Carrot and Pineapple Sheet Cake

I do think there’s something so comfortingly nostalgic in a simple sheet cake. Like the cakes our mothers use to make before Instagram, when it didn’t really matter how pretty or trendy or photogenic or impeccably styled the food was. There was no such thing as an ombré, eight-layer, tiered, naked cake because, in those days, a cake was as much a frosting delivery device as it was a celebratory exclamation point. Don’t get me wrong, I love the creative cake movement.  But in the days of sheet cakes, what was really important was that there was an occasion worth celebrating, and what better way than with a thick slab of heavily frosted cake. Continue reading “Carrot and Pineapple Sheet Cake”

Peppermint Bonbon Tart

December began in a flurry of icing sugar, clouds of winter-white whipped cream and cool peppermint candy canes.  My mother’s birthday was last week and I make her a peppermint bonbon tart every single year.  It’s her very favourite.  The recipe has been in our family forever – or at least since the gelatin-dessert-crazed sixties – and I absolutely love it.  My grandmother used to make this tart for my mom when she was a girl.  The recipe was eventually passed to me, as the designated dessert enthusiast of the family.   I made my typical, modern adjustments and adaptations (replacing shortening with butter; freshly whipping the cream; etc.) while keeping its vintage charm. Continue reading “Peppermint Bonbon Tart”

Embossed Gingerbread

These delicately embossed gingerbread cookies are the perfect way to welcome the festive season!  I’ve always loved the look of embossed rolling pins, and this one from Embossed Pin is so pretty with a whimsical forest scene that’s perfect, not just for Christmas, but all winter long.  And it’s really starting to feel like winter around here.  The light is different, it has an iridescent quality as if the sun is shining through shards of ice, and we’ve had three major snowstorms already.  But the house has never been cozier, especially when gingerbread is baking and the kitchen is filled with the blissful scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  Isn’t this the most magical time of year?! Continue reading “Embossed Gingerbread”

Halloween Hand Pies

“Normal is an illusion.  What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”   –Morticia Addams.

There are “normal” hand pies, and then there are my Halloween hand pies.  I’m not a huge Halloween person, actually.  Out of all of the holidays, it’s one of my least favourite.  Of course, there are elements of Halloween that I love – the earthy magic, the subtle eeriness, black cats and classy black candles paired with winter-white pumpkins, carving Jack O’Lanterns with my kids, the sense that the veil between this world and the next has been lifted for just one enchanted evening – but I try to carry this magic with me throughout the whole year, not just on Halloween.  What I don’t like is that here in the US the holiday has been distorted and come to symbolize something dark, morbid and evil.  It’s used as an excuse to be tastelessly gory with violent images decorating houses and bloody costumes, or it’s a reason for people to simply act ridiculous.  I don’t want to sound old-fashioned here but, to me, Halloween is deeper than just a child’s holiday.  It means Samhain bonfires and forest magic; harvest celebrations with apples, pumpkin and corn; the turning of the seasons; light to dark; a night to feel closer to family and friends who have passed on; and for the little ones, trick or treating!  (Little ones only!)  In my opinion, the guts and gore take away from the etherial mystique that surrounds Halloween, and they’re anything but classy. Continue reading “Halloween Hand Pies”

Cinnamon-Sugar Jack O’Lanterns

Yesterday my husband and I made a little bet.  He said it couldn’t possibly snow this early in the season. It’s not even Halloween yet!

I said, “Anything’s possible.”

I won.

It felt more like December than mid-October, with the snow falling in giant flakes outside the kitchen window, and there’s nothing I love to do more when it’s snowing outside in December than to bake holiday cookies.  So I queued up my winter playlist (which includes a few Christmas songs for good measure) and set about baking these fun little Halloween treats. And that’s how I happened to be carving Jack O’Lantens while listening to Christmas music yesterday.

Continue reading “Cinnamon-Sugar Jack O’Lanterns”

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

I call this an old-fashioned cake because anything cooked in a bundt pan feels old-school and vintage to me, but I was surprised the read, recently, that the modern rendition of the bundt pan has only been around since the 1950’s.  Of course, the traditional, tube-shaped cake, called Kugelhopf, that inspired its creation has been around for ages, originating in Eastern Europe, but it wasn’t until the 50’s that the design was brought to the US and the first bundt pan was cast by the founder of the Nordic Ware company in Minnesota. Continue reading “Old-Fashioned Apple Cake”

Zucchini pain d’épices

Pain d’épices is a traditional French quick bread, rich with honey and warm spices. It’s often served around the holidays but, since it bears such a noticeable resemblance to American banana bread and zucchini bread, I love to serve a variation of it in late summer when the garden is overflowing with zucchini. Continue reading “Zucchini pain d’épices”

Lavender Gelato

There are places in this world that seem to radiate a magic not found elsewhere. It’s not, at first, apparent, but is perceptible as something of an electric hum. A sparkle of vivacity, a reverberation like the resonance of a drum.  New Mexico is one of these places.  What looks, to one just passing through, like desert – harsh and unforgiving – in fact, hides a treasure trove of secrets found only if you take the time to explore the region a little more deeply. There’s an energy here and it manifests in the food they produce, in the soil, laced with minerals and metals, in the water, so scarce in places, and in the terroir.  I can’t think of any place in the world that is quite like New Mexico, except for just one. Provence. Continue reading “Lavender Gelato”

Vanilla Raspberry Cake

This past Monday was my birthday.  I always bake my own birthday cake, and this year I took the occasion to make my favourite – a vanilla butter cake with the most luscious salted, brown butter icing. Not that we should ever need an excuse to bake a cake, especially this one, but if we do, a birthday is a pretty good one.  I love that this is a small, single layer cake, perfect for serving 6 – 8 people, with no leftovers.  And though it’s small, it’s decadent in its simplicity.   The crumb is moist and airy, but the real treat is pouring over the brown butter glaze in thick ribbons, flecked with vanilla beans and sea salt. Continue reading “Vanilla Raspberry Cake”

Crêpes with Strawberries and Cream

Sundays.  I spend the whole day in the kitchen – no time constraints, unhurried, set apart from the pressures of the work week – piecing together whatever we might have been craving in the days prior.  There’s often a pot of pinto beans simmering on the stove for my husband who grew up eating them with every meal.  I make a big batch that he can dip into during the week.  Meat is braising slowly in the oven with tomatoes and red wine, thyme and bacon. Continue reading “Crêpes with Strawberries and Cream”