Tag Archives: baking

How to make a Fail Cake

Once upon a time, I tried really really hard to make a special cake for a special person. This is pretty much how it went down.

How to make a Fail Cake

  1. Don’t read the recipe.
  2. Hurry.
  3. Mix in extra things because you want to be creative and exciting.
  4. Underbake, then return cake to oven, increase heat, and overbake.
  5. Fill and stack cake layers while cake is warm.
  6. Watch cake lean like the Tower of Pisa while you try to decorate it.
  7. Get lots of crumbs in the frosting.
  8. Realize there’s not enough frosting.
  9. Try to make up for lack of frosting by adding jelly beans.
  10. Arrange jelly beans to make an attractive flower, then take a step back and notice it looks like Willy Wonka threw up on your cake.

Company has arrived and it’s time to bring out the glorious cake!

What are you gonna do?

A. Serve it with pride and a stiff cocktail.

B. Dump it in the trash, then hide and have a nice long cry.

C: Frame the dog.

I can haz cake? Iz not trapz? photo by Denzil~

How to frame the dog:

  1. Place Fail Cake on the floor, call the dog and quietly encourage him to eat the cake (even if you have to frost it with dog food).
  2. Appear in front of guests with expression of utter disbelief and exclaim “Oh no! My beautiful cake!” while gesturing at the unwittingly guilty dog.

NOTE: This option seldom works with cats, but might work with a small child or husband if a dog is unavailable.

flickr creative commons
Denzil~
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Rainer Cherry Clafoutis

Clafoutis ~ I’ve heard the name tossed about on food TV frequently the past few days, and today it was all I could think about when I saw a stack of beautiful, blushy Rainer cherries at a Granville Island produce stand. This French dessert can be made with any stone fruit (think peaches, plums, apricots) or even with berries, but the classic version from the Limosin region of France uses black cherries.

Rainer Cherry Clafoutis with vanilla ice cream and cherry sauce.

Technically, a clafoutis using anything other than black cherries is a flaugnarde, so says the intertoobs, and in traditional recipies, cherry pits are not removed before baking. Leaving the pits is said to enhance flavour, but I didn’t want to have to pick around them, so I pitted my cherries.

Ingredients are simple: egg, milk, flour, flavour, a little butter or oil. Clafoutis batter is rather thin, like crepe batter, and is usually flavoured with almond or vanilla. It puffs up during baking and cuddles around the fruit as it sets. In fact, it’s very much like making a Dutch Baby pancake.

This was my first attempt at clafoutis, and it turned out quite well. Gingerman liked it, and we had the leftover portion for breakfast the next day. I half made up a recipe on the fly because I had only 2 eggs and a strangely shaped dish. A few more experiments, and I’ll come up with a reliable version of my own. Meanwhile, I found some inspiring recipes online and gathered a bit of clafoutis wisdom to share.

Baking Tips for Clafoutis:

  • Butter & Sugar the baking dish: Butter the bottom and sides of the dish, toss in a couple of tablespoons of sugar, and shake it around to coat the dish. Dump excess sugar that doesn’t stick.
  • Experiment with different fruits and flavour extracts or liquers.
  • Sift the flour to prevent clumps.
  • Bake individual clafoutis in muffin tins or ramekins.
  • Do not open the oven door until the end of baking time!

Recipes for Clafoutis:

Leaving a comment? I’m curious . . . how do you like to eat cherries?

Vancouver’s First Cupcake Challenge

The moment I found out Vancouver was having a cupcake bakeoff, I looked at GingerMan and said, “We’re going. They’ll have free samples.” He smiled at me and said, “You had me at Free Cupcake.”

My choice for Best Cupcake: The Neopolitan by Frosting Cupcakery

It was an overcast Vancouver morning, but it was all sweet frosted happiness at Yaletown Roundhouse. Throughout the day, 1110 people came by to taste the wares of top-notch local bakers and cupcakeries. My only suggestions for improvement: a slightly larger room and a free glass of milk. 8)

Vancouver Cupcake Challenge organizers Nicole Marie Events and Follow Me Foodie invited the public to sample delicious treats and help select the People’s Choice cupcake, while a panel of judges (including a few local foodies) put in their votes for the Judges’ Choice and Blogger’s Choice.

Fabulous door prize at the Vancouver Cupcake Challenge.

Congrats to Frosting Cupcakery and Big City Cupcakes! You guys take the cake. As a cupcake connoisseur, I appreciated the unique flavour combinations presented by all the contestants. Several memorable participating bakers (including the challenge winners) are profiled below.

Frosting Cupcakery ~ Winner of Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice

Smiling bakers from Frosting Cupcakery!

Cake and ice cream is a birthday party classic. Frosting Cupcakery immediately won me over with their Neopolitan cupcake: a vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry combination that really tastes like ice cream! Their exotic Love Potion cupcake marries flavours of mango and passion fruit, and the Caramel Crunch is a divine confection of buttery caramel and madagascar vanilla with bits of Skor Bar.

Based in Langley, I’d say this cupcake shop is definitely worth a trip! They have a fantastic assortment of delicious treats and wonderfully creative recipes for holidays or any days, plus they host birthday parties for kids and offer custom cupcakes for special events and weddings. Take a peek at their cupcake menu!

Scrumptious samples from Frosting Cupcakery

Big City Cupcakes ~ Winner of Blogger’s Choice Award

When they say “big” the’re talking about the cupcakes, too. Way more than a mouthful and loaded with yummy frosting. No skimping on the good stuff. Many of their cupcakes also have fillings! The best of the bunch is the Lemon Drop: Vanilla cupcake with tangy lemon filling and lemony buttercream frosting. They also offered samples of the Strawberry Cheesecake (yes it has cheesecake filling) and the Truffle, which has a ganache truffle filling.

Big City Cupcakes has three Vancouver locations: Downtown (1015 Howe St.) ~ Kitsilano (2206 West 4th) ~ Point Grey (4481 West 10th). See their website at bigcitycupcakes.com for a complete list of locations and menu of yummy flavours, including gluten free or egg & dairy free options.

Indulgence

Sweet ladybugs and flowers!

Pastry chef Clare Thomas offered three luscious little cakes including Pistachio Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Tangy Lemon Buttercream, and a perfectly delectable Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Sweet Caramel Buttercream. The texture of the cake was divine (moist and not too dense) and it had a lovely deep chocolate flavour. I loved that some of their baby cupcakes were topped with candy flowers and tiny little ladybugs. So cute!

Cake Tease

Really creative and artistic bakers in North Vancouver with excellent taste. Their unique Oreo Cookie cupcake even had cookie crumbles in the cake! NOM! Not only does Cake Tease make yummy cupcakes, they also do fabulous structured and sculpted cakes, too. Have a look at their photo gallery.

Pink Sugar Cupcakery

Fresh ingredients, small batches, and no dairy or eggs! Pink Sugar calls their sustainable goodies “eco-chic party treats” and offered three fantastic little cupcakes to sample. The toasty coconut cupcake was a huge hit with Gingerman, and the Peanut Butter filled Chocolate cupcake was moist and delicious. An excellent flavour combo! The Chocolate Strawberry cupcake was also supertasty, with real strawberry puree in the frosting. People in Victoria are lucky to have Pink Sugar in their neighbourhood. Check out their inspiring menu of designer cupcakes.

S’mores Day Cookie Bars

Roasting Marshmallows by ninahale

Roasting Marshmallows by ninahale

I love S’mores. Melty chocolate and gooey marshmallow sandwiched between crisp graham crackers is a time-honored campfire treat. Countless times, I sat staring into the flames, twirling a big puffy marshmallow on on the end of a hand-picked green stick whittled to a fine point, waiting for the perfect browning. Too close or too long in the wrong spot, and it would burst into flame. Sometimes accidents happen on purpose. Please hand me another marshmallow.

In honor of National S’mores Day (August 10th) and the Girl Scout tradition, I present to you this glorious S’moresel from my kitchen. All that traditional smoresy taste in a convenient cookie bar form. I guess that’d be a S’mookie!

Gimme S’more Squares

The recipe for Warm Toasted Marshmallow S’more Squares @ Betty Crocker is pure genius. No eggs required, and totally EASY! Whenever I find the sugar cookie mix on sale, I like to stock up so I can make quick treats like these. They’re totally delicious, pack perfectly in lunches, and go great with coffee or a big glass of cold milk.

Golden Toasted Chocolatey Delicious

Golden Toasted Chocolatey Delicious

I tweaked the recipe a little to produce a smaller batch with more graham flavour and decided to break out some gourmet chocolate bars for the topping. I used Dagoba Organic Dark Chocolate, but many other flavours would be yummy. Also, try your local store brand graham crackers; Safeway’s grahams have an excellent texture and taste and cost less.

Get Ready
  • Preheat oven to 375° and grease a 9×9 pan.
  • Chop fancy chocolate bars to make about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate bits.
  • Bash or food process about 8 graham crackers to make 1 Cup of crumbs.

Make a Grahamtastic Cookie Crust

  1. Mix 1 Cup of Graham Cracker Crumbs with 2 Cups (about 1/2 bag) of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix.
  2. Melt 1 stick of butter, stir in 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract, and add to dry ingredients.
  3. Press dough into pan and bake 18 minutes.

Add the Chocolate and Marshmallows

  • Lightly browned!

    Lightly browned!

    When the cookie crust is done, turn off the oven and preheat the broiler.

  • While the crust is still warm, sprinkle 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate over top and let it melt. Spread melted chocolate to edges of crust.
  • Top with 2 cups miniature marshmallows and return pan to oven about six inches below the broiler.
  • Broil until marshmallows are lightly browned ~ 1 min (watch them carefully!)
  • LET THEM COOL—I know it’s hard.
  • Cut into squares and NOM!

Other S’more recipes:

Flickr Creative Commons
ninahale

Strawberry Cornmeal Cupcakes with Prairie Berry Frosting

A while back, I joined up with Iron Cupcake Earth in the interest of stimulating my baking muse. Each month they challenge bakers to come up with creative ways to use a particular ingredient and make nommy cupcakes. Of course, there are PRIZES, too! I love prizes.

The Milwaukee Cupcake Queen’s decree for June: SUMMER BERRIES.

Sweet Summer Strawberries

Sweet Summer Strawberries by ellievanhoutte

So many possibilities! Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, snozzberries . . . and so many ways to use them. This weekend, the farmers market was full of fresh organic strawberries, and it was high time I took up the Queen’s challenge. This is my first attempt at an Iron Cupcake, and I’m pretty well satisfied with the results. Ginger Man ate three right off the bat! It was a tasty adventure, plus I got to use some of my favourite things:

  • Fresh Fraser Valley Strawberries
  • Citrus Salt by Maison Coté
  • Bonne Maman Prairie Berry Jam: a mixture of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Made in France.
  • Silicone Cupcake Liners: super-easy cleanup and no trash!

Strawberry Cornmeal Cupcakes with Prairie Berry Frosting

strawberrycckeThe addition of a little cornmeal to the batter enhances this cupcake’s texture without making it taste like cornbread. It’s a sweet cake, not savoury, and the baked tops have a pleasant toothsomeness.

Note: Mix the batter with a regular ol’ wooden spoon so the ingredients don’t get overmixed. For the frosting, use an electric mixer for best results.

Cook the strawberries:

In small saucepan, combine 1 pint fresh strawberries (quartered), 2 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, and a few grinds of Citrus Salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened and reduced by about half. Set aside to cool.

Mix the dry ingredients:

  • scant cup sugar (not quite a full cup)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix the wet ingredients:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk

Combine the mixtures:

  • Gently stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just combined.
  • Do not overmix.
  • Fold the cooked strawberries into the cupcake batter.

Bake the cupcakes:

  • Divide batter among 12 lined muffin cups.
  • Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes.
  • Cool completely before frosting.

surprise inside*At the last minute, I decided to add a little surprise when the cupcakes came out of the oven. While the cakes were still warm, I scooped out the center of six cupcakes and filled them with a few mini chocolate chips. Strawberries love chocolate, and so do I. Covered with frosting, they all looked the same. The little extra chocolate boost was fun to find!

Make the frosting:

  • Whip 1/4 cup softened butter until fluffy.
  • Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 Tbs milk. Beat well.
  • Stir in 2 Tbs Bonne Maman Prairie Berry Jam
  • Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes.
  • Garnish with berry of your choice.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo
by ellievanhoutte

Thanks for your votes! This month’s winning cup cake was:

Not-so-blue-berry Cupcakes from How To Eat A Cupcake

It’s My Breakfast: Mango Peach Cobbler

Mango Peach Cobbler with Milk

Mango Peach Cobbler with Milk

I can hear it now: “You can’t eat cobbler for breakfast!”

Oh yeah? Watch me.

Mangoes are bountiful and ripe in the local produce markets, and these are one of my favourite tropical treats. June is Mango Month, and there are tons of ways to play with this delicious and sexy fruit in your kitchen. The flesh is firm and juicy, with a subtle flavour and an aroma that has hints of nutmeg. Mangoes come in several varieties and are available year-round. If the mangoes at the store are rock hard, pop them in a paper bag and let them rest on the counter for a day or two. Ripe ones smell like. . . well, mangoes, and are very slightly soft.

The tropical and subtropical climates of the world are the best places to grow mangoes. India produces more than half of the world’s crop, but mangos found in most North American markets come from Mexico and South America. I purchased Atulfo mangoes: cute and yellow, a bit smaller than their cousins, but just as delicious. They’re also loaded with nutrients (lots of fiber and over 20 vitamins and minerals). Mangoes can be pickled, dried, pureed, juiced, canned, or frozen.  Keep mango chunks in your freezer (up to 6 months) to use in smoothies—they compliment just about any kind of fruit.

Mango Seed

In the center of the mango is a long flat hard seed covered in coarse fuzz (seen at left above). Stand the mango on its fat end and you’ll see it tapers toward the top on either side. Place the blade of your knife a bit off center and slice off one side, then the other.  You can feel a bit of resistance when you get too close to the seed. I use the tip of a knife to cut diagonal slashes in the flesh, then turn the mangoes out so the cubes of fruit stick up. It looks cool, and you get lovely chunks of mango easily. There’s more than one way to peel a mango. Watch this video from the National Mango Board to learn more.

Cutting Mangoes
I use chunky mango in salads, salsa, and stir-fry as well as desserts (or in this case, breakfast). Usually I make cobbler with berries, but I had this can of peaches layin’ around and figured maybe the peaches and mangoes might enjoy each other’s company.

Cobbler is an extremely versatile recipe, and so easy to throw together with just about any kind of fruit. This is a rustic and homey dessert. The topping falls somewhere between “cakey” and “cookie.” I like mine a bit coarse and packed with a lot of flavour.  Depending on the fruit I’m using, I’ll vary the ingredients a bit. You can find over 100 ways to use mangoes in recipes from the National Mango Board.

Mango-Peach Cobbler

Using fresh fruit is the best option, but frozen mango or peach is fine, and canned peaches will do well enough in a pinch. Unless you’re a purist (or lactose intolerant), please do enjoy a bit of milk, fresh cream, or ice cream with your dessert.

Prepare the Fruit

  • 2 ripe mangoes, diced
  • 1 can peach halves, drained and diced
  • 1/4 Cup sugar to sweeten if needed
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of fresh grated nutmeg
  • dash of salt

Mix the Cobble

  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 C ground walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)
  • dash of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 tbs melted butter

Mix with a fork until combined. Sprinkle over fruit in a 9×9 pan.

Bake at 375° for about 35 minutes until topping is golden. Serve with ice cream or a glass of cold milk.

Mango Facts and More Fun:
Plant Cultures: Mango

Mango.org