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This Pina Colada Cake is like a dreamy, creamy cocktail on a plate.  With extra coconut cream cheese frosting on the side.  It is what’s been missing from making this the best summer ever.  Paradise Found!  You’re welcome =)

Made with brown sugar and real pineapple (think, roasted pineapple – yum!), and just enough rum to spice things up a bit, two super-moist layers of cake are sandwiched and then smothered with the most delectable coconut cream cheese frosting and a blanket of snowy coconut..  And even despite my disdain for the texture of shredded coconut, I am in love with this cake.  That there says a lot.

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We all know the five senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing, but have you ever thought about how they apply to food?  With taste being the most obvious, the others do play an important roll in how we eat and taste different dishes.  Without getting too technical on you all, let’s briefly discuss – shall we?

Smell might be almost as equally important as taste.  And many will argue that the two have everything to do with each other.  Ever wonder why you can’t hardly taste your food when you have a cold?  A stuffed-up nose =no smell= no flavour.

Following closely behind taste and smell is sight- or what the food looks like.  Does it make your mouth water just by looking at a photo?  Or does it look bland and boring?  After all, we “eat’ with our eyes first – especially in the food blog world where a photo of a dish speaks a thousand words and is what probably gets one to try a certain recipe in the first place.

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It took me a moment to think about how hearing really applies – besides the ding of the microwave telling you that your food is hot.  However, there is a lot more listening involved, whether we are conscious of it or not.  The sound of bubbling soup signals us to lower the heat to a simmer, the sizzling sound of fajitas brought right to the table means I’ll have to wash the grilled pepper and chicken small out of my hair, and the crack of a spoon diving into the crunchy top layer of a creme brûlée will make me smile every time.

Then there is touch – or how the food feels: temperature and texture.  It’s the difference between me loving a hot bowl of tomato soup but not being able to stomach a cold gazpacho.  For me, one of the worst offenders has got to be shredded coconut.  I love the flavor of coconut, but the texture is like an assault on my mouth.  It is impossible to really chew and my tongue always seems to be able to search  it out of any baked good it tries to hide in.  With that being said, this Pina Colada Cake must be exceptional for me to down a slice.

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And I did.  A few, in fact.

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Head on over to Brit + Co. for the recipe!

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Somewhere along the line I decided that Friday is a bad day for posting on the blog.  You want to know what a worse day than Friday really is?  Never – as in not posting at all.  I typically find it hard to schedule posts in advance – getting caught up in the day-to-day, and frequently run out of time to post all that I have to share each week.  I decided to revisit the idea of doing an end-of-the-week blog post, and – well, here we are.  Friday sounds like the perfect day to get caught up with all you lovely readers, share some of my recipes and freelance work that were published that week, and visit some of my favourite reads and recipes from around the web.  Sound good to you?  Great!  But first, let me nerd-out about salt….

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“Nerd-out” she says?  What does it really mean to be a nerd these days?  My husband, Brett, has a degree in mathematics, is currently studying to become a video game programmer, and spends his free time reading comics books.  Is he a nerd?  Probably, but I don’t think the term exclusively applies to science geeks and superhero fans anymore.  Being a nerd doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how smart you are, but how fanatical one is about a certain topic – in my opinion.  When one has an almost unhealthy obsession with something or deep knowledge of a particular subject.  Where my brother gets excited about restoring old photography equipment with his friends and where Brett has been studying ESPN’s ranking of all the NFL players in order to do well in his Fantasy Football league (he likes sports just as much as he likes numbers and the X-Men), I am admittedly a food nerd.  Oh wait, does that make me a foodie?  lol.

It’s pretty clear that I have an interest in sweets – hence this blog. I love baking them, photographing them, writing about them, and – of course, eating them.  But the real truth is, I love everything about all kinds of food.  I am enamoured by it.  Obsessed with it.  I spend most of my waking hours meal planning, discovering new local eats, and keeping up with food news.  I even have my favourite food podcasts that I play for Baby Huff when trying to get him down for a nap!  One peek into my kitchen, and you’d know what I mean.

As I type this, I currently have about a half-dozen different sugars, flours, and grains ready to be cooked with for any occasion.  My tea collection takes up an entire shelf and I could probably open up my own spice shop with my over-flowing stash.  Just the other day Brett asked me why I had five different types of salt.  Well, my dear husband, because I need them all!

There’s your fine grain Kosher salt – that I typically use for baking.  There’s your coarse sea salt – that I keep close to the stove for tossing into pretty much anything that I am cooking.  There’s your Maldon flake salt – because it’s only the best salt EVER and perfect for finishing a dish.  There’s your fleur de sel – for when I am feeling fancy.  And then there’s your flavoured salt – for anything from seasoning grilled meats, turning into a dry rub, rimming a cocktail glass, and sprinkle over fresh fruits and veggies.

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I’m sure I missed a few (like Himalayan pink salt!), but you get the idea =)  Be sure to head on over to The Kitchn for all my seasoning salt recipes, including: Herby Lemon Salt, Espresso Pepper Salt, Raspberry Peppercorn Salt, and Herbes de Provence Salt – plus, the best way to use them all summer long.

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Who’s up for making some DIY Seasoning Salts this weekend?  If not, then here are some awesome food reads from the week:

  • Brooke’s honest and humbling reflection on a not-so-perfect cake (we’ve all been there!) and these amazing Caramel Cracker Jack Cupcakes on Chocolate and Marrow.
  • Make a pie and win a house!
  • 10-second tart dough?  Better get that summer stone fruit ready.
  • This soft serve hack that you can DIY at home from Big Gay Ice Cream.
  • Michelle’s Blueberry Custard Tart from Hummingbird High, because I bet I’m not the only one with tons of blueberries in my fridge this time of year.

Happy Weekend!!

 

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There is no phrase that I hate more than to “think outside the box.”  The saying is so unoriginal, that using it completely negates the entire idea.  Is there not a more creative way to say “Be creative” ?  But what happens when creative borders on crazy?  This cake just might be the answer.

I’ll admit, I got a little carried away with this cake.  When you make cake after cake, sometimes you just got to flex your creative muscles and throw together something totally out of the ordinary (or at least what is ordinary to you.)  Sometimes I just have to get it out of my system and hope for the best.  In a way, I gathered up a few different things I’ve been wanting to try out and threw them back onto one cake.  Some may think of it as a total mess – incomprehensibly tossed together.  I like to think of it as art.  And as we all know, art can’t be wrong – right?  Haha.

There is definitely a trend going on down-under.  Australian bakers are all about the abstract these days, and it is definitely spreading world-wide.  From cake makers like Katherine Sabbath and Nikki Lee of UnBirthday, to all the  Cakes by Cliff, their one-of-a-kind creations are dripping with technicolor glazes, meringue and sugar sculptures, and vibrant edible flowers and candies.  Each of their cakes are unique and more over-the-top than the next.  You might think the end product would be a total disaster by my description, but I think they are gorgeous!  This cake was definitely inspired by these pastry “artists.”

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This Lavender Blackberry Cake has a bit of everything going on.  From the watercolour frosting to the abstract shards of honeycomb, it’s pretty far from your typical yellow birthday cake with fudge frosting.  Since I was going for a more contemporary, artsy vibe – the rustic, watercolour frosting seemed like a great place to start.  I wanted to create a flavourful blackberry frosting, but was struggling to mix in enough of the blackberry to get the flavor I wanted before the frosting became un-frostable (yes, I think I just made up a word, but stick with me).  Instead on creating a smooth icing finish, I gave the cake a thin layer of buttercream before swirling on the blackberry frosting on top in a spackel-like fashion.  The outside actually mimics the filling layers – where I created a blackberry ripple of cream cheese frosting and blackberry preserves.  Instead of trying to force enough of the blackberry into the cream cheese before it curdled, I placed a few dollops on top and gave it a big swirl with an offset spatula to create a ripple of berry goodness.

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I’ve been wanting to make homemade honeycomb for a while now, and felt inspired to use shards of the hand-broken candy to top my cake.  I love the added crunch it gives to each bite, the subtle honey taste, and the beautiful golden color made the finished cake POP.  I off-sett the honeycomb with fresh blackberries, culinary lavender, and called it a day.

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What do you think of this new crop of contemporary cakes?  Creative or down-right crazy?  I like to think we all have a little crazy in us, and it’s nice to let it out from time to time =)

Head on over to Brit + Co. for the recipe and full step-by-step tutorial!

 

 

 

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It’s that time of year again – POPSICLE WEEK!!  I feel like I have been waiting all year for this after participating last year.  If you don’t already know about Popsicle Week, then here is the gist:  Billy of Wit and Vinegar devoted an entire week to popsicles, he gathered up all his blogger friends, we made the most tasty and innovative popsicles that we could think, and are sharing the recipes on our perspective platforms.  Pretty simple, right?  Things don’t have to be complicated to be amazing.  Be sure to head on over throughout the week and check out all the frozen creations!

Oh popsicles, we have such a love-hate relationship.  If I could just get over the fact that you are not indeed ice cream, we’d probably get along better.  But, I can’t have ice cream everyday.  And in an effort to make a treat that both beats the summer heat and is a bit healthier, I turn to popsicles.

However, popsicles certainly do have their own set of perks.  You don’t need an ice cream machine, they are so easy to make, and you can make almost any flavor imaginable.  From chocolatey fudgecicles if you are feely indulgent to fresh fruit juice for even breakfast, popsicles have got your back.

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But back to the love-hate part.  As a food photographer, I love a good challenge.  If not, I definitely have the wrong career.  I usually photograph cake – cakes that rarely move, topple over, or melt.  The perfect subject.  But, nothing compares to a gorgeous photograph of a sky-high burger, piping hot coffee with real steam, or a perfectly melting ice cream cone.  You know why?  It shows talent.  It shows that the photographer didn’t take a million shots since the subject could fall apart within minutes – meaning they got it within the first few frames.  So while sometimes I painstakingly take photos of the same cake from about a dozen different angles, it is a welcomed change and challenge to work with something that requires my A-game.  I am not sure if I brought it for these pops (more like my B-/C+), but I love to hate working with less than corporative subjects.  Cuz when you get it (the perfect pic), you feel like a superhero.  And then you do silly things like patting your own back or raising the roof (does anyone still do that besides me?).

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On to the recipe.  Coconut Cherry Chip.  It’s funny, I tend to make up a lot of my recipes by the way the ingredients sounds together.   The last recipe I made was a Cocoa Cannoli Cake, I’ve got a Blackberry Honeycomb Crunch Cake coming up, and was determined to come up with a recipe for my book based on the idea of a Gingerbread Coffee Toffee Cake – just because I liked the sound of it.  So was it cherry season that inspired these popsicles or my need for the title to have a good ring and I wanted to make them dairy-free by using coconut milk?  I honestly don’t remember, but these Coconut Cherry Chip Popsicles turned out delicious and that is all that counts.  Kind of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario.

What you do need to know it that these pops are pretty awesome.  I roasted up a bunch of cherries (so good on their own too!), combined them with a coconut cream-coconut yogurt mixture, and tossed in some mini chocolate chips.  Because the color of the roasted cherries turned out so beautifully, I wanted to create an ombre/tie-dye/watercolor effect.  I started by adding a little bit of the coconut mixture to the cherries, so the color lightened up as I went.  For the other half, I said forget it and mixed it all together.  Both tasted and looked awesome, so mix as you wish!

Coconut Cherry Chip Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups pitted, halved cherries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 10 ounces coconut cream
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut yogurt
  • mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss pitted, halved cherries in corn starch and sugar. Place in a roasting pan and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until the juices thicken.
  3. Combine the coconut cream and coconut yogurt. Sweeten with a couple teaspoons of roasted cherry syrup.
  4. Either mix all of the ingredients together, or gradually add the coconut mixture to the cherries for an ombre effect.
  5. Toss in mini chips as needed.
  6. Divide between about 6 popsicle molds and freeze until solid.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/07/14/coconut-cherry-chip-popsicles/

 

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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