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As you may have seen on twitter, we’ve slumped into Tofino for some beach time, family time, book reading and kayaking and eating. I’ve mostly stayed out of the kitchen, although having one here – one that looks out over the water, even – has meant getting my baking fix before we head back to the gutted room that will hopefully be our kitchen once again before the snow flies. There are apricots and cherries in the wee one-room Beaches grocery, and I can never resist baking them into something. With browned butter, if possible. This isn’t quite a cake, but it’s not a crumble, either… it most closely resembles a slump – thick batter poured over fruit of any kind, then baked. It’s just enough to hold it together, and the cake part is more sugary-buttery than cakey. You could manage wedges, but it’s more of a spoon dessert, served warm with vanilla ice cream if you can swing it. Or for breakfast withContinue reading

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This would be pretty for Canada Day, don’t you think? (I knew better than to attempt to arrange a maple leaf out of raspberries.) It looks pretty enough that people asked me where I bought it, but in reality if you can stand a raspberry upright, you can cover a cheesecake with them. The truth is, here they’re covering a gaping chasm of a crack in the top – something so common in cheesecakes it’s traditional to cover the plain ones with a sour cream topping to conceal any flaws. Cheesecake was my dessert of choice back in the 90s – it was Mike’s birthday cake of choice for decades – and yet I never think to make them these days. They’re pretty low-maintenance, as far as desserts go – once baked, it needs to sit in the fridge to firm up, so it may as well just hang out in there until you’re ready for it. A plain cheesecake like this – a classicContinue reading

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It’s finally summer enough to warrant coffee on the back porch! And while these are hardly summery, I can’t imagine chocolate, cherries and whipped cream have a particular season. I’ve been promising to share the recipe since E’s 16th birthday back in April, when she told us it didn’t really matter what kind of cake she had, but she liked Black Forest. Me too. Who doesn’t? And the flavour combo makes a fine cupcake – a good thing because Black Forest cakes can be tricky to assemble and messy to cut. With a bag of frozen cherries in the freezer, all we needed was a batch of our standby chocolate cupcakes and some whipped cream. And something fancy to go on top – chocolate trees I recalled seeing somewhere, sometime – maybe on Pinterest? Here, I think? At any rate, I love melting chocolate chips in zip-lock baggies in a cup of warm water, then squeezing it out into shapes that then harden and canContinue reading

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I totally didn’t plan this. One of the many benefits of having a teenage niece across the street are those times she decides she wants to bake – and wants your help. Here I was minding my own business, doing things that were probably productive, possibly healthy and definitely didn’t involve cupcakes, and then there she was, just-baked chocolate cupcakes in hand, wanting to make frosting together. (She made red velvet cupcakes too, but that’s another story.) Her goal: salted caramel on chocolate cupcakes. We made a brown sugar frosting, and the caramel was her idea – her plan was to run to the store to buy caramel sauce to dribble overtop, but I explained that caramel could be made easily out of the sugar we already had in probably less time than it would take to run to the store. We brought sugar to a simmer with a bit of water to help it along – and a drop of lemon juice, which helpsContinue 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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