Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Break in Lethbridge

I spent part of my spring break in Lethbridge.  For the second year in a row I made my nieces birthday cake.  This year I made a black forest cake with canned sour cherries and stewed sweet cherries and a big fat layer of CHOCOLATE MOUSSE.  It is extremely satisfying to cook for an appreciative eater.

My Beautiful Studio

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to buy a little house in Vancouver.  The poor old thing was probably a tear down, but after a lot of work it was made quite liveable.  For my first three years in the house, I made do with a very damp, very smelly sewing room in my basement . . that is until last summer.  I made an amazing friend last year who also happened to be an electrician and all round clever handyman.   One day, he came over, demolished my old scary basement, made a little bit of electrical magic, and after a lot of painting help from my Mom and my Aunt and Uncle, and the installation of a new furnace and hot water heater, I was left with a beautiful, highly functional sewing/creating space.  Check it out!

My super-bright, highly functional workspace.

Looking out into my backyard.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Magic on Bowen Island

Coconut Swirly Buns and Poppyseed Swirly Buns
It has been an eventful Easter holiday.  I made poppyseed swirly buns, coconut swirly buns, citrus and sour cherry honey buns with marzipan centres, and hot cross buns.  I use my dear Grand-dad's recipe for hot cross buns with a few changes: I use my home made citrus peel and I sometimes add apricots and sour cherries to the mix.

Daffodils from my garden.

In between all the bread proofing, I took some time to weed in my garden.  There were random daffodils all over the lawn and throughout the garden beds.  I managed to put together a pretty decent bouquet without having to pick every flower in  the garden.

On Saturday, a friend and I took a day trip to Bowen Island.  On our hike around Killarney Lake, we almost stepped on this little creature.  This is a rough-skinned newt.  I didn't know that until I got home and looked it up so I called it a Magic Salamander (Mag for short).  We moved Mag off the middle of the path and carried on our way.  

Mag the Magic Salamander
Here is my Grand-Dad's recipe for Hot Cross Buns
(I use a stand mixer but this could easily be mixed by hand)

1 large russet potato

4 cups flour (+ 1 1/2 cups extra)
2 Tablespoons regular yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup raisins (I use a mix of currants, sultanas, and golden)
1/2 cup mixed peel

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter

2 large eggs

For the crosses
Mix 3 tablespoons flour with 1 tablespoon water to form a gooey paste.  put in a piping bag with a small round tip.

Citrus Glaze
I like to glaze my buns when they come out of the oven.  I zest a lemon or orange (sometimes both), add the juice of one lemon and enough icing sugar (2 cups) to make a thick glaze.

A:  Peel and boil potato.  Put through a ricer or grate on large holes of a box grater.  Set aside 3/4 of a cup

B:  Mix dry ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.  Add 3/4 cup riced potato, mix.

C: Scald wet ingredients.  Let cool to lukewarm.  Add to dry ingredients with stand mixer running

D: Slightly beat eggs, add to stand mixer

This is a wet dough.  Turn it out and knead it.  Try to add as little extra flour as possible.  Form a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.  Allow to rise until dough has doubled.

Turn oven on to preheat at 325 degrees.  Put rack in second highest position.

Punch down.  Portion into about 24 rolls.  I like 60 gram rolls.  Place rolls in a rectangular baking tray.  Let them rise to double in size.  Pipe crosses on.  Bake for 25 minutes.  I rotate my pans at 15 minutes and bake for 10 more.

Once the buns come out of the oven, I spread the glaze over them.  I let them cool fully before eating.

Hot Cross Buns - Oh so good.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Birthday Cake in Lethbridge!

My niece turned one this week.  By far, this was my favourite cake that I've had the opportunity to make for someone.  Lucie's mom is half Moroccan and has a sweet spot for orange blossom, so I made an orange blossom chiffon cake filled with orange cream and citrus fruits.  The cake was an especial hit with my niece.  She even refused her lunch and demanded a taste of the tester cake.  It's nice to have an appreciative audience.

It was pretty fun making this cake.  I had very little equipment, so I had to improvise a bit.  I built a cake frame out of a shoebox and instead of lining the box with acetate, I used plain old saran wrap.  The frame came off easily, but the sides of the cake looked a bit messy.  I ended up masking them with the cream.

About the whip cream:  Baking Illustrated by Cook's Illustrated has a great recipe for super stabilized whip cream.   I used it when I made my Mom and Dad's black forest cake for their retirement.  The recipe is simple.

For one litre of whipped cream:

In a small saucepan:
mix 1 Tablespoon cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons of sugar with 1 cup of the heavy cream.  Make sure there are no lumps.  Then cook the mixture on medium heat until it thickens into a pudding like consistency.  Cool the mix thoroughly.

When it is time for the cream, in a big bowl or a stand mixer, add the cream to the pudding mix.  Again make sure there are no lumps.  Then whip it all up per usual.  Add sugar and flavours to taste.

This cream is so stable that it can sit at room temp for a couple hours with no weeping or melting.  Also, it pipes like a dream!

I made one more cake this season.

My Mom and her twin sister turned 60!  I made a special two in one twin themed cake that consisted of a spiced cheesecake sandwiched by fat layers of carrot cake.  I covered the whole thing in white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  The cake was monster sized and super delicious.  Here is a picture of the birthday girls on their special day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wedding Cakes!

This is the first summer in a couple of years that I do not have to make a wedding cake for anyone. The lack of responsibility has left me with a curious carefree feeling.  Here are some glamour shots of the wedding cakes I made last year.  The first was for a former student.  Hers is a yellow butter cake with lemon curd filling and vanilla buttercream.

I also made a cake for my friends Seamus and Anna.  I went to culinary school with Seamus so it was super awesome to get make his wedding cake.  Anna wanted a carrot cake, so I made her one with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  Also, I found a really great platter at Value Village and my neighbour who is an amazing artist, customized it with their wedding date, names, and the words fidelity and strength.

Ponderosa Cake aka U-nbelivable B-anana C-ake

I just finished taking a Library Studies course at UBC.  My class was in Ponderosa Annex which is, in my mind, famous for the super delicious ponderosa cake.  I ate a piece of this cake almost every other day when I was doing my undergrad.  I alternated it with the awesome blueberry streusel cake from Blue Chip.  It just so happens that my Grandfather clipped a copy of the Ponderosa Cake Recipe out of the Vancouver Sun twenty years ago.  Here is the recipe broken down.


  • Mixer hand or stand
  • three mixing bowls (two if using stand mixer)
  • liquid measure cup
  • dry measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • spatula
  • 9 x 11 baking pan
  • parchment paper
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. measure out all ingredients
  3. Grease baking pan line with parchment, grease parchment (I use cooking spray)
  4. Follow method
Ingredients - Must be at Room Temperature

Part A - Wet Ingredients I
1 cup butter (soft!)
2 cups sugar ( I only use 1 & 1/2 cups)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mashed ripe banana (they don't have to be super ripe.  The riper the bananas, the denser the cake)

Part B - Dry Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda

Part C - Wet Ingredients 2
1 cup sour cream (I have substituted yogurt or buttermilk when I didn't have sour cream)

Part D - Streusel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips ( I use 2 cups!!!)

In a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer:
  • from A cream together butter and sugar
  • beat in eggs one at a time
  • beat in vanilla
  • beat in banana
In a separate bowl
  • from B mix together dry ingredients
  • Have sour cream in a glass measure
  • In yet another bowl mix together Streusel
  1. Add 1/3 of sour cream  to mix.  Blend for 30 seconds. Scrape
  2. Add 1/2 of dry (B) to banana/butter mixture.  Blend for 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl/mixer.
  3. Repeat 1 and 2 - Add final third of sour cream last and blend.

Pour half batter into tray.  Use spatula to spread it out.  Sprinkle 1/2 of streusel over batter.  Spoon the rest of the batter into the tray and spread it out.  Sprinkle the rest of the streusel over the cake.

Bake in pre-heated 350 degree over for 55 to 60 minutes.

A wooden skewer will come out clean when the cake is done.  Also when  a cake is cooked, it will pull  away from the sides of the pan as it cools.

Try not to eat all of the cake in one day.

A note there are only three reasons a baking recipe doesn't work
  1. Failure to follow the method.
  2. Leaveners (baking soda/powder or yeast) are dead or expired.
  3. Oven calibration is off.  Temp doesn't match what is on the dial.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

1980's Sweater Nightmare Redemption

This was an horrible 80's sweater.  It had awesome shoulder pads.  The styling was pretty yucky, but the angora, the cable knit, and the gunmetal beading seemed worth saving.