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I’ve never ever been a morning person.  Even as a child, I was a total night owl.  As a teen, I remember staying up late studying and getting dressed/eating breakfast/finishing my make-up on the way to high school.  I could hardly make it to my 10am classes in college and thrived working the late-shift at my first bakery job.  As much as I love sleep and hate going to bed at a decent hour, I do, however,  see the appeal of starting the day bright and early .  And with the sun rising at about 5am here in Vancouver, and baby shortly after, I’ve been forced to embrace more early mornings, whether I like it or not.

While I am usually begging for coffee in the AM, these bright, crisp mornings I’ve been able to witness lately have me craving something a bit more refreshing.  Think fresh-squeezed orange juice and some tangy yogurt with favorite strawberry – rhubarb compote on the patio to start the day.  What better way to clear your head and get inspired, right?  Okay, this may all be a bit cheesy, but this early morning routine is still very new to me, so please forgive my ridiculous anecdotes of listening to birds chirping, admiring nature’s dew drops on my favourite flowers, and soaking in the stillness before the hustle and bustle of the city gets going.

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Okay, so what does this all have to do with an Orange Creamsicle Cake?  Fresh OJ, remember?  Ha, yes – I know.  Kind of a stretch, no?  But really, this whimsical, zesty cake really does reflect how I’ve been feeling these days.  A little loopy, but fun! And with the sun out from about 5am to 9pm (nicely done, Pacific Northwest), it is sweet treats like this that I’ve been craving lately.  Packed away with my boots and winter sweaters are my appetite for rich, decadent, heavy desserts – making room for vibrant and refreshing treats.  Plus, with summer on the horizon, I’ve been in the mood to create desserts that are just plain happy.

This Orange Creamsicle Cake is (dare I say?) creamy, dreamy and packed with notes of citrus and vanilla.  Layers of orange-scented sour cream cake have been soaked in an orange simple syrup and paired with orange mascarpone filling.  I’ve frosted it in a smooth vanilla bean-flecked buttercream with swirly rosettes, sugar pearls, and sprinkles! The flavours will leave you with nostalgic feelings of youth, summer break, and ice cream trucks – without the sticky, melty mess of this cake’s frozen inspiration.

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Get the full recipe over on The Cake Blog! 

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One of the most common questions I get as a food writer and recipe developer is “What happens to all of the food?”  For the most part, it does get consumed – eventually.  Sometimes it’s a bit stale or defrosted from the freezer, but I try.  Since I don’t use any industry tricks – like using extra oil or lacquer to make things shiny or fake ice cream to keep things from melting, all of the food in the photos is completely edible.  Sometimes cake slices may sit out while being photographed a little longer than I ‘d prefer, but I do my best not to waste too much.  The truth is, it does get tough to keep up with all the sweets.   Since the move, we don’t have too much family or friends nearby to pawn off half-eaten cakes and partially demolished pies to (after they have been cut into and styled for whatever assignment they were made for) and a large portion of what I make ends up in our freezer.  And if I am being completely honest, I create and bake way more than I even need to for this job – resulting in even more treats.  I truly enjoy what I do, and just can’t stop from trying out recipes and cooking for fun whenever I have a free moment.

The best times are when we have visitors – extra mouths that I get to feed!  I don’t always like to play hostess (mainly for having to have the house all nice and clean, only to destroy it with a huge mess of dishes), but I do enjoying nourishing the bodies and filling the bellies of my loved ones.  My family from Michigan is in town this week – what a great excuse to throw a small dinner party! There are soooo many great restaurants in town that I will to take them to, but I saved a chance to feed them some of my favorite spring/summer small plates and sweet treats.  Selfishly, I got to try out some new seasonal recipes and cook with reckless abandon all while making others full and happy and not worrying about pounds of leftovers.  A win/win for everyone!

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I am sharing these Blueberry Frangipane Tartlets first because they turned out so cute and perfect.  And it goes along with my ‘Dessert First’ philosophy, hehe.  Blueberries have been on sale by the pint lately, and I was so excited to throw them into a dessert.  I’ve been waiting for months and months for berry season to arrive, and we are just about there!  I see many strawberry scones, raspberry tea cakes, and blackberry crisps in my near future!

This recipe was adapted from the beautiful book, Bountiful.  Once I saw the photos of their perfectly golden, blueberry-studded baby tarts, I knew I had to make them.  Almond is actually one of my all-time favourite flavours, so frangipane desserts or anything made with almond paste always pull me in.  The sweet, almond filling is extremely moist and tender, encrusted by a buttery, flakey shell, and FULL of fresh blueberries.

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I chose this recipe for our get together for a few different reasons.  I wanted a dessert that wasn’t too fussy but still slightly unexpected.  I thought pie at first, but once you slice into pie it always turns into a mess – at least for me.  I like the appeal of individual pies and tarts, each contained in its on little shell to minimize the slop-factor of larger pies.  And, who doesn’t get excited when they see that they have their own mini treat?  The frangipane really takes thing to the next level.  I also made a chocolate dessert (recipe to come soon), so I wanted something fruity.

You might be thinking – individual tartlets for a dinner party?  What a pain in the booty!  I thought it might be at first, but to tell the truth – this was one of the easiest things I have made in a while.  I cheated with some pre-made pie crust, meaning the rest of the entire dessert would whip up in just one bowl.  Only one bowl to wash in order to make these little beauties?  I tell ya, this recipe is a real winner.  I usually make cakes and desserts with multiple components – requiring many many dishes, clearing out my utensil drawer, and hours of assembly.  Once these babies come out of the oven, they are ready to go!  So seriously, the next time you are looking to serve a small crowd (as long as you have enough tart pans, that is), then make these Blueberry Frangipane Tartlets.  You can even use pre-made pie crust – I won’t tell, hehe.

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Recipe adapted from Bountiful

Blueberry Frangipane Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 pre-made pie crust
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons elderflower liqueur
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups bluberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Gather 6-8 4-inch tartlet pans and set aside.
  2. Unroll the pie crust and cut out 5 to 6-inch diameter circles. Press the dough into the target pans. Trim any excess dough by simply rolling over the top edge of the pan to "cut" off extra dough or just pinch off over the edges.
  3. Place tartlet pans on a baking sheet and put in the refrigerator.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
  5. Add in the sugar. Cream together on medium speed.
  6. Reduce the mixer to low and add in the almond meal and salt.
  7. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  8. With the mixer on low, add in the liqueur, zest, and eggs - one at a time.
  9. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat until fully incorporated.
  10. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and fill the tartlet pans three-quarters of the way with the almond batter.
  11. Smooth out the batter with an off-set spatula, if necessary.
  12. Evenly distribute the blueberries over the top, pressing some into the batter.
  13. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until nice and golden on top.
  14. Let cool before removing the tartlets from their pans.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/05/19/blueberry-frangipane-tartlets/

I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks from Cascade Platinum and Chef Michael Smith on how to throw a sparkling dinner party plus more recipes over the next couple of weeks – so stay tuned!  Seriously, you won’t want to miss the Triple-Layer Tahini Brownies I have on deck for you in a couple days.  Yumm!!

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I’m going to let you all in on a little secret – life is absolutely crazy right now.  And while I may be busier than I have ever been in my life, I have never been happier.  Currently, I am typing this up on the laptop while Brett gets the baby ready for bed, Remy girl is snoring at my feet, and I reminisce about my first Mother’s Day.  It’s late and I am tired from editing my book all morning and playing with Everett all afternoon, but I can’t help but smile and be thankful for the wonderful life we are living right now.

Each week, Brett and I sit down a take a look at our schedules.  We take turns filling in the gaps around my writing deadlines and his school schedule with photography assignments, Brett’s portfolio project, and playing with baby – of course.  We work nights.  We work weekends.  The breaks are few and far in between, but we are managing.  The truth is, this is our new normal.  A working mom and student dad to a new baby boy.  I’ve finally accepted that this is just life now – but a life that is full, energized (despite the lack of sleep), and bright.  In between it all, we still manage to enjoy meals out, walks around our beautiful city (when it is not raining), movie nights, and lots of snuggles.  And projects for the blog – even if just for fun, like this one.  Thank goodness for an extremely well behaved baby, understanding/flexible husband, and a sun that doesn’t set until nearly 9pm – giving me more time to photograph treats and opportunities to enjoy some time outside.

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For a while now I have been aching to make something that was just plain pretty and delicious.  A new sweet treat just for you blog readers.  I have so many ideas floating around in my brain and list upon list of projects I want to try out.  I don’t always get around to testing out all of them, but I did snag some time to put together this beauty.  The result?  This mega ruffle Strawberry Rhubarb Zucchini Cake.  Zucchini has been popping up with the warmer weather and I had been dying to throw it in my fudgey, eggless chocolate cake recipe.  You know me, I obviously don’t follow any strict food diets.  I’m not vegetarian, I don’t keep Kosher, and I hardly count calories.  So when I make something that just happens to be sans eggs, you better believe it is because it just happens to taste amazing that way.  Dare I say it is vegan?  Who cares – it’s fudgy and delicous.  The zucchini keeps things extra moist and even adds a bit of nutrients.  Yay, healthy dessert that is about to be smothered in buttercream!

Over the last month, I have been making Strawberry Rhubarb Compote on repeat.  I was so excited to finally see rhubarb in the store again, I went a little overboard.  I’ve been adding to my morning yogurt, oatmeal, and anything else I can think of.  Naturally, I threw it in some buttercream.  Amazing, I tell you!  The tartness of the rhubarb balances out sweet buttercream perfectly.  And although you can’t taste the zucchini, paired with this strawberry rhubarb buttercream, this cake is like summer in every bite.  A bit tart, a bit sweet – plus chocolate goodness.  And vegan optional!

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I was able to steal away an hour or two over the weekend to throw everything all together.  The filling is a bit more concentrated with compote for extra flavour, while the frosting takes on a bit less for pipe-ability.  For the finish, I used a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip.  Using a simple reverse shell method, I covered the sides and top of the cake with mega ruffles.  For the sides, I just made horizontal rows of shells.  For the top – concentric circles.  They spirals aren’t perfectly aligned, but I love how frilly it all turned out (be sure to give the cake a quick crumb coat just in case there are gaps between your shells).  After some quick pics out of the patio, I was able to run back inside just in time to watch Everett roll over for the first time on his own.  True story.  Happy Mother’s Day to me!!  So so proud.

Hopefully I will be able to continue to sneak in more original recipes right here on the blog from here on out.  I have so many recipe ideas and DIY’s that I am just dying to try out and share!  It’s going to be a juggling act for at least the next 18 years, so we better get used to it =)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Zucchini Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup +2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup grated zucchini
  • 3/4 cup strawberry rhubarb compote
  • 4 cups buttercream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 6-inch round pans. Set aside.
  2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, Stir in the sugars until combined.
  3. Make three wells in the dry mixture and add the oil, vinegar, and vanilla to each well. Stir to combine.
  4. Whisk while slowly pouring in the hot water and stir until smooth.
  5. Fold in the zucchini.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter between the three pans and bake for 23-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
  8. For the filling, mix 1/2 cup compote with 1 1/2 cup buttercream until combined. Evenly distribute between the two layers of cake.
  9. For the frosting, mix the remaining compote with the remaining buttercream. Frost cake as desired.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/05/12/strawberry-rhubarb-zucchini-cake/

Non- Recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:

1:1 ratio quartered strawberries to sliced rhubarb
1 teaspoon sugar per cup fruit, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice per 2 cups fruit

Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium-high.  Bring the juices to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Stirring intermittently, cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the fruit begins to soften and juice thickens slightly.  Let cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

1) To keep things vegan, use a vegan buttercream base to mix with the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.  Try a non-dairy butter like Earth Balance or cream cheese like Daiya brand.
2) I personally used my favourite Swiss Meringue Buttercream – although it negates the whole eggless part of the cake. Oh well ;)
3) If you don’t plan on creating the ruffle finish, then start with only about 3 cups of buttercream.  Adjust compote according to taste.

 

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Somewhere between wanting to pull my own mozzarella and picking up Fat Burger down the street, I seem to have lost my balance between quick-cheap and healthy-wholesome food.  Just this morning I whipped up at a kale pesto from scratch for a quick lunch before Brett headed out the door for class, then followed it by a handful of M&M’s (although they were dark chocolate, so that is healthy – right?).  As if this juggling act of trying to find the best way to feed myself and my family wasn’t already hard enough, let’s throw in a new baby!  We are all trying our best out here.  And while I yearn to someday churn my own butter and make my own yogurt (but seriously, I really want to), sometimes you just end up needing to pick up a pizza for dinner to save your sanity.

Of course, I am a big ambassador for making things a home when you can – if I wasn’t, then I really wouldn’t have anything to blog about except where I went out and bought all of my food and treats.  I am a firm believer that any cake made from scratch is better than the boxed version and this philosophy (if you want to call it one) is crossing over more and more into almost all of my pantry goods.  It’s time to really start recognizing which staples you can stop buying and start making yourself.  Most often everything ends up tasting fresher, being cheaper, and causing less waste by eliminating the package it came in (and with the amount of disposable diapers we have been going though lately [yikes!!], I am certainly looking for extra ways to decrease my carbon footprint).

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If you are looking for a place to start, make this Easy Pancake and Waffle Mix.  It will probably be the easiest thing you will ever make and it whips up faster than it takes to get in the car, find a parking spot, and stand in the check-out line.  Good bye Bisquick, and hello to hot breakfasts any day of the week!  Sure, the convenience of pancake and waffle mix is not life changing, but it does save us the hassle of pulling out the dry ingredients and a little bit of time measuring.  And when you have a million other things on your to-do list or handful of hungry mouths you need to feed, this can mean all the difference between a hot meal to start the day and a cold bowl of cereal or packaged breakfast bar.

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While recipe testing, I ended up making enough waffles and pancakes to feed a small army.  If you want to save yourself even more time in the AM, making big batch and freeze the rest.  I ended up freezing the leftover waffles in big freezer bags, and for the following couple weeks, Brett was toasting up waffles for the both of us – each crisping up even nicer than the first time around.

For the recipe and variation ideas, head on over to The Kitchn.

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Have you ever been to a proper high tea? The kind with mini sandwiches, bite-sized desserts, and of course – tea? I finally had the chance to go at the Fish House in Stanley Park with my mom over the holidays.  Everything was decorated with white twinkling lights and garland – it was magical. We were presented with an array of premium teas in a gorgeous wooden box upon arrival, followed by a tower of treats placed on our table. We chatted while we slowly savoured each perfectly prepared bite and sipped our tea. I was very pregnant at the time, and it was the last time I would be hanging out with just mom before I became one myself.  Everything tasted delicious and the time spent with my mom will be forever cherished.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with something reminiscent of that memorable day. It was Mother’s Day last year that we told my mom that I was pregnant last year – after all.  And while sadly we won’t be celebrating with each other this year, I created this cake with mom in mind.

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If I can’t have high tea with mom, then this Raspberry Earl Grey Cake just might the next best thing. The infused butter cake is paired with a touch of sweet raspberry and vanilla-specked buttercream. Simple raspberry preserves balance out the robust, slightly citrus black teas and add a pop of tartness to each with.  Unlike a heavy chocolate dessert or a cake drenched in caramel, the flavors are bold yet still light and delicate. The perfect ending to a Mother’s Day brunch or afternoon tea.  And since the cake is not overly sweet, feel free to fancy it up and pipe on some extra buttercream – like dedicate ruffles or rosettes.

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Infusing desserts with teas and herbs is a unique and easy way to add flavor and make new creations. Find out how and to get the full recipe over on The Cake Blog.

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Probably more often than we think do failed recipes turn into beautiful new dishes.  Sometimes kitchen experiments are a total bust (like my runny, undercooked blood orange curd from last month or my molten hazelnut brittle that nearly caught the kitchen on fire from the holidays), but sometimes they turn out gloirously – which keeps us coming back for more.  And sometimes we think recipes are heading in one direction, and they turn into something completely different.  For me, this usually happens when a dish is about to take a turn for the worse, and I frantically think of ways to save it – or at least parts of it.

This cake started out as a layer cake for my book.  It way layers of limoncello chiffon cake with thyme macerated strawberries and freshly whipped cream.  As delicious as that sounds (doesn’t it?), it was a bit too similar to another dish that already solidified its spot in the manuscript.  I tried to make some slight modifications, but it was no longer working as a layer cake nor for that section of the book.  The components on their own – heavenly lemon mousse, angel-soft chiffon cake, and juicy, ripe raspberries – were amazing, so I turned them into this simple Lemon Mousse Cake for you all to enjoy.

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The baby toes in the pic (which is now one of my all-time favourites that Brett snapped of us while testing out the lighting in our kitchen) might have you thinking that this cake is part of my Baking with Baby series, but you would be wrong.  It is not extremely difficult or anything, but all the folding would definitely be hard to do while holding a squirming baby.  However, the finish is unfussy and simple with just a pile of fresh berries, which you can certainly throw on with one hand or attempt to juggle to entertain said baby, if you feel inclined to do so.

The lemon mousse is so so dreamy.  You can make it completely from scratch with your own lemon curd, or just fold in some pre-made curd (not all jarred lemon curd is created equal – make sure to get the good stuff).  Once chilled, the mousse held up much much better than I thought it would.  It was still not sturdy enough to be the filling in a layer cake, but it remained in a heaping cloud of deliciousness all afternoon in my refrigerator without breaking down nor slipping off around the sides.  Even the leftovers the following day were amazing!

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Raspberry Lemon Mousse Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup lemon curd
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • fresh raspberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 9-inch cake pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together the cake flours, baking powder, a salt together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the oil, sugar, and lemon zest. With the mixer on low, add the egg yolks one at a time. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat until pale in color - about 3 minutes.
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on low, add in half of the dry ingredients.
  6. Add in the lemon juice and water.
  7. Add in the reaming dry ingredients and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl and transfer the batter to the large mixing bowl.
  8. Wash and completely dry the bowl of the electric mixer.
  9. Add in the egg whites and whip with the whisk attachment on high. Add in the cream of tartar and whip until medium-stiff, but not dry, peaks.
  10. Gently but dibelatry fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
  11. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean- about 30 minutes.
  12. Let cool on a wire rack 15-20 minutes before removing the cake from its pan.
  13. For the mousse, place the other 3 egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl. With an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip whites on high. Add in the sugar and whip until medium-stiff, but not dry peaks.
  14. Place lemon curd in a large mixing bowl and gently fold in the whipped egg whites. Set aside.
  15. In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the heavy cream. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium. Once the cream begins to thicken, add the vanilla and increase the speed to high. Whip cream until medium peaks.
  16. Gently fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd mixture.
  17. Top the cooled cake with a generous amount of lemon mousse and a heaping pile of fresh raspberries.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/04/22/lemon-mousse-cake/

The mousse is made with uncooked egg whites.  I strongly suggest using organic, free-range eggs – and you may not want to risk it if you have dietary restrictions.

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I’m gonna get straight to the point here – Shauna Sever is a baking wizard! Somehow she was able develop mouth-watering dessert recipes that I don’t feel guilty eating.  That right there is pure magic.

From the first few pages of new book, “Real Sweet,” I felt like she was speaking right at me.  As I get a bit older and grow into my new adult “mom” body, I am starting to realize that I can’t consume huge amounts of refined white sugar without consequences.  And now that I have a family of my own (although the little guy doesn’t even have teeth yet), I feel the need to use the best ingredients for us as possible.  Like Sever, I’m not talking elimination or some crazy fad diet – we are not crazy, after all.  No, we are talking “balance” and “moderation” when it comes to treats – a shift in thinking.  I’ve been trying to use more natural sugars in my own recipes – swapping in things like coconut sugar and honey instead of white sugar and corn syrup whenever I can.  Thankfully, Sever has done all the leg work for us!  With some simple swaps an only a bit of re-thinking, she’s created an entire arsenal of desserts that we can all feel a little better about.

Everything just makes sense here.  All of the ingredients are readily available and even enhance regular baked goods with more intense flavour profiles and textures.  So basically, Sever took all of our favourite desserts – plus some really cool new ones –  traded the “bad” sugar for natural sweetener, made them taste amazing, and is sharing it with all of us!  Wizardry, I tell ya.

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“Real Sweet” is our dessert guidebook to alternative sweeteners.  In this beautifully photographed, ultra-creative handbook to modern baking you will find recipes made with Turbino Sugar, Muscovado Sugar, Coconut Sugar, Maple Sugar, Rapadura, Evaporated Cane Juice, Honey, Maple Syrup, and Brown Rice Syrup.  Each super-star gets its own one-page stat sheet showing off its flavour profile, origin, best uses, and some author “secret” pointers.  In my own baking, I’ve been incorporating more honey, maple syrup (I do live in Canada, after all), brown rice syrup (I have an awesome walnut cake with this stuff in my book), and muscovado sugar (the best latte I’ve ever had in my entire life was made with this glorious sugar).  Like Sever, I have been trying to not only add in a little extra nutrients, but enhance the flavour and texture of my desserts.  Lately, I’ve been especially fond of coconut sugar.  I love the way it melts on plain yogurt, adds a bit of caramel flavour to my morning coffee, and the fact that for a sweetener it is actually not too sweet – if that makes sense at all.  So when I saw a recipe for Coconut Sugar Banana Sheet Cake in the “Real Sweet” book, I knew right away that was the one I would try first – that, and the spotting bananas on my kitchen counter.

I’ve tasted a lot of cake in my day – duh.  One of my favourites has always been banana cake.  Banana cake can be trusted – not matter where you buy it or what recipe you use, it is always moist and flavourful.  I have my own favourite caramelized banana chocolate chip cake recipe that I make, but this one just might be the BEST banana cake I have ever tasted.  It even has healthier ingredients like Greek yogurt, coconut oil, only a tiny bit of butter, and of course coconut sugar.

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The recipe comes together quickly and bakes up nice ‘n easy in a sheet pan.  Or, like me, bake it in a square pan to make Banana Cake Squares, and put the extra batter in a smaller cake pan for snacking on before dinner, hehehe.  The coconut sugar caramel frosting to match pairs perfectly with the cake.  The coconut sugar creates a deep caramel, almost smokey flavour.  After the caramel has cooked and cooled it is whipped up to perfection – beautifully spreadable on the cooled cake.

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Oh, and PS – go get your copy of  “Real Sweet” like right NOW!

‘Real Sweet’ Banana Cake Squares

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter - divided
  • 3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9X13 inch pan and set aside.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. Mix together the banana, yogurt, and coconut oil and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter until it looks like damp sand. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Mix for about 3 to 5 minutes until light in texture and pale in color.
  5. With the mixer on medium-low, alternate adding in the dry and banana mixtures. Stir until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean - about 25-30 minutes.
  7. Cool on a wire rack before inverting onto a cutting board or clean work surface.
  8. To make the caramel frosting, place 4 tablespoons butter, brown rice syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over high to melt the butter.
  9. Add in the sugar and cook until the mixture reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  10. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the cream. Stir in the vanilla and let cool 10 minutes.
  11. While the mixture is still warm, gradually add in the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, making sure the butter completely emulsifies. Continue to cool another 15-20 minutes.
  12. Once completely cooled, whip caramel with an electric whisk for about 2-3 minutes until a spreadable consistency.
  13. Spread caramel frosting on the the banana cake and cut into squares.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/04/08/real-sweet-banana-cake-squares/

CarrotMisoMaple5

With the exception of this past year (when I was extremely pregnant), we always practice the same traditions at Christmas.  I’ve spent 26 of my 30 Christmases waking up in my childhood home, yet Easter is always a bit random.  Probably not as random as spending Thanksgiving in Las Vegas several years in a row, but every year seems to be a different story.  I’ve spent Eater with my family in Northern Cali, at my aunt’s house in Monterey, with just my husband while my parents were away, in Vancouver with just my brother – you get the idea.  This Easter will be the first major holiday we will be spending with our baby boy.  Not only will it be the perfect opportunity to dress him all up in pastel plaids, but a time to start some new traditions.

One easy way to introduce a new tradition is with food.  Ginger crinkles at Christmas and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving – it is about time Easter in our household has its own set of treats to help recall moments of such a special holiday. Certain smells and tastes bring back memories in an instant.  Perhaps it will be the scent of cinnamon and other spices being baked up in these Carrot Cupcakes that my children will associate Easter with one day.

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If I am being 100% honest here (which I generally try to be), then I will admit that this recipe started out as a side dish to some baked teriyaki salmon.  I’ve always cooked carrots with a touch of brown sugar or maple syrup.  On a whim a few weeks ago, I tossed in a spoonful of white miso paste to the mix to pump up the flavor.  And boy did that do it!  The salty miso mixed with maple and natural sweetness of the carrots created the most delicious savory/sweet combination a vegetable has ever seen.

Since it worked on carrots, I thought – why not with carrot cupcakes?  I imagined it could go one of two ways – either a strange, salty combination that would be reminiscent of a sushi cupcake or a complex, perfectly balanced salt/sweet treat.  I am glad it was the latter.

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The carrot cupcakes are a riff off my classic carrot cake – but with half wheat flour, half coconut oil, and half coconut sugar.  I threw in some oats and a touch of ginger as well.  While the cupcakes themselves ended up closer to something in the muffin family, I certainly was not missing the extra oil and sweetness once they were iced in the rich, flavourful buttercream.  To make things a bit more decadent, I started with a French Buttercream.  Using egg yolks, real maple syrup, and real butter, this buttercream is almost too sinful for Easter.  The added white miso balanced out some of the sweetness and added the perfect amount of unexpected savouriness.

Add in the miso according to taste.  There should be a pleasant, salty taste at the end of each bite.

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Yields 10-12 cupcakes.

Carrot Cupcakes + Maple Miso Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown or granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/4 quick oats
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-2 teaspoons white miso paste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the oils and sugars.
  4. Add in the eggs and stir until combined.
  5. In two batches, stir in the dry ingredients until combined.
  6. Fold in the carrots and oats.
  7. Evenly distribute into the cupcake liners and bake for about 20-23 minutes or until done.
  8. For the buttercream, place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high with the whisk attachment until they double in volume and are pale in color - about 5 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, place the maple syrup, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Heat over high until mixture reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  10. Once the sugar mixture is hot, remove from heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
  11. With the mixer on low, carefully pour in the sugar mixture into the egg yolks.
  12. Slowly bring the speed up to high and mix until the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
  13. Add in the butter, a couple tablespoons at a time, until smooth and creamy.
  14. Meanwhile, mix the miso with a teaspoon or so of hot water to dissolve slightly.
  15. Add in the miso mixture - according to taste.
  16. Frost cooled cupcakes with the maple miso frosting.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/03/31/carrot-cupcakes-maple-miso-buttercream/

LemonMeringue2

We are having the most gorgeous spring so far up here in the Pacific Northwest – knock on wood.  I know months of rain are still in the forecast, but it has not been nearly as cold as it usually is.  I’ve only had to bust out my calf-length puffy jacket a handful of times and Baby H has not even had the chance to use his one-piece, fuzzy snowsuit (add that to the list of clothing items that he quickly grew out of before hardly using).

For the rest of you all, I am truly sorry.  I know some of you suffered from blizzards while my home state of California has already had 90+ degree weather (a preview of how hot summer might be, yikes!).  However, no matter where you are, you can still enjoy a preview of spring with use of some winter citrus.  In particular, Lemon.  I especially love finding and baking with Meyer Lemons.  They tend to be much sweeter and juicier than other types – bringing great, vibrant flavor to delicious, lemony desserts.  So whether you are aiming to match the spring sunshine you may already be having or need to beat your still-winter blues, this Lemon Meringue Cake is your answer.

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I made this cake for The Cake Blog (I’m back, baby!).  The cake itself if extremely light.  I tossed in some poppy seeds for texture and the fresh lemon and cardamom give a punch of flavor to an otherwise simple buttermilk cake.  My kitchen torch got to make another appliance – as evident by the toasty meringue frosting.

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Find the full recipe on The Cake Blog.


BananaBread3

Baking with Baby, part 3.

Two things – 1) I am really starting to think we have the perfect kitchen for a having a family (at least for a moderate-sized apartment) and 2) bananas quickly turn brown when you are not paying attention (i.e. – baby taking up said attention and almost all of your time).

We moved into our new home late summer.  For a downtown apartment in the city, it was a total steal.  All of the newer apartments around town are so small and look like identical little boxes.  When we found our spacious 2-bedroom with an awesome layout and completely remodelled, I knew we were in luck.  We got the square-footage and interesting layout of an older building, but with the perks of a new condo like all wood flooring, stainless steal appliances, modern surfaces, etc.

The living room is my favorite.  It is located in the corner of the building and steps down from the rest of the apartment.  The best part are the bay windows on both the north and west side, making the space extra inviting with an abundance of natural light.  On the south wall, there is a raised countertop with an open passage way to the kitchen.  The counter extends all the way into the kitchen, giving me tons of extra room to cook and bake on.  And let me tell you, I use every square inch of it – no matter what I am making.

From my kitchen, I have the best view of said living room.  Through the “window” I can keep an eye on the baby in his swing and have conversations with the husband while he does his work on the opposite side of the counter.  And when baby is no longer happy in his swing (unfortunately it only keeps him occupied for about 15-20 minutes at a time before he starts protesting), then my giant countertop serves another key purpose – babysitting.

Apparently, Baby Huff loves being in the kitchen as much as his momma.  And while he is not nearly big enough to start cooking (he can’t even hold up his own head yet), he does seem to enjoy watching me cook.  When I was pregnant I was not sure how I would keep up with all of my baking once the baby came.  I still can’t get as much done as before (as to be expected), but some days I am surprised on what I can actually accomplish.  So on days where I am making something fairly quick and simple, like this Chia Banana Bread, I just pop Baby H in his infant seat and put him right on top of the counter – literally baking with baby.  Now that he’s been working on his eye contact and smiles, both of us are pretty happy with this situation.

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On another note, my husband and I are banana buddies.  I love them when they are still partially green and Brett likes them slightly spotted.  So when we buy a bunch, I eat my portion, and whatever I don’t finish, Brett gladly takes over.  And in the instances that neither of us get around to eating the bananas before they turn brown, then we have banana bread.  With a new baby around and our meals being less-planned as I would normally have it, these bananas were destined for this Chia Banana Bread.  I’ve been doing my best to keep up with meal prep and planning, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.  And when things don’t work out as planned, sometimes you end up with something way better than you intended – again, like this Chia Banana Bread.

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With chia, honey, and yogurt, this banana bread is super moist and flavourful.  I don’t know if “healthy” really describes it, but the alternative flours and sugars make me feel a little bit better about eating it for breakfast.  So, when your bananas go bad and you are looking for something to whip up with one eye on your baby, this recipe is for you!  Serve with whipped butter and extra honey, if desired.

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Chia Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • oats for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare loaf pan and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, including the brown sugar, and set aside.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, mash the bananas.
  4. Stir in the honey, oil, eggs, vanilla, and yogurt until combined.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and top with oats, if desired.
  7. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until done and a wooden skewer inserted in to the center comes out clean.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/03/18/chia-banana-bread/