Saturday, 30 August 2008


white chocolate dipped banana cake pops. my cake pops are sticking out of a banana tree...a cheesy tourist souvenir i brought back from a trip to costa rica! funny how it says "made in china" on a little gold oval sticker under the base of the tree! hehe, i didn't notice that at the time!

I've finally made those fabulous cake pops that Bakerella has popularized in the food blogging world. I knew I would succumb to making the fun little treats eventually. It was just a matter of time. I had some left-over Cream Cheese Frosting and I used some homemade Banana Bread to make Banana Cake Pops. I dipped the little cake truffles into white chocolate and decorated with various dragees, sprinkles and sugars.

The technique is so gosh-darned easy that even my kids could do it. In fact, Bebe helped me mash the banana bread into a mound of moist crumbs in a bowl and helped with the assembly of the pops. I had purchased a bag of lollipop sticks at Michaels (with my trusty 40% coupon!) and I even had the forethought to purchase small clear treat bags that fit the pops perfectly. I tied a ribbon at the base of the bags and the treats look so cute!
my daughter loves anything pink...thus the pink sanding sugar

I'm imagining that these little treats are going to take over the world. Any cake or cookie would do for the truffle, I think. What a fabulous idea for leftover cake! I had to refrigerate my cake truffles before dipping them in the white chocolate. In fact, to speed things up, I put a few in the freezer for a short time to harden quickly to the sticks. I had initially tried to dip one freshly made truffle and it just slipped off the lollipop stick and kerplopped into the mass of melted chocolate. Of course, I had to rescue my melted chocolate so I had to eat that one.

the white chocolate shell i made was quite thick so that it was kind of difficult for the kids to bite into. next time, i'll take it easy with the chocolate layer. inside was the cream cheese frosting spiked banana cake truffle.

Friday, 29 August 2008


salty almond chocolate chunk cookies

Can anyone resist a Chocolate Chip Cookie? I know that of late, food bloggers everywhere have been making the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies which are "aged", much like a fine wine...albeit for a much shorter time. Well, here's one gal who can't wait the requisite 72 hours or even overnight for the cookie dough to age! I need instant gratification!

So, to add some more crunch and to increase the yum factor, I've incorporated whole roasted salted almonds to my usual Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Bakers have realized the merits of adding Fleur de Sel to their cookies, chocolates and other desserts. I think salted almonds will do quite well to help the sweet & salty flavour profile.For the recipe, click my recipe here (I adapted Yard's recipe) and simply add one cup of roasted whole salted almonds, coarsely chopped. I use Callebaut dark chocolate chunks in my cookies. You won't be able to stop eating them because they're sweet and a little savoury!

Saturday, 23 August 2008


being frugal & practical : my 1st bloggerversary cake was made with leftover frozen bananas

My 1st year bloggerversary [sic?] passed (last month) uncelebrated. I was so busy with the Castle Cake and just life in general that I didn't really think too much about how far I've come with my blog. I thought that I ought to at least thank the many visitors to my blog for their thoughtful comments and to the many "lurkers" out there who just stop by for a looksie...

The other day, I wanted a change for my blog.

A big change.

Not just colour, but a total revamping. I do this often with my hair too. Sometimes I just go into my hairstylist and say to him that I need a change. Sometimes I regret saying that--kind of. I did that a few weeks ago and my long hair is now a chin length asymmetrical bob. I don't like it because I think it's too short, but I asked for it and it's a good cut. So I'll stop whining about it 'cause it'll grow back.

As you can see, I went from black to all girlie pink. You know I hate pink, but I love cake...and cupcakes in particular. So I couldn't pass up this template. In the middle of the excitement of foolin' with my template in html, I kind of hit the wrong button and changed everything permanently before really thinking things through. I lost all my widgets. I screwed up a bunch of settings.

I hate html. That's of course because I have no idea what I'm doing. I just kind of cross my fingers and my toes and hope all goes well. I figure the world's not going to end if I give it a try. So here it is. Tell me what you think! Be honest! I was hesitant in changing from an all black template to a primarily white one because I know that black conserves energy and white doesn't. So though this isn't exactly a green template, it'll do for a while. Besides, it's too late to change! I saved my old template but I'm in too deep now. There's no going back. So please excuse the construction mess for a while.

While tinkering with the html in my template, I even dared to "expand" my widgets and fiddle with adding those expandable post summaries. Unfortunately, I have no idea what to do with my past posts that all now have a "read more" at the bottom but don't really take you anywhere because there isn't more to be read. I guess I'll just start from here on. I think I totally need the expandable post summaries because I tend to be verbose and blah blah a bit too much. But heck, that's what a blog's for, isn't it? It's my soapbox to the world.

Sherry Yard's Mascarpone Banana Cake isn't fancy and isn't frosted, but it is quite yummy and will do quite well for my bloggerversary. I expended my energy with changing the look of my blog and didn't quite have any more patience to bake a real layer cake. The rich mascarpone provides a moist crumb and who doesn't love banana cake?

Friday, 15 August 2008


I made cannelés.

I am a bit perplexed because I've never tasted an authentic one before.

Did I get it right? Did I screw up? I dunno.

This is somewhat like my macaron experiment in that I've heard such good things about these treats that I had to try duplicating them at home as travelling to Bordeaux, France for the real thing is cost-prohibitive. By the way, did you know that the spelling of "cannelés" with two "n's" indicates that it is not an authentic recipe based on the original cake that is the official goodie of Bourdeaux? The original recipe is spelled with only one "n". You have to follow the original recipe (a closely guarded recipe I'm sure) to the letter in order for it to be a canelé. Hm. Well, I wasn't going to be buying beeswax and I didn't have copper molds, so let's use two "n's".
it looks burnt, but in reality, i need to bake it longer and make it more dark brown all over

First of all, I consulted 5 different recipes and settled on Helen's from Tartelette. Seeing as she's French and she knows her macarons, I figured she probably knows a thing or two about how to make cannelés too. I used her recipe and noticed that it conveniently called for 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks. This would be a perfect recipe to make in tandem with macarons because I do need 3 egg whites for my favourite macaron recipe too! Wow. Such baking karma.

Those red silicone cannelé molds I purchased recently work perfectly. My little canneles popped out of their ridged cups so easily! Mind you, being the worry-wart, I sprayed my molds with some baker's spray just to be on the safe side. I didn't want to be fishing out any remnants of cake from the ridges because it's such a pain. wanna bite? before you know it, you're taking 3 or 4 bites and you think you have to try another one just to make sure they were good.

With my first batch, baked for 45 minutes at 375°F, I thought that the cakes looked way too pale. A few of them had puffed up over the rim of the molds while they were baking, but a few didn't. So I kept adding time and looking through the window of the oven to check until finally, at 1 hour and 15 minutes, I decided to take them out. The golden brown cannelés looked picture perfect coming out of the oven. However, I discovered in a few seconds that they react just like popovers when taken out of the oven. They all kind of fell and lost a bit of height. Some buckled in at the middle area, creating hour-glass figures. They tasted pretty good though. The insides tasted somewhat like a crepe and the rum flavour was delicate and delicious. They looked a lot smaller than I thought they would.

For my second batch, I decided to really go dark brown, as I've noticed most pictures of cannelés depict them as dark brown in colour (verging on burnt!) and they all seemed to have straight sides. I figured I had jumped the gun and brought them out too soon and that's why my sides were all wonky. Baking them longer would help them stay straight, right?

My second batch I baked using my convection feature and I cranked it up to 375°F (which ends up kind of like 400°F in a regular oven). I ended up baking them for 1 1/2 hours total in order to get the dark brown crust. The sides were a tad wonky but they were more even than the initial batch. The insides were more firm but they were still moist and the flavour was the same. The crust though was better with this dark brown colour. It was crunchier and contrasted nicely with the smooth, custardy interior.

Yum. Though I had consulted Martha Stewart's cookbook, I didn't use her recipe. In the end, I realized that I ended up baking my cannelés as long as she called for in her recipe: 1 1/2 to 2 hours! It didn't look right at first, but I guess it is. It does take that long for these little cakes to get that dark. Her picture was inspirational because the cannelés were a uniform darkness all around and they were really uniform in shape. Mine were not. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I used silicone instead of copper. Ah well, they're pretty tasty. I'll have to try MS's recipe next and see how it turns out. Her recipe calls for salt too and perhaps the added salt will help browning.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


mini chocolate cake: big on flavour and fun; but small in scale, effort and fuss
Did'ja ever have a hankering for chocolate cake but didn't want to make the whole recipe 'cause you know you'd end up having to eat the whole dang thing all by yourself?

ya ya ya. I know. Ordinarily, having to eat a whole friggin' cake would be great in most circumstances, but this is reality. I don't want to be buying bigger pants and I don't want to be wearing spandex Lululemon yoga pants forever.

don't dicker with any piping tips. just slather on the buttercream and hide the bumps with sprinkles!
I've had my Small-Batch Baking book for a while now. I had purchased it for $11.59 at Costco a few years ago. I have made quite a few of the recipes...some with good success and a few flops. In general, I find the cakes to be on the dense side because the ingredients are so miniscule you can't take a standing electric mixer to it. Pretty much all the recipes require you to do all the mixing by hand, which isn't so bad a proposition because the work isn't heavy.

Of the recipes I've tried so far, some of the cake recipes yielded a really dense (almost biscuit-like) crumb and others are like their full-scale counterparts. I really liked the flavour in the coconut cake recipe, but it was so dense it was indeed like eating a biscuit. My favourite recipe thus far is the Chocolate Cake recipe. The frosting I tried was not a resounding success. I found the Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting too sour and rich. It had a fudgy texture though. So, I used my tried and true buttercream frosting and made sure it was pink because it was Bebe who requested the cake.
I know. She just had a huge birthday Castle Cake recently, but this girl's all about the frosting and the decorations. I knew if I made a mini cake, and decorated it with her favourite sprinkles, she'd be happy as a clam and we'd save mommy from having to bust out of her britches. That, and though it looks like I bake a lot, my kids and hubby don't really eat much of any of it. Stomach doesn't touch the stuff and only Bebe has a small kiddie-sized chunk of any sweets I make. Guess who ends up eating it all if I don't think fast and pass it along to family & friends?

For this cake, a stellar opposite of the Ariel Underwater Castle Cake, I did not expend energy finessing the buttercream; nor did I attempt to cover it in ganache (unappreciated in the under-13 set). All I did was go for what I know: sprinkles are the key to kiddie happiness.

This much I've figured out in the 5 years I've been a mom! Pretty impressive, huh? Kids don't care about the density of the crumb, the thinness and evenness of the layers, or even flavour. It's all about the decorations. In fact, if you're observant at a kiddie party, you'll notice this huge buildup to the singing of the birthday song, the blowing of the candle and the fighting over the cake-topper. The birthday kid getting the cake-topper is the climax, I believe. Then, after the first slice has been served, the kids vamoose and go play. Sometimes a few kids will lick the frosting off the cake, but in general most of the cake is left to sit idly on the paper Disney plates as the moms and dads wearily scrape the mangled cake slices into their own mouths.

I highly recommend doing the Small Batch Baking technique if you feel like having some homemade cake but don't feel like whipping out the KitchenAid. Ordinarily, I like to scale down recipes from recipes I already know I like. Halving is easy, but this particular cake is built for 2 single servings only. That's two mini cakes. The cookbook is great because you don't have to muss with figuring out and writing down the new measurements somewhere. If you really wanted to, you could kick it up and decorate the heck out of these little cakes and make 'em look like their bigger brothers with icing tips, fondant, ganache and fancy sugar work. But today, that would defeat the purpose. The whole cake took me half of Bib's nap-time to make from beginning to end. That's immediate gratification.
I served Bebe a quarter of one cake and she was satisfied and grinning from ear to ear.
it's bigger than a cupcake but smaller than a regular cake--and able to leap tall kiddie appetites in a single bound!
Mini Chocolate Cake
adapted from "Chocolate Birthday Cake" from Debby Maugans Nakos' Small-Batch Baking
[cakebrain's note: I used 2 mini cake tins for this but D.M.N. suggests using cleaned 14 or 14.5 oz cans if you don't have them]
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 T buttermilk
  • Yolk of 1 large egg [I used the whole egg]
  • 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 t baking soda
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  1. Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Grease the insides of the cans and lightly dust them with flour, tapping out the excess [I sprayed mine with Pam and lined the bottom with parchment] Place the cans on a baking sheet for easier handling, and set aside.
  3. Combine the buttermilk, egg yolk [I used the whole egg, what the heck!] and vanilla in a small bowl, and whisk to mix. Gradually pour the melted butter into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl, and then whisk to blend well. Add the sugar and whisk to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared cans, dividing it evenly between them. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the cans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of each can and invert them to release the cakes. Turn the cakes upright and let them cool completely on the rack.
  7. To frost the cakes, cut each cake in half horizontally. Spread a layer of frosting about 1/2 inch thick on the cut side of one cake half, then stack the other half on top of it. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake and frosting. Decorate as desired.

Monday, 4 August 2008


cakebrain's macadamia nut snack blend

Okay, I concede that maybe it was a fluke, but on my first try with experimenting with ingredients, I was able to produce a reasonable facsimile of my favourite Sahale nut blend: sans hazelnuts. I like hazelnuts with chocolate, but not as a cheapie filler ingredient in a nut blend. My feeling is the hazelnuts are unnecessary. Since you're saving money not buying the name-brand snack mix, go splurge and use all macadamias!

this is pretty darned close to the sahale blend i like except i don't like hazelnuts in there so i omitted them

i insist you use the finest organic ingredients you can get your hands on 'cause...well, you deserve only the best. here you can see the brand of brown rice syrup i used in my mix

Instead of the tapioca syrup that Sahale uses, I opted for an organic Brown Rice syrup. I figured it should work just as well.

And it did. Just make sure you line your sheet pan with parchment paper and separate the clumped up nuts. This takes time, but it's worth it. I tossed my organic diced dried fruit in afterwards, but I imagine you could probably incorporate them in with the nuts at the same time with a similar effect.

Here's what I did.

The following recipe is the one I created on the fly. I just read the ingredients list on the back of the package! hee hee. pretty sneaky, huh? I used proportions according to the order they were listed in the ingredients list. Kind of. You can add more heat by increasing the chipotle or adding some other form of heat you prefer. The snack isn't sweet at all, which totally surprised me. I think you could add some additional crunch and sweetness by incorporating some evaporated cane sugar to the wet ingredients.

here's a chunk of organic unsulphured papaya alongside some organic dried mango. i admit, the mango is tougher than the softer sulphured variety, but the flavour is clean and intense

I'd like to think that my "secret" knockoff recipe is just as good as the Sahale blend and now that you've got the basic idea, you can borrow it if you want and do your own thing with your own combo of spices, nuts and dried fruit. Can you just imagine the possibilities? I'm so totally excited!

another difference: it's way cheaper per pound and you can customize it to your tastes

Please share the knowledge and do link back to me and give me a comment about how your blend turned out because I'm interested in seeing what other people can do with the basic recipe! This way everyone out there can share the nut love!

I have since purchased and tasted the other Sahale mixes and still prefer the Macadamia blend and the Pecan blend. The one with Cashews has peanuts (yuck!) in it and the Pistachio & pepitas one isn't my favourite because the flavours just don't jive with my tastebuds. Perhaps I should omit the peanuts and up the cashew quotient and see... There's no helping the pistachio blend because it's the combination of spices along with the figs and sesame seeds that I'm kind of averse to. There are better ways for me to waste calories than this one.

In fact, here's a good way to waste calories in my recipe below. Please exercise caution as these are addictive.

1 1/2 cups organic whole macadamia nuts
2 T organic brown rice syrup
1 T organic evaporated cane juice (omit if you don't like it too sweet; increase if you have a sweet tooth!)
1/8 t organic dried cilantro
1/8 t organic chipotle peppers (i purchased dried whole chipotles and grated them on my microplane grater); if you like heat increase the amount called for or add another form of heat
1/4 t pink himalayan sea salt
1/8 t garam masala [i didn't have cumin, so i used garam masala--which has cumin in it! substitute with cumin if you don't have garam masala]
1/4 cup diced organic unsulphured mango and papaya

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the brown rice syrup, the evaporated cane juice and all the dried spices and salt. Mix well and continue stirring until the mixture is bubbly.
  3. Add the macadamia nuts and coat well, stirring constantly; be careful not to break the nuts!
  4. Spread the nuts out on the parchment-lined sheet and try to separate them as best as you can.
  5. Bake for 8-10 inutes, or until golden brown and the syrup has bubbled around the nuts.
  6. Set the baking sheet on a rack to cool slightly. Lift the nuts out and break off and discard any huge chunks of syrup that may have pooled around the nuts. Toss in the diced dried fruit.
  7. Serve with a tall, chilled glass of beer or if you're feeling really civilized, a little glass of pastis (my choice!) with ice. See here for a pastis cocktail! Nothing like apéritifs de pastis to make you feel like you're in Provence! even if you are only in Vancouver *sigh*
  8. Store in a tightly sealed container (I include a package of dessicant in my container so that the nuts don't clump together as much).

I figure with this basic recipe and method, you can use any nut, dried fruit and spice blend. I'm going to try making the pecan blend next!

These make beautiful little gifts wrapped in cellophane and ribbon or really classy trail mix for day-hikes up the North Shore mountains.

Ahhh. The North Shore Mountains! these nuts would taste great along with your ice-cold water sipped from your trendy Sigg bottle as you sat atop a mountain looking down on Vancouver!

By the way, the "Grouse Grind" is an intense hike; almost straight up a mountain that fit locals in Vancouver like to climb. People often brag about their "time", as in "I did the Grind in 32 minutes!" You'll often hear Vancouverites asking friends out to "The Grind" instead of going out for coffee. My friend's first date with a girl was on The Grind. He was able to check her out by following her as she climbed up the mountain! pretty smart, huh? The Grind is kind of a social thing that some of us Vancouverites like to do, like meeting at Jericho Beach for some beach volleyball (and a beach bbq afterwards) or a mountain bike ride through the UBC Endowment lands. And there's always at least one colleague at work who belongs to a Dragon Boat team. I must admit though that these activities are dominated by the 20-somethings. This is the active West Coast lifestyle I miss and had to put on hold because of kids. However, I'm intending to get back to it as soon as they're ready to come along with me! Fortunately, Vancouver offers plenty of outdoor activities for families too.

If you find yourself in Vancouver, and you're fit, this is a cool way to see the locals. Dress appropriately (it is a hike, y'know) by not wearing flip-flops and looking like a dweeb tourist. Do wear hiking boots and bring appropriate hiking gear and lots of water. Oh, and don't forget my classy trail mix. No, you don't need camping gear. Hopefully you won't be that slow! It's an intense aerobic workout and is known as "Nature's Stairmaster". If you're a newbie, give yourself at least 2 hours. If you're fit, you'll love it and be done in under an hour.

I know friends who go up once a week all summer. The hike is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) and the elevation gain is 2,800 feet (853 metres). The summit of the hike brings you to 3,700 feet (1,127 metres) above sea level. If you're interested in trying it out, check out this site.

Since having kids, I haven't done the Grind, but when they're a bit older, I hope to take up hiking again. Though I have done the Grind, it wasn't all too fun because it's just a straight climb and not too scenic compared to other trails. All you see are people's butts going up (not too bad a view if you're into that kind of thing, I suppose). I personally enjoy the longer, windier hikes in the North Shore Mountains. I liked hiking Mt. Fromme, which is about 10 km in length and takes about 4 hours. In the summer, you can pick wild blueberries all the way down (just watch out for bears).

And do bring my nut mix with you for energy!

Friday, 1 August 2008


I'm baaack!

I just recently arrived home from a road-trip to Seattle. I must say, sharing a bed with an 18 month old isn't fun. I was kicked, pinched, slapped, punched and whacked during the night and Bebe would come over occasionally from the other bed next to us where she was sleeping with daddy, and say, "Mommy, daddy's bothering me with his snoring!"

silicone heaven: cannelé molds
On the brighter side of things, I bought up a storm at Sur La Table at Pike Place Market and also at this nifty little store called Mrs Cooks, which I found in a mall in Seattle. I finally got the coveted silicone cannelé molds I so wanted. I had looked all over for them in Vancouver and couldn't find any. At Sur La Table, I found it and some half-sphere silicone molds too! I have no idea what to do with the demi-sphere molds yet, but if you have some good ideas (and pics) please do tell!

they're not copper, but they'll do!

don't these look like they would make good fake boobies?

I also purchased a silicone rolling pin...and added it to my collection of 3 at home. I already have an old-fashioned wooden one (my mom's), a wooden french-style rolling pin and a fondant rolling pin.
At Mrs Cooks, I bought 5 nifty shaped cookie cutters: a crown, a dragonfly, a butterfly, a cake with candle and a maple leaf ('cause I'm Canadian, eh!). I also found a cool gadget that's called a "recipe divider". I need this because I'm always halving recipes. All you do is spin the little stainless steel wheel and you get the correct measurements. Love it.

I don't think many bloggers know this, but I also do a lot of scrapbooking and card-making. I can't rationalize the economy of buying all the stuff that you need for this particular hobby 'cause long ago I exceeded the reasonable amount most people would spend on purchasing Christmas, birthday, wedding and thank you cards at the store. When I first started, I'd say to Stomach: "Look how cheap this is! Can you believe people actually spend 5 bucks on a birthday card?!" So I won't bore you with the details about my crafts purchases. The bill was ugly.

But enough about my weaknesses...

I have been awarded the "Hard Working Food Blogger" award by Sally at PinkBytes. She is such a sweet lady and her blog is a lovely extension of her personality. This award originated from Elle at Elle's New England Kitchen.

I am here now to pass on this award to a couple of fellow food bloggers for the hard work and dedication they put into creating and maintaining fantastic blogs. It is a lot of hard work and though I think many food bloggers are deserving of this award, I have 2 people that spring forth in my mind when I think of this Hard Working Food Blogger award.

[drum roll: brddddddddd: ching!] They are: Kevin, at Closet Cooking (a fellow Canadian!) and Mark, of No Special Effects.

Kevin posts and comments with such regularity that it amazes me. I don't know where he finds the time to visit all these blogs, make comments, cook and photograph his food and keep up his own inspirational blog. That's dedication, my dear! He's always got something delicious going on in his kitchen and he's such a nice guy!

Mark's always first to make a comment on lots of blogs (how does he do that?) and he's always got something interesting to say. He makes my day with his visits and I love reading his musings about food and life. He's a creative multi-tasking man of many talents! That, and who else could dispense for me free medical advice for carpal tunnel syndrome caused by piping 330 royal icing flowers?

If they were to come to Vancouver, I'd have to take them out for some major Dim Sum! We've got the best, 'cause all those top notch chefs from Hong Kong emigrated here! then, a visit to Granville Island Market, right?

Like Elle, I too think fellow food bloggers are a hard-working bunch. We do often eat our food cold, sending our pics to the etherworld in the hopes that someone out there will take note of our food and our ideas and possibly *gasp* be accepted at Tastespotting or Foodgawker...

Yes, we all deserve a pat on our backs and if you fit this description, I believe you too deserve this award and should help yourself to it! Go on! Take it! don't be shy! and spread the love.


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