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*THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATS GISELE!* I used to make cheesecakes all the time. It was kind of my thing. This was back in the eighties, when I was a teenager who a) idolized Canadian Living magazine and b) wanted to win the heart of a certain acid wash jeans-wearing boy with Adam Clayton glasses who thought cheesecake was the height of gourmet and requested the New York-style one I had learned to make (from Canadian Living) for every birthday. But the neighbour in the duplex he lived in with his parents – an older German lady – often made a deep cheesecake with a dry, almost crumbly texture that he was enamoured with, and so I set about figuring out how to make one. Which is what good girlfriends do, right? Not able to perfectly replicate it, I eventually moved on to a dense, silky chocolate-mocha cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crumb crust that I made for about ten years before my interestContinue reading

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I love a good excuse to make cupcakes. If I don’t have one, I’m very good at justifying my actions when it comes to baking or buying new shoes (with size 11s you gotta buy ’em when you find ’em, right?) -but when a friend comes over within a few days of her birthday, it’s like a free pass to bake. (This is just butter + sugar, beaten for several minutes – I feel like most people fall short on this part, beating the two until they’re well combined but not really whipping it until it’s sufficiently light. Try letting it go for a couple minutes next time.) Cupcakes make it easier to serve a crowd, especially when fast-moving kids are in attendance and you’re not really sure you have enough little plates and forks to go around. Of course I generally choose cakes based on their need for adornment; I do love a well-frosted cupcake (and can even appreciate a 1:1 cake-frosting ratio) butContinue reading

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I realize that 90% of the chocolate cakes you see here are bundt cakes. There are two reasons for this: 1) I like dense, damp, not-too-sweet (even squidgy) chocolate cakes best. And 2) I’m pretty lazy; I’d rather not deal with the layers, which require to be dressed with frosting, and I like the sort of cake you can eat by the wedge – it’s easier to shave off a nibble here and there. And so last Sunday, having just made a round of smoothies, I decided that while the blender was out I’d fast-track the batter for a chocolate cake I had decided to bring my mother in law, who likes a wedge of cake to nibble every night before bed. My standard chocolate cake has a very thin batter anyway; I figured it could be blitzed up like a smoothie and poured into the pan. Right? I was being so lazy about it all that I didn’t even go upstairs to get myContinue reading

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Can you manage just one photo this time? And a chocolate cake that has beets in it? (I brought a beet cake to a friend on her birthday a few years ago, and she looked at me flatly and asked why? why would you do something like that to me on my birthday?) People adore chocolate zucchini cake and spiced carrot cake – why not grated beets? They behave much the same, lending a subtle earthy flavour as well as moisture. Beets can be roasted by wrapping them in foil and tossing right on the oven rack for about an hour; I sometimes do this while something else is in the oven (might as well do double duty with that warmth) and then keep the still-wrapped beets in a bowl in the fridge until I want them to add to a salad (with goat cheese and candied pecans!) or to grate into a cake. The skins rub right off with your fingers.

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Seeing as we’re coming into the season of leftovers – not just turkey, but mashed potatoes – I thought I had better share this cake already. Had you ever considered transforming your cold mashed potatoes into a cake? If not, next time you make mashed potatoes, it’s worth making extra – if not for those waffles, for a grain-free cake. I kid you not. Going grain free is kind of the thing right now, but that wasn’t my intention – I came across this on BBC Good Food while looking for a gluten-free birthday cake for a friend this summer, and made it out of sheer curiosity – how does mashed potatoes + ground almonds = cake? But it does – a dense, moist, lemony cake that totally works. And now that it’s not summer anymore, I want to give it a go with fresh cranberries in place of the blackberries. Look! Totally a cake. No grains. Not that there’s anything wrong with grains, ofContinue reading

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We’ve arrived at Christmas in November! We folded Chef Michael Smith into the front seat of our Subaru Outback and hit the highway this afternoon – it was a gorgeous drive up the 93, past the glaciers, to the Jasper Park Lodge where there was hot chocolate and roasting chestnuts waiting for us. Highlight of my year, no joke. It’s like coming home for the holidays (and yes, I realize it was Halloween YESTERDAY) seeing friends from previous CINs, the old cabins, the decorated great hall, the food and wine and cocktails (on the buffet menu tonight: porchetta and braised beef short rib grilled cheese and butter chicken and raclette and roast beef with Yorkies and mini doughnuts and homemade whoopie pies with buttercream and caramel….) and being in a place where you can get out and about but don’t have to leave the grounds – it’s bliss. Truly. Now if I could just wrap up my 6 lingering homework assignments, that would be rad.Continue reading

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I realize no one makes roll cakes anymore, but they should, because a) they taste nothing like the sweet jelly sponges that spend altogether too much time wrapped in plastic on grocery store shelves, and b) it will make life easier for anyone who is charged with making birthday cakes on a semi-regular basis. They bake quickly (under 15 minutes!) and are easy to roll and fill, then spread (messily, even) with frosting or lemon curd or jam or Nutella and roll back up. You get a perfect ratio of cake:filling in every bite, and it’s easy to slice and serve, each piece a more reasonable serving size than a slab of traditional cake, without looking stingy. Sold? We got home from Vancouver on Friday afternoon, which was Mike’s birthday, with no dinner or cake plans and a nephew surprising us by installing a dishwasher in the kitchen. (Read: water off.) Which was totally amazing, of course (we’ve been without a dishwasher since last Christmas,Continue reading

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There’s something appealing about a snack cake, isn’t there? The fact that it’s relegated to the every day, rather than elevated on a plate for a Special Occasion – and it reminds me of those snackin’ cake mixes my mom rarely bought when I was a kid. (Thanks to her, I learned to make the One Egg Cake from The Joy of Cooking instead.) Also: I find a 9×13-inch pan liberating. A conversation about barley flour on Twitter today reminded me of this cake. (Yes, I talk about lesser-known flours – I commiserate with others who can relate to my cupboard full of ziplocks and containers and half-full bags of assorted flours and grains and beans and lentils.) We all tend to default to all-purpose wheat flour, but of the alternatives, barley flour is one of the more usable in my kitchen. It’s locally grown (barley is a significant Alberta crop), easy to find alongside the other flours on most grocery store shelves, high inContinue reading

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I want to curl up on a slab of roasted sweet potato gingerbread and have a nap. This is what fall tastes like, if it sounds like leaves crunching underfoot and smells like gingerbread baking and feels like the sleepiness of early nightfall and the rush of Halloween and Christmas not so far away. How was your Thanksgiving? I think this is the only photo I managed to take over the weekend – I grabbed my camera and held it up over everyone’s heads as they served themselves from the kitchen table. Turkey with bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted cinnamoned sweet potato chunks, maple squash, mashed carrots and turnips (my mother-in-law’s favourite), Brussels sprouts seared with bacon, that kale salad without Brussels sprouts but with a tart apple. This was dinner #2 – the first was at my sister’s house and featured much of the same, plus green beans and an amazing mushroom tart that I promise I’ll track down and share. So fab.

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