Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the house,
 the creatures were stirring, especially my spouse.
My exams are done, the papers written with care,
in hopes that the professors will mark them quite fair. 
Today marks the first day of the holiday break.
To celebrate the season, I decided to bake.
Not fruit cakes or sugar plums, they simply won't do.
I decided to whip up a batch of cookies, or two.
This recipe is one that I make each year,
it's perfect for hot chocolate and holiday cheer.
So put on your apron and get out your bowl,
make these for Santa and you won't get a lump of coal!

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas Cookies

  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
~ Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
~ Melt butter to touch.
~ Beat icing sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy.
~ Stir in one cup of flour at a time, mixing until combined.
~ Roll dough into balls, dip in sprinkles and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
~ Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
~ Cool on wire cookie racks.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Double, double toil and trouble...


  This decadent recipe is a sublime combination of two of my favourite things; coffee and chocolate.  That said, it also happens to be the perfect recipe for Halloween ~ minus the eye of newt and the other disagreeable ingredients of course!

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,"
     ~William Shakespeare; Macbeth
     Double chocolate, double layers of cake and a cup of Tim Horton's double-double coffee; this recipe combines it all to make one delicious cake!  Not familiar with a double double? It's Canada's most popular Tim Horton's coffee with double the cream and double the sugar. Double your pleasure!

Double-Double Chocolate Cake

You will need:

2 oz  bittersweet Baker's chocolate
2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups  granulated sugar
½ cup  cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp  baking powder
1 tsp  salt
1 cup  buttermilk (*see recipe below)
½ cup  vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp  pure vanilla extract
1 cup  double-double coffee from Tim's

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave according to package directions.  Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°f (180°c). Butter and flour two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans.
  • *To make  buttermilk ~ place a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.  Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.  Let stand for five minutes.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl until well combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low speed. Add the melted chocolate and the double-double coffee and mix just until combined.
  •  Pour the batter into the pans, spreading evenly.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. *Cool the cakes in the pans until they are easy to handle, then move them to a wire baking rack.

 For the chocolate icing:

2 oz  bittersweet Baker's chocolate
1 cup  unsalted butter, softened
2 cups  icing sugar
¼ cup  whipping cream

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave according to package directions. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  • Whip the butter in the bowl with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and mix until combined.
  • Slowly add the icing sugar to the chocolate mixture.
  •  Add the whipping cream.
  •  Continue mixing until the icing is smooth and thoroughly combined.
  • Whisk on high for 1 minute more or until the icing is smooth and spreadable.

When cakes are cooled, invert one layer onto a cake platter. Spread the top with chocolate icing. Place the second cake on top of the icing. Spread the remaining icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

*Recipe from The Harrow Fair Cookbook: Prize-Winning Recipes Inspired by Canada’s Favourite Country Fair by Moira Sanders and Lori Elstone with Beth Goslin Maloney (Whitecap 2010).




Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keep calm and have a cookie...


      Read, review, reflect, discuss, study... can't I just bake instead? Seriously, because sometimes all you can do is bake.  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.  We all know this, yet we still allow stress to creep in and take over our lives.

     I've been really stressed lately ~ just ask my family!  Not only do I have my own classes to attend, homework to do, papers to write and assignments to complete; but as a wife and mom of three I also get to come home to making lunches, dinner, doing laundry, going to sporting events, extracurricular activities and helping the kids with their homework.  It's never ending!

     As stressed as I feel, a phone call earlier today allowed me to put things into perspective.  My stresses are just ordinary ~ they aren't life threatening.  I wish I could say the same thing for my brother's stresses.  He's battling cancer and he's giving it everything he's got.  I am amazed and in awe of his positive outlook.  He's not wallowing in all he has to deal with, instead, he wants to know how I'm doing.  Suddenly all of my complaints seem inconsequential.  

      After talking with him I felt foolish for letting my trivial worries consume me.  He inspired me to put aside my 'to do' list and spend some time doing what gives me pleasure and calms my soul ~ baking.

      This is my go to cookie recipe. It combines a profusion of delectable ingredients and bakes up wonderfully.


Me And My Cookies Are Not Stressed Out

You will need:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee baking bits

1 cup almonds, chopped
*put almonds in a plastic freezer bag and gently smash with the back of a large spoon.
If you are really stressed you can use a hammer ~ this is a great way to work out your frustration!

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large bowl combine sugars and butter and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add vanilla and eggs and blend well.
  • Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Stir in chocolate chips, almonds and toffee baking bits.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoons on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes  until golden brown.
  • Cool on wire baking racks.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Pinterest & Pumpkin Pie...

      Pinterest ~ that wonderful website where you can lose yourself for an hour in the blink of an eye and become inspired to be a craftier, more organized, stylish baker who drinks wine just so that she can make a wreath out of the corks.

     While perusing through the plethora of pins, I came across this fabulous recipe.  Pumpkin pie in a cupcake?  Yes please! Top them with decadent whipped cream frosting and you have one delectable dessert.  This is the perfect fall recipe. The ingredients come together beautifully and will fill your kitchen with the fabulous scents of fall. 
     Autumn just so happens to be my favourite season; cool, crisp air, warm, cozy sweaters and leaves in fiery bursts of colour.  Put the kettle on, grab a good book and curl up next to the fire with one of these cupcakes and you have my version of a perfect fall afternoon.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes With Whipped Cream Frosting

24 Golden Oreo Cookies
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
15oz pumpkin puree
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line muffin tin with paper liners (24)
  • Split Oreos and drop them cream side up at the bottom of each liner.
  • Gently combine eggs, oil, applesauce & vanilla.
  • Stir in sugar and brown sugar and mix well for several minutes.
  • Stir in pumpkin.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to oil & sugar mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full and bake for 17-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Whipped Cream Topping

500ml heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
cinnamon & pumpkin pie spice to decorate

  • Using a whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's The Simple Things In Life...


     With all that has been going on in my life lately, my baking ~ even the emotional kind ~ has taken a back seat to chaos. It is a known fact that I love to bake, not for myself, but for others. It makes me intrinsically happy to bring others joy from my kitchen.  But I find myself as of late, unable to find the time to enjoy all that comes with tying my apron strings.

     A good friend of mine just had a birthday and for as long as I can remember I have baked him a pumpkin pie to mark his special day.  In years past when I couldn't find the time to get it to him I had my husband play delivery driver.  This year, I almost didn't find the time to bake the pie. He'd understand, I thought, I'll just let it go this year.  Thankfully, my conscience got the best of me and I made some time to whip up my friend's belated birthday pie.  Before long, my kitchen smelled like fall, and the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg lifted my spirits.

     While the very act of baking the pie made me happy, I had no idea what else that pie would do to elevate my mood. When I arrived at my friend's house to deliver the fresh baked birthday gift I was rewarded beyond belief by the excitement on the faces of his three boys.  They were literally jumping for joy!  Apparently their dad isn't the only one who enjoys eating my pumpkin pies.

      My friend told me that he was very surprised to see me. He honestly thought that this was the year that our tradition would end.  His appreciation was more than I could have hoped for. He told me that people sometimes take things for granted  and don't really realize that the simplest things mean the most. Truer words were never spoken. I am so lucky to have wonderful people in my life; they truly lift me up.  For that, I am emphatically grateful.  I now realize that this is one tradition that is worth every effort to continue.  Next year, however, I think my friend and his family deserve two pies.

The Pumpkin Pie That Keeps On Giving:


1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup nutmeg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup cream

~ Combine pumpkin, sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice & nutmeg in a large bowl.
~ Mix together evaporated milk and cream and gradually stir into pumpkin mixture.
~ Mix well.

Graham Pie Crust:

6 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

~ Mix and press into pie plate.
~ Bake @ 350 degrees for 8~10min, let cool before filling.

 * When you are short on time (as I was in this case) a store bought graham pie shell works just as well.

~ Pour filling into pie crust.
~ Bake @ 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.
~ Let cool.

Whipped Cream Topping:

~  Whip 500ml heavy whipping cream in a glass bowl with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.

~ Once pie has cooled, spread whipped topping to cover pie and dust with cinnamon.
~ Top with chopped walnuts.

And after...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Slice Of Life...

  This week is one that I cannot wait to forget.  It has been full of worry, trepidation and quiet elation.  As my older brother started his first round of cancer treatment, I awaited the results of my own brush with the horrible disease. I, unlike my brother, and my sister before him, was lucky. My tests came back negative. While I am so very happy with my results, it saddens me to think that I escaped what my brother now has to go through alone. My joy may be bittersweet, but I am so very relieved.
     What this stressful week has reminded me is that I am so thankful for all of my wonderful friends and family. They have all been such a tremendous support system. In spite of everything, I am truly blessed.
     To show my gratitude I wish I could bake for everyone who sent me a positive email, gave me a reassuring smile, a confident hug, a glass of wine or a much needed distraction (like Chinese food and a DVD).  Seeing as my list is blessedly long, to do so would have me in the kitchen for weeks.  In lieu of all of that baking, I will instead express my thanks and gratitude by sharing my mother's tried and true recipe for her beloved apple pie. This recipe is a bit labour intensive, but I assure you that the end result is more than worth the effort. Ironically, the same can be said about life.  I certainly have a new perspective in that regard.

Apple Pie & Appreciation 


Pastry Recipe (makes enough for 3 pies)

  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 lb lard
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • cold water
~ In a large bowl blend flour & lard with pastry cutter or using two forks.
~ In a glass measuring cup mix egg, salt, sugar and vinegar.
~ Add enough cold water to egg mixture to make 1 cup.
~ Add this slowly to flour mix and mix/knead well.
~ Divide dough and roll into 6 balls.
~ Leave at room temperature for 1 hour.

* Note: Dough may be frozen.  I usually place two balls in a freezer bag and freeze for later use. Simply thaw overnight in refrigerator  and then allow dough to come to room temperature before using.

When ready to roll out the dough, first wet your counter slightly and place a sheet of wax paper down. The water will help the wax paper to stay in place while you roll out your dough. Sprinkle the wax paper with some flour and roll out pastry using a heavy rolling pin. You may also flour your rolling pin if you find the dough sticking to it.

Lift the wax paper with the rolled out dough on it and place it dough side down in your pie plate.  Peel paper off and leave overhanging sides to trim later.

Sprinkle some sugar across the bottom of the dough in your pie plate and put aside until ready to fill.

Roll out your top layer of dough in the same way as described above and put aside until ready to use.

Filling: (enough for one large pie)

  • 6-7 large Mutsu apples ~ peeled, cored and sliced.
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp cream
~ Combine brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon & salt in a large bowl.
~ Add apples to above mixture and stir until combined.
~ Spread apple mixture into unbaked pastry shell.
~ Dot with butter and pour cream over top.
~ Cover with top pie crust.

*Hint: slightly wet rim of bottom pastry in pie plate with water to create a better seal before placing the other pastry on top.

~ Press down all around the edge of the pie plate with your thumb or a fork to create a fancy edge and seal the top and bottom pastry together. Cut a few slots in the top, middle of your pie to allow steam to escape.
~ Brush the top of your pie with a tbsp of milk and sprinkle it with sugar. This will give it a golden brown and flaky finish.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until apple mixture is bubbly.

*Note: To prevent your pie from making a mess in your oven place pie on a baking sheet to catch any spillage if the apple mixture bubbles over.

Comfort food at its best...  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Another Muffin Monday...

Monday: is it just me or do they seem to come around all too soon? On a Friday afternoon it seems like the weekend is full of potential. The next thing I know I'm standing in my kitchen cleaning up our Sunday supper dishes and making lunches for yet another Monday.   I can't help but muse over the great intentions I had in mind for my two days off from school. None the less, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in my kitchen doing some much loved fall baking.

With Monday in mind I made a batch of pumpkin spice muffins.  Mondays are very long days for me and my colleagues at school. We have classes from 9am until 8pm with a long 5 hour break in the afternoon.  These muffins will be the perfect accompaniment to all of the coffee we'll be drinking as we attempt to make it through our seemingly never ending Monday.

These Are The Days That You Wish Your Bed Was Already Made Pumpkin Spice Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

~ Whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice & nutmeg.
~ Mix in 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.
~ In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin, oil and vanilla.
~ Pour wet ingredients over dry and stir until moistened and combined.
~ Using an ice cream scoop, spoon mixture into muffin tin lined with paper liners.
~ Sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Bake @ 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thinking Inside Of The Box...

 Friedrich Nietzche once said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." While I recognize the wisdom in that saying, I'm finding it harder and harder to feel strong.  This has been one hell of a week. When I said that things couldn't possibly get any worse I meant it as a statement, not a challenge.

 In order to deal with all that is going on in my life I turned to my salvation - emotional baking. This time however, I wasn't in the mind set to bake from scratch. Sometimes baking from a box works just as well.  I'm not too proud to admit that I rely on convenience baking when need be.  As I've said before, I find baking therapeutic. The simple act of following the directions of a recipe occupies my mind (even one found on the back of a box). Experts say that if you find something that you enjoy doing that occupies 100% of your attention while you are engaged in it, it will make you more motivated and focused. Both of these feelings are said to promote happiness. Baking = Happiness. This, I already knew. The bonus for me is that my baking doesn't just make me happy, it also makes my friends and loved ones happy. Cheers to that ~ I could use a little more happy.

Thinking Inside Of The Box Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

You will need:

1 box of Betty Crocker Cinnabon Cinnamon Streusel Muffin Mix
3/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place paper baking cups in 12 regular size muffin cups, or grease (or spray with cooking spray) bottoms of muffin cups.
  • Stir muffin mix, milk, oil and eggs in medium bowl just until blended (batter will be lumpy).
  • Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 2/3 full).
  • Sprinkle streusel over batter in each cup and press down lightly.
  • Bake 16-21 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.
  • Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.
  • Cool completely before storing.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An apple for the teacher...

School is now in full swing and I must say that on a good day it leaves me feeling very fulfilled, albeit a little overwhelmed.  One of my professors said that this year will be the equivalent of trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. So far, I can see the wisdom in that analogy.  Suffice it to say, this is going to be a very busy year.

I have been fortunate enough to have met some wonderful people and even though I didn't set out to do so, I have made some new friends.  With all that is going on in my life besides school, I feel very fortunate to have met them. They may not realize it yet, but their support is going to carry me through this troublesome year that lies ahead.

Emotional baking has seen me through some tough times.  This past weekend, my baking took on yet another purpose ~ homework avoidance.  With assignments looming in the not too far distance and chapter upon chapter of readings to complete, I turned not to my books, but to my apron and mixing bowl.  Being that it is apple season, and the fact that I was baking with new teachers in mind I decided to find a recipe that would incorporate the two.

These muffins were a hit at our first unofficial study group. I'm sure it will be the first of many.  I'll be sure to keep my apron handy!

An apple for the teacher muffins:
You will need:
2 cups granulated sugar (or 1 1/2 if you prefer them to be less sweet)
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3 cups peeled & diced apples ( about 3 medium apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar for topping
To make:
~ pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
~ line muffin tin with paper liners.
~ cream together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.
~ in a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
~ add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients and mix until just combined.
*note: the batter will be thick!
~ add diced apples and stir until incorporated.
~ fill paper liners 3/4 full
~ sprinkle with brown sugar
~ bake for 20-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back to School Blues

This week marked the beginning of a new school year at our house. What's different about this back to school season is that for the first time in a long time I too am going back to school.  After much soul searching (and emotional baking) I decided to apply to the Faculty of Education at our local University.  Throwing my hat in the ring was one thing, being accepted was another!

Many sleepless nights were spent trying to decide if this was to be my next chapter. Should we invest all of that money in tuition? Can we afford for me to take yet another year off of work? What if I can't find a job in this dire market at the end of all of this? How am I going to manage being in school with 3 busy kids and a household to run?  Suffice it to say, many of these questions were pondered while sifting, mixing and wearing an apron. The thought did cross my mind at one point to abandon the idea of going back to school altogether. Instead of spending all of that money on books and tuition I had the notion to throw caution to the wind and open up my own bakery. 

While the bake shop is still in the back of my mind, I made the decision to go back to school.  For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a teacher. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work in an elementary school and that solidified what I already knew; I love working with kids in a learning environment.  Despite what my practical, overwrought brain told me, I knew in my heart that going back to school was the right decision for me.

That said, this is going to be a tough year; one spent juggling my duties as a wife, mom and student. Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband, great kids and wonderful friends to see me through this. One of my professors said that this year will be the equivalent of trying to drink from a fire hydrant. With all the information that was given to us in the first week, I think that is a sound analogy.  Let's hope that I can be a sponge and soak it all up while still finding time to bake. I also hope that my new found student colleagues will enjoy my baked goods as much as my family does!

Back to School Banana Muffins
3 bananas, mashed
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

To make:

Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the egg and all other ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Line your muffin pan with paper liners or spray them with cooking spray. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way and sprinkle the tops with some extra cinnamon if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the muffins.
*You may also add chocolate chips to this recipe.  Once you have incorporated all ingredients add as many as you like and stir until combined.




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

These Cupcakes Take The Cake!

My husband and I recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary and this feat called for a dessert worthy of such a celebration.  For as long as I've known him, my husband's favourite dessert has been Tiramisu.  We have some great Italian restaurants in our city that make fabulous Tiramisu, but this year I decided to make a version of my own.  Making an entire pan of this decadent treat seemed a bit daunting so I opted to bake it on a smaller scale. 
 Below is the recipe I used. It's a combination of three that I found while perusing my recipe books at home and online.   I will say that this recipe is quite involved and takes some time, but for me it was a labour of love.   It does make an impressive cupcake worthy of any celebration. 
 Lovin' from the oven at its best!     
You Will Need:
For The Cupcakes:
1 box of White Cake Mix
2 egg whites
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk *see below for my homemade version
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
*To make buttermilk:
 Place a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.
 Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line. Let stand for five minutes, then use as much as the recipe calls for.
For The Filling:
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon strong coffee
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
For the Mascarpone Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mascarpone cheese at room temperature
½ cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
Cocoa powder, for dusting
Shaved chocolate for topping
 To Make:
  •  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pan with cupcake liners.
  •  Sift cake mix into a small bowl and set aside.
  •  In a large bowl, gently whisk egg whites, egg, oil, buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla.
  •  Stir cake mix into wet ingredients.
  •  Using half of the batter, fill cupcake liners about 1/3 full.
  •  With the remaining cake batter, add the strong coffee and mix. (You may need to add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour to thicken the batter.)
  •  Scoop the coffee cake batter over the regular batter so that each cupcake liner is filled about 3/4. (So you have one layer of vanilla cake and a top layer of coffee cake.)
  •  Bake for 16-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cupcakes cool completely.

For filling: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl using a spoon.

To assemble:  cut a cone shaped piece of cake out the top of each cupcake.  I use the wide end of a large icing tip to do so. Make sure cakes are completely cooled before doing so. Generously spoon your filling into holes.

Pipe your frosting over the hole with the filling and the entire surface of your cupcake.  Top with chocolate shavings and dust with cocoa powder.  Refrigerate until set.

We even had a wonderful waiter!

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Peachable Moment

As a parent you know that there are certain things you must introduce your children to; things you need to teach them as they make their way in life. There are the big things, we are all aware of those, but I'm talking about the smaller things, the things that aren't written about in the baby books and parenting manuals.

The art of eating is one of those things. Sure we know that we are supposed to introduce our children to solid foods.  We are even given guidelines to follow when it comes time to feed them rice cereal. We are told that we should give them vegetables before fruits so that they don't grow to prefer sweetness over the less desirable taste of veggies.  We also know that it is our responsibility to teach them to eat with their mouths closed, not to talk with their mouths full, to keep their elbows off the table. These are just a few examples of the things that we will teach them that will allow them to go out into the real world and make us proud.

     As they grow, you try your best to offer them a wide range of eating experiences and flavours.  My kids are not the best or most adventurous eaters to say the least, but I'd like to think that we did our part in getting them to at least try a variety of foods. As a parent, you come to know what your children like and dislike.  I know that my children, all three, can't stand the smell or taste of broccoli- no matter how it is disguised. I know that my children, all three, love the taste of ice cream and will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I let them.  I thought that I knew all of my children's likes and dislikes.  I thought we had covered the bases in the trying all food groups department. I was wrong.
     The other morning we were having a nice family stroll around the local Farmer's Market when a vendor offered my children a peach.  Imagine my surprise when they all made a face as if she had offered them brussel sprouts! Try it I said, while smiling politely at the vendor.  "It's a peach.  You've had a peach before!" I was met with blank stares.  My daughter then asks me if it will taste like peach yogurt or the peach juice boxes I put in her lunch box. "Of course!" I say, "but surely you've had an actual peach before. Don't be silly!"  Still smiling (now sheepishly) at the vendor, and looking at my husband for some support, I take the peach. As we start to walk away I hand it to my fourteen year old. "It's fuzzy!" he says. Really?! I stop dead in my tracks. Has my oldest child never held a peach? Have any of my kids for that matter? I am a failure as a parent!

     Turns out, as we all shared the delicious and juicy, locally grown peach, my children discovered a new fruit that day. So it's a few years late getting to their palate; they tried it and they liked it. They really liked it! Fuzzy skin and all. 
     Needless to say I went right out and bought a basket full of peaches.  I have been offering them to my children ever since. I've even been baking with them. Below you will find a recipe for our new family favourite: peach crisp.  So delicious and sweet.  Perfect paired with vanilla ice cream.

     As the saying goes, it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Thank goodness!  Now...if only I could find a way to get them to eat broccoli...

Would you like peaches with that ice cream? 

You will need:

1/2 c. quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 to 1 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter, cubed and softened
2 1/2 lbs. peaches (med.)
1/2 - 1 cup sugar for sprinkling

~Combine oatmeal, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.
~ Add butter and cut into oats mixture with a pastry cutter or two forks. 
~ Arrange sliced peaches in a baking dish or in individual ramekins.
~ Cover with 1/2 to 1 cup sugar to sweeten.
~Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over fruit and press down slightly.
~Bake the crisp uncovered in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 40 minutes or until fruit is tender.
~ Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Birthdays are nature's way of telling us to eat more cake.

How beautiful is this cake?!

I can say this because I did not bake it myself. This baked beauty was made especially for me by my very good friend to celebrate my birthday. What's great about this cake, besides the fact that it looked and tasted fantastic, was that it was totally unexpected. Nothing makes a birthday more special than an unexpected surprise. 

I'm not one to be over the top about my own birthday. Don't get me wrong... I love birthdays, just not my own.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than celebrating some one's birthday and making them feel special. When the tables are turned however, I feel a bit uncomfortable by all of the attention. I must say though, that this cake made my day. It was so delicate and feminine, almost too good to eat! It had a delicious almond flavour and a light and fluffy icing topped with pink and cream chocolate shavings. It was decadent and delicious. While I can't share the recipe I just had to share the photos and give kudos to my wonderful and thoughtful friend. I am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. 

Pretty in pink!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Calories don't count if they're connected to a celebration.

      What's more cheerful than a birthday cake? Seriously. What else in life comes with icing, sprinkles and good wishes?  It's the epitome of happiness. If you want to get happy, birthday cake is the way to go. It doesn't even have to be your own; birthday cakes are made for sharing!

       I am a devout fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels. I've read them all and eagerly await the next one.  Her characters never cease to make me laugh and make my life seem mundane and perfectly normal by comparison.  Stephanie Plum is also a fan of birthday cake.  She often keeps at least one in her freezer for emergencies. She's also been known to go to the supermarket and cruise the bakery aisle for abandoned birthday cakes.  Did you know that you can get them for half off?  "Happy Birthday Steve!" Who's Steve? Does it really matter when you are scarfing down the last of the decadent icing roses? I think not!

       My sister in law recently had a birthday and in my current domestic goddess state I decided to bake her a birthday cake - from scratch.  Betty Crocker was not invited to this party. It didn't take long for me to find the most wonderfully decadent recipe and before I knew it I was baking up some birthday bliss.  Like birthday cake, this recipe was made to share. Be warned, this one isn't diet friendly, but as Stephanie says;

“Calories don’t count if they’re connected to a celebration. Everyone knows this.”
Janet Evanovich, Hard Eight

It's My Birthday And I'll Eat Cake If I Want To

What You Need:

10 squares of Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate, divided
1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip dressing
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp vanilla, divided
3 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup butter
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup milk

To Make It:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt 6 chocolate squares as directed on package; cool.
  • Beat dressing, brown sugar and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended.
  • Add eggs and melted chocolate; mix well.
  • Combine flour, baking soda and salt in separate bowl.
  • Add to chocolate mixture alternately with boiling water, mixing well after each addition.
  • Pour into 2 parchment paper lined 9 inch round pans.
  • Bake 30 ~ 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centres comes out clean.
  • Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes.
  • Remove from pans to wire racks.
  • Cool completely.
For Icing:
  • Meanwhile, microwave remaining chocolate squares and butter in large microwaveable bowl on medium for 1 to 2 minutes, or until butter is melted.
  • Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
  • Cool.
  • Add icing sugar, milk and remaining vanilla and beat with mixer until well blended.
  • Refrigerate 30 minutes or until icing is of desired spreading consistency.
  • Stack cake layers on plate, filling and frosting with chocolate icing.

Thanks Kraft for this decadent recipe!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Will You Accept This Cupcake?

     It's rare these days to find a television show as intellectually stimulating as The Bachelor or Bachelorette. Of course I am being sarcastic, but truthfully, I love the show mainly for the fact that it brings women together. What better way is there to spend a mundane Monday night than getting together with girlfriends to heckle the latest candidate in the reality T.V. dating arena? It may be hard to fathom, but it's not at all about the show ~ seriously. More so, it's about the snacks and the cocktails and time spent talking with friends (during the commercials of course!).

     Seeing as this past Monday was the much anticipated season finale, and what was promised to be "the most dramatic rose ceremony ever" I decided that a special dessert was called for. While perusing Internet recipe sites I was pleasantly surprised by something I found on the Betty Crocker web site. It was a recipe for Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes. As I read on, I soon discovered that this was not my mother's Betty Crocker!  Booze infused cupcakes were just what we needed to see how Emily's quest for true love played out. By the time we were done eating a few of these tipsy treats no one cared that she picked Jef with one f over Arie.    It was a recipe for love!    

The Final Rose Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

You Will Need:

1 box of white cake mix (Betty would like you to use hers, but any brand will do)
1 cup bottled strawberry margarita or daiquiri mix (I used Island Originals Authentic Strawberry Frozen Drink & Smoothie Mix)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup tequila (this is where it gets interesting!)
3 eggs

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl beat all cupcake ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.
  • Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.
  • Divide batter among muffin cups.
  • Bake 18-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove cupcakes and place on cooling racks.
  • Cool completely before icing.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp margarita mix
  • Beat shortening and butter on low speed until smooth.
  • Gradually add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix until combined.
  • Add 1 tbsp of margarita mix and beat until blended.
  • Add enough of the remaining margarita mix one tbsp at a time and beat until light and fluffy.
  • *You may substitute 1 tbsp of tequila for 1 tbsp margarita mix to make a boozy frosting if desired.

Garnish with lime slices and enjoy!