Rose Chocolate Meringues.  Photo by Tessa Huff for The Kitchn.

Rose Chocolate Meringues. Photo by Tessa Huff for The Kitchn.

Hi everyone!  If you follow along with my social media, then you probably already know this.  But…. BAKING SCHOOL  is here!  One week into it, actually.

Over on my favourite food site, The Kitchn, my editors and I created a month-long baking and pastry program.  I wrote all of the content, while the rest of the team put together some amazing recipes, photos, videos, graphics, and more!  It is awesome and you should all join in!  Really, it’s not too late to sign up and you can make the recipes/do the “homework” at your leisure.

What is Baking School?
Baking School is 20 lessons in 20 days (running the entire month of October – although it may stay up online indefinitely).  Each week we discover a new ingredient and what role it plays in the pastry kitchen.  Then, we dive in and explore some staple recipes and baking methods using the ingredient of the week.  For example, next week is all about BUTTER.  We will learn how butter not only adds flavour, fat, and moistness to a recipe, but also how it is used to make cakes rise (through creaming) and pie crusts and croissants nice and flakey.  Sprinkled in are tips, tricks, recipes, videos, photos, and more to further your knowledge on each subject.  You’ll get some mini science lessons on how baking actually works, learn some new vocabulary and French techniques, and receive visual guides as well as written text (by me!) on all that you will ever need to know to bake anything from pate a choux to sourdough bread to awesome layer cakes (you all know that will be my favourite lesson, hehe).

Meringue.  Photo by Tessa Huff for The Kitchn.

Meringue. Photo by Tessa Huff for The Kitchn.

Here’s more of what I have to say about it…

“Have you ever dreamed of going to pastry school — in Paris, perhaps? Do you lust after show-stopping layer cakes? Do you desire the secrets of perfect chewy cookies? Are you contemplating the mysteries of a sourdough starter, or just wish you were a more adept and confident bread baker?

Now is your moment, because Baking School is coming to The Kitchn! It’s a free 20-day program to become a better baker. You can follow along at home, and it’s all happening here.

Baking School will take you beyond just recipes and lists of ingredients. Instead, over the course of 20 lessons in 20 days, we will be learning, discussing, and practicing all the fundamental techniques that make us better bakers.

We will touch on classic French pastry, bread baking, cake decorating, and more. You’ll walk through some of the swankiest types of baking to make you feel like you did indeed touch down in Paris, croissant in hand; but with plenty of helpful, practical basics as well, like bread, cookies, and those glorious layer cakes.

Not only will we explore a few dozen different pastries and baking methods, we will also take a peek at some of the science involved in turning dough and raw ingredients into tender pastries and delicious baked goods. We will be adding a few new words to your vocabulary (can we say pâte à choux and dorure?), taking a look at how things like egg proteins and gluten work, and even getting familiar with some friendly lactobacilli in the form of sourdough yeast.”

Have you signed up yet?  What are you waiting for?!  And tell your friends – Baking School for everyone!  Plus, it would probably be fun to play along with a buddy.  If not, I’ll be there.  Be sure to be tagging all of your creations with #kitchnbakingschool and leave me your questions/comments on each post.  While you can certainly do the assignments and make the recipes whenever you want, I will be doing my best to answer your questions at the end of each day.

Still not convinced?  I know – I dropped the ball and week 1 is already over…. Here is what you might have missed:

Meringue Kisses.  Photo by Tessa Huff for The Kitchn.

Meringue Kisses. Photo by Tessa Huff for The Kitchn.

Week 1 was all about EGGS!  We talked about different types of eggs, what they do when bakes, what happens when you whip the whites, etc.  So far, we made pate a choux (for cream puffs and eclairs), pastry cream, meringue, and soufflé!  I even made some rose + chocolate meringue cookies and a giant, cheesy soufflé to play along.

Still to come: butter (buttercream, pie and tart doughs, and puff pastry), yeast (everyday bread,  rich sweet dough – like cinnamon rolls and brioche! – sourdough, and croissants), and sugar (cookies, dessert sauces, cakes and cake decorating!!!!).  So head on over the The Kitchn and sign up!



I still have a hard time grasping the concept of celebrating Thanksgiving in October.  Now that we have an official Canadian living under our roof (Baby Huff), I better embrace it.  Somehow we are already deep into fall and I don’t even remember how we got here.  The leaves outside are turning the most beautiful fiery red and we’ve been forced to take out extra blankets and heavier sweaters.  Fall is my favourite, and I am so excited to share it with my little one (plus, he is soooo cute in his winter hat and sweat pants – hehe).


As most of us are, I am all about the pumpkin spice.  However, I know I am a grown-up now because I find PSL’s too sweet.  Yea, I have a baby and our last big purchase was a nice family couch, but I think this is the true test of adulthood, lol.  Instead, I took the lovely flavours of pumpkin spice and turned them into this creamy, sophisticated treat.

When developing new recipes, I usually start by incorporating seasonal ingredients, followed by paring different textures.  I have an affinity for custard desserts, and just knew the creaminess of pumpkin would blend perfectly into this rich no bake pumpkin pot de creme.  For a bit of crunch with each bite, crushed gingersnaps make for the perfect garnish for these little puddings.  Sweetened with a bit of maple syrup and subtly spiced with warm flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg, these no-bake, individual desserts are perfect for Thanksgiving or any other upcoming holiday get together.


So while I won’t be cooking up a full turkey with the works for just the three of us nor will I need to bake multiple pies and treats (although I’ll probably still want to), at least I know there will be something pumkin-y for my little family to celebrate with.  Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

 For the No Bake Pumpkin Pot de Creme
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1/2 cup crushed gingersnap cookies


Place heavy cream and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Whisking intermittently, heat over medium until the sugar dissolves and cream comes to a slight boil.  Remove from heat.

In a medium heat-safe bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolks.  Gradually temper in the heated cream mixture. Whisk to combine.  Pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the pumpkin, maple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Whisk until completely smooth or use an immersion blender for about 45-60 seconds until thoroughly combined.

Evenly distribute custard into 4-6 ramekins, jars, or other small serving dishes.  Refrigerate until set, about 2-3 hours.  Serve with crushed gingersnap cookies.


Caramel, toffee, butterscotch – I love it all!  Sweet and syrupy, they are the ooey-gooey drips of golden goodness that enrobe some of my favourite fall treats.  A drizzle of butterscotch on a pumpkin scone? Yes, please.  Anything apple smothered in lightly-salted caramel sauce?  Sounds like heaven.  But, have ever taken a moment to think about the difference between caramel and butterscotch and toffee?  Let’s take a closer look….

In general, anything caramel refers to cooked sugar.  In fact, you can make caramel in its purest form by simply boiling plain sugar on the stovetop.  Caramelizations happens in nearly all baked goods without us even thinking twice about it – creating more developed flavours and aiding to the gentle browning and tender crusts on the outside of everything from cakes to quick-breads.  To make caramel sauce, cream and sometimes a small amount of butter is added to granulated white sugar that has already been cooked to a medium-amber color.  From there, you can add in vanilla and salt, or even a splash of bourbon.  Trying infusing the cream with spices before hand for fall!

Butterscotch, on the other hand, is made primarily with brown sugar.  And as the name would indicate, a lot of the flavour comes from, you guessed it – Butter!  Butter and brown sugar are melted together.  To turn this into a sauce, cream is add before all the ingredients are then cooked together until the sauce thickens.   Contrary to the name, it is does not contain scotch, but  you may also flavour it with extracts, a dash of booze, and/or spices if you’d like.


Toffee vs. Butterscotch.  Now here is where I failed to get a straight answer.  They use pretty much the same ingredients.  However, if you bring the brown sugar + butter mixture to the hard crack stage, then it will turn into toffee candy as it cools.  So then what is toffee sauce?  Isn’t it just the same as butterscotch sauce?  Well, basically.

The main take-away?  Caramel is made with granulated sugar and must be cooked to a higher temperature.  (Note – I am talking mostly about the saucy, pourable caramel and butterscotch – not the candy.  Perhaps more on those in another post!).  Also, the longer it cooks and the darker the color, the deeper the flavour.


So what is the sauce that goes on Sticky Toffee Pudding?  Liquid gold, is what it is!  When poured over a brown sugar cake, warm toffee soaks into the cake layers making them extremely moist and even butterier.  The cake is studded with dates that have been softened prior to baking.  The natural, earthy sweetness of the dates combines beautiful with all the warm flavours and molasses from the brown sugar.



I’ve baked this date cake in regular cake pans then layered them up with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream to form my version of a Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake!  This buttercream is absolute heaven.  I’m not usually a fan of white chocolate, but caramelize it and it’s dynamite!  Are we starting to see a trend here, or what – hehe.  You may use pre-caramelized white chocolate or “blonde” chocolate, or make your own!

Be sure to reserves some extra Toffee Sauce to drizzle and drip over the top of the finished cake!


Date Cake recipe adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Citizen Cake.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 to 9 ounces dates (weight with pits), diced to 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 7-inch cake pans and set aside.
  2. Place the chopped dates in a heat-safe bowl. Stir the baking soda into the boiling water and pour over the chopped dates. Stir to loosen and set aside.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars for about 3 to 5 minutes on medium speed.
  5. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  6. Add in the vanilla.
  7. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  8. With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture.
  9. Carefully stream in most of the water left with the dates.
  10. Add in the remaining flour and mix until just combined and the last streaks of dry ingredients disappear.
  11. Gently stir in the dates and any remaining water.
  12. Distribute the batter between the pans and bake for about 26 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  13. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream
5 to 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
pinch salt
2 cups Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe to follow)

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with a silicone mat (if you have one).
  3. Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to stir and smear the chocolate until it becomes smooth and a light caramel color.
  5. Sitr in a pinch of salt when done.
  6. For every 2 cups of buttercream, stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of the melted caramelized white chocolate.

For a more thorough explanation plus photos, be sure to check out this post by David Leibovitz.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/5 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk by hand to combine.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  3. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.  Stirring intermittently, bring the egg white mixture to about 155 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  4. Once hot, carefully transfer the mixer bowl back to the stand mixer.  With the whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture until medium peaks – or until the outside of the mixer bowl returns to room temperature.
  5. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
  6. With the mixer on low, add in the butter a few tablespoons at a time.
  7. Add in the vanilla.
  8. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth.

Toffee Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

  1. Place the sugar, cream, and butter in s small saucepan.
  2. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens
  4. Let cool until desired consistency is reached.




  1. Once the cakes have cooled, trim them and then place them back in their pans.  Poke holes in the cakes with a wooden skewer.
  2. Make or reheat the toffee sauce.  It should be warm and fluid.
  3. Pour about half of the toffee sauce over the tops of the trimmed cakes.  Let soak for at least 20 minutes.  Save the remaining toffee for the top of the cake.
  4. Once the cakes are done soaking, spread on about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the buttercream between the layers of cake.
  5. Ice the top of the cake to give the toffee a nice surface to drip from.
  6. Frost the sides of the cake with any remaining buttercream.
  7. Pour cooled, thickened toffee sauce over the top of the cake before serving.

Does anyone else know the difference between butterscotch and toffee?  Be sure to leave you thoughts in the comment section below!


- White the white chocolate cooks in the oven, it will go through a dry, crumbly stage.  Keep stirring and smoothing against the baking pan.
- If making in advance, re-heat the caramelized white chocolate in the top of a double-boiler before sitting into the buttercream.
- The toffee sauce will become almost solid if refrigerated.  To re-warm, place it in  saucepan of hot water (I was afraid the glass might break if heated on the stove, but I’m not sure if this would actually happen – so use caution).


It’s been two weeks since Brett went back to work, and I am happy to report that we are all still surviving!  Some days are definitely better than others and pushing my assignments to nights and weekends have been leaving me exhausted, but nothing beats spending my days with my little man.

Last week, we killed it.  All three of us left the house totally dressed before 8am to renew mine and Brett’s drivers licenses, grabbed some coffees as we walked Brett to work, got a nap in on the way home (Baby Huff) before breakfast, and made it to Cotsco by noon.  I was on fire!

Picture this – baby in the Ergo, blazing through Costco.  I was feeding off the high from being so productive that morning and giving myself major props for getting things done with a 7 month old.  Naturally I thought, “of course I can use up an entire flat of nectarines before they go bad”.  Who could pass up a $10 flat of organic nectarines, anyways?  I threw them in the cart, next to the couple pounds of goat cheese and massive bag of popcorn that Costco somehow convinces you that you need, totally confident I was going to make all-things nectarines when I got home to round out the summer’s stone fruit recipes.


A couple days later, more than 75% of the nectarines are still there, ripe, and needing to be eaten like yesterday.  I somehow nearly finished off that entire bag of popcorn, but homemade nectarine recipes?  Not so much.   Like I said, some days have been better than others.


I pureed nearly all of them to freeze for Baby Boy Huff, then turned the rest into this mouth-watering Nectarine Almond Torte.


This is seriously one of my favourite desserts.  Serve it with tea, snag a slice for breakfast, or eat it straight from the oven until every last crumb is gone!  It is adapted from Izy’s Crustless Almond Torte in the Top with Cinnamon cookbook.  I am a sucker for anything almond, and this recipe is simply the best.  Velvety, buttery, and of course – almond-y!  And then I went ahead a threw on an oat crumble on top. You’re welcome.




Yes, it’s September now and I doubt many of you still have nectarines to use, but I bet you could get away with swapping in other types of fruit.  Try slices of fresh pear for an awesome fall alternative!


Recipe adapted from Top with Cinnamon:

Nectarine Almond Torte with Oat Crumble


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ground almond flour
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 2 - 3 nectarines
  • For the Crumble Topping: 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 or 10-inch tart pan (see notes) and set aside. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside
  2. Place all of the ingredients for the crumble topping in a mixing bowl. Use your fingertips to cut in the butter until evenly mixed. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Sitr in the sugar until combined and remove from the heat.
  4. Sit in the maple syrup and vanilla.
  5. Add in the egg and whisk to combine.
  6. Whisk in the flour mixture.
  7. Stir in the almond flour and oat bran until smooth.
  8. Pour the batter into your prepared tart pan.
  9. Carefully arrange the sliced fruit on top and cover with the crumble topping.
  10. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the centre should come out just barely moistened or with a few crumbs when done.
  11. Cool on a wire rack before serving.



I used an 8-inch round tart pan.  It was actually almost too small and I had to leave out about a 1/3 cup of the batter for fear that it would overflow.  The original recipe was made in an 8-inch square pan.  I bet a 10-inch round pan would work too.

Like I mentioned before, nectarines might be hard to come by the further we head into fall.  While other stone fruit would totally work, I bet it would be awesome with sliced pears.  Maybe even persimmons!

I kept leftovers wrapped in foil at room temperature.  It only lasted a couple days at my house.  If you want to store it longer, then I suggested keeping it wrapped in plastic in the fridge.


I thought I was jumping the gun with the fall desserts, and then we had an entire week of rain.  Like RAIN rain.  The kind that makes the tree across the street fall down, the lights in the house flicker, and keeps you in your sweats all day long.  We turned the heaters on for the first time since Spring and enjoyed the first of many apple treats for the season.


Truth be told, I’ve been meaning to make this galette for weeks now.  I had my eye on that gorgeous blueberry-pecan number that graced to covers of Bon Appetit and then was certain I was going to make the most of summer’s stone fruit and whip up a tasty peach one.  Neither happened.

The best thing about rustic galettes is that you can make them all year long!  Swap out the fruit and filling to whatever is season, and you have a quick ‘n easy dessert no matter what month it is.  So for fall, I went with a Toffee Honey Apple Galette!



Free-form galettes are like a fancy lattice pie’s unapologetic, untamed cousin.  And if you are like me and are seriously lacking in your lattice game, then this rustic pastry wins almost every time.  A little lopsided, slightly too crispy on one edge, all-together not picture-perfect?  Who cares!  It’s delicious!  Plus, isn’t rustic the new “chic” anyways?


How are you kicking off apple season?  What flavour of galette do you think would be the best for fall?  I’m thinking pear-maple would be awesome.  Head on over to to pick up the full recipe!





I’ve been out of school for a nearly a decade now, but I can feel summer ending around me.  Funny enough, the only student in our house is actually ending school as everyone else starts this season.  After nearly three years, my husband is about to pick up another BA and head back into the workforce.  Instead of back to school, he will be going back to work.  In fact, today is his first day as a game programmer at one of the city’s top video game production studios!

While his part-time student status was perfect for this first half-year of parenthood and we will certainly miss him, I AM SO PROUD OF HIM!!  Seriously though, not only am I so proud that he landed this awesome job, but I am proud of his bravery for quitting a career he did not love, committing to going back to school at age 29, and going after his dream.  And now he will be making video games for a living!  How cool is that?!?! Go Brett!


I designed this cake in the spirit of “Back to School” season.  And what more appropriate for heading back to class than a Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake?  As an adult, I’ve tried to refine this nostalgic treat with toasted whole grain braid, natural almond butter, and small-batch jam, but there is really nothing quite like the original.  It’s funny, Brett brought home to most basic loaf of sliced white bread the other day to give to Baby Huff and I snuck a piece or two.  I must admit, it was really good! lol.  I guess you can’t beat the classic kind of PB&J with squishy white bread. creamy peanut butter and sweet, gloppy jelly that oozes with every bite after all…

So instead of trying to re-invent a tried-and-true classic using my artisan or rustic bread, I decided to turn those signature flavors into a cake!  Rather than peanut butter frosting made from a more classic, American-style buttercream (the powdered sugar and butter kind), I incorporated peanut butter into a brown sugar meringue-based buttercream.  You guys – it is soooo good!  It takes just like honey roasted peanuts.  I also packed more peanut butter into the cake batter itself and paired it all with classic, seedless strawberry jam.  Doesn’t it look so pretty and glass-like spread on top of the cake?  Garnish with extra peanut, because who doesn’t love a little crunch.



Head on over to The Cake Blog to get the recipe.



Ever since I made Brett an epic 3D Cheeseburger Cake 6 years ago, I have been trying to out-do myself.  We had been dating for nearly a year, but this was the first birthday cake I ever made him – or really the first cake I made truly just with him mind, and I was really going for that WOW-factor.  I wish I had pics – it was a fully-loaded mega cheeseburger, in cake form.  I don’t think I surpassed that mammoth of a cake, but this year’s Mocha Rum Cake might be a close second.

For his big 3-0, I used a few of his favourite things: honey, peanut butter and DONUTS!  It was awesome.  From there, my make-your-husband-an-amzing-birthday-cake game took a turn for the worse.  Last year, poor Brett went birthday cake-less.  I was about 5 months pregnant and we were in the middle of moving.  And while 32 is kind of a boring year to celebrate, it was time this husband of mine deserved a real sweet treat. We’ve had one heck of an awesome year and it was time to celebrate this amazing new dad, my best friend, and the coolest/smartest/most patient/caring/loving guy I know.  Plus, I really wanted to step up my game after last year’s foul, and I think I might have done just that.

Brett used to hate coffee with a passion.  He despised it.  Out of the clear blue one day, he ordered a latte.  I was shocked.  I think he was too.

From then on, he was hooked. That first latte was practically thick with caramel sauce and dripping in sugar.  But now?  Brett drinks his coffee nearly black and can down twice as many cups as me each morning.  It’s probably a good thing that his love affair with coffee started when it did – that caffeine sure helps with Baby Huff’s early morning wake-up calls!


For the cake, you guessed it – full of COFFEE!  In fact, I created an ombre coffee filling – each with varying amounts of coca and espresso.  Think of it as your vanilla latte, drip coffee, and mocha layers.  The cake itself is a variation of my favourite chocolate cake – but with rum because 1) we’re adults 2) it’s fun and 3) YUM!  And because I love a good chocolate drip, the cake was drizzled with a chocolate-rum glaze.  For a bit of flair, I added some gold-dusted, chocolate-covered espresso beans and some flicks of gold luster dust all over.  Looks pretty galaxy-esque, right?

Mocha Rum Cake


  • 1 3/4 cups all-pupose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup hot coffee


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour four 6-inch pans and set aside.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the oil and sugar until combined.
  4. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the eggs and vanilla. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture.
  6. Stream in the milk and mix until incorporated.
  7. Add in the rum.
  8. Add in the second half of the flour and mix until just combined.
  9. Stream in the hot coffee and mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds.
  10. Evenly distribute that batter between the pans and bake for about 24 to 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
  11. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

For the filling and frosting, I used my tried-and-true Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  If you saw my “How To Ice A Cake” post, then you know how much I love this stuff.  Not only does it go on so smoothly, it is also silky, not-too-sweet, and perfect for flavouring.  The recipe for what I would consider my “medium-sized” buttercream is below:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk together(by hand) to combine.
  2. Fill a saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium-high heat.
  3. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.  Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  4. Once hot, carefully return the mixer bowl back to the mixer.
  5. With the whisk attachment, beat on high for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until medium-stiff peaks.  The mixture should be cool.
  6. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
  7. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla bean seeds, vanilla, and butter – a few tablespoons as a time.
  8. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until silky smooth.

If while mixing the buttercream looks curdled, just keep mixing.  The butter was probably too cold.
If the buttercream looks soupy, try popping it in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes.  The butter was probably too warm.  Then return to mixing.




For the “Mocha” layer: add about 1 ounce espresso and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder to 3/4 – 1 cup buttercream.  Spread on about 1/2 -3/4 cup between the first and second layers of cake (from the bottom up).

For the “Coffee” layer: take the remaining buttercream from the mocha layer and mix in about 1/2 cup vanilla buttercream.  Spread on 1/2 – 3/4 cup of this mixture between the second and third layer of cake.

For the “Vanilla Latte” layer: take the remaining coffee-flavoured buttercream (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup) and mix in another 1/4 cup vanilla buttercream.  Spread between the third and fourth layer of cake.

The filling was not exact, but you get the idea.  Just start with a rich, dark buttercream, and keep adding in the vanilla to lighten up the color and flavour as you go.  Crumb coat and ice the entire cake (I turned this cake teal – as you can see) with the remaining vanilla buttercream

For the Chocolate-Rum Glaze:

  • 2 ounce semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon dark rum (or vanilla extract)
  1. Place the chocolate, cream, and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until the cream begins to steam and chocolate starts to melt.
  2. Remove from heat and whisk until chocolate is combined.
  3. Stir in the salt and rum.
  4. Cool for about 10 minutes before use (glaze should be cool, but still syrupy)

Happy Birthday, Bret!!


Let me tell you about how much I love my kitchen torch.  No, it’s not because I’m really into fire or anything (I nearly cringe every time I light a match – afraid I’ll burn myself), but it sure is fun to play with!  Since my broiler and I are more like frienemies and there are certain pastries that require a perfectly toasted topping or caramelized crust, a kitchen torch is essential in the pasty kitchen.  From creating the quintessential, crackling sugar crust on a creme brûlée to toasting up the topping on a lemon meringue pie, the kitchen torch performs a multitude of tasks and I am glad I was brave enough to finally take mine out of the box and put it to use.

Now that I finally busted out my own torch (seriously – it was gifted to me nearly a decade ago and I just now started using it regularly), I am finding all sorts of cool hot ways to use it.  I made some awesome pies last holiday season, a killer lemon meringue layer cake, and I even have a faux s’mores cake that is covered in lightly toasted marshmallowy goodness in my book!  Today, I tackled Baked Alaska.  But no ordinary Baked Alaska.  I’m talking mini, individual-serving cakes with a scoop of ice cream and topped with a cloud of meringue before being toasted to perfect Baked Alaska Cupcakes!


This modern, mini version of the incendiary classic is perfect for celebrating the end of summer.  And what better way to impress your fiends than with a bit of fire and ice?  Let me tell you, this is not you grandma’s Baked Alaska.  They do, however, still have all the best traits of their namesake – cake, ice cream, and toasty meringue – all wrapped up in a personal-sized package.



I find that this method to be way easier than baking the meringue.  The idea of ice cream in the oven just makes me stressed out.  For more tips and tricks, head on over to Brit + Co. and see how I put these bad boys together!




This week has been a real whirl-wind.  As if life was not busy enough, I got my first small taste of what our near future will look like – life with a working dad.  Let me tell you – it’s terrifying!  Lol.

Brett is currently back in school studying to become a game programer.  You know, writing code and doing all sorts of math-y things.  And while he never got time off when the baby was born, we have all been so lucky to have him around for a big chunk of Everett’s life so far – not away at the office.  Now with his graduation quickly approaching, he has been off interviewing for his dream job during the day and I am quickly discovering what life is truly like for not only a stay-at-home mom, but a working one.  Man, this is exhausting!

Okay, okay – don’t get me wrong.  I love my son and the plan was always to stay at home with him when Brett went back to work.  We’ve been so extraordinarily lucky to have Brett home for most of Everett’s first 7 month (gah – is he really that old already??), however, it recently dawned on me that these days are numbered.  Thankfully, there is grandma.

Now that Everett is on some-what of a schedule and will take a bottle regularly, grandma has been babysitting more and more.  And while getting to hang out with her grandson might be a reward in itself, I still need to find ways to show my mom just how thankful we are to have her nearby.  Being the foodie that I am, I find there to be no better way to say “thank you” than with edible gifts – usually of the homemade variety.  And that is exactly what I did when I gifted her with this apricot jam.



This apricot jam is no ordinary jam.  It was made with apricots fresh from the farmer’s market (Everett and mommy’s favourite Saturday morning activity while Brett is away in class) and infused with real vanilla beans.  Pretty classy, right?  Those flecks of vanilla are not only gorgeous, but round out the tartness of the apricots and add depth of flavour without extra sweetness.  I created this small batch recipe – one jar for grandma and one jar for me.  I didn’t even bother with proper canning since I knew it would be gobbled up so quickly.  I’ve personally been stirring it in my morning yogurt, eating it with soft cheeses, and of course, spreading it on fluffy biscuits!


Find the whole recipe over at The Kitchn.

If the stalls at your farmer’s market are overflowing with apricots, peaches, and plums – like mine is – then pick up a couple extra pounds to make some jam.  If not, be sure to check out some of my favourite food reads and recipe from the week:

  • Sweet + Spicy: A kicked-up honey recipe from Bon Appetite.
  • Kids in the Kitchn - a very appropriate article to go along with my adventures this past week with Baby Huff.
  • Catch up on Yahoo Food’s week of Ice Cream Nation – including this snippet of Julia-Louis Dreyfus from “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” one of our favourite household shows.
  • Living the sweet life.  Christina Tosi is my hero!  AND Cherry Bombe Mag’s new cover girl.  AND a new judge on Master Chef!
  • Alana’s most PERFECT summertime cake to make before it’s too late from Fix Feast Flair.  Strawberry, guava – oh my!!


Also, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mom and the best grandma around!  We love you!

Happy Weekend! xoxo


Hey everyone!  As I get closer and closer to finishing up my book, cake has been on my mind nearly 24/7.  The cover is almost finalized, I’ve started to see some of the behind-the-scenes with sales, and we are nearing an official release month (still Spring 2016 – April, I believe!).  There is still so much to share about the book and the process before it comes out in the spring, but for now, I will tell you this.  The book is entirely about Layer Cakes!  Baking them.  Building them.  Decorating them.  And then EATING them!  Although – you will all be doing that part on your own.  Not only will I be sharing some of my favorite recipes and best-kept decorating secrets, the book emphasizes gorgeous cakes and delicious flavor pairings.

It’s been about 2 1/2 years since I first posted a “How to Ice a Cake” article, and it is about time I revisited that post and gave it a face-lift.  Today is the day we go back to where it all started – making spectacular layer cakes!


Gorgeous cakes start from the inside – or from the bottom up, if we are talking layer cakes.  If you’ve ever seen a multi-tiered wedding cake or a dangerously, sky-high layer cake and wondered how they defy gravity, it all starts with a structurally sound cake and even layers.  Even “naked” cakes should be assembled with care.  So let’s get started!

Before you start stacking, trim and level all of your cake layers.  You know that dome that sometimes forms when cakes bake?  Yeah, cut that off.  How do you expect to have a level cake when dealing with humps and lumps?  Plus – those scraps are perfect for snacking on while you prep =)  Looking at my photos – no, I did not completely remove the entire dome, but yes- the cake is still flat on top.


In my years of experience, I find a meringue-based buttercream creates the smoothest finishes.  I am partial to Swiss meringue buttercream, but Italian works beautifully as well.  Both are silky smooth, are extremely stable for stacking multiple layers (and tiers), and is super tasty.  I’ll work on a post that demystifies meringue buttercream for you all soon =)

Step 1: Place the bottom layer of cake on a clean turn table or cake board.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with buttercream or frosting of choice.


Step 2:  Pipe a ring of frosting around the outer top edge of your layer cake.  This ring will act as a dam to keep in any filling of your choice.  For cakes filled with buttercream in particular, I like a 2:1 ratio – meaning if the cake layers are 1 1/2 inches tall, the buttercream ring should be 3/4 inch tall (this may change according to your filling – you may use less if filling with something like ganache or fruit preserves).

Step 3:  Fill the frosting dam with filling of choice.  Evenly spread with an offset spatula as needed.

Step 4:  Place the second layer of cake on top.  I typically flip this layer up-side-down to help keep things nice and level.

Step 5: Repeat with the remaining layers.  The last layer of cake should be placed on up-side-down, or more importantly, cut-side-down to help keep crumbs to a minimum when we start icing the outside.

HowToIceCake-Grid00Figure 1: steps 2 to 5.

Notes: Now is your chance to make sure everything is straight and level.  Don’t be afraid to adjust as needed.  If the cake is starting to lean, fix it!  Take a step back and make sure the sides are nice and straight.  If not, feel free to get right in there with your hands to push and manipulate the layers so that they are straight.  Of course, this can only be done to a certain extent.  Ideally, the cake layers start out nice and flat, and the cake continues to stay level.  Take a long serrated knife to even out any major humps and lumps.


Step 6:  Start crumb coating – or the inner layer of icing that traps all of the crumbs, keeping you final coat nice and clean.  Fill in any gaps between the layers of cake with additional frosting.  Begin to even out the frosting with an offset or straight metal spatula.


Steps 7 and 8:  Place a medium dollop of frosting on top of the cake.  Use your offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top of the cake, making is flat and even.  Push any excess frosting towards the edges, allowing them to overhang slightly.

Step 9: Starting with any frosting that hangs off the top edge of the cake, begin evening out the frosting on the sides of the cake (see Figure 2).  Add more frosting as needed.  The goal is to create a thin, even layer of frosting that completely coats the cake.  It does not need to be perfectly smooth, but should be even.


Step 10:  Once the crumb coat is complete, chill the cake in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes – or until the frosting sets.  It should not be left to get too cold, or you will be fighting between different temperatures of frosting when it comes to the final layer.

Steps 11 and 12:  Repeat steps 7 and 8, taking extra care to get an smooth layer of frosting on the top of the cake.

Step 13: Adhere any excess frosting from the top of the cake that may overhang to the sides of the cake, making sure there is enough frosting to make a substantial, crisp top edge at the end.

Step 14: Add frosting around the sides of the cake.  To start, work with only a little bit of frosting at a time for more control.  Continue around until there is an even layer of frosting on all sides.  Again, it does not have to be completely smooth yet, just even.


Figure 2: steps 11 to 14

Notes:  For this six-inch round cake, I am most comfortable using a small offset spatula.  I typically apply the frosting in sections – working on the top half, then the bottom.  I feel like I have more control of the frosting this way and it helps prevent the frosting from slopping all over the place and sliding off the sides.  Be sure to clean off your spatula between applications.

Step 15:  Once there is an ever layer of frosting around the whole cake, begin smoothing with you just your spatula.  Hold your spatula completely perpendicular to the turn table/parallel to the sides of the cake.  Begin smoothing and turning the turn table to remove excess frosting.

Step 16:  As the frosting starts to smooth out, trade your spatula for a frosting smoother.  Again, holding the long, straight edge parallel to the side of the cake (and slightly touching), rest the base on the turn table to create a nice 90-degree angle.  Keeping the frosting smoother in place, begin to spin the turn table.  As the turn table spins, the frosting smoother should pick up any excess frosting and fill in any minor holes.  Clean off your smoother in between every few spins, stop and repeat.  Fill in any major gaps with frosting and smooth again.  At this point, take a step back to make sure the sides of the cake are still nice and straight.  Add or remove frosting as needed.

Step 17: As the sides are smoothed, excess frosting will be pushed up towards the top of the cake.  Using the edge of your offset spatula, gently pull this frosting “lip” towards the centre of the cake.  Continue around the entire top of the cake.

Step 18:  Take you frosting smoother and place the long edge gently on top of the cake.  Give the turn table a couple of turns to further even out the top of the cake.


Figure 3: steps 15 to 18

Notes:  Feel free to repeat steps 15 to 18 until you are satisfied with the smoothness of your cake.  I find myself going back a few times, taking extra care to make sure that top edge is crisp.  If there appears to be a lot of bubbles or holes in your meringue buttercream, it might need to be mixed further before using.  Running your mixer on low with the paddle attachment (and buttercream inside the bowl, of course) for a bit will help eliminate air bubbles.
To transfer a cake to a cake stand or serving dish (either from the turn table or from a cake board), gently run an offset spatula completely around the base of the cake to release it, then carefully slide the spatula under the cake and lift.  It may help to chill the cake before moving to help prevent any bumps or smudges to the freshly applied frosting.




Notes:  I find that the consistency (or temperature, rather) of my buttercream really effects the smoothness and how much work it takes to get the cake smooth.  If the buttercream is perfectly room temperature and silky, the turn table does all the work for me and the process is quite quick.  If the buttercream is too cold, the process may take longer and the buttercream needs to be “worked” with the tools to really get smooth.  If you find the buttercream to be at all soupy or too soft, try placing the cake in the refrigerator for a bit.  To get extra extra smooth, pop the finished cake in the fridge until slightly firm.  Run the metal blade of your spatula or frosting smoother under hot hot water.  Dry the spatula/smoother and use the heat of the blade to gently warm and melt the buttercream slightly by repeating steps 15 to 18.

Wondering what the inside looks like?  Check back next week (or two) and see how I transform this cake into my husband’s birthday cake!  It’s got a bit of beer, coffee, chocolate, and more.  Trust me, you won’t want to miss it!

Thanks for playing!  Happy Frosting!