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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!

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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…

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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.

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

 

 

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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.

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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!

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.
http://stylesweetca.com/2015/08/26/mocha-rum-cake/

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.

Tips:
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.

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Assembly:

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!!
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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!!

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

Happy Weekend! xoxo

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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Calling all mint lovers!!

(crickets)

(crickets)

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I love love mint, but I sometimes feel like I am the only one.  Please correct me if I am wrong.  Mint lovers, unite!  Mint is likely not a hated flavour, but in a world of strawberry, cookie butter, and Nutella, it is probably low on most people’s list of flavors they’d like to see turned into a cake.

Sometimes to you have to pull some pretty cheap tricks in the kitchen.  Like hiding zucchini in brownies or pureed carrots in mac ‘n cheese for picky kids – or whatever clever moms keep up their sleeves.  Since I am skeptical of the world’s enthusiasm for mint, I figured I’d better trash up this recipe to make sure everyone was on board.  Make it totally irresistible.  Something even mint cynics could not turn down.  A twist that turns the classic combination of chocolate and mint into something totally outrageous and whimsical.

Time to pull out the big guns – Chocolate Sandwich Cookies!  Better known as just plain ol’ Oreos.  And who can say no to Oreos?  Nobody.

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This Mint Cookies and Cream Cake exudes, even oozes FUN!  In the way sprinkles make up a “Funfetti Cake,” I threw crushed-up cookies straight into the batter and buttercream.  Layers of cookie-studded vanilla cake are paired with a silky mint buttercream then smothered in minty, crushed cookie mint buttercream.  Top take it over the top, I drizzled the frosted cake with chocolate glaze and finished it off with swirls of extra buttercream and mini Oreos.

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Now who could resist a slice of this mint, chocolaty, COOKIE goodness?  Find the recipe for this Mint Cookies and Cream Cake on The Cake Blog!

 

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Five Years!!

1/6th of my life.

A year longer than it took to finish college.

Twice as long as it took to get a visa to live in another country.

I can’t believe it.  While I can’t hardly remember a time where I didn’t share a bed, brushed my teeth solo, or took out the garbage myself, I don’t know how five years of marriage have already passed by.

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“Where did the time go?” I ask myself.  5 homes, a fur-baby, a giant move all the way up to Vancouver, gaining permanent residence in another country, career changes for both of us, another Bachelor’s degree for Brett and book deal for me, the purchase of our first home, and the arrival of our baby boy.  No wonder we are exhausted, lol.  No wonder we have never been happier.

To celebrate, we did what any new parents would do – dinner and movie!  And Chocolate Cake! We were never ones to make big, romantic plans, but for 5 years, we thought we should at least try.  And while dinner and movie used to be just an ordinary date-night for us, it sure was a treat to spend some quality time together – just the two of us, if even spent just getting Japanese food and laughing at a silly comedy together.  I love that baby boy of ours more than life itself, but some time out of the house without him in toe can be refreshing.  A few hours where I could hit snooze on the mommy part of my brain and actually relax.  The only thing better than ending the night with Black Forest Cake would have been to get a decent 8 hours of sleep.  Maybe next year =)

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In honour of the milestone, I wanted to make something decadent and dramatic.  Obviously chocolatey.  Since it’s cherry season, I decided on a Black Forest Cake.  I have an entirely different take on Black Forest Cake in my book, but until then, there is this towering beauty.  Two moist layers of classic chocolate cake smothered with fluffy 7-minute frosting were layered with candied cherries, fresh cherries, and a blanket of chocolate shavings.  Instead of the traditional kirsch (cherry liqueur) and freshly whipped cream, I used spiced rum and marshmallowy meringue frosting.  Rainer cherries are by far one of my favorite fruits, so I threw some of those in the mix as well.

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The Recipe:

For the Chocolate Cake, I used half of this recipe of mine.  It’s classic in flavor and moist in texture – an all-around delicious yet versatile chocolate cake.  To be honest, I used half the batter to bake two 6-inch rounds cakes (26 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees) and the other half to make a dozen cupcakes (22 to 24 mints at 350 degrees) that are wrapped up tight, awaiting their destiny in my freezer.

I used this simple recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the 7-minute frosting.  It is light, silky smooth, and has a real vanilla taste.

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I quickly candied the cherries by throwing in about 2 cups of halved and pitted cherries in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons spiced dark rum and 3 tablespoons sugar.  After bringing the juices to a boil, I lowered the heat and let the cherries soften a bit (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Be sure to drain the cherries first with a mesh sieve over a mixing bowl (saving the liquids) then on a wire rack lined with a paper towel.  Use the leftover rum-cherry juice to brush on the chocolate cake layers before assembly.

For the chocolate shavings, simply take a vegetable peeler to a piece of chocolate and shave directly over the cake – letting the shavings fall as they will, like snow.

Cheers to another 5 years and a lifetime of cuddles, kiddos, and chocolate cake!

xoxoxo

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It’s amazing what desserts you can come up with when you have an entire jar of Marshmallow Fluff in your fridge leftover from an assignment.  So far this week, we spread it between chocolate chip cookies, made banana-mallow whoopie pies, and ate it straight off the spoon.  Next up? Dipping strawberries in it then toasting ‘em with the kitchen torch!

Why would you make your own jar of Marshmallow Fluff, you ask?  Well, why not?! If you have about 20 minutes, a candy thermometer, and prefer something that is not packed with as many preservatives that gives the store-bought kind a ridiculous shelf-life, then make this fluff.   I promise, the hardest thing about making this recipe is trying to get the marshmallow fluff into the jar. That, and trying not to eat all of it straight out of the bowl (although that would solve problem #1).

Head on over to The Kitchn for the recipe!

In other news, I just received the second draft (hard-copy) of my manuscript and Baby Huff got his first tooth!  It’s been a very exciting (and exhausting) week for all of us.  You guys – it is starting to look like a real book!  The end product will be 288 pages long, with 60 cakes and nearly 200 original color photos!

I’ll be spending my entire weekend combing through each recipe (for the hundredth time) and going over the format on each page.  There is still a lot of work ahead, but it’s going to be great – I know it.  I just hope you all will love it as much as I do!

I’ll also be snacking on this from my freezer:

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Avocado Ice Cream, y’all!  By no means am I southern or have a southern accent, but I do love to throw in a good “y’all” from time to time – usually when I am really excited about something.  And what is more exciting than a dairy-free ice cream that is actually creamy?  Nothing!  Made with avocado, banana, coconut milk, and lime simple syrup, it’s kind of like a sweet, frozen version of your morning green smoothie.  You could probably even get away with having a scoop or two for breakfast.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell.

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Find the recipe over on Brit + Co.

 

For your reading pleasure, be sure to click on some of my favourite food links and recipes from the week:

  •  Mad Libs food blog comments.  Hilarious stuff here for anyone that has ever written on a public forum.
  • Malt + Nuetella + Bicoff + Brownie.  Another epic masterpiece from Heather of SprinkleBakes.  Girl’s always got me saying to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”  But we can all be glad she did and is willing to share.  Swoon.
  • Emma’s “cheesecake” that’s got me dreaming of kiwi kaleidoscopes over on My Darling Lemon Thyme.
  • This charming read  on Epicurious about European buttercream versus “The uncooked, powdered-sugar frosting generally called American buttercream is the chagrin of patriotic pastry chefs everywhere, and a far worse replica of its European cousins”.
  • A great use of all those summer veggies while still getting to eat cheese an crust.  It’s pizza but it’s got hecka veggies, so it’s healthy -right? From Love and Lemons.

 

Lastly, a big HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my husband, Brett.  Be on the look out for an awesome Black Forest Cake recipe next week.  Can’t wait to dig into it later tonight!

Have a great weekend!

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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!!