Thursday, September 30, 2010

pumpkin cake

This post is a little sad.  It doesn't have a picture.  Or at least, a picture of the actual cake in question but I can assure you, the cake looked just like this one.  Maybe even a bit nicer.

As for the inside, well, you'll just have to use your imagination.  You know, your imagination, that thing that you lost when you had to start pretending to be an adult.

This cake is the result of all the planets aligning in a perfect mix of timing and ingredients. That is, if planetary alignment leads to deliciousness.

I had volunteered to make a cake for a co-worker’s surprise wedding shower and still hadn’t decided what I was going to make. Last week, she mentioned that she thought I should make pumpkin baked goods, and that night, I stumbled upon this recipe on Annie’s Eats. Perfect, and I even had some buttermilk left over from the scones that needed to be used.

I decided to go with a more traditional cream cheese icing. It may be “boring” but man is it delicious. I did like the idea of the butterscotch filling so I made some cooked butterscotch pudding and stirred in about ¾ cup pecans before spreading it onto the bottom layer of the cake.  This seemed a bit more within my time budget.

This cake got me sooo many compliments. Moist, but not too dense, it was a crowd pleaser all around. I am thinking I may use it for my friend’s wedding cake that I have to do next fall. The one little change I would make is to add a teaspoon of baking powder. I added ½ a teaspoon and still find it didn’t rise as much as I would have liked.  Final word: make this cake...just do it.  You will not regret it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

blog feature batterdays: joy the baker

I'm in Toronto this weekend to run a half marathon.  My sister requested hang out time and so I suggested we bake together.  This mostly turned into me baking while she watched and we chatted, but I was ok with that.  I sent this recipe to her a few days ago to see if she would be interested.  She was down!
me and my new friend chloe

I've been following Joy the Baker for quite a while now.  She is definitely a legend when it comes to internet baking blogs and her stuff never disappoints.  Her baking ranges from the quite complicated to the super easy (like this recipe - peanut butter chocolate pillows) and she always explains it in the easiest terms with a sense of humour.  These pb chocolate pillows were so simple and delicious.

I felt for Joy this week when her bike was stolen, and so it is even more fitting that I should give her some shout outs.  She is awesome, and so is her blog, so check it out!

before the oven

ready for eating - yum!


Friday, September 24, 2010

rainbow cake

Remember this...

Not totally sure who decided it should go into cake form but I've seen it around quite a bit.  I know that Whisk Kid was featured on Martha Stewart making it.

I put a cake up for our workplace charitable campaign silent auction, and someone contacted me asking if I could re-create this cake to bring in for her group.  I was happy to give it a go.  I had made a rainbow cake once before, but it was more like a zebra cake with rainbow colours.
cutting the cake

I used the super easy vanilla cake recipe I had and dyed it using gel colours from Wilton.  I had to modify the recipe slightly because it had to be lactose-free, but it was easy with some lactose-free milk subsitituted in. 

I did use Whisk Kid's Italian Meringue Buttercream tutorial.  I found it to be very comprehensive and although I am way too lazy to start making this frosting every time I make a cake, I will definitely keep the tutorial handy when I want something that is light and smooth, with not too much sweetness.  I used about 9 egg whites and found it was enough to do the whole cake by only putting a thin coat between each layer. 

What a fun cake and for a good cause!  I hope they all enjoyed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


This was not the post I had in mind at all.  In fact, I had planned something totally different.  But, that plan turned into failure.  One of many in a long line of candy making attempts.

And so, I went to something I do know.  Cookies...with frosting.  Although, I hesitated on that front too.

I had some plain chocolate cookie dough frozen and had been wanting to make it into sandwich cookies but was having a hard time deciding what should go in.  That was until my good friend Martha says to me, she says, "Caitlin, why don'cha make multiple fillings?"  Good idea Martha!  And so I did.

brownie cookies with mint, peanut butter and raspberry filling

Brownie roll-out cookie recipe via smitten kitchen and flavour ideas from Martha Stewart.

Monday, September 20, 2010

pear caramel scones

Before I became a powerless peon in a cubicle, I had an awesome job in a bike shop/coffee shop called Cyclelogik.  Right next door was a nic-nac bonanza/pastry shop called Heavens to Betsy. The owner’s husband, Nigel had trained in France as a pastry chef and for a short while had a pastry shop in the back of their store.  While he did, he made baked goods for the coffee shop.  The most popular item was his scones.  Delicious with just the right texture, they sold out everyday. After a little while at the pastry shop, he was offered a contract he couldn’t refuse in his other profession, cabinet-making.

When he left, he handed over his scone recipe to me.  Everyone was soo jealous that I had the recipe.  I made baked goods for the store for a little while, but eventually called it quits as I was finding it very time consuming with my studies and there was a lovely lady just waiting to fill in.

The scones made by Nigel were usually the same with cranberries, currants and dried blueberries – always a winning combo.  I liked to mix it up though and play with the flavours.  One of the most popular incarnations of the scones was pear-caramel.

After finding out that he could pay me to bake for him (because someone else did), my roommate’s boyfriend, decided he would like to place an order.  After much deliberation, he went with scones.  I hadn’t made them in a long time, and I had forgotten just how tasty they are. Sadly, I don’t think the pictures do them justice.

Nigel’s Scones
makes 1 dozen
3 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
3/4 c butter
1 c buttermilk
3/4 c extras (cranberry, white choc, dried cherries etc.)

1.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
2.  Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3.  Add your extras - I used small chunks of pear and cut chewy caramels into little bits.  (tip: once cut, I floured them before setting aside - otherwise they stick together.  I’ve seen pre-made Kraft caramel bits on American blogs, so you could use those too).
4.  Make a well in the middle and add the buttermilk.  I use my hands to mix it until it just comes together.  Don’t over mix!
5.  Shape into two small rounds and cut into 6 triangles.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until they are starting to get golden.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

blog feature batterdays: natalie's killer cuisine

For today's blog feature batterday, I took a page from the ol' book of Natalie's Killer Cuisine.  A friend of mine was coming for tea and I needed something to go. 

I only discovered Natalie's blog a few weeks ago when browsing on tastespotting but loved it right away.  What immediately attracted me was the amazing photography.  You just wish you could put your hand through the screen and grab one of those delicious items she has crafted.

I decided to go with her Oatmeal Fudge Bars.  I was surprised that she didn't mention anything about Starbuck's in her post because these totally remind me of the ones you can get there.  I don't go often, but oat + chocolate is always a winner for me and the few times I've ventured out of my cubicle to the local Starbuck's, I've always been tempted. 

The one issue I had with this recipe was the amount of fudge.  I didn't use all of it, because it felt like way too much.  I was happy with that decision and made the remaining fudge into "fudge chips" to be used at a later date. (I froze the fudge chips and then put them all in a bag in the freezer)

 The bars were so yummy and I was very glad that I tried out this recipe.  As you can see, my photos were taken a bit hastily before the bars had really cooled and the fudge is still a bit gooey.  They may not look as pretty but damn were they good!  Natalie's blog is definitely worth a look for a variety of baked goods and some interesting takes on Southern classics. I really respect that she went back to school to pursue her dreams, and it looks like she made the right choice!

P.S. If you decide to make these...they cut way easier and prettier when they're cool.  If you can wait that long...

Friday, September 17, 2010

biscotti bite

God I love pumpkin.  It’s funny though, it took me years to realize.  I blame this on pumpkin pie being the only “classic” pumpkin baked good.  I was never a big fan of pumpkin pie texture, it just didn’t appeal to me, and so, for many years I didn’t even THINK to try something else out with pumpkin.  A few years ago I made a pumpkin cake via the Betty Crocker website and finally realized what I was missing out on.  Since then, I have been dreaming up all the ways I can use pumpkin.

My friend recently asked me to make her some biscotti to keep at work for afternoon sweet cravings.  The idea for pumpkin biscotti came to me and after a quick google search, I realized I was totally unoriginal in my thought process.  Advantage: no effort in creating a recipe.  Look at me...always looking on the bright side of life. ha!

This is the first of many pumpkin offerings to come this Fall.  And believe me, I’ll be stretching it out right until Christmas baked goods season begins.  

Pumpkin Biscotti
(adapted from recipes found here and here)

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup mashed canned pumpkin
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter (melted)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl.  Add pecans and cranberries to mix.
2. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and butter, stirring well until smooth.
3. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Mixture will be very crumbly at first but will gradually come together).  
4.  Divide dough into 2 portions and shape into two logs about 8”x 3”. Place logs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 23 minutes; cool logs 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2" slices using a serrated knife. Place slices back on cookie sheets. Bake for and additional 20-30 minutes flipping and rotating occasionally.
6. Cool and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

jam friands

We have a ridiculous amount of jam around here.  It is taking up way too much room!  Inspired by Technicolor Kitchen, I decided to make jam friands.  I used both blackberry and raspberry jam, always a delicious combination.  I used her recipe for apricot jam friands, found here.  Being a brown butter rookie, I think I may have taken it off a wee bit early, but they were delicious nonetheless (and probably way more delicious than if I had burned the butter!).

Jim got me these awesome little tea cup cupcake holders and since I only had 8 fluted tart tins, I decided to test them out for the first time.  Definitely cuter for picture-taking.

My lovely coworkers got to enjoy these and everyone agreed they were quite yummy.  I was happy to use up a bit of jam.  Thumb print cookies might have to be next!

Monday, September 13, 2010

carrot cake for MJ

This is another recipe that I got from my mother.  It goes with my blog name!  This carrot cake recipe has been around for years and was always a hit.  It's definitely up there as one of my personal favourites.  I asked my Mom where she originally got it and she told me that an old colleague had brought it to an event, and she asked for the recipe.

Kate asked me to help make her Mom a cake for her 60th birthday party and I suggested that carrot would be a good option.  We decided on a Fall leaves theme (which I was totally ok with, love it!).  Kate helped out a ton with making the leaves and put them all on right before the cake was to be served.  I wasn't there but she told me it went over really well.  She did an awesome job laying out the leaves!

Carrot Cake

2 cups grated carrots, about 4 medium carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1.2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs – unbeaten
1 cup vegetable oil, corn or canola
1 can 8oz, or 250ml crushed pineapple (drained, and juice reserved)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and sugar.
2. Make a hole in the centre of the dry ingredients and add eggs and oil as well as 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, mix thoroughly.
3. Stir in grated carrots, walnuts, and pineapple.
4. Pour batter into greased and floured pan (12’ x 7.5”)
5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out of the middle clean.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 cup soft butter
2 tsp vanilla
icing sugar (approximately 500g - I use less)

1. Beat together cream cheese and butter.
2. Add vanilla and icing sugar (a little bit at a time until it tastes good).

leaf drying on an icing tip

Saturday, September 11, 2010

blog feature batterdays: the picky palate

 Get it, like Saturday but batter…man I’m good.

I’m going to try something new out here.  Since blogs provide so much inspiration for my baking, I decided I should “give back” and feature some of the best and brightest food bloggers around.  So, you can go read their blog and quit wasting your time here!

First off, the Picky Palate.  I should just be banned from this site.  Every single time I go on there, without fail, I end up drooling…and copying down a recipe to try.  Part of what makes Jenny’s recipes so appealing to me is their simplicity.  A lot of them are things that can be whipped up super quickly with ingredients on hand (or at least easily retrieved from a nearby grocer).  Recipes that make you think, “I can totally do that!”  When you are as busy as I am, and you feel the need to bring baked goods to almost every social event you attend, this is all a definite plus.  I still don’t understand how she’s not obese though.

To prove just how amazing she is, I tried out her latest creation: the chocolate and caramel apple pie galette.

This was dangerously easy and delicious.  If you’re ever in a rush and need something quick to bring to an event, check out her site.  You won’t be dissapointed!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

who doesn't like brownies?

This is actually an unexpected post.  It wasn't in my Fall "plan", but sometimes inspiration just happens.  I was definitely enjoying some lovely Fall temperatures on my run today...does that count?

Last winter/spring when I was gearing up to my big catering event, I went on a mission to find a brownie recipe from scratch that could live up to boxed brownies.  Yeah, that's right, I'm a big fan of boxed brownies.  I know they're full of gross additives and stuff, but they're always so damn good.  Duncan Hines is a man that knows what he is doing in the brownie department.  After all my searching and many failed attempts, I did find something that I deemed good enough to live up to the boxed brownie perfection.  While not terribly hard, it is definitely harder than boxed and so yesterday when I was browsing on tastespotting and came accross this recipe for One Bowl Brownies on Itsy Bitsy foodies, I decided I had to try them.

I'll give this recipe an A for effort.  It did take me less than 5 minutes to put together and throw in the oven but it just wasn't as good as the other brownies I've made.  I mean, they weren't BAD, but I didn't want to eat the entire pan either (which I usually do).  Despite my dissapointment, I'm sure we'll be able to suffer through with these sub-standard brownies.

post script: I totally ate a lot of these brownies.  They're chocolate, what can I say?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

time to play catch-up

I’m back!  Did you miss me? Of course not, because I’m sure if you’re reading this, I talk to you on a weekly basis.  

If by some small miracle of the universe, you’re reading this and you HAVEN’T talked to me on a weekly basis, I’ll fill you in (all others skip down now).  After that last cake (the one below with the bees), I had a little bit of a baking meltdown over the lack of air conditioning and a cake promise I had made.  I’m not a fan of these months we call summer.  I hate the heat, it makes me cranky…like unbelievably super duper uber cranky.  After the cake promise, I decided to take a break from baking and blogging.  The blog was stressing me out because I just didn’t feel inspired in the heat.  Second floor apartment, no A/C, 44 degrees C with the humidity = me on the couch, in a position I like to call “heat stance”.  Stress was not the point of the blog so I needed the break.  Please excuse me for whining.

I did do a bit of baking.  A few birthdays came up and I got a few orders for cupcakes. Luckily, it did cool down for most of August and it wasn’t quite as unbearable.  Until last week that is…

I’ll throw in some pictures of some of the highlights here.  There was other baking but I didn't get pictures.
Maya's first bday cake
delicious Italian cream cake - I think this is one of my new favourites!
60s - themed cupcakes for a 50th bday party

Now that it is back to cool temperatures, I am looking forward to my favourite season.  I feel like this last week (the unbearably hot one) I have been gushing about fall like a new love.  I can’t stop talking about it, dreaming about it, thinking about all the fun things we’ll do together.  In fact, Jim, I hate to do this over the internet, but it’s over...fall and I are getting together and it’s going to be magical  (don’t worry folks, he’ll understand).  

My new love, the cooler temperatures, and the gorgeous colours will hopefully mean more blogging.  I have lots of fun stuff planned and really want to make it all happen.  I’m back, refreshed  and excited by these crisp temperatures, so I’ll be seeing you soon intarwebz.