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Wow!  Thank you all for the well wishes and support on my 2nd blog birthday!  I’ve enjoyed reading all of your comments and have been reminded once again why I enjoy blogging.   Heart = Full.  Thank you!

As promised, I am sharing the recipe for the delicious cake inside the pretty buttercream exterior.  Cocoa Cannoli Cake with mini chips.

What happens when you have a Costco-sized tub of ricotta that is nearing its expiration date?  Throw it in everything you can!  I absolutely love putting ricotta on toasted bread to make sweet and savoury crostini.  My favourite is to top it with a drizzle of honey, a pinch of salt, and some fruit.  Grilled or broiled fruit it the best!  From pears and plums to roasted apricots and even grapes – your topping options are endless.  And for a heartier, more savoury option – there is always prosciutto.  Yum!!  Well, in a small effort to be a bit healthier, I stopped buying my weekly baguette (yes, I still eat cake and sweets, so how can I really expect to be “healthier” you ask?  It’s all about finding balance somewhere hehe).  Without my beloved bread to top my ricotta with, I needed to find alternative uses for the stuff.

To me, ricotta doesn’t taste too cheesy.  It does have some tang to it, but hardly any more than buttermilk or sour cream – both usual suspects in my cake recipes.  I figured, why not swap in some ricotta as the dairy for a new cake?  And, success!  The ricotta created an extremely moist and tender crumb, but still sturdy enough to suspend handfuls of mini chips.  I decided to turn this ricotta cake into a cannoli cake by adding in some mini chocolate chips and pairing it with a super creamy filling.  I added a bit of cocoa powder to a luscious mascarpone-cream cheese filling to slather between layers of ricotta chip cake.  The cocoa cuts some of the sweetness but keeps the slight tang that makes cream cheese frosting soooo good.  I’m telling you, this might be the very best tasting cake I have made yet!

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I am not usually one to shy away from trying out new pastries, accepting most recipes as a challenge.  However, I really don’t see myself making homemade cannoli any time soon (I’m not great when it comes to frying things), so I am glad my tastebuds and belly can be satisfied with this cake version.  Perhaps one day I will tackle the Italian treat!  But for now, this cake:

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Cocoa Cannoli Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1/2 stick)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone, softened
  • Vanilla buttercream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour four 6-inch baking pans.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add in the butter and mix until light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes).
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla, zest (if using), and egg yolks - one at a time.
  6. Add the ricotta and mix until combined.
  7. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
  8. With the mixer on low, add in half of the dry ingredients. Stream in the milk while the mixer is still running.
  9. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  10. Stop the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.
  11. Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
  12. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
  13. For the filling, place the 4 tablespoons butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth.
  14. Carefully add in the sugar, coco, and vanilla and mix on low until just combined.
  15. Turn mixer up the medium and mix until smooth.
  16. Stop the mixer and fold in the mascarpone until combined.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/06/30/cocoa-cannoli-cake/

Assembly: Evenly distribute the cocoa cream filling between the layers of cake and frost with your favourite vanilla buttercream.  Be sure to check out my tutorial for the buttercream flower crown!

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It’s a Happy Blog Birthday!  I might be off by a few days, but Style Sweet CA is now 2 years old.  It seems like just last week, yet also so long ago at the same time, that I started this space for sharing my food thoughts, photography, and recipes.  I always had a blog to accompany my old bakery, The Frosted Cake Shop, but it was more for posting custom cake photos, seasonal menus, and a recipe here and there.  Not until two years ago did I finally have a space that was easy to use, showed off my photography, and kept me motivated and encouraged to share more and more.  Once what was just my portfolio-turned-Style Sweet CA got a huge face lift in June 2013 by the lovely ladies over at Wooden Spoons Kitchen, things really started to take off.

I am very proud of this little space and how it measures up in the vast world of food blogs.  It has connected me with many different bloggers around the world, has helped me book more and more freelance projects, and was a big asset in securing my book deal.  No, the blog is not always perfect.  And yes, I do fall behind from time to time.  But in my defense, half of the time I have either been pregnant, working on my book, and/or caring for a newborn.  If I can reach and (hopefully) inspire so many people already, just think what the future holds!  Or at least that is the plan =)  So thank you, Style Sweet CA, and an even bigger THANK YOU for all of you that support it!

Is it weird that I just thanked my own blog?  Oh well!  Hehe.

Anyways, to celebrate, I created this buttercream beauty.  I missed the blog-birthday last year, so I am making up for it with an original cake design and new cake recipe!  If you have stuck with me on this journey, or have just jumped on board, then this cake if for you.  Seriously though, I really appreciate you all stopping by, sharing your comments, and hopefully recreating some of my recipes and making them your own.  Let’s party!!

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When I first started decorating cakes back around 2007, fondant was all the rage.  I took a Wilton buttercream course with mom at a local Michaels (raise your hand if you did too!), but other than that – I didn’t really bother learning how to use buttercream beyond frosting a smooth cake or piping a couple different borders (I missed one class and I actually didn’t get my Wilton certificate – haha.  I also got in trouble for working ahead, lol).  Even over the four years that I ran The Frosted Cake Shop I did not once make a single buttercream rose.

Some odd years later, and it definitely looks like buttercream is coming back in all the right ways.  With more and more home bakers and DIY-ers making their own cakes these days, cakes made without special equipment and ingredients are becoming very popular.  When I proposed the idea for my book about layer cakes, that was pretty much my mission statement: to make inspiring cakes for home-bakers to professionals to bake and decorate without fondant and extra tools.   With just an offset spatula and some piping tips, you’d be amazed at the designs you can create.  Just look around the Web and you’ll see what I am talking about.

Buttercream flowers might be cheesy and/or old-fashioned, but they too are making a comeback.  While they once only appeared on grocery-store sheet cakes, buttercream flowers really can be quite beautiful. Using the right color palette and incorporating more contemporary flowers, buttercream flowers can make a cake shabby chic to even modern these days.

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I would not consider myself an expert on piping flowers (yet), but after a few hours of practice I was able to create enough for the design I had in mind.  I love watercolor and ombre buttercream cakes, but I wanted to create a cake that looked more like an acrylic painting.  Cake as edible art – that’s my philosophy! With the cake and smooth buttercream finish as my canvas, I wanted to add on buttercream to create my design.  With other cakes, I’ve blended the buttercream to create the effect that I wanted, but for this cake, I wanted texture.  Keeping the final coat of buttercream smooth and cold, I was able to “paint” on my buttercream.  As shown, I painted on shades of green to emulate grass to accompany the flower crown on the top of the cake.  For the flower crown, I piped out various sizes and shades of traditional roses, frilly carnations, and (what I think look like) English roses.  Instead of using a traditional grass green and other classic colors, I kept the cake looking fresh and contemporary with sage-like and lime greens, corals, blush pink, and even a mauve color.   Extra “grass” buttercream was used to create leaves to fill in the gaps between the flowers.

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Unfortuntly, this post will not contain a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the flowers.  However, I did snap some pics of the assembly and would love to share some tips and tricks on how I put it all together.

For the “grass,” first start with a perfectly smooth buttercream “canvas.”  Keep the cake chilled until ready to go.  Using a small palette knife or off-set spatula, dab on a few, small globs of buttercream near the bottom of the cake.  Using a clean palette knife, gently pull the frosting up the side of the cake.  Each stroke should be different – creating variety with texture and height.

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Continue around the cake, using one color at a time.  Using a second color of buttercream, go back over and repeat – trying not to blend too much.

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One key step that I did not initially realize when creating elaborate buttercream flower cakes is you can make and chill all of the flowers before assembly.  So much easier than trying to transfer them straight to the cake, right?  Pipe out all of the your flowers on individual parchment squares and chill in the refrigerator.  This way, the buttercream will harden slightly – making them SO much easier to handle and arrange on the cake.

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Before placing the flowers straight on top of the cake, pipe a thick ring of plain buttercream around the top of the cake – about  1/2″ from the edge and about 1″ tall.  This ring of buttercream will give you something to stick the flowers on, so they are not flat on top of the cake.  Working quickly but deliberately (the more you handle the flowers, the more they may smudge or be ruined) begin placing them on the cake.  Simply use your palette knife or spatula to life the flower off of the parchment and place on the cake.  The flowers should be placed on an angle around the cake.  Fill in any gaps by piping leaves in between.  Ta-da, right?!?

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All of the flowers were made with just a petal tip (Wilton 104, I believe).  I actually started with just one peachy color of buttercream, and kept adding more orange, white, and then fuchsia to create the different colors of flowers.  For the greens, I used avocado, electric green, a bit of leaf green, and some yellow.

I will admit – the flowers are HARD!  Or they can be.  I made dozens before I was satisfied with the ones I deemed worthy enough to go on the cake.  There are tons of how-to videos around the web that show to make buttercream flowers if you want to check them out.  I used my Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I believe a buttercream made with shortening might be easier to work with, but it was not worth the sacrifice in flavor for me.  To be honest, the SMBC left some of the edges of the petals slightly frayed, but I was able to smooth them out with the tip of my finger once they had chilled in the refrigerator.  It really came down to the temperature of the buttercream – not too cold but definitely not too warm, or the petals lost their shape.

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What do you think?  Is buttercream here to stay?  If so, I’m gonna need some more practice, hehe.

Once again, THANK YOU for continuing to support Style Sweet CA!  I can’t wait to see what this next year has to offer.  For starters, the recipe for this cake: Cocoa Cannoli Chip!   Coming next week.  Sooo good – you won’t want to miss it!

As I mentioned a couple posts back, I really want to get back to creating more tutorials and cake “projects” for you all.  You know, stylish and sweet treats!  If you remember the perfectly smooth ombre cake and watermelon cake tutorials from last summer, then you know what I mean.  I’ve always viewed cake as art, and it is due time that I break down one of my “masterpieces.”  Okay, masterpiece might be a stretch for this one, but you get what I am saying =)

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This unassuming, little party cake is cute and frilly on its own.  But what you can’t tell on the outside is that there is a party going on underneath that fluffy layer of frosting.  Last year I introduced you to the vertical layer cake, and this summer calls for something new.  Not layers, but Checkerboard!

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No, I did not go out and purchase a special pan for this (although I think one does exist) – and no, I didn’t painstakingly cut out each identical, little cube.  Believe it or not, this Checkerboard Cake is actually way easy to make!  All you need is the color palette of your choice, a couple layers of each color/flavor, and some basic, round cookie cutters.  Simple as that!

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Find out how I put this anything-but-ordinary, geometric cake together over on Brit.Co!

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Vancouver is one of the best cities I have ever visited, and I am so thankful that I get to live here.  What I love about this city is that it seamlessly incorporates a metropolitan, International city with beautiful urban parks, a glistening coastline, and majestic mountains – just 15 minutes away.  We live in a quieter, more quant neighbourhood that I adore and somehow I still get a sense of home-iness amongst the high-rises and tourists.  And while real estate is steep and we may never have a yard (at least not while living in the city), this city offers so much just outside of my doorstep that I don’t know if I will ever give it up.

I’ve always had this dream of being walking-distance to a Farmer’s Market and taking my children there on the weekends to get them excited about fresh, local food.  Just a couple week ago, that dream was fulfilled.  Living in the city not only plants me right in the middle of some of my favourite restaurants, but also a few blocks away from the bounty of our local farmers.  And while Baby Huff doesn’t even have teeth yet, I embraced the opportunity to take him to the season opening of the West End Farmer’s Market and soaked in every second.  He even bought be a beautiful bouquet of peonies =)

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The second thing that I was most excited about was that the opening of the market was also the start of berry season.  Hallelujah!!  It is finally here!!!  Until this time of year, I scope out the weekly berries at the grocery store, usually either too stingy to pay their hefty price tag or less than enthused about their quality.  But not these summer months!  I spotted basket after basket of perfect strawberries.  You know, the cute little ones – still with their stems and in funky different shapes.  Like juicy rubies – just awaiting their fate.  I definitely see many strawberry tarts and treats in my near future.

The frist thing I made with my first flat of strawberries of the season (yes, I went for the big basket) was this Strawberry Thyme Cake.  This cake boasts fresh, lively flavors and completely embodies the ease of summer.   wanted to create a cake that could equally be shared at a casual picnic in the late-afternoon shade as well as something stunning enough and unexpected to bring to a summer dinner party under the stars, and this beauty certainly delivers. With its unfrosted, “naked” sides and a wreath of fresh thyme, it is simple yet dramatic.  The addition of fresh herbs adds a bit of interest and a welcoming twist to otherwise basic flavors. 

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The cake itself is light and fresh, and totally one of those cakes that could be served with just some freshly whipped cream, berries, and icing sugar.  The use of ricotta cheese makes it extremely tender yet study enough to support the strawberry cheesecake filling I’ve paired it with in this combination.  The strawberry “cheesecake” filling is a lighter version of the heavy, super-sugary cream cheese frosting that we are usually accustomed to.  I’ve simply whipped in some softened cream cheese into silky meringue buttercream and stirred in some strawberry preserves.  For extra sweetness, freshness, and an element that takes this cake to the next level, each layer was generously brushed with a lemon-thyme simple syrup.  The cake was finished with only a thin crumb coat of frosting – allowing all the flavors to really shine and not be bogged down by too much sugar.  Plus, how much are we all loving gorgeous, naked cakes these days?!?!?

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Be sure to head on over to The Cake Blog for the recipe!

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I vowed 2015 to be the year that I got my blog a bit more streamlined, my portfolio in order, and my brand solidified.  Well, somehow it is almost halfway through the year (how did that happen??) and I can’t help feel a little behind.   While I have been freelancing again after my book/maternity leave, my personal work has been pushed to the back-burner a bit.  I’ve actually only had this blog for two years (as of next week), and I am pretty proud of how far it has come in just a short time (half of which I spent working on my book and being pregnant/having a newborn).  But alas, I still feel like this blog, my own little corner of the world-wide-web (do people still call it that?), needs some TLC.  My time is stretched so thin between editing the book, working on other assignments, and tending to a 4-month old – just think of how strong my own blog and brand could be if I spent half the time and energy I put into everything else on my own work?  Well, I must accept that life doesn’t really work that way.  I can’t return said 4-month old (nor would I ever dream of it), I love love my freelance work (getting a change to collaborate with other genius minds and challenge myself weekly to create bigger and better content), and every second I spend editing will only result in a better book (which will be in print, FOREVER).

However, the blog is still here.  I do post something weekly and I am still pumping out new recipes all the time.  This just means, I need to be a bit smarter about what I produce and refocus my content to really reflect why I started this whole thing in the first place: confident, creative baking and recipes  for all occasions.  Albeit sometimes time-consuming, I try to make all of my recipes approachable, innovative, and worthy of recreating in your own kitchens.  Isn’t that what it should be about?  If I am hitting “publish” on a post, the recipe or tutorial should either teach something new, give a twist on something familiar, show a different approach, or inspire its readers in one way or another.  If not, then it will get lost in the thousands of other recipes floating around the Internet.  While my brain is a mess of ideas, this blog doesn’t have to be.  It’s time to rein it in a bit, share only the recipes that really shine (and really work!), and create some awesome new content and original tutorials (since those seem to be some of y’alls favorites).

So let’s get back to it.  In the beginning of the year I started a few different series here on the blog.  One being “Baking with Baby.”  I thought it would be interesting to read about some of my new adventures while cooking and baking with a newborn in the house.  These recipes include dishes that are more family-friendly, meaning  1) using more wholesome ingredients  2) more “everyday” baking  and 3) recipes that I can easily throw together between naps or bake with baby around (I’m not talking the layer cakes and multi-component confections that I sometimes share).  I’ve had several posts under this category and thought this Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Torte would fit right in.

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This torte celebrates summer produce in the most delicious way.  Although, I actually first made it a few weeks ago when, to my surprise, I found rhubarb at the store.  Now that strawberries are at their peak, I bet this torte would be even better now and in the coming months.

This recipe was adapted from Izy’s Top With Cinnamon cookbook.  Hers is made with beautiful plums, but I substituted the stone fruit for vibrant, tart rhubarb and succulent strawberries.  One awesome thing about this recipe is that it is essentially a crustless tart – meaning, all the components enter the oven together at the same time and only one saucepan to clean.  These are the kinds of recipes I am looking for when I only have a small window to throw something tasty and fool-proof together.  Just dust with confectioner’s sugar and DONE!

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In addition, this torte is gluten free!  I am not against gluten or anything, but the ingredients that are used to substitute for white flour tend to be a bit healthier and add extra elements of flavour.  So while I am not likely to go completely gluten free, I do I like dishes that are just naturally so.  This Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Torte is made up of – you guess it, almonds.  Similar to a frangipane, the base is a mixture of almond meal, ground oats, browned butter,  golden sugar, and maple syrup. Are you salivating yet?  The flavours come together amazingly, and the alternative flours and sweeteners make me feel a little less guilty serving it to my family, even for breakfast – hehe. (be sure to use gluten-free oats to be truly without gluten)

One other reason for making this torte was for the dramatic rhubarb starburst on top.  I used this torte in a discussion all about top-down food photography.  Be sure to check it out over on Food Bloggers of Canada!

Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Torte

Ingredients

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup golden or light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 2 stalks rhubarb, cut into thin strips, 4-5" in length
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 10-inch round springform pan with parchment.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Continue to cook on high until the butter appears foamy and the bits at the bottom of the pan begin to turn brown.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugars and maple syrup.
  4. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, and almond extract.
  5. Stir in the salt, baking powder, ground almonds, and oat flour until the batter is smooth.
  6. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Top the batter with the sliced strawberries, pressing them in slightly.
  8. Pour the remaining batter of top of the strawberries and gently smooth out with an offset spatula.
  9. Creating a starburst pattern, fan out the strips of rhubarb - being careful that they do not fully submerge.
  10. Bake for about 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown.
  11. Let cool on a wire rack before removing the torte from the pan.
  12. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/06/10/strawberry-rhubarb-almond-torte/

 

 

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Peanut Butter and chocolate are like the King and Queen of decadent, sinful desserts.  And while I love me some peanut butter, it is about time to de-throne the ever popular, nutty treat.  Enter tahini.  Smooth, sesame goodness! It’s not too sweet, but full of flavor and recipe-developing potential.  Tahini is not a new ingredient, but the concept of incorporating the sesame paste into dessert might a first for some.  I’ve paired tahini with matcha before and naturally turned to chocolate for my second tahini-inspired dessert.  And boy did it not disappoint.  Whoa – good call, Tessa! I’m usually pretty modest about my creations, but these were like, reeealllyy good.

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I don’t usually post on the weekend, but I’ve been sitting on this recipe for over a week since our dinner party and I can’t wait any longer to share it.  I am always looking to either wow or surprise my friends and family with new recipes and treats that they have never tried before.  This usually means creating an original dish or paring unexpected flavors together.  Since I was already serving a blueberry almond tart, I wanted the second dessert to 1) be something chocolatey 2) be something rich 3) be something easy to serve (like a bar dessert) 4) be something my guests had never tried before.  My first thought was obviously brownies – since brownies easily cover my first three criteria.  I decided on my favorite browned-butter brownies from the Date Night In cookbook as the first layer.  In the book, they are frosted with a fluffy peanut butter frosting – but since was looking to full-fill criteria #4 and continue my mission of passing the torch from pb to tahini, I found it to be the perfect opportunity to make a creamy tahini frosting.  Plus, a third layer of dark chocolate ganache with extra sea salt, because – why not?  And what is a layered dessert without three layers of equally drool-worthy, mind-blowing components?

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Yes, three layers might be a bit much, and sure – these brownies were just about the richest dessert I have ever made, but they were totally worth the effort, calories, and even extra dishes.  Plus, you know I’ve got my Cascade Platinum on my side to help cover that last one.  You might be thinking – what, no cake?  Not this time. For this event, I decided to stray from my go-to layer cakes and try out something a little more simple.  Okay, I just went on and on how these brownies are anything but simple, but I am referring now to preparation and serving rather than flavour.  Layer cakes can be quite labor intensive, and since I’ve been giving tips and tricks on how to make life easier when throwing a dinner party, it’s been all about ways to save some time and unnecessary work while making the flavors the stars.  These triple-layer brownies come together in one baking pan and are super simple to store and serve.  They may be even be made a few days ahead of time (covered and stored in the refrigerator) – just wait to garnish with the salt until after coming out of the refrigerator.  Heck, I even froze a few leftovers and they still tasted amazing a week later!

You can find Ashley Rodriguez’s Bittersweet Brownie Recipe here.  Also, you should probably go get her book, Date Night In, too.

Triple-Layer Tahini Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe browned-butter brownies
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • sea salt for garnishing

Instructions

  1. Make the brownies in an 8" X 8" cake tin, lined with parchment. Let cool on a wire, but keep in the pan.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
  3. Add in the tahini and cream together.
  4. With the mixer on low, add in the sugar, salt, cinnamon, milk, and vanilla. Mix on medium-low until smooth and creamy.
  5. Evenly spread the tahini frosting on top of the cooled brownies. Chill in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, make the chocolate ganache frosting.
  7. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof mixing bowl and set aside.
  8. Place the butter and cream in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high until the butter melts and cream begins to simmer.
  9. Pour over the chocolate. Let stand 20 seconds then whisk to combine.
  10. Evenly spread the chocolate over the chilled tahini frosting.
  11. Place in the refrigerator to set.
  12. Once set, remove the entire uncut brownie but using the edges of parchment to lift it out of the pan. Cut and serve with sea salt.
  13. If making in advance, keep in the pan. Cover with foil and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Let come to room temperature before eating.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/05/31/triple-layer-tahini-brownies/

I hope you enjoyed all the recipes from my #sparklingclean dinner party over the past weeks.  The triple-layer tahini brownies were the way perfect to end the night.  A grande finale, if you will.

And don’t forget to use Cascade Platinum as your encore!

Disclosure: this post is in partnership with Cascade.  All opinions are my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Style Sweet CA running

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I firmly stand by the notion that not all pastries need to be sweet.  I am guilty of overlooking such savory beauties from time to time and could always use a reminder that not all baked goods need to be sugar-clad to be delicious.  With the amount of baking I do, it is nice (for my palette and waist-line) to switch it up.  While the majority of the items that come out of my oven are sweet, they rarely serve as a proper meal.  I do love the idea of dessert for every meal, but it probably is not very realistic.  Seasonal vegetables and herbs provide tons of flavour and create equally delicious dishes, especially when paired with flakey, buttery crusts.  So, if you want to increase your baking game but are running out of hours of the day where eating sweets is deemed acceptable, then try out some savory pastries that can be enjoyed at any meal.

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Last weekend, I hosted a casual yet intimate dinner party out on our patio.  I wanted to utilize all of the abundance of summer produce and make veggies the stars of my dishes.  I decided to use vine-ripe tomatoes and organic zucchini (the epitome of summer vegetables) and turn them both into super-flavorful, sumer tarts.  They were easy to prepare, were a little unexpected, and packed a big punch of fresh flavour – all things I look for when creating a dinner party menu.

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Flakey Tomato Tart with garlic, oregano, and parmesan:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 large garlic clove, minced into a paste
good olive oil
3-4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
salt + pepper
fresh oregano
parmesan for grating

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place the puff pastry sheet on top of the parchment.  Score the inside of the puff pastry, about 1/2″ in from the edges, with a paring knife – keeping carful not to cut all the way through.  Prick the inside portion (all over) with the tines of a fork.

Mince the garlic. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and smear it against a cutting board with the side of the blade of a knife to make a paste.  Mix with a few tablespoons olive oil and brush in the inside surface of the pastry dough.

In a single layer, arrange the tomato slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a touch more olive oil.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Sprinkles with fresh oregano and grated parmesan before serving.

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Zucchini Galette with herby cream cheese and fresh dill

1 pie crust
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
salt + pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, of your choice
2-3 zucchinis, sliced on the bias, 1/4″ thick
good olive oil
1 egg yolk + splash milk
more herbs (I used fresh dill) for garnishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Roll out pie crust to about 12″ in diameter and place on top of the parchment.

Mix together the cream cheese and chopped herbs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread on the cream cheese mix, leaving a 1″ boarder around the edge.

Starting from the outside, fan out the zucchini slices in concentric circles, ending in the middle.  The slices should overlap slightly between the rows.

Drizzle the top with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Fold up the edges of the pie dough around the zucchini and press to seal.

Mix the egg yolk and milk together.  Brush on the folded portion of the pie dough.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving.

In trying to make things even easier for myself, I used my secret ingredients, Cascade Platinum, when it came to clean-up.  I partnered up with My Cascade to create a sparkling clean dinner party, and let me tell you, this stuff really works.  Don’t make things more difficult than they need to be – make some simple, savory summer tarts and use some Cascade Platinum.  Instant dinner party success!  You’re welcome!

Disclosure: this post is in partnership with Cascade.  All opinions are my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Style Sweet CA running.

 

 

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When I was single and in my early twenties my idea of perfect summer entertaining was a BBQ in the backyard.  Now that I am a bit older, those get togethers have turned into dinner parties.  Okay, that may seem completely bougie and pretentious of me to say, but I swear they can be just as fun and totally feasible.  For me, it just means that I’ve exchanged the paper plates for proper dishes and real utensils.  Might as well put all that stemware we got from our wedding to use, right?  Hosting, even with disposable plates and the occasional red, plastic cup, seems daunting, messy, and time consuming in it self.  Throw in extra dishes to wash and you’ll be wishing you’d just made a reservation.  Am I right?  Wrong!  I’ve teamed up with Cascade Platinum and Chef Michael Smith to share some tips and tricks for hosting your own dinner party that you can actually enjoy.

I love to feed others, yet hosting events always makes me a bit anxious.  Will I have enough food?  Will everything be ready on time?  How am I supposed to entertain while doing a million things at once? How can I appear cool, calm, and collected when the kitchen is a mess?  Thankfully, I never host alone and usually prepare a game plan well in advanced.  For this dinner party I implemented a few of my own hosting “rules” to create a rustic yet elegant night with family and friends.

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Hosting A Better Dinner Party:

1) Be yourself: Let the food and decor reflect you.

One of the easiest things you can do for yourself is to just be you.  Just because we are calling it a “dinner party” that doesn’t have to mean a 5-course meal on your finest china.  For me, this means cooking approachable food that still tastes great and creating an intimate yet comfortable environment so guests can relax.  For the food, there is nothing wrong with “simple” as long as it tastes good and looks appetizing.  I’ve learned the hard way not to cook complicated dishes that I have never tried out before when having company over.  Instead, I use fresh flavors that really speak for themselves and dishes that don’t have a lot of working parts – more things that are ready to be eaten straight-out-of-the-oven, or with just a few garnishes.  For the the decor, I like to use my eclectic taste – more of an excuse to use a mix-mash of serving dishes and not worrying about having enough matching place settings.  Some planning and coordinating is still involved, but it is a lot less stressful than worrying about which utensils go with which plates and so on.

For this event in particular, I decide to entertain out on the patio.  With the sun not setting until nearly 9pm these days and all my new spring flowers and foliage looking fantastic out there, why not take advantage of the fresh air and abundance of natural light?

2) Planning: Make-ahead recipes and short-cuts

Building off of what I already mentioned about the food, make a plan and find ways to cut yourself a break.  Choosing recipes that can be made ahead of time or those with ingredients than can be store-bought will save you time, energy, and sanity.  For this event, I wanted to make sweet and savory tarts.  Puff pastry is one ingredient that I always buy from the freezer section without shame, so finding a tart recipes using it puts me ahead of schedule.  For the other tarts using a basic pie crust, I made it in advance – but you could also use store-bought for an even short(er)-cut.  Since I like to incorporate fresh, seasonal ingredients, I would rather spend my time making the produce the star and cutting back elsewhere when applicable.  Try one-pot meals for the main dish!  Or better yet, try a recipe that requires not cooking/baking at all like Chef Michael Smith’s Salt-and-Pepper Melon for an appetizer (like I did) – tons of flavor with hardly any work at all!  All in all, the more you can prep (let it be food, your table setting, your playlist), the more time you will have later to enjoy with your guests.

Spend time to save time – as Smith says.

3) Easy Clean-Up

Between my husband Brett and I, we’ve developed a system where we share the roles of entertaining the guests, finishing up the food, and clean-up.  It can be hard to maintain everything at the same time while trying to enjoy your guests, so having someone to help out is really helpful.  However, now that there is a baby involved, we had to reconsider some of our ways.  The dirty dishes were one of the things we were able to compromise on, and instead of cleaning as we go, they were all saved for after the guests left.  Cue our third host/secret ingredeint, Cascade Platinum, to help get all those dishes sparkling clean again.  Not only did we not have to clean as the party was happening or worry about the food that continued to cake on as we put the baby to bed, but there was no pre-rinse required so these tired parents could get to sleep in no time while MyCascade did all the work.

Just because we have a baby, I d0 not want to stop doing some of the things I truly love, like cooking for loved ones and entertaining.  And now that our time and energy is split up even more, it really is the simple things like an easy clean up or 10 minutes saved that I would normally spend on pre-rinsing dishes that really make it possible.

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I will be sharing more recipes later this week of the dishes I create for the dinner party.  And remember those Blueberry Frangipane Tarlets?  Those were there too.  For now, enjoy this appetizer and drink recipe:

[Edited: For Savory Summer Tart Recipes click here]

Salt-and-Pepper Melon:
from Michael Smith’s ‘Family Meals’

Slice ripe cantaloupe into wedges.  Place on a serving plate and drizzle with good olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh lime zest.

So simple, right?  Bold yet unexpected flavors – exactly how I like to entertain.

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Earl Grey Lavender Soda
serves 4 – recipe can be doubled

8 tablespoons Earl Grey Tea
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons culinary lavender
Club soda or sparkling water

1) Place 2 cups of water plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.  Add in the Earl Grey Tea and steep over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Remove the tea and continue to reduce the liquid down to about a 1/2 cup.  Remove from heat and let cool.

2) Meanwhile, place the remaining sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add in the lavender.  Continue to cook on low for about 10 minutes, or until syrupy.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cool, strain out the lavender.

3) To make one drink, place ice in a small tumbler.  Stir in about 2 tablespoons tea syrup and 1 tablespoons lavender syrup.  Top with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup soda or sparkling water.

Serve with sliced lemon, if desired.

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Disclosure: this post is in partnership with Cascade.  All opinions are my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Style Sweet CA running.

 

 

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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!!