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You guys, I adore baked Alaska, and I’m not sure why it’s not made more often, so I am here to take any scariness out of the process. It’s one of the most fun, and most delicious, and most celebratory – not only because you get to torch it, which is perhaps the most satisfying culinary endeavour there is, but because it has just the right ratio of ice cream to cake (at least double), is topped with Italian meringue, and you can do just about anything you want with it, flavour-wise. I’ve happily shared a couple wedges at restaurants this week, which reminded me that it really isn’t that tricky to make at home, and is what one might in magazine and internet lingo be described as a show-stopper. (But… who wants to stop a show??) Just imagine, if you will, this baked Alaska with sparklers stuck all over it for a birthday. It looks stunning, and yet there’s no pressure to decorate aContinue reading

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I’ve been bombarded with requests – and rightly so! – for this ermine frosting since posting it in stories last night. Honestly, my world has forever changed. I’m what you might call a frosting fanatic – the one who seeks out the corner piece with the most flowers it can structurally tolerate – and yet it can be altogether too much sweet. Enter Ermine: an old-school frosting that was apparently the original frosting paired with red velvet cakes—the somewhat unorthodox method of boiling milk and flour into a thick, pasty pudding and then spooning congealed blobs into whipped butter and sugar miraculously produces an over-the-top smooth and fluffy, not-too sweet frosting that’s a dream to work with. I know, it doesn’t sound delicious. But it is.

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Currently bedside: Nigel Slater’s latest, The Christmas Chronicles. He’s one of my all-time favourite food writers, and Christmas is my favourite time of year, and the two are packaged together perfectly. (Here’s a taste from the Guardian.) I love how much he loves the “crackle” of winter, just like I do, how he finds the cold brisk and invigorating. He makes me want to get up early and write by candlelight, then build a fire and slice crisp apples into a pot and simmer them with warm spices, a clementine and some brandy while a pork belly roasts in the oven. He perfectly encapsulates why I love these short, cold, cozy days, particularly in early winter – and even (especially?) the grey ones. Who better to refer to when seeking out a new fruitcake? Over the years, I’ve short-sightedly been thinking of fruitcake in black and white, or light and dark, always drawn toward the dark, sticky fruitcake of my childhood – specifically the oneContinue reading

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It’s time for some chocolate babka, I think. To celebrate the time of year when you can turn the oven on to warm the house. If you’re only familiar with babka thanks to Seinfeld, it’s a sweet, rich yeasted dough that some call cake—but really it’s a loaf of sweet dough with the texture of a soft cinnamon bun, rippled through with so much chocolate (or cinnamon, which is considered a lesser babka, but it’s on my list to make next—who wouldn’t love a loaf-shaped cinnamon bun?) as to make slicing the rolled log (which you do lengthwise, before twisting it into the pan) a challenge. I took babka for a spin a few times to get a feel for it, in the name of research of course—the soft, rich dough is lovely to handle, and it’s like assembling a cinnamon bun, up until the dough is filled and rolled into a log. Some of the chocolate fillings out there are crumbly, others smooth, whichContinue reading

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Hey, hi. I figured you, like me, might need some chocolate zucchini cake to help get you through the week. The moist, not-too-sweet kind you just stir up in a bowl and bake in a pan and nibble from when you need it – a cake you could get away with having a chunk of with your coffee in the morning, for filling up lunchbags and the after-school gap. And here’s some good news: if you also have far too many zucchini in your kitchen, you can grate a bunch, as if you were going to make brownies or muffins or a loaf or this cake, and just freeze it in ziplock bags, pushed flat to get the air out and so that they barely take up any space, to use in the aforementioned baked goods at a later date.

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This lunar rhubarb cake is a thing – do you know of it? It has made the rounds of Canadian kitchens for decades and generations, far before the internet and Pinterest made it easier to share, back when great aunts and neighbours scribbled down the formula for that cake they always make that’s so good. Everyone seems to remember this. It’s called lunar cake because its surface resembles the pocked surface of the moon, only in this case it becomes irregular and uneven because of the fruit and buttery brown sugar that sinks into the top. (Any fruit will work here – I love these recipes that you can use no matter what’s in season. I already can’t wait for plums.) I’d heard of it but never made one, thinking it was the same sort of fruit-topped cake I’d made dozens of versions of, but when it popped up in the new cookbook by Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller, whose lives I would quickly adoptContinue reading

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When I was a kid, maybe 9, I had a cupcake company. (I know, I was way ahead of myself.) I took out a $20 loan from my mom, bought ingredients and labeled them, and made the One Egg Cake out of The Joy of Cooking, and turned the batter into cupcakes to sell to neighbours on our street. After my loan was paid back, I think I made $7. (Most of the profits were eaten up.) I still have a soft spot (OK, many) for homemade cupcakes with straight-up buttercream frosting, applied in no particularly fancy order, just spread on with a knife. I think of the one-egg cake often, but have never revisited it – until late this afternoon, when I really really just needed some cake. And a short distraction from the computer. I stood and stared at the mixer beating butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk – this is as basic a formula as they get – then poured the batter intoContinue reading

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Ever wonder what would happen if dense gingerbread and dark fruitcake got together? This. It was called coffee fruitcake in a 2005 issue of Gourmet, but doesn’t taste like coffee – you could swap orange juice, or grape juice, which is what my mom used when she made fruitcake decades ago. Or anything, really – but the coffee really does intensify the deep, slightly bitter gingerbread, which contrasts well with the loads of dried currants and raisins. You could, of course, stir in some other dried fruit – I was tempted to add slivered dried apricots, figs and cherries, and may next time, but it is tempting to stick with the ease of just raisins.

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Yes, it’s time. I decided that Tuesday night was as good as any to take on a large baking project – and particularly one that required me to strongarm copious quantities of batter from bowls to pans, and plenty of chopping. My family has been making this dark fruitcake for years; it’s a low-maintenance fruitcake, not requiring aging or brushing with liquor, loaded with dried fruit and nuts – apricots, figs, cherries, dates, citron – not a green glacé candied cherry in sight. Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, the 1997 edition – the edition is important, as there are completely different dark fruitcakes in different editions. (And no, it doesn’t call for eggs.)

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