Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category


Happy Christmas everyone! I hope your holiday has been, and will continue to be filled with love, joy, family, friends and endless layers of sweetness like this fluffy carrot cake.

Carrot cake isn’t necessarily a conventional Christmas dessert, not like a steamed pudding or trifle anyway, but it does make a nice addition to the holiday feasting because it incorporates a lot of the foods we associate with the holidays.  The delicate layers of cake are full of sugar, spices, nuts, fruit and shredded carrots layered between thick, creamy cream cheese frosting for a smooth and satisfying finish to any holiday meal. It’s not overly sweet and can be a welcome change to some of the sweeter desserts being whipped up right now.


Though I usually wrap the whole cake in frosting, this time I wanted to cut back on the richness a little and thought I’d just layer the cake with frosting and top it off with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  I placed a doilie upside down on top of the cake and sprinkled powdered sugar with a little sifter around the edges until the holes in the doilie were covered.  The result was a pretty outline of the doilie to decorate the cake, without the heaviness of a lot of cream cheese frosting. My family was delighted with the results as they raved about the rich and satisfying taste of the cake without some of the extra calories that usually come with a lot of frosting.


Wrapped entirely in frosting or filled just between the layers, this carrot cake is a delicious way to entertain family or friends during the holiday season because the ingredients can be adjusted to suit your preferences by changing golden raisins for dried currants, shredded coconut (my personal favorite) or pineapple chunks.

My sincere best wishes for a wonderful year of sweetness and joy!


Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

11/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup canola oil

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 pound peeled and coarsely grated carrots (approximately 3 cups)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, untoasted

1/2 cup golden raisins


1. Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars with the oil on low-speed until the mixture resembles wet sand. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and blend for 3 minutes.  The thick batter will increase in volume and lighten in color. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not over-beat the batter. Fold in the carrots, golden raisins and the walnuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between four prepared pans.  Place the pans in the center of the oven and bake until the cakes are golden and spring back when lightly touched in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Promptly run a knife around the edge of the pan to help the cake retract evenly from the sides while cooling. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10-12 minutes, taking extra care as they are fragile and could crack. Leave them to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature and you are ready to assemble the cake.

6. To assemble the cake, place one of the layers, top side up, on a serving plate. If the cake is domed in the middle you may need to use a serrated knife to trim off the domed area.  Using a metal spatula, spread one-third of the frosting over the cake, spreading it slightly to the edge. Place the next layer of cake, top side down, on top of the frosted layer, remembering to trim any excessive doming first, if necessary.  Repeat again, ending with the last layer placed top side up on the frosting. Place a doilie upside down on top the cake and press it down until it sticks slightly. Fill a small sifter with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, taping it gently with your hand over the edges of the doilie until you have gone all the way around.  Carefully remove the doilie by lifting it gently up and away from the cake and you should have a lovely decorative pattern that will last for several hours.  If left overnight the powdered sugar will be absorbed into the cake so if you are entertaining, it may be best to leave this part until just before your guests arrive.


This cake is fabulous the day it’s made but can be kept fresh for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator due to the frosting.  Allow at least 1 hour for the cake to come to room temperature before serving. I’ve also frozen this cake with great results. Just let it defrost at room temperature and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Food Network Website

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter and it was just as good)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

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I love Christmas and all the baking and festivities that make the season so joyful. Every year I imagine all of the wonderful treats I’m going to whip up and regardless of the many baking books and clippings I already have stashed away, a new magazine of Christmas baking is always hard to resist.  This year wasn’t any different as I carried home a new, 100 Best Desserts, Special Edition of Best-Loved Recipes from Taste of Home for 2012.

The funny thing is, that after poring over every single page, the very first recipe I opted to make were these decadent Black Bottom Cupcakes that I actually discovered a couple of years ago and simply cannot resist.


The first time I discovered them, I was looking for something that my youngest son could take to school.  The idea of cupcakes that didn’t require icing was appealing, given that he and not me, would be transporting them. They turned out to be so easy and delicious that I’ve been making them for the holidays ever since.

Chocolate and cream cheese are a delightful combination and these cupcakes are sure to fill any craving you may have during the holidays for a lush, moist, deep chocolate flavoured cupcake paired with a smooth, creamy cheesecake centre.


The cupcake is made in two parts, first the creamy cheesecake centre followed by the chocolate cupcake batter. The liners are filled 1/3 full of chocolate batter followed by a generous dollop of cream cheese filling. Before adding the dollop of cream cheese filling, however, add a cup of mini chocolate chips to heighten the chocolate factor and add some extra dimension.

Still warm from the oven, the little bits of chocolate are silky and smooth against the rich cream cheese and the moist, almost gooey chocolate cake. I baked these up in some holiday liners I had on hand to give them a festive touch of Christmas holiday cheer. During the holidays, I’ve also been known to add an extra dollop of cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese before baking, so that they’re almost like a piece of black forest cake when they come out of the oven.

Either way is equally delicious and always a hit with visitors and family alike.

Served up with a cold glass of milk, a mug of hot cocoa or packaged up with a bright red ribbon for a friend, these tasty cupcakes are a nice addition to the holidays or pretty much any day of the year.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup water

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt


1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips; set aside.

2. For batter, in a large bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.  Combine remaining ingredients; add to the liquid mixture and mix well (batter is on the thin side).

3. Fill liners 1/3  full with batter and top with a generous dollop of cream cheese filling.

4. Bake at 350 degree F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake portion comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing to  wire racks to cool completely.


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I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear from me this soon.

I’m making up for lost time.

If that’s even possible.

But I’m determined to try, so you can expect to hear a lot more from me this week as I try to fill these pages with some of the most delicious home baking and cooking recipes I’ve made while I was away.

Yes, even though I wasn’t here, I was still heating up the oven and cleaning up the mess.  Our plates were pretty and our tummies were full. Too full, sometimes.  Good food is hard to resist.  Like this blueberry apple cream cheese pie for instance.

It’s a pie I made a while back that I’ve been wanting to share.  It’s scrumptious. Apples and blueberries are covered in a luscious thick layer of cream cheese topping and  a sprinkle of walnuts.  It really is as good as it looks and it takes the humble pie to soaring heights of deliciousness.

Because I love to use fresh, seasonal fruit whenever I bake, Thanksgiving makes the perfect holiday to pass this around the family table, but you really can make and share it any time of the year and you’ll be sure to get some ooohh’s and awwwh’s.

Sprinkled with your favourite nuts, the rich and creamy, cream cheese topping nestles right into the tart apples and sweet blueberries for a beautiful, dramatic and rustic presentation that will impress even your most discerning of guests.

Cream Cheese Apple Blueberry Pie

Adapted from Pillsbury Kitchens’ Family Cookbook

Serves 10


Your favourite single-crust pastry

Apple Filling

6 cups (6 medium) peeled, sliced apples

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cream Cheese Topping

8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but feel free to use your favourite)


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine apples, blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss lightly.

3. Spoon into your prepared pastry-lined pie pan.

4. Combine all cream cheese topping ingredients except the nuts and beat until smooth.

5. Spoon cream cheese topping over the apples and blueberries.  Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: There is a caramel sauce option for this pie that I didn’t try; but it does sound delicious so I’m adding it, just in case you’d like to give it a try.

For this caramel version, omit the blueberries, using just the apples, and make a caramel sauce that gets poured over the apples just before you add the cream cheese topping.

Caramel Sauce

8-ounces (about 28) of caramels

1/2 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk

In a small saucepan, melt caramels in half-and-half on low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth.  While warm, drizzle over the apples before adding the cream cheese topping.


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Happy Saturday!  This week ran completely away from me  and  the next thing I knew it was Thursday … and then Friday … and then …  well today.  I thought I’d better check in with you. You know, in case maybe you missed your weekly dose of flour and sugar. Never fear,  I’m here with plenty of sweetness to go around. I just couldn’t keep all this loveliness to myself, so I’m here to share with you a little sweetness and some serious excitement.

I’ve been finding it hard to focus on anything except these cupcakes.  Aren’t they pretty.  This week I was working on these cupcake samples for a client who is getting married in July. She has a vintage theme and wanted a buttercream swirl with a simple gumpaste flower on top.  I made a variety of gumpaste flower colours so that she could choose which shade she wanted to use for her special day.

 As I was picturing the cupcakes, I couldn’t help but think how they were the perfect cupcake for Mother’s Day.

Swirls of delicious frosting sitting on light vanilla cupcakes.  Just a perfect marriage of cake, frosting and vanilla.  Sometimes you just have to have plain old vanilla to appreciate just how good it is.  Sometimes and I’m just saying, sometimes, it’s hard to find a cupcake that tastes as good as it looks when it’s just vanilla, vanilla.  Sometimes they just look better than they actually taste. These cupcakes however, are different.  You have my word, and I’ll even go so far as to say they taste … E.V.E.N. better than they look.  How’s that for creating some excitment.

Can I tell you a secret? Vanilla, vanilla cupcakes aren’t the only thing that’s got me excited these days.

An opportunity to intern at the Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts has me excited.  Over the moon actually.

Bonnie Gordon is cake designer/teacher,  extraordinaire and she started a college in Toronto in 2010 to share her wealth of knowledge and passion for meticulous cake design with others. Bonnie is a leader in the field of cake design education and she has a passion to nuture creative talent in her students. Ever since I started decorating cakes (which was just last year but it seems much longer somehow) I’ve wanted to go there.  I’ve  spent countless hours on the website, I’ve filled out the application to attend, at least 3 times, I attended their cake show in 2011 and I’ve even met Bonnie,  but in the end, circumstances just never made it possible to actually take classes there.  But all that is about to change because as of tomorrow, I will be there every Sunday for the next 4 months.  My job will be to assist the instructors, help set up the classroom, assist the students and tidy up when we’re done.  All the while, I will be listening to every little morsel of  cake decorating genius from some of the best instructors in the country.

I will be a sponge and just soak it all up.


I couldn’t have asked for a more incredible Mother’s Day gift and in this recipe, I couldn’t have asked for a more delicious cupcake. This is seriously one of the best vanilla cupcake recipes I have made, and believe me, I’ve made plenty.  The really fantastical thing about this recipe is that I came across it on the extraordinary baking blog by Rosie Alyea, called Sweetapolita.  Rosie makes the most gorgeous, delicious and mouth-watering cakes and treats you’ve ever laid eyes on and believe it or not she learned and perfected a lot of her baking skills at Bonnie Gordon College. That’s all the proof I need to know that this is a going to be a good thing.

No ones needs a holiday to send someone special wishes, but in honour of all you wonderful mothers I’m sending you buttercream wishes and sweet vanilla kisses for a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom



Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes

Yields 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes


1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325 (170 degrees C) degrees F. Line standard cupcake pans with your favourite paper cupcake liners and set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and mix on low-speed until blended.  Add cubes of butter, one at a time, and mix again until all of the butter is coated with flour.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend until incorporated.

4. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together milk and vanilla.  With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition.  Beat until just incorporated (it’s best not to overbeat).

5. Divide batter evenly among the liners filling about 2/3 full).  Bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 17 -20 minutes (for me it was 17).

6. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer the cupcakes onto a cooling rack by inverting the tray. Carefully turn the cupcakes right-side-up and let cool completely before frosting. use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake or pipe on icing using a 12-inch Wilton piping bag fitted with a  ……… tip. Decorate with flowers or sprinkles if desired.  Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from Billy’s Bakery Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita & Martha Stewart


They’re easy to make and the batter bakes up light and moist as long as they’re not over baked.  I took mine out of the oven at 17 minutes.  At 15 minutes, the toothpick came out covered in batter, at 17 minutes, they were done.  So really keep an eye on them after 15 minutes. Mine were ready when they had just a touch of golden colour around the outside.

Vanilla Buttercream

Makes about 2 cups


5 egg whites

1 cup sugar

slightest pinch of salt

1 cup butter, room temperature, cut into pieces*.

* I know all recipes call for unsalted butter here but I tend to use what I have on hand and more often than not, it’s salted, so to compensate, I leave out the salt in the recipe or add  just the slightest pinch, if necessary.


1. Whisk the egg whites, sugar and (salt if adding) in a heat proof bowl set over a saucepan of salted water (do not let the bowl touch the water) until the mixture is warm and the sugar dissolves.  Remove the bowl from the pan; let cool slightly.

2. Beat the egg white mixture in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer) on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 12 -15 minutes. Beat in the butter a few pieces at a time, then continue beating until smooth.  (Don’t worry if the mixture looks separated at first – it will come together as you keep beating.)

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 You can never get enough of this kind of fun, can you?  


This is what we were doing at the farm on Easter Sunday afternoon following a beautiful morning with friends and neighbours at church.  I was told well in advance of Easter Sunday that even though my 3 boys were well into their adult/teenage years (21, 19 & 17), they in no way had outgrown the annual Easter egg hunt and were anticipating lots of goodies in the form of candy and chocolate treats.

They did say however, that they would be willing to let their (much) younger cousins have most of the fun running around the farm, gathering up the eggs from all sorts of secret hiding places. They were even willing to hide the eggs, just as long as there was sure to be enough yumminess to go around.


Holidays always seem to bring out the kid in us, even when we’re no longer the kid.  Special rituals and traditions like this never lose their appeal, no matter what our age when it’s shared with special people in our lives.  That’s why we were so excited when my sister promised to visit from Kitchener with her family.  Her children are much younger than mine and so we love it when they can visit. Despite the significant age differences (Liam 9, Elliott 7, Kate 5) we have copious amounts of fun playing and hanging out together.  Coming to visit the farm is always an adventure for them and they love the freedom and fun of playing outside on the big front lawn. 


You just never know where you’re going to find an egg.  


 Once Kate got going she was determined to fill her basket.


Trying to keep all those eggs from spilling out wasn’t easy. 


And now for the reward.

Uncovering the treasures and treats inside those beautiful eggs.

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There’s a bandwagon going around full of delicious things like chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallow crème.  I was so taken in by it all, I just had to jump on too.

Who could blame me? Things like this are hard to resist. And who’d want to anyway? You can never have enough deliciousness like this in your life.

I’m a total pushover when it comes to these delightful mini chocolate bundt cakes, topped with  graham crumbs, oozing marshmallow crème and sprinkled with shaved chocolate. And eggs. The eggs represent Easter. New life. Hope.

The little chocolate cakes are mini bundt’s.  I have a new pan that I’ve been wanting to try out so I made this using a chocolate cake recipe that is deliciously light because I decided to use yogurt when I discovered I didn’t have sour cream. Although it’s light, the cake tastes amazingly fudgy when you bite into it which really lends itself to the whole s’mores thing. I  sprinkled them with graham crumbs mixed with melted butter before baking so that they would stick to the chocolate batter when baked. When the mini bundt’s were cool, slightly warm, I topped them with homemade marshmallow crème.  As you can see, because the little bundt’s weren’t completely cool yet, the creme melted slightly and drizzled down the sides which I thought actually ended up looking kind of cute. I sprinkled the marshmallow creme with some shaved chocolate and topped them with speckled Easter eggs.


 These s’mores would make  a great treat for family and friends this Easter and they’re not at all difficult to make. For the very first time, I made my own marshmallow crème and could not believe how easy it was.  It had never occurred to me before that you could make marshmallow creme at home using really simple ingredients until Brenda, from a Farm Girl’s Dabbles mentioned it. Brenda makes gorgeous homemade marshmallows.  You can see more of her amazing creations by visiting her blog here.

 These s’mores consist of 5 easy components:

the mini bundt cakes, the graham crumb mixture, the marshmallow crème, the shaved chocolate and the mini chocolate eggs.

Graham Crumbs


24 graham crackers

6 tablespoons melted butter

Crush the crackers by placing them in a sealed plastic bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin or placing them in a food processor until finely crushed.

Add the melted butter and mix until combined.

Set aside while you make the chocolate mini bundt/cupcake batter.

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes/Cupcakes


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 g) butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

3/4 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350° and grease mini bundt pan or as another option you can line your favorite muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until light and fluffy.

Pour 1/3 cup of the flour mixture into the large bowl and mix until combined.  Add 1/2 of the yogurt and mix until combined. Add another third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining yogurt and flour mixtures, mixing after each addition, until combined.

Add milk and mix until combined.

Scoop into prepared pan until 2/3 full and cover with prepared graham crumbs (see above) using 1 tablespoon per mini bunt or cupcake.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out without crumbs attached. Try not to over bake these so they come out tender. They are far better slightly under baked, than over baked. Cool on wire racks in pan for 5 minutes, then gently turn onto rack and cool completely.

Homemade Marshmallow Crème


3 egg whites

2 cups light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine egg whites, corn syrup and salt.

Mix on high-speed for 10 minutes or until thick.

Add in icing sugar.  Before turning on your mixer, you may want to incorporate the icing sugar with a spatula so that it doesn’t all come flying out of the bowl or attach the plastic shield to your mixer, if you have one.

Beat on low-speed until well blended.

Add vanilla and mix until blended.


}}This marshmallow crème whips up to a glossy white, is satiny smooth and fluffy.

}} It can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

}}You can flavour the crème by substituting a flavoured extract for the vanilla.

}}You can colour the crème by adding a drop or two of food colour.

S’mores Preparation:

Start with a mini bundt or cupcake, top with a dollop of marshmallow crème, followed by a sprinkle of shaved chocolate and top it off with some of your favourite eggs or chocolate.


For other wonderful s’mores recipes visit:

 Brandon Matzek at Kitchen Konfidence for Maple Bacon S’mores

 Rosie Alyea at Sweetapolita for Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores

 Jamie at My Baking Addiction for S’mores Truffles or Giant S’mores Cookies

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It’s a little late in the day to be wishing you … “top of the morning”, so I’ll have to settle for, “here’s to ya’ then! Three cheers and a green cake in honour of Saint Patty, the patron saint of Ireland”.

I’m not much of a drinker as these things go.  I’m more into cake … and cupcakes … and icing  … and chocolate. So what better way to pay tribute to the patron saint of Ireland than with cake.  And green no less.

Today is (and almost was, as I look at the clock) officially St. Patrick’s Day, and it historically marks a day of celebration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland during the 5th century BCE.

St. Patrick’s Day is probably the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world.  Although only an official public holiday in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Montserrat, Newfoundland and Labrador, celebrations are held wherever there are large populations of Irish people, including Canada, the United States, Australia, Russia and Japan.

Historically St. Patrick’s Day was a day for spiritual renewal and thanksgiving, in honor of the death of Saint Patrick.

Because St. Patrick’s Day occurs during the Christian Lent period, religious families would have been prohibited from consuming meat and alcohol. However, these prohibitions were waived on St. Patty’s Day, allowing even the most pious to celebrate the day with a traditional feast of Irish bacon, cabbage and spirits.

But enough about history. Let’s talk cake.


This is a magical cake.

It’s been touched by leprechaun’s. Kissed by butterflies. Sprinkled with fairy dust.  Trimmed with dragees. Blessed with sprinkles. Stenciled with love. Spun with sugar. And baked with joy.

Brimming with the luck o’ the Irish and covered in homemade white chocolate cakelets, it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

St. Patrick’s Day is marked by the “wearing of the green” and what better way to wear it, than on a cake.

I’d love to hear if you wore green today?

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