or topping. The cake is like a sponge and soaks it all up.

Terry: You’ll find a “Booze Meter” indication on each of our recipes. Then you can always add more hootch if you are into it.

Gina:  The book is laced with lots of fun cocktail trivia. What did you find to be the best historic cocktail resources?

Krystina: For me, my father in law Olaf was the best resource.  He was a bartender before during ww1 and through prohibition and he always talked about it with his fondest memories. He passed away at 101 last year and left me with some great bartending stories and trivia.

Terry: I’m not gonna lie: I come from a long line of booze lovers. However, I did do quite a bit of research. There is a lot of history and lore about drinking— lots of interesting stuff there.

Gina:  I was especially amused by the cakes inspired by 80s cocktails. Please tell my readers about your recipe for Peachy Keen Fuzzy Navel Cupcakes with its many Regan era variations.

Peachy Keen Fuzzy Navel Cupcakes

Krystina: The cocktail cakes are really fun to create because essentially you are mixing multiple ingredients in the batter in a similar fashion that you mix a cocktail. There are more elements to play with and create with then with cocktails. Plus garnishing cakes is just as fun as garnishing drinks!

Where did the name came from? In 1994-95 I owned one of the first designer shopping sites on line called where I sold products by young designers. I’ve always loved the term “peachy keen,” and it fit so well with fuzzy navel, I named the cupcakes after that.

Terry: You’re definitely going to make people happy by just telling them the names of the variations on that cake. Who doesn’t want Sex-On-The-Beach?

Tequila Sunrise Cake

Gina:  Is “Booze Pies” next?

Krystina: Sounds like a good idea. I have already made a Kahula cream pie, a Margarita pie and a black cherry kirsch pie. I love pie as much as cake. Besides A World of Cake, I also Crazy About Cookies (sterling 2010) coming out soon.

Terry: “Booze Pies”— that’s wacky. Stay tuned! In addition to Booze Cakes, I’ve got a new design book series: Managing the Design Process: Concept Development (Rockport 2010) and Managing the Design Process: Implementing Design (Rockport 2010) being published this year.

Aimee Mann Thinks Pie is Sexier Than Cake

Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann tweeted the following comments yesterday:

I’ve never seen someone with such stage presence that you felt like you were eating a delicious piece of pie every time they were onstage.

That metaphor was super awkward, but I was up late. Sorry.

I know some of you are taking issue with me citing “pie” as the example of something that is satisfying and delicious, rather than cake.

But you have to admit there is something about the texture of pie that is a lot sexier than cake. Cake is merely a square of sweet.

Just When I Think I Can’t Possibly Inflict Another Dog Photo, Goose Plops Down in Summer

click…click…click…WHOOPS! Pie Face Game

circa early 70s

My Name is Goose and I Like Mud

Interview: Former Roller Derby Skater Kat Selvocki on Founding Piety Bakery, Her Favorite Seasonal Pies, BK Farmyards Pie Contest, and the Brooklyn Local Foods Renaissance

Kat Selvocki grew up in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania — close enough to Lancaster County that she developed a deep love for shoofly pie at a very young age. She now bakes pie, cooks, crafts, and gardens in Brooklyn, travels the world for inspiration, and photographs and blogs about all of it at

Kat Selvocki

In addition to her urban homesteading adventures, she works full-time for a nonprofit, teaching volunteers to paint murals, garden, and serve meals in soup kitchens and she is the proprietor of Piety, a Brooklyn-based pie bakery that uses seasonal ingredients from local farms and organic suppliers to craft pies that give your grandma a run for her money.

Kat is a former roller derby player and current manager of the Bronx Gridlock of Gotham Girls Roller Derby. She explains, “I loved skating, but wanted more time to bake pie and explore other endeavors.”

Follow her on Twitter at and


Gina: Why do you love pie?

Kat: I love pie because it’s a really homey, comforting food that is meant to be shared. I love that pie reminds me of family and of history: I grew up with homemade pies — my grandmother makes the best coconut cream pie in existence! — and I also think it’s fascinating that the ancient Egyptians and the Romans consumed pie in some form. I love it because the best pies are very seasonal; you’re not going to have the perfect peach pie in the middle of winter. And I love that the best pies don’t look flawless: they’re handmade and show it.

Gina: Who taught you to bake?

Kat: I baked cookies and other things with my mom as a child, but I’m not sure I ever made piecrust with her. I started baking pies a few years ago, when I joined my first CSA, and I found myself with an abundance of some fruits — gooseberries in particular — and I had no idea what to do with them! I remembered my grandmother and my mom baking some beautiful summer pies, and I called them both to get their crust recipes and ran with it. I didn’t really know what I was doing; I knew the crusts tasted like the ones I remembered, so I kept doing it.

Gina: When did you start Piety Bakery and what are your hopes for it? Do you have a storefront?

Kat: I started working on piety in fall of 2009. I competed in a couple of bake-offs, and baked pies for a few events and around the holidays. This year, I’m working on figuring out all of the required paperwork (New York is currently cracking down on small food businesses), and looking into ways that I can find shared commercial kitchen space for a reasonable price. I’m aiming to sell at markets and custom orders; I’m not interested in having a storefront at this time.

Gina: What are your favorite pies for each season?

Kat: Spring: Apple-rhubarb or rhubarb, straight up. Summer: Peach-blueberry and sweet cherry. Fall: Peach maple walnut and pear-cranberry. Winter: Balsamic vinegar with pomegranate and shoofly.

Kat's Balsamic-Strawberry Pies

Gina: I notice that you offer gluten-free pie. What do make the crust with?

Kat: My gluten-free pie crust is made with a combination of tapioca, white rice, and sorghum flours. And butter. Lots of butter!

Gina: It seems like Brooklyn is in the midst of a pie renaissance. Why do you think that is and do you know the other players?

Kat: Brooklyn is in the midst of a local foods renaissance, so I think that’s a big part of why pie is back on the radar. People are creating urban homesteads and farms all over Brooklyn and participating in activities that go along with that (canning, for example), and I think people like the tradition that comes along with pie. Also, there are cupcake and cake and cookie shops aplenty around the city, and pie hasn’t been as much a part of that. It’s time for something a little different, and Brooklyn is great for being at the forefront of that shift.

I haven’t talked with the women of First Prize Pies and Four & Twenty Blackbirds yet, but I have sampled their wares and both shops make a pretty tasty pie! I have had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Cucinotta of Pie in the Park, and I’m really excited about her Kickstarter project. I’ve pledged, and will be publishing a pie recipe on my blog over the next few days to help raise awareness of the project and hopefully get her fully funded.

Gina: Please tell me about the BK Farmyards Pie Contest. Where was it held? What were the rules? Who attended? Who judged? Who won?

BK Farmyards Pie Contest

Kat: Jimmy’s No 43 in the East Village hosted the BK Farmyards pie contest. Jimmy’s is a great supporter of local and organic foods, and also hosts a lot of food events and cook-offs.

The only rule was that you had to make your own crust, which I think is probably the most important rule that you could have!

A variety of bakers, both professional and hobbyist, participated, including: Elizabeth Witte Kalin of Betty Brooklyn, Matthew Tilden of SCRATCHbread, Annie Novak of Growing Chefs and Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Allison Kave of First Prize Pies, Emily and Melissa of Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Megan Paska of Brooklyn Honey, Joann Kim of Greenpoint Food Market, Lily & Fig, Blondie & Brownie, Lauren Cucinotta of Pie in the Park, and of course, me!

The judges included:

– Amy Zavatto, Edible/Imbibe contributor

– Anna Broussard, pastry instructor, French Culinary Institute

– Matt Timms, Chili Takedown

BK Farmyards Pie Contest

The winners of each category were:

Savory: Annie Novak of Eagle Street Rooftop Farms, for her rainbow chard quiche

Sweet: Joann Kim of Greenpoint Food Market, for her strawberry-rhubarb pie

People’s Choice: Elizabeth Witte Kalin of Betty Brooklyn, for her braised short rib mini pies

Gina: Have you entered other pie contests? Do you have any tips for contestants?

Kat: This is my third bake-off (two were pie, one dessert). At the Jimmy’s bake-off, the winners kept it simple, though that hasn’t been the case with the winners of previous bake-offs. It seems that with pie bake-offs, people tend to bake sweet pies, so if you make a good savory, you’ve got a better shot. And of course, the biggest key is making a good piecrust. The judges at Jimmy’s were surprised that no one used lard (I personally prefer butter so that it’s vegetarian-friendly, though I’ve sampled some delicious lard crusts), so using a different fat in your crust could help out there as well.

BK Farmyards Pie Contest

Gina: Why do you think pie matters today?

Kat: I think pie matters today because of tradition and community. Pie is an amazing food to create and share with others. Technology is both bringing us together in some ways and disconnecting us in others, and it’s important to be able to sit down and interact, and good food can really help the process. I think everyone has a pie story, and so many of us remember pie from family meals when we were young, and that can be a part of today, too.

Guest Blog for Rebecca Walker on Huffington Post

My “Enabling the Dead: A Gringa’s Day of  the Dead Altar” essay is up on the Huffington Post. It’s a topic that I’ve threatened to write about for a long time. I’m grateful to Rebecca Walker for the invitation to contribute to her “One Big Happy Family” series.

My dad, Dave’s dad.

Roadside Sign: Have Your Pie and Eat It Too

Another sign that I’m on the right path.

TED Talk by Ben Cameron, Program Director of Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Inspired and inspiring.

Happy Wet Goose in the Meadow that is Now a Jungle

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