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My friend Allison, who lives up the hill, has a few apple trees in her front yard that produce an astonishing number of apples. There are a few varieties – some larger eating apples, some medium – not quite crabapples, but not full-size either – and some tiny red crabapples that are perfect for jellies. She always lets me pick some, and they’re so great for baking with. I love a good apple cake, and thought I had made them all until I started noticing people make Ruthie’s apple cake, from the cookbook Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern, during Rosh Hashanah. It’s a spectacular cake, loaded with chunks of apples and walnuts. I instantly adored it – not only the taste of it, but its rugged good looks.

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Friends!! Here it is – the Nanaimo Bar Cake. I’ve been thinking about it ever since discovering Deirdre’s epic multi-tiered creation at Sweet Relief Bakery in Calgary (I put it on the 25 Best Things to Eat list in Avenue Magazine back in 2020!) and finally decided to attempt a more streamlined version at home. It turned out wonderfully-I love cakes this size, and recipes that make two, so you can give one away or tuck it into the freezer for another day. These will freeze beautifully. Enjoy!!

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I think we all need a little more cake these days. Blending whole oranges into a thick puree to add to cake and muffin batter isn’t new – I have a recipe for a whole orange cake on an old recipe card I’ve had since childhood (yes, I was a kid who wrote and collected recipe cards) and the Sunshine Muffins in the Best of Bridge are made with whole oranges whizzed with everything else in a blender. Food 52 has a recipe for a whole orange bundt from Sunset Magazine in their book, Genius Desserts. W made it awhile ago, and it occurred to me that such a cake would make perfect use of those inevitable squidgy mandarin oranges I always seem to wind up with, whether I buy them by the box or bag. (We talked about other things to do with mandarins on this week’s Eyeopener!)

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I made a plant-based (vegan) Deep n’ Delicious chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday last spring, and it was pretty fantastic if I do say so myself. Baked in a disposable foil cake pan for easy door dropping and classic Deep n’ Delicious aesthetic, with frosting piped on with a star tip to complete the effect, I’ve baked this several times and it has been devoured each time – it’s wonderful, vegan or not.

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This isn’t the most stunning morning-after photo of what was (and still is) a delicious chocolate cake-the light was far better last night than it was when I nibbled it with my coffee in the early morning light. But it’s a simple, delicious cake that could become your go-to if you have frequent birthday cake obligations. This weekend was the first two of a week of family birthdays (which wraps up with mine on Friday), and because one of them was my sister, and I knew her favourite part would be blowing out candles with her grandkids, a double chocolate, quick to bake single layer cake that could be served straight from the pan and accommodate plenty of sprinkles seemed like just the ticket. And look at that ganache!!

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At this time of year, I’m typically working through my stash of frozen rhubarb as the new crown starts to unfurl again in the back yard. I’ve already used it up during the past month, but managed to squirrel away bags of frozen raspberries and blueberries before grocery shopping became a Big Thing. I’ve been making this crumb cake, or something like it, for decades—it has become my go-to when I want a buttery, not-to-sweet sort of a cake, layered with whatever fruit happens to be in season (or in the freezer). It’s perfect with rhubarb in the spring, berries in early summer, stone fruit (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines) in late summer, and apples or pears in the fall. You can mix up the fruit, play around with citrus zest or spices in the batter or crumble, and make use of the last of the yogurt or sour cream. It’s the sort of cake you’ll get to know from memory and mix up whenever youContinue 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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